Is Carrier Wrong about Origen and Paul?

This is a continuation of CADRE blog responses to Richard Carrier's chapter in The Empty Tomb, which argues that Paul believed in a two-body resurrection that entailed the original body remaining in the tomb while a brand new body unrelated to the old was given to the Christian. For links to previous posts on the subject, go here. For now, I address Carrier's arguments concerning Origen and Paul.

Does it Matter what Origen Believed?

According to Carrier, “the great Christian scholar Origen understood Paul’s resurrection doctrine as I do.” That is, Carrier claims that Origen believed that Paul described a resurrection process whereby the old body remains in the grave and the Christian (and by necessary implication, Jesus) is given a completely new body, with no continuity between the two. If this was truly Origen’s understanding, it is left unclear why this would lend any support to Carrier’s novel theory. Origen was not even born until about 130 years after Paul wrote his letters. His extant writings date from 150 to 200 years thereafter. So it is not as if Origen was Paul’s contemporary. Additionally, Origen is not remembered for his skill in recovering an author’s original intent, but because he was an imaginative innovator.

So even if Carrier is right and Origen believed Paul affirmed a two-body resurrection theory, the question presents itself: so what?

How Do We Know What Origen Believed?

Whether or not Origen can be a guide to Paul's original meaning, is Carrier correct about Origen’s views?

The first step is to figure out what Origen really thought about the resurrection. This presents a challenge. According to Carrier, “[Origen] was branded a heretic, his treatise on the resurrection was destroyed, and many of his other statements on the resurrection were ‘revised’ with the ascendant orthodoxy.” In a footnote, Carrier notes that the Latin translations by Rufinus revised Origen in more orthodox traditions but that “[N.T.] Wright uncritically accepts the Rufinus text as Origen’s.”

Carrier’s assertions are somewhat misleading. First, as to Origen’s being “branded a heretic,” this occurred long after his death:

A common misperception today is that, during his lifetime, Origen was excommunicated from the church as a heretic. The available evidence does not, however, support this claim. . . . Origen spent the remainder of his life as a presbyter at Caesarea in Palestine, where he publicly preached and taught. He also defended the church against heretics and pagan accusers. He died in the communion of the church as a confessor, having endured excruciating tortures for Christ during the Decian persecution.

A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, ed. David W. Bercot, page 486.

Origen was not deemed a heretic until three hundred years later, in 553. His works were widespread by then. Not all survived the intervening two thousand years – as happened with even “orthodox” scholars – but many did. And not, as Carrier suggests, only in questionable Latin translations. For example, Origen’s On Prayer, On Martyrdom, Commentary on Matthew, and – most importantly – Against Celsus, survive in Greek manuscripts unmediated by Rufinus or any other Latin translator. (Although Carrier never makes this point, he is surely aware of this given his citations of Greek terms from Against Celsus).

Furthermore, Carrier simply picks out one passage from Against Celsus and proclaims it among the most trustworthy statements to have survived. No clue is given as to why this particular passage is so privileged. Indeed, it seems that Carrier simply writes off any passage from Origen that might be troublesome for his theory.

While Carrier is dismissive of Rufinus’ translation of First Principles, other scholars seem more balanced in their approach. Scholars have done careful studies analyzing Rufinius’ translation have shown that he tended to correct Origen’s “theological formulations related to the Trinity,” but that “we still have, along with the basic shape and content of the book, a faithful picture of Origen’s cosmology and eschatology.” W. Trigg, Origen (The Early Church Fathers), page 18. Resurrection is a part of eschatology. Additionally, later discoveries of Greek portions of Origen’s Commentary on Romans showed that "Rufinus' Latin translation was not as bad as has sometimes been supposed." Edgar J. Goodspeed, revised by Michael Grant, A History of Early Christian Literature, page 142. Scholars no longer seem as suspicious as they used to. According to a leading Origen scholar, “Most scholars today agree that the translations of Rufinus which used to be so suspect do not deserve this rejection.” Origen, Spirit & Fire, ed. Hans Urs von Balthasar, trns. Roberty J. Daly, S.J., page 21.

