Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Heaven: not the end of the world IX

The Christian hope: The Resurrection of the Dead
So if going to heaven when you die is not held out as the Christian hope (as this series has been claiming), then (a) what happens when you die? and (b) what is the Christian hope? I'll leave (a) for the moment (though I think the brief answer is that the Bible says surprisingly little other than a promise of being "with Christ" (Phil 1.23)), but want to be very clear on (b).

The Christian hope is for the resurrection of the dead, for what happened to Christ to happen to us, and in some way to the entire cosmos. Again, our knowledge of the future is found in that one bit of the future that has already arrived: our risen Lord. What God did to him, he promises to us.

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. - 1 Corinthians 15.19-28.
The enemy (death) is defeated in God's victory (resurrection). This happens first to Christ ("the first fruits", that first portion of the crop to ripen, which symbolises and guarantees the rest), and then is to happen to "those who belong to Christ" and/or "all".* For death to be defeated, this can't simply be a reinterpretation of death ("I like to think of death as..."), nor simply an ignoring of death ("Death doesn't matter. It's not an event that happens to me, since I won't be there to experience it!"). Death is real and is painful. God neither ignores nor downplays it; he doesn't call it something else ("a doorway to another existence") or explain it away as a good part of a grander plan. He defeats it; destroys it. This is what it is to be liberated from the fear of death: not to hear that it doesn't matter, that God will remember us, that we rejoin the circle of life, that we go to a better place. We are liberated by and in the living one, who died and is alive forevermore. The body, the breath, the complex bundle of nerves and knees that we live in and as - returned! And not just returned as though God were to reanimate a cadaver but transformed, set free from its bondage to decay, never to die again.
*A discussion for another day.

But what of the language of a "spiritual" body a little later in this chapter, doesn't that undermine my point about the physicality of the resurrection? I don't think so. The passage in question contrasts two kinds of body: our present body and our future one. Unfortunately, at this point, some translations (e.g. NRSV) make a grievious error in calling the former "physical" and the latter "spiritual".* I'm happy to discuss this in detail in comments, but the adjectives used simply can't mean what most of us would hear in that contrast (touchable/physical/solid vs non-physical/ghostly/ethereal). Better might be to call the former "living" and the latter "breathing", or the former "powered by soul" and the latter "powered by Spirit" (this too may be misleading, given the muddled and sometimes contradicatory use of these words in our culture). Whatever words we use, we are still speaking of bodies. Paul's point, I take it, is much the same as what I was trying to say in the final sentences of the previous paragraph: this is no mere continuation or resuscitation of our present, often somewhat embarrassing, bodies. This is a thorough overhaul into a condition in which we can bear the full weight of sharing in the glory of God. Even the canonical authors struggled to find words, apart from pointing to their experience of the risen Christ.
*I'm really not one of those people who has gained a little knowledge of Greek and am now forever grumpy with the stupidity of Bible translators. There are very few places where I question the mainstream modern translations (which on the whole are very good). This just happens to be one of them.

So let us stop referring to our hope as going to heaven, and begin consciously speaking of resurrection, a (re)new(ed) life in a (re)new(ed) body on a (re)new(ed) earth. There is more to our hope - there is the coming of God to dwell permanently with us, there is final justice and healing for the nations - but there is not less.

I was recently talking with some Christian friends for whom such thoughts were new, who said that they had never really looked at 1 Corinthians 15. They were a little sceptical and asked what I called this new way of thinking, this disturbingly novel teaching. I said "the resurrection of the body and the life of the age to come".
Series: I; II; IIa; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X; XI; XII; XIII; XIV; XV; XVI. Five points each for the city, artist, sculpture and its original intended location. But only one per customer.

39 comments:

Rob said...

(Gah, blogger ate my post!)

Hey Byron,

I, too, share your frustrations about the way that psychikon and pneumatikon are rendered in modern translations. I actually got into a discussion about the meaning of these words with the man who was very influential to my coming to faith. Because of his incorrect reading of "physical" and "spiritual", he has come to reject the idea that we will have physical bodies. I tried to explain that these adjectives do not describe substance, but rather the driving force behind the bodies. It was to no avail, unfortunately. He told me to "read my Bible." It's too bad just "reading your Bible" can lead people to such erroneous and dangerous beliefs.

I have a quick question concerning Hebrews 9:27. If you're going to cover it later in the series, just ignore this. Do you believe it teaches the immediate post-mortem fate, or a sort of chronological thing (man will die, and then there will be a judgment in the future). I think the latter view has more biblical support.

I also hope you eventually bring out John 5:28-20 since you teased us with the thought of whether all me or only believers are raised.

Keep up the great work and God bless!

Dave Barrie said...

"Never work with children or animals!"

We had an awkward moment at church two weeks ago when, during the kid's spot, the children's minister asked a young girl why we won't be needing sunscrean in eternal life.

Her answer:

"Because we won't be real people there"

michael jensen said...

wow. We will be radiant with glory!! We will properly SHINE with it!

Dave Barrie said...

Just to clarify, the reason the children's minister was suggesting that we won't need sunscreen in eternal life was not because our own glory will make us shiny, nor because there will be no sun (Rev 21:23), but because we will have imperishable bodies (1 Cor 15:42).

byron said...

Rob - thanks for your thoughts. The point about driving force rather than substance is a key one. It is like the difference between a wooden boat or a metal boat (substance) versus a sail boat or a steam boat (driving force). This is NTW's example, but I find it very helpful. However, even if you take the adjectives as describing substance, you still have the problem that Paul calls our present body "soul-ish" (psychikon), which, if you're going to (mistakenly) follow popular assumptions about anthropological substance dualism, means that even our present bodies are not physical...

Dave: great story. I suspect that C. S. Lewis might have answered something along the lines of: "why do we need sunscreen now? Because we are not yet real people."
(He would be wrong too, but at least more interestingly wrong!)

MPJ: I assume it will still be reflected glory. Thoughts?

Speaking of which, here's some lyrics to a song I've been enjoying recently by Sara Groves called "You are the Sun":

You are the sun shining down on everyone
Light of the world giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant I can hardly take it in
And everywhere you are is warmth and light

And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can’t be a light unless I turn my face to you

Shine on me with your light
Without you I’m a cold dark stone
Shine on me, I have no light of my own
You are the sun, you are the sun, you are the sun
And I am the moon

psychodougie said...

ooh, ooh, florence, round back of the ufuzzi, surely the most awesomenest of art galleries in the world!
i'll leave the rest for someone else.

it's interesting thinking through our state post-death, pre-new creation. the new 'physicalness' of our resurrection bodies will be firstly when the new heavens and earth are created. at least that's my understanding.
that would mean that we would stay in spirit state until that day.
is that something ever brought up? that inbetween time?

because the main thrust of your series seems to be the hope of our resurrection, which i agree with. but i'm thinking there is a now-and-not-yet-ness about that also. in the way same as there is the now-and-not-yet at play in our current state, where we are raised with Christ, the 'spiritual body', yet still of flesh, still putting off the things of the flesh. but then we die, and, if Christ has not yet returned, are there until the final judgement. and it is only then that we take on our resurrection bodies.

welcome to my head!

i'll try and find refs if you think i'm nuts. i'm thinking (off the top of my head) 1cor15 too, 2pet3, heb12? (happy to be reproofed!)

byron said...

