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JESUS’ RESURRECTION WAS SPIRITUAL

BORG: "Resurrection could, but need not mean that the corpse had been affected; a corpse coming to life is not the point....Speaking as a Christian, I regard these stories not as straightforward events that you could capture on video".

 

HANS KUNG: "The disciples never appeal to the evidence of the empty tomb in order to strengthen the faith of the Church or to refute and convince opponents".  

 

The gospels say that a miracle healing man called Jesus Christ lived. They say he died by crucifixion and three days later he rose again. The tomb he was placed in was found wide open with the stone that had been across the entrance moved back and the tomb was mysteriously empty. His body was gone. Certain witnesses claimed that Jesus appeared to them as a resurrected being.  Jesus took a piece of fish and ate it after he rose from the dead but we read that the angels in the Book of Genesis ate too!  Jesus denied he was a mere ghost but that depends on what he meant by ghost!

 

Christians say that the resurrection of Jesus is central and core and indispensable Christian doctrine for it manifests what our lives are all about.  God wants to save us from sin and vulnerability and death and give us bodies that are able to pass through dangers untouched and that can traverse one end of space to the other instantly and which are beautiful and glorious and live forever.  Jesus supposedly had a body like and gave us a taste of what to expect and above all manifested God's eternal plan.

 

Jesus himself said nothing about what his resurrection body was like.  The doctrines about the ghost style body are based on speculation.  The New Testament gives no evidence from witnesses that he had. 

 

A vision of a Jesus who appears in a ghost like body does not mean Jesus has a ghost like body.  Even in Catholicism, apparitions are done by different methods.  It is thought by some that Mary did not appear bodily in Lourdes but was seen by remote vision.  The Bible believers always really believe in their own theories and speculations and interpretations rather than in the Bible.
 
The gospel says the apostles were in a boat and seen a ghost that turned out to be Jesus walking on water and he gets in the boat with them.  So it seems Jesus acted like a ghost long before he rose again.  Many ask if the story of Jesus walking on water in fact originally a post-resurrection story that has been put in the wrong place?  Jesus acted like a glowing ghost during the transfiguration.  Mark 9:1 tries to make out that the prediction of the son of man coming in power referred to the transfiguration. This is very forced for the prediction fits the idea of the second coming best. It does not really fit the transfiguration at all which was not even a coming. However the problem shows that Mark was written after the death of the last apostle of Jesus. It is trying to show that Jesus did not make a false prophecy when he said he would return and be seen by people of his generation.  The transfiguration could be a post-resurrection legend deliberately shoved back into Jesus' pre-resurrection "history."

 

The risen Jesus though he acted like a ghost, is still said to have been able to move things around physically and he supposedly even ate some fish. We cannot ascribe any importance to such claims. Ghost stories presented as true, are always embellished with elements to deflect any suspicion among one's listeners that it was a hallucination, a mental illness episode or imagination. One such element is the ghost maybe touching you or moving something around. It is strange if a ghost walks through a wall and is able to pull your bedclothes off! It is a contradiction. But it avoids the teller saying merely that they seen something - people believe it better if the entity was not only seen but if it touched or moved something. It seems to allay the suspicion that the teller had an illusion. This is a manipulative tactic. If you see Jesus lifting your kitten off the floor, it does not mean the kitten really was lifted. If Jesus can walk through walls he can easily give the impression that he really lifted the kitten. So you have no right to manipulate people in saying he lifted the kitten therefore he was not just a ghost.
 
The Christian Church is based on the belief that Jesus Christ rose again three days after he was crucified.
 
For many liberal believers, the resurrection had nothing at all to do with his body. What happened was Jesus was brought back to life but as a spirit and his body was not raised up. Keith Ward has pointed out in his book More than Matter? that the risen Jesus was soma pneumatikon (more than mere matter) and not soma psychikon. This indicates that the resurrection had some connection to his body but perhaps not much. Jesus could have risen while his corpse rotted in the tomb. God could have transformed some element of it into a new body.

 

William Lane Craig tells us:

 

The prominent New Testament scholar Dale C. Allison, Jr., is emphatic: nowhere in the Bible or in old Jewish or Christian literature does the language of resurrection refer to a materially new body, physically unconnected to the old. A resurrected body is always the old body or a piece of it come back to life and/or transformed. . . . Resurrection meant bodies in the ground coming back to life. To rise from the dead was to rise from one’s tomb.  Dale C. Allison, Jr., “The Resurrection of Jesus and Rational Apologetics,” Philosophia Christi 10 (2008): 315-338. When Allison says “or a piece of it,” he is referring to the bones of the deceased, which were, in fact, the principal object of the resurrection in Jewish belief and, hence, carefully preserved in ossuaries for the resurrection day.


