Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:8 (The Lexical Semantics of SWMA)

About the Greek word σῶμα.

θαρροῦμεν δὲ καὶ εὐδοκοῦμεν μᾶλλον ἐκδημῆσαι ἐκ τοῦ σώματος καὶ ἐνδημῆσαι πρὸς τὸν κύριον· (2 Cor. 5:8).

The operative words for me are ἐκδημῆσαι ἐκ τοῦ σώματος. Regarding the use of σῶμα in Rom. 8:10, we read:

"It should first be noted that SWMA (body) should be taken literally. That it refers to the physical body [in Rom. 8:10] is almost certain" (Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the NT, 177).

σῶμα also signifies the physical body in 2 Cor. 5:8. If this observation is true, however, then 2 Cor. 5:8 does not pose a difficulty for my theological beliefs about the condition of the dead. For while the physical body of those Christians who are privileged to "see God and be like him" (1 John 3:1-2) may be "dissolved" at death (2 Cor. 5:1-2), 1 Cor. 15:42ff indicates that these same Christians are given new spiritual bodies when God resurrects them. As Paul so clearly expressed matters: "If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one" (1 Cor. 15:44).

Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christians being "absent from the body," he is evidently referring to the physical body. Those who put on/assume immortality and incorruption, however, will acquire renewed bodies made like unto the Son's glorious corpus (1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:20, 21). These new bodies will not be souls, but nonetheless they will be spiritual.


Ivan said...

It seems to me that SOMA is being used here to refer to the broken down bodies we have now that die. It's not a contrast between physical and ethereal. It's a contrast between decaying and renewed. Paul does not want to be disembodied as if he expected to go to heaven. He wants to put off the current corrupted body and put on the renewed body.

Edgar Foster said...

I realize that it's possible to read 2 Cor. 5:8 as a reference to our current "broken down" or corrptible bodies that die. However, I might ask where in the context does Paul suggest this understanding. He speaks about the new body in 5:1-2, but he indicates that the eternal house starkly differs from our current tents/tabernacles. Additionally, Witnesses do not argue for disembodied souls, but spiritual bodies that are incorrptible. The new spiritual bodies will apparently not be fleshly.

Edgar Foster said...

To clarify my remarks, I understand "absent from the body" to mean that those who inherit this grand prospect will not have human bodies, but will come to possess spiritual bodies not composed of flesh and blood.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

I would argue that the entire second temple period, including Paul, understood SWMA to mean mean physical/tangible. That is, there isn't an instance where Paul uses SWMA to mean something 'ethereal' or ghostly. SO to answer your question, it is assumed that when Paul uses SWMA he means tangible/physical.

See Robert Gundry's book SOMA in Biblical Theologies.

Edgar Foster said...

I am familiar with Gundry's work and know what he has to say, but even if most Jews thought that way about SWMA, all evidently did not. Two works I'd recommend are Joel Green and John Collins: