O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)O death, where is thy sting?—In the prophet Hosea, where these words originally occur, the passage reads thus—“Where is thy victory, O death? Where is thy sting, O hell?”—the word “hell” referring, not to the place of torment, but to the Hades of departed spirits. This difference between St. Paul’s words and those of the prophet has given rise to a variety of readings in the Greek text here. The weight of evidence is in favour of the reading, “Where is thy sting, O death? Where is thy victory, O death?” the word “Hades,” or “grave,” not being introduced at all. The passage is not a quotation, but the adaptation of the form of a familiar Old Testament phrase.1 Corinthians 15:55. O death, where is thy sting? — Which once was full of hellish poison. O grave — Αδης, O hades, the receptacle of separate souls; where is thy victory? — Thou art now robbed of thy spoils; all thy captives are set at liberty. “The word hades literally signifies the invisible world, or the world where departed spirits, both good and bad, remain till the resurrection, Job 11:8; Psalm 139:9; Isaiah 14:9; and especially Psalm 16:10, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades. The place where the spirits of the righteous abide, the Jews called paradise; the place where the wicked are shut up they called tartarus, after the Greeks. There many of the fallen angels are said to be imprisoned, 2 Peter 2:4. “In this noble passage the apostle personifies death and the grave, and introduces the righteous after the resurrection, singing a song of victory over both. In this sublime song, death is represented as a terrible monster, having a deadly sting, wherewith it had destroyed the bodies of the whole human race, and the invisible world as an enemy who had imprisoned their spirits. But the sting being torn from death, and the gates of the invisible world set open by Christ, the bodies of the righteous shall rise from the grave, no more liable to be destroyed by death, and their spirits, being brought out of paradise, the place of their abode, shall reanimate their bodies; and the first use of their newly-recovered tongue will be to sing this song, in which they exult over death and hades, as enemies utterly destroyed, and praise God, who hath given them the victory over these deadly foes through Jesus Christ. Milton hath made good use of the apostle’s personification of death, book 2. ver. 666.” — Macknight.
Where is thy sting? - The word which is here rendered sting (κέντρον kentron) denotes properly a prick, a point, hence, a goad or stimulus; that is, a rod or staff with an iron point, for goading oxen; (see the note on Acts 9:5); and then a sting properly, as of scorpions, bees, etc. It denotes here a venomous thing, or weapon, applied to death personified, as if death employed it to destroy life, as the sting of a bee or a scorpion is used. The idea is derived from the venomous sting of serpents, or other reptiles, as being destructive and painful. The language here is the language of exultation, as if that was taken away or destroyed.
O grave - ᾅδη hadē. Hades, the place of the dead. It is not improperly rendered, however, grave. The word properly denotes a place of darkness; then the world, or abodes of the dead. According to the Hebrews, Hades, or Sheol, was a vast subterranean receptacle, or abode, where the souls of the dead existed. It was dark, deep, still, awful. The descent to it was through the grave; and the spirits of all the dead were supposed to be assembled there; the righteous occupying the upper regions, and the wicked the lower; see the note on Isaiah 14:9; compare Lowth, Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vii; Campbell, Prel. Diss. vi. part 2, 2. It refers here to the dead; and means that the grave, or Hades, should no longer have a victory.
Thy victory - Since the dead are to rise; since all the graves are to give up all that dwell in them; since no man will die after that, where is its victory? It is taken away. It is despoiled. The power of death and the grave is vanquished, and Christ is triumphant over all. It has been well remarked here, that the words in this verse rise above the plain and simple language of prose, and resemble a hymn, into which the apostle breaks out in view of the glorious truth which is here presented to the mind. The whole verse is indeed a somewhat loose quotation from Hosea 13:14, which we translate,
"O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction."
But which the Septuagint renders:
"O death, where is thy punishment?
O grave, where is thy sting?"
Probably Paul did not intend this as a direct quotation; but he spoke as a man naturally does who is familiar with the language of the Scriptures, and used it to express the sense which he intended, without meaning to make a direct and literal quotation. The form which Paul uses is so poetic in its structure that Pope has adopted it, with only a change in the location of the members, in the "Dying Christian:"
"O grave, where is thy victory?
Where is thy sting? What hurt canst thou now do unto believers, more than a wasp, or hornet, or bee, that hath lost its sting?