End of quotation.  Read it again.  Todays theologians mostly think that it does not matter where the risen body comes from for resurrection is giving life back to a person not a body.
 
For moderate believers and even some extremists, God took a seed, piece, from the corpse and made a new semi-physical body that could change shape and go through walls and which had no need of food and drink. This body can even change its appearance. Jesus can look like Brad Pitt today and Orlando Bloom tomorrow. This body is called a spiritual body for it has the powers we attribute to ghosts and spirits and is like them. Other moderate believers believe that the entire human body of Jesus was turned into this kind of spiritual body. The extreme view is that Jesus’ body was physically raised from the dead and is physical though Jesus has the power to keep it alive forever and make it appear here and there like it came out of nowhere.
 
Which view does the Bible teach?
 
The evidence that the body of Jesus could be touched is dreadful.
 
According to the John Gospel, Thomas didn't believe that Jesus rose. So Jesus appeared to him to to show that he ought to believe. Though Jesus asked Thomas to touch his wounds after the resurrection it is not actually stated that Thomas did so. Jesus told Thomas that he believes because he has seen Jesus and those who do not see and who believe are blessed. This implies that Thomas made do with seeing. The New Testament may say that people touched the risen Jesus but it does not have any instances of anything like, "Jesus appeared to me and I touched him." It gives us no direct testimony. The twelve apostles were the twelve official and essential witnesses of Jesus. Not one of them to our knowledge ever claimed to have touched the risen Jesus. Indeed the way the Thomas story is laid out is meant to make people think they read that Thomas did touch him but a careful reading shows that that is not said at all. It shows the gospeller knew as we did that witnesses to a being who says he rose bodily from the dead are not witnesses at all to this resurrection if they have never touched him. It is like saying that you have witnessed a magician produce a live rabbit out of an empty hat when you have not taken a closer look at the rabbit to make sure it really is alive. Your testimony then becomes false and irrelevant and ineffective.
 
The problems show that the apostles were not as objective as Christians would like you to think! Thomas for example said he did not believe but he wanted to believe when he settled for just looking at the risen Jesus as evidence that Jesus rose. He wouldn't even touch him.
 
Most Christians hate the idea that Jesus rose spiritually from the dead for that makes the resurrection less believable. For example, occultists and mediums claim to routinely cause spiritual resurrections and the world is full of ghost stories in which people died and no body was ever found but they seemed to be back in bodily form after their deaths. But if the Bible doesn’t teach the resurrection these Christians want, nothing is to be gained by pretending different.
 
Paul avoided using the word anastasis which means physical resurrection. He used a word signifying to wake up. The word is eigiro. The word was used to waking up out of sleep (Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?) in Romans 13:11. All this is very important.

 

Paul boasted he would reveal a mystery to the people of Corinth.  He said not all will die but when the last trumpet sounds the living will not die but will simply turn into the same kind of imperishable beings as the dead will be when they rise.  They will have a celestial body like the stars.  The transformation will be instant.  This is odd.  In the light of how Christianity expected Jesus to return soon and in those days and thus raise the dead why is he saying it is mystery to say that there will be Christians alive when Jesus comes back and they will just change without dying?  It could not have been the first time they would have heard that they would change if Jesus happens to come back.  It looks like all the early Church did until then was say Jesus was alive but said nothing about what they meant by this - until now.  Now from a vague resurrection report the Church was moving into detail and specifics.  They were making it up as they went along.  The argument that they were learning that they might never die is thin.  It would be a strange gospel that would teach you that you must be killed at Jesus' return so that you can rise up.  It is obvious that a transformation leaves you being very different from being a normal human being.  Very different indeed - it is amazing and unimaginable.

 

The Second Letter of Peter recounts the transfiguration of Jesus and the writer says he witnessed it and heard God saying Jesus was his son. Yet he said that the word of the Old Testament was even more sure than this! He had reason to believe that he had had an illusion albeit a possibly divinely inspired illusion. When what he hinted was a doubtful miracle was all he could present as evidence for Jesus it shows that there was nothing. And this coming from a tradition of Peter the rock Jesus supposedly built his Church on! When he thinks the Old Testament is the sole source of reliable truth he is against the production of any gospels and stresses that we must listen to this word of God until the new dawn of resurrection morn comes (2 Peter 1:19). The early Church thought that post-resurrection visions and the empty tomb of Jesus were not important reasons to believe in Jesus compared to the Old Testament saying Jesus would rise from the dead.

