Philosophy of Mind and the “Hyperpreterist” controversy

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I also published this blog entry over at the Preterist Blog.

I’m under no illusions about the fact that my view on the mind-body problem is a minority view in the history of Christian thought. I’m a physicalist. This puts me in the minority because, as well known Christian philosopher of mind William Hasker (himself a dualist of sorts) put it:

By all odds the most influential mind-body theory in Western civilization has been mind-body dualism. Dualism was first developed as a philosophical theory by some of the Greek philosophers, notably Plato. It was adopted by most of the Christian thinkers of the first few centuries and subsequently came to share Christianity’s dominance of European civilization.
Hasker, Metaphysics: Constructing a Worldview, Contours of Christian Philosophy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1983), 65.

This is not such a terrible indictment on Christian theologians. It’s hard to live in a culture utterly saturated with a certain viewpoint without being influenced by it. As an almost inevitable result, “the Greek Fathers of the first three centuries of the Common Era (c.E.) drew upon various traditions within the Greco-Roman world from as early as Plato and Aristotle in formulating their language and concepts of the human person.” [Ray Anderson, “On Being Human: The Spiritual Saga of a Creaturely Soul” in Warren Brown, Nancey Murphy, and H. Newton Maloney (eds) Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 183.]

As the facts of history would have it in the pre-modern world, physicalism was a quiet voice amidst a loud dualist majority. As the facts of recent history would have it, the tables are turning on this state of affairs. In contemporary Christian philosophy and theology, there is a growing acceptance of physicalism as an expression of a biblical holisitc picture of humanity, evidenced by a flood of scholarly yet conservative books, articles, conferences and so on, advocating a real willingness to question the cultural baggage that Christianity has taken on board and a fresh willingness to revisit what the Bible has to say about all this. Christian dualism is still the majority view, but it is a majority in decline, a fact I take some pleasure in. If you’re a dualist, all of this may be a little unnerving. As Bob Dylan told us decades ago now, the times they are a changin’! I have no intention of dragging you kicking and screaming out of dualism in this fairly short blog entry, so don’t bother preparing for battle with me just now. The purpose of this blog isn’t to promote my views on that issue (however much I think those views would be good for your theology). However, it’s best to lay all my cards on the table right at the outset so you know what I am.

The reason I’m even broaching the subject is to draw attention to how philosophy of mind is related to the hyperpreterist controversy (controversy? OK, so in Christianity in general it’s not even a storm in a teacup, so insignificant is that movement, but you know what I mean). Hyperpreterism is necessarily a very dualistic outlook, even more dualistic than mainstream Christian dualism. Here’s why:

Evangelical dualists traditionally identify the persona – the mind or conscious self – with the soul. Thus, a person survives death because the soul survives death. Dualists naturally speak of a person being with the Lord in heaven. However, they do still emphasise that this is a temporary state of affairs. It’s wonderful of course (thus, they interpret Paul’s reference to departing and being with the Lord “which is far better” to be a joyful anticipation of the glory of heaven), but it’s still not quite as good as it could be. This is because evangelical dualists – because they are evangelicals – affirm the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body and the hope of being re-embodied once more.

Hyperpreterism however takes dualism to another level. The hyperpreterist believes that any so-called “resurrection” is really not a dead thing coming to life at all (which is why I think it’s fair to say that they actually deny resurrection altogether), but rather the continued, unbroken survival of the soul entering a new body – one that was never dead, one that does not need to be raised from death, and (more importantly for my point here), one that is not physical at all – any more than the soul itself is physical. And since, according to a hyperpreterist, this is all the body that the person will ever have, any thought of a future physically embodied state is ruled out altogether. There is therefore absolutely no physical aspect to our eternal life. Fancy that – a “resurrection” where no dead things come back to life!

It would be obviously wrong to say that dualism naturally leads to hyperpreterism. It can, but of course it doesn’t usually (thank God!). Provided one accepts the orthodox belief that there really will be a resurrection of the physical body, no Christian dualist could become a hyperpreterist.

