What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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Post by historia »

In 1 Cor. 15:35-53, Paul describes the kind of body people will have at the resurrection of the dead, contrasting it to the body we possess now, in particular noting:
1 Cor. 15:44 wrote:
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
In a recent blog post, James Tabor, professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism at North Carolina State University, offered this interpretation:
Tabor wrote:
[Paul] clearly affirms a "literal" but spiritual resurrection –- for both Jesus and those at the end of history. The dead are raised in an embodied form -- but their bodies are no longer "flesh and blood," but transformed into what he calls a "pneumatikos" body -- that is a non-physical "spiritual" mode of being.

Question for debate:

What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44? And is James Tabor's interpretation correct?

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Re: What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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Post by historia »

Let me start by thanking Difflugia for agreeing to this head-to-head debate.

I will be taking the position that Tabor is essentially wrong in his interpretation.

Now, he's certainly right to note that Paul views the resurrected body as being in some way different from the body we possess today -- that much is abundantly clear from the text. But Tabor is wrong in describing that as "non-physical" and in the "mode of being" of a spirit, if I've understood him correctly.

The key term here is pneumatikos ("spiritual"), which broadly means "of spirit" or "pertaining to spirit." Tabor (and many others) seem to take this to mean "made out of spirit" (or wind). But it could mean "animated by spirit" (or wind), just as the English word "wind turbine" does not describe a turbine made out of wind, but rather one powered by it.

Several things point to that latter meaning being the correct one:

First, Greek adjectives that end with the suffix -ikos (as Paul is using here) do not generally refer to what something is made of. If you want to describe what something is made of, you would instead likely use an adjective with the suffix -inos.

Second, examples of pneumatikos outside the New Testament show it does not concern what something is made of. We see a good example of this in the Roman architect Virtuvius, who, in writing about ancient machines, notes that the Greeks have several different types of machines, including those "worked by air, which with them is called πνευματικὁν" (Virtuvius 10.1.1). An organon pneumatikon, then, is a tool driven by wind, not made of it.

Third, Paul's usage of pneumatikos earlier in 1 Cor. does not concern material composition:
1 Cor. 2:14-15 wrote:
The natural (psychikos) person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual (pneumatikos) person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
Obviously, Paul is talking here about flesh-and-blood people, so a "spiritual person" cannot mean a person made out of spirit.

Fourth, and now coming back to the phrase "spiritual body" itself, the contrast Paul makes in 1 Cor. 15:44 compels us against viewing the adjective "spiritual" as entailing material composition.
1 Cor. 15:44 wrote:
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
Paul is contrasting a soma psychikon ("natural body") with a soma pneumatikon ("spiritual body") -- the same contrast we just saw him make in 2:14-15, but there about persons.

If soma pneumatikon means a "body made out of spirit (= pneuma)" then to be consistent we would have to view the soma psychikon as a "body made out of soul (= psyche)." But that can't be Paul's meaning, as the soma psychikon is the body we posses now, which is composed of flesh and blood.

Instead, it seems that what Paul is saying here in 1 Cor. 15:44 is that the body we possess now is animated by or embodied by the soul, while the resurrected body will be animated by or embodied by the Spirit (of God).

But the body in both cases is very much physical, as the word soma ("body") would normally entail.

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Re: What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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Post by Difflugia »

historia wrote: Sun May 15, 2022 3:09 pmLet me start by thanking Difflugia for agreeing to this head-to-head debate.

I will be taking the position that Tabor is essentially wrong in his interpretation.
And thank you for proposing it.

I will be taking the position that he is essentially correct. As historia and I agreed, my initial post would be a slightly modified version of this comment. I'd like to point out that I wrote that without having read Tabor's blog post or remembering that Tabor holds this position and I find it funny how similar our arguments are. I have read a number of Tabor's books, though, so it's likely that his analysis, chapter 2 of Paul and Jesus, "Rethinking Resurrection of the Dead" in particular, helped shaped my own view in the first place.

That said, my first post here is more of a rebuttal than might normally be proper in an opening statement, but I've left it essentially unmodified to keep the flavor of the discussion so far.

I think there's enough overlap both in how the -ikos suffix is used and within Paul's context that Paul still means a spiritual body as opposed to an earthy physical body.

I'll agree that -inos is narrow enough that Paul could have made his statement less ambiguous by constructing the word spiritual that way, in the way that "made of bronze" is chalkinos and "made of steel" is adamantinos. The suffix -ikos, however, isn't opposed to -inos or narrow enough in a way that the two don't overlap. It broadly just indicates a relationship with the root of the adjective, not necessitating, but also not excluding composition. For example, hylikos broadly means "material" in a way that includes "made of matter." In fact, I find that word particularly interesting because it's based on a similar metaphor of "wood" or "timber" (hyle) for "material" as "wind" or "breath" is for "spirit."

Paul is fond of few things more than overused metaphors. Paul speaks of living Christians "receiving the spirit of God" that they might know the "things of God," just as the spirit of a person is the only thing that can know the things of that person (2:11).

The metaphor in chapter 15, though, is different. He's not talking about the difference between a natural discernment and a discernment empowered by God's spirit, but that between a natural body and spiritual body. Following verse 44, he makes a series of contrasts that all point to the same thing, that the perishable, earthly, material body is replaced with an imperishable, heavenly, spiritual one.

In verse 45, he contrasts Adam's existence as a "living" (zosan) "life" (psyche) with Christ's post-resurrection existence as a "life giving" (zoopoioun) "spirit" (pneuma). This contrasts an animate, natural existence with an animating, supernatural one. Note also that whether one decides it to be literal or metaphorical, this verse explicitly refers to the risen Christ as transforming into (note the preposition eis) a "pneuma."

Assuming that Paul's combination of words isn't accidental, the previous contrast of "life" with "spirit" is followed immediately in verse 46 by a contrast of "living" (psychikon) with "spiritual" (pneumatikon). The living existence must come first, then it dies to be replaced by a spiritual one.

The next three verses are even more telling. The first man, Adam, was out of the earth and of dust (note the -ikos ending on choikos, "of dust"). The second man, Christ, was out of heaven. The question here is if "earth" and "heaven" should be capitalized. Given the contrast and the fact that "heaven" is singular, I think the verse should read: "The first man was from the Earth, of dust, the second man was from Heaven."

Paul then repeats the statement, this time including the rest of humanity. As Adam was "of dust," so too, all who inhabit the same sphere are "of dust." As Christ was the man "of Heaven," so too, all who inhabit the same sphere are "of Heaven." in the context of this discussion, the contrast can only be before and after the resurrection. He is contrasting "of dust" with "of heaven." Given the obvious reference to Genesis 2:7, do you think that the metaphor is referring to the same physical bodies, one of which is powered by the soul and one powered by spirit without making a statement of their composition and perhaps plane of existence? I don't.

If psychikon refers broadly to "of the natural world," as I think it reasonably does, then the contrast in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 is between people with natural discernment and those with spiritual discernment. Paul explicitly says as much in verse 12, by defining the spiritual person as having received the spirit of God that allows judgement.

Chapter 15 is meant to present the same sort of contrast, but Paul is recasting the same imagery to illustrate the actual substance of the body, the transformation from the literal dust of Genesis 2:7 to the literal heavenly spirit of 1 Corinthians 15:45. Those resurrected will then no longer look like Adam of dust, but will look like Christ of heaven—a Christ whose appearance Paul knows to be different from that of earthly men, because Christ has appeared to him.
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Re: What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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Post by historia »

Difflugia wrote: Mon May 16, 2022 12:25 am
I'll agree that -inos is narrow enough that Paul could have made his statement less ambiguous by constructing the word spiritual that way, in the way that "made of bronze" is chalkinos and "made of steel" is adamantinos. The suffix -ikos, however, isn't opposed to -inos or narrow enough in a way that the two don't overlap. It broadly just indicates a relationship with the root of the adjective, not necessitating, but also not excluding composition.
This is certainly a fair point. As I understand it, Greek adjectives ending in -ikos most likely (if not necessarily, per your point here) refer to the ethical or dynamical quality of something, rather than its composition. And so we should, at the very least, be cautious in ascribing the latter meaning to psychikos or pneumatikos.

