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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Romans 8:11 and Bodily Resurrection

For previous installments in the “Is Richard Carrier Wrong About ....” series, check the post and links, here. In this installment, we turn to Carrier's exegesis of a specific Pauline passage. According to Richard Carrier, one of the most problematic Pauline passages for his two-body resurrection theory is Romans 8:11:

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But 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.

Romans 8:9-11.

The reference to the Spirit giving life to the Christian's mortal body seems a clear statement that the existing, mortal body will be transformed into the resurrection body. This is highly problematic for Richard Carrier's theory that Paul did not believe in the resurrection of the body, but in the creation of a new body, entirely disconnected from the old one.

A Past or Future Event?

To avoid this result, Carrier argues that Romans 8:11 does not refer to the resurrection at all, but only to God's present work in the lives of Christians. According to Carrier, “the context does seem to be our present life, not the resurrection.” The Empty Tomb, page 149. Further, “although Paul does eventually turn his mind to the future, and links our present with it, his discourse up to then is about what is happening to us in the present: God gives life to our bodies now, bodies that will die because they are mortal (the only reason to describe our bodies as such), but because the Spirit in us 'is life' (the entire point of Paul's line of reasoning), we will live—though here he does not specify how. His point throughout is that we must not have any concern for the worldly things that will pass away, meaning everything of flesh.” Id. page 149-50.

Carrier's position is not novel. Pheme Perkins advocated a similar position in Resurrection, New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection. Page 270. Long before Professor Perkins, John Calvin expressed a similar view. Despite the pedigree of the idea, the better understanding of Romans 8:11 is that it refers to the future bodily resurrection of Christians, explicitly stating that it is the present body that will be raised from the dead at the resurrection. This passage, in other words, torpedoes Carrier's theory.

A problem with Carrier's understanding of Romans 8:11 is that the making alive of mortal bodies is stated in the future, not the present, tense. The reference is literally “to make alive” and is in the future tense. Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, at 365. See also Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, page 476 (noting that the Greek for “give life” is in the future tense). In other words, Paul is saying that the Spirit “will make alive” our mortal bodies at some point in the future. This is something that will happen, not that is happening or has happened.

This is especially significant because in the same passage Paul refers to the presence of Christ making “the spirit alive because of righteousness.” This is stated in the present tense. The Spirit has made the Christian alive in the present sense, but there is something that remains to be done. Something that will occur in the future. Although the indwelling Spirit has made Christians alive in a sense, it will also make the Christian's "mortal body” alive at some point in the future. Carrier appears to equate the future event with what has already been accomplished.

Similar Pauline Passages?


Carrier refers to two other Pauline passages that speak of the giving of the Spirit as being related to things occurring in the present. The first is Ephesians 2:1-7:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Eph. 2:1-7.

This passage offers little support for Carrier's reading. As an initial matter, it does not speak about what happens to our “mortal bodies.” Moreover, it uses the past tense to refer to what God has accomplished whereas in Romans 8:11 Paul uses the present tense to refer to the making alive of mortal bodies. In Eph. 2:5, God “made us alive,” with the perfect tense pointing to “the completed action with a continuing result.” F. Rienecker & C. Rogers, op. cit., page 525. In Eph. 2:6, God “raised us up with” Jesus and “seated us with Him.” Both verses 5 and 6 are aorist indicative, meaning they are past actions. In Rom. 8:11, God “will give life to our mortal bodies.” The tense is future, meaning this is something that has not happened yet but will. This suggests the general resurrection at the Parousia. As stated by Joseph Fitzmyer, “The fut. tense express the role of the vivifying Spirit in the eschatological resurrection of Christians.” Joseph Fitzmyer, Romans, page 491.

Next, Carrier refers to Colossians 2:13.

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions....

Colossians 2:13.

Carrier's use of this passage suffers from similar deficiencies as the previous one. It uses the aorist indicative (indicating the past tense). Moreover, it does not refer to God's actions on “our mortal bodies.” While in Col. 2:13, Paul writes about God giving life to the Christian believer in a sense other than the resurrection of the body, the tense is aorist and the mood indicative, meaning this is something that has been accomplished. God “made you alive," whereas in Romans 8:11 God “will give life” to the mortal bodies. The two differences, therefore, are when the action happens (in the past versus the future) and to what it happened (the person versus the body).

