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Richard Carrier Carrier Oconnell Oconnell4

O’Connell’s Closing Statement (2008)


Response to “On Over What?”

Of course, I think that the alternative explanations I propose are not just possible, but probable. However, the audience will have to decide this for themselves.

According to several prominent lexicons, the normal meaning of “ependyomai” is “to put on one garment over another garment.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: “to put on over (i.e. another garment).”[1] An Intermediate Greek Lexicon: “to put on one garment over another.”[2] A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: “put on (in addition)” (i.e. in addition to what is already put on).[3] A Patristic Greek Lexicon: “put on besides” (i.e. besides what is already put on).[4] It is true that in some cases, the word can mean simply “put on.”[5] However, this is not the typical meaning of the word, and thus in the absence of strong contextual evidence to the contrary, we should assume that “ependyomai” means “to put on one garment over another garment.”

With regard to Carrier’s other points on 2 Corinthians 4:6-5:10:

  1. The word which most translations render “destroyed” is more literally rendered “dismantled” or “taken down.”[6] Thus “destroy” need not mean annihilate (as Carrier seems to presume), and therefore Paul is not necessarily saying that our bodies will be annihilated. When a tent (or the Old Testament tabernacle) is taken down, it ceases to serve its function as a tent and ceases to have the form of a tent, but the matter of the tent still remains, and the tent can be reconstituted (as the Old Testament tabernacle frequently was). So Paul’s affirmation that the body will be “destroyed” is compatible with 1BT.

  2. Paul does describe the present body as a burden, but I see no reason why a burdensome body must be eliminated, rather than transformed into an unburdensome body.

  3. Paul’s use of “skenos” does not indicate that he believes in 2BT. Although Carrier claims that skenos is used by other writers whose ideas correspond to 2BT, the texts he cites seem to affirm immortality of the soul, not 2BT.[7]

Response to “Clay Vessels”

Carrier thinks that Paul’s statement that the resurrection body is not made with hands refers back to 4:7, where Paul compares the preresurrection body to a clay vessel (since clay vessels are made with hands). From this, Carrier argues that because clay vessels are destroyed (i.e. annihilated) after use, the preresurrection body will be destroyed.

If 2 Corinthians 5:1 does refer back to 4:7, this passage is still not problematic for 1BT because no clay vessel is ever technically annihilated; it is broken into pieces, but the pieces still remain, so the matter of the clay vessel continues to exist, and the clay vessel could potentially be reconstituted. For Paul to affirm 2BT, he would have to say not merely that our bodies are destroyed like clay vessels, but that new vessels are brought in to replace the old ones.

But in fact, it is highly unlikely that the phrase “not made with hands” has anything to do with the earlier mention of clay vessels. The resurrection body is described as not made with hands because it is of divine origin. Although Carrier is correct that our current bodies are not literally made with hands, they are of human origin and are inferior to the resurrection body, which is of divine origin. In several places in the Bible, “made with hands” is used to refer to something when the author wishes to emphasize both the thing’s human origin and its inferiority to the divine (Mark 14:58; Acts 17:24; 19:26; Hebrews 9:24). Thus Paul here uses “made with hands” as a figure of speech for “of human origin and inferior to things of divine origin.” By labeling the resurrection body as “not made with hands,” Paul emphasizes the divine origin of the resurrection body and therefore emphasizes its sturdiness. Paul’s whole point in this passage is that the present body is fragile, whereas the resurrection body is sturdy.

Response to “Varia”

  1. There is simply no way to interpret Romans 8:19-23 as an affirmation that the world will be annihilated. Since Paul says that the creation eagerly looks forward to the eschaton, he must think that the creation is going to be renewed at the eschaton (it would not look forward to its destruction). And certainly the creation cannot be redeemed by being annihilated. It does not matter if Paul is at odds with the rest of the New Testament on this point (though I do not think he is).

  2. The meaning of Colossians 3:5 is that when we are in our earthly body, we are subject to sins such as “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness.” These sins are the things Paul refers to as our “parts on earth”; he does not call our body parts our parts on earth, and thus there is no implication that we have other body parts which are not on earth. I have already addressed 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-54.

  3. The lexicons list “change” (i.e. transformation) as the primary meaning of allasso and “exchange” as a secondary meaning.[8] Hence, the word typically means transformation. If Paul is alluding to Psalm 102 in 1 Corinthians, he must have thought Psalm 102 affirms renewal of the world rather than destruction (regardless of the intent of the author), since it is very clear that renewal is what Paul expected (Romans 8:19-23). It is irrelevant whether Hebrews 1:10-12 affirms destruction of the world. If Paul must believe the same thing as the author of Hebrews because they both share the same background, then Paul must believe in 1BT because the other New Testament writers believe it, and they share the same background as Paul.

