9. The resurrection, 15:1-58
iv] The consequences of a fraudulent resurrectionArgument
Paul again focuses his sermon on those in the Corinthian congregation who doubt the resurrection of the dead. Paul gives two illustrations: First, he asks why people would bother being baptized out of consideration for someone who has died, if there is no resurrection of the dead? Second, Paul illustrates his own struggles in life, his constant flirting with death because of his loyalty to the gospel. Why bother putting himself through all this pain if there is no resurrection of the dead? He might as well live the good life. Paul concludes by encouraging the Corinthian believers to stand firm on the core belief of the Christian faith, namely the resurrection of the dead, and avoid those who deny the resurrection, those who are ignorant of God.
i] Context: See 15:1-11.
ii] Background: The Corinthian enthusiasts and their flawed understanding of the resurrection of the dead,15:1-11.
iii] Structure: The consequences of a fraudulent resurrection:
Against the view that there is no bodily resurrection #4:
If Christ is risen, then the dead in Christ will also rise.
An argument from Paul's own experience, v29-32.
• Baptism for the sake of the dead is a stupid activity if there is no resurrection of the dead, v29.
• The willing acceptance of persecution and strife is stupid if there is no resurrection of the dead, v30-32.
Stop sinning and come to your senses.
As in v13-18, Paul develops his argument by looking at the negative consequences that inevitably flow if there is no resurrection of the dead. His argument attempts to show that Christian baptism, and the suffering that inevitably comes upon a follower of Christ, are meaningless if there is no resurrection of the dead.
Baptism for the dead. This is a most unusual idea and has prompted many interpretations:
a) Vicarious baptism. The most widely accepted interpretation it that some members have died unbaptized, possibly violently at a time of persecution, and as a pastoral response to bereaved family members, a believer has substituted for the deceased person. The practice was obviously viewed as irregular and so never developed within the early church. The modern version implemented by the Church of the Latter Day Saints rests on this verse. To vicariously baptize deceased persons and preserve the record of the baptisms in concrete bunkers is somewhat bizarre. We are reminded of an important Biblical principle of interpretation, namely, an IS is not an AUGHT.
b) Metaphorical language. Baptism is used here in the sense of immersed in suffering, the suffering of believers in anticipation of the resurrection.
c) Referring to the practice of conducting baptisms over the graves of saintly believers. No evidence for such a practice exists.
d) A translation issue. "What will the baptized do for the dead?" The text does not support such a translation. Punctuation solutions are also offered by some.
e) The "dead" is a reference to the person being baptized, ie., their spiritual state prior to baptism.
f) A more likely interpretation has been argued by J.K. Howard, Baptism of the Dead: A Study of 1 Corinthians 15:29, EvQ 37, argued earlier by Findlay in his commentary on 1 Corinthians in the Expositors Greek Testament. The argument is that the person being baptized is a relative or friend of a deceased believer who, having reflected on the life of the deceased person, has come to a point of conversion and so sought baptism "in order to be reunited with them at the resurrection", Howard. With this approach the preposition uJper is not taken to express substitution, "on behalf of / in place of." As Findlay puts it, "the death of Christians leads to the conversion of survivors, who in the first instance for the sake of the dead (their beloved dead), and in the hope of reunion, turn to Christ." "Otherwise, what will be the position of those who from time to time are being baptized out of consideration for the dead", R&P.