Doug, five points for Florence. And yes, I'd been considering including a post on the intermediate state, but I'm not sure I will. A guy at college is doing a project on death and is dealing with that at some length, but I think I'll leave it for the moment.

Anonymous said...

The Statue is the David by Michelangelo.

This is a fantastic series Byron. Though mine is not quite as far along as yours, I also have been writing on this topic from a similar vein. I invite you to come check it out anytime. The series is titled "The End..." I'm onto the 5th post.

Anonymous said...

I do apologize, I know this must seem like shameless plugging for my blog, but I would really appreciate your opinion on a sermon I wrote on this topic not too long ago, since I, like you find Heaven to be all too common of a false hope among Christians...

The sermon is here:

http://aricclark.blogspot.com/2006/07/its-better-than-that.html

Steven Carr said...

What did Paul mean when he said 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'?

And why exactly had the Corinthians converted to Jesus-worship while still scoffing at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse from the dead?

And why does Paul talk about different kinds of substances, using examples of things which do not turn into each other? (men, animals, birds, fish, the sun, the moon)

Why does Paul think the Corinthians are idiots for thinking that the resurrection of people other than Jesus somehow involves a corpse being reformed, and so rejecting the idea because they could not see how a corpse could be made to live again?

And why does Paul tell the same Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6 that God will destroy both stomach and food, when they supposedly had been taught that the resurrected Jesus ate fish?

And why does Paul tell the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians that it doesn't matter if his present body is destroyed, because there is another body in Heaven for him?

The answers to all these questions is obvious.

Paul said the last Adam became a life-giving spirit, because Paul thought Jesus became a spirit , and because he thought we too would share in that nature.

Paul thinks the Corinthians are idiots for wondering how a corpse can be reformed , because a dead corpse is part of the process of resurrection. The corpse is just a seed which dies. It is dead. God will give us a body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

And then Paul tells them about the different kinds of substances.

Those idiots in Corinth didn't know about that.

The Corinthians were like people wondering how an omelette could be made when you can still see the broken egg-shells. Stupidity, because if an omelette is made, you expect to see broken egg-shells. What else would you expect to see after a resurrection , except the discarded case of the seed, which has died?

Steven Carr said...

Presumably the Corinthians who believed the dead were lost (and the Thessalonians who also worried that the dead were lost) had no problem with Jesus being resurrected.

Jesus was God , and so could live after his death, even though his body was still there.

But how could non-Gods do that?

That would explain why they converted to Christianity , but still denied the resurrection of corpses.

And why Paul couldn't use any stories of the corpse of Jesus rising, because that was not what the resurrection involved.

An analogy. If somebody killed a swan, and then the swan appeared in a vision, revealing that he had been Zeus all along, and had now reverted to being Zeus, then people would claim the dead swan was resurrected, but still deny that any ordinary swan could become a spirit after its death.

Paul pointed out that the resurrection of Jesus was a type. Jesus was the last Adam, and as Jesus had become a life-giving spirit, so would we become life-giving spirits (Rather than having to be rescued from our body of death as Paul says in Romans 7)

Section Sanhedrin 90b of he Talmud discusses the question that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15 - how can dust come back to life?

Paul denies that it will. He claims resurrected beings will not be made of the dust of the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 '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.'

Paul denies that dust will come back to life. If there is a resurrected body, he writes, it will not be made from dust, it will be made from heavenly material.

There were Jews who did believe that dust comes back to life again. See how Sanhedrin 90b handles the question, and see how utterly alien it is to Paul's way of writing in 1 Corinthians 15.


An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: 'Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?'

Thereupon his the emperor's daughter said to him the Rabbi: 'Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions his products from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?' 'He who fashions them from water, he replied.1 'If he can fashion man from water, surely he can do so from clay!'

The School of R. Ishmael taught: It can be deduced from glassware: if glassware, which, though made by the breath of human beings, can yet be repaired when broken; then how much more so man, created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

A sectarian said to R. Ammi: 'Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?' — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth for making bricks. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, 'We cannot'. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, 'If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!' 'Yet,' continued R. Ammi, 'If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust, and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh.

These Jews believed in the resurrection of corpses and so 'proved' that dust will turn into flesh.

And the way they do it is just so utterly different to Paul's thought that it is obvious he is not thinking anything remotely like a process of making dust alive again.

Paul did not believe in the resurrection of corpses and wrote how dust was a thing of the past. The new body will not be transformed dust.

This totally contradicts the Gospels , where the corpse of Jesus gets up and walks around.

Steven Carr said...

Byron writes 'Rob - thanks for your thoughts. The point about driving force rather than substance is a key one. It is like the difference between a wooden boat or a metal boat (substance) versus a sail boat or a steam boat (driving force).'

I find this analogy extremely helpful for understanding Paul. I've used a similar analogy in the past for understanding Paul's rather abstract writing in 1 Corinthians 15

(Why so abstract when the Gospel stories are so clear?)


Here is a modern day analogy for how Paul writes.

----------------------------
I know somebody who flew to Barcelona last month.

I have a Nissan Micra, so I suggested to my friend that we fly to Cologne in June to watch the World Cup.

But we have a big dispute about how we can fit a jet engine on to my Micra and how the 'air-conditioning' (sic) on my car will stand up at 33,000 feet.

Personally, these sorts of questions about the mechanics of flying make me doubt that anybody can fly. (The Barcelona visit was by a very special person indeed, who could have walked over the Channel if he wanted, so that was not relevant to we lesser souls.)

Another friend has written to me saying the following , supposedly
designed to put my mind at rest about how I can transform my Micra into a twin-engined jet, so that I can plan with confidence my flight to Cologne:-

If people can't fly, then nobody flew to Barcelona.

But he did fly to Barcelona , so people can fly.

You ask with what sort of engine can a Micra fly?

You idiot! What flies cannot fly unless it is totally scrapped.

There are different sorts of travel. Men walk, kangaroos hop, and birds fly.

God has created different machines with different qualities.

If there are ground based machines, there are also air-based machines.

The first machine was a ground based machine, the last machine belongs to the heavens.

Having a driving licence does not enable you to fly. Motorists cannot inherit the Kingdom of the Skies.