Having already examined pneumatikos above, perhaps we should do the same with psychikos:

Outside the New Testament, psychikos almost always just means "of the soul."

For example, Epictetus, in Discourses 3.7, talks at length about the "good of the soul" (psychikois agathois) and the "pleasure of the soul" (psychiken hedonen), writing in part:
Epictetus wrote:
It remains then that the pleasure of the soul is in the pleasure from things of the body.
Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics 3.10, similarly writes:
Aristotle wrote:
Now we must make a distinction between pleasures of the body and pleasures of the soul.
Turning to a Jewish source contemporary with Paul, 4 Maccabees states:
4 Maccabees 1:32 wrote:
Some desires belong to the soul (psychikai), others to the body (somatikai), and reason obviously rules over both.
In all of these examples, psychikos is being contrasted with soma or somatikos, in keeping with Liddell and Scott's first entry for psychkios: "of the soul or life, spiritual, opp. σωματικός." In the case of 4 Macc. 1:32, the RSV (and the NRSV following it) even translates psychikai and somatikai as "mental" and "physical," respectively, so that in this passage psychikos is explicitly set in contrast to "physical" (making the translation of 1 Cor. 15:44 all the more perplexing).

And so I think we can say that psychikos carries with it at least some non-physical connotations, even including the idea of "spiritual," per Liddell and Scott.

For that reason, it is an odd word for Paul to choose in 1 Cor. 15 if what he wants to contrast is the substance or physicality of the mortal body with that of the resurrected body. Why not sarkinos ("fleshly"), or even your suggestion of hulikos, in that case?

In fact, as some interpreters have noted, Paul could just as easily have used soma psychikon (a 'soul-ish body') to refer to a non-physical body, assuming a non-physical body even makes sense.
Difflugia wrote: Mon May 16, 2022 12:25 am
If psychikon refers broadly to "of the natural world," as I think it reasonably does, then the contrast in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 is between people with natural discernment and those with spiritual discernment. Paul explicitly says as much in verse 12, by defining the spiritual person as having received the spirit of God that allows judgement.
I'm not sure psychikos carries the connotation of location that you've expressed here, but I certainly agree it means "natural" in the way that Paul uses it.

I also appreciate the rest of your comment here, and think it applies to Paul's use of pneumatikos throughout 1 Corinthians: For Paul, if one receives the Spirit, then God's Spirit will impart to them certain supernatural abilities, including wisdom and discernment (2:13-15) or healing and other miracles (12:7-11).

And so, in the same way, if one receives the Spirit, then God's Spirit will, in the resurrection, impart to their mortal body certain supernatural abilities.
Difflugia wrote: Mon May 16, 2022 12:25 am
Given the obvious reference to Genesis 2:7, do you think that the metaphor is referring to the same physical bodies, one of which is powered by the soul and one powered by spirit without making a statement of their composition and perhaps plane of existence?
Yes and no.

'Yes' in the sense that Paul clearly sees the resurrected body as the same physical body we have now restored to life, which he says explicitly in Romans 8:
Romans 8:10-11 wrote:
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
But, 'no' in the sense that Paul also sees the mortal body as being transformed in the resurrection, in the same way a seed transforms into a plant:
1 Cor. 15:37-38 wrote:
And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
In the resurrection, the present body will gain new properties:
1 Cor. 15:51-53 wrote:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Note that Paul says that the mortal, perishable body must "put on" imperishability and immortality, so that these are properties added to our present bodies. Which is quite different from Tabor's interpretation that the mortal body is essentially discarded in favor of a spirit-body.
Difflugia wrote: Mon May 16, 2022 12:25 am
Following verse 44, he makes a series of contrasts that all point to the same thing, that the perishable, earthly, material body is replaced with an imperishable, heavenly, spiritual one.
Indeed, I think there is more we should discuss in these passages, including your points above about 'dust', 'earth', and Christ as 'spirit'. Before we do, though, I have a question for you: What do you think Paul's opponents at Corinth believed about the after-life?

Tabor has this to say in a separate blog post, which he cites in the post we are reviewing:
Tabor wrote:
Some of [Paul's] converts in the city of Corinth were denying the resurrection of the dead. They were most likely thinking along the lines of Plato -- if the immortal soul is freed from the prison of the body at death, why would it ever return to the body?
I think that's exactly right. What do you think?

