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September, 21st 2020

Futurism, General Discussion, Preterism / June 6, 2018

Collectively Wrong About Collective Body Resurrection

Post by Jeremy Menicucci

Pastor, author, theologian, apologist

You always have to be wary of those who know enough Greek to be dangerous but not enough to make sense about what Greek grammar and syntax is saying in the New Testament. I’ve always wondered why very smart people make a serious blunder on passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8, saying that the middle voice, παύσονται, creates some kind of sequence of voices. Where παύσονται must mean that it ceases on its own and therefore ceases before the terminus ad quem of verse 10.

Such a concept is foreign to the grammar of the Greek text and is more concerned with doctrinal distinctives of cessationism rather than Greek grammar. Which is peculiar in this case, because it is my view that 1 Corinthians 13 teaches cessationism. Thus, there really is no reason to misrepresent the grammar there.

The same concept holds true to Full Preterism, which I wholeheartedly reject, on the concept of the resurrection. Not every Full Preterist has this problem, but there are plenty who hold to an unorthodox view of the resurrection. This view was never held to in any credal statement in the entirety of Church History and is nowhere confirmed in the Biblical text.

Collective Body Resurrection

The advocates of this view, however, do look to a particular passage of Scripture to justify this claim. Bear in mind, that Full Preterism does not need to mess with the resurrection in this way in order to be true or followed.

Again, I believe Full Preterism is wrong. But Full Preterists don’t need to subscribe to the collective body view of the resurrection e.g. Ed Stevens. Although Stevens doesn’t account for the orthodox view of the resurrection as he holds to the individual view, that you receive an immortal body upon your death and enter into heaven, fully glorified and resurrected.

The basic idea of this view is that the resurrection, that for 2000 years of Church History has been viewed as a future, physical bodily resurrection, is actually not what the Bible teaches. Collective body advocates hold that the resurrection is purely a spiritual transformation of a person. Those who experience this resurrection enjoy all the privileges that physical body resurrection has.

In other words, technically it’s the eradication of sin and dwelling in the New Heavens and New Earth. Varying degrees of preteristic beliefs hold to this concept but some have even classified it as a sort of “imperfect” experience of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The collective body advocates hold to the concepts surrounding the resurrection of the dead but maintain that it’s not physical. To attempt to justify this, they look to 1 Corinthians 15:35:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”

(1 Corinthians 15:35 ESV)

The specific phrase is,  “With what kind of body do they come?” As compared with the word “dead” in the previous phrase. They point to the grammatical reality that the word “dead” is plural and the word “body” is singular. Therefore, it’s speaking of a collective resurrection into one body.

The Problems with the Collective Body View

There literally is not a single grammatical concept that confirms this. There is nothing in Greek grammar and syntax that says that if the word “dead” is plural and a noun that refers to it is singular that therefore it must be one body for all the dead.

So let’s think about the argument. It can’t be true with respect to the fact that the concept of a singular body can be applied to the living without necessitating that the living doesn’t have physical bodies. For example, if I said, “The living (plural) all have a human body”, then you can recognize that I’ve applied a singular noun, “body”, for the whole group collectively.

Why is this an important illustration? Because it’s the very type of illustration that Paul himself uses. Notice the context:

And what you sow is not the body that 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 the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.

(1 Corinthians 15:37–40 ESV)

What a minute. There are multiple bodies (plural) in the context. Did you notice the phrase, “There are heavenly bodies (plural) and earthly bodies (plural)? But back to the point that I was making, Paul used the very same illustration that I used, referring to a body (singular) for humans. It’s a kind of body. And there is a body for animals i.e. another kind of body. Notice the pattern? Paul is referring to the physical bodies of creatures and humans. He says that “Not all flesh (physical) is the same”.

Don’t miss the fact that Paul’s proof for heavenly bodies is based on the fact that there are already multiple types of physical bodies. And also, don’t miss the fact that Paul’s use of the singular isn’t to prove that believers are all raised into a singular, spiritual body.

His point is that they are all raised with a specific kind of body. Which grammatically requires the use of the singular. It’s grammatically and even doctrinally incorrect to say that they all would have specific kinds of bodies (plural). Because that would mean that believers would be raised with all sorts of kinds of physical bodies.

How the collective body advocates can miss this is beyond me. The only possible conclusion is that they are definitely reading their doctrine into the text because they believe if this passage teaches physical resurrection or even individual resurrection that it undermines their Full Preteristic beliefs.

Thus, don’t be fooled by Full Preterists who attempt to use their limited knowledge of the Greek to influence those who may have less knowledge of the Greek into thinking that their views are supported by the text. Both the Greek and the context of 1 Corinthians 15 are against them.

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