The body that God created for man was made up of the elements taken from the earth and the atmosphere. It was not a spiritual body, and it cannot be spiritualized so as to become invisible and able to inhabit the spirit realm. It was a physical body, separate and distinct from a spiritual body such as the heavenly “sons of God” possess. Just as a Bible commentator of the first century C.E. said: “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” The two kinds of bodies must not be confused, and the Bible does not confuse them.—1 Corinthians 15:44. (God’s “Eternal Purpose” Now Triumphing For Man’s Good [New York: Watchtower Society, 1974], page 39)
The Watchtower Society teaches the “spiritual body” Christians are given upon resurrection is same as the bodies the “heavenly ‘sons of God’ possess,” that is, the same as angels have. In support of this view they cite the Apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:44. A close examination of this verse (and following verses) is in order.
PHILOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF THE –IKOS SUFFIX
Looking at 1 Corinthians 15:44 Paul uses the adjectives pneumatikon and psychikon both ending in the suffix –ikos (-ikon due to inflection) to describe the two respective bodies Christians have and will have. According to several grammars this suffix means to “denote relation, many others fitness or ability.” (Smyth, Greek Grammar, chapter 858)
Similarly Moulton notes that the suffix meant “pertaining to” and “with the characteristics of.” In fact, he draws a very strong distinction between the endings –inos and –ikos. The former means “made of” whereas the latter means “-like.” Quoting Alfred Plummer he states –inos refers to “material relation” whereas –ikos refers to an “ethical” or “moral” relation. (A Grammar of New Testament Greek: Volume 2: Accidence and Word Formation, page 378)
Emphasizing the strong distinction between suffixes is A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDF) at section 113.2 where it differentiates between sarkikos and sarkinos. The former referring to ‘pertaining to the flesh’ whereas the latter referring to ‘consisting of flesh,’ materiality.
N. T. Wright notes, “the Greek forms ending in -nos refer to the material of which something is composed, while the forms ending in -kos are either ethical or functional, and refer to the sphere within which it belongs or the power which animates it.” (Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003], page 283)
Thus according to Greek lexicographers the suffix –ikos denotes “relation,” “pertaining to,” “with the characteristics of,” and “ethical and moral relation,” not materiality or composition.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:44
Paul makes two points in 1 Corinthians 15:44: (1) If there is a sōma psychikon there is also (2) a sōma pneumatikon. In order to properly understand this verse a close look is required of each term.
SOMA: PHYSICAL BODY
In Robert Gundry’s scholarly work Sōma in Biblical Theology with Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975, 2005) he demonstrates quite conclusively through a comprehensive analysis of Paul’s use of soma that it “in and of itself implies materiality” when used of persons. (166)
Indeed, there is not one exception in 1 Corinthians (or in the Pauline corpus) demonstrating otherwise. When used literally it refers to physical bodies and when used figuratively in Paul in the expression “body of Christ,” it refers to the social group of (physical human) believers. In either instance soma retains its normal primitive meaning.
With respect to Gundry’s proposal that “spiritual body” refers to “a physical body renovated by the Spirit of Christ,” Stafford mounts no counterargument. Instead he insists that Gundry’s view is “based in large part on the assumption that soma always denotes materiality.” Yet, it is not an “assumption” but based on a systematic analysis of the data.
In fact, it seems Stafford admits at least a portion of Gundry’s thesis when he writes “it is true soma often refers to a physical body…because the majority of persons referenced in the Bible are physical, human persons!” (JWD3, 438)
The concession that soma “often refers to a physical body” need not be overlooked. Stafford’s burden (and by extension Jehovah’s Witnesses’) is to show that soma can be used to refer to an immaterial body in the biblical material. No such proof has been provided.
In an effort to show exceptions to Gundry’s study, Stafford appeals to J. A. Ziesler’s article Soma in the Septuagint wherein he argues, based on the LXX, that soma can have a more than physical meaning and thus, by extension, in Paul as well. Having accepted his thesis, Stafford goes on to say “there is, in fact, no basis upon which to conclude that ‘body’ always denotes a material body.” (JWD3, 439)
These claims made by Ziesler and Stafford need to be taken seriously and examined critically. What is Ziesler really arguing in the aforementioned article and how does it relate to Stafford’s claim that there is “no basis” for viewing soma as strictly physical? Let’s first begin by citing Ziesler’s conclusion in full:
In the Septuagint, soma overwhelmingly means the (usually human) physical body, alive or dead. Leaving aside the ‘slave’ instances, we started with 11 possibles, but have tentatively eliminated 3, namely Prov. 25:20; Bel 32; 2 Macc.12:26. In one instance (Prov. 11:1 7) we found good reason to give soma the meaning ‘person’. In 7 instances (Gen. 47: 12; 1 Chron.28:1; 1 Esdr. 3:4, 4; Tob. 11:15; Tob. 13:7 B; Sir. 51:2; Job 33:17) we found that though the physical aspect was evident, it was the medium through which the person as a whole was viewed. Thus with one probable exception, soma may not strictly mean person, but is used to indicate the person. (“Soma in the Septuagint,” NovT27 (1983), page 144)
Out of 136 references to soma in the LXX, Ziesler is only able to conjure up 11 possible exceptions to Gundry’s thesis, which even he admits are “very few in number.” Immediately, he “eliminated 3” more, leaving only 8. After reviewing the remaining 8, he concludes 7 are found to have an evident “physical aspect,” thus leaving only 1 possible exception to Gundry’s thesis, namely, Proverbs 11:17.
With respect to Ziesler’s analysis of Proverbs 11:17, the lone “exception” to Gundry’s study, Xavier Paul B. Viagulamuthu states that soma can be understood in this passage without a holistic meaning. Indeed, according to Viagulamuthu:
The soma here [Proverbs 11:17, LXX] is a figure of speech. Ziesler underestimates the role of a figure of speech in his work and maintains that the figure of speech can actually take away the distinction between the figure and the figured. But that is not true. The essence of a figure of speech is that it is a “deviation in the use of words from the literal sense or from simple and common practices.” A figure of speech is never synonymous. (Offering Our Bodies as a Living Sacrifice to God: A Study in Pauline Spirituality Based on Romans 12:1 [Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2002], page 121.)
Consequently, there is no good reason to be persuaded by Ziesler’s arguments nor can one claim he provides clear exceptions to Gundry’s thesis. He doesn’t. From over 100 references he could find but one “exception,” which upon further consideration is not an exception at all.
Yet, even if one would continue to find Ziesler persuasive, he cannot be used in support of Stafford’s position. According to Ziesler, “in the LXX soma does indeed usually mean the physical body, but it can refer to the whole person without any special emphasis on the physical, though the latter is never excluded.” (Paul’s Letter to the Romans [London: SMC Press, 1989], page 160.)
Ziesler’s view, then, is that soma can denote the “whole person” not that it can denote something other than physical. As the quotation above shows, physicality is “never excluded” from soma, yet Stafford and Jehovah’s Witnesses need to prove that it is. Consequently, Ziesler does not support the Watchtower’s position nor is Ziesler’s holistic contention even correct based upon a further examination of his article.
Indeed, unless anyone can produce evidence countering Gundry’s thesis, we have no reason to suppose “body” can denote anything other than physical, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
PSYCHIKON: NATURAL, WEAK, PERISHABLE, OF THIS AGE
The BDAG provides the following lexical gloss, “lit. pert. to the life of the natural world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to the realm of experience whose central characteristic is πνεῦμα, natural, unspiritual, worldly.”
Thus accordingly, psychikon may be translated as “natural” or “worldly.” None of these words in English adequately conveys the etymological connection it has to its nominal cognate psyche, which means “soul” or “being.” Nonetheless the emphasis is on ‘natural life’ or ‘natural existence.’ Paul elsewhere uses this word as such.
In the ever important text of 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul states that a psychikos de anthrōpos (= “a worldly human being”) “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” Accordingly, someone or something who is or that is psychikos is deprived of the “spirit” and cannot understand spiritual things. Contrastingly, the ho de pneumatikos (= “spiritual person”) can and is given the spirit. The contrast cannot be in the material upon which they are made since Paul is comparing human beings.
What, then, about the phrase sōma psychikon? Three points must be made:
- After citing the lexical meaning of psychikon, examining the suffix –ikos, and looking at its etymological cognate psyche, we are now in a position to evaluate the meaning of the phrase sōma psychikon. The expression refers to a body which is ‘concerned,’ ‘belongs to,’ and is ‘characteristic’ of the psyche. So what is meant by psyche? Given that Adam is said to have become a psyche in verse 45, it must be understood in light of Paul’s Septuagintal pesher of Genesis 2:7. Psyche systematically translates the Hebrew nephesh in the Pentateuch and is a noun derived from the verb psychō, meaning “to breath.” Accordingly, psyche refers to a living being that “breathes” but which is also natural and susceptible to the laws of nature. It grows and it dies. Thus the sōma psychikon is a body that breathes, grows, and dies. It is natural. Yes, it is physical but this is by virtue of it being a soma not psychikon.
- Had Paul wanted to teach that the resurrection body would not be physical he would have used a word other than psychikon and certainly a different suffix since it conveys a relation not a component. To quote J. A. Schep “If Paul wanted to…say that this present body is a flesh-body in distinction from the resurrection-body as a spirit-body, the apostle would have used his favorite words ‘carnal,’ ‘fleshly,’ or ‘fleshy’ (sarkikon or sarkinon)…Paul…wanted to prevent the Corinthians from thinking that there is no resurrection hope for this present body of flesh.” (The Nature of the Resurrection Body [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964], page 200)
- Since soma already means “physical body,” it would be superfluous for Paul to then use psychikon to mean the same thing, in essence writing “physical physical body.” No, instead he uses the adjective psychikon to refer to the state of being of the current body, which in verses prior he describes as “weak,” (Gr. astheneia) ‘corrupt,’ (Gr. phthora) and ‘dishonored.’ (Gr. atimia) None of these qualities speak of composition but they all find their summation in the adjective, psychikon.
PNEUMATIKON: SPIRITUAL AS STATE OF BEING
This term means “spiritual.” It accurately captures its exact meaning and makes the etymological connection with “spirit,” its nominal cognate. Paul uses pneumatikos in two different ways: (1) as a substantive or (2) as an attributive adjective.
In 1 Corinthians 2:15 Paul talks about the ho pneumatikos, a reference to the spiritual person. 1 Corinthians 14:1 uses pneumatika in reference to spiritual gifts. In each case the substantivized use doesn’t focus upon immaterial composition but to things given by the spirit or motivated by the spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:3-4 provides an attributive use of the adjective which more closely resembles 1 Corinthians 15:44. There we have references to “spiritual food,” “spiritual drink,” and a “spiritual rock.” The reference is to Israel’s miraculous meals in the desert. The point being stressed here is that these elements have a supernatural source, not that they are immaterial. Certainly the manna was real, not immaterial bread!
From the uses of pneumatikos in the New Testament, when it is used attributively modifying a noun, it is the noun that determines whether the reference is physical or not. The adjective doesn’t refer to composition as the –ikos suffix makes clear. It refers to something “relating,” “pertaining,” or “characteristic” of the spirit. In the attributive uses, such relation is clearly of source and state/quality of being.
What about the phrase soma pneumatikon? It refers to a body that ‘pertains to,’ ‘concerns,’ and is ‘characteristic’ of the spirit, not made of spirit. Since “spirit” is never used in Paul’s writings to denote a substance as such, the point being stressed is the attributive qualities that the holy spirit will give to our resurrected bodies.
Gordon Fee is quite right when he notes concerning the adjectives that “they describe the one body in terms of its essential characteristics as earthly, on the one hand, and therefore belonging to the life of the present age, and as heavenly, on the other, and therefore belonging to the life of the Spirit in the age to come. It is ‘spiritual,’ not in the sense of ‘immaterial’ but of ‘supernatural.’… The transformed body, therefore, is not composed of ‘spirit’; it is a body adapted to the eschatological existence that is under the ultimate domination of the Spirit.” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 187], page 786)
FINAL CONSIDERATIONS ON 1 CORINTHIANS 15:44
We have now considered four arguments that speak against the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses: we considered the adjectival suffix –ikos that never speaks of composition; when pneumatikos is used attributively with a noun in the New Testament, it is the noun that dictates the nature of the subject; we have seen how Paul elsewhere uses pneumatikos; and we have seen that soma always denotes materiality. But apart from these arguments what is the general consensus in NT scholarship?
Anthony Thistleton. Thistleton observes that pneumatikos when used “in its regular Pauline sense [means] that which pertains to the Holy Spirit of God.” He goes on, “Paul is speaking in v. 44 of a mode and pattern of intersubjective life directed by the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, he finds “even less convincing…the theory that soma pneumatikon means simply a nonphysical ‘body.’” His reasons are threefold: (1) quoting Fee he notes that the ‘transformed body is not composed of ‘spirit,’ just as the current body is not composed of ‘soul’; (2) human beings cannot be “less” than physical when in fact “the totality of the mode of life of the resurrection existence in the Holy Spirit is more than physical but not less”; (3) 1 Corinthians 3:1 “provides an admirable starting point for confirmation of” the meaning of pneumatikos.
Continuing along the lines of point (2), Thiselton adds “the character of Christ’s own raised body in later traditions of the canonical Gospels as ‘more’ but not ‘less’ than an earthly physical body. In these resurrection traditions Jesus Christ was not always immediately “recognized” (John 20:14, 15; 21:12; Luke 24:13–20) but his personal identity was recognized in terms of sociophysical gestures and characteristics (Luke 24:31; John 20:16, 20, 27–28; action, voice, hands, side).” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text [Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], pages 1275-1277) (More on Jesus’ appearances below)
Plummer and Robertson. According to Plummer and Robertson “ψυχικόν does not mean that the body is made of ψυχή, consists entirely of ψυχή: and πνευματικόν does not mean is made and consists entirely of πνεῦμα. The adjectives mean ‘congenital with,’ ‘formed to be the organ of.’ (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians [New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1911], page 372)
Mike Licona. Licona aptly points out that we have “a third-person singular verb” in 1 Corinthians 15:44 with “natural body” and “spiritual body” functioning as “predicate nominatives.” As such “the implied subject of the verb ‘sown’ is ‘it.’” Thus in the expression “it is sown…it is raise” most clearly refers to the body. “This is confirmed by Paul’s use of touto in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.” Indeed, “this perishable” and “this mortal” must necessarily be the body and it is “this” which is “sown” and “it” is “this” which is “raised.” (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach [Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010], page 404-406)
According to Licona’s research, there are 846 occurrences of psychikon in Greek literature dating from 700 BCE to 300 CE. After examining each one he concludes: “I failed to find a single reference where psychikon possessed a meaning of ‘physical’ or ‘material.’” As for pneumatikon there are 1131 occurrences during the same time period. The word differed in meaning in Greek philosophers but had a wide range of usages. However, of note is that the expression “spiritual body” occurs in at least 5 authors during this time period. In each case “none of these [references] seem to be referring to ethereal bodies.”