What is definitely true, however, is that in order to be a hyperpreterist, one must be a dualist. If one is a physicalist, then when the body dies, we die (unless one believes in a physical intermediate state, which creates some very strange complications that I won’t go into here). If physicalism is true, then unless there is a physical resurrection of the dead, we are doomed. If physicalism is true, then without the resurrection our only hope is in this life and we may as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

In a way I’m glad that I became a physicalist well before I had heard of hyperpreterism. This way, I cannot be accused of adopting physicalism as a way of combating hyperpreterism. Of course we should not start professing a point of view just because of its apologetical value. We should profess it with a clear conscience because we have become persuaded that it is true. That being said, however, all I want to point out is that physicalism, that re-affirmation of a holistic, biblically grounded view of human nature (as I see it to be), naturally rules out the heretical undermining of the doctrine of the resurrection that the hyperpreterist movement presents.

I appreciate that not everyone has a keen interest in the subject of philosophy of mind, of theological portraits of human nature. You don’t need a strong interest in that subject area. I do have such an interest, and for about a decade now I’ve been enjoying the revived interest that theologians and Christian philosophers are showing in it (that phenomenon has been going on for a few decades now, long before I got interested). I think that the reward of coming to a better informed and hopefully more biblical view of humanity is reason enough to dive into it, but if that alone doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the way that the issue interacts with the discussion about hyperpreterism might arouse your interest enough to take another look.

Glenn Peoples

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20 thoughts on “Philosophy of Mind and the “Hyperpreterist” controversy

  1. I think the popularity of physicalism among contemporary Christian philosophers and theologians is a passing fad (one that I myself was swept up in for a while, but I got better). But I too digress 🙂

    The digression aside, must a hyperpreterist be a dualist? I’m not so sure. A hyper could believe that we are identical to our bodies, but upon death we become something immaterial (a view which, given the logic of identity entails that upon death our bodies become something immaterial). This view has some weird implications (e.g. it entails that corpses aren’t identical to the bodies of the individuals who died). But, oh well, it’s not like the hypers aren’t committed to some wacky things already (and, even more main stream physicalist views have entailments in the neighborhood of this – e.g. Van Inwagan’s view of material objects entails that there are no such things as long dead corpses). Or a hyperpreterist could take a Van-Inwagen-on-the resurrection inspired view, except just have it that at death bodies are immediately assumed into heaven, made alive again and replaced by replicas.

    I’m don’t know if any hypers out there adopt either of these views. But I don’t see why they couldn’t consistently do so. I’m not saying that any of this is very plausible. But what’s a little more wackiness added to wackiness anyway?

  2. Kenny, surely anyone who thinks that our presently existing bodies continue to exist as physical bodies after death, but that we live on in an immaterial form, is a dualist. I hereby stipulate that this constitutes a dualistic view.

  3. Right (Well, maybe not – there is a lot one might be able to get away with here by adopting some sort of temporary identity position, but setting that aside, and accepting the stipulation …). But what I was saying is that hyperpreterists, qua hyperpreterists, are not committed to such a view. They can think that our presently existing bodies become something immaterial and then live on or they can think that our presently existing bodies remain physical and go up to heaven. As I pointed out, there’s a bit of weirdness associated with these views when it comes to explaining what corpses are (these views entail that they are not the bodies of deceased persons), but oh well.

  4. Hyperpreterists believe that our present bodies die and are buried (they’ve been to funerals, after all!). They believe that the resurrection body is a different body.

  5. Even if all of them actually believe that, they are not committed to that view qua hyperpreterists. And the latter is what is of interest here. I agree that the view I am proposing they might have requires a whacky view of corpses. But then, so does, say, taking seriously Peter van Inwagen’s model of the resurrection(one that he himself does not actually believe to be accurate) that you yourself put forward as a possibility on your podcast. They are no worse off, in this respect, then some orthodox materialists who believe in an afterlife are.

  6. Actually they are committed to that view qua hyperpreterists. Their interpretation of the “spiritual body” is one wherein that body is not our current body, and has no ontological continuity with anything physical. To give up that view would be a fundamental rejection of the hyperpreterist view of resurrection. For that reason if you reject dualism, then you must reject hyperpreterism as well by virtue of rejectng dualism.

    Whatever whackiness Van Inwagen’s view might have when it comes to corpses, it obviously isn’t (and in principle could not be) dualistic, and that’s what’s of interest here.

  7. Okay. If that view is essential to their position then they are committed to dualism. I wonder a bit whether that view is essential to their position (even if they all hold it, that does not mean that their view of eschatology requires them to). But I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of hyperpreterism to say.

