Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"A Spirit Does Not Have Flesh and Bones": Another Application of Luke 24:39

A text which has been frequently cited by Trinitarians and others who do not accept the biblical teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was raised to life as a "spirit" is Luke 24:39. For example, according to Dr. Walter Martin, the founder of the Christian Research Institute and the author of a variety of books and other materials concerning many of the beliefs promoted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and by Jehovah's Witnesses:
[Acts 1:9] shows that the disciples were "looking on" and saw him "lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision" (v. 9). They could hardly have been looking at a spirit, which by definition is incorporeal, not with human eyes at least, and Christ had told them once before, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). [Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, Updated, and Expanded Edition, Ravi Zacharias, General Ed. (Bloomington, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), page 102; compare also page 121.]
In a footnote to the word "incorporeal" Martin writes, "Even angels have to take a human form in order to be seen (Genesis 19:1-2)," and so it is a genuine mystery why Martin did not see that Jesus, since his resurrection as a "spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45 [see discussion below]), could also have taken on various human forms, including the one he chose in Acts Chapter 1, but without requiring him (or the angels in Genesis 19) to actually have a real human body apart from such physical manifestations. 

Where it concerns Jesus' words in Luke 24:39, here is the text together with verses 36-38 and 40-43 according to the New Revised Standard Version (with my added underlining):

Luke 24:36-43 (NRSV [1989])
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  and he took it and ate in their presence.
The NRSV uses "ghost" to translate the Greek word pneuma, which also and regularly means a "spirit," that is, either an evil, demonic angel or a righteous, holy angel. Compare the use of pneuma in Luke 4:33, 8:29, 9:39, 9:42, Acts 16:16, 19:15, 16, and in Revelation 16:13-14, where pneuma clearly refers to a demonic spirit, and then compare the use of pneuma in Hebrews 1:14 and Revelation 1:4, where it clearly refers to angelic or to other holy spirits in Jah God's service.

Returning to the account associated with Luke 24:39, those in the room did not recognize Jesus by his face when he "stood among them" or by his voice as he spoke to them (Luke 24:35); they thought he may have been a "ghost" or some kind of harmful spirit (hence, they were "startled and terrified"). But Jesus reassured them by "showing them his hands and his feet" which in this instance had the wound marks from his execution. This was proof Jesus provided to help others who could not otherwise recognize his voice or his temporary physical form, because he did not look or sound like he did before he died. Related to this, Jesus then also explained, "A spirit/ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

It is therefore without question that on this occasion Jesus did have the marks of execution in the body in which he appeared to them. But was this the same "body" in which he was raised to life before his appearance in this room, or elsewhere? 

If Jesus is correct, namely, that "a spirit does not have flesh and bones," then the body which he manifested to his followers according to Luke 24:39 was not the same body in which he was raised to life. Note what is written concerning this raising to life, that is, the actual resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead according to 1 Corinthians 15:35-45 (with my underlining added):

1 Corinthians 15:35-45 (New International Version [1984])
But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.  The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit [Greek: pneuma].

According to Paul the "last Adam," Jesus of Nazareth, was "raised a spiritual body," meaning he "became a life-giving spirit" (Greek: pneuma). Therefore, merely by comparing what Jesus said in Luke 24:39 with the teaching here in 1 Corinthians 15:45, it is clear that the body in which Jesus was raised to life was a "spiritual body," one  meant for a "life-giving spirit" and so not a body with "flesh and bones," which he did manifest in different forms after his resurrection had already taken place.See Luke 24:13-35; John 20:14-17; compare Mark 16:9-14 (note the longer ending's wording in verse 12, "He [Jesus] appeared in another form [Greek: ephanerothe en hetera morphe]").

