Is the Resurrection Body Physical?

The makers of “The Jesus Tomb” have been arguing that finding Jesus’ bones shouldn’t damage Christian faith since Jesus’ resurrection body need not be physical. In the panel discussion with Ted Koppel, James Tabor argued from 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus’ resurrection body was spiritual not physical at his ascension.

Tabor’s interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 is seriously mistaken. Here is an excerpt of the relevant text from 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:35, 44
35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” . . . 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Tabor wrongly assumes that “spriritual” means the opposite of “physical.” But that is not at all what Paul means here. “Spiritual” does not mean “non-physical.” It means something that is wrought by the Holy Spirit. It is the same word that is used in 1 Corinthians 2:13:

1 Corinthians 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

In this text, “spiritual truths” are not “non-physical” truths, but they are truths that are “taught by the Spirit.” In other words they come from the Holy Spirit.

This is precisely how Paul uses the term “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 15:44. The “spiritual body” is a “Spiritual body” (notice the capital ‘S’). In other words, this body is wrought by the Holy Spirit. It’s a physical body that has been resurrected by Holy Spirit power. Elsewhere, Paul clearly links the Holy Spirit to the physical resurrection of the body.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.

In this text it is clear that the “spiritual” body is a physical one—one that will be given new life by the Holy Spirit. It is simply wrong, therefore, to suggest that “spiritual” means “non-physical.” Quite the opposite is the case. The makers of “The Jesus Tomb” are not only offering flawed “archeology,” but they are also giving us really bad exegesis.

Moreover, it is a heresy to say that the resurrection body is non-physical, be it Jesus’ body or the bodies that Christians will inherit at the last day. So don’t believe the makers of “The Jesus Tomb” when they claim that the bodily resurrection of Jesus doesn’t matter. They don’t know what they are talking about. The heart of the Christian gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus is to deny Christianity.

8 Responses to Is the Resurrection Body Physical?

  1. Mickey Klink March 5, 2007 at 11:44 am #

    Denny,

    I think the issue was the ascension, not the resurrection. Bock and Tabor were discussing if Christ’s physical body ascended, and hence would not have been buried, or just his “spirit.”

  2. dennyrburk March 5, 2007 at 12:05 pm #

    Dear Mickey,

    Thanks for the comment. And you are absolutely correct. But this is precisely the point. If Christ was raised in a body that he would ultimately leave behind (thus is was a body that died), then this completely overturns the biblical doctrine of resurrection which holds that the resurrection body is incorruptible.

    In any case, Tabor was using 1 Corinthians 15 (which is about resurrection) in order to defend his thesis about the ascension. Thus I would agree with him that 1 Corinthians 15 has implications for how we understand the nature of Christ’s body at His ascension. Tabor implies that Christ’s resurrection body was mortal and temporary, but the New Testament everywhere says that it was not. There is no indication anywhere in the New Testament that Jesus did anything other than ascend bodily.
    Thanks,
    Denny

  3. Matthew March 5, 2007 at 1:14 pm #

    Would you say that if (“IF” as in 2nd class conditional – I don’t expect it to ever happen) it could be shown that Jesus did not raise from the dead, then you would have to re-think and/or reject your whole Christianity?

    I am not writing this as a troll. I believe I would say that IF I were to discover that Jesus did not physically raise from the dead, then, per Paul, I am screwed and my faith is wrong. I was just curious to know how you would respond to that.

  4. dennyrburk March 5, 2007 at 1:57 pm #

    Matthew,

    Yes, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the linchpin of the Christian faith.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. dennyrburk March 5, 2007 at 2:21 pm #

    Mickey,

    I revised the wording in the opening paragraph to account for your critique. I think I fixed it.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  6. everett oakley March 6, 2007 at 4:17 pm #

    You have to be careful with Tabor. Tabor himself does not believe that Jesus was resurrected (see his book Jesus Dynasty). Tabor is saying what he thinks Paul meant by resurrection. Indeed Tabor thinks that Paul invented the resurrected Jesus (again see Jesus Dynasty) and all of the New Testament (except perhaps the Book of James) has been distorted and contaminated with this Pauline invention.

  7. No-Resurrection September 21, 2007 at 5:49 am #

    Dear all,

    To Paul, “the spiritual body” is a spirit becuase Paul said “it is sown a physical body and it is raised a spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 15:44 then Paul went on to say Jesus after rising was “a life-giving spirit” in 1 Corinthians 15:45 “for flesh and blood cannot the Kingdom of God” in 1 Corinhtians 15:50.

    Therefore, it you read the whole context of 1 Corinthians 15, you will find “spiritual body ” was the opposite of the physical body.

  8. No-Resurrection September 21, 2007 at 5:54 am #

    Dear all,

    To Paul, “the spiritual body” is a spirit becuase Paul said “it is sown a physical body and it is raised a spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 15:44 then Paul went on to say Jesus after rising was “a life-giving spirit” in 1 Corinthians 15:45 “for flesh and blood cannot the Kingdom of God” in 1 Corinhtians 15:50.

    Therefore, it you read the whole context of 1 Corinthians 15, you will find “spiritual body ” was just the opposite of the physical body.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes