JSNT30A (2008) 417-436 Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore

http://JSNT.sagepub.com DOI: 10.1177/0142064X08091442

Immortal Bodies, before Christ: Bodily Continuity in Ancient Greece and 1 Corinthians Dag 0istein Endsj0
University of Bergen, NO-5007 Bergen, Norway dag.endsjo@uib.no

Abstract The disbelief demonstrated in 1 Corinthians towards the idea of the resurrection of the body is really not about the resurrection of Christ, but only about the general resurrection of the dead. This dilemma cannot be explained by referring either to Platonic beliefs, where all forms of bodily resurrection were considered equally absurd, or to Jewish tradition, which did not know of any resurrection and subsequent immortalization of a single individual before the end of the world. Turning, however, to more traditional Greek material, onefindsthat the idea of bodily resurrection was not at all unknown. But there was always a question of absolute bodily continuity. No body or body part that had been annihilated could be recreated. As such, this may explain why Paul's opponents in 1 Corinthians did not consider the resurrection of Christ controversial, but did reject the idea of a general resurrection of the dead. Key Words 1 Corinthians, Greek religion, physical immortality, resurrection

Writing to his Christian followers in Corinth, Paul complains about the disbelief of some of them: 'But if it is being preached that Christ has been raisedfromthe dead, how come that some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead' (1 Cor. 15.12). As has been pointed out by several scholars, this Hellenistic congregation had no problem with accepting the idea of the resurrected Jesus, but was seriously in doubt about the promise of a general resurrection of the dead.1 Why the Corinthians should exhibit such disbelief is often connected with the intrinsic opposition between Pagan and Jewish ideas
1. Robertson and Plummer 1914: 346; Conzelmann 1975 [1969]: 265; Perkins 1984: 224; Martin 1995: 121; Engberg-Pedersen 2001: 70.


Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30.4 (2008)

on the body. Reflecting this widely held opinion, Jan Bremmer argues that Christian apologists and theologians 'would spend an enormous amount of energy in explaining and defending' the doctrine ofthe resurrection of the body because this to the Greeks and Romans 'was an unthinkable idea' (2002: 41). As N.T. Wright maintains, the Corinthians 'were denying a future bodily resurrection' probably 'on the standard pagan grounds...that everybody knew dead people didn't and couldn't come back to bodily life' (2003: 316). Making a presumption that is not supported by the text, Birger A. Pearson simply claims that 'the opponents of Paul in Corinth believed in the immortality of the soul, and not the resurrection of the body', which they regarded 'as superfluous, if not altogether repugnant' (1973: 16-17). According to M.E. Dahl, the disbelief of the Corinthians 'was almost certainly a reaction against the "materialism" of the Jewish idea' (1962: 11 n. 1). Although the Christian belief in the resurrection originated in Jewish ideas, one cannot explain the disbelief of the Corinthians simply by contrasting Jewish materialism with a Greek belief in the immortality of the soul. Although the belief in a general resurrection of the dead at the end of time was familiar within Judaism during this period, it was not universally accepted. Many Jews tended to be just as sceptical in relation to the body as any Greek philosopher. As George W.E. Nickelsburg points out, according to some Jewish prophecies only 'the spirits, not the bodies, of therighteouswill rise' (1972: 172). This is seen, for example, in Jub. 23.31 and 1 En. 103.4. The idea of the immortal soul and even reincarnation was not unfamiliar in Jewish thought in antiquity.2 Indeed, as is made clear by Hans Clemens Caesarius Cavallin, in this period '[t]here is no single Jewish doctrine about life after death' but several (1974: 199; see also Nickelsburg 1972: 180). The idea that the body should become immortal has rightly been considered an absurdity in the context of Greek philosophical tradition. The resurrection of the physical body is a belief in absolute opposition to Platonic dualism and the notion of an immortal soul. As the prison of the soul (cf. Plato, Crat. 400c; Plato, Phaed. 81d-e, 82d-83d), the body was not anything one would want to keep for eternity. It is, however, impossible to see the philosophical ideas of the body as the only Greek beliefs in this matter. Indeed, the philosophical tradition never had any monopoly over Greek minds. Both Plutarch and Origen
2. See, e.g., Wis. 2.23-3.4; 4 Mace. 7.19; Philo, Opif. 135; Philo, Gig. 61; Philo, Leg. 1.107-8; Philo, Somn. 1.13 8-3 9; Philo, Spec. 4.188; Josephus,ÄJ. 2.8.11,2.8.14, 3.8.5; Mt. 16.13-14; Jewish grave inscriptions quoted in Cavallin 1974: 167-68.

. was said to have brought the dead back to life.. not limited to that most ancient time we would consider the Greeks' mythical past.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. 328e. back to life (Euripides. As Paul Veyne observes. .. even at the cost of rationalization' (Veyne 1988 [1983]: 111-12). This was nevertheless not the result of a medical wonder treatment like that of Asclepius. As Henry Chadwick observes. moreover. Mor. Origen. of an intellectual aristocracy' (1980: xi). 'a woman recently dead'.3 Various sources even refer to this happening to historical persons. and seem even to have accepted the resurrection of Christ. 'Platonic metaphysics were the peculiar study of the few. 6. most often achieved through medical means. Cels. During half a millennium there were many. No matter how Platonically inclined the sceptical Corinthians might have been. 3. Thefifth-centuryBCE poet Pindar tells how Zeus killed Asclepius for his challenging the mortal fate of humans (Pindar. Ale. but no one questioned Heracles and Aeolus..47-57). When still mortal. before Christ 419 point out that Plato was not widely read (Plutarch. I am not questioning the reaction Paul gotfromhis Corinthian congregation. and depicted in art and literature.the Greeks continued to believe in and grapple with myth. But why did this reaction come about? If the Corinthians had been brought up with stories of various persons who had died and been resurrected. It is important to notice that the Greeks themselves did not make a clear-cut distinction between a mythical and a historical past. the later god of healing. . The incidents were. Thefirstand most familiar way was a belief in a pretty instant resuscitation of people who had died recently. 840). Heracles similarly brought Alcestis.2). Asclepius. the Greek scholars would mostly reject the more fantastic achievements of Heracles and Theseus but not deny the historicity of the protagonists: 'From Herodotus to Pausanias and Eusebius.who did not believe in the gods. they would all be familiar with the mythical stories connected to traditional Greek religion and re-enacted in rituals and theatre. why did they refuse to believe in the general resurrection of the dead? Resuscitation to a Normal Life As a Greek phenomenon the resurrection of the dead can be further classified in several subcategories. as these most essential parts of the mythical corpus provide several examples of people who died and were resurrected. Heracles had simply defeated Death personified in a physical combat by 3. Pyth. The profound influence of these more traditional beliefs makes the disbelief of the Corinthians seem even odder..

