alastair.adversaria » N.T. Wright Lecture: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

N.T. Wright Lecture: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

The following are my notes from a lecture delivered this evening, 20th December, by N.T. Wright in the University of St. Andrews. The following provides a general idea of what the good bishop said, but should not be depended upon too much. Doubtless other eyewitnesses will come forward with conflicting accounts…

N.T. Wright, Bishop of DurhamAs someone who gave up studying physics and chemistry more or less as soon as he had the opportunity and devoted little effort to excelling in them when he did study them, Wright finds it odd to find himself in the position of being looked upon to provide an answer to such a question. The question itself is strange: it reminds him of the person who, when asked if he believed in infant baptism, responded in the affirmative, assuring the questioner that he had seen it happen with his own eyes. There are scientists who do believe in the resurrection. In answering the question, Wright wants to explore the fault lines between different ways of knowing, between the forms of knowing advanced by science and by history, and the way of knowing that belongs to faith, hope, and love. These ways of knowing overlap in various ways.

We are often told that over recent centuries we have enjoyed an upward path towards the light of reason—the narrative of the Enlightenment. While Wright has no desire to return to premodern dentistry or sanitation or transport, for example, he feels that the modern narrative is limited. Science has not proved sufficient to provide us with the wholeness of life that we really need.

Plato regarded ‘faith’ as a sort of intermediate form of knowing, a sort of cushioned knowledge, a sense that the terminology retains in much common parlance. We often use the term ‘knowledge’ in a positivistic sense and ‘believe’ in a loose sense, to refer to matters of mere private opinion, where any relation to external reality is somewhat lacking or doubtful. The disciples, however, believed in a resurrection with a real purchase on reality, a resurrection that left mementos behind, whether that was an empty tomb or footprints on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.

What does the term ‘believe’ mean in the question that we are answering? What sorts of questions and dimensions of reality are open to the scientific method? What sort of claim should the scientist’s science have on his approach to other areas of his life? Should he be ‘scientific’ about his relationship to his wife, or about his assessment of a piece of music? The question that we are dealing with assumes that this particular issue of the resurrection impinges upon the scientist’s particular area of concern in a manner and to an extent that questions of love and music generally do not. While there are some who have sought to locate the issue of resurrection alongside such issues of love and music, this is not a movement that should make. In the context of the first century world resurrection was very much understood as a public, space-time event.

To put things somewhat simplistically: history deals with the unrepeatable, while science deals with the repeatable. Scientists’ objections to the resurrection often focus on the lack of analogy. However, the disciples did not believe that the resurrection was just one of many analogous events. The whole issue of worldview raises itself at this point. The worldview of the scientist is the context in which such things become believable or not.

What is the resurrection? There were many ancient beliefs about life after death. Ancient paganism contained many beliefs on these matters, but they universally ruled out the possibility of resurrection. Wright has explored this whole area at considerable length in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God. The conviction that the dead do not rise is not a product born out of scientific discovery over the past few centuries: any first century person knew this fact. Ancient Judaism believed that God was creator and that he would set his world to rights, which for many was seen to involve bodily resurrection. Christianity belongs on this map. For Christians, resurrection was not a fancy way of talking about life after death, but a way of talking about a form of life after life after death. Christians certainly believed in a form of intermediate period, and might speak of it using terms such as ‘paradise’, but these beliefs are not to be confused with its belief in resurrection.

Beliefs about life after death are generally among the most conservatively held of all beliefs in the context of any given culture. It is in such areas that people tend to revert to the positions that they were taught in childhood. For this reason, any large scale change in the convictions of a society in this area needs to be accounted for. Such a large scale shift in beliefs about life after death is precisely what we see in the case of Christianity. Excepting the later movement of Gnosticism, the early Christian Church manifests several key mutations from traditional approaches to the subject of life after death.

1. In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.

2. While many Jewish groups held beliefs about resurrection, it was an issue for speculation and did not lie at the core of its belief system. In the early Church, belief in the resurrection moves from the circumference of belief to its very centre and heart.

3. In contrast to Jewish groups, within which many conceptions of resurrection circulated, from the very beginning the Christian Church held a very clearly defined understanding of resurrection. For instance, the resurrection body was thought of as a transformed—‘spiritual’—body and not just as a resuscitated one.

4. For Christians, the event of ‘resurrection’ has split into two. Outside of Christianity we do not find belief in the resurrection of one man in the middle of history. Such a theological movement is without precedent.

5. The Christian approach to ‘collaborative eschatology’ (Crossan) is also without precedent. Believing that the resurrection inaugurated the eschaton, the early Church believed that it needed to implement this event, in anticipation of the final consummation.

6. Within Christianity we also see a new metaphorical use of the language of resurrection. Within the context of Judaism the language had been employed as a metaphorical way of speaking about return from exile, for instance. In the context of Christianity, this metaphorical usage of ‘resurrection’ is replaced by the use of resurrection metaphors in the context of baptism and holiness.

7. Within Christianity belief in resurrection is connected with Messianic belief in a way that it is not within Judaism. Judaism did not have a place for a Messiah that would die at the hands of the enemies of the people of God and so, naturally, did not have the place for a resurrected Messiah that Christianity did.

Indeed, without the resurrection, how do we account for Messianic belief after Christ’s death? Within other Messianic movements more or less contemporaneous with the Jesus movement, the death of the supposed Messiah tended to lead to a quest for a replacement, often a relative of the supposed Messiah who had died. Within early Christianity there was a perfect candidate for such a position following Jesus’ death—his brother James. James was renowned for his piety and was a leading figure within the early Church, but was never thought of as the Messiah.

Twentieth century revisionist historiography has occasionally suggested that belief in the resurrection arose out of the subjective internal experience of early Christian disciples. A little employment of historical imagination should destroy any plausibility that such a suggestion might initially seem to possess. Anyone offering the suggestion that Jesus was raised from the dead, based purely on an internal experience of a warmed heart or even on the basis of witnessing him in the same room, would have been subjected to ridicule. First century people were well aware, as we are, of cases of dead relatives appearing to their grieving kin following their deaths. At this point we should note the common confusion that exists between the idea of resurrection and the idea of someone dying and going to be with God. The event of the resurrection is one that is not merely a matter of subjective inner feeling, but one that has considerable claim on the external public world. The point of the resurrection is that Jesus is Lord and that death and the tyrants who use its power are defeated.

Why did these mutations occur? Only one explanation truly suffices: the disciples genuinely believed that Jesus had been bodily raised.

As many have observed, the accounts of the resurrection in the gospels do not fit snugly together. There are a number of apparently conflicting details. A recent book, Wittgenstein’s Poker, provides a wonderful example of the surface discrepancies of eye-witness testimony. In a room containing many of the most brilliant minds of the time, Wittgenstein brandished a poker at Karl Popper and then left the room. The eye-witness accounts of this event differ markedly. However, what no one doubts is that something significant happened. The same can be said of the resurrection. Surface discrepancies between narratives is quite to be expected under such circumstances.

There are four important points of commonality to be noted between the resurrection accounts of the gospels:

1. The Scriptures are almost completely silent in the resurrection narratives, in marked contrast to previous stages of the gospel narratives, where quotations from the Scriptures occur with relative frequency. This suggests that the accounts of the resurrection are very early, going back to a very early oral tradition, established before the scriptural basis had been sufficiently explored (as it had been by the time of the later account of 1 Corinthians 15).

2. The presence of women as initial witnesses of the event is not what one would expect to find in the context of the culture of the day. Once again, the account of 1 Corinthians 15 would appear to be the later one here.

3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts. Jesus’ body appears normal on occasions, but in other contexts it is clear that it has been transformed. For instance, we see the disciples having difficulty in recognizing him on occasions (e.g. John 21:12). This type of account is without precedent. The writers appear to be struggling to find the language appropriate to what they have witnessed and do not appear to be driven by a clear anti-docetic, or other agenda. The body of Christ is equally at home both in heaven and in earth. It also is clearly physical.

4. The resurrection has a very much ‘this-worldly’, present age meaning. Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people. As they stand, the accounts include a number of clearly pre-reflective elements.

When dealing with the issue of the relationship between Easter and history we need a two-pronged approach of explanation: (a) the tomb really was empty; (b) the disciples really did encounter Jesus after his death. People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world. Jesus’ burial was also (a fact often unrecognized) a primary burial, which would have later been followed up by storing his remains in an ossuary. Apart from sightings, the empty tomb would have not been a sufficient argument for the possibility of resurrection; in the absence of an empty tomb, nor would sightings. The only explanation sufficient to support resurrection must involve both of these things. All of the signposts point in the direction of resurrection. Denials of the resurrection often preclude on the basis of worldviews that preclude its possibility from the outset. The event of the resurrection is that which explains the future shape of the early Church.

Here the issue of a form of knowing beyond scientific and historical knowing presents itself. This new way of knowing must involve some sort of overlap with scientific and historical forms of knowing. Wright gives the example of the donation of a magnificent work of art to a college in a university. The college, lacking any place in which to display the work of art, dismantles the current college building and rebuilds it around the donated work of art. All of the things that used to make the college special are retained and, indeed, enhanced by the presence of the work of art. The negative features of the college are removed by the redesign of the college around the work of art. However—and this is the crucial point—there must be some initial reception of the work of art prior to the redesigning and rebuilding of the college around it. It is of such an overlap that we speak of with the bearing that the issue of resurrection has upon the scientist or the historian.

The resurrection poses such a challenge to the scientist or the historian, for it is the utterly characteristic, protological event of the new world that is coming to birth. It is not an absurd event occurring within the system of our own world, but an event that belongs to a new reality. No other explanation of a satisfactory character can explain the empty tomb. Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.

God has given us minds to think. Despite the fact that the resurrection bursts the bounds of history, it also belongs within history, which is precisely why it is so disturbing and unsettling to us. In seeking to understand the resurrection, we need to situate it within a broader context. The apostle Thomas is a good example to follow here. Thomas starts out looking for a certain form of knowing—“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe”—but ends up transcending this sort of knowing in a greater form of knowing. This is not an anti-historical or anti-scientific belief. There is epistemological weight borne by history. Faith transcends—but includes—historical and scientific conviction.

The faith by which we know, like all other true forms of knowing, is determined by the nature of its object. The fact that faith is determined by the nature of its object corresponds to the methodology adopted by science. In order to know certain things, scientists occasionally have to change their ways of seeing to a way that is more appropriate to the reality with which they are dealing. Changing paradigms involves finding a bigger picture within which to see things. Christian faith involves much the same sort of movement.

If we see an epistemology of faith in the example of Thomas, we see an epistemology of hope expressed in the work of the apostle Paul, a matter that is explored within Wright’s most recent publication, entitled—with apologies to C.S. Lewis—Surprised by Hope. Hope is a way of knowing in which new possibilities are opened up. There is also within Scripture an epistemology of love to be found, perhaps exemplified best by Peter. Wittgenstein once remarked in a profound statement: ‘It is love that believes the resurrection.’ So it was in the case of Peter.

