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 oneâ€”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.