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Re: [XTalk] Souls, Decay, 3 Day, and Methodology

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  • komar112000
    Bob, Actually, your commments got me thinking more about decay also. The bodily decay referred to in those references I gave were with respect to observable
    Message 1 of 11 , Oct 24, 2005
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      Bob,

      Actually, your commments got me thinking more about "decay" also.

      The bodily decay referred to in those references I gave were with
      respect to observable "disfiguration" of the flesh (as observed on the
      face). Is it possible that "disfiguration" was regarded by Jews as
      that point at which the flesh was "corrupted"? I ask this question in
      relation to the Acts references you gave where it is said that Jesus'
      flesh did not experience corruption. In the primitive mind of the
      first century, where they did not understand that the flesh starts
      decaying as soon as the blood stops flowing, could it have been the
      point of "disfiguration" of the flesh that was in mind when they said
      that Jesus' flesh did not experience corruption?

      Kris Komarnitsky
      Salt Lake City, UT
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Good. I consider my remarks successful if they get people thinking more ! ... You may get yourself in trouble by introducing new terms and trying to
      Message 2 of 11 , Oct 24, 2005
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        At 09:31 AM 10/24/2005, komar112000 wrote:
        >Bob,
        >
        >Actually, your commments got me thinking more about "decay" also.

        Good. I consider my remarks successful if they get people "thinking more"!

        >The bodily decay referred to in those references I gave were with
        >respect to observable "disfiguration" of the flesh (as observed on the
        >face). Is it possible that "disfiguration" was regarded by Jews as
        >that point at which the flesh was "corrupted"?

        You may get yourself in trouble by introducing new terms and trying to
        retroject them into the milieu of the Gospels. Where are you getting the
        term "disfigure" from, and why your focus on the face? Better perhaps to
        focus on the idea of breath (Heb. ruach), the root word involved in talking
        about the holy spirit and the Nicodemus episode; the death and corruption
        process begins when breath departs. In that three day window, the breath
        may return.


        > I ask this question in
        >relation to the Acts references you gave where it is said that Jesus'
        >flesh did not experience corruption. In the primitive mind of the
        >first century, where they did not understand that the flesh starts
        >decaying as soon as the blood stops flowing, could it have been the
        >point of "disfiguration" of the flesh that was in mind when they said
        >that Jesus' flesh did not experience corruption?


        Don't forget Lazarus. I don't recall that they said much about his face. It
        seems they equated corruption more with odor than with visible signs.

        Bob


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • komar112000
        Bob, ... Midrash Genesis Rabbah 100.7 - Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the
        Message 3 of 11 , Oct 24, 2005
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          Bob,

          > Where are you getting the term "disfigure" from, and why your focus
          > on the face?

          Midrash Genesis Rabbah 100.7 - "Until three days [after death] the
          soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back
          [into the body]; but when it sees that the FACIAL features have
          become DISFIGURED, it departs and abandons it [the body]..."


          Ultimately, what I'm trying to do is connect two ideas:

          Idea #1. The belief amongst Jesus' followers that after his death
          his flesh did not experience "corruption" (Acts 2:27, 2:31, 13:34,
          13:35) as interpreted from Ps 16:10 "see the Pit". Or, in other
          words, the idea that Ps 16:10 INFORMED Jesus' followers that, after
          his death, his flesh did not experience corruption.

          Idea #2. The belief expressed in Genesis Rabbah 100.7 that "facial
          disfiguration" occurs on day one, day two, or day three after death.

          In connecting these two ideas, essentially I'm playing with the idea
          that if "facial disfiguration" was synonomous with disfiguration of
          the flesh in general (seems reasonable), could "fleshly
          disfiguration" be synonomous with "fleshly corruption"? Or in other
          words, if an average Jewish person died, would a Jew have been able
          to say of that person 2 minutes later, "his flesh has not yet
          experienced CORRUPTION" in the way it is expressed in Acts for Jesus?

