In Summa Theologica suppl. q. 91, where St.Thomas Aquinas speaks of the quality of this world after the Last Judgement, a. 5 arg. 2 objects that plants, animals, and mineral bodies will be renewed. In reply to that objection (ad 2), he replies that animals, plants, mineral bodies and all other mixed bodies will not to be renewed and will not remain at the renewed world.

Objection 2. Further, just as the elements served man, so also did animals, plants and mineral bodies. But on account of this service the elements will be glorified. Therefore both animals and plants and mineral bodies will be glorified likewise.

Reply to Objection 2. Neither animals nor plants nor any other bodies merited anything by their services to man, since they lack free-will. However, certain bodies are said to be rewarded in so far as man merited that those things should be renewed which are adapted to be renewed. But plants and animals are not adapted to the renewal of incorruption, as stated above. Wherefore for this very reason man did not merit that they should be renewed, since no one can merit for another, or even for himself that which another or himself is incapable of receiving. Hence, granted even that dumb animals merited by serving man, it would not follow that they are to be renewed.

Now, according to the philosophies of St.Thomas, which mainly comes from Aristotle, mixed bodies means things that exist or come-to-be by some kind of composition of the elements. And St.Thomas clearly says that the only mixed body that will remain in the renewed world is man's body. And he says that only man's body, the elements and the heavenly bodies will remain in the renewed universe.

Suppl.q.91, article 5, ans. states,

Since the renewal of the world will be for man's sake it follows that it should be conformed to the renewal of man. Now by being renewed man will pass from the state of corruption to incorruptibility and to a state of everlasting rest, wherefore it is written (1 Corinthians 15:53): "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality"; and consequently the world will be renewed in such a way as to throw off all corruption and remain for ever at rest. Therefore it will be impossible for anything to be the subject of that renewal, unless it be a subject of incorruption. Now such are the heavenly bodies, the elements, and man. For the heavenly bodies are by their very nature incorruptible both as to their whole and as to their part: the elements are corruptible as to their parts but incorruptible as a whole: while men are corruptible both in whole and in part, but this is on the part of their matter not on the part of their form, the rational soul to wit, which will remain incorrupt after the corruption of man. on the other hand, dumb animals, plants, and minerals, and all mixed bodies, are corruptible both in their whole and in their parts, both on the part of their matter which loses its form, and on the part of their form which does not remain actually; and thus they are in no way subjects of incorruption. Hence they will not remain in this renewal, but those things alone which we have mentioned above.

But in Suppl.q.74,article 5, reply to objection 2, last two sentences, he says that the sea will remain as to containing salt, ie; mixed with salt:

If, however, the sea be taken literally we must reply that by the sea two things are to be understood, namely the substance of the waters, and their disposition, as containing salt and as to the movement of the waves. The sea will remain, not as to this second, but as to the first.

Apparently, he is saying that sea will remain as a mixed body, ie; mixed with salt, which is an earthly matter. But, as I noted above, he simultaneously says that the only mixed body that will remain is human body. Moreover, salt itself is a mixed body. He aparently says it will also remain.

Isn't this a contradiction?
How can it be explained?
Exactly, which bodies will remain in the renewed world?
If sea remains, then the land, made of soil, which is a diverse mixture of minerals, must also remain, must it not?

As I know, the element fire in St.Thomas'(and many others') philosophy corresponds to heat, air to the gases and water to the liquids. Then, some people say, earth must correspond to solids. Even if some solids are made of a uniform element such as diamond, which is purely made of the element carbon, the solids as a whole is not all the same thing, but mixtures of different chemical elements such as hydrogen, carbon etc. So, what is this pure earth according to medieval philosophers such as St.Thomas and Aristotle? Also, he says all corruptible bodies will not remain and minerals are also corruptible bodies according to him. But, clearly, gold, quartz crystal etc are minerals and are not corruptible/decayable. Why does he say no other mixed body will remain, while we can find minerals(mixed bodies) that clearly don't decay?
How can these claims of St.Thomas be seen from the view point of modern science?

Sorry for a long question but I hope it is understandable:)

  • What you've added seems to have made your question more suitable to Philosophy StackExchange or HSM StackExchange.
    – Geremia
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 2:23
  • Ok, I will delete this question to ask it again in Philosophy StackExchange. Could you delete your answer so that I can delete it?
    – melon
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 5:59
  • You'd be interested in St. Lawrence of Brindisi's commentary on Genesis, e.g., on pp. 58-59 he discusses the Greeks' stoicheia (elements) in the context of the "earth" of Gen. 1:10.
    – Geremia
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


Corruptible ("decay-able") bodies don't remain.

Summa Theologica suppl. q. 91 a. 5 = Super Sent. lib. 4 d. 48 q. 2 a. 5.
By "they" at the end of the corpus of the article, St. Thomas means any mixed/corruptible (i.e., composite) body, such as plants, animals, or minerals, all of which are comprised of elements.

An element (στοιχεῖον) is "The inherent principle of which a thing is first composed and which is not divisible into another species is called an element." (Metaphysics ch. 3 1014a25; cf. St. Thomas's Metaphysica bk. 5 l. 4).

cf. St. Thomas's short work On the mixture of the elements (reprinted in the book Aquinas on Matter and Form and the Elements)

New Earth

"New Earth" means—according to the best Catholic commentary on St. John's Apocalypse, The Book of Destiny by Fr. Herman Kramer—"the changed state of society, which before and during the days of Antichrist was antichristian and anti-God."

There will be work, according to Fr. Kramer: "The true and just relation of Labor and Capital and the rights of each [will] have been proclaimed."

  • According to St.Thomas, all minerals are also mixed bodies. Now, he clearly says, in the answer of article 5 in Summa Theologica suppl. q. 91, that among mixed bodies, only "...heavenly bodies, the elements, and man..." will remain. As I understand, it means other bodies will not remain. Now, as per science soil, which is refered to as the element earth , is composed mainly of minerals. How can I understand it that minerals won't be there at the renewal from a modern point of view?
    – melon
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 10:03
  • Ans. Of Article 5, suppl.q.91: "On the other hand, dumb animals, plants, and minerals, and all mixed bodies, are corruptible both in their whole and in their parts, both on the part of their matter which loses its form, and on the part of their form which does not remain actually; and thus they are in no way subjects of incorruption. Hence they will not remain in this renewal, but those things alone which we have mentioned above."
    – melon
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 6:03
  • Is it a flaw in Summa Theologica because of the knowledge people had about how and with what universe was made of? I tend to believe all that is in Summa Theologica because I think even the Catholic Church depends heavily on it. But, this claim of St.Thomas has become a little absurd and difficult for me to belive, especially in a world of modern science.
    – melon
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 6:14
  • @melon Why do you think we have today a better "knowledge…about how and with what [the] universe" is "made of"?
    – Geremia
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 18:17
  • @melon If soil is "is composed," then it's not an element, but a mixtio.
    – Geremia
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 0:28

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