An Analysis of 1 Corinthians 15:44

by Corey McLaughlin

If the entrance to Dante’s Hell reads, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter in,” then we might say that at the threshold of Paul’s theology it reads, “Take up all hope in the power of Christ’s resurrection, all ye who enter in.” Since for Paul without the resurrection of Christ, and consequently the resurrection of the dead, our faith is worthless and our hope in vain (1 Cor. 15:12-19; 29-34).

First Corinthians 15 is Paul’s longest most sustained argument about one topic in all of his writings. It is also one of his most complex. He begins in vv. 1-4 with the gospel and then casts special support for the resurrection in vv. 5-11; recounting all of the witnesses that saw the resurrected Christ. Believing that he has substantiated the bodily resurrection of Jesus both by way of citing what he παραλαμβάνω (“received” v. 3)[1] and what was confirmed by eye witnesses (vv. 5-7), he now moves on to challenge the Corinthians for doubting such a historical event (vv. 12-19).

The chiastic structure from vv. 12-34 is hard to miss: (A) If there is no resurrection of the dead then … (vv. 12-19); (B) But Christ has been raised (vv. 20-28); (C) If there is no resurrection of the dead then … (vv. 29-34). The main point obviously being that Christ has indeed been raised from the grave. The breakdown may be shown more thoroughly below:

A             If there is no resurrection of the dead then … (12)

  1. Not even Christ has been raised (13)
    1. Consequently …
      1. Our preaching and your faith are both vain (14).
      2. We are found to be false witnesses of God (15).
  • Your faith is worthless/are still in your sins (17).
    1. As a result, the dead have perished (18).
    2. As a result, we are to be pitied (19).

B          But Christ has been raised from the dead (20)

  1. the first fruits of those who are asleep (21)
  • This makes since because …
    1. In Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive (22).
    2. But each in his own order (23)
      1. First Christ
      2. Then those who are his at his coming
  • Then the end, the kingdom, abolish all rule (24)
    1. This will happen because it must (25).
    2. The last enemy will be death (26).
    3. Clarification why he must rule (27-28)

            A          If there is no resurrection of the dead then …

  1. What will those do who are baptized for the dead? (29)
  2. Why are we in danger every hour? (30-31)
  3. What do human motives profit me? (32a)
  • Let us eat, drink, for tomorrow we die (32b).
  • Bad company corrupts good morals (33).
  1. Become sober minded and stop sinning (34).

But Paul’s point is not demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt just yet. Though it is certainly weighty, he answers yet another foreseen objection to the resurrection; but this time it is not the resurrection of Christ but of believers. Paul asks, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of a body do they come?” Since this question navigates us through the next section (vv. 35-49) we must determine at the forefront whether it is in fact one question or two. In other words, is Paul asking the same question in different words or positing two distinct questions? Here the usually helpful examination of syntax, grammar and context are but two-faced friends, since they can be mustered for either position.[2] The author prefers a mediating position that sees an element of synthetic parallelism involved in Paul’s words; thus the second question assumes the prior but moves beyond it. Therefore they are not two distinct questions but neither are they the same exact question. The issue is one of emphasis.

It should be seen from Paul’s immediate response in the following verse (αφρων!) that he does not understand this as a sincere inquisition on the nature of the resurrection but as a possible Corinthian rebuttal to it.[3] It is here where his attention turns for the next 16 verses (vv. 35-49) and where we must turn our attention if we are to make sense of the resurrection body in v. 44.

Before we do, however, a pressing question confronts us: What caused the Corinthians to deny the resurrection of the dead? To that we can offer only little more than speculation since Paul only tells us that in fact some were denying such a thing (v. 12). We cannot be too hasty here. The Corinthians were denying the resurrection of the dead, yet we cannot conclude that they were also denying life after death or even some other form of resurrection.[4] Whatever the case, Paul was sufficiently concerned to correct their misunderstanding.