41-56. indeed. may have thought about the feats of Asclepius and the fate of Alcestis (1995: 111). 1315. At this moment. the black cauldron and rejuvenation. he slaughtered his own son Pelops.26. more dramatic. 2. drawing a parallel to a similar resuscitation performed by Apollonius of Tyana (Philostratus. cut him up limb by limb and served him to the gods as a tantalizing dish. when they heard ' that they would be raisedfromthe dead by the power of Christ '. Jn 11. Pelops's odd fate could probably be ascribed to the gods' wondrous power had it not been for the fact that this incident was farfromunique. 1139-42). The medical achievements as well as Heracles' successful fight with Death were. Ol. Turning to the New Testament. Lk.2).4 (2008) the grave {Ale. but even younger.17-44. belief about people being resurrected. and his hoary father. 1.18-26.45). stronger and more beautiful than ever (Pindar. In the third century CE the philosophically inclined Philostratus would typically question whether Alcestis was dead at all. Ep. The gods nevertheless saw through the deception and refused to partake of the anthropophagie feast. 9. Apoll 4. Ps. These resuscitated persons only returned to their normal lives and did not gain immortality as did the resurrected Jesus and as was promised to all those who believed in him. 12. not only once again complete.22-43. In a . the leader of the Argonauts. Aeson. only various ways of postponing the time of death as it had originally been decided by fate. the parallels seem closer to the fate of Jairus's daughter and Lazarus than to that of Jesus. Both Lazarus and the young girl returned only to a normal mortal existence (Mt. Here it was Medea who was the rejuvenator. Med. the gods put the severed body parts back into the cauldron. Alex. the keywords were dismemberment.420 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. Mk 5. Dismemberment and Rejuvenation According to another. 482). Dale Martin may be correct in pointing out that the Corinthians. were said to have gone through a similar process as Pelops.-Apollodorus. Both Jason. 8. When the Lydian king Tantalus wanted to test the omniscience of the gods. rejuvenated by means of dismemberment and a cauldron (Lycophron. These men and women apparently resumed their lives as if their experience with death really had no further consequence. Thereupon they retrieved him. Euripides. when one would consider that all hope was gone for the dismembered Pelops. But none of these stories can explain why they should believe in what allegedly had happened to Christ. Vit.3).

As I see it. Eq. Arg. Mortality was the rule for the countless offspring resultingfromthe gods' . 1321). physically perfect. apparently for some time. that we have here another form of resuscitation in the ancient Greek texts. Eq. Even though few probably tried this recipe at home to make their own decrepit friends and relatives young again. before Christ 421 lost tragedy of Aeschylus she similarly made the old nurses of Dionysus young again {Scholiast to Euripedes. moreover. Here he had an expert butcher. the resurrected Demos said to his butcher (Aristophanes. however. His original mortality was clearly demonstrated by the fact that Jesus died on the cross. This brings us to the final point: (3) Christ's immortality was first achieved as he was resurrected from the dead. another question. there are three main points in the early Christian presentation of Jesus' resurrection that would strike the average Greek: (1) He was the son of a god. the sausage maker. make the ancient Demos younger and prettier by first making a hotchpotch of him: 'The good boiling did me a great thing'. Before I again turn to searching in the ancient source material. Although those who were resuscitated after having been dismembered and stewed in the cauldron became both younger and. Med. of course. It is.. In this way. the idea was apparently well known to ordinary Greeks in antiquity. also difficult to draw any direct parallel between these cases and what the Christian believed about the resurrection. The most interesting part of this macabre practice is not. the dramatic treatment in the cauldron becomes just another way to trick the Fates—though just for a while. 1321. Whether anyone in historic times actually believed that it was possible to rejuvenate someone by means of dismemberment is. Aristophanes even referred to it humorously in his comedy The Knights. it is important to look at what aspects a Greek audience would probably find essential in the story of Jesus. there is nothing in the sources indicating that these persons became immortal.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. Mortal children of gods represented no novelty in Greek religion. Scholiast to Euripedes. (2) but originally not immortal.1336). but that the bringing back to life is completely pushed into the background by the way that killing and dismemberment appeared only as a systematic way of rejuvenation. though apparently a bit later than would originally have been the case. Hated old age and death always came in the end. Resurrection and Immortal Life These examples of resuscitation do not represent all the cases of bodily resurrection in the Greek tradition.

