Faith in Vane?

The title of this post combines two interests of mine: Biblical studies and bad puns.

It is frequent, in discussions of the resurrection, for those who are persuaded that our beliefs on this topic ought to remain static to appeal to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:17, which says that “if Christ was not raised, your faith is in vain”. What makes this interesting, and somewhat ironic, is that, for most contemporary Christians (N. T. Wright and a few of his readers excepted), resurrection is something unique that happened to Jesus. If they are asked about their own hope for an afterlife, they will most likely reply in terms of “going to heaven when I die”.

For Paul, however, resurrection was the form that the afterlife would take for everyone. This point is crucial to the logic of his argument in 1 Corinthians 15. Resurrection is to be the hope of all Christians, and so (as Paul himself says) if there is no resurrection, then it is not merely that Christ has not been raised, but “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (v18). Christ is viewed as the firstfruits from the dead, the forerunner who has undergone already what all will one day (v20).

And so the irony is that the verse quoted reflects an argument that most Christians (including conservative, “Bible-believing” ones) do not understand, or if they understand it, they themselves do not find Paul’s logic persuasive. And so, while they turn belief in a physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus into a sine qua non of the Christian faith, the whole context of that belief and its implication for Christians in general is changed into something other than what Paul himself seems to have believed. Hence my bad pun about a sort of faith that is in “vane” – itself turned by the winds of time and changing worldview, and yet often without those who adamantly hold to it realizing the shift that has taken place.

What should Christians do about this? One option is that advocated by Wright, namely a return to the early Christian doctrine of the general resurrection. Another (which I discuss in my book The Burial of Jesus) would be to rethink the resurrection of Jesus in relation to what it makes sense, in light of theological, philosophical, scientific and other considerations, to say about the afterlife in general. While some will understandably immediately incline towards the former, there is a very real sense in which Paul’s own articulation of his understanding of the resurrection – on the one hand emphasizing (indeed, assuming) that the afterlife is bodily, on the other hand allowing his interaction with other cultural assumptions and schools of thought to shape his thinking about the nature of such bodies – can be said to reflect the latter approach.

Before closing this topic, I ought to mention that a notion not entirely unlike “resurrection” was touched upon on the most recent episode of Dollhouse, in which a dead person’s mind was imprinted onto one of the dolls, allowing the woman in question to try to solve her own murder. It isn’t the Biblical idea of resurrection, of course, but the show did touch on it, asking what will happen to human societies if science rather than religion becomes the purveyor of eternal life.

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  • Anonymous

    Brilliant. It’s incredible how the teachings of the Biblical authors got so twisted. And yet everybody today assumes of course they believe what is “in” the bible, even when it is nowhere to be found.There is not a single clear teaching in the Bible that says one’s soul is immortal and that souls go to heaven when they die. Paul teaches the opposite. He says that people will be asleep (dead in the ground) and will be raised only when God comes to set up his earthly kingdom (the Kingdom of God/Heaven that he and Jesus spoke so much about). The order is: Jesus will lead the procession from heaven and the saints will rise from the grave and meet him and then the kingdom will be established.None of that is taught in Christianity. Not only do evangelical Christians who claim to believe the Bible largely reject the teachings of Jesus, they also reject large parts of Paul. Those who do teach what Jesus and Paul taught belong to obscure heretical

  • Anonymous

    To be clear, I’m not saying I believe the kingdom of God will ever be established on earth. But it almost certainly is what was taught by Jesus and Paul.That there is such divergence between the teachings of the bible authors and the beliefs of “Christians” is one thing that gives pause to whether to give credence to any of it. pf

  • already know what I think about this. :-)The case could be made, if we’re not taking an inerrant approach, that Paul describes a bodily resurrection because he’s describing it in terms he understands. Which could mean that “bodily” resurrection is a misnomer.However, Paul was surrounded by Hellenic culture which usually viewed a human as having a soul in the afterlife, with no promise of a bodily existence after death. It would have been very easy for him to have used that type of language in his epistles, considering he was addressing mainly Gentile believers who would have been more familiar with that approach.Yet…he doesn’t use that language.In the face of all the Jewish beliefs and rituals he was willing to change or discard…he didn’t alter the belief in a bodily resurrection.I think that’s significant.As fantastical as the idea of bodily resurrection may appear…..It’s interesting that we can imagine humans achieving something similar through technology, whether through human cloning or preserving the memories/neural activity of a person.It’s science fiction….but almost seems believable as something that could happen in the next hundred/two hundred years.With enough information and power anything can be achieved.Who has more information and power than us?;-)

  • And the protagonist of Dollhouse is played by Eliza Dushku, whose first major role was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a character named…Faith.(No profundity to be found there, but how could I resist?)

