Inconsistency with implications for the resurrection - Genesis vs. Luke

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by K Jentoft, Apr 21, 2019.

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  1. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I have been working with an apparent biblical inconsistency that actually touches the resurrection (and it came to me the day before Easter).

    In Genesis 18 we have God and 2 angels visit Abraham and dine with him. The 2 angels visit Lot and dine with him and then physically grab Lot and his family and drag them out of Sodom. Later, Jacob wrestles with the angel of the LORD and is struck on his thigh. Spirits eat food and touch humans.

    In contrast, in Luke 24 Jesus uses the fact that spirits cannot be touched and do not eat as proof that He is not a spirit. Based on Luke 24, spirits do not eat food or touch humans.

    If we refer directly to the incidents in Genesis as relevant data points, Jesus' proof is suspect and He could actually be a spirit because spirits certainly did touch and eat in Genesis. In that light, He could be a fraud and a masquerading spirit. I think that both accounts are true and have been working on a resolution.

    One very odd point is that I have reviewed many of the significant commentaries and this inconsistency seems to be entirely missed or not discussed. One commentary noted spirits eating food in Genesis without any comment at all.

    Any ideas on how to reconcile the 3 accounts in Genesis with Luke 24?
  2. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I don’t see the two passages as being contradictory at all. In Luke 24, Jesus is speaking with his disciples on the terms of their limited understanding of a spirit. Yet he is still correct: spirits don’t eat or touch. Mine certainly doesn’t.

    However, what we see in Genesis are not mere spirits. They are theophanies. Spirits are also invisible and do not take up physical space, yet the appearances in Genesis most certainly are visible and take up space. There is no reason to believe that God could not cause a spirit’s appearance to be very much visible, tangible, and able to eat.

    With a God who can work extraordinary providences, it is absolutely appropriate to speak in absolute negative terms regarding things that have actually positively happened. For example, I would be correct if I say that water cannot separate itself at a man’s mere command. That is a correct statement, and we would know that if we ever see water separate itself that there is something else besides a man’s mere word going on. Yet we see this very thing happen in Exodus. These two things are not contradictory, but rather they are simply statements on the nature of reality without consideration for God’s extraordinary acts of providence.

    Hopefully that makes sense.
  3. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you for your reply. I think, however, that your spirit is embodied and therefore you are human. That was Jesus' claim, that He too was a human with both spirit/body (although it was a glorified body it was a real tangible body). It seems that you would be correct that human spirits alone would not have a body (by definition) but that would not be the masquerade that I was considering. If Satan can masquerade as an angel of light, then the attributes exhibited by the angels with Lot would seem to be available to Satan as well.

    Spirits/angels can be both visible and heard as recounted numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. Being seen/heard was not proof of any difference between man and spirits as I understand Luke 24. Most of the instances recounting touching by spirits that I can find occur in visions, dreams or when people are sleeping - including Elijah when he traveled to Horeb and Peter when he was in prison. Actual touching by spirits seems to occur only in early Genesis, at least that is all I can find.

    More than that, as I understand a theophany, it has to do with the appearance of the preincarnate Christ and not merely angels. Angels are angels and theophanies are theophanies. As Genesis mentions both God and angels together, that explanation does not seem sufficient to me.
  4. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    Matthew Henry has the following to say: they were terrified,supposing that they had seen a spirit, because he came in among them without any noise, and was in the midst of them ere they were aware. The word used (Matt. xiv. 26), when they said It is a spirit, is phantasma, it is a spectre, an apparition; but the word here used is pneuma, the word that properly signifies a spirit; they supposed it to be a spirit not clothed with a real body. Though we have an alliance and correspondence with the world of spirits, and are hastening to it, yet while we are here in this world of sense and matter it is a terror to us to have a spirit so far change its own nature as to become visible to us, and conversable with us, for it is something, and bodes something, very extraordinary.

    Here is a new testament reference to an angel being corporal, so I think the premise is wrong that angels do not have some physical interaction:
    Acts 12:7-9
    And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, Get up quickly. And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, Dress yourself and put on your sandals. And he did so. And he said to him, Wrap your cloak around you and follow me. And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
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  6. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    All I am saying is that there is no contradiction in asserting what is ordinary in light of what is extraordinary. That, after all, is the nature of "extraordinary."

