The Pejorative Nature of the Flesh and Materiality


In these days (2011) when so much is being made in scholarly circles of the redemption of creation on the dubious basis of the resurrection transformation of Jesus (1* See my Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?, When Was Jesus Transformed?, John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus.), we do well to reconsider the difference between flesh and spirit, natural birth (from below) and spiritual rebirth (from above), earth and heaven, this present age and the age to come, visible and invisible, old and new covenants and between the manufactured (Gk cheiropoietos) and the not manufactured (acheiropoietos).  While in contrast with Greek dualism the flesh including the fleshly body is not evil per se, it is certainly temporary and subject to change or replacement (1 Cor. 15:50-54).


Temporal Not Eternal

The first thing to notice is that creation is precisely that, creation. In contrast with its uncreated Creator it is not eternal. It has a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and therefore by implication an end (Mt. 24:35; 28:20). Rather it is his work, work from which after six days or ages of creation he finally rests.


Visibility and Physicality

According to Paul, all that is physically visible is temporary (2 Cor. 4:18). This can be inferred from the very first verse of Scripture which teaches us that creation has a beginning and implicitly an end. It is noticeable that the covenant with Noah endures only to the end of the world (Gen. 8:22). Alternatively expressed, all that is covered by the covenant with Noah is mortal and/or destructible. Human flesh which is a product of the earth endures only for 120 years (Gen. 6:3) and that of animals usually less. In other words, it is intrinsically ephemeral, corruptible by nature like the grass which temporarily sustains it (Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:23-25, etc.). Throughout the Bible fleshly man who is sometimes described as dust (Ps. 103:14; 1 Cor. 15:47-49), is regarded as transient and weak (Job 4:19; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:7; 5:1, etc.), definitely not to be relied on (Ps. 118:8; 146:3; Jer. 17:5). Needless to say, the same applies with regard to animals which as flesh are contrasted with spirit (Ex. 15:1; Isa. 31:3, cf.  Ps. 147:10, etc.).



One of the most important contrasts in Scripture is that between what is made by hand (cheiropoietos) and what is not made by hand (acheiropoietos). The former is characteristic of the transient old covenant (cf. 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13), while the latter relates only to the new and better covenant. Whatever is ‘made by hand’ even by God himself (Isa. 45:11f., etc.) is inherently defective. A glaring example is the fleshly body of Jesus who was incarnate only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9, cf. 5:7). (See my Creation Corruptible By Nature.) Even he was mortal and corruptible and in order to be glorified or regain the glory he had before the foundation of the earth (John 17:5,24) he had to keep the law, gain life (Mt. 3:13-17) and be transformed (1 Cor. 15:50-53; Phil. 3:21). After all, having been rich he became poor for our sakes. So we may assert categorically that whatever is ‘made by hand’, even by the hand of God, is regarded depreciatingly and denotes transience or susceptibility to wear, decay and age (Col. 2:22; Heb. 1:10-12, cf. Mt. 6:19f.).


Two Ages

Jesus himself maintains that there are two ages or two worlds (cosmological dualism). In Luke 20:34-36, for example, he points out that in the age or world to come there is significant change or replacement. He implies that the present physical body of dust which is subject to death and corruption will be replaced by a heavenly or spiritual body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44) like that of the angels which makes both marriage and death redundant. (Pace some interpretations of Genesis 6:4 on which see my Who Are the Sons of God?) Apart from 1 Corinthians 15 Paul also draws attention to two ages epitomized by these two different bodies in Romans 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5, for example.

In Romans 8:18-25 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12) Paul indicates that the corruption of creation is by divine design. Temporary by nature it is slated for final destruction (Mt. 5:18; 24:35; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12, etc.)  Only the creature man made in the image of God, not creation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50), can gain glory (8:21) even as Jesus regained the glory he had before the foundation of the world (John 17:5,24).

In the event, the flesh which derives from the temporal/temporary earth is unprofitable (John 6:63; Rom. 3:20; 7:18; 8:8; 1 Cor. 15:50). All it ultimately spawns is corruption (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8, cf. 1 Cor. 15:21f.). Thus, corporeal transformation is as necessary as spiritual new birth (note the Greek dei of 1 Cor. 15:53 and John 3:7).

It is a biblical axiom that the first (old) always gives way to the second (new, Heb. 10:9). So this present creation, age (or world), body (flesh, dust) and temple, etc., are replaced by a second.

See further my Death and Corruption.




Note FFB, John, p.13, and Lane on spirit
Flesh gives birth to flesh, Spirit to spirit (John 3:6, cf. John 1:12f.).
Note the difference between God and Jesus in my Creation Corruptible By Nature.
God is both immortal and incorruptible (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16).