O grave, or O hell, (the same word signifieth both),
where now is thy victory? The conqueror of all flesh is now conquered, the spoiler of all men is spoiled; it had got a victory, but now, O death, where is thy victory? Hosea 13:14 and that they belong to the times of the Messiah, the ancient Jews acknowledge; and the Chaldee paraphrase interprets them of the Logos, or Word of God, rendering them thus,
"my Word shall be among them to kill, and my Word to destroy;''
wherefore the apostle is not to be charged with a misapplication of them, nor with a perversion of them, as he is by the Jew (s): in the prophet they are thus read, "O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction"; between which, and the apostle's citation of them, there is some difference; the word which we render in both clauses, "I will be", the apostle translates "where", and that very rightly, and so it should be rendered there; and so it is by the Septuagint interpreters, who render the whole as he, with a little variation, "where is thy revenge, O death? where is thy sting, O grave?" and so the Arabic version of Hosea still nearer the apostle, "where is now thy victory, O death?" or "where is thy sting, O grave?" and even the Chaldee paraphrase on Hosea 13:14 renders the same word "where"; for instead of, "I will be thy king", the Targum reads, , "where is thy king?" and Aben Ezra, a Jewish writer of great note, on Hosea 13:14 observes, that there are some that say the word is to be inverted as if it was "where", and he adds, and it is right; a like observation he makes on those words in 1 Corinthians 15:14 and that that is the true sense of the word in both verses, is attested by Ebn Jannahius Tanchuma (t); so that the apostle is thus far to be justified, in his citation of this passage: it is further to be observed, that instead of "thy plagues", he reads, "thy sting"; and I doubt not, but that among the many things which signifies, as it must be owned it does signify the plague, or pestilence, see Psalm 90:6 and which perhaps is so called, from the venomous nature of it, and the poisonous sting that is in it, so likewise a sting, though there is no instance of it; certain it is, that bees are called and as Cocceius (u) observes, from their sting; and so in the Chaldee and Arabic languages, a bee, or a wasp, is called and it is to such sort of creatures, that the allusion is here made; who having lost their stings, can do no hurt; and which will be the case of death in the resurrection morn, when risen saints will insult over it in this triumphant manner; having nothing more to fear from it, any more than a man has to be afraid of any animal whatever, that has lost its sting: and in the following clause,
O grave, where is thy victory? instead of "destruction", as it must be allowed the word signifies, see Psalm 90:6 the apostle reads victory; but then there is no difference in the sense; for the grave gets its victory over its thousands, and ten thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousands, and millions of millions, by the destruction of them, which now it glories in, and boasts of; but in the resurrection morn, when its destruction will be at an end, the triumphant saints may reasonably ask, where is its boasted victory, since it can destroy no longer.O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Corinthians 15:55. Exulting exclamation of joy from the apostle (comp. as to ποῦ, Romans 3:27; 1 Corinthians 1:20), who transfers himself into that blessed future of the γενήσεται κ.τ.λ., 1 Corinthians 15:54, and breaks out, as it were, into an ἐπινίκιον. In doing so, he makes words from the LXX. Hosea 13:14 his own, with free alteration. This great freedom in availing himself of the passage almost solely in respect of the assonance of the words, and the whole lyrical cast of the outburst, make it less likely that 1 Corinthians 15:55 is still part of the quotation (the common view; but see, in opposition to it, van Hengel).
τὸ κέντρον] Paul images to himself death as a beast with a deadly sting (a scorpion, or the like). Billroth, following Schoettgen, thinks of a goad, which death uses in order to cultivate its field. But this conception is not in the least recalled by the context. Olshausen, too, is wrong in holding that τὸ κέντρον denotes that which elicits the forthputting of strength: “sin awakens the sleeping strength of death, and the law, again, that of sin.” Then, plainly, τὸ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου, 1 Corinthians 15:56, would be that which stings death, which is impossible according to 1 Corinthians 15:55!
In the second question, according to the Recepta ποῦ σου, ᾅδη κ.τ.λ., the (personified) Hades is looked upon as having lost the victory; for it has not only had, in virtue of the resurrection of the bodies, to render up the souls of the departed which lay under its power, but it receives no other souls into its power any more. According to the reading: ποῦ σου, θάνατε κ.τ.λ. (see the critical remarks), the new element, which comes as a climax, is brought forward in ΤῸ ΝῖΚΟς by way of addition, after a bold repetition of the same address; so that, putting aside the interrogative form, the meaning of the triumphant outburst is: Thou death stingest no more, for no one dies henceforth; thou death hast lost the victory, for the power of eternal life has won it over thee.
 So, rightly, Chrysostom and Theophylact. According to van Hengel, Paul is speaking of the present life, namely, of the joy of hope. But it is just the boldness of the flight of thought which is the most Pauline feature in our passage. The κέντρον also is taken in too weak a sense by van Hengel, namely, in that of only a hurting, not a deadly sting, by which, in his view, the terrors of death are meant.1 Corinthians 15:55-57. At this climax P. breaks into a song of triumph over Death, in the strain of Hosea’s rapturous anticipation of Israel’s resurrection from national death. [Many interpreters, however, put the opp sense on Hosea 13:14, as though God were summoning Death and the Grave to ply all their forces for Israel’s annihilation, and this accords with the prophet’s context; but violent alterations of mood are characteristic of Hosea: see Nowack ad loc in Handkom. z. A.T., also Orelli’s Minor Prophets, or Cheyne in C.B.S.] The passage has the Hebraistic lilt of Paul’s more exalted passages; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4 ff., and parls. there noted.
 opposite, opposition.
 ad locum, on this passage.