It is increasingly customary among recent scholars to bypass an earlier proposal that the Corinthians believed in, and actively lived out, an “over-realized eschatology”[5] for the view that they were mixing Christian teaching with blatant paganism (most notably Stoicism).[6] Since the former enjoys the support of the most outstanding modern commentator on 1 Corinthians (i.e. Anthony Thiselton) it may be a bit more prudent to see these as competing theories.

A proverb says, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge” (19:2 NIV). The Corinthians excelled at the former and failed at the latter. They saw themselves as already partaking of the age to come (cf. 4:8). Hence, the devaluing of the present body (6:12-20, after all what does it matter what we do in this body since we have the full protection of the Spirit?), the practice of attending pagan festivals, perhaps believing they were shielded by the Spirit associated with the Lord’s table (8-10), and the overabundance of Spiritual gifts (14), amongst other things.

Where did the Corinthians’ false theological teaching come from? It is true that some associate the error with various wisdom cults that infiltrated Hellenistic Judaism.[7] Though this remains a possibility, we must also face the fact that Paul’s audience is not decisively Jewish but overwhelmingly Gentile (8:1-10:22 best fits a Gentile audience since Jews found it abhorrent to worship “idols”).[8] In addition, Paul himself tells us that wisdom was the goal of the Greeks while Jews sought for miracles or miraculous signs (1:22).

Others are so brazen as to claim Paul as the instigator of the problems.[9] Such a premise rests on the assumption that Paul’s eschatology changed. It also reconstructs the relationship between the Corinthians and Paul using speculation as the primary vehicle.

The answer may best be couched in eschatological terms though we cannot deny that some interaction may have taken place between the Corinthians and various wisdom philosophies in the Greco-Roman world.[10] We therefore contend, like Thiselton, that the Corinthian diagnosis is an over-realized eschatology.[11]

Verse 36-38: Paul rejects the theoretical objection with an emotionally fused αφρων σύ (You Fools!),[12] thereby denying that the very body we shed at death is the one we receive at the resurrection. Such a refutation also comes on the heel of a stern rebuke at the end of the previous thought to “stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God” (v. 34; αγνωσιαν is better translated “ignorant” of God). The very biblical definition of the “fool” is one who does not recognize God (Psalm 14:1) and is antithetical to him (Proverbs 14:6).

As many point out, the second half of the verse echoes Jesus’ sentiment in John 12:24 (though they are both making different points). But here a divine passive asserts itself making a more explicit translation: “Fool! God does not bring what you sow to life unless it dies.”[13] The illustration from sowing seed is a controlling one throughout the entire passage. The initial image is not hard to grasp. When a seed stops being a seed and starts growing into something else, it dies as a seed and comes to life as a plant.

A second illustration from sowing seed is elucidated in verse 37.  Paul highlights that when someone plants a tree in the ground they do not plant an entire tree but only a bare grain that will one day turn into a tree.  The same is true of the resurrection body.[14] There is continuity between the two bodies in one sense; like the continuity between a seed and its full growth; and in another sense there is discontinuity; like the difference between a seed and its full growth. The singular analogy points to both realities at the same time. This explicates Paul’s point quite well; the body that dies in the grave is not the body we are raised with at the eschaton, and yet we nonetheless remain in some way, who we really and truly are.

Verse 38 is the main point behind this illustration. It is not simply that there is continuity, but that God is the one who enables, insures and protects that continuity. He gives each seed a body as he “wished.” The true force of καθως ηθελησεν is better expressed as “just as he determined” (NIV), or even better, “just as he has purposed” (the aorist tense highlighting past action).[15] God’s choice of resurrection bodies is done orderly and without confusion (important themes in the Corinthian correspondence).