    Also, I would encourage you to do a little more studying and possibly reconsider what you believe or do not believe to be theophanies in the Old Testament. It is widely believed that "the Angel of the Lord" is indeed in many cases the pre-incarnate Christ. And there are many times where the "Angel" of the Lord appeared to someone, and their response was that they have "seen God face to face" (e.g., Gen. 32:30).
  7. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    As far as I can find, clear physical touching by angels does not happen after Genesis. There are many instances of touching recorded but they all occur, as far as I have been able to find, in conjunction with sleeping (as in your example with Peter, or in visions or in dreams. The kind of touching seen with Lot and Jacob in wakeful activity seems absent and this would be consistent with the words of Jesus in Luke 24.
  8. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Taylor says:
    "Also, I would encourage you to do a little more studying and possibly reconsider what you believe or do not believe to be theophanies in the Old Testament. It is widely believed that "the Angel of the Lord" is indeed in many cases the pre-incarnate Christ. And there are many times where the "Angel" of the Lord appeared to someone, and their response was that they have "seen God face to face" (e.g., Gen. 32:30)."


    I agree with your explanation that theophanies are the pre-incarnate Christ and God. My point was that the 2 angels that accompanied God and who then visited God were not theophanies because they were not Theo, just angels. Thus, the physical tangibility of spirits was not limited to God but seems to be more general to include angels.
  9. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Of course, but could not God have caused spirits to appear that broke with the normal pattern of spirits? That's what I am trying to say. Spirits under normal circumstances are, as Jesus said, incorporeal. However, could not God, who created them and sustains their very existence, have caused them to appear as tangible? Again, this is the definition of extraordinary, which surely these appearances were.

    In summary, in light of a God who is free and able to do above and beyond the "normal," I just don't see the problem you are seeing between these two accounts and statements in Scripture.

    Anyway, keep studying. Good question here. I must be off to ready myself for worship. Have a blessed Lord's Day!
  10. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Sure. Jesus was talking about the spirit of a physically dead human. But Genesis and the other passages mentioned are talking about the appearance of heavenly beings or of God. Apparently, they are not the same thing.

    Why, when Jesus says in Luke that he is not a ghost, do you read it as "angel"? He didn't say "angel." An angelic appearance might follow different rules.

    For example, we know from 2 Kings 6 (the chariots of fire around Elisha) that an appearance of angels might be visible or might be invisible depending on which God wills. And again, we know from Numbers 22 (Balaam's ride to Moab) that an angel, or a theophany, might be visible or invisible depending on God's purposes. It stands to reason that a visiting angel or theophany might also be corporal or not, depending on the circumstances and God's purposes.

    But the disciples in Luke 24 weren't thinking Jesus was a visiting angel from God; they were thinking he was a ghost. Not the same thing. Not the same rules.
  11. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    1 Kings 19:5, 7: Elijah was "touched by an angel", who probably bore no resemblance to Roma Downey.
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  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Angels assume the property of materiality when they interact with us. Angels aren't "spirits qua spirits qua Plotinus." In any case, Jesus isn't an angel. The only reason we think this might be a problem is that we come to the text with Greek ideas of pure spirit. Jesus didn't actually endorse that, but he acknowledged that it would have been the mindset of his hearers.
  13. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems that the Greek pneuma simply means spirit. God is a spirit and angels are spirits. It seems to me that scripture indicates that the interaction between humans and spirits was different in the period of time up until Moses. Somehow spirits became distanced after Moses. Dt 34:10 states, "Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face."

    This same increase in distance is seen in Numbers 12:6-8, "He said, 'Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. “Not so, with My servant Moses, he is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the Lord.'"

    In contrast, there are many pre-Moses passages that expressly state that those people knew God face to face. Adam is an obvious one. Enoch would certainly be there. Noah walked with God. Abraham as recounted above. Judges 6:22 speaks of Gideon seeing the angel of the Lord face to face, but if Deut 34 is correct, this was somehow less than Moses knowing the LORD face to face.