But I tell you a mystery. Motorists will fly. Motorists will put on flight.

-----------------------
Of course, Paul's words only make sense , once you realise how idiotic the Corinthians were for wondering how their present day bodies will inherit the kingdom of God.

Just as people would be idiots for wondering how their present day cars would inherit the kingdom of the sky.

They won't.


There will be new machines for doing that, just as there will be new bodies for the kingdom of God. (Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, writes Paul)

byron said...

the miner - thanks for your comments and links. I'll get over to your posts soon.

byron said...

steven - in these comments and those of the previous post in this series you have suggested an alternative take on the resurrection of the body and have referred to a large number of texts in putting together a coherent argument. Presently lacking the time to deal with each of your points (I hope to return to some of these in the future), I want to thank you for your engagement, and note two points. First, I have things to say about each passage that you've raised (and perhaps a good summary of many of them can be found in N. T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God - have you read this important contribution to these debates?). Second, and at a broader methodological and theological level, I wonder whether we will end up differing over Christology. It seems to me (given the small sample of what you had to say so far), that for you Christ's divinity sets him apart from us, such that his story relates to ours primarily in contrast. While I agree that Christ was unique and unrepeatable, I believe that as our representative, his story is our story; what happened to him has happened and will happen to us. For this reason, I agree with this Moltmann quote that I have linked to a few times, the upshot of which is that we need to christologically about the future.

I'd also love to hear what others think.

Steven Carr said...

Of course, Wright never once quotes in full, Paul writing that 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'

Nor does Wright ever quote 1 Peter saying 'All flesh is grass', (when supposedly the world had been turned upside down by the news that flesh would live for ever)

Nor does Wright explain why Paul regarded the Corinthians as idiots for thinking the resurrection of people other than Jesus somehow involved the restoration of the body.

Wright just claims Paul was resorting to abuse.

Quoting the name of Wright, as though he actually answered these points is pointless.

I know for a fact that he didn't.

Indeed, not even he can spin away Paul's words, which clearly mean that there are two distinct bodies, the natural body which dies, and the spiritual body which is created by God.

Wright has to concede that.

'Though Moule is no doubt right that Paul can envisage here the possibility of 'exchange' (losing one body, getting another one) rather than 'addition', as in 1 Corinthians 15, we should not lose sight of the fact that even if such an 'exchange' were to take place the new body would be more than the present one. (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 2003: p. 367)'

I should point out that Wright later contradicts his own view that it is 'no doubt right' that Paul here means an 'exchange' of bodies, and that there is a new body, not the old one patched up.

Steven Carr said...

'While I agree that Christ was unique and unrepeatable, I believe that as our representative, his story is our story; what happened to him has happened and will happen to us.'

Presumably this is what puzzled the Corinthians and Thessalonians.

As Jesus was God, he could easily live after death, leaving his body behind, because he could live on as a god.

But how could ordinary mortals do that? They only had a body, which would die.

This is the only explanation which makes sense of early Christians believing Jesus was resurrected, but denied that dead corpses would be resurrected.

And it explains why Paul is so insistent that they too had another body.

The Corinthians were idiots for wondering what happened to their corpse, because they would be given a spiritual body, and become a life-giving spirit.

They didn't know that, so Paul explains it to them.

Once in 1 Corinthians 15 and again in 2 Corinthians.

The Gospel stories leave no space for people to accept the resurrection of Jesus, yet still deny the resurrection of corpses.

byron said...

Oh, and five points to the miner for Michaelangelo's David. Still five points available for the intended location.

byron said...

"Yet no Christian should have the slightest doubt as to the fact that the bodies of all men, whether already or yet to be born, whether dead or still to die, will be resurrected." - Augustine, Enchiridion, 84.

Steven, I realise that quoting Augustine doesn't settle anything, but I was just reading this when I came across your response.

The language of 'flesh' (sarx) is used in different ways in the NT. It can refer neutrally to the physical body, considered particularly in its mortality, or it can mean human existence considered outside of and in rebellion against God's life-giving Spirit. The latter use is common in Paul, especially when contrasted with Spirit (e.g. Rom 8). This is not an anthropological substance dualism, but an soteriological-eschatological distinction between those of the old age and those of the new. When Peter speaks of all flesh being grass, he is speaking of human life considered in its mortality. The same goes for Paul's reference to 'flesh and blood' not inheriting the Kingdom. This body of death is not fit for a world where death is no more and creation itself is liberated from its bondage to decay.

I do not that Paul was criticising the Corinthians for thinking a dead body would be raised, indeed, it was precisely the resurrection of the dead that some were denying was possible at all (15.12). I think it makes a lot more sense to read 1 Corinthians 15 as a polemic against a Hellenistic aversion to physical existence. The question in verse 35 ('how are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come") that draws Paul's stinging response ("fool!") is not the innocent question of a genuine inquirer, but the sneering mockery of a cultural idiom that thought that only 'spiritual' things mattered - that matter didn't matter. They denied that the dead were raised because they found the idea abhorrent, even ludicrous (cf. the reaction of the Areopagus in Acts 17, where the mention of resurrection results in the assembly being broken up by scoffing). Paul's response is not to speak of a non-physical resurrection, but to map out a category of resurrection based on that of Jesus, in which the body was not simply reanimated, but had been radically transformed.

Time and time again in the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the model, the first fruits, of what will happen to those who belong to him. For instance: 'He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.' (Phil 3.21).

Jesus was God , and so could live after his death, even though his body was still there. ...
As Jesus was God, he could easily live after death, leaving his body behind, because he could live on as a god.

It is only his resurrection as a human, still physical (though transformed such that death no longer had dominion over him) that gives us any warrant or content in speaking of our own hope. The man Jesus, Israel's Messiah, the Son of God had a resurrected future; in him, those he represents and leads hope for the same.

byron said...

As I kept going in the Enchiridion, I also came across this:
91. The bodies of the saints, then, shall rise again free from blemish and deformity, just as they will be also free from corruption, encumbrance, or handicap. Their facility [facilitas] will be as complete as their felicity [felicitas]. This is why their bodies are called "spiritual," though undoubtedly they will be bodies and not spirits. For just as now the body is called "animate" [animale], though it is a body and not a "spirit" [anima], so then it will be a "spiritual body," but still a body and not a spirit.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, Steve, the denial of a physical resurrection (which is still legitimately to be considered as a "re-creation" and a "new" body) is a denial of the original goodness of God's creation. God creates the world as it is - ie: as matter because matter is GOOD. It is therefore totally antithetical to say that the culmination of the whole project would be the denial of that first truth. The culmination of creation comes instead as the perfect fulfillment of its inherently good possibility - ie: as a perfection of matter, not an end of matter.

Steven Carr said...

I see people still cannot explain why people converted to Christianity while denying that God would choose to resurrect a corpse.

