I still think that Lee Strobel is the most intellectually dishonest apologist that I have read. His "I'm a tough skeptical questioner" shtick leads his readers to believe that they are seeing both sides of the argument when they are actually getting an overwhelmingly one sided presentation. However, after reading his interviews with Mike Licona in The Case for the Real Jesus, I think that he has some real competition.
The section I find particularly ludicrous is entitled "Physical or Spiritual Resurrection." (TCFTRJ p. 138-141). The discussion focuses on the following passage from 1 Corinthians 15. Playing the skeptic, Strobel quotes only the highlighted verses, but you really have to see the whole thing to understand how disingenuous both he and Licona are being. After Licona's comments, I will try to suggest the questions that a real skeptic might have asked.
35But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15:35-54
Now let's see what Strobel and Licona have to say.
"Do these Corinthians passages indicate Paul’s encounter was visionary in nature rather than a bodily, corporeal resurrection?"
Obviously, this was a hot-button issue for Licona. He moved to the edge of the couch and his voice became more animated. “First let’s examine this term ‘flesh and blood,’ he said. For the past thirty years, most experts have concluded that this term was an ancient figure of speech, probably a Semitism, that simply meant ‘a mortal being.’ That’s what it means every time it appears in the New Testament, the Septuagint, and throughout the Rabbinic literature. It’s kind of like when Americans call a person ‘cold blooded,’ ‘hot-blooded,’ or ‘red-blooded.’ They’re not referring to the temperature or color of their blood."
Have you ever heard of context, Mike? Look at the question that Paul is addressing: “With what kind of body will they come?” In any of those other cases you investigated, was the term “flesh and blood” being used in answer to that question? I’ll tell you something Mike. When an American is talking about reptiles and he uses the term “cold-blooded,” he really is talking about the temperature of its blood.
"Now you can’t equate that with what Luke reports Jesus as saying when he appears to the disciples: “Hey, I’m not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He said flesh and bones, not flesh and blood."
So what? Are you really trying to tell us that the phrases “flesh and bones” and “flesh and blood” are so completely unrelated that Paul couldn't have meant something similar to what Luke meant?
"What about the way Paul contrasts the words natural and spiritual?" I asked.
"I recently analyzed each time these words appeared between the eighth century BC through the third century AD. These words have multiple definitions, but what’s really interesting, Lee, is that I never found a single instance in which the Greek word translated 'natural' meant 'material' or 'physical.' Never. Not once."
Context, Mike, context! When Aretha Franklin sings “You make me feel like a natural woman,” I know she isn’t talking about the same thing as Quaker Oats is when it calls its cereal “100% natural.” The important thing is the whole song that Aretha is singing. Try analyzing the way the word fits into this passage.
"It’s also important to see how Paul uses these terms elsewhere, especially in the same letter. A few chapters earlier, in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, referring to spiritual truths, Paul writes that the ‘natural’ man rejects and cannot understand the things of God, because they are ‘spiritually’ discerned. But, he adds, ‘spiritual’ people understand them."
"So when we come to chapter 15, Paul gives a number of differences between our bodies. They’re sown in weakness, they’re raised in power. Their sown in dishonor, they’re raised in glory. They’re sown perishable, they’re raised imperishable. They’re sown natural—bodies with all their fleshly and sinful desires and with hearts and lungs—but raised and transformed into a new body with spiritual appetites and empowered by God’s Spirit. There’s no thought about a contrast between physical and spiritual."
You must really think that I’m dumber than a bag of hammers, Mike. Are you really going to tell me that Paul wrote this passage because the believers in Corinth were arguing about what kind of appetites they would have after the resurrection?
"And here’s one other thing: if Paul had meant to draw a comparison between material versus immaterial, he had a better Greek word at his disposal, which he had already used a few chapters earlier with a similar analogy of sowing. He doesn’t use that word here, though, that’s more evidence that this has nothing to do with material versus. So to claim that Paul is saying that the Christians will have an immaterial body in heaven is not longer sustainable."
I am not sure the analogy is all that similar. In that earlier chapter Paul is arguing that he has the right to expect support from the community even though he does no work. “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” While I will grant you that Paul might have used that word again, are you going to tell me that there were no other words available to him that might have made the meaning you prefer clearer? Are you really trying to tell me that a single word choice controls the meaning of the entire passage?
"When we come across a passage with an ambiguous meaning, we’re required to interpret according to other passages by the same person that are more clear. So if Paul is referring to a bodily resurrection elsewhere—as the does in at least three other places—then its irresponsible to translate this passage in a manner that has Paul contradicting himself."
"So Paul is not saying this is merely a spiritual resurrection?"
"No, and I think the evidence is so obvious. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul is clear that he regards Jesus’ resurrection as a model for our future resurrection. He says in Roman 8:11 that ‘he who raises Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” And he stresses in Phillippians 3:21 that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Doesn't Paul explain that model in the forty-fifth verse Mike? “So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” Why should we go hunting in other letters to see what Paul meant when he explains right here that the resurrected Jesus is "a life giving spirit." What possible reason could you have for quote-mining Romans and Phillippians when the answer is right there in front of your face?
Aren't you really counting on your readers being too lazy to look up the passages for themselves? After all, Paul isn't even talking about the resurrection in Romans 8. He is explaining how the Holy Spirit transforms the believer in this life rather than anything that happens after death. And doesn’t the passage from Phillipians just beg the question of what kind of body it is that Christ has after the resurrection? Aren’t you just desperately flailing to avoid the plain implications of what Paul has written in 1 Corinthians 15?
The real capper to this discussion comes in the next section when Licona tries to explain away Paul's failure to mention the empty tomb while listing the resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
“Still,” I pressed, “why didn’t Paul specifically use the words ‘empty tomb’?”
For Licona, the answer was all too obvious. “It was unnecessary,” he said. It would be redundant after he said ‘resurrection.’”
“But can you blame people today for wishing Paul had been even more explicit?”
Licona shrugged. “Maybe the skeptics want to have it spelled out for them in the twenty-first century, but Paul was writing this in the first century. They all knew what resurrection meant. To them, Paul was plenty explicit. He’s clear in his own letters. Moreover, when Luke reports Paul stating in Acts 13:37 that Jesus’ body ‘did not see decay’ readers surely understood that his physical body had been raised—and if the body was raised, the tomb was empty. This is early Apostolic tradition.
In the end, I had to admit: this made sense to me too.
Does it Lee? If so, than you are an idiot. If not, then you are simply matching Licona shovel for shovel.
The question is obvious to any real skeptic. If Paul expected his readers to understand exactly what “resurrection” meant in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, why the hell would he spend 1 Corinthians 15:12-54 explaining what resurrection meant? Hell, nobody understands what resurrection means now. How would Greek pagans in Corinth know the meaning of resurrection in Judaism? How can you even pretend that Paul thought his readers understood this? Why would he have bothered to write the letter?
These guys are shameless. That's the only thing that's obvious.