Friday, May 04, 2012

The WRF Statement of Faith

After two days in the tomb, Jesus of Nazareth rose again from the dead with a transformed but still recognizable human nature.  His resurrection body was capable of transcending natural physical laws but still retained its own physical properties.  In his ascension, that body was further transformed into the heavenly state which it still possesses and has been taken up into God.  Human beings will be resurrected, not as Jesus was on the first Easter morning, but as he is now, in his ascended state. 

Several issues:

i) I’m unclear on what motivated the transition from a transformed “nature” in the first sentence to his “body” in the next sentence. Are these being used synonymously, or is there an intended distinction? If the latter, in what sense is his “nature” transformed in contradistinction to his body? Was his soul transformed as well as his body?

ii) What’s the scriptural basis for claiming that his resurrection body was “further transformed” in the Ascension?

iii) In what sense is the body of Jesus taken up “into” God?

iv) I suppose the assertion about his body “transcending natural physical laws” alludes to a popular interpretation of Jn 20:19, according to which Christ (allegedly) passed through solid doors.

Of course, the text doesn’t actually say that. At most, that’s a possible inference.

v) For some reason, it doesn’t occur to framers of the WFT statement that Christ’s pre-Resurrection body already capable of transcending natural physical laws. Let’s quote two Johannine incidents back-to-back:

19  On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19,26).
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20  But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going (Jn 6:16-21)?

At the risk of stating the obvious, walking on water also transcends natural physical laws. So why does the WFT statement attribute the incident in Jn 21 to a “transformed” body, but not the comparable incident in Jn 6? Indeed, the incident in Jn 6 is explicitly miraculous, unlike the incident in Jn 21.  Why assume his body had to be transformed by the Resurrection to appear in the Upper Room, but not to walk on water?  

And while we’re at it, here’s another Johannine incident:

6 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

While this isn’t a case of Jesus’ body transcending natural physical laws, it’s surely a case Jesus doing something that transcends natural physical laws. Is that essentially different from the Upper Room incident in Jn 21–even assuming the latter incident is miraculous?


  1. Mr. Hays, you have said in iv):

    Of course, the text doesn’t actually say that. At most, that’s a possible inference.

    I am a bit confused. How else can we understand that if we deny that Jesus passed through solid doors/ walls?

    Thank you.

  2. Oh well... doubt solved.

    I've just realized that my reading of John 20:26 has been reaaaally biased until now. That popular interpretation ran through my veins.

    I just had to read the verse to grasp what you were saying. Indeed, the popular interpretation is not the only interpretation.

    Thank you, I guess. Thank God, I'm sure! :D

  3. I.S.R. said:

    "I am a bit confused. How else can we understand that if we deny that Jesus passed through solid doors/ walls?"

    I'm obviously not Steve, but if it's okay with you gents to take a crack at this, I would think it's possible Jesus could have altered the walls of the building to make an opening for himself, walked into the room, and then closed the opening, maybe?