Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Does I Cor 15 Undercut Mind-Body Dualism

This blogger thinks so.


Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

No less than Jesus Himself indicates that the soul is participating in some form of afterlife prior to the bodily resurrection (presumably at the end of time) when He tells the good thief, "This day you shall be with me in paradise". Also, the same is a key feature in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Note that both of these passages are from Luke, who was a companion of Paul on some of his travels (the "we" chapters in Acts).

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

This misses the whole point of 1 Corinthians 15. The issue there is not physicality vs. dualism, but the resurrection of Christ, which conquered sin and death and hell. Without it there is no resurrection for us but there is also no happy after-life because we are still in our sins. Now the fact Christ was raised shows our ultimate goal is a physical body and not just a disembodied spirit. But it does not prove anything about the state between our death and resurrection. Except that this state whatever it is, is a result of Christ's resurrection.

Steven said...

I think there is a difference in saying there is no bodily resurrection, and there is no afterlife.

The new heavens and the new earth will be exactly that--a heaven and an earth, so that you'd have to be embodied to enjoy it. Lacking embodiment, you might still be alive, sure, but not enjoying resurrected embodiment in the world to come.

A disembodied existence after death of the body is worthless, so live it up now, but if there is a resurrection, then it is worth fighting for--maybe that is Paul's point.

Ken Pulliam said...

I think Paul is trying to strike a middle ground between the Greek idea of the imortality of the soul and the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the physical body. He does this by postulating a spiritual body . I highly suggest the work by Alan Segal, Life after death: a history of the afterlife in the religions of the West, pp. 411ff.

Shackleman said...

Where does this notion that the resurrection will be in a physical body come from? Certainly not from this chapter of 1 Corinthians does it?

"35But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"[e]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As 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. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we[f] bear the likeness of the man from heaven."

As I read it that's a clear indication that the resurrection will be a *spiritual* body. Something *different* than what we know bodies to be now on Earth. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

If "body" is meant matter, then it is irrelevant.If it means the phenomneological body, then that is consistent with immaterial afterlife.

G. Kyle Essary said...

Brian Auten did an interview with Mike Licona last week where he discussed 1st Corinthians 15:44 and his study of every other time in between 600 BC and 300 AD when this word is used. He's fully convinced that Paul must be referring to a physical body, but I'll let you listen to his discussion.

Also, I think that the English "spiritual body" is somewhat misleading to our ears (and eyes). To be "spiritual" (pneumatikos doesn't necessarily refer to ontology, but can just as easily mean something like "being possessed by the Spirit." Furthermore, it's contrasted with psychikos in 15:46, which some translate "natural," but this too doesn't get the meaning of the word. It's very similar to psyche which we often translate "soul." It refers to the individual's rational life. Of course, due to tradition, translators will often opt for keeping what the KJV said and the KJV rendered these two words as "natural" and "spiritual," before the Enlightenment deists split the natural/supernatural in opposition.

The contrast seems not to be between a physical and non-physical body, but between a individual's rationalistic self and one's self-in-God. Neither of these words are easily translated into English and this partially causes the confusion.

Here is what NT Wright says on the question of how to translate these strange phrases:

"But what do these two phrases mean? Here the ghost - or perhaps the psyche of Plato must be chuckling at the quiet triumph achieved in so many English translations...it is safe to say that not only those who read the RSV, NRSV and REB, but quite a few who read other versions as well, assume at this point that Paul is describing the new, resurrection body as something which, to put it bluntly, is non-physical - something which you could not touch, could not see with ordinary eyesight, something which, if raised to life, would leave no empty tomb behind it...the problem with the explicit contrast of 'physical' and 'spiritual,' and with the word 'spiritual' itself when heard by most modern western persons in contrast also with words like 'natural' or 'animal,' is that it sends highly misleading messages...the words clearly refer to matters quite other than whether the people concerned are 'physical'; clearly they are, and the question is rather to do with whether they are indwelt, guided and made wise by the creator's Spirit, or whether they are living at the level of life common to all humankind (psychikos), or whether indeed they are living at the level of life common to all corruptible creation (sarkinos)." (Resurrection, 348-350).

He says much more in this passage and elsewhere, but I'll let you read the rest elsewhere instead of typing more. I've found that this interpretation to be typical of other commentators as well such as Thiselton (Nottingham), Dunn (Durham), who says that "spiritual" here means to be a participant in God's new creation work (which Dunn clearly sees as physical), Paul Barnett and Craig Keener...in other words, every major commentator on 1st Corinthians. Fitzmyer's Yale Anchor Bible Commentary concludes that it is a physical body transformed by God through Christ for a new mode of existence in God's life.

