Spirit Bodies and Physical Bodies

In the New Testament (NT) when an Apostle sees the risen Jesus, what exactly does he see?  The Apostles were familiar with resuscitations as in the case of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:54-55) and Lazarus (John 11:43-44).  But in Jesus’ case physical demise meant the end of his earthly life as a human being (“He gave up his spirit” was a euphemism for physical death in Matt 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:31).  He was not physically resuscitated, for his post-resurrection appearances were resurrection appearances which, according to Paul, do not include flesh and blood (1 Cor 15:50).  Yet Luke records a very physical resurrection appearance: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).  In Paul’s text, the risen Jesus is a spirit (1 Cor 15:45), but it appears in Luke and in John that the risen Jesus looks quite physical (Luke 24:39; John 20:27).  Do we chalk up this seeming contradiction as a polemical invention on the part of the Gospel writers that stressed the physicality of Jesus’ risen state to explain the empty tomb?  Or, is there really a contradiction going on here?

One way to address the way Paul and the Gospel writers talk about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances is investigating claims for episodes whereby spirits were believed to have appeared fully materialized in a bodily form.  There are clear enough analogues between spirit phenomena as recorded in scripture (and the ancient world such as spirit visitations, spirit possession) and spirit phenomena occurring today (studied by anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, theologians, philosophers, and scientists) to warrant the use of modern research into spirit phenomena as a means to understand the scriptural accounts.[1]  Scripture usually does not explain how spirit phenomena occur or even when a spirit phenomenon is occurring.[2]  The New Testament scholar, Dale C. Allison, remarks about the use of research into modern spirit phenomena as a way to understand biblical reports: “Psychical researchers, just like Christian apologists, have long used precisely the same two reported facts—collective appearances and multiple recipients—to argue that certain reported apparitions are somehow veridical.”[3]

A prejudice, however, still exists among scholars who regard claims to paranormal phenomena as products of cultures deemed unscientific and uncritical according to western standards, i.e., non-western cultures that have not experienced the benefits of philosophy, western medicine, the Scientific Revolution, or the Enlightenment.  This prejudice leads to the conclusion: belief or claims in paranormal phenomena are superstitions that can be explained as inexplicable natural phenomena or organic aberrations (e.g. hallucinations) rather than spirits and demons.

Both scientists and theologians shun paranormal phenomena but for different reasons.[4]  This shun originates partly in early modern physics (seventeenth century) during which time the western worldview was divided into two substances: the physical and the non-physical.  The ancient worldview, however, was not so demarcated.  Even though we find a kind of matter-spirit dualism implicit in ancient Greek philosophers, namely Parmenides (who distinguished between the reasoning faculty and the physical senses), Plato (who distinguished between the intelligible world of Forms and the sensible world of physical objects and images), and Neoplatonism, it is not until the seventeenth century, primarily in the work of René Descartes, that a single term came to be employed as a cover for all objects to which the science of physical motion applied: “matter.”[5]

In Descartes we find, for the first time, a clear demarcation between two substances: body (res extensa)—physical—and soul (res cogitans)—non-physical.  The former is an extended thing, which is made up of matter, and exists insofar as there is space for it to exist.  The latter is an unextended thing, and therefore is not composed of a body, because only bodies can extend into space.  Critics of Descartes argued that an unextended thing cannot exist if it does not extend into a space.  Otherwise, where is it?[6]  Thus, the science of physics was a science of matter, a science whereby the category for soul (and all things pertaining to other-worldly “spirit”) was entirely removed from the interests of physics because such a category, in Cartesian terms, did not require a space in which something to extend.  This space was, of course, the crucible in which physics did its work.[7]  Descartes had created the very categories that westerners today unwittingly use to talk about this world (the world physicists study) and the next world (the world of heaven and spirits).[8]

Descartes’ two categories, however, do not so easily fit first-century thought.  Whereas one can, indeed, discern a matter-spirit dualism in ancient thought, the line drawn between the two was not so sharp and distinct at that time.  The worldview of the ancients was marked by a constellation of terms for human bodies and its parts such as sōma, “[physical] body” skēnē, “tent,” ostea, “bone,” haima, “blood,” and sarx, “flesh,” for spirit bodies such as pneuma, “spirit, breath,” daimonion, “demon,” and psuche, “soul,” as well as for “fine” (less dense) material bodies that ambiguously fell between the physical reality and spirit reality of the ancients: aēr, “air,” thumos, “breath, soul, spirit, feeling, though,” and puros, “fire.”[9]  Even the more abstract notions of incorporeality (asōmatos) and immateriality (ahulos) originate in Greek thinking, particularly in Plato (asōmatos) and Aristotle (asōmatos and ahulos).[10]  Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in Luke’s and John’s descriptions and Paul’s (sometimes cryptic and quite terse) assertions about resurrection bodies, however, are anything but incorporeal and immaterial.  The resurrection in Luke, John, and Paul is sōma, not asōmatos.

Ernan McMullin once noted for the ancient worldview, “The human spirit was regarded as somehow different from the body it inhabits; belief in survival after death often involved some sort of dualism of the kind.  But categories for describing this contrast were lacking; the spirit was taken to be a sort of finer material, no more.”[11]  The fact that the Apostles could so easily identify Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance as that of “a spirit” appearing to them, despite the obvious physicality of Jesus’ appearance (see Luke 24:37-39) illustrates in a most profound way McMullin’s observation that clear categories for distinguishing a contrast between a spirit body and a human body were often lacking in the ancient world.  From the Lukan account, human bodies and spirit bodies, apparently, looked too much alike for there to have been a way to clearly demarcate between physical and spiritual.  Furthermore, the fact that Jesus’ fully physical post-resurrection appearance, with all of the material evidence for it (see John 20:24-27), that was initially construed by the Apostles as “a spirit” suggests that spirits could, indeed, appear in a physical form.  We are forced to conclude for the ancient worldview that calling a spirit “bodiless” or “incorporeal,” e.g. “disembodied spirit,” did not necessarily mean “immaterial” or “nonphysical” as it does today.  For all intents and purposes a body for the ancient worldview was the everyday physical body that slept, worked, ate, bathed, bled, sang, and became sick, died, and decayed.  So from this perspective a spirit would have been bodiless only in the sense that it lacked this kind of body (a sōma), not that it lacked a body (which Paul, too, called sōma).[12]  The invisibility (aoratō) of spirits may have been a possible impetus for the ancient notion of a spirit’s incorporeality, but upon closer inspection a spirit’s invisibility did not mean that it lacked a body.[13]

