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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    A SPIRIT HATH NOT FLESH AND BONES

    There are a few other texts which contain the word “spirit,” an explanation of which may be properly introduced at this point: Luke 24:39: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” These are the words of Christ, as on one occasion he met with his disciples after his resurrection; and as he then possessed a spiritual body which is given by the resurrection, it is claimed that his words prove the existence of spirits utterly disembodied, in the popular sense. But we inquire, What did the disciples suppose they saw? - Verse 37 states: “They supposed they had seen a spirit;” and on this verse, Greenfield puts in the margin the word phantasma instead of pneuma, and marks it as a reading adopted by Griesbach. They supposed they had seen a phantom, apparition, specter. This exactly corresponds with their action, when, on another occasion, Christ came to them walking on the sea (Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49), and they were affrighted and cried out, supposing it was a spirit, where the Greek uses phantom in both instances. The Bible nowhere countenances the idea that phantoms or specters have any real existence; but the imagination and superstition of the human mind have ever been prolific in such conceptions. The disciples were of course familiar with the popular notions on this question; and when the Saviour suddenly appeared in their midst, coming in without lifting the latch, or making any visible opening, as spiritual bodies are able to do, their first idea was the superstitious one of an apparition or specter, and they were affrighted.MND 87.1

    Now when Jesus, to allay their fears, told them that a spirit had not flesh and bones as he had, he evidently used the word “spirit” in the sense of the idea which they then had in their minds, namely, that of a phantom; and though the word pneuma is used, which in its very great variety of meanings may be employed, perhaps, to express such a conception, we are not to understand that the word cannot be used to describe bodies like that which Christ then possessed. He was not such a spirit as they supposed; for a pneuma, such as they then conceived of, in the sense of a phantom, on verse 37, says: -MND 88.1

    “It may be added that our Lord meant not to countenance those notions, but to show his hearers that, according to their own notions of spirits, he was not one.”MND 88.2

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