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?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Else.—We can well imagine the Apostle pausing, as it were, to take breath after the splendid outburst of mingled rhetoric and logic which we find in 1Corinthians 15:23-28; or perhaps even postponing until some other day the further dictation of his Epistle, when he could calmly resume his purely logical argument in favour of the doctrine of the Resurrection. Then there will not appear such a startling or inexplicable abruptness in the words with which this new argument is commenced. “Else”—i.e., if there be no resurrection—what shall they who are baptised for the dead do? If the dead be not raised at all, why are they then baptised for the dead? Such is the proper punctuation, and not as in the English version, which joins the clause, “if the dead rise not,” with the preceding instead of with the following portion of the verse. Also the word translated “rise,” is “are raised.” This is an argumentum ad hominem. The practice known as baptism for the dead was absurd if there be no resurrection. To practise it and to deny the doctrine of the resurrection was illogical. What shall they do? i.e., What explanation shall they give of their conduct? asks the Apostle. There have been numerous and ingenious conjectures as to the meaning of this passage. The only tenable interpretation is that there existed amongst some of the Christians at Corinth a practice of baptising a living person in the stead of some convert who had died before that sacrament had been administered to him. Such a practice existed amongst the Marcionites in the second century, and still earlier amongst a sect called the Corinthians. The idea evidently was that whatever benefit flowed from baptism might be thus vicariously secured for the deceased Christian. St. Chrysostom gives the following description of it:—“After a catechumen (i.e., one prepared for baptism, but not actually baptised) was dead, they hid a living man under the bed of the deceased; then coming to the bed of the dead man they spake to him, and asked whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other replied in his stead, and so they baptised the ‘living for the dead.’” Does St. Paul then, by what he here says, sanction the superstitious practice? Certainly not. He carefully separates himself and the Corinthians, to whom he immediately addresses himself, from those who adopted this custom. He no longer uses the first or second person; it is “they” throughout this passage. It is no proof to others; it is simply the argumentum ad hominem. Those who do that, and disbelieve a resurrection, refute themselves. This custom possibly sprang up amongst the Jewish converts, who had been accustomed to something similar in their own faith. If a Jew died without having been purified from some ceremonial uncleanness, some living person had the necessary ablution performed on them, and the dead were so accounted clean.

1 Corinthians 15:29-30. Else, or otherwise, what shall they do — What will become of them? what shall they do to repair their loss, who are exposed to great sufferings in consequence of being baptized for the dead — That is, say some, “In token of their embracing the Christian faith in the room of the dead, who are just fallen in the cause of Christ, but are yet supported by a succession of new converts, who immediately offer themselves to fill up their places, as ranks of soldiers that advance to combat in the room of their companions, who have just been slain in their sight.” Others say, “In hope of blessings to be received after they are numbered with the dead.” Many other interpretations are given of this obscure and ambiguous phrase, υπερ των νεκρων, for the dead. But perhaps that of Dr. Macknight is the most probable, who supplies the words της αναστασεως, and reads the clause, who are baptized for the resurrection of the dead, or are immersed in sufferings, because of their believing in, and testifying the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: for which interpretation he adduces solid reasons. If the dead rise not — If the doctrine I oppose be true, and the dead are not raised at all; why are they then baptized for the resurrection of the dead? And why stand we — The apostles; also in jeopardy — And are exposed to so much danger and suffering; every hour — In the service of a Master from whom, it is evident, we have no secular rewards to expect.15:20-34 All that are by faith united to Christ, are by his resurrection assured of their own. As through the sin of the first Adam, all men became mortal, because all had from him the same sinful nature, so, through the resurrection of Christ, shall all who are made to partake of the Spirit, and the spiritual nature, revive, and live for ever. There will be an order in the resurrection. Christ himself has been the first-fruits; at his coming, his redeemed people will be raised before others; at the last the wicked will rise also. Then will be the end of this present state of things. Would we triumph in that solemn and important season, we must now submit to his rule, accept his salvation, and live to his glory. Then shall we rejoice in the completion of his undertaking, that God may receive the whole glory of our salvation, that we may for ever serve him, and enjoy his favour. What shall those do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Perhaps baptism is used here in a figure, for afflictions, sufferings, and martyrdom, as Mt 20:22,23. What is, or will become of those who have suffered many and great injuries, and have even lost their lives, for this doctrine of the resurrection, if the dead rise not at all? Whatever the meaning may be, doubtless the apostle's argument was understood by the Corinthians. And it is as plain to us that Christianity would be a foolish profession, if it proposed advantage to themselves by their faithfulness to God; and to have our fruit to holiness, that our end may be everlasting life. But we must not live like beasts, as we do not die like them. It must be ignorance of God that leads any to disbelieve the resurrection and future life. Those who own a God and a providence, and observe how unequal things are in the present life, how frequently the best men fare worst, cannot doubt as to an after-state, where every thing will be set to rights. Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us, especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence. Let us awake to righteousness, and not sin.Else what shall they do ... - The apostle here resumes the argument for the resurrection which was interrupted at 1 Corinthians 15:19. He goes on to state further consequences which must follow from the denial of this doctrine, and thence infers that the doctrine must be true. There is, perhaps, no passage of the New Testament in respect to which there has been a greater variety of interpretation than this; and the views of expositors now by no means harmonize in regard to its meaning. It is possible that Paul may here refer to some practice or custom which existed in his time respecting baptism, the knowledge of which is now lost. The various opinions which have been entertained in regard to this passage, together with an examination of them, may be seen in Pool's Synopsis, Rosenmuller, and Bloomfield. It may be not useless just to refer to some of them, that the perplexity of commentators may be seen:

(1) It has been held by some that by "the dead" here is meant the Messiah who was put to death, the plural being used for the singular, meaning "the dead one."

(2) by others, that the word "baptized" here is taken in the sense of washing, cleansing, purifying, as in Matthew 8:4; Hebrews 9:10; and that the sense is, that the dead were carefully washed and purified when buried, with the hope of the resurrection, and, as it were, preparatory to that.

(3) by others, that to be "baptized for the dead" means to be baptized as dead, being baptized into Christ, and buried with him in baptism, and that by their immersion they were regarded as dead.