  8. Hi Glenn, interesting combo. However, may I suggest you have taken the individual body view and ignored the collective body view. If the resurrection body is a collective body, and that body is a political-spiritual body of God’s elect, the nature of the resurrection life is not personal, and so no personal conscious afterlife is implied. The nature of the death of Adam, on the day he ate (Gen 2:17), and the nature of the death of Israel (Hosea 13:1), and the nature of the death of Judah (Ez 37:11) was spiritual and, for the latter two, national-political. Now the promise to Israel was re-unification and resurrection as a nation with the Holy Spirit, that is a spiritual and national resurrection (Ez 37, Is 25:6-8, 26:19, Hos 13:14, Dan 12:1-2). So, given the collective and national nature of the resurrection promise, the personal participation in it by Daniel and the other saints who had died before it was fulfilled is metaphorical and symbolic. They saw the salvation they spoke about, but didn’t — personally — participate in its full realisation because it was not for their day (1 Pet 1:9-12). Note that Jesus states that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive to God before the resurrection (Luke 20:38). Even before the resurrection, the Hebrews writer writes that the dead surround the living as witnesses. It appears that this language is metaphorical. Personally they are dead and buried, metaphorically they — by way of their examples of faith — surrounded the living even before the resurrection.

    The spiritual nature of the resurrection body is attested to by Paul who explicitly identifies it as such and declares that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:35-57). In his extended discourse on the resurrection and the resurrection body, Paul confirms not only the spiritual nature of the body, and its different nature from the old body, and that flesh and blood cannot inherit it, but that the resurrection doctrine he taught was from Hosea and Isaiah, which he quotes, and as also recorded in the book of Acts. If you put together the meaning and interpretation that Jesus and the Apostles put on Old Testament prophecy and its spiritual manner of fulfillment, you have parallel images: the kingdom, the messianic temple, the body, the remarriage, the new birth, the new creation, the new heaven and earth and so on. Now all these images refer to the spiritual life of the collective community of the elect, and none of them refer to a personal afterlife. Why should the resurrection be any different? It is obviously NOT about a personal afterlife in Ez 37, Is 25-26 and Hos 13, and when studied carefully NOT in Dan 12 either. So why should it change in the New Testament given their stance that they were teaching the fulfillment of those prophecies?

  9. David, Paul was a first century Jew who did not throw out his concept of resurrection.

    You say “Now the promise to Israel was re-unification and resurrection as a nation” while citing Daniel 12:2 as a proof-text, but Daniel 12:2 offers no support for that idea. Daniel said that many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Nothing there implies that the “those” are corporate entities, so that “many of those who sleep” would be one or more corporate entities.

    For Paul – or any first century Jew – the idea of the resurrection of the dead happening while all people remained in their graves would have been nonsense. I think your reading of Hebrews is simply mistaken, reading it as though people are literally standing around watching us. But why suppose this meaning?

    Similarly, your reading of the word “spiritual” to mean ethereal or non-physical is not a usage that Paul could identify with. This is the man who contrasted the carnal (psuchikos) man with the spiritual (pneumatikos) man in the here and now, before death. But Paul knew that both of these men were physical creatures. So to cite his reference to a spiritual body as though this means it is not material is not persuasive, especially in light of Paul’s own description of the resurrection in that same chapter – it is sown a natural body, it (same “it” that was sown) a spiritual body. The thing that died and went into the ground will be raised. This is Paul’s view.

    1. Perhaps it would be helpful to contrast the resurrection doctrine you are talking about with the resurrection doctrine of Paul.

      First the WHO or WHAT of resurrection, that is what is thing that rises?
      You say, the individual physical bodies of both believers and unbelievers.
      Paul said that the resurrection was of ‘the dead’ (e.g. 1 Cor 15:12), but as a singular body: with what kind of body (SINGULAR) to they (PLURAL) come? (1 Cor 15:35) which is a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:44). These ‘the dead’ some in Corinth denied were then being (present tense) raised. Who are these dead who Paul said were in fact being then raised? Paul said that God had ‘raised us up with him’ already in Eph. 2:6 cf. Col 3:1. Paul said it was the hope of the 12 tribes to attain this resurrection, which they had been promised (Acts. 26:4-8) and that it was the hope of Israel (Acts. 28:20). Paul said that the resurrection would be in fulfillment of Is. 25:6-8, which promised the resurrection of Israel, and he said it would be fulfilled in connection with the breaking of the power of THE LAW (1 Cor. 15:54-56). And in fulfillment of Hos. 13:14, which also promised resurrection life to Israel as a corporate body, which had died (Hos. 13:1) in sin.
      Paul said that when Israel was saved, she would be resurrected from death to life (Rom. 11:15). Obviously this is the ‘hope of Israel’ i.e. the resurrection of the dead, the body of Moses.

