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Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by PastorSBC1303, May 18, 2007.
How do you interpret this passage?
Just what it says. It looks like people were baptised for the dead. I'm guessing it was probably some sort of substitutionary baptism for those who died without being baptised. I know people will bristle at the thought, but what else could it mean? Whatever it was, Paul didn't seem to take issue with the practice. In fact, it must have been meaningful, otherwise why put it the way he did?
If it didn't mean anything then I'd have to ask, "Why then is anyone baptised for the dead at all?"
I can't. :laugh: I've read that passage in three different translations and I am stumped.
However, I just read an on-line commentary that seemed to use wisdom and logic in explaining it.
In a nutshell, it said that verse 29 had to be interpreted with verse 30-32.
The author of this commentary said that "baptism for the dead" was new converts being baptized to replace the dead in Christ.
He said that those verse grouped together, 29-32, were saying that why should we baptize new converts if the dead converts are never going to rise from their graves. And why should be suffer persecution for the sake of Christ if dead converts are never resurrected. If there is no resurrection, then let's just live for today and tomorrow we're dead.
Read that link. It's pretty good.
By-the-by, I was looking at your blog yesterday and your 4 daughters are very beautiful. You are going to have to get your "batting arm" in good shape, because one day very soon you are going to have to beat all of those boys coming around your house with a BIG stick! :laugh: :laugh:
It does seem pretty straightforward that some were being baptized in a proxy for the dead, apparently.
As to Paul's not condemning it, I wonder if we are reading too much into there. Maybe he is "granting for the sake of argument" and using that to illustrate how absurd it is for people who don't believe in teh resurrection to be baptized for the dead. In other words, he wasn't approving it; he was merely pointing out that such an act was inconsistent with their stated beliefs.
The problem I have with this analysis is that it assumes two things:
1. It refutes the practice based on a Mormon belief that being baptised for the dead obtains salvation for the dead person. It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you can obtain salvation for a dead person by being baptised for them. So all he proved was the the Mormons are likely to be wrong (I believe they're dead wrong, if you'll pardon the pun). My point is that you can't rule out the possibility that people were literally baptised for the dead based on a Mormon error.
2. It assumes that the practice of being baptised for the dead has no merit or meaning, and then goes back and re-interprets the text with that assumption, looking for some other explanation. That is not how to read the Bible.
I agree with you in principle. But if the practice was grounded in theological error, I would expect Paul to debunk the practice somewhere, whether in this letter or another. Maybe that letter got lost.
Also, like I said above, Paul is saying there's no point in baptising people for the dead if the dead are not raised. If there was ALSO no point in baptising people for the dead, then it was a REALLY bad choice to use as a hypothetical.
I do understand what you are saying in making your point.
Maybe I read him incorrectly, but I don't think he was ruling out a proxy-baptism interpretation of this verse because Mormoms are wrong. I thought he was saying as a side note that Mormons are wrong because this is not a proxy-baptism interpretation.
Was I clear as mud? :laugh:
2. It assumes that the practice of being baptised for the dead has no merit or meaning, and then goes back and re-interprets the text with that assumption, looking for some other explanation. That is not how to read the Bible.[/quote]
Well, if proxy-baptism has no merit or meaning (a valid assumption) and the Apostle Paul was saying that there was justification to what was being practiced in verse 29, ("...if the dead rise not, then why are they baptized for the dead") then looking for some other explanation other that proxy-baptism makes sense to me.
But, it's not my commentary and as I said in the first post, I can't explain all by myself.
This is exactly how I've understood it.
Pegans where baptizing for the dead, it was a ritual for a good after life and Paul was referring to them. The church never practiced this ritual, but maybe intriqued, by the pegan ritual.
Paul was basically saying it is useless.
I'm not saying that you or Pastor Larry are wrong, because I don't have the definitive answer, but...
Your understandings of verse 29 would be mine, too, if verse 29 stood alone.
But it doesn't. Paul asked two questions.
Why are people baptizing for the dead if there is no resurrection?
Why are people suffering for Christ's sake if there is no resurrection?
All the more reason to suspect that baptizing for the dead meant something. It means something that we're suffering for Christ's sake, doesn't it?
If I were to conclude that baptizing for the dead is meaningless, it would be based on the fact that the Bible never gives us any instructions to do so. In other words, I'm not insisting it meant anything, just saying it's possible. (Edit: Actually, the context suggests it's probable, but not having been there at the time, I can't defend it first hand - grin.)
Paul was using the argument in the context of the resurrection. Baptism is a picture. It shows our new life in Jesus Christ. We are baptized with "a living life" so to speak, alive in Christ. (Rom.6:3,4).
If there is no resussurection, the sarcastic allusion to this paganistic ritual is made--
1 Corinthians 15:29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
--Even the paganistic rituals are useless that do believe in an afterlife, whether it be reincarnation or some other type of resurrection. Hindus baptize (or have a form of it). If the pagans don't believe in a resurrection there practice is also useless.
But see what I have in comparison to the pagans:
1 Corinthians 15:30-31 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
That which I have in Jesus Christ our Lord is far greater than the pagans will ever have.
1 Corinthians 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
If there is no resurrection (which Christian baptism symbolizes) life is useless. Why even try to live the Christian life?
Really? Pagans had a ritual where they baptized people for the dead? Do you have any reference on this? (I'm not challenging you, I'm genuinely curious.)
While we're discussing this, how about trying to understand a distantly related passage:
No, it is just one of many views. There are some others views which are also plausible. Nicodemus referred to some kind of reincarnation (not that he believed it), when he said, "Shall he enter into his mother's womb a second time and be born?)"
I Googled it and couldn't find any information on pagan rituals of baptism for the dead. The only non-Christian practices I could find were things like small gnostic sects, but their literature includes things like references to John the Baptist, so I don't their practices pre-date Christianity.
Here is another alternate view given by Barnes. Keep in mind that the word "baptize" is simply a transliteration of the Greek baptidzo. Its real meaning is usually immersion, and occasionally "wash."
Thanks for all the thoughts.
Could it be the word translated "for" would be better translated "because of" referencing those who have come to know Christ, symbolized by baptism, because of the lives of believers who have died?
Sorry, but that still sounds to me like, "I don't want to believe that it means what it says, so I'm going to come up with some alternative explanation that I prefer."
Again, I'm not insisting any of these alternative explanations are wrong, but they sure sound contrived to me.
I hope this might help.
Just north of Corinth was a city named Eleusis. This was the location of a pagan religion where baptism in the sea was practiced to guarantee a good afterlife. This religion was mention by Homer in Hymn to Demeter 478-79.2