The question of how we know things is related to the new ontology of the resurrection. The resurrection cannot be known properly in terms of our world of death, detachment and betrayal. The knowing of love must have a correlative outside the knower in the external world. This is the knowing that is needed in the world of the resurrection. ‘Objective’ historical epistemology leads us to the questions faced by Thomas, Paul and Peter: are we able and prepared to adopt a knowing of faith, hope and love? All forms of knowing are given by God; all forms of knowing can be situated within the broader setting of knowing established by faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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[...] Alastair returns with a summary of N.T. Wright’s speech tonight on “Can a Scientist Believe the Rez?” Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:34 pm | Trackback | Permalink [...]

‘ In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.’

Why did early Christian converts in Corinth scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why was the church in Thessalonika worried by some of their fellow Christians turning into corpses?

WRIGHT
People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world.

CARR
Yes, according to the New Testament, early Christians were convinced that what they saw in visions and dreams was reality.

Joseph allegedly saw an angel in a dream and believed it to be real.

Paul allegedly visited the third Heaven in a trance and thought it real.

Paul allegedly saw a man from Macedonia in a vision and thought it to be reality.

The writer of Revelation allegedly saw the post-mortem Jesus in a vision and thought he had really seen Jesus.

WRIGHT
3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts.

CARR
Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.

This is not even an argument by Wright.

It is just a made-up non-factoid.

He may as well claim that if it had been fiction, it would have been written in poetry. That is also made up out of thin air, just like his claim.

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

All these questions, and many more, were ignored by the Bishop of Durham when he trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times.

[...] Alastair has saved us some work by posting his excellent (and lengthy) summary of the talk here. [...]

Thanks, Al, a very helpful summary. Will try to put it in the memory in case I need it later. One nit-pick, more for His Bishopness than for you:

Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people.

I thought the resurrection of the many saints who had fallen asleep (Matt. 27:52-3, which might easily have happened after the Resurrection) was exactly that?

I imagine it’s a reprise of the material NT Wright talked about in his Faraday Lecture - downloadable here:

http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/CIS/Wright/index.htm

[...] Science and the Ressurection. [...]

Carr - Why would anybody read 1 Corinthians 15 as Docetism? This question, and many more, were ignored by you when you trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times. ;)

What is docetism?

The view that Jesus appeared to have a flesh and blood body, but could walk through walls?

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?


Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.”

Wright explains this in more detail in his Resurrection of the Son of God. Daniel 12 describes the resurrected righteous in this way: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Since it’s fairly reasonable to read Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” as alluding to the character from Daniel, who in Daniel has some kind of representative status for Israel, Wright’s argument has some merit: if people were just making up the narratives from OT expectations, they might have been expected to describe Jesus as “like the brightness of the firmament, and …like the stars forever and ever.”

And I can’t think of one place where your other questions actually reflect what a biblical writer is saying.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to the comments above at the moment. Some important questions have been raised, and I hope that someone will be able to address them, as I have neither the time nor energy at present (I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for some time now and have a dissertation deadline breathing down my neck, on top of all of the madness of Christmas time). There were a number of points in the lecture where I wasn’t so sure about Wright’s argument, but overall I thought that it was extremely stimulating and helpful. Philip’s point is a particularly good one and is a strong challenge to what I believe is a weaker dimension of Wright’s case.

So where is Wright’s evidence that if the resurrection was fictional people would have written stories of Jesus shining, (or the cross rising to Heaven?)

All we have is Wright’s claim that he just knows by magic that Christians would have written stories of Jesus shining if they had written fiction.

Where is his evidence?

By contrast, we have excellent evidence that if Jews believed in corpses rising they would have written just that.

Section Sanhedrin 90b of he Talmud discusses the question that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15 - how can dust come back to life?

Paul denies that it will. He claims resurrected beings will not be made of the dust of the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ‘The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.’

Paul denies that dust will come back to life. If there is a resurrected body, he writes, it will not be made from dust, it will be made from heavenly material.

There were Jews who did believe that dust comes back to life again. See how Sanhedrin 90b handles the question, and see how utterly alien it is to Paul’s way of writing in 1 Corinthians 15.

An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’

Thereupon his the emperor’s daughter said to him the Rabbi: ‘Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions his products from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?’ ‘He who fashions them from water, he replied.1 ‘If he can fashion man from water, surely he can do so from clay!’

The School of R. Ishmael taught: It can be deduced from glassware: if glassware, which, though made by the breath of human beings, can yet be repaired when broken; then how much more so man, created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

A sectarian said to R. Ammi: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’ — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth for making bricks. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, ‘We cannot’. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, ‘If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!’ ‘Yet,’ continued R. Ammi, ‘If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust, and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh.

These Jews believed in the resurrection of corpses and so ‘proved’ that dust will turn into flesh.

And the way they do it is just so utterly different to Paul’s thought that it is obvious he is not thinking anything remotely like a process of making dust alive again.

Paul did not believe in the resurrection of corpses and wrote how dust was a thing of the past. The new body will not be transformed dust.

Just where are Wright’s similar evidences that people writing fiction would say that Jesus body shone?

Similarly, we know that early Christians were so dissatisfied with what Paul wrote, that they forged a letter by Paul (called 3 Corinthians today) to make Paul say what he never said in 1 Corinthians 15 or 2 Corinthians 5.

The fake Paul says ‘32 Likewise also a dead man was cast upon the bones of the prophet Helisaetis by the children of Israel, and he arose, both body and soul and bones and spirit; how much more shall you which have been cast upon the body and bones and spirit of the Lord’

Notice the ‘body and bones and soul and spirit’

The real Paul said ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

I have evidence that people who believed in resurrection of corpses wrote totally differently to how Paul wrote.

Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians who wrote fiction about the resurrection had shining Jesus’s in it?

He has none.

Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.
I loved this image: a real improvement on the Scylla and Charybdis cliché.

I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the physicality of a resurrected body.

To hazard a few answers to your earlier rhetorical questions:

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

I think the explanation for the first one would be easy enough: the close connection between Jesus and the Spirit would allow for language like that. As for the second part of this question, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Paul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence (cf. 15:38). The fact that the things that die are dead does nothing to oppose Wright’s view of resurrection, which is precisely that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new bodies, the continuity being on the physicality and the discontinuity being on (at least) what “powers” it and in that it is immortal. Further, Paul’s point about different kinds of flesh doesn’t oppose, but rather helps, Wright’s case.

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

What verse are you referring to specifically here?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words, or perhaps they could only be put into the kind of words/images he chose (e.g. “it’s something like a physical body, but different, kind of like a seed is different from a stock of grain”). This is an argument from silence, anyway.

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

Richard Hays convinced me that the Corinthians, not Paul, said God would destroy the stomach and food. The Corinthians say “Food is for the stomach and stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them”, and Paul responds: “Yet the body is (not for immorality but) for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, and God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.”

I just noticed the reference you made to Paul trashing the “dust-bodies” idea; all I would say to that is: physicality is not identical to being made from dust.

And regarding this: Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

Wright doesn’t just add body gratuitously; cf. 1 Cor 15:44. Since that is the last in a series of parallels in that section, it is clearly the rhetorical climax Paul is working towards, and it has an explicit mention of a “soma”.

———————————
1 Corinthians 15:44 has TWO explicit mentions of soma. ‘A natural body is sown. A spiritual body is raised.’

Paul never puts in a subject linking the two bodies. He deliberately avoids claiming that there is only 1 body.

Why do you say it has AN explicit mention of A ’soma’, when it has TWO explicit mentions of TWO ’somas’.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

————————————
Wright adds the word body where Paul writes ‘this perishable must put on imperishability.’

Paul deliberately left out the word body there, so why add it back?

Paul’s view is that we change clothes at the resurrection. We discard the old body and become naked, and are then clothed in the new body.

We don’t put a new body on top of the old corpse, like a set of Russian dolls - even if Wright thinks that makes sense.

Resurrection of the Son of God , page 371 ‘Did Paul, perhaps, believe that Jesus’ new body, his incorruptible Easter body, had been all along waiting ‘in the heavens’ for him to ‘put on over the top of’ his present one?’

The idea of Jesus having a corpse underneath a new imperishable body is amazing, but Wright just has to spin away Paul’s clear words in - 2 Corinthians 5 ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

Changing clothes, putting on new clothes, leaving one tent and moving to another building.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

Paul never states anything as simple as that, because he didn’t believe it.

Nobody did. Not him. And not the converts to Jesus-worship in Corinth.

And not the church in Thessalonia who were worried about what happened to corpses, as some of their Christian brethren were now corpses.

CARR
‘Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

ANDREW
Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words….

CARR
That may well be correct. Nobody could write down what the apostles had experienced.

ANDREW
I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

CARR
Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

The fact remains that some of them believed in an afterlife, but Paul never claims that any of them believed in corpses rising.

ANDREW
aul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence…

CARR
Paul never chides the Jesus-converts for doubting that God could reform corpses from dust.

Unlike Jews who DID believe in reformed dust (see above for umpteen examples)

Andrew simply postulates , with ZERO evidence, that early Christian converts did not believe God could work miracles.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

Paul goes on to say why it is idiotic to ask how corpses could rise.

He tells the Corinthians that what goes into the ground dies. (These idiots didn’t realises that corpses are dead)

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

And then immediately says ‘So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.’

He is telling the Jesus-worshippers that they are making a category mistake.

Corpses belong to the class of earthly things.

Resurrected beings belong to the class of heavenly things.

They are like a fish and the moon.

Only an idiot discusss how a fish turns into the moon.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead.

Notice how I don’t just make things up and claim they are true.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

Richard Hays might persuade you what Paul says.

Me, I prefer the text.

1 Corinthians 6

‘”Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Where is the evidence that it was the Corinthians saying ‘God will destroy them both’?

The parallelism of the 3 lines, means the Corinthians were saying this -

‘”Everything is permissible for me” and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”‘

and Paul was responding as follows -
‘But not everything is beneficial. But I will not be mastered by anything. But God will destroy them both.’

This seems to me a very natural reading.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

Well if it says body twice, we should at lest begin with the assumption that an actual body, not a ghost (first century Greek speakers knew the difference) is being talked about.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

But it’s perfectly consistent with a physical body, and does not require anyone to reject such a thing.


Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

Which clearly can’t be left as is, given that Paul over and over calls them immature and foolish. It’s simplistic to take Paul’s introduction like that.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

I did point out a text that mentions God being the one who chooses to give the body that he wishes.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

You assume people are never inconsistent. That’s not a realistic assumption about people.

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

His point in citing such things is not that they clearly don’t turn into each other, but that there are different kinds of bodies even though they are all kinds of bodies. The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

I also quoted the text, explaining the obvious parallel. I think you have to be straining hard not to see Hays’ point. The Corinthians talk about the complementarity of food and stomach, stating it forward and backward, and then say God destroys them both. Paul responds by saying the body and the Lord are complementary, forward and backward, and then says God has and will raise “us” up (clearly referring to bodies). It makes it less symmetrical, not more, to say that Paul parallels the food/stomach pair with the body/Lord pair, but then also adds two contradictory points: God will destroy the food/stomach and raise up Lord/us(body). Hays reading makes far more sense of the argument and makes the symmetry shine through.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Clearly you don’t want to believe that such stories could happen, so let’s not pretend only I have an agenda. You continually assume that Corinth must be a given for what we reconstruct about early Christian beliefs. But clearly Paul did not think so. It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief. It still happens today. It clearly happened even among the Corinthians, who held to a crucified Messiah but went on to boast about their wisdom and greatness. These are clearly not consistent; shall we assume that the stories of Jesus’ being crucified were also made up?

