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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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 Afterall, why else raise the book, boast about having “gotten advanced looks,” claim that all other material would be outdated, mention that it uses sources that “most scholars are not even aware of,” if it turns out that Professor Segal actually contradicts his position?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.

Some excerpts:

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.

10 comments:

Layman does make a good quote from Segal :-

' 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."

This is , of course, exactly the position of Carrier's. Hardly a refutation to quote people who agree with him.

Note that the new body is not flesh and blood.

But the Gospels say that the new body *was* flesh and blood, and was not a spiritualised substance.

How could Paul believe that the body would survive death? Paul must have known that some people are burned to ashes during their deaths.

Steve, just admit defeat on this one. It's better than misrepresenting what Segal says. And we both know that he says that Paul believes in a bodily resurrection, while Carrier says he did not.

It is Carrier's position that the body survives death? That the body will be raised and transformed? That is what Segal attributes to Paul. That is what I argue. And that is what Carrier says I am wrong about.

Of COURSE we all believe that the body will undergo radical transformation because the present body is unfit for the Kingdom. But that's the key, Segal and I realize that Paul is talking abou transformation. Carrier is not. As I understand Carrier, he sees NO continuity between the old and the new. If I am wrong about Carrier's argument, please correct me with specific references.

"How could Paul believe that the body would survive death? Paul must have known that some people are burned to ashes during their deaths"

Are you still playing this card? Sad. You think that Paul believed in an all-powerful God of the universe who could make humans from dust but could not reconstitute ashes into a new body? It's a loser, Steve. Find a new racket.

Steve,

Which gospels says Jesus' new body was "flesh and blood"?

Chris

Oh, being made of flesh and bones is a denial of flesh and blood?

As Segal writes 'The Gospel of Luke explicitly denies the very terms which Paul used to describe the resurrected presence of Christ. .' (page 459)

More quotes from segal's book :-

page 442
'...for him, Jesus' resurrected body was a spiritual body (soma pneumatikon). But for the evangelists, Jesus' resurrected body was a literal, physical body revivified.'

Page 431 'The transformed in Christ will have, in short, the same substance as the stars, which are luminous and spiritual in nature.'

Was Jesus andrognous after the resurrection, as Segal says Paul believed? (I have no idea where Segal gets that from, but I bring it up simply to show that segal is not a support for Layman's views)

Segal is convinced that Paul's view of the spiritual nature of Jesus's body clashes with the Gospel's view of the resurrected Jesus - a Jesus of flesh and bones, and presumably blood.

If you think a body reconstituted from ashes scattered by the wind is 'continuity'......

Paul is not consistent in what he says about resurrected bodies (never having seen one, he had nothing to go on), but he does say that God has our new bodies already prepapred in Heaven.

segal says 'They will essential become angels, retaining their bodies, but leaving their fleshly existence behind.'

Did the resurrected jesus have flesh? Did he eat? Was he wounded , as many angels are not?

"Oh, being made of flesh and bones is a denial of flesh and blood?"

It's not the same thing, is it? So the answer is, none of the gospels says that Jesus' new body was made of "flesh and blood." As Pheme Perkins in Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection, explains, "flesh and blood" is "a Semitic expression for human being (as in Gal. 1:16)." Id. at 306. So one is a Semitic idiom and the other appears to be rather unique to Luke.

"As Segal writes 'The Gospel of Luke explicitly denies the very terms which Paul used to describe the resurrected presence of Christ. .' (page 459)"

But as we have seen, Luke uses a different term.

"Was Jesus andrognous after the resurrection, as Segal says Paul believed? (I have no idea where Segal gets that from, but I bring it up simply to show that segal is not a support for Layman's views)"

You do it to avoid the obvious--Carrier trumpeted a source that expressly denies the point he was making in our debate. Carrier denies Paul believed in a bodily resurrection. Segal says Paul did believe in a bodily resurrection.