Verses 39-41: In the following verses Paul offers two complementary analogies to help clarify the resurrection body. In the first instance all σαρξ is not the same σαρξ. This is substantiated when we realize that humans have one kind of flesh while beasts, birds and fish possess another, respectively (v. 39). All God’s creatures are not created the same. 62% of the New Testament occurrences of this word appear in Paul’s writings.[16] It is important that we recognize the multifaceted nature behind just such a term.[17] Though it may carry sinful connotations (e.g. Romans 7:5, 18, 25), it may also simply refer to the composition of the body (Colossians 1:22; 2:11); its primary role here.

If we continue to extend his illustration, we arrive at Paul’s big idea: if everything is created differently, then it stands to reason that the resurrection body will also be categorically different than the one we now possess. This is not some form of divine C.P.R. that will simply resuscitate believers, but a new creation, in a new environment, under the rule of a new world order. N.T. Wright is correct when he observes that though Paul is thoroughly Jewish, no Jewish writings had yet spoken of the resurrection in these terms; making Paul’s exposition a “striking innovation.”[18]

The second analogy is clearly seen in the night sky (vv. 40-41).  There are heavenly σωματα (i.e. celestial bodies) and earthly σωματα (i.e. terrestrial bodies), each with its own glory. The use of σωματα is accurate according to the time period and it portends the forthcoming discussion about the resurrection body (σωμα). But even within these heavenly and earthly bodies each continues to share its very own, unique δοξα. How do they do so? Their δοξα must be understood in terms of their function. The sun offers light and warmth, yet it is no more important than the moon that controls the tide. Both are equally important and exhibit an individual glory. They are each glorious because each is the most suitable for its environment (either heavenly or earthly).[19] If then, God so created diversity according to function, then it also makes sense that we will be given resurrection bodies to function in our new surroundings in our eternal home.[20] This is the main point from vv. 38-41; the ability of God to create variegated “bodies” suitable for their environment.

Verses 42-44: Here Paul draws the most salient conclusion from the previous thought (vv. 39-41) as well as the overall discussion (vv. 35-38). The ούτως beginning verse 42 may rightfully, therefore, be loaded with its full meaning from these verses. That is, in the same way that a seed must die before it can bare grain, so the physical body must die before it can be transformed into the resurrection body; and in the same way that God gives a body just as he purposed, he will also give us a body according to his wisdom; and just as all flesh is not the same, so the resurrection body will be different from the earthly and retain its own glory. Following this comparison Paul offers a variety of words for comprehending the resurrection body:

φθορα …αφαρσια  is usually translated “perishable … imperishable” (NASB, NIV, ESV, RSV, NRSV), or, “corruption … incorruption” (KJV, NKJV) thus maintaining a contrast of duration. The same motif underlies vv. 48-49. The “earthy” exists in a state of corruptible pandemonium while the “heavenly” enjoys, or will enjoy, incorruptible peace, prosperity and purpose.

Anthony Thiselton argues persuasively for understanding the contrast in terms of the alpha privative. He defines φθορα as “decreasing capacities and increasing weaknesses, issuing in exhaustion and stagnation,” otherwise known as decay. The LXX employ’s two Hebrew words to translate φθορα: shachat, which indicates destruction, termination, mutilation, and in certain forms to pervert or corrupt morally; and chebel, which exhibits a semantic domain from vapor to vanity. If we weigh the force of the alpha privative correctly then the semantic contrast with shachat, contends Thiselton, would not be permanence or everlasting duration but “ethical, aesthetic and psychosocial flourishing and abundance, even perhaps perfection, and certainly fullness of life.”[21] The semantic antithesis to chebel is best expressed as “purpose” (if something is vain it has no meaning, if it has purpose it has meaning), or as Thiselton suggests, “purposive progression of dynamic life-processes, in which satisfaction and delight is based on what is substantial and solid.”[22] Therefore, characterizing the resurrection body as merely “incorruptible” or “imperishable” thus indicating that no corruption takes place and that the body does not perish fails to go far enough. We must understand the resurrection body as the very reversal of decay and vanity, hence, as full abundant purposeful life. This is not just living forever (i.e. immortality) but living forever in a state of perfect and purposeful existence.

