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Home » Science and Theology » Cognitive Neuroscience » “Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible” by Joel B. Green / Chapter 5: “The Resurrection of the Body”

“Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible” by Joel B. Green / Chapter 5: “The Resurrection of the Body”



In Chapter 5 “The Resurrection of the Body”, Green discusses the nature of the what the resurrected body will be like, the Bible’s portrayal of the afterlife or what happens after death, and whether or not our personal identity is maintained after death. Most of his chapter is a rebuttal against the work of John Cooper who, in his book Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting, believes that there is an intermediate state where Green describes as “the temporary, disembodied existence of the human self, from the time of one’s death to the time of the resurrection”.  For the rest of the chapter he surveys the meaning of resurrection in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  In his assessment, the idea of resurrection from the dead belongs to the later horizons of Israel’s faith.  The Scriptures, as a whole, seem uninterested in the fate of the dead.  However, there are images of resurrection in the writings of later prophets like Hosea, Ezekiel, and Daniel; but he concludes that these images really pointed to a more political dimension of the restored people of Israel rising from their oppressors in their covenant with Yahweh in the end-time.  He also finds no evidence of a body-soul dualism in the Scriptures, but instead holds onto a view of the human as a psychosomatic unity.

By the time of the 4th century BCE, the Hebrew understanding of death and afterlife were heavily influenced by Greco-Roman philosophies that spawned many eschatological beliefs.  Green goes through popular chapters in Luke’s Gospel to counter Cooper’s claims for an intermediate state.  For example, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), there is no indication of an intermediate state immediately after death; instead, the righteous immediately receive their award and the wicked receive punishment.  Green goes into the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection narrative in Luke and finds that Jesus had a “transformed materiality”.  He finds that there is a continuation in identity for Jesus – an identity that is not grounded simply in his existence as a human being, but in terms of his relationship to God.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he was addressing the theological needs of that particular church that found bodily resurrection ridiculous and still saw salvation as an escape of the soul from the body.  Paul wrote that there is a continuity between the present life in this world and life everlasting with God.  Paul does not believe in an immortal soul.  Paul writes that God will provide “glorified” bodies to believers that will be transformed for the new conditions of eternal life with God made out of “heavenly stuff” (whatever that is).  He anticipates a new form of bodily existence that God will provide – not to be traded for the old but will subsume the old.  Paul seems to be using language that initially seems dualistic, but it is not dualistic in the anthropological sense but rather in an eschatological sense – “eschatological dualism” – contrasting the now and the not-yet. (p. 176)  In terms of how our personal identities are retained in this life and life in the resurrection, Paul uses words like “with Christ” or “in Christ” that do not address issues of substance, but rather express personal existence and identity in profoundly relational terms.

Green concludes by stating that our personhood is inextricably bound in our physicality which makes us intimately tied with God’s creation.  As we have seen in the NT, belief in life-after-death requires embodiment – or more specifically, re-embodiment.  Our identities continue after bodily death because we have a relational ontology – because, as Paul states, we are “with Christ” and “in Christ.”  Christ himself will preserve our distinct identities in this life and the transformed life afterwards as an act of pure grace.  In eschatological salvation, we are not rescued from the cosmos in resurrection, but transformed along with it in new creation.


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