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Part 2: Does spiritual body mean immaterial body? 1 Corinthians 15:44

Atheists and Jehovah’s Witnesses have used verse 15:44 to argue against a bodily resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”  Paul altered his wording slightly from verses 42 and 43.  Instead of saying “sown in” and “raised in” he used the words “sown (as) a natural body” and “raised (as) a spiritual body.”  In the Greek we read these phrases as sown soma psychikon and raised soma pneumatikon.  In both English and Greek the word “as” is assumed but not stated.  The word soma in each case means body.

What do these two phrases mean?  Our problems begin when we apply our western philosophical minds and try to interpret in English what is meant by natural (psychikon) and spiritual (pneumatikon).  What specifically is the contrast?  First Paul is not setting into opposition the physical versus an immaterial body.  The two adjectives are not what something is composed of, but what it is animated by.  Both our earthly and future heavenly bodies are animated by the spirit.  The word natural (psychikon) means natural, of the soul or mind[1].  A natural body is a spirit filled earthly body.  If Paul had wanted to communicate physical versus immaterial he would have used different Greek words.

Some objectors are trying to say pneumatikos means immaterial.  The following are physical examples of the Greek word pneumatikos.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4a “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual [pneumatikos] food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual[pneumatikos] drink…”  Food and drink are both physical objects.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual[pneumatikos], restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  A person is a physical being and the word spiritual again does not refer to immaterial.

Ephesians 5:19 “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual [pneumatikos] songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  Songs are song verbally (by physical means) and spiritual does not refer to immaterial.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual [pneumatikos] appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”  Spiritual is in opposition to natural, and thus refers to the inner capacity of the redeemed to grasp God’s truth[2].  He who is spiritual is a follower of Christ and understands things the natural or unbelieving man cannot.  Spiritual again refers to a physical person.

Each of the above examples the word spiritual [pneumatikos] is primarily used as an adjective [1 Cor. 2:15 is a noun] referring to a physical person or object.  Paul used two different Greek words in 1 Cor. 15:44 to help us realize the difference between our present earthly bodies and our future resurrected bodies.  The physical bodies will be changed but the same spirit will animate both.

Concerning verse 15:44 Pastor John MacArthur writes this:

The new body of the believer; however, will be raised a spiritual body. Our spirits now reside in earthly bodies, but one day they will reside in spiritual bodies. In every way we then will be spiritual beings. In both spirit and body we will be perfectly suited for heavenly living[3].

Go to part 3 here



[1] New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

[2] MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians.

[3] Ibid p. 437

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