ICC New Testament Commentary
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;15. THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION OF
Having treated of various social, moral, ecclesiastical, and liturgical questions, the Apostle now takes up a doctrinal one, which he has kept to the last because of its vital importance.† The Epistle begins with the subject of Christ Crucified (1:13-2:5); it ends with that of Christ Risen (15). This chapter has been called “the earliest Christian doctrinal essay,” and it is the only part of the letter which deals directly with doctrine.
There is here no trace of a question asked by the Corinthians: this subject St Paul starts himself, in consequence of information which has reached him. Thus the letter begins and ends in a similar way. At the outset he treated of a subject which had been reported to him (1:11), and he closes with one which again was suggested by what he had heard (v. 12),—that there were certain people at Corinth who denied the doctrine of the Resurrection. Who these persons were we do not know; but it is very improbable that they were converts who had originally been Sadducees, and who still retained some of their Sadducean leanings. The Corinthian Church was mainly a Gentile Church; and the errors with which the Apostle has been dealing were of Greek rather than Jewish origin. The Book of Daniel and Isaish 24-27, with other passages in the O.T., had made the Jew familiar with the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of individuals, at any rate of individual Jews; but to the Greeks, even to those who accepted the immortality of the soul, the idea of a bodily resurrection was foolishness.* We shall be safe in concluding that the sceptics alluded to in v. 12 were Greeks and not Jews.
The gentleness of tone with which the preceding section closed is continued. The Apostle is anxious not to give offence. With gentle words he goes back to teaching of which they have already experienced the value, and disclaims all originality respecting it. He has merely passed on to them what he himself, on the highest authority, received. “There is no historical fact more certain,” says Harnack, “than that the Apostle Paul was not the first to emphasize so prominently the significance of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, but that in recognizing their meaning he stood exactly on the same ground as the primitive community” (What is Christianity? p. 153).
The chapter contains three sections, each of which is capable of subdivision, and perhaps some of these subdivisions are almost as important as the three sections, which are these; (1) The Resurrection of Christ is an Essential Article of the Gospel, 1-11. (2) If Christ is risen, the Dead in Christ will rise, 12-34. (3) Answers to Objections; the Nature of the Body of the Risen, 35-58. The conclusion reached in vv. 1-34 is that Christianity stands or falls with the fact of the Resurrection. The conclusion of the whole is that Victory over Death has been won, and that Christians must live in accordance with this certainty. See Swete, The Ascended Christ, pp. 163 f.
15:1-11. The Resurrection of Chirst is an Essential
Article of the Gospel
Here we have three subdivisions; (a) The Creed delivered to the Corinthians by St Paul, 1-4; (b) The Official Witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ, 5-8; (c) The Agreement between St Paul and the other Apostles respecting this Creed, 9-11.
The substance of my preaching has been and is the historical fact of the Resurrection of Christ, which was predicted in Scripture, and is vouched for by competent witnesses, most of whom are still living. Among these are the other Apostles and myself; and, greatly as they differ from me in calling and work, we are absolutely agreed about this.
1 Now I have to remind you, Brothers, of the purport of the Glad-tidings with which I once gladdened you, which also you then received, in which also you now stand firm, 2 by means of which also you are in the way of salvation, if you are holding fast the Gospel with which I gladdened you,—unless, of course, you became Christians without thinking of the faith which you professed. 3 You remember the purport of my preaching; for I handed on to you in the forefront of everything what was no invention of my own, but what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures have predicted, 4 and that He was buried, and that He has been raised from the dead—on the third day, as the Scriptures have predicted; 5 and that He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Afterwards He appeared to upwards of five hundred brethren at once, the majority of whom survive to the present day, but some have gone to their rest. 7 Next He appeared to James; then to the Apostles in a body: 8 and last of all, just as if to the untimely-born Apostle, He appeared also to me. 9 For I am the very least of the Apostles, and I am not fit to have the name of an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church, the Church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I have been made equal to being an Apostle; and His grace, which reached even to me, did not prove ineffectual. Quite the contrary; I toiled more effectually than all of them: yet not I, of course; it was the grace of God working with me. 11 Well, it is of no importance whether I or the other Apostles laboured more effectually: what does matter is this, that we all continue to preach the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and it was the Death and Resurrection of Christ that, at your conversion, you accepted and believed.
