Friday, March 21, 2008

Larry Hurtado writes on the resurrection in Slate:-

Historically, then, how Christians have understood Jesus' "resurrection" says a lot about how they have understood themselves, whether they have a holistic view of the human person, whether they see bodily existence as trivial or crucial, and how they imagine full salvation to be manifested. Does salvation comprise a deliverance from the body into some sort of immediate and permanent postmortem bliss (which is actually much closer to popular Christian piety down the centuries), or does salvation require a new embodiment of some sort, a more robust reaffirmation of persons? This sort of question originally was integral to early Jewish and Christian belief in the resurrection. In all the varieties of early Christianity, and in all the various understandings of what his "resurrection" meant, Jesus was typically the model, the crucial paradigm for believers, what had happened to him seen as prototypical of what believers were to hope for themselves.

1 comment:

Steven Carr said...

'...Jesus was typically the model, the crucial paradigm for believers, what had happened to him seen as prototypical of what believers were to hope for themselves.'

Yes, this is what Paul taught. He taught that what had happened to Jesus was what would happen to believers.

'The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'

However the converts he was writing to did not believe that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them (For that matter, the church in Thessalonia was also worried about the future)

The Corinthians thought that resurrection for themselves would have to involve a corpse rising from a grave.

And so they scoffed at the whole idea of resurrection for themselves, while still believing that Jesus was alive.

Paul attacks them for having the wrong model of a resurrection. To him it was idiotic to discuss how a corpse came back from the dead.

To him, what the Corinthians had missed was that they would be resurrected like Jesus.

For Paul, what rose from the dead was a new body, made of heavenly material. Paul trashes the idea that resurrected beings are made out of the dust that a corpse becomes - '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. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul regarded heavenly things like a resurrected being as being as different to earthly things as a fish is different to the moon.

Paul gives a whole host of categories of different things - man, animals, birds, fish, the sun, the moon - none of which turn into each other, to stress to the Corinthians how wrong they were to think that a resurrection involved a corpse turning into a resurrected being.

None of this makes any sense if all Paul had to do to persuade the Corinthians of a resurrection was to persuade them that a corpse rose from the grave.

But it makes perfect sense on Paul's view that the body was destroyed, and that we get new bodies.

Paul is clear on this in 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.'

Paul uses metaphors for resurrection like changing clothes and moving to a new building, because he believed that Jesus left his earthly body behind at the resurrection and moved to a new body. Jesus had changed bodies in the way that we change clothes.

This is why Paul never refers to a corpse rising or the resurrection of the flesh. He did not believe in it.