      The resurrection of the unjust Paul also taught (Acts 24:15). The unjust rise up in the rebellion, lead by the man of lawlessness in the temple (2 Thes 2:1-12). The rebellion Paul taught would be ended with the total destruction of the rebels. Those who rebelled would be judged via God’s agent of wrath, who then bore the sword and collected taxes, i.e. Rome (Rom. 13:2-6). This agent of wrath would repay the unbelieving Jews who were then persecuting the Christians, in fulfillment of Deut. 32 (Rom. 12:12-21). (Christ taught that Deut. 32 would be fulfilled against unbelieving Israel at the fall of Jerusalem in Mat 23:29-39, following the rebellion referred to in Mat 24:7 that would result in the outbreak of lawlessness and internecine disorder and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the (Roman) armies encircling her.)

      Second is the WHEN
      You say that the when is in our future, centuries after the fall of the Jerusalem temple.
      Paul said that it was ‘about to be’ (Acts 24:15 Young’s Literal Translation) in the mid First Century, when the Jerusalem temple was about to be destroyed.
      Paul said that it was to be before some of he and his original audience had died: 1 Cor 15:51; 1 Thes. 4:15-17.
      Paul said it was to be in connection with the destruction of the man of lawlessness, who was active already then and who would rise in the temple, i.e. the Jerusalem temple (2 Thes. 2:1-12)
      Paul said that the resurrection, when Is. 25:6-8 would be fulfilled, would happen when the tent (temple) was destroyed (2 Cor 5:1-4). That happened in 70 A.D.

  10. Glenn,

    Paul as a First Century Jew was also a Pharisee. There is NOTHING whatsoever in evidence that the Pharisees, who did believe in the resurrection, believed it involved personal physical bodies being raised from death to life. Paul specifically stated that his resurrection belief was in common with the Pharisees (and also that it was about to occur), and that it pertained to the 12 tribes of Israel (not individual’s bodies).

    Some people interpret the Pharisees as believing in the ‘transmigration of souls’ however this may be their way of expressing the idea that the dead individuals participate in the resurrection by being identified with the true Israel of God that rises up in restoration in the age to come.

    Dan 12 is about Daniel’s ‘your people’ and ‘nation’ and about the resurrection which happens when ‘the power of the holy people is completely broken.’ The context is about the rising up of two groups of people:
    Body 1: the ‘wise’ and ‘those who purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined’
    Body 2: the ‘wicked’ who rise up to ‘act wickedly’ and who do not understand.

    Body 2 are the people who are responsible for the abomination that causes desolation, i.e. their sin is what causes the desolation, and the shattering of the power of the holy people. (Christ explicitly said this was to happen in connection with the fall of the Jerusalem temple in his generation.)

    You have to read into the text the idea of physical bodies being raised from the dirt, it is actually not there in the text, the text is talking about two groups who differ in resurrection and holiness and fate, and both relate to Israel as a nation.

    Naturally a body is made up of many members. The participation of a person in a body as a member does not mean that the body is many, even if it is a body of bodies.

    If the idea of the resurrection happening while the dead remain in their physical graves is nonsense to Jews, why do we find it again and again in the scriptures? For example, dead Israel coming to life and rising up in Ez. 37 and the enemies of God in Ez. 38-39. Another example, Is. 25:6-12 describes the restoration and the punishment of Israel as the swallowing up of death, which Paul twice quotes (1 Cor 15 and 2 Cor 5) as the resurrection promise to be fulfilled at his time/generation. Another example is Is. 26:17-21 describing the new birth of Israel, and her New Jerusalem (cf. Is 65-66), which describes this as the rising of the new singular body from death: ‘thy dead live, my dead body they rise’ (Young’s Literal Translation). This happens when the blood of the martyrs is vindicated and avenged, which Christ said happened at the fall of Jerusalem (Mat. 23:29-39).

    The question is not the nature of man, but the nature of the body: your last paragraph carelessly confounds the two.

    Paul specifically said that the thing that died and went into the ground is NOT the thing raised: ‘what you sow is not the body that is to be’ (1 Cor 15:37 ESV)

  11. David.

    Paul was a first century Jew, and it is fair to assume that when he spoke of the resurrection of the dead, unless he made it clear that he meant something else, he was talking about the thing that they understood that term to refer to. For those Jews who believed in the resurrection, it was the resurrection of individual people.