  • To be honest James, the struggle I’ve had with this topic, as a pastor, is finding ways to communicate this teaching in ways that avoid deconstructing one’s trust in the voice of the Scriptures. Honestly, I’ve found that one of the biggest problems in this area is tact. I was at a conference on reclaiming Paul, and witnessed this with a majority of those in a seminar on Paul and Eschatology in which they were continually letting out their frustration on the subject.It was interesting to me how many pastors seemed to have their greatest interest in teaching their congregation that “Heaven is great, but not the end of the world” (or something similar to what N.T. Wright has said). I’ve posted here how this conference reminded me of what I consider to be bad tact by Paul in Philippians 3. I think those interested in this post would enjoy the one I’ve linked. Be sure to read the comments as well as the pastor who I mentioned has responded to the post and the namecalling by one of the other commenters. In the world of biblical scholarship, an understanding of the resurrection is obviously not new. However, it seems to me that many in this generation are very influenced by N.T. Wright and have, for the most part, built their eschatological understandings in light of “Surprised by Hope”, or even “Resurrection and the Son of God”. While this is fine, I do wish that tact would have been taught in these books as well.I have many in my circle who believe in a rapture, but you don’t find me mocking Left Behind to their face every chance I get. However, I do try to incorporate what I find to be more legit interpretations of eschatology. In a nutshell, I guess my point is that, the majority of people on biblioblogs would adhere to a similar understanding of afterlife (despite the fundies and apologists that have visited recently for the inerrancy discussions), but how can we go about incorporating a new/old understanding of eschatology which doesn’t desire to leave this world but believes that God is at work in the restoration of all things?levi

  • LeviIs it possible to simply stop using “Heaven” language and begin replacing it with “eternal life”…the term that Jesus always used?Perhaps when is people consistently used that term it would be easier to ease people into a a discussion about what exactly “eternal life” word verification is “messes”…funny.

  • ugh…I’m functioning at low capacity today.”Perhaps if people consistently used that term”not “Perhaps when is”

  • Anonymous

    terri:I’ve read that “eternal life” is more accurately translated “life in the coming age.” Not being a greek scholar, I throw that out there FWIW.But on Paul, I think you have it backwards. You are right in that the immortal soul is a Platonic concept, but I think that only emphasizes why Paul was teaching something totally different.Greeks believed a soul was separate from a person, but to Jews the soul was just part of the whole persona that included the body. Paul was a Jew writing to members of a Jewish sect. He didn’t abandon such a basic Jewish tenent. In the book of I Timothy (written by Paul or a follower), it says that only God the father is immortal, which not only argues against going to heaven when we die, but also the trinity.Paul faced a lot of objections, but not because he adopted the Greek view of immortality. The big objections to teachings of early Christianity were different — such as “why hasn’t this Kingdom come yet?” Or “do you have to be circumsized or eat meat of idols, etc.”pf

  • I don’t disagree with anything you wrote…which I thought you knew, having read all my posts on this subject.I was only playing devil’s advocate.I was trying to stress that it would have been easy for Paul to take a more “Hellenic” approach to the subject…yet he remains steadfast in his assertion that there will be a bodily resurrection.I wasn’t meaning to imply that he didn’t really believe in it.

  • I wouldn't recommend avoiding heaven language, but I would avoid suggesting heaven as a place one goes up to after death. Much of recent theology (even in non-academic circles) has done this recently, but ironically enough has taken the language of John of Patmos rather literally. It seems strange that we fight literalist but then read Rev 21&22 in a very literal fashion. John could have very well been using antiempirical language at the close of Revelation, in order to offer a final glimpse of the kingdom of God triumphing over Roman Empire, or any other empire for that matter which isn't build upon the teachings of the Jewish/Christian narrative. While i think the previous argument is probably not one that would be relayed to most of your congregants, it could lead us to a place of humility when presenting our current eschatological understandings. It seems that we often point out the plurality of interpretive options, but in our desire to escape the problematic eschatological understandings of Evangelical Christianity in the past few hundred years, we have denied that same plurality and sought a conveinent literalism on some of the most imagery-drenched sections relating to eschatology. Personally, I've found much joy in the following quote by Marcus Borg:"The sense of 'more' is the ground for our hope, and even more of our trust. We live in God. We move in God. We have our being in God. And when we die, we do not die into nothingness; we die into God.Salvation is 'the dream of God.' It is a dream for the earth. And it is a dream for us. It is about being born again and about the Kingdom of God. Salvation is about the transformation of life, individually and together, here and now. And the Bible speaks of these two transformations as an experience now, and as a hope for history, and as a hope that leads beyond history. It does so in the language of metaphor and poetry, which is the only language we have for speaking of what lies at the end of history and beyond history."

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous wrote:”There is not a single clear teaching in the Bible that says one’s soul is immortal and that souls go to heaven when they die.”So what do we make of Jesus promise to the dying criminal on the cross in Luke 23:43? “Today you will be with me in paradise…Thats a view on the afterlife difficult to reconcile with Paul´s.

  • Tim

    Perhaps a slight tangent, but something I have thought of a lot lately. What difference does it make if Jesus was raised into this original physical body, if only forty days later he was teleported out of our physical dimension. Seems to me it is now indistinguishable from whether it was a spiritual resurrection (and unfortunately, also indistinguishable from whether it was completly made up).

  • Getting even more tangential, I have always thought that this passage knocks the legs out from under Pascal’s wager. If Paul himself thought that there was nothing worse than belief that was not well-founded, how can anyone advocate faith on the grounds that nothing would be lost if it turned out not to be true.

  • Anonymous

    Antonio, for one thing, I wouldn’t call that a clear teaching.What’s more, if Jesus was dead for three days before being resurrected, how could he have met the thief in paradise that night?Oh, you may say he was speaking metaphorically. Well, that would be my point as well. Although I would say the story is likely a legend.Or maybe Jesus said, “I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise,” and not “I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” The earliest manuscripts had no

  • Just a thought:(from a non-church going 'semi-believer' who has not read the bible – stop gasping!! 🙂 )What if the 'resurrection' was a 'ghost' of Jesus rather than the physical body – with the language used (& lost) in translations creating a misunderstanding over the eons???this has probably been covered already in the discussions above without me realising 🙂

  • the lukan passage is quite hard to take literally, despite how literal many often take the bodily resurrection. i would also agree with pf. this story does seem like an addition. the language is arguably not lukan, and the use of παραδείσῳ seems odd.