In light of this, what is to be made of Carrier’s complete dismissal of N.T. Wright’s discussion of Origen because Wright “uncritically” accepts Rufinus text? It too is misleading. Wright references First Principles only four times but cites Against Celsus 25 times, along with numerous citations to secondary works by critical scholars of Origen. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, pages 518-27. Indeed, Wright’s secondary citations are to works – such as Caroline Bynam’s Resurrection of the Body of the Body in Western Christianity, quoted by Carrier himself – that discuss the textual and translation issues related to Origen and reach conclusions about which are most trustworthy. Carrier’s dismissal of Wright, therefore, is off the mark.

Here is the one passage Carrier quotes at any length:

To be in any physical location, the soul, in its very nature bodiless and invisible, must have a body suitable in nature to that place. So it strips off from itself the former body which it carries here, which was once necessary but is then superfluous to its second life, and puts on another there, over what it had before, needing a superior garment for the purer, ethereal, celestial places.

Against Celsus, 7.32.

This language, as well as the other snippets mentioned by Carrier, are consistent with the traditional understanding that Paul speaks of a body transformed into a new and improved body. It does not negate continuity nor require a two-body theory. Elsewhere Origen is clear that there is continuity between old and new. In fact, in the passage by Carrier, Origen refers to a baby’s exchanging one body for another as it is born. Obviously there is continuity in this example, just as with death and resurrection. Note also that the portion cited by Carrier refers to putting on the new "over what it had before."

Other References from Against Celsus

Other references from Against Celsus reinforce the understanding of Origen that he affirmed a transformed body, a mixture of contintuity with discontinuity.

First, Origen defends the Gospel narratives about the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. Though he could have simply defended them as allegory – as he does with other touchy historical challenges – Origen takes pains to defend the accounts as accurate. When Celsus claims the Gospels accounts contradict each other about the number of angels present, Origen explains that the reports are accurate because they are referring to two separate appearances. Against Celsus, 5.58. Indeed, Origen stressed that as a matter of history, the tomb was rolled away so that all could see that Jesus' body was gone and that he had truly been raised from the dead:

but the "Angel of God" who came into the world for the salvation of men, with the help of another angel, proved more powerful than the conspirators, and rolled away the weighty stone, that those who deemed the Word to be dead might be convinced that He is not with the "departed," but is alive, and precedes those who are willing to follow Him, that He may manifest to them those truths which come after those which He formerly showed them at the time of their first entrance (into the school of Christianity)

Against Celsus, 5.58.

Clearly, Origen believed that Jesus’ body was resurrected and the tomb left empty. See also Against Celsus, 1.51. It is problematic, therefore, to suppose that Origen believed Paul used the resurrection of Jesus as an example for Christians unless he believed their tombs would be empty too. In other words, the empty tomb of Jesus is strong evidence against Carrier’s reconstruction of Origen’s resurrection belief. That Origen saw Jesus' empty tomb as an example of what Christians could expect at their later resurrections is confirmed by Origen's reference to the empty tomb being a precedent for those who would follow Jesus.

Second, while defending the narrative of the skeptical Thomas, Origen emphasizes that Jesus really showed Thomas the wounds in his hands and side: “Jesus accordingly, having called Thomas, said, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.’” Against Celsus, 2.61.

Origen defends the historicity of passages that most emphasize the continuity of Jesus’ earthly and resurrected bodies. Jesus’s body is very different, but the wounds prove that this body was in some sense related to the body that Jesus had before his resurrection.

Third, Origen accuses Celsus of playing the fool about Christian belief so as to facilitate his attacks. Celsus apparently portrayed Christians as believing in the raising up of a corpse. But Christians agree that it is not the “same” body that is resurrected because that body must undergo transformation into something better during the resurrection.

Neither we, then, nor the holy Scriptures, assert that with the same bodies, without a change to a higher condition, "shall those who were long dead arise from the earth and live again;" for in so speaking, Celsus makes a false charge against us.

Against Celsus, 5.18.

And in the next passage:

God, then, gives to each thing its own body as He pleases: as in the case of plants that are sown, so also in the case of those beings who are, as it were, sown in dying, and who in due time receive, out of what has been "sown," the body assigned by God to each one according to his deserts.

Against Celsus, 5.19.

