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We see in multiple passages that his body did not experience decay:

Acts 13:35-37:

35 So also, He says in another Psalm: ‘You will not let Your Holy One see decay.’ 36 For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. His body was buried with his fathers and saw decay. 37 But the One whom God raised from the dead did not see decay...

But the verse prior to that says that God will not let his body return to decay, which implies that the body went through a period of decay, and it will not happen again:

Acts 13:34:

"As for the fact that He raised Him from the dead, never again to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY AND FAITHFUL MERCIES OF DAVID."

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    – agarza
    May 23, 2023 at 13:13

4 Answers 4

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This is the question I am answering:

Did Jesus's body decay while in the grave? (Acts 13:34)

To ask a question to receive a valid hermeneutical answer, you really have to have a specific text in view. One must understand the motivations of the author. John might say one thing about the subject, Mark another and so on. So one must establish the context.

This creates trouble because different authors view things different ways. So, we must take that into account when cross-referencing different authors, not just line-up passages at face value without context for each.

Act 13:30-37 NKJV

30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 "He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 "And we declare to you glad tidings--that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.' 34 "And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.' 35 "Therefore He also says in another [Psalm]: 'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.' 36 "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 "but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

This particular verse, considered alone OR in the wider context of Acts, "Luke" wants us to understand that Jesus's resurrection involved him walking out of the cave-tomb in the pristine condition in which he was murdered. He didn't "die" in our sense of the word, he was just dimmed, like a lamp into a dormant state, and then, after three days, was again reenergized:

Act 1:11 KJV

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

So it appears that for Luke, in Acts, he understands the resurrection to work like this:

  • a man approved by God performs miracles
  • he steps on toes, and is murdered by Judeans, by the hand of the Roman government
  • he remains vital, all of his cells being fed a constant supply of nutrients etc., by God, who could not bear the idea of him actually losing life's struggle against entropy:

Luke 24:3-7, 36-43 KJV

3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. ... 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took [it], and did eat before them.

So we see in Luke's affirmations that the Christ went through death like the Israelites travelled through the Red Sea, on dry land, without harm.


Short answer:

Christ's body was preserved thru death much like Noah's ark passed safely thru the holocaust, where all of humanity died, except for "eight souls."


A cursory glance at the gospels and the rest of Acts shows that the authors of the NT were all over the map in their myths about the resurrection of Jesus:

  • in Mark, Jesus simply disappears. The grave is empty. That's it.
  • in John, there is an experience of Christ that directly contradicts Acts, showing that John knew nothing of the Acts account:

John 20:19-21 NASB95

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace [be] with you." 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace [be] with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

  • Matthew adds angels and earthquakes, mostly as "spice" for the story. He has dead people rising from old tombs and walking into Jerusalem.

For Paul, though, the saints, when they breathe their last, are immediately changed into their glorified state, without the OT pattern of:

  • birth
  • death
  • resurrection
  • ascension

For Paul, that is so last year. In the NT age, there is no such thing as death. The sinner closes their eyes for the last time and is never raised from the dead. The saint, when they close their eyes for the last time, is immediately transformed, in the blink of an eye, and "clothed upon."

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NASB95

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep [IE: in Hades], but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Are you planning on sleeping/dying/laying in Sheol/Hades? That might work for Luke, but not for Paul. For Paul, Christ ended the whole physical aspect of resurrection. For him, the New Body is NOT the old body, reanimated:

1 Corinthians 15:35-45 NASB95

35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one [flesh] of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the [glory] of the earthly is 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 also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable [body,] it is raised an imperishable [body;] 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 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit [IE: "breath"].

In Luke's account, Jesus is recognizable, is not a ghost, can eat, digest (we presume), etc.

So Luke's resurrection and Paul's resurrection are not consistent. Why?

In this answer I've tried to show you that Acts' resurrection account tells us that Christ's physical body was preserved through death, uncorrupted in any way, as Noah's ark passed through the sea, and then just woke up and stepped out of the cave. This is offensively dumb to Paul, and in his resurrection, the body rots and God gives the resurrectee a completely new, mystical body. We see this in the vision of Damascus Road as well.

It might be fun to sort all this out sometime.

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  • Actually, Luke's resurrection is in fact consistent with Paul's resurrection; the two writers simply describe it differently. Differently, not contradictorily, but I can see how you might get confused. Great spiritual discernment is required here, which goes beyond mere academic hermeneutics.
    – moron
    Oct 28, 2023 at 0:20
  • I enjoyed this answer. I edited it to keep it more to the point. I hope the short statement I added at the top expresses your concern about proof-texting different authors. If not delete that paragraph and write your own, but please do not roll-back the edit. Most statements were deleted for being too conversational; elaborating is good, expounding is not.
    – Jesse
    Oct 28, 2023 at 3:39
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I would assume there is no decay whatsoever with Jesus body in Acts 13:34, given the language used.

“As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭13‬:‭34‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

I would assume in Acts 13:34a is making the point that Jesus rose from the dead and He will never return to decay as the result of what would have happened if He didn’t rise from the dead.