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Re: What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

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Post by Difflugia »

I feel like this has taken me about four days longer than it should have, but I keep feeling like I haven't tied everything together. Maybe I've just stared at it too much, though.
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pmHaving already examined pneumatikos above, perhaps we should do the same with psychikos:

Outside the New Testament, psychikos almost always just means "of the soul."

In all of these examples, psychikos is being contrasted with soma or somatikos, in keeping with Liddell and Scott's first entry for psychkios: "of the soul or life, spiritual, opp. σωματικός." In the case of 4 Macc. 1:32, the RSV (and the NRSV following it) even translates psychikai and somatikai as "mental" and "physical," respectively, so that in this passage psychikos is explicitly set in contrast to "physical" (making the translation of 1 Cor. 15:44 all the more perplexing).

And so I think we can say that psychikos carries with it at least some non-physical connotations, even including the idea of "spiritual," per Liddell and Scott.

For that reason, it is an odd word for Paul to choose in 1 Cor. 15 if what he wants to contrast is the substance or physicality of the mortal body with that of the resurrected body. Why not sarkinos ("fleshly"), or even your suggestion of hulikos, in that case?

In fact, as some interpreters have noted, Paul could just as easily have used soma psychikon (a 'soul-ish body') to refer to a non-physical body, assuming a non-physical body even makes sense.

I'm not sure psychikos carries the connotation of location that you've expressed here, but I certainly agree it means "natural" in the way that Paul uses it.
What makes this somewhat difficult is that I think Paul's private idea of psychikos differs slightly with broader contemporary usage and part of his theology is wrapped up in his personal definition.

I think you're right that psychikos is normally non-physical for Paul, which is why the comparisons and contrasts of the 1 Corinthians 15 are so important. I think he knows that what he's saying is confusing, at least in part because he's using very specific definitions that are narrower than even the ones he uses himself.

In a broader sense, Paul seems to think of the psyche as the life-force, the animus in the Latin sense and its relation to words like "animated" and "animal." 1 Corinthians 14:7 uses the word apsycha in a way that I read as equivalent to the English "inanimate." When Paul means "mind" or "mental," he uses variations on nous. I take that to mean that at least in Romans and 1 Corinthians (see below), the epistles in which he primarily contrasts psyche and pneuma, psyche and nous are also different concepts.

We might couple that with variations in words that are translated into English as "life." At times, psyche means life, like Romans 16:4, but in certain contexts, Paul uses zoe for "life" and I think the pattern is against them being synonyms. In particular, whenever Paul speaks of the eternal life or the life that Jesus now possesses, it's always zoe, never psyche. The spirit gives zoe.

This brings us to sarka, "flesh." My understanding of this is that sarka and psyche aren't exactly synonyms, but are nonetheless inseparable. The psyche is the life force of the sarka. Paul speaks of both psyche and sarka in contrast to pneuma (Romans 7:5-6 and 7:14, for example; note also that pneumatikos here is placed in contrast to sarkinos, "composed of flesh"). Even if those aren't direct antonyms, Paul thinks that they properly contrast each other. What I think is important here is that in contrast to contemporary Greek thought, Paul doesn't think that the psyche is the immortal soul, but is merely the base, animal, animating force of the sarka. To focus on that is to focus on something that is corrupt and will ultimately perish. The sarka and its animating psyche will perish, but the nous may attach itself to the pneuma of God to gain everlasting zoe.

As an interesting aside, Paul departs from this only in Philippians, using psyche words multiple times (1:27, 2:2, 2:19, 2:20) to mean something like "mind" or "intent," a seeming departure from his usage elsewhere. I'll have to think about that to decide if it's important, or maybe you can see a connection that I've missed. If I dwell on it too much now, I'm going to start seeing interpolations and that's probably putting the cart a bit before the horse right now.
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pm
Difflugia wrote: Mon May 16, 2022 12:25 amGiven the obvious reference to Genesis 2:7, do you think that the metaphor is referring to the same physical bodies, one of which is powered by the soul and one powered by spirit without making a statement of their composition and perhaps plane of existence?
Yes and no.