 

The transfiguration story says that Jesus took Peter and James and John up a mountain and his robes turned pure white and his face shone like the sun and they could not believe their eyes literally and then Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus.  NOT ONE OF THE RESURRECTION STORIES IS LIKE THAT OR SAYS JESUS LOOKED GLORIOUS!!!  What we read in the transfiguration is what we should be reading about in the resurrected Jesus tales.  And we see nothing like it.  The story goes that the three apostles were banned by Jesus from telling anyone until after his resurrection from the dead.  It reads more like an example of false history where people make things up years after they have supposedly happened.  Why would Jesus care if they told or not?  If the apostles hallucinated something on the mountain and Jesus died and one or two women had dodgy visions of him the apostles could have been susceptible to thinking Jesus rose.  The transfiguration could have been the spark that ignited Christianity not the resurrection as such.  The transfiguration is not claimed to show that Jesus' body was different from a normal human body.  But it proves that if the resurrection visions were anything like it then the visions prove nothing about Jesus being forever glorious or immortal or having a spiritual body.

 

Second Peter thought so little of empty tombs and rising bodies that he eliminated the evidence for a physical resurrection.

 

The gospel of Mark denies the physical resurrection for it has the women who discovered the tomb empty being told by the men in white that Jesus has risen as in eigiro not anastasis the word for physical revival from death (page 201, Jesus Lived in India; Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?). The rest of Mark which has Jesus appearing is a forgery. Mark implies that God let something destructive happen to the body – perhaps he let thieves take it and burn it – in order to prevent the witnesses of the tomb from thinking that Jesus physically came back to life in his complete old body. Most people in the past considered things like cremation to be attacks on the power of God to raise the dead for they assumed that bodies that were cremated could not be revived which was why the disappearing body act was necessary. These naïve women at the tomb might have accepted much the same idea.

 

The most alarming thing about Mark is that though it has an early forged ending - not a single hint that anybody touched the risen Jesus appears in it.  It is all apparitions.  Yet it is accepted that it is not enough for Jesus to just appear.  A resurrection demands that the body be touched at some point.  Mark does not teach the bodily resurrection properly or did he believe in it at all?

In the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus when asked if a woman marries seven men whose wife will she be when they all rise again in the resurrection. Jesus says there is no marriage in Heaven or giving in marriage for the dead when they rise are like angels. Some say he just means the risen just lose their sex drive but are not like angels any other way. Some say he means that since angels are spirits with no bodies or materiality the dead are like spirits and have bodies that are not physical or barely physical. If Jesus rose like a non-physical or nearly non-physical angel that would be very interesting.  It would show that his resurrection did not require the revival of his crucified body. Jesus does not say anything about sex in the context but only says there is no marrying in Heaven and marriages are terminated by death. Marriage can exist without sex. The spiritual "body" interpretation is the correct one. It proves that the gospels do not actually say that Jesus’ entire body was raised though it did vanish.

 

Jesus actually hinted she would be nobody's wife.  Marriage is ended by death and there is no marrying in Heaven.  This reflects his doctrine that man and woman get married because their bodies fit each other - the two become one flesh in sex.  No bodies means no marriage.

There is no deception in Jesus having stigmata in his new body if it was made from a few cells for it is the same person. They are marks of an experience. There is no fraud any more that if the old body had been used and was changed into something very different. It would have been deceptive or more deceptive if Jesus’ new incarnation had had no stigmata for they are a part of his identification. And if there had been an integrity problem with the wounds it might only mean that the writers never realised that if Jesus rose spiritually the wounds were not the same ones.  However, it is undeniable that if Jesus came back in a body that could pass through walls, live forever and levitate into Heaven then the problem arises is, “Is this really the same Jesus or same person or is it just a copy?” When he is too different you cannot know if it is him. Christians say he can even change his appearance and turn into a dove if he wants.
 
The friends of Jesus were told that Jesus was not in the tomb anymore but had been raised which seems to say the whole body was raised. We call John’s corpse John and we still say that John meaning his spirit is in Heaven. We might say, “John is not in that coffin anymore for he is a ghost standing by that fireplace”.

If Jesus’ body had showed up after the resurrection it would not have harmed the Christian Faith. They could have just reinterpreted their dogma of Jesus’ return.