Or why they would continue to use 'flesh' as a metaphor for mortality, when their world had supposedly been turned upside down by the news that flesh was to be made immortal.

Or why Paul clearly stated 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'.

And the verb in Phiippians 3 is metaschêmatizô, which was normally used for changing clothes.

An exchange, perfectly consistent with Paul's idea that we will exchange our natural body for a spiritual one.

This is why he tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15 that there are two bodies, and in 2 Corinthians 5 taht it does not matter if his earthly tent is destroyed, as he will be living in a different residence.


'They denied that the dead were raised because they found the idea abhorrent, even ludicrous (cf. the reaction of the Areopagus in Acts 17, where the mention of resurrection results in the assembly being broken up by scoffing).'

I just loved the idea of the scoffers in Acts 17 being the ones who converted to Christianity.

How would that conversating go?

Paul - The body of Jesus got up out of the ground and walked around , complete with wounds.

Scoffers - This idea is ludicrous, abhorrent.

Paul - You get free bread and wine on Sunday.

Corinthians - OK, where do we get baptised?

And the Thessalonians also believed the dead could well be lost.

Perhaps because they knew what happened to corpses?


-----------------------
'Furthermore, Steve, the denial of a physical resurrection (which is still legitimately to be considered as a "re-creation" and a "new" body) is a denial of the original goodness of God's creation. God creates the world as it is - ie: as matter because matter is GOOD.'

Not an argument used by Paul, who came up with stuff not topped by Gnostics (although paralleled...)


Who will rescue me from this body of death? - Paul in Romans 7

'There is nothing good in my flesh' - Paul in Romans 7.

'For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.'

'For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh' Paul in Galatians 5.

These are not the words of a person who believes in the sort of flesh and blood resurrection described in the Gospels.


If the Corinthians had been using such arguments as matter is evil, Paul would have countered them.


Instead he calls them fools for thinking that a resurrection involves a corpse returning from dust.

He tells them that what goes into the ground dies.

Patrik said...

Whenever one encounters the word body in a text it is a good rule of thumb to assume it is a symbol for something else. Paul is no exception.

byron said...

In Acts 17, it is not the scoffers who convert, 'but others' who wish to hear Paul some more, and then 'some of them' who believe.

flesh was to be made immortal
As I explained, 'flesh' has more connotations than simply 'physicality' - 'flesh' in the perjorative Pauline sense will not be immortal.

byron said...

He tells them that what goes into the ground dies.
In order that it might rise, transformed.

byron said...

And the verb in Phiippians 3 is metaschêmatizô, which was normally used for changing clothes.
My dictionaries do not have this listed as a meaning, and it does not make sense of the other 4 times the verb is used (all by Paul, 1 Cor 4.6 and three times in 2 Cor 11.13-15). The meaning is better construed as 'transformed', or 'transfigured'.

byron said...

Whenever one encounters the word body in a text it is a good rule of thumb to assume it is a symbol for something else. Paul is no exception.
Patrik, I would have thought the careful philological research of Robert Gundry had significantly undermined this assumption, which is based on the earlier work of Oscar Cullmann. Gundry concludes that Paul uses soma (body) to refer to a morally neutral physical body and not to 'person'.

byron said...

Linden has been making some guesses about the picture over here. He's picked up some bonus points, but there are still five available for the originally intended location of Michaelangelo's original David (this photo is of a copy). It never ended up in that position because it was considered too good and so it was put in an art gallery.

KATAIOANEN said...

My understanding is that for Paul, a living person is an animated “soma”. Paul contrasts 2 kinds of bodies (soma) – the pre-resurrection body and the post-resurrection body. The animating principle for each is different – for the pre-resurrection body it is psyche, while for the post resurrection body it is pneuma. He has encountered both categories – albeit only one example of the latter.
My understanding of “heaven” is that it is a state, rather than a place. It is not part of the “cosmos”. The resurrected person whom he encountered was living “in” heaven. And he had a body suited to such a “place”/state.
Pre-resurrected persons have a body suited to their abode. It is made of the material of the earth. The resurrected person he encountered had a body (made of the stuff) of heaven.
Pre-resurrected persons are made of “flesh and blood”. Of this you can be certain (touto de phemi adelphoi), persons made of flesh and blood cannot enter heaven; transformation is required. They will be made of stuff, to which the laws of physics do not apply.

byron smith said...

John - I agree with your basic outline of soma and the two kinds of animating principles. As for whether 'heaven' is a state or a place, I think we have to grasp it primarily as "where Jesus reigns at the Father's right hand". This is in one sense a state-of-affairs, and so Jesus is simply hidden, waiting to be revealed. In another sense, he has departed and is currently absent (though the Spirit which he received and poured out upon his disciples is not) and so we await his arrival.

KATAIOANEN said...

Despite the contributions of Robert Gundry, I think the dominant perception today, is that Paul’s (Semitic) anthropology is monistic. The (Platonic) dualism which underlies the concept of Resurrection of the Body does not inform Paul’s treatment of Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He says “Christ died … and was raised”; he does not say that Christ’s body died or that Christ’s body was raised.

However, given his anthropology, it is necessary for the raised person to have a body – without a body, there is no human person. The pre-mortem person and the post-resurrection person are very much the same. However Paul emphasizes that the pre-mortem body and the post-resurrection body are very different.

He tells his audience that, in order to understand the post-resurrection body, they must eschew a narrow concept of body. Human flesh is a body, but non-human, mammalian flesh is also a body. Avian flesh is a body. The sun and moon can also be considered bodies. When you consider what the resurrection body might be like, and you find your concepts limited to the pre-mortem body, consider the difference between seed and the resulting plant – a radical transformation. So, don’t have any pre-conceived narrow idea about what the body might be like, when the resurrected person is under discussion.

The pre-mortem body is subject to degenerative change, loss of attractiveness, and functional impairment. The post-resurrection body has none of those 3 properties. The pre-mortem body (exemplified by Adam) is made of stuff of earth - the post-resurrection body (exemplified by the Risen Lord) of heaven. He emphasizes the contrast using the word phyche to describe Adam and the type of body he had, pneuma to describe the resurrected man and his body.

Flesh and blood cannot enter heaven. That which is subject to degenerative change cannot enter heaven. Before entry into heaven can occur, the pre-mortem soma of the elect must change into the post-resurrection type soma.

The idea that the resurrected body will have knees may be supported by a (literal) reading of the Gospels – but I don’t think you can have any confidence on this score based on 1 Corinthians 15.

To me it is fairly clear that Jesus is in heaven (he is at the right hand of the Father, who by definition is in heaven), and that this is the destination of the resurrected and of those who are transformed at the time of the Parousia; indeed this is the reason for the transformation. Heaven cannot be entered with a pre-mortem type soma.

