Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Craig on the Empty Tomb

This is Craig on the Empty Tomb. This is actually what I was looking for.


Jason Pratt said...

Haven't read Craig's article linked-to here yet, but a previous discussion with Steven Carr over Paul's notion of resurrection (down in comments for another article of WLC's) is about to run off the bottom of the page, so I'm proposing the discussion be carried on here, if that won't be a problem. (Basically Victor gave two posts on WLC's article, so discussion specifically on it--along with Jeff's response at I.I.--could easily occur in the comments to that other post.)

In case the other post runs off the bottom in the meanwhile, here is a ditto to what I posted down there a minute ago.



{sigh} (okay, trying a different tack...)

We _both_ agree that 1 Cor 6:13a is important. We both agree Paul wrote it. We both agree that the sentence means basically what it says. (Our disagreement is over _why_ Paul wrote it.) We're _both_ accounting for its existence in our claims.

[Note 1: the catch-up note below is rather long, Steven, so if you want to skip past it, that'll be fine. It's just to bring new readers up to speed. Look for **** below. Aside from these notes, this post is identical to the one I made most recently in the previous thread.]

[Note 2: for those picking up on the discussion at this point, and/or without a Bible handy, the verse reads (NASV translation) "Food is for the belly, and the belly is for food; but God will do away with them both." Steven is defending a position held by some ancient Gnostics--a fairly early position, enjoying a resurgence in recent decades--that Paul was advocating this when he wrote it, therefore couldn't have been believing in a resurrection of Jesus' executed body per se.

I agree that the standard orthodox use of this verse tends to be very muddled, and it's simply often overlooked. I don't recall offhand whether WLC referred to that verse in the previous article Victor linked to, though he definitely discusses a lot of things that ought to be taken into account in relation to that verse. I don't know whether WLC advocates my use of the verse, which as far as I can tell is a fairly recent development, though one beginning to pick up steam in the next generation of orthodox scholars. I'm using "orthodox" here in a merely sociological fashion, btw, as meaning 'people who basically accept the Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasius Creeds'.

My position is that in 6:13a (and verse 12, fwiw) Paul is quoting the justification of the leader of a coterie he's opposing--specifically the fellow sleeping with his father's wife whom Paul has pronounced anathema on, back in chapter 5. I've been trying to work around to giving my reasons for this; and had given some of my reasons toward this conclusion in my previous post, but Steven simply backed up to 6:13a without addressing my reasoning at all in his reply.

For what it's worth, I'm quite prepared to agree that if Paul meant to advocate what is written in 6:13a, then it puts a serious problem in his apparent defense of the resurrection of the original body elsewhere, even if we also call note to Paul's concurrent transformation language. The Gnostics aren't, and weren't, pulling their position completely out of nowhere: they're taking a verse from Paul very seriously, and making a legitimate challenge to interpretation.

As I noted earlier, I've written 40K of notes on Steven's comments so far, but haven't delivered them yet. I would like to get around to them eventually, but for the moment I think it's worth focusing on 6:13a, since I've known for a while now that this is the lynchpin on which this particular Gnostic position is based.

Let me clarify that by identifying this position as Gnostic, I'm not making a moral judgment about it. Nor am I here discussing the question of its metaphysical cogency. In fact, I don't even consider Steven's position to be the key defining feature of Gnosticism--in my opinion, much of 'orthodoxy' over the centuries subsequent to Christ has been quite thoroughly 'gnostic' in its doctrine and operations! As far as I can tell, WLC is gnostic by the standard I'm recognizing, for instance. I'm not. But that's another discussion. I'm extremely doubtful that Steven is a gnostic of _that_ sort; I'm aware of no modern Gnostics who are.

Okay, thus endeth the long catch-up note... {g}]


I'm _also_ going on to use 13b, though--the rest of the verse. And the other verses through the end of the chapter. (Actually, I'm pulling together all the material from all first six chapters into a coherent progressive whole and noting the transition into chapter 7. But for the moment I'm willing to stay focused on the end of 6, if you want.)

So, I've said how I'm using those immediately subsequent verses (6:13b through the end of the chapter) in relation to 6:13a. They're obviously about 'soma' (the body), and the risen Lord, and moral use of the 'soma', and what God cares about how people use their 'soma'.

The topic is clearly relevant, and clearly linked to 6:13a.