Even if the early Christians believed Jesus was a physical body after the resurrection that they experienced in apparitions and even touched, they did not believe that this body was made of flesh. Paul speaks of spiritual bodies like the one Jesus had at his resurrection and says it differs from flesh like the heavenly substance of the sun and moon and stars differs from flesh (1 Corinthians 15: 37-50). If Jesus needed a new body from stardust, then it suggests that the early Christians had no concern for the one he lived in as a human being.
 
Matthew never says that the disciples did not take the body. He only reports what he believes happened and that the Jews blamed the disciples for the missing body.

John 2 has Jesus saying he will demolish the temple, his body, and raise it up in three days. Just like bits of the old temple might be used for the reconstruction so it will be with his body.

Acts has Peter quoting Psalm 16 to argue that Jesus rose and it says God will not leave somebody’s soul in the grave or let him see corruption or rotting. It could fit the idea that the person was raised and then not allowed to corrupt alive or by dying again. All bodies corrupt alive and shed dead cells.

It is reported in John that the disciple believed in an unspecified something when he saw the empty tomb and says he did not know the scripture that Jesus must rise yet. What he believed was that the tomb was robbed of the body for he had been told that happened and that was why he ran to the tomb. There is no hint that he simply believed that the body was missing. That is out of the textual context. Attempts to reconcile John with the rest have it that the disciple knew by then of the women claiming to have met Jesus so the unspecified something was the resurrection. But John never said anything about that so that must be rejected. John could not have meant a resurrection was believed when he never mentioned the reports. He also said the disciple did not know the scripture that Jesus would rise which is only worth mentioning if the disciple did not believe in the resurrection. If the disciple believed that Jesus rose bodily there is no hint given that he was right which is important. Also, John just wants to say that Jesus rose and does not go into what kind of resurrection it was.

If the Risen Jesus was not a body then if the women and the apostles saw in their hearts that Jesus was alive they could talk as if they had visions or locutions though they saw nothing with their physical or mental eyes or heard nothing with their ears or inside their heads. Books that say the resurrection could be a myth are not contradicting themselves when they do not impute lies to the witnesses. But people will think they are when they are not told how stories of visions and voices are necessary to express what they experienced.

The Pharisees understood resurrection to be the revival of the whole dead body (page 103, The Resurrection Factor) and it is thought that Jesus had to rise fully because of that. But the earliest record sees Jesus’ resurrection as different. Jesus was not what they expected the Messiah to be so why should he rise again in the way the Pharisees thought it should be done? What matters is what the Christians thought and it was not hard to make up the idea of a ghost style resurrection body. Christians have no business bringing irrelevant material into the equation. That is one of their favourite apologetic tricks.

 

Keep in mind that in theology, resurrection is not the same thing as revival or resuscitation. It is salvation of the body and giving it eternal life. In the John Gospel, Jesus tells Magdalene not to touch him. John does not tell us what he meant by saying, “Don’t touch me for I have not gone to the Father yet.” To the unbiased theologian Jesus talks as if he is only a revived corpse at that point in time. Going to the Father is possibly a way of saying God has not changed his body into the resurrection body that Paul talks about that is more like a spirit body than an ordinary one.  The way is opened to saying that the spiritual body doctrine was not based on anything but theology and hypothesis for all the apostles said they met was a ordinary man back from the dead.

The Gnostic Treatise on the Resurrection comes from the late second century AD and it relates that Jesus rose from the dead and it is more fitting to say the world is an illusion than that Jesus’ resurrection was. This is used in books like He Walked Among Us to defend the resurrection (page 96). But Gnostics saw the resurrection not in physical but spiritual terms. For the Gnostic, Jesus’ resurrection was principally Jesus rising from ignorance and material existence into enlightenment and spiritual existence. The spiritual is the only real or important thing in Gnostic theology. That is why the Treatise prefers a person to deny the existence of the world for it is less real or important than spirit. The Treatise really destroys the resurrection. It says it is better to deny the world than to deny the resurrection. It means in this that the spiritual is more real than the physical. The resurrection then cannot be a physical event but a spiritual one.

There are far more people today who have seen the risen Elvis Presley than there were who saw the risen Jesus. The Christian says that we know these stories are untrue despite the numbers because Elvis still lies in his grave. But how do they know that the body in the grave is still there or that it is Elvis’s body? And if a spiritual resurrection is possible then it does not matter about the body!  The New Testament assertion that Jesus’ body vanished is not offered as proof that Jesus rose at all. When the Christians sneer at the Elvis stories they are saying that Christianity is proved merely by an empty tomb and not even by the visions of Jesus. If they want to say that then fine. It will save us the trouble of setting their converts straight for they won’t be winning any. They are also stating that the visions of Paul who never saw the empty tomb are insufficient as proof.

