Bart Ehrman Answers my Question regarding Paul’s Views on Resurrection

From Bart Ehrman’s bloghere

Gary:  “I just finished reading scholar Gregory Riley’s Resurrection Reconsidered. He presents the position that people in the Greco-Roman world had a very different perception about spirits (ghosts) than we do today. Riley states that people living in the first century Roman Empire believed that dead people frequently came back to visit the living, appearing in “bodies” that looked exactly like their former fleshly bodies, and having the same capabilities of their former fleshly bodies: capable of eating food, drinking wine, and even engaging in sex…even sex with the living! The ONLY difference between a spirit body and a fleshly body was that USUALLY a spirit body was impalpable (could not be touched). Riley believes that Paul would have been shocked to hear about an empty tomb as he would have believed that Jesus’ fleshly body would OF COURSE still be in his grave! To Paul, Jesus had been resurrected as a spiritual body. His fleshly body remained in his grave. You seem to believe that Paul believed that the fleshly body of Jesus left the grave entirely and was transformed into an immortal body.”

Excerpts from Ehrman’s reply:

…I pretty much agree with his  [Riley’s] understanding of most of the Greek materials (where he puts his greatest focus).  But I think he is completely wrong about Paul.  

…Paul understood that at the end of the age (which for him was coming very soon), Jesus would return and his followers would be transformed in the body so that they could live eternally in deified bodies.  Their bodies would be glorified, made immortal, made imperishable.  This glorified body will be what believers will live in forever.  NOTE: it is not that their old bodies are discarded and done away with.  They are glorified, made immortal.

If that’s what the believers’ resurrection will be like, and if it is a “resurrection like his” (i.e., like Jesus’), then his resurrection was not the abandonment of the body but its glorification.  The body of Jesus came out of the tome made glorious and immortal.   Paul would not have been shocked to find Jesus’ tomb empty. 


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