(4) by others, that the apostle refers to a custom of vicarious baptism, or being baptized for those who were dead, referring to the practice of having some person baptized in the place of one who had died without baptism. This was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose. Such was the estimate which was formed, it is supposed, of the importance of baptism, that when one had died without being baptized, some other person was baptized over his dead body in his place. That this custom prevailed in the church after the time of Paul, has been abundantly proved by Grotius, and is generally admitted. But the objections to this interpretation are obvious:

(a) There is no evidence that such a custom prevailed in the time of Paul.

(b) It cannot be believed that Paul would give countenance to a custom so senseless and so contrary to the Scripture, or that he would make it the foundation of a solemn argument.

(c) It does not accord with the strain and purpose of his argument. If this custom had been referred to, his design would have led him to say, "What will become of them for whom others have been baptized? Are we to believe that they have perished?"

(d) It is far more probable that the custom referred to in this opinion arose from an erroneous interpretation of this passage of Scripture, than that it existed in the time of Paul.

(5) there remain two other opinions, both of which are plausible, and one of which is probably the true one. One is, that the word baptized is used here as it is in Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:39; Luke 12:50, in the sense of being overwhelmed with calamities, trials, and sufferings; and as meaning that the apostles and others were subjected to great trials on account of the dead, that is, in the hope of the resurrection; or with the expectation that the dead would rise. This is the opinion of Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, Pearce, Homberg, Krause, and of Prof. Robinson (see the Lexicon article Βαπτίζω Baptizō), and has much that is plausible. That the word is thus used to denote a deep sinking into calamities, there can be no doubt. And that the apostles and early Christians subjected themselves, or were subjected to great and overwhelming calamities on account of the hope of the resurrection, is equally clear. This interpretation, also, agrees with the general tenor of the argument; and is an argument for the resurrection. And it implies that this was the full and constant belief of all who endured these trials, that there would be a resurrection of the dead. The argument would be, that they should be slow to adopt an opinion which would imply that all their sufferings were endured for nothing, and that God had supported them in this in vain; that God had plunged them into all these sorrows, and had sustained them in them only to disappoint them. That this view is plausible, and that it suits the strain of remark in the following verses, is evident. But there are objections to it:

(a) It is not the usual and natural meaning of the word "baptize."

(b) A metaphorical use of a word should not be resorted to unless necessary.

(c) The literal meaning of the word here will as well meet the design of the apostle as the metaphorical.

(d) This interpretation does not relieve us from any of the difficulties in regard to the phrase "for the dead;" and,

continued...

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" (1Co 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, Mt 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 (1Co 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 (Mt 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")?

A very difficult text, and variously expounded. The terms baptize, and baptism, signify no more in their original and native signification, than to wash, and a washing: the washing of pots and cups, in use amongst the Jews, is, in the Greek, the baptisms of pots and cups. But the most usual acceptation of baptism in Scripture, is to signify one of the sacraments of the New Testament; that sacred action, by which one is washed according to the institution of Christ, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It is also metaphorically used by our Saviour in the Gospels, Matthew 20:22,23 Mr 10:38,39 Lu 12:50, to signify a suffering for the name of Christ. And it is also used thus metaphorically, to signify the action of the Holy Ghost in cleansing and renewing our hearts, Matthew 3:11,12Jo 3:5. The last usage of the term is by no means applicable here. The question is: Whether the apostle meaneth here only: Why are men washed for the dead? Or why are men baptized religiously for the dead? Or why are men baptized with blood for the dead? For the popish notion, that baptism here signifies any religious actions, as fastings, and prayers, and penances for those that are in purgatory, there is no such usage of the term in Scripture; for though in Scripture it signifies sometimes sufferings from the hands of others, as in Matthew 20:22,23 Mr 10:38,39, yet it no where signifies penances, or such sufferings as men impose upon themselves for the dead. Nor doth Paul here say: To what purpose do men baptize themselves? But

why are they baptized for the dead?

1. Those that think the term here signifies washing, what shall they do who are washed for the dead? Tell us, that it being a custom in many countries, for neatness and cleanliness, to wash dead bodies, the primitive Christians used that ceremony as a religious rite, and a testification of their belief of the resurrection. That such a custom was in use amongst Christians, is plain from Acts 9:37: but that they used it as religious rite, or a testimony of their taith in the resurrection, appeareth not. And though it be uper twn nekrwn, yet they say uper is so used, Romans 15:8, for the truth of God, expounded by the next word, to confirm the promises.

2. Those that think, that by baptizing, in this text, the sacrament of baptism is to be understood, give us more than one account. Some say, that whereas they were wont in the primitive church, before they admitted persons into a full communion with the church, to keep them for some time under catechism, in which time they were called catechumeni; if such fell sick, and in danger of death, they baptized them; or if they died suddenly, they baptized some other for them, in testimony of their hope of the joyful resurrection of such a person to eternal life. Now admit this were an error of practice in them, as to this ordinance; yet if any such thing were in practice in this church, the argument of the apostle was good against them. But how shall any such thing be made appear to us, that there was such an early corruption in this church? Others say, that some, believing the resurrection, would upon their death beds be baptized, in testimony of it, from whence they had the name of clinici. Others say: To be baptized for the dead, signifieth to be baptized when they were dying, and so as good as dead. Mr. Calvin chooseth this sense: but the question is: Whether the Greek phrase uper twn nekrwn will bear it? Others tell us of a custom in use in the primitive church, to baptize persons over the graves of the martyrs, as a testimony of their belief of the resurrection. That there was anciently such a custom, I doubt not; and I believe that the custom with us in reading of prayers over dead bodies at the grave, doth much more probably derive from this ancient usage, than the papists’ praying for the dead; but that there was any such custom so ancient as the apostles’ times, I very much doubt. There are yet two other senses given of this difficult phrase, either of which seemeth to me much more probable than any of these. To the first we are led by the next verse:

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Which inclineth many good interpreters to think, that the baptism here mentioned, is that baptism with blood mentioned by our Saviour, Matthew 20:22,23; and so the sense is no more than, if there be no resurrection of the dead, why do we die daily? Why are we killed all the day long? For we do that in hope of a blessed resurrection. The only objections against this are:

1. That none but Christ himself useth the word in this sense (which seemeth a light exception).

2. That uper twn nekrwn is hardly capable of that sense; but yet our learned Dr. Lightfoot brings parallels of such a usage of the preposition out of the LXX. Others observe, that the apostle, in this whole chapter, is discoursing of the resurrection of believers unto life, and they are such dead alone, that he here speaketh of, for whom he saith any were baptized. Now, it is plain from Scripture, that baptism is a seal of the resurrection, signifying to believers, that they shall be made partakers of the death and resurrection of Christ (the resurrection being strongly proved from God’s covenant, of which baptism is a seal, Luke 20:37,38); and being so, it confirmed the covenant, not only to the persons baptized, but to the whole church, as well the triumphant as the militant part of it; as well with reference to those of it that were dead, as those that were living. So that so often as baptism was administered in the church, so often God repeated the covenant made to his whole church, that he was the God of believers and of their seed: so that all who to this day are baptized, are baptized for the dead, that is, for the confirmation of God’s covenant to his whole church, as well that part of it which is dead, as that part which is yet alive; and it testifieth, that those that sleep in Christ (although dead) yet live in the promise of the resurrection, because God is their God, and he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, as our Saviour speaketh in Luke 20:38. In this variety amongst learned men about the true sense of this place, I shall leave the reader to his own judgment, although to me the two last seem to be most probable. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead,.... The apostle here returns to his subject, and makes use of new arguments to prove the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and reasons for it from the baptism of some persons; but what is his sense, is not easy to be understood, or what rite and custom, or thing, or action he refers to; which must, be either Jewish baptism, or Christian baptism literally taken, or baptism in a figurative and metaphorical sense. Some think that he refers to some one or other of the divers baptisms of the Jews; see Hebrews 9:10 and particularly to the purification of such who had touched a dead body, which was done both by the ashes of the red heifer burnt, and by bathing himself in water; and which, the Jews say (l), intimated , "the resurrection of the dead": wherefore such a right was needless, if there is no resurrection; to strengthen this sense, a passage in Ecclesiasticus 34:25 is produced, , "he that washeth himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availeth his washing?" but the phrase there used is different; it is not said, he that baptizeth or washeth himself for the dead, but from the dead, to cleanse himself from pollution received by the touch of a dead body: it is also observed, that the Jews, as well as other nations, have used various rites and ceremonies about their dead, and among the rest, the washing of dead bodies before interment; see Acts 9:37 and this by some is thought to be what is here referred to; and the reasoning is, if there is no resurrection of the dead, why all this care of a dead body? why this washing of it? it may as well be put into the earth as it is, since it will rise no more; but how this can be called a baptism for the dead, I see not: rather therefore Christian baptism, or the ordinance of water baptism is here respected; and with regard to this, interpreters go different ways: some think the apostle has in view a custom of some, who when their friends died without baptism, used to be baptized in their room; this is said to be practised by the Marcionites in Tertullian's time, and by the Corinthians in the times of the Apostle John; but it does not appear to have been in use in the times of the Apostle Paul; and besides, if it had been, as it was a vain and superstitious one, he would never have mentioned it without a censure, and much less have argued from it; nor would his argument be of any weight, since it might be retorted, that whereas such persons were mistaken in using such a practice, they might be also in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: others are of opinion that such persons are intended, called Clinics, who deferred their baptism till they came upon their death beds, and then had it administered to them; but as this practice was not in being in the apostle's time, and was far from being a laudable one; and though the persons to whom it was administered were upon the point of death, and nearer the dead than the living, and were as good as dead, and might be intended by them, for their advantage, when dead and not living; yet it must be a great force and strain on words and things, to reckon this a being baptized for the dead: others would have the words rendered, "over the dead"; and suppose that reference is had to the Christians that had their "baptisteries" in their places of burial, and by being baptized here, testified their faith and hope of the resurrection of the dead; but this was rather a being baptized among the dead, than over them, or for them; and moreover it is not certain, that they did make use of such places to baptize in; to which may be added, that the primitive Christians had not so early burying grounds of their own: others would have the meaning to be, that they were baptized for their dead works, their sins, to wash them away; but this baptism does not of itself, and no otherwise than by leading the faith of persons to the blood of Christ, which alone cleanses from sin, original and actual; nor is this appropriate to the apostle's argument. Others imagine, that he intends such as were baptized, and added to the church, and so filled up the places of them that were dead; but the reason from hence proving the resurrection of the dead is not very obvious: those seem to be nearer the truth of the matter, who suppose that the apostle has respect to the original practice of making a confession of faith before baptism, and among the rest of the articles of it, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, upon the belief of which being baptized, they might be said to be baptized for the dead; that is, for, or upon, or in the faith and profession of the resurrection of the dead, and therefore must either hold this doctrine, or renounce their baptism administered upon it; to which may be added another sense of the words, which is, that baptism performed by immersion, as it was universally in those early times, was a lively emblem and representation of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and also both of the spiritual and corporeal resurrection of the saints. Now if there is no resurrection, why is such a symbol used? it is useless and insignificant; I see nothing of moment to be objected to these two last senses, which may be easily put together, but this; that the apostle seems to point out something that was done or endured by some Christians only; whereas baptism, upon a profession of faith in Christ, and the resurrection from the dead, and performed by immersion, as an emblem of it, was common to all; and therefore he would rather have said, what shall we do, or we all do, who are baptized for the dead? I am therefore rather inclined to think that baptism is used here in a figurative and metaphorical sense, for afflictions, sufferings, and martyrdom, as in Matthew 20:22 and it was for the belief, profession, and preaching of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, both of Christ and of the saints, that the apostles and followers of Christ endured so much as they did; the first instance of persecution after our Lord's ascension was on this account. The Apostles Peter and John, were laid hold on and put in prison for preaching this doctrine; the reproach and insult the Apostle Paul met with at Athens were by reason of it; and it was for this that he was called in question and accused of the Jews; nor was there anyone doctrine of Christianity more hateful and contemptible among the Heathens than this was. Now the apostle's argument stands thus, what is, or will become of those persons who have been as it were baptized or overwhelmed in afflictions and sufferings, who have endured so many and such great injuries and indignities, and have even lost their lives for asserting this doctrine,

if the dead rise not at all? how sadly mistaken must such have been!

why are they then baptized for the dead? how imprudently have they acted! and what a weak and foolish part do they also act, who continue to follow them! in what a silly manner do they expose themselves to danger, and throw away their lives, if this doctrine is not true! which sense is confirmed by what follows: the Alexandrian copy, and some others, read, "for them", and so the Vulgate Latin version; and the Ethiopic in both clauses reads, "why do they baptize?"

