Sunday, March 25, 2007

Robert Gundry on the physicality of Jesus' resurrection in earliest Christian proclamation

In the following guest post, Robert H. Gundry, Scholar-in-residence & professor of New Testament & Greek at Westmont College, enters the Jesus tomb debate by examining James Tabor's claim that the earliest Christians did not proclaim a physical resurrection.

Robert Gundry

There’s an element in the current discussion of Jesus’ family tomb, so-called, that needs more scrutiny, it seems to me. I have in mind the agreement or disagreement between the earliest oral and literary traditions of what happened to Jesus’ corpse, on the one hand, and the interpretation of an ossuary found at Talpiot as having contained the secondarily buried bones of Jesus of Nazareth, on the other hand. If I understand Professor James Tabor correctly, he believes:
  1. that the said ossuary probably did contain Jesus’ bones;
  2. that Jesus’ brother James revived and carried forward a messianic movement started by John the Baptist and taken over by Jesus;
  3. that because of the removal of Jesus’ corpse from the tomb into which Joseph of Arimathea had put it, and because of a secondary burial of Jesus’ bones about a year later, James and others in the revived messianic movement knew that Jesus hadn’t physically risen from the dead, nor did they proclaim that he had;
  4. that because of visions Paul claimed for himself, he proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead;
  5. that Paul presented Jesus’ resurrection (and ours to come) as spiritual rather than physical; and
  6. that in the Pauline offshoot from the messianic movement then headed by James, the notion of a spiritual resurrection morphed into legendary stories of a physical resurrection, such as we have in the canonical Gospels (The Jesus Dynasty [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006]; idem,
With such an understanding, there’s no disagreement between the earliest literary version of Jesus’ resurrection—that is, Paul’s presentation of it as spiritual rather than physical—and an ossuary’s having contained the bones of Jesus.

It would be problematic, though, if the earliest oral and literary versions of Jesus’ resurrection presented it as physical. For the earlier the notion of a physical resurrection of Jesus, the greater the tension between that notion and the knowledge of Jesus’ original followers that his bones lay in an ossuary of nearby, known location, especially if those who held the notion of a physical resurrection and those who had contrary knowledge of Jesus’ ossuary-interred bones were in conversation with each other. On so fundamental a point we should expect some literary evidence of disagreement among them. And the tension becomes even more severe if the original followers of Jesus knew about his bones and some of these followers had themselves interred those bones yet proclaimed him as physically resurrected.

Professor Tabor affirms correctly that Paul and Jesus’ original followers were in conversation with each other: “There is little doubt that the apostle Paul was accepted into the inner circles of Jesus’ original followers,” and they “publicly endorsed his missionary preaching to the Gentile Roman world (Galatians 2:9). It was what he preached and taught that began to create problems” (The Jesus Dynasty, 262). But Tabor immediately goes on to discuss Paul’s view of “a heavenly Christ,” including a nonphysically resurrected one, as though that view of him created problems for Jesus’ original followers. Not so! As Paul clearly points out in Galatians 2, the problems had to do with issues of circumcision, law-keeping in general, and table fellowship. There’s nothing about a problem of disagreement over whether Jesus was physically resurrected.

To support a Pauline presentation of a nonphysically resurrected Jesus, though, Professor Tabor states that Paul “claimed to hear a disembodied ‘voice’ that he identified as ‘words’ of Jesus” (The Jesus Dynasty, 262). But the texts Tabor cites in note 4 on page 262—that is, 2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 11:23—say nothing about a disembodied voice. (Nor, for that matter, does the word voice appear in those texts despite Tabor’s putting quotation marks around it.)

Professor Tabor’s view that Paul presented a nonphysically resurrected Jesus rests above all, however, on Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 15:44, 46, 50, about which Tabor states, “Paul, our earliest witness to the resurrection, speaks of a ‘physical body’ and a ‘spiritual body,’ and though it is a body, he clearly presents both the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of the dead at the end of the age, as putting off the flesh like a garment and being transformed into a higher spirit life.” Likewise, Tabor writes that according to Paul, at the second coming the Christian dead will be resurrected “in gloriously transformed spiritual bodies” (The Jesus Dynasty, 264), that Christians still living at the time “will likewise be instantaneously changed from flesh to spirit” (ibid.), and that “Paul seems to be willing to use the term ‘resurrection’ to refer to something akin to an apparition or vision. And when he does mention Jesus’ body he says it was a ‘spiritual’ body. But a ‘spiritual body' and an ‘embodied spirit’ could be seen as very much the same phenomenon” (ibid., 232). (Actually, Paul talks about a spiritual body only in connection with Christians’ resurrection, but the parallel with Jesus’ resurrection, which Tabor draws, is to be accepted.)

Has Professor Tabor understood Paul’s discussion of resurrection correctly? I think not. In the first place, Paul contrasts “a spiritual body” with “a soulish body,” not with a “physical body” (1 Cor 15:44, 46). But what do these expressions mean? Take first the adjective “spiritual.” When Paul describes some Christians in Corinth as “spiritual” rather than “fleshly” or “carnal,” he doesn’t mean that some Christians in Corinth are floating around its streets in a ghostly form as opposed to others who are pounding the pavement with their feet. No, he’s describing some Christians as taught, filled, and led by the Holy Spirit, whose temple is their present physical bodies, as opposed to others dominated by their sinful proclivities despite the indwelling Spirit (1 Cor 2:10–16; 3:1; 6:19; 14:37; Gal 6:1). When Paul speaks of “spiritual gifts,” he means gifts given by the Holy Spirit (Rom 1:11; 1 Cor 12:1; 14:1). The manna, the water-supplying rock, and the Mosaic law—all in the Old Testament—are “spiritual” in that the Holy Spirit gave them to the Israelites (Rom 7:14; 1 Cor 10:3–4). And the gospel is “spiritual” as given by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11). So we should capitalize the adjective Spiritual and dismiss the notion that it indicates nonphysicality. In Paul’s view, that is to say, the resurrected body is Spiritual not in the sense of nonphysicality (he even switches back and forth between “body” and “flesh” in 1 Cor 15:35–41) but in the sense of its having been raised by God’s Spirit, which is none other than Christ’s Spirit, rather than procreated, as in the case of our present bodies, animated as they are by the soul—hence the contrast with “soulish bodies.” But let Paul speak for himself to the effect that in resurrection a Spiritual body is a body raised by the Holy Spirit: “The last Adam [Christ] became a life-making Spirit” (1 Cor 15:45); “But if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will make alive also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom 8:11).