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

ANDREW
The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

CARR
I think he’s got it.

Paul does not think the dust body changes into the resurrected body, because they are different kinds of bodies, just as fish, the moon, animals, birds, man and the sun are different kinds of things.

The Jesus-worshippers in Corinth thought there was only a dust body. They were therefore baffled by the concept of mortals rising from the dead, as they had no concept of God choosing to raise corpses.

They had missed the simple point that there are two kinds of bodies, and God gives the resurrected person a body as he pleases.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

Paul taught that Jesus became a spirit, who was now living in the bodies of Christians. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself’?

ANDREW
It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief.

CARR
So that is why converts to Jesus-worship clean forgot all about stories of resurrected corpses?

They were just ‘confused’…

I suppose like converts to Islam often forget that their Holy Book is called the Koran, and go on to deny that Muhammad is a prophet. People are often confused and inconsistent.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6
12″Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13″Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

The parallelism is striking and obvious.

But I’m used to Christians twisting their own scriptures to say the opposite of what it says.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

Not really that clear at all, since you are reading a translation of kai and de, both of which can be translated “and” or “but”, and since you deliberately left out verse 14.

Really, if you don’t understand that people can become inconsistent with their earlier beliefs, then I’m not sure how you managed to interpret Corinthians at all, nor how you managed to get through life for this long. I’m certainly not going to waste my time trying to further defend the obvious.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

Notice how this is nowhere in the text. The dust-body dies, yes. But rots? Or is transformed into another body? Which one is in 1 Cor 15, and which one is being read into it?

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma; he uses “us” instead, signifying he has an embodied concept of the person (like most Jews).

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

I don’t see why this relevant to the physicality of the resurrection body of Jesus. Adam is described as “becoming a living soul.” Was he just a ghost too?

Was Adam a ghost?

No, Paul is contrasting the first Adam with the second Adam.

The first Adam was made of earthly materials. The second Adam was made of heavenly materials.

The first Adam was a created being, with a body that died. The second Adam was a spirit, which gives life to us perishable creatures.

‘He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma’

I see. So when Paul uses ’soma’ he means flesh and blood bodies, and when he doesn’t use ’soma’ , he means ‘flesh and blood bodies.

Paul states that what goes into the ground dies. ‘You do not plant the body that will be.’

What happens to this dust body?

2 Corinthians 5 ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

What part of the word ‘destroyed’ means ‘transformed’?

‘‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in…’

Paul has an embodied concept of the person.

We presently live in one body, and will move to a different body.

Notice Paul’s changing clothes metaphor and moving houses metaphors.

When we move from one tent is not transformed.

‘So that what is mortal may be swallowed up…’

The word for ’swallowed up’ means gulp, devour, so that no more is visible.

When the body of Jesus left the tomb, was what had been mortal about him (the flesh, bones , wounds) ’swallowed up’ so that they were no longer visible?

This is why Paul writes ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

We are only in the earthly body for a finite time. It is not transformed , so that we live in it.

‘We’ are transformed, but not our bodies.

We exchange bodies, and that transforms us.

This is what the Corinthians could not understand.

They knew perfectly well that corpses do not rise, and so scoffed at the idea of a resurrection, not realising that a corpse transforming into a heavenly thing would be like a fish changing into the moon.

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

>>Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.>And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

Hmm, it looks like my quotation method was foiled by html. :) Let me try to recreate my response:

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’. But if instead we use ‘eschatological’ then everything changes. So the real assumption behind your arguments is that Paul’s thought was discontinuous with the Hebrew Scriptures — at best a hermeneutic of abrogation rather than fulfillment, in Matthew’s words.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively? But that isn’t at all a tough question in a creational-relational worldview.

JOHN
You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’.

CARR
I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

Paul names nobody who said that a corpse had risen from the ground.

Carr -

I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

Or by pointing out that you’re assuming your view into Paul?

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

It seems that you can only defend against my arguments by ignoring them? I wrote,

“This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively?”

You would have to be an absolute TWIT/DINGBAT of a scientist to believe in the “resurrection”.

Questions about the “resurrection” are not even real questions.

Real questions lead you to a real present time understanding of who and what you are as a conscious being, and of your relationship to everything “else” that is arising, in present time, to and as your awareness.

The PRESENT (whatever “IT” is altogether) being the only Reality there is.

Oh, so that’s what “real questions” and “reality” are. Thanks for definitively clarifying that. Now at least we don’t have to waste our time on the “irrelevant”. I would assume that you do realize that your privileging of the present as the only genuine “reality” is by no means the only viable definition (see Giorgio Agamben); it is not a definitive statement of fact but ultimately a metaphysical conjecture positioned as fact. The favored definitions have changed throughout human history and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. Your perspective is one of many. I do appreciate that you did at least have the post-modern decency to put key words in quotes; as you see, I returned the favor.



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[...] Alastair returns with a summary of N.T. Wright’s speech tonight on “Can a Scientist Believe the Rez?” Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:34 pm | Trackback | Permalink [...]

‘ In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.’

Why did early Christian converts in Corinth scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why was the church in Thessalonika worried by some of their fellow Christians turning into corpses?

WRIGHT
People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world.

CARR
Yes, according to the New Testament, early Christians were convinced that what they saw in visions and dreams was reality.

Joseph allegedly saw an angel in a dream and believed it to be real.

Paul allegedly visited the third Heaven in a trance and thought it real.

Paul allegedly saw a man from Macedonia in a vision and thought it to be reality.

The writer of Revelation allegedly saw the post-mortem Jesus in a vision and thought he had really seen Jesus.

WRIGHT
3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts.

CARR
Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.

This is not even an argument by Wright.

It is just a made-up non-factoid.

He may as well claim that if it had been fiction, it would have been written in poetry. That is also made up out of thin air, just like his claim.

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

All these questions, and many more, were ignored by the Bishop of Durham when he trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times.

[...] Alastair has saved us some work by posting his excellent (and lengthy) summary of the talk here. [...]

Thanks, Al, a very helpful summary. Will try to put it in the memory in case I need it later. One nit-pick, more for His Bishopness than for you:

Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people.

I thought the resurrection of the many saints who had fallen asleep (Matt. 27:52-3, which might easily have happened after the Resurrection) was exactly that?

I imagine it’s a reprise of the material NT Wright talked about in his Faraday Lecture - downloadable here:

http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/CIS/Wright/index.htm

[...] Science and the Ressurection. [...]

Carr - Why would anybody read 1 Corinthians 15 as Docetism? This question, and many more, were ignored by you when you trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times. ;)

What is docetism?

The view that Jesus appeared to have a flesh and blood body, but could walk through walls?

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?


Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.”

Wright explains this in more detail in his Resurrection of the Son of God. Daniel 12 describes the resurrected righteous in this way: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Since it’s fairly reasonable to read Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” as alluding to the character from Daniel, who in Daniel has some kind of representative status for Israel, Wright’s argument has some merit: if people were just making up the narratives from OT expectations, they might have been expected to describe Jesus as “like the brightness of the firmament, and …like the stars forever and ever.”

And I can’t think of one place where your other questions actually reflect what a biblical writer is saying.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to the comments above at the moment. Some important questions have been raised, and I hope that someone will be able to address them, as I have neither the time nor energy at present (I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for some time now and have a dissertation deadline breathing down my neck, on top of all of the madness of Christmas time). There were a number of points in the lecture where I wasn’t so sure about Wright’s argument, but overall I thought that it was extremely stimulating and helpful. Philip’s point is a particularly good one and is a strong challenge to what I believe is a weaker dimension of Wright’s case.

So where is Wright’s evidence that if the resurrection was fictional people would have written stories of Jesus shining, (or the cross rising to Heaven?)

All we have is Wright’s claim that he just knows by magic that Christians would have written stories of Jesus shining if they had written fiction.

Where is his evidence?

By contrast, we have excellent evidence that if Jews believed in corpses rising they would have written just that.

Section Sanhedrin 90b of he Talmud discusses the question that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15 - how can dust come back to life?

Paul denies that it will. He claims resurrected beings will not be made of the dust of the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ‘The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.’

Paul denies that dust will come back to life. If there is a resurrected body, he writes, it will not be made from dust, it will be made from heavenly material.

There were Jews who did believe that dust comes back to life again. See how Sanhedrin 90b handles the question, and see how utterly alien it is to Paul’s way of writing in 1 Corinthians 15.

An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’

Thereupon his the emperor’s daughter said to him the Rabbi: ‘Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions his products from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?’ ‘He who fashions them from water, he replied.1 ‘If he can fashion man from water, surely he can do so from clay!’

The School of R. Ishmael taught: It can be deduced from glassware: if glassware, which, though made by the breath of human beings, can yet be repaired when broken; then how much more so man, created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

A sectarian said to R. Ammi: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’ — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth for making bricks. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, ‘We cannot’. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, ‘If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!’ ‘Yet,’ continued R. Ammi, ‘If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust, and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh.

These Jews believed in the resurrection of corpses and so ‘proved’ that dust will turn into flesh.

And the way they do it is just so utterly different to Paul’s thought that it is obvious he is not thinking anything remotely like a process of making dust alive again.

Paul did not believe in the resurrection of corpses and wrote how dust was a thing of the past. The new body will not be transformed dust.

Just where are Wright’s similar evidences that people writing fiction would say that Jesus body shone?

Similarly, we know that early Christians were so dissatisfied with what Paul wrote, that they forged a letter by Paul (called 3 Corinthians today) to make Paul say what he never said in 1 Corinthians 15 or 2 Corinthians 5.

The fake Paul says ‘32 Likewise also a dead man was cast upon the bones of the prophet Helisaetis by the children of Israel, and he arose, both body and soul and bones and spirit; how much more shall you which have been cast upon the body and bones and spirit of the Lord’

Notice the ‘body and bones and soul and spirit’

The real Paul said ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

I have evidence that people who believed in resurrection of corpses wrote totally differently to how Paul wrote.

Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians who wrote fiction about the resurrection had shining Jesus’s in it?

He has none.

Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.
I loved this image: a real improvement on the Scylla and Charybdis cliché.

I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the physicality of a resurrected body.

To hazard a few answers to your earlier rhetorical questions:

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

I think the explanation for the first one would be easy enough: the close connection between Jesus and the Spirit would allow for language like that. As for the second part of this question, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Paul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence (cf. 15:38). The fact that the things that die are dead does nothing to oppose Wright’s view of resurrection, which is precisely that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new bodies, the continuity being on the physicality and the discontinuity being on (at least) what “powers” it and in that it is immortal. Further, Paul’s point about different kinds of flesh doesn’t oppose, but rather helps, Wright’s case.

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

What verse are you referring to specifically here?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words, or perhaps they could only be put into the kind of words/images he chose (e.g. “it’s something like a physical body, but different, kind of like a seed is different from a stock of grain”). This is an argument from silence, anyway.

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

Richard Hays convinced me that the Corinthians, not Paul, said God would destroy the stomach and food. The Corinthians say “Food is for the stomach and stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them”, and Paul responds: “Yet the body is (not for immorality but) for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, and God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.”

I just noticed the reference you made to Paul trashing the “dust-bodies” idea; all I would say to that is: physicality is not identical to being made from dust.

And regarding this: Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

Wright doesn’t just add body gratuitously; cf. 1 Cor 15:44. Since that is the last in a series of parallels in that section, it is clearly the rhetorical climax Paul is working towards, and it has an explicit mention of a “soma”.