'Yes' in the sense that Paul clearly sees the resurrected body as the same physical body we have now restored to life, which he says explicitly in Romans 8:
Romans 8:10-11 wrote:
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
I don't think that's referring to the resurrection. Romans chapters 4 through 13 include numerous references to death, life, and rebirth, at least some of which refer to Christians now and are apparently metaphorical. Even in the verses you quoted, 8:10 looks to me to refer to living, mortal Christians, especially when verse 9 is taken into account. Verse 11 could be part of a side analogy relating life in the Spirit now versus after the resurrection, but I think it more reasonably reads as the Spirit giving "Christian" life now to mortal bodies amid the death due to sin. My reading is that 8:1-11 is all one thought, a statement of the present that is a a prologue to 12-30, the statement of the future. The zoe in verse 11 is being given to mortal bodies because that's what Christians have now.
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pmBut, 'no' in the sense that Paul also sees the mortal body as being transformed in the resurrection, in the same way a seed transforms into a plant:
The question here is what kind of transformation Paul has in mind. Does the new plant retain some vestige of the seed, in particular a physical vestige? In the metaphors that Paul presents here, the seed must be sown and it must die that it may gain a new form, but all Paul says about the transformation itself is that "God gives it a body" as He sees fit. Whether that's the same body transformed or a completely new one isn't explicit and I'm inclined to read it as a brand-new body.
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pmIn the resurrection, the present body will gain new properties:
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Note that Paul says that the mortal, perishable body must "put on" imperishability and immortality, so that these are properties added to our present bodies. Which is quite different from Tabor's interpretation that the mortal body is essentially discarded in favor of a spirit-body.
Except that's not exactly what Paul says and the difference is crucial. "Perishable" there isn't an adjective applied to any noun, let alone "body," but a noun itself. I think a more accurate translation is something like this:
Therefore this, the perishable must put on the imperishable and this, the mortal must put on immortality.
Perhaps that could mean a mortal, perishable body being clothed in the new properties of being indestructable and immortal, especially on its own, but I don't think that's what it means. I read that as the body itself being the container. Though the mortal body now has gained zoe from the pneuma, that zoe isn't immortal on its own. It will also require a new, immortal container. What was subject to destruction and death before by virtue of being clothed in a destructable and mortal body will now be clothed in a body that is indestructable and immortal.

This in particular makes sense of verse 50, which equates "flesh and blood" with mortality and the ability to be destroyed. Whether the new body is physical or not, it's no longer "flesh and blood." If it's even still the same body afterward in any sense, it's no longer of the same stuff. It's not the same body with new properties, but a completely new body.
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pmIndeed, I think there is more we should discuss in these passages, including your points above about 'dust', 'earth', and Christ as 'spirit'. Before we do, though, I have a question for you: What do you think Paul's opponents at Corinth believed about the after-life?

Tabor has this to say in a separate blog post, which he cites in the post we are reviewing:
Tabor wrote:Some of [Paul's] converts in the city of Corinth were denying the resurrection of the dead. They were most likely thinking along the lines of Plato -- if the immortal soul is freed from the prison of the body at death, why would it ever return to the body?
I think that's exactly right. What do you think?
I think it depends on how Jewish their thinking is. Extrapolating from Paul's arguments, I can see two possibilities.

The first is that the Corinthians that disagree with him don't believe in an afterlife at all as such and have an apocalyptic eschatology in which those that are alive at Christ's parousia will be granted physical immortality in the realm of the living. Under that scenario, I think Paul's opponents actually have a similar view to the one being claimed for Paul, but that's actually the view that he's arguing against.

The other possibility is the idea that the psyche is immortal and transcends death, which sounds like what Tabor is claiming. If that's the case, then that explains Paul's arguments attaching the psyche to the sarka in a way that not only makes them both mortal, but argues that both are corrupt.

Either case would make a different sense of Paul's statement that "if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." The first case is obvious. If there is no afterlife, then Christians can only have hope in this life. In the second, if the psyche is freed to pass beyond the heavens at death no matter what, then in Paul's view, Christianity is meaningless. In that case, Paul is arguing that the psyche is actually corrupt and mortal, but can somehow be replaced with the pneuma of God to offer immortality.
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Re: What did Paul mean by a "spiritual body" in 1 Cor. 15:44?