Apart from his appearances in different bodies/forms prior to his ascension but since his actual presentation of his "body" to Jah God the Father (John 20:14-17; Acts 1:1-8; Hebrews 10:5, 10), which appearances are similar to the manner in which angelic spirits are said to have taken on human forms (even to the point of eating; compare Genesis 19:1-3 with Luke 24:43), Jesus' resurrected spirit body, according to his own testimony in Luke 24:39, does not have "flesh and bones." Rather, the actual "spiritual body" in which Jesus was raised to life is much different from those which he took on during some of his earthly, post-resurrection appearances. Here is how his actual "spiritual body" is described by those who saw him with it (with my underlining added):

Revelation 1:12-16 (New World Translation [1984])
And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me, and, having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands someone like a son of man, clothed with a garment that reached down to the feet, and girded at the breasts with a golden girdle. Moreover, his head and his hair were white as white wool, as snow, and his eyes as a fiery flame; and his feet were like fine copper when glowing in a furnace; and his voice was as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars, and out of his mouth a sharp, long two-edged sword was protruding, and his countenance was as the sun when it shines in its power.
As I wrote in Chapter 6 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and to Critics (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2009), page 436, after citing the above description of Jesus' resurrection body according to his apostle John:
Here we have a clear description of what Jesus’ heavenly body looks like to humans. Jesus’ “head” and his “hair” are said to be “white as wool, as snow, and his eyes as a fiery flame.” His feet are “like fine copper when glowing in a furnace” and “his voice was the sound of many waters.” Finally, his “countenance was as the sun when it shines in its power.” This is a far cry from the human forms Jesus took on after his resurrection! Revelation 2:18 also describes the heavenly Jesus in similar terms, where it says he has “eyes like a fiery flame, and his feet are like fine copper.” These descriptions are also very similar to the angel in Revelation 10:1, whose “face was as the sun, and his feet were as fiery pillars.” It is little wonder, then, that the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as ‘not a man’ in Galatians 1:12.

The descriptions of Jesus’ heavenly body in Revelation 1 and 2 have several striking similarities with other angelic spirits who are described in the Bible. In Ezekiel 1:7, 13 the cherubs are described as “gleaming as with the glow of burnished copper,” and "like burning coals of fire." Their voices are even similar in sound to Jesus’ voice, for they are both like "vast waters, like the sound of the Almighty."Ezekiel 1:24.

Further, in Ezekiel 40:3 an angel is described as "like the appearance of copper." Also, in Daniel 10:6 the eyes, the body, and the voice of the angel who appeared to Daniel is described in terms which are very similar to how Jesus and the cherubs in Ezekiel are described. Consider (again with my underlining added):

And his body was like chrys´o·lite, and his face like the appearance of lightning, and his eyes like fiery torches, and his arms and the place of his feet were like the sight of burnished copper, and the sound of his words was like the sound of a crowd [NWT].

It is clear, then, that the body in which Jesus was raised to life is not the same body in which he died, even though he did use that same body or one like it when appearing to others after his resurrection in order to provide proof that he was not "a ghost," or some terrifying, demonic "spirit." Yet, apart from these appearances Jesus is presented just like other spirit beings in the Bible and in other literature written during the biblical periods about such beings, namely, as a "spirit" being with a "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 14:45), a body "not made with hands" but made by God just for him (1 Corinthians 15:38; 2 Corinthians 5:1-3), a body "raised imperishable" and so one with no "flesh and bones" as we see him with before his death and when appearing on earth to others before his ascension.Luke 24:39; Acts 1:1-9; 1 Corinthians 15:52.

For additional discussion of these and other, related texts and arguments concerning the 1) physical body in which Jesus died and 2) the spiritual body in which he was raised to life, including a complete discussion of the context and understanding of John 2:19-21, the empty tomb and the non-corruption of Jesus' "flesh" according to Acts 2:31 and Acts 13:36-37, see Chapter 6 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended (2009), which chapter is now available online in its entirety for your reading/printing/saving at no cost. Simply click here and enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Not Possible (So Leave Now or Soon, While You Still Can)

In the Bible we read that with God "all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; 14:36), though this does not have an all-inclusive meaning for we also read that 'God does not lie' (Numbers 23:16), with the implication being God cannot "lie" as men do. Similarly, we also read, "All things are possible for the one who believes" (Mark 9:23). This, too, is not all-inclusive in meaning for in Mark 10:26-27 Jesus' answer to the question, "Who can be saved?" is, "With humans it is not possible," since we cannot save ourselves from death though we can 'believe' and show our faith in God who is then willing and able to save us, or give us life again just as he did in the first place.