Ah, but what about 1 Corinthians15:50, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”? Professor Tabor appeals also to this text for a nonphysical understanding of resurrection on Paul’s part (The Jesus Dynasty, 264). Well, the immediately following statement reads, “Nor does perishability inherit imperishability.” These two statements parallel each other, so that the phrase “flesh and blood” corresponds to “perishability.” Together, the terms refer to the present body in respect to the perishability of its flesh and blood, not in respect to the physicality of its flesh and blood. For Paul proceeds to say that it is “this perishable body” that will put on imperishability and “this mortal body” that will put on immortality (1 Cor 15:51–55, especially verse 53). And since for Paul the resurrection of Christians will follow the pattern of Christ’s resurrection, as Tabor recognizes, Paul must have thought that when Christ was raised, it was the perishable, mortal body of his earthly lifetime that put on imperishability and immortality, not that he was raised and exalted to heaven in some nonphysical form.

According to 1 Corinthians 15:1–7 Paul “received” information about Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and appearances as resurrected to Cephas (Peter) and others, including James. On the basis of Galatians 1:10–23 Professor Tabor interprets this reception as a direct revelation from heaven rather than as the passing on of tradition by one or more earlier followers of Jesus. But in Galatians Paul is talking about the gospel he preached before going to Jerusalem and conversing with Cephas three years after that direct revelation, whereas in 1 Corinthians he’s talking about the sort of information he’d get from one or more earlier believers. So contrary to Tabor’s earlier cited identification of Paul as “our earliest witness to the resurrection,” our earliest witnesses to it are the ones or one (probably Cephas) who passed this information on to Paul. Or, rather, our earliest witnesses are those who claimed to have seen Jesus as resurrected before Paul did, as admitted by Paul in his phrases, “And last of all . . . also to me” (1 Cor 15:8). Therefore we have to investigate not only Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, whether it was physical or nonphysical, but also what was the understanding of it by the earlier witnesses and traditioner(s). “Cephas,” the Aramaic form of “Peter,” and the two instances of “according to the Scriptures” in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 favor that the tradition stemmed from Jesus’ original followers, Jews still closely tied to their ancestral faith, Judaism. Now Tabor correctly writes, “In Judaism to claim that someone has been ‘raised from the dead’ is not the same as to claim that one has died and exists as a spirit or soul in the heavenly world. What the gospels [here we might substitute the witnesses and traditioners behind 1 Cor 15:3–7] claim about Jesus is that the tomb [in which he ‘was buried,’ according to the pre-Pauline tradition] was empty, and that his dead body was revived to life [‘raised,’ according to that same tradition]—wounds and all. He was not a phantom or a ghost . . .” (The Jesus Dynasty, 232). So it looks as though those witnesses and traditioners, given their Judaistic upbringing, would have understood Jesus’ resurrection as physical just as Paul did and just as we should expect in that by definition “resurrection” means the “standing up” of a formerly a supine corpse.

We’re left with this question: If Jesus’ bones were known to be lying in an ossuary near Jerusalem, how is it that the earliest literary tradition in 1 Corinthian 15:1–7, the even earlier oral tradition stemming from Jesus’ original disciples, and Paul’s properly exegeted understanding—how is it that all of them presented Jesus’ resurrection as physical? This question seems to me hard to answer.


Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Helmutt Koester argues that the pre Markan redaction ws flaoting around in written form from about mid century and it contianed the story of the empty tomb. It seems unlikey that this would have been entirely by Paul. So there is a good possiblity that it was an independent source and goes all the way back. (see Anticnet Christian Gospels).

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The question is hard. One reason is that there is no way to know who Paul's source was. The text just does not say. If it was a vision, that is problematic. If his source was the apostles, or a text, we don't know whether they were passing along accurate information. Also possible is that Paul "spun" or exaggerated what he heard about Jesus after death.

Prof. Gundry seems to be saying that it would be unlikely that if the apostles did not preach a physical resurrection, that we have no record of their argument with Paul. This makes sense, but the fact is that we have very little surviving information directly from the apostles.

Look at the fight between Peter and Paul in Acts and Galatians. Peter behaved badly and was clearly in the wrong, according to those books. But we have no surviving record of Peter's side of the dispute. All we know is that in Acts, he was said to have recognized he was in the wrong and conceded the point to Paul (who curiously doesn't mention Peter's surrender on the issue in Galatians). How likely is it that Peter caved so easily?

At best, all anyone can do is guess. The Bible texts are very fuzzy about how Paul's ministry started and what authority he had and his relationship with Jesus' closest apostles.

Paul's story in Galatians about his conversion directly contradicts the story in Acts. In Galatians, Paul meets Christ and immediately begins his ministry, purposely avoiding the apostles because he has a superior message. After three years, Paul meets only Peter and James. In Acts, Paul is led by the spirit to Ananias and then other believers, and then meets the whole group of 12, just one big happy family. But that is dubious, given how the texts conflict and the anger apparent in the letters of Paul and James toward other opposing leaders.

Also, I'm not a scholar, but I can't imagine that when Paul speaks of spiritual bodies he means the same thing as spiritual gifts. If the argument is that by "spiritual bodies" Paul means bodies whose inhabitants exhibit spirit-filled behavior, well, that doesn't fit. For one thing, a spiritual body is immortal, so it clearly is not the same composition as our flesh-and-blood bodies. What kind of human body would not be subject to decay? At what age would bodies be programmed to be for ever and ever? If there were such bodies, why could you not infer that they would have other super powers, such as being able to materialize or flying?


BobGriffin said...

Paul's opening in Romans 1:3f suggests, at least to me, that this is the gospel tradition as shared by Paul and the community in Rome. Since Paul appears to be using this letter as his introduction to the Roman community, it seems to me that he is here certifying that he preaches the same gospel they do, one in which Jesus Christ is declared the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.

