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Paul and the Resurrection of the “Flesh”?

QUESTIONS: But what is a BODILY resurrection without the flesh? And doesn’t this indicate that the flesh (the corpse) didn’t matter anymore and could be left behind, rotting and decomposing? Isn’t it all about the spirit finally getting this new, better, perfect, divine ‘body’? Addendum: The Greek for ‘spiritual’ (like in spiritual body) is pneumatikos, right? According to Strong’s that means: pertaining to wind or breath, windy, exposed to the wind, blowing. Now those wouldn’t be obvious words to describe something physical or made out of matter, would it? They seems to rather define something ‘intangible’ RESPONSE: OK, I’ve been getting a lot of questions along these lines (some on the blog itself). So I need to try to clarify the whole matter. It’s not easy, for a variety of reasons. But I’ll do my best. First thing to stress: the ancient apocalyptic view of the human that Paul had is not the view of the human that WE have.   This is one instance where it becomes crystal clear that we have to try to [...]

2020-04-03T19:19:05-04:00October 9th, 2012|Afterlife, Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

The Women and the Empty Tomb

QUESTION: So, on Ludemann's account, how do the stories of the women at the tomb found in the canonical gospels come to be told? As many scholars I've read have pointed out, having women, who were considered untrustworthy witnesses, as the first to see the risen Christ, was not exactly a way to get people to believe the stories. So why would the gospel writers tell the stories with the women in such a prominent place? RESPONSE: I’m not sure how Lüdemann would answer your question (I.e., I don’t recall off hand how he deals with it). But I thought that maybe I should give it a shot. I am not responding here with a long-held position that I have carefully thought through and worked out. I’m really just “thinking out loud” (well, thinking silently, at my keyboard, in any event). I have indeed heard this argument for many years. In fact, I used to make it myself. The argument is that since women were not considered reliable witnesses (since their testimony was not acceptable [...]

Paul’s View of Resurrection

QUESTIONS: So if, as you say, Paul believed in a 'physical resurrection of the body ( = of the corpse, right?) of Jesus' then why did he never refer to an empty tomb or to the discovery of such an empty tomb by the apostles in his letters although that would have fitted well at occasions? Also, and I know we have discussed these matters briefly here before, why did Paul describe the 'risen Christ' as a light etc in his visions? And not as a humanoid? And if that 'transformed' body was so different from the normal, natural body humans have then why assume the corpse was actually needed in the first place to get 'resurrected' in this new one (and if a corpse is needed then what about corpses that have been totally decomposed?)? Why is it Paul's aim to get away from the physical body that he himself is currently living in (as he mentions in some of his letters)? Why does Paul then contrast the 'natural' body to the 'spiritual' body? [...]

2020-04-03T19:20:17-04:00October 6th, 2012|Afterlife, Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

Gerd Lüdemann on the Resurrection of Jesus

Gerd Ludemann the Resurrection of Jesus. One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). Lüdemann is an important and interesting scholar. He was a professor of New Testament at Göttingen in Germany, and for a number of years split his time between there and Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. He is a major figure in scholarship and is noteworthy for not being a Christian. He does not believe Jesus was literally, physically, raised from the dead, and he thinks that apart from belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection, it is not possible for a person to be Christian. This book is written for people with a lot of background in New Testament studies. It is exegetically based, meaning that he goes into a detailed examination of key passages to uncover their literary meaning, but he is ultimately interested in historical questions of what really happened. To follow his [...]

2022-06-07T13:46:16-04:00October 5th, 2012|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Paul and His Letters|

The Resurrection as a Key to Early Understandings of Jesus

A key part of my book on "How Jesus Became God" will involve a discussion of Jesus’ resurrection. One can make the case, rather easily, that apart from the Christian belief that God raised Jesus from the dead not only would no one ever have thought of him as God (since, as I will be arguing, no one thought of him as God while he was living – he himself almost certainly did not!) but that Christianity itself would not exist apart from the belief in the resurrection. One can’t argue that Christianity started with the life and teachings of Jesus, per se, since what he taught (I’m speaking about the historical man Jesus, not the Jesus who is portrayed in the Gospels – especially the Gospel of John) is not what Christians teach. That sounds weird, but it’s true. In a nut shell, Jesus taught that the end of the age was imminent, that God was soon to send from heaven the son of man in judgment to destroy the forces of evil and [...]

2020-04-03T19:20:33-04:00October 3rd, 2012|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Possibilities for the Afterlife

IN MY BIBLE INTRODUCTION, I INTRODUCE STUDENTS TO SOME OF THE OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE AFTERLIFE, IN VIEW OF PAUL’S INSISTENCE IN 1 CORINTHIANS THAT THE FUTURE WILL INVOLVE A PHYSICAL RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD FOR ETERNAL LIFE – A VIEW NOT SHARED BY MANY OF HIS READERS, BOTH THEN AND NOW! ******************************************************************************************************************** Some interpreters have thought that Paul and his Corinthian opponents disagreed about the resurrection because they had fundamentally different understandings about the nature of human existence, both now and in the afterlife. Perhaps it would be useful to reflect on different ways that one might conceive of life after death. Annihilation.  One possibility is that a person who dies ceases to exist.  This appears to have been a popular notion in the Greco-Roman world, as evidenced by a number of inscriptions on tombstones that bemoan the brevity of life which ends in nonexistence.  One of the most widely used Latin inscriptions was so popular that it was normally abbreviated (like our own R.I.P. for “Rest in Peace”) as N.F.N.S.N.C.: “I was [...]

