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“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭50‬ ‭

We know that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom but can flesh and bones?

“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 ‭

*** Question

Does the Bible distinguish between flesh and blood and flesh and bones? What or who or what grouping do each represent?

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  • +1 This question is more interesting than meets the eye :)
    – user35953
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 0:43
  • I like your question and Dottard answer so much that I repost it in my subreddit reddit.com/r/BibleVerseCommentary/comments/zgyeel/… :)
    – user35953
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 14:25

4 Answers 4

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"Bone and flesh" or "flesh and bone" is a Hebraism of the Bible:

  • Gen 2:23 - Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
  • Gen 29:14 - and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
  • Judges 9:2 - “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”
  • 1 Sam 5:1 - Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.
  • 2 Sam 19:12 - You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’
  • 2 Sam 19:13 - And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’”
  • 1 Chron 11:1 - Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.
  • Job 2:5 - But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”
  • Luke 24:39 - 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.”
  • Eph 5:30 - For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Byzantine text, NKJV - the UBS5/NA28 does have the last two phrases)

Note that in all cases, the familial relationship is implied. This is especially true in Jesus' use of the term after His resurrection to show His human-ness; ie, that He was not a ghost or spirit but a real human, like the people with whom he was speaking, the disciples.

By contrast, "flesh and blood" is distributed much differently:

  • Num 19:5 - And the heifer shall be burned in his sight. Its skin, its flesh, and its blood, with its dung, shall be burned.
  • Matt 16:17 - And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
  • 1 Cor 15:50 - I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
  • Gal 1:16 - to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not rush to consult with flesh and blood,
  • Eph 6:12 - For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
  • Heb 2:14 - Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

In all these cases, mortal humans are implied - humans without any aid of divine instruction or enlightenment as they all appear to indirectly allude to the sacrifice in Num 19:5.

Note the important difference in usage:

  • "flesh and bone" indicates a person of the same family and appears to indirectly allude to Gen 2:23, the original family of Adam and Eve
  • "flesh and blood" is idiom for a mortal/human person and all appear to indirectly allude to Num 19:5 (a dead animal)
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  • Thank you for your research. Wish there was more substance and expounding than what you provided. But thank you nonetheless. I’m struggling to see the second last bullet point being applied to Jesus in the locked room with the disciples alluding to Adam and Eve the first family. Maybe you can enlighten me. Much appreciated. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 16:18
  • @NihilSineDeo - I think that means that the human family is made of different material from the spirit world/beings. That is, Jesus is made of the same stuff as Adam and Eve.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 19:24
  • +1 @Dottard I really like this answer. I started a subreddit at reddit.com/r/BibleVerseCommentary. Can I copy your answer here and share it with the members of my subreddit? Of course, I will attribute the post to your name and hermeneutics.stackexchange.com :)
    – user35953
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 0:38
  • @TonyChan - you are welcome to use this in any way you can to extend the Kingdom of heaven. If others find it helpful, that is a blessing.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 7:50
  • Amen, brother. God bless you :)
    – user35953
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 14:05
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We understand that once Jesus shed his blood that meant he died in the old Adam. Blood equals death of the old body. He was raised as a life-giving spirit, kept his identity without blood anymore, But raised as a spiritual body.

Flesh and blood represents the natural man. Man made from soil with blood. Jesus bore a human body made of flesh and blood. Once he shed His blood he died to the soulish man. He was raised without blood but continues to keep His own bones. Bones seem to represent the essence of a person. We can see why it's was so important for Joseph to have his bones carried by Moses into the land and be buried there.

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” Exodus 13:19

Op asks' "Does the Bible distinguish between flesh and blood"and flesh and bones?

What or who or what grouping do each represent?

Flesh and blood represents the natural man. Man made from soil with blood. Jesus bore a human body made of flesh and blood. Once he shed His blood he died to the soulish man. He was raised without blood but seemed to be clothed in flesh along with His bones intact. This was a glorified man that was raised up out of the dead. Not a spirit.

Flesh and bones represent the spiritual man. The one that's been raised.

"The analogy given in Corinthians show that a seed is planted, dies and is raised with a new life… The original is still there without blood. The perishable bones and flesh now puts on the imperishable with a life-giving spirit… Blood is no longer needed to sustain this spiritual life that can still be seen. It is not a spirit floating around. It is now a body with God's Spirit sustaining and living inside

The dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:52–53).  The change is one from flesh and blood. We move from a “perishable body” to an imperishable body. We move from a “mortal body” to an immortal body. 

