The discussion started when I objected to a proposed rendering “mortal humanity” in Hebrews 2:14, to replace or refer back to the literal “flesh and blood”. My issue was that “flesh and blood” refers to humanity in general, not just to mortal humanity but also to the resurrection bodies which Jesus has and which we will have. But I was surprised that my suggestion proved so controversial. Here I hope to show that Jesus’ resurrection body has blood, and that this is important for our salvation.
Now I know that some people have the idea that the resurrection body, whether of Jesus or of ourselves in the future, is some kind of immaterial or ghostly body. They like to claim that Jesus’ resurrection body could walk through walls, as supposedly stated in John 20:19,26 – although the much easier explanation here is that the locked doors opened in front of Jesus by God’s power (compare Acts 5:19, 12:10, 16:26) and he walked in in the normal way. But the gospel writers are careful to show that Jesus’ body was of the normal material kind: it had flesh and bones, and visible wounds, and could eat and breathe (Luke 24:38-43, John 20:20,22). It was not just an apparition, but a real physical body.
Against this seems to stand 1 Corinthians 15:50, where “flesh and blood” apparently refers only to our current mortal human bodies, not to our future imperishable ones. But according to this chapter, especially verses 53-54, the resurrection body is not lacking something which mortal bodies have, but rather something is added to the perishable bodies to make them imperishable. Bodies of flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God unless they are clothed with that added immortality.
Elaine on the b-trans list suggested that Jesus’ resurrection body contains flesh and bones as Luke says, but not blood. There is no clear proof text for the risen Jesus still having blood, although verses like 1 Corinthians 11:27 and Hebrews 10:19 make little sense if the blood of Jesus is something which now no longer exists. But the overall biblical picture seems to be of a normal human body with an added something.
Part of the issue here is in fact the symbolic meaning of blood. There is a long-standing controversy over whether the blood of Jesus refers primarily to his life or to his death. Certainly in Jewish thought blood was a symbol of life rather than death, for “the life of every creature is its blood” (Leviticus 17:14 TNIV); nevertheless, in some places in the New Testament “blood” seems to be used as a shorthand for “the shedding of blood”, i.e. death. It is dangerous, I would think, to insist on one meaning to the exclusion of the other.
So, when for example we read that “the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 TNIV), we should understand this as referring both to Jesus’ sacrificial death and to his continuing resurrection life, both of which are needed for our justification and sanctification. His flesh is real food and his blood is real drink (John 6:55) not because they have been taken away from him, but because they make up his resurrection body which is filled with life. Eternal life is granted to all who share in this flesh and blood (6:54), who are “washed in the blood” of the Lamb who was slain but yet lives (Revelation 5:6, 7:14). Because he has been raised in a body of imperishable flesh and blood, we too who share this flesh and blood will receive immortal bodies when death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).