In summary and after combing through 11 centuries of Greek literature, Licona finds that pneumatikon can refer to something ethereal but also finds a wide range of other meanings; psychikon never means “physical” or “material”; occurrences of “spiritual body” doesn’t mean “immaterial body.” (408)
After noting Paul’s uses of the same terms in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, Licona notes that “it is clear that Paul is not contrasting material and immaterial objects, since for him humans can be natural or spiritual. In other words, when employing the terms ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’ Paul is not referring to the substance of the old and new bodies but rather their mode of existence.”
He continues, “later on in 1 Corinthians 15:44, when Paul employs these same terms, he is saying that our current body is buried with all of its ‘natural’ or ‘this-wordly’ appetites and weaknesses but is raised and transformed into a new body with spiritual appetites and qualities.” (410)
Finally, Licona notes the significance of 1 Corinthians 9:11. Since the apostles were providing spiritual things (“pneumatika”) were they then not entitled to material things (“sarkika”)? Clearly, when Paul wants to contrast nonmaterial with material, he shows awareness for the vocabulary fitting the occasion. It is thus striking and noteworthy that he chose not to use a word which would otherwise demonstrate a material vs nonmaterial body in 1 Corinthians 15:44. (414)
J. A. Schep. “The four contrasting characteristics of both bodies have nothing to do with a difference in substance, as appears also from the fact that Paul uses the expressions ‘sown in…,” “raised in…,” followed by nouns that state conditions of the bodies concerned, not the ‘material’ they consist of.” (Resurrection, 200)
Schep continued that “psychikon must be understood in the light of the preceding statement that Adam became a living soul. Psychikon therefore denotes Adam’s life as he received it at creation and it is reproduced by natural procreation and birth.” (175)
Gordon Fee. “[T]hey describe the one body in terms of its essential characteristics as earthly, on the one hand, and therefore belonging to the life of the present age, and as heavenly, on the other, and therefore belonging to the life of the Spirit in the age to come. It is ‘spiritual,’ not in the sense of ‘immaterial’ but of ‘supernatural.’ (First Corinthians, 786)
1 CORINTHIANS 15:45
Although the majority of occurrences of 1 Corinthians 15:45 in Watchtower literature deal with Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, they nonetheless use it to support the notion that Christ is now an immaterial ‘spirit’ being:
A limited number of men and women will be resurrected to life in heaven. As kings and priests with Jesus, they will share in undoing all the effects of death that mankind inherited from the first man, Adam. (Romans 5:12; Revelation 5:9, 10) How many will God take to heaven to rule with Christ? According to the Bible, only 144,000. (Revelation 7:4; 14:1) Jehovah will give each of these resurrected ones a spirit body so that they can live in heaven.—1 Corinthians 15:35, 38, 42-45; 1 Peter 3:18. (Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life [New York: Watchtower Society, 1995, 2006 reprint], page 88.)
Although the Society expresses their view about 1 Corinthians 15:45, they provide no exegesis to buttress their point. Instead we are expected to accept such teaching at face value. But what did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 15:45?
In order to appreciate the text and context, we have to situate it within its proper intent. The purpose of Paul’s citation of Genesis 2:7 in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is to “demonstrate from Scripture the reality of v. 44, that just as there is a psychikos body, so there is a pneumatikos body.” (Fee, 787) Indeed, Paul’s primary intent is to show that the natural body is first, then the spiritual body. This point is so important to Paul that he reiterates it four times: in verses 44, 45, 46, and 47. This carries with it the initial consequence that Paul is not interested in composition but in proving the existence of a future resurrection, which some Corinthians denied. (1 Cor 15:12)
In order to properly exegete the text we first have to figure out what is going on with Paul’s quotation of Genesis 2:7. Thus we begin with 1 Corinthians 15:45a.
Genesis 2:7 (LXX). Paul quotes the Septuagintal translation of Genesis 2:7, but doesn’t quote it in full or verbatim. In fact, he adds two words: “first” and “Adam.” Such interpretative citation is often called a midrashaic pesher. (see Fee, 788; cf Brodeur The Holy Spirit’s Agency in the Resurrection of the Dead: An Exegetico-Theological Study of 1 Corinthians 15,44b-49 and Romans 8,9-13 [Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2004], page 104)
As for why Paul would add these two words to the citation we can agree with Brodeur that “it would seem that by means of the adjective ‘first,’ the Apostle carefully sets the stage for the Adam-Christ typology that follows.” He continues, “in his pesher, the antithesis now becomes typology: Paul concentrates on the two different types of human beings as embodied by their representatives, Adam and Christ.” (105)
Indeed, Paul goes on to contrast these two representatives in opposite pairings. While both of them are “Adam(s),” one is “first,” the other “last.” One is psyche, the other pneuma. One is “living,” the other is “life-giving.” According to Brodeur, Paul purposefully and intentionally chose all these adjectives and participles to “place the emphasis on the second line” of the pairings. “Through his midrash pesher, the Apostle changed the text of Genesis 2:7 in v. 45a so that it would resemble what he really wanted to write in v. 45b. The nouns psyche and pnuema refer back to their cognate adjectives in v. 44, psychikon and pneumatikon.” (106)
In agreement with Fee’s insight that Paul uses Genesis 2:7 to argue for the existence of a future resurrection, Brodeur notes that “through his own exegesis of the Pentateuch, [Paul] demonstrates the cardinal doctrine of the gospel that he preaches: the resurrection body truly does exist.”
