Sunday, August 13, 2006

Gnostic denigration of the flesh

Did Paul believe in the resurrection of the flesh?

Hardly. He regarded flesh as synonymous with evil, lust , immorality and sin.

He expounds many times on why flesh is evil, and why flesh in itself was an enemy of God.

'There is nothing good in my flesh' - Paul in Romans 7.

'For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.'

'For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh' Paul in Galatians 5.

These are not the words of a person who believes in the sort of flesh and blood resurrection described in the Gospels.

11 Comments:

Blogger Layman said...

Paul believed in the resurrection of the body, not of the flesh as you describe it.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

I agree.

But the Gospels teach the resurrection of the flesh, while Paul denies that corpses will be reformed from the dust that they dissolve into.

1 Corinthians 15:47-50

The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the an from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

2:07 AM  
Blogger starcourse said...

Steven - you fail to grasp that Paul was a Jew and steeped in Jewish thought. Jews believed in what we would now describe as the body as a psychosomatic unity. This was so axiomatic that Paul does not need to spell out the obvious - that any resurrection has to be a resurrection of the body. His distinctions between 'flesh' and 'spirit' need to be read within this context.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Declarations of what Paul could or could not have believed are pointless.

It was axiomatic for Jews that God could not take on human form.

It was axiomatic for Jews that circumcision was the sign of the covenant with God.

It was axiomatic for Jews that you could not eat unclean food.

Paul never believed those, and declared his former beliefs to be 'garbage'.

That doesn't mean he rejected all of his former beliefs, but it does mean that it is pointless to declare that Paul could not have believed something, because Jews did not believe that. Paul described many Jewish beliefs as 'garbage'.



And if we look at the text, Paul says 'The last Adam became a life-giving spirit', implying that we too will become life-giving spirits when we are resurrected.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Custard said...

I suggest that if you are actually interested in this, you read NT Wright's fairly comprehensive treatment of the subject in The Resurrection of the Son of God.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Custard said...

As I recall, Paul's thought is that it's not the psuchikos body - the sarx body - the soul-inhabited fleshy body that is raised, it's the pneumatikos - the Spirit-filled body that is raised. That's a very different distinction from the Greek (and Gnostic) physical/spiritual distinction.

The spiritual body in Paul is not un-physical, as Jesus demonstrated.

But that's all from memory - you'd need to read Wright for a proper treatment of the issues.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Wright, of course, wrote a 700-plus page book and never once found space to quote in full Paul writing 'The last Adam became a life-giving spirit'.

Nor could he find space in his 700-plus page book for 1 Peter writing 'All flesh is grass', when supposedly the author believed that flesh was going to be made eternal.

Wright does give a footnote where he says this is a 'positive passage', without actually telling his readers why it is positive.

Nor is Custard right when he thinks that Paul believed our present body was inhabited by a 'soul'.

Paul uses 'psyche' to mean 'life' - ie what Adam gained when dead material was made alive, and what you lose when you die.

But Custard is right when he says that Paul thought of the resurrected body as 'physical'.

It was just made out of a different material to the materials found on earth. It was no longer made of flesh and blood, it was made out of spirit.

People believed that celestial objects were made out of different materials to earthly objects.

2 Corinthians 5

1 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.

2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.


Paul thinks we will switch bodies, leaving the destroyed tent and moving to the heavenly tent.

What is mortal will be 'swallowed up'.

The Greek word is 'katapino' - consumed to the last drop, drunk down so that none remains.

The very opposite of the Gospels , where Jesus mortal body was still very visible after resurrection. It even still had wounds.

Paul thinks we already have some of this spirit inside us. A deposit on the new house, if you like.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

2 Corinthians 5 makes clear that when we die, we will become 'unclothed'.

In other words, our corpses will rot.

And then we will be clothed again - ie get a new body.

But the whole idea of a clothing analogy is that when the old clothes are worn out, you get new clothes.

The earthly clothes will be destroyed. Paul thinks this is normal, because we will get heavenly clothes.

2:41 AM  
Blogger Custard said...

I agree that Paul says our eartly body will be destroyed and we will get heavenly ones.

I don't know any orthodox theologian who has denied this...

In the gospels:

Jesus' resurrection body is not the same as his pre-resurrection body, as his ability seemingly to appear and disappear shows. His resurrection is different in kind to that of (for example) Lazarus.

But it is in some sense continuous with the pre-resurrection body, as is evidenced by the wounds (which presumably don't include a ruptured pericardium) and by the empty tomb.

Paul says the same in 1 Cor 15:

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

Paul sees the "spiritual body" as the continuation of and transformation of the "physical body", in the same way that the plant is the continuation of and transformation of the seed.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

The Gospels and Paul contraduct each other.

Paul sees a continity, but in place, not in material.

He says that the seed dies, and that God gives it a body.

The seed is a 'naked' seed. It contributes nothing in terms of material.

It is there , just as a marker to tell God what kind of body to create. If you plant wheat seeds, you get wheat. If you plant bodies, you get humans.

But God creates a new in each case. The wheat seed or the human seed has died.

In fact, the Corinthians were idiots for not realising that what goes into the ground was a seed which dies.

They imagined that the process involved the reformation of the dead body.

But it does not, in Paul's view. The body is just a marker to tell God what to create.

1 Corinthians 15
35 But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

'You do NOT plant the body that will be'.


How could Paul have denied more clearly that what goes into the ground is what goes out?

And how could the Gospels make more clear that what goes into the ground is what comes out, complete with the wounds that killed it?

The Gospels have no conception that the body that went into the ground was just a 'seed'.

And I see Custard was unable after all to find a place where Paul said we have a 'soul' (psyche) which we do not lose when we die.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Paul does say our earthly body will be destroyed.


1 Corinthians 6:13 "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both.

This must have baffled the Corinthians, if they had heard stories of the resurrected Jesus eating food with his stomach.

It certainly baffled Wright, who writes on page 290 of his 'Resurrection of the Son of God' that '...in the non-corruptible future world, food and the stomach are presumably irrelevant,'

Wright loves harmonising so much , he can argue out of one corner of his mouth that Jesus resurrected body would non-corruptible and ate food, and argue out of the other corner of his mouth that food is irrelevant to a non-corruptible body'.

8:35 AM  

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