  • I pretty much grew up believing in soul sleep, which is the view that pf advocates in his comments. What was ironic about Armstrongism was that it emphasized the resurrection, yet it said that the resurrection would be spiritual, in that we’d be spirit beings, not flesh and blood. So we didn’t get the “God loves matter and physicality” spiel that N.T. Wright and Tim Keller like.I agree that the Bible emphasizes resurrection, but I think there are also passages in the New Testament in which some kind of conscious existence is presumed between our deaths and resurrection, or that we have a soul. Paul in I Corinthians 5 talks about something like a soul that lives inside the body, likened to a tent. Paul uses the phrase “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Jesus’ parable of Lazarus presumes that Dives was suffering in Hades while his brothers were still alive.

  • James PateI have been having a similar conversation on my blog. In response to Paul’s “being with the Lord” …weighed against everything else that Paul says about physical resurrection….I don’t know that his statement is meant to be taken in a doctrinal manner. It’s an off the cuff euphemism to explain his attitude about the dangers he’s been facing in his mission to spread the gospel, not an exhaustive statement on “souls”As far as Lazarus and Dives…..That’s really the only significant obstacle to conditional immortality. Right now I am wondering if the story is meant as a parable, or simply to illustrate the end point: Luke 16:31″He[Jesus] said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “

  • Anonymous

    Hi James (not Jame’s),Just where do you get the idea that NT Wright and a few other are “exceptions” to belief in a general resurrection? And were do you get the idea that “conservatives” do not accept Paul’s reasoning about Jesus being the first fruits of a general resurrection (or a gurantee)? I guess you could make that argument against the person in the pew who does not care much for theology, or has not been taught properly ( I would lump most ignorance into this group), but I highly doubt that these individuals who have not been taught properly would disagree with Paul if they knew what he said. I was brought up in a “non-denominational” Christian Church, and the doctrinial teaching was quite sad; I was never taught the basics of scripture reading, or any theology. The church was one of those “no creed but Christ” churches, and those churches are generally anti-intellectual. When I got older I started to read, and learn more about scripture. As I started to have a more informed understanding of scripture I had no problem allowing scripture to correct my false views of heaven, and the resurrection. I think that this would be the same situation with most of the “bible-believers”. I also must question the idea that we need to “re-interpret” the idea of resurrection in terms of modern philosophy, science, and theology. I think you could have narrowed down your sentence by simply saying that you want to reinterpret Paul in terms of modern science. Contrary to the picture you paint philosophy does not put forward anything like a uniform view of the human person, and neither does “modern theology”. In fact, if you consider reductionism in the philosophy of mind to be non-sensical, Paul’s view of Resurrection can be reconciled with most other forms of theories on the mind-body interaction. As far as theology goes; well, I do not have much faith in theology. Do you have in mind transhumanism as the fullfilment of Paul’s idea of general resurrection? It seems to me better to say that Paul was wrong. There is not going to be a deity to raise us from the dead, and we know dead people do not rise anyway.Better put… If Paul and Jesus are wrong, then it is best to let the dead bury their dead, and for us to stop playing with their corpses.Gidday, TReid

  • What’s the title of your post, Terri?

  • TReid, I did have in mind the majority of Christians who have little theological or Biblical knowledge in any depth or detail. I found it interesting that, after questioning my making such a generalization, you yourself said that you have little trust in theology! But at any rate, my point was simply that most Christians would not agree that, if you take away a bodily resurrection at some future point, their faith would be in vain. The focus of their hope is “going to heaven” when they die. And so my point was that, even in the circles that might emphasize the importance of believing that Jesus was raised from the dead, they would in many cases not even give their own resurrection a second thought, or feel that their faith was in vain if the afterlife bypassed a return to bodily existence altogether. I don’t see transhumanism bypassing or replacing the Christian view of the afterlife. They are rather different things. But I do think that the former potentially will have some relevance to how we think about the latter, since even a greatly-extended lifespan may change the degree and kind of interest people have in notions of life after death.

  • Hey James, I have posted a kind of follow-up post about “What is the Soul” on my blog. I agree with what James Pate says in his comment. I guess for me I actually have a harder time visualizing what the soul even is (is it a ghost in us? how it is different from our mind?) than visualizing a bodily resurrection. Like I can hope that the whole created world full of pain or sadness will one day be fully redeemed, but the idea of souls in some afterlife seems so vague to me.

  • ‘The focus of their hope is “going to heaven” when they die.’Like Moses was alleged to have done?Where did Jesus go when he died?Heaven.

  • MIKE KLike I can hope that the whole created world full of pain or sadness will one day be fully redeemed….CARRI don’t know what you mean.Can you give me some examples of things which have been redeemed, so I can understand what ‘redeemed’ means?For example, I’ve heard of a mortgage being redeemed. Is that a good example of the word ‘redeemed’?

