Paul the Apostle, His Life Letters and Thought– Part Twenty Three


p. 377— The passages in which Paul deals with res. in probable chronological order are according to Sanders 1 Thess. 4.13-18; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 3.18-5.10; Phil. 1.23-24; 2.16-17;3.10-11; 3.20-21; Rom. 6.5; 8.18-30; 13.11-12. Two verbs are used anistemi and egeirein, usually Jesus is the object of res. i.e. God raised him from the dead, attributing the power to God (Rom.4.24; 8.11 cf. 1 Thess. 1.10; 1 Cor. 6.14 etc). In 2 Cor. 1.9 God is said to raise the dead plural, meaning Christ and those who believe in him. We don’t know how and when Paul came to learn of the claim that Jesus was raised, but presumably he knew it when he persecuted Christians.

p. 378— For Paul the most important thing for himself is that God revealed his Son to him at or near Damascus. This changed his life. 1 Cor. 9.1 says he saw Jesus. 1 Cor. 15.5-8 “makes no distinction in kind between his vision of the risen Lord and that of Peter and the others.” Did he really think he had seen Jesus in the same way as the others, or is this apologetics on his own behalf? We cannot be sure. 1 Cor. 15 makes clear he regards the appearances as over— he was the last to see Jesus. He says nothing of possible appearances to subsequent believers such as his converts. For confirmation when they believed the message about the risen Jesus they received the Spirit.

p. 379— Spirit and Christ are combined in Rom. 8.9b anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him [a bad reading of that text— they are not combined here. It is the Spirit Christ sent he is referring to]. His presence in the believers’ lives was their assurance that God had raised him. With one exception (Christ in you the hope of glory) Paul regularly talks about the Spirit in the life of believer’s rather than Christ, and he makes a distinction. He argues that Paul didn’t originally proclaim the future res. of believers because he was convinced Jesus was coming right back, or maybe it played a minor role. [Note that already in Paul’s earliest letter according to Sanders, Paul does indeed talk about the future res. of believers. The problem is not with what Paul originally told them, but with what the Thess. understood him to mean].

p. 380—He makes the good point that apantesis properly means greet (see rightly Mt. 25.6 and Judges 11.31 LXX)— Paul says we will greet the Lord in the air “Greet makes it a little clearer that he is on his way to earth…they go up to greet him on his way down. Meet might (but need not) imply that they all stay ‘in the air.’” Paul speaks of Christ reigning on earth for a period of time after he returns. “If death exists during most of Christ’s reign, it follows that he is reigning on earth…during the early part of his ministry, and as late as 1 Corinthians he foresaw a kingdom on earth.”

p. 381— Parousia clearly refers to the visible return of Christ in 1 Cor. 15.23; 1 Thess. 2.19; 3.13; 4.15; 5.23. [Sanders’ whole argument ignores the fact that Paul is dealing with two variables— the death of believers and the return of Christ. He believes in the possible imminence of Christ, but he also believes Christians could die first. Since he does not know the timing of either in regard to himself he has to say ‘we who are alive when he returns’ not ‘we who will definitely die before he returns’. He cannot say the latter because he does not know the timing of the return. The thief in the night motif is clearly indicating Jesus will come an unexpected time— it could be sooner it could be later. Sanders does not reckon with the important difference between believing ‘Jesus will definitely come back soon, during my life time’ and ‘Jesus could possibly come back soon, so we need to be ready’. The latter is Paul’s view. Schweitzer was wrong about both Jesus and Paul on this score.] See my Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World.

p. 382— One of the aspects of Christ’s return is the judgment of believers 2 Cor. 5.10. Paul thought he himself would be examined on that day and he wanted to brag about his converts and they of him (2 Cor. 1.14; 1 Cor. 4.4-5 on Paul’s being judged). On judgment day see 1 Cor. 1.8;1 Cor. 5.5; Phil. 1.6,10; 2.16; Rom. 2.5,16. 1 Cor. 1.8;3.13 2 Cor. 5.10 make clear that Christ is involved and is the judge.

p. 383— Sanders says that when Paul wrote 1 Thess. from Corinth he had adjusted his preaching and thought to include the notion that Christians might die before Jesus returned. [Nope, there was no need for an adjustment, what we needed was an explanation].

p. 384— 1 Cor. 15.12 ‘there is no res. of the dead ones (plural). If so says Paul then not even Christ has been raised. Paul assumes in his continuing argument that they do believe in Christ’s res. And he is making clear if you deny believer’s res. Then you’ve also denied Christ’s. “The Corinthians, it appears from this line of argument, did not doubt either life after death or Christ’s resurrection, but rather a general bodily resurrection. Presumably they thought their souls would survive, but in non-bodily form.”

p. 385— The Corinthians knew a body decays when a person dies, so how then could it be raised? What would a raised body be like? Probably they accepted Greek soul/body dualism. The idea goes back to Homer’s Odyssey Book 11, you die and your immortal soul goes to Hades, a rather dull grim place but not a place of torture rather like Sheol a shadowy weakened form of life.

p. 386— The Greeks had a saying— soma/sema. The body is a tomb. The soul needs to be released from that prison. Plato, Cratylus 400c says this was an Orphic saying.

When the Corinthians baptized on behalf of the dead they doubtless thought of saving the souls of the dead, so they did believe in an afterlife. [And that Paul doesn’t correct them probably implies he agrees the spirits of the dead persons are out there somewhere].

p. 387— In this chapter, Paul does not speak of the individual’s soul or spirit he treats the persons as a unity body and spirit— the whole person dies and then is raised. But already in 1 Thess. 5.23, and shortly after in 1 Cor. 5.5 he distinguishes flesh from spirit, and in 2 Cor. 1-9. Paul was not totally opposed to limited dualism but to deal with Corinthian doubts he insists on bodily res. Res. was originally a Persian Zoroastrian idea. The Jews acquired it when they were part of the Persian Empire and most Jews believed it. On separation of soul and body see Test. Abrah. Rec. A 20.12. Neither separation nor reunion of soul and body is mentioned in 1 Cor. 15. Here the whole person died and later is raised. [Nope. 1 Cor. 15 says nothing about the whole person dying or disappearing].

p. 387 n. 12 “I do not know of any cases where Paul used soul (psyche) unambiguously and alone to refer to the inner person.” It joins spirit in meaning this in 1 Thess. 5.23 and Phil. 1.27, but more often that word simply means life, self, person— every soul in Rom. 2.9 Rom. 16.4 ‘my life’

p. 388— Paul says flesh and blood cannot inherit, the perishable body cannot inherit the imperishable. Which is what Gentiles in Corinth would agree with, but Paul wants to hang on to the word body.

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