The new body arises out of the old. It is “changed” to a “higher condition.” This is obviously not a discussion of the soul, for Origen like Paul believes in the intermediate state in which the soul survives death. It is the body that dies and is sown, and out of which the new body is formed. Moreover, Origen is referring to the general resurrection of all here, not just the specific example of Jesus.

And a few passages later:

We, therefore, do not maintain that the body which has undergone corruption resumes its original nature, any more than the gain of wheat which has decayed returns to its former condition. But we do maintain, that as above the gain of wheat there arises a stalk, so a certain power is implanted in the body, which is not destroyed, and from which the body is raised up in incorruption.

Against Celsus, 5.23.

Origen explains that the body is not raised as it was originally, but in a new state. Just as a seed falls to the ground and seems to dissolve and from it grows a plant, so the new body is buried, decays, and out of it a new body grows.

The Body in Flux

It must be admitted that Origen tempts misunderstanding at first glance because unlike some of his predecessors, he is not obsessed with explaining how every piece of the old body is retained by the new. Some Jewish and Christian thinkers obsessed over how God could assemble every piece of a person long dead, going so far so even as to worry about cannibalism. Origen did not see this as a problem because he recognized that the human body is constantly undergoing transformation throughout its life. Here is how he puts it:

Because each body is held together by [virtue] of a nature that assimilates into itself from without certain things for nourishment and, corresponding to the things added, it excretes other things…., the material substratum is never the same. For this reason, river is not a bad name for the body since, strictly speaking, the initial substratum in our bodies is perhaps not the same for even two days.

Yet the real Paul or Peter, so to speak, is always the same—[and] not merely in [the] soul, whose substance neither flows through us nor has anything ever added [to it] – even if the nature of the body is in a state of flux, because the form characterizing the body is the same, just as the features constituting the corporeal quality of Peter and Paul remain the same. According to this quality, not only scars from childhood remain on the bodies but also certain other peculiarities, [like] skin blemishes and similar things….

And just as we would … need to have gills and other endowments of fish if it were necessary for us to live underwater in the sea, so those who are going to inherit the kingdom of heaven and be in superior places must have spiritual bodies. The previous form does not disappear, even if its transition to the more glorious state occurs, just as the form of Jesus, Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration was not a different one than what it had been….

Fragment on Psalm, 1.5.

Origen saw the body as in a constant state of material flux, not the same from day to day even. Yet there is something he calls the form – perhaps a crude forerunner of the notion of DNA – that is continuous. In the resurrection, this state of flux continues but even the form is transformed into a more glorious state. Yet there is continuity as the form “does not disappear” but “transitions” to a more glorious state. As Bynum states, “body, as Origen understands it, changes in life, therefore it certainly changes after death.” Bynum, op. cit., page 65.

In sum, Origen speaks of discontinuity but also continuity. His defense of the empty tomb and the value he places on it as an example of the general resurrection of Christians strongly indicates that he believed in the resurrection of the body rather than an exchange with no continuity. He goes so far as to defend the story of Jesus appearing to Thomas and showing his scars, again stressing that there was continuity at some level between old and new. Moreover, when responding to attacks by Celsus, Origen stressed that Christians believed that the old body would be "changed" and greatly improved in preparation for its new domain. Origen's belief of the body as being in a state of flux actually reinforces the view that he believed in continuity between old and new, though it highlights how radical Origen viewed the transformation to be.


Jason Pratt said…
Well, to be fair, Origen tempts misunderstanding by how he phrases that one place Richard rests so much weight on; for Origen also says "So it [i.e. the soul] strips off from itself the former body which it carries here".

Consequently, the paragraph in question may be read, with some legitimacy, as meaning that the soul puts on another life, over _the life of the soul_ that it had before. (I wonder though whether the translation of 'soul' really is from 'psuche'. That would be interesting and ironic, since the 'soulish' body is what Paul is contrasting to the 'spiritual' body in 1 Cor 15!)

That being said, the many other references make clear that even if Origen was being 'imaginatively innovative' in that one passage--which seems unlikely due to the baby's body analogy nearby it (Origen could hardly have thought the baby's former body remained behind in the womb to decay--could he?)--he usually understood and defended the transformation of the original body into something new, elsewhere.