Paul's use of the word 'Anastasis' seems to me to clearly indicate something other than spiritual survival of death, and to indicate that the pre-Pauline community at Rome believed in some sort of physical resurrection.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin

Joanie D. said...

I agree with all that you have written here, Robert. My careful reading of the New Testament for many years indicates to me that the apostles and disciples were talking about a physical resurrection of Jesus that they saw, albeit the body was now changed in some way so that it was capable of doing things like appearing in locked rooms, changing its appearance until it chose to reveal itself. (That happened to the two guys walking on the road that Jesus questioned about what had happened recently and then he was revealed to be who he was at the breaking of the bread with them.)

Christianity would not have been a hard thing for "intellectuals" to swallow without the physical resurrection. If it was just that Jesus told us all to love people and that then our spirits would be forever in heaven at our deaths, what would be so "radical" about that? No, it was the resurrection of the body that trips up thinking people. It is difficult for me to understand as well. It is truly a mystery, but no more mysterious to me than that the universe exists. I can't imagine how it came from nothing, but neither can I imagine how everything that is in the universe always existed. I have come to the realization that I need to accept what was written in Job, when God says to Job, "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!" (That God...he can be SO sarcastic!) :-)

So, I do not believe that Jesus left any bones behind. I would have no problem with the tomb being the tomb of Jesus' family, though. I really don't have a major problem with there even being an ossuary for Jesus. There was still a bloody shroud left behind and that would still be something that would have to be dealt with in some way. I don't know a lot about Jewish burial rites, but I think that something that held a dead body, even one as special as Jesus' body, would be something that would be treated as they would the dead themselves, namely, it would need to be buried. I find it interesting that one of the authors of this book about the tomb, Charles Pellegrino, has posted on two places at least on the internet that no bone fragments were found in the Jesus ossuary. He says bits of what may be a shroud were found and bits of wood (NOT wood from the cross, he points out!)and something that may have come from blood. He says there may NEVER have been any bones in that particular ossuary and says there are other anomalies about that ossuary. He says this at Amazon under the reviews about his book and he says it on a website that is about his writings in general. (Other people on the internet say he is just now trying to "back out" of something that goes against Christianity.)


Peace to all of us.

Joanie (from Maine)

Anonymous said...


You make some nice points, but based on history of the world, I think it is a lot more radical to try and love each other than to believe in a supernatural event. :)

Also, I think "intellectuals" have a bad rap. What someone like James Tabor argues about Jesus is a million times simpler than what orthodox Christians believe.

Tabor says Jesus was a person born normally, was caught up in the religious movement of his time, and with his cousin John taught a coming Kingdom of God on earth, got a following, and was killed by the Roman authorities who were trying to suppress any dissidents.

Christians believe Jesus was an eternally begotten (?) member of a three-headed singular "Godhead," one-third of which was somehow transformed into the body of a young girl and born into a human body. While on earth, he preached a message that his closest followers didn't understand and may have never taught, and was killed and then brought back to life in a miraculous state and appeared to only a small group of people before vanishing (back to his Godhead with the disembodied Holy Spirit?) Somehow he is immortal yet he died. He is all-knowing but professed ignorance.

It just seems to me -- someone who was raised a Christian and enthusiastic believer for decades -- that the "intellectual" version is a whole lot simpler than the Orthodox version.


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that when Paul speaks of spiritual bodies he means the same thing as spiritual gifts. If the argument is that by "spiritual bodies" Paul means bodies whose inhabitants exhibit spirit-filled behavior, well, that doesn't fit.

I could be misreading Dr Gundry, but I do not think that this is his argument. Dr Gundry's point, if I understand correctly, is simply that Paul's understanding of the resurrection is more physical than Dr Tabor is making out.

In evidence of this, Dr Gundry presents a number of Pauline quotes wherein Paul employs the "physical"/"spiritual" or "flesh"/"spirit" dialectic in ways that make clear that "spiritual" does not mean "incorporeal" or "ghostly." For Dr Gundry's purposes, it suffices to establish that Paul's "soma pneumatikon" does not necessarily have to be understood as implying an existence without flesh.

I think that his examples serve that purpose admirably. As Dr Gundry points out, the "soma pneumatikon" is not contrasted with a "soma physikon," but rather with a "soma psychikon," so right there we see that Dr Tabor's appeal to the concept of a "soma pneumatikon" as a reason to doubt the physicality of the resurrection is off target. If anything, the talk of "soma pneumatikon" counts as a reason to doubt the idea of the resurrection of a soul, not a body. Moreover, as Dr Gundry points out, Paul speaks of men of the Spirit (in contrast to men of the flesh) in both his letters to the Galatians and to the Corinthians. Does that means that Paul thinks that some members of the congregations in Galatia and Corinth lack bodies? Of course not. This is simply not how the terminology works in Paul's letters. One would go too far if he were to claim to know the exact nature of the existence of those whose bodies are "spiritual" (after all, Paul tells us that this whole idea is a "mystery" 1Cor 15:51), but it suffices to say that Dr Gundry is right to say that Dr Tabor goes too far in claiming that we should understand this "spiritual" existence as a non-physical existence.

For one thing, a spiritual body is immortal, so it clearly is not the same composition as our flesh-and-blood bodies.

And? Not to be pedantic, but the bodies of elm trees and salamanders are not of the same composition as our bodies, and yet they are physical all the same. The fact that the imperishable flesh is different in a variety of accidental characteristics from our present flesh does not necessarily imply that it is something other than flesh rightly understood.

What kind of human body would not be subject to decay? At what age would bodies be programmed to be for ever and ever? If there were such bodies, why could you not infer that they would have other super powers, such as being able to materialize or flying?

These questions are all beside the point. You are asking for specifics about exactly what the existence of the "soma pneumatikon" would be like, and as I said above such details are not available at present; it is a mystery. That said, just because we do not know all the particular details of the "soma pneumatikon" does not mean that we can eliminate the mere possibility that it is a physical thing.

Anonymous said...

It just seems to me -- someone who was raised a Christian and enthusiastic believer for decades -- that the "intellectual" version is a whole lot simpler than the Orthodox version.