Thus the purpose of the quotation is clear: firs the natural, then the spiritual. He is not contrasting materiality vs immateriality as we will see.
Adam as psyche. Psyche designates “life,” “being,” “person,” “mind,” and “inner man” according to several lexical authorities. (cf BDAG) In Paul’s quotation it seems “being” best translates the meaning into English: Adam became a “living being” in his pre-fallen state. Adam was once mere inanimate dust but through God’s creative act he came to be animated, alive. But to call anyone psyche, even Adam in his pre-fallen state, is to necessarily allude to the communion which all of Adam’s descendants now partake in: mortality. Psyche is simply an animated earthly life which can be lost in death.
After considering the fact that Paul’s intent is to prove a future resurrection, the comparison with Christ as a “spirit” must mean that Adam never achieved or reached the stage which God had planned for him. This is implied by the sequence: first the natural, then the spiritual. If Adam began as natural, he would have progressed to spiritual.
Witnesses rightly teach that had Adam not sinned he would have lived forever. However, this stops too short. In Genesis we have the Tree of Life, which, we assume, Adam would have had access to had he not sinned. Along these lines G. K. Beale remarks, “there are indications in Gen. 1-3 that if Adam had been faithful and obedient, he would have experienced even greater blessings than he had before his sin.” (A New Testament Biblical Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011], page 33-34) These “greater blessings” no doubt are what Jesus is now currently enjoying. So through Paul’s quotation of Genesis 2:7 he is essentially pointing to the fact that humans reach their eschatological fulfillment in the resurrection. First the natural, then the spiritual.
Even Adam in his pre-fall state couldn’t inherit the kingdom of God as he was (1 Corinthians 15:50). Something needed to happen to his body to make him fully prepared. The “mortal” does not inherit the “immortal.” So as Beale acknowledges, “even if Adam had never sinned, his prefall existence still needed to be transformed to some climatic point into an irreversible glorious existence, which Paul identifies as resurrection existence.” (45)
J. A. Schep concurs with Beale by stating “the contrast between ‘soul’ and ‘spirit,’ characterizing respectively Adam and Christ, indicates that Adam, though not without the Spirit of God, had not yet reached the stage to which God wanted him to come and to which Christ brings those that are his.” (174)
“The Last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” At this juncture in the text it becomes clear there is a contrast between psyche and pneuma. Fee rightly recognizes that “the two words that describe Adam and Christ respectively are the cognate nouns for the adjectives psychikos and pneumatikos in v. 44.” Indeed this simple fact provides a “clear linguistic connection that the original bearers of the two kinds of bodies mentioned in v. 44 are Adam and Christ.” (788)
In other words, Adam at his creation, at his becoming psyche, received a soma psychikon. Christ at his resurrection, at his becoming pneuma, received a soma pneumatikon. First the natural, then the spiritual.
Two questions need to be asked with respect to 15:45. When did Jesus become the “last Adam” and what does it mean for him to have become a “life-giving spirit”?
Since the reference to Jesus as the “last Adam” alludes to his becoming the adoptive Father of the new human race, the new humanity, it must refer to his becoming “Adam” in the resurrection, for he was not “Father” during his lifetime. He was not “life-giving” or progenitor until being resurrected.
Consequently, it is as the “last Adam” that he is also functioning as the “life-giving spirit.” In other words, the text is not saying the human Jesus became an ontological spirit in the resurrection. Rather, becoming the Last Adam in the resurrection, he functions as a life-giving spirit.
Some make the mistaken of taking “the Last Adam” as a reference to Jesus’ earthly course instead of as a role he fulfills in the resurrection. This misinterpretation leads some to conclude Paul is contrasting Jesus as an ontological human (=”Last Adam”) to now having become an ontological spirit. This view is wrong. Jesus as the “Last Adam” is an eschatological role that he fulfills upon his resurrection, when he becomes the adoptive “Father” (Isaiah 9:6) of the new human race.
Further confusion stems from the Society use of this text as a proof-text for the idea that Jesus is Adam’s antithetical equivalent. In essence, Jesus is the opposite of Adam. Adam was human; Jesus is now a spirit being. Yet, this is not Paul’s point. As noted above, the point of verse 45 is to prove to the Corinthians that there is indeed a future resurrection. The contrast of Adam and Christ in verse 45 is not ontological but sequential (as verses 44, 45, 46, and 47 prove). First the natural, then the spiritual.
