I came across this question that I had never heard before.

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, we have the famous and ancient Creed of the early Christian church, however, some argue that due to the use of the word "ὁράω + (dative)", we cannot know whether Paul, when writing this creed, was giving a physical or spiritual heavenly appearance account, because the report is "ambiguous", and if it were a physical appearance, this would be against the teachings of the Pharisees (of which Paul was part), In addition, some church fathers (such as Irenaeus of Lion) report that there were other traditions, which interpreted this passage as a spiritual celestial appearance, reinforcing the idea that this report was either ambiguous or implied a spiritual celestial appearance.

1 Corinthians 15:4-7 KJV

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

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    – agarza
    Commented May 20 at 13:42
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    Hi @agarza, thank you! I visited your profile and noticed that you are JW, that's really cool, I am too! Greetings from Brazil! Commented May 20 at 13:44

2 Answers 2


I think Paul answers your question. See 1 Corinthians 15:35-56. Note the question in verse 35 which is basically the OP's question. And note how that question and answer follows the paragraph where Paul points out that Christ’s resurrection proves we will be resurrected.

But, it needs to be observed that Paul is not contrasting physical with non-physical, at least not in the English senses. He contrasts the inherent corruptibility of the physical with the inherent incorruptibility of the resurrected body. The resurrected body, according to verses 42-43 is imperishable, glorious, and powerful. So, it could easily still be what we call physical, it just wouldn’t decay or die. To the Hellenist mind, what was physical perished. Think of the physical as a death container. Their word for ‘flesh’ (σάρξ) refers directly to what is corruptible (or possibly, corrupting) [I got this observation from N.T. Wright]. Paul says in verse 50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” So, that’s a reference to the fact that what is corruptible (ie flesh) and that which is associated with death (ie blood) does not exist after the resurrection, and the kingdom of God becomes our kingdom-home.

I’m not sure what the OP actually means by “spiritual heavenly” body. It may or may not be what Paul is referring to. If it’s ghost-like, then that contradicts Luke 24:36-43 where Jesus directly contradicts such a meaning, even saying, “touch me” and he also eats fish. In that regard, you can’t touch what we in English would describe as “something not physical”. So, again, that’s the different contrast between Hellenistic ‘physical’ versus ‘non-physical’ and English ‘physical’ versus ‘non-physical’. So, that observation about the difference between English and Greek heads off the possibility of Paul contradicting Christ.

We won’t decay. We won’t die. But, we’re still touchable and we can even eat food. Hmmmm... there’s a joke in here about "heavenly" diets and no health checkups, but I’ll stop.

  • Thank you very much for your dedication in writing this very complete answer! I saw this argument from a guy who wanted to prove that the gospels "evolved over time", but this passage from 1 Corinthians 15 was a huge hindrance to his theory, so he wanted to combat it anyway! Commented May 20 at 23:25

If Paul says that "he rose again" and just before that in the same sentence the same subject "he" is said to be buried, then it is excluded to interpret it in any other meaning than that the same thing, which was buried, i.e. the physical body, rose again. And since a physical body is visible, so "he was seen of" can mean but a physical, normal vision, not any sort of metaphorical extravagances. As simple as that, whatever Irineus of Lyon (whom I respect a lot notwithstanding some of his bizarre millenarist ideas) may imagine and say.

  • Thanks for the answer! Commented May 20 at 19:35

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