2020-04-03T19:22:23-04:00September 15th, 2012|Afterlife, Book Discussions, Paul and His Letters|

Resurrection and Resuscitation

The following is just a small chunk that I've written up for my Bible Introduction on the idea of "resurrection" -- in relationship to other views of afterlife in the Bible. It's short, but it's the last sentence that is very much worth thinking about (most people haven't thought about it; I know I never did, until fairly recently). ************************************************************************************************************** Many readers of the Bible are surprised to learn that the ideas of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible are not closely related to what most people think today.   The idea that after you die, your soul goes either to heaven or hell (or even purgatory) is not rooted in the Jewish Scriptures.  The few passages that refer to an afterlife in the Hebrew Bible assume that after death, a person goes to “Sheol.”  That is not the Hebrew equivalent of “hell” – a place of punishment for the wicked.  It is the place that everyone goes, good or evil.  It is sometimes spoken of as a place of rest (remember how Samuel was not [...]

Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 10 (and last!)

Q.   In what way is the Jewish notion of a resurrection a different idea than either the fertility crop cycle idea, or what is sometimes said about pagan deities that either disappear or die? A.   One of the reasons for thinking that the belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is not exactly like what you can find in pagan myths about their gods is that it is solidly rooted in Jewish apocalyptic beliefs of the first century.  This should come as no surprise, since Jesus and his followers were not pagans with pagan views of the divine realm, but first-century apocalyptically minded Jews.   In some pagan circles, there was a belief in fertility gods, who would spend some time in the underworld and some time in this world, alternating year after year.... FOR THE REST OF MY RESPONSE, go to the Members Site.  If you don't yet belong, JOIN NOW!!

Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 10 (the last!)

CONTINUATION!   Ben Witherington, a conservative evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, has asked me to respond to a number of questions about my book Did Jesus Exist, especially in light of criticism I have received for it (not, for the most part, from committed Christians!).   His blog is widely read by conservative evangelicals, and he has agreed to post the questions and my answers without editing, to give his readers a sense of why I wrote the book, what I hoped to accomplish by it, and what I would like them to know about it.  He has graciously agreed to allow me to post my responses here on my blog, which, if I’m not mistaken, has a very different readership (although there is undoubtedly some overlap).   It’s a rather long set of questions and answers – over 10,000 words.   So I will post them in bits and pieces so as not to overwhelm anyone.  The Q is obviously his, the A is mine. Some of Ben Witherington’s most popular books are The Jesus Quest, and The [...]

A Final (for now) Post on the Resurrection

     A final posting, for now, on the question I was asked on the resurrection. Most people – even those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection – never stop to think about what the idea of resurrection would have meant to first century Jews.  Jesus’ followers, of course, were just that, Jews from Palestine in the first century.   Today people (Christians) are so accustomed to thinking of Jesus’ resurrection that there is nothing odd about it – it fits directly into our (their) way of thinking about the world.  But in fact the very notion of resurrection is a thoroughly Jewish notion with deep roots in the Jewish apocalyptic (as opposed, say, to the American capitalistic) world view. Throughout most of their earlier history, Jews did not hold to the idea of a resurrected afterlife.  In the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), most authors (e.g., of Job and Ecclesiastes) think that death is the end of the story, so that there is no afterlife, or that if there is an afterlife it is a shadowy [...]

More on the Resurrection

     As I pointed out in the previous posting, we cannot know that there was an empty tomb three days after Jesus’ death.   We also cannot know which of his twelve disciples came to believe that he had been raised from the dead, or when they started to believe it.  They later indicated that he was raised on the third day, as Paul, a later Christian who knew some of the disciples, tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5.   But Paul does not indicate that the disciples of Jesus started to believe that it was three days after Jesus’ death that his disciples started to believe he had been raised –only that that was the day on which he was raised.  They may have come to realize it weeks later. The Gospels, written decades after Paul, indicate that the disciples came to believe on the third day.   And it indicates that they all (except Judas Iscariot, of course) came to believe.   I don’t know if that is historically right or not.  There are a lot of Christian [...]

Another Question on the Resurrection

[h3]EMAIL QUESTION[/h3] From all of my studies, I still have one open question about the resurrection…or the resurrection story.  I do not understand how or why or when that story was invented.  It is easy to understand the retroactive invention of the virgin birth stories and other theoretical miracles of Jesus, but it seems to me that no one would have gone to the trouble to create those prior stories if they had not believed sincerely in the resurrection. …but how did the resurrection story get started?   Practically speaking, after Jesus’ crucifixion, I imagine the Disciples were terrified.  My hunch is they wanted to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible.  So, after the horror of the crucifixion…..what in the world triggered one of them to say…”you know, Jesus was really the Messiah…we have to spread his message…but nobody will believe us so how do we get the message across? O.K. Let’s make up a story about him being resurrected…and then we will tell everyone about that miracle and then certainly they will believe [...]

2020-04-03T19:46:04-04:00April 28th, 2012|Afterlife, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|
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