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Luke 24:39
Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don't have bodies, as you see that I do."

I'm in the middle of a discussion with one of a Sola Scriptura church member. He said that the word "ghost" there means "demon/satan" not "ghost of a dead man".

I ask him why ?
He said it is because the Bible say "there's no such thing as ghost of a dead man". (Hebrews 9:27). So, any kind of an appearance (seen by human) which cannot be touch, then it's certainly the demon in disguise as someone thought ever live on earth by the living, he continued.

If I directly put that "demon" word in a verse, it becomes like this :

Luke 24:39
Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a demon, because demons don't have bodies, as you see that I do."

To me, logically the argument will be something like this :
Because you can touch me - then I'm not a demon (in disguise)
If I'm a demon (in disguise) - then you can not touch me.

He said yes, the argument is like above.

For another reference,

Luke 24:37
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.

Assuming that the meaning of the word "ghost" in the verse above is the ghost of a dead man, then to me the conclusion is : on what they saw, they thought it's the ghost of Jesus.

change to "demon" :

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a demon.

Then (following on what the member of the SS Church said) my conclusion is : on what they saw, they thought it's a demon in disguise as Jesus.

The question :
Is there any reference from Sola Scriptura Church's father (for example, Martin Luther) on what this Sola Scriptura Church member said ?

  • Can the answer be references from 'Scripture Alone'? It's very easy to prove the premises wrong from Scripture alone.. – Sola Gratia Apr 15 '18 at 14:15
  • @SolaGratia, Maybe it is something like this : the scripture alone told us that there is no such thing as ghost .... continue : so then, what Jesus mean is "if I'm a demon, you can't touch Me". – karma Apr 17 '18 at 6:14
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Fourfold answer whose summary is that "ghost" (or "spirit") seems to be a legitimate translation.

1. Ancient Greek has another word for "demon".

This word (e.g. in 1 Tim 4:1) is δαίμων daimōn. As Lesley's answer points out, Jesus uses a more general word (πνεῦμα pneuma) connected to the idea of "spirit".

2. Hebrews 9:27 doesn't clearly rule out ghosts.

It's not clear to me that Hebrews 9:27 inevitably rules out the existence of ghosts, or at a minimum the translation "ghost", insofar as that word refers to a spirit or a manifestation of a dead person.

  • Ghosts may still only die once and face judgement at some point afterwards.
  • Ghosts may not be or may not have been people (but some other supernatural entity).

However, it may still be a possible interpretation. I don't know the hermeneutics of that passage.

3. The Bible features people who appear in non-physical form after they've died.

Saul consulted a medium to speak with Samuel at Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25). Saul "recognized" that it was really Samuel and Samuel asked why he had been "disturbed" for this meeting. He had died by this point and was apparently in some other state from which to be disturbed.

More contemporaneously, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus during the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). They appeared out of nowhere and disappeared in a cloud.

One might argue that if what the disciples thought was the ghost of Jesus was the same kind (good) as the manifestations of Moses and Elijah, they wouldn't have been frightened of him. But in fact they were frightened at the Transfiguration too (Mark 9:6), and people generally are frightened of divine apparitions in the Bible.

To my mind, this could easily be a parallel to what the disciples thought they were seeing. Does it matter for our point whether they were actual ghostly spirits present in some way or, for example, just optical visions? Either way the disciples had something to mistake Jesus for.

4. Jesus sometimes answers people according to what they know.

Belief in ghosts was common throughout the ancient Middle East, and Jesus sometimes answered people according to what they knew rather than addressing the incorrect presuppositions in their statement. He sometimes cut to the heart of what they wanted to know.

We can see parallels in many passages in which God speaks in the Old Testament. He chose to adopt the Hebrew idiom and cosmology, because that was what made sense to the people He was talking with. The Bible fits naturally into Middle Eastern mythology (in some ways) not because God is ultimately a Babylonian deity but because that was the flock He was shepherding.

To apply this to Jesus' post-resurrection apperance, what was important in the disciples' claim? That they believed he was still dead, or that he wasn't really there, resurrected in the body. So rather than explain to them why ghosts aren't real despite the things they believed and had seen, he cut to the heart of their doubt and showed them a proof they would accept.


However, Luther thought ghosts were devils

Luther gave at least one sermon in which he expressed a similar opinion to the one cited in your question. Although he would use "ghost" or "spirit" to translate these passages, he believes that they are not the souls of dead human beings but some kind of spiritual being allied to the devil:

Christ does not deny it but confirms with His answer that spirits do appear ... However, Scripture does not say or give any example that these are the souls of dead people ... Scripture says nothing anywhere about the souls of dead men who have not yet risen going about among the people ... they are now divided and separated completely from the world and from this time. ... All those ghosts and apparitions which are seen or heard, especially with rumbling and rattling, are not the souls of men, but surely devils.

I'm obviously not qualified to gainsay Luther, but I hesitate to accept the claim that Scripture says nothing anywhere about the souls of the dead who haven't yet risen (Luther even adds that there is "not one word"). Also worth noting is that in the rest of that sermon, there's the usual Lutheran contrast with papist beliefs. The nature and status of the unresurrected dead is a subject on which Catholicism had a surprisingly specific claims to make, which Luther did not like.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the other Reformers such as Knox, Zwingli, and Calvin thought.