As Beale notes, “the point is not that he becomes ontologically transformed into a purely ‘spirit being’; rather, in his physically resurrected condition, which certainly is transformed in comparison to preresurrection bodies, he becomes functionally identified with the Spirit, who raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:4).” (440)
Schep decisively argues against ontology when he notes “since it is obvious that ‘soul’ does not denote the substance of Adam’s body, it follows that ‘Spirit’ cannot possibly denote the substance of Christ’s glorified body.” (174)
The fact that Jesus’ role as “spirit” is “life-giving” demands that this be viewed as “soteriological-eschatological.” (Fee, 790) It is soteriological in that it involves ‘giving life’ to those that are saved, specifically in the context of resurrection. It is eschatological in that as the spirit-filled Last Adam he becomes the “Father” of the new humanity.
On this significant point James D. G. Dunn writes concerning verse 45 that “Paul could hardly expect the well-informed reader to think of anything other than the life-giving power of God.” In other words, “the thought is not so much of last Adam as pattern of existence, as though all spiritual bodies of which Christ was the ‘firstfruits’ would be similarly ‘life-giving.’ The thought is more on the last Adam as the progenitor of a new kind of humanity—resurrected humankind.” (The Theology of the Apostle Paul [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998], page 261)
So the arguments against ontology are threefold: (1) Just as Adam is not made of psyche, so Jesus is not made of pneuma; (2) verse 45 is not talking about pattern of existence since no one resurrected will be “life giving.” Instead, as Dunn notes, the point here is of progenitor; (3) in context, verse 45 deals with sequential order not ontology: first the natural, then the spiritual.
FINAL CONSIDERATIONS ON 1 CORINTHIANS 15:45
One must recall that 1 Corinthians 15:45 is found in a unit wherein Paul argues primarily for a future resurrection which the Corinthians largely denied. So his primary purpose is apologetic. His point is that we who are ‘in Adam,’ as it were, have “natural bodies” susceptible to the laws of nature, which includes the negative qualities of mortality and perishability. These persons and bodies are characteristic of what it means to be psyche. A life that is susceptible to death. Jesus, on the other hand, is the representative for those that will have “spiritual bodies” which are characteristic of pneuma.
A person and body that is dominated by natural deficiencies can be said to be psyche. A person and body that is dominated by God’s holy spirit can be said to be pneuma. This present age is natural; the age to come is spiritual.
Verse 45 tells of sequential order in the logical argument of Paul, but also tells of two respective “Fathers” or progenitors. First Adam who gives ‘natural life,’ then the Last Adam who gives ‘spiritual life.’
1 CORINTHIANS 15:47-49
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
At this point in his argument Paul is no longer talking about “bodies” as such but of “human beings.” (Gr. anthrōpos) The first “human being” is “out of/from [the] earth.” (Gr. ek gēs) While this can be taken in terms of what someone or something is made of (cf BDAG), this is certainly wrong for its antithetical pairing “out of/from heaven” does not speak of materiality but quite clearly of origin, for how can a “human being” be made of “heaven”?
For this reason we are inclined to agree with Gundry that ek gēs does not refer to “substance as such, for its counterpart epouanios has nothing to do with substance and is defined by the phrase ex ouranou.” Similarly, choikos, meaning “dusty” or “earthy” doesn’t seem to refer to material substance, but “mortality due to earthly origin.” (Soma, 166)
Others, however, disagree. According to Stafford these terms do “speak of the composition of the body.” (JWD3, 440) The problem with this view is that Paul is not talking about “the body” but of “human beings.” (Gr. anthropos) It is difficult to see how exactly “out of heaven” and “out of earth” means one is ‘made of heaven’ or ‘made of earth.’
But with respect to the term choikos, we have seen that adjectives ending in –ikos suffix do not denote materiality but ethical and qualitative relation(s). Thus Gundry’s qualitative understanding (quoted above) best fits the language used. Brodeur similarly remarks that “choikos means that which belongs to, concerns, or is characteristic of chous. It does not mean that which is made of dust.”
Brodeur rejects the meaning “dusty” since this “really describes something which is covered with dust rather than something that is characteristic of it.” He suggests it is best understood as “characteristic of dust,” by which he means something “temporary” which is “here right now but gone in just a moment.” As such, to call Adam choikos is to allude to his “feebleness,” “frailty,” and “mortality.” (129)
FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Jehovah’s Witnesses and others claim that according to 1 Corinthians 15:50 human beings cannot inherit the kingdom of God and must therefore be converted to spirit creatures. Let us then examine this claim.
