New Bodies For Old

Paul taught that believers in the Lord Jesus would, once the Christ returned, be resurrected in a ‘spiritual body’. Those who remained alive at this time, as Paul anticipated he himself would be, were also to be ‘re-clothed’ in a new body (2 Corinthians 5.3) in preparation for life in the Kingdom.

He also seems to have believed that Jesus himself was resurrected in a ‘spiritual body’. This is presumably what Paul thinks he saw when Christ revealed himself to him in his head. Christians since have argued that when Jesus rose from the dead, it was in the same body in which he was crucified. Indeed, John’s gospel goes so far as to show his resurrected body still carried the wounds he suffered during his execution (John 20.26-29).

So what does this spiritual body, the one Paul promises all believers will receive, which is somehow physical yet not – the risen Jesus can pass ghost-like through locked doors (John 20.19) and levitate into the sky (Acts 1.8-11) – look like? What is its nature? Is it ephemeral so that it can vanish at will (Luke 24.31) and change its appearance (Luke 24.16), or is it like the bodies we have now, only better? Is it made of meat and gristle? Does it breath, eat, sweat, need to sleep, poop and pee? If not, then in what way is it a body? Will the new body retain its lungs, sweat glands, digestive system and genitals? Can it be considered a proper body if it doesn’t? If it’s to be an upgraded version of our existing bodies, minus all those pesky instincts, demands and messy bits, then how does it work? Does it only vaguely resemble the body we have now, like an Avatar in the famous film? Is it intangible, like the risen Christ’s (as implied in John 20.17)? Can it morph into unrecognisable forms (John 20.14)? Will it be able to pass through physical objects like Jesus’ ghostly form could ?

Alas, we shall never know. When Paul was making pronouncements about ‘spiritual bodies’ he hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. He knows he wasn’t too; writing to the cultists in Corinth, he anticipates that someone might want to know what ‘spiritual bodies’ are like. Here’s his profound answer:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! (1 Corinthians 15.35)

Yup, he had no idea what he was talking about so he resorts to ad hominem abuse instead. He then twitters on about how the physical body has to die, like a seed, before the new super-duper spiritual body can manifest itself. Except a seed doesn’t die in order to produce a plant. It may be buried but it doesn’t die. His analogy, which, you’ll note, doesn’t actually answer the question, fails miserably:

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain…. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15.36-37, 42-44)

His final flourish – if there is physical body then there has to be spiritual one – is, to use a technical term, absolute crap. He is making this stuff up and passing it off as a message from the Lord. Then as now, there were those who were taken in by him.

No-one has ever received a new body after their death; when this, our only body dies, we die. Our consciousness does not survive; it is a manifestation of our bodies, specifically of the brain, part of the meat and gristle that make up our bodies. It doesn’t hang around waiting for Jesus or God or some other non-existent being to transplant it in an imaginary super body.

No-one has ever received a new ‘spiritual body’, and no-one ever will. Of the 100.8 billion people who have died in the history of mankind, not one has gone on to live again in a new ‘spiritual body’. Not one has gone on to live again, period. If you think they have, you are free to present your evidence here. (Jesus, I should point out, doesn’t count: he wasn’t, according to Christian myth-making, entirely mortal. Plus his resurrection appearances are fiction.)

Paul is lying. There is no such thing as a ‘spiritual body’, no such thing as resurrection. You won’t be experiencing either. You are allowing yourself to be duped if you think you will.

Jesus Doesn’t Approve of One Man One Woman Marriage

WeddingWhat does Jesus really have to say about marriage? It’s not what you think.

It is almost impossible to visit a Christian website these days and not find it making pronouncements about gay marriage, same-sex relationships and the ‘evil’ of homosexuality. Some, like Christian Voice, seem to think that the gospel is about nothing else. Elsewhere, Bishop John Quinn of Minnesota, a celibate, single male and thus an expert in matters matrimonial, writes that ‘from the beginning, the church has taught that marriage is a lifetime relationship between one man and one woman… It is a sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ to provide the special graces that are needed to live according to God’s law and to give birth to the next generation”. Alas, the bishop doesn’t know his Bible, nor his Lord’s teaching. He is not alone in superimposing his own views of marriage on the Bible; it is a common practice among Christians today.

Should you be inclined to do so, you will once again search in vain either for Jesus ‘instituting’ modern marriage or for the early church promoting it. Those who claim he does usually cite Jesus’ apparent endorsement of Genesis 2.24 from Matthew 19.5-6:

a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

In context, though, Jesus is actually discussing divorce, not marriage, and is making the point that Jewish law permits divorce only because men and women are weak. This prompts the disciples to observe that ‘if such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry’, with which Jesus agrees, adding,

not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. 

In other words, Jesus thinks it is better to be sexless than to marry, the better to pursue the interests of God’s Kingdom. He emphasises the point in Luke 20.34-35:

Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age [i.e. that of the Kingdom] and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 

This is even less ambiguous in its denigration of marriage; it is for this world only, for those who will not be part of the Kingdom, who will not survive death. Those who live in anticipation of the Kingdom, who would be resurrected from the dead, will have nothing to do with marriage in this life, as in the next. Far from ‘instituting’ marriage as Bishop Quinn claims, Jesus heralds the end of the institution.

The Kingdom, however, didn’t come when Jesus said it would. Newly formed groups of believers found themselves having to decide what to do about marriage in a world that was lasting longer than he’d promised. Consequently, ‘from the beginning’, the early church’s position was that marriage would do if believers couldn’t manage to control their sexual urges. But, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 7.8-9, it is better to remain celibate and not to marry at all:

to the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

While it is true Paul assumes any marriage will be between a man and woman, this is hardly the ringing endorsement of marriage we might expect from the assertions of today’s Christians. For Paul, the leaders of the early church and Jesus himself there was no point to marrying when they lived in the end times. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, 7.28-29:

But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none…

Paul is not sanctioning marriage because he anticipated that any marriage could only be short-lived and traumatic; as he goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 7.32-34, marriage is little more than a distraction from ‘the affairs of the Lord’. He is not therefore promoting ‘life long’ commitment in the sense Bishop Quinn, Christian Voice’s Stephen Green and Christians who don’t know their Bible claim, because those to whom Paul writes are not, in his view, going to continue in their existing lives for very much longer.

Above all, Jesus and Paul are most definitely not establishing rules for marriage for the rest of time, simply because, for them, there was no ‘rest of time’.