    “Paul specifically said that the thing that died and went into the ground is NOT the thing raised: ‘what you sow is not the body that is to be’ (1 Cor 15:37 ESV)”

    It is selective and misleading to take this sentence in isolation to teach that the body that goes into he ground is not raised. Paul’s point in that verse, if you look at the verses before and after, is that the body that is sown is not the body that is to be because it is transformed.

    Indeed, Paul is quite clear that this is what he means: “It is sown in dishonor; 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.”

    The thing that is sown is raised.

    Of all the New Testament writers, St Paul is the last person to whom you can turn for support if you want to deny the resurrection of individual people. This passage in 1 Corinthians 15 is certainly clear enough about that, as is the discussion of this in 1 Thessalonians 4 where he specifically refers to those who have fallen asleep, just like we who remain alive when Jesus returns.

    By all means say that you don’t think Paul was on the right track. But you’re at least going to have to let him be himself.

    1. Hey Glenn, no need to twist what I said. I never denied personal and individual participation in the resurrection body. The question is the nature and identity of the body sown and that rises.

      The body sown is the body of death, the body of Moses, the vile body, of flesh and blood, the natural man. The old creation. All these are synonymous terms. The corpse attractimg the vultures. The old temple made with hands. That is the testimony of scripture, not being selective but comprehensive.

      The body raised to eternal life is the immortal body that Hades cannot withstand, the church of the living God. It is a spiritual body, the new creation. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, and a member of his body. Again, why are you not wanting to conflate these different images or presentations of the life we have in Christ, even resurrection life?

      Actually I think you are being a dualist in holding to multiple hopes, multiple bodies. Paul said one body, one hope, the hope of Israel. Anthropological dualism is only one part of the problem.

      Perhaps you need to re-read Paul and be open to different approaches and try to avoid puttimg words in his mouth that he never said, and addressing what he actually did say.

    2. David I didn’t even use the language of “personal and individual participation in the resurrection body,” so how can I have accused you of denying this? So I’m not the one twisting.

      What I take you to be denying is that the Bible teaches that individual humans will rise from the dead, out of their graves.

      “The body sown is the body of death, the body of Moses,”

      This is not what St Paul says. This is all David, not Paul. St Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, seems fairly explicit, without using any hidden meanings, that he is addressing questions or comments from people about Christian believers who have died – or even scepticism that the dead will rise – and he feels entirely free to answer them on their own terms. His answer is that the body that rises will be different from the one that dies, that it sown mortal etc but will be raised immortal etc, that we shouldn’t mourn for those who have died because God will bring them back from the dead etc just as he brought Jesus back from the dead etc.

      Thanks for the advice to address what Paul really said, but I have been – as has the church for a couple of millennia now!

    3. Back to the body, last comment was limited to the sowing and harvest image.

      The resurrection body is the body inherited when Is. 26:8 and Hos. 13:14 are fulfilled, per Paul in 1 Cor 15.

      Is. 25:8, in context is about the salvation of Israel at Israel’s remarriage feast:
      On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
      a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
      of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
      And he will swallow up on this mountain
      the covering that is cast over all peoples,
      the veil that is spread over all nations.
      He will swallow up death for ever;
      and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
      and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
      for the Lord has spoken.
      It will be said on that day,
      “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
      This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
      let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Is. 25:6-9)

      So, Israel’s salvation = resurrection in fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel = the remarriage of Israel under the New Covenant. Just like Paul said in Romans 11:
      For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? …
      And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
      “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
      he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
      “and this will be my covenant with them
      when I take away their sins.” (Rom 11:15,26-27)

      Patently, the context and force of the prophecy and its application by Paul is the resurrection and salvation of Israel under the New Covenant as one body. So body = many people together under one head, Christ.

      Is. 26:15-21 discusses the resurrection again, the same resurrection of Is. 25:8, and it explains the context and meaning of this resurrection promise: ‘Thy dead live, my dead body they rise’. This rising of the dead body is Israel’s rebirth, which comes via the coming of YHWH out of his place (heaven) to judge the inhabitants of the land for their guilt, and to disclose the blood of her martyrs, and to reveal her slain. Christ said this would happen at the fall of Jerusalem in his generation (Mat. 23:29-24:34). The body that dies is the carcass of Israel (Mat. 24:28), which in Pauline writings is the body of death/sin, and the flesh, which is nothing to do with physical flesh.