So, since I've told how I read those verses, in relation to 13a, now you should have your turn (in a fair discussion) to relate how _you_ read those verses. How do _you_ put them together with 13a?


Mike Darus said...


If I am following you correctly, I hear you saying that we have two choices for what Paul believed about the resurrection. One choice is that it was spiritual. The other choice is that is was physical.

The physical option is unsatisfactory because:
1. Paul described Jesus as “a life-giving spirit” in contrast to Adam.
2. “Flesh and Blood” is incompatible with immortality.
3. A current physical body for Jesus somewhere in the cosmos is inconceivable theologically (and probably scientifically).
The spiritual option solves these issues for you.
1. It identifies Jesus as a spirit. No physical body is required.
2. There is no need for physicality in eternity. Immorality can be a spiritual existence
3. It solves the issue of where Jesus is now. He can be an omnipresent spirit.

There is a third option to the physical or spiritual option. A combined physical and spiritual explanation is what I understand to be the majority opinion (not offered as a proof of correctness). The physical option assumed above could be a straw man (perhaps close to a Mormon view).

The combined position affirms a physical resuscitation plus a transformation of the physical body into something that includes both physical and new spiritual characteristics.

The advantages to the combined option:
1. It affirms the spiritual nature of Jesus as a life giving spirit.
2. It permits a transformed physical body to become immortal
3. It explains how Jesus could physically, visibly ascend yet also be omnipresent and present spiritually in the believer.
4. It explains why it was important that the tomb was empty. Jesus’ new material/spiritual body came from his material body.
5. It supports a hermeneutic that harmonizes the different accounts.
6. It coincides with an anthropology that affirms that human nature is both physical and spiritual (not just essentially spiritual).
7. It explains how the appearances had both physical supernatural characteristics. He is described as eating but also entering locked rooms and suddenly appearing and vanishing.
8. It explains how Jesus was sometimes immediately recognized and sometimes not.
9. It explains the confusion about whether Jesus body could be (should be) touched. Thomas was invited to touch. Mary was warned against clinging to him.
10. It affirms the importance of the physical body behaviorally. Jason’s point on First Corinthians 6 is important. Unless ‘soma’ refers to the physical body and the deeds we do with our body, the chapter makes little sense. There is both a physical reality of our bodies that act and are raised; and a spiritual reality of our spirits that are can unite with the Lord.

Jason Pratt said...

Basically good comments, I think, Mark.

It's important to note that Steven (based clearly on what he's written so far) does _NOT_ identify "the first man of the earth, made of dust", as Adam. (1 Cor 15:47-49) He identifies this with Jesus' Incarnation.

(Or to be perhaps more accurate, Steven is saying that Paul identified him with Jesus' birth, life and death in Palestine. It's a little hard to tell whether Steven is actually _himself_ believing these things or whether he's only arguing that _Paul_ believed these things--i.e. as only a sceptical counter-apologetic to the Resurrection of the body of Christ's which died. I'm sure that this is only how Ed would be using this tack, for instance. Long experience with him... {g})

I definitely don't agree with that interpretation; I think it requires simply ignoring what Paul wrote two verses earlier, where Paul quotes in regard to Gen 2:7 (though at the same time calling Christ Adam, too: the last Adam.) Perhaps more importantly, it requires simply ignoring what Paul was writing earlier in the chapter (vv 21-22): "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."

But then, Steven never bothers to make positive use of any of 1 Cor 15 before v 35 anyway, for his position. (Not that he may not reference it on occasion, but if so it would be only to try to defend against what those verses are saying. At least, so far this has been the case.)

Of course, to whatever extent we can reach a historical conclusion about the empty tomb independently of Paul's witness, a lot of this becomes simply moot: Paul would certainly have known whatever the Sanhedrin knew and was willing to tell about the tomb. After that, it's extremely difficult to imagine why Paul would go through various convolutions to propose a bodily-risen Christ that wasn't _really_ bodily risen but only in some Platonically idealized non-physical sense. That would only be necessary in order to get around a _full_ tomb (so to speak): somewhat the way the Lubavitcher sect of hasidic Jews might try (or have tried) to get around the recent death of their Messianic claimant in New York recently. (Or, in a similar vein, the way Jehovah's Witnesses propose getting around the evident failure of a widely publicized 19th century prediction of Christ's Return, if I recall correctly.)


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