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16 but whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. ​

[2 Corinthians 3:16-18, NASB]

vs.

39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have.”

[Luke 24:39, NASB]

Is Jesus spirit or not?


Related, and possibly relevant to the exegesis of 2 Corinthians 3: What is meant by “the spirit gives life” in 2 Corinthians 3:6?.

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I shared some thoughts in another post about the context preceding this passage--Paul is talking about the spirit of the law. Spirit (pneuma) is that which gives life, and it is the new testament through Christ that gives life, progress, and purpose to the covenants, old and new; He gives life to the ordinances, He gives life to the plan & the people it transforms.

I believe "spirit" in its first usage in verse 17 is used the same way Paul was using "spirit" a few verses earlier. When Paul wants to use the term spirit in a different way (referring to what we would call the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost), he disambiguates it from the previous discussion, in both verse 17 & 18 he refers to the "Spirit of the Lord".

The choice to capitalize the first instance of "Spirit" in verse 17 is something I find unhelpful (there would have been no such distinction between majuscule & miniscule in the original manuscript).

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Resurrection

From multiple New Testament passages we have clear testimony that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. The passage in Luke is unambiguous in declaring that the resurrected Lord has a physical body (see a more extended discussion in my thoughts on this post).

Paul has already told the Corinthians that resurrected bodies are incorruptible:

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

The word rendered "incorruptible" is ἀφθαρσία (from ἄφθαρτος), which connotes: indestructible, imperishable, undecaying, unending existence (see here & here). If Jesus’ resurrected body later decayed, were discarded, or ceased to exist, it wouldn’t be incorruptible.

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To be vs. To have

This doesn't mean Jesus does not have a spirit; it means he is not only a spirit. On Paul's own testimony the resurrected Lord is embodied.

As Nihile Sine Deo pointed out here:

[In Luke 24:39] Jesus was emphasizing that He had a body! What He was NOT saying, is that the body had no spirit in it. Because He clearly was present in that body. A body without a spirit by definition is a dead body, a lifeless body, a spiritless body.

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Jesus as the spirit of the law

I suggest Paul's meaning is that Jesus brought the spirit of the law, He embodies the spirit of the law, and He is the ultimate manifestation of the spirit of the law. If we want to understand the spirit of the law, look at Jesus. And what is spirit? That which gives life. Jesus gives life to the law, the ordinances, and the plan (a more extended discussion here)

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Conclusion

A useful hermeneutic principle is to use clear passages to interpret unclear passages, rather than the other way around. That Jesus rose bodily from the dead--and that his resurrection was not a temporary arrangement--is clearly, repeatedly, and sincerely reported by numerous eyewitnesses, throughout the New Testament.

Although Paul's use of the term "spirit" in multiple ways may be unclear, it certainly does not suggest discarding the testimonies of Matthew, Peter, John, Thomas, James, Paul himself, and many others that Jesus was resurrected with a physical body.

Bodily resurrection is an absolutely central piece of the Christian message--Christianity does not work without the empty tomb. This place of monumental importance is emphasized by the fact that the only detail of the resurrection narrative found in all four Gospels—with no divergence whatsoever—is the fact that the tomb was empty.

Jesus rose bodily from the dead, He took back His body from death, and the victory was permanent. Yes, Jesus has a body.

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    "A useful hermeneutic principle is to use clear passages to interpret unclear passages" :) very polite - this should be the first rule! – user48152 Apr 21 at 4:30
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    I appreciate the reference linked to my answer. I don’t see any need to add to this question. And to @user48152 it is a primary rule. At least in my opinion – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 21 at 15:36
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Luke 24:39

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have.”

This happened before Jesus ascended to the right hand of God. He was not a spirit at this time.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

The Lord here was manifested as a spirit. This was after the ascension. Different timeframes, different spaces, different manifestations.

English Standard Version 2 Timothy 1:

9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel

John 1:17

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

In other words, grace and truth took on human flesh.

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  • Paul indicates that resurrected bodies are incorruptible (1 Cor 15:53-54). The word rendered "incorruptible" is ἀφθαρσία (from ἄφθαρτος), which connotes: indestructible, imperishable, undecaying, unending existence. It's unclear to me if you are suggesting that this incorruptible body was discarded after the ascension. Could you clarify? – Hold To The Rod Apr 20 at 17:40
  • No need to discard. The key is manifestation. – Tony Chan Apr 20 at 17:57
  • Thanks for clarifying – Hold To The Rod Apr 20 at 18:03
  • Based on what text? – user48152 Apr 20 at 20:59
  • Good question. I added. – Tony Chan Apr 20 at 21:13

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