No doubt, but that simplicity is bought at a price. The orthodox version can explain a whole number of observed facts that the "intellectual" version cannot. Why were so many early Christians willing to suffer martyrdom for the profession that Christ was risen from the dead if they only meant that his teachings live on, or some such? The orthodox have a good answer for this - the reason why the martyrs were willing to suffer for the claim is because they believed it to be significant and true in its strong sense. The "intellectual" view requires us to believe that dozens of folks preferred to be killed rather than to clear up a simple misunderstanding about what is meant by the claim "God raised Jesus from the dead." This is a strange understanding of early Christian history, to be sure.

Anonymous said...


I don't mean to sound flip, but I'd have an easier time understanding you if you spoke English.

But I think I agree with you if you are saying that Paul argues that resurrected bodies are physical. I don't think early Christians believed in disembodied souls going to "heaven" when they died, like we do today. In fact, I believe Justin Martyr called those who taught such a thing as "heretics."

My questions about resurrected bodies (soma whatever) are not beside any point -- the point is that trying to answer them reveals that the concept is silly.

My understanding of the early church is only strange to those who don't think logically. Yes, people were willing to die, but how on earth can that fact make what they believed any more true? Would you use that standard to measure other faiths?

It's the 10-year anniversary of the Heaven's Gate suicides. Is the fact that those people were willing to die proof of the truth of their claims? Is David Koresh really the Messiah because he and his followers (at least some of them) were willing to die? What about Jim Jones? That's absurd.

So then you will counter that, well, those faiths died out, Jesus was proved right because his faith lived on. Well, would you say that about Islam or Buddhism and Mormonism and so on? Mohammed's faith is now the biggest religion in the world -- is it true? Did Joseph Smith really see angels who dictated holy books? The idea is ludicrous, but the faith is thriving, does that make it true? I think you would say not.

Look, the probability is that people in the ancient world had a sucky existence, they were poor and oppressed, and to make their world more bearable they dreamed of a better existence, like the elves in "Lord of the Rings."

I spent a lot of time in my life parsing the Bible trying to glean exact meanings of Greek words and so on. But I wondered -- why would God reveal himself through such a patchwork and contradictory set of books? There is only one logical conclusion, and you know what it is...


Anonymous said...

I think I agree with you if you are saying that Paul argues that resurrected bodies are physical. I don't think early Christians believed in disembodied souls going to "heaven" when they died, like we do today.

Ah, I see. You are not arguing against Dr Gundry in his critique of Dr Tabor; you simply disagree with Paul. Fair enough. The point in contention, however, is not whether Paul was correct. The point in contention is whether Paul believed in a physical resurrection. Dr Tabor's view becomes very difficult to maintain if Paul preached a physical resurrection, and my post was simply meant to voice my agreement with Dr Gundry that Dr Tabor's attempts to explain Paul in such a way that he does not preach a physical resurrection will not work.

My questions about resurrected bodies (soma whatever) are not beside any point -- the point is that trying to answer them reveals that the concept is silly.

You are attempting an argument from personal incredulity here and this is simply an informal fallacy. If someone in 1700 were to write about oral communication over long distances, a skeptic would be fully justified in saying "and just how is this long distance speaking supposed to work if the two parties are so far apart that the one cannot possibly hear the other shouting?" The later invention of the telephone, however, proves that the skeptic was off the mark, no matter how forceful his objections might have seemed at the time. Unless you can explain how there might exist a logical contradiction between the mere idea of "phyical" and "incorruptible" then your argument is no stronger than the XVIII century skeptic in my above illustration.

Anonymous said...

Yes, people were willing to die, but how on earth can that fact make what they believed any more true? Would you use that standard to measure other faiths?

Your point is well taken, but to be fair I was not attempting to argue that the willingness of martyrs to die proves that they were right. I merely meant to say that it proves that they thought that they were right, just as the Heaven's Gate folks thought that they were right. I was really responding more to Dr Tabor's claims about the earliest Christians not preaching a physical resurrection of Jesus.

I would argue, however, that the simplicity of the "intellectual" approach is still less satisfactory than the orthodox approach in its ability to explain observable facts. The orthodox approach can account for supernatural miracles (cures, appearances, multiplications, levitations, etc). The "intellectual" approach is obliged, meanwhile, simply to explain them away, oftentimes on the strength of nothing more than the shibboleth "there must be a scientific explanation..." Any theory which can only survive by excluding data is, by definition, a weaker theory than one which can account for all the data.

Incidentally, as a matter of demographic accuracy there are more Christians on this planet than Muslims. The Muslims recently overtook the Catholics, but they have not yet grown more numerous than Christians in general.

Steven Carr said...

I quote from the OP 'But let Paul speak for himself to the effect that in resurrection a Spiritual body is a body raised by the Holy Spirit: “The last Adam [Christ] became a life-making Spirit” (1 Cor 15:45); “But if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will make alive also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom 8:11).'

Good to see the old technique of putting sections of two different books together, written to two different audiences to try to make one continuous passage.

1 Corinthians 15 was written to converts to Jesus-worship who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse.

Paul tells them that Christ became a spirit, and the typology clearly means that the Corinthians need not worry about a resurrection, because they too will become spirits, just like Jesus did.

They shared in the nature of the first Adam, and will equally share in the nature of the second Adam, and become whatever Jesus became, which was a life-giving spirit.

After all, Paul is writing to people who believed Jesus was alive, but knew that dead bodies died and perished, and so wondered about their own resurrection.

There is not one word in 1 Corinthians 15 to back up the claim that 'spirit' is used in that letter to mean 'raised by the spirit'.

Even the author admits that Romans 8 is about Paul saying that Christians have the life-giving spirit *now*. Romans 8:11 is about the here and now, not about the resurrection.

People without the spirit have dead bodies. Christians have the spirit of Christ in their mortal bodies.

And Paul is talking about the here and now when he says that.

Finally, it is no more use claiming Paul always means 'spiritual' to mean 'filled with spirit', than it does to claim that the word 'metallic' in 'metallic paint' and 'metallic sound' must mean the same thing.

It all depends upon context.

And the context Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15 is a dichotomy Paul himself constructs between the material heavenly bodies and the material of earthly bodies.