So, a very decent smiting all around, methinks. {g}
Steven Carr said…
'In fact, in the passage by Carrier, Origen refers to a baby’s exchanging one body for another as it is born.'

Exchanging? You will have to explain how you exchange one body for another. Has it anything to do with a process of exchange?

Origen writes 'When it comes into the world at birth, it casts off the integuments which it needed in the womb; and before doing this, it puts on another body suited for its life upon earth.'

So the placenta is discarded, not transformed.

And Jason is right, the translation of 'soul' is from 'psyche'.

Carrier points out how Origen's use differs from Paul's use of 'psyche'.

Laywer Layman quotes Bynum, but does not let his readers know that Carrier also quoted Bynum, who wrote 'Latin translations ... revise him (Origen) in directions his fourth-century editor Rufinus considered to be more orthodox'.

I'm sure Layman is a very good lawyer.

Layman quotes Book 2 Chapter 61.

He doesn't quote the very next chapter 'And truly, after His resurrection, He existed in a body intermediate, as it were, between the grossness of that which He had before His sufferings, and the appearance of a soul uncovered by such a body.'

The body has moved from 'grossness' , but the perfect state is a soul not covered by the previous body.

And Layman quotes 5.18, but does not quote the next chapter, where Origen pours scorn on the common people who believe Paul was talking about a bodily resurrection, and writes - 'Our hope, then, is not the hope of worms, nor does our soul long for a body that has seen corruption'

Worms hope for a corpse to feed on, but Origen does not believe the sould wants a corpse back.

But I grow weary of putting back the context Layman leaves out of his hatchet-jobs on Carrier...
Layman said…

No doubt. Origen can be more tricky than most authors because he is such an imaginative theologian and exegete. But right after speaking of stripping off, he speaks of putting on over "what it had before."

And as you say, the rest of his writings weigh the balance in favor of understanding Origen as referring to a transformation of the old into the new. It must be admitted of course that Origen's views on this emphasized the nature of the transformation to a much greater degree than any of his contemporaries, and perhaps even forerunners until you get back to Paul, but he clearly did believe in some aspect of continuity. More important, he believed in the empty tomb.
Steven Carr said…
What did Methodius , who died about AD 311 think of Origen?

'Origen therefore thinks that the same flesh will not be restored to the soul, but that the form of each, according to the appearance by which the flesh is now distinguished, shall arise stamped upon another spiritual body; so that every one will again appear the same form; and that this is the resurrection which is promised.'

So when Jesus appeared to Thomas, the appearance of the old Jesus was stamped upon *another* body, and the flesh had not been restored.

Methodious makes clear that that is what Origen believed - ' Then, after a little, he says: If then, O Origen, you maintain that the resurrection of the body changed into a spiritual body is to be expected *only in appearance*, and put forth the vision of Moses and Elias as a most convincing proof of it; saying that they appeared after their departure from life, preserving no different appearance from that which they had from the beginning; in the same way will be the resurrection of all men. But Moses and Elias arose and appeared with this form of which you speak, before Christ suffered and rose.'

Even to this day, believers in bodily resurrection struggle to say how Moses rose from the grave at the Transfiguration, or how he could appear bodily , while his body was still in the grave.

People living close to Origen's time knew what Origen believed, even if Layman doesn't.

Methodius writes ' Now the followers of Origen bring forward this passage, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved," and so forth, to disprove the resurrection of the body....',
Layman said…

You have failed to explain why – even if Carrier is right about Origen’s beliefs – it matters one wit in understanding what Paul meant when he wrote about resurrection.

You fail to explain why – in the passage cited by Carrier – Origen says that the soul will put the new body on “over what it had before” if he did not believe in some continuity between old and new bodies.

You fail to explain why Origen defends the historicity of the empty tomb and proclaims it as THE evidence of the resurrection, thus defining resurrection by the absence of the original body.

You fail to explain why Origen takes the empty tomb and uses it as an example of what Christians will experience in the future.

You fail to explain why Origen responds to Celsus’ attack about raising a corpse by saying that Christians believed that the body would be changed to a higher condiction.