ατιμια … δοξη are not the initial pair we think of for contrast, rather, the opposite of “dishonor” is “honor.” Paul writes the contrast as “dishonor … glory,” a far more lofty sentiment that continues his theme from vv. 40-41 and is especially linked to Jewish eschatology.[23]  Since the end or goal of all Christian activity is the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), it follows that our individual “end” will likewise culminate in glory to God.[24]

Paul means to intentionally load δοξα here with resurrection connotations. This is evident from the overall context as well as his discussion in Philippians 3:18-21, where he describes earthly δοξα as manifesting “shame” (v. 19) while the apex of heavenly δοξα is conformity to Christ; specifically conformity to “τω σωματι της δοξης αυτου” ( “the body of his glory” v. 21).[25]

Аσθενεια … δυναμαι are fairly straightforward. The body is “sown in weakness and raised in power. … ”  ασθενεια highlights physical infirmities (Luke 5:15; 8:2; 13:11-12; John 5:5) but is also used by Paul to bring attention to his present state of weakness, especially in contrast to the power of God (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5; 12:9, 10; 13:4). In the pre-resurrection state God’s δυναμις is revealed in and through weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) but at the resurrection of the dead such weakness will give way to the full δυναμις of God (2 Cor. 13:4).

Humanity is ασθενεια in terms of physicality (our bodies break down), morality (we fight to make the right decisions for the right reasons), and spirituality (we are constantly at war with our “old” self). As decay is reversed we gain strength, power and mastery over each of these categories. We are able to overcome ourselves in order to better serve our Lord. With this newly accompanied control and power what else will we be capable of in the paradise of God? We will live for God unhindered by any roadblock, disease and moral corruption that this life bears. We are raised by his power and we will live by his power.

Now for the first time in verse 44, Paul mentions the human σωμα explicitly (note its lack in vv. 42-43).[26] Of the 91 times employed in the Pauline corpus, 46 occur in 1 Corinthians, indicating an important motif. It would be wrong to think that the σωμα is merely physical. It is certainly no less, but as Dunn contends, the σωμα is “the embodiment of the person.”[27] Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 where Paul uses σωμα eight times. Most fit the idea of a physical body but can we not delve deeper when he says, “ … your bodies are members of Christ” (v. 15)? Are we only “physical” members of Christ or is it much more? And in Romans 12:1 Paul commands that we offer our σωμα as a living sacrifice. Does he envision the sacrifice of limbs or the sacrifice of the entire self upon the altar of God? In both of these examples the physical element is surpassed by a relational one.[28] This is a vital point for understanding the new resurrection bodies given to believers at the eschaton. It will not be a mere upgrade of the “physical body” but a radical transformation of the “self” and of our relationship to God.[29]  This will become more palpable as the discussion continues.

Paul refers to the σωμα ψυχικον prior to resurrection and a σωμα πνευματικον in its post resurrection state. Is this dichotomy between ψυχικον / πνευματικον best understood as a “natural vs. spiritual” distinction (so NKJV, NAS, NIV, NLT) or a permutation between the “physical” and the “spiritual” (so NRS)? The question is an important one since the latter carries an implication the former does not; namely, that the “spiritual” body that is raised is not “physical.” Paul’s prior discussion in 2:14-15 will prove formidable for clarifying his intention here in 15:44.