Since 'lying as a man does' is not possible for God, what are some 'lies' being told today which could not, then, originate with God? One which does not depend on a subjective opinion or personal judgment of another, but rather on an evaluation of claims made in light of the best available facts, involves a very deceptive use of a prophecy given by Jesus of Nazareth, one he gave about those whom he considers his "brothers."

In Matthew 25:31-40 Jesus foretold the following would someday take place where these "brothers" of his are concerned (with my underlining added):

Matthew 25:31-40 (New International Version [1984])
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
The above prophecy could not be clearer in its meaning, namely, those whom the Lord Jesus blesses with life in his coming kingdom do not know upon his return how it is or why, precisely, they are so blessed, that is to say, the blessed ones do not know those whom they treated well or those whom they took care of so that it was as if they were looking after or taking care of the Lord Jesus himself.

In direct, expressly clear contradiction to Jesus' prophecy we have the following teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the leaders or 'Governors' of which claim to be "these brothers" of Jesus:
What is done to [Jesus'] brothers he counts as being done to him personally. The sheeplike ones deliberately do good to Christ’s brothers because they recognize them to be such. [“Expanded Activities During Christ’s Presence,” The Watchtower, May 1, 1993, page 20, paragraph 21; underlining added.]
Yet, we just previously read Jesus' own recorded words about how those to whom Jesus speaks regarding their treatment of his "brothers" do not "recognize them to be such"! What the Society here writes is the exact opposite of what Jesus of Nazareth taught concerning the same subject.

Three times these "sheep" respond to Jesus with a question showing, clearly, that the "sheep" are not aware of what Jesus means by or who are his "brothers." However, because the Watchtower and its Governing Body openly and without reservation proclaim themselves to be Christ's "brothers" according to Matthew 25:31-40, they also expect those who want life to treat them well now, with a full knowledge and understanding of who they are or, rather, who they claim to be, namely, these very same "brothers" whom the account in Matthew 25 says the "sheep"  do not know represent Jesus in the ways he describes.

Note carefully the language used here (with my underlining added):
Today, almost five million members of the great crowd are living [even though Revelation 7:14 says the "great crowd" does not appear until after the "great tribulation"; so there are no members of the "great crowd" living today, only prospective of potential "members"] under the active leadership of the heavenly King Jesus Christ. They [= the "great crowd"] are in subjection to Christ and in close association with his anointed brothers yet on earth. Concerning the treatment that the great crowd accord these anointed ones, Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Because they unselfishly render aid to Christ’s anointed brothers, those of the great crowd are judged to have done good to Jesus himself. This helps them to have a secure relationship with Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. They have been privileged to join the anointed remnant in becoming God’s Witnesses and bearers of his name.—Isaiah 43:10, 11; Joel 2:31, 32. [“Saved Alive Through the Great Tribulation,” The Watchtower, February 15, 1995, page 15, paragraph 8.]
And here:
Have members of the [“faithful and discreet” slave class (= the "brothers" part of the Watchtower organization)] been helped similarly by individuals who are not anointed members of the Israel of God? Yes, they have been supported by the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have appeared on the scene during these last days. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16; Isaiah 61:5) Foretelling the warm, loving support that these “sheep” would offer his anointed brothers, Jesus said to them prophetically: “I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”—Matthew 25:35-40. [“When Jesus Comes in Kingdom Glory,” The Watchtower, May 15, 1997, page 13, paragraph 16.]
The Watchtower Society and its Governing Body are teaching what is not possible and they are using it to gain support from those who are afraid to question who they claim to be (compare Revelation 2:2). They are telling their members and the world through their literature that they are the "brothers" of Jesus whom we must all treat as if they are the Christ, all the while proclaiming continuously, and for well over a 100 years, "The appointed time has drawn near!" Compare Luke 21:8, the first part of which is a warning by Jesus about those who would, in effect, wrongly claim to be him, which the Society also does when it claims to be the "brothers" of Jesus who represent him.

The very prophecy the Watchtower Society and its Governing Body cite (Matthew 25:31-40) to show how Jesus will reward those who support them today and during this past century as his "brothers," proves conclusively that they cannot be Jesus' "brothers." While this conclusion may seem obvious to many based solely on the many false teachings put forth by the Watchtower Society and by its Governing Body over the past 100+ years, because the Watchtower and its Governors have (like many religions) done good things in many ways and because they and their organization have often helped inform  people about some very important truths, it is often very difficult for current and even for some former members of the Society to completely let go of them.