'even the children of the gods perish in death's darkness' (Euripides.6. 98990). Perseus. Alexander the Great was really the son of Zeus (Arrian.422 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. Lys. while the earlyfifth-centuryBCE Olympic victor Euthymus of Locri was said to have had theriver-godCaecinus as his father (Pausanias. Smith observes: All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the two larger classes of disappearing deities or dying deities. 151). Contrary to the claim of Sir James Frazer. in the second case. was believed by many ofher contemporaries (Plutarch. Everybody who died and was resurrected was originally mortal.1). as found in the beliefs of the Greeks. This was definitely not the case with anyone else who was resurrected in the Greek tradition. As Jonathan Z. was never expressed in the notion of a dying andrisinggod. not immortal.4 (2008) many trysts with various men and women. Asclepius. the deities return but have not died. but to have been brought back to life again' (Frazer 1955 [1912]: 12).4) and the third-century BCE Sicyonian general Aratus was considered a son of Asclepius {Descr. 2. bodily resurrection. The greatest number of these semidivine offspring were found in the most ancient past. Aeneas and Achilles. including such heroic figures as Heracles. A Pontic woman. Anab. Minos. Any Greek with the most basic knowledge of his own tradition would notice that Jesus became immortal only after his death. As Euripides observed.3). When we look more closely at how the Orphic Dionysus 'was believed to have died a violent death.froma Greek point of view he would probably not have been considered a god who died and was resurrected. In fact. Theseus. Smith ignores the case of the Orphic Dionysus (1996: 18-34). Jesus was just a recent scion in a long line of mortalfigureswith a divine parent. 6. Jens Braarvig rightly points out that the Orphic Dionysus does not fit Smith's explanation well. Descr. their half-way divine ancestry made no difference in that matter. But the actual possibility of the gods still producing children with mortals was not denied even in antiquity. In thefirstcase. From this point of view.10. when he was resurrected. As Jesus was originally mortal. we find that this was a case of reincarnation of his soul—it was not a case of . Bellerophon. It is nevertheless not possible to see the Orphic Dionysus as a dying andrisingdeity either. Ale. According to the claim of his mother. All of these children of various deities were originally also completely mortal. who in the fourth century BCE claimed that Apollo had made her pregnant. 26. the gods die but do not return (Smith 1995 [1993]: 522).

Pindar. Nem. 7. 6. Dion. we find quite a different landscape. That Jesus died. There. the Isles of the Blessed or to the Elysian Fields—all places by the ends of the earth. but there was still no question of bodily continuity (Nonnus. few who followed Homer's version of Achilles' eternal fate. Andr. 9. Achilles was placed on the funeral pyre.319-68. the lost work of the eighth-century BCE epic poet Arctinus. Pindar. The fifth-century CE mythographer Nonnus only operated with two Dionysuses. before Christ 423 bodily resurrection as with Jesus. as Jonathan Z. he was the twice born. was in complete agreement with a pattern we repeatedly find in the more general Greek tradition. The oldest version of this story was found in the Aethiopis.4). but achieved immortal life in the body. there were some who proclaimed 'that there were three persons (ύποστησάμενοι) at different periods. As the first-century BCE historian Diodorus of Sicily wrote. δισσοτόκοιο {Dion. Smith maintains. if we look beyond this 'peculiar study of the few'. where Odysseus met the dead and disembodied soul of Achilles in Hades {Od. Jesus died. Pindar and Euripides all repeated Arctinus's tale of how Achilles was translated to the end of the earth to live an eternal life there (Simonides according to Scholiast to Apollonius of Rhodes. of which today we only have a late antique summary (Proclus. As a mortal son of a deity. 11. Euripides. However.49-50. Each time he died. however. It can be seen as a direct parallel to the fate of Achilles and numerous other celebrated figures. The prototypical warrior Achilles was the result ofthe marriage between the goddess Thetis and the mortal man Peleus.465-540).1-24). the Orphic Dionysus was not resurrected but born again. One must be aware that this version does not harmonize with Homer. Chrest. was resurrected and had his body made immortal. Even though. after which he disappeared from the ordinary world. 4.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. at the uttermost edge of the world. in spite of his usually absolute authority (Edwards 1985:221 n. 421-38. as the flames were about to consume his body. 2). It was the Christian understanding of an immor­ talized and deified body that represented such a complete opposition to Platonic philosophy. 1. Euripides. and to each of these they ascribe separate deeds' (Diodorus Siculus 3. There were. Argon. his divine mother intervened. snatched the corpse away and took it to either the white island of Leuce. Important classical authors like Simonides.204-7. 15). the notion of the immortalized body was not unknown to the Greeks.2). 1259-62). OL 2. Here.68-80. Achilles was not only brought back to life. Taur. 4. was resurrected and became immortal. there is no support in the Greek tradition for Frazer's concept of dying and rising gods.63. . Iph. Killed by an arrow piercing his proverbial tendon.811-14.