You fail to explain why Origen states that there is something in the body that causes the body to be raised up in incorruption.

So, let us get to what you do have to say.

Exchanging? You will have to explain how you exchange one body for another. Has it anything to do with a process of exchange?

Origen writes 'When it comes into the world at birth, it casts off the integuments which it needed in the womb; and before doing this, it puts on another body suited for its life upon earth.'

So the placenta is discarded, not transformed.

As Jason pointed out, there is continuity between the baby before and after birth, though some part is left behind. I admit that Origen was not hung up on explaining how every particle of a person was restored during the resurrection. I suspect he is much like Paul in this. Origen also wanted to emphasize that the portion of the body that was corrupt was left behind and had no place in the new. Perhaps as the placentia was left behind because it was not needed in the new life.

And Jason is right, the translation of 'soul' is from 'psyche'.

Carrier points out how Origen's use differs from Paul's use of 'psyche'.

I am skeptical of Carrier's success in this description, but did not see how it was relevant to the issue I was addressing.

Laywer Layman quotes Bynum, but does not let his readers know that Carrier also quoted Bynum, who wrote 'Latin translations ... revise him (Origen) in directions his fourth-century editor Rufinus considered to be more orthodox'.

First, I do not make a single reference to any Latin translation. All my references are to the surviving Greek works of Origen.

Second, there is a lot that Bynum wrote that I did not quote. I was not doing an extensive book review.

Third, I did quote from more specific references about what it was that Rufinius was most likely to have "adjusted" and noted that it did not include resurrection. That his translation was somewhat free is undisputed, that it is as bad as Carrier suggests is very much disputed. It would have been helpful had Carrier noted that Rufinius had nothing to do with much of Origen's surviving writings, most especially Against Celsus.

Layman quotes Book 2 Chapter 61.

He doesn't quote the very next chapter 'And truly, after His resurrection, He existed in a body intermediate, as it were, between the grossness of that which He had before His sufferings, and the appearance of a soul uncovered by such a body.'

The body has moved from 'grossness' , but the perfect state is a soul not covered by the previous body.

I agree, Origen did not believe we retained a body fouled by corruption. That is why Origen explains that he believed in a transformed body. The whole point of Chapter 62 is that Jesus was raised in a body truly seen by others.

I also think it interesting that Origen notes that the prophets said of Jesus, “My flesh shall rest in hope.” Hope of what do you think?

And Layman quotes 5.18, but does not quote the next chapter, where Origen pours scorn on the common people who believe Paul was talking about a bodily resurrection, and writes - 'Our hope, then, is not the hope of worms, nor does our soul long for a body that has seen corruption'

Worms hope for a corpse to feed on, but Origen does not believe the sould wants a corpse back.

Certainly not one stained by corruption, but Origen is emphatic that it needs a body and therefore the old must “put on” the new. Corruption must “pout on” incorruption.
Layman said…
What did Methodius , who died about AD 311 think of Origen?

I am surprised that you have such confidence that we can know what Methodius thought about Origen. After all, the manuscript evidence for Methodoius's writing on the resurrection is much worse than for Origen. It “survives in its entirety only in an awkwardly literal ninth-century Slavonic translation, accessible to most scholars only in Bonwetsch’s German version.” Caroline Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body, page 68.

I am even more surprised that you take Methodius’ criticisms of Origen at face value. Just as some writers sought to make Origen sound more “orthodox,” other writers sought to exaggerate Origen’s “heresy.” Methodius is one such who did the latter. According to Bynum, Methodius “misrepresents” Origen’s beliefs and engages in “misrepresentation” of Origen’s views on the resurrected body. This includes that Methodoius “interpreted Origen’s eidos (form) as external appearance or shape (that is, as a waterskin into and out of which matter flows), used against it the argument (with which Origen would have agreed entirely) that appearance in fact changes, and himself asserted an extravagantly materialistic position in which every particle of the body subsists throughout life, nourished or excreted or in any way invaded or altered.” Bynum, op. cit., page 69.