  • Dr McGrath,You misunderstand the typical conservative position yet again, and it’s really disappointing to see this from someone like you.Don’t take Joe Blow’s off-the-cuff remark “go to heaven when I die” as your authority for what the conservative position is, for Pete’s sake! We believe that we will be with Jesus when we die – 2 Cor 5 – but as a temporary measure. Pursuant to 1 Cor 15 and Revelation, our bodies WILL be resurrected in the Eschaton and will be like Christ’s. The repentant/saved will be with Him in the New Jerusalem; the unrepentant/damned in the lake of fire. All will have physical, immortal bodies.Again, shame on you for not even bothering to learn the position you criticise.Peace,Rhology

  • No Rhology, shame on you yet again for pretending that I’m talking about views of mysterious conservative opponents, rather than views I once myself held and which many people I know still do.If I choose to talk about common views among conservative Christians, I’m perfectly free to do so. They are, after all, typically the ones who are so sure they know “what the Bible says” and “what the truth is” that they are more likely to chase away a pastor who tries to share his or her hard-earned seminary learning than to assume that these challenging views are ones they might actually benefit from hearing. Indeed, a great many scholars and theologians in conservative schools tiptoe around touchy subjects precisely because they depend on funding from just such individuals.Be that as it may, my point was not that most conservative Christians would deny the final resurrection, that they would cross their fingers when they get to the line in the creed, “We believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come”. My point was that they don’t feel the need for such a resurrection the way Paul seems to have in 1 Corinthians. I doubt that many conservative Christians, even those well informed in theology, would say that, if they live forever in a spiritual state with God but never return to bodily existence, their faith is in vain. My point was that Paul seems to have assumptions that few modern Christians, liberal or conservative, would share.

  • ISTM that you’re backtracking, but OK.One thing, though:I doubt that many conservative Christians, even those well informed in theology, would say that, if they live forever in a spiritual state with God but never return to bodily existence, their faith is in vain.I would say it’s in vain, yes, b/c that would mean that God would have failed to do what He said He would do. But on your view, He might not have said that anyway, so I’m not sure why it would bother you.

  • It’s so weird to me when I hear people say that they once believed that heaven was the end all be all of the Christian’s life and that they still know many people who believe that. I’ve not met a Christian yet who believed that. Everyone I know believes in the general resurrection. The majority of people I know believe that once a believer dies they will await the resurrection in heaven and a few people I know believe in soul sleep until the resurrection. I won’t say that James doesn’t know the standard conservative position, but I always think of the people he mentions in the post as mythical because I’ve never met any of them.

  • i’d love to know where you hang out, nick.

  • Anonymous

    Await the resurrection in heaven? First time in my life I’ve heard that phrase. Is one conscious? If you took a poll of evangelical christians, I’d bet 95% or more think that they go to heaven in a conscious state when they die. I doubt more than 1 in 100 even gives it a thought.

  • Levi: Mainly in Pentecostal circles. Anonymous: Yes, conscious.

  • steph

    Nick: All the Christians I have talked to about death, believe in some sort of heaven as the end of everything. They don’t seem to believe in a real general resurrection. I have also heard a Christian interpretation of those NDEs had by some people where they claim to see a white light, as a flash of heaven. These Christians I talked to aren’t Pentecostal Christians though. I have been to Pentecostal churches but I’m not sure what they believe about death. I’ve never talked to anyone about death who believes in a general resurrection except on the internet.

  • I don’t know of any “regular Christians” that give much thought to resurrection…in large part due to the fact that many churches fail to teach on it in any sense…whether it’s after people hanging out in Heaven for a while, or entering “soul sleep”.As far as the difference between “spiritual bodies” and physical bodies…I have to say that I am close to being a materialist. What would a “spiritual body” be? Is it going to be composed of matter? Then what’s the difference between a spiritual body and a physical body?If it’s not going to be composed of some “thing” then what does that mean. In some ways it seems more fantastical to me than physical resurrection., because it’s basically implying the existence of our minds in some wispy existence…closer to Nirvana.We live in a physical universe…I don’t see that coming to an end.

  • Anonymous

    Nick, if you are conscious, haven’t you already been resurrected? Isn’t the whole idea of resurrection that you were dead (unconscious) and now you are alive? It seems to me that such a belief is carefully crafted (and probably limited to a small group of seminarians) to try and mesh the inconsistencies between what people believe and what the bible books say. But in the end it contradicts both. I think the NT writers believed people who died were asleep and one day would be raised back to consciousness by God. The vast majority of self-professed Christians today believe in immortal souls. Having an immortal soul that would be resurrected is both and neither at the same time, and certainly has no foundation in anything taught in the early

  • Steph: I can’t recall ever coming across any church’s statement of faith that didn’t mention the general resurrection. Perhaps all the Christians I know have read their churchs’ statements of faith. pf: I think certain parts of the Hebrew Bible show that the writers thought that we ‘slept’ until the resurrection but there are other parts that speak against this. Ideas develop. In the NT ‘sleep’ is only a euphemism for death and the prevailing belief seems to me to be conscious existence after the death of the body. So to answer your questions, no, if you’re conscious you haven’t (necessarily) already been resurrected. I don’t equate physical death with unconsciousness in the way that you do, so no, that’s not the whole idea of resurrection. I’m not sure what your comment about seminarians is actually in reference to or how it applies here so I’ll leave it alone. As I said, I don’t share your interpretation of the NT writers. Whether or not the soul is immortal is inconsequential to the discussion of consciousness after physical death. It perfectly possible to be an annihilationist who believes that the souls of the wicked will be destroyed one day at the judgment (therefore not being immortal) and also believe that they exist in a conscious state until that judgment. We obviously disagree on what the early Church taught. That being said, I don’t wish to engage in any kind of sustained debate on the soul or the resurrection or anything of the like. I’m content to just point out that I don’t know any of these Christians that James mentions in his post and so many of his commenters seem to have encoutered.