While reflecting on and applying the facts to Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 25 may help make this break easier, it is still not very easy to do. This is true in part because of yet another teaching by the Watchtower Society and its Governing Body which is also inconsistent with the very text they use to support their view that there is no other place to go if a person leaves the Watchtower Society to worship Jah God apart from required traditions of men. Note the following (again with my underlining added):
“Accepting a change when it comes and adapting to it can be difficult,” admits one longtime elder. What has helped him accept the many refinements he has witnessed in the 48 years that he has been a Kingdom proclaimer? He answers: “Having the right attitude is the key. Refusing to accept a refinement is to be left behind as the organization moves ahead. If I find myself in a situation where changes seem hard to accept, I reflect on Peter’s words to Jesus: ‘Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.’ Then I ask myself, ‘Where shall I go away to—out there into the darkness of the world?’ This helps me to hold firmly to God’s organization [= The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and its agencies, including its Governing Body].”—John 6:68 ["Walking in the Path of Increasing Light" The Watchtower, February 15, 2006, page 30, paragraph 21, ].
And, similarly, but about 30 years earlier:
Perhaps something is said in one of the Watch Tower publications that you do not grasp or that adjusts our previous understanding of matters. How do you view this? Will you allow doubts to creep in? Will confidence be replaced with skepticism? Ask yourself: ‘Where did I gain the knowledge of the Scriptures that I already have? Has not the spiritual food provided through the Watch Tower publications helped me to change my life and find contentment and satisfaction? Where else would I go?’ This is the feeling toward Jehovah’s arrangements that the disciples had toward Jesus: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You [Jesus] have sayings of everlasting life.”—John 6:68. ["Have You Really Come to Know God?" The Watchtower, July 15, 1974, page 438, paragraph 21; underlining added].
Also similar to the above quotations, but from about 56 years ago:
Jehovah’s visible organization can use you, but can get along without you too. But you cannot get along without it. Fruitless ones are eventually pruned off and never missed as new ones are grafted in. Pruned off branches soon wither and die, being cut off from the circulating, life-giving sap. ... So it is with Jehovah’s visible organization. All must associate together, get the life-giving spiritual food that God circulates to his people through the organization, get the new truths that take away old ideas and the admonition that keeps down queer personal ideas … Don’t become a withered branch or a paralyzed foot. Don’t amputate yourself from the organization and commit spiritual suicide.—John 15:1-8. [“Who Will Share in the Final Witness?” The Watchtower, January 15, 1950, page 26, paragraph 22; underlining added.]
Nothing could be farther from the truth than that you can leave this organization of men who teach what is not true on important issues and follow the Christ while praising Jah God!

Further, there is no text anywhere in the New Testament which tells anyone to go to any place for "everlasting life," that is, we are not told to go to a "where" but instead we are expressly told to go to a real living person, to a "whom," that is, to Jesus of Nazareth, whom we can serve and follow "individually" or with just "two or three" others.—Matthew 18:20; Galatians 6:4-5; Revelation 2:2.

Matthew 25:31-40, when put up beside what the Watchtower Society and its Governing Body teach about this prophecy (namely, that it expressly and clearly applies to them), everyone who is afraid of these men for any reason should be afraid no longer. They are not who they think they are, and they certainly are not those whom the "sheep" blessed by Jesus when he returns do not recognize until Jesus himself identifies them at that same time, upon his return, for until he does  return the "sheep" do not know who are these "brothers." Yet, in spite of this the "great crowd" part of the Watchtower Society is taught that they do know who they are today, right now, and that is why they serve them as if they are, in fact, Jesus' "brothers," even though it is in direct contradiction to Jesus' prophecy and teaching that they would not know this at all, at least not until he tells them about it in the future.

The "sheep" who are truly the subject of Matthew 25:31-40 are the same "brothers" who are treated as if they are Jesus himself, since the mark of identity for his followers is that they "might love each other" (John 13:35). Indeed, the identity of Jesus’ “brothers” is not such a mystery after all, for though we are not yet able to identify each one, Jesus stated the matter plainly in one respect, "Whoever does the will of my Father, the one who is in heaven, that same person is my brother and my sister."—Matthew 12:50.

