According to Engberg-Pedersen, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 is one of the most important sections of Paul’s literature for understanding his Stoic cosmology. He divides it into three sections:
1) 15:20-28 – First apocalyptic scenario.
2) 15:35-49 – Scientific scenario
3) 15:50-5 – Second apocalyptic scenario
In the scientific account, Paul’s rhetorical interlocutor asks about how dead bodies are raised and how they are made alive again. Paul answers by pointing out that what one sows does not come to life unless it firsts dies, likening the human body and its resurrection to the behavior of a kernel of wheat. Paul then points out that God gives each sort of creature its own body and then tells his audience that “There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly of another.”
In the case of the human, the first body is sown in corruption so that it dies, but then is raised in incorruption so that it lives forever. Likewise, it is sown in dishonor but then raised in glory. The human first has an earthly body that dies but is then given a spiritual body that endures forever and is immune to death.
The earthly body Paul refers to as a “psychic” body and the heavenly body is the “pneumatic” body. Indeed, Paul has previously distinguished between the psychic man and the pneumatic man in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. Resurrection in Paul is generally understood as a manifestation of his power. Engberg-Petersen argues that Paul is presupposing the Stoic notion that the heavenly bodies sit at the top of the hierarchical scala naturae, and that is why he considers them spiritually superior. He thus argues that the essence of Paul’s argument is that ” (a) The contrast in 15:44a between a ‘psychic’ and a ‘pneumatic’ body is only prepared for in what immediately precedes it if it is already implied in the contrast between ‘earthly’ and ‘heavenly’ bodies; (b) and it is a distinctly Stoic idea that ‘heavenly’ bodies are also ‘pneumatic’ ones.”
The first man, Adam is a living “psyche” but the second Adam became a life-producing pneuma. Paul then goes on to explain that it is the psychic that is first rather than the pneumatic. Paul assumes that his audience will agree that if there is a psychic body then there must also be a pneumatic body. Paul’s reference to the first Adam having become a living being is a reference to Gen. 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” Thus, Paul understands Gen. 2:7 as anticipating Christ, who has become a life-producing pneuma. Although Paul’s reading of the text may seem unusual to us, Engberg-Petersen notes that it presupposes an exegetical tradition familiar to us through Philo. Engberg-Petersen says that Paul is actually disputing a well-known Philonic exegesis of this passage:
“Why does he introduce this verse by saying ‘However, the pneumatic is not first’, when he has already made this point clear in 15:45 through his addition of’first’ and ‘last’? The best answer is probably that he is presupposing both the whole of Gen. 2:7, which does speak first of the ‘inbreathing’, that is, of the pneumatic event, and only then of the living psychē—and also an interpretation of that verse of the kind suggested by Philo.79 ‘However’ then means: However, against the impression given by Gen. 2:7 as developed by some, etc’”
Thus, Paul acknowledges that there is a pneumatic state which precedes the psychic state insofar as Adam’s pneuma is breathed into clay by God. But this initial pneumatic event does not mean that the First Adam is a pneumatic entity in a Stoic or theological sense. The First Adam is produced in a pneumatic state but is not given a pneumatic body. Indeed, “once Paul has given in 15:44a what amounts to his answer to the question concerning the resurrection body, he takes his assertion in 15:44b that there is a ‘pneumatic’ body as a springboard for bringing in the broader idea that there are two ‘Adas’ and that there is a general contrast between ‘the psychic’ and ‘the pneumatic’ as such and a chronological distinction between them”(Engberg-Petersen, 2010). Furthermore, just as humans were made to wear the “eikon” or “image” of the First Adam, the elect will be made to wear the body of the second one. Just as Christ was given a heavenly body, so also, humans will be given a similarly heavenly body by the power he has in his resurrection.
Engberg-Pedersen, Troels (2010-03-18). Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit (p. 26). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.