(l) R. Bechai & Zohar apud Lightfoot in loc.

{15} Else what shall they do which are baptized {o} for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

(15) The fifth argument taken of the end of baptism, that is, because those who are baptized, are baptized for dead: that is to say, that they may have a remedy against death, because baptism is a token of regeneration.

(o) They that are baptized to this end and purpose, that death may be put out in them, or to rise again from the dead, of which baptism is a seal.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 15:29.[59] Ἐπεί] for, if there is nothing in this eschatological development onward to the end, when God will be all in all, what shall those do, i.e. how absurdly in that case will those act, who have themselves baptized for the dead? Then plainly the result, which they aim at, is a chimera! Usually interpreters have referred ἐπεί back to 1 Corinthians 15:20, and regarded what lies between as a digression; Olshausen is more moderate, considering only 1 Corinthians 15:25-28 in that light, so also de Wette; Rückert, again, holds that Paul had perhaps rested from writing for a little after 1 Corinthians 15:28, and had had the sentence “the dead arise” in his mind, but had not expressed it. Pure and superfluous arbitrariness; as always, so here too, ἐπεί points to what has immediately preceded. But, of course, in this connection the final absolute sovereignty of God is conceived as conditioned by the resurrection of the dead, which, after all that had been previously said from 1 Corinthians 15:20 onwards, presented itself to every reader as a thing self-evident. Hofmann makes ἐπεί refer to the whole paragraph beginning with ἈΠΑΡΧῊ ΧΡΙΣΤΌς, as that is construed by him, down to 1 Corinthians 15:26, to which 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 have attached themselves as confirming the final abolition of death. But see on 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:27.

Upon the words which follow all possible acuteness has been brought into play, in order just to make the apostle not say that which he says.

τί ποιήσουσιν] makes palpable the senselessness, which would characterize the procedure in the case assumed by ἐπεί. The future is that of the general proposition,[60] and applies to every baptism of this kind which should occur. Every such baptism will be without all meaning, if the deniers of the resurrection are in the right. Grotius: “quid efficient” (comp. Flatt). But that a baptism of such a kind effected anything, was assuredly a thought foreign to the apostle. He wished to point out the subjective absurdity of the procedure in the case assumed. The interpretation: “nescient quid agendum sit” (van Hengel) does not suit the connection, into which Ewald also imports too much: “are they to think, that they have cherished faith and hope in vain?”

ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν] The article is generic. Every baptism which, as the case occurs, is undertaken for a dead person, is a baptism for the dead, namely, as regards the category. It must have been something not wholly unusual in the apostolic church, familiarity with which on the part of the readers is here taken for granted, that persons had themselves baptized once more for the benefit of (ὑπέρ) people who had died unbaptized but already believing, in the persuasion that this would be counted to them as their own baptism, and thus as the supplement of their conversion to Christ which had already taken place inwardly, and that they would on this account all the more certainly be raised up with the Christians at the Parousia, and made partakers of the eternal Messianic salvation.[61] This custom propagated and maintained itself afterwards only among heretical sects, in particular among the Cerinthians (Epiphanius, Haer. xxviii. 7) and among the Marcionites (Chrysostom; comp., moreover, generally Tertullian, de resurr. 48, adv. Marc. v. 10).[62] Among the great multitude of interpretations (Calovius, even in his time, counts up twenty-three), this is the only one which is presented to us by the words. Ambrosiaster first took them so;[63] among the later interpreters, Anselm, Erasmus, Zeger, Cameron, Calixtus, Grotius, al.; and recently, Augusti, Denkwürdigk. IV. p. 119; Winer, p. 165 [E. T. 219]; Billroth, Rückert, de Wette, Maier, Neander, Grimm, Holtzmann (Judenth. u. Christenth. p. 741), also Kling and Paret (in Ewald’s Jahrb. IX. p. 247 f.), both of which latter writers call to their aid, on the ground, it is true, of 1 Corinthians 11:30, the assumption of a pestilence having then prevailed in Corinth. The usual objection, that Paul would not have employed for his purpose at all, or at least not without adding some censure, such an abuse founded on the belief in a magical power of baptism (see especially, Calvin in loc.), is not conclusive, for Paul may be arguing ex concesso, and hence may allow the relation of the matter to evangelical truth to remain undetermined in the meantime, seeing that it does not belong to the proper subject of his present discourse. The abuse in question must afterwards have been condemned by apostolic teachers (hence it maintained itself only among heretics), and no doubt Paul too aided in the work of its removal. For to assume, with Baumgarten-Crusius (Dogmengesch. II. p. 313), that he himself had never at all disapproved of the βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, or to place, with Rückert, the vicarious baptism in the same line with the vicarious death of Christ, is to stand in the very teeth of the fundamental doctrine of the Pauline gospel—that of faith as the subjective ethical “causa medians” of salvation. For the rest, Rückert says well: “Usurpari ab eo morem, qui ceteroqui displiceret, ad errorem, in quo impugnando versabatur, radicitus evellendum, ipsius autem reprehendendi aliud tempus expectari.” The silent disapproval of the apostle is brought in by Erasmus in his Paraphrase: “Fidem probo, factum non probo; nam ut ridiculum est, existimare mortuo succurri baptismo alieno, ita recte credunt resurrectionem futuram.” Epiphanius, Haer. 28, explains it of the baptism of the clinici, of the catechumens on their deathbed, who πρὸ τῆς τελευτῆς λουτροῦ καταξιοῦνται. So Calvin, although giving it along with another interpretation equally opposed to the meaning of the words; also Flacius, Estius, al. But how can ὑπὲρ τ. νεκρ. mean jamjam morituri (Estius)! or how can the rendering “ut mortuis, non vivis prosit” (Calvin) lead any one to guess that the “baptismus clinicorum” was intended, even supposing that it had been already customary at that time![64] Chrysostom, too, runs counter to the words: ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, τουτέστι τῶν σωμάτων, καὶ γὰρ ἐπὶ τοῦτο βαπτίζῃ, τοῦ νεκροῦ σώματος ἀνάστασιν πιστεύων. Paul, he holds, has in view the article in the baptismal creed (which, however, certainly belongs only to a later time): “I believe in a resurrection of the dead.” So, too, on the whole, Pelagius, Oecumenius, Photius, Theophylact, Melanchthon (“profitentes de mortuis”), Cornelius a Lapide, Er. Schmid, and others; and somewhat to the same effect also Wetstein. Comp. yet earlier, Tertullian: “pro mortuis tingi pro corporibus est tingi.” Theodoret gives it a different turn, but likewise imports a meaning, making the reference to be to the dead body: ὁ βαπτιζόμενος, φησι, τῷ δεσπότῃ συνθάπτεται, ἵνα τοῦ θανάτου κοινωνήσας καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως γένηται κοινωνός· εἰ δὲ νεκρόν ἐστι τὸ σῶμα, καὶ οὐκ ἀνίσταται, τί δήποτε καὶ βαπτίζεται. Luther’s explanation, adopted again recently by Ewald and others, that “to confirm the resurrection, the Christians had themselves baptized over the graves of the dead” (so Glass and many of the older Lutherans; Calovius leaves us to choose between this view and that of Ambrosiaster), has against it, apart even from the fact that ὑπέρ with the genitive in the local sense of over is foreign to the New Testament, the following considerations: (1) that there is a lack of any historical trace in the apostolic period of the custom of baptizing over graves, such as of martyrs (for Eusebius, H. E. iv. 15, is not speaking of baptism), often as churches were built, as is well known, in later times over the graves of saints; (2) that we can see no reason why just the baptism at such places should be brought forward, and not the regarding of these spots as consecrated generally; (3) that to mark out the burial-places of pious persons who had fallen asleep, would have been in no way anything absurd even without the belief in a resurrection. And lastly, baptism took place at that time not in fonts or vessels of that kind, which could be set over graves, but in rivers and other natural supplies of water. Other interpreters, following Pelagius, refer ὑπὲρ τ. νεκρ. to Christ, taking βαπτ. in some cases of the baptism with water (Olearius, Schrader, Lange, Elwert); in others, of the baptism with blood (Al. Morus, Lightfoot). ΤῶΝ ΝΕΚΡ. would thus be the plural of the category (see on Matthew 2:20). But, putting aside the consideration that Christ cannot be designated as ΝΕΚΡΌς (not even according to the view of the opponents), the baptism with water did not take place ὙΠῈΡ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ,[65] but ΕἸς ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ; and the baptism with blood would have required to be forcibly indicated by the preceding context, or by the addition of some defining clause. “For the benefit of the dead” remains the right interpretation. Olshausen holds this also, but expounds it to this effect, that the baptism took place for the good of the dead, inasmuch as a certain number, a πλήρωμα of believers, is requisite, which must first be fully made up before the Parousia and the resurrection can follow. But this idea must be implied in the connection; what reader could divine it? Olshausen himself feels this, and therefore proposes to render, “who have themselves baptized instead of the members removed from the church by death.” So, too, in substance Isenberg (whose idea, however, is that of a militia Christi which has to be recruited), and among the older interpreters Clericus on Hammond, Deyling, Obss. II. p. 519, ed. 3, and Döderlein, Instit. I. p. 409. But in that case ὑπὲρ τ. νεκρ. would be something not at all essential and probative for the connection, since it is plain that every entrance of new believers into the church makes up for the departure of Christians who have died, but in this relation has nothing to do with the resurrection of the latter. This at the same time in opposition to van Hengel’s interpretation, about which he himself, however, has doubts: for the honour of deceased Christians, “quos exteri vituperare vel despicere soleant.” According to Diestelmann, ὑπὲρ τ. ν. is for the sake of the dead, and means: in order hereafter united with them in the resurrection to enter into the kingdom of Christ; while the νεκροί are Christ and those fallen asleep in Him.[66] But it is decisive against this view, first, that there is thus comprised in the simple preposition, an extent of meaning which the reader could not discover in it without more precise indication; secondly, that every baptism whatsoever would be also in this assumed sense a βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, whereby therefore nothing distinctive would be said here, such as one could not but expect after the quite singular expression; thirdly, that Christ cannot be taken as included among the ΝΕΚΡΟῖ, seeing that the resurrection of the Lord which had taken place was not the subject of the denial of resurrection here combated, but its denial is attributed by Paul to his opponents only per consequentiam, 1 Corinthians 15:13. According to Köster, those are meant who have themselves baptized for the sake of their Christian friends who have fallen asleep, i.e. out of yearning after them, in order to remain in connection with them, and to become partakers with them of the resurrection and eternal life. But in this way also a significance is imported into the simple ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, which there is nothing whatever to suggest, and which would have been easily conveyed, at least by some such addition as ΣΥΓΓΕΝῶΝ ΚΑῚ ΦΊΛΩΝ. According to Linder, the ΒΑΠΤΙΖΌΜΕΝΟΙ and the ΝΕΚΡΟΊ are held to be even the same persons, so that the meaning would be: if they do not rise (in gratiam cinerum), which, however, the article of itself forbids; merely ὑπὲρ νεκρῶν (ΝΕΚΡ. would be in fact qualitative) must have been made use of, and even in that case it would be a poetical mode of expression, which no reader would have had any clue to help him to unriddle. Similarly, but with a still more arbitrary importing of meaning, Otto holds that οἱ βαπτιζόμ. are the deniers of the resurrection, who had themselves baptized in order (which is said, according to him, ironically) to become dead instead of living men. Most of all does Hofmann twist and misinterpret the whole passage (comp. also his Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 199 f.), punctuating it thus: ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσ. οἱ βαπτ. ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, εἰ ὅλως νεκρ. οὐκ ἐγείρονται; τί καὶ βαπτίζονται; ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν; the thought being: “If those, who by means of sin lie in death, become subject in their sins to an utter death from which there is no rising, then will those, who have themselves baptized, find no reason in their Christian status to do anything for them, that may help them out of the death in which they lie;” nay, why do they then have themselves baptized? and why do we risk our lives for them? Ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρ. thus belongs to ΤΊ ΠΟΙΉΣ.; the ὙΠῈΡ ΑὐΤῶΝ, placed for emphasis at the head of the last question, applies to the ΒΑΠΤΙΖΌΜΕΝΟΙ. Every point in this interpretation is incorrect; for (1) to do something for others, i.e. for their good, is an absolute duty, independent of the question whether there be a resurrection or not. (2) But to do something which will help them out of death, is not in the passage at all, but is imported into it. (3) Those who can and should do something for others are the Christians; these, however, cannot have been designated so strangely as by οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι, but must have been called in an intelligible way ΟἹ ΠΙΣΤΕΎΣΑΝΤΕς perhaps, or at least ΟἹ ΒΑΠΤΙΣΘΈΝΤΕς. (4) The ΝΕΚΡΟΊ can only, in accordance with the context, be simply the dead, i.e. those who have died, as through the whole chapter from 1 Corinthians 15:12 to 1 Corinthians 15:52. (5) To give to ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν another reference than ὙΠῈΡ ΤῶΝ ΝΕΚΡῶΝ, is just as violent a shift as the severance of either of the two from ΒΑΠΤΊΖΕΣΘΑΙ, in connection with which they are symmetrically requisite for more precise definition, and are so placed. And when (6) ὙΠῈΡ ΑὐΤῶΝ is actually made to mean “in order to induce them to receive baptism,” this just crowns the arbitrariness of inserting between the lines what the apostle, according to the connection, could neither say nor think. Moreover, ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν could not have the emphasis, but only the ἩΜΕῖς introduced with ΚΑΊ, like the ΒΑΠΤΊΖ. previously introduced with ΚΑΊ.