Post #6

Post by historia »

Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
I think [Paul] knows that what he's saying is confusing, at least in part because he's using very specific definitions that are narrower than even the ones he uses himself.
I appreciate this point, especially because Paul is clearly a rather unique and creative thinker.

But, I do think we run the risk of misinterpreting Paul if we ascribe too many novel definitions to his key terms. At some point we have to stop and ask: Is it really Paul who is using these terms in non-standard ways, or are we just imposing idiosyncratic definitions on Paul in order to accommodate our own interpretation of him?

As already noted above, normally the word soma refers to a physical entity, and pneumatikos doesn't refer to something made of spirit or wind, but Tabor nevertheless urges us to see the soma pneumatikon as some kind of non-physical spirit-body. Likewise, the "resurrection of the dead" in Second Temple Judaism would have typically referred to a return to physical life -- which Tabor elsewhere acknowledges -- but again he urges us to see Paul as arguing for a non-physical resurrection.

All things being equal, it seems to me that we should prefer an interpretation of Paul that doesn't depend so heavily on ad hoc definitions.

But I agree with you that the context here is important. Let's consider Romans 8 again and what Paul's opponents at Corinth may have believed before returning to Paul's contrasting statements in 1 Cor. 15.
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pm
Paul clearly sees the resurrected body as the same physical body we have now restored to life, which he says explicitly in Romans 8:
Romans 8:10-11 wrote:
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
I don't think that's referring to the resurrection. Romans chapters 4 through 13 include numerous references to death, life, and rebirth, at least some of which refer to Christians now and are apparently metaphorical. Even in the verses you quoted, 8:10 looks to me to refer to living, mortal Christians, especially when verse 9 is taken into account. Verse 11 could be part of a side analogy relating life in the Spirit now versus after the resurrection, but I think it more reasonably reads as the Spirit giving "Christian" life now to mortal bodies amid the death due to sin. My reading is that 8:1-11 is all one thought, a statement of the present that is a a prologue to 12-30, the statement of the future.
I don't think those are mutually exclusive interpretations.

As part of this "prologue," as you put it, Paul can refer to the body as being (presently) "dead" because it is subject to death and will in the future die. Likewise, he can speak of the body (possibly also presently) "being given life" by the Spirit because it will in the future be made alive again in the resurrection.

That Paul is ultimately thinking here in terms of the resurrection of the dead, though, is indicated by two things, I think:

First, the repeated reference in vs. 11 to him who "raised Jesus from the dead."

And, second, the subsequent reference to our bodies in vs. 23:
Romans 8:18-23 wrote:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Here, in the "statement of the future," as you put it, Paul is looking forward to the "redemption of our bodies" in the age to come, which I think can only mean the resurrection of the mortal body -- precisely what he was presaging in vs. 11.

Indeed, this and other parts of Paul's writings make it clear that he is looking forward to a restoration of the entire creation (including our mortal bodies), rather than, say, the present creation (including our bodies) being discarded and believers going off to an eternal, non-physical state.
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pm
Tabor wrote:
Some of [Paul's] converts in the city of Corinth were denying the resurrection of the dead. They were most likely thinking along the lines of Plato -- if the immortal soul is freed from the prison of the body at death, why would it ever return to the body?
I think that's exactly right. What do you think?
I think it depends on how Jewish their thinking is. Extrapolating from Paul's arguments, I can see two possibilities.

The first is that the Corinthians that disagree with him don't believe in an afterlife at all as such and have an apocalyptic eschatology in which those that are alive at Christ's parousia will be granted physical immortality in the realm of the living. Under that scenario, I think Paul's opponents actually have a similar view to the one being claimed for Paul, but that's actually the view that he's arguing against.

The other possibility is the idea that the psyche is immortal and transcends death, which sounds like what Tabor is claiming. If that's the case, then that explains Paul's arguments attaching the psyche to the sarka in a way that not only makes them both mortal, but argues that both are corrupt.