When sarx kai haima (“flesh and blood”) are used together they never refer to that which a human being is made of. Instead, they are a pair that describes human beings, generally in their fragility and mortality. In fact, if we accept 1 Corinthians 15:50 as structured, we note the obvious parallelism Paul employs to bring about his point:
50a: flesh and blood
50a’: kingdom of God
Thus Paul is saying that corruptible “flesh and blood,” which is an obvious reference to humans in their weakness, cannot inherit the kingdom because of their present status. But through the resurrection they will become ‘incorruptible’ and hence fit for the kingdom. (cf Thiselton, 1291)
WE SHALL BE CHANGED
In order to enter the kingdom a change must occur to our bodies. According to Paul, “we shall all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51) The dead will be raised up “incorruptible.” He continues by stating “for this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.”
The use of touto is significant. Here Paul conclusively shows that it is “this” body which will be transformed or changed. It is “this” body which must “put on incorruption” and it is “this” body which must “put on immortality.”
The verb endysasthai (“to put on”) is used in the sense of how one would put on a new set of clothes or how one put on a jacket. It is done to “this” body. There can be little dispute over the antecedent to the pronoun touto. The point that incontrovertibly demonstrates this is that Paul here is talking about those who “shall not all fall asleep.” In other words, the living will have “this” body transformed and clothed in immortality. It is obvious, then, that our current physical body has a future in God’s eschatological plan.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christians who go to heaven become immortal by means of becoming spirits. Yet, Paul quite clearly demonstrates that such immortality is given by means of transforming the present physical body into a body with spiritual qualities, not by becoming immaterial.
NEW CREATION IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15
An often overlooked theme in 1 Corinthians 15 is the idea of new creation. Paul appeals to Genesis often to argue for the resurrection body. He contrasts the different types of “flesh” by listing a series of animals, many of which are mentioned in Genesis 1-2. He also mentions the ‘heavenly bodies,’ which are solar the planetary and star systems. Finally in 15:45 he appeals explicitly to Genesis 2 in regards to the formation of man. Thus, Jesus, the new Adam, is the progenitor of the new creation. (cf Revelation 3:14) So the contrast of bodies in 1 Corinthians 15 can readily be understood in a broad sense as the difference between the present/old creation and the new creation. The present age is natural; the age to come is spiritual or brought about by the spirit and power of God.
1 PETER 3:18
Another proof-text that Jehovah’s Witnesses use to show Jesus is no longer human, but now an ontological spirit being, is 1 Peter 3:18 where it reads:
Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous [person] for unrighteous ones, that he might lead YOU to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.
Witnesses reason since Jesus was put to death in his physical body, the contrast here must be of ontology. I will argue this interpretation is unnecessary.
According to the general consensus, sarki and pneumati in 1 Peter 3:18 are datives of respect or reference. (cf Ramsey J. Michaels’ World Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter) This suggests 1 Peter 3:18 should be understood as Jesus being put to death “with reference to the flesh” and made alive “with reference to the spirit.” Along these lines Michaels notes “there is growing agreement that the distinction here indicated by ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ is not between the material and immaterial parts of Christ’s person, but rather between his earthly existence and his risen state.”
Thus by Jesus being “put to death in the flesh,” this of course refers to his execution but also to his being to put to death within the realm of the flesh in its ethical and qualitative relations. His being made alive “with reference to the spirit” invokes, as Michaels notes, “his risen state,” that is, the realm within which the Spirit operates.
In summary, “if ‘flesh’ is the sphere of human limitations, of suffering, and of death (cf 4:1), ‘Spirit’ is the sphere of power, vindication, and new life.” Michaels concludes that “the statement that Christ was ‘made alive in the Spirit,’ therefore, means simply that he was raised from the dead, not as a spirit, but bodily, and in a sphere in which the Spirit and power of God are displayed without hindrance or human limitation.” (204-205)
So based on the dative of reference, it seems the focus is on the sphere of existence not ontology.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-3
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For in this dwelling house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven, so that, having really put it on, we shall not be found naked.
The “earthly house,” “tent,” “dwelling house,” and even the state of ‘nakedness’ are all terms referring to our present physical body. Paul says that if this body is to be “dissolved” we have another body, that is, another “building from God,” “a house not made with hands.”
According to the text, this new body is “in the heavens.” This need not be understood we go to heaven to put the body on, for Paul clearly states that it will come “from heaven.” That is, it comes to us.
More properly, as N. T. Wright notes in his Resurrection book, “heaven” for Paul is “the place where the divinely intended future for the world but is kept safely in store, against the day when, like new props being brought out from the wings and onto stage, it will come to birth in the renewed world, ‘on earth as in heaven’.” (368)
So heaven is not where we go when we die. This is not what Paul meant. Instead, “heaven” is the place where things are kept safe or stored only to then be revealed “from heaven” in the Eschaton. We “put on” this new building so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:4; cf 1 Corinthians 15:53)
PHILIPPIANS 3: 21
who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
According to Paul, “by the exertion of power” Jesus will transform our humble bodies into conformity with Jesus’ glorious body. First thing to note is that he is referring to the living, but presumably also setting a pattern for those that are dead.