A number of contrasts are seen in chapter 2 but they all relate to one another. The consistent motif is that worldly wisdom cannot stand before the great edifice of Spiritual wisdom that comes from God (i.e. wisdom that comes through the Holy Spirit). This is easily seen in the contrasts between “persuasive words of wisdom” and “demonstration of the Spirit” (1:14), wisdom that belongs to “the rulers of this age” (v. 6) and wisdom that is “not of this age” (v. 6), and between “the spirit of the world” and “the Spirit of God” (v. 12). Now, in verse 14, Paul makes the definitive statement about those who possess the wisdom of this world and those who receive the wisdom of God. He claims that a “ψυχικος person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Since context limits the semantic domain, it is clear that the best rendition is not a “physical person” but a “worldly person.” By this we do not mean simply a person who aligns themselves with worldly philosophy and principles but a person devoid of spiritual enlightenment, in the biblical sense.[30] This is a person who lives on a human level without giving any credence to the Spirit of God. For all intents and purposes, a ψυχικος person is a typical, ordinary, normal, natural person devoid of the Spirit of God (cf. 3:1).

The σωμα ψυχικον spoken of in 15:44 then, is a worldly body, that is, a body confined to and created for this world. It is a natural body in the sense that it is ordinary; what every human possesses. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50). That which is unspiritual and born of the natural man cannot conceive of or be rightly prepared for life in the age to come. Only a body infused with the Spirit of God can be sustained in the kingdom of God. The contrast then is between a body animated by the Spirit of God (post resurrection) and the one we now possess controlled by the things of this world.[31] Or more specifically, a body controlled by the psyche; a soulish body; attached to earth and normal human desires.[32]

There are variegated responses to the σωμα πνευματικον.[33] In the latter 1800s it was popular to envision it as a heavenly substance far surpassing our understanding of physicality.[34] Pinpointing the exact composition of the resurrection body, however, seems beyond the available data, and far displaced from Paul’s present arguments (i.e. composition is not as important as character).[35]

In the more popular realm the σωμα πνευματικον is often portrayed as a nonphysical entity. This is no doubt due in part from inaccurate translations (e.g NRS), questionable linguistic science (e.g Louw-Nida),[36] and the influence of ancient Greek currents that ebb and flow in our postmodern sea, continually reinforcing the dichotomy between the material and the spiritual.

Lastly, the view this author ascribes to, the resurrection body is a body controlled by, not the natural-worldly appetites, but by Spiritual appetites and desires[37] – that is, a body under the complete control of the Holy Spirit of God. For if we are his temple in this imperfect life, how much more will we be in the life to come (6:12-20); certainly we cannot be less.[38]

This is further buttressed when we consider the almost exclusive use of πνευματικον in the Pauline corpus to refer to things associated with the Spirit of God:[39] for example, Spiritual gifts (Rom. 1:11), the Law (Rom. 7:14, which comes from the Spirit), Spiritual wisdom (Col. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:14-15), Spiritual people (1 Cor. 2:13, 15, 3:1; 14:37; Gal. 6:1), and the totality of living according to “the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:27; I Cor. 9:11).[40]

It should be evident that Paul’s explanation of eschatological somatic existence cannot be translated with one word. To do so would be like stuffing a five-star gourmet meal into a McDonalds’ bag. We must be diligent to err on the side of accuracy rather than efficiency.  The only translation that even attempts such a feat is the translation of v. 44 in the Jerusalem Bible:  “When it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment.”

Paul introduced the resurrection argument with the gospel of Jesus Christ (15:1-4) and now turns to Jesus again, not as the one who offers good news but as the last Adam; a πνευμα ζωοποιουν (life-giving spirit). If we are to grasp the σωμα πνευματικον we must comb through his remarks in 15:45-49.

15:45-49: The premise for the following argument is v. 44b (if there is an ordinary/natural body there is also a spiritual body). The ούτως of v. 45 supports this observation since Paul is now concerned with proving that one necessitates the other. He quotes Genesis 2:7 from the LXX but adds some of his own interpretation specific to the Corinthian need (e.g. “first” and “last” are not present in the LXX). The Adam-Christ analogy was also used in v. 22 (“For in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”) to highlight the natural order of things (i.e. death) and the very reversal of that order found in Christ (i.e. life).

