Is there any reason to believe from the Apostle Paul's expression of his view on bodily resurrection in 1st Corinthians 15 that his view is a carryover of his pharisaic beliefs? Or does it more directly traceable to something Jesus taught?

  • Where do you see the line between something Jesus taught and something that was Pharisaic? Jesus supported the resurrection when he refuted the Sadducees, so one could say that both Jesus and the Pharisees taught it. Is there a specific element of the resurrection you think was specific to the Pharisees? Or maybe this was just one area Jesus thought the Pharisees had right? (Jesus doesn't really criticize their theology more than anyone else, just their hearts.) – Joshua Jun 3 '16 at 22:06
  • You might find something helpful in this account: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12087-pharisees – user10231 Jun 3 '16 at 22:35
  • Perhaps it is only my interpretation that I found Jesus did not teach bodily resurrection although I believe his resurrection was bodily as described in the scripture. Can you kindly show me where I can find more teaching on resurrection from Jesus? Thank you. – Sam Jun 4 '16 at 3:49

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul proclaims the gospel of the resurrection that he has taught the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

To Greeks, the notion of a resurrected body was distasteful, so we learn in 1 Corinthians 15:12 that the Corinthians said that resurrection was impossible:

1 Corinthians 15:12: Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul asks how some Corinthians can say there is no resurrection of the dead if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, because if there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised, in which case their faith is for nothing (15:12-14).

Burton L. Mack says, in Who Wrote the New Testament, pages 132-133, that Paul assured the Corinthians that the resurrection should be understood as a bodily transformation to a spiritual body. He argues this forcefully, saying:

  • There are many kinds of bodies among animals and human beings, and the bodies of plants are different from the ‘bodies’ of the seeds from which they come (1 Corinthians 15:36-38)
  • There are earthly bodies and heavenly bodies (with reference to sun, moon, and stars - 15:40-41).
  • The first man, Adam, had a “physical body”; the “man from heaven” (Christ) had a “spiritual body” (15:45-47).

In summary:

1 Corinthians 15:44: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Paul tells the Corinthians that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;

1 Corinthians 15:4-8: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

John Shelby Spong points out, in Why Christianity Must Change or Die, page 235, that Paul seemed to believe that the appearance to him of the risen Jesus (which clearly was not physical) was like the appearance to the other apostles. Here it appears he did not know that the risen Jesus had actually appeared in the flesh.

Paul likens the spiritual resurrection of Jesus to the general resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:20-23: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Mark D. Given says in 'Paul and Writing', published in As It Is Written: Studying Paul's Use of Scripture (edited by Porter and Stanley), page 244, Paul insists that a resurrection body is constructed entirely of pneuma [spirit]. He says that, in spite of this, traditionalist interpreters attempt to reconcile chapter 15 with the quite different conception in the gospels and later orthodox Christian doctrine.

Paul expressed a different view to the Romans, who were not averse to the notion of a bodily resurrection, but in 1 Corinthians he writes of a spiritual resurrection.

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  • Thank you for elaborations. Please clarify: did Apostle Paul believe in bodily resurrection of Jesus or the believers or both? If he did, why was he writing about spiritual resurrection. Furthermore, I believe 1 Cor. 15 is a teaching about Jesus' bodily resurrection, am I correct? Was Paul using the bodily resurrection as example to show the Corinthians that they would have resurrection although such would be a spiritual one? Is the scripture telling us that believers' resurrection is spiritual and NOT bodily? – Sam Jun 1 '16 at 19:46
  • Hi Sam. I have added a further citation, from Mark Given, in partial answer to your questions. It appears here, and is the conclusion reached by many scholars, that Paul does believe that the resurrection of both Jesus and believers is spiritual. Paul seems unaware of the fact that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, which may be explained by him not having been in Palestine during the time of Jesus. Elsewhere, he writes of the resurrection and the ascension to heaven as if he thought they were the same event. – Dick Harfield Jun 1 '16 at 22:10
  • Hi Dick, thank you for additional citation. However, simply from the wording of 1 Cor. 15 and Apostle Paul's pharisaic background, it is difficult to take that he believed in Jesus' resurrection "not bodily". Although I seriously doubt that he was advocating bodily resurrection for believers of which many teachers of the Bible are preaching. – Sam Jun 2 '16 at 1:30
  • That's fine, Sam. All I can do is tell you what scholars are saying about Paul's views. – Dick Harfield Jun 2 '16 at 6:56

Is there any reason to believe from the Apostle Paul's expression of his view on bodily resurrection in 1st Corinthians 15 that his view is a carryover of his pharisaic beliefs?

Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

We know that Paul was a Pharisee and that as such he held to a resurrection view. We do not have the specific information as to if the Pharisees held to a spiritual or physical (or both) resurrection view. We do know that the view they held was not complete;

Mark 12:23-24 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

We have an example of someone who had Biblical knowledge that was incomplete and was instructed;

Acts 18:25-26 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

We know that Paul received instruction directly from God;

Galatians 1:16-18 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

We also know that the Apostles wrote and spoke via the Holy Spirit;

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Matthew 10:19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.

We do not have information detailing the specifics of the Pharisees resurrection beliefs and therefore are unable to surmise how accurate or detailed they might have been. We do know that what Paul wrote the Corinthians was true because it was inspired by God.

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  • 2
    Just wanted to point out that your Mark 12:23-24 quote is actually of the Sadducees speaking (Mark 12:18-27). The way your answer is structured makes it seem like you were referring to the Pharisees saying this. – user6503 Jun 3 '16 at 21:49

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