  4. I addressed whether Josephus subscribed to 2BT and whether Paul’s “inner man” is an unseen body in my second rebuttal.

Response to “The Comparative Argument”

  1. It is not true that Paul never says anything like what other 1BT proponents say. Paul and 2 Baruch both discuss how the resurrection body will be changed. Paul, Clement of Rome, John, and the Talmud all use the sowing-reaping analogy. Paul and the Treatise on the Resurrection state that death will be swallowed up at the resurrection. Every Church Father who commented on 1 Corinthians 15 would have elaborated on Paul’s words.

  2. The Corinthians were worried about discontinuity, not continuity. Dale Martin rightly argues that the Corinthians object to the resurrection because they do not think the flesh is worthy of participating in the afterlife, since the flesh is inferior to pneumatic material.[9] Paul has to say, in effect, “Look, the flesh is a lot better than you think it is.”[10] In order to convince the Corinthians of this, he focuses on how the resurrection body is superior to the present body.[11]

  3. Of course, I think that Paul does say the same body will be raised.

  4. The popular 1BT analogies, metaphors, and proof texts which Carrier has in mind (e.g. clay molding) are ones which are concerned with the problem of continuity. Since Paul is concerned with the problem of discontinuity, Paul does not use this sort of language.

Response to “Paul Never Cites Evidence Available to the Gospels”

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul gives a brief review of the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.[12] As he only provides a brief review (since the question he is really interested in is the nature of the resurrection body), he lists the appearances without describing them, because describing them would take up too much space. So we should not expect him to narrate appearances in vv. 3-8. In 15:35-54, Paul discusses the nature of the resurrection body, and we should not expect him to narrate appearances here either, because narrating appearances would only help show how the resurrection body is continuous with the old body, but Paul is trying to explain how it is discontinuous (assuming the appearances were not glorious appearances, but were of a mundane nature, as the Gospels claim).[13]

Response to “Was There an Empty Tomb?”

1. Carrier’s discussion only shows that some ancients did not consider the testimony of women to be inherently unreliable; but many did, and that is enough to make it embarrassing to claim that women discovered the tomb.

2. There are differences between the four accounts of the empty tomb which are not well explained by redactional activity, and are thus best explained by the hypothesis that each of the Gospel writers had independent tradition for his empty tomb account. Why would Matthew and Luke change the names of the women at the tomb? And why would John only include Mary Magdalene and not the other women?

If the Gospels are completely unreliable, then the fact that they all attest to the empty tomb would be of no significance. But, if the Gospels have a good amount of reliable material (and most scholars would agree they do), then the fact that the empty tomb is attested by four (at the very least) fairly reliable sources significantly increases the odds that the empty tomb is historical.[14]

3. There is no space to address any of the apparent contradictions among the Gospels in detail. However, I think the only ostensible contradictions of any significance are, first, that Luke seems to contradict Matthew and Mark on whether the appearances occurred in Galilee or Jerusalem, and second, John seems to contradict the Synoptics on whether Mary Magdalene found out that Jesus was risen when she visited the tomb. On the first, see the works of Moule and Craig.[15] I have a forthcoming article which addresses the second in detail.[16]

4. Jesus’ tomb would not have been venerated if it was empty, because it was the bones of martyrs that people were interested in. Had the tomb been occupied, then although the tomb may have been destroyed in 70 AD, the Christians would have been venerating it for approximately 40 years prior to this. Not only would the Jerusalem church have venerated the tomb, but so would the various Christian leaders from other parts of the Empire who came to visit the Jerusalem church, and so would the various Jewish-Christian pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem for the feasts. Hence, if Jesus’ tomb had been venerated, this would have become very well known throughout the Christian world, and it is thus unlikely that a story completely contradicting such a firmly established tradition would be attested by four late first- to early second-century sources.

However, as I mentioned in my first rebuttal, the empty tomb is not essential to my argument and thus I could simply concede it.

Response to “The Silence of Acts”

  1. Carrier’s first point just repeats his general argument: That if there was an empty tomb, the Christians ought to have been prosecuted for grave robbery and housing an escaped felon. My general response is: (a) the Romans could not have tried anyone for grave robbery unless they had evidence implicating a particular Christian of stealing the body; (b) the Christians would not have been tried for abetting an escaped criminal provided the Romans had a basic understanding of the nature of the Christian proclamation; and (c) common sense suggests that the Romans would have persecuted the Christians regardless of whether there was an empty tomb.