A further connection is the vocabulary used to describe Adam and Christ. Both are the cognate nouns for the adjectives employed in v. 44 (ψυχικον and πνευματικον). Adam and Christ are then paradigmatic of the two kinds of bodies that exist: the natural-worldly one and the supernatural-heavenly one. As Fee points out, the first Adam was given a ψυχη and a ψυχικον body to go with it. The last Adam is a πνευμα ζωοποιουν and is likewise given its appropriate counterpart, a πνευματικον body.[41] Those who remain in Adam must necessarily die since the ψυχικον body will pass away, but those in Christ will live again since they receive life (v. 22) and consequently the body to enjoy that life; a σωμα πνευματικον.

As Paul continues to weave and bob his argument, he takes a few more jabs at the Corinthians’ overzealous and over-realized eschatology in v. 46. He needs to make clear that they cannot enjoy the πνευματικον [42] now since the natural is first and the πνευματικον is still yet to be realized. The Corinthians must understand that they are still in the σωμα ψυχικον, which patterns itself after Adam and can only be shed and reclothed in its proper order (v. 23, 46).

Vv. 47-49 better explain the natural and the spiritual. Though some may be tempted to see in this an appeal to the origin of Adam (i.e. from the earth) and the origin of Christ (i.e. from heaven) the context simply drives straight through such a diversion. Paul is concerned with the resurrection soma, and what he says is perfectly consonant with what we have said thus far. The σωμα ψυχικον is the natural-worldly body, patterned after Adam, and given to all humanity. It is “from the earth, earthy.” It belongs to the matrix of this age and is thus susceptible to all the ailments of its environment (v. 48). But the second man constitutes life in the kingdom of God and is thus “from heaven … heavenly” (vv. 47 and 49). Those who share in this body also partake of the glorious kingdom of God (v. 48).[43] To be ψυχικον is to be earthy and to be πνευματικον is to be heavenly; to be ψυχικον is to be in Adam and to be πνευματικον is to be in Christ (v 49).

Since we will bear the image of our resurrected Lord we must probe one last dimension in order to grasp with some clarity the nature of the σωμα πνευματικον. What does Jesus’ resurrected body tell us, if anything, about the body we, too, will one day possess?

From the Gospel accounts we learn, (1) That Jesus is not initially recognized (John 20:15; 21:4; Luke 24:13-35); (2) that Jesus is able to pass through locked doors (John 20:19, 26) and even instantly disappear (Luke 24:31), yet there is no doubt of his physicality since Thomas places his fingers in Jesus’ wounds (20:27); (3) that the implication of “reclining at the table” may indicate that Jesus ate (Lk. 24:30; also John 21:10, 13).  We are certainly not on solid ground for postulating the nature of the somatic body at the resurrection of the dead. It is difficult to determine that which is most associated with his resurrection body and that which is associated with his divinity. Not only this, but Jesus had not yet been fully glorified (John 20:17). The one thing both Paul and the resurrection of Christ demonstrate is continuity with radical change.

Throughout 1 Cor. 15 Paul is little concerned with composition of the resurrected body and more concerned with ethical, moral and spiritual characteristics. As Wright illustrates, “It is the difference between speaking of a ship made of steel or wood on the one hand and a ship driven by steam or wind on the other.”[44] The main emphasis is between a body animated by the soul and driven by soulish desires and one under the complete and total authority of Spiritual power; able to now live out purposeful, meaningful and perfect existence in the kingdom of God. It would not be inappropriate to say that the contrast is between an old car that guzzles gas, burns oil and pollutes the environment and a new futuristic car that runs on endless pure energy with only positive side effects. Our old house was built using faulty blueprints; modeled after the first Adam. Our future house will not be a mere renovation of the one we now posses, but an extreme home makeover, involving demolition and rebuilding according to flawless plans designed by a perfect architect.