In essence, we are faced with a kind of two-body theory: the corruptible human body and the incorruptible spirit body.  Their relationship and “connection” to one another has long baffled philosophers, theologians, and scientists alike.[14]  The physical descriptions of Jesus’ resurrection appearances in the Gospels compelled early Christian writers to defend a position that sought refuge in a single-body theory, the resurrection of the flesh.  For instance, Justin Martyr could not understand a “body” apart from that which was purely physical:

If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life.[15]

Justin is one of our earliest post-apostolic apologetic sources for the doctrine of the “resurrection of the flesh” even though that phrase does not occur in the New Testament.  Justin’s identification of Jesus’ “resurrecting” other people with Jesus’ own resurrection though misses one important point: Jesus is called "the first born of the dead" (1 Cor 15:20; Col 1:8). By this reckoning Jesus’ resurrection must mean something other than those who had been physically raised by him prior to his own resurrection.[16]  Furthermore, in cases like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter it might be more apropos to speak of physical resuscitation rather than resurrection.

 The two-body doctrine is shared by many ancient folk, including Egyptians,[17] Hebrews,[18] Greeks,[19] and Romans.[20]  In our day and age, the two-body theory is dramatically illustrated in spirit materializations whereby a deceased person appears as a fully-formed human being while their deceased physical remains lay buried in a cemetery, often in another country.  So let us look to first-century sources for the two-body theory that will aid in our understanding of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his followers in tandem with modern reports on spirit materializations that will aid in “reconciling” (or better: explaining) what appears to be a clash between Lukan and Johannine reports of a physical resurrection and Paul’s polemical assertions about a non-physical yet bodily resurrection.

Richard C. Carrier provides a study of the two-body doctrine as it occurred in first-century Judaism.[21]  Carrier notes that while the popular Jewish ideology distinguished between body and soul, almost to the point that one may come away with the notion that early Jews distinguished between a corporeal human body and an incorporeal soul, the descriptions in Philo and Josephus tend to support a (some kind of) bodily soul.  Carrier shows that for Philo the physical body is merely a corruptible prison for the soul, a body that “took its substance from the earth, and is again dissolved into the earth” (Philo, On the Migration of Abraham, 2-3).  The soul departs “from the mortal body and returns as if to the mother-city” (Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, 3.11).  This soul, however, like the angels, is a substance that is pneumatikos, “spiritual.”  For this reason, angels in the past could take the form of men to procreate with women (Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, 1.92).  Carrier concludes that although lacking an earthly mortal body, departed souls still have substance, and in a sense have a different kind of body: “the soul is in effect its own body, made of ‘ether,’ but at birth this body is sent into the earthly body that is subject to death and decay.”[22]

Like Philo, Josephus describes the human body as a prison for the soul (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2.154-155).  As a Pharisee, Josephus believed in the resurrection of the soul and records the Pharisaic belief: “The Pharisees say though every soul is incorruptible, only that of good men crosses over into another body” (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2.163).   For Carrier, this is clearly a two-body doctrine: “Josephus could not be any clearer: he says that in the resurrection our soul will ‘cross over’ (metabainein) into ‘a different body’ (eis heteron sōma).”[23]  Elsewhere, Carrier cites Josephus in another example for a two-body doctrine, namely Jewish Wars, 3.372, 374-375, in which “Josephus clearly asserts that in the resurrection we will get new bodies, not the same ‘corruptible’ ones we once had.”[24]

This two-body doctrine is found elsewhere beyond Philo and Josephus.  Cicero expresses a similar belief in his Republic 6.24: "For that man whom your outward form reveals is not yourself; the spirit is the true self, not the physical figure which can be pointed out by the finger.”  The Christian Gnostic text Treatise on Resurrection (or Letter to Rheginos) says of the two bodies that “the visible members which are dead shall not be saved [but] the living members which exist within them shall arise” (47.30-48.6). This is not a “Gnostic” heresy as some scholars like to argue (adopting an attitude of the later sixth-century Church), for we see the very same idea in Cicero who wrote in Latin during the first century BC.  The “visible members” refer to the members of the physical body; the “living members which exist within” the physical members refer to the members of the spirit body.

When we read 1 Cor 15:35-58, we see clearly that resurrected individuals have bodies: “what kind of body (sōma) will they come with?”  Carrier notes that Paul’s response to this question in 1 Cor 15:36-38 illustrates that Paul is reprimanding the Corinthians “for not understanding that there are two bodies, in effect one that ages and bleeds to death, and another, ‘the body that will come to be.’”[25]  In short, Paul believed that the resurrection body, “the new body,” would be constituted not of flesh but of pneuma.

  Paul’s resurrection body is corporeal (sōma) yet imperishable (phthora), which must have sounded oxymoronic to Greeks because the word sōma was a term for the very body that does perish at death: the human physical body that bleeds, ages, and then dies.  And yet Paul does not argue that the resurrection body is the same body that once hung on the cross bloodied, mangled, and punctured, and has now been changed into something else.[26]  Note that whereas later Christian apologists believed that the flesh would be raised, e.g. Justin, “the resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which died” (On the Resurrection 10; and see above), and Tertullian (On the Resurrection of the Flesh), Paul never says that the sarx is raised.  Quite the contrary, “flesh (sarx) and blood (haima) are not received into the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50).

