Written sometime in the second century, many will dismiss this so-called Gnostic text as heresy. For historians, however, it suggests an ongoing debate among followers of Jesus over the nature of resurrection. Paul, whose letters represent the earliest surviving Christian sources, already confronts followers who deny the resurrection of the body. And while he affirms bodily resurrection, he asserts that it will be spiritual. ''Flesh and blood,'' he writes, ''cannot inherit the kingdom of God'' (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Paul knew Jesus only through a vision, and he reveals in his letters no knowledge of an empty tomb. It would seem in fact that both strands, the resurrection of Jesus as a spirit or as a body go back to the earliest stages of the new religion emerging in Jesus' name. As the early followers and converts struggled to understand what had happened, they earnestly sought and found diverse ways of expressing their faith in the significance of Jesus for their salvation.