          What all this is leading to is this question: Could Jesus'
          followers, informed by Ps 16:10 that Jesus' flesh did not experience
          corruption, and informed by their beliefs that the flesh of dead
          people becomes corrupt sometime in the first three days after death,
          have concluded that Jesus therefore was raised on day one, day two,
          or three after death (presuming no discovered empty tomb)? And if
          so, could this have been a first step for a scriptural origin for "on
          the third day" in the creed of 1Cor 15:4?

          > Better perhaps to focus on the idea of breath (Heb. ruach), the
          > root word involved in talking about the holy spirit and the
          > Nicodemus episode; the death and corruption process begins when
          > breath departs. In that three day window, the breath may return.

          I think I see your point. "Corruption" could refer to "breath" and
          have nothing to do with "fleshly disfiguration". But, unless I'm
          misunderstanding something, Jesus' followers knew he had breathed his
          last. Therefore, when they said Jesus' flesh did not expereince
          corruption, they could not have meant that he kept breathing. This
          leads me back to wonder if they were thinking instead of that point
          when a corpse's flesh disfigures.

          Also, I would assume that Jews experienced some resuscitations
          (returned breath) but NEVER after the point that the flesh (face)
          disfigured.

          > Don't forget Lazarus. I don't recall that they said much about his
          > face. It seems they equated corruption more with odor than with
          > visible signs.

          Good point, but I would assume that practical experience showed the
          Jews that by the time the face disfigured, there was also an odor
          with most if not all corpses. Perhaps mention of the face did not
          have a comfortable spot in the Lazarus story ("don't open the tomb,
          his face is disfigured" just doesn't fit, especially if his face is
          wrapped in cloth. The odor would be the objectionable offense).

          Also, it is interesting that Martha makes mention of four days with
          her reference to odor (Jn 11:39). It may just be a coincidence, but
          this seems to jive with the Genesis Rabbah reference that in all
          cases the flesh is rotting by day four.

          Kris Komarnitsky
          Salt Lake City. UT
        • Jeffrey B. Gibson
            ... It would be helpful if we had the Hebrew for this term.  Can you supply it?  Or is your exegesis of this Hebrew text,  and the conclusions you are
          Message 4 of 11 , Oct 24, 2005
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            komar112000 wrote:

            > Bob,
            >
            > > Where are you getting the term "disfigure" from, and why your focus
            > > on the face?
            >
            > Midrash Genesis Rabbah 100.7 - "Until three days [after death] the
            > soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back
            > [into the body]; but when it sees that the FACIAL features have
            > become DISFIGURED, it departs and abandons it [the body]..."

            It would be helpful if we had the Hebrew for this term.  Can you supply it?  Or is
            your exegesis of this Hebrew text,  and the conclusions you are deriving from it,
            primarily based on an English translation of GenRab.?

            While we're waiting for it, let me state a few things, beyond the  question of
            whether the anthropology apparently envisaged here (a naturally immortal "soul"
            that is the seat of personality, knowledge,  and volition which inhabits a body
            and is released from it at death)  is something that we find in 1st century
            Palestinian Judaism), that make it difficult to for me to believe that the belief
            expressed here is something that would have been entertained in 1st century
            Palestinian Judaism, let alone stands as background to Jn 11:39 or any other NT
            text.

            1.   The statement in Gen. Rab. --  attributed to one Bar Kappara --  is late, 
            and we don't know if the attestation is reliable.  Something similar appears in
            Lev. Rab but curiously there's no aligning of it with Bar Kappara.

            2.  Even if the attribution is reliable,  the view expressed is still late: late
            second/ early third cent.   C.E.,

            (3) Bar Kappara was an advocate of Greek language, philosophy, and the natural
            sciences.  So his views on the soul may be more influenced by Greek thought than
            something which he inherited from Judaism and/or his earlier co-religionists;  and

            (4) In all of the discussions about, or depictions of,  death and the afterlife in
            extant 1st century Palestinian Jewish texts,  there's not only nothing that even
            remotely approximates the view of Bar Kappara (see J.R.Michaels, _John, 109), 
            there's much that contradicts it.

            So,  I'm not buying it.

            Jeffrey
            --

            Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

            1500 W. Pratt Blvd. #1
            Chicago, IL 60626

            jgibson000@...
             