Jesus' Resurrection and Our Own

Carrier does not adequately explain Paul's close association of Jesus' resurrection with that of the Christian's: “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” v. 11. Because Paul has linked the making alive of mortal bodies with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it would seem natural to conclude that he refers to the resurrection of the body. Not according to Carrier. Carrier claims that the point of comparison is not with the resurrection of Jesus, but with “the giving of the Spirit.” Id. at 149.

More accomplished scholars, however, recognize that that Paul links Jesus' resurrection with that of the Christian in Romans 8:11.

[T]he emphatic repetition of 'him [God] who raised Christ from the dead,' as a way of identifying the indwelling Spirit, is probably intended as a deliberate reiteration of the closeness between Christ's resurrection and ours—his being the ground of ours, as Paul has made abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 15.

Gordon D. Fee, God's Empowering Presence, page 552.

Fee's point is well taken. Paul twice states that the Spirit's raising of Jesus from the dead just before explaining that the same Spirit will give life to the mortal bodies of Christians. The role of the Spirit is obviously important, but Paul uses the specific example of the Spirit's role in raising Jesus from the dead because he is introducing the resurrection of Christian bodies to his train of thought.

Furthermore, in other passages where Paul compares God's raising of the Jesus from the dead to the state of Christians, he clearly is referring to resurrection. These passages are much more instructive as to Paul's meaning in Romans 8:11 than those offered by Carrier.

* 1 Cor. 6:14 -- “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” Note that God “will also raise us up” is stated in the future tense, as in Romans 8:11, but not in the verses provided by Carrier.

* 2 Cor. 4:14 -- “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” Again, the raising of the Christian is stated in the future tense.

* 1 Thess. 4:14-- “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” The “will bring” Christians up with Jesus is also stated in the future tense.

These three verses link Jesus' resurrection, an event that has happened, with the resurrection of the Christians, stated in the future tense. This is the same pattern as in Romans 8:11 substantively and grammatically and unlike what is found in the examples offered by Carrier.

In conclusion, it appears there is no good reason to read this passage in the way Carrier suggests. Paul refers to the resurrection of the "mortal bodies" of Christians at a point in the future. This directly contradicts Carrier's theory that Paul did not believe in the resurrection of the body but in the elimination of the old body and the creation of a new one. Paul believed that the mortal body the Christian currently possess will be given life, freed from the bondage of death.

9 comments:

'If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.'

Why did Paul claim the body was dead, when these Christians were obviously alive, or else they could not have read the letter?

'The better understanding of Romans 8:11 is that it refers to the future bodily resurrection of Christians, explicitly stating that it is the present body that will be raised from the dead at the resurrection.'

It does not EXPLICITLY say that.



Why do Christians lie so much?

Even the article has to backtrack and say 'The tense is future, meaning this is something that has not happened yet but will. This SUGGESTS the general resurrection at the Parousia.'

In other words, there is no EXPLICIT mention of a resurrection in Romans 8:11, it is all in Layman's mind.

And , of course, the passages in 1 Corinthians 6 that Layman mentions do not mention raising 'mortal bodies' at all, a point Layman eagerly seized upon when he talked about Ephesians.

'Carrier's use of this passage suffers from similar deficiencies as the previous one.... it does not refer to God's actions on “our mortal bodies.”

Guess what? Neither do the texts Layman drags out to try to link resurrection with Romans 8:11.

Let us look at 1 Cor.6:14

“Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.”

I can do little better than quote Layman himself, ' As an initial matter, it does not speak about what happens to our “mortal bodies.”

Layman throws around sand by pointing out that 'mortal bodies' is not in Ephesians, and then cool as you like, he quotes passages where Paul goes out of his way to avoid saying that the present body is raised.

Paul preached the destruction of the body, not its restoration.

'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.'

Layman writes 'Paul refers to the resurrection of the "mortal bodies" of Christians at a point in the future.'

Paul talks about the destruction of the present body, the earthly tent that we leave when we move into the heavenly residence.


There is an interesting point in the Christian Cadre article 'According to Richard Carrier, one of the most problematic Pauline passages for his two-body resurrection theory is Romans 8:11....'

Guess what? Layman denies that any passage whatever in the Bible are problematic for his view that Christians taught that a corpse left the ground.