It is Paul who creates a dichtomy between them as strong as the dichtomy between a fish and the moon.

A fish cannot turn into the moon, and the body that the Corinthians have now cannot turn into a spiritual body. It is made out of the wrong material.

It is made out of the material Adam was made from, and resurrected beings will not be made from that material.

Paul writes 'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.'

This is why the Corinthians were foolish to worry about what happened to a corpse.

They were idiots to imagine that a resurrection involved getting Adam's body back.

Corpse dissolved into dust, and the man from Heaven was not made from dust.

Steven Carr said...

Robert Gundry writes 'For Paul proceeds to say that it is “this perishable body” that will put on imperishability and “this mortal body” that will put on immortality (1 Cor 15:51–55, especially verse 53).'

Of course, Paul doesn't say that.

There is no word 'body' in there.

Especially in verse 53.

Simply add the word 'body' to passages of Paul and you can make Paul talk about bodies.

Paul's understanding of a resurrection is entirely different from the Gospels.

Our present 'clothing' - our present body - will be removed by death and decay, and we will put on a new imperishable body.

That is why Paul leaves out the word body in verses 51-55 , much to the exasperation of generations of Christians, who promptly put it back in.

What sense does it make to say that Jesus body 'put on' anything?

What was put on what?

What was underneath this 'imperishability'?

To say that the corpse of Jesus in the Gospels 'put on' imperishability makes as much sense as saying that the disciples 'put on' the Holy Spirit?

Nobody ever says the disciples put on the Holy Spirit. People say the disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit. They are different things, as shown by the fact that people say one and not the other.

A corpse that has 'put on' something is a corpse with something put on it - ie it is still a corpse.

If Gundry wants to say that Paul meant a body 'filled' with the Holy Spirit, then Paul would not talk of a corpse that has 'put on' something. To put something on something is not to fill that something.

I admit that Paul is hardly clear in those verses.This is a problem for people who maintain that he is teaching the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth that a corpse rose from the ground.

If Paul was teaching that, he would not need such circomluctions as he uses in verses 51-55, where clearly he himself is struggling with the idea that a part of us is uncovered by the flesh and blood perishing, and so needs to be covered by the imperishable spiritual body.

Anonymous said...

For Paul proceeds to say that it is “this perishable body” that will put on imperishability and “this mortal body” that will put on immortality (1 Cor 15:51–55, especially verse 53).

Of course, Paul doesn't say that. There is no word 'body' in there. Especially in verse 53.

Er, o.k., fine. Paul does not write "soma" in that particular passage. Nonetheless, Dr Gundry's more substantive point still stands - Paul does claim that "to phtharton touto endysasthai aphtharsian." Whether or not "body" is there, "this" quite definitely is there. "This perishable [thing] shall put on imperishability." Paul is not speaking of some second, heavenly and imperishable body being traded for the original earthly and perishable body. The perishable and the imperishable things in question are the same object at two different stages. Whether or not the dichotomy which Paul is proposing between the perishable and the imperishable really is as great as the dichotomy between the moon and a fish, you are simply wrong that Paul means to say that the one cannot become the other. Quite the contrary, Paul's use of "touto" in verse 53 demonstrates that he does mean for us to understand that the earthly body which we presently possess and the heavenly body which we will possess are one and the same body.

Anonymous said...

You scholars make interesting points, but look at a bigger picture -- why are all these details of faith so murky, so dependent on obscure interpretations of passages in quirky letters written with specific ancient people in mind? Why didn't God authorize someone to write a book that clearly spelled everything out?

There isn't a single reference in the Bible to a triune deity -- how can that be? The OT makes no reference to a divine Messiah, and none of the people who wrote it or used it as the basis for worship for hundreds of years understood what it meant until the apostle Paul comes along.

What was God doing, playing a trick on all those Jews who believed in a literal Kingdom?

Again, there is only one logical answer to all this ....


BobGriffin said...


In reference to your post responding to Joanie.

While the version presented by James Tabor is simpler (and generally easier to believe) than the Orthodox version, there are some problems with Tabor's version.
1) His rejection of Gospel of Thomas saying 77 looks to me too much like a presuppositionally based decision.
2) His interpretation of early Christian literature seems also rather biased.
3) His reconstruction of early Christian history is solidly based on his presuppositions, but as far as I can tell, doesn't fit with the history.

I've done some light study of world religions, and the claims that so many find so outrageous are not all that unusual. This does not make such claims true, but certainly increases, as far as I can tell, the factuality of modern claims that the early Christians believed XYZ (which most of us no longer can accept).

Read, if you get the chance, the Lalityavastu (spelling?), or at least a summary. Check out some of the opening chapters of 'The Autobiography of a Yogi'. There is a lot more of this that I've heard about than I can easily find documented.

If anyone wonders if I'm equating the early Christians with Hindus--hardly so. Rather I think many western intellectuals tend to squeeze 1st generation Christian thought (earliest Christian thought) into a post-Enlightenment mold, which as far as I can tell is historically incorrect.

My 'starets' would accuse me of intellectual pride and game-playing for this post, so I won't pursue it further, save to state that there are intellectuals in a number of traditions, and being an intellectual doesn't commit a person to any particular set of beliefs.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin
PS You might check out Jainism, which might be closer to what you want to believe.

BobGriffin said...

Dear Paul,

Wow, you're an evangelist! Quoting:
"Again, there is only one logical answer to all this ...."

All I can say, and you'll need to search out the meaning for yourself, is

Suki hotu,
Bob Griffin
PS If you think I'm insulting you, or praising you, you haven't figured out what I said.
PPS So why are you so hung up about Christianity? Why not simply let it go?

Joanie D. said...

Paul above responded to my post with, "...based on history of the world, I think it is a lot more radical to try and love each other than to believe in a supernatural event. :) "

You are very correct, Paul. It would be the most miraculous thing of all if all the people in the whole world behaved lovingly. If we choose to believe the New Testament stories, Jesus would get exasperated with the people wanting to see him do miracles. He said the crowds were following him because he fed him with all those loaves and fishes, but he said they were not listening to the message of God and love that he was trying to get them to hear.