When Paul talks about the resurrection body, he does so by contrasting sōma pneumatikon, “body of a spirit,” with sōma psuchikon, “body of a living physical (ensouled) thing” (1 Cor 15:44).  Initially, one is struck by an argument that contrasts two qualifiers, namely pneumatikon (“spiritual”) and psuchikon (“soulish”) that are otherwise usually understood as referring to the same category of reality by the ancients: an “ethereal” reality or a reality of “subtle substance.”  The English terms “demons,” “angels,” “spirits,” “ghosts,” “souls,” and “apparitions” are meanings for both pneuma and psuche in classical and biblical literature.  Thus, if we didn’t have a particularly clear context, as we do in 1 Cor 15:35-58, then one might assume that the sōma pneumatikon and the sōma psuchikon both referred to a subtle body, the body of a spirit or the body of a soul.  Paul’s context, however, prevents us from assuming an identity of this kind between pneumatikon and psuchikon: he contrasts corruptible, terrestrial, and psuchikon bodies with incorruptible, celestial, and pneumatikon bodies.  The upshot is that the sōma psuchikon “is doomed to destruction, because [it] is psychikon, a body defined by worldly passions, earthly substance, animal nature, and attachment to this life, and therefore fundamentally corruptible.  This body, the body of the flesh [the psuchikon body], dies and does not return.”[27]  Carrier further explains:

In the Pauline corpus, pneumatikos is routinely contrasted with physical things, like labor, money, food, drink, rocks, human bodies (sarkinos), and ‘flesh and blood’ (haima kai sarka).  So when psychikos is contrasted with it, Paul certainly has in mind something physical, representing the very same contrast.  For a psychikon is everything a pneumatikon is not.  And above all things a pneumatikon is not made of flesh, therefore a psychikon must be.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul only mentions two bodies, and if one of them, just like all pneumatic things, is not flesh, it follows necessarily that the other one, the only other body there is, must be flesh, i.e. the psuchikon body.[28]

See the English versions that render sōma psuchikon in the following ways: “a natural body” (NIV, NLT, NAB, KJV), and “a physical body” (International Standard Version, God’s Word).  So, too, Carrier: “Thus the body without a psyche is [physically] dead, a body with a psyche is [physically] alive.  But more importantly, Adam’s body is made of earth (‘dirt’ as Paul says).  In contrast, Christ’s [resurrection] body is not.  It comes from heaven, not earth, and is a spirit, not a body, at least not in the sense that Adam had a body heaped up for him from the dirt.  Insofar as the risen Christ has a body, it is made of pneuma from heaven, not earth.”[29]

In light of the two-body doctrine, however, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 pose some confusion.  When Paul writes “we shall all be changed” (v. 51) and “that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality” (vv. 53-54), it sounds as if Paul is suggesting that the physical body somehow participates in the resurrection event.  The verb he uses in v. 51, allagēsometha comes from alassō which means “to change” or “to alter,” but in the sense of “exchanging” one thing for another, e.g. change clothes, change appearance.[30]  This sense helps us understand Paul’s exchange-of-clothing metaphor in vv. 53-54.  Paul describes this allagēsometha, this “exchange,” by saying that the corruptible body will be “clothed” (endusasthai).  The verb endusasthai comes from enduō which means “to put on” or more literally, “to go into,” as in for getting into clothes.  But if this clothing affects an exchange of one thing for another, then how does something corruptible become something incorruptible by putting on a coat?  Paul’s clothing metaphor makes sense only if we read it in terms of the exchange mentioned in v. 51.  Carrier puts it this way: “How would dirt putting on a coat make it no longer dirt?  But on the theory that our bodies will be traded in [‘exchanged’] we can make sense of the metaphor: as the mortal body enters the realm of the imperishable, and is enveloped by it, it passes away, leaving on the imperishable garment, without which we would perish entirely.”[31]  Compare this with what Paul writes in 2 Cor 5:1-8, “For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.  For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation if indeed, when we have taken it off, we shall not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. . . . although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, . . . and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”

Two things should be noted here.  Firstly, the notion that “we shall not be found naked” means that “we shall not be without a body” even though we have taken “it off,” i.e. the physical, corruptible body of flesh and blood that Paul calls “a tent” and says in 1 Cor 15:50 cannot be received into heaven.  Secondly, Paul’s talk of “leaving the body” in order to go home to the Lord is a phenomenon that Paul actually records himself experiencing (in the third person) in 2 Cor 12:1-4, but here it is only a temporary journey out of his physical body to “the third heaven;” otherwise, Paul returns to his physical body and is able to tell the tale fourteen years later.  I argue that what Paul could not determine was either “in” or “out” of the [physical] body was, in fact, the spirit body, or as Cicero might put it, Paul’s “true self.”  Carrier becomes confused on this point:

Paul had no clear idea of how someone could be in any location at all without a body, yet a normal human body cannot enter heaven.  If this man he knew had gone to heaven bodily, he would have to have been given a spiritual body, which would all but constitute a resurrection before the last trumpet, thus contradicting Paul’s own doctrine, and making no sense of the fact that he came back into his old body again afterward (which leaves open the question of where his new heavenly body then went, if it is supposed to be imperishable).[32]

But there is no contradiction here if we take into account that a part of the psychology of the ancient worldview held that certain people had the ability to temporarily transcend their physical body in the form of a soul or a spirit (even before Christ’s resurrection), travel into the beyond, and then return to the physical body.  An out-of-body experience is dependent on the physical body being present to receive, once again, the spirit body on its return from journeys into the beyond.  The resurrection, however, is not dependent on the physical body.  The spirit body does not return to reanimate the physical body as in the cases of out-of-body experiences.  The spirit body is resurrected, not the physical body.  The spirit body is not waiting in heaven to be put on at some future date by whatever it is that leaves the physical body immediately at death.  The spirit body is temporarily housed in the physical body until the physical body dies.  Paul’s “tent” metaphor suggests that the “I” resides in the dwelling of a physical body, the “Me.”  The “I” is the spirit body; the “Me” is the physical body, the “tent” that is discarded at death.  Once the “I” has discarded its tent, the “I” puts on incorruptibility and immortality, that is, by “putting on incorruptibility” it is free of the corruptible and mortal tent in which it was once housed.[33]  Although Paul’s lingo “at the last trumpet” sounds eschatological, we are probably on more sound footing to read that lingo along with the two phrases that precede it than reading it in an eschatological (end of the world; final day of judgment) context.  Paul’s describing the resurrection event as occurring “in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:52) refers to the separation of the spirit body from the physical body at the moment of physical death.  Many near-death experiencers who have been clinically dead and who are later revived describe leaving their physical body as instantaneous.[34] 

