Will Deaf people be deaf in heaven?

The Scripture, Dissent, Deaf space project is gradually gathering pace. So far, we’ve spent the month settling into a new office, going through PhD applications, booking archive visits, wrestling with the admin systems of the university (a lot), and working out some initial ways into the data.

We’ve started to pull out lists of who was involved, and when, and where, and what they did. Trying to make sense of it all has generated lists of more things that we need to know. The lists just get longer and longer.

This is a normal part of the process though, so it’s not something to be too worried about at the moment… but at some point, we will need to start defining the edges of the project. We don’t have time or funding (unfortunately) to follow up on a lot of the leads. Those will have to be new projects, and proposals.

I’ve spent more than one afternoon reading previous research to try and locate the period in a bigger picture of Deaf and church history, and national history more generally.

One of the things that we can do to help with that, because the university pays for the library access, is get to historical newspaper records from the time of St Saviour’s to start having a look at what people were writing, and saying about Deaf people and about the church itself.

This is all public domain, and well out of copyright, so we can share some of it with you without fear of breaking any rules.

I’m particularly interested to use the way that people describe Deaf people’s situation, to see how they understood and described the reality of the Deaf community at the time

One of the questions I’ve always had in the back of my mind for this project is “What did people think was going to happen to Deaf people when they got to heaven? Would they sign, would they speak? Would everyone else sign, or speak?”

Well, this is only one clip, but it provides some kind of answer for the moment;

(from the Times, 15th May, 1872)

Text from times 1872 describing how Deaf people's speech will be restored in heaven

… He dwelt upon the value of this religious teaching to the afflicted people, as giving them the assurance that the loss of hearing and speech was but for a time, and that in the eternity of the great hereafter they would join with their brethren of the world in praising their Father.

The Bishop of Carlisle comes across as rather a pompous person who knew little of Deaf people. But the suggestion is clear. He believed that Deaf people would be able to hear and speak in heaven, and that this would somehow reconcile them with the rest of humanity around worship.

7 thoughts on “Will Deaf people be deaf in heaven?

  1. Pingback: Will Deaf people be deaf in heaven? | MIKE GULLIVER

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  3. I guess this belief still hangs on in some circles, since I was assured a few years ago by a member of a church that I would have a “perfect body” in heaven, meaning that I would hear perfectly. How this would help me with the frustration of not being able to get access (interpretation or note takers) in the here and now I do not know.

  4. I wonder what the person would have said if you had replied “no, in heaven, you’ll be able to sign… and so will everyone else, and that way you can talk to everyone all over the world”.

    Your other question is interesting. Heaven is described in this article as the ‘great hereafter’. If that means “Well, we can’t do anything about the problem now” – then heaven’s pretty toothless.

    Interestingly (and somewhat embarrassingly for the church), Jesus seems to have believed that he came to bring the Kingdom of God to the ‘here and now’.

    I wonder what church attitudes would be if that example were taken seriously.

  5. Mike – sounds like a fantastic project. I seem to recall that the past pupils’ newsletter of St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra had some articles that would refer to this question, and indeed some letters from ex-pupils that dealt with the same thing. If I find any I’ll certainly send you on what I have.


  6. This premise is taken from John chapter 5 verse 28: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.

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