      Again, this ‘body’ is Israel as a whole, as a nation. This is the biblical use of ‘body’ in the context of resurrection.

      Hos. 13:14 is the salvation of Israel under the new birth of the nation. Israel died in sin (Hos. 13:1). The redemption from the grave is of Israel as a single body, as a nation. So resurrection body in Hos. 13 is the single body, the nation of Israel, reborn.

      The fruit (=resurrection harvest) comes from dying to the law of Moses, and being part of the body of Christ (=resurrection harvest) see Rom. 7:4. That is the resurrection body in Paul’s writings.

    4. You wrote that Paul wrote:
      ‘we shouldn’t mourn for those who have died because God will bring them back from the dead etc just as he brought Jesus back from the dead’

      I don’t want to nit-pick but there seems to be some subtle twisting to make Paul say what you think he meant rather than what he actually said, and it is not substitution of terminology or concepts from elsewhere (as I did when not trying to quote but to explain) but stuff that doesn’t actually exist anywhere in Paul.

      It seems to be a paraphrase of 1 Thes. 4:13-14. However, looking at that text it does not say that ‘God will bring them back from the dead’ it says that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. It does not say that their resurrection will be like Christ’s resurrection. It says if we believe ‘that Jesus died and rose again’ so also [we believe] that ‘God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.’ The point of comparison or similarity or logical connection is the belief, not the resurrection itself.

      The meaning of ‘God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep’ is not necessarily that God will bring them back from the dead physically. Whether this is in view is something that you need to argue from the context and the things Paul actually says or alludes to or quotes.

      The event being described is:
      1. the coming of the Lord from heaven,
      2. with the voice of the archangel
      3. and the trumpet of God.

      This coming of the Lord is from the Old Testament, e.g. Is 26:21

      For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
      to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
      and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
      and will no more cover its slain.

      This is from the resurrection of Israel by new birth passage I discussed in an earlier comment. This coming in judgement to repay Israel for shedding the blood of the prophets is what Christ said he would do in his generation at the fall of the Jerusalem temple (Mat 23:29-24:34). In that discourse Christ also said that the judgement upon Jerusalem would be not only his coming, but also with the angels and the trumpet. Given this, and much other material and examples of this language, the meaning is the vindication of the blood of the martyrs and the rising up of those of faith by their witness in the destruction of one nation by another, bringing honour to YHWH and his Christ whose power and truth in prophetic word are proved by the coming to pass of what they predicted (including the time frame they gave for it to come true). Upon its own terms, this is what Christ threatened and promised, and Paul, in echoing this language does not introduce new concepts of the resurrection of physical bodies or the physical appearance of Christ as a 1.75m tall Jewish man riding a cumulus cloud.

      So who is it who is not letting Paul be himself and trying to make him teach something he never said? Paul needs to be understood in his ancient context, including its apocalyptic language.

  12. Glenn, are you really being obtuse? Clearly you suggested I denied the resurrection of individual people. I was right to respond to you that the resurrection of individuals is agreed, but to clarify the biblical teaching about the resurrection body, in which all the individuals resurrected are resurrected together as one body, and as members thereof, which is what you deny.

    Let’s focus on the body. The identity of the body sown, and the body raised is what we seem to disagree on. There is obviously some connection between the two bodies, and the latter is the transformation of the former.

    At the most basic level we have two options:
    The individual physical body of each person, (their first body and their personal resurrection body), or
    The collective national/international/social/church body, (the first body being the body of Moses / Adam, or Israel and Judah, and the latter being the church body, the body of Christ).

    The sowing and reaping language is as good a clue as the others. The harvest is at the end of the age, when the wheat is gathered into the barn and the weeds are gathered and thrown into the fire. John the Baptist said that this end of the age judgement soon would fall upon the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were the brood of vipers, i.e. the seed of the snake, the children of the devil. So, already we have some context for the sowing of the body and the harvest of the body. The body judged was the body that had risen, the body of the Pharisees and Sadducees, i.e. the rulers of Israel in the First Century, in opposition to Christ and unbelief in him, persecuting and killing him and his followers in the First Century and being judged in the First Century.

    Is there ANY language or example of an individual dying physically that is portrayed as sowing in the entire bible? Not as far as I know.

