The Resurrected Jesus of Flesh and Bones

I do not have access to my Bibleworks right now, so my blog post about this morning’s church service will not be as precise when it comes to biblical references.  Essentially, my pastor this morning was preaching about the passage in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus shows his disciples his flesh and his bones, dismissing the idea that he is some sort of ghost.

My pastor drew two lessons from this:

1.  My Presbyterian pastor said that the hope of the believer is material: it does not end with the soul going to heaven but entails the resurrection of the body.  My pastor was quoting an Anglican clergyman on this, and N.T. Wright also has made this point.  The religious movement in which I grew up, Armstrongism, did not believe in the immoral soul but thought that people were unconscious until the resurrection of the dead, which will occur after Jesus comes back.  While Armstrongism believed that the resurrection is the believer’s hope, however, it did not entirely regard that hope as physical and material, for it maintained that believers would be resurrected as spirit beings, who would rule a material world.

In terms of what I believe the Bible teaches, well, I would say that we see various things.  There are passages (Daniel, Matthew) about the righteous shining as stars or the sun.  There are passages in which Jesus states that people in the resurrection will be like angels in heaven.  Paul refers to a spiritual resurrection, denies that flesh and blood will enter the Kingdom of God, and seems to imply in I Corinthians that people in their resurrected bodies will not have a stomach.  On the other hand, there is a passage in which Jesus appears to present Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob eating in the Kingdom of God.  I would also say that, in Hebrews, Jesus is depicted as a glorified man.  Both Hebrews and Paul seem to me to present Jesus as a prototype of a new humanity.  The image that I got in a Seventh-Day Adventist church that I attended a while back was that Jesus, right now in heaven, has glorified human flesh.  Hebrews may lean in that direction.

While I’m on the topic of soul sleep (the belief that people are unconscious until the resurrection), I was listening recently to atheist biblical scholar Robert Price’s “Bible Geek” podcast, and someone asked him about soul sleep.  Price replied that we may see something like that in the New Testament, but that there are also passages about being absent from the body and present with the Lord, and Paul’s openness to departing to be with Christ rather than staying behind on earth.  Price speculated that Paul may have believed martyrs went straight to heaven after death, whereas others were unconscious until the resurrection (or so I understood Price).  There may be something to that.  The thing is, however, that Paul does seem to include himself among those who will sleep until the resurrection in I Corinthians 15.  Many believers in soul sleep try to harmonize all this: perhaps Paul was talking about being away from his corruptible body and being with Christ after the resurrection, when he would receive a new body; after all, Paul’s next conscious moment after death, they say, would be at the resurrection.

I think that believers in soul sleep do well to point out that death in the New Testament is presented as a sleep.  My question would be: Was it possible in ancient literature to call death a sleep, while also believing that the dead could be conscious?  I would not be surprised if such were the case.

2.  The other lesson my pastor taught from the passage is that our faith should be real.  Jesus, after all, was not a flickering spirit but a resurrected human being or tangible flesh and bone.  My pastor may also have been arguing that tangible experiences of God can be significant in Christian spirituality.  His overall point, though, was that we should have a real faith, not go to church out of habit or obligation.  I agree with him on that, in a sense, even though I am not always firm in my faith, and even though I cannot point to indisputable examples of God’s activity in my life—-though I do pray and believe that God has answered my prayers and has helped me and people I know through challenges.  I do not go to church just out of habit, but to worship God and to be transformed.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to The Resurrected Jesus of Flesh and Bones

  1. Pingback: Pseudo-Philo, Hell, and Soul Sleep | James' Ramblings

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