    Following this same thought, that Moses was somehow a pivot point, the physicality of spirits decays after Moses. ALL the angelic touching that I can find after Moses is in dreams, visions, or when people are sleeping including Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-7), Isaiah (one example is Is 6:7), Jeremiah (one example is Jer 1:9) Daniel in both vision and sleep (Dan 10:9-21) and even Peter in the New Testament prison cell (Acts 12:7). This is consistent with Deut 34:10. I cannot find an exception.

    Angelic eating seems to have the same pivot point. Certainly God ate with Abraham in Genesis 18:8 and the Angels dined with Lot in Genesis 19:3. It seems likely that God ate with the 70 elders on Sinai in Ex 24:11. But after Moses in Judges the angels burn up their dinners in Judges 6:21and Judges 13:16. I can't find another instance of spirits eating.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Let's assume all that is true for the moment. Why is there inconsistency in an angel assuming the property of materiality when it comes to earth? Why must we be bound to Plotinus?
  15. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't think the issue is about being bound to Plotinus but to what Jesus indicated about spirits. There appears to be an inconsistency (spirits eat and touch) to (spirits don't eat and touch). The commentaries on Luke 24:39 seem to be very consistent in their interpretation that Jesus is saying that spirits are not tangible/physical.

    In contrast, there are a minority of commentaries that argue that Jacob's wrestling was actually a vision and not physical (some on the basis of Luke 24). I have found no commentary, however, that ascribes the visit of God to Abraham and the visit of the two angels to Lot as a vision. Thus, the vision explanation of Jacob doesn't really fix anything.

    Based upon the passages that describe Moses as different from the later prophets, my inclination is that an evolution happened at the time of Moses. Moreover, as far as I can tell, that evolution is consistent through the entire record of the Old Testament and the New.

    Thank you all for your participation on this.
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Or maybe Jesus is addressing their own worldview. Rather than bothering to correct them that the Hebrew notion of spirit is life and power, rather than floating in the Platonic void, Jesus notes that spirits, such as you define them, don't eat.

    Anyway, why is an angel a Greek spirit? We have no reason to assume such. God calls them "flames of fire," yet fire isn't spirit on the Greek worldview.
  17. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member


    Just to clarify, do you believe what the Westminster Confession says in Chapter 1; Paragraph II?

    "Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament...All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life."

    If so, you know that any apparent contradiction must be the result of our own weaknesses, not that of the Holy Spirit.

    I ask this only because you are new to the board and we don't know you very well. Your persistence is beginning to 'sound' like you are promoting the unconfessional doctrine that the Scriptures are not inspired.
  18. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    I do believe that scriptures are inspired and accurate and truthful (as opposed to the views of Plotinus). The point of this thread is to find an answer that explains what seems to be an apparent contradiction in a way that is consistent with all of scripture. I believe that as we understand scripture, there are no real contradictions and any apparent contradictions are due to our faulty understanding.

    Thank you for your concerns.
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I see no contradiction. The Greek world had ideas of ghosts and spirits. The disciples weren't tempted to see Jesus as an angel, but perhaps as a spirit. So Jesus proves to them he wasn't a ghost. This has nothing to do with the biblical view of angels.
  20. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    The commentaries do flag that both the word pneuma/spirit is used along with angels and one of the passages cited uses them both in almost synonomous terms concerning the resurrection Acts 23:9. Furthermore, Nolland links the language of Luke 24 to angels when he says in his commentary on Luke 24:37, "37 πτοηθέντες δὲ καὶ ἔμφοβοι (lit. “having been terrified and [being] fearful”) is Lukan language (cf. Dauer, Johannes und Lukas, 262–63). However, the difficulty of such a reaction after vv 34–35 makes it unlikely that Luke has introduced the fear motif here. The fear language could be a further link with the pattern of an angelic visitation (cf. Luke 1:12, 30; 2:9; 24:5; Acts 10:4; Dan 8:17; Tob 12:16)"

    All I am saying is that scholars far more gifted than me see the pneuma in Luke 24:39 in a way that is broader than your Plotinus explanation and points to generic spirits including angels. More than that, the culture Jesus was speaking to was 1st century Jewish and not primarily that of the Greek philosophers. The book of 1 Enoch, one of the most popular intertestamental books, and the other Jewish literature found at Qumran would be more likely to influence these Jews and their views on spirits than that of Plotinus. In fact, Jude refers to 1 Enoch in Jude 6 and even quotes from 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15 and references another, the Assumption of Moses Jude 9. In addition, 2 Peter 2:4 also references 1 Enoch. Spirits, both angels and demons, were very central to the Jewish worldview of the first century based not only on the gospels and Jude and 2 Peter but also the writings of the Qumran which are non-canonical.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  21. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Interesting to note, Marcion, the well known heretic of the early church, based much of his heresy on the physical tangibility of spirits and the materialism of the human body. Many of the issues mentioned above are mentioned in the battle against the heresy of Marcion. The rules and essense of spirits and body and how they interacted were extremely important, not just an interesting byline.