"Segal is convinced that Paul's view of the spiritual nature of Jesus's body clashes with the Gospel's view of the resurrected Jesus - a Jesus of flesh and bones, and presumably blood."

Yet unlike Carrier, Segal believes that Paul and the Gospels agree that there was continuity between Jesus' original body and his resurrected body.

To state again what should be obvious: Carrier denies Paul believed in a bodily resurrection. This is one of his arguments against the historical resurrection of Jesus. When challenged on this point, Carrier praises a forthcoming book that he got a sneak glimpse at. Carrier trumpets the book as amazing and using sources others don't even know about and completely redefining scholarship on this point. And when I read the point it directly contradicts the argument Carrier was making.

"If you think a body reconstituted from ashes scattered by the wind is 'continuity'......"

It's not about what I believe. It's about what Paul believes. You seem to be saying that no one could believe this, but its been the theology of millions of people for two thousand years now. So obviously it's a very believable position, however silly you may find it to be.

"Paul is not consistent in what he says about resurrected bodies (never having seen one, he had nothing to go on), but he does say that God has our new bodies already prepapred in Heaven."

You're going to have to prove your contentions Steve. Simply saying it (again) isn't going to make it so.

"segal says 'They will essential become angels, retaining their bodies, but leaving their fleshly existence behind.'"

Note the term "become" and the phrase "retaining their bodies." Segal believes, quite clearly, that according to Paul the old body is transformed into something radically new. This is the opposite of what Carrier has argued. Segal affirms Paul's belief in a bodily resurrection. If you read my article on the subject, you'll see that all I have argued for is the belief in continuity between the old and the new:

"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."

Do you agree with this Steve? That Paul believed that resurrection involved the taking of the old body and transforming it into a new body?

And if I remember correctly, Segal actually says that Paul believes that humans will gain an existence superior to the angels.

"Did the resurrected jesus have flesh? Did he eat? Was he wounded , as many angels are not?"

Sure Jesus had flesh. What kind of flesh was it and how it would have looked in comparison to your flesh or my flesh under a microscope I cannot say because I do not know. As for eating, even angels are said to have eaten, so it's obvious that they can. As for wounds, I'm not aware that Jesus was wounded after he gained his new body. But if you are referring to the nail imprints then I'd speculate that Jesus could remove them if he wanted to, but retained them for his own purposes. Afterall, the new body is more capable, not less.

Well done. Although there are disputes, even among Christians, as to the exact nature and construction of the transfored bodies; there is no argument that ressurection means an empty tomb, grave, ocean floor or ash bin. To claim that Paul, Luke or any other New Testament writer believed otherwise is to be intellectually blind to what was written as well as the historical understanding of what was being taught from the days of the early church until now.

Atheists love to talk about the blind faith of Christians, but when we establish that our faith is not blind, they attack with blind faith of their own. I don't know Mr. Carrier, but the three times I have seen anything about what he says I have been, at minimum, unimpressed. Looking at his argument here, I am amazed that he can even call himself intellectually honest. (That is my opinion, Mr. Carrier. I am allowed it. Don't threaten to sue me in one of your infamous rants.)

As for Steve/Anonymous, he doesn't even appear to be reading the quotes he presents. Although I don't think Mr. Segal would agree with a lot of what I believe, I am certain that he takes the position that Paul believed that there was a continuation from original body to transformed heavenly body. I don't know exactly how God is going to accomplish that transformation or wha the changed body will be like. I do know that I can cause incredible change in my human body with a set of weights and a diligent, consistent workout, such that I no longer look the same as I once did. If I can do that, imagine what an all powerful Creator can do to the body He originally designed for better things.

Yours in Christ,

biblemike

When Jesus said that his resurructed body had flesh and bones, Layman pops up to say that that is not the same as saying the body had flesh and blood.....

Such is the sophistry of Christian apologetics that they say that a flesh and bones body is different from a flesh and blood body.

And Steve simply ignores the fact that "flesh and blood" is not a biology lesson, but an idiom for the normal human condition.

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