Is a Spiritual Body a Physical Body…

25 Apr

I found this response to the following objection to a physical resurrection of Jesus Christ helpful.

Some look to 1 Corinthians 15 and say that

“Paul could not mean a physical body — he refers to a ‘spiritual body’.”

(From the article Is a Resurrection Body Physical?)

Price suggests that this refers to a body that is immaterial, or some sort of angelic substance, spiritual in nature. Mormons may find this useful for their own doctrine of spirit as a sort of substance. [But] The phrase actually means not a disembodied spirit, but a tangible body dominated and directed by the Holy Spirit – thus Craig prefers the term, “supernatural” body, in accordance with the Greek terminology:

152. pneumatikos, pnyoo-mat-ik-os’; from G4151; non-carnal, i.e. (humanly) ethereal (as opposed to gross), or (daemoniacally) a spirit (concr.), or (divinely) supernatural, regenerate, religious:–spiritual.

Harris points out that Greek adjectives ending in -ikos “carry a functional or ethical meaning” [Harr.RI, 120]. (Wright [351n] adds that adjectives of material end in -inos.) Consider there sample verses where, obviously, pneumatikos could by no means be referring to something immaterial:

Rom. 1:11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong…(Does this refer to a gift that is made of some “luminous angelic substance” or is simply immaterial?)

Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Is Paul talking to people who are CURRENTLY made of an “angelic substance” or are immaterial?)

And Wright adds these classical uses, showing that the word is used not for what something is made of, but what it is “animated by”: Aristotle speaks of wombs “swollen with air” (hysterai pnumatikai) and Vitruvius refers to a machine “moved by wind” (pneumatikon organon). The point, then, being made by Craig is that Jesus’ resurrection body was dominated and directed by the Holy Spirit – not “made of” spirit. “Spiritual” here is an adjective describing an orientation, not a status of existence.

Carrier [129] attempts to get around this difficulty by claiming that the distinction between -inos and -ikos is “not so clear-cut” as, he says, “Wright admits.” Though in fact, Wright is not so firm as that; he does say it is “dangerous to generalize in so widespread and pluriform a language as Koine Greek” yet the distinction remains “generally true”. Carrier also ignores Wright’s point that Paul was perfectly capable of coining a word like psychinos if needed.

While Carrier gives us an alleged set of examples of words with dual meanings, he does not offer specific citations as to where they appear. He would further need to show that these examples were not potential cases of scribal error or poor spelling/usage, or occurred often enough to make this suggestion unlikely.

Pushback: But can Paul have imagined that Jesus’s body during his earthly life was not already dominated and directed by the Holy Spirit? Ours, maybe, but his? One cannot ignore the parallel being drawn between Jesus and the resurrected believer throughout the chapter. And to say that “it is raised a spiritual body” means only “it is raised” is a piece of harmonizing sleight-of-hand…

Here our critic has missed the point. Of COURSE Paul “imagined” that Jesus had an earthly body that was not “dominated and directed” by the Holy Spirit, as indeed the Gospels, and even Paul, teach: It was a body that got hungry, got thirsty, wept, was born of a woman, was descended from David, and was crucified and killed. The post-resurrection body, on the other hand, was/is NOT subject to weaknesses, according to Paul.

This is the whole thrust of the parallel between Jesus’ RESURRECTED body – NOT His earthly one – and the believer’s resurrected body. Paul said of Jesus in His earthly body: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – Phil. 2:5-7. And: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” – Rom. 8:3.

The earthly body of Jesus was just as frail as ours; but it is the RESURRECTED body of Jesus that is under the domination of the Spirit – or as Craig puts it, is Spirit-oriented – not the earthly one, in either case. What our critic has apparently done here is confused the idea that Jesus received COUNSEL and DIRECTION from the Holy Spirit with the idea that His bodily material was itself dominated by the Holy Spirit on the material, earthly level. The two concepts are in no way the same.

Wright (Resurrection of the Son of God, 315) adds the pertinent point that as it happens, the pagan philosophers of the day DID hold a “Mormon” view of spirit as “composed of material, albeit in finer particles.” Thus indeed if Paul was teaching the sort of “spirit body” resurrection supposed, “his argument would be unnecessary, since many people in Corinth believed in that anyway.” A “spiritual resurrection” thesis makes 1 Cor. 15 an argument for something that the Corinthians would have already believed in!”


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