I do not think that σὰρξ is used here to imply rebellion against God. Rebellion is not at all the subject under discussion. Rather Paul is answering the question, he has placed in the mouth of the fool, regarding the nature of the resurrection body. Further he does not say “flesh is not fit” to enter heaven; he rather says that flesh CANNOT.

The words ψυχικόν and πνευματικόν are I think being used to describe the animating principle of the pre-mortem and post-resurrection σῶμα. But I think also, there is a principle that “form” relates to “function”. A gas engine will work with gas; a steam engine with steam. Perhaps a body animated by spirit (pneuma)needs to be a spiritual body. My concept of spiritual fits very well with properties that Paul has assigned to the post-resurrection body.

Surely, resurrection means that a person ceases to be dead and is living once more; to suggest that the resurrected person is breathing rather than living is potentially very confusing.

byron smith said...

Thanks for your reply. However, I am still trying to understand the focus and scope of our disagreement, since I think there is much that we share.

I broadly agree with you in your initial discussion of the Semitic/Pauline monistic conception of the body (though think that the earth/heaven distinction in verse 47 relates to the origin, rather than composition of the two somata. 'Dust' may have more to do with composition, though this is not directly part of the parallel, or at least is not directly contrasted with an alternative material).

Flesh and blood cannot enter heaven. This is not quite what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.50: "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". The kingdom of God is not a place called "heaven" (I have discussed this back here). It is the reality of God's gracious rule. The Lord's prayer teaches us to pray for God's will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven", which, I take it, is a parallel to "your kingdom come". So Paul has no discussion of entering heaven in this chapter. First, he is talking about the kingdom (reign/rule) of God, not a place called heaven, and second he speaks here of "inheriting" this kingdom, not entering it.

To me it is fairly clear that Jesus is in heaven (he is at the right hand of the Father, who by definition is in heaven),
Yes, so far so good.
and that this is the destination of the resurrected and of those who are transformed at the time of the Parousia
Why is this clear? Where does the New Testament express an ultimate hope to join Christ in heaven, rather than the hope that Christ will return to transform and liberate this groaning creation?

But I think also, there is a principle that “form” relates to “function”. A gas engine will work with gas; a steam engine with steam. Perhaps a body animated by spirit (pneuma)needs to be a spiritual body.
But a gas engine is not made of gas. Gas is its animating principle, not its material cause.

Surely, resurrection means that a person ceases to be dead and is living once more;
Yes and no. Living once more, but in a transformed way. It is not simply a return to life as it currently is, but the overcoming of that undermines and the bondage to decay.

to suggest that the resurrected person is breathing rather than living is potentially very confusing.
I have not intended to suggest that this is the distinction and my apologies if I have not been clear. I am trying to say that the resurrected person is Spiritual, not merely spiritual - that is, is animated by God's Holy Spirit.

KATAIOANEN said...

Where does the New Testament express an ultimate hope to join Christ in heaven, rather than the hope that Christ will return to transform and liberate this groaning creation?

“We … will be caught up in the clouds … to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians). I had formed the opinion that “the Lord” was “in heaven”, and therefore assumed that “we” would be in heaven. I assumed that in Paul’s thought “heaven” was upward, and being caught up in the clouds suggested movement toward heaven.

I formed the idea that Paul saw the Resurrection of Jesus as the prototype. Jesus was raised to heaven. Therefore, this would be the destination of other people who were resurrected.

ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ could be seen as a reference to divine pre-existence. But the idea that God had raised Jesus from the dead was a very early development after his death. Ideas of pre-existence developed later. So a discussion of resurrection, and the nature of the resurrection body would not involve a reference to divine pre-existence. I take ἐξ οὐρανοῦ as a reference to the stuff of the resurrection body. But the idea in my head, is expressed just as well by your own words – the origin of the soma of the person encountered by Paul was heaven, and the soma of other resurrected persons will also be heavenly in origin.

καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι seems to refer to Jesus (Christ) as heavenly. I assumed that the adjective is appropriate because he resides there and has the “properties” needed for that residence [he is not a “fish out of water”]. I take the 2nd part of the phrase to refer to other resurrected persons for whom the epithet is equally appropriate, because heaven is their destination and because they too will undergo a transformation to permit “residence” in their new environment.

καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ φορέσωμεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου suggests to me that residence on earth would call for us to resemble the earthly man. Residence in heaven calls for us to resemble the man who lives in heaven and who is suited to that milieu.

This is not quite what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.50. The kingdom of God is not a place called "heaven".

The phrase “Kingdom of God” and “inheriting the Kingdom of God” are intrinsically ambiguous. In the mouth of the historic Jesus and in the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew, the phrase has the meaning you have identified. But Paul’s Christology and Eschatology are not those of the historic Jesus; an event of major importance separates the 2 “theologians” – the Resurrection of the Son of Man. It is not reasonable to assume that the phrase has the same meaning in Paul’s mouth as it does in the mouth of the historic Jesus. I do not know if the phrase appears elsewhere in the genuine Pauline letters. But if it did, one could not automatically assume, that the phrase had the same meaning in each context. Paul is speaking of the nature of the resurrection body. He seems to have explained earlier, how the resurrected will not resemble the earthy man but rather the heavenly man. For me, earthly men are made of flesh and blood, residents of heaven are not (and to my mind cannot). So when he says, that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the Kingdom, I have difficulty imaging what he is speaking of other than heaven. [You cannot enter the spirit world (heaven) with a material body. ]
This is somewhat similar to the words which appear on Jesus lips in the Gospel; he compares the (material) earthly with the (spiritual) heavenly.
When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.

“I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”. This is a quote from the John Gospel and so may not be directly relevant to Paul, but ... Jesus went to heaven, prepares there a place for his disciples. He will come again, and take his disciples to be with him (I assume to be with them in heaven where he has created a place for them).

byron smith said...

Thanks for laying out your thoughts for me. It is helpful to see where you are coming from.

I agree that the primary access we have to future is Jesus' own resurrection (and the Spirit which the risen Christ has poured out upon the church). However, when you say Jesus was raised to heaven, I think this is a conflation of resurrection with ascension.

Ideas of pre-existence developed later. So a discussion of resurrection, and the nature of the resurrection body would not involve a reference to divine pre-existence.
This is a little circular, though may well be true. I don't think it is necessarily a reflection on pre-existence. I guess when I said "origin", I had more in mind the origin of the act of raising the body, with a connotation of "locus of authorisation", just like in the question in Mark 11.30. That is, the resurrection body is an act of God, not a human act. Still, I agree that Paul is speaking about a radical transformation of human existence into a new (risen Jesus-shaped) mode, which will involve no longer being "flesh-and-blood". Yet there is also continuity: the seed is both very different from the plant, and yet the same thing. The tomb was empty; Jesus' risen body (and ours) is not a replacement of our present flesh-and-blood body, but their liberation from the bondage to decay and glorious transfiguration. Death is thus not even a necessary "phase" of this transformation (1 Cor 15.51), since it is not about "life after death", or the ongoing existence of an immortal soul, but the transformation of bodily existence so that this psychikos body becomes a Pneumatikos body.