———————————
1 Corinthians 15:44 has TWO explicit mentions of soma. ‘A natural body is sown. A spiritual body is raised.’

Paul never puts in a subject linking the two bodies. He deliberately avoids claiming that there is only 1 body.

Why do you say it has AN explicit mention of A ’soma’, when it has TWO explicit mentions of TWO ’somas’.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

————————————
Wright adds the word body where Paul writes ‘this perishable must put on imperishability.’

Paul deliberately left out the word body there, so why add it back?

Paul’s view is that we change clothes at the resurrection. We discard the old body and become naked, and are then clothed in the new body.

We don’t put a new body on top of the old corpse, like a set of Russian dolls - even if Wright thinks that makes sense.

Resurrection of the Son of God , page 371 ‘Did Paul, perhaps, believe that Jesus’ new body, his incorruptible Easter body, had been all along waiting ‘in the heavens’ for him to ‘put on over the top of’ his present one?’

The idea of Jesus having a corpse underneath a new imperishable body is amazing, but Wright just has to spin away Paul’s clear words in - 2 Corinthians 5 ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

Changing clothes, putting on new clothes, leaving one tent and moving to another building.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

Paul never states anything as simple as that, because he didn’t believe it.

Nobody did. Not him. And not the converts to Jesus-worship in Corinth.

And not the church in Thessalonia who were worried about what happened to corpses, as some of their Christian brethren were now corpses.

CARR
‘Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

ANDREW
Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words….

CARR
That may well be correct. Nobody could write down what the apostles had experienced.

ANDREW
I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

CARR
Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

The fact remains that some of them believed in an afterlife, but Paul never claims that any of them believed in corpses rising.

ANDREW
aul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence…

CARR
Paul never chides the Jesus-converts for doubting that God could reform corpses from dust.

Unlike Jews who DID believe in reformed dust (see above for umpteen examples)

Andrew simply postulates , with ZERO evidence, that early Christian converts did not believe God could work miracles.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

Paul goes on to say why it is idiotic to ask how corpses could rise.

He tells the Corinthians that what goes into the ground dies. (These idiots didn’t realises that corpses are dead)

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

And then immediately says ‘So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.’

He is telling the Jesus-worshippers that they are making a category mistake.

Corpses belong to the class of earthly things.

Resurrected beings belong to the class of heavenly things.

They are like a fish and the moon.

Only an idiot discusss how a fish turns into the moon.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead.

Notice how I don’t just make things up and claim they are true.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

Richard Hays might persuade you what Paul says.

Me, I prefer the text.

1 Corinthians 6

‘”Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Where is the evidence that it was the Corinthians saying ‘God will destroy them both’?

The parallelism of the 3 lines, means the Corinthians were saying this -

‘”Everything is permissible for me” and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”‘

and Paul was responding as follows -
‘But not everything is beneficial. But I will not be mastered by anything. But God will destroy them both.’

This seems to me a very natural reading.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

Well if it says body twice, we should at lest begin with the assumption that an actual body, not a ghost (first century Greek speakers knew the difference) is being talked about.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

But it’s perfectly consistent with a physical body, and does not require anyone to reject such a thing.


Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

Which clearly can’t be left as is, given that Paul over and over calls them immature and foolish. It’s simplistic to take Paul’s introduction like that.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

I did point out a text that mentions God being the one who chooses to give the body that he wishes.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

You assume people are never inconsistent. That’s not a realistic assumption about people.

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

His point in citing such things is not that they clearly don’t turn into each other, but that there are different kinds of bodies even though they are all kinds of bodies. The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

I also quoted the text, explaining the obvious parallel. I think you have to be straining hard not to see Hays’ point. The Corinthians talk about the complementarity of food and stomach, stating it forward and backward, and then say God destroys them both. Paul responds by saying the body and the Lord are complementary, forward and backward, and then says God has and will raise “us” up (clearly referring to bodies). It makes it less symmetrical, not more, to say that Paul parallels the food/stomach pair with the body/Lord pair, but then also adds two contradictory points: God will destroy the food/stomach and raise up Lord/us(body). Hays reading makes far more sense of the argument and makes the symmetry shine through.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Clearly you don’t want to believe that such stories could happen, so let’s not pretend only I have an agenda. You continually assume that Corinth must be a given for what we reconstruct about early Christian beliefs. But clearly Paul did not think so. It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief. It still happens today. It clearly happened even among the Corinthians, who held to a crucified Messiah but went on to boast about their wisdom and greatness. These are clearly not consistent; shall we assume that the stories of Jesus’ being crucified were also made up?

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

ANDREW
The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

CARR
I think he’s got it.

Paul does not think the dust body changes into the resurrected body, because they are different kinds of bodies, just as fish, the moon, animals, birds, man and the sun are different kinds of things.

The Jesus-worshippers in Corinth thought there was only a dust body. They were therefore baffled by the concept of mortals rising from the dead, as they had no concept of God choosing to raise corpses.

They had missed the simple point that there are two kinds of bodies, and God gives the resurrected person a body as he pleases.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

Paul taught that Jesus became a spirit, who was now living in the bodies of Christians. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself’?

ANDREW
It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief.

CARR
So that is why converts to Jesus-worship clean forgot all about stories of resurrected corpses?

They were just ‘confused’…

I suppose like converts to Islam often forget that their Holy Book is called the Koran, and go on to deny that Muhammad is a prophet. People are often confused and inconsistent.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6
12″Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13″Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

The parallelism is striking and obvious.

But I’m used to Christians twisting their own scriptures to say the opposite of what it says.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

Not really that clear at all, since you are reading a translation of kai and de, both of which can be translated “and” or “but”, and since you deliberately left out verse 14.

Really, if you don’t understand that people can become inconsistent with their earlier beliefs, then I’m not sure how you managed to interpret Corinthians at all, nor how you managed to get through life for this long. I’m certainly not going to waste my time trying to further defend the obvious.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

Notice how this is nowhere in the text. The dust-body dies, yes. But rots? Or is transformed into another body? Which one is in 1 Cor 15, and which one is being read into it?

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma; he uses “us” instead, signifying he has an embodied concept of the person (like most Jews).

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

I don’t see why this relevant to the physicality of the resurrection body of Jesus. Adam is described as “becoming a living soul.” Was he just a ghost too?

Was Adam a ghost?

No, Paul is contrasting the first Adam with the second Adam.

The first Adam was made of earthly materials. The second Adam was made of heavenly materials.

The first Adam was a created being, with a body that died. The second Adam was a spirit, which gives life to us perishable creatures.

‘He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma’

I see. So when Paul uses ’soma’ he means flesh and blood bodies, and when he doesn’t use ’soma’ , he means ‘flesh and blood bodies.

Paul states that what goes into the ground dies. ‘You do not plant the body that will be.’

What happens to this dust body?

2 Corinthians 5 ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

What part of the word ‘destroyed’ means ‘transformed’?

‘‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in…’

Paul has an embodied concept of the person.

We presently live in one body, and will move to a different body.

Notice Paul’s changing clothes metaphor and moving houses metaphors.

When we move from one tent is not transformed.

‘So that what is mortal may be swallowed up…’

The word for ’swallowed up’ means gulp, devour, so that no more is visible.

When the body of Jesus left the tomb, was what had been mortal about him (the flesh, bones , wounds) ’swallowed up’ so that they were no longer visible?

This is why Paul writes ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

We are only in the earthly body for a finite time. It is not transformed , so that we live in it.

‘We’ are transformed, but not our bodies.

We exchange bodies, and that transforms us.

This is what the Corinthians could not understand.

They knew perfectly well that corpses do not rise, and so scoffed at the idea of a resurrection, not realising that a corpse transforming into a heavenly thing would be like a fish changing into the moon.

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

>>Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.>And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

Hmm, it looks like my quotation method was foiled by html. :) Let me try to recreate my response:

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’. But if instead we use ‘eschatological’ then everything changes. So the real assumption behind your arguments is that Paul’s thought was discontinuous with the Hebrew Scriptures — at best a hermeneutic of abrogation rather than fulfillment, in Matthew’s words.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively? But that isn’t at all a tough question in a creational-relational worldview.

JOHN
You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’.

CARR
I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

Paul names nobody who said that a corpse had risen from the ground.

Carr -

I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

Or by pointing out that you’re assuming your view into Paul?

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

It seems that you can only defend against my arguments by ignoring them? I wrote,

“This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively?”

You would have to be an absolute TWIT/DINGBAT of a scientist to believe in the “resurrection”.

Questions about the “resurrection” are not even real questions.

Real questions lead you to a real present time understanding of who and what you are as a conscious being, and of your relationship to everything “else” that is arising, in present time, to and as your awareness.

The PRESENT (whatever “IT” is altogether) being the only Reality there is.

Oh, so that’s what “real questions” and “reality” are. Thanks for definitively clarifying that. Now at least we don’t have to waste our time on the “irrelevant”. I would assume that you do realize that your privileging of the present as the only genuine “reality” is by no means the only viable definition (see Giorgio Agamben); it is not a definitive statement of fact but ultimately a metaphysical conjecture positioned as fact. The favored definitions have changed throughout human history and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. Your perspective is one of many. I do appreciate that you did at least have the post-modern decency to put key words in quotes; as you see, I returned the favor.



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N.T. Wright Lecture: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

The following are my notes from a lecture delivered this evening, 20th December, by N.T. Wright in the University of St. Andrews. The following provides a general idea of what the good bishop said, but should not be depended upon too much. Doubtless other eyewitnesses will come forward with conflicting accounts…

N.T. Wright, Bishop of DurhamAs someone who gave up studying physics and chemistry more or less as soon as he had the opportunity and devoted little effort to excelling in them when he did study them, Wright finds it odd to find himself in the position of being looked upon to provide an answer to such a question. The question itself is strange: it reminds him of the person who, when asked if he believed in infant baptism, responded in the affirmative, assuring the questioner that he had seen it happen with his own eyes. There are scientists who do believe in the resurrection. In answering the question, Wright wants to explore the fault lines between different ways of knowing, between the forms of knowing advanced by science and by history, and the way of knowing that belongs to faith, hope, and love. These ways of knowing overlap in various ways.

We are often told that over recent centuries we have enjoyed an upward path towards the light of reason—the narrative of the Enlightenment. While Wright has no desire to return to premodern dentistry or sanitation or transport, for example, he feels that the modern narrative is limited. Science has not proved sufficient to provide us with the wholeness of life that we really need.

Plato regarded ‘faith’ as a sort of intermediate form of knowing, a sort of cushioned knowledge, a sense that the terminology retains in much common parlance. We often use the term ‘knowledge’ in a positivistic sense and ‘believe’ in a loose sense, to refer to matters of mere private opinion, where any relation to external reality is somewhat lacking or doubtful. The disciples, however, believed in a resurrection with a real purchase on reality, a resurrection that left mementos behind, whether that was an empty tomb or footprints on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.

What does the term ‘believe’ mean in the question that we are answering? What sorts of questions and dimensions of reality are open to the scientific method? What sort of claim should the scientist’s science have on his approach to other areas of his life? Should he be ‘scientific’ about his relationship to his wife, or about his assessment of a piece of music? The question that we are dealing with assumes that this particular issue of the resurrection impinges upon the scientist’s particular area of concern in a manner and to an extent that questions of love and music generally do not. While there are some who have sought to locate the issue of resurrection alongside such issues of love and music, this is not a movement that should make. In the context of the first century world resurrection was very much understood as a public, space-time event.