Either case would make a different sense of Paul's statement that "if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." The first case is obvious. If there is no afterlife, then Christians can only have hope in this life. In the second, if the psyche is freed to pass beyond the heavens at death no matter what, then in Paul's view, Christianity is meaningless. In that case, Paul is arguing that the psyche is actually corrupt and mortal, but can somehow be replaced with the pneuma of God to offer immortality.
Your first possibility here strikes me as highly unlikely. The fact that Paul can appeal to the Corinthians' belief in Jesus being raised from the dead and their practice of (proxy) baptizing on behalf of the dead makes the suggestion that Paul's opponent at Corinth didn't believe in any after-life at all for the already deceased rather implausible, in my estimation.

Instead, I think Tabor's view and your second suggestion is more likely: There were some at Corinth who, while undoubtably believing in an after-life, just didn't believe in the resurrection of the body, a position widely shared among Greek and Roman people at the time.

But it seems to me that Tabor's interpretation of 1 Cor. 15 is rather odd in light of this admission.

Tabor recognizes (rightly, I think) that Paul believes in some kind of intermediate state between death and the resurrection -- an idea that was also widely held within Second Temple Judaism, and seemingly reflected in Paul's statement in 2 Cor. 5:8 that he would rather be "away from the body and at home with the Lord."

But, whereas many others in Second Temple Judaism believed that the souls of the dead would again be given a (physical) body in the age to come, Tabor argues that Paul believes the the dead will be given a non-physical 'body' (if one can even call it that) in the age to come, which seems unnecessary and redundant if they are already in a non-physical form during this intermediate state. Tabor even admits that "the difference between this idea and that of the Greek notion of the immortal soul is difficult to understand."

Here then I think we actually have what you suggested above: Tabor is ascribing to Paul what his opponents believed! Or, at least, Paul's opponents would not fundamentally object to Tabor's view, as it is functionally similar to their own: In the age to come, believers will live on in a non-physical state, and there will be no resurrection of the body, properly speaking. This can't be Paul's position, then.

Okay, back to 1 Cor. 15:
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pm
Paul also sees the mortal body as being transformed in the resurrection, in the same way a seed transforms into a plant
The question here is what kind of transformation Paul has in mind. Does the new plant retain some vestige of the seed, in particular a physical vestige? In the metaphors that Paul presents here, the seed must be sown and it must die that it may gain a new form, but all Paul says about the transformation itself is that "God gives it a body" as He sees fit. Whether that's the same body transformed or a completely new one isn't explicit and I'm inclined to read it as a brand-new body.
A few thoughts here:

First, Paul begins this whole sequence of arguments about the nature of the resurrected body by saying "What you sow does not come to life unless it dies" (vs. 36), which strongly suggests continuity between the pre- and post-resurrection body. The body that is "sown" is going to "come to life" again in some fashion, rather than being discarded and replaced with a different body altogether.

Second, and in keeping with the first point, Paul's use of egeiro ("raised") throughout these passages strongly suggests continuity between the two bodies as well, since egeiro means 'to arouse' or 'to rise' from a seated or sleeping position. That's an odd term to employ here if the resurrected body is not the same one that went 'down' to 'sleep' in the first place.

Third, Paul's subsequent argument in vs. 39-41 -- pointing out that there are different types of bodies and different types of flesh -- seems unnecessary if he's envisioning a non-physical 'container' somehow composed of spirit. Had Paul really thought you became a spirit in the age to come, it seems to me he would have just said that, and not used the term 'body' or 'resurrection' at all.

But, that aside, his argument here, pointing to examples of different types of flesh and different types of bodies -- all of which are, of course, physical -- suggests to me that he sees the resurrected body as physical too. Just as the sun and moon possess different types of (physical) bodies, so too the resurrected body will differ in quality from the current body, while still being physical.
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
historia wrote: Sun May 22, 2022 11:10 pm
In the resurrection, the present body will gain new properties:
1 Cor. 15:53 wrote:
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Note that Paul says that the mortal, perishable body must "put on" imperishability and immortality, so that these are properties added to our present bodies. Which is quite different from Tabor's interpretation that the mortal body is essentially discarded in favor of a spirit-body.
Except that's not exactly what Paul says and the difference is crucial. "Perishable" there isn't an adjective applied to any noun, let alone "body," but a noun itself. I think a more accurate translation is something like this:

