Was Jesus Resurrection Only Physical?

Was Jesus’ Resurrection Only Spiritual?  When followers of classical Christianity talk about Jesus’ resurrection, we understand it to be a physical one.  But there are many Christians that believe that when Jesus rose from the dead, that it was only in spirit, not physically.  How do they come to this conclusion?

Spirit In The Sky

The reasons for believing in a spiritual resurrection vary.  As with any conversation, it’s always best to let the other person tell you why they believe something.  It does us no good to speculate on what someone’s position on an issue is.  We can wind up answering an objection they don’t actually have. 

One of the main reasons given for believing in a spiritual over a physical resurrection is the Apostle Paul.  The Pauline letters pre-date the Gospels.  Paul’s letters speak of Jesus appearing to him in just as a spiritual apparition.  So the argument goes that Paul had a spiritual experience with Jesus, which the Gospel writers later embellished into a physical resurrection. 

Does The Theory Hold Water?

The issue with this theory is that the Gospel writers claim to be eyewitnesses, or to be recording the testimony of eyewitnesses.  These accounts, while written down later that the Pauline epistles, still occurred prior to the Paul’s writings.  Paul was not only aware of these accounts, but actually endorses them as Scripture in some of his epistles. 

And these eyewitness accounts go out of their way to say and show that Jesus’ resurrection was a physical one. Here are just a few verses that show Jesus doing things that could not be accomplished by a spiritual being:

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”[1] Jn 20:27

And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”[2] Lk 24:38-39

42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.[3] Lk 24:42-43

Clearly these writers meant for their readers to understand this as a physical resurrection.  Even if you don’t believe the Gospels are true, you must concede this point. 

And while the idea that Jesus’ resurrection was only spiritual fits with Paul’s letters, it doesn’t make sense of the rest of what Scripture says on the subject.  If, however, we understand the proper order of when events were witnessed and then recorded, the entire picture comes into focus. 

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[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Jn 20:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. (1982). (Lk 24:38–39). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Lk 24:42–43). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.