To put things somewhat simplistically: history deals with the unrepeatable, while science deals with the repeatable. Scientists’ objections to the resurrection often focus on the lack of analogy. However, the disciples did not believe that the resurrection was just one of many analogous events. The whole issue of worldview raises itself at this point. The worldview of the scientist is the context in which such things become believable or not.

What is the resurrection? There were many ancient beliefs about life after death. Ancient paganism contained many beliefs on these matters, but they universally ruled out the possibility of resurrection. Wright has explored this whole area at considerable length in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God. The conviction that the dead do not rise is not a product born out of scientific discovery over the past few centuries: any first century person knew this fact. Ancient Judaism believed that God was creator and that he would set his world to rights, which for many was seen to involve bodily resurrection. Christianity belongs on this map. For Christians, resurrection was not a fancy way of talking about life after death, but a way of talking about a form of life after life after death. Christians certainly believed in a form of intermediate period, and might speak of it using terms such as ‘paradise’, but these beliefs are not to be confused with its belief in resurrection.

Beliefs about life after death are generally among the most conservatively held of all beliefs in the context of any given culture. It is in such areas that people tend to revert to the positions that they were taught in childhood. For this reason, any large scale change in the convictions of a society in this area needs to be accounted for. Such a large scale shift in beliefs about life after death is precisely what we see in the case of Christianity. Excepting the later movement of Gnosticism, the early Christian Church manifests several key mutations from traditional approaches to the subject of life after death.

1. In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.

2. While many Jewish groups held beliefs about resurrection, it was an issue for speculation and did not lie at the core of its belief system. In the early Church, belief in the resurrection moves from the circumference of belief to its very centre and heart.

3. In contrast to Jewish groups, within which many conceptions of resurrection circulated, from the very beginning the Christian Church held a very clearly defined understanding of resurrection. For instance, the resurrection body was thought of as a transformed—‘spiritual’—body and not just as a resuscitated one.

4. For Christians, the event of ‘resurrection’ has split into two. Outside of Christianity we do not find belief in the resurrection of one man in the middle of history. Such a theological movement is without precedent.

5. The Christian approach to ‘collaborative eschatology’ (Crossan) is also without precedent. Believing that the resurrection inaugurated the eschaton, the early Church believed that it needed to implement this event, in anticipation of the final consummation.

6. Within Christianity we also see a new metaphorical use of the language of resurrection. Within the context of Judaism the language had been employed as a metaphorical way of speaking about return from exile, for instance. In the context of Christianity, this metaphorical usage of ‘resurrection’ is replaced by the use of resurrection metaphors in the context of baptism and holiness.

7. Within Christianity belief in resurrection is connected with Messianic belief in a way that it is not within Judaism. Judaism did not have a place for a Messiah that would die at the hands of the enemies of the people of God and so, naturally, did not have the place for a resurrected Messiah that Christianity did.

Indeed, without the resurrection, how do we account for Messianic belief after Christ’s death? Within other Messianic movements more or less contemporaneous with the Jesus movement, the death of the supposed Messiah tended to lead to a quest for a replacement, often a relative of the supposed Messiah who had died. Within early Christianity there was a perfect candidate for such a position following Jesus’ death—his brother James. James was renowned for his piety and was a leading figure within the early Church, but was never thought of as the Messiah.

Twentieth century revisionist historiography has occasionally suggested that belief in the resurrection arose out of the subjective internal experience of early Christian disciples. A little employment of historical imagination should destroy any plausibility that such a suggestion might initially seem to possess. Anyone offering the suggestion that Jesus was raised from the dead, based purely on an internal experience of a warmed heart or even on the basis of witnessing him in the same room, would have been subjected to ridicule. First century people were well aware, as we are, of cases of dead relatives appearing to their grieving kin following their deaths. At this point we should note the common confusion that exists between the idea of resurrection and the idea of someone dying and going to be with God. The event of the resurrection is one that is not merely a matter of subjective inner feeling, but one that has considerable claim on the external public world. The point of the resurrection is that Jesus is Lord and that death and the tyrants who use its power are defeated.

Why did these mutations occur? Only one explanation truly suffices: the disciples genuinely believed that Jesus had been bodily raised.

As many have observed, the accounts of the resurrection in the gospels do not fit snugly together. There are a number of apparently conflicting details. A recent book, Wittgenstein’s Poker, provides a wonderful example of the surface discrepancies of eye-witness testimony. In a room containing many of the most brilliant minds of the time, Wittgenstein brandished a poker at Karl Popper and then left the room. The eye-witness accounts of this event differ markedly. However, what no one doubts is that something significant happened. The same can be said of the resurrection. Surface discrepancies between narratives is quite to be expected under such circumstances.

There are four important points of commonality to be noted between the resurrection accounts of the gospels:

1. The Scriptures are almost completely silent in the resurrection narratives, in marked contrast to previous stages of the gospel narratives, where quotations from the Scriptures occur with relative frequency. This suggests that the accounts of the resurrection are very early, going back to a very early oral tradition, established before the scriptural basis had been sufficiently explored (as it had been by the time of the later account of 1 Corinthians 15).

2. The presence of women as initial witnesses of the event is not what one would expect to find in the context of the culture of the day. Once again, the account of 1 Corinthians 15 would appear to be the later one here.

3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts. Jesus’ body appears normal on occasions, but in other contexts it is clear that it has been transformed. For instance, we see the disciples having difficulty in recognizing him on occasions (e.g. John 21:12). This type of account is without precedent. The writers appear to be struggling to find the language appropriate to what they have witnessed and do not appear to be driven by a clear anti-docetic, or other agenda. The body of Christ is equally at home both in heaven and in earth. It also is clearly physical.

4. The resurrection has a very much ‘this-worldly’, present age meaning. Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people. As they stand, the accounts include a number of clearly pre-reflective elements.

When dealing with the issue of the relationship between Easter and history we need a two-pronged approach of explanation: (a) the tomb really was empty; (b) the disciples really did encounter Jesus after his death. People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world. Jesus’ burial was also (a fact often unrecognized) a primary burial, which would have later been followed up by storing his remains in an ossuary. Apart from sightings, the empty tomb would have not been a sufficient argument for the possibility of resurrection; in the absence of an empty tomb, nor would sightings. The only explanation sufficient to support resurrection must involve both of these things. All of the signposts point in the direction of resurrection. Denials of the resurrection often preclude on the basis of worldviews that preclude its possibility from the outset. The event of the resurrection is that which explains the future shape of the early Church.

Here the issue of a form of knowing beyond scientific and historical knowing presents itself. This new way of knowing must involve some sort of overlap with scientific and historical forms of knowing. Wright gives the example of the donation of a magnificent work of art to a college in a university. The college, lacking any place in which to display the work of art, dismantles the current college building and rebuilds it around the donated work of art. All of the things that used to make the college special are retained and, indeed, enhanced by the presence of the work of art. The negative features of the college are removed by the redesign of the college around the work of art. However—and this is the crucial point—there must be some initial reception of the work of art prior to the redesigning and rebuilding of the college around it. It is of such an overlap that we speak of with the bearing that the issue of resurrection has upon the scientist or the historian.

The resurrection poses such a challenge to the scientist or the historian, for it is the utterly characteristic, protological event of the new world that is coming to birth. It is not an absurd event occurring within the system of our own world, but an event that belongs to a new reality. No other explanation of a satisfactory character can explain the empty tomb. Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.

God has given us minds to think. Despite the fact that the resurrection bursts the bounds of history, it also belongs within history, which is precisely why it is so disturbing and unsettling to us. In seeking to understand the resurrection, we need to situate it within a broader context. The apostle Thomas is a good example to follow here. Thomas starts out looking for a certain form of knowing—“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe”—but ends up transcending this sort of knowing in a greater form of knowing. This is not an anti-historical or anti-scientific belief. There is epistemological weight borne by history. Faith transcends—but includes—historical and scientific conviction.

The faith by which we know, like all other true forms of knowing, is determined by the nature of its object. The fact that faith is determined by the nature of its object corresponds to the methodology adopted by science. In order to know certain things, scientists occasionally have to change their ways of seeing to a way that is more appropriate to the reality with which they are dealing. Changing paradigms involves finding a bigger picture within which to see things. Christian faith involves much the same sort of movement.

If we see an epistemology of faith in the example of Thomas, we see an epistemology of hope expressed in the work of the apostle Paul, a matter that is explored within Wright’s most recent publication, entitled—with apologies to C.S. Lewis—Surprised by Hope. Hope is a way of knowing in which new possibilities are opened up. There is also within Scripture an epistemology of love to be found, perhaps exemplified best by Peter. Wittgenstein once remarked in a profound statement: ‘It is love that believes the resurrection.’ So it was in the case of Peter.

The question of how we know things is related to the new ontology of the resurrection. The resurrection cannot be known properly in terms of our world of death, detachment and betrayal. The knowing of love must have a correlative outside the knower in the external world. This is the knowing that is needed in the world of the resurrection. ‘Objective’ historical epistemology leads us to the questions faced by Thomas, Paul and Peter: are we able and prepared to adopt a knowing of faith, hope and love? All forms of knowing are given by God; all forms of knowing can be situated within the broader setting of knowing established by faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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[...] Alastair returns with a summary of N.T. Wright’s speech tonight on “Can a Scientist Believe the Rez?” Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:34 pm | Trackback | Permalink [...]

‘ In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.’

Why did early Christian converts in Corinth scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why was the church in Thessalonika worried by some of their fellow Christians turning into corpses?

WRIGHT
People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world.

CARR
Yes, according to the New Testament, early Christians were convinced that what they saw in visions and dreams was reality.

Joseph allegedly saw an angel in a dream and believed it to be real.

Paul allegedly visited the third Heaven in a trance and thought it real.

Paul allegedly saw a man from Macedonia in a vision and thought it to be reality.

The writer of Revelation allegedly saw the post-mortem Jesus in a vision and thought he had really seen Jesus.

WRIGHT
3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts.

CARR
Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.

This is not even an argument by Wright.

It is just a made-up non-factoid.

He may as well claim that if it had been fiction, it would have been written in poetry. That is also made up out of thin air, just like his claim.

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

All these questions, and many more, were ignored by the Bishop of Durham when he trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times.

[...] Alastair has saved us some work by posting his excellent (and lengthy) summary of the talk here. [...]

Thanks, Al, a very helpful summary. Will try to put it in the memory in case I need it later. One nit-pick, more for His Bishopness than for you:

Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people.

I thought the resurrection of the many saints who had fallen asleep (Matt. 27:52-3, which might easily have happened after the Resurrection) was exactly that?

I imagine it’s a reprise of the material NT Wright talked about in his Faraday Lecture - downloadable here:

http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/CIS/Wright/index.htm

[...] Science and the Ressurection. [...]

Carr - Why would anybody read 1 Corinthians 15 as Docetism? This question, and many more, were ignored by you when you trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times. ;)

What is docetism?

The view that Jesus appeared to have a flesh and blood body, but could walk through walls?

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?


Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.”