          When we read the Lukan and Johannine reports of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the Apostles, it seems as if the empty tomb can be explained in this way: the crucified and entombed body of Jesus somehow left the tomb, wounds and all, and appeared before the Apostles.  The Lukan passage is often used in support of this: “While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a spirit.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet” (Luke 24:36-40).   The Johannine passage is even more explicit for the physicality of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance: “But he [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:25-27).  A part of the Lukan report agrees with Paul’s polemic on the resurrection body: just as a spirit does not have flesh and bones, so too the body of a spirit (sōma pneumatikon) lacks flesh and blood because such cannot be received into the kingdom of God.  And so if we are willing to contend that the concept of resurrection is what Paul says it is, then we need to deal with the physicality of Luke’s and John’s reports of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in the light of Paul’s two-body doctrine for the resurrection.[35]

          At this point, it becomes necessary to introduce spirit materializations into the discussion.  Spirit materialization, a little-known phenomenon, is not easy to define, but we can initially say that it involves the appearance or the creation of matter from unknown sources.  This matter takes on the shape of the spirit’s body so that the invisible spirit may become visible to a human being.  Spirit materializations were experienced at sittings for spirit communication during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in both Europe and America.  Notwithstanding the possibility of fraud, some materializations were examined by trained scientists who concluded that out of thin air a fully functional human being had formed before their eyes, in broad day light and not in a semi-dark room, and now stood before them, breathing and speaking in a normal tone of voice.

One of the most dramatic examples of these full-bodied day-light materializations occurred during the early part of the twentieth century in São Paulo, Brazil.  The sources from which spirits take on matter in order to become visible to human beings are sometimes human beings themselves, in this case, those who are called “materialization mediums.”  Those experienced in this field explain that such mediums liberate a part of their physical vitality during an altered state of consciousness in order to affect materialization of a spirit.  One such medium was a Brazilian of Italian parentage, namely Carlos Mirabelli (1889-1951).  A report of Mirabelli’s materializations was made in a German journal devoted to the study of paranormal phenomena.[36]  There we read of the appearance of spirits in bodily form that were handled by the spectators present for the event.  During one materialization

the shape of a girl appeared beside the medium.  Quite shocked, her father, Dr. de Souza, stepped out of the circle, spoke to his child, went close to her and folded her in his arms.  Amid convulsive sobs he assured the others again and again that it was his own daughter whom he was holding, and that the dress worn by the apparition was the same as that in which she had been buried. . . . Colonel Octavio Viana now rose to convince himself of the reality of the apparition.  He also took the child in his arms, felt of her pulse, looked into her deep, fathomless eyes, and asked her several questions, which she answered rationally.  Viana also was able to confirm that the vision was tangible.[37]

Another report in the same article reads as follows:

The presence in the room of the figure of Bishop Jose de Camargo Barros appeared, who had lost his life when the ship ‘Syrio’ was wrecked.  Mirabelli was put under the prescribed supervision, conducted this time by Ataliba de Aranha and Odassio Sampaio.  As the medium passed into a trance, the scent of roses filled the room.  Suddenly there appeared within the circle a fine mist on which everyone present was anxiously observing.  The mist parted and became denser, glowing like a gold cloud, out of which gradually, little by little, emerged a smiling apparition wearing the episcopal biretta while clad in the full regalia of church office.  As it arose from a chair it announced its name: ‘Dr. Jose de Camargo Barros,’ in a clear voice which all could hear.  Dr. Ganymed de Souza, without any fear, approached the materialized spirit, face to face with it.  The apparition smiled silently at the investigator, who now went closer to it, touching and examining it in detail by tapping its body and teeth and rubbing his finger over the gums to determine the presence of any saliva.  He listened to the heart and to the breathing.  He put his ear to the stomach to assure himself that the bowels were functioning.  He observed the finger nails and the eyes, and gave close attention to the veins of the eyes, and then resumed his seat.  There was no skepticism in his mind, no question whatsoever that the figure before him was that of a man.[38]

Photographs were also taken of Mirabelli’s materializations. One was of the materialization of the eighteenth-century Italian poet Giuseppi Parini (1729-1799) taken at the Cesar Lombroso Academy of Psychic Studies in Brazil.  In the photograph Mirabelli is seated to the right of Parini, and an observer, Dr. Carlos de Castro, is seated to the left of Parini.  Parini is wearing period dress and a pair of spectacles.  As a materialized spirit, Parini looks to all outward appearances to be one of the sitters themselves, i.e. he looks to be a normal human being.  This photograph is available to any one’s inspection on the internet via a search in Google.

