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In Acts 2:27, it is written,

Acts 2:27
27 For You will not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor will You [a]allow Your [b]Holy One to [c]undergo decay.
New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Foundation Publications, 2020.
ΚΖʹ ὅτι οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς ᾅδην οὐδὲ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν.
Novum Testamentum Graece. Ed. Aland, Barbara, et al. 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.
Footnotes
a. Lit give
b. Or Devout; or Pious
c. Lit see corruption

I am curious about διαφθοράν (“corruption” or ”decay”) with respect to the Lord Jesus Christ. Does the scripture mean that, after the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and was buried in the sepulcher, he (his body) did not experience any decay whatsoever?

According to Dr. Arpad A. Vass, a Senior Staff Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee in Forensic Anthropology, human decomposition begins around four minutes after a person dies and follows four stages: autolysis, bloat, active decay, and skeletonization.
Source: https://www.aftermath.com/content/human-decomposition/

If he was buried in the sepulcher for approximately 3 days, and his body did not experience any decomposition (decay, corruption) after death, was it by a divine act, or could it because of the myrrh and aloes used to wrap the body?

Or, is there something else entirely to be understood by the scripture?

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    The same would apply to Lazarus of whom it was supposed that 'by this time he stinketh', but who walked out of the enclosure on his own, unaided, and thus suffering no effect whatsoever from corruption and degeneration. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Jun 13, 2021 at 8:20

4 Answers 4

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John 19:

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Wrapping Jesus' body in spices was done customarily while Acts 2:27 was an unusual happening:

For You will not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Jesus’ body not experiencing decay while lying in the sepulcher was a supernatural act of God not due to the customary application of the spices.

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  • I believe you are correct: "Jesus’ body not experiencing decay while lying in the sepulcher was a supernatural act of God" It might also be added that Jesus never sinned -- which is very significant. That's because, prior to Adam's and Eve's disobedience, they could potentially have lived forever (physically), unless they suffered death by accident. As soon as they ate of the Tree, the degenerative process of their physical bodies began. But Jesus never suffered from any of those same effects; it is sin that leads to our physical (and spiritual) deaths but Christ was sinless.
    – Xeno
    Jun 12, 2021 at 18:44
  • @Xeno—If it was on account of Jesus himself not sinning, then I am not certain why Acts 2:27 says, “You will not give (allow) your Holy One to see corruption.” It almost sounds as though it was the Father’s doing. Jun 12, 2021 at 18:51
  • @DerÜbermensch I agree. However, might the same not be said of Adam and Eve before the Fall? It was the Father that would allow them to live forever under different circumstances, no? Christ was murdered -- hardly a natural death. Nonetheless, your point is well-taken.
    – Xeno
    Jun 12, 2021 at 19:05
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I have now come across Acts 13:34, which I think gives an answer to the question.

The writer of Acts quotes Psalm 16:10 again in 13:35 and just before this writes this in verse 34:

ὅτι δὲ ἀνέστησεν αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν μηκέτι μέλλοντα ὑποστρέφειν εἰς διαφθοράν...

as to raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption,...

If his body had never been in a state of corruption or decay, then it would make no sense to say "no more to return to" that state. I see this as evidence that the writer did not interpret Psalm 16:10 to mean that the body of Jesus experienced no decay at all, as would be expected in the first 20-odd hours of being dead in that particular climate, in particular rigor mortis and the beginning of decomposition of internal organs.

I see, then, insufficient evidence in the text for the tradition that his body did not decay. The following interpretation fits the text: Jesus was resurrected (implying healing of all effects of being dead) and never returned to death, and "never saw decay" in the sense of the continued process of decomposition and becoming a skeleton etc.