"This means by “flesh and blood.” signifies a corrupt and mortal existence. Flesh and blood is just shorthand for human beings in their current condition of perishability, Its also clear from this passage that it's the same person who was perishable, who now, at the resurrection puts on imperishability. It's not a different person, it's a different condition. So, after his resurrection, Jesus clearly had the same flesh, but it was now imperishable. — Michael Horton

So we see flesh and blood will never be reigning in the kingdom of God which is symbolic of the corruption.

And this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood the reign of God is not able to inherit, nor doth the corruption inherit the incorruption; 1 Corinthians 15:50

€Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

There is also is a very powerful statement and is filled with so much meaning that parallels Adam and Eve's existence concerning flesh and bones.

Ephesians 5:30 because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones

Here are some interesting thoughts that go along with this subject by John Piper

"Scripture states, "I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." - I Cor 15:50.

Jesus’ own words showed that he would not be resurrected with his flesh-and-blood body. He said that he would give his “flesh on behalf of the life of the world,” as a ransom for mankind. (John 6: 51; Matthew 20:28) If he had taken back his flesh when he was resurrected, he would have canceled that ransom sacrifice. This could not have happened, though, for the Bible says that he sacrificed his flesh and blood “once for all time".

“These two statements parallel each other, so that the phrase ‘flesh and blood’ corresponds to ‘perishability.’ Together the terms refer to the present mortal body in respect to the perishability of its flesh and blood, not in respect to the physicality of its flesh and blood. For Paul proceeds to say that it is ‘this perishable body’ that will be put on imperishability and ‘this mortal body’ that will put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:51-55, esp. v. 53). And since for Paul the resurrection of Christians will follow the pattern of Christ’s resurrection…Paul must have thought that when Christ was raised, it was the perishable, mortal body of his earthly lifetime that put on imperishable and immortality, not that he was exalted to heaven in some nonphysical form.”[11]

There is also evidence that Paul saw continuity between our bodies today and our bodies after the resurrection.[12] In fact, the major theme in verses 35-58 is the continuity and discontinuity between our earthly and resurrected bodies.[13] He says in 1 Corinthians 15:37-38: “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.” Paul draws on common knowledge about the differences between what is planted and what is sowed. They are different, but there is also continuity.[14] We must also realize that Moses and Elijah were recognizable at the Transfiguration, thus showing that there was continuality between their earthly existence and heavenly one (Luke 9:30, 33). Matthew 8:11 says that people will come from all over to “sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Apparently there will be enough continuality between Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s earthly and heavenly bodies so we can recognize them.

Fourth, Philippians 3:20-1 says that our earthly body is transformed into conformity with Christ's body in the resurrection, not that God creates a new body from scratch: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." Fifth, Jesus speaks of the resurrection as involving the coming forth out of tombs, which strongly indicates that the resurrection

Sixth, Paul's statement "it is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body" (1 Corinthians 15:42) establishes that there is a continuity between our current body and our resurrected body, for it is the same "it" in both cases. Seventh, verse 53 indicates that the same body we have now (which is mortal), will become immortal: "For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality."

We will have transformed bodies
In 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, it may appear as if Paul is teaching that we are raised with a different body than which we had on earth: "...what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow the body that shall be, but mere grain." But upon examining the whole context, we see that Paul is not denying that it will be the same body. Instead, he is affirming that in the resurrection our bodies will be made better than the state they are now in. In fact, this passage teaches a continuity between our bodies now and in the resurrected state by using the analogy from agriculture. Paul compares the resurrection of the body to the growth of a plant from a seed. The plant that results is definitely much better than the seed, just as our resurrection bodies will be better than those we have now. But there is also a real continuity between the seed and the plant, for they are the same organism. The same seed that was sown becomes the plant that grows. Likewise, the same body we have now becomes our resurrected body. But just as the plant is a result of the seed being transformed into something with better capacities and qualities, so also in the resurrection our bodies will receive better qualities and capacities. Thus, when Paul says that we do not yet have the body that shall be, he means that our current bodies are not yet in their glorified and improved state (see verses 42-44). They are not as they will be.

John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/do-we-receive-the-same-body-we-had-on-earth-at-the-resurrection

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There is an intriguing clue about the significance of Jesus' resurrected flesh and bones in Ephesians 5:30-31, which deliberately does not mention his blood, because the context is post-resurrection.