So, yes, I have more confidence in the reconstruction of Origen’s views by contemporary scholars like Wright and Bynum, as well as our own understanding of his writings, than I do in a fourth-century ideological opponent of Origen who misunderstood and misrepresented Origen so as to portray his resurrection beliefs in as unorthodox a light as possible. At the very least, I think we should take a gander ourselves rather than simply cherry picking one later writer and saying he is the "gospel" of what Origen believed.

Methodoius was obsessed with explaining a resurrection, indeed an entire biological system, that allowed for the reorganization and reconstruction of every particle of a person’s body. He took a very superficial view of Origen’s “form,” which in fact is a much more fundamental part of the physical body than simple outward appearance, and used that as a convenient foil for his own arguments.
Jason Pratt said…
I can go even further than Layman on this! {g}

Methodius is criticizing Origen; but does he include anywhere in his criticism the material Layman has presented in favor of Origen believing in a transformation of the original body into a new body? (Sounds kind of familiar somehow... {cough}{g})

The answer to this, insofar as the anonymous document goes that Steven referred to, is ‘no’--or rather that we have no idea: the anonymous author Steven refers to is referring to Methodius criticising Origen by way of Gregory the theologian (“and many Others”), and no mention is made by Methodius (per this author) of the things Layman mentioned. (Although whether this anonymous document is the "awkwardly literal ninth-century Slavonic translation, accessible to most scholars only in Bonwetsch’s German version" mentioned by Bynum, I have no idea.)

Rather, the anonymous document reports that St. Methodius reports that Gregory-and-many-Others report... _that_ Origen said such-n-such and this-n-that. Wouldn’t it be better to stick with the sources we actually have of Origen, though?

Moreover, Methodius is presented as _primarily_ criticising (by secondhand reports, apparently) Origen’s doctrine of a pre-existence of the soul (which doctrine we can in fact confirm he held), being given a natural body after the Fall, as a fetter; within which context the whole subsequent criticism about Origen’s views on the resurrection is set. (Steven neglects to mention this.)

Relatedly, Methodius is criticising people who borrow Origen as an authority for their position; and _that_ looks to be direct on his part. But what do we know about these people? Do _they_ know about all the other places Layman (for instance) came up with? If so, what do _they_ do with _those_ places? Do these answers survive anywhere? (Not in the anonymous document referenced by Steven, at least...)

It is not even clear from this document whether the “followers of Origen” being opposed by Methodius (directly or indirectly, though in this case it does appear to be directly), when quoting 2 Cor 5:1 “to disprove the resurrection of the body”, are actually following Origen in this; or are doing their own reasoning. (This is aside from the question of what St. Paul himself actually was intending by writing that passage.)

That being said: assuming Methodius is actually reporting Origen accurately (directly or by mediation from one or another group advocating or opposing Origen as a source) in what Origen was (at that moment) teaching, Origen would (in that place being referred to by Methodius, wherever it is) have been saying that Moses and Elijah are supposed to be examples of the resurrection _having already happened_; thus that they count as a ‘most convincing proof’ of what is to be expected of the resurrection body to come in relation to the original body (still in the ground at the time of the Transfiguration).

Methodius’ criticism, though, is that they shouldn’t be taken as such evidence because Christ is the first of the true resurrection. In whatever way Moses and Elijah can be said to have returned for that vision (and Methodius calls it a vision, notably--the Gospel accounts preserve the notion that this may have been a dream of some kind by the apostles, too), they couldn’t have been resurrected in the way Christ was going to be resurrected.

Which, btw, Steven, is why Christian theologians _don’t_ usually have trouble reconciling the ‘resurrection’ of Moses and Elijah with the apparently different (or anyway more complete) ‘resurrection’ of Christ. They weren’t actually or fully resurrected; nor is there any textual evidence pointing in that direction for us to have to try to work around.

(Methodius does however, in this anonymous report, address the notion of Elijah being taken bodily into heaven--in his case there would be no body left behind to begin with. Would this count as resurrection before Christ? No, because Elijah did not die; neither could it be strictly said that the still-living faithful who are transformed at the final trumpet have undergone resurrection per se, though St. Paul very clearly means to say that their bodies will be transformed without having died as Christ’s body was transformed after having died.)

