But there were many early Christians who regarded this as nonsense. Didn't Paul say that flesh would not inherit the Kingdom? Expectations of the afterlife body were varied in early Christianity. The Valentinian Gnostics, for instance, were quite literal interpretators of Paul. They believed that at death, the soul body or psyche would undress, stripping the "garments of skins" that the creator god had given them when they left the garden. This glorified soul body would ascend to the highest heaven where it would await the resurrection at the End-of-Time. At the End, the soul body would be taken off and the glorified spirit body or pneuma would be released and join in matrimony with a beautiful angel. Together all the spirit-angel newlyweds would enter the Godhead, the Bridal Chamber, and make love for eternity within God's embrace.
This is such a different picture of the afterlife than the "orthodox" that came to dominate, where the heavens will be filled with the celibate bodies of resurrected flesh.
Why this different picture? The Valentinians believed that sacred marriage and procreative activity was what God was all about, and also what humans should be all about. I came across a passage I never noticed before when reading the Extracts of Theodotus last week. It was startling even for me who has studied the Valentinians for years.
And because Seth was spiritual he neither tends flocks nor tills the soil but produces a child, as spiritual things do. And him, who "hoped to call upon the name of the Lord" who looked upward and whose "citizenship is in heaven" - him the world does not contain.I think the Valentinian perspective is a lovely hope for life after death, much more appealing than the resurrected flesh living in perpetual abstinence. Why this celibate-flesh choice was made by the early Christians is the subject of the book I am now writing, Sex and the Gnostic Mysteries. More on this in later posts.
For now, have a wonderful Easter if you are celebrating this day of resurrection, whatever your personal understanding of it is.