    Another interesting note on the actual language of the passage of Luke 24 is that Marcion's version of the New Testament (according to Turtullien) substituted the Greek word, φάντασμα/ghost, for the πνεῦμα/spirit. There actually are 2 different Greek words that can distinguish ghost from spirit. Luke 24:39 uses πνεῦμα/spirit and φάντασμα/ghost is used in Matthew 14:26. I assume that this was done for a reason.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    So....what, exactly? Jesus isn't an angel. And angels qua angels don't have material properties. When angels come to earth they can often assume material properties.
  23. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    That is exactly the point or question. While spirits/angels can bee seen and heard, (I suppose this is what qualifies as a "vision"and that a vision could include audible as well.) as far as I can tell, they DO NOT assume material properties after Moses while they certainly DO assume material properties before Moses. Thus, all the passages post-Moses would support the statement of Jesus in Luke 24:39. I think that the term pneuma/spirit includes angels and demons, it is generic and encompassing. Thus, Jesus is stating that angels, as well as all spirits, are not physical and don't eat. That is consistent with post-Moses history and therefore true for us today. It is not consistent with Genesis. My question is "Why?"

    I think that there is a scriptural reason that the human/spirit interaction changed and spirits became more distant physically. I think that this happened during the time of Moses - I think that the scriptural record supports this. But how or why did this happen?

    It would be helpful is you could find physical angel/human touching where the humans are not asleep, in a vision or dream. I cannot.
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    And I guess the following question is "why does it matter?" Even if God doesn't tell us, it doesn't constitute a contradiction. We don't see God claiming A = ~A.
  25. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    In 1 Kings 19, the angel clearly touches Elijah in order to awaken him from sleep. That seems like a "physical" touch. Moreover, your comparison of before/after Moses is mistaken. The passages in Deut 34 and Numbers 12 about Moses' face to face access to God in contrast to other prophets do not mark Moses out as the last in a sequence of people who all had similar experiences of God, but as a unique individual who had unique experiences of God, which mark him out as the archetypal prophet (until the coming of the promised one who is greater even than he - see Deut 18:15).
  26. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that Jesus telling us that spirits are untouchable when the patriarchs touched them comes close to claiming the above, or maybe even goes that far.
  27. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Jesus is speaking to a Greek worldview audience, which did view spirits as untouchable. Abraham, being a Hebrew, had a superior worldview and didn't view angels as Greek spirits.
  28. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Both the angel awaking Elijah and the angel awaking Peter in prison happen when they are sleeping. The word used for the angel striking Peter in Acts 12:7 is only used twice with the other time being when the angel struck Herod later in the same chapter in Acts 12:23. In any case, the touching of Peter happens when he sleeps although it certainly awakens him.

    I do think that the passage regarding Moses mark him as the last and as the archetypal prophet. It would be hard to argue that those before Moses experienced God less than Moses did, especially Adam and Enoch. I agree that this points to Christ because John specifically refers to himself as seeing, touching, and experiencing God in 1 John 1:1-3. I think that John is intentionally stating that his experiences are on a par with or exceed that of Moses.
  29. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    I think the Acts passage I quoted is of the same import (granted I do not have knowledge of original language, so perhaps I am missing something). Luke clearly thought the angel woke Peter up, so I take that as divinely inspired and beyond question if Peter was just sleepy.
  30. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that your passage is of import as well. It clearly demonstrates that angels interact with humans in the New Testament, and presumably in our lives as well. All I am saying is that interacting physically while sleeping, in a dream or vision is different than interacting physically by forcefully dragging Lot's family by the hand from Sodom or wrestling with Jacob and leaving him permanently injured.
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