And I see Bob Griffin mentions "Autobiography of a Yogi" which is very interesting because I was just driving along today thinking I may mention that book here. I read that book at a time when my "intellectuality" was not allowing me to "believe" in a lot of the miraculous things mentioned in the New Testament. But here was this Hindu man, telling me that I could even believe that God could actually speak the words and be heard by people when he said, "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased" (or something like that) when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. My intellectual side would surely say this was something perhaps Jesus heard inside of himself, but this Yogi believed the words were spoken by God and heard by human ears. He had much else to say about both Christian saints and other holy people. I should read that book again.

It may not sound it, but people who know me would say I am very much of the "mind" and not an emotional person at all. When all this gets too much to think about, I just remember that Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and to love people. That covers a lot of ground. But it is DIFFICULT to love some people. That is when we need to allow the Spirit of God to work within us to do the loving.

That's it for me. I will now continue to read the interesting comments you folks are posting. I am enjoying it.

Steven Carr said...

Paul does not use 'body' in verses 51-55 , because he does not mean that this perishable body will put on imperishability (something which actually makes little sense, as I showed).

Adding words to Paul is a bad idea, even if Gundry and Greg Delassus have to do it to try to make their point.

I don't need to add words to Paul.

Or say that there is something special about the word 'touto' which implies 'body'.

If Paul was teaching the Jesus-worshippers in Corinthians that perishable bodies rise, he would have said so.

After all these Jesus-worshippers scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse, so Paul would not have hesitated to rub their noses in the fact that corpses do rise, *if he had believed that*

Corpses dissolve into dust, and Paul flat out denies that resurrected beings are made out of dust, and he denies that our flesh and blood will enter the kingdom of God.

However the Gospels try to prove that Jesus was not made of some strange material that , in itself, has the power to pass through walls.

The disiples think that it is the case, but Jesus 'proves' he is made of the same material he always was.

Being able to enter locked rooms was a miracle not a property of the material Jesus was made of. (Were Jesus clothes filled with the Holy Spirit, so that they could pass through walls with the rest of Jesus?)

Steven Carr said...

GREG writes 'The perishable and the imperishable things in question are the same object at two different stages.'

Agreed, but they are not the body we have now.

They are us.

At one stage in our existence, we wear the clothing of flesh and blood, and have a body animated by 'psyche' (which Paul uses to mean life.

This body loses its life, loses its 'psyche', and we are then clothed in a new body , animated by 'pneuma' ( or spirit)

Paul is quite consistent about that.

Christians already have some 'psyche' in them, which Paul calls a deposit.

However, non-Christians only have a natural body, which was animated by 'psyche' in the way Adam's body was, and this natural body will perish and rot.

Christians don't have to worry about the present clothing rotting, because they will change clothes.

This is why the Corinthians were foolish to wonder how a corpse could be raised. It is a non-problem. Paul never has to answer questions of how God can reform a body from the dust and ash that corpses turn into. Paul doesn't answer that question because he does not believe bodies are reformed from dust and ash.

The Corinthians must still have been puzzled, because Paul has to write a second letter to them, explaining that the earthly body is just clothing which will be destroyed, and they will change clothes and get new clothing.

Not the same clothing at different stages of its existence:-)

2 Corinthians 5
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life

The word for 'swallowed up' means to gulp down or devour so that no more remains and none is visible.

Can anybody really say that when Jesus was resurrected, what was 'mortal' about him had been 'swallowed up' , so that none remained to be seen?

People could still see the wounds!

Joanie D. said...

The above URL is a discussion board that comes from a link off Charles Pellgrino's website. (He is one of the two authors about the alleged Jesus' family tomb.) He has mentioned various anomalies about the Jesus ossuary and at the above URL, near the bottom of that page, one of his posts includes, "The new anomalies are not in the book. The first anomaly was not doubly and triply confirmed as repeatable by the time of publication (the missing disintegrating bones ["nematode anomaly"] and/or the missing primary burial stage RE the Jesus ossuary fibers). The newest anomaly has come from the microbiology lab only during the past three weeks. It appears to have interesting biomedical implications. Stay tuned."

So I guess I will need to keep checking back there to see what THAT is about!

Anonymous said...

Adding words to Paul is a bad idea, even if Gundry and Greg Delassus have to do it to try to make their point.

I don't need to add words to Paul.

Or say that there is something special about the word 'touto' which implies 'body'.

You are misunderstanding my point, Mr Carr. I conceded to you that Paul does not use the word "body" and deliberated avoided it in my post, using "[thing]" instead. Nor did I claim that "touto" implies "body." My point is simply that whatever the referent might be which is modified by "phtharton" and "thneton" in verse 55, it is apparently to be understood to be the same thing which takes on "aphtharsian" and "athanasian."

That said, what the heck else would you have us to understand to be the noun in question which is modified by "phtharton" and "thneton" in verse 55? "Soma" is really the only singular neuter noun floating around in the discussion at this point in the text. I do not think that it is, per se, critical to Dr Gundry's point to establish that "soma" is the assumed referent of "phtharton" and "thneton," but as long as you are going to make a big deal of it, I would have to say that grammatically you are on weak ground in opposing the claim.

Anonymous said...


I spent almost all of my 45 years of life enmeshed in Christianity. I still regularly attend church with my wife and kids. But I want to understand more than just the fourth-grade Sunday School version, kind of get the big picture.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, the more one learns the more difficult it became to believe in literal truth of Scripture. And then there is the bizarre thing in which believing in Christianity makes most people less like Christ, more hateful, unforgiving, warmongering and the like.

Why not give it up entirely? I can't say I'm done learning. One way to learn is to bounce around ideas with good people like you. Maybe here are good answers to my questions.

Anyway, I am aware that there are far more bizarre religions, but I don't see that as affirming Christianity in any way.


Steven Carr said...

Greg still can't find any mention of a body in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, but claims it is about a body anyway, even though the last uses of the word 'body' was 11 verses earlier. Who can argue with such logic?

Paul doesn't say body, because he didn't mean body.

And Greg doesn't deal with any of the other points.

Paul uses the same language of 'aphthartos' and 'phartos' (as in 1 Cor. 15:54) and 'allaso' (to change, in 1 Cor. 15:52) in Romans 1:23 where God is changed from an imperishable being to a perishable idol.