One day we will learn about the identity of the "sheep" and "brothers" of Jesus, but not now, not beyond what we can put together apart from specific identities of such ones, since only Jesus and his Father know their true "sheep."—Matthew 18:9-10; John 4:23; 10:3-4, 14-16, 27.

The "sheep"/"brothers" of the Christ who treat each other they way they would treat the Christ or want to be treated themselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27) will upon Jesus' return have fulfilled yet another related teaching and directive which he gave to us all, namely:
Matthew 6:2-4 (New World Translation [1984])
[W]hen you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.
Since it is not possible for the Watchtower Society and for its Governing Body to be who they claim to be, I urge all current members of the Watchtower Society to leave. Leave the organization. Leave its false teachings. Leave its false teachers and irresponsible leaders, but retain those beliefs which are based on the best available reasons whether the Society teaches them or not, and then fulfill your original intent and obligation to keep following the Christ, not men.—Compare Galatians 1:10-12.

I am asking all of you who are in this struggle to not give up, to remain a Christian, and to keep bearing witness to Jesus as the Christ, the one who was foretold to come in Jah's name according to prophetic texts which date to a time before Jesus began his ministry (and so a truly true prophecy), the very thing Jesus also said he did when he taught openly before others (John 5:43; 10:25). That "name" is the one which according to Revelation 19:1-6 all those saved by God will "praise!"

Stand up in and among your congregations, or apart from them, and let everyone know what is going on. Let all know  who these men claim to be and who they cannot be according to the very prophecy they so frequently quote to leverage and maintain their position and authority over others. With an understanding of how difficult this may be for many, I am convinced that in view of what these men have previously taught and, more importantly, what they still teach (since anyone can change if they are "willing" to do so [even "that woman Jezebel" [Revelation 2:20-23]) is so dangerous to your faith in the long-term, that whatever difficulty you may face now will be worth it, that is, if you and your family can break free from their oppressive grip with your faith and with your family's faith in Jesus and in Jah God still intact. If I can help any of you do so, I will.

Leave those who continue to teach what is wrong for their own selfish gain and go to Jesus yourself, with your family and any others who are ready to take this step with you, by praying in his name to Jah God, his Father (John 15:7-10). Keep yourself and your family strong by studying and applying his teachings, by treating others the way you want to be treated, and by praising Jah God in Jesus' name.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Elihu Online Papers

Earlier this year the new Elihu Online Papers (EOP) page became active with its first article, a revision of the earlier draft, "Advanced 'Earth Conditions': Corrections to Miller's 1953 Hypothesis and Its Likely Indications," EOP 1 (July 4, 2010 [revised January 10, 2011]).

Shortly thereafter the second article was added (also a revision of an earlier draft), "Another Exception to Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin: A Further Response to Dan Wallace (With an Appendix)," EOP 2 (July 26, 2010 [revised January 18, 2011]).

Today the final (and third revision of an earlier draft) article was added to the Elihu Online Papers page, "Punctuation in Early Greek New Testament Texts," EOP 3 (September 4, 2010 [revised February 7, 2011]).

All three articles have been revised in ways which are meant to make more clear what was presented in the three earlier drafts, but without substantially adding to the prior articles' body of material or conclusions. There is a slightly different footnote sequencing at times due to the new format's use of *s for the first two introductory notes; the numbered footnotes begin with the main text's first paragraph.

Additional articles related to the educational, social, and spiritual interests of Elihu Books and the Christian Witnesses of Jah will be regularly featured on the new EOP page, which also makes it possible for me to provide important or otherwise helpful materials for reading and for downloading at no cost. Updates about any new or pending EOP articles will be given through Twitter, on this Blog, as well as on the Elihu Chat page (to which I will soon return, to answer some pending questions). Please note also the location of the Elihu Online Papers link on the Elihu Books web site, which is where the Chat link used to be located, just above the first color-coded menu link. (The Chat link is now in the lower bright red section of the left-side main menu, just above the bottom "Contact Us" link.)

For available and soon-to-be published books, audio, and video presentations please visit the Elihu Books and Media page. If there is ever anything I can provide or request to have provided through Elihu Books to assist anyone in need, please let me know how I might be able to help.