2 Corinthians 5:8

I think you just have to be aware that for a few people, such as a physicist like me and those really into physics, it is the other meaning of “physical” as having to do with the laws of nature which comes to mind. So I cringe when someone says the resurrection is physical, not because I don’t believe in a bodily resurrection but because I don’t believe it is according to the laws of nature discovered by science.

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It must include them.

Yeah you find that difficulty in the 1 Corinthians 15 passage above also when Paul describes Jesus, the 2nd Adam, as a life giving spirit. I don’t know how much that applies to our spiritual body when resurrected. On the one hand, I am quite sure that God is the ultimate source of life and only with a connection to Him do we have eternal life. On the other hand, I do know that saintly people also seem to share that characteristic to some degree bringing light to the spirits of people all around them. I tend to think this is a requirement for being a resident in a heavenly kingdom and those who make life hell for the people around them are not.

Wow, thank you for pointing out that terrible book image, I’ll get that fixed.

I wouldn’t presume to speak for BioLogos (whose members hold to a diversity of views on many subjects). But I have addressed the verse you mention in its context in 2 Corinthians 4-5 and have concluded that Paul is not talking about an intermediate state between death and resurrection (where an immaterial “soul” exists without a body).

Here is my brief blog post on the passage: https://jrichardmiddleton.com/2014/11/09/what-about-the-intermediate-state-in-2-corinthians-56-8-problem-texts-for-holistic-eschatology-part-4/

If you prefer to listen to my lecture on the subject, here is a video: https://henrycenter.tiu.edu/resource/symposium-on-the-intermediate-state/ J. P. Moreland gives his case for substance dualism first; then, starting around 23 minutes, I present the case for holism, addressing 2 Cor 5 (absent from the body) and Luke 23 (the thief on the cross). BTW the PowerPoint just didn’t work for the screen, even though the slides showed up on my computer.

I don’t assume everyone will be convinced by my exegesis of these texts. But I have concluded that none of the six NT passages typically cited for an intermediate state actually teach this.

The blog post and the video lecture are based on a section in my book A New Heaven and a New Earth (an excursus on the intermediate state, in chap. 10).


One thing- why would you be opposed to an immaterial soul but be fine with God being an immaterial spirit?

I’m afraid you’re going to get what is mostly a biblical scholar’s answer, intertwined with my basic intuitions about reality. The notion of an immaterial soul just isn’t found in the Bible. The Bible understands the person as an integrated whole, which includes interiority and well as bodiliness (this is clearly not materialism). But the idea that there is an immaterial, separable part of a person derives from Plato specifically, though there have been many versions of that since he wrote his dialogues.

To go a bit further, “soul” in the Bible typically translates Hebrew nephesh (in the OT) or Greek psyche (in the NT). This should often be translated something like “life” or “organism.”

Again, if you’re interested, see: https://jrichardmiddleton.com/2014/10/23/paul-on-the-soul-not-what-you-might-think/

And I see nothing in the Bible claiming that God is immaterial (or denying that he is; it is just not relevant to biblical theology). Indeed, being a biblical scholar, I might point out that many people in the Bible saw God or God’s glory, and Jacob wrestled with God at the Jabbok (these episodes suggest that God is easily manifest in visible and tangible ways). God is never presented in the Bible as essentially immaterial, as if that was an important theological idea.

Not even the idea that God is Spirit necessitates immateriality. But that’s another topic.


I would submit that this qualifies, don’t you think?:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24

And further down the page, I see, in Strong’s Concordance, the Greek for “Spirit” was “Pneuma”, meaning “Wind, breath, spirit”!
Well, that’s settled.

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You may like checking out the Bible Project’s work on this.


Just from the notes, I’m okay with that.

Indeed. And there are things which suggest otherwise. Genesis 3:8 where it said God walked in the garden. Genesis 32:22 where it said Jacob wrestled with God. Now maybe these were metaphorically speaking… and maybe they were not. I have no problem either way.

I would say that it depends on what you mean by material. If you mean the space-time mathematical structure of matter discovered by science then no. God is not composite. There is nothing which is not God which makes God be God. (theology 101) This is very much unlike us in our physical existence which only exists because of a collection and arrangement of atoms and molecules.

On the other hand, if you mean tangibility or capable of touching things (or eating things) then I would insist that there is nothing which God does not have or is not capable of. If the resurrected Jesus was an example of a “spiritual body” as Paul calls it then it was certainly capable of such things.

But, if by material you mean God is confined to a particular form then I don’t think that was true of the resurrected Jesus any more than it is true of God. God didn’t always appear to people in the same form: burning bush Exodus 3&4, or pillar of cloud/fire Exodus 13:21 (and maybe an angel to wrestle with Jacob, and maybe a donkey to talk to Balaam). Again whether you want to take those as metaphorical or not – I have no problem either way.

What we take this passage to mean depends on the lens and the assumptions we bring to the text.

The context is Jesus’s discussion with the Samaritan woman about the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritan claim for Mt. Gerizim (where their temple had been located, before it was destroyed). In contrast to both claims, he said that the time is coming when God (who is Spirit) will be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

Many later readers understand Jesus’s words here through the lens of a (generally Platonic or Neoplationic) two realm worldview of spiritual (=immaterial) versus physical (=material). So, in distinction to God being present in physical locations (even the Holy of Holies in the temple), God should be understood as immaterial and not limited to place.

This was not (generally) how a first century Jewish reader would have understood him (unless he was influenced by Philo of Alexandria). Nor how the Samaritan woman would have understood him.

Rather, given the first century Jewish/Samaritan context, Jesus was saying that God transcended our ideological claims and commitments. As the angel of YHWH told Joshua (in 5:13-14), he was not on anyone’s side. And Joshua got on his face and worshiped (in spirit and in truth, I might add).

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?"

Thanks for this explanation. I think I would agree with its main outlines.

I would also add on the topic of the Spirit, that in John 3:8 Jesus says: “The wind [pneuma, same word for spirit] blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

You can also feel effects of the wind/Spirit. Pneuma isn’t conceived of as immaterial. Rather, it represents energy/power, either for holiness and healing (God’s Spirit) or for sin and destruction (unclean spirits).

I’m okay with preincarnate Christophanies of the Lord. God was the Trinity in the OT as well, no matter what a reader whenever understood.

I have read Mr Middleton’s book and it is very good, particularly strong on the final destination being a renewed earth and heaven, rather than some sort of spiritual existence in heaven. However I think his chapter on the so-called intermediate state is the weakest part of the book.

Yes the Greek re ‘I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ may be understood to be ‘Today I tell you, you will be with me in paradise’, implying a future ‘day’, there is no reason to understand Jesus’ words as such except to back up the view of a non-existent state. The ‘traditional’ understanding may not be definite, but neither is the alternate.

As for a ‘immaterial’ soul, I think that is something of a red herring. The soul, if it exists, is real but invisible, at least to the human eye. Just as the Holy Spirit is real but invisible, so the human spirit/soul. So the issue of ‘immateriality’ is irrelevant.

Overall, I think there are too many passages in the Bible, primarily in the NT but also some in the OT, which at least strongly imply continued existence in some form beyond physical death. Even if you argue some or many of those verses are influenced by a Jewish understanding of reality, is such a view not based on at least a partial true reality?

The picture presented in Revelation is of many ‘people’ existing ‘before’ the renewed earth & heaven.

God has obviously always included the material and the transcendent; the glorified material. The rest… is above even that pay grade.

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