1, 2. Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν. ‘Now I proceed to make known to you the Good-tidings (Isaiah 52:7) which I once brought to you, the Good-tidings which ye received, the Good-tidings in which ye stand firm, the Good-tidings by which ye are being saved.’ The καὶ … καὶ … καὶ … is a climax, and in English a repetition of the substantive gives the effect better than a repetition of the conjunction. Stanley follows Theodoret in making γνωρίζω = ἀναμιμνήσκω, ‘I remind you,’ with which Chrysostom seems to agree. They had forgotten their own belief, so he has to call their attention to it. But γνωρίζω is simply ‘I make known,’ notum facio (Vulg.), and is often used in the N.T. of preaching the Gospel. There is a gentle reproach in the word. He has to begin again and teach them an elementary fact, which they had already accepted. He can claim themselves as witnesses to its truth and efficacy. In the Pauline Epp. both γν. ὑμῖν (12:3; Galatians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 8:1) and εὐαγγέλιον εὐαγγελίζομαι (9:18; Galatians 1:2: 2 Corinthians 11:7) are peculiar to this group. The latter is an attractive expression, emphasizing the goodness and gladness of the message; but the repetition cannot well be reproduced in English: see above. The verses here are badly divided.
ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε κ.τ.λ. He adduces three proofs that their own experience has shown to them the value of his doctrine: παρελάβετε looks to the past, ἑστήκατε to the present, σώζεσθεto what is being done for the future. They accepted his teaching; in it they stand with a firm foothold; and they are thus among οἱ σωζόμενοι (1:18; Acts 2:47; 2 Corinthians 2:15), those who are in the way of salvation. Compare Ephesians 1:13. Quite incidentally (6:14), the Apostle has previously assumed that the doctrine of Christ’s Resurrection and our consequent resurrection is admitted. See C.H. Robinson, Studies in the Resurrection of Christ, pp. 38 f. and 50 f; F. H. Chase, Cambridge Theological Essays, pp. 391 ff.
τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε. ‘If ye are holding fast with what word I preached it to you.’ Not ᾦ͂ λόγῳ, ‘the word with which,’ but τίνι λ., ‘with what word,’ the λόγος covering both the form and the substance of his teaching. Their standing erect in the way of salvation depends upon their keeping a firm hold (11:2) on what he taught and the very expressions which he used: quo sermone (Beza), rather than qua ratione (Vulg.), or quo pacto (Calv.). in 11:2 he affirms that they are holding fast the traditions of doctrine and discipline; here he puts it hypothetically, and εἰ κατέχετε is displaced in order to give an emphatic position to τίνι λ. εὐηγγ. Such inversions of order are common. Blass, however, § 80. 6, thinks this very awkward.
The RV. takes τίνι λόγῳ differently; ‘I make known, I say, in what words I preached it unto you, if ye hold it fast.’ But this is scarcely tenable. St Paul’s making known could not depend on their holding fast: he writes what he pleases, whatever their condition may be.*
ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. ‘With this proviso—unless ye believed haphazard’: see on 14:5. There are two defects possible; they may not be holding fast what he taught, or they may have received it so hastily that they do not comprehend it. Belief adopted in a hurry is not likely to be very sure. He begins the discussion with this fear respecting them, and he ends it with a charge to be steadfast and unshifted (v. 58). Εἰκῇ is not ‘in vain’ (AV., RV.), nor ‘without cause’ (RV. marg.), but ‘without consideration,’ ‘heedlessly,’ ‘rashly’; temere rather than frustra.† This ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ states a misgiving which lies at the back of the whole chapter. Has the conversion of the Corinthians been superficial and unreal? Was it a shallow enthusiasm, or a passing fancy for some new thing? See Evans and Edwards on εἰκῇ. Ellicott and others prefer ‘in vain.’
3. παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις. ‘For I delivered to you (11:2) in the foremost place (Genesis 33:2) what I also received.’ Foremost in importance, not in time; the doctrine of the Resurrection is primary and cardinal, central and indispensable. The γάρ may look back either to γνωρίζω ὑμῖν, or (better) to τίνι λόγῳ, ‘You remember how I preached, for.’ St Paul lingers over this preface, qua eos quasi suspensos tenet (Beng.). What follows is almost a creed; but we need not suppose that it had already been formulated. Rather, this passage supplied material for the formulating of creeds.
ὅ καὶ παρέλαβον. ‘Which also I received.’ Nothing is said as to the source from which he received it, or the way in which the communication was made. It is possible that he received it from Christ by special revelation; but this is even less probable than in 11:23 (see notes there). Here there is neither ἐγώ nor ἀπὸ τοῦ Κυρίον to emphasize the authority either of the person who made the communication or of the Source from which he derived it. Neither of these is the question here. The point is that St Paul did not invent what he communicated to them; he received just what they received. The καί indicates the exact agreement of what he received with what he passed on to them. He appeals (vv. 5-7) to human testimony prior to his own experience, and it is reasonable to suppose that this is what is implied in παρέλαβον. In any case, it is clear that he does not appeal to documents either here or in 11:23. St Paul knows nothing of written Gospels; and ὅ καὶ παρέλαβον seems to refer to something quite different from ὤφθη κἀμοί (v. 8). And he knows nothing of a formulated Creed, neither in Romans 6:17, ‘the standard of teaching to which ye were committed,’ nor in 2 Timothy 1:13, ‘the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me.’ See Dobschütz, Probleme, pp. 2, 106. He received the facts from the Apostles and others; the import of the facts was made known to him by Christ (Galatians 1:12).
ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν. ‘He died for our sins,’ i.e. ‘on account of our sins,’ not ‘on behalf of them,’ which is hardly sense. One may die on behalf of sinners, but hardly on behalf of sins (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 3:13). On the whole, περί is used of things, τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν (Galatians 1:4, where see Lightfoot), and ὑπέρ of persons, Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἀπέθανεν, δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων (1 Peter 3:18), but exceptions abound. Neither preposition implies vicarious action, which would require ἄντί, but vicarious action may be implied in the context. Pro peccatis nostris abolendis (Beng.) gives the right meaning. There is a real connexion, beyond our comprehension, between Christ’s death and the forgiveness of men’s sins. This is in agreement with the O.T. (Isaiah 53:4-12), and this agreement is part of the εὐαγγέλιον which St Paul proclaimed to them. Nowhere else does he use the expression ὑπὲρ τ. ἁμαρτιῶν: comp. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:14. See Knowling, Messianic Interpretation, pp. 90 f.
κατὰ τὰς γραφάς. The double appeal to Scripture in so brief a statement is deliberate and important; and the divine prediction of what would take place is appropriately placed before the Apostolic testimony as to what did take place. The agreement of what did take place with what was foretold in Scripture is pointed out with special frequency in the writings of St Luke (22:37, 25-27, 44-46; Acts 2:25-27, Acts 2:3:35, Acts 2:13:34, Acts 2:35, Acts 2:17:3, Acts 2:18:28). See Cyril, Cat. Lect. 14, which is a commentary on these verses.
καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη. The inclusion of this detail in so brief a statement of facts is remarkable. But the burial is carefully recorded in all four Gospels, and was evidently regarded as of importance. The importance there and here is that the burial was evidence of a bodily resurrection. The body was laid in the tomb, and the tomb was afterwards found to be empty.*
καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται. ‘And that He hath been raised—on the third day.’ Change from aorists of what took place once for all to the perfect of a result which abides; He remains alive as the Risen One. By death and burial He came down to our level, by Resurrection He raised us to His: mortuus est iste nobiscum, ut nos cum ipso resurgamus (Calv.). ‘On the third day’ does not harmonize well with a perfect, but it is added as of importance (1) as evidence of a bodily resurrection (comp. Acts 2:24 f.), and (2) to show the exact coincidence with prophecy (Hosea 6:2; comp. Psalm 16:10, Psalm 16:11; 17:15-24). Christ is said to have included ‘on the third day’ in what was predicted in Scripture (Luke 24:46).† Matthew 12:40 cannot safely be quoted here, for there are strong reasons for believing that there we have the Evangelist’s misunderstanding of Christ’s words rather than the words themselves. Christ was not three days and three nights in the grave. See Allen ad loc. “In any case we have here irresistible evidence that this difficult clause, ‘raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ formed part of the earliest Christian creed; and its difficulty, and its antiquity, justify the conviction that the words proceeded from Christ Himself” (Abbott, The Son of Man, p. 188; see also pp. 186, 200).
