Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Flesh & Blood Cannot Inherit The Kingdom..." Does Not Equal Disembodiment

The acorn is not the oak tree, but both are physical.

In Corinthians 15:50-54, Paul writes:

"What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will 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 will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and thus mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body put on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled. "Death has been swallowed up in victory.'"

Concerning this passage, N.T. Wright states:

"Here Paul states clearly and emphatically his belief in a body that is to be changed, not abandoned. The present physicality—in all its transience, its decay, and its subjection to weakness, sickness, and death—is not to go on forever, that is what Paul means by saying “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

"The term “flesh” (sarx) is seldom if ever for Paul a merely neutral description of physicality; almost always it carries some hint both of the corruptibility and of the rebelliousness of present human existence. What is required for God’s future state of affairs is what we might call a “noncorruptible physicality”: the dead will be raised “imperishable” and we—that is, those who are left alive until the great day—will be “changed” (1 Cor. 15:52)."

"As the parallel with 2 Corinthians 5 makes clear, Paul envisages the present physical body “putting on” the new body as a new mode of physicality over and above what we presently know. It is not the mere resuscitation of a corpse, coming back into the same mode of physicality it had before, but equally and emphatically it is not disembodiment."

"[In] the most complex part of the chapter, verses, 35 to 49, Paul speaks of the different kinds of physicality between which there exists both continuity and discontinuity. In verses 36 to 38, he uses the analogy of the seed and the plant: there is both continuity and discontinuity between the one and the other. The oak is, and is not, the same thing as the acorn. Then, in verses 39 to 41, he points out that there are different sorts of physicality appropriate for different kinds of creatures each enjoying its peculiar “glory” (doxa)."

"These two points—the analogy of the seed, and the observation that there are different types of physicality—are the basis for the point he then makes in verses 42 to 49; the resurrection body is to the present body somewhat as the plant is to the seed, having a different mode of physicality, differing in its peculiar doxa. Mere specifically, the present body is psychikos (“natural,” KJV), the future resurrection body is pneumatikos (“spiritual,” KJV).

"What does this last distinction mean?"

"A good many people have suggested that Paul here refers to resurrection existence in terms of what we would have to call a “nonphysical” body, in other words, a life beyond the grave that left the grave full, not empty—a view that the NRSV’s mistranslation of psychikos in verses 44 and 46 as “physical” has doubtless encouraged them to hold."
"This, as is now regularly argued by a good many commentators, and almost as regularly admitted even by those who think Paul’s belief was false, is to allow into the argument a hellenistic worldview [Greek dualism, sp] that is totally out of place in this most Jewish of chapters. Paul, remember is contrasting the present body, which is a psychikos, with the future body, which is a pneumatikos."

"Now, since psyche is regularly translated into English as “soul,” we might have assumed, on a strictly hellenistic basis, that Paul would mean that the present body, too, is nonphysical—a “soulish” body! Since that is clearly out of the question, we rightly cake both phrases to refer to an actual physical body, psychikos on the one hand—animated by psychÄ“, “soul”—and pneumatikos on the other—animated by “spirit” (clearly, God’s Spirit)."

"Having established his point, Paul in verses 44 to 49 is concerned to counteract the argument of those who were denying the resurrection: presumably they were saying that the “spiritual body” was created first, and then the “soulish body.” Paul insists that the order is the other way around; first the present “soulish” body and then the future "Spiritual" one. The present body cannot be affirmed forever as it stands, but neither should it be dismissed as irrelevant. It is to be changed, transformed."

"Paul, then, writing in the early 50s and claiming to represent what the whole church believed, insists on certain things about the resurrection of Jesus:"

"One: It was the moment when the creator God fulfilled his ancient promises to Israel, saving them from “their sins,” that is, from their exile. It thus initiated the “last days,” at the end of which the victory over death which was begun at Easter would at last be complete.

Two: It involved the transformation of Jesus’ body: it was, that is to say, neither a resuscitation of Jesus’ dead body to the same sort of life, nor is it an abandonment of that body to decomposition.

Three: It involved Jesus’ being seen alive in a very limited early period, after which he was known as present to the church in a different way.

Four: It was the prototype for the resurrection of all God’s people at the end of the last days.

: it was thus the ground not only for the future hope of Christians, but also for their present work."

"... Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus’ body was transformed into the new mode of physicality."

In his book, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament, John Walton writes:

"There is no such word as 'religion' in the languages of the Near East. Likewise, there is no dichotomy between sacred and secular, or even between natural and supernatural. The only suitable dichotomy is between spiritual and physical, though even that would be a less meaningful distinction to them than it is to us."

Dualism Explained

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