It would first be necessary to note the disputed aspect of the second part of verse 30 and what mention of Christians being members of Christ's body, "of his flesh and of his bones" signifies. For that I would suggest looking at the question, and the accepted answer here: What is the grammatical force of ek in Ephesians 5:30b?

The way Paul then immediately refers to Adam, who exclaimed in delight at the woman, his wife, having come out of his body, and out of his rib-bone, to be presented to him, is significant. No blood is connected with Adam, but his body and rib-bone is. So with Christ, and the spiritual 'wife' who will be joined to him in Heaven: believers becoming members of Christ's body has to do with coming out of his body and out of his bones, which reminds us (surely?) of his broken body and his pierced side. Christ's shed blood was presented to the Father in Heaven at his return there.

The shedding of the blood of Christ, after his death, by the soldier thrusting a lance upwards into the side of the dead body of Jesus, caused both blood and water to be released. That is testimony to the death of Christ, which piercing he could not have survived had he still been alive. The Bible states that "the life is in the blood" (Gen. 9:4) and, "by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12)". So, when the Bible speaks of the blood of Christ, it is the 'blood of his cross', exclusively. Once shed in sacrifice, the risen Christ presented that to the Father in heaven, and it was accepted. It is his blood that sprinkles us clean (Heb. 12:24). Therefore, those who become part of the spiritual body of Christ have been sanctified by faith in his shed blood. Therefore, his blood is no longer part of his resurrected body.

Flesh and blood has to do with mortality. Resurrected flesh and bones has to do with immortality.

An answer has been accepted so I will not go further into this, but it really is intriguing, indeed! It is no accident, or slip of the pen, that blood is not mentioned in connected with Christ's resurrected body!

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  • I selected an answer not account of its adequacy but on account that it was sufficient Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 17:32
  • Excellent. Especially the mention of by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12) Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 19:05
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    @Nihil Sine Deo I understand there are various reasons for the OP accepting one particular answer. That had been done before I even began to form an answer, so you will appreciate that it's not (non-existent) points that I give belated answers for!
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 11:54
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Flesh and Blood

Consider John's testimony.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13, KJV)

Then parallel that with Matthew's testimony.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? . . . 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17, KJV)

The contrast is made between "flesh and blood" as tied to human will, and the things of the spirit of God which surpass human ability.

When Paul says "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," what is meant is that by human power or will alone, no one can reach God's kingdom. Paul's other writings corroborate this.

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:16, KJV)

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12, KJV)

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14, KJV)

In each of these uses of the expression "flesh and blood," Paul is contrasting human effort alone with that of divine or spiritual powers (which can include the "spiritual wickedness" of the fallen angels, working through men).

When we face human enemies, we see the "flesh and blood." But it is not really the "flesh and blood" with whom we deal, but with the unseen spiritual powers behind and prompting it.

By our own might, through the "will of the flesh," we can never hope to obtain eternal life. Only through the spirit of God can we be restored into a right relationship with Him.

Flesh and Bones

It may be that Jesus used the expression "flesh and bones" both to distinguish his statement from the same sense of meaning conferred by the expression of "flesh and blood," and to make a new statement along with it.

"Bones" have a spiritual, symbolic value as well. Bones, being rigid and unchanging, providing support for the body, represent the principles of God's law. Bones and stones are strong and enduring. God wrote His laws in stone, and none of Jesus' bones were broken, representing the fact that he had never broken any of God's laws. In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel has a vision of "dry bones" which, after prophesying upon them, receive living flesh. Many preach a formalistic gospel, upholding the law, but lacking the spirit. Their message is as dry as the hills of Gilboa, and not unlike what the Pharisees taught with all of their rigid rules. Bones, by themselves, may be lifeless, just as the keeping of God's law, without the spirit of love, is empty and vain.

So when Jesus speaks of his "flesh and bones," it is significant; a reference to his perfect character, for he had both kept God's law and was filled with God's spirit.

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    'Bones' area a figure of integrity (a bone of him shall not be broken - despite temptation and trial). The law is external . It is integrity that is internal.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 7:18
  • @NigelJ "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken." (Psalm 34:19-20) That's a promise that God will help the righteous keep all of His laws. It would not make much sense to keep "integrities"--to my mind, at least.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 7:30
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    The just shall live by his faith, not by keeping law. We are dead to the law by the body of Christ. And the Lord keeps his saints, thus they preserve their integrity, despite afflictions and temptations.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 8:02

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