[1] Paul uses this verb three other times in 1 Corinthians to describe the trustworthy nature of what was received. Namely, the teaching he received about communion in 11:23, the gospel the Corinthians received from Paul in 15:1 (also Galatians 1:9, 12), and lastly, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in 15:3 (cf. Philippians 4:9; Colossians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:1; 2 Th. 3:6).

[2] πως may point to a second question that furthers the first (so LSJ offer Eurip. Hel. 1543; Plato Tim. 22b) but others argue that it is more natural to see two distinct questions (so Wright 2003: 342). Some argue from the context that only one question is in mind (So Hays 1997: 269f), while others contend that the context offers a two-stage answer to two questions (So Wright 2003: 342).

[3] Also, Wattson, “Rhetorical Strategy,” in Rhetoric, 245 n. 50 cited in Thiselton, notes that πως often functions to point out Corinthian assumptions or reject them altogether.

[4] Paul’s argument in v. 19 (“if we have hoped in Christ in this life … we are to be pitied”) may seem to imply such a notion, but two things must be considered: (1) 1 Corinthians 15 is first and foremost polemical and must be understood within the context of the overall debate (which we do not possess); (2) For Paul, placing hope in a false view of the resurrection is just as ghastly as failing to believe in one altogether. Since Paul would see a false view as a wrong view he can conclude that they are actually not placing their hope in the resurrection (as outlined by him) but in this life only.

[5] Carson, Moo and Morris 1992: 281 contend that the Corinthians believed that they had already been raised in their present spiritual existence. If this were the case there would obviously be no need for a future bodily resurrection. This may explain Paul’s intensity to demonstrate that in fact God does give us a body quite different from our present earthly vessels.

[6] E.g. Hays 1999; Wright 2003.

[7] Davis 1984.

[8] Paul also points out their pagan roots in 6:9-11; 8:7; and 12:1-3; again, Gentiles are the best fit.

[9] J.C. Hurd 1983: 213-296.

[10] So Fee 1987: 14.

[11] Realized Eschatology at Corinth, NTS 24 (1978): 510-526.

[12] Note: The personal pronoun is implied in the vocative but Paul chooses to bring it out in order to be even more emphatic.

[13] ζωοποιειται is a present passive indicative 3rd person singular.

[14] Paul’s use of σωμα here foreshadows where the rest of the discussion is heading.

[15] cf. 12:11

[16] 91 of 147 occurrences to be exact. The adjectival form, σαρκικος, and σαρκινος, are almost exclusive to Paul, with the exception of one occurrence each in Hebrews (7:16) and 1 Peter (2:11).

[17] cf. Thiselton, “The Meaning of σαρξ in 1 Cor. 5:5…,” SJT 26 (1973):  204-228. The most important characteristic to remember about this term is that it is a “polymorphous concept” hence its meaning is inevitably multifarious and context dependent.

[18] Wright 2003: 342.

[19] Some have suggested that “bodies” to denote planetary movement is anachronistic and out of line with ancient thought that sometimes saw “heavenly beings” as embodied in the heavens (e.g. Martin, The Corinthian Body, 117-120; 123-136; also Meyer and Findlay). Though the possibility of angelic bodies cannot be excluded (maybe Matthew 22:10 and Luke 20:36) it is far from definitive. The immediate context argues for the term “σωμα” to be understood as that which is described in the next verse; that is, celestial and terrestrial “bodies.”

[20] Sir. 43:1-10 may assist in clarifiying “glory” in a similar way. Based on this text Thiselton 2000: 1270-71 concludes that what makes the sun impressive is different than what makes the moon impressive, and yet both retain an individual glory because they are doing what God decreed.

[21] Thiselton 2000: 1272.

[22] Thiselton 2000: 1272.

[23] Consider for instance Dan. 12:3; 1 Enoch 62:15; 105:11, 12; 2 Bar. 51:10.

[24] Note that the only other time these words come into proximity is 2 Cor. 6:8 where Paul reminds the Corinthians that in all situations we are to be servants of God, “in glory and dishonor.” Thus, whether in this earthly tent or the one to come we serve Christ our king and God.