          • komar112000
            Jeffrey, Business trip calls for a few days but I may have limited acces to the web. Will hunt down the Hebrew term and get back to you on that (I have been
            Message 5 of 11 , Oct 24, 2005
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              Jeffrey,

              Business trip calls for a few days but I may have limited acces to
              the web. Will hunt down the Hebrew term and get back to you on that
              (I have been using the English up until now). Have ordered the book
              that you say contradicts this belief amongst first century Jews
              (J.R.Michaels, _John). Until I get that book (should be quick
              though) would you care to list say, the top two contradictions?

              Kris Komarnitsky
              Salt Lake City, UT
            • Jeffrey B. Gibson
                ... Let s be clear that I did not say Michaels contradicts the belief expressed in GenRab. 100.  I adduced Michaels as a Johannine commentator who noted
              Message 6 of 11 , Oct 25, 2005
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                komar112000 wrote:

                > Jeffrey,
                >
                > Business trip calls for a few days but I may have limited acces to
                > the web.  Will hunt down the Hebrew term and get back to you on that
                > (I have been using the English up until now).  Have ordered the book
                > that you say contradicts this belief amongst first century Jews
                > (J.R.Michaels, _John).  Until I get that book (should be quick
                > though) would you care to list say, the top two contradictions?

                Let's be clear that I did not say Michaels contradicts the belief expressed in
                GenRab. 100.  I adduced Michaels as a Johannine commentator who noted that such a
                belief is not attested in 1st century Palestinian Judaism.

                And before I post any contradictions, perhaps you will provide us with your first
                century Palestinian Jewish evidence that shows acceptance by 1st century
                Palestinian Jews of the Platonic anthropology  presumed in Bar Kappara's view
                wherein a human being is composed of a mortal body and a naturally immortal "soul"
                that is the seat of personality, knowledge, and volition, and which inhabits a
                body until it is released at death?

                Jeffrey
                --

                Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

                1500 W. Pratt Blvd. #1
                Chicago, IL 60626

                jgibson000@...
                 
              • komar112000
                Jeffrey, Our discussion has transferred from Biblical Studies to here and has several components. I ll try to summarize them all here with significant
                Message 7 of 11 , Oct 28, 2005
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                  Jeffrey,

                  Our discussion has transferred from "Biblical Studies" to here and
                  has several components. I'll try to summarize them all here with
                  significant clarification of my "position". Hopefully, I've captured
                  the discussion well enough that we can use this post as a sort
                  of "new" reference point. Also, let me say that I do not wish to
                  engage in a win/loose debate. I'd rather hear vigorous viewpoints
                  that I can learn from, and I think that is exactly what we are doing,
                  and I appreciate it.

                  OK. Let's go back to the Midrash that I want to apply to the first
                  century. Here they are:

                  A. Midrash Genesis Rabbah 100.7 - "Bar Kappara taught: Until three
                  days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking
                  that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that the
                  facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it
                  [the body]. Thus it says, `But his flesh grieveth for him, and his
                  soul mourneth over him' (Job 14:22)"

                  B. Mishnah Yebamot 16:3 - "They derive testimony [concerning the
                  identity of a corpse] only from the appearance of the whole face with
                  the nose…[and]…only during a period of three days [after death]."

                  C. Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 18:1 - "For three days [after death] the
                  soul hovers over the body, intending to re-enter it, but as soon as
                  it sees its appearance change, it departs, as it is written, `When
                  his flesh that is on him is distorted, his soul will mourn over him.'
                  (Job 14:22) "

                  On closer examination, the references above actually do not express
                  the belief that I thought - "that the soul did not leave the corpse,
                  and the corpse did not start to decay, until AFTER three days from
                  death". More accurately, they express the belief that it took UP
                  THROUGH the end of the third day for the soul to leave the corpse and
                  for the flesh to DISFIGURE. In other words, the action of the soul
                  and DISFIGURATION of the flesh didn't always happen as soon as the
                  third day ended, it could have happened during the third day, or
                  during day 2, or day 1. But in any case, by the first microsecond of
                  the fourth day, the soul was gone and the flesh was disfigured -
                  ALWAYS. That's the belief I'm suggesting is present in the midrash
                  above.