“Where, O Death, is thy victory?
Where, O Death, is thy sting?
Now the sting of Death is Sin, and the strength of Sin is the Law;
But to God be thanks, who gives to as the victory
Through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
P. freely adapts the words of Hosea, repeating θάνατε in the second line, where Hosea writes she’ô! (LXX ᾅδη), since death is the enemy he pursues throughout (Ed notes that ᾅδης never occurs in Paul’s Epp.); and he substitutes syn terms for each of the other nouns to suit his own vein, νῖκος being taken up from 1 Corinthians 15:54, and κέντρον preparing for the thought of 1 Corinthians 15:56.—f1τὸ δὲ κέντρον κ.τ.λ. throws into an epigram the doctrine of Romans 4:8. and Galatians 3 respecting the inter-relations of Sin, Law, and Death: “Mors aculeum quo pungat non habet nisi peccatum; et huic aculeo Lex vim mortiferam addit” (Cv). Sin gives to death, as we mortals know it, its poignancy, its penal character and humiliating form, with the entire “bondage of corruption” that attaches to it: see esp. Romans 5:12; Romans 5:17; Romans 6:10; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:10; Romans 8:20 ff., Hebrews 2:14 f. Apart from sin, our present bodily existence must have terminated in the course of nature (1 Corinthians 15:44-46); but the change would have been effected in a far diff way, without the horror and anguish of dissolution—as indeed it will be for the redeemed who have the happiness to be alive at the Second Advent (see 51 f., and parls.). For those who “fall asleep in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:14), death, while it is still death and naturally feared (οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι, 2 Corinthians 5:4), is robbed of its “sting” (cf. 1 John 4:18, also John 5:24; John 8:51 f., 1 Corinthians 11:25 f., 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:6), viz., the sense of guilt and dread of judgment—“tametsi adhuc nos pungit, non tamen letaliter, quia retusum est ejus acumen, ne in animæ vitalia penetret” (Cv).—κέντρον is sting (as in Revelation 9:10), not goad (as in Acts 26:14); Death is personified as a venomous creature, inflicting poisoned and fatal wounds. Here Death reigns through Sin, as in Romans 5:17; Romans 5:21 pictures Sin reigning in Death: the effect through the cause, the cause in the effect.—While Death gets from Sin its sting, Sin in turn receives from the Law its power. ἡ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος condenses into six words Paul’s teaching on the relation of Sin to Law (see Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 6:14; Romans 6:7; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3; Galatians 4:21 to Galatians 5:4)—the view, based on his experience as a Pharisee, that the law of God, imposing on sinful man impossible yet necessary tasks, promising salvation upon terms he can never fulfil and threatening death upon non-fulfilment, in effect exasperates his sin and involves him in hopeless guilt; ἡ ἁμαρτία … διὰ τ. ἐντολῆς … με ἀπέκτεινεν (Romans 7:11).—The exclamation of relief, “Thanks be to God, etc.,” is precisely parl to Romans 7:25 a, 1 Corinthians 8:1 f.—The believer’s “victory” lies in deliverance through Christ’s propitiatory death (Romans 3:23 f.; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17 f., 30, 1 Corinthians 6:11 above) from the condemnation of the Law, and thereby from “the power of Sin,” and thereby from the bitterness of Death. Law, Sin, and Death were bound into a firm chain, only dissoluble by “the word of the cross—God’s power to the saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18; cf. Romans 1:16 f., 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.). Thus the Ap. finally links his doctrine of the Bodily Resurrection and Transformation of Christians to his fundamental teaching as to Justification and the Forgiveness of Sins; ch. 15. is a part of the λόγος τ. σταυροῦ which alone P. proclaims at Cor (1 Corinthians 2:1 f.).—God “gives to us the victory,” won for us by “our Lord Jesus Christ,” which otherwise Sin, strengthened (instead of being broken) by the Law, had given to Death. The pr ptp τῷ διδόντι τὸ νῖκος asserts the experience of redemption (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Corinthians 13:5, Romans 5:1 f., Ephesians 1:7); similarly ὑπερνικῶμεν, Romans 8:37, declares the continuous triumph of faith: for the sentiment, cf. Romans 5:2-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ff., Php 4:4, 1 Peter 1:3-9.
 T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2
 synonym, synonymous.
 Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.
 difference, different, differently.
 Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.
 Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.
 present tense.
 participle55. O death, where is thy sting?] This quotation follows neither the Septuagint nor the Hebrew of Hosea 13:14. The former is ‘Where is thy penalty, O death, where is thy sting, O Hades?’ following, most probably, a different reading from the present Hebrew text, which runs thus: ‘I will be thy plagues, O death, I will be thy pestilence, O grave’ (or ‘Hades,’ for the Hebrew word has both significations). See next note.
O grave, where is thy victory?] In the Greek, O Hades. The Vulgate (which is followed by Tyndale) as well as most of the best MSS. read death here for Hades. So do Irenaeus and Tertullian, writing in the second century. But the ancient Syriac version reads Hades. Bishop Wordsworth suggests that the text was altered from a fear lest the passage should give any countenance” to the idea of a god of the shades below, known to the Greeks by the name of Hades. But in later Greek and in the Septuagint its use to denominate the place of departed spirits was well established.1 Corinthians 15:55. Ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; ποῦ σου, ᾅδη, τὸ νῖκος;) Hosea 13:14, LXX.—ποῦ ἡ δίκη (νίκη) σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ᾅδη; Heb. אהי דבריך מות אהי קטבך שאול, i.e., where are thy plagues, O death? where, O grave, is thy destruction?—See by all means, Olearii diss. inaug. on Redemption from hell. In this hymn of victory, where signifies that death and hell were formerly very formidable: now circumstances are changed. Θάνατος, death, and ᾅδης, hell [the unseen world beneath], are frequently used promiscuously; but yet they differ, for the one can never be substituted for the other: Hell is in fact opposed to heaven; death, to life, and death precedes; hell is more profound; death receives the bodies without the souls, hell receives the souls, even without the bodies, not only of the wicked, but also of the godly, and that, before the death of Christ, Genesis 37:35; Luke 16:23. Therefore they are mentioned in connection with each other; and it is said in gradation, death and hell: comp. Revelation 20:13-14; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 1:17 : and in these passages it is evident, that the word grave cannot be substituted for hell. Furthermore, because the discussion here turns upon the resurrection of the body, therefore hell is only once named, death often, even in the following verse.—τὸ κέντρον, the sting) having a [plague-causing or] pestilential [Heb. “Where are thy plagues?”] poison. Paul transposes the victory and the sting; which is more agreeable not only to the gradation of the Hebrew synomyms, but also makes a more convenient transition to the following verse, where sting and strength are kindred terms. A stimulus or goad is a larger κέντρον; comp. Acts 26:14; a sting or prick [aculeus] is a less κέντρον; sometimes they may be used promiscuously, when we overlook the quantity [i.e., a quantity of less aculei is tantamount to a stimulus or stimuli]; we may even kick against the pricks in thorns.—ᾅδη, O hell, [grave, Engl. V.]) It does not here denote the place of eternal punishment, but the receptacle of souls, which are again to be united with their bodies at the resurrection. There is nothing here said now any longer of the devil; comp. Hebrews 2:14 : because the victory is snatched out of his hands, earlier than out of those of death, 1 Corinthians 15:26.—νῖκος) LXX. δίκη or νίκη: Paul sweetly repeats νῖκος; comp. the preceding verse. The rarity of the word is well suited to a song of victory.Verse 55. - O death, where is thy sting? A triumphantly fervid exclamation of the apostle, loosely cited from Hosea 13:14. The apostles and evangelists, not holding the slavish and superstitious fetish worship of the dead letter, often regard it as sufficient to give the general sense of the passages to which they refer. O grave, where is thy victory? In the best attested reading (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), "death" is repeated, and in the best manuscripts this clause precedes the last. But if the reading, "O Hades," were correct, our translators, since they held it here impossible in accordance with their views to render it by "hell," ought to have taken warning, and seen the pernicious inapplicability of that rendering in other places where they have used it to express this same Greek word. Here "Hades" has probably been introduced into the Greek text from the LXX., which uses it for the Sheol of the original.
From Hosea 13:14, a free version of the Sept.: "Where is thy penalty, O Death? Where thy sting, O Hades? Heb.: Where are thy plagues, O Death? Where thy pestilence, O Sheol?
O grave (ἅδη)
Which is the reading of the Septuagint. The correct reading is θάνατε O death. So Rev. Hades does not occur in Paul's writings. In Romans 10:7 he uses abyss. Edwards thinks that this is intentional, and suggests that Paul, writing to Greeks, may have shunned the ill-omened name which people dreaded to utter. So Plato: "People in general use the word (Pluto) as a euphemism for Hades, which their fears lead them to derive erroneously from ἀειδής the invisible" ("Cratylus," 403).
In the Septuagint for the Hebrew pestilence. See on Revelation 9:9. The image is that of a beast with a sting; not death with a goad, driving men.
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