Or perhaps Paul just doesn't use such language to describe things at two different stages of existence, just as he does not use the same language to describe how God was changed into an idol.

Perhaps he means that the pagans replaced God by an idol, and Paul's use of such language implies a replacement , not a transformation.

Just a thought...

And while Greg is considering that, there is always Paul's clear statement that Jesus became a spirit at his resurrection, and Paul's clear implications that the spirit of Jesus is not bound to a flesh-and-bones resurrected body, because the spirit can be found in our own bodies.

Little wonder the Jesus-worshippers in Corinth scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise corpses, when they were told that Jesus became a life-giving spirit, inhabiting their bodies.

Anonymous said...

A point I feel needs some stress is the Acts 9 account of Saul's conversion encounter. Gundry records Tabor having written that Paul "claimed to hear a disembodied 'voice' he identified as 'words' of Jesus." The adjective "disembodied" was fed in by Tabor without justification. According to Acts 9:7 the men with Saul heard the voice also (even if it be assumed that only Saul understood it). It takes a body with vocal chords to produce voice, and ears to hear Saul's response and respond to that.

This account for that reason was a bit of an embarrassment, I'd say, to the writer of Luke/Acts as he was penning Acts. Why else would he add two more accounts (in Acts 22 & 26) that correct the first account by not having the men with Saul hear the voice, and adding in no uncertain terms that the encounter had occurred at midday, and not at night when a fully embodied voice could have spoken out but not be seen while a very bright light half blinded Saul and his men? The corrected account of Acts 26 then leaves the impression, as must have been intended, that Saul had had only a personal vision, and that the men had not even seen the light.

Such an evolution of a story, to remove an embarrassment, supports the first story containing the worst embarrassment. So I see Acts 9 as supporting Gundry, not Tabor.

Steven Carr said...

'It takes a body with vocal chords to produce voice, and ears to hear Saul's response and respond to that.'

How does God hear prayers?

How did God say at the baptism 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'?

The Holy Spirit must have vocal chords.

Joanie D. said...

There is a nice blog at the above URL by a C Michael Patton called "Seven Benefits of Good Theology." He talks about why it is important to know more about God than just that we are supposed to love him and love people.

Anonymous said...


It's important to distinguish the true God of the universe(s) that is spirit, from the OT male God in whose image we were supposedly made, who could wrestle with Jacob, travel in a sky chariot, and communicate with selected individuals. As I see it, this latter god or gods (Elohim then Yahweh) became equated with true God as monotheism evolved.

Joanie D. said...

It is important to remember that Jesus said that God is a spirit and those that worship Him must worship him in spirit and in truth or something very similar to that. So, no, I don't think the Holy Spirit has vocal chords! Though, the Spirit may USE the vocal chords of people to get the message of love across to people. Plus, the God who is responsible for all that we see is likely "capaple" of using airwaves to create sound, even the sound of a voice, when needing or wanting to "communicate" with people. I really don't know, and all this stuff just makes it obvious why so many people dccide to stay right out of the religious arena completely and just raise their families and do their jobs. Religion can divide people so much. It's not of God if it is divisive, is my opinion. I just read something recently in the New Testament about God not being a God of confusion. (I am at work waiting for a client and don't have time to look it up.)

Take care, all.

Steven Carr said...

Gundry is pretty much right in that Paul makes a sharp dichotomy between 'spiritual' (pneuma), and fleshly.

But it doesn't get him where he wants.

Paul's point is that our present bodies are 'soma psyhcikon' (biological bodies) and these cannot become 'soma pneumatikon', (spiritual bodies) , because there is no hope in 'psyche' (biological life, in Paul's thought)

The 'carnal man' has put his hope in a 'carnal body', which is why he is a fool. The 'carnal body' will die.

The 'spiritual man' puts his hope in a 'spiritual body', which , in contrast to the 'carnal body' will survive.

This is why Paul asks to be rescued from his 'body of death' (Romans 1:24). He is trapped in a carnal body, which is doomed.

However, he knows that inside this carnal body, he has been given some spirit, which will form the basis of his future spiritual body.

This is why the Corinthians were such fools as to wonder how the carnal body could come back.

It simply won't , in Paul's view. It is doomed.

Joanie D. said...

Being that it is Easter tomorrow, I think this is a great article to read by Allen Ross , Th.D., Ph.D. He titles it "The Ascension of the Lord" and you can read it at

At the bottom of that page you can go the page where he lists the eight articles that led up to this one.

I think Professor Ross has an intelligence similar to C.S. Lewis and also the ability to impart knowledge to others in a sensible manner. And of course, both Ross and Lewis inspire us to continue in hope and faith that this life is only the beginning of an eternal life we will live by and within the love of God, as shown to us and promised to us by Jesus.

Steven Carr said...

From Allen Ross's article 'In other words, the Creed affirms what the Bible clearly teaches, that after the resurrection of Jesus..... he departed from his disciples from the top of the Mount of Olives. That is, he simply ascended from the earth in the clouds and entered into the heavenly court to be exalted.'

But we know now that if you go above the clouds you no more reach Heaven than if you go down into the ground.

Perhaps that was not generally realised then.

Joanie D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joanie D. said...

Hello, Steven, and others. We are having an interesting little "debate" here, I see! But I will just post this last thing and let it go.

I went to your blog at and read what you wrote about N.T. Wright. I had never heard of him so I searched on the internet to read about him and found his 2002 writing at:
I will post some remarks that he makes that I foundto be the most interesting. He says about resurrection as seen by early Christians (and many OLD Christians, too!):

"It will involve transformation, the gift of a new body with different properties."

" ‘Heaven’ is not the Christian’s ultimate destination. For renewed bodies we need a renewed cosmos, including a renewed earth. That is what the New Testament promises."

"I have argued that the early Christians looked forward to a resurrection which was not a mere resuscitation, nor yet the abandonment of the body and the liberation of the soul, but a transformation, a new type of body living within a new type of world."

"If someone had been able to say ‘oh, don’t you understand? When I say “resurrection”, all I mean is that Jesus is in heaven and he is my Lord, that I’ve had a new sense of God’s love and forgiveness,’ the dangerous debate about tombs, guards, angels and bodies could have been abandoned with a sigh of relief all round."