Because Acts 13:35 says:

“Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭13‬:‭35‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

Since Jesus was sinless, speculating on the idea that Jesus’ body could have undergone decay in a real sense would have to be deduced from either:

1.) A sinless body that died would still suffer decay.

Or

2.) The decay language is to refer to how Jesus has power over death.

Since decay of the human body is the outcome of the Fall, these 2 options make the most sense for choosing between the two.

Acts 13:34-35 makes it clear that His resurrection will not allow Him to return to decay (if left in an un-resurrected state) and not to experience decay at all, since God was preserving Jesus’ body in the tomb for 3 days.

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    Sorry @Cork88, it was Acts 13:34
    – tadm123
    May 23, 2023 at 12:57
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A minimum of three days in the grave is needed to meet the requirements of the Jewish tradition concerning physical death and what they taught happened at the time of death. Three full days is significant because the Jews taught that the spirit of a man would remain near the body for three days hoping to reenter the body. Then, after three days, when corruption set in and the body began to decay they believed that the spirit then left and could never, ever return. In fact, that is the reason why the Jewish tradition for lamentation and mourning waited for three days before the real lamentation began. Until three days were passed they believed that a person could return from the dead. Then, after three days, the real lamentation continued for four more days. This was a total of seven days of grieving. Three days of mourning and four of lamentation. Jesus made a statement that he would be dead for three days and three nights in Matthew 12:40 where he said;

Matthew 12:40: “…so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Another statement is found in John 16 where he plainly told his disciples that he would be dead for three days and, to the best of their knowledge, into the lamentation period of the fourth day when he spoke in the verse seen below.

John 16:19-20: “…A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy…”

Based on this statement by Jesus, we can be assured that the disciples did both the three days of weeping and started the fourth day, Sunday, with lamentation prior to their befuddlement when his grave was found empty.

So Jesus' body did not decay!

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  • Hi, you have submitted a well written post but unfortunately non sequitur. That Jesus stayed three days and/or nights in the grave and then resurrected doesn’t say anything explicitly about the decay or the lack thereof. Maybe you could clarify your logic if I missed it.
    – grammaplow
    May 28, 2023 at 14:39
  • @grammaplowIt is best to answer directly the topic raised in the query, otherwise the response is irrelevant, no matter how truthful it is. The topic is "Jesus's decay" in actual history. You seem to have good research skills, so continue studying. Peace.
    – ray grant
    May 28, 2023 at 21:49
  • What the Jews believed happened after death was a tradition that they simply made up. I cannot find that stuff anywhere in the Old Testament, and would challenge any self respecting Jew to show me where it is.
    – moron
    Oct 28, 2023 at 0:27
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As a fully human, material body the Lord's body had a potentiality for decaying as any other body (unless we are heretical Aphthartodocetae of the time of Justinian the Great) for this body He had from the Virgin Mary, who did not have any ethereal body, but a real, fully human body.

Now, the fact that the Lord's body did not decay, was totally because He Himself made it immune from decay through His will and grace. Actually, if He prevented by grace and will the sun to follow its usual course and deterred this multi-quintillion tons' cosmic body from setting (Joshua 19:1-15), how much more easily He could make one body, His own body, not to decay, although not naturally, but again by grace and will?

Thus, since we know from Acts 13:37 that He did not see decay, and since we have established that potentially His body could decay unless for Him not willing it (for, I guess, the particle of His body cut on the eights' day /Luke 2:21/ must have decayed), then we can give this interpretation to the "again" of the Acts 13:34: "His body will not return to the potentiality of being decayed, because ensouled body doesn't decay and after the Resurrection the Lord's body has become always, continuously and eternally ensouled", that is to say, after the Resurrection His body will not even in potentiality ever be subjected to decay, soul being present in it, while in actuality it never ever was subjected to decay even while lying in tomb for three days soul-less and life-less.

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  • Are you saying that Christ made his body not to decay? I thought it was God the Father who was responsible for that.
    – moron
    Oct 28, 2023 at 0:23
  • @moron Father does everything through His Logos; it is not a choice of the Father to do everything through His Logos, but an ontological necessity for Him, just like, to use analogy, the sun disc cannot enlighten without its rays. Thus, humanly, the Logos of God died, in His humanity, but hypostatically the Logos as God and pre-existing the created world order in eternity with the Father (cf. John 17:5) cannot die, just like the Father cannot die. Thus, yes, the Father made Lord's body not to decay, but He did it through this very Logos, so you can say that Logos made His body not to decay. Oct 28, 2023 at 4:33
  • I find that very confusing, but if you say so, I guess okay.
    – moron
    Oct 29, 2023 at 5:27
  • @moron Theology that is not confusing is not theology, because we deal with the mystery of God's incarnation and that cannot not be confusing and totally mind-blowing. Christ's one personality or hypostasis (to put it in Greek term), the hypostasis of Logos existed eternally with the Father's hypostasis (John 1:1-2), as divine hypostasis and God, therefore, Logos cannot die, just like Father cannot die. This Logos received human nature some two millennia ago and He died according to this human nature, while continuing to be as Logos, the undying divine Hypostasis, as God, co-God with Father. Oct 29, 2023 at 7:10

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