5-8. We now have a list of the official Witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ, beginning with the first of the Apostles and ending with ‘the least’ of them. The form of the sentence shows that at least the first two on the list, St Peter and the Twelve, had been quoted by St Paul to the Corinthians. Very likely the others had been quoted also, although the cessation of the ὅτι after v. 5 (perhaps simply to end a prolix sentence) leaves this doubtful. Of course St Paul had told them of his own experiences respecting the Risen Christ; and he probably knew of other witnesses not mentioned here. See Thorburn, The Resurrection Narratives and Modern Criticism, pp. 86 f.
5. καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ. ‘And that He appeared to Kephas.’ The coincidence with the incidental remark Luke 24:34 (comp. Mark 16:7) is noteworthy. Peter is first in all the four lists of the Apostles, and is expressly designated as πρῶτος in Matthew 10:2. For this reason a special appearance to him would be natural. But we may venture to say that his denial of his Lord and consequent dejection made an appearance to him necessary. He needed to be absolved and restored. When he and John ran to the sepulchre after the tidings brought by Mary Magdalen, John believed, but apparently Peter did not, that the Lord had risen. And then the Lord appeared to him, and the completeness of his restoration was brought home to him by the fact that he was allowed to be the means of convincing the other Apostles (Luke 22:32) that the Lord had risen indeed, because He had appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34). “The Apostle who had risen from his fall through the words of absolution that came from the Risen Christ was the first to bring the Gospel of the Resurrection home to the hearts of his fellows” (Swete, The Appearances of our Lord after the Passion, p. 16).* St Paul no doubt received this testimony from St Peter himself, when some eight years after the Resurrection he ‘went up to Jerusalem to make the acquaintance of Kephas’ (ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, Galatians 1:18), and spent a fortnight with him. Henceforward, ‘He appeared to Kephas’ was part of St Paul’s own testimony respecting the Resurrection. It was during the same fortnight that St Paul had also seen ‘James, the Lord’s brother,’ and therefore was able to give the testimony which he had received at first hand from him also (v. 7). Both Peter and James had great weight with the party at Corinth which was opposed to St Paul. The Kephas party of course appealed to Kephas (1:12), and it is probable that the Christ party appealed to the Lord’s brother.
Excepting St John (1:43), St Paul is the only N.T. writer who uses the Aramaic name ‘Kephas’ of the first Apostle, always in this letter (1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5), and usually in Gal. (1:18, 2:9, 11, 14), the only letters in which he mentions Peter, whom he calls ‘Peter’ twice (Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:8).
The meaning of ὤφθη is determined by the context; either ‘was seen by,’ or ‘appeared in a vision to.’ Here ἐγήγερται decides for the former. Moreover, a mere vision would not make our being raised more probable; it was Christ’s having been raised and having been seen by competent witnesses that did that. The appearances to Mary Magdalen and to the two on the way to Emmaus are not mentioned, as not being official. St John does not count either of them when he counts three manifestations (ἐφανερώθη) of Jesus to His disciples (21:14), although he himself narrates the manifestation to Mary in much detail (20:11-18). Besides ὤφθη and ἐφανερώθη, we have also ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαντόν (John 21:1) and ἐφάνη ([Mark] 16:9) used of these appearances of Christ.
εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα. ‘The Twelve’ is here an official name for the Apostolic body: only ten were present, for both Judas and Thomas were away. Similarly, the decemviri and centumviri were so called, whatever the exact number may have been. The name centumviri was retained after the number was increased beyond the hundred. Origen and Chrysostom needlessly conjecture that, after the Ascension, our Lord appeared to Matthias; and even that would not affect this statement.
In vv. 5, 6 there is frequent confusion in the MSS. between εἶτα and ἔπειτα. Here, εἶτα (B K L P) is to be preferred to ἔπειτα (א A 17, Eus. Chrys.) or καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα (D* F G). ἕνδεκα (D* F G, Latt. Goth.) for δώδεκα (א A B K L P, Syrr. Copt. Aeth.) is a manifest correction. St Paul nowhere else speaks of ‘the Twelve,’ and here he is repeating a traditional formula: Revelation 21:14; Matthew 19:28; Acts 6:2.
6. ἔπειτα ὤφθν ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ. Illustris apparitio (Beng.). The ὅτι is now dropped, probably to simplify the construction. It is likely that St Paul had previously cited this instance to the Corinthians; it was one which they could easily verify, as so many of the witnesses survived. The occasion of the appearance to the 500 is unknown; but it is probably to be identified with Matthew 28:16, where only the Eleven are mentioned, because only to them was the great commission (18-20) given, although the presence of others seems to be implied in ‘some doubted.’ St Paul naturally mentions the large number of witnesses. See Swete, Appearances of our Lord, pp. 82, 83; Ellicott, Life of our Lord, Lect. 8. p. 410; Andrews, Life of our Lord, p. 628.*
When ἐπάνω qualifies a cardinal number, the cardinal retains its own case: it is not governed by ἐπάνω. In Mark 14:5, τριακοσίων δηναρίων is the genitive of price. Moul.-Win. p. 313. Chrysostom interprets ἐπάνω as ἄνω ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν. οὐ γὰρ ὲπὶ γῆς βαδίζων, αλλʼ ἄνω, καὶ ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς αὐτοῖς ὤφθη, which cannot be right. Plus quam (Vulg.) is certainly the meaning. And ἐφάπαξ clearly does not mean ‘once for all’ (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:12), but ‘at once,’ simul (Vulg.).
οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι. ‘The majority survive until now,’ abide upon earth (Php 1:25; John 21:22). Those who had seen Christ after the Resurrection would soon become marked men. He had doubtless found most of His disciples among the younger generation; hence the large number who were still living more than twenty-five years after the Ascension, and could be questioned: eo significat, non allegoricam sed veram et naturalem fuisse resurrectionem; nam spiritualis resurrectionis oculi tests esse non possunt (Calv.).
τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν. While he speaks of his own life as a daily dying (v. 31), he speaks of actual death as a sleep. The expression is common both in Jewish and heathen literature, and does not of itself imply any belief in a future life. The resemblance between “Death and his brother Sleep” (Virg. Aen. vi. 278) is too obvious to escape notice. Nevertheless, it was because the word suggested a future awakening that Christians adopted it, and it has special point here: see on 11:30, and Ellicott and Milligan on 1 Thessalonians 4:13. A poetic euphemism contains a blessed truth. These τινες had seen the Risen One and believed in Him, and had died in this faith. If there was no resurrection in store for them, how strange was their lot!
For πλείονες (א A B D E F G) K L P read πλείους. K L P also add καί after τινὲς δέ, and K adds ὲξ αὐτῶν. Correctors of א A D ins. the καί, with Orig. Eus. Chrys. and others; but it is not likely to be genuine. On the use of the aorist here, ‘fell asleep (at various times),’ and therefore ‘have fallen asleep,’ see J. H. Moulton, p. 136.
7. ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ. Nothing is known of this appearance, or as to which James is meant. But there is little doubt that the James is the Lord’s brother, who became president of the Church in Jerusalem, and that he is placed here among the chief witnesses because of his high position at Jerusalem. There may also be another reason, viz. the resemblance between his case and that of St. Paul. Our Lord’s brethren had refused to believe on Him during His ministry (John 7:5), but are found among believers after the Ascension (Acts 1:14). What converted them? The appearance of the Risen Lord to the eldest of them may have done so, and the appearance may have been granted for this very purpose. In that case St James was converted in the same way as St Paul. Three years after his own conversion St Paul met the Lord’s brother at Jerusalem, and probably heard of this appearance from St James himself. Each told the other his experiences. But it may be doubted whether either James or Peter (v. 5) told St Paul what the Lord had said to him. In any case, such details are not needed here. What is of importance here is the fact that within ten years of the Resurrection St Paul had the opportunity of talking with St Peter and St James and comparing their experiences of the Risen Lord with his own, and that within thirty years of the Resurrection he records their testimony. For James and Peter see 9:5; Galatians 1:18, Galatians 1:19, 2:Galatians 1:9-12.
For the narrative about an appearance to James recorded in the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Jerome, De Viris illustr. 2), see Nicholson, pp. 62 f.; Lightfoot, Galatians, pp. 265, 274; Swete, Appearances of our Lord, p. 89; Resch, Agrapha, pp. 248 f. The narrative may be mere legend; but if it is historical, it is not likely that St Paul is alluding here to what is there recorded.
εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν. ‘Then to the whole body of the Apostles.’ There is no emphasis on πᾶσιν, which does not look back to Ἰακώβῳ. The antithesis, ‘to one, then to all, ’ is false, for the πᾶσιν does not imply that James was an Apostle. He wast not one of the Twelve, and it is unlikely that St Paul here thinks of him as an Apostle in the wider sense, and idea quite foreign to the context. The meaning here is, ‘then’ to the Apostolic body as a whole,’ Thomas being now present. The addition of πᾶσιν here confirms the view that τοῖς δώδεκα (v. 5) is official and not numerical.* As St Paul at once passes on to the appearance to himself, he evidently means this manifestation to the whole body of the Apostles as the final one to others, viz. at the time of the Ascension. The conjecture of πάλιν for πᾶσιν is unnecessary.
Respecting St Paul’s testimony, Professor Percy Gardner remarks; “As regards his own life, and the phenomena of Christianity which came under his direct observation, he is as good an authority as we can have in regard to any events in ancient history. … However confused and inconsistent may be the accounts in the Gospels of the appearances of the risen Lord, there can be no doubt that the society believed such appearances to hace taken place. No other cause can be suggested for the sudden change in the minds of the disciples from consternation and terror to confidence and boldness. And the well-known Pauline passage as to the witnesses of the Resurrection is as historic evidence of the belief of the first disciples unimpeachable. Paul himself claims with perfect confidence that he has seen the risen Lord” (Hibbert Journal Supplement, 1909, pp. 49, 51).
8. ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. ‘But last of all, as if to the abortion (of the Apostolic family), He appeared also to me.’ As in Mark 12:22, there is a doubt whether πάντων is masc. or neut. After a series of persons (5-7) the masc. is more probable; and ἔσχατον is used adverbially, like ὕστερον. Nowhere else in N.T. or LXX does ὡσπερεί occur: in a few texts it is a v.l. in 4:13. In calling himself the ἔκτρωμα among the Apostles, he refers to the suddenness and violence of the transition (ἐκτιτρώσκω), while he was still in a state of immaturity.* The Twelve were disciples of Jesus before He called them to be Apostles, and He trained them for promotion: Saul was suddenly torn from opposition to Jesus to become His Apostle. Theirs was a gradual and normal progress; his was a swift and abnormal change. Possibly his Jewish adversaries had called him an abortion, an insult to which his small stature may have given a handle; but no such hypothesis is needed to account for the use of the expression here. It indicates his intense feeling respecting the errors of his career previous to his conversion. For the word, comp. Numbers 12:12; Job 3:16; Ecclesiastes 6:3; and see Suicer, 1. p. 1073; Lightfoot on Ign. Rom_9.
St Paul uses the same word, ὤγθη, of the appearances to himself as he uses of the appearances of the others. He regards it as the same in kind. He saw the Risen Lord as really as they did. The Lord appeared to him at other times (Acts 22:18; comp. 18:9, 27:23; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4), but doubtless it is the appearance on the way to Damascus that is meant here. “There is no greater life in history than that which S. Paul spent in the service of Christ, and it was what it was because S. Paul believed from the bottom of his heart that Jesus had appeared to him from heaven and sent Him to do His work” (Swete, Appearances, p. 126). On this unique occasion God chose him ‘to see the Righteous one, and to hear a voice from His mouth’ (Acts 22:14), and his whole work as an Apostle was built upon that.* See Thorburn, pp. 83, 85.
The κἀμοί comes at the end with deep humility: ‘to me also.’ This appearance to the Apostle of the Gentiles completed the official evidence. He evidently knew of no later manifestation, and that to St John in Patmos was after St Paul’s death. The fact that the manifestations had ended with the one to St Paul is against the theory of hallucinations. If all the appearances had been hallucinations, they would probably have continued, for such things are infectious, because people see what they expect to see. But neither the Twelve nor St Paul expected to see the Risen Lord, and some of them for a time doubted, not only the statements of others, but the evidence of their own eyes, for it seemed to be far too good to be true.
It is important to notice that two of the witnesses cited in this list, St James and St Paul himself, had previously been unbelievers. Indeed, St Paul had not only refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but had strenuously persecuted those who accepted Him as such. Afterwards, the intensity of his conviction that he ‘had seen the Lord’ became “the determining factor in St Paul’s theology.” See Inge, in Cambridge Biblical Essays, p. 267. It is also remarkable that he does not mention the appearance to St Stephen (Acts 7:55, Acts 7:56). It was not “official.”
9-11. The status of St Paul as one of the Apostles, and their absolute agreement with him with regard to the fundamental doctrine of the Resurrection. Different as they were from him in other things,—they before him in Apostleship, he before them in labours,—they and he were wholly agreed in preaching this, uno ore, omnes Apostoli (Beng.).
9. Ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τ. ἀπ. Explanation of the strong word ἔκτρωμα, given with much emphasis. In ἐλάχιστος there is no reference to ‘Paulus’ = ’little.’ See Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15. Both names, Saul and Paul, were probably given him by his parents, in accordance with Jewish custom, which still prevails, of giving a child two names, one religious and one secular. Like his namesake he was a Benjamite. Saul the son of Kish was τῆς φυλῆς τῆς ἐλαχίστης (1 Samuel 9:21).
ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανός. As distinguished from ἄξιος, ἱκανός= ‘reaching up to,’ ‘competent,’ ‘adequate’ (2 Corinthians 2:16) rather than ‘meriting,’ but when moral sufficiency is meant the difference is not great. Comp. Matthew 3:2 (=Mark 1:7) with John 1:27. This is the argumentative use of the relative; ‘seeing that I am not fit to be called an Apostle.’ Comp. Romans 9:25; Hebrews 2:2. The violent ἔκτρωσις was rendered necessary by his having been a persecutor. This blot in his past life he never forgot: Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:12-14; Acts 26:9.* For τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ see on 11:22. The addition of τοῦ Θεοῦ prepares for what follows.
10. χάριτι δὲ Θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι. ‘But by God’s grace I am what I am’—an Apostle who has seen the Lord and laboured fruitfully for Him. In spite of his unfitness to bear the name, the grace of God has made him equal to it. The persecutor has been forgiven and the abortion adopted. On the eleventh Sunday after Trinity this humble boast of Paul the Pharisee is placed side by side with the arrogant boast of the typical Pharisee.
ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη. ‘Which was manifested towards me’ (or, was extended to me), ‘did not prove empty,’ i.e. fruitless, without result; or perhaps, ‘did not turn out to be worthless.’ Comp. vv. 14, 58; εἰς κενόν, Php 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; ματαία, v. 17.†
ἀλλά. ‘So far from that being the case, I laboured more abundantly than they all.’ This may mean either (1) ‘than all of them together,’ or (2) ‘than any one of them (14:18).’ Though (1) seems extravagant, it may be the meaning, seeing that God’s grace is the chief cause of it. Apart