The Theology of the Body (shorthanded as “TOB” since the early 2000’s) is both a phrase and a reference to a book by St. John Paul II.
If you are seeking a definition of the phrase “theology of the body”, it simply means that our bodies teach us about God. Since we have been created as male and female in the image of God – and God is Love – then God created our body-soulness to show us something very concrete about how love is meant to be both given and received. It applies to every person – no matter what age or state in life – because we all have bodies that reveal basic truths about the Trinity.
If you are wondering about the book St. John Paul II wrote, it is actually titled “Man and Woman He Created Them” and was written prior to his election as pope in 1978. Ultimately he delivered a little of it at a time through 129 Wednesday papal audiences over the course of 5 years. It was printed in L’Osservatore Romano at the time, later being published in four volumes, then in one volume, then re-translated into the current volume by Michael Waldstein using the original Polish text, handwritten by Karol Wojtyla – St. John Paul II.
The text follows the pope’s meditations on scripture pertinent to our creation as male and female persons, how God made us to give and receive love, “the fall”, our redemption through Christ, a glimpse of the heavenly reality, and how both the Vocations of Celibacy and Marriage are meant to be fruitfully lived out in light of this teaching. St. John Paul II closes the text by applying basic conclusions, consistent with what the Church has always taught, to statements made in the document “Humanae Vitae“.
The result is a fresh vocabulary for understanding and speaking about life’s most difficult questions. Though St. John Paul’s text contains very dense theological and philosophical language, there are multiple resources that help to break it down into bite-size pieces and to apply it. Start exploring and don’t stop with one exposure to these teachings; they shed light on every part of this great story we are all a part of (Salvation History), every part of our humanity (personhood), and every moral issue raging in our culture today.
Dive in. The Truth does not fear Questions.