Resurrection of the Dead, Part I   2 comments

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb (Fra Angelico)


1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Someone may ask,

How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?

These are stupid questions.  Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow  a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, and then God gives it the sort of body that he has chosen:  each sort of seed gets its own sort of body.

Everything that is flesh is not the same flesh:  there is human flesh, animals’ flesh, the flesh of birds and the flesh of fish.  Then there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the heavenly bodies have a beauty of their own and the earthly bodies a different one.  The sun has its brightness, the moon a different brightness, and the stars a different brightness, and the stars differ from each other in brightness.  It is the same with the resurrection of the dead:  the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so dies the spirit have its own embodiment.  The firstman, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit.  That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit.  The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven.  As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven.  And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.


Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, addresses a question common throughout time:

What will happen to the faithful after they die?

His answer, which refutes both reincarnation and the proto-Gnostic idea that the soul leaves a body behind forever, requires some explanation.    The Jerusalem Bible, in verse 44, uses “soul” for the body:

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment.

Contrast that with the translation from The Anchor Bible:

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

The note regarding verse 44, in particular the “natural body,” reads in part,

The Greek word almost defies translation.  (page 343)

There are subtleties in the Greek text.  One could explore them for a long time; some have.  But, for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the main idea.  First, however, I had to get that issue out my system, for my eyes latched on to that verse in The Jerusalem Bible.

After consulting commentaries, I have learned that, in the words of The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 10, page 245, Paul refers to

the birth of the human individual.

After we die, Paul wrote, we will exist as improved individuals.  Corruption will yield to incorruption, perishability to imperishability, sinfulness to perfection.  The afterlife will be different from this life, and we will more closely resemble Jesus.  We already bear the image of God, but this will be more prominent after the resurrection of the dead.

I have only scratched the surface of the text.  That, however, is fine.  It is enough, for now, to ponder one aspect of the reading:  God wants us to become better and to share in Heavenly glory.  Jesus, God incarnate, is, as Paul wrote,

the first-fruits from the dead.

God has made plans and put them into effect.  This is wonderful news.  Should we not embrace it gratefully?







Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 23, 2011

Adapted from this post:


Posted October 23, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 15

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