Text - 15:29
The resurrection of the dead is obviously true, v29-34. i] The first illustration - baptism of the dead, v29. Paul is making the point that it is illogical for a person to receive baptism in anticipation of meeting their loved-one in the afterlife, if there is no resurrection of the dead. As indicated in the background notes, it is not overly clear in what sense the Corinthian believers did not accept a resurrection of the dead. This verse may imply no resurrection whatever, but if the issue is a Platonic one, then the Corinthians believe in a spiritual assimilation into an amorphous impersonal eternity as against the resurrection of a real, but transformed person.
epei "Now if there is no resurrection [what]" - otherwise [what will the ones being baptized for the sake of the dead do?]. This conjunction is sometimes temporal, but normally causal, "because", although when used in a question, as here, it carries the sense "for otherwise", in reference to what has just been said; "If what I have just written with regard the resurrection is not true (= for otherwise), what are people thinking of when they get themselves baptized for the dead?"
poihsousin (poiew) fut. "will those do" - [what] will they do. This common word presents with many subtle shades of meaning depending on the context. Thiselton suggests that here it takes a more subjective sense, "what will the ones being baptized for the dead do? = what do those people think they are doing who have themselves baptized for the dead?"
oiJ baptizomenoi (baptizw) pres. mid./pas. part. "who are baptized" - the ones being baptized. The participle serves as a substantive. Mid/pas, "have themselves baptized." Clearly, Christian baptism is intended; the outward sign of repentance / conversion.
uJper + gen. "for" - for the sake of [the dead]. Commonly expressing either representation, "on behalf of", or advantage, "for the benefit of." Sometimes instead of peri, reference / respect, "concerning", and at other times instead of anti, substitution, "instead of". Less common is a sense denoting a moving cause or reason, "because of / for the sake of." It is this last sense which is likely here. It is sometimes used with reference to Christ, uJper Cristou, "therefore I take pleasure in weakness in insults in troubles in persecutions and difficulties for Christ's sake", 1Cor.12:10, ie., Christ is the moving cause / reason for Paul's willingness to suffer. So, in the passage before us, the moving cause / reason for the willingness of these people to undergo baptism is the death of their believing friend or relative. They have been moved by their faith and want to join them in glory.
ei + ind. "if" - if [as is the case, wholly dead (believers) are not raised to life at all, then why indeed / also are they baptized for them]? Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true.
oJlwV adv. "-" - actually. Here probably used as an adjective; "wholly dead", properly dead people.
ii] The second illustration - suffering and strife, v30-32. Paul is again making the point that it is illogical for him and his team of missionaries to go through all the trouble and strife of serving Christ if in the end they will be nothing more than a pile of dust.
kai "and" - Possibly adjunctive; "Also, what about us, we endanger ourselves every hour of the day?"
hJmeiV pro. "as for us" - [why also are] we [in danger every hour]? Emphatic by use and position, so as NIV.
Paul reinforces the reality of the troubles caused by gospel ministry in an oath; "I swear to you, by ......."
kaq (kata) + acc. "[I face death] every day" - according to day [i die]. This distributive use of the preposition forms an adverbial construction; "day by day" = "daily". Probably in the sense of facing constant danger.
nh + acc. "yes" - by. This classical asseverative particle is used here to introduce an oath; a hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT. "I swear by the/my pride in you, brothers, which I have in Christ Jesus the Lord of us, that daily I die" = "I swear to you, by the pride I take in you, as a man who has united himself to Christ Jesus our Lord, that death is upon me day in and day out", Cassirer.
uJmeteran acc. adj. "[I glory] over you / [I boast] about you" - [the = my pride] of you. Accusative of oath in agreement with thn ... kauchsin, "the pride", after nh. Functioning as an objective genitive, so "my pride in you", cf., BAGD.
en + dat. "in" - in [christ jesus]. Local, expressing incorporative union, "in connection with", as Cassirer above, but possibly modal, expressing manner, "boasting in a Christly manner", B&L.
hJmwn gen. pro. "our " - [the lord] of us. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, of subordination, "Lord over us", or possessive, "our Lord"
If the totality of life consists of the here and now between birth and death then we would be a fool not to take to the full all there is of human existence; ref., Isaiah 22:13.
ei + ind. "if" - if [as is the case, according to a man, i fought with wild animals in ephesus, then what the benefit to me]? Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. The apodosis (the then clause) is elliptical, without a verb. The event is past, so the clause may also be missing the an making it a 2nd. class condition / contrary to fact; "If, as is not the case, I had fought with wild beasts in Ephesus, then what would have been the benefit to me?" Fitzmyer rejects this possibility.