  • Paul and James McGrath both say that if there is no resurrection, then the dead are lost.Presumably Paul did not believe the dead were still conscious somewhere, and neither did the Christian converts in Corinth that he was writing to, or else Paul would have had to address the obvious objection by them that the dead were happily living on, and so could hardly be lost.In short, neither Paul nor the people he was writing to believed in a conscious soul which survived death.

  • It’s still weird to me that everyone Nick comes in contact with affirms the resurrection. I couldn’t have even made that claim in seminary.

  • LeviHe must roll with a unique crowd.

  • Anonymous

    Nick, you couch your answer so many ways until Sunday, but what stuck me most was your comment that “ideas develop.” Doesn’t that go against the whole idea of the bible being inspired and authoratative? That is exactly the point of liberals. The books reflect the opinions of the authors as a snapshot in time, not as some immutable message from the almighty. The authors don’t always agree, which they would if they were acting at the behest of

  • Anonymous

    Uh, “struck” me

  • pf, I am in agreement with Nick on understandings of afterlife evolving throughout the OT. This is not a controversial statement for him to make by any means.

  • “Perhaps a slight tangent, but something I have thought of a lot lately. What difference does it make if Jesus was raised into this original physical body, if only forty days later he was teleported out of our physical dimension. Seems to me it is now indistinguishable from whether it was a spiritual resurrection” (Tim)Paul himself says “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44) Doesn’t that mean that the natural body is metamorphosized into a body composed of spirit? i.e. a spiritual body? That, and that alone, can explain how Jesus got out of the wrapped up grave clothes that would have been basically cemented to his body by the embalming process (John 19:39). His body dematerialized and become a spiritual body. That also explain his ability to pass through walls (John 20:19) and “he appeared in another form” (Mark 16:12). And, Jesus also Himself said that in the resurrection we will be like the angels, who are not generally believed to have natural bodies!!!!!!!! (Mat 22:30) The whole notion of a physical resurrection as if we are going to come back and live another carnal life is so wrong headed. It is nothing but Jewish Paganism.

  • Levi: What kind of seminary did you go to? I’m seriously baffled by this idea that Christians believe that heaven is the end. As a kid in the Roman Catholic Church we recited The Apostles’ Creed every Sunday. When I became a Pentecostal my pastor always taught that Jesus would return and establish a kingdom on earth and that believers would be resurrected an live in this kingdom. The pastor of the church I attend now believes the same thing although I haven’t heard him teach it since I’ve been there. He focuses on other things. Of the many dispensationalists I know I can’t think of a single one who doesn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. Maybe you guys know a bunch of Lutherans or Anglicans or something. I can’t say that I know any of those.

  • steph

    Nick: Christians I mingle with down here tend to be a bit wishy washy and don’t really read anything much and probably never heard of a ‘statement of faith’ although they might think they know everything in the Bible… They might go to church but it’s just a bunch of sermons and hymns and keeps them feeling Christian.Geez I’m being cynical. They’re good and nice people really but maybe the type of Christians you’d call heretical. 🙂

  • BEOWULFPaul himself says “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44) CARRNo, he doesn’t. There is no word for ‘it’ in that verse. Paul eschews all grammatical devices which might lead people to relate the two bodies.Which is why English translations put them in!

  • How is “sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body” any less clear? It is still obvious that the same body undergoes a metamorphosis. And his very argument is that point, that we will be “glorified,” clothed with immortality, etc.

  • I don’t understand your reading of a clothing metaphor being a transformation.When Jesus transformed the water into wine, it would be absurd to say that the water had been clothed with wine.Nobody talks like that, because that doesn’t make sense.The passage you quote has two bodies. A natural body goes into the ground. A spiritual body comes out of the ground.But there is no implication in that that any corpse is clothed.You don’t transform a corpse by putting clothes on it.That reading of the metaphor just makes no sense. Paul does say ‘we’ will be clothed.The clothing metaphor is very clear.We change clothes. Changing clothes does not mean that you transform a cotton shirt into a silk shirt.You take off the cotton shirt and put a silk shirt on.You don’t put one shirt on top of another shirt.That is the point. Paul regards our present body as a set of clothes. It is removed, leaving us naked, and then we are clothed in a heavenly body.The earthly body is destroyed.’For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands’Which part of ‘destroyed’ do you think means ‘transformed’?Paul trashes the idea that the material of our present body is used to make a resurrected body.’The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God….’Corpses dissolve into dust, and Paul goes out of his way to trash any thought that a resurrected body is in any way made out of dust. The Gospels might have a Jesus who claims to be made out of prefectly recognisable flesh and bone, but Paul does not.All this can be read in my Resurrection Debate

  • Steven….I think you put too much stock in the actual wording Paul uses. It’s not as if he was trying to explain the physics of a natural body verse a spiritual body.Think about the term”spiritual body”….that’s somewhat of an oxymoron isn’t it? Spirit and body are generally conceived of as being opposites….one is ethereal, the other physical.I think a safe assumption is to think that Paul was trying to convey an idea of physical existence which was radically different from our current physical existence.

  • Paul, like many other people, thought of spirit as a substance – a heavenly substance.So a spiritual body was not an oxymoron for Paul.No more than his claiming the Sun was made of a substance that was non-earthly.Paul’s whole idea is that different things are made of different materials , and so cannot turn into each other.All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead…..Paul uses examples of things which do not turn into each other, men, birds, fish, the Sun, the moon to persuade the Corinthians that corpses do not turn into resurrected bodies.Hence they should not reject the resurrection on the spurious grounds that their god does not raise corpses. Paul’s point is that a resurrection does not involve raising corpses.That would be like turning a fish into the moon.TERRII think a safe assumption is to think that Paul was trying to convey an idea of physical existence which was radically different from our current physical existence.CARRI think you are absolutely correct.

