Recently William Bell and I have been in an exchange concerning 2 Cor 5 and the meaning of “body” in that passage. William Bell asserts that the term body refers to the corporate body of the Church, while I maintain that it means an actual human body. It is important to note that this is a part of a larger position held by Bell and others, in which they deny the bodily resurrection of Christians, and further, insist that the Lord returned in 70AD. Because this view wants to deny any real resurrection of the believers body, they want to redefine passages that indicate such in a way that means the Church. This is immensely important to their larger framework. In essence if we can show that St Paul speaks of the human body, and not a “corporate body”, then their entire framework becomes untenable. In the following posts I will be looking into Bell’s response and dealing with it point by point. I want to thank William Bell for taking the time to be involved in this exchange. May the Lord be glorified in all of our efforts:
William Bell likes to build arguments in a progressive manner, with each subsequent point building on the last. This is a great approach, and one I often use myself. The strength of this approach is that it can give a very powerful argument for a proposition. The problem with it is that if any point is off, the entire argument crumbles. Unfortunately, Bell’s opening point suffers just such a fate. Now keep in mind that the original challenge I present, and the one to which Bell responds, is that Paul’s first mention of σώματι/body refers to his own human body. This is a point that Bell has yet to deny, and I think that this is because such is undeniable. Thus subsequent discussion of σώματι/body should be in the context of Paul’s most immediate use of the term. As I argue previously, to do otherwise would be to have Paul use these terms in vastly different ways within a few paragraphs, with no reasons for such a change.
To Circumvent this argument of “first mention”, or perhaps more accurately – most immediate usage, Bell wants to go to Chapter 3 of this epistle. I think that this has two purposes. Bell has already admitted that he feels that Chapter 3 is imminently important to his understanding of Chapter 5. Unfortunately, as I have pointed out, he must traverse Chapter 4 – which has Paul suffering in his own body, and not a corporate body. The second purpose will be to, as afore mentioned, attempt to establish a “first usage” of body in the “corporate” sense. To this assertion we look now.
The passage that Bell wants to appeal to as defining σώματι/body in Chapter 3 is 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν, καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος.
It is worthy to note, and we will revisit this later, that Paul tells us that “we”(they) “are”(were) already being transformed into the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit. They were not waiting for millions of Jews to be killed by Rome so that this could really take place. Yet, least we loose track of the point, the point here is that Bell asserts that the term μεταμορφούμεθα means “bodily change.” Actually that is a stretching of the term. A slight distortion that would squeeze the term “body” into Chapter 3 and alleviate the tension of my challenge that Paul’s first use of body, and the usage closest to the text in question, refers to his own body which bares the marks of persecution.
Actually, the term μεταμορφόω is a verb, an act that takes place in an object or entity. Thus it is not a body, but a change that takes place in some thing. Thus, the term μεταμορφόω does not satisfy the needed first mention of body that Bell desperately needs to make his synthesis work. Bell goes on to say “It’s the perfect definition of bodily change.” Here he keeps trying to slip “bodily” into the general definition of μεταμορφόω, which is simply not there.
I could stress this point further, but I will lay this aside and concede for the sake of a larger point, that Bell has perhaps found a reference to “body” before Chapter 4. If he has (he hasn’t) then he has only strengthened the point I make in Chapter 4. Why? Let’s look at another very important use of this term:
καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος, τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς.
and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
So, if this is the first mention of body (it isn’t) then we still have an individual body being transfigured, and not a corporate entity being transformed into what it “is, but not yet.” We have the very body of Christ – His actual human body – being transfigured before the very eyes of the disciples. Thus what Bell shows us is that even the allusions to a body, which proceed the actual use of σώματι/body, refer to an individual human body – not a corporate entity. In fact even Bell’s reference to a caterpillar being changed into a butterfly shows the change in an individual body.
Thus, unfortunately for Bell, he has only strengthened my original challenge. Further, he has undermined the original point in his syllogism, therefore rendering the rest of it untenable.
More to come. God bless…