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I would say death, or decay, begins after the last breath. I think if we look at what exactly decomposition is in the human body and what scripture/history tells us, I think we can deduce that his body did not decay. Jesus died but did not experience decomposition. Because He was brutally murdered and died yet did not decay but rose again, He "destroyed death" and successfully fulfilled the punishment and propitiation for our sin. I would say the very central message of the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:10 "but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."<

First some unpleasant reality of what normally happens upon death:

"Decomposition begins several minutes after death, with a process called autolysis, or self-digestion. Soon after the heart stops beating, cells become deprived of oxygen, and their acidity increases as the toxic by-products of chemical reactions begin to accumulate inside them. Enzymes start to digest cell membranes and then leak out as the cells break down. This usually begins in the liver, which is enriched in enzymes, and in the brain, which has high water content; eventually, though, all other tissues and organs begin to break down in this way. Damaged blood cells spill out of broken vessels and, aided by gravity, settle in the capillaries and small veins, discolouring the skin."
 "Body temperature also begins to drop, until it has acclimatised to its surroundings. Then, rigor mortis – the stiffness of death – sets in, starting in the eyelids, jaw and neck muscles, before working its way into the trunk and then the limbs."

"Most internal organs are devoid of microbes when we are alive. Soon after death, however, the immune system stops working, leaving them to spread throughout the body freely. "

"Once self-digestion is under way and bacteria have started to escape from the gastrointestinal tract, putrefaction begins. This is molecular death – the breakdown of soft tissues even further, into gases, liquids and salts. It is already under way at the earlier stages of decomposition but really gets going when anaerobic bacteria get in on the act.

Putrefaction is associated with a marked shift from aerobic bacterial species, which require oxygen to grow, to anaerobic ones, which do not. These then feed on the body’s tissues, fermenting the sugars in them to produce gaseous by-products such as methane, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, which accumulate within the body, inflating (or ‘bloating’) the abdomen and sometimes other body parts.

This causes further discolouration of the body. As damaged blood cells continue to leak from disintegrating vessels, anaerobic bacteria convert haemoglobin molecules, which once carried oxygen around the body, into sulfhaemoglobin. The presence of this molecule in settled blood gives skin the marbled, greenish-black appearance characteristic of a body undergoing active decomposition.

As the gas pressure continues to build up inside the body, it causes blisters to appear all over the skin surface. This is followed by loosening, and then ‘slippage’, of large sheets of skin, which remain barely attached to the deteriorating frame underneath. Eventually, the gases and liquefied tissues purge from the body, usually leaking from the anus and other orifices and frequently also leaking from ripped skin in other parts of the body. Sometimes, the pressure is so great that the abdomen bursts open."

"Each fly deposits around 250 eggs that hatch within 24 hours, giving rise to small first-stage maggots. These feed on the rotting flesh and then moult into larger maggots, which feed for several hours before moulting again. After feeding some more, these yet larger, and now fattened, maggots wriggle away from the body"

"Life after death: the science of human decomposition" - Moheb Costandi, neuroscientist

"Within 3– 6 hours after death, the body’s muscular tissues become rigid and are unable to relax, and this is known as rigor mortis

24-72 hours after death - Internal organs begin to decompose.

3-5 days after death - Body starts bloating. Blood-containng foam begins leaking from mouth and nose.

8-10 days after death - Massive decompostion of organs in abdomin accumulate massive gas; body turns from green to red becuase of blood decomposition.

Several weeks after death - Nails and teeth begin to fall.

1 month after death - Body starts to liquefy "

http://www.enkivillage.com/how-long-does-it-take-for-a-body-to-decompose.html

I think we can look at the example of Lazarus after Jesus brought him back from death.

John 11:38-40 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”<

John 11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”<

John 12:1-2 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.<

Lazarus was sufficiently dead, and should have been sufficiently rotting as well, yet people would come from all over to see him and he would even dine and recline among him. Any decomposition, besides being horrendous, would have made him unclean and would not have been able to be around so close to so many.

John 20:26-27 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”<

Jesus had the physical 'wounds' from His life yet if He was experiencing decomposition fluids, maggots, and stench would have already been coming from the hole in His side leaving Thomas' experience to be less than exuberant.

