expanded to include, once and for all, death itself. Those baptized P
did not have to conceptually split themselves into body entities and soul
entities in order to satisfy their deepest hopes.
It is difficult for the 20th-Century monist
or dualist to conceive of death as an event which initiates a metamorphosis.
In Cartesian fashion there still has to be some substance, some structure,
which carries over as the building block for the new existence. For the
Christians of the NT period, however, there was no immaterial soul entity
which acted as some blueprint or immaterial personality skeleton and later
became 'fleshed out' in the next life. Two passages, John 12:24-25 and
I Corinthians 15: 35-50, indicate that both Christ and the Apostle Paul
used an analogy from nature to convey the view that death is a transformation.
Paul argued that this perishable N existence and not some immaterial aspect
of it was analogous to a perishable seed:
You Foolish Man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel,
perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as
he has chosen and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh
is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another
for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and there
are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the
glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun,
and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star
differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead.
(I Cor. 15:35-42)
Paul asserted that God could give each P (seed)
a body (plant) according to its flesh. The bare kernel of flesh (basar,
sarx) could become a glorious body (soma). Note that human seed is not
considered to be the only kind of seed which could receive a body. Since
all P were kernels of flesh, all could receive one--people,
animals, birds, and fish for instance. The seed (P) that could be sown
was perishable, but what could be raised was imperishable. (see v. 42b)
Paul concluded,, "I tell you this, brethen: flesh and blood Ethus
implicating N and PI cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable
inherit the imperishable." (I Cor. 15:50) What is perishable is just
that--perishable, and it does not automatically become imperishable. It
must first be willingly sacrificed and buried and baptized with water
before it can grow into that imperishable plant.
The P of the believer was this perishable existence
which could be transformed into pneuma. The seed sown as a soma
psuchikon was raised as a soma pneumatikon (see I
Cor. 15:44) In this NT passage the godly clearly do not become shades
among the refaim. In the sense that the believer had already participated
in the death and resurrection of Christ, the person was already pneuma. This transformation, this metamorphosis, began
when he or she became committed to Christ through the willing sacrifice
of P. From the viewpoint of those who wrote the NT, N and P (when understood
as a seed) were still destroyed when breath (ruah and neshamah)
departed; however, they believed this destruction was also a necessary
stage which enabled the P seed to transform into a glorious body of the
kind that Christ revealed between his resurrection and ascension.