Spiritual Doesn’t Always Mean Immaterial

 Quite often when we say or hear “spiritual” we might think of something invisible and immaterial (i.e. the ‘spiritual life’).  However, when it comes to the glory of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God in its fullness, the term “spiritual” doesn’t mean immaterial.  I like how Anthony Thiselton comments on Paul’s use of pneumatikos (spiritual) in 1 Cor. 15.44.  First, he gives his translation.

“It is sown an ordinary human body; it is raised a body constituted by the Spirit.  If there is a body for the human realm, there is also a body for the realm of the Spirit.”

Here are a few of his comments.

“The NRSV translation, ‘sown a physical body…raised a spiritual body…,’ is a misleading blunder in a version that is usually reliable and often excellent.  The contrast is not between physical and nonphysical.  The Greek word pneumatikos does not mean ‘composed of nonmaterial spirit.’  Paul uses the adjective in this epistle to denote that which reflects or instances the presence, power, and transforming activity of the Spirit.  The raised body is characterized by the uninterrupted, transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God.  It stands in contrast with the ordinary human body that has been open to the influence of the Holy Spirit, but in partial ways, still marred by human failure, fallibility, and self-interest.  The perfect openness to the Holy Spirit characteristic of the resurrection mode of being therefore brings together decay’s reversal, splendor, or ‘glory,’ power, and a mode of being constituted by the Spirit (vv. 42b-44).”

“Thus, similarly in v. 44b, such a ‘body’ or mode of being is one designed for the realm or sphere of the presence and resurrection action of the Holy Spirit, not merely for the realm of nonmaterial ‘spirit.'”

I haven’t read all of Thiselton’s Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary on 1 Corinthians, but the parts I have studied have been helpful.  I purchased this shorter one because it is a fraction of the cost of his work on 1 Cor. in the NIGTC series.  By the way, if you want to dig deeper into the above topic, you simply must read Geerhardus Vos’ essay called “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit” in his Shorter Writings.  It may even be online somewhere.

shane lems