  • Luke, it seems that your number-2 (Hebrew 9:27) in the point of view (pov) from SS Church : "it's clear that this verse is telling that there is no such thing as ghost (spirit of a dead man)". So, depart from this "clearance", your number-3 in the pov SS Church : "it's a demon in disguise as Samuel, it's bodily resurrected Moses". – karma Apr 19 '18 at 7:20
  • @karma (a) I wrote that the reading was not inevitable and would add that it would require quite a strong interpretive layer or preexisting conviction to arrive at that conclusion. (b) If it was a demon as Samuel, then how did Saul "recognize" Samuel and how did a demon deliver a true message from the Lord? (c) If it was bodily-resurrected Moses and Elijah, how was Jesus the "firstfruits of the resurrection"? (d) Even if they were a demon and a bodily resurrection respectively, how does that invalidate a translation where the disciples thought they saw a ghost and Jesus answered accordingly? – Luke Sawczak Apr 19 '18 at 10:12
  • Luke, actually I have a similar thinking like yours, I can say that I agree with your explanation. On the contrary I don't agree with the SS Church explanation. That's why I would like to know whether there is (or not) a text from SS Church's father regarding this matter. – karma Apr 19 '18 at 16:28
  • @karma Ah, now I understand. Updated the answer. Probably not fully satisfactory. – Luke Sawczak Apr 20 '18 at 2:55
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    Luke, thank you for your updated answer. Your answer satisfy me, and (again) I don't agree on what Luther say quoted in your updated answer. I don't believe to any kind of supra natural things such as ghost (spirit of the dead) and demon (spirit of evil). But reading the verse about "Jesus ghost", the condition at that time itself leads me to think that Jesus argument is "If I'm a spirit (of the dead) then you can't touch me". I can't escape the (of the dead) because the one who talk at that time has already dead 3 days ago :). I choose your answer as the acceptable one. Thank you once again. – karma Apr 22 '18 at 15:36
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The Greek word translated as “ghost” in Luke 24:37 and 39 is ‘pneuma’. This word can mean many different things, such as wind, air in motion, breath, spirit, a spiritual being, a bodiless spirit or specter, or a foul spirit. According to my William D. Mounce Greek Interlinear, the meaning of this word in Luke 24:27 and 39 is “a bodiless spirit, or specter.”

If Jesus wanted to say that he was not a demon, then the Greek word ‘daimonion’ would have been used. This word is used in Luke 11:14 when Jesus was driving out an evil demon and in Matthew 8:31 the Greek word is 'daimon’ which means a malignant demon or an evil angel.

Jesus was not trying to reassure his disciples that he was not a demon, presenting himself as a human. Jesus was showing his disciples that he was made of flesh and bones, a body that bore the marks of his crucifixion, evidence that his body had been physically resurrected. Jesus’ purpose was to reassure his disciples that he was not a disembodied spirit. At His incarnation Jesus took on human flesh, and at His resurrection His body was glorified—although He retained the scars.

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27).

I regret I am unfamiliar with the Sola Scriptura Church and what it teaches and so I can’t comment on that.

Edit: In response to your comments, if "ghost" means “spirit beings,” then yes, they exist. If "ghost" means “spirits of people who have died,” then no, they do not come back to earth and appear to people. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that there are spirit beings, both good and evil. But the Bible negates the idea that the spirits of deceased human beings can remain on earth and appear to the living.

  • "Jesus was showing his disciples that he was made of flesh and bones". Yes Lesley ... we (me and the SS Church's member) both agree on that. The difference is, my "Jesus argument" version is : Touch Me - then you know that I'm not a spirit of a dead man. That SS Church member version : Touch Me - then you know that I'm not a demon. So... the word "Pneuma" (Spirit), by me : "spirit of a dead man" ---- by him : "spirit of a demon" :) – karma Apr 17 '18 at 6:23
  • @karma - yes, I follow what you're saying. If Jesus was trying to suggest he wasn't a demon, then the appropriate Greek word for demon would have been used rather than 'pneuma' which means spirit. – Lesley Apr 17 '18 at 12:54
  • Ok Lesley, now I got it what you meant. So, if what Jesus meant in "Pneuma" is spirit of a demon - then most likely He will use the word daimonion. Although I can accept your answer, but to be honest I prefer if there is any reference from SS Church fathers (Luther, for example) which can be concluded on what this Church father's writing is telling that the Bible say there is no such thing as ghost (spirit of a dead man). Thank you Lesley. – karma Apr 17 '18 at 15:36
  • @karma – I have spent hours searching on-line for quotes from Luther on the resurrection of Jesus. Forgive me if I have misunderstood your question, but it seems to me that you are asking about the meaning of “ghost,” if a “ghost” is the spirit of a dead person and if that is a biblical and Christian teaching. If so, then please read my edit. – Lesley Apr 18 '18 at 14:40
  • Lesley, you wrote : it seems to me that you are asking about the meaning of “ghost,” if a “ghost” is the spirit of a dead person and if that is a biblical and Christian teaching. Me : It's not about "what people teach from the Bible", Lesley. The story itself (to me) made me think that "the argument" is : "If I'm a spirit (of a dead man), you can't touch me. You can touch me, so I'm not a spirit (of a dead man)". Even if I omit the sentence (of a dead man), it is still referring to the same person, which is Jesus after He died. – karma Apr 19 '18 at 7:06

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