                  This clarification also makes better sense with what the Jews must
                  have seen in personal experience. Surely they must have noticed that
                  the flesh on corpses did not disfigure in all cases the moment that
                  the third day ended. Some probably disfigured during the third day,
                  on the second day, or on the first day after death. However, the
                  Palestinian climate probably capped the number of days that flesh
                  could remain undisfigured at three days, and this practical matter
                  helped create the belief mentioned in the previous paragraph.

                  The following describes the initial decay process of a human body
                  and, amazingly, it puts the time frame for initial decay in the first
                  three days after death, the same time frame expressed in Gen Rabbah!
                  From (http://articles.ogrish.com/index.php/Decomposition) (Brace
                  yourself for the pictures):

                  Decomposition can be simplified in two stages: In the first stage,
                  human decomposition is limited to the production of vapors. In the
                  second stage of human decomposition, fluidic materials form and the
                  flesh begins to decompose…Decomposition begins at the moment of
                  death. At this stage it is caused by two factors: autolysis, the
                  breaking down of tissues by the body's own internal chemicals and
                  enzymes; and putrefaction, the breakdown of tissues by bacteria.
                  These processes release gases that are the chief source of the
                  characteristic odour of dead bodies. These gases swell the body….The
                  following sequence of events represents in considerable detail the
                  process of decomposition.
                  Initial Decay…Stage 1…Time Frame: 0-3 days after death
                  36-48 Hours - The face and trunk begin to swell noticeably, taking on
                  the characteristic "bloated" appearance. The eyelids, lips, scrotum,
                  and other sites where skin is loosely attached may become
                  dramatically swollen and bloated.

                  60-72 Hours - The entire body has now changed color, and facial
                  features may become unrecognizable.

                  (End of decay reference)


                  First century Jews could not have missed observing these properties
                  of decaying corpses just mentioned. They would have concluded that
                  the facial features become disfigured (changed) no later than day 3
                  after death. They also would have noticed that the corpse always
                  started to stink before, or at the latest in conjunction with, the
                  flesh becoming disfigured. Note that the odor never starts AFTER the
                  flesh becomes disfigured. Additionally, because the odor of a corpse
                  increases as the flesh continues to disfigure (not noted above but if
                  not intuitivly obvious, it is noted in other references I looked at),
                  first century Jews probably put two and two together and concluded
                  that the odor from a corpse was the first indication of decay of the
                  flesh.

                  First century Jews would also have observed the rare occurance of a
                  resuscitation after an incorrrectly presumed death. Resusciatations
                  are significant because if they occurred up through the third day
                  after death, this would be a case where the corpse did not disfigure
                  OR stink for three days. That resuscitations did occur up to three
                  days after death seems to be expressed in the concept of the "soul"
                  reentering the body up through day three (as in Gen Rab 100.7 and
                  Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 18:1).

                  So to capture where we are: My position is that these midrash
                  references reflect a belief that it took up through the end of the
                  third day after death for the soul to leave the corpse and for the
                  flesh to start decay. I'm guessing we can agree on that. Where I
                  think we disagree is that I think it's plausible to extrapolate these
                  midrash references to first century Jews, but you do not. I will now
                  address several areas of our discussion in this regard:


                  1. WRT your request that I show "acceptance by 1st century
                  Palestinian Jews of the Platonic anthropology presumed in Bar
                  Kappara's view [Genesis Rabbah 100.7] wherein a human being is
                  composed of a mortal body and a naturally immortal "soul" that is the
                  seat of personality, knowledge, and volition, and which inhabits a
                  body until it is released at death?"

                  From Tom Wright's "Resurrection of the Son of God" (Pg. 140 &
                  142): "…by the time of the first century AD all the many varieties
                  of Judaism were to a lesser or greater extent Hellenistic, including
                  those anchored firmly in the soil and cult of Palestine…The idea of a
                  soul separable from the body, with different theories as to what
                  might happen to it thereafter, was wide-spread in the varied Judaisms
                  of the turn of the eras".

