“For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have”
—Jesus, Luke 24:39
Everyone holds a belief about what happens at death, from a “you are dead and that is it” belief of the atheist to a “you inhabit your own planet” type belief of the LDS church. There is a fascination with the after death, and afterlife, happenings of the body and soul. At a death most people try offering comforting words to the bereaved, but in most cases these words, while they may comfort, offer little of a biblical understanding of the afterlife, and most especially the resurrection.
Even in Christian circles among scholars the view varies by as many different people who are putting forth the views. Views have been put forth everywhere from a “Life in the Air” existence to a “full bodily resurrection here on earth.” Yet, all use the same Bible. As with many things Christian many times finding agreement elusive.
A key to understanding and interpreting resurrection pericope, as well as any biblical subject for that matter, lies in the worldview of the biblical author and the message he was trying to impart to his original audience. While it is understood that the Bible is a book inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is also understood that the writers wrote to particular communities and the information was shaped around the particular community’s needs. This accounts for the differences in tone of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as compared with Romans or Timothy. Thus the differences in the Gospels can be seen showing a truer picture of Christ when examined together as all communities are seen together.
Understanding, then, the worldview of the author and original audience is essential in understanding the concepts that writings put forth. As Duvall and Scott put it, Since God spoke his message in specific, historical situations (i.e., to people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life), we should take the ancient historical-cultural situation seriously.” While most commentators have capitalized on one verse, 1 Corinthians 15:50, and from that one phrase, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” the Second Temple period had a distinct understanding of what the resurrection would be.
Stendahl, Sanders, and others have spoken to the importance of the Second Temple worldview when interpreting 1st century Jewish documents. Yet, many times this worldview is not factored in as it would challenge preconceived notions held by the commentator. The best interpretation will be the one that takes into account both the biblical record as well as the biblical worldview. And as will be shown the Second Temple worldview was of a full bodily resurrection. It was with this worldview that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 50. It is with this world view that scripture needs to be interpreted.
The Intertestamental period writings shed light on the worldview of both Jesus and Paul. It was in this world, with this worldview, they lived. It will be in this period that the worldview pertaining to resurrection will be brought out. This worldview will be long beside Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth. Modern views will not be filtered in but will be filtered out, as N.T Wright has asserted, “Resurrection belongs within the revolutionary worldview of Second-Temple Judaism.” For purposes of this paper that is where it shall stay.
With the biblical evidence at hand, filtering in the Second Temple Worldview, this paper will argue in total agreement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom,” while asserting that flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom. It will be the position that in 1 Corinthians 50 “flesh and blood” is used as a euphemism for the unredeemed, the lost, those who have never had a relationship with Christ, or those who have had a relationship and from it they have walked away. The Bible teaches a full bodily resurrection—flesh and blood—as the renewed form of mankind at the end of time.
The Need for a Proper Worldview
In 1963, Krister Stendahl put forth the proposition that 1st Century, Second Temple documents should not be viewed through a modern Western lens, through the lens of a modern Western worldview. Interpreters have the need to take care in not reading a 1st century Jewish document with a modern worldview. Unlike Luther, who seemed to read his own personal disgust with a corrupt church, 1st century documents have to be examined with as near as possible a 1st century, Second temple world view.
After Stendahl, E. P. Sanders came in 1977 making the same claim. Sanders set theologians on end with has come to be known as the New Perspective on Paul. Since Stendahl and Sanders others have picked up the mantle and followed with the assertion that we need to interpret 1st Century, Second Temple documents as close as possible within a Second Temple Judaism context. While, as it will be shown later in this essay, those who push for this New Perspective do not always agree—Dunn and Sanders will argue for an “in the air” experience while Wright contends for a physical body resurrection—it will be with this New Perspective—which is not new at all, but the Bible’s original perspective—in mind, looking more towards original documents to gain an understanding of resurrection from a Second Temple perspective, which is in fact the perspective of Jesus, Paul, and all the New Testament, as well as intertestamental period, writers.
Second Temple Resurrection
While the Bible teaches resurrection, it has to be admitted that there is not a ton of information given as to the particulars of the event. Most people would immediately turn to the Resurrection passage of 1 Corinthians 15. And while this paper will go there, to lay the ground work for that passage, it is best to start in the Old Testament and Intertestamental periods.