  • I think a safe assumption is to think that Paul was trying to convey an idea of physical existence which was radically different from our current physical existence.Does anyone else experience a little cognitive dissonance when they see the phrases “radically different” and “safe assumption” in the same sentence? I tend to think that Paul had some sense of the physicality of the resurrection, but the only thing I think it safe to assume is that he was not familiar with the empty tomb tradition or the stories of the apostles touching the resurrected Jesus or sharing food with him. The pagan converts in Corinth were clearly confused about the nature of the resurrection and it is hard to believe that Paul wouldn’t have used some of those stories if he had known them. If, as many argue, no first century Jew would have understood a resurrection as anything other than physical, neither Paul nor any of the other apostles would have needed any of those stories to convince them that Jesus had been raised bodily. Any sort of appearance would have established it. Only when Christianity started to become a primarily gentile phenomenon would it have been necessary to come up with stories to illustrate the physicality of the resurrection.

  • Vinyy…you touch on something in the comment thread which I haven’t really addressed….the idea that Paul’s conception of a physical resurrection doesn’t fit the gospels’ conception.I’m not sure how we could arrive at that conclusion without making a few assumptions. The first would be that until the gospels were actually written, nobody believed in a bodily resurrection. Yet, isn’t it reasonable to assume that oral tradition carried those stories forward to the gospels? Just because someone hadn’t written them down and recorded them, doesn’t mean that the stories didn’t already exist beforehand.The idea that Mark doesn’t record a physical resurrection as proof that people didn’t believe in that kind of resurrection would be another assumption. Mark clearly portrays the body as being gone, and relays the message that Jesus has risen and gone on to Galilee.

  • oops…”Vinny”…soorry…in case anyone hasn’t noticed…I’m a terrible typist.

  • TERRIThe first would be that until the gospels were actually written, nobody believed in a bodily resurrection.CARRPaul did believe in a bodily resurrection. But it seems he did not believe that the earthly body was restored.He seems to teach that we change bodies, in the way that we change clothes or change houses. We move from one to another.He teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that the earthly body can be destroyed without affecting what we live in (the heavenly body)The Christian converts Paul was writing to clearly did not believe in corpses rising.But converts believe what converted them, or else they cease to belong to their converted faith.So they can’t have been converted by stories of corpses rising.

  • The physicality of the resurrection shows up most clearly prior to the NT in 2 Macc 7:10-11, which reads, “After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again” (NETS). The point would seem to be that the Maccabaean brothers hoped that their bodies would be repaired in the resurrection.Hope this helps.

  • The Christian converts Paul was writing to clearly did not believe in corpses rising.You keep saying this…but I don’t understand where you get it from. Jewish tradition most certainly believed in a physical, bodily resurrection. Perhaps the gentile believers seemed not to because of the Hellenic influence…but it seems that Paul’s letters were meant to correct them and confirm that,”Yes…there will be some sort of physical resurrection.”While in one instance he uses the picture of houses and clothing…in another he uses the image of a seed growing into something else. Plants grow from a seed. So even if the end result looks nothing like the seed, it couldn’t exist without it. The seed has transformed its existence….not ceased its existence.I can’t tell if we agree or disagree. It feels like we’re going in circles.I think we’re expecting too much precision from the images Paul is using.

  • Terri,My point is that Paul did not reference any of the gospels stories even though he was trying to explain a physical resurrection to pagan converts. One possibility is that he did know of these stories. Another possibility is that he knew them but did not think them necessary in order to understand the nature of a physical resurrection. Between those two, the former seems more likely to me.I don’t really see Paul saying anything that is inconsistent with believers getting a new physical body while the old one turns to dust in the grave. He might have believed in corpses rising, but I don’t think it’s clear from what he writes to the Corinthians.

  • In answer to Terri, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is writing to Christian converts who scoffed at the resurrection. It seems clear that they had never heard of a corpse rising.As for the seed analogy, Paul stresses that it is a ‘naked’ seed. It has no material of its own, it dies and God gives it a body.As Alan Segal writes ‘The metaphor of the grain of wheat suggests two bodies because the ancient world thought that the seed disappeared and was reborn.’For Paul the corpse was just a marker to tell God what sort of thing to create.Plant wheat seeds and God creates wheat.Plant corpses and God creates resurrected beings.’When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.’The seed is ‘naked’, and God gives it a body. No suggestion that there is already a body that can be used by God.God has to give the naked seed a body.

  • TERRII think we’re expecting too much precision from the images Paul is using.CARRJust think.Paul and the people he was writing to knew by oral tradition all these stories of Jesus denying he was a spirit, eating fish, having wounds that could be touched, and declaring he was made of flesh and bone.And yet Paul preferred to teach on the nature of the resurrected body by using unprecise images, rather than use the clear words of his Lord and Saviour.The guy was dumb beyond measure.

  • The guy was dumb beyond measure.So when can we expect a book from you that will outsell the New Testament?Such arrogance is pretty amazing.

  • I don’t think Americans really get British sarcasm.

  • Sorry, I’m an idiot. A facepalm is called for and has been administered.

  • StevenI must admit that you are an enigma to me…British sarcasm notwithstanding! When you argue things….I can never quite tell if you’re arguing them to argue them….or if you actually believe them….or something entirely else that I just haven’t picked up on.You spend a lot of time parsing Christian theology and Paul….but what do you actually believe about them? Is everything total bunk in your eyes?I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from.

