Christ's Resurrection and Ours

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Puritan Board Freshman
Paul tells us that he taught nothing but what was ever taught in the O.T. (see Acts 26:21-22). So, what did Paul and the Jews, and the early Christians believe about the resurrection? I mean, we agree Paul taught nothing new about the resurrection of the believers. It should be a simple matter to resolve.

First, the ancient Jewish understanding of the resurrection was CLEARLY one of bodily, or physical resurrection:

There are found in the Rabbinic literatures such statements as that the dead will be resurrected wearing their clothes (Ketubot 111b) and that the righteous whom God will resurrect will not return to their dust (Sanhedrin 72a), obviously pointing to a belief in bodily resurrection. (source)​

Further, we know that Martha (along with contemporary Jews), understood the resurrection of the believers as having a physical component. Here we see Martha stating that very thing about Lazarus:

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:21-24)​

See, Martha thought Lazarus was going to rise again, but even more you can tell she was hinting at wanting Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, "even now".

Perhaps someone would argue that it APPEARS Jesus corrects Martha's idea of a physical resurrection when Jesus says:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)​

But remember the contention is that Paul was not teaching anything new. Was Jesus? No, and here is why. Jesus doesn't correct Martha's understanding of the resurrection, but merely ADDS to the understanding that the resurrection isn't ONLY about rising physically just as the Death in the Garden was not ONLY about dying physically. Jesus here is saying, in essence, "Nope, the resurrection is NOW, the moment you believe on Me AND yes the resurrection is yet future as you have been taught" -- Add to that what Jesus told Nicodemus about the need for people to be "born again". Resurrection is at the moment of belief AND yet future.

Lastly on the resurrection we look toward Paul himself. So what is going on in Acts 23:6?

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

Wait, why is Paul comparing himself with the Pharisees' teaching on the resurrection? Was Paul teaching something different than what the Pharisees taught about the resurrection? I mean, if Paul was teaching a bodiless, Platonic-resurrection, then the Pharisees and Sadducees could have simply pointed that out and been done with Paul together. Was Paul misleading people to think he taught a bodily resurrection when he really taught on an invisible status change?

Further, Paul interacts with the Greeks who DID teach a bodiless resurrection and guess what, the Greeks didn't accept Paul's teaching on the resurrection -- why not? I mean, if he was teaching the same thing as them. They knew he wasn't teaching a bodiless, non-physical resurrection.

Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:18-21)​

What "new doctrine" and "strange thing" was Paul teaching? I mean, if he was merely teaching a bodiless, soul only resurrection he would have been teaching the same thing the Greeks already believed. What I find interesting is how it mentions the Athenians and foreigners who spend their time in nothing else but either to tell or hear some new thing. Sounds like what some people want from us. They want endless "debate" and "dialogue" on their "new thing". Rather, let us keep repeating the old, old story. Amen???

P.S. keep this handy whenever you encounter a hyperpreterist -- someone who believes Jesus came back, the resurrection of the believers happened non-physically, and the judgment happened all around the year AD70.
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