The phrase “Kingdom of God” and “inheriting the Kingdom of God” are intrinsically ambiguous.
Why is this? Paul does indeed speak elsewhere of the kingdom. 1 Cor 6.9-10 - the immoral will not inherit the kingdom (coming just before a passage speaking about a resurrection like Jesus' (verse 14) and so the importance of what we do with our body now). Other Pauline uses include Romans 14.7; 1 Cor 4.20; Gal 5.21; 1 Thess 2.12 and (depending on your take on them) Eph 5.5; Col 1.13; 2 Th 1.5; 2 Tim 4.1, 18. Of course the resurrection and exaltation of Christ has come between the use of the phrase by Jesus and by Paul, and that may help fill out the content of this kingdom (not least that it is not only the kingdom of God, but also of Christ (1 Cor 15.24; cf. 2 Tim 4.1; Eph 5.5)). But all the passages I have mentioned make good sense read as references to a rule/reign (not least 1 Cor 15.24, the closest reference to kingdom, and in which this kingdom of Christ/God is opposed by other rulers, authorities and powers). Although it is possible Paul is using it in a different sense just a few paragraphs later, I think it unlikely. Nonetheless, you've given me more to think about here.

Have you had a look at the rest of this series? In it, I have dealt (very briefly - that is the blog format) with a number of important passages: 1 Peter 1.3-5; Phil 3.20-21; Rev 21.1-5; 2 Peter 3; Romans 8.18-27; 1 Peter 2.11; 1 John 3.2. There is a summary of the series here and here is where I say what I think is at stake.

I have also discussed John 14 here and here.

I haven't yet written anything on 1 Thessalonians 4, though intend to do so at some stage. At the moment, I think I'd agree with the reading of N. T. Wright, who takes it as a series of mixed metaphors (just as the passage which follows it is filled with a variety of metaphors that are very strange if we put them all together).

Thanks again for your engagement with this discussion.

KATAIOANEN said...

I think this is a conflation of resurrection with ascension.

It is.

The New Testament provides no description of the Resurrection. The author of Luke-Acts provides 2 accounts of “The Ascension” – one on Easter Sunday and another 40 days later. But even in Luke’s Gospel, before his first Ascension, Christ already makes reference to his entry into Glory. We are told ὁ θεὸς ἤγειρεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν ἐμφανῆ γενέσθαι. My judgment would be, that during the time period between his resurrection, and the occasion when God permitted him to be manifest to Peter, he was in the presence of God. He was in the presence of God, during the period of time which elapsed between his appearance to Peter, and when he was made manifest to The Twelve. Indeed, I would judge that, even when he was being manifested to the various witnesses, he remained in the presence of God.

The tomb was empty; Jesus' risen body … is not a replacement of … flesh-and-blood …

Jesus of Nazareth was not in the tomb; he was living. The body which had been in the tomb was a flesh and blood body. The body of the person revealed to Paul was NOT a flesh and blood body. [God may have raised the body of Jesus, but Paul does not tell us this; he tells us that God raised Jesus.]

liberation from … decay

The body of the person revealed to Paul did not age. A DNA repair system was superfluous. I do not think there was hair or nail growth. I doubt that the Krebs’ Cycle continued to operate. The body was not made of “dust”.

The Gospel narratives convey Paul’s message about the “non-flesh and blood” quality of the Risen Lord. “Supposing him to be the gardener … “ “The doors were locked … Jesus came and stood in the midst.” “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished.” “He withdrew from them, and was carried up into heaven.” “Put it into my side” – Thomas was not invited to disrupt a “healing flesh and blood wound”.

but the transformation of bodily existence so that this psychikos body becomes a Pneumatikos body

πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα. Paul does not seem to refer to the transformation of bodies; πάντες is masculine not neuter. The transformed will have a Pneumatikos body; that is not quite the same thing as saying that one body is transformed into another.

Although it is possible Paul is using it in a different sense just a few paragraphs later, I think it unlikely.

The similarity between Paul’s idea of the Kingdom and that of Jesus is interesting. They both seem to subscribe to realized eschatology as well as future eschatology. Clearly the Kingdom referred to in verse 50 is future. Perhaps that Kingdom will be an “earthly” Kingdom. But those dwelling in it, will not be made of dust. The Laws of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (as we know them) will no longer operate.

KATAIOANEN said...

"the transformation of bodily existence"

Imagine a man who views the world through green spectacles. He has seen a sub-Saharan African for the 1st time. In describing the person he has encountered, he does not abandon his idea that all is green, but he is at pains to emphasize how elastic a category green really is.

I think it misleading for a person who lives in a polychromatic world to emphasize the “greenness” of Africans.

For Paul (in explicating Resurrection), there is only bodily existence. Non-bodily existence is not part of his thought world. [Non-bodily existence for him is non-existence (death).]

To emphasize the “bodily existence” of the Resurrected Lord to persons whose thought world contains concepts of both bodily and non-bodily existence, is also potentially misleading. We do not have direct access to Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord; we have only his description. In viewing his experience of the Risen Lord though the lens of Resurrection, he had to see Jesus as embodied. We are not in a position to say how a “modern” person who had Paul’s experience, would put his experience into words.

We can see how misleading it is to describe Africans as green; we “know” what they look like. But we do have direct access to Paul’s view of the Lord. We “know” that green spectacles distort. The question regarding the (potentially) distorting effect of (the) Resurrection (view point) vs. the “Platonic” view point is obviously more controversial. [My judgment is that the New Testament incorporates both view points, though the predominant view is that of Resurrection.] What is clear (to me), however, is that Paul’s lens (on this matter) is not our lens – and our lens is that that of Paul. Paul’s vocabulary is shaped by his “lens” – just as our lens shapes our vocabulary. We need to put on Paul’s spectacles, before we read his words.

KATAIOANEN said...

A familiar CONCEPT to us (moderns) is:
[ Body & Soul ]

The analogous concept for St Paul is:

[ Body & Body ]

I mean, that when we entertain the possibility of conscious existence, we are able to conceive of existence as embodied - or (alternatively) conscious existence as a soul, separate from the body.

St Paul does not have the concept of human existence as a (disembodied) soul available to him. If humans exist as conscious beings (for St Paul), they must have/be a body.

The concept, I mean to convey with the notation
[ Body & Body ]
can be equally well conveyed thus
[ Body ].
Or thus
[< -Body -------Body->];
I mean here to convey Paul’s suggestion in 1 Corinthians 15, that the concept of Body is elastic.