                  I'll leave it to others much smarter than I to show that first
                  century Palestinian Jews (or even Bar Kappara) did or did not hold
                  the multiplicity of views about the soul down to every detail that
                  you require. But the words of N.T Wright are good enough for me to
                  conclude that 1] anybody who says that they know all the varied forms
                  of Jewish belief about the soul that existed in the first century is
                  either joking or kidding themselves, and 2] first century Jews were
                  wrestling with concepts of "soul" (however you want to define it),
                  and I don't see anything that would have kept them from saying the
                  same thing that Bar Kappara said 180 years later.

                  I don't see how you so easily dismiss the idea that first century
                  Palestine Jews believed in various concepts of the soul when even
                  N.T. Wright cannot dismiss this.



                  2. WRT the Hebrew term for "disfigure" in Genesis Rabbah 100.7:

                  The best I have been able to do thus far comes from Rabbi Scheinerman
                  of jewsforjudaism.org. He says:

                  "The word `disfigured': The root of the word is shin-nun-hey, but
                  not all those letters appear in the text in the grammatical form of
                  the word. It simply means `change.'"

                  The point of Gen Rab 100.7 is that it is when the flesh on the face
                  changes (disfigures, distorts, bloats, whatever you want to call it) -
                  that is when the soul leaves.

                  BTW, when I told him the reason for my query was "to help establish
                  the plausibility that some first century Jews believed that the soul
                  departed and the flesh decayed by the end of the third day after
                  death", Rabbi Scheinerman replied, "You are correct that they
                  believed that the soul departed shortly after death.



                  3. WRT your comment that "The statement in Gen. Rab. -- attributed
                  to one Bar Kappara -- is late, and we don't know if the attestation
                  is reliable. Something similar appears in Lev. Rab but curiously
                  there's no aligning of it with Bar Kappara."

                  I agree, we cannot know if the attestation is reliable. We don't
                  that it is unreliable either. We just don't know. Not sure the
                  significance of your Lev. Rab comment. Seems like the fact that Lev
                  Rab doesn't mention Bar Kappara makes it an independent source
                  confirmation that this belief existed.



                  4. WRT your comment that, "Even if the attribution is reliable,
                  the view expressed is still late: late second/ early third cent.
                  C.E."

                  Let's call it 180 years after Jesus' death just to be the most
                  accurate (Bar Kappara 180-220CE). You are correct, it is late. My
                  point is not that Gen Rab 100.7 (and Lev Rab 18.1, and Mishnah
                  Yebamot 16:3) is DIRECT evidence of a first century Jewish belief.
                  My point is that is seems reasonable to conclude from this INDIRECT
                  evidence that such beliefs existed in the first century amongst
                  Jews. As mentioned before, this is not a new or radical idea as
                  evidenced in the study note of at least two bibles, which presumably
                  received extensive review and editing by scholars:

                  In the NIV (1995) notes for Jn 11:17 it says, "Many Jews believed
                  that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in
                  the hope of returning to it."

                  In the NRSV (1991) notes for Jn 11:39 it says, "popular belief
                  imagined that the soul lingered near the body for three days, then
                  left".

                  What do you say to the scholars that made these notes?



                  5. WRT your comment that, "Bar Kappara was an advocate of Greek
                  language, philosophy, and the natural
                  sciences. So his views on the soul may be more influenced by Greek
                  thought than something which he inherited from Judaism and/or his
                  earlier co-religionists…"

                  You are correct, Bar Kappara's comments MAY come from Greek thought
                  rather than something which he inherited from Judaism and/or his
                  earlier co-religionists. But it seems like it could just as well be
                  the other way around. First century Jews were using the Greek
                  language and were exposed to Greek philosophy and natural sciences.
                  They also had their own natural science observations of corpses. We
                  do not know where Bar Kappara got his information.



                  6. WRT your comment, "In all of the discussions about, or depictions
                  of, death and the afterlife in extant 1st century Palestinian Jewish
                  texts, there's not only nothing that even remotely approximates the
                  view of Bar Kappara (see J.R.Michaels, _John, 109), there's much that
                  contradicts it."

