Thursday, July 30, 2009

NT Pod 6: Resurrection and After-life in Paul

Episode 6 of the NT Pod discusses Paul's view of Resurrection and the After-life. Are there contradictions between his earlier and later views? Did his mind change?

It is nine and a half minutes long. Feel free to leave your comments below.

NT Pod Episode 6: Resurrection and the After-life in Paul (mp3)

Key texts: 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; Phil. 1.21-26.

Programme Notes on the NT Blog.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement. Extra bit to claim my podcast on Podcast Alley: My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-1f2c826ae4c19f7a460a320c39faa2d3}


  1. Thank-you for these talks. I enjoyed the 9.5 minute Bible - a whole century, even an eschaton in 9.5 minutes! Having just read Job in detail, I am pondering how to distinguish restoration and recovery and the hope implied in that book from resurrection and after-life. I think there is much in Paul that is about restoration and present recovery of reality for 'all who call on the name of the Lord' as well as the future hope that is ponderable but undecidable from a human point of view. It strikes me that Romans 11:32 is an apt one-line summary of Job.

  2. Interesting thoughts; thanks, Bob.

  3. Thanks for these - I'm really enjoying them.

  4. Thanks for listening, Crystal, and for taking the time to say thanks.

  5. Hi Mark,

    The approach to interpretation is evident here, but I wonder how you would see the function of canon playing into all of this. While the contextualized letter cannot be set aside, and you insightfully observe the "we" in 1 Thess, how might the theological reactualization of the initial contextualized letter have impacted the interpretation of these passages? I'm not sure if this is the grid with which Tom Wright begins, but I'm inclined to find more hermeneutical sense to his approach. What do you think?

    Also, do you think people will be with Christ as in face to face? I wonder if a believer might depart into somewhat of a Sheol, still very similar to the Old Testament model, and await the physical resurrection.

    Thanks for these pods, they really are a lot of fun. And I love the UK accent... I can listen to it all day.

  6. Great questions, Rob; thanks. I think a canonical approach to this question would look a bit different from a historical approach, but a nuanced canonical approach could certainly take account of the development of Paul's own story. In the NT, his letters are prefaced by Acts, which provide us with a story of a man on the move, discussing developments with Jerusalem and with his mission field. And the letters themselves clearly come from different times to different audiences, and a canonical approach might want to take that seriously.

    I think one of the ways that Paul's (and others') views could be interpreted would be along the lines you suggest, i.e. instead of Wright's two-stage life after death / life after life after death, one could presume that the after-life is actually no life, only sleep, ahead of the resurrection, which happens in the "twinkling of an eye". I am not as familiar as I ought to be with later Christian theological reflection on this kind of thing, but I am sure that this has been one of the ways in which Paul's different comments have been understood across the centuries.

    Thanks for your kind words, by the way.

  7. Mark, there's a comment meant for you here.

  8. Thanks, Crystal. Caught that, thanks.

  9. Mark:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I read NT Wright's book last summer and found it quite helpful, and challenging. As someone who preaches at many funerals, there is always a "tug-of-war" between these two concepts. Of course, even people who have attended Church faithfully for their entire lives have some pretty interesting views on the afterlife. I appreciate hearing your thoughts in these podcasts on and your blog.
    Fr. Dan Graves
    Holy Trinity Church, Thornhill, ON

  10. Many thanks, Daniel. I can well imagine that "tug-of-war" at funerals. I have been conscious of it as an attender at almost every funeral I have been to.

  11. Mark,
    Greetings from Hawaii! I would love if you would entertain the idea that in Phil 1, Paul wrestles with not the afterlife but martyrdom. It seems to me that his focus is not "which is better for me," but one where he faces a paradox: do we become a martyr for the faith like Jesus or do we spread the word about Jesus' Martyrdom. While this may seem like just a change in emphasis, I believe it to have extreme ecclesiastical consequences if the focus is not the afterlife.
    I have known Paul to avoid the "social gospels" eschaton (non-cosmic, heavenly, ect..) but it seems to me that he may be wrestling with the reality that the heaven he has preached and promised may not look they way he imagined. Could this discrepancy in Pauls eschatology be him flirting with the realities of the "social gospel?"
    I by no means intend to argue, I had just always understood Paul as a black and white kind of guy. The differences you describe make him a little more human. ;)

  12. Thanks, Alex. It's a really interesting idea -- worth giving some more thought to.

  13. Hi Mark,

    I'm really enjoying these, slowly working my way along-- I'm commenting on this one because it's the one I just finished listening to. I deeply appreciate your respectful and dare I say gentle tone as you tease out these passages in a rigorous, historically minded way. Fantastic! My youngest sister is a freshman at Duke and I will recommend any courses you teach to her.

    Many thanks,

  14. Hi Kiely. Many thanks for your kind words -- greatly appreciated.

  15. This is way late, I'm just now discovering the NT pod, but it does seem like resurrection is present in Philippians as well, at least that's what I see in 3:20-21. Does that help Wright's case, or at least attest to the continuing importance of resurrection? (Even if there is some place you go to before hand?)

  16. I'm a bit late to the tea party but it was enjoyable as when I listened to it last year. Keep up the excellent pods. Have you written anything more detailed on this subject?

  17. Thanks. No, not on this subject, I'm afraid.