1 Corinthians 15 touches on the nature of resurrected bodies, making a contrast between earthly bodies and heavenly bodies:

40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

[1 Cor 15:40-49, ESV]

The passage is very clear and unambiguous in stating the fact that Jesus ("the last Adam") became a life-giving spirit (v45). Other translations translate it as quickening spirit, but a spirit in any case. And the surrounding context supports the same obvious conclusion: Jesus' resurrected body was a glorious, heavenly, spiritual body.

We find a similar idea in 2 Cor 3:17 (ESV):

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

And the same is said of angels in Hebrews 1:14:

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?.

(*) Related question about angels: How should we understand the nature of angels in light of Hebrews 1:14 and 13:2?.

However, in Luke 24:39 Jesus makes a claim that, at face value, appears to contradict what we have concluded above:

39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” [Luke 24:39, ESV]


Is there any contradiction? How can Jesus be a life-giving spirit and not a spirit? How to reconcile these seemingly contradictory claims?


The very common word πνεῦμα (pneuma) has eight meanings according to BDAG, including "breath", "part of human personality", "mental attitude", "non-corporeal being", "evil spirit", etc.

In the case of Luke 24:37 (I will get to V39 shortly) we have:

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. (NIV)

Note that the word translated "ghost" is πνεῦμα (pneuma); but in a single MSS, "D05" = Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis at Cambridge has φάντασμα (phantasma).

This lone textual variation is almost certainly a scribal error; however, it does illustrate that the meaning of the word πνεῦμα (pneuma) and that of φάντασμα (phantasma) can overlap as suggested by a well-meaning "corrector". However, in V39 we have πνεῦμα (pneuma) uniformly.

Therefore, I suggest, that the meaning in Luke 24:37 & 39 is not πνεῦμα (pneuma) in the same sense as 1 Cor 15:40-49 but is actually from another part of the spectrum of meaning which today we might more helpfully translate as "ghost", or, "apparition", or similar.

I note that on another famous occasion, the disciples also were frightened at the sight of Jesus and they also thought that were seeing a "ghost", as per Matt 14:26; Mark 6:49, specifically using the word φάντασμα (phantasma).


What was the Lord Jesus Christ referred to as? 

I Cor. 15:45(b) BBE
45bThe last Adam is a life-giving spirit.

What was the Lord Jesus Christ referred to as? Paul said, "a life-giving spirit".

What was the first man, Adam, referred to as?

I Cor. 15:45(a) BBE
45aAnd so it is said, The first man Adam was a living soul.

What was the first man, Adam, referred to as? Paul said, "a living soul".

Was Adam only a soul? In the same way, was Jesus only a spirit? What makes up every man?

I Thess. 5:23 GNB
23May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What makes up every man? Paul said, "spirit, soul, and body".

Adam, who was the first man, was also composed of spirit, soul and body, and was not just a soul. Why was he referred to as a living soul? This is a synecdoche. What is a synecdoche? A figure of speech in which the part represents the whole, or vice versa. 

As Adam was called a living soul, our Lord Jesus Christ was called a life-giving spirit, although He was also composed of spirit, soul and body.

What is the nature of the Lord?

II Cor. 3:17 KJV
17Now the Lord is that spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

What is the nature of the Lord? Pauls said, "spirit".

Does this refer to our Lord Jesus Christ? What is the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Acts 2:36 GNC
36Let it be known, then, to the whole house of Israel for a certainty, that the man whom God has made Lord and His annointed is the very Jesus whom you have crucified.

What is the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ? Peter said, "man".

Who is the Lord that is spirit in nature?

II Cor. 3:17 Sacred Scriptures
17Now Yahweh is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of Yahweh is, there is liberty.

Who is the Lord that is spirit in nature? This translation reads, "Yahweh".

It is Yahweh, and not our Lord Jesus, who is spirit in nature.

What does not have flesh and bones?

Luke 24:39 NKJV
39Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

What does not have flesh and bones? Jesus said, "a spirit". What does our Lord Jesus Christ have? Jesus said, "flesh and bones".

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a spirit in the most literal sense of the term.

  • Several things: 1) What do you make of all the unambiguous claims about Jesus having a glorious, heavenly, spiritual body after his resurrection in 1 Cor 15:40-49? 2) What about angels (who have spiritual bodies too)? Aren't angels spiritual beings too? (relevant question) 3) About the makeup of man, I just posted this question. Apr 24 at 15:41
  • 4) Acts 2:36 is talking about Jesus before his resurrection, you are completely ignoring 1 Cor 15:40-49 (see point 1 again). 5) About 2 Cor 3:17 Sacred Scriptures translating it as Yahweh, that's an interesting point. Maybe you should post an answer to this question. Apr 24 at 15:41
  • Heb. 1:14 does not say that the angels in heaven have spiritual "bodies," but only indicate that they are spirit in nature. What is "spiritual" is not necessarily spirit in nature or even vice versa (ie. demons). Having a spiritual body does not alter Jesus' nature as a man (I Cor. 15:47). The word "became" in the expression "became a life-giving spirit" (v. 45) is not found in the Greek MS (so the BBE), indicating that this was a condition Christ already had before His resurrection, which is why Acts 2:36 is still relevant.
    – carsonfel
    Apr 24 at 18:13

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