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8/15/2018 5:40 pm  #1


Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

Given the series of threads on the historicity of Christianity, I thought it would be appropriate to further the discussion with perhaps one of the most controversial issues--did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection of Christ? I've read NT Wright's tome a few years ago and he practically spends 700 pages arguing that given the Second Temple Judaic understanding of eschatology it seems improbable that Paul, and by implication the disciples, believed in a spiritual resurrection. Any thoughts?

 

8/15/2018 7:30 pm  #2


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

Hi Joe, I posted a lot on this topic on your previous thread. 

 

8/15/2018 7:57 pm  #3


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

Paul's beliefs regarding that point are crystal clear in the passage where he explains what will happen to the faithful who will still be living on earth at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, placing himself among those people for the sake of discourse. Quoting the passage from the most literal translation, the Berean Literal Bible:

Paul in the 1st letter to the Corinthians wrote:

Behold, I tell to you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For it behooves this, the perishable to put on the imperishable; and this, the mortal to put on immortality.

Now when this the perishable shall have put on the imperishable, and this, the mortal, shall have put on immortality, then the word having been written will come to pass:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where O death, is your victory?
Where O death is your sting?”

"This", i.e. our current perishable body, will put on the imperishable.
"This", i.e. our current mortal body, will put on immortality.
It can't get any clearer than that.
 

 

8/15/2018 8:55 pm  #4


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

ficino wrote:

Hi Joe, I posted a lot on this topic on your previous thread. 

Thanks Ficino. I'll take a second look--I've been playing catchup with the discussion on that thread.

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8/15/2018 9:43 pm  #5


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

Johannes, I tend to think that Paul thought the Final Resurrection was a physical one because of the passages you mentioned and others like it. Also he seems to be following a pretty mainstream Second Temple position of the Final Resurrection as far as I'm aware. However, one needs to still establish whether or not the early Christian belief in the Final Resurrection informs their belief in the Resurrection of Christ. In other words, one has to make the case that Christ's resurrection was a precursor to the Final Resurrection.

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8/15/2018 10:00 pm  #6


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

RomanJoe wrote:

However, one needs to still establish whether or not the early Christian belief in the Final Resurrection informs their belief in the Resurrection of Christ. In other words, one has to make the case that Christ's resurrection was a precursor to the Final Resurrection.

The case is as straightforward as it can be.

Paul in the 1st letter to the Corinthians wrote:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. (1 Cor 15:13)

 

8/16/2018 5:12 am  #7


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

I think from verses such as Johannes quoted, and others, it is clear that what happens in Jesus' resurrection will happen in the resurrection of those who believe in Jesus. 

I seem to see an assumption that Second Temple Judaism believed in resurrection of properties X, so therefore Paul believed in resurrection of properties X. That assumption itself rests on other assumptions further back, and I at least would like to hear more about the evidence for what those assumptions seem to be. Just off the top of my head:
1 that there was a uniform religious "ideology" that dominated all Judaism that accepted the legitimacy of the 2nd Temple, in the years maybe from the Maccabees to the Roman suppression of the revolt in 68-73/4;
2. that we know what its tenets were about resurrection;
3. that Paul subscribed to those tenets;
4. that our conclusions about 1-3 and perhaps other positions fix our interpretation of Paul's epistles

If my 1. is too broadly formulated, then I am left thinking that the construct, "Second Temple Judaism," is too broadly formulated.

ETA: I also think it's important to be precise about what we mean by "spiritual resurrection" in contrast to physical or bodily resurrection. As I understand it, a claim that Paul has a "two-body" conception of resurrection can be a claim that Paul:
A. thought Jesus' flesh body remained in the grave while Jesus' pneumatic body walked around, OR
B. thought the flesh body turned into a pneumatic body, leaving no remains in the grave, OR
C. thought the pneumatic body walked around but that Paul did not consider what remains may have remained in the grave.
 

Last edited by ficino (8/16/2018 8:16 am)

 

8/16/2018 5:12 pm  #8


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

I am not an expert, but didn't the Pharisees believe in bodily resurrection? This is a point that upon which they were differentiatdd from the other Jewish sects. And Paul himself had been a Pharisee. As Paul doesn't seem to distance himself from his former views, and we can take it that the very early Church would have been well aware of the views of the Pharisees (?), isn't it likely Paul meant bodily resurrection?

 

8/16/2018 7:40 pm  #9


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

One of the problems is, how do we know what the Pharisees believed before Paul, when the so-called genuine epistles of Paul are older than our other sources about the Pharisees? We can't tout court read purported descriptions of Pharisaical beliefs from the gospels or Acts back to a time before Paul. Josephus says in BG 2.163 (shorter in AJ 18.14) that the Pharisees held that every soul is immortal, but the soul of the good alone passes to another body, while the souls of the wicked suffer eternal punishment (tr. Thackeray). That doctrine is very different from resurrection of the flesh and blood body. Josephus only says of the Sadducees that they in turn deny that the soul persists after death. 2 Maccabees 7:9 says the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever, but this neither specifies the soul-body relation, nor does it mention pneuma, nor does it attach this belief to Pharisees. 7:23 seems consistent with the view that God will constitute a new body OR that God will do something to the dead body.  The best evidence for a belief in resurrection I have seen in 2 Macc 12:43-44, where Judas is said to expect the fallen soldiers to rise again (BTW this is a proof text for Purgatory, since it mentions prayer for the dead). But no detail is given about a one-body vs two-body conception. And again, it's another matter to connect 2 Macc with Pharisees.

And as I said, other premises have to be established as fairly secure before we can conclude securely that  if Pharisees held X, Paul held X. After all, as a heretic and/or schismatic from the POV of the Judaism in which he was trained, Paul did not agree with Pharisees on every point. So we need to have a basis for establishing points on which we think Paul did agree. An appeal to Acts is helpful but again runs into problems of chronology and other matters.

 

 

8/16/2018 7:53 pm  #10


Re: Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection?

We also have to keep in mind that Paul didn't consider himself a traditional pharisee after his conversion--mostly evident by the fact that he didn't see circumcision and dietary laws as binding. So a pharisaic background may not have that much influence on his newly found Christian beliefs. The reason why understanding what Paul believed in about the resurrection is important is because it most likely reflects what the disciples believed in, considering how in Galatians and elsewhere he mentions how he met with the disciples and maintained contact with them to make sure he wasn't running in error with regards to the gospel.

So whatever we can glean about Paul's understanding of Christ's resurrection, most likely will reflect the belief of the disciples since their gospel message was the barometer by which Paul judged his own. So one way of trying to figure out Paul's belief in the Resurrection is by figuring out what the disciples may have believed.

Last edited by RomanJoe (8/16/2018 7:56 pm)

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