As a mortal he had been killed by Zeus's thunderbolt. respectively {Od. . 2). Disregarding the convoluted Orphic stories about Dionysus. the mother of Melicertes. Hel. This also seems to be the case of Cadmus. Asclepius. 1607. Chrest.424 Journalfor the Study of the New Testament 30. 717. Melicertes would live forever in the ocean (Ps.. 10. Aul. Again. Pindar relates how Castor. one can nevertheless see his fate as another example of a mortal man who was made physically immortal. Plutarch accordingly numbered Dionysus among .Hesiod simply stated that a large portion of the whole generation who fought around Troy and Thebes was given an eternal and blissful existence at the Isles of the Blessed by the brim of Oceanus (Hesiod. Andr. the son of the goddess of dawn. after which he was brought to the ends of the earth and resurrected for an immortal life there {Aethiopis according to Proclus. Lib.1263-66. Even Homer. there is the clear notion that immortalization only happens after the person's death. According to Euripides. Ino by drowning. died. Memnon got killed fighting outside of the walls of Troy. 5. 1330-39. There are also other instances where resurrection is followed by physical immortalization.561-64. Just like Achilles.1081. was killed before he was raised and given immortality by Zeus (Pindar.and like us receive offerings from men. In addition to these clear examples of people being resurrected as they were deified. Menelaus by old age. 166-73). gave both Menelaus and Ino.-Apollodorus.4 (2008) Achilles is not the only one in Greek tradition who was born mortal.1222. had once been a mortal too. one of the Dioscuri. before he was resurrected as an immortal deity.4. Nem. Op.333-35). Transformed into the minor deity Palaemon. In the early second century CE. Dionysus was himself originally mortal. Bornfromthe union of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele. the then deified Dioscuri prophesied how their still mortal sister Helen. and gained immortality in some distant location. Peleus and Iphigenia as their immortalization is presented in the tragedies of Euripides {Bacch.1622). one of the most important Greek gods. was resurrected. represents probably the closest parallel to the fate of Achilles.3). Iph. 4. Thefirst-or second-century CE mythographer PseudoApollodorus explicitly tells how the young Melicertes was resurrected and made physically immortal after his mother Ino had killed him by throwing him into a boiling cauldron.7588). 1355. 1666-69). an immortal existence in the Elysian Fields and Oceanus. Memnon. Ino and Menelaus seem to have been translated the moment they would otherwise have died. there are examples of immortalization where death plays a less prominent part. for such is the will of Zeus' (Euripides. 'when she has made the last turn and ended her life will be invoked as a goddess. who denied Achilles his immortality. 3.

5). then in his native Proconnesus and finally two centuries later in Metapontium in Italy. Hist.Apollodorus. 3. When there was no body to be found. Libr. For some reason. At some point Dionysus had thus been transformed from mortal to immortal. . Wright is in this case typical. when a mortal was taken to be with the immortals.his or her body was supposed to be taken away along with the soul' (Wright 2003: 57). Pel. 4.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. Cels. N. 3.48-67). Persons in historical times were also immortalized in a dramatic manner. the sixth-century BCE Lydian king Croesus was.4. The seventh-century BCE sage Aristeas of Proconnesus was most clearly resurrected and deified. one could never know whether the person in question had simply .. before Christ 425 'those deities who were born mortal and later changed into an immortal state. together with his daughters. 16. . The same notion was reflected by Celsus in the second century CE. his body vanished miraculously from the locked store. who included Dionysus among those 'men who were believed by the Greeks to have become gods' (Celsus according to Origen.22). This transformation might have taken place as his mother was killed and the unborn foetus was rescued by Zeus (Ps. but typical ofhow mortals entered the immortal sphere. the bodily disappearance of anyone could suggest that this person had become an immortal god. But the point is that the examples were not at all ' isolated cases '. After having died in a fuller's shop. an ancient Greek audience had really good reason tofindthe scene strangely familiar. most scholars ignore these many mythical and historical examples of people who were resurrected from the dead and made physically immortal.T.who through their virtues were enabled to cast off mortality and suffering' (Plutarch. thus indicating that he had really become physically immortal (Herodotus. taking the apotheoses of the souls of the Roman emperors as prototypical ancient deification beliefs (Wright 2003: 56-57). brought by Apollo to an eternal existence in the distant land of the Hyperboreans as he was about to be burned alive on his own pyre (Bacchylides 31. even Wright admits that in 'one or two isolated cases. Hearing about the resurrection of Jesus.3). Indeed. A Body Vanishes Since deification always meant that the body remained intact forever in some distant place. Paralleling the various figures from the more mythical past. But this official imperial cult represented something quite different from traditional Greek beliefs.14-15). first outside of Cyzicus. After this he appeared once again alive to several people..

Hylas was made immortal in a similar manner by a nymph. Id. was considered to have disappeared from her bier and how this was seen by many as proof of her physical apotheosis (Plutarch. 13. Argon.4-5.36). Rom. Vit. the oracle in Delphi declared that he was 'no longer a mortal' (μηκετι θνητον έόντα. Thefirst-centuryCE philosopher Apollonius of Tyana represents an interesting case. Two different stories nevertheless tell how Apollonius himself disap­ peared. that the emperor's great love must have been deified. //. and shown himself to one of the Alban colonists. 3. According to Plutarch.1 ). he must have been translated. Descr. Thefirst-centuryCE historiographer and philosopher Plutarch also wrote how the body of Alcmene. Plutarch. either in Rhodes or in Crete.30). 6. 1221-42. this complete absence of any physical remains was the very reason the Greeks considered Heracles to have been turned into a god.426 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. many held that thefirstRoman king Romulus had also disappeared mysteriously. body and soul. 1. 1261-72). Livy. along with Cleomedes and Aristeas of Proconnesus.3 8. 1. When the Olympian victor Cleomedes vanished after having hidden himself in a chest in 484 BCE. while a despairing Heracles searched for his young lover in vain (Theocritus. The rationalisticfirst-centuryCE mythographer Diodorus of Sicily similarly referred to the way no bones were found of Heracles after his funeral pyre had burned down.6). Rom. indeed the case with the two beautiful youths Ganymede and Hylas. In this way he indicated that some believed that the body of the young boy had never been found either. 8. A number of persons in antiquity who disappeared without a trace were also considered to have been deified in this way. Apoll. 20.48-52. Rom. Ganymede disappeared without a trace and his father was inconsolable until Hermes explained that his son had been snatched away and made immortal by an enamoured Zeus {Horn. Apollonius of Rhodes. 28. Ol. cf. to heaven (Diodorus Siculus 4. Antinous.4 (2008) fallen into some pit or had been transferred to some distant place and made immortal. for example. Pindar. Hymn. Immortalization was.4—39. cf. 'more beautiful and of greater stature than ever before' (Plutarch.232-35. 5.42-44).5-8). In the second century CE Celsus mentioned the deification of Hadrian's young lover.31).1324-25. 28. as he himself preached the idea of the immortal soul and how it was entrapped in the body (Philostratus. Ven. Apoll. body and soul. He entered a temple and was never seen again {Vit. 13. 202-14. 28. When Apollonius's third-century biographer Philostratus maintained that 'no one dared to say that he [Apollonius] . been deified.42. Cels. 8. As no part of the body was to be found.1-3. According to Diodorus.9.73. Pausanias.7-8). as he drowned in the water of the Nile (Celsus according to Origen.16. 1. Heracles' mother.

