According to Alan Segal, recommended to me on the subject by Richard Carrier, Carrier is Wrong: Paul Believed in a Bodily Resurrection
About a year and a half ago I wrote this article, which argues that Paul believed that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave and that Christians would be bodily raised from the dead:
[T]here there is some level of continuity between the body of Jesus or the dead Christian and their respective new body. I do not address how much continuity there was between old or new, or whether the new body was made out of the same stuff as the old. I will use the terms simply: a physical resurrection results in the original body missing from the grave, a spiritual resurrection has no affect on the original body.
As the article mentions, one of the commentators I was responding directly to was Richard Carrier of the Secular Web, who argues that Paul sees no continuity between the body of Jesus and the risen Jesus. According to Carrier, Paul and the early Christians did not believe in a “physical resurrection” but only a “spiritual resurrection.”
I posted a link to my article on the Secular Web and generated 157 responses. Richard Carrier was one of those who responded, albeit briefly. It was in this thread that Carrier brought up Alan Segal’s new book on western views on the afterlife, Life after Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion:
Incidentally, the ultimate sourcebook that will redefine scholarship in this area is Alan Segal's new book, Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion due out by early next year, but already open to pre-sale on Amazon. No discussion of this issue will be up-to-date without reading it, once it is available. It covers and synthesizes material I know most scholars aren't even aware of. I'm in a privileged position of having gotten advanced looks, which is why I can say it is a must-read here. I expect it will come to press well before my chapter does.
When I read Carrier’s comments I thought there might be something in this book which supported his position. Afterall, why else raise the book, boast about having “gotten advanced looks,” claim that all other material would be outdated, mention that it uses sources that “most scholars are not even aware of,” if it turns out that Professor Segal actually contradicts his position? Whether he meant to or not, Carrier left me with the impression that Segal would prove me wrong and show how Paul did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
I have read Professor Segal’s book, Paul the Convert, and found him to be a fine scholar with some good insight into Paul’s Jewishness. So I took Carrier’s recommendation to heart and have now bought Life after Death and read -- among other parts -- the chapter on Paul. To my sincere surprise, far from lending any support to Carrier’s arguments about the absence of a bodily resurrection, Segal reaches the same conclusion that I do. Paul believed the body of Jesus was raised from the dead and transformed into a radically different body. So too would become of Christians who had already died at the time of Jesus’ return. Continuity with transformation. Not a “spiritual resurrection,” but a physical, bodily one.
Paul’s views on resurrection “put Paul in the same category as the apocalypticists who first recorded the notion of bodily resurrection.” Segal, Life after Death, page 412.
"The body of the believer eventually is to be transformed together with and combined into the body of Christ. The believer's body is to be changed into the same spiritual body of glory as that of the savior." Ibid., page 419.
"All of this suggests that the body of believers would be refashioned into the glorious body of Christ.... It all depends on a notion of body that is a new spiritualized substance, a new body which is not flesh and blood, which cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." Ibid., page 420.
"The Greeks believed that the body was destined for destruction. But Paul did not follow through with a Platonic analysis of the immortality of the soul. Instead, he stayed in the apocalytpic-mystical world of Judaism, defending and sharpening that notion in view of the Greek assumptions about the continuity of life after death. Paul immediately suggested that the body will survive death, for it belongs to the Lord. God will raise it in glory and perfection by means of the spirit, just as he raised up the body of Jesus, who is even now in his spiritual state." Ibid., page 423.
On the differences between a "spiritual body" and a natural body": "For Paul, life in its most basic sense, psychic life, was also bodily life. 'Pneumatic,' spiritual life is bodily as well, though Paul immediately reiterated that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). The psychic body is the ordinary body (flesh and soul); the soma pnematikon is the ordinary body subsumed and transformed by the spirit." Ibid., page 430.
Obviously, Segal’s conclusions on the nature of the resurrected body match my own. Paul believed in continuity between the old body of Jesus (and his followers) and the new body of Jesus (and his followers). The resurrection of the dead will leave behind empty tombs and graves, but those bodies will be transformed into dynamically different bodies. I’m not sure just what Carrier believed Segal had to say that would have supported his position on this.