I wonder why Carrier can concede that some passages are problematic, yet true scholars like Layman cannot.

Layman - "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.'

Steven Carr - Why did Paul claim the body was dead, when these Christians were obviously alive, or else they could not have read the letter?


Steven, do you ever wonder why no one takes you seriously? I mean, really. You have been arguing these things long enough that some Christian understandings should have sunk in, haven't you? Yet, then you type something as completely silly as this.

Paul is not talking to a bunch of zombies. Isn't that obvious? Of course the people were physically alive at that time. Isn't it obvious that he is using non-literal language? He is talking about the fact that the body, which is the fleshly existence on Earth, is doomed to die -- hence, it is dead. But because the Christians are followers of Christ and thus will have eternal life with Him, their spirits are alive.

Good grief . . . .

Layman,

With respect to your series "Is Richard Carrier Wrong About. . .", my immediate reaction is alwasys "of course." However, it's nice of you to actually take the time to explain why.

Steve,

If I wanted to lie about what the passage said I would not have quoted it and the surrounding passages in full. If you think "explicit" is too strong, try "crystal clear."

Even the article has to backtrack and say 'The tense is future, meaning this is something that has not happened yet but will. This SUGGESTS the general resurrection at the Parousia.

You do realize that the future tense is only part of the argument for this being a reference to the resurrection? The reference of giving life to a mortal body is the other part. And yes, together I think they make an even stronger, “crystal clear” reference to bodily resurrection.

What do you think the implication is of the lack of a reference to "mortal bodies" in the three passages I note are better parallels to Rom. 8:11 than Carrier's? It would appear that, since no one disputes that 1 Cor. 6:14, 2 Cor. 4:14, and 1 Thess. 4:14 refer to the resurrection, the case for Romans 8:11 is all the stronger. Not only does it refer to a future event, relates that future event to Jesus' resurrection, speaks of that future event as giving life to the Christian, but it explicitly says that all of this involves the giving of life to the "mortal body." In other words, the evidence is even stronger that Rom. 8:11 speaks of a resurrection than the three passages you concede do as well.

Remember, Carrier's point is not just to deny that 8:11 is a reference to bodily resurrection, but to deny that it is a reference to any kind of resurrection at all. I cite the three verses I do to prove that 8:11 is a reference to resurrection. Once that is established, I think even Carrier would admit defeat on this passage (though he may try and cast it off as Paul holding contradictory beliefs). Because once we concede that 8:11 refers to the resurrection, we must admit that it involves the "giving of life" to our "mortal bodies." Which is a crystal clear reference to bodily resurrection not in the two-stage theory advocated by Carrier or your "spirit is released" approach.

Paul preached the destruction of the body, not its restoration.

He could preach both. Death and decay obviously could be couched in terms of he destruction of the body.

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.'

This is a reference to the possibility of persecution resulting in the death of the Christian. Chapter 4 goes into detail about this. Paul is not here commenting on the process God undertakes when he raises a body from the dead. Carrier seems to think he vaporizes the old body and gives a completely new one. But even here Paul writes of continuity between the old and new. In verse 4 Paul speaks of not wanting to be “unclothed” -- separated from his body – but rather to have “what is mortal swallowed up by immortality.” Paul is likely referring to being alive when Jesus returns. But I think this is still problematic for your theory and probably for Carrier's.

Paul talks about the destruction of the present body, the earthly tent that we leave when we move into the heavenly residence.

If by destruction you mean death, I agree. If by destruction you mean being completely subsumed into something new, I agree. But if you mean some sort of vaporizing, I'm going to need more evidence than you have provided. If Paul thinks the process is merely moving into a heavenly residence when we die, what do you think is meant by his reference to a period of being unclothed? Clearly he means a time when the spirit is without a body at all. True, the believer will again be given a body at a later time after death, but for a time he has none. Obviously, something more is happening than simply the spirit being liberated from the body. What Carrier has done – I think – is tried to explain this as the giving of a second body. The weakness in this theory is that it rests on faulty exegesis of Paul and manufactured examples of comparable beliefs in Paul's time when there appears to have been none.

Actually, I doubt that this is a passage about resurrection at all. The power is the power that raised Jesus, it doesn't mean that it is the only function of the power. The body is dead because of sin, thus the power that raised Jesus literally from the dead is more than capable of raising our figuratively dead bodies.