' Show me even one who has been raisedfromthe dead. our Teacher. was produced without sexual union. and you disbelieve the things that are told you by God? (Theophilus. did not refute the apparent parallels between the fate of the resurrected Christ and those of the historicalfiguresof Aristeas ofProconnesus. was raised.13). Apoll. This eternal bodiless existence of the soul . Justin claimed that 'when we say also that the Word. 69). nearly all souls of the dead ended up in Hades for an everlasting existence there. as the devil himself'imitated the prophecies about Christ' when creating these 'false' stories about men who were turned into gods (Justin. as to your denying that the dead are raised . What we are looking at here is an apparently older tradition where immortality always seems to have been inseparably tied to an incorruptible body. 3. but argued that the latter could not have been truly immortalized because of their lack of virtuous lives (Origen. 33). and that Asclepius. In hisfictitiousdialogue with Trypho the Jew. again.26-38. This certainly un-Platonic idea of an incorruptible body that one keeps forever was in no way oddfroma more traditional Greek point of view. Cleomedes of Astypalaea and Antinous. was crucified and died. 8. The similarities were in no way accidental. we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus' (Justin. According to Homer. who burned himself. this cannot be seen as unrelated to the fact that his body was never found—just as the bodies ofthe immortalized men and women of yore. before Christ All was not immortal' {Vit. Indeed.31). Dial. 1. what great thing is it if you believe when you have seen the thing done? Then. who is thefirst-birthof God. lives.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. and rose again. and ascended into heaven.for you say. who was struck with lightning. first. Autol. Mortal Souls All these examples of immortalization imply a bodily resurrection and an eternal life including both body and soul. too. Cels. Origen. The parallel between the resurrection and immortalization of Christ and the many Greeks who were made immortal was even explicitly recognized by some early Christians. Heracles and Asclepius due to the machinations of the devil. Theophilus of Antioch similarly countered the philosophical denial of all forms of resurrection with the more traditional Greek beliefs. that seeing I may believe'. Justin Martyr argued how much the fate of the resurrected Christ was reflected in the stories of Dionysus. Then. and that He. 1 Apol 21). Jesus Christ. you believe that Heracles. Immortal Bodies.

They were the spirits of the dead. The eternal existence of the bodiless soul was not the same as immortality nor did it mean an eternal life of the soul. or the powerless head of the dead. as they were generally called by Homer.521. sensation.4 (2008) must. Phdr. Jean-Pierre Vernant argues that the divine bodies were considered the perfect model for the human body (1991 [1986]: 35-36). is incorrect' (1966 [1921]: 5. . The difference between the human and divine body was humanity's 'limitation. nor fully conceived. As Erwin Rohde observes. It equalled an everlasting existence as a dead soul. They were not at all just spiritual beings. possessed of a soul and a body united for all time' (Plato. 11. Being among the few who did not make Achilles immortal.541). imperishability and subsequent immor­ tality. νεκύων άμενηνα κάρηνα {Od. like themselves.428 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. 11. This was in no way synonymous with the blissful state of immortality. Strom. as scholars both ancient and modern have done.9). Immortality was origi­ nally never used to describe this everlasting fate of the soul. as an immortal living being. deficiency.2). Without one's body. Originally.488-91). 536.29. εϊδωλον. language and a body' (Xenophanes according to Clement of Alexandria. 246c-d). As immortality originally implied a continued physical existence. immortality and eternal life always meant an endless existence of both body and soul. 11. who equated immortality only with a continuous physical existence. 49). 'To speak of an "immortal life" of these souls. and incompleteness' (Vernant 1991 [1986]: 31) compared to the divine perfection. the disembodied soul was only one's shadow. With their eternal bodiless existence the Homeric souls in Hades were always defined as dead. that is. the gods have clothing. the dead soul of Achilles complained. 5. nobody was any longer really a person. Homer really made it clear that the fate as a dead soul in Hades was nothing positive. 'Do not speak lightly of death to me'. not be confused with immortality. The pre-Socratic philosopher Xenophanes accordingly scoffed at his Greek contemporaries for believing 'that.109. ψυχα ι νεκύων {Od. That this existence would continue forever represented no consolation to the Greeks. 10. and thought have vanished with the disintegration of the individual man into his component parts'. arguing that he would rather be a living slave than the lord over all the dead {Od. were also considered to have physical bodies. Even Plato explained that these traditional ideas of the gods remained strong. body and soul. 'AH power of will. however. the 'immortal gods'. complaining how 'our fancy pictures the god whom we have never seen.

