1 Corinthians 15:29

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Zenas, Apr 6, 2010.

  1. Zenas

    Zenas
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    Our Sunday School lesson last Sunday was on the resurrection and the scripture text was from 1 Corinthians 15. However, as is always the case with Lifeway materials, they skipped over the only controversial verse in the chapter. So I will bring the question here—What is Paul talking about?

    Most commentary I have read suggests that Paul was merely recognizing a practice that existed in the First Century Greek world without approving of it. But this seems like a weak explanation because Paul was quick to denounce heresy wherever it was and he did not denounce this. He just mentions it and leaves it hanging out there as if there is nothing wrong with it. What do you think?
     
  2. menageriekeeper

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    My first thought:

    In the preceeding verses Paul speaks of Christ's ressurection and how if Christ didn't rise, we have no hope. Then I believe in verse 29 he is reiterating the principal, "Why were you baptized in honor of a dead person? (meaning Christ) Why bother if dead means dead?"

    In other words, Paul is saying that if Christ didn't rise, then we have no reason to follow Him.
     
  3. kyredneck

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    This is one of those passages that I put into the 'unknown' or 'I don't know' category. I suppose I generaly agree with what some commentaries say and let it go at that:

    JFB (emphasis mine):
    "29. Else--if there be no resurrection.
    what shall they do?--How wretched is their lot!
    they . . . which are baptized for the dead--third person; a class distinct from that in which the apostle places himself, "we" (1 Corinthians 15:30); first person. ALFORD thinks there is an allusion to a practice at Corinth of baptizing a living person in behalf of a friend who died unbaptized; thus Paul, without giving the least sanction to the practice, uses an ad hominem argument from it against its practicers, some of whom, though using it, denied the resurrection: "What account can they give of their practice; why are they at the trouble of it, if the dead rise not?" [So Jesus used an ad hominem argument, Matthew 12:27]. But if so, it is strange there is no direct censure of it. Some Marcionites adopted the practice at a later period, probably from taking this passage, as ALFORD does; but, generally, it was unknown in the Church. BENGEL translates, "over (immediately upon) the dead," that is, who will be gathered to the dead immediately after baptism. Compare Job 17:1, "the graves are ready for me." The price they get for their trouble is, that they should be gathered to the dead for ever (1 Corinthians 15:13,16). Many in the ancient Church put off baptism till near death. This seems the better view; though there may have been some rites of symbolical baptism at Corinth, now unknown, perhaps grounded on Jesus' words (Matthew 20:22,23), which Paul here alludes to. The best punctuation is, "If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for them" (so the oldest manuscripts read the last words, instead of "for the dead")?"
     
    #3 kyredneck, Apr 6, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2010
  4. AnotherBaptist

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    Or any reason to be baptized in His name either. Maybe awkward Greek, which appeared to get the better of Peter also:

     
  5. annsni

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    From the ESV Study Bible:

    Some interpreters through the centuries have thought this referred to vicarious baptism on behalf of deceased people, probably those who had believed in Christ but had not yet been baptized before they died (cf. Luke 23:43). But the interpretation is uncertain, and whatever the practice is, Paul reports it without necessarily approving it, and is clearly not commanding it. Baptism for the dead is an important part of Mormonism, but the Bible gives no support to the idea that anyone can be saved apart from personal faith in Christ (see notes on John 3:18; 14:6). Other interpreters argue that by "the dead" Paul means the bodies of living Christians, which are subject to death and decay; they are baptized "on behalf of their dying bodies," showing hope that their bodies will rise again (see Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 47-49, 53-54). On this view, Paul argues here that the baptism of perishing bodies is useless if the dead are not raised.
     
  6. Zenas

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    The plain syntax of these sentences does suggest a vicarious baptism, and I think we would all agree that is what it means--except it presents major problems of theology. Since it does, we try to attach a metaphysical meaning to it by speculating on whether "the dead" are really physically dead people or whether they represent something else.

    Menageriekeeper, I think your approach makes as much sense as any interpretation I have read but I never saw it before and no English translation or paraphrase I have seen renders it that way.

    AnotherBaptist, I believe 1 Peter 4:6 is a reference back to 1 Peter 3:19. The two verses are located pretty close together.

    Kyredneck, your commentary emphasizes Paul says "they" and "those", not "we" and "us" and that clearly puts distance between Paul and the people who practice this custom. But it seems really strange to me that he doesn't denounce it. Could it be that Paul was referring to a practice among people who did not purport to be Christians?
     
  7. kyredneck

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    Heheh, I agree, her take on it does make as much sense as any.

    I never thought about that. I'd say that is entirely possible.
     

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