Paul has a variety of WORDs available to him to portray his thoughts and experiences, and we are familiar with them from the Chapter on Resurrection: soma, saryx (kai haima), psyche, and pneuma. However the thought world in which Resurrection developed (and which Paul inherited), did not employ the words psyche and pneuma – rather nephesh and ruah.

I would postulate that ,the EXPERIENCE of St Paul was not fundamentally different from our experience; however, his experience of the Risen Lord may have been unique.

I have attempted to draw here a distinction between CONCEPT, WORD, and EXPERIENCE. At the same time I understand that these entities are not “water-tight”. Every experience is ultimately an interpreted experience; the photons falling on the retina are interpreted as “orange”. So the experience is tied up with the concept “orange”. But words are also important here. If we did not have the separate words red, orange, and yellow to indicate these 3 “different” parts of the spectrum, and had only one word "redorangeyellow" to describe the part of the spectrum extending from infra-red to the yellow/green transition, we might have difficulty with both the concept red, and the experience of red “as we know it”.

These concepts may illuminate my criticism of, use of the phrase “bodily existence” in the exegesis of Paul. We have no direct access to the experience (of the Risen Lord that) Paul is describing. But the concepts he uses to interpret that experience are not our concepts, and the words he uses to express his interpreted experience are not fundamentally his own Semitic/Hebrew/Aramaic words; rather they are words that belong to the Hellenistic world.

At a conceptual level, when he encountered a human who had been raised from the dead, he had encountered a body. [In Semitic thought, that is what humans are; they are bodies.] He used the Greek word soma to express that “interpreted fact” to his Greek audience. He then goes on to ask “what kind of ‘soma’”? Is it the kind of “soma” possessed by ante-mortem humans? And the answer is a very definite “No”.

When 1 am confronted with the phrase “bodily existence”, the concept “body and soul” immediately comes to mind. Here “body” means for me the pre-mortem body - “bodily existence” means existence with a pre-mortem body.

Yet for St Paul "body" is not meant to convey “pre-mortem body”, rather it simply expresses his Semitic/Resurrection World understanding, that humans are bodies (if they are not they do not exist).

And so, Paul’s assertion that the resurrected person exists with a body, which is very different from the ante-mortem body - seems to become an assertion that there is no fundamental difference between the pre-mortem and post-resurrection body!

byron smith said...

I think I agree with everything in your most recent post, except that I do not understand your final sentence. Do you mean that I have implied or claimed that there is no difference between the pre-mortem and post resurrection body? I'm a little confused.

That said, I wonder whether we ought not pay close attention to Paul's use of the term 'body' and allow his concept to shape our own assumptions on this matter. That is, the assumption that human life is bodily may not simply be a relic of Paul's pre-modern culture, but a significant theological truth, one which might shape our own attitudes and understanding of bodily existence. Why are the we the ones not wearing glasses who know the 'real' colours? Paul was quite capable of speaking of experiences outside the body (2 Cor 5.8; 12.2) and yet he is clear that it is the body that is to be transformed (cf. Philippians 3.21).

the thought world in which Resurrection developed (and which Paul inherited), did not employ the words psyche and pneuma – rather nephesh and ruah.
I do not think this is true. I was under the impression that Hellenistic Judaism(s) was (were) generally more positive about the (somewhat novel) doctrine of resurrection than the (generally more conservative) Hebraic Judaism(s). Paul is as much (or more?) a product of the LXX than the (proto-)MT. He can Hellenise with the best of them.

Perhaps we are not so far from one another as it seems. I entirely agree on the necessity of significant discontinuity between mortal flesh-and-blood and the resurrection body. God's promise is not simply the resuscitation of dead corpses. But God is also faithful to his creation, which he declared very good. Christian hope is not for the abandonment or replacement of our present life and that of our world, but its transfiguration, its transposition into a different key. What relation the present laws of physics, chemistry and so on have to the coming age, I don't pretend to know. But that the God who raises the dead is the same one who called all things into existence, I take to be central to the Christian faith.

KATAIOANEN said...

31st “Sunday” in Ordinary Time

Byron,

χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη

This is (I understand) a possible reading at “Catholic” Mass today:

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.


The book (Wisdom) is deutero-canonical. Composed in Alexandria, its language is Greek. Its eschatology reflects Greek (Hellenistic) concepts – after death, the immortal soul lives on. The anthropology is dualistic.

I was under the impression that Hellenistic Judaism(s) was (were) generally more positive about the (somewhat novel) doctrine of resurrection than the (generally more conservative) Hebraic Judaism(s).

the Sadducees … were strictly attached to the literal sense of the Mosaic law, and they piously rejected … an opinion that received no countenance from the Divine book ... the Pharisees accepted … a future state of rewards and punishments … and, as the Pharisees, by the austerity of their manners, had drawn into their party the body of the Jewish people … (it) became the prevailing sentiment of the synagogue, under the reign of the Asmonæan princes and pontiffs.

The above quote from Gibbon reflects my understanding of the situation within Palestinian Judaism. The concept of a “future state” was rejected by the “doctrinally” conservative party. The doctrine of a “future state” as it developed within Palestinian Judaism owes nothing to Greek thought. Resurrection, which assumes a monistic anthropology, is Hebraic/Aramaic in origin. It developed in an atmosphere where Hellenism was being violently rejected (the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes) and is found in the literature written at/about that time (Daniel and Maccabees).

One might consider Judaism to be Hellenistic if it employs Greek language (LXX) or reflects Greek thought. In this sense Wisdom is (somewhat) Hellenistic. In particular, its doctrine of a future state has been influenced by Greek thought.

So, I would say that (doctrinally) conservative Judaism rejected the doctrine of a future state. (Somewhat) conservative, Palestinian, Hebraic/Aramaic Judaism accepted the doctrine of a future state in the form of Resurrection. ?? Progressive, Diaspora, Hellenistic Judaism accepted the doctrine of a future state and may even have expressed this hope as survival of the soul after death – thus reflecting a Greek, dualistic, anthropology.

Paul is as much (or more?) a product of the LXX than the (proto-)MT. He can Hellenise with the best of them

Paul “writes” (bad) Greek. When he quotes Scripture, it is usually the LXX. But he seems also to have spoken Aramaic. His education was probably largely in Palestine, rather than the Diaspora. His thought is fundamentally Hebraic/Aramaic. This is certainly so, in respect to his eschatology and anthropology.

That said, I wonder whether we ought not pay close attention to Paul's use of the term 'body' and allow his concept to shape our own assumptions on this matter. That is, the assumption that human life is bodily may not simply be a relic of Paul's pre-modern culture, but a significant theological truth, one which might shape our own attitudes and understanding of bodily existence.