1. That immortality was originally considered impossible without a con­ tinuous bodily existence is also demonstrated in Hesiod.33740). Tuse. To become immortal was the same as becoming divine. Peleus. . 5. a fate like this: Ί will release you from the ills of mortals and make you a god. When the various men and women became immortal. where they would act as guardians of the living and be an object of cult. the wounded Aphrodite left the melee of the battlefield for steep Olympus where her mother. As Werner Jaeger observes.38). according to Cicero. the ίχώρ. was first launched by the pre-Socratic Pherecydes in the fifth century BCE (Cicero. Hera by the son of Amphitryon.of the wrist above the palm. 5. and this constituted their difference from the everlasting gods' (1966 [1921]: 74). this meant that their bodies received the same incorruptible nature as that of the divine bodies. of which a considerable number were translated to an existence of physical immortality at the ends of the earth (Hesiod. This was a philosophical theory that. they were not immortal either (Hesiod. . 121-42). 'belief in the immortality of the soul is a later product of the Greek mind' (1965 [1958]: 98). and Hades by Heracles (//. μάκαρε? θνητοί' were what Hesiod called them {Op.381-402). And. as these ρβορίβ-ΐιιτηβα-δαιμονε^ were merely souls without any physical bodies. The metamorphosis the body went through could be described quite accurately. before Christ 429 An astonishing example of how physical the body of a god was really considered to be is found in the Homeric description of the Greek warrior Diomedes wounding Aphrodite so that 'the spear pierced the flesh (xpoós). and hence their bodies had to die. where we read of the fate of the people of the Golden and Silver Age. these continued as δαιμονε$ either above or below the earth. and outflowedthe immortal blood of the goddess. Later the same day Diomedes wounded Ares as well. Andr. 5. As Rohde writes. such asflowsin the blessed gods' (//. 'their nature was still mortal.858). Driving away in the chariot of Ares. 1255-56). The fate of these blessed mortals was also contrasted by Hesiod himself to the next human generation. Euripides let the goddess Thetis promise her mortal husband. Op.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. the movefrommortality to immortality involved a physical transformation of the body.. Dione. soothed her with a whole number of stories about gods who had suffered physically at the hands of mortal men: Ares by the sons of Aloeus. just as in Christianity. The idea that the soul was immortal independently of the body appears to be originally unknown to the Greeks. 141). 'tearing the fair χροιάν' with his spear (//. This beliefwas also found in Orphicism. 'Blessed mortals. immortal and incor­ ruptible' (Euripides. However. After having died. 166-73). Op.

Herodotus held the idea of the soul's immortality to be intrinsically un-Greek. The Orphic anthropogonic myth. The human soul was consequently considered immortal and would be reincarnated again and again. claiming that 'the Chaldeans and the Indian sages were thefirstto say that the soul of man is immortal'. Even though the idea of the immortal soul came to play an important part in Greek thinking. as argued by Jens Braarvig. 248c-49c. Cra. The Orphic anthropogony referred to how humans consisted of both a divine soul and a body that had been formed out of the ashes of the incinerated titans. This would harmonize with how Plato referred to Orphic poets who considered the body a prison where the soul is kept 'until penalty is paid' (Plato. 113a. where immortality was always tied to the body. and 'Dio Orphica'. e. 90a-92c. In thefifthcentury BCE. Pausanias still held this belief to be essentially un-Greek. Resp. Hist.4 After Pherecydes. The idea of the immortal soul never supplanted the older notion of immortality as always involving the body.5 That the belief in an immortal soul could have originatedfromthe notion of metempsychosis concurs also with the more original Greek beliefs. who again had devoured the infant Dionysus. As late as the second century CE. it was still considered a foreign phenomenon by many Hellenes. 619c-21b. as we know it. Braarvig 1996: 20).4). moreover. As is the case in. and claimed that it had comefromthe Egyptians (Herodotus.4 (2008) but we do not know how far back this goes. not be ruled out.or fifthcentury BCE grave in the Greek Black Sea colony of Olbia reads 'life death life or truth'. and not the bodies. and not least by Plato. Ol. Whether this religious understanding preceded the philosophical speculations on the soul is uncertain.430 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. of course. A bone plate found in a sixth. this must be seen as indicating a belief in an existence defined as 'life' after death (p. and. 27) can. 5.. 400c). his pupil Pythagoras and later Plato advocated the notion of an immortal soul. 80b.123). 608d). Plato. the son of Aristón' (Pausanias. Resp. has only reached us through Christian and postChristian authors (cf. ΔΙΟΟΡΦΙΚΑ (for a drawing of the plate.g. Phaedr. The philosophical idea of an immortal soul was usually seen in connection with reincarnation. Descr. 870e. 4. ΒΙΟΣ ΘΑΝΑΤΟΝ ΒΙΟΣ Η ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ. 4. went to the Isles of the Blessed (Pindar. 2. Even though already in the fifth century BCE Pindar had argued that in some cases only the dead souls. 76c-e. while Plato himself had Glaucon express outright surprise when countered by Socrates' ideas of an immortal soul (Plato. . Tim. Whether. Phaed. see Braarvig 1996: 33). that this belief has been followed by only 'some of the Greeks. The soul only began to be seen as immortal when it was believed to return repeatedly for a continuous existence in various physical bodies. Leg.32.