The hope of a physical body resurrection is apparent in the writings of the Maccabees. Second Maccabees states, “Better to be killed by men and cherish God’s promise to raise us again” (2 Maccabees 7:14, New English Bible with Apocrypha, 1970). It could be argued that “raise us again” does not have to be raised to a physical existence. And while Dunn, is a proponent of the New Perspective, it is Dunn’s contention that this “raise us again” will be an “in the air experience. Dunn asserts, “the resurrection body will be other, no longer flesh and blood, beyond the reach of corruption and atrophy, and vivified by the life-giving Spirit” (emphasis added). Sanders concurs with the otherworldly existence and an “in the air” type of existence. It is Dunn’s belief that the transformation of which Paul speaks (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) is a transformation from physical to spiritual existence. This would then be somewhat in line with Teichman who held the opinion that Paul believed at the end time everything would be annihilated except for the spirit. Yet, a closer look at the Second Temple understanding of resurrection will paint a quite different picture.
Two Baruch poses a question to God, “In which shape will the living live in Your day? Or, how will remain their splendor after that” (2 Baruch 49:2)? The answer, which sheds a bit of life on the Second Temple view is, “For the earth will surely give back the dead at that time; it receives them now in order to keep them, not changing anything in their form. But as it has received them so it will give them back. And as I have delivered them to it so it will raise them” (2 Baruch 50:2, emphasis added). For the writer of 2 Baruch a bodily resurrection was in store at the end times. Though a Jewish pseudepigraphical text, it gives insight into the Jewish worldview of the late 1st and or early 2nd century. From the time of the Maccabees until the time of 2 Baruch little had changed in the thought process of the afterlife. While Dunn looks for an “in the air” experience, and Sanders sees a shift from before the cross—bodily resurrection—to after the cross—a spiritual, “in the air” resurrection—the written record does not bear this out.
Leaving apocryphal works and turning to the Bible works accepted as canonical, Daniel 12:2 asserts, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” While apparently borrowed from Isaiah 26:19, the verse points to a bodily rising up from the dust. As Senior asserts, “resurrection expectation in connection with the coming of the messianic age was a strong current in intertestamental Judaism. A biblical text which seemed to have particular influence in this regard is the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.”
The New Testament
Having seen that the Second Temple period—this is the era in which Christ lived and Paul wrote—as well as later writings after Messiah held to a belief in physical bodily resurrection. It is time to turn to the New Testament writings. In Particular the writings of Paul will be looked at.
Before turning to Jesus resurrection, however, there was a resurrection in conjunction with that of Messiah. In Matthew 25:51-53, it is recorded that “the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (emphasis added). As Senior writes, “It is the death of Jesus which triggers the resurrection of the saints.” This resurrection, material particular to Matthew, is of a bodily resurrection—people, saints, rising from the tomb. This not a floating down from an “in the air” experience; this is a coming out of the tombs resurrection: physical body resurrection.
Turning to the resurrected Christ, it has to be asked if His resurrection is a paradigm for the resurrection of the saints at some future time? While Senior believes it is, then the words of Jesus have to be remembered, “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). By His own testimony the Christ was resurrected physically. Here we are faced with a dilemma. Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, yet the Messiah—who ascended into Heaven—was raised, resurrected, with a physical body of flesh and blood. The two ideas have to harmonize.
Johnson might have the answer writing, “the dead will be raised with a πνευματικόν body, which for all its discontinuity and newness, will have a definite material continuity with the ψυχικόν body that is buried.” What will that continuity Be? The continuity will be the physical body. The discontinuity will be what animates the body. N. T. Wright suggests that the body will be animated by the Holy Spirit, “The present unity of the church is important not least because it will thereby anticipate the perfect harmony of the resurrection world, when members of the soma Christou, the Messiah’s body, who have each exercised their pneumatika, spiritual gifts, are finally raised to life, to be given the soma pneumatikon (15:44–6), the entire body energized and animated by the divine Spirit.” While Sanders, Dunn—among many others—see an existence of a spiritual body, Wright, on the other hand sees a body animated by the God’s own Spirit. Wright explains, “Here is a sub-puzzle within Paul’s language; strictly, the Greek forms ending in –nos refer to the material of which something is composed, while the forms ending in –kos are either ethical or functional, and refer to the sphere within which it belongs or the power which animates it.”
The body, with all of its flesh and blood—just as had the risen body of Christ—will be raised and animated by the Spirit of God. Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for all believers’ resurrection. Paul wrote, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ as the fristfruits serves as type of the resurrection of the faithful that will come on the last day.
Kistemaker rightly observes that, “The expression [flesh and blood]is a figure of speech for the physical body. It is a Semitic phrase that occurs repeatedly in rabbinic sources to denote the utter frailty and mortality for a human being.” While under its normal operating power the physical body is frail and mortal. And, Kistemaker uses this to make is case for an “in the air” type of resurrection. Yet, where he fails in his analysis is the resurrected physical body will be animated by the Holy Spirit. If Christ’s resurrection is the paradigm for all believers’ resurrection—and Paul says it is—then the animating force will be the same—the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4). Instead then of being animated as a spirit the resurrected body is animated by the Spirit. Thus, the resurrected Christ is able to say He has flesh and blood as he has been raised imperishable as the body is animated—not just brought to life, but continually filled with life—of the Holy Spirit. It has to be remembered in writing to the Corinthians Paul is not trying to prove that there is a resurrection, as has been shown by the intertestamental works. Paul is showing (1) that Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for their own future resurrection and (2) that resurrection would be of their physical bodies animated by God’s Divine Spirit. A few passages, canonical and deuterocanonical, serve to show this point.
Sirach 14:18 states, “Like abundant leaves on a spreading tree that sheds some and puts forth others, so are the generations of flesh and blood: one dies and another is born” (NRSV, emphasis added). Flesh and Blood here refers to mortal living man. Jesus says, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. (Matthew 16:15-17, emphasis added). Flesh and blood is used as an idiom for mortal, living, man. The body sown corruptible, will rise incorruptible. While Jeremias is write to contend that the dead will rise in bodies that are incorruptible, he fails in seeing the continuity that is seen in Jesus’s resurrection and in Paul’s analogy of the seed. The physical body rises—the continuity is kept as it is the same body—yet, there is discontinuity in that it was corruptible and now by the animating force—God’s Spirit—it is raised incorruptible.
There are almost as many theories about the resurrection as there are commentators interpreting the biblical literature. And, among those who agree on certain of the points, few, if any, agree on every individual point. Many, if not most, people believe the afterlife experience will be and “in the air,” spiritual existence. Yet, the record of Second Temple Judaism paints quite a different picture. Among the various verses, both canonical and apocryphal, all seem to point the belief in a physical body resurrection. This resurrection has continuity with the past life in that it is the same body, but there is discontinuity in the fact that the body is animated in a different way, by God’s Spirit. Paul uses “flesh and blood” as an idiom for mortal man; it is used that way in other scriptures. Yet, mortal man is just that, mortal. At death, the physical body is sown corruptible; at the resurrection it is raised incorruptible by the animation of God’s Holy Spirit.
Until Next time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!
 J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 99.
 All verse The Holy Bible English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
 N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review 41, no. 2, (1998): Paragraph 14. Retrieved from http://ntwrightpage.com.
 Cf. Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56, no. 3 (July 1963).
 Cf. Ed Parrish Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1977.
 James D. G. Dunn, “How Will The Dead Be Raised? With What Body Do They Come? Reflections on 1 Corinthians 15,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 45, no. 1 (2002): 18.
 E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), Kindle location 3439.
Frederick Murphy, “2 Baruch and the Romans,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104, no. 4 (1985), 663.
 Daniel Bailey, “The intertextual relationship of Daniel 12:2 and Isaiah 26:19: evidence from Qumran and the Greek versions,” Tyndale Bulletin 51, no.2 (2000): 305.
 Daniel Senior, “Death of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Holy Ones,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1976): 320.
 Senior, 328.
 Andrew Johnson Jr., “On removing a trump card: flesh and blood and the reign of God.,” Bulletin For Biblical Research 13, no. 2 (2003 2003): 178.
 N.T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), Kindle location 677-6780.
 Wright, ROSG, Kindle Location 6500-6503.
 Simon J. Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993), 520.
 Joachim Jeremias, “Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God,” New Testament Studies 2 (1956): 152.