ΕἸ ὍΛΩς ΝΕΚΡΟῚ ΟὐΚ ἘΓΕΊΡ
.] Parallel to the conditional clause to be supplied in connection with ἘΠΕΊ. For Paul conceives of the resurrection of the dead as being so necessarily connected with the completion of the Messianic kingdom that the denial of the one is also the denial of the other. If universally (as 1 Corinthians 5:1) dead persons cannot be raised up, why do they have themselves baptized also for them? since plainly, in that case, they would have nothing at all to do for the dead. See, generally, on Romans 8:24; Pflugk, ad Hec. 515; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 152. This “also” betokens the (entirely useless) superinduced character of the proceeding. To refer εἰ ἐγείρ. still to what precedes (Luther and many others, the texts of Elzevir, Griesbach, Scholz; not Beza) mars the parallelism; the addition of the conditional clause to ἐπεί would have nothing objectionable in itself (in opposition to van Hengel), Plato, Prot. p. 318 B; Xen. Anab. vi. 1. 30, vii. 6. 22; 4Ma 8:8.

[59] See on the passage, Rückert, Expos. loci P. 1 Corinthians 15:29, Jena, 1847; Otto in his dekalog. Unters. 1857; Diestelmann in the Jahrb. f. d. Theol. 1861, p. 522 ff.; Linder in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 571 f., and in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1862, p. 627 ff.; Isenberg in the Meklenb. Zeitschr. 1864–65, p. 779 ff.; Köster in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1866, p. 15 ff. Comp. also Elwert, Quaest. et obss. ad philol. sacram., Tüb. 1860, p. 12 ff. The various interpretations of older expositors may be seen especially in Wolf.

[60] Comp. Krüger, § liii. 7. 1; Elwert, p. 17; Fritzsche, ad Matth. p. 457; ad Rom. II. p. 9.

[61] It is to be noted that Paul does not speak at all in a self-inclusive way, as if of something common to all, but as of third persons, τί ποιήσουσιν κ.τ.λ. He designates only those who did it. Comp. already Scaliger.

[62] Chrysostom says that among the Marcionites, when a catechumen died unbaptized, some one hid himself under the bed; then they asked the dead man if he wished to be baptized, and on the living one answering affirmatively, they baptized the latter ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀπελθόντος. Of the Cerinthians, again, Epiphanius says, l.c.: καὶ τὶ παραδόσεως πρᾶγμα ηλθεν εἰς ἡμᾶς, ὡς τινῶν μὲν παρʼ αὐτοῖς προφθανόντων τελευτῆσαι ἄνευ βαπτίσματος, ἄλλους δὲ ἀντʼ αὐτῶν εἰς ὄνομα ἐκείνων βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἀναστάσαντας αὐτοὺς δικὴν δοῦναι τιμωρίας, βάπτισμα μὴ εἰληφότας. Tertullian does not name the Marcionites, but quotes the explanation of our text as applying to the vicarious baptism, without approving of it.

[63] “In tantum stabilem et ratam vult ostendere resurrectionem mortuorum, ut exemplum det eorum, qui tam securi erant de futura resurrectione, ut etiam pro mortuis baptizarentur, si quem mors praevenisset, timentes ne aut male aut non resurgeret, qui baptizatus non fuerat.… Exemplo hoc non factum illorum probat, sed fidem fixam in resurrectione ostendit.”

[64] Bengel also understands it of those who receive baptism, “quum mortem ante oculos positam habent” (through age, sickness, or martyrdom). Osiander agrees with him. But how can ὑπὲρ τ. νεκρ. mean that? Equally little warrant is there for inserting what Krauss, p. 130, imports into it, taking it of baptism in the face of death: “Who caused themselves to receive a consecration to life, while, notwithstanding, they were coming not to the living, but to the dead.”

[65] Elwert, p. 15, defines the conception of the βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ: “eo fine et consilio, ut per baptismum Christo addictus quaecunque suis promisit, tibi propria facias.” But that is plainly included in the contents of the βαπτ. εἰς Χ. or ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου, and one does not see from this why Paul should have chosen the peculiar expression with ὑπέρ.

[66] Comp., too, Breitschwert in the Würtemb. Stud. X. 1, p. 129 ff.1 Corinthians 15:29-34. § 53. THE EFFECT OF UNBELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION. To clinch the argument for the truth and the necessity of the Christian resurrection and to bring it home to the readers, the Ap. points out how futile Christian devotion must be, such as is witnessed in “those baptised for the dead” and in his own daily hazards, if death ends all (1 Corinthians 15:29-31); present enjoyment would then appear the highest good (1 Corinthians 15:32). The effect of unbelief in the future life is already painfully apparent in the relaxed moral tone of a certain part of the Cor[2408] Church (1 Corinthians 15:33 f.).

