SPIRITUAL BODY THEORY: “Paul describes Jesus’ body as spiritual… Jesus was a ghost or apparition.”

By James M. Rochford

Some critics argue that 1 Corinthians 15 refers to our resurrected bodies (and Christ’s resurrected body) as “spiritual.” That is, his body was immaterial and non-physical. From this, they argue that the disciples believed that Jesus’ body was a ghost—not a real resurrected body.

However, the Greek phrase soma pneumatikon refers to a person’s spiritual orientation, rather than their physical makeup. This can be supported by Paul’s use of the word pneumatikon (or “spiritual”) earlier in 1 Corinthians. Paul writes, “Those who are spiritual (pneumatikon) can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others” (1 Cor. 2:15). By this, Paul does not mean that these Corinthian people were spirits. Instead, he said that they were spiritually minded (c.f. 1 Cor. 10:4 for such a use). Moreover, in his other letters, Paul also affirms a physical resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:10-11; 8:23).