Can you defend the Resurrection? – Part 3

Did Paul preach a different gospel?

This series is in response to three claims in an online article called “The Resurrection Hoax” by Abdullah Kareem found here.

CLAIM 1:  The oldest versions of Mark’s gospel do not give an account of the resurrection.

CLAIM 2:  Matthew and Luke relied on the “Q” Source to write their gospels and to change Mark’s gospel to make it match their accounts of the resurrection.

CLAIM 3:  Paul’s account of the resurrection does not match the gospel accounts.

In Part 1  we saw how Mark’s gospel does report the resurrection, with or without the disputed final verses of the manuscript.  In Part 2 we saw that the Q document is a theory, not a manuscript, and that even if it did exist, it would not mean that Mark and Luke wrote unreliable gospels.  In Part 3 of this series we will look at CLAIM 3.

Abdullah claims that the contradiction between Paul and the gospels can be seen in Paul’s omission of the physical details of the resurrection.  Abdullah’s primary source for this argument is John Shelby Spong’s Resurrection: Myth or Reality.  Abdullah quotes Spong:

For Paul there were no empty tombs, no disappearance from the grave of the physical body, no physical resurrection, no physical appearances of a Christ who would eat fish, offer his wounds for inspection, or rise physically into the sky after an appropriate length of time. None of these ideas can be found in reading Paul. For Paul the body of Jesus who died was perishable, weak, physical. The Jesus who was raised was clothed by the raising God with a body fit for God’s kingdom. It was imperishable, glorified, and spiritual. (p. 241)


For Paul to say that Jesus was raised from the dead does not contradict an empty tomb, even if Paul does not explicitly state that the tomb was empty.  If I said that Jeremy wore polka-dotted shorts to the movies, my sister would not be contradicting me to say that Jeremy went to the movies.  My sister would just not be including all of the details that I did.

A contradiction does not result merely from different accounts, but from accounts that cannot both exist at the same time.  If I said that Jeremy wore polka-dotted shorts to the movies, and my sister said that Jeremy did not wear polka-dotted shorts to the movies, then we have a contradiction – because both cannot be true at the same time.

Paul says that Jesus was both buried and then raised.  That he does not mention an empty tomb does not a contradiction make.


Paul does claim that the natural body is raised a spiritual body (I Corinthians 15:44), but that Christ’s body was raised a spiritual body does not mean that it did not exit the tomb.  Paul’s account does not contradict the appearance of Jesus’ to the disciples either.  In fact, the gospel accounts report acts of Jesus, such as disappearing after breaking bread to Cleopas and another disciple (Luke 24:31), that would be hard to understand if Jesus had a normal, physical body.  John’s gospel tells us that “Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them…”  If anything, Paul’s description of a spiritual body raised in power and glory matches the gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection.   We do not know the exact nature of a resurrected body, but there is no logical reason to think that Jesus could not eat fish in His resurrected, spiritual body.  A spiritual body does not equal a spirit without a body.  It is not a contradiction to say that Jesus had a spiritual body, and that He also ate fish or showed His nail-scars, because there is no claim in any New Testament writing that says a spiritual body is a ghost banned from fish-eating or scar-showing.


Both liberal and conservative Bible scholars agree that Galatians was written by Paul.  In Galatians 1:11 – 2:10 Paul claims that he received his gospel from a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.  But Paul also states that he verified his gospel in Jerusalem twice with eyewitnesses – Peter and James first, and then again years later with Peter, James and John.  Paul says that he submitted his gospel to the eyewitnesses because he wanted to make sure that he was not running in vain.  If Paul’s account of the good news contradicted the gospel accounts, Peter (from whom Mark drew his gospel accounts) and John (author of the gospel of John) would have told Paul of the contradiction. But instead, Peter, James, and John gave Paul the green light to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  

So I would ask Abdullah, where’s the contradiction?

~ Betsy McPeak



1 comment to Can you defend the Resurrection? – Part 3

  • David

    Even in our current state it may be accurate to say that we are “spirts that inhabit bodies” or that our bodies are filled with an eternal spirit. The point being that when the mortal shall put on immortality, I will still be myself. Christ, when he was raised a ‘spirtual body’ was still himself. jdm.

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