Tell a conservative Christian that the “Jesus” that allegedly appeared to his disciples in the Gospels after his crucifixion was just a ghost, and they will respond, “No way. Ghosts don’t eat broiled fish and ghosts can’t be touched. The authors of the Gospels of Luke and John tell us that Jesus ate broiled fish and Jesus let the disciples touch him to prove that he was not a ghost.”
Well, maybe it’s true that 21st century ghosts can’t eat broiled fish or be touched but according to scholar Gregory Riley, everyone and his brother in the Roman Empire knew that first century ghosts not only could eat broiled fish but could drink wine, play board games, and even have intercourse!
Riley: “The dead were in the main conceived of as were the living: resting and waking, conversing with both the living and other dead, eating and drinking, and carrying on postmortem much as they had in life. Game boards, for example, were a common offering in tombs, along with dice. The dead were even able to engage in sex apparently, both among themselves and with the living.” pp. 53-54
“Thus the dead could, on occasion and when necessary, physically touch for good or ill, and be touched by, the living.” p. 55
“The souls of the dead could certainly interact with the living and with each other, in ways exactly analogous to normal life. Instances abound in which the dead were touched and touched others.” [an example is then given of an extensive account by the writer Lucian] p. 58
“[Therefore] Jesus [as a ghost] could have been touched, if he so chose; Astrabacus and many other heroes had been.” p. 58
Celsus [a skeptic] in the second century said this about a physical resurrection: “It is not possible that Jesus rose with his body. This is simply the hope of worms. For what sort of human soul would still desire a body that has rotted?” In [Celsus’] opinion, the reports of physical resurrection [in the Gospels] could not be true; they had to be either hysteria, dreams, hallucinations, or lies.