[2408] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.29. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead] St Paul now abruptly changes the subject, and appeals to the conduct of Christians as a witness to their belief. This is again a passage of extreme difficulty, and it would be impossible to notice one tithe of the explanations which have been proposed of it. We will only touch on three: (1) the natural and obvious explanation that the Apostle was here referring to a practice, prevalent in his day, of persons permitting themselves to be baptized on behalf of their dead relatives and friends. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that Tertullian, in the third century, mentions such a practice as existing in his time. But there is great force in Robertson’s objection: “There is an immense improbability that Paul could have sustained a superstition so abject, even by an allusion. He could not have spoken of it without anger.” The custom never obtained in the Church, and though mentioned by Tertullian, is as likely to have been a consequence of this passage as its cause. Then there is (2) the suggestion of St Chrysostom, that inasmuch as baptism was a death unto sin and a resurrection unto righteousness, every one who was baptized was baptized for the dead, i.e. for himself spiritually dead in trespasses and sins; and not only for himself, but for others, inasmuch as he proclaimed openly his faith in that Resurrection of Christ which was as efficacious on others’ behalf as on his own. There remains (3) an interpretation suggested by some commentators and supported by the context, which would refer it to the baptism of trial and suffering through which the disciples of Christ were called upon to go, which would be utterly useless and absurd if it had been, and continued to be, undergone for the dying and for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18). The use of the present tense in the verb baptized, the close connection of the second member of the sentence with the first, and the use of the word baptized in this sense in St Matthew 3:11; Matthew 20:12, are the grounds on which this interpretation may be maintained.1 Corinthians 15:29. Ἐπεὶ τί ποήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; τί καὶ ἡμεῖς χινδυνεύομεν τᾶσαν ὥραν;) We shall first say something on the pointing of this verse.[138] Many rightly connect, and have long been in the habit of connecting this clause, ΕἸ ὍΛΩς ΝΕΚΡΟῚ ΟὐΚ ἘΓΕΊΡΟΝΤΑΙ, with what follows; for the particle ἘΠΕῚ alone exhausts the force of the same clause in the first part of the verse. ΕἸ begins the sentence, as in 1 Corinthians 15:32, it does so twice; and often in 1 Corinthians 15:12, and those that follow. Hence the pronoun ΑὐΤῶΝ is to be referred to ΝΕΚΡΟῚ.[139] Furthermore, of the baptism for (over) the dead, the variety of interpretations is so great, that he who would collect, I shall not say, those different opinions, but a catalogue of the different opinions, would have to write a dissertation. At that time, as yet, there were neither martyrdoms nor baptisms over sepulchres, etc., especially at Corinth; but baptism over sepulchres, and baptism for the advantage of the dead came into use from a wrong interpretation of this very passage; as fire was used among the Egyptians and Abyssinians in the case of the baptized, from Matthew 3:11. Often, when the true interpretation is nearer and easier than we think, we fetch it from a distance. We must mark—I. The paraphrase: Otherwise what will they do who are baptized for (super) the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they also baptized for the dead? and why also are we in danger every hour? II. The sense of the phrase, βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, to be baptized for (over) the dead. For they are baptized for (over) the dead [super mortuis], who receive baptism and profess Christianity at that time, when they have death set before their eyes, who are likely every moment to be added to the general mass of the dead, either on account of the decrepitude of age, or disease, or pestilence, or by martyrdom; in fact, those who, without almost any enjoyment of this life, are going down to the dead, and are constantly, as it were, hanging over the dead; they who might say קברים לי, the graves are ready for me, Job 17:1. III. The first part of the verse is of a milder character; but the last part which begins with if after all, has also an epitasis [an emphatic addition. Append.] expressed in its own protasis by after all, and in the apodosis by the even [ΤΊ ΚΑῚ]: and these two particles correspond to each other; and the same apodosis has an anaphora [the repetition of the same words in the beginnings of sections], joining its two parts by why even. IV. We must mark the connection of the subject under discussion. With the argument respecting the resurrection of Christ, from which our resurrection is derived, Paul connects the statement of two absurdities (indeed there are more than two, but the preceding absurdities are repeated, though they have been already sufficiently refuted by former reasonings) which would arise, if there be no resurrection of the dead, if Christ have not risen: and in the meantime, having disentangled the argument concerning Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, he refutes those two absurdities by a discussion of somewhat greater length, which draws the sinews of its strength from the argument concerning Christ. The latter absurdity (for this has its relation to the argument more evident) regarding the misery of Christians in this life, he set forth at 1 Corinthians 15:19, and now discusses at 1 Corinthians 15:29 in the middle, and in the following verses; if after all: and in like manner he stated the former concerning the ‘perishing’ of the Christians that are dead, at 1 Corinthians 15:18, and now discusses, or repeats, or explains it in the first part of 1 Corinthians 15:29. V. The force of the apostle’s argument, which in itself is both most clear and most urgent. I. The propriety of the several words consistent with themselves. Α) What shall they do? is future, in respect of eternal salvation, i.e., such persons being baptized, will be disappointed, their efforts will be vain, if the dead sleep the eternal sleep. Β) The term baptism continues to be used in its ordinary meaning; and indeed in this epistle Paul has made more mention of baptism than in any other, ch. 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, 1 Corinthians 10:2, 1 Corinthians 12:13. γ) The preposition ὑπὲρ with the genitive might be thus also taken in various senses; of the object simply, as the Latins use super, with respect to, about, so far as it concerns; with this meaning, that they may put the dead before them without consideration of the resurrection; or the words may be used of paying as it were a price, viz., that they should account the dead as nonentities; or of obtaining as the price for their trouble, viz., that they should be gathered to the dead for ever: but we maintain the propriety with which ὑπὲρ denotes nearness, hanging over [such propinquity as that one hangs immediately over] anything, whence Theocritus speaks of ἀσφόδελον τὸν ὑπὲρ γᾶς, the asphodel (king’s spear) that grows on the ground, Idyl. 26. Lexicographers give more examples, especially from Thucydides. So they are baptized over [immediately upon] the dead, who will be gathered to the dead immediately after baptism: and then over the dead is said here, as if it were said over the sepulchre, as Luke 24:5, with [Engl. Vers., among] the dead, i.e., in the sepulchre. Nor is it incredible, that baptism was often administered at funerals. Δ) The term dead is used in its ordinary sense of the dead generally, as the article also requires, taken in as wide a sense as the resurrection, ε) The adverb ὅλως, after all, is used by a Corinthian who is supposed to be led on by Paul, and who had rather peevishly opposed the resurrection, not reflecting on the loss of the advantages even in this life, which result in baptism: and ΕἸ ὍΛΩς is employed in the same way as ἘΠΕΙΔΉ ὍΛΩς in Chrysost. homil. 5, c. Anomoeos: Notwithstanding, though man differs little from an angel, since there is nevertheless [after all] some difference (ἘΠΕΙΔῊ ὍΛΩς ἘΣΤΊ ΤΙ ΜΈΣΟΝ), we know not accurately what angels are. ζ) καὶ is not redundant, but strengthens the force of the present tense, βαπτίζονται, what do they do who are baptized? in antithesis to the future, ΤΊ ΠΟΙΉΣΟΥΣΙ, what shall they do? Comp. καὶ, 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 11:12; Php 3:7-8; Php 4:10. Paul in fact places those who are baptized for the dead, as it were at the point of death, and shows that no reward awaits them either for the future, if they denied the resurrection, or for the past. Paul seems to confute those who denied both the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul. The vindication of the former is a sufficient and more than sufficient vindication of the latter. This is an example of the συγκατάβασις, condescension of Scripture, which, out of regard to the weak and simple, does not enter into that subtle controversy, but lays hold of the subject at that part of it, which is easier to be proved, and yet also carries along with it the proof of the more difficult part. Η) The two clauses beginning with ΤΊ admirably cohere: with a gradation from those who could only for a little enjoy this life [i.e., those baptized at the point of death] to (us) those who could enjoy it longer, if they had not had their hope fixed in Christ.—ΝΕΚΡΟῚ, dead) Throughout this whole chapter, in the question, whether [dead men rise at all], Paul speaks of dead men, ΝΕΚΡΟῪς, without the article; afterwards, when this question has been cleared out of the way, in the question how, 1 Corinthians 15:35, etc., he uses the article; but τῶν in this verse has the meaning of the relative [τῶν νεκρῶν, those who are dead already spoken of, 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:16].