Wright explains this in more detail in his Resurrection of the Son of God. Daniel 12 describes the resurrected righteous in this way: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Since it’s fairly reasonable to read Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” as alluding to the character from Daniel, who in Daniel has some kind of representative status for Israel, Wright’s argument has some merit: if people were just making up the narratives from OT expectations, they might have been expected to describe Jesus as “like the brightness of the firmament, and …like the stars forever and ever.”

And I can’t think of one place where your other questions actually reflect what a biblical writer is saying.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to the comments above at the moment. Some important questions have been raised, and I hope that someone will be able to address them, as I have neither the time nor energy at present (I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for some time now and have a dissertation deadline breathing down my neck, on top of all of the madness of Christmas time). There were a number of points in the lecture where I wasn’t so sure about Wright’s argument, but overall I thought that it was extremely stimulating and helpful. Philip’s point is a particularly good one and is a strong challenge to what I believe is a weaker dimension of Wright’s case.

So where is Wright’s evidence that if the resurrection was fictional people would have written stories of Jesus shining, (or the cross rising to Heaven?)

All we have is Wright’s claim that he just knows by magic that Christians would have written stories of Jesus shining if they had written fiction.

Where is his evidence?

By contrast, we have excellent evidence that if Jews believed in corpses rising they would have written just that.

Section Sanhedrin 90b of he Talmud discusses the question that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15 - how can dust come back to life?

Paul denies that it will. He claims resurrected beings will not be made of the dust of the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ‘The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.’

Paul denies that dust will come back to life. If there is a resurrected body, he writes, it will not be made from dust, it will be made from heavenly material.

There were Jews who did believe that dust comes back to life again. See how Sanhedrin 90b handles the question, and see how utterly alien it is to Paul’s way of writing in 1 Corinthians 15.

An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’

Thereupon his the emperor’s daughter said to him the Rabbi: ‘Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions his products from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?’ ‘He who fashions them from water, he replied.1 ‘If he can fashion man from water, surely he can do so from clay!’

The School of R. Ishmael taught: It can be deduced from glassware: if glassware, which, though made by the breath of human beings, can yet be repaired when broken; then how much more so man, created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

A sectarian said to R. Ammi: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’ — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth for making bricks. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, ‘We cannot’. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, ‘If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!’ ‘Yet,’ continued R. Ammi, ‘If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust, and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh.

These Jews believed in the resurrection of corpses and so ‘proved’ that dust will turn into flesh.

And the way they do it is just so utterly different to Paul’s thought that it is obvious he is not thinking anything remotely like a process of making dust alive again.

Paul did not believe in the resurrection of corpses and wrote how dust was a thing of the past. The new body will not be transformed dust.

Just where are Wright’s similar evidences that people writing fiction would say that Jesus body shone?

Similarly, we know that early Christians were so dissatisfied with what Paul wrote, that they forged a letter by Paul (called 3 Corinthians today) to make Paul say what he never said in 1 Corinthians 15 or 2 Corinthians 5.

The fake Paul says ‘32 Likewise also a dead man was cast upon the bones of the prophet Helisaetis by the children of Israel, and he arose, both body and soul and bones and spirit; how much more shall you which have been cast upon the body and bones and spirit of the Lord’

Notice the ‘body and bones and soul and spirit’

The real Paul said ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

I have evidence that people who believed in resurrection of corpses wrote totally differently to how Paul wrote.

Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians who wrote fiction about the resurrection had shining Jesus’s in it?

He has none.

Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.
I loved this image: a real improvement on the Scylla and Charybdis cliché.

I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the physicality of a resurrected body.

To hazard a few answers to your earlier rhetorical questions:

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

I think the explanation for the first one would be easy enough: the close connection between Jesus and the Spirit would allow for language like that. As for the second part of this question, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Paul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence (cf. 15:38). The fact that the things that die are dead does nothing to oppose Wright’s view of resurrection, which is precisely that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new bodies, the continuity being on the physicality and the discontinuity being on (at least) what “powers” it and in that it is immortal. Further, Paul’s point about different kinds of flesh doesn’t oppose, but rather helps, Wright’s case.

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

What verse are you referring to specifically here?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words, or perhaps they could only be put into the kind of words/images he chose (e.g. “it’s something like a physical body, but different, kind of like a seed is different from a stock of grain”). This is an argument from silence, anyway.

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

Richard Hays convinced me that the Corinthians, not Paul, said God would destroy the stomach and food. The Corinthians say “Food is for the stomach and stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them”, and Paul responds: “Yet the body is (not for immorality but) for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, and God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.”

I just noticed the reference you made to Paul trashing the “dust-bodies” idea; all I would say to that is: physicality is not identical to being made from dust.

And regarding this: Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

Wright doesn’t just add body gratuitously; cf. 1 Cor 15:44. Since that is the last in a series of parallels in that section, it is clearly the rhetorical climax Paul is working towards, and it has an explicit mention of a “soma”.

———————————
1 Corinthians 15:44 has TWO explicit mentions of soma. ‘A natural body is sown. A spiritual body is raised.’

Paul never puts in a subject linking the two bodies. He deliberately avoids claiming that there is only 1 body.

Why do you say it has AN explicit mention of A ’soma’, when it has TWO explicit mentions of TWO ’somas’.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

————————————
Wright adds the word body where Paul writes ‘this perishable must put on imperishability.’

Paul deliberately left out the word body there, so why add it back?

Paul’s view is that we change clothes at the resurrection. We discard the old body and become naked, and are then clothed in the new body.

We don’t put a new body on top of the old corpse, like a set of Russian dolls - even if Wright thinks that makes sense.

Resurrection of the Son of God , page 371 ‘Did Paul, perhaps, believe that Jesus’ new body, his incorruptible Easter body, had been all along waiting ‘in the heavens’ for him to ‘put on over the top of’ his present one?’

The idea of Jesus having a corpse underneath a new imperishable body is amazing, but Wright just has to spin away Paul’s clear words in - 2 Corinthians 5 ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

Changing clothes, putting on new clothes, leaving one tent and moving to another building.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

Paul never states anything as simple as that, because he didn’t believe it.

Nobody did. Not him. And not the converts to Jesus-worship in Corinth.

And not the church in Thessalonia who were worried about what happened to corpses, as some of their Christian brethren were now corpses.

CARR
‘Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

ANDREW
Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words….

CARR
That may well be correct. Nobody could write down what the apostles had experienced.

ANDREW
I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

CARR
Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

The fact remains that some of them believed in an afterlife, but Paul never claims that any of them believed in corpses rising.

ANDREW
aul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence…

CARR
Paul never chides the Jesus-converts for doubting that God could reform corpses from dust.

Unlike Jews who DID believe in reformed dust (see above for umpteen examples)

Andrew simply postulates , with ZERO evidence, that early Christian converts did not believe God could work miracles.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

Paul goes on to say why it is idiotic to ask how corpses could rise.

He tells the Corinthians that what goes into the ground dies. (These idiots didn’t realises that corpses are dead)

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

And then immediately says ‘So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.’

He is telling the Jesus-worshippers that they are making a category mistake.

Corpses belong to the class of earthly things.

Resurrected beings belong to the class of heavenly things.

They are like a fish and the moon.

Only an idiot discusss how a fish turns into the moon.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead.

Notice how I don’t just make things up and claim they are true.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

Richard Hays might persuade you what Paul says.

Me, I prefer the text.

1 Corinthians 6

‘”Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Where is the evidence that it was the Corinthians saying ‘God will destroy them both’?

The parallelism of the 3 lines, means the Corinthians were saying this -

‘”Everything is permissible for me” and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”‘

and Paul was responding as follows -
‘But not everything is beneficial. But I will not be mastered by anything. But God will destroy them both.’

This seems to me a very natural reading.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

Well if it says body twice, we should at lest begin with the assumption that an actual body, not a ghost (first century Greek speakers knew the difference) is being talked about.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

But it’s perfectly consistent with a physical body, and does not require anyone to reject such a thing.


Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

Which clearly can’t be left as is, given that Paul over and over calls them immature and foolish. It’s simplistic to take Paul’s introduction like that.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

I did point out a text that mentions God being the one who chooses to give the body that he wishes.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

You assume people are never inconsistent. That’s not a realistic assumption about people.

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

His point in citing such things is not that they clearly don’t turn into each other, but that there are different kinds of bodies even though they are all kinds of bodies. The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

I also quoted the text, explaining the obvious parallel. I think you have to be straining hard not to see Hays’ point. The Corinthians talk about the complementarity of food and stomach, stating it forward and backward, and then say God destroys them both. Paul responds by saying the body and the Lord are complementary, forward and backward, and then says God has and will raise “us” up (clearly referring to bodies). It makes it less symmetrical, not more, to say that Paul parallels the food/stomach pair with the body/Lord pair, but then also adds two contradictory points: God will destroy the food/stomach and raise up Lord/us(body). Hays reading makes far more sense of the argument and makes the symmetry shine through.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Clearly you don’t want to believe that such stories could happen, so let’s not pretend only I have an agenda. You continually assume that Corinth must be a given for what we reconstruct about early Christian beliefs. But clearly Paul did not think so. It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief. It still happens today. It clearly happened even among the Corinthians, who held to a crucified Messiah but went on to boast about their wisdom and greatness. These are clearly not consistent; shall we assume that the stories of Jesus’ being crucified were also made up?

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

ANDREW
The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

CARR
I think he’s got it.

Paul does not think the dust body changes into the resurrected body, because they are different kinds of bodies, just as fish, the moon, animals, birds, man and the sun are different kinds of things.

The Jesus-worshippers in Corinth thought there was only a dust body. They were therefore baffled by the concept of mortals rising from the dead, as they had no concept of God choosing to raise corpses.

They had missed the simple point that there are two kinds of bodies, and God gives the resurrected person a body as he pleases.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

Paul taught that Jesus became a spirit, who was now living in the bodies of Christians. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself’?

ANDREW
It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief.

CARR
So that is why converts to Jesus-worship clean forgot all about stories of resurrected corpses?

They were just ‘confused’…

I suppose like converts to Islam often forget that their Holy Book is called the Koran, and go on to deny that Muhammad is a prophet. People are often confused and inconsistent.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6
12″Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13″Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

The parallelism is striking and obvious.

But I’m used to Christians twisting their own scriptures to say the opposite of what it says.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

Not really that clear at all, since you are reading a translation of kai and de, both of which can be translated “and” or “but”, and since you deliberately left out verse 14.

Really, if you don’t understand that people can become inconsistent with their earlier beliefs, then I’m not sure how you managed to interpret Corinthians at all, nor how you managed to get through life for this long. I’m certainly not going to waste my time trying to further defend the obvious.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

Notice how this is nowhere in the text. The dust-body dies, yes. But rots? Or is transformed into another body? Which one is in 1 Cor 15, and which one is being read into it?

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma; he uses “us” instead, signifying he has an embodied concept of the person (like most Jews).

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

I don’t see why this relevant to the physicality of the resurrection body of Jesus. Adam is described as “becoming a living soul.” Was he just a ghost too?

Was Adam a ghost?

No, Paul is contrasting the first Adam with the second Adam.

The first Adam was made of earthly materials. The second Adam was made of heavenly materials.

The first Adam was a created being, with a body that died. The second Adam was a spirit, which gives life to us perishable creatures.