  • I’m just trying to find out what early Christians believed.

  • Yes…but why?From poking through your profile and blog sites…it seems as if you are a self-described atheist….unless I’m reading something wrong.Why do you care what self-deluded Christians believe?Isn’t it all the same to you if there is a “physical” resurrection or “spiritual” resurrection?You say you were being sarcastic about Paul….but if you think everything he is talking about isn’t real….wouldn’t you think he was dumb?

  • steph

    terri : You don’t have to be religious to be interested in or even devote your career to the history of early Christianity. Do classicists believe in the Greek pantheon?

  • Steph…absolutely. I agree. I’m just perplexed by Steven’s arguments sometimes….sometimes it seems like he’s rooting for a cause he believes in.Sometimes his arguments seem hyper-critical…and other times supportive. It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. I just find his approach curious.We all know what curiosity did to the cat. Maybe I should remember that!

  • steph

    My cat is as curious as anyone and her curiosity is constantly rewarded. As for curiosity about people’s motivations, I think some are more concerned with debunking religion than studying history. So be curious. 🙂

  • STEPHI think some are more concerned with debunking religion than studying history…CARRA little like claiming some people are more interested in cooking than preparing food to be eaten….

  • Anonymous

    THE BEST RAPTURE LOCATER Guess what. If you can figure out when the “sudden destruction” of wicked persons takes place in I Thess. 5:3 (and also when “death” is ended in I Cor. 15:54), you will know where to place the rapture on your prophecy chart because those passages talk about the “times and seasons” (and also the “when” and “then”) of the rapture. Neat, huh?(If the above doesn’t move you, then reading “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site surely will.)

  • steph

    Carr: Rubbish.

  • Hi Steph,Good old fashioned abuse by you, without even an attempt to show why it was ‘rubbish’…I see nobody has refuted a word I said on this comment thread.

  • Steven,People have refuted you…you just don’t accept their refutation.C’mon…don’t dish it out to Steph if you can’t take it.Or to follow-up on your cooking metaphor…If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!or…just because you’re cooking doesn’t mean that what you’ve made is edible.

  • Anonymous

    April DeConick, in a new post on a different subject, sums up this issue well:”The resurrected body was understood to be a different thing by different Jews. There was no consensus teaching. There appears to have been a wide range of belief even among the first Christians, from the belief that your raising will be as a new spiritual body of glory like the angels (Paul) to the belief that your raising will be of your physical fleshly body from the grave, a body that still needed to eat (Luke).”pf

  • As the last post showed, nobody has refuted me, when I claimed that Paul’s understanding of a resurrection is entirely different to that of the Gospels.

  • steph

    So what, who cares? What does that prove? Who has suggested that Paul and the Gospels view of resurrection is entirely the same? What’s new about your claim? And why should anyone bother getting involved in a game of rhetorical ping pong with you even if they disagreed? In any case I don’t see your claim on this thread.

  • Paul did not believe in corpses rising.The Gospels believed in corpses rising.As Steph, says , who cares? Everybody agrees on that difference in how Paul and the Gospels see the resurrection.

  • steph

    No everybody doesn’t agree with you. And who cares? Who cares enough about you to refute you, engage with your rhetoric or whatever. Nobody. Why would they bother.

  • Every time Steph posts it is obvious she would like to refute my claims that early Christian converts, and Paul himself, did not believe corpses rose from graves.But she can’t.Hence her multitude of ad hominem posts, lacking all substance.

  • steph

    Nobody else cares, Steven. And I actually couldn’t care less to refute you – I don’t know what Paul thought. I’m not that interested in Paul and as far as the resurrection goes, I’m more interested in the gospel stories. I have read interpretations of Paul but I don’t find your simplistic rhetoric helpful for exploring a question far more complex than just a literal reading of the biblical text.

  • “Paul did not believe in corpses rising. / The Gospels believed in corpses rising.” (Steven Carr)Wasn’t your argument a while ago that Paul didn’t believe in a spiritual body? and now you are saying he didn’t believe in resurrection at all? But he says if the dead rise not our faith is in vain, so unless he literally thought our faith IS in vain, then you are simple and unredeemably wrong about Paul.

  • ‘Wasn’t your argument a while ago that Paul didn’t believe in a spiritual body?’Nope.Try this new invention called ‘reading’.And then apply it to Paul’s letters.’The first man Adam became a created being, the last Adam became a lie-giving spirit”For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands’.Paul believed the earthly body was destroyed.

  • So what? Obviously many earthly bodies are destroyed, by cremation, extreme decay, etc. Why would he deem it impossible that an omnipotent God could recreate said bodies?

  • OK, so it sounds like you’d agree that the question of what happened to Jesus’ body, or whether the tomb was empty, doesn’t ultimately have anything to do with whether Jesus was resurrected?

  • (If you were addressing me) No, I was responding to Carr’s statement: Paul believed the earthly body was destroyed.But now that I think about it, it does make me wonder a bit. So, Jesus is buried in the tomb. Somehow His body is disintegrated by an alien ray gun. On Pascha morning His body is resurrected, physically and bodily, in its glorified form. Does it matter whether His body was disintegrated by the ray gun or not? I don’t know, it’s a bit of a brain teaser. The important question, I should think, is whether Christ was raised bodily and physically.

