Resurrection: Refutting the "No Body Theory"

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 Corinthians 15: 50 Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen,29 I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep,

but we will all be changed—

52 in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable,

and this mortal body must put on immortality.

54 Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

 The "no Body" theory comes in two versions: 1) that Jesus was an historical figure, but his resurrection was non-bodily; he didn't leave an empty tomb but just appeared to people as a spirit; 2) or that he never existed, and in fact Paul didn't really believe that he was a real a flesh and blood person, but merely a mythological figure or ethereal personage; the object of worship of a mystery cult. Those who hold to this latter view see Paul as a Gnostic. These "thinkers" such as Wells or Earl Doherty, totally ignored by the real academy, believe that the historical trappings of the Jesus story came after all the books of the canon were written, in the second century. Since these two views overlap I'll just lump them into the latter position; that is the more popular and faddish at the moment anyway .

The answer, of course, is that Paul's belief was the same as the Jewish belief of the day, that Messiah was to raise all of fallen Israel at the end of times. This was to be a bodily resurrection. Paul sees Jesus as the "first fruits" or the hearld of this mass resurrection in the end. But why would he speak of a bodily resurrection for us (which clearly he does, as we see in the quotation at the top from 1 Cor. 15) and not for Jesus himself? The argument is that

(1)Paul saw Jesus resurrection as a prototype of ours:

(2)He understood our resurrection (that of Israel/chruch) as bodily

(3)why would the prototype not also be bodily?

The major arguments for this view are as follows:

1) Paul never mentions the empty tomb.

2) None of the "Catholic" Epistles mention the empty tomb.

3)Paul makes certain references to Jesus "The first man Adam became a living being" [physical being], the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (Romans 5v. 45). His phrase, "life-giving spirit" (pneuma zoopoioun), is equivalent to his "spiritual body," and is related to his use of the same verb, "to make alive" in verse 23.

From that point one simply reads everything Paul says as though it implies this view.

The argument is mainly an argument from silence. The real power of the assertion is found in the silence of Paul and his failure to mention the empty tomb. But of course it is an assertion and an interpretation based upon nothing more than silence and circular reasoning. Having decided to read all of Paul's words in this way everything becomes confirmation of the view. Even when Paul clearly states that Christ had a flesh and blood linage (Romans 1:3) than even that is simply interpreted away; the response is that the Greek "kata" (according to as in "according to the flesh) means "in the appearance of flesh" not that he really had a fleshly linage. But this reading into the passage a subtle and subjective aspect which has no basis in the rest of the text other than Paul's silence.

It is not clear why Paul never mentions the tomb, but it is equally unclear why he has to. After all, none of his epistles were written to people who where contesting the resurrection. The story of the empty tomb would have been know to everyone as a basic tenet of the faith, there was no real reason to mention it. Moreover, some of his statements about the resurrection imply the story of the tomb, but this will be seen later. It might also be added that they didn't look at the witness of the tomb in the way that we do. It is a modern invention to think in terms of eye witness proofs and evidence. The early church did not look to the empty tomb as a proof that Jesus was Messiah, but as a statement about the greatness of God and the hope and future that the faith in Christ offered. Thus, since the issue didn't come up he doesn't mention it. But he certainly speaks of resurrection, and it will be seen that for Paul resurrection meant the body is raised to life again.

This is nothing more than what we should expect since it was a basic tenet of Jewish teaching that Messiah would come and raise all of Israel bodily; the dead of Israel would rise to life again. This is what the Jews believed and we have no good reason for assuming that Paul didn't mean that. Moreover, new evidence from Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) illustrates this fact:

The Jewish Roman World of Jesus (website)
Archaeology and The Dead Sea Scrolls
"The Signs of the Messiah: 4Q521
by James D. Tabor
(visited 6/15/01)

One of the more intriguing of the newly released Dead Sea Scrolls is a fragment now titled "Messianic Apocalypse" (4Q521). This text contains three rather striking features that are of particular significance for comparing the apocalyptic beliefs and expectations of the Qumran community with the emerging early Christian movement. First, the text speaks of a single Messiah figure who will rule heaven and earth. Second, it mentions in the clearest language the expectation of the resurrection of the dead during the time of this Messiah. And third, and perhaps most important for students of the New Testament, it contains an exact verbal parallel with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for identifying of the times of the Messiah.