Plato. άσαρκος' state that Plutarch held that the soul should strive for (Plutarch. In the first century CE. Paul preached about Jesus 'having been resurrected/rom the dead' (συαστησο^ 6.24). 27. Rom. Why then was Paul met by such disbelief when he preached about the general resurrection of the dead? We find an indication of the same basic difference in attitude towards the resurrection of Jesus and the general resurrection of the dead in Luke's presentation of Paul's appearance at the Areopagus in Athens. but an attractive notion. Cels. Aristeas of Proconnesus and Cleomedes (Plutarch. 108c). an exasperated Plutarch still found it necessary to refute the popular idea that bodies that had vanished indicated people becoming physically immortal. Celsus accordingly made a point of how 'a great multitude of people. was buried. but also as a fate that was definitely preferable to a future existence only involving the soul. before Christ 431 2. 28. and then translated to heaven was a culturally defined way for an author living in the first century to narrate the resurrection of Jesus' (1993: 130).8). Greek texts all through antiquity and far into the Christian era would continue to reflect the notion of the resurrected and immortalized body. Gorg. Rom. Adela Yarbro Collins is therefore right to claim that 'the narrative pattern according to which Jesus died.6 the notion of a literal translation of'thephysical body remained not only a powerful. but Asclepius himself healing people and doing good and predicting the future' (Celsus accord­ ing to Origen. referring to the reputed disappearances of the historical figures of Romulus. both Greeks and barbarians. Phaed. this belief really seems to have included the flesh. Plato seems to have made the Isles of the Blessed an area exclusive to the soul (cf.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. Plato. confess that they have often seen and still do not just see' the resurrected and deified Asclepius as 'a phantom.3-28. 523a-24a. 3. contrary to the 'fleshless. .7). More radically.67-80). How the Resurrection of Jesus Differed from the Promised Resurrection of All Dead The story of Jesus' resurrection could appear as a recycling of familiar concepts. When the philosopher criticized the masses for believing that the body could be resurrected and made immortal. and apparently this was how the Corinthians reacted to this idea when they readily accepted it. The Christian dogma that Christ had gained bodily incorruptibility and immortality could therefore be seen by the Greek contemporaries not only as a repetition of what many mythical and historical men and women had already gone through.

anastaseôs eknekrôn' (Dunn 1980:34). as Paul promised all believers in his own letters and.15). that any single person would be resurrected to eternal life before the end of time was unheard of in Judaism (1965: 6. Here we see the same sceptical reaction to the general resurrection of the dead as in 1 Corinthians. some laughed' (Acts 17. he only mentioned that this was a matter of dispute about religion in general and about 'a certain Jesus who had died but whom Paul asserted was alive' (Acts 25.32). also in Acts? If the resurrection of Jesus represented nothing new. which the Jews considered 'a controversial matter'. The difficulty these Greek audiences had with the belief in the general resurrection makes it obvious that their doubt was not founded on Jewish ideas.30-33). 'a day when God shall judge the world with justice'. It was the resurrection of Jesus. but when Porcius Festus. άνάστασιν νεκρών). while the thought that any single person should be resurrected and made immortal before the end of the world would seem absurd. the Roman procurator of Judea. 'the anastaseôs nekrôn almost certainly refers to the eschatological resurrection ofthe dead ("the general resurrection") rather than to Jesus' own resurrection/rom the dead.. what was it about the general resurrection ofthe dead that would make the Corinthians sceptical and the Athenians laugh? What was the difference between these two notions of resurrection? To answer these questions. Paul preached about the general resurrection of the dead to the Jews (Acts 24.31).432 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. summed up the complaints of the Jewish elders and chief priests. a forthcoming event of which the resurrection of Jesus was proof (Acts 17. not the general resurrection of the dead. εκ νεκρών). Such an incident is also described by Luke as he presented Peter and the apostles preaching to the Sanhédrin. . The disbelief only came after the resurrection of Jesus had been presented as proof of how everyone may be resurrected at the end of time: 'Having heard about the resurrection of the dead (in the plural. it is necessary to . As pointed out by Krister Stendahl.. For the Jewish believer the dilemma would be just the opposite. As James Dunn argues. while the notion of Jesus ' resurrection seems equally unproblematic. see also Jeremías 1970: 194). according to Luke.. But why would the Greeks make the exact opposite distinction between the resurrection of Jesus and the general resurrection of the dead. Only when the disciples claimed that God had raised and exalted Jesus did the Jews get enraged and want to kill them (Acts 5. Apparently it was not the resurrection of Jesus that caused such mirth on the Areopagus.19). as well as referring to the general resurrection of the dead. as Hans Conzelmann argues (1987 [1972]: 199). For the Jews the idea of a general resurrection of the dead was at least familiar.4 (2008) .

their belief in a general resurrection. Moreover. it is this difference that made the notion of a general resurrection of the dead absurd according to the traditional Greek understanding of how anyone would be resurrected from the dead—while the resurrection of Christ would represent no serious dilemma. The lost shoulder therefore had to be replaced by a prosthesis. Descr. The point is this: the body of Jesus was resurrected as it was. when they came to Jesus. as their original bodies were made incorruptible and transferred to the ends of the earth. should anyone be able to recreate a whole body? Again we see how the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus wouldfitwell within the Greek tradition. What makes the fate of Jesus different from the general resurrection of the dead? As I see it. No matter whether it was a return to a normal life or a matter of immortalization. as there was nothing anyone could have done to reconstitute his body to its original form. however. none of the gods could recreate even a single limb. as well as the ancient Greek stories of resurrected men and women.4-6). Physical continuity was absolutely necessary for any sort ofresurrection. the general resurrection implied a recreation of bodies long gone.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. The Gospel of John even made a particular note of this: 'The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of thefirst. which was the practice for anyone crucified if one did not die fast enough.13. we always find absolute bodily continuity. Whenever someone in the Greek tradition was physically resurrected from the dead. He died before his executioners got the chance to crush his bones. and saw that he was already dead. Here there was a bodily continuity. 1. there is one fundamental difference between the general resurrection of the dead and Jesus' resurrection. how. When the body had been annihilated. impossible. Jn 20. When Pelops had been served as a dish to the Gods. before Christ 433 look more closely at both the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus. . Demeter unfortunately ate his shoulder.25-27. they did not break his legs' (Jn 19. then.froma Greek point of view. a resurrection invariably involved the same physical body. Ol. By contrast. 5. it was lost forever. a gleaming piece of ivory where his shoulder should have been (Pindar. In this way Jesus. This to the Greeks would also explain why the resurrected Jesus had to keep his wound and stigmata forever (cf.and of the other that was crucified with him. Though able to reassemble the body parts of the poor boy.27-29). either through digestion or putrefaction. The immortalized men and women would disappear. If this mighty assembly of Olympian gods could not recreate even the shoulder of Pelops. To recreate the flesh in order to bestow immortality upon it was. Pausanias. was saved from resurrecting with a broken body.32-33).