          Another variety of spirit materialization was exhibited by the Warsaw medium Franek Kluski (1874-1949).  A report of the materializations in his presence was made.[39]  The manifesting spirits were given the opportunity to make molds of complex hand folds out of hot paraffin wax.  Pictures were made of these molds and they show detailed skin surfaces, nails and cuticles, knuckles, and wrinkles.  Kluski’s spectators could hear the splashing of the hot paraffin wax as soon as the spirit thrust its hands into the wax.  These molds suggest that the wax coated the very shape of the spirit's hands themselves, indicating that a spirit in his or her spiritual environment or dimension possesses hands that look like that of normal human hands.  The paraffin wax reveals the form and shape of the hand of a spirit.[40]

          The experience of dematerialization among those observing the Mirabelli manifestations is also instructive in the field of spirit materialization:

After the materialized spirit had shaken hands with the spectators, the spirit announced that it was about to depart and soared off through the air like a flying machine.  The feet vanished first, followed by the legs and the abdomen, while the chest, arms and head still remained visible.  Dr. Archimedes Mendonca who, like all rest, had watched developments with the keenest interest, stepped within arm’s reach of the portion of the body that remained in a materialized state, and tried to grasp it, but instantly fell to the floor unconscious while the vision vanished entirely.  Dr. Mendonca regained his senses in an adjoining room into which he had been carried.[41]

In the Gospel of John the resurrected Jesus orders Mary Magdalen with the following words, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17).  The latter part of this order, “I have not yet ascended,” cannot possibly account for why Jesus does not want Mary to touch him for the simple reason that Thomas, later on, would be asked by Christ to inspect his wounds before he had ascended back to the Father.  The experiences of Dr. Mendonca, on the other hand, provide us with a reason for Jesus’ order to Mary, “Do not touch me!”  In the light of what happened to Dr. Mendonca when he grasped the body of a dematerializing spirit, we may conclude that similar harmful effects could occur if one were to touch a spirit body in the process of materialization.  Jesus’ command then may be seen as a friendly warning to protect Mary Magdalen from what might be akin to electrocution if she were to grasp him while he was still in the process of materializing as a spirit. 

If Mirabelli’s and Kluski’s materializations were those of actual spirits, then such phenomena show that the material stuff which clothes the spirit actually reveals the shape and form of the spirit itself, just as it looks and exists in the spiritual dimension.  A crude and imperfect analogy might be the impression made by a coin that has been placed under a sheet of notebook paper upon which an impression of the coin's face is left behind when a pencil is rubbed on the very spot of the paper under which the coin is located.  The impression left on the paper is made by graphite particles of the pencil.  These graphite particles, in and of themselves, do not possess the shape of the coin.  Rather, the graphite particles reveal the shape of the coin in question, a shape that already exists even before the impression is ever made.  So, too, with spirit materializations.

When we now read Luke 24:36-40 and John 20:24-27 in the light of both Paul’s two-body doctrine of the resurrection and modern reports of spirit materializations, we can explain the astonishment and fear of the Apostles and the physicality of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  Those experienced with spirit materializations are familiar with the fact that a spirit who wants to be recognized by friends and acquaintances will appear to them in a form that marks the spirit as the very person the friends and acquaintances knew in life.   For instance, Gambier Bolton remarks in his study of spirit materializations, "We are told that, for the purpose of identification, the entity will return to earth in an exact counterpart of the body which he alleges that he occupied at the time of his death, and in order that he may be recognized by his relatives and friends who happen to be present."[42]  By exhibiting his wounds and his body as it looked entombed, Jesus, as a spirit, was manifesting in a way that the disciples would recognize him in order to calm their fears (see Luke 24:37), rid their doubt (see John 20:27), and convince them of life after death.  The scars of Jesus that doubting Thomas examined were such an appearance so that Thomas could easily recognize his Master.  Otherwise, if Jesus manifested to them in the way that he manifested to Paul on the road to Damascus, in a great celestial form of bright, white light, then would the disciples have recognized their Master?[43]

If we evaluate and consider the records in our own day of the materialization of spirit bodies and those who examined these materialized bodies as bodies that looked, felt, and acted like normal people, then from this data the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection body is immediately solved: contrary to what some scholars argue, there is no discontinuity between the “spiritual” Pauline resurrection account and the “physical” Lukan and Johannine resurrection accounts – the resurrected Jesus is a spirit, supported by the assertions that he is “a life-giving spirit” and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:45,50), and the resurrected Jesus as a materialized spirit is physical to all outward appearances during his post-resurrection stay on earth (Luke 24:39 and John 20:20, 27).

But does any of this explain the empty tomb?  Since no medium was present, or necessary in the case of Jesus’ materialization we might speculate that Jesus’ own physical body that had been entombed was the source from which matter was liberated and used to make his spirit body visible to the Apostles.  This could very well explain why the body was no longer present.   The fact that the tomb was empty upon its discovery by Mary Magdalene and Peter three days after the crucifixion has suggested to many that the body that was hanging on the cross was the same body that walked out of the tomb.  But the physical body does not resurrect (1 Cor 15:50), and the resurrection is not a resuscitation as it would have been if Jesus’ physical body had awoken and walked out.  The resurrection body is the body of a spirit (1 Cor 15:45) and not the body of a human being (1 Cor 15:44).  Just as a portion of a materialization medium’s physical vitality is said to be “dissolved” in order to be liberated from him or her to be used to materialize a spirit close by, it is not impossible to speculate that something similar happened to Jesus’ physical body.  Philo says that salvation requires abandoning the physical body, “because the body took its substance from the earth, and is again dissolved into the earth” (On the Migration of Abraham 2-3). The body, according to Philo, will dissolve into the four elements of which it was made, “but the mental and celestial species of the soul will depart into the purest ether” which Philo says is a fifth substance superior to the other four of which the body is made, and this ‘ether’ is the stuff of which “the stars and the whole heaven” are made, as well as the human soul (Who is the Heir of Divine Things 283).[44]  Whereas all physical bodies gradually dissolve through the process known as “decay,” Christ's physical body was not meant to see “corruption” (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31).  His body dissolved, but not through decay.  Hence, we may wonder if it was dissolved by some divine action in order to build up Jesus’ materialized spirit body.[45]

If the resurrection is the resurrection of a spirit body, then the notion that “the resurrection of the dead” refers to the resurrection of dead physical bodies buried in cemeteries needs to be reassessed.  In other words “the dead” here means something other than dead human bodies.  In a biblical sense, death and dead often mean “separation” as in the Pauline phrase “dead to sin,” i.e. separated from sin.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man dies and is buried but he nevertheless remains conscious “in Hades” (v. 23).  While in Hades, he is separated from God by “a great chasm” (v. 26).  The rich man’s place of confinement in Hades is actually called “the dead” (vv. 30, 31).  Even though the rich man’s body had been buried, he remained aware and conscious of his plight among “the dead” in Hades, i.e. among those separated from God.  So “the dead” in this case are not the unconscious physical bodies decaying in the ground; the dead are those in Hades separated from their physical bodies yet remaining conscious apparently in another body that speaks, sees, and hears.