Tabor quotes Michael Wise's translation of the fragment:

[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones. Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this? For the Lord will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name. Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent] And f[or] ever I will cleav[ve to the h]opeful and in His mercy . . .
And the fr[uit . . .] will not be delayed for anyone.
And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He . . .] For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news
to the poor
. . .He will lead the uprooted and knowledge . . . and smoke (?)
(Michael O. Wise, translation)

Thus, Tabor states:

"We now have an unambiguous statement that "raising the dead" was one of the key expectations of the Messianic age in this community[Qumran[. Line 11 of this text also contains another highly striking feature. Indeed, it appears to be the closest and most direct linguistic parallel to a New Testament text that we have yet discovered. The line reads: "For he will heal the wounded, resurrect the dead, and proclaim glad tiding to the poor."

Tabor speaks of the story where the deligatoin came from John the Baptist to learn if Jesus was actually the Christ.The answer he gives is as follows:

Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tiding preached to them (Luke 7:22-23 and Matthew 11:4-5).

"This reply is cast in the style of a precise formula. It reflects a very early Christian expectation of the signs of the messianic age and the marks for identification of the Messiah. One indication that we have here a very early Christian tradition is that these passages from Luke and Matthew come from the source scholars have designated as Q, from the German word Quelle, meaning "Source." According to most N.T. scholars, Q was a collection of the "Sayings of Jesus," somewhat like the Gospel of Thomas in genre, which was compiled in the middle of the first century, but before our finished Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written"

"The phrase at the end of line 11, about "proclaiming glad tidings to the poor" is a direct quotation from Isaiah 61:1, which tells of an "anointed one" (i.e., messiah) who will work various signs before the Day of the Lord. This passage is quite important in the Gospel of Luke. In fact, he highlights it as the inauguration of the Messianic mission of Jesus. According to Luke, it is this very verse from Isaiah which Jesus reads and claims to fulfill in his home town synagogue of Nazareth. However, what is most noteworthy is that Isaiah 61:1 says nothing about this Anointed One "raising the dead." Indeed, in the entire Hebrew Bible there is nothing about a messiah figure raising the dead. Yet, when we turn to the Q Source, which Luke and Matthew quote, regarding the "signs of the Messiah," we find the two phrases linked: "the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tidings preached to them," precisely as we have in our Qumran text. Luke makes more than passing use of this notion of the "resurrection of the dead" as a sign of the age of the Messiah. In the two places he quotes Isaiah 61:1 he also mentions specific cases of resurrection of the dead: as Elijah once raised the son of the widow, Jesus now raises the son of the widow from Nain (Luke 4:26; 7:11-17). This is hardly accidental, as the close juxtaposition of the texts makes clear."

This reference is a link between the early church, the community of John the Baptist, and the community of Qumran, or at least the Qumran-like movement which saw itself as the faithful remnant of Israel awaiting liberation by the Messiah. This Messianich movment was the cultural background out of which Jesus and his followers arose (see the Messiah pages). Eisenman and Wise demonstrate quite clearly that the early chrurch, especially James' group in Jerusalem, were an outgrowth of this larger movement. While this does not indicate that the followers of Jesus expected him to raise from the dead, it is a strong indication that their concept would have been that of bodily resurrection, just as the Jews already believed. Later, when reports of the risen Christ began to circulate, they put the two together and come up with what would become a chief tenet of Pauline theology, that Christ was "first fruits." That is, since the Messiah held the "keys of life" and would raise all the fallen of Israel to bodily life once more, that the Messiah was the fist to undergo this sort of transformation. Alfred Edersheim in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah clearly demonstrates that this is the case. No specific prophesy said that Messiah himself would rise from the dead (with the excepted possibility of Is 53 which is hotly disputed). But in so rising, they understood that Messiah was the fist and that his followers would partake of that transformation by sharing it with him. This link connects the the early church to that prior eschatological expectation of the Messianic movement :


"It is also significant that this section of the Q Source is dealing with traditions shared between the community of John the Baptist and that of the early followers of Jesus. The close connections between John the Baptist and the community that produced the Scrolls have been pointed out by many scholars. Through this Dead Sea Scroll fragment, coupled with the early Q Source of the Gospels, we are taken back to a very early common tradition within Palestinian Judaism regarding the "signs of the Messiah." We are in a better position to speak of the common expectations of a variety of interrelated apocalyptic, sectarian, baptist groups which have fled to the "wilderness" to prepare the "Way of the Lord" (Isaiah 40:3; Luke 3:4; 1QS 8,9). They appear to share a specific set of expectations, and they draw in strikingly similar ways, upon a common core of prophetic texts from the Hebrew Bible and related Jewish literature. Of course, this fragment alone does not settle our attempts to identify the people of the Scrolls—whether they should be labeled as Essenes, Sadducees, Zealots, Pharisees, Nazarenes, Ebionites, or a unique blend of their own amalgamation. However, the text does provide a most direct and significant example of a common messianic hope among the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Teacher of Righteousness."

The "no Body" Theorists would have us believe that to this mix we should add Gnosticism; that for some time priror to Christianity Gnosticism had gained a foothold in Judaism and somehow produced a mystery cult about a figure called "Jesus" who somehow had a cult following but has no origin in recorded myth and doesn't seem to belong to any mythical genre. Now it is true that Gnstoicism may have preceeded Christiainity.There is much evidence for a pre-Chrsitian Jewish Gnsoticism. But there is no real evidence that this view had a significant voice at Qumran or in the Messianich movment. Rather, the notion of a transformed resurrection body is what is at issue with Pauline theology.

Paul believed in a complete transformation of all creation at the return of Christ. He saw the Christian's lot as shared with that of Christ. "If we share in his death we shall also share in his resurrection." (Romans 6). The resurrection of the dead, for Paul, was a culmination of a process through which "all of nature groans for liberation." The transforming power of God would change all those in Christ, "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of eye, at the last trump..." The fleshly body would be transformed into a "resurrection body," spirit, "glorified," but a body and tangible and made of a subsubstance none the less. Tabor argues that for Paul the atonement was participatory, we share in Christ's death through baptism (Rom 6) and thus, we also share in his resurrection, new life, and future, through baptism and through the regenerative act that comes from it. Merely sharing is not the link to glorification, since we also share in his death, but it leads to the shared glorified nature of the resurrection body, which all shall obtain at Christ's return. Rom. 8:29 we share in his image,(eikon, form in 2 cor 3:18, and sharing the image in Rom 8:29)"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (metamorphoumetha) into his image (eikona) from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.."

Taber (Ibid)

"Although the meaning and context of this verse is difficult, I do not think one finds here, or in the following section of 2 Cor. 5:1-10, any shift from the idea that transformation/glorification is completed only at the return of Jesus from heaven."

"Even though he uses the present tense in 2 Cor. 3:18, coupled with the phrase "from one degree of glory to another," (apo doxes eis doxan), the thought is the same as Rom. 8:29. It is his use of eikon ("image") which I find striking. Phil. 3:21 shows that he has in mind a transformation of what he calls the soma ("body"). He elaborates his idea of a transformed body in 1 Cor. 15, which I discuss below. This connection of eikon with doxa[right that's why the site is called "Doxa"] occurs elsewhere. In 2 Cor. 4:4 he speaks of the god of this age who has blinded the eyes of unbelievers so that they can not see the "light of the gospel of the glory (tes doxes) of Christ, who is in the image (eikon) of God." In verse 6 he says that God’s illumination of the hearts of these believers brings about the "light of the knowledge of the glory (tes doxes) of God in the face of Christ." Paul’s message is a gospel of the glory of Christ, i.e., a gnosis of the glory of God seen in Christ, who is the eikon of God. Such language is not mere rodomontade. We are dealing here with the heart of Paul’s system of thought, the belief that Christ bears the image and glory of God, and that believers in Christ have already begun to share the glory of Christ, being transformed into his image, and will share it completely in the End."

"This is the climax toward which his presentation in Romans (beginning in 1:16) moves. He then proceeds to explain how this glory is to be revealed and what it will involve: 'For the creation expectantly longs for the revealing of the Sons of God; since it was subjected to futility, not through its own desire but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its enslavement to corruption obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Because we know that the whole creation has been groaning in birth pangs until now; but not only the creation but we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we groan inside waiting for our sonship, that is, the redemption of our bodies. For we were saved in this very hope. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see we wait for it patiently.' (Rom. 8:19-25) Just as in Phil. 3:21, which I have already quoted, Paul has in mind here the transformation of the body, i.e., its release from decay and glorification at the return of Christ from heaven. The use of the word huiothesia (translated "sonship"--v 23) to refer to this event is significant. Several manuscripts (chiefly Western) omit the word, probably because it appears to contradict 8:15:"

Thus, in this conext we find the major peice of evidence used by the 'No body' thoerists, that Paul speaks of Christ risen as a "spirit." But this is not to say a disembodied spirit, but a transformed spiritual body:

Tabor (Ibid)

"Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being" [physical being], the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (v. 45). His phrase, "life-giving spirit" (pneuma zoopoioun), is equivalent to his "spiritual body," and is related to his use of the same verb, "to make alive" in verse 23."

So the major positive evidence for the no Body view falls due to poor interpretation. The no body theorists are merely reading in the assumptions they want to see there.

Now to complete the argument, let's look at what has been said. It was the Jewish concept that resurrection would come to all Israel and that this would be a resurrection of the Body. The early church came to understand Jesus, the Messiah, as the first fruits of that resurrection, the prototype in whose new life the rest would participate and share. Clearly Paul believed that we would all be raised in Christ to transformed spiritual bodies that would be solid and corporal. This is clearly seen in his discussion of different kinds of flesh. In 1 Cor 15 he's trying to convince those who don't believe that we will have a resurrection from the dead. Now did they not believe in life after death? Certainly the odds are that they did believe in some form of after life, so they must have doubted bodily resurrection and that is what Paul defends. He uses the resurrection of Christ to argue for the resurrection of all, that's how we can see that our resurrections are merely following the patter of Jesus' resurection. That he is arguing for bodily resurrection is obvious. In this context he compares types of bodies, of flesh.. 1 Cor 39-42:

"for not all flesh is alike, for there is one kind for men and another kind for animals, another for birds, another for fish.There are clestial bodies and there are terrestrial it is with the resurrection of the dead, what is sowen is perishable, what is raised is imperishable."

Since Paul believed that we would have physical resurrection bodies (although glorified) he must have believed that Jesus had a resurrection body also because we are merely partaking of Christ's resurrection. And if his body was transformed and risen from death, than his tomb would be empty. It follows therefore that Paul must have accepted the empty tomb, he just never had an occasion to speak of it in writing.

1) Our resurrection will share in the likeness of Jesus Resurrection:
Ro 6:5 -
For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be {in the likeness} of His resurrection,

2) Resurrection for Paul meant that the body is brought back to life and transformed into a new form of body, a glorified body with some sort of spiritual overtones, but still a risen solid body.

1Co 15:42 - Show Context So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable {body,} it is raised an imperishable {body;}

"So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:"

3)Since for Paul resurrection means a body, and since our resurrection is merely following the pattern of Jesus' resurrection, it stands to reason that he must have understood Jesus to have physically risen from the dead.

 Historical argument that crucifixion victims could be buried.

 Josephus got some down from the cross, they were attended by physicians and one saved. It seems unlikely that they would then refuse to allow them to be buried:

 Dr. James Tabor,
Jewish Roman world of Jesus (website)

Josephus (b. 37 C.E.) is our best literary source for the practice of crucifixion in Palestine during the Greco-Roman period. As a general in command of the Jewish forces of Galilee in the Great Revolt against Rome (66-73 C.E.), he reports his attempts to save the lives of three crucified captives by appealing directly to the Roman general Titus. One survived the cross under a physician’s care, the other two could not be saved.

Life 76

And when I was sent by Titus Caesar with Cerealins, and a thousand horsemen, to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp, as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.

We know that some crucifixion victims were buried


"Jehohanan (Yehohanan) was a man put to death by crucifixion in the 1st century CE, whose ossuary was found in 1968 when building contractors working in Giv'at ha-Mivtar, a Jewish neighborhood in northern East Jerusalem, accidentally uncovered a Jewish tomb.[1] The Jewish stone ossuary had the Hebrew inscription "Jehohanan the son of Hagkol". In his initial anthropological observations in 1970 at Hebrew University, Nicu Haas concluded Jehohanan was crucified with his arms stretched out with his forearms nailed, supporting crucifixion on a two-beamed Latin cross.[2] However, a 1985 reappraisal discovered multiple errors in Haas's observations.[3][4]"
[2] Joe Zias, Crucifixion in Antiquity--the Evidence.
[3] "Crucifixion – The Archaeological Evidence," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 11 (1985), pp. 44-53
[4] Fitzmyer, Yadin, "Epigraphy and Crucifixion," Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 23(1973), pp. 494-498.