  • Paul certainly would believe that God could recreate dead corpses after they dissolved into dust.All the more striking then that this is something he never claims his God will do.He just says ‘we’ will be clothed, presumably after the earthly tent is destroyed.This is not a transformation of an existing body, unless you want to say that when Jesus turned water into wine, the water had been clothed with wine.But nobody talks like that…

  • StevenYou pick and choose what you want from Paul, constantly referring to the earthly “tent” illustration but avoiding his more detailed comparison about seeds.I already commented on this…so I won’t lay it all out again.If you want to argue that Paul didn’t believe in some sort of “transformation”, you have to ignore the times when he refers to it in exactly that manner.Philippians 3:20-2120But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

  • “Try this new invention called ‘reading’.”Was that really necessary?

  • Just FYI, Steven Carr is an atheist and therefore has no objective basis to ground any morality. It could very well be that HE believes that making rude statements like that is not only morally permissible but in fact obligatory. And if atheism is true, he’d be right…for HIM. And that would be all that matters.

  • TERRIYou pick and choose what you want from Paul, constantly referring to the earthly “tent” illustration but avoiding his more detailed comparison about seeds.CARRI don’t avoid it.I have blogged on it.As Alan Segal writes ‘The metaphor of the grain of wheat suggests two bodies because the ancient world thought that the seed disappeared and was reborn.’Paul says the seed is ‘naked’ ie it has no material of its own.Paul says God gives it a body. It does not have a body. God gives it a body. What part of ‘God gives it a body’ means that it already has a body which God transforms?

  • StevenTo use one of your lines…”Try this invention called reading”You completely failed to interact with the quote from Paul about transformation.I don’t know if I buy the whole “seed disappears” argument. What farmer hasn’t accidently dug up just sprouting seedlings which are obviously sprouting from a still attached seed?I highly doubt that ancient people never realized that the seed was growing into something as opposed to magically disappearing and putting a plant in its place.

  • TERRIYou pick and choose what you want from Paul, constantly referring to the earthly “tent” illustration but avoiding his more detailed comparison about seeds.CARRWhen Terri says I avoided the more detailed comparison about seeds, she probably forgot that people could read the thread, and see that I had not avoided it at all, but had responded to it already.Useful thing , this ‘reading’By simply ‘reading’ the comments, people can see how I had already responded to a point that Terri mistakenly thought I had ignored.In fact, I had responded it twice, in such careful and detailed exegesis that Terri could only get around the arguments by claiming I had avoided it.I wonder if she will apologise for claiming that I had ignored something I had responded to twice.To say sorry would be mighty Christian of her.

  • Steven Pleas…this comment thread is almost 100 comments long and has occured over a lengthy period of time.I don’t go back and re-read from comment 1 every time I come back to the thread.You did interact with seed ref….I just found your dismissal of it wanting.

  • we were simultaneously typing.I am sorry..I wasn’t implying that you didn’t interact with the “seed” argument…I was implying that you were dismissive of it.

  • TERRIYou completely failed to interact with the quote from Paul about transformation.CARRThere is no quote from Paul about transformation.This explains why I failed to interact with it.TERRIWhat farmer hasn’t accidently dug up just sprouting seedlings which are obviously sprouting from a still attached seed?CARRWhat?Farmers know that the plant and the ‘still attached seed’ are different things?But the seedling and the still attached seed are the same thing, but one is transformed into the other, surely?How can the ‘still attached seed’ have been transformed into the seedling, if it is ‘still attached’ to the seedling?Perhaps Paul thought that something emerged from the seed.Which is why he said ‘You do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, and God gives it a body as he has determined’.Perhaps Paul knew that the seed and the seedling were two different things, which could both exist at the same time.Perhaps Paul believed in 2 bodies – an earthly body which was destroyed, and replaced by a heavenly body.Paul does , after all, say that the earthly body is destroyed.Perhaps he might have meant that the earthly body was destroyed.

  • uh…yes there is…Philippians 3:20-21.look further up the comment thread

  • TERRII am sorryCARRI accept your apology. We all make mistakes.I was not ‘dismissive’ of it. I showed how Paul clearly states that the seed is ‘naked’.Ie it has no material and ‘God gives it a body’ to quote Paul.The seed analogy is that of something emerging from the seed case.The Gospel stories are nothing like a seed being planted and a plant growing from the seed. Paul has no concept of transformation.He uses clothing metaphors, and nobody says the water was clothed with wine when it was transformed into wine.The clothing metaphor just does not fit a transformation.However, it fits perfectly the idea that we shed our earthly clothes and don heavenly clothes.

  • Steven, if you haven’t used this already, don’t forget your argument on metaschêmatizô in the Philippians passage, using Josephus’ Antiquities books 7 and book 8.

  • TERRIuh…yes there is…Philippians 3:20-21.CARRThe word used by Paul there is usually used in a clothing analogy.For example he uses it of Satan becoming an angel of light.He does not mean Satan was literally transformed into an angel of light.He just means Satan donned a disguise of an angel of light.So that word is consistent with the clothing analogy of shedding our earthly clothes and donning new heavenly ones.However there is so little detail in Philippians 3:20-21 that I can hardly say it proves my case.For more detailed views of what Paul meant by this one verse, we have to read whole chapters of Paul, rather than just one verse, and Paul expands on what he means by resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5.

  • I guess this is where I am confused by your position.We know that Jews, in general, believed in some kind of physical resurrection.EVen if the word used for transformation can be construed and an exchange of clothing…which I will have to take your word on…how do you make grammatical sense of the sentence?”will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”How can they (our lowly bodies) be like Christ’s if they cease to exist?Shouldn’t Paul be saying our “new” bodies?