Therefore this, the perishable must put on the imperishable and this, the mortal must put on immortality.
I appreciate that clarification. But I think the NRSV and other translations are correct here to interpret "the perishable" as a reference to the current body for precisely the reason you state:
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
This in particular makes sense of verse 50, which equates "flesh and blood" with mortality and the ability to be destroyed.
Indeed, here's the quote:
1 Cor. 15:50 wrote:
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
As some commentators have suggested, I take this to be a bit of classic Hebrew parallelism on Paul's part. The second half of this sentence is essentially a restatement of the first: So, in that way, "the perishable" refers to "flesh and blood" -- that is, the current, mortal body that is corrupted by sin and subject to death.

So when Paul talks about "the perishable" putting on imperishability, he's referring to something being added to the current, mortal body rather than the mortal body being discarded and replaced by a completely new body.
Difflugia wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 5:16 pm
In a broader sense, Paul seems to think of the psyche as the life-force, the animus in the Latin sense and its relation to words like "animated" and "animal." . . . [W]henever Paul speaks of the eternal life or the life that Jesus now possesses, it's always zoe, never psyche. The spirit gives zoe.

This brings us to sarka, "flesh." My understanding of this is that sarka and psyche aren't exactly synonyms, but are nonetheless inseparable. The psyche is the life force of the sarka. Paul speaks of both psyche and sarka in contrast to pneuma (Romans 7:5-6 and 7:14, for example; note also that pneumatikos here is placed in contrast to sarkinos, "composed of flesh"). Even if those aren't direct antonyms, Paul thinks that they properly contrast each other. What I think is important here is that in contrast to contemporary Greek thought, Paul doesn't think that the psyche is the immortal soul, but is merely the base, animal, animating force of the sarka. To focus on that is to focus on something that is corrupt and will ultimately perish. The sarka and its animating psyche will perish, but the nous may attach itself to the pneuma of God to gain everlasting zoe.
It's funny, here as in so many other parts of your posts, I agree with 95% of what you're saying. But then you seem to take a hard left-turn at the end, which is why I find your interpretation equal parts interesting and perplexing!

To reiterate a point I made last time that seems apropo here: Had Paul described the current body as a soma sarkinon then I think your interpretation would be much stronger. For Paul, sarx carries that negative connotation of flesh that is subject to sin, corruption, and death, often in contrast to spirit.

But he's not talking here about sarx but rather soma, a term that has more neutral and sometimes positive connotations for Paul (cf., Romans 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; 2 Cor. 4:10). As we saw above, for Paul, the body is something to be "redeemed" and "changed," not discarded.

At any rate, I think Paul is thinking more in terms of the whole person and not an immortal soul. And I agree that he likely sees the psyche as the natural, animating life-force, which is why he can refer to the current body as a soma psychikon, a body animated by the psyche. In which case, I would just reiterate that it makes sense then to see the soma pneumatikon as a body animated by pneuma, the Spirit.

Coming back now to your earlier points: Paul can even talk about Adam becoming a living psyche and Jesus becoming a life-giving pneuma (v. 45) since it is psyche and pneuma that gave/give each life. That doesn't, of course, mean that they are only psyche or only pneuma. Adam also had a physical body, of course, and I think Paul sees Christ having a physical (albeit glorified) body as well.

Paul's reference to Adam being "from the earth, a man of dust" and Christ being "from heaven" are where I think your interpretation is the strongest. I just don't think that necessarily entails a physical/non-physical comparison.

Being "from heaven" doesn't mean that the body Christ possess (or that we will possess) is meant for life in heaven. Indeed, Paul's assertion in vs. 50 that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" should not be misread as the assertion that a physical body cannot go to heaven. Rather, the "kingdom of God" here should be understood as the (freed, glorified, yet still physical) creation in the age to come, as in Romans 8. The body corrupted by sin ("flesh and blood") cannot inherit that, but the resurrected (freed, glorified, yet still physical) body can. That body may, like Christ, originate "from heaven," but its destination is the renewed creation.

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