Was the Resurrection Physical?
Over these many centuries since the time of Jesus of Nazareth, many ideas have been offered to attempt to explain certain things about Him and about God in general. Many of them have been denounced as heresies throughout this time. However, now and again, these same ideas that were written off as unbiblical or heretical crop back up in different ways.
One such heresy is based on the gnostic offshoot called “docetism.” Docetism is from the Greek root “dokein” which means “to seem.” The idea here is that Jesus only seemed to be human. A further refined heresy, based on this idea, has to do specifically with the resurrection. Some, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe that Jesus’ resurrection was not physical but was rather a spiritual resurrection.
In order to back this up, they refer to the fact that Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room when the door was locked. How did he get in? He must not be a physical being if He could pass through locked doors, right? It seems pretty clear that He did not have a physical body if He was able to pass through solid objects.
I guess the issue I have with this…how is it that one can argue that the God of the universe, who created all that exists ex nihilo (out of nothing), breathed the breath of life into the first human beings, cured the blind, raised the dead and was Himself resurrected from the dead would have difficulty entering into a locked room without coming through the door.
This is almost as absurd as the argument that gets used about the fact that Jesus appeared wearing a robe, but did not have any such robe in the tomb but only had the linens in which He was wrapped…and those were still in the tomb. So, this same God who created everything couldn’t figure out how to come up with a robe, it seems.
If there is any doubt about whether or not Jesus’ resurrection was physical according to the Bible, one need go no further than 1 John. While the Gospel of John focused primarily on Christ’s deity, John’s first epistle focuses more on the humanity of Jesus. He shows us that not only was Jesus truly human, but that he was quite clear about the fact that He was bodily resurrected.
This follows with Jewish belief as there was no other type of resurrection apart from physical. They had no concept of a spirit-only resurrection. That tends to be more of a gnostic idea based on Greek thought. The gnostic thinking held that spirit was good and matter was bad. That type of thinking bled into the Christian church late in the first century and was the root cause of the types of heresies I’ve already mentioned…not to mention several others.
Do you have doubts about Jesus’ physical resurrection? Do you believe it was spirit only? Why or why not?
Grace, love and peace.