Glenn said...

Thanks for the link, Victor.

A couple of comments in reply to others:

"This misses the whole point of 1 Corinthians 15. The issue there is not physicality vs. dualism, but the resurrection of Christ, which conquered sin and death and hell."

Unfortunately, when it comes to missing the whole point of what someone wrote, I'd have to say that anyone who thinks I have said that 1 Corinthians 15 is about physicality vs dualism has "missed the whole point" of my piece. I never said this at all. What I've said is that Paulmade some theological claims about death and the afterlife, and that the best explanation of those claims is the physicalist thesis.

Secondly, in regard to Steven's comment that "I think there is a difference in saying there is no bodily resurrection, and there is no afterlife."

Yes there is if you're a dualist who thinks that you can have an afterlife without a body. But what I attempted to show via exegesis is that the Apostle Paul said that without a resurrection there cannot be an afterlife, which implies that he thought dualism was false.

It just doesn't seem obvious that a disembodied life in heaven would be "worthless," even if less than ideal. Paul's suggestion that with no resurrection there's nothing to look forward to (which is what I take him to say) seriously undermines any claim that he, for example, was talking about a disembodied state elsewhere when he said that departing and being with Christ "is far better."

Shackleman said...

Mr. Essary,

Thank you for your thoughtful and engaging reply.

I just don't see it, all exegesis aside, from the full context of the chapter how we should get the impression that we're talking about a physical body here.

But I'm no scholar so I'll be interested in reading the interview you referenced. Thanks for the tip.


Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...


I think you misunderstood my point. In 1 Corinthians 15 the pivotal issue is Christ's resurrection. If this this did not happen then the option is not a disembodied heaven, but an eternal hell or when you are dead you're dead. It is this conclusion that makes our faith worthless if there is no resurrection and leads to the conclusion that we should eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Now if Christ was raised than our ultimate goal is also to be raised and those who denied the resurrection altogether implied Christ was not raised therefore undermining the truth of the gospel. But all this says says nothing about what happens between death and the resurrection or implies a disembodied state in that intermediate period is worthless.

Glenn said...

Mike, actually the issue is not just Christ's resurrection. The position that Paul is replying to - according to Paul - was not "Jesus didn't rise from the dead," but rather "there is no resurrection of the dead." The skepticism was about the claim that we will rise.

Now it's true that Paul refers to the resurrection of Jesus, because he wants to show the implications of the view that there's no resurrection. Paul uses two clearly identifiable arguments. This first argument is that if there's no resurrection at all, then Jesus didn't rise, and you're still dead in sin.

Then, with some brief discussion in between the two different arguments, Paul moves on to another argument against the denial of our resurrection, and this second argument does not make reference tot he resurrection of Jesus at all. The second argument is that if there's no resurrection, then there's no future life. This is the argument that I discuss in this blog entry. It makes a theological claim that is only correct if dualism is false.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...


I am afraid I do not see two arguments. The passage seems all of a piece based on same point. But you do not see it, you have the right to your opinion.

Glenn said...

Well the schema of the discussion in 1 Corinthians 15 is hardly controversial:
vv 12-90 If there's no resurrection, then Christ is not raised! Paul here explains the awful consequences of this.

vv 20-28 Dropping the subject of "what if Jesus never rose" altogether, Paul then goes on to say that since Jesus has risen, we will rise too, and one day God will have defeated all enemies, even death.

vv 29-34 Having addressed ths, Paul then moves on to still another point, namely the consequences of denying our own resurrection (i.e. the thing that he has just proclaimed will happen). If we won't rise, the Paul fought wild beasts for nothing, and death ends us. We may as wel eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

I submit that it is absolutely obbvious to everyone who reads that chapter that Paul deals distinctly with the consequences of Jesus not rising, and then also with the consequences of us not rising. I'm confident that my confidence of this fact will be shared by all who, after reading this, go and check the chapter for themselves - Even you, Mike. :)

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...


The argument in vv. 29-34 is very clearly based on the argument in vv. 1-19. The reason it is vain to face the beasts at Ephesus and we should eat drink and be merry if there is no resurrection is that if there is no resurrection is then Christ is not raised and the gospel is meaningless. Otherwise vv. 29-34 is not an argument there are no reasons given.