eqhriomachsa (qhriomacew) "I fought wild beasts" - Most commentators take this comment as metaphorical; Paul is alluding to the troubles he had in Ephesus. If he was thrown to the lions in the arena he wouldn't be writing this letter! "I faced severe opposition in Ephesus."
kata + acc. "for merely human reasons / with no more than human hopes" - according to a man. The preposition here is adverbial, probably modal, expressing manner, "in the manner of a man." The sense is not overly clear: "humanly speaking", ie., speaking metaphorically, Barnett, Fitzmyer; "as a mere human being", ie., Paul's struggle in Ephesus was on a merely human level, Fee, Malherbe, Garland; "from human motives", ie., from human motives rather than those kindled by the Holy Spirit, Edwards, 1885.
en + dat. "in" - in [ephesus]. Local; "at Ephesus", ESV.
moi dat. pro. "[what have] I [gained" - [what] to me [the benefit, gain, advantage]. Dative of interest, advantage; "what advantage was there for me?"
ei + ind. "if" - if [as is the case for argument sake, dead believers are not raised, then]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause there the condition is assumed to be true for argument sake.
fagwmen (esqiw) aor. subj. "let us eat" - let us eat [and let us drink]. As with piwmen, "let us drink", the subjunctive is hortatory.
gar "for" - for [tomorrow we die]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why, if there is no resurrection of the dead, we should live life to the full without regard to God, namely, because in a world where there is no God the only inevitable is death and so it is best to put that off as long as possible and enjoy the interim.
iii] Exhortation, v33-34. Prompted by the quotation from Isaiah, Paul makes the point that "such moral carelessness, whatever may inspire it, and however attractive it may seem, is not for Christians", Bruce, so Garland. It could be that the "skepticism of some Corinthian Christians about the resurrection of the dead might be entailing other inadmissible attitudes or conduct", Fitzmyer. Yet, giving regard to the context, it is more likely that the "bad company" are those who are spreading doubts with regard the resurrection of the dead, so don't be misled by them, Barnett. Whatever prompts Paul's words at this point, he warns that "smug self-security does not make one immune from the temptations of one's social environment", Pfitzner.
fqeirousin (fqeirw) pres. "corrupts" - [do not be deceived, bad companionships / associations] corrupt, destroy [good morals / habits]. The quote derives from Greek theatre, but was possibly, by this time, a common adage. "Bad friends will destroy you", CEV.
Turning from those who deny the resurrection, the "bad company" who mislead, Paul now refers to those members of the congregation whose ignorance of the gospel has allowed them to be so easily misled. They need to come to their senses and stop sinning.
dikaiwV adv. "as you ought" - [come to your] right [senses, live righteously and]. It is possible that the adverb "justly" serves as an adjective here, "right senses", but better as BAGD suggests "as you ought", as NIV; "Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right", ESV, "as is fitting."
mh aJmartanete (aJmartanw) pres. imp. "stop sinning" - do not sin. Although a matter of dispute, the present imperative may be taken to command the cessation of an action in progress, so "do not go on sinning", ESV. "Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts", Peterson.
gar "for" - because [some have ignorance]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they need to come to their senses and stop sinning, because there are tineV, "some" who are ignorant .... - those members of the congregation who are full of knowledge, the Spirit and wisdom, but in reality are ignorant of God, no better than pagans when it comes to knowledge. Thiselton suggests reason rather than cause, "in a logical sense", so "some people, you see, have an utter lack of knowledge of God."
qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective.
proV + acc. "to" - [i speak this] to. Possibly here expressing purpose, "I say this in order to shame you", rather than "I say this to your shame", ie., shaming them to change their ways; "to move you to shame", R&P.
uJmin dat. pro. "your [shame]" - [shame] you. Dative of direct object after the en prefix verb "to put to shame."