As I keep reading through the Gospels, I come across statements made by Jesus that seem to remind me of some things Paul said. I’m prompted to do my cross referencing. And as I peered into the topic of resurrection as it’s mentioned by Jesus in comparison with Paul, I found an unsettling contradiction. At least, I hoped it wasn’t at first. I gave Paul a chance. Here, I want to give a brief yet—I hope—succinct survey on what the bible says about the resurrection of the dead.
Testimony of the Prophets
Let’s first look at an amazing, well-known passage by the prophet Ezekiel.
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
What a wonderful picture we’re given here by Jehovah! The prophet Ezekiel is shown a glimpse of the resurrection, which is the hope of all those who trust in God. Very clearly, we see that the resurrection is physical. Real bodies are reassembled. Life is put back into them.
Testimony of the True Apostles
We’re now going to turn our attention to the testimony of the ones who witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection and see what they thought of it. What sort of resurrection took place; what nature did Jesus appear in?
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
In this statement, we’re told that the apostles believed the resurrection to be a bodily, physical one. It’s implied in the statement, “Neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The apostles knew that Jesus was a physical man with real flesh and blood before and after his resurrection. And no wonder when we peer into the Gospels.
Testimony of Jesus
What does Jesus teach of the resurrection? The answer can only be determined when we look at what he said. In Luke, we are given no doubts as to what the nature of resurrection is.
And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.
Jesus says, “It is I myself,” meaning he’s the same person he was before. This is said in light of their apparent shock, supposing he might’ve been an actual spirit. But he isn’t, indicated by his statement, “for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” These same men then actually sat and ate with him just as they had before. There’s no possible way Jesus was a phantasm—a spirit being. But not everyone thinks this way.
Testimony of Paul
We’re going to fell two trees with one axe swing, so please pay close attention to Paul’s words.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
In this passage, Paul calls this the Gospel (v. 1), and all appears to be well. After all, he cites a death, burial, and resurrection. We all know Jesus rose again, so many are satisfied by Paul’s statement. Paul says that the resurrected Jesus was seen by a number of people and then, last of all, himself. If you remember, this is the time Jesus allegedly appeared to him on the road to Damascus (whether in vision or not makes no difference). So Paul’s entire apostleship depends on him having somehow met/ seen the risen Jesus—this is what he says, and this is what many others affirm. The problem is that later in this chapter, Paul explains exactly what kind of resurrection he believes in.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.(Emphasis added)
For Paul, the resurrection is very clearly a spiritual one. The old “natural” body is replaced by a “spiritual” one. Jesus’ mortal, corruptible body was turned into a “spiritual” one. Paul’s Jesus seems to be more of a spirit than a person. He’s a phantasm. Keep in mind the prophecy:
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
The only “spirit” mentioned here is the one the LORD uses to revive the dead. This is parallel with the creation of Adam, where we find that God formed man of the dust of the earth, breathed in him the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Paul, on the other hand, very clearly contrasts that reality with a fantastic Gnostic myth: “The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Paul never met the real human Jesus. He envisioned a “spiritual” one.
Paul’s statement about the resurrection is contradictory to Jesus’. Paul says, “flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus says, “…for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” This same Jesus ascended into Heaven. There’s no mention of a metamorphosis taking place. When I was a defender of Paul, I might’ve answered such a contradiction in the following way: “Paul says flesh and blood won’t inherit the Kingdom. Jesus was flesh and bone—he didn’t mention blood. Therefore, there’s no blood in heaven or in the future at/ after the resurrection.” But there are several problems with this.
Why would a person who has flesh and bone not have blood? The Scriptures declare that the life of the flesh is in the blood. If you have one, you have the other. This is human nature. The prophet Ezekiel saw and knew as much. Jesus proved it. Peter and the apostles testified of it. This means Paul is wrong.
Why would Jesus have to take his blood into the Heavenly tabernacle, as is said here in Hebrews? “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” If you read the chapter, you gain the sense that this took place as part of Jesus’ role as High Priest at his ascension into Heaven. Again, this means Paul is wrong.
When I let Paul’s words read for themselves, and I tested them against other places in Scripture referring to resurrection, it became clear that Paul’s idea of a resurrection contradicts the other depictions of it. Paul did in fact teach proto-Docetism. His strange teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 concerning the resurrection, coupled with his use of figurative terms related to the human nature of Jesus, is another proof of this.
 Ezekiel 37:1-14, KJV
 Acts 2:29-32, KJV
 Luke 24:38-43
 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, KJV
 1 Corinthians 15:42-50, KJV
 See first footnote
 Leviticus 17:11,14, KJV
 Hebrews 9:12, KJV
 Some will suggest Paul actually wrote Hebrews. However, there’s no consensus on this. The simple fact is that the book is anonymous. It’s just as accurate to suggest Paul didn’t write Hebrews.
This is an on going study and is subject to revisions according to further studies.