Given the total account of what Origen believed, however--though the notion that he changed his mind back and forth a couple of times shouldn’t be discounted either--I suspect Origen was actually trying to teach that a spiritual body exists bearing the form/appearance of the original body _before_ the original body is raised to be ‘swallowed up’ into the new spiritual body--with this innovation (in Origen’s case) that the spiritual body pre-existed in a superphysical fashion before being born in a physical fashion. He could have taken Moses and Elijah as being “most convincing proofs” of _that_ notion (I mean of the spiritual body being distinct from the natural one) _while also_ insisting elsewhere that the resurrection/redemption to come would a.) be like Jesus’ instead; b.) would therefore involve some kind of assimilation of the original body as part of reconciling with this system of Nature; c.) that the original body would thus be swallowed up into the spiritual body, or the latter put on over the former (all of which is Pauline imagery as you ought to be entirely aware of by now after years of debating this with us, Steven); d.) _but_ that even in the initial appearances in union with His original body Jesus hadn’t fully assimilated it yet.

There are several theological notions along this latter line; for example, if Nature has not itself been redeemed yet then it might be impossible for Jesus to fully assimilate His original body (though He would take it as far as it can go before the final redemption of all Nature.) A different but related notion is that Jesus must continue to bear the wounds of His suffering until the redemption of all Nature is complete, after which these shall be healed as well--something that would fit well with Origen claiming the body was in an intermediate state and still retained something shameful about it. (‘Grossness’ refers to mass, but there are reasons why in a theology of a fallen world it would also come to include connotations of ugliness.)

Both of these notions are connected with the tradition of orthodox trinitarian universalism--which Origen was trying to hold to elsewhere (it’s what he’s perhaps most famous for, aside from being ultra-gung-ho about discounting problematic historical claims for ‘esoteric’ ‘spiritual’ truths--notice that one of Layman’s refs was taken from Balthasar’s _Spirit and Fire_; there’s a reason for that connection. {s})

I have put the term as ‘assimilation’ above, since it can cover two slightly different situations: one where the original body is restored along with the spiritual body (in a union where the spiritual body is the chief element, so to speak); and one where the original body ceases to exist during the resurrection/redemption process, being _only_ replaced by the spiritual one.

The reason I mention this, is because even Methodius apparently knows of Origen teaching that the natural body will be changed into a spiritual body, since he himself mentions this in paragraph XVI of Part II of the discourse: “But he [by context Origen] says that [the form shall arise in nowise corrupted, but that the body in which the form was stamped shall be destroyed--which Methodius disputes as untenable, as per the final sentence of paragraph XV]; for it will be changed in a spiritual body.” Origen, by report, is certainly _not_ teaching that the _form_ will be changed, so what is being changed? It must be the original body!

Methodius’ dispute, then, even in this report, shows signs of being rather more subtle than opponents to the resurrection would make it out to be (possibly including the ‘followers of Origen’ whom Methodius is disputing). First, it’s originally a dispute about Origen’s doctrine of pre-existant souls (which so far as I’ve ever heard even Steven isn’t trying to attribute to Paul as part of his anti-Res apologetic.) Second, and perhaps more important, whatever Methodius is disputing about in regard to Origen, involves recognizing (from wherever he’s getting this information) that Origen did teach a transformation of the original body into the spiritual one. Apparently the difference between them (so far as Methodius understands it) is that Origen infers this transformation involves the destruction of the original body, while Methodius infers it does not.

This isn’t going to be much help to latter-day opponents trying to make St. Paul mean that the dead body of Jesus wasn’t somehow raised, though! (I mean, even less help than appealing to Origen in the first place for that purpose. By means of an anonymous discourse written in reference to someone else who himself appears to be relying primarily on what previous people have been saying about Origen...)

Layman said…

Great stuff.

As for the "intermediate" body, I have seen some suggest that Origen might have viewed the resurrection body as an intermediate one and the ultimate destiny was a purely spiritual existence without any body. Given that Origen's central work on resurrection is not extant, we may never know the precise contours of his beliefs.

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Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Why Christian Theism Is Almost Certainly True: A Reply to Cale Nearing

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Scientifically Documented Miracles

The Criteria of Embarrassment and Jesus' Baptism in the Gospel of Mark

The Meaning of the Manger