(And about Jesus he writes that he was) "... transformed, so that, though in all sorts of ways still ‘bodily’, and certainly so as to leave an empty tomb behind him, his body was now significantly different, with new properties, in a way that nothing in the Jewish tradition had prepared him or his followers for. Indeed, the one new property which you would have expected them to include, had they been making these stories up on the basis of scripture, they do not. In none of the accounts is there the slightest suggestion that Jesus’ body was shining like a star."

"The historian’s task is not to force people to believe. It is to make it clear that the sort of reasoning historians characteristically employ — inference to the best explanation, tested rigorously in terms of the explanatory power of the hypothesis thus generated — points strongly towards the bodily resurrection of Jesus; and to make clear, too, that from that point on the historian alone cannot help. When you’re dealing with worldviews, every community and every person must make their choices in the dark, even if there is a persistent rumour of light around the next corner."

P.S. I had posted this message a few minutes ago and it wasn't showing the entire two URLs I posted in this message. I am trying again after having deleted the first message.

Steven Carr said...

Joanie quotes Wright.

Let me quote Paul.

Does Paul think the body that goes in the ground will be saved?

When Paul said in Romans 6:6 'For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no
longer be slaves to sin' , Paul meant that our physical body would be done away with, because it was a body of sin.

I wonder why he said 'done away with' and not 'saved'.

Of course, the answer is easy. Paul never preached that corpses rise from the grave.

When Paul said in 2 Cor. 5 'We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.' , he meant that you will be away from the physical body that you have now, not that you return at the resurrection to the physical body that was buried.

When Paul said in 2 Cor. 5 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.', he meant the things done during the time you were in the physical body that was buried, and obviously at judgement, you will no longer be in the physical body that was buried.

Paul is pretty clear. The physical body that was buried will be destroyed, done away with, we will be away from it, and we will have to account for what we did during the time that we were in it.

What did Paul preach about our present bodies? Will they be restored from the dust that a corpse dissolves into?

No, they will be destroyed and done away with.

No wonder Paul thought of the Corinthians as fools for imagining that a resurrection had something to do with a corpse returning to life.

BobGriffin said...

Steven Carr,

My apologies for such a late reponse.

I'm not going into depth, but I saw no attempt on your part to deal with Romans 1:3f.

If you are going to re-interpret 'anastasis ek nekrwn' in Romans 1:4, I'd recommend you start with a lexicon, and show us how we've misconstrued the words.

While I regret and am deeply shamed by the behavior of many Christians, I am no longer driven from my faith by it. Belief that one way or another God is self-revealed in Scripture SHOULD lead to a concern for justice, mercy, and personal humility. While these might be my concerns were I not a Christian, they are fed and re-enforced by my faith in Christ.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin
PS That last paragraph was partially an extremely late response to Paul (anonymous)

Steven Carr said...

Romans 1:3 and 1:4?

Isn't that one of the early creeds that make no mention of any empty tomb or any Jesus walking the earth after death?

Paul believed Jesus was raised from the dead, and became a spirit.

'The last Adam became a life-giving spirit'.

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Gary said...

The only author in the Bible who mentions anything about guards being at the tomb, Matthew, says that the guards were not posted until the next day after Jesus body had been placed in the tomb, and, even though Joseph of Arimethea had rolled a great stone in front of the tomb, he had not sealed it. So, the tomb of Jesus was left unguarded and unsealed the entire first night, in the darkness, and probably part of the next day. That would provide ample time and ample opportunity for someone to have moved or stolen the body.

So even if the biblical account of the “guards at the tomb” story is correct, the fact that there is a time period when the tomb was left unguarded, blows a hole in the Christian claim that a resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb and the disciples’ belief that Jesus had been resurrected. For instance, if grave robbers had taken the body, the Jews would say that the disciples took the body and the disciples would say that Jesus had fulfilled his prophecy and had risen from the dead.

Gary said...

Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions guards at the tomb. John's Gospel says nothing about guards. If John was an eyewitness, as Christians claim, isn't that a pretty important detail to leave out of your story? The missing Roman guards in the Book of John raises an important issue. Christians often contend that it would have been impossible for anyone to have surreptitiously removed Jesus’ corpse from the tomb because there were guards posted at the tomb who would have prevented such an occurrence. Therefore, they argue, without any possibility for the body to have been quietly whisked away, the only other logical conclusion is that Jesus must have truly arisen from the dead. A stolen body hypothesis is impossible.

This argument completely collapses in John’s account, however, because according to the fourth Gospel, this is precisely what Mary thought had occurred! Mary clearly didn’t feel as though the scenario of Jesus’ body being removed was unlikely. In fact, according to John, that was her only logical conclusion. Clearly, Matthew’s guards didn’t dissuade John’s Mary from concluding that someone had taken Jesus’ body because Roman guards do not exist in John’s story.

To further compound the problem of the conflicting resurrection accounts, John’s Gospel continues to unfold with Mary returning to the tomb a second time, only to find two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary is still unaware of any resurrection as she complains to the angels that someone had removed Jesus’ corpse. As far as John’s Mary is concerned, the only explanation for the missing body was that someone must have removed it, and she was determined to locate it.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying12 , one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

(John 20:11-13)

Although in Matthew’s account the angel emphatically tells Mary about the resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7), in John’s Gospel the angels do not mention that anyone rose from the dead. The angels only ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responds by inquiring whether the angels removed Jesus’ body. Then, Mary turns and sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for the gardener. Mary is still completely unaware of any resurrection, and therefore asks the “gardener” if he was the one who carried away Jesus’ body. It is only then that Mary realizes that she was speaking to the resurrected Jesus.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” which means Teacher.

(John 20:14-16)

It is at this final juncture of the narrative that the accounts of Matthew and John become hopelessly irreconcilable. The question every Christian must answer is the following: When Mary met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, had the angel(s) already informed her that Jesus had arisen from the dead? According to Matthew, the angels did inform Mary of the resurrection, but in John’s account they did not. As we survey the divergent New Testament accounts of the resurrection, we see that we are not just looking at contradictory versions, we are reading two entirely different stories!