Re: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 12:12:05 EST

Michael, I'm confused by your comment about Tom Wright. Here is Wright in a
recent interview (

Let's be quite clear. The word 'resurrection' in the ancient world, the
Greek word 'anastasis' always referred to something that we would call a
physical resurrection. That is to say, the word 'resurrection' was never a
kind of synonym for life after death, or a spiritual survival, or 'John
Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, while his soul goes marching
on'. The ancient world was full of theories about bodies mouldering in
graves and souls being off somewhere else, and that is not resurrection. It
never was.

Wright notes that a spiritualized resurrection would not have been a scandal
at all in either the pagan or Jewish context of the first century church. I
find Wright's arguments compelling.

Bob -- we'll have to agree to disagree on the exegetical question, but it
seems to me that the physicalist position on human nature Jack mentioend
above and the nonreductive physicalist position I mentioned from Nancey
Murphy do a better job of handling the science of what we know today about
human nature. Yet if anything like those positions are true, then
resurrection for a human being can't entail only some spiritual aspect. And
as Jesus was fully man, and also is the archetype of the resurrection we
hope for, it seems impossible to me to spiritualize Jesus' resurrection
without bollixing up a Christian anthropology that is in dialogue with
contemporary science.

On 3/1/07, Robert Schneider <> wrote:

> Nor do I. "Bodily resurrection" does not entail the physical body of
> Jesus. That would be resuscitation, not resurrection. I believe that what
> the disciples experienced was the real presence of the risen Messiah, but
> read carefully 1 Cor. 15 to see how Paul wrestled with this matter.
> Bob
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Michael Roberts <>
> *To:* Alexanian, Moorad <> ; Johan Jammart<>;
> ; Janice Matchett <>
> *Sent:* Thursday, March 01, 2007 10:44 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation
> Like Bishop Tom Wright I do not believe in a physical resurrection.
> Michael
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Janice Matchett <>
> *To:* Alexanian, Moorad <> ; Johan Jammart<>;
> *Sent:* Thursday, March 01, 2007 3:07 PM
> *Subject:* RE: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation
> At 09:45 AM 3/1/2007, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
> One must understand what the word "incarnation" means and see if one can
> define it in purely physical terms. If one cannot, then the incarnation of
> Christ is incompatible with physicalism. ~ Moorad
> *@ *For those interested, the commentary at this link touches on that
> subject:
> *The Impossible Faith Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion* - James
> Patrick Holding
> [snip]
> Below I offer *a list of 17 factors* to be considered -- places where
> Christianity "did the wrong thing" in order to be a successful religion. It
> is my contention that the only way Christianity did succeed is because it
> was a truly revealed faith -- and because it had the irrefutable witness of
> the resurrection. I may add more factors as my research continues. For now,
> this should be enough to keep the skeptics busy if they aren't otherwise
> engaged in such scholarly pursuits as looking for contradictions between
> numbers in 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles or digging up obscure and irrelevant
> pagan figures who sold snake oil. Veteran readers will note that there is
> little new actually reported in this article that is not found elsewhere on
> this site; indeed much of what is below is taken verbatim from other
> articles -- it is only the application that is new.
> [snip]
> *Factor #3 -- Getting Physical! The Wrong "Resurrection"
> *As we have shown here <>, the
> resurrection of Jesus, *within the context of Judaism, was thought by
> Gentiles to be what can be described as "grossly" physical.* This in
> itself raises a certain problem for Christianity beyond a basic Jewish
> mission. We have regularly quoted the dictum of Pheme Perkins:
> "Christianity's pagan critics generally viewed resurrection as misunderstood
> metempsychosis at best. At worst, it seemed ridiculous." It may further be
> noted that the pagan world was awash with points of view associated with
> those who thought matter was evil and at the root of all of man's problems.
> Platonic thought, as Murray Harris puts it, supposed that "man's highest
> good consisted of emancipation from corporeal defilement. The nakedness of
> disembodiment was the ideal state." Physical resurrection was the last sort
> of endgame for mankind that you wanted to preach.
> Indeed, among the pagans, resurrection was deemed impossible. Wright in
> Resurrection of the Son of God quotes Homer's King Priam: "Lamenting for
> your dead son will do no good at all. You will be dead before you bring him
> back to life." And Aeschylus Eumenides: "Once a man has died, and the dust
> has soaked up his blood, there is no resurrection." And so on, with several
> other quotes denying the possibility of resurrection. [32-3] Wright even
> notes that belief in resurrection was a ground for perseuction: "We should
> not forget that when Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons he was replacing the
> bishop who had died in a fierce persecution; and that one of the themes of
> that persecution was the Christians' tenacious hold on the belief in bodily
> resurrection. Details of the martyrdom are found in the letter from the
> churches of Vienne and Lyons to those of Asia and Phrygia. The letter
> describes how in some cases the torturers burnt the bodies and scattered the
> ashes into Rhone, so that no relic of the martyrs might still be seen on
> earth. This they did, says the writer, 'as though they were capable of
> conquering god, and taking away their rebirth [palingenesia]'."
> Judaism itself would have had its own, lesser difficulty, albeit not
> insurmountable: there was no perception of the resurrection of an individual
> before the general resurrection at judgment. But again, this, though weird,
> could have been overcome -- as long as there was evidence! Not so easily in
> the pagan world. We can see well enough that Paul had to fight the Gnostics,
> the Platonists, and the ascetics on these counts. But what makes this
> especially telling is that a physical resurrection was completely
> unnecessary for merely starting a religion. It would have been enough to say
> that Jesus' body had been taken up to heaven, like Moses' or like Elijah's.
> Indeed this would have fit (see here<>)
> what was expected, and would have been much easier to "sell" to the Greeks
> and Romans, for whom the best "evidence" of elevation to divine rank was
> apotheosis -- the transport of the soul to the heavenly realms after death;
> or else translation while still alive. So why bother making the road harder?
> There is only one plausible answer -- they really had a resurrection to
> preach.
> *[snip] *Continue here:
> ~ Janice

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Received on Thu Mar 1 12:13:32 2007

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