[138] Lachm. and Tischend. punctuate as Bengel. Rec. Text puts the question not after νεκρῶν, but after ἐγειρονται; thus connecting this clause with what precedes, instead of with what follows.—ED.

[139] The Germ. Ver. repeats the noun τῶν νεκρῶν, instead of the pronoun at the end of the verse, and differs from the margin of both editions.—E. B.

Αὐτῶν is the reading of ABD corrected later, Gfg Vulg. Memph., later Syr. Origen. Τῶν νεκρῶν of Rec. Text is only found in later Uncial MSS. and Syr. Version alone, of the oldest versions.—ED.Verses 29-34. - Arguments from the practices and lives of Christians. The three arguments used in these verses are: If there be no resurrection:

1. Why do some of you get yourselves baptized on behalf of your dead friends?

2. Why do we face lives of daily peril?

3. How would it be otherwise possible to resist Epicurean views of life? Verse 29. - Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, etc.? This clause can have but one meaning, and that its obvious one, namely, that, among the many strange opinions and practices which then prevailed, was one which was entirely un-warranted-but which St. Paul does not here stop to examine - of persons getting themselves baptized as it were by proxy for others who had died. Doubtless some of the deaths alluded to in 1 Corinthians 11:30 had happened to persons who had been cut off before they were actually baptized; and their friends had as it were gone through the rite in their stead, in the hope of extending to them some of its benefits. It is argued that St. Paul could not possibly mention such a practice without reprobation; but that is an a priori assumption not warranted by St. Paul's methods (see 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 11:6). He always confines his attention to the question immediately before him, and his present object is merely to urge a passing argumentum ad hominem. There is nothing at all surprising in the existence of such an abuse in the medley of wild opinions and wild practices observable in this disorganized Church. It accords with the known tendency of later times to postpone baptism, as a rite which was supposed to work as a charm. We also find that the actual practice of baptism on behalf of the dead lingered on among Corinthians (Epiph., 'Haer.,' 28:7) and Marcionites (Tertullian, 'De Resurrect.,' 48; 'Adv. Marc.,' 5:10). Tertullian accepts the words in their obvious sense in his 'De Praeser. Haer.,' 48, but accepts the absurdity of "the dead" meaning "the body" ("pro mortuis tingui est pro corporibus tingui") in his book against Marcion (5:10). St. Chrysostom tells us further that the proxy who was to be baptized used to be concealed under the bier of the dead man, who was supposed to answer in his name that he desired to be baptized. How perfectly natural the custom was may be seen from the fact that among the Jews also a man dying under ceremonial pollution was cleansed by proxy. The "interpretations" of this verse are so numerous that it is not even possible to give a catalogue of them. Many of them are not worth recording, and are only worth alluding to at all as specimens of the wilful bias which goes to Scripture, not to seek truth, but to support tradition. They are mostly futile and fantastic, because they pervert the plain meaning of the plain words. It is a waste of time and space to give perpetuity to baseless fancies. Such are the notions that "for the dead" can mean "for our mortal bodies" (Chrysostom); or "for those about to die" (Estius, Calvin, etc.); or "over (the sepulchres of) the dead" (Luther); or "to supply the vacancies left by the dead" (Le Clerc, etc.). Equally unwarrantable are the "explanations" (?) which make those who are being "baptized" mean those who are "passing through a baptism of suffering" (!). Not a single argument which is worth a moment's consideration can be urged in favour of any one of these, or scores of similar views. If we are to get rid of everything that is surprising on the ground that it is "immensely improbable," we may as well discard Scripture at once, and reconstruct early Christian history out of our own consciousness. It has been very usual to represent it as we think that it ought to have been, and not as it was. The disuse of this vicarious baptism among orthodox Christians may have been due to the discouragement of it by St. Paul when he went to Corinth, and "set in order" various erroneous customs (1 Corinthians 11:34). What shall they do (τί ποιήσουσιν)

What will they effect or accomplish. Not, What will they have recourse to? nor, How will it profit them? The reference is to the living who are baptized for the dead.

Baptized for the dead (βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν)

Concerning this expression, of which some thirty different explanations are given, it is best to admit frankly that we lack the facts for a decisive interpretation. None of the explanations proposed are free from objection. Paul is evidently alluding to a usage familiar to his readers; and the term employed was, as Godet remarks, in their vocabulary, a sort of technical phrase. A large number of both ancient and modern commentators adopt the view that a living Christian was baptized for an unbaptized dead Christian. The Greek expositors regarded the words the dead as equivalent to the resurrection of the dead, and the baptism as a manifestation of belief in the doctrine of the resurrection. Godet adopts the explanation which refers baptism to martyrdom - the baptism of blood - and cites Luke 12:50, and Mark 10:38. In the absence of anything more satisfactory I adopt the explanation given above.

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