What is Theology of the Body?

Theology of the Body is a collection of 133 Wednesday audiences that Pope John Paul II gave in Rome from September 1979 to November 1984. Before he was elected pope, his philosophical reflections on human love had been published under the title of Love and Responsibility. At the 1978 conclave in which he was elected pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was putting the finishing touches on the manuscript that was to be his next academic publication – his theological reflections on human love and human embodiment. With his surprise election and thus an unpublished manuscript in hand, apparently Pope John Paul II decided not to publish this work as a book. Instead, he divided the text into smaller chunks and began giving it at his Wednesday audiences.

At the time be began delivering the audiences, no one realized these weekly reflections were part of an already completed work. The text was published each week in the Vatican newspaper, Observatore Romano, and only in 1997 did the Wednesday audiences appear (in English) in one volume published by Pauline Books and Media under the title of “Theology of the Body.”

Later, Dr. Michael Waldstein undertook the arduous task of retranslating the audiences from Italian into English, correcting previous translation and grammatical errors and adding John Paul II’s own subheadings. This is the current edition, published in 2006 using John Paul II’s original title: Man and Woman He Created Them. This edition also includes material that John Paul II omitted from the original Wednesday audiences, including an extensive section on Tobit and the Song of Songs. This is why the 1997 edition contains 129 audiences whereas the 2006 edition contains 133 audiences. It also has an extensive introduction by Dr. Waldstein in which he analyzes the Marian-Carmelite influences on Karol Wojtyla’s life as well as many of the contemporary philosophical problems he is addressing.

  • "Man...cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS 24)