Another clue as to the meaning of “the dead” might be found in Heb 2:14, “him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil.”  In the Jewish and Christian tradition, God’s greatest antagonist is labeled by many names, e.g. the serpent, Satan, Beelzebub, Death, and the Devil.  Here we see that the “power of death” is none other than a power to separate individuals from God, in the same way as we see the rich man in the Lukan parable.  Those who are God-fearing are not dead while those who do not have God in their lives are considered “dead.”  This is the very point made in 1 Tim 5:5-6, “The real widow, who is all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.  But the one who is self-indulgent is dead while she [physically] lives.”  Dead in this sense is estrangement or divorce from God.  So we may speak of physical death as a separation of the spirit body from the physical body and spiritual death as a separation of one from God, whether one is still “housed” in a physical body (as in the case of the widow in 1 Tim 5:6) or has left the physical body through physical death and resides among “the dead” in a spirit dimension, Hades.[46]

Reading “resurrection of the dead” in this light allows us to make sense out of passages that describe Jesus “descending into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph 4:9) and going “to the spirits in prison” (1 Pet 3:18, 19).  If these two passages are in reference to going or descending into Hades, then Jesus’ “ascending” (Eph 4:9) would make sense only if he “rose up” out of this netherworld region.  And the phrase “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18) would suggest that Jesus was the first to be able to cross the chasm that Luke writes of in the parable of the rich man.  John 3:13 seems to hint at this as well: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”  In other words, no person was allowed (for whatever reason) to ascend into heaven, i.e. resurrect from the dead, until Christ had done so.

Even though I have spent time elaborating on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, there is also something to be said about how allegiance to Christ in this life while on Earth “raises one from the dead,” i.e. no longer separated from God.  In Col 2:12 the Colossians are told “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  By having given Christ their allegiance, the Colossians were already viewed as having been raised from the dead, although their departure from Earth had not yet taken place.  Even in this life one is no longer considered “dead” if they are committed to God through Christ (1 Tim 5:6).  Even in this physical life, one can be “raised from dead” if one’s allegiance is to Christ whose resurrection has made believers’ resurrection possible both here and now and in the hereafter.  Once the physical body is discarded after physical death, only then can one “be raised” into the heavens for a more full knowledge of Christ.



Eventually "body" and "spirit" were treated as antithetical concepts by some Christians.  For instance, Augustine insists that the resurrection is “bodily” and not “spiritual”; that those who will rise "will be bodies and not spirits" and that "as far as regards substance, even then it shall be flesh," and, like Tertullian before him, that there will be a distinction of sex among those who will rise (Enchiridion 91).  It was believed that gender could only be possessed by those with physical bodies.  But spirits, too, have gender; there are female spirits as well as male spirits, for this is the only possible deduction one can make from Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 15: if the spirit body rises, and Christians are composed of both males and females, and Christians share in the resurrection in the same way Christ experienced it, as a spirit, then there can only be male and female spirits among the risen Christians.  Recall, too, that Samuel's spirit in 1 Samuel 28 was described as that of an old man.  We ought to stick to the New Testament phrase "resurrection of the dead," for "resurrection of the body" implies a premise that potentially includes the physical body of a human being, a premise that does not reflect the earliest conception of the resurrection of the dead as we have it in Paul, for it leads to the more inaccurate "resurrection of the flesh," a phrase that has distorted the earliest Christian conception of resurrection for far too many centuries.


[1] Research grossly mislabeled as “psychical research”—for this term suggests that all of the phenomena originate in the psyche, i.e. the mind, of an individual.  Studies on modern investigations into spirit phenomena include the following: John J. Cerullo, The Secularization of the Soul: Psychical Research in Modern Britain (Philadelphia, PA: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1982), Janet Oppenheim, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), John Warne Monroe, Laboratories of Faith: Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism in Modern France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008);  Heather Wolffram, The Stepchildren of Science: Psychical Research and Parapsychology in Germany, c. 1870—1939 (New York: Rodopi, 2009), M. Brady Brower, Unruly Spirits: The Science of Psychic Phenomena in Modern France (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2010), and Sofie Lachapelle, Investigating the Supernatural: From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metaphysics in France, 1853-1931 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).

[2] How many readers think, “Aha! Spirit phenomenon!” when reading the physical descriptions of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in Luke and John?  Hardly a one.  Some even insist against it.  Joel B. Green remarks, “Jesus grounds the continuity of his identity (‘It is really me!’), first, in his materiality, his physicality—in the constitution of flesh and density of bones: ‘Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.  Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (24:39).  Here is no phantom, no vision, no spirit-being” (“Resurrection of the Body: New Testament Voices Concerning Personal Continuity and the Afterlife,” in idem, ed., What About the Soul: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology [Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2004], 85-99, here 92).

[3] Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and its Interpreters (London: T & T Clark, 2005), 270.  Other scholars who have used paranormal research to inform classical and biblical reports of spirit phenomena are Eric R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of California, 1951), Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1980), and Craig S. Keener, “Spirit Possession as a Cross-Cultural Experience,” BBR 20.2 (2010): 215-236.   See further Jacob Bazak, Judaism and Psychical Phenomena: A Study of Extrasensory Perception in Biblical, Talmudic, and Rabbinical Literature in the Light of Contemporary Parapsychological Research (New York: Garrett, 1972), Evelyn Garth Moore, Try the Spirits: Christianity and Psychical Research (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), John J. Heaney, The Sacred and the Psychic: Parapsychology and Christian Theology (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1984), and Brian Inglis, Natural and Supernatural: A History of the Paranormal from the Earliest Times to 1914 (London: White Crow Press, 2012; repr. of 1977 ed.).

