Was Jesus a Spirit or Wasn't He? (An Appeal to Trinitarians)
by Hal Flemings
In their zeal to discredit Jehovah’s Witnesses, many writers inadvertently create irreconcilable difficulties for themselves. This paper will identify one of those difficulties.
Mainstream Trinitarians believe that when Jesus Christ was on the earth in the First Century of our Common Era that he was totally man and totally god. Everyone seems to agree with Jesus at John 4:24 where he stated, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (King James Version) Because God is a spirit and Trinitarians are certain that Jesus is God, they argue that while on earth Jesus was God incarnate, that is, a spirit being enclosed with flesh. Because Jehovah's Witnesses reject this view, literally volumes of books, magazines, tracts, cassette tapes, etc., have been produced to challenge them on the doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of Christ.
Consider the following indicative statements that show that the mainstream churches and others are firm on their view that Jesus Christ on the earth was a god-man - or rather the God-man:
1. Jesus is both God and man at the same time.
2. The incarnation of the eternal Son who came from the bosom of the Father is clearly set forth in the Scriptures.
3. A God set forth in the image of man is a God who is fully understood.
More specifically, in Francis Cassilly's volume entitled Religion Doctrine and Practice - For Use in Catholic High Schools, page 372, we observe:
"Are there two natures in Jesus Christ? Yes, there are two natures in Jesus Christ, the Divine Nature and the human nature." It is thus clear that for most Protestants and Catholics that when Jesus walked the face of the earth, he was a spirit and a man simultaneously.
The same critics of Jehovah's Witnesses who take issue with their view of Christ in relation to the Trinity also take umbrage with the Witness view of the resurrection of Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ, the man, was resurrected a spirit. Note the indicative statements below that are often repeated by such critics:
1. Luke 24:36-45 argues against the Jehovah's Witness theory. Since Jesus is omniscient, he knew that false prophets would arise who teach that he was nothing more than a spirit.
2. Luke 24 proves that Jesus Christ was not a spirit at his resurrection. One day he will return in the glorified resurrection body in which he left, and we shall know him by the print of the nails on his hand.
3. 1 Peter 3:18 cannot be used to demonstrate that Christ rose as a spirit creature because such an interpretation is clearly contradicted in the Gospels, by Paul and in Peter's messages recorded in Acts, which imply the empty tomb and the preservation of Jesus' flesh.
This paper is not concerned with defending the Witness stand on the nature of Christ at his resurrection or the question of Christ being the Almighty God or not; those matters have been effectively addressed elsewhere. What we are considering here is a serious contradiction.
That contradiction is as follows: these antagonists go to great lengths to establish that while on earth Jesus was God incarnate - a spirit clothed in flesh - but then deny that he was a spirit at all at his resurrection. Either he was a spirit or he was not a spirit. If he was God in the flesh - experiencing two natures simultaneously - then he was a spirit at his resurrection since God is a spirit. On the other hand, if indeed he was, in reality, not a spirit but a "glorified body", then he was not a God-man in the sense Trinitarians understand it, since a God-man is a spirit clothed in flesh. They cannot have it both ways. One of the attacks on the Witnesses has to be abandoned.