    The sowing and reaping language in the bible, when not used literally, is for sowing good deeds, righteousness and peace, not individual’s bodies (e.g. Hos. 10:12-15). The sower sows THE WORD (Mark 4:14).

    God promised his people to sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast, so that they would harvest the New Covenant (Jer. 31:27-34). God promised Israel to sow her in the new covenant and in the remarriage of Israel (Hos. 2:16-23). This has nothing to do with individual physical bodies being sown or rising again! In Zechariah 8:12 we have the sowing of peace to produce a harvest to be inherited by the remnant of Israel, which is obviously a major part of Pauline thought on Israel, including the resurrection in Romans 9-11.

    Jesus said that the harvest time had already arrived (Mat. 9:37-38; John 4:35-36). In Revelation the land is harvested (Rev. 14:14-20), referring to events at the time of writing in the First Century (Rev. 1:1-3)

    In summary, where is there ANY biblical basis for the use of sowing and reaping as referring to individual human bodies dying and coming back to life?

  13. David, I haven’t so much as read a word of the last three comments in a row. Pick your favourite one. I’ll delete the other two and read that one. Or I’ll pick one and delete the others.

    (One of us evidently has more time to do this than the other, and this policy is here for a reason.)

  14. Actually, I’ll just do a couple of sentences on each (in future, please just write one comment at a time).

    The first comment, as it seems to me anyway, is just a list of claims about what the NT resurrection passages really mean. I don’t share those beliefs and I can’t really see any good arguments that this is what Paul means.

    Re: the second comment, I didn’t say the resurrection in 1 Thes is stated to be like Christ’s resurrection (the “firstfruits” metaphor is used elsewhere, in 1 Cor 15). Rather, I observed that it was a promise about what will happen to individuals, claiming that those dead individuals will be raised up and we will, be bodily present with them.

    Re: Your third comment, it is not legitimate to just do a word search for the words “sow” and “harvest” and to assume that their usage as a metaphor in 1 Cor 15 is exhausted by its usage in the prophets. It’s a pretty everyday metaphor, capable of being used in all sorts of ways.

    When you denied that the body that dies will be raised, you quoted Paul using the word “sow.” But now all of a sudden the language of sowing can’t be connected to the individual body?

    I think you’re reaching, continually. Looking for a word used somewhere in the Hebrew Scripture so that you can draw a tenuous connection between passages, when the straight forward interpretation of these passages about the resurrection of the dead has been proclaimed from the beginning.

    I know that doesn’t satisfy you, David, and I know my simple handling of what has always looked to most readers like plain evidence of Paul’s (rough) meaning is, in your view, missing important, deeper, perhaps even esoteric connections between passages. I also know that for some reason this very specific, rather unusual, and often unclear (to me – and I really don’t think you appreciate how opaque you are about this matter at times) interpretation of yours is very important to you, given the way you bring it up here and elsewhere. I consider it a rabbit hole, a view with little to commend it, and one one which I’m not going to sink time (other than what I already have). Sorry!

  15. Let’s see, if Paul uses a metaphor, and that metaphor has extensive and predominant usage for meaning 1, and is absent in meaning 2 (other than, arguably, this instant case), you can just pick meaning 2 and ignore meaning 1 because it suits your desired conclusion? How can this kind of precedent and pattern of usage be dismissed by basically waving your hand at it and saying you just don’t see it, aren’t persuaded etc.? Calling the pattern of usage esoteric is unfair and inappropriate, it is what it is, and most of the time it is powerful evidence.

    Paul talks about sowing a seed, a body, and raising a resurrection body, as a harvest. At the most basic level, the use of ‘body’ and sowing and reaping / harvest are the keys to his subject matter and meaning. The text contains other metaphors or images, again developing these from elsewhere and looking for a pattern or predominant usage or meaning is the most obvious, natural and powerful way to interpret the writer. How can you say this approach has little to commend it, or that it is reaching? It is not strained, it is not esoteric, it is just the way Hebrew writers and thinkers communicate: in metaphors and images that frequently have extended or common meaning from one case to another.

    Christ spoke in parables to conceal and to reveal, depending on the heart of the hearer to accept or reject the message. To benefit from parabolic and metaphoric language we need not only some study tools but some openness to the message. I don’t know why you are so closed to the development of parabolic and metaphoric language in the bible Glenn, it is a rich and wonderful trove of meaning and illumination, sometimes traditional, sometimes not. Don K Preston’s youtube series on the parables is the most powerful and illuminating presentation I have ever seen.

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