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'He is Risen' - A Response to JimSpace (Part One)

Tags: jesus spirit body
'He is Risen'
September 26th, 2017

(Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four)

Today, I'll be responding to JimSpace's post Jesus' Resurrection Body (here). There will be three posts immediately following this and a forth (for a total of five) further down the road.
The Christian Scriptures describe his resurrection body both as material and non-material or spiritual. For instance, his body could be observed as physical and he could be touched. He also walked, ate and drank. (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:15, 39, 43; John 20:20; Acts 10:41) Yet, he is also described as disappearing from sight and suddenly appearing in a group. This is reminiscent of "beaming up" and "beaming down" of Star Trek fame. (Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19) Additionally, Acts 1:3 points out that during a forty-day period he "was not continually visible to the apostles ... but appeared to them on various occasions" only. (NET Bible, footnote); and Acts 10:40-41 informs us that his post-resurrection appearances were done selectively. His absence in between those selected intervals of time may be explained by him disappearing. Thus, Jesus was materializing and dematerializing at will, just as spirit beings did prior as recorded in the Hebrew Bible.—Judges 6:21, Genesis 19. See also Acts 12:10.
Jim takes "spiritual" to mean something like 'composed of spirit' or 'is a Spirit - like an angel'; however, taken this way, the evidence he gives is insufficient to warrant his claim that Jesus resurrection body is described in the Bible as "spiritual". Physical objects can disappear from view, and I don't see what, in principle, could prevent them from being rendered invisible, or being instantaneously moved from once place to another.[1] If such things can sensibly be said of physical objects, like the human body - and Jim gives us no reason to think otherwise - then we have no reason to think that, since such things are said of Jesus' resurrection body, it is therefore immaterial.
Another spiritual manifestation that is most noteworthy is Jesus' appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus.
Why is it "spiritual"? Because Jesus was a spirit (as angels are)? Or, because Paul saw it in a vision, or 'out of the body'? Jim seems to take the first option: Jesus just was a spirit being. How does he know this? Because Jesus radiated light "beyond the brilliance of the sun" at midday", his "resurrection body was clearly . . . supernatural and manifestly non-material."

Well, light is a physical thing, so that he radiated it in great quantities seems to imply that he was physical. Also, compare this account with Exodus 34:29-25 and 1 Corinthians 3:7. There, Moses' face is evidently bright and glorious because he talked to God, but Moses didn't cease to have a human body. Why Jim doesn't think a glorified human body could shine brighter than the sun at midday, I'm not sure; but, it seems to me, that merely doing so isn't sufficient for us to conclude your body is immaterial.

Jim goes on to reference Daniel's vision of an angel (Daniel 10:5,6) and John's of Jesus at Revelation 1:12-16, noting that these descriptions are similar to each other and to how Jesus appeared to Paul. Somehow this gets him to conclude that Jesus has a "supernatural and manifestly non-material" body. I'm not sure why. Evidently if two things are described as appearing (in person or in visions) in similar ways, they must be the same kind of thing. I find that a stretch. (Additionally, I'm not convinced that "supernatural" = "immaterial".)
In Luke 24:39-43 and John 20:27, Jesus is appearing as a materialization, not as a spirit or vision, bearing his stigmata as a sign.
Let's also quote the passages mentioned:
Luke 24:39-43 - See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you see that I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. But while they were still not believing for sheer joy and amazement, he said to them: “Do you have something there to eat?” So they handed him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it before their eyes.

John 20:27 - Next he said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop doubting but believe.”
Jim says that Jesus wasn't a spirit. Well, not exactly. He says that Jesus wasn't a non-materialized spirit", which is to say that he was a materialized spirit. And a materialized spirit just is a spirit merely appearing as if he was a human being; a spirit in humans' clothing, if you will. However, Jesus' claim seemed to be stronger than that, and thus inconsistent with Jim's qualified (pseudo-)affirmation that Jesus was not a spirit.

Now would be a good time to say something about what it means for a spirit to materialize. The Bible doesn't shed much light on this. Does it mean that they utilize matter and construct a semblance of a human body which they might control as a puppet? Or do they transform some parts of them into matter from which can fashion what appears to be a human body? In either case do they, strictly, speaking create a human body, or only what is only a human body in name only, which they merely control as a puppeteer controls his puppets?[2]

I think that Jim doesn't want to say that angels, when they "materialize", cease to be spirits beings, or that Jesus ceased to be a spirit being when he "materialized". Nor do I think he wants to say that that Jesus literally had a complete human body again, since this seems to imply that he took on human nature again (especially for a physicalist like Jim, where a human being just is their body functioning in a certain way), which Jim denies; he also denies that Jesus could or does have two natures, and saying that Jesus during his resurrection appearances had a true human body would seem to entail something like the Hypostatic Union (only a angelic-human union instead of a Divine-human union).

In any event, the key point is this: Jim still takes Jesus to be a spirit, yet Jesus says that he isn't a spirit; Jim can't accept Jesus' words as they are, but must do violence to their meaning in order to appear to affirm what the Bible says.
At Acts 17:31 and 1 Timothy 2:5, the resurrected Jesus is called "a man." This description would naturally refer to Jesus' experience as a man on earth during his ministry—it would more fittingly be applied to him being a man experientially, not ontologically.
Naturally, of course! While Jim says that what he's doing here is just exegesis, it doesn't seem like it. Given the above, it seems the natural way to take these verses is to say that Jesus is - present tense - "ontologically" a man, that is, to take them at face value.
(As we know, human flesh cannot survive outside of earth's [sic] protective atmosphere. Making his flesh do so would be a continuous miracle from 33 C.E. and is completely unnecessary.) This natural exegesis also follows for Christians resurrected to heavenly life, for as we know, physical bodies can only exist in an earthly environment. Claiming otherwise destroys credibility, as continuous miraculous molecular micromanagement is both unnecessary and absurd.
Does Jim think the moon landings were fake? I presume not, even though the astronauts were outside of the Earth's atmosphere. If men can fashion some way to preserve a mortal, corruptible and frail human bodies outside of Earth's atmosphere, why couldn't God sustain an immortal, incorruptible, powerful, glorified human body outside of the earth's atmosphere? (And where does Jim think the man Jesus is? Floating around in outer space? Is God unable to prepare a place for him until his return that is conducive to his life as a glorified human in lieu of Earth?)

Jim just asserts that it's obvious - that we should know - that human flesh cannot survive outside of the Earth's atmosphere, but it isn't and Jim doesn't give any argument to think otherwise. As we know, the water of the Red Sea doesn't just stand on each side of people trying pass through it, therefore it must not have happened. Or something like that.

Further, he complains that it would strain credibility to say that God sustains Jesus' body part by part.[3] But since God sustains the entire word, conserving all things in existence, it isn't that implausible to think that God could or would sustain Jesus' body. Perhaps a bit more imagination is in order.
Romans 8:11 - If, now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.
Jim argues that Romans 8:11 doesn't indicate that our present physical, human bodies will be made glorious, and thus this verse is no proof that we will retain physical bodies in the Resurrection. If that is so, he argues, we shouldn't think that Jesus received an incorruptible human body either. This line of reasoning rests on his claim that the context indicates that 'being made alive' is meant "in a spiritual sense."

What does he mean by "spiritual sense" here? Composed of, or being a spirit being? I don't think so. I think he means 'having died toward sin, and having become godly' or something like this. (This will come back to bite him later on when we talk about what it means for the resurrection body to be 'spiritual'.) I'll concede this point (what 'made alive means' not the further implication he draws from this), at least for the sake of argument; because by itself, this doesn't show that the dead won't be raised up as humans with glorified, yet physical, bodies.
Similarly, Colossians 2:9 teaches that in Jesus "all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily." This is clearly referring to a divine spirit body as presented in 1 Corinthians 15:45, 1 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 3:18.
I don't think that Watchtower would agree about limiting the reference of Colossions 2:9 to his resurrection body, in some places they seem to apply this passage, at least in part, to Jesus' earthly ministry; it wasn't so clear to them. Why is it clear to Jim? I don't think the answer is found in Colossians 2:9 or its context, rather it is clear to him in light of three other verses he mentions.

1 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 3:18 are of no help to him if "spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit, since those passages wouldn't be touching on the nature/composition of Jesus' resurrection body, only the principle by which it is alive or toward which it is directed. Most translations says "by the Spirit"; however, I won't discuss how the verses should be translated, since I know no Greek. At worst for the traditional view of Christ's resurrection, that means we should put these to the side as unhelpful or irrelevant. This leaves us with 1 Corinthians 15:45.
1 Corinthians 15:45 -  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living person.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
I don't see why - in light of the above, including Jesus' own words - the word "spirit" couldn't be used of Jesus' human nature. (However, it is also important to note that Jesus possesses two natures, one of which is spiritual; the reference might be to him according to his other nature. Whether this other nature be angelic or the Divine Nature is beside the point here; though, I think it is more likely than not that this other nature is the Divine Nature.)

One of the reasons I say that Jesus being called "a life-giving spirit" doesn't mean that he was resurrected as a spirit being (or like an angel) can be expressed this way: "spirit" often refers to that which enlivens, to things as different as the human spirit (which animates the human body) or God's Spirit which is the ultimate source of life. In each case, "spirit" doesn't describe the nature of the thing, but its function, which, broadly speaking, is to impart life. Jesus, unlike Adam (who merely had life) will impart life to whoever he wants it (and not even mere existence at that). Since a glorified human Jesus could do this, it would not be improper to call him "a life-giving spirit." [4]

Jim also says that Hebrews 5:7 "places Jesus' being in the flesh in the past."
Hebrews 5:7 - [In the days of his flesh], Christ offered up supplications and also petitions, with strong outcries and tears, to the One who was able to save him out of death, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.
But does "flesh" = "having / being a human body"? Well what did the resurrected Jesus say? He had flesh and bones (idiomatic for having / being a human body). So "flesh" =/= "possessing / being a human body". Indeed, "flesh" is often used idiomatically to refer to what is frail, mortal or corruptible. Thus, Paul is merely saying that 'While Jesus was in his mortal body' or 'Before he was resurrected . . .'[5]
Of additional interest is John 6:63, where Jesus declared: "It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all." (NWT) The later clause has been alternately rendered as "The flesh doesn't help at all" (HCSB) and "the flesh counts for nothing." (NIV) Jesus' statement here would seem to support the conclusion that he now has no use for the physical body he had on earth, and ceased needing it after he vanished from sight for the final time. (Acts 1:9) It is now his spirit body that is life-giving and the only one he needs.
Jim is taking John 6:63 out of context. Jesus isn't describing the nature of the body he will have at his resurrection. The verse and Jesus continue, "The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." He is teaching that his sayings, which impart life, are to those who obey them "spirit", which I think helps the point I finished making above. This indicates that by "flesh" Jesus meant something like "the yearnings and desires of sin" and that these are of no help at all. (See Romans 8:6) (Compare how the New International Version renders John 6:63.)

And even if Jesus was talking about his resurrection body, Jim's point still fails. Why assume that Jesus was saying that that he wouldn't have flesh (which Jim takes to mean a physical human body, whether mortal or no) at all, instead of saying that it was his spirit (or the Spirit) which gave him life? The former option is true of you and me right now, and the latter option will be true of Christians in the Resurrection. (James 2:26)

To wrap up this post, I would like to note that Jim fails to demonstrate that "spiritual" = "composed of spirit" or "is a spirit being." And fails to adequately account for Jesus' reference to himself as human (and explicitly as not a spirit) and other passages that refer to him as a human. Much of his case is based on his incredulity that a (glorified) human being could exist outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Perhaps he realizes that if he concedes that Jesus was raised up as a human, then all the righteous will be, and this threatens to undermines the Witness' two-tiered system of Christians. (Whether this would - by itself - do so isn't clear to me; it would at least present that view with great difficulty.)[6]

[1] Which, while it would superficially (visually) resemble transportation in Star Trek, is different therefrom. In the case of transportation, the object that is 'transported' is actually destroyed as it is scanned. A duplicate is made of different matter at the 'destination' according to the pattern of the original. However, I'm suggesting that the self-same object can move from place to place instantaneously. Fro scifi fans this might be more like a wormhole.

[2] The Witness view is that while spirit creatures have "materialized as men" (such as before the flood), this doesn't mean that they were literally men. (Watchtower, November 1st, 1962 p. 648) Commenting on the title "Son of Man" as applied to Jesus, their book Insight on the Scriptures (vol. 1, p. 324) says, "it applies to Jesus Christ and shows that . . . he was not simply a spirit creature with a materialized body." Spirit creatures, when they materialize, have what is in some sense a "body"; I think it is a human body in name only, only a semblance of a human body which they control like a puppet.

[3] Sorry, Hylomorphists, we're not going to talk about the 'virtual' as opposed to 'actual' presence of atoms in the human body. But that is an interesting topic all the same.

[4] There is more to be said, but let's leave that for another post.

[5] Compare this with how the verse is translated in the New World Translation. There it says 'In his days on the earth . . .' Christ offered up tears, strong pleas and so forth. This it seems is activity done before his death and resurrection, yet Christ was on the earth - at least as a materialized angel-like being - after dying for our sins and being raised up for our salvation.

[6] My use of numerous footnotes is likely a sign of my lack of good writing skill, but oh well. Anyway, I will say more about the two-class doctrine later. For now, note that Witnesses teach that 144,000 Witness will be turned into spirit beings to rule in heaven over the earth ('the anointed' which correspond with the 'little flock'), upon which the 'great crowd' of perfect humans will live.

P.S. Jim just published another post on this topic, which I've written a response to. It doesn't really add much to his case, though, I might have said something in my response that I didn't say in this or the following three posts. However, my response won't appear until February 23rd, 2020, given the schedule of posts I have (a good portion of which are already written or in the process of being written).

This post first appeared on Witness Seeking Orthodoxy, please read the originial post: here

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'He is Risen' - A Response to JimSpace (Part One)


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