[25] Instead of “dishonor … honor” Paul characterizes the present body as ταπεινωσις  (humiliation) and the future one as conformity to Christ’s resurrection body. Such a notion is likewise imbedded in the terms here, and may be brought out by dropping “dishonor … honor” and opting instead for “humiliation … glory.”

[26] In Homer σωμα always refers to the dead body (BibleWorks Liddell-Scott Lexicon) but Paul never uses it this way.

[27] Dunn 1998: 56.

[28] For physical function see Rom. 1:24; 1 Cor. 7:4; I Cor. 5:3; 2 Cor. 5:6, 8; 2 Cor. 12:2-3; Gal. 6:17. For the relational concept that the soma is the embodiment of the person see Dunn 1998: 58-61.

[29] Note that the title of the paper is not “This Old House: Renovating the Soma,” but “This Old House: Rebuilding the Soma.” Garland wants to see more continuity in the image than Paul intends, insisting that the new resurrection body is actually “put on over” our old bodies.

[30] The Gen. 2:7 background cannot be ignored here. Adam was created first and then animated by the power of God to become a “living being” (of animals as well in 1:20, 24, 30). Humankind is animated by a soul but Paul places the emphasis on the resurrection body in terms of it being animated by the Spirit of the living God and hence under its complete control.

[31] As H.W. Robinson eloquently says, “Man is an animated body not an incarnated soul” (Murphy 1970: 93). We are presently under the control of the psyche but after the resurrection we will be given fully to the animation of the Spirit.

[32] Wright 2003: 347-356, esp. 350, agrees.

[33]  Of the 24 occurrences, 15 present themselves in 1 Corinthians; usually at key junctures (i.e. 2:13-3:1; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44-46). Most modern commentators believe it is a Corinthian term picked up by Paul and redefined.

[34] Pfleiderer, Paulinism: 1:201; also J. Weiss, Earliest Christianity, 2:535 and most recently Martin, The Corinthian Body, 115-118. Contextually advocates of this view usually draw support from Paul’s cosmic analogy, keeping in mind the Greco-Roman background that allowed for the dead to become stars, hence the resurrection body may resemble just such “heavenly bodies.”

[35] Note vv. 42-43 in the commentary section above. Paul does not describe what the body is made of but how the body is to function.

[36] Louw-Nida describes it as “non-physical” but offer no evidence except the text in question (Bible Works Lexicon, 5220, b.79.3).

[37]  Note the use of πνευματικοις in 2:14 and 3:1 carry this meaning.

[38]  Barrett, First Epistle, 372; Thiselton 2000: 1278; Fee 1987: 785-790; Wright 2003: 347-356; all agree on the latter point.

[39] It only occurs elsewhere in 1 Peter 2:5. Its cognate noun, πνευμα, refers to the Spirit of God more than 100 times out of a total of 146 in the Pauline corpus (Dunn 1998: 76).

[40] Colin Brown 1979 v. 3: 706 notes 1 Cor. 10:3 as an exception since “spiritual” in that context is almost synonymous with “allegorical.” And of course Eph. 6:12 is not the Holy Spirit but evil spirits. There is little doubt that at times it may be more restrictive, for example when Paul speaks specifically of Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1; 14:1).

[41] Fee 1987: 789.

[42] Some contend that the referent here is to Jesus’ body. We, however, understand the neuter singular πνευματικον to be referring to the neuter singular sw/ma of verse 44.

[43] Unlike v. 49 where Paul uses the future φορεσομεν to indicate that we will bear the image of Christ, here in v. 48 partaking of the heavenly is open to a both/and understanding. That is, in theological terms the “heavenly” may be seen as both sanctification in the ongoing present and glorification in the future.

[44] Wright 2003: 352.

One thought on “An Analysis of 1 Corinthians 15:44

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