Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The astral body of Christ

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them (Lk 24:36-43).
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (Jn 20:27).
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life (1 Jn 1:1).

rogereolson says:
“Corporeal” simply means “bodily.” It doesn’t necessarily mean material (which is what I take “physical” to mean). His pre-resurrection body was most definitely physical; it could die. His post-resurrection body was definitely not physical because it was immortal, incapable of death. But it was a body and not a phantom. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul is striving to get his readers to open up to there being more kinds of bodies than just “physical” or ghostly. Jesus post-resurrection body had substance, but was not composed of matter–at least not as we know it.

Roger Olson keeps digging a deeper hole for himself. He continues to explain his definition of Jesus’ glorified body. Unfortunately for him, his clarifications don’t make his position any more Scriptural or orthodox. Instead, they confirm his essentially heretical view of the Resurrection. A docetic Resurrection. An astral body. Ironically, he takes the same position as Richard Carrier.

He says Jesus’ glorified body “His post-resurrection body was definitely not physical because it was immortal, incapable of death.”

Several problems:

i) Luke and John go out of their way to stress the palpable physicality of Christ’s glorified body. He could eat food. He still bore the scars of his ordeal on Good Friday. He could be touched.

That’s physical. Luke and John don’t offer a philosophical or scientific definition of matter or physicality. Instead, they give us an ostensible definition, by showing the reader the kind of body Jesus had.

ii) Olson asserts that Jesus’s glorified body was “definitely not physical because it was immortal, incapable of death.”

But that’s overstated:

As Paul explains, the glorified body is immortal in the sense that it cannot die from illness or senescence. It can’t die due to the effects of the curse. That’s why Paul brings up the fall of Adam.

But that doesn’t mean the glorified body is indestructible, or fireproof–like Hellboy. It doesn’t mean a glorified body couldn’t die in an accident. Or be morally injured. Or be eaten by a predator.

It’s not a Superhero body like some Marvel comic book characters. Or a werewolf or vampire body that requires special equipment to kill.

If someone with a glorified body jumped off a skyscraper, he’d still go splat when he landed.

There’s more to immortality than an ageless, disease-free body. That also requires some degree of providential protection.

The reason human beings die is not because they have physical bodies, but because mortality is God’s punishment for original sin.

iii) Olson also says “Jesus post-resurrection body had substance, but was not composed of matter–at least not as we know it.”

This involves complete discontinuity between his mortal body and his glorified body. In that case there’s no reason why the tomb was empty.

Does Olson think that at the moment of the Resurrection, the corpse of Jesus instantly liquefied, and God created an immaterial simulacrum to take its place?

iv) One of the problems is that Olson is too lazy to exegete Scripture. We see this in his perfunctory prooftexting of Arminianism. He just quotes his favorite verses without ever defending his interpretation, or considering alternative interpretations.

For instance, here’s what a recent major commentary says about 1 Cor 15:44:

In the modern, post-Enlightenment context, the words natural and spiritual are often taken, popularly at least, to suggest a distinction between the material and immaterial, or between the physical and the spiritual.
The scriptural basis for Paul’s word choice here is given in the following verses when he quotes Genesis 2:7 in modified form. There Adam is described as a “living being/soul.” Paul contrasts this “natural” or “soulish” people with “spiritual” people in 2:14-15, and, as Wright points out, he is certainly not dealing with a distinction between people who are physical and people who are not! Rather, Paul’s usage suggests a distinction between people who “are living at the level of life common to all mankind” versus those who “are indwelt, guided and made wise by the creator’s Spirit.” In this passage as well the distinction has to do with the difference between ordinary human life and life empowered by God’s Spirit. The adjectives Paul uses describe “not what something is composed of, but what it is animated by. It is the difference between speaking of a ship made of steel or wood on the one hand and a ship driven by steam and wind on the other.” Wright follows Hays in pointing to the helpfulness of the Jerusalem Bible’s translation of the verse: “When it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment.”
…he describes a strict dichotomy between the life animated by the soul, or ordinary human life, and life fully animated by God’s Spirit…life directed and empowered by the Spirit, suitable to the age to come, in a body untainted by sin and death in any sense.
As Wright suggests, Paul’s reference to a spiritual body appears to be “the most elegant way he can find of saying both that the new body is the result of the Spirit’s work (answering ‘how does it come to be?’) and that it is the appropriate vessel for the Spirit’s life (answering ‘what sort of a thing is it?’).”
R. Ciampa & B. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2010), 816-818.


  1. Hi Steve,

    Are you on Roger Olson's Christmas Card list?

    As I understand it, Roger Olson is highly regarded by Arminians and amongst Arminians.

  2. To add to what Steve has said, I recommend that people read Michael Licona's treatment of Paul's view of the resurrection. For example:

    "Moreover, it is worth observing that had Paul desired to communicate this sort of contrast [between the physical and the non-physical], he had better words at his disposal, one of which he had employed just a few chapters earlier [in 1 Corinthians 9:11] while using a seed analogy similar to that of 1 Corinthians 15....if he had desired to communicate that our resurrection body would not be physical but rather immaterial in nature, why use the former term in a sense not employed earlier in his letter or for that matter anywhere else in the Pauline corpus, the New Testament or by any known author from the eighth century B.C. through the third century A.D., while ignoring a clearer term used just a few chapters earlier in a similar seed analogy?...I located 846 occurrences of the former [the term 'natural' in 1 Corinthians 15:44] from the eighth-century B.C. through the third-century A.D. and could not locate a single occurrence of the term that meant 'physical' or 'material.' This discovery in itself eliminates any interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:44 that has Paul asserting physical corpses are buried while resurrection bodies will be immaterial (a la Wedderburn, RSV/NRSV et al.)." (The Resurrection Of Jesus [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2010], pp. 414-415, 618)