Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What Body?

Do pay a visit to Chris Petersen's Resurrection Dogmatics site and read his latest installment of his critique of my understanding of the Resurrection of the Body. I have responded in a comment, and also below for the sake of future reference. It is a real treat to have someone competently examining one's thoughts. It is very helpful indeed.

First I want to say, as should be apparent from my newer posts (like this one and the ones following it) that I agree about the hope as being the central aspect of all talk about the future existence. My point is that the content of that hope is found, not by trying to create an image of what this life will look like, but by looking at what the Christian faith and the Christian church is like in this existence, because these are typoi of the future world.

Then for some of your remarks: When I say that the bible does not discuss the afterlife in any detail this is not a statement about the amount of sayings about the afterlife but of the quality of them. Here I see a strong tendency in the writers of the NT texts to prefer to say what this life will not be like over affirming things. For example, Jesus says that in the next word people will not marry (Luk 20:35). Jesus says that they will be "like angels, like the sons of God" (do angels have bodies?). Similarly, Paul in 1 Cor 15:35ff merely states that the resurrection body will be different, in the sense that we cannot base our knowledge of those bodies on the knowledge of our present bodies. Finally look at Rev. 21 where the description of the future Jerusalem starts out rather concrete (walls and gates), but gradually moves into the abstract (Pure gold being as pure glass) until finally the picture looses all concreteness and becomes purely abstract (No sun and moon because God will shine, and the lamb will be a lamp). Again I interpret this as a conscious attempt by the NT writers to avoid giving exact images of the future existence, and rather try to remove such images from our imagination.

As for you comment regarding Paul's use of soma in Romans I feel equally perplexed that you can find a literal(?) interpretation of the word more plausible. What does Paul mean when he says that the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is alive, if we take the body literally? This would mean that the body would be dead, without life, a corpse. But clearly this is not the point, because he says that death here means to have the "a mind of the flesh" (v. 6, the Greek is tricky here). Body here seems to have moral meaning. The most plausible interpretation of soma here is precisely the one I proposed, that the body symbolizes a part of our personality that because of sin is "dead", that is turned against our true selves and God. To try to force in a physical body in this text makes it completely incomprehensible. Also, mortal in antiquity did not mean merely something that is subject to death, but it is something that is connected to the material nature of this world, i.e. that which is not spiritual, not true, not essential.

What I do not understand is why a non metaphorical understanding of body is "better" that an symbolical or metaphorical. The body is never merely a body, it always represents something else, this is why it lends itself so well to symbolical language. The only instance when Paul seems to talk directly about the physical body is when he says that flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Cor 15. This to me is non-metaphorical language, this is Paul trying to distinguish between the physical body and body used in a wider sense.

1 comment:

Chris Petersen said...


Refer back to my comments section for my reply. Thanks.