[4] See Carl B. Becker (Paranormal Experience and Survival of Death [Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993]) who states, “Paranormal phenomena ranging from spirit possession and astral travel to resuscitation of the dead have been known for thousands of years in Europe as well as Asia.  They have been consistently banned and suppressed by the church, not because their reality was doubted but because they were dangerous, opening the gates to heterodoxy and perhaps to the work of the devil himself.  Scientists, too, have very human religious commitments and presuppositions.  In some cases these involve rejecting survival as impossible or unimportant, in others, of limiting it to articles of faith, consciously segregated from the sorts of issues held to be open to scientific inquiry.  The evidence that persons are more than material or that life might survive the grave is a mind-boggling proposition to many dogmatic people who quickly anathematize it” (p. 143).

[5] Originally in Greek hulē meant “woodland,” “brushwood,” and “timbre.”  As a technical term for “matter” in the sense of “the stuff of which a thing is made,” i.e., “material,” hulē was employed as such initially by Aristotle.  See Metaphysics 1032a17, “Natural generation is the generation of things whose generation is by nature.  That from which they are generated is what we call matter (hulēn).”  See H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), s.v. “hulē.”

[6] The modern-day common conception for a soul as an incorporeal, immaterial yet conscious entity, a “disembodied soul,” originates in Descartes’ Meditations.  But the Cartesian soul does not adequately reflect the ancient worldview of spirits or souls.  For one thing, the term soul (psuchē) was multifaceted in the ancient world.  It might mean “vital power” that enlivens the human body or it might be used to refer to a conscious bodily entity that survives the death of the human body.  See Dwight J. Ingle, “Psyche in Ancient Greek Thought,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 31.2 (1988): 264-284.  We cannot call forth Cartesian dualism as an early-modern example for an ancient spirit-independent-of-matter dualism, for the simple reason that Descartes’ soul, or res cogitans, although independent of the body, did not extend into space, unlike the ancient worldview of souls and spirits that had bodies extending into space (Plato, however, is inconsistent).  Descartes’ soul is better understood as a metaphysicalized Aristotelian soul, i.e. a soul that functions at the biological level (so Aristotle; note Descartes’ pineal gland connection) yet is not dependent on the body for its survival after the body’s demise.  Aristotle, however, does refer to a nous that enters the body from without and survives its death.  See Renehan, “Greek Origins,” 136, n. 70.  Also, Aristotle’s God, the Unmoved Mover, does not extend into space and is incorporeal just like Descartes’ res cogitans.  Thomas Hobbes would call both Aristotle and Descartes to task on unextendedness and incorporeality as categories for angels and God.  For Hobbes, nothing can be unless it fills a space, and only bodies can fill a space.  Hobbes was no innovator in this respect, for the fourth-century Church Fathers claimed that God and the angels had bodies made of substance.  See Samuel I. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 88-90; and Gary B. Herbert, “Hobbes’s Phenomenology of Space,” Journal of the History of Ideas 48.4 (1987): 709-717.

[7] See Richard S. Westfall, The Construction of Modern Science: Mechanisms and Mechanics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), “The effect of Cartesian dualism . . . was to excise every trace of the psychic from material nature with surgical precision, leaving it a lifeless field knowing only the brute blows of inert chunks of matter. . . . Virtually every scientist of importance in the second half of the century accepted as beyond question the dualism of body and soul.  The physical nature of modern science had been born” (p. 31).

[8] See Ernan McMullin, “Introduction: The Concept of Matter in Transition,” in idem, ed., The Concept of Matter in Modern Philosophy (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978), 1-55, here 18-19.

[9] And yet all three of these terms were used to describe the substance of spirits, souls, and demons by Greeks, Jews, and Christians.

[10] See R. Renehan, “On the Greek Origins of the Concepts of Incorporeality and Immateriality,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 21 (1980): 105-138, here 135.

[11] So Ernan McMullin, “Introduction: The Concept of Matter,” in idem, ed., The Concept of Matter (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963), 1-41, here 15 (italics mine).

[12] See Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), 3-37, 115-117, 127-128.

[13] So Jean-Pierre Vernant, “Mortals and Immortals: The Body of the Divine,” in Froma I. Zeitlin, ed., Mortals and Immortals: Collected Essays of Jean-Pierre Vernant (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 27-49, who states, “The gods, therefore, have a body that they can at will make (or keep) totally invisible to mortal eyes—and it does not cease to be a body” (p. 42).

[14] The modern term for this problem is the mind-body problem, a problem that originates in Descartes’ Meditations: How is an immaterial unextended thing connected to a material extended body?

[15] ANF 1.298 (ANF = Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers [10 vols; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994; repr. of the 1885 ed.]).  Interestingly, Justin shared more with the Greek atomists such as the Epicureans who believed all reality to be made up of matter, than with the more spiritual theories of other Greek thinkers, namely Pythagoras and Plato.

[16] Note the inherent problem in Matt 27:52-53: “tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  And coming forth from their tombs after (meta) his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”  The word meta, “after,” had to be inserted or else Jesus’ status as “first-born of the dead” would have been canceled out.  This means that these bodies would have been laid out of the tombs for three days until Jesus’ resurrection had already occurred.  But during this three-day interim period, wouldn’t they have been reburied?  Furthermore, is this what was meant by resurrection of the dead, the physical, corruptible body in the tomb is raised, as these verses suggest? Not, at least, in Paul, as we shall see below.  

[17] See Renahan, “On the Greek Origins,” 105.

[18] See John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), “Any Israelite would agree nevertheless that the ‘self’ or ‘life’ in Sheol lacks flesh and bones.  So nephesh would connote discarnate persons even if it did not denote them.  These considerations have led some scholars to conclude that nephesh is occasionally used to refer to a personal being which survives physical death and remains in existence” (p. 61).

[19] See John P. Wright and Paul Potter, eds., Psyche and Soma: Physicians and Metaphysicians on the Mind-Body Problem from Antiquity to Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 37-56.