For Paul the transformation is of our current body. Our physical body will be changed. He is not talking about a fundamental material transformation in substance, for certainly ‘humiliation’ is not a substance nor is “glory.” So obviously the contrast here is the quality of existence. As J. A. Schep notes, “after both instances of ‘body’ [Paul] adds a noun in the genitive case…the parallel in this verse implies that both genitives must have the same nature.”
This usage of the genitive is called a “genitive of quality.” The respective nouns tell of what our body is characterized by, not made of. Thus, for example, the ‘body of humiliation’ means that it belongs to the state of humiliation, presumably caused by sin.
“The genitive in the first half of Paul’s statement doubtless speaks of the condition of our present body, so must the second genitive be a genitive of quality stating the glorious condition” of Jesus’ body. (Schep, 171) Paul is not contrasting a body of flesh versus a body of glory. He is contrasting a body in a qualitative state versus a body in another qualitative state.
In addition, as we’ve seen, soma in and of itself refers to materiality. Paul is contrasting the current physical body which we all have, to Jesus’ physical resurrection body which Christians will be conformed to (literally, ‘have the same form’). It is the soma that will be changed, not replaced.
and not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
The “redemption of our body.” The New World Translation renders this expression as the “release from our bodies by ransom.” Although rare in Watchtower literature, the expression “release from our bodies” is understood to refer to the exchanging of our physical body with a spirit composed body.
Both translations are grammatically accurate. The noun apolytrōsin can be understood as “release” or “redemption.” If understood as “redemption” it refers to act of renewal expressed throughout chapter 8. Our bodies will be renewed/changed by the spirit of God. This is to be preferred. But if understood as “release” as per the BDAG, it means “release from a captive condition.”
So we are not shedding off our bodies as Witnesses claim for the so-called “anointed.” Instead, our bodies are being “released” from its current state of “pains,” “bondage to decay,” and “groanings.” It’s a release from a condition, not “from” our bodies.
However, the Watchtower Society has translated it as release “from” as oppose to release “of” our bodies. What this suggests, whether they intended it or not, is that Paul seeks to get out of the body in some dualistic sense. This is nearer to Platonism which viewed the body as something objectionable and worth losing to free the spirit or soul. This cannot be farther from Paul’s Jewishness!
Such interpretation runs counter to Paul’s entire argument. His point is that the entire creation, the entire cosmos, will be liberated from its current fallen condition. It is in this context that he states our bodies will be apolytrōsin. Hardly is it the case that we want to escape the soma!
Gundry correctly notes “this hope on the part of the whole creation can hardly consist in liberation from materiality. It is rather hope for liberation of its materiality from decay. So also the believer’s hope does not consist in liberation from the physical body, but in liberation of that body (objective genitive) from decay.”
In another text employing the same linguistic construction (apolytrōsin + article + genitive noun), the clear and obvious meaning is believers will be the redeemed possession of God. Thus “redemption of God’s own possession.” Quite clearly, we are not redeemed “from” God’s own possessions!
But if Christ is in union with YOU, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in YOU, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make YOUR mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in YOU.
Explicitly Paul states God’s spirit, which raised Christ from the dead, “will also make your mortal bodies alive.” The use of kai for “also” implies mutual inclusion. Dunn understands the conjunction as “as well.” (cf World Biblical Commentary, page 432) The significance of kai cannot be understated. What is true for x, is true for y. Thus, just as believers’ mortal bodies will be made alive, so Jesus’ mortal body was made alive. Jesus’ resurrection is the basis upon which we can be confident in the resurrection.
Some try to deny this refers to the resurrection and instead argue it refers to spiritual revivification. Our “bodies” will be made alive in a spiritual sense. The problem is that the verb zōopoiēsei is only used in contexts where the spirit gives resurrection-life. It is never used of spiritual revivification.
Since the resurrection is clearly the climatic point (“Jesus raised up from the dead”) in the passage, it must be the case, as in all the instances of the verb zōopoiēsei, that resurrection is in view. In addition, Romans 8:11 viewed together with Romans 8:23, proves conclusively that “made alive” and the redemption of our bodies refers to a real bodily resurrection in the future.
PART II CONCLUSION
We have now seen the New Testament’s teaching on the Resurrection Body. It is a new bodily experience which is suited for life in the age to come. It will be physical as evidenced by Paul’s use of soma. That Christ became a spirit is to say he now functions as the holy spirit. He raises the dead and gives life to the dead (hence, “life-giving”). God will give his followers a new embodiment suited for the new world, which isn’t merely a return to primordial conditions, but by far surpasses them.
 This number is based on an electronic search in Rahlfs’ Septuaginta: Morphologically Tagged Edition through the Libronix Digital Library System.
 Licona on page 410, footnote 454, impressively lists well over 30 sources and commentators that agree with this understanding of “natural” and “spiritual.” In additions he cites 28 English translations which support the “natural” rendering of the text.
 For a different view see Samuele Bacchiocchi’s Immortality or Resurrection?: A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny (Michigan: Biblical Perspectives, 1997, 2006), pages 185-186, where he argues that the metaphors don’t refer to bodies as such but to different “modes of existence.”