  2. It is not impossible that the Romans did conduct an informal interrogation of the Church leaders in an attempt to determine who stole the body. However, they could not try the Church leaders for stealing the body; only if the Church leaders helped them find the people who actually did steal the body could any trial begin. And only if an actual trial occurred would we have an event so significant that Luke would be sure to mention it. But it is unlikely that there was even an interrogation of the Church leaders, because the Romans seem to have been uninterested in the emerging Christian movement (see point 4, below).

  3. Theft of the body is what the Romans would suspect, but as I’ve explained, they could not start any trial based on this.

  4. Carrier thinks that the Christians would not have been persecuted by the Romans because other religious groups worshipped gods as Lords and Kings. However, the Christian movement was different in two important ways. First, the Christians were worshipping someone who was not merely recently deceased, but had recently been executed by the state as a pretender to the throne. Second, the Christians were proclaiming that this person would be coming back to overthrow all pagan religious leaders (including the Roman Emperor, if he was still around). Thus, the Christian proclamation ought to have elicited persecution by the Romans. If the Romans were not concerned about Christianity in general, then they would probably not be concerned about grave robbery.

Finally, suppose some of the Christians had been tried for grave robbery: Why would Luke necessarily know this? Carrier’s view seems markedly inconsistent: The author of Acts is supposed to have been familiar enough with the early Church that he would have known about a trial for grave robbery, and yet he was completely ignorant that the earliest Christians believed in 2BT.


In presenting my case, I have produced four passages from Paul which unambiguously affirm 1BT. Carrier has not produced any Pauline texts which affirm 2BT. All of the texts he appeals to are either better explained on 1BT, or are ambiguous (in fact, some of the texts don’t even have anything to do with resurrection, such as 1 Corinthians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5). Rather than focus strictly on an exegesis of Paul, Carrier spends much of his time talking about the Gospels, Acts, the rabbis, and the Church Fathers. But the best way to find out what Paul thought is to see what he actually says. And Paul says multiple times that the body which is buried is the same one that rises.

In conclusion, I will recap the most blatant instances of poor exegesis on the part of Carrier:

  1. Paul calls the soul mortal and corruptible in 1 Corinthians 15:54.

  2. Creation is redeemed by being destroyed, and it eagerly looks forward to its destruction (Romans 8:19-23).

  3. In Romans 8:23, Paul uses “body” in a way different from the ways he uses it everywhere else in his epistles.

  4. Paul uses “put on” literally in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, but he uses it figuratively everywhere else in his epistles.

  5. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:36 that what dies will be brought to life, but Paul does not actually believe that this is so, since he thinks we will getting a new resurrection body that never died.

  6. Colossians 3:5 implies that we have body parts which are not on earth.

Continue the Debate


[1] Gerhard Kittel, ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2 (trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 320.

[2] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek Lexicon: Founded Upon the 7th Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1889), p. 284.

[3] William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957).

[4] G. W. H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, England: Clarendon, 1961), p. 544.

[5] Margaret E. Thrall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Edinburgh, England: T&T Clark, 1994), p. 372.

[6] Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 132.

[7] Richard C. Carrier, “The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb” in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Robert M. Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder, eds. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005): 105-231, pp. 142-143.

[8] E.g. BADT, p. 38; An Intermediate Greek Lexicon, p. 37.

[9] Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 108-129.

[10] Dale Martin thinks that Paul resolves the problem in another way, namely, by arguing that the flesh will be sloughed off and that only the pneumatic parts of the present body will be resurrected. But in either case, Paul is answering the Corinthians’ objection by focusing on the discontinuity between the two bodies.

[11] For an exegesis of Paul that agrees with Dale Martin’s proposal as to the reason for the Corinthians’ objection, but nevertheless argues that Paul believed in the resurrection of the flesh, see Andy Johnson, “On Removing a Trump Card: Flesh and Blood and the Reign of God,” Bulletin for Biblical Research Vol. 13, No. 2 (2003): 175-192.

[12] See, for example, William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (rev. ed) (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003), pp. 16-22.

[13] I argue that the appearances were indeed nonglorious in “Jesus’ Resurrection and Collective Hallucinations,” Tyndale Bulletin, forthcoming.

[14] On multiple attestation, see John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 74-75.

[15] C. F. Moule, “The Post-Resurrection Appearances in Light of Festival Pilgrimages,” New Testament Studies 4 (1957-1958), pp. 58-61; Craig, Assessing, pp. 223-225.

[16] “John Versus the Synoptics on Mary Magdalene’s Visit to the Tomb,” Conspectus, forthcoming.

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