I actually prefer Carr's reading, here although I don't know why he has to lie (and pretend a reading is a lie).

I'm a Christian and I don't believe in bodily resurrection as an article of faith, so I am equally dubious that this "proves" bodily resurrection.

Layman said "Long before Professor Perkins, John Calvin expressed a similar view. "


Calvin said the following: "Equally monstrous is the error of those who imagine that the soul, instead of resuming the body with which it is now clothed, will obtain a new and different body"
(http://thereignofchrist.com/calvin-speaks-from-the-grave-on-ibd-view/)

What do you mean he expressed a similar view? Or do you refer to his interpretation of Rom 8:11?

++++++

Layman said "Pheme Perkins advocated a similar position in Resurrection, New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection. Page 270. "

If you have the book could you quote the text here?? I am very curious of how Pheme explains the passage.

++++

Thanks you,
Patrick

Patrick,

I thought it was clear. Do you really think I mean to suggest that the leading Protestant theologian of all time rejected the doctrine of bodily resurrection?
To clarify, if such is needed, I meant the latter: Calvin's interpretation of this particular passage in Romans 11.

Yes, I have the text from Perkins.

"The first section of the chapter comes to its conclusion by tying the Spirit operative in Christian life to the risen Lord. Verse 11 begins with the description of the Spirit dwelling in the Christian according to the kerygmatic formula, God is the one who raised Christ from the dead (Rom 4:24f). The Spirit 'makes alive our mortal bodies.' At this point in the paraenesis the 'making alive' is that which enables the Christian to walk in the life of the Spirit. Later, the 'new life' will refer to the future. This reservation is typical of Pauline paraenesis. The Christian manifests the lordship of Jesus by walking in the Spirit now."

Pheme Perkins, Resurrection, New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection, pages 269-70.

Thanks for the reply Layman,

I was able to find Calvin's quote online:

"by mortal bodies he understands all those things which still remain in us that are subject to death; for his usual practice is to give this name to the grosser part of us. We hence conclude that HE SPEAKS NOT OF THE LAST RESURRECTION, which shall be in a moment, BUT OF THE CONTINUED WORKING OF THE SPIRIT, by which he gradually mortifies the relics of the flesh and renews in us a celestial life."

Thank you again for posting Perkins remarks.

Layman, looking over these verses again, it does seem a future resurrection is the preferred interpretation. A review of Romans 6:9-14, the only other location in the New Testament where Paul uses the phrase “your mortal bodies” (although singular in chapter 6), may give support to Carrier's (and Calvin's) interpretation.

Rom 6:11 Likewise RECKON ye also YOURSELVES TO BE DEAD INDEED UNTO SIN, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in YOUR MORTAL BODY, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Rom 6:13 Neither YIELD ye YOUR MEMBERS as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but YIELD YOURSELVES unto God, as those that are ALIVE FROM THE DEAD, and YOUR MEMBERS as instruments of RIGHTEOUSNESS unto God.

Both passages seem to focus on not following after the flesh, although the two use different terminologies. In chapter 6 Paul says “our old man is crucified” & “let not sin reign in your mortal body,” while in chapter 8 Paul says “we are debtors, not to the flesh.” Paul’s appeal to “reckon YOURSELVES to be DEAD indeed unto SIN” in chapter 6 is equivalent to his additional appeals to “let not SIN…reign in your MORTAL BODY,” as well as “neither yield ye YOUR MEMBERS as instruments of UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.” In addition to NOT YIELDING TO SIN, Paul concludes that Christians should “YIELD YOURSELVES unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and YOUR MEMBERS as instruments of RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

IF reckoning yourselves as “DEAD” (Rom 6:13…”from the dead”) is equated to NOT YIELDING the “members” of the mortal body as instruments of unrighteousness, it seems logical that being “ALIVE” from sin can be equated to the YIELDING of the “members” of the mortal body as instruments of righteousness. Therefore the “mortal body” is made alive (Rom 6:13…”as they that are alive,” Rom 8:11 “quicken your mortal bodies”), by yielding the members of this mortal body to God’s service.

The future tense of “shall also quicken” in Romans 8:11 can be explained by the continual yielding of the members of the mortal body to God (Rom 6:13), made possible only after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11).

Just a thought...Patrick

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