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.<

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,<

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  • I don't see the relevance of his lack of decomposition after resurrection, just like the lack of other aspects of being dead - he had been resurrected after all!
    – Paul Dean
    Jun 19, 2016 at 14:43
  • @PaulDean it's not his lack of decomposition after resurrection, but the lack of decomposition during his time in the tomb. Are asking whether he experienced decay but that was reversed upon resurrection? The point was that he did not appear upon his resurrection with any signs of decay.
    – Tonyg
    Jun 19, 2016 at 14:48
  • We have to consider the cultural perception as well. Much of the ancient world observed what you listed in the 24-72 hours vs 3-5 days and saw that the physically noticeable external decay did not start until around or after the third day. Also consider that these Sepulchers were well know, intended even, to decompose bodies quickly. You have a lot of good info here but just think you need to tie it into 1st century Judea.
    – Joshua
    Jun 19, 2016 at 18:26
  • @Joshua not sure I agree. 36hrs after death there would be physical signs of rigor or even the drastic discoloration of the skin, which would be noticeable, even in the first century. I would also say that death is an end to a life source, energy source if you will, of oxygen and blood which 'results' in a corruption or decay. Jesus experienced death not suspended animation and the miracle was not just that He rose again but the very fact His body did not decompose means that is was unnatural, or supernatural. Lack of decomposition doesn't mean there wasn't death, but rather miracle.
    – Tonyg
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:03
  • @Tonyg I think you missed my point, and I should have said decomposition not decay. I'm not saying decay was not happening internally or visible signs of coloration or rigor were not there. But actual major damage such as the bloating, foaming and rupturing of the skin which you referenced in the 3-5 days had not. My view is that Peter's emphasis is on Jesus not being abandoned to decay. Not that it didn't decay at all since he immediately points out that David is still dead. I'm just saying there's more cultural pieces. You know of the Jewish superstition of the soul staying for three days?
    – Joshua
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:14
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Acts 2:27 - Did Jesus’ body not experience decay while it lie in the sepulcher?

In short, yes and no.

Looking at the event cited by Acts 2:27 with 20th-century knowledge, Jesus' body began to decay at the point of biological death. From birth, we could say that we begin to die but our cells are continuously being replaced. It isn't until biological death that we begin to see the signs of decay.

The article "Designed to Live Forever" from the Awake! October 22, 1995 issue quotes Dr. Leonard Hayflick's book How and Why We Age:

At the molecular level our protein molecules are subject to continuous turnover at a rate characteristic of each particular protein; we thereby avoid the accumulation of damaged molecules.

As the previous verses indicate, Acts 2:27 is quoting Psalms 16:10. Here David is speaking prophetically about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Note what the topic "Body" in the Insight on the Scriptures mentions about Jesus' body:

The physical body of Jesus Christ was not allowed to decay into dust as did the bodies of Moses and David, men who were used to foreshadow Christ. (De 34:5, 6; Ac 13:35, 36; 2:27, 31) When his disciples went to the tomb early on the first day of the week, Jesus’ body had disappeared, and the bandages with which his body had been wrapped were left in the tomb, his body doubtless having been disintegrated without passing through the process of decaying.​—Joh 20:2-9; Lu 24:3-6.

So prior to the medical knowledge that we have today, Jesus' body would not have undergone the full effects of decay that would have happened if Jehovah God had not intervened and resurrected Jesus from death. This is what both David and Luke are bringing to light in these verses. (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:27)

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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  • Did Jesus’ body not experience decay? Acts 2:31 NWT states: " he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in the Grave nor did his flesh see corruption.+ Nov 23, 2021 at 18:08
  • @OzzieOzzie I am unsure of what you are asking in light of my posted answer. I believe that I have answered your question already.
    – agarza
    Nov 23, 2021 at 18:15
  • Jesus' body did not suffer corruption Acts 2:31 . IN short "NO" Nov 23, 2021 at 18:19
  • @OzzieOzzie Is that not what I said in the last paragraph? Or is it just not clearly stated?
    – agarza
    Nov 23, 2021 at 18:25
  • To me, it means that Jesus' body suffered decay but that God intervened and resurrected him- it is not clear. He was resurrected as a spirit being. Nov 23, 2021 at 18:33

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