[20] See Cicero, Republic 6.24.

[21] Richard C. Carrier, “The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb,” in Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005), 105-231.

[22] Ibid., 112.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 113 (emphasis his).

[25] Ibid., 122 (emphasis his).

[26] See Carrier, ibid., “To speak of changing the same  body would be far more likely if it was indeed the same body Jesus had when he rose from the grave.  Yet that is not the argument Paul makes” (p. 123, emphasis his).

[27] Ibid., 132.

[28] Ibid., 128-129.

[29] Ibid., 134.

[30] See Carrier, “Spiritual Body,” 136.

[31] Ibid., 137.

[32] Ibid., 153.

[33] This phenomenon is sometimes described as entering “into another body” as Josephus put it, eis heteron sōma.  What seems to be the case, at least in the Pauline sense, is that the spirit body “enters into incorruptibility,” i.e. it leaves the habitation of the corruptibility of the physical body and is now a spirit body free of the mortal clothing that once bound it.

[34] By invoking the near-death experience in order to explain a part of Paul’s lingo for resurrection, I am not mixing up what I had earlier clearly distinguished: resuscitation and resurrection.  Resuscitation has to do with physical bodies whereas resurrection has to do with spirit bodies.  Whereas near-death experiencers are resuscitated, their experience of leaving behind the physical body that has, for a time, died, is nevertheless the same phenomenon that occurs when permanent physical death occurs: the spirit body exits the physical body, never to return to it again.  Near-death experiences are, in fact, out-of-body experiences with the added dimension of a “forced” exit from the body due to death unlike out-of-body experiences that are accomplished through meditation or altered states of consciousness by an otherwise healthy person (see 2 Cor 12:1-4).

[35] For instance, Carrier (“Spiritual Body”) believes that Luke and Paul do not agree whatsoever on the nature of the resurrection body: “Though Paul would certainly agree that a spirit does not have flesh and bones, since those are of the dust of the earth, and thus perishable, he could not possibly have believed that the risen Jesus was composed of flesh and bones.  For Paul says such things are perishable, and they cannot enter heaven, so they cannot have any place in the resurrection.  And he clearly says, contrary to Luke, that the risen Christ is a spirit.  Nor can Christ’s resurrection-body have had blemishes like wounds, since that contradicts Paul’s teaching that the raised body is glorious, indestructible, and not made of flesh. . . . We can therefore reject all the Gospel material emphasizing the physicality of Christ’s resurrection as a polemical invention” (p. 135, emphasis his).

[36] See the Editors, “Carlos Mirabelli, das neue brasilianische Medium,” Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie 2 (1927): 449-462.  Accessed: http://dl.ub.uni-freiburg.de/diglit/zs_para_ga.  For a more recent treatment of Mirabelli see Guy Lion Playfair, The Flying Cow: Exploring the Psychic World of Brazil (Guildford: White Crow, 2011), 23-50.

[37] Editors, “Carlos Mirabelli,” 458 (translation mine).

[38] Ibid., 459-460 (translation mine).

[39] See F. W. Pawlowski, “The Mediumship of Franek Kluski of Warsaw,” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 19.9 (1925): 481-504.

[40] See Ibid., 488-498.  Pictures of these molds can be seen in ibid., 489-496.

[41] Editors, “Carlos Mirabelli,” 461.

[42] Gambier Bolton, Ghosts in Solid Form: An Experimental Investigation of Certain Little-Known Phenomena (Materializations) (London: William Rider & Son, 1916; 3rd ed., 1919), 31 (emphasis mine).

[43] Recall that Jesus was not always recognized during his post-resurrection appearances.  We see in both early and later appearances of the post-resurrection pre-ascension Jesus that the scars and wounds no longer appear on his body.  Once spirits are recognized, then, on some occasions they will appear later in a healthier form if they initially appeared sickly or aged in order to be recognized.  See Bolton (ibid.), “One who left the earth as an infant will appear in his materialized body as an infant, although he may have been dead for twenty or thirty years.  The aged man or woman will appear with bend body, wrinkled face, and snow-white hair, walking amongst us with difficulty, and just as they allege they did before their death, although that may have occurred twenty years before.  The one who had lost a limb during his earth-life will return minus that limb; the one who was disfigured by accident or disease will return bearing distinct traces of that disfigurement, for the purpose of identification only.  But as soon as the identification has been established successfully, all this changes instantly: the disfigurement disappears: the four limbs will be seen, and both the infant and the aged will from henceforth show themselves to us in the very prime of life—the young growing upwards and the aged downwards, as we say, and, as they one and all state emphatically, just as the really look and feel in the sphere in which they now exist” (p. 31-32).

[44] Note, too, that Paul speaks of the resurrection body in similar ways: “There are both heavenly (celestial) bodies and earthly (terrestrial) bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another.  The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another.  For star differs from star in brightness.  So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:40-42).  On the resurrection body as a celestial body like stars, see Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of Stars: A History of an Idea (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991, repr. 2001), 150-164.

[45] Allison (Resurrecting Jesus) rehearses several hypotheses to explain Jesus’ empty tomb and resurrection appearances.  One hypothesis is the disintegration of Jesus’ physical body while in the tomb: “The body remained where Joseph of Arimathea laid it, but its disintegration was so rapid that, when the tomb was entered shortly after Jesus’ interment, it appeared that its occupant had vanished” (p. 212).  Allison dismisses this hypothesis as “hocus-pocus” and regards it as a thesis “of ingenuity over good sense” (ibid.).  Allison (ibid, 213 n. 59) quotes others who support such a thesis, but none of them explain the disintegration of Jesus’ body with the purpose of materializing his spirit body, which the two-body theory helps explain. 

[46] Separation from God is the real “death.”  This is the death that humans should fear more so than physical death, as Augustine once said: “The death which men fear is the separation of the soul from the body. The true death, which men do not fear, is the separation of the soul from God” (ANF 6.440, n. 3). We also see the separation of spirit and physical body in James 2:26, “the body without the spirit is [physically] dead.”