                  I'm glad you clarified this and said in your next post, "Let's be
                  clear that I did not say Michaels contradicts the belief expressed in
                  GenRab. 100. I adduced Michaels as a Johannine commentator who noted
                  that such a belief is not attested in 1st century Palestinian
                  Judaism." I agree with your clarification and also want to note that
                  there is a HUGE difference between simply the absence of evidence,
                  and evidence that is contradictory.

                  There may indeed be no attestation in extant first century
                  Palestinian Jewish texts that expresses the Gen Rab 100.7 belief.
                  The only exception may be Jn 11:39 which I'll address below, but I
                  could be wrong. So if there are no extant first century texts that
                  support the Gen Rab belief, but none that contradict it, is it proper
                  methodology to conclude that it did not exist in the first century?
                  I'm not a biblical scholar, so this was one of the core questions I
                  was trying to ask folks (but few seem to want to take a stab at
                  answering). Seems to me it could have existed. Seems to me that
                  many scholars think it reasonable that it did (as noted by the NIV
                  and NRVS study notes mentioned above).



                  7. WRT to John 11:39:

                  First, you said that the Lazarus story is the story of a corpse that
                  has been PRESERVED from decay. You are in good company with N.T.
                  Wright in suggesting this. But I simply do not see how you or Wright
                  can conclude this at all. Wright outlines what to me seems the only
                  way he can reach his conclusion. He says with regard to Jesus'
                  thanks to God in Jn 11:41, "Presumably John wants us to understand
                  that there was no smell; Jesus knows his prayer, for Lazarus to
                  remain uncorrupt, has been answered." (The Resurrection of the Son of
                  God, pg. 443). But Wright has isolated a small part of a thankful
                  prayer of Jesus to arrive at the conclusion that Lazarus had never
                  started to decay. If you look at the whole quote by Jesus after the
                  stone to Lazarus' tomb is removed (Jn 11:41-42), and not just a
                  snippet (11:41) as Wright appears to have done, one notes that Jesus
                  concludes his verbal thanks to God with the words, "...I have said
                  this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may
                  believe THAT YOU SENT ME." (Jn 11:41-42). Jesus is giving thanks out
                  loud so that the crowd will know he is acting with the power of God,
                  not Satan, or as
                  some magician. He is not smelling the air, noting its freshness, and
                  therefore saying thanks. It is generous to say that whether or not
                  Lazarus' body decayed simply cannot be determined from the story.
                  One can assume it (as Wright has done), but there is no indication
                  that this is any more likely than the conclusion that the story of
                  Lazarus shows the power of God to raise even a corpse that has
                  decayed. (This point is actually inconsequential to our discussion
                  about applying midrash beliefs to the first century. It does however
                  affect how I apply corruption of the flesh to the origin of "on the
                  third day" in 1Cor 15:4.)

                  Second, you said that Martha's expectation of odor on the forth day
                  (Jn 11:39) does not support the belief expressed in Gen Rab 100.7.
                  You may be correct in this. But it certainly is CONSISTENT with the
                  beliefs in Gen Rab 100.7, and it is worth noting that the choice of
                  days (the fourth day) fits very nicely with the window of three days
                  expressed in the Gen Rab. That is, if she had said, "it is day three
                  (or day two, or day one) and there is an odor", it would mean that
                  she was not allowing the full three days for decay of the corpse to
                  begin, and this would go against the first century beliefs I'm
                  suggesting. If Martha had said, ""it is day five (or six, or seven,
                  etc) and there is an odor", then the midrash beliefs could still be
                  present, but the coincidental "closeness" to day three is not there.
                  It's an interesting "coincidence" that day four was chosen in the
                  Lazarus story. Even more so if the intent of the Lazarus story is to
                  show that God can raise someone past the point that their flesh has
                  become corrupted.


                  CONCLUSION
                  Being a non-scholar, I ask the question again, is it unreasonable to
                  conclude that some first century Jews believed that it took up
                  through the end of the third day after death for the soul to leave
                  the corpse and for the flesh to start decay? And if it is
                  unreasonable, why?


                  Kris Komarnitsky
                  Salt Lake City
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