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Mississippi Man Pronounced Dead Revives on Embalming Table -- Is This Resurrection?

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Perhaps you read about the Mississippi man who recently was pronounced "dead," put in a body bag and even taken to a funeral home for embalming -- when he suddenly revived, just as the procedure was beginning. You can read the Reuters story here, which is understandably being picked up by newspapers and media outlets all of the country this morning. It is just that human interest kind of story that all of us find fascinating. Technically this kind of "revivial" of a corpse is called resuscitation.

Fear of being "buried alive" is as ancient as human burial culture. In the 17th and 18th centuries bells were sometimes attached to coffins by a string so the deceased could sound an alarm and thus to be "saved by the bell" in case the deceased revived. 1 Some also trace the origin of the "wake" to this idea -- with the living sitting around the corpse through the night to make sure the person did not come back to life having been pronounced dead. George Washington supposedly asked that his body not be put in a vault until at least two days had passed. In antiquity, and until more recent times, lead poisoning was common from drinking alchohol from lead or pewter cups -- and such poisoning can include catatonic symptoms that could be mistaken for death.

I have argued that the earliest view of Jesus' followers of resurrection of the dead was not corpse revival or resuscitation but rather the "re-clothing" of the spirit or soul of with a new "spiritual" body. This is clearly Paul's view as he contrasts the "body of dust" that decays and is left behind with the "life-giving spirit" that is immortal and glorious-though nonetheless embodied (1 Corinthians 15:42-54). Paul's analogy of putting off the old clothing of the physical body, entering a "naked" state, but then being "reclothed" with a transformed but embodied existence at the "resurrection" of the dead makes his view quite clear. This is in contrast then to Greek idea of the "immortality" in which the soul is merely released "naked" from the body --which is seen also as a prison -- and "flies away."

That is why finding the decayed bones of Jesus in an ossuary, as might well be the case Talpiot tomb in Jerusalem, as I have argued here on this blog and extensively in our book, The Jesus Discovery, does not contradict the earliest faith in Jesus' resurrection by his first followers. What has happened is that people have conflated the later accounts in the Gospels, especially in Luke and John, where Jesus clearly appears as a "revived corpse" and even asks for food to eat-declaring himself to be "flesh and blood," with the much earlier views the gospel of Mark (with no appearances of Jesus), the fragment ending of the Gospel of Peter, and Matthew -- that are much more compatible with Paul's earlier view (50s CE) of "seeing" Jesus' spiritual body. The idea those who "sleep in the dust" awakening, or the sea "giving up" the dead that are in it, makes it crystal clear that resurrection of the dead has to do with a transformed "heavenly" existence, not a revival of the scant remains of those long ago turned to "dust and ashes" as the phrase goes (Daniel 12:2-3; Revelation 20:13). One might also recall that, according to Jesus, those who experience the "age to come" and the resurrection of the dead, are transformed into an "angelic" state, no longer male or female with physical bodies (Luke 20:34-38).

I have laid out all the arguments in detail with all the relevant texts in chronological order in my post titled "Why People are Confused about the Earliest Christian View of Resurrection of the Dead." I invite you to review the evidence and see if you agree that this major area of confusion has led to a completely irrational defense of faith in Jesus' physical or bodily resurrection -- that is, the revival of his male corpse intact with its functioning organs -- as the cornerstone of early Christian resurrection faith. Millions of Christians who find such a view untenable have been made to feel that their "resurrection faith" is somehow deficient because they have no "proof" without the physical corpse being resuscitated, that Jesus really rose from the dead.


1. Some have argued that the phrase "saved by the bell" is a boxing term and has nothing to do with this practice of burial, but we do know that such "safety" coffins were manufactured into the 19th century.