We (moderns) have certain CONCEPTS and WORDS, which we share with our contemporaries. Paul has his concepts and words – which may differ from ours. His concepts and the meaning of the words he uses may change from context to context. I contend that his concepts originate in the Semitic world. But in 1 Corinthians 15, he is addressing people whose thought world is Greek.

We must live in our own world. If we speak to others, using concepts and words that belong to another time and place, we will convey what we did not intend to convey.

I suggest that Paul might define the word σῶμα (as he uses it in 1 Corinthians 15) thus:

That which a human must possess in order to have a conscious existence. It comes in 2 very different forms: (A) the familiar entity possessed by pre-mortem persons and (B) an entity which must be (mentally) constructed from my (extensive) description in 1 Corinthians 15.

When I read the phrase “bodily existence”, it brings to mind the contrast between body and spirit/soul and I immediately think of the familiar pre-mortem body – modified of course. The body with hands, feet, eyes, etc comes to mind. I cannot help it. I cannot reject the thought world which has formed and envelops me. Paul sees that the Corinthians have the exact same problem I have. When he says σῶμα, he knows they will tend to see eyes and ears, etc. And so he says “σῶμα: think of the familiar human body, but imagine also fish, birds, the sun, the moon, plant seed, fully developed plant …

Paul does not (I think)use the phrase “bodily existence”. For him human existence is “bodily existence”. Non-bodily existence is non-existence. What is under discussion in 1 Corinthians 15, is the nature of existence after Resurrection – not the fact that there is a σῶμα; the σῶμα is a given in the discussion.

Why is the σῶμα a given? This relates to the concept of resurrection. In the Semitic, monistic view of man, he is a body; the soul, as we understand it, does not exist. In Greek and modern thought, man is identified with his soul; the soul dwells in the body, in this life - and apart from it in the next.

So, for me, “bodily existence” means “bodily existence, as distinguished from existence as a disembodied spirit”. I just cannot help thinking this way – and I am inclined to think that the same is true of others. My mind has great trouble going though the gymnastics “bodily existence” = existence, and bodily here translates σῶμα, which has a meaning that requires Paul to write many sentences to explicate.

Do you mean that I have implied or claimed that there is no difference between the pre-mortem and post resurrection body?

No. You are clear that there is a difference. But I end up getting the impression that the resurrection body is the pre-mortem body after it has undergone modification. I end up visualizing a sequence: pre-mortem body  corpse  resurrection body. I see Paul saying: Jesus (with pre-mortem body) [Death] Christ (with resurrection body). A pre-mortem body was. A post-resurrection body is. He does not tell us that one morphed into the other. I think the former sequence puts limits on how the resurrection body might be conceptualized. The latter leaves the mind free – the fish might have a fish body in this life and a “sun body” when it “inherits the Kingdom”.

he is clear that it is the body that is to be transformed (cf. Philippians 3.21)

I have a ring. It is very peculiar in many respects and it has one precious stone – a diamond. Sometime later, I am discovered to be wearing that very peculiar ring. But there is one difference; the stone is now a sapphire. I think, I might reasonably say “the stone has changed”.

This could be interpreted in 2 ways: (1) the diamond has been removed and replaced by a sapphire or (2) I have altered the diamond into a sapphire. I submit that the former understanding would be (almost) universal.

When St. Paul says, μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, either understanding is possible; one body could morph into another or one could be replaced by another (here Resurrection would be understood as God “re-creating” you/me with a new Pneumatikon body).

What relation the present laws of physics, chemistry and so on have to the coming age, I don't pretend to know.

I am trying to understand a past event and (only) secondarily a future one. Based on Paul’s description, the Risen Lord's σῶμα was not that of a person in his 90s during the reign of Nerva. My understanding is that the σῶμα did not change at all between the time the revelation to Paul began and the time it came to an end. If the σῶμα was composed of molecules/atoms, those atoms/molecules did not change. Oxidation did not occur. Therefore respiration did not occur. The previous points are irrelevant. St Paul points out that he was not ἐκ γῆς Χοϊκός. The atoms and molecules which formed the pre-mortem body and the corpse are not present in the resurrection σῶμα.

John

KATAIOANEN said...

If one encounters a person who is known to have “died”, there are 2 possible explanations: (1) the person has been raised from the dead and (2) the person never really died.

These 2 “explanations” might be termed RESURRECTION and IMMORTALIY OF THE SOUL respectively.

The RESURRECTION MODEL is based on a monistic view of man. The pre-mortem soma looses the animating principle (psyche) and the person ceases to exist. A degenerating corpse remains. Resurrection marks the resumption of personal existence. God re-creates the human person who was and then was not. Like the pre-mortem person, the resurrected person has a soma. According to Paul, the animating principle of the resurrection soma is pneuma.

God raises the dead person. This manner of speaking suggests that the dead person exists. But (s)he does not; resurrection causes him/her to exist (again).

How does God create the resurrected person? I think, the best answer to this question is, that we do not know.

The pre-mortem person could be thought of as 30,000 genes, in induplicate. Instructions are written in a code of nucleotide triplets, which specify amino-acid sequences. There are instructions on growth and development, how to deal with intrinsic malfunction as well as external challenge.
Will the “code” for the post-mortem person be “written” using adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine nucleotides? I think we have to answer that, we do not know. God may well create a soma that has nothing to do with DNA.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses sowing as a metaphor for death. σπείρεις γυμνὸν κόκκον. The concept of the “naked” seed suggests to me a person sans soma.

οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις; the resurrection soma is NOT the pre-mortem body.

ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν; God provides a new soma.

The Apostle now names 3 categories of σῶμα (with examples): (1)σὰρξ, (2)“non-σὰρξ”σώματα ἐπίγεια, and (3) σώματα ἐπουράνια. The pre-mortem soma falls into the 1st category.

Next he uses 3 words (ἀφθαρσίᾳ, δόξῃ, and δυνάμει) in reference to the resurrection soma. It would appear that σῶμα πνευματικόν, the resurrection soma, is a 4th category of soma and the words ἀφθαρσίᾳ, δόξῃ, and δυνάμει apply to this 4th category. Somas in category 4 are not ἐκ γῆς Χοϊκός – a contrast with categories 1 and 2.

He says that σὰρξ cannot “inherit the Kingdom”. It would seem that somas belonging to category 4 are not σὰρξ. Paul repeats the word ἀφθαρσία and now associates it with the word ἀθανασία; somas in category 4, are not only incorruptible but also immortal.

One sometimes gets the impression that God fashions the resurrection soma from the pre-mortem soma/corpse. It seems to me that the Apostle is strongly making the point that the pre-mortem and resurrection somas belong to different categories. God could “make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” but why should we imagine him doing this, particularly when he tells us οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις.