Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Resurrection of the Dead: A while back I criticized John Ray of Scripture Blog for lapsing into an anachronism when he claimed that Christians envision the afterlife to be “purely spiritual.” Here's what the Cambridge-trained historian E.P. Sanders of Duke University says of the resurrection in his excellent book The Historical Figure of Jesus.

After noting that Paul speaks of the resurrection in terms of the "spiritual body" and that Luke seems to suggest something similar (e.g., by reporting the resurrected Jesus as saying : "a ghost has not flesh and bones as you see that i have", 24:40), Sanders comments:

"In Paul's view [Jesus] had been transformed, changed from a 'physical' or a 'natural' body to a 'spiritual body'. Luke thought that he had flesh and could eat, but also that he had been changed. He was not obviously recognizable to people who saw him, and he could appear and disappear.

"Both authors were trying to describe--Paul at first hand, Luke at second or third hand--an experience that does not fit a known category [i.e., neither a resuscitated corpse nor a ghost or phantasm]. What they deny is much clearer than what they affirm."

As, indeed, it always is when people are attempting to explain something that has never happened before.

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