That Paul himself was more unclear on the substance of the resurrected body in no way contradicts the fact that his ideas could also very easily have been understood by his Hellenistic audience as referring to physical continuity when he spoke of the resurrected Christ. Torkel Brekke. Jan N. and my parents for their kind assistance and suggestions. Troels Engberg-Pedersen. this was not the case with the idea of the general resurrection of the dead. Eternal life was originally always tied to the body. Then Paul arrives and proclaims that his God will resurrect everybody who only believes in Christ. I would like to thank Knut Olav Âmâs. . No wonder the Corinthians did not believe in Paul's claim about the general resurrection of the dead. One cannot. been devoured or been burned were eternally lost. After some time nature would have taken its course. 27. Even though the resurrection of Jesus closely resembled the way someone would be resurrected according to a traditional Greek understanding. however.7 References Braarvig. Bremmer. 1974 Life after Death: Paul's Argumentfor the Resurrection ofthe Dead in I Cor 7.62-66). expect that the Roman authorities had any plans of guarding Jesus' tomb for all eternity. and there would remain no body to guard.4 (2008) According to Matthew even the Roman authorities may be seen to have taken the logical consequences from this understanding and to have put guards infrontof the tomb in case the supporters of Jesus would want to steal the body away and thus spread rumours that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead (Mt. meaning the same body made incorruptible. That the disciples should have been able to convince anyone that a pile of bones had been resurrected was simply impossible according to the logic of the Greek worldview that dominated the Eastern Mediterranean at this time. Penelope Boehm. Matthew Dickie. It was not even possible to recreate Pelops's single shoulder as this had been annihilated. I am particularly grateful to Ingvild Saelid Gilhus for her many years of support and inspiration. there is an absolute bodily continuity. Liv Ingeborg Lied. The countless bodies which had turned into dust. John Anthony McGuckin. Peder Anker. In all Greek stories of resurrection. Pal Bj0rby. Jens 1996 'Dionysos som doende og gjenoppstâende guddom'. Tomas Hägg.434 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. 2002 The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife (London: Routledge). Walter Burkert. Chaos 25: 18-34. Jorunn 0kland. Hugo Lundhaug. Robert Parker. Hans Clemens Caesarius. Cavallin.

Adela Yarbro 1993 ' The Empty Tomb in the Gospel According to Mark'. Werner 1965 [ 1958] 'The Greek Ideas of Immortality'. Gleerup).W.E. Immortality and Resurrection (New York: The Macmillan Company): 54-96.G. Flint (eds.). Troels 2001 'Krop og opstandelse hos Paulus'. mdAethiopis\ GRBS 26:21527. Resurrexit: Actes du Symposium international sur la resurrection de Jesus (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana): 185-206. Jaeger. NY: Doubleday). Engberg-Pedersen.ENDSJ0 Immortal Bodies. I (London: Macmillan & Co. in Krister Stendahl (ed. Immortality and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism ! (Cambridge.). Edwards. James D. 1980 Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins (Philadelphia: Westminster Press). MT: Society of Biblical Literature). Phemè 1984 \ Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection . Henry 1980 'Introduction'. Frazer. MA: Harvard University Press). in Troels Engberg-Pedersen and Ingvild Saelid Gilhus (eds. M. 1995 The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press). Martin. 1975 [1969] 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress Press). Hans 1987 [1972] Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Philadelphia: Fortress Press). Contra Celsum: Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Henry Chadwick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): ix-xxxiii. Perkins. 1973 ι The Pneumatikos-Psychikos Terminology in 1 Corinthians: A Study in the Theology of the Corinthian Opponents of Paul and its Relation to Gnosticism (Missoula. 151-55. Anthony T. in Origen. Dale Β. George W. . Chadwick.).. Collins. Jeremías.). before Christ 435 75: Parti: An Enquiry into the Jewish Background'(Lund: C. (Garden City. in Eleonore Stump and Thomas P. Dahl. Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology (Notre Dame. Dunn. Birger A. IN: University of Notre Dame Press): 10740. Odyssey. Pearson. Jr 1972 Resurrection. Kropp og oppstandelse (Oslo: Pax): 63-79. Joachim 1970 'Die älteste Schicht der Osterüberlieferungen'. in Edouard Dhanis (ed. Conzelmann.K. Sir James George 1955 [1912] Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild. 1962 The Resurrection of the Body: A Study ofl Corinthians 15 (London: SCM Press).E.). Nickelsburg. 1985 'Achilles in the Underworld: Iliad.

Veyne. Wright. I [Translated from the eighth edition] (New York: Harper & Row). . Erwin 1966 [1921] Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the GreeL·.). 2003 The Resurrection of the Son of God (London: SPCK). Rohde.436 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30. 1995 [1993] 'Dying and Rising Gods'. in Mortals and Immortals: Collected Essays (Princeton. Vernant. N. in Mircea Eliade (ed. Jean-Pierre 1991 [ 1986] ' Mortals and Immortals : The Body of the Divine'. The Encyclopedia of Religion.). Krister 1965 'Introduction'. in Krister Stendahl (ed. Jonathan Z. Archibald. Smith. Stendahl. Paul 1988 [1983] Did the GreeL· Believe in their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press). NJ: Princeton University Press): 27-49. and Alfred Plummer 1914 A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians: Second Edition (Edinburgh: T&T Clark). III (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan): 521-27.T.4 (2008) Robertson. Immortality and Resurrection (New York: The Macmillan Company): 1-8.

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