‘He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma’

I see. So when Paul uses ’soma’ he means flesh and blood bodies, and when he doesn’t use ’soma’ , he means ‘flesh and blood bodies.

Paul states that what goes into the ground dies. ‘You do not plant the body that will be.’

What happens to this dust body?

2 Corinthians 5 ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

What part of the word ‘destroyed’ means ‘transformed’?

‘‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in…’

Paul has an embodied concept of the person.

We presently live in one body, and will move to a different body.

Notice Paul’s changing clothes metaphor and moving houses metaphors.

When we move from one tent is not transformed.

‘So that what is mortal may be swallowed up…’

The word for ’swallowed up’ means gulp, devour, so that no more is visible.

When the body of Jesus left the tomb, was what had been mortal about him (the flesh, bones , wounds) ’swallowed up’ so that they were no longer visible?

This is why Paul writes ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

We are only in the earthly body for a finite time. It is not transformed , so that we live in it.

‘We’ are transformed, but not our bodies.

We exchange bodies, and that transforms us.

This is what the Corinthians could not understand.

They knew perfectly well that corpses do not rise, and so scoffed at the idea of a resurrection, not realising that a corpse transforming into a heavenly thing would be like a fish changing into the moon.

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

>>Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.>And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

Hmm, it looks like my quotation method was foiled by html. :) Let me try to recreate my response:

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’. But if instead we use ‘eschatological’ then everything changes. So the real assumption behind your arguments is that Paul’s thought was discontinuous with the Hebrew Scriptures — at best a hermeneutic of abrogation rather than fulfillment, in Matthew’s words.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively? But that isn’t at all a tough question in a creational-relational worldview.

JOHN
You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’.

CARR
I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

Paul names nobody who said that a corpse had risen from the ground.

Carr -

I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

Or by pointing out that you’re assuming your view into Paul?

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

It seems that you can only defend against my arguments by ignoring them? I wrote,

“This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively?”

You would have to be an absolute TWIT/DINGBAT of a scientist to believe in the “resurrection”.

Questions about the “resurrection” are not even real questions.

Real questions lead you to a real present time understanding of who and what you are as a conscious being, and of your relationship to everything “else” that is arising, in present time, to and as your awareness.

The PRESENT (whatever “IT” is altogether) being the only Reality there is.

Oh, so that’s what “real questions” and “reality” are. Thanks for definitively clarifying that. Now at least we don’t have to waste our time on the “irrelevant”. I would assume that you do realize that your privileging of the present as the only genuine “reality” is by no means the only viable definition (see Giorgio Agamben); it is not a definitive statement of fact but ultimately a metaphysical conjecture positioned as fact. The favored definitions have changed throughout human history and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. Your perspective is one of many. I do appreciate that you did at least have the post-modern decency to put key words in quotes; as you see, I returned the favor.



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[...] Alastair returns with a summary of N.T. Wright’s speech tonight on “Can a Scientist Believe the Rez?” Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:34 pm | Trackback | Permalink [...]

‘ In contrast to the Judaism of the day, there was virtually no variation on the issue of the resurrection in the context of early Christianity. Christianity has no trace of an established Sadducean view in its ranks.’

Why did early Christian converts in Corinth scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why was the church in Thessalonika worried by some of their fellow Christians turning into corpses?

WRIGHT
People were aware of the occurrence of post-mortem appearances in visions in the ancient world.

CARR
Yes, according to the New Testament, early Christians were convinced that what they saw in visions and dreams was reality.

Joseph allegedly saw an angel in a dream and believed it to be real.

Paul allegedly visited the third Heaven in a trance and thought it real.

Paul allegedly saw a man from Macedonia in a vision and thought it to be reality.

The writer of Revelation allegedly saw the post-mortem Jesus in a vision and thought he had really seen Jesus.

WRIGHT
3. The portrait of Jesus himself is surprising. Jesus does not, for instance, shine like a star as we might expect him to. There is such an account, but it is found in the transfiguration, not in the resurrection accounts.

CARR
Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.

This is not even an argument by Wright.

It is just a made-up non-factoid.

He may as well claim that if it had been fiction, it would have been written in poetry. That is also made up out of thin air, just like his claim.

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

All these questions, and many more, were ignored by the Bishop of Durham when he trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times.

[...] Alastair has saved us some work by posting his excellent (and lengthy) summary of the talk here. [...]

Thanks, Al, a very helpful summary. Will try to put it in the memory in case I need it later. One nit-pick, more for His Bishopness than for you:

Had the stories been written later, they might well have contained references to the future resurrection of all God’s people.

I thought the resurrection of the many saints who had fallen asleep (Matt. 27:52-3, which might easily have happened after the Resurrection) was exactly that?

I imagine it’s a reprise of the material NT Wright talked about in his Faraday Lecture - downloadable here:

http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/CIS/Wright/index.htm

[...] Science and the Ressurection. [...]

Carr - Why would anybody read 1 Corinthians 15 as Docetism? This question, and many more, were ignored by you when you trotted out the old tired argumemts that have been refuted hundreds of times. ;)

What is docetism?

The view that Jesus appeared to have a flesh and blood body, but could walk through walls?

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?


Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians never claimed Jesus body shone, or that they would have claimed that Jesus body shone if they had been writing fiction?

He has no evidence that writers of fictional resurrection narratives have shining Messiahs.”

Wright explains this in more detail in his Resurrection of the Son of God. Daniel 12 describes the resurrected righteous in this way: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Since it’s fairly reasonable to read Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” as alluding to the character from Daniel, who in Daniel has some kind of representative status for Israel, Wright’s argument has some merit: if people were just making up the narratives from OT expectations, they might have been expected to describe Jesus as “like the brightness of the firmament, and …like the stars forever and ever.”

And I can’t think of one place where your other questions actually reflect what a biblical writer is saying.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to the comments above at the moment. Some important questions have been raised, and I hope that someone will be able to address them, as I have neither the time nor energy at present (I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for some time now and have a dissertation deadline breathing down my neck, on top of all of the madness of Christmas time). There were a number of points in the lecture where I wasn’t so sure about Wright’s argument, but overall I thought that it was extremely stimulating and helpful. Philip’s point is a particularly good one and is a strong challenge to what I believe is a weaker dimension of Wright’s case.

So where is Wright’s evidence that if the resurrection was fictional people would have written stories of Jesus shining, (or the cross rising to Heaven?)

All we have is Wright’s claim that he just knows by magic that Christians would have written stories of Jesus shining if they had written fiction.

Where is his evidence?

By contrast, we have excellent evidence that if Jews believed in corpses rising they would have written just that.

Section Sanhedrin 90b of he Talmud discusses the question that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15 - how can dust come back to life?

Paul denies that it will. He claims resurrected beings will not be made of the dust of the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ‘The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.’

Paul denies that dust will come back to life. If there is a resurrected body, he writes, it will not be made from dust, it will be made from heavenly material.

There were Jews who did believe that dust comes back to life again. See how Sanhedrin 90b handles the question, and see how utterly alien it is to Paul’s way of writing in 1 Corinthians 15.

An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’

Thereupon his the emperor’s daughter said to him the Rabbi: ‘Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions his products from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?’ ‘He who fashions them from water, he replied.1 ‘If he can fashion man from water, surely he can do so from clay!’

The School of R. Ishmael taught: It can be deduced from glassware: if glassware, which, though made by the breath of human beings, can yet be repaired when broken; then how much more so man, created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

A sectarian said to R. Ammi: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?’ — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth for making bricks. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, ‘We cannot’. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, ‘If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!’ ‘Yet,’ continued R. Ammi, ‘If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust, and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh.

These Jews believed in the resurrection of corpses and so ‘proved’ that dust will turn into flesh.

And the way they do it is just so utterly different to Paul’s thought that it is obvious he is not thinking anything remotely like a process of making dust alive again.

Paul did not believe in the resurrection of corpses and wrote how dust was a thing of the past. The new body will not be transformed dust.

Just where are Wright’s similar evidences that people writing fiction would say that Jesus body shone?

Similarly, we know that early Christians were so dissatisfied with what Paul wrote, that they forged a letter by Paul (called 3 Corinthians today) to make Paul say what he never said in 1 Corinthians 15 or 2 Corinthians 5.

The fake Paul says ‘32 Likewise also a dead man was cast upon the bones of the prophet Helisaetis by the children of Israel, and he arose, both body and soul and bones and spirit; how much more shall you which have been cast upon the body and bones and spirit of the Lord’

Notice the ‘body and bones and soul and spirit’

The real Paul said ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

I have evidence that people who believed in resurrection of corpses wrote totally differently to how Paul wrote.

Where is Wright’s evidence that Christians who wrote fiction about the resurrection had shining Jesus’s in it?

He has none.

Nevertheless, if someone chooses to stay between the Pharaoh of scepticism and the sea of faith, they cannot be pushed any further by the historian.
I loved this image: a real improvement on the Scylla and Charybdis cliché.

I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the physicality of a resurrected body.

To hazard a few answers to your earlier rhetorical questions:

Why did Paul maintain that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit at the resurrection, and implied that all Christians would become life-giving spirits?

I think the explanation for the first one would be easy enough: the close connection between Jesus and the Spirit would allow for language like that. As for the second part of this question, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Why did early converts to Christianity scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

Why did Paul think it idiotic to even discuss how bodies can come back, go on to remind the Corinthians that what was in the ground was dead, and tell them that resurrected beings were as different to earthly bodies as fish is different to the moon? (Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon)

Paul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence (cf. 15:38). The fact that the things that die are dead does nothing to oppose Wright’s view of resurrection, which is precisely that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new bodies, the continuity being on the physicality and the discontinuity being on (at least) what “powers” it and in that it is immortal. Further, Paul’s point about different kinds of flesh doesn’t oppose, but rather helps, Wright’s case.

Why did Paul trash the idea that God would raise beings from the dust that corpses dissolve into?

What verse are you referring to specifically here?

Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words, or perhaps they could only be put into the kind of words/images he chose (e.g. “it’s something like a physical body, but different, kind of like a seed is different from a stock of grain”). This is an argument from silence, anyway.

Why did Paul say that God would destroy both stomach and food to people who were allegedly converted by tales of the resurrected Jesus eating fish?

Richard Hays convinced me that the Corinthians, not Paul, said God would destroy the stomach and food. The Corinthians say “Food is for the stomach and stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them”, and Paul responds: “Yet the body is (not for immorality but) for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, and God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.”

I just noticed the reference you made to Paul trashing the “dust-bodies” idea; all I would say to that is: physicality is not identical to being made from dust.

And regarding this: Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

Wright doesn’t just add body gratuitously; cf. 1 Cor 15:44. Since that is the last in a series of parallels in that section, it is clearly the rhetorical climax Paul is working towards, and it has an explicit mention of a “soma”.

———————————
1 Corinthians 15:44 has TWO explicit mentions of soma. ‘A natural body is sown. A spiritual body is raised.’

Paul never puts in a subject linking the two bodies. He deliberately avoids claiming that there is only 1 body.

Why do you say it has AN explicit mention of A ’soma’, when it has TWO explicit mentions of TWO ’somas’.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

————————————
Wright adds the word body where Paul writes ‘this perishable must put on imperishability.’

Paul deliberately left out the word body there, so why add it back?

Paul’s view is that we change clothes at the resurrection. We discard the old body and become naked, and are then clothed in the new body.