 

The gospel of Mark ends abruptly and the two existing endings are inauthentic. They are not Mark's work.

 

It has been observed that the prologue of Mark is the mirror image of the abrupt conclusion. The pattern shows that the abrupt end of Mark at the point where the women being told that Jesus rose go and say nothing to anybody is how Mark may have meant the gospel to end. His gospel refused to mention resurrection appearances meaning we should decide ourselves how we can hold Jesus rose from the dead. He thought that visions were worthless in that respect. If the sudden end was deliberate it was meant to urge you to start reading again from the beginning. This to me would suggest the risen Jesus was not important and the normal Jesus was but that Mark wanted Jesus to rise again in our hearts. That could be understood in a non-literal way. Soon after the gospel starts Jesus gets the Holy Spirit. If Jesus were God then, the Holy Spirit could not possibly be given to him for he would have the Spirit with him. Near the end Jesus feels abandoned by God as if the Spirit left him. Jesus dies normal. This is further support for this position about the ending.
 
FINALLY 

 

In the book Jesus is Dead by Robert Price we read about bishop Wright who tries to get around the references in the Bible to the risen Jesus as a spirit.  "When he gets to Luke, Wright laughs off the screaming contradiction between Luke 24:40 (“Touch me and see: no spirit has flesh as you can see I have.”) and 1 Corinthians 15:50 and 45 (“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”“The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”). The contexts of both passages make it quite clear that the terms are being used in the same senses, only that one makes the risen Jesus fleshly, while the other says the opposite. Wright’s laughable hair-splitting is a prime example of the lengths he will go to get out of a tight spot. Similarly, when he gets to 1 Peter 3:18 (Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison,” etc.), Wright rewrites the text to make it say what he wants: “he was put to death by the flesh, and brought to life by the Spirit.” This is just ridiculous."

 

It is interesting that Christians go to any lengths to make contradictions in the Bible fit but they don't say, "Jesus rose from the dead in his body but his body evolved into a spirit."  How is that for a reconciliation?

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tries to explain how the resurrection body is not physical the way our bodies are now but is more spiritual than physical.  Romans 8:11 has Paul saying that God will make alive our mortal bodies just like Christ's.  That could still fit a dramatic transformation.  When Paul wrote that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom it is said he explained what he meant.  He said the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable in Heaven so flesh and blood just mean our fragile flesh and blood the way they are now.  That needs a lot of renovation so the end result will be very unlike the body we now have.

 

Paul is dealing in 1 Corinthians 15 with people who think the dead cannot rise and that culture tended to be okay with a person living on after death as a spirit (immortality of the soul) but the idea of a body rising was insane to them. What Paul does is he does not argue that a body can come back but he argues that it is changed radically which is why it can come back. It is a spiritual body which can be almost pure spirit if you like but not quite.  A spiritual body for Paul does not necessarily mean a body that cannot have any physical powers or characteristics. But it can. He shows them that if you don’t think dead bodies are just revived that is fine and it is also fine if you think life after death is very spiritual but argues that the truth is somewhere in between. Both views have merit but are not the full picture.

 

The notion that a spiritual body means a physical body that was able to teleport and vanish and do without food and act like a ghost without being a ghost is interesting. Why not just say it is a ghost? It doesn’t do anything different from what a ghost does! The spiritual body being physical means nothing for a ghost is often seen as being physical in some way too which is why we are all afraid of ghosts. The resurrection of Jesus is less convincing when one realises that nobody was ever saying the body rose entirely. It seems to have provided the seed for the new body which was more like a ghost or an apparition than a body. There have been countless ghostly resurrections in the world similar to it. It’s not unique. Scientist William Crookes testified that Katie King had been raised from the dead at Florence Cook séances. We know the man and who he was better than any of those mysterious New Testament writers. Makes more sense to trust him than them - though I am not saying we should.

 

I wish to end with a quote from Rutherford, president of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a faith that affirms Jesus did not rise bodily but returned as a spirit, about Jesus missing body, "Jehovah God disposed of that body in his own way, just as he disposed of the body of Moses, who was a type of Christ Jesus; but no one knows how." Though God had nothing to do with it this religion is not too far from the truth!