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St Paul and the resurrection body

26 April 2013


From the Revd Michael Counsell


Philip Keeble (Letters, 19 April) condemns as heretics all those who make a "non-physical interpretation of resurrection". Would he include in this category the apostle Paul?

Certainly, in his early letters, such as those to the Thessalonians, St Paul assumes, as did many Jews of the time, that there will be a physical resuscitation on earth in just a few years' time of all those who have died. But, by the time he came to write 1 Corinthians 15, he believed that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." He explored in detail what a "spiritual body" means.

Perhaps his conversion was not a one-off, but continued through his life, as he came to believe that a body is something through which a fully alive person can be recognised, be creative, and communicate, but does not need to involve what he called "the flesh". It could have been the mockery of the Athenian philosophers, who accused him of worshipping a goddess called Anastasia, or his conviction that his own vision of the (non-physical) risen Christ was in no way inferior to those of the Jerusalem apostles, which brought him to this conclusion.

After all, Jesus himself said: "In the resurrection they are like angels in heaven."

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