We don’t put a new body on top of the old corpse, like a set of Russian dolls - even if Wright thinks that makes sense.

Resurrection of the Son of God , page 371 ‘Did Paul, perhaps, believe that Jesus’ new body, his incorruptible Easter body, had been all along waiting ‘in the heavens’ for him to ‘put on over the top of’ his present one?’

The idea of Jesus having a corpse underneath a new imperishable body is amazing, but Wright just has to spin away Paul’s clear words in - 2 Corinthians 5 ‘For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.’

Changing clothes, putting on new clothes, leaving one tent and moving to another building.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

Paul never states anything as simple as that, because he didn’t believe it.

Nobody did. Not him. And not the converts to Jesus-worship in Corinth.

And not the church in Thessalonia who were worried about what happened to corpses, as some of their Christian brethren were now corpses.

CARR
‘Why was Paul unable to find one detail from anybody’s personal experience as to what a resurrected body was like, instead being forced to work entirely from general principles and theological reflection?

ANDREW
Perhaps their experiences couldn’t be put into words….

CARR
That may well be correct. Nobody could write down what the apostles had experienced.

ANDREW
I think the implied point here (that early Christians clearly did not believe such a thing, in general) is faulty; you clearly can’t take the beliefs of the Corinthians as an index of what the standard Christian would believe. They also believed it was both cool to both prohibit marriage and have sex with prostitutes.

CARR
Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

The fact remains that some of them believed in an afterlife, but Paul never claims that any of them believed in corpses rising.

ANDREW
aul didn’t think it was idiotic to discuss; at least we can’t tell that from what he wrote. What we can tell is that he thought this question was foolish: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” It is indeed foolish to ask such a question on the postulation of God’s omnipotence…

CARR
Paul never chides the Jesus-converts for doubting that God could reform corpses from dust.

Unlike Jews who DID believe in reformed dust (see above for umpteen examples)

Andrew simply postulates , with ZERO evidence, that early Christian converts did not believe God could work miracles.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

Paul goes on to say why it is idiotic to ask how corpses could rise.

He tells the Corinthians that what goes into the ground dies. (These idiots didn’t realises that corpses are dead)

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

And then immediately says ‘So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.’

He is telling the Jesus-worshippers that they are making a category mistake.

Corpses belong to the class of earthly things.

Resurrected beings belong to the class of heavenly things.

They are like a fish and the moon.

Only an idiot discusss how a fish turns into the moon.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead.

Notice how I don’t just make things up and claim they are true.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

Richard Hays might persuade you what Paul says.

Me, I prefer the text.

1 Corinthians 6

‘”Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Where is the evidence that it was the Corinthians saying ‘God will destroy them both’?

The parallelism of the 3 lines, means the Corinthians were saying this -

‘”Everything is permissible for me” and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”‘

and Paul was responding as follows -
‘But not everything is beneficial. But I will not be mastered by anything. But God will destroy them both.’

This seems to me a very natural reading.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Do you think I do not know what it really says?

Well if it says body twice, we should at lest begin with the assumption that an actual body, not a ghost (first century Greek speakers knew the difference) is being talked about.

How would any of that persuade the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that the body of Jesus that got up and walked around was the same body that had been buried?

But it’s perfectly consistent with a physical body, and does not require anyone to reject such a thing.


Here is what Paul says about these people ‘For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’

Which clearly can’t be left as is, given that Paul over and over calls them immature and foolish. It’s simplistic to take Paul’s introduction like that.

You can’t just ignore the text. If Paul thought it foolish for them to doubt God’s power, then there has to be something in the text for you to have evidence for what you claim.

I did point out a text that mentions God being the one who chooses to give the body that he wishes.

Why did the Jesus-worshippers convert? And what sort of early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of a God who could work miracles?

You assume people are never inconsistent. That’s not a realistic assumption about people.

Paul then goes on to give a whole load of examples of things that do NOT turn into each other, fish, birds, animals, man , the sun, the moon.

His point in citing such things is not that they clearly don’t turn into each other, but that there are different kinds of bodies even though they are all kinds of bodies. The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

I produce evidence from the text , form Paul, rather than from Richard Hays.

I also quoted the text, explaining the obvious parallel. I think you have to be straining hard not to see Hays’ point. The Corinthians talk about the complementarity of food and stomach, stating it forward and backward, and then say God destroys them both. Paul responds by saying the body and the Lord are complementary, forward and backward, and then says God has and will raise “us” up (clearly referring to bodies). It makes it less symmetrical, not more, to say that Paul parallels the food/stomach pair with the body/Lord pair, but then also adds two contradictory points: God will destroy the food/stomach and raise up Lord/us(body). Hays reading makes far more sense of the argument and makes the symmetry shine through.

But Andrew wants to believe that people converted by stories of a resurrected Jesus eating fish claimed God would destroy both stomach and food, when they also believed that corpses rotted without any need for divine destruction.

Clearly you don’t want to believe that such stories could happen, so let’s not pretend only I have an agenda. You continually assume that Corinth must be a given for what we reconstruct about early Christian beliefs. But clearly Paul did not think so. It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief. It still happens today. It clearly happened even among the Corinthians, who held to a crucified Messiah but went on to boast about their wisdom and greatness. These are clearly not consistent; shall we assume that the stories of Jesus’ being crucified were also made up?

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

ANDREW
The Corinthians assumed there could only be one kind of body–the dust body–and then asked how it was such a thing could rise. Paul answers by pointing out that even in nature there is more than one kind of body. For someone who wants textual evidence, you are clearly lacking any that would point out that Paul was asking how fish could CHANGE INTO the moon.

CARR
I think he’s got it.

Paul does not think the dust body changes into the resurrected body, because they are different kinds of bodies, just as fish, the moon, animals, birds, man and the sun are different kinds of things.

The Jesus-worshippers in Corinth thought there was only a dust body. They were therefore baffled by the concept of mortals rising from the dead, as they had no concept of God choosing to raise corpses.

They had missed the simple point that there are two kinds of bodies, and God gives the resurrected person a body as he pleases.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

Paul taught that Jesus became a spirit, who was now living in the bodies of Christians. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself’?

ANDREW
It is possible that people become confused and inconsistent after they come to hold a religious belief.

CARR
So that is why converts to Jesus-worship clean forgot all about stories of resurrected corpses?

They were just ‘confused’…

I suppose like converts to Islam often forget that their Holy Book is called the Koran, and go on to deny that Muhammad is a prophet. People are often confused and inconsistent.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6
12″Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13″Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

The parallelism is striking and obvious.

But I’m used to Christians twisting their own scriptures to say the opposite of what it says.

Clearly, all the ‘buts’ are what Paul was saying, as a rejoinder to the first half of each verse.

Not really that clear at all, since you are reading a translation of kai and de, both of which can be translated “and” or “but”, and since you deliberately left out verse 14.

Really, if you don’t understand that people can become inconsistent with their earlier beliefs, then I’m not sure how you managed to interpret Corinthians at all, nor how you managed to get through life for this long. I’m certainly not going to waste my time trying to further defend the obvious.

The dust body is no more. It just rots in the grave and is destroyed.

Notice how this is nowhere in the text. The dust-body dies, yes. But rots? Or is transformed into another body? Which one is in 1 Cor 15, and which one is being read into it?

As for 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that God will raise bodies, and reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is now living in their bodies.

He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma; he uses “us” instead, signifying he has an embodied concept of the person (like most Jews).

Why should we not start with what Paul said?

‘The last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

I don’t see why this relevant to the physicality of the resurrection body of Jesus. Adam is described as “becoming a living soul.” Was he just a ghost too?

Was Adam a ghost?

No, Paul is contrasting the first Adam with the second Adam.

The first Adam was made of earthly materials. The second Adam was made of heavenly materials.

The first Adam was a created being, with a body that died. The second Adam was a spirit, which gives life to us perishable creatures.

‘He doesn’t go out of his way at all, he just doesn’t use the word soma’

I see. So when Paul uses ’soma’ he means flesh and blood bodies, and when he doesn’t use ’soma’ , he means ‘flesh and blood bodies.

Paul states that what goes into the ground dies. ‘You do not plant the body that will be.’

What happens to this dust body?

2 Corinthians 5 ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

What part of the word ‘destroyed’ means ‘transformed’?

‘‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in…’

Paul has an embodied concept of the person.

We presently live in one body, and will move to a different body.

Notice Paul’s changing clothes metaphor and moving houses metaphors.

When we move from one tent is not transformed.

‘So that what is mortal may be swallowed up…’

The word for ’swallowed up’ means gulp, devour, so that no more is visible.

When the body of Jesus left the tomb, was what had been mortal about him (the flesh, bones , wounds) ’swallowed up’ so that they were no longer visible?

This is why Paul writes ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

We are only in the earthly body for a finite time. It is not transformed , so that we live in it.

‘We’ are transformed, but not our bodies.

We exchange bodies, and that transforms us.

This is what the Corinthians could not understand.

They knew perfectly well that corpses do not rise, and so scoffed at the idea of a resurrection, not realising that a corpse transforming into a heavenly thing would be like a fish changing into the moon.

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

>>Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.>And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

Hmm, it looks like my quotation method was foiled by html. :) Let me try to recreate my response:

Carr - There’s been quite a bit of conversation while I was on vacation. But I’ll respond anyway, in case you’re interested.

Wright makes 1 Corinthians 15 non-docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘body’ wherever Paul deliberately avoided saying body.

A simple, but effective way to make Paul talk about bodies in places where he chose not to.

You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’. But if instead we use ‘eschatological’ then everything changes. So the real assumption behind your arguments is that Paul’s thought was discontinuous with the Hebrew Scriptures — at best a hermeneutic of abrogation rather than fulfillment, in Matthew’s words.

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship unable to get their head around the concept of corpses reviving, but still worshipped the risen Jesus?

This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively? But that isn’t at all a tough question in a creational-relational worldview.

JOHN
You make Paul Docetic by the simple expedient of adding ‘quasi-Platonic’ everywhere Paul uses ’spirit’.

CARR
I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

Paul names nobody who said that a corpse had risen from the ground.

Carr -

I have never used the phrase ‘quasi-Platonic’ in my life.

It seems Christians can only defend against my arguments by changing them…

Or by pointing out that you’re assuming your view into Paul?

And why were early converts to Jesus-worship people who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse?

It seems that you can only defend against my arguments by ignoring them? I wrote,

“This argument reduces to, How can I believe something if I don’t understand it exhaustively?”

You would have to be an absolute TWIT/DINGBAT of a scientist to believe in the “resurrection”.

Questions about the “resurrection” are not even real questions.

Real questions lead you to a real present time understanding of who and what you are as a conscious being, and of your relationship to everything “else” that is arising, in present time, to and as your awareness.

The PRESENT (whatever “IT” is altogether) being the only Reality there is.

Oh, so that’s what “real questions” and “reality” are. Thanks for definitively clarifying that. Now at least we don’t have to waste our time on the “irrelevant”. I would assume that you do realize that your privileging of the present as the only genuine “reality” is by no means the only viable definition (see Giorgio Agamben); it is not a definitive statement of fact but ultimately a metaphysical conjecture positioned as fact. The favored definitions have changed throughout human history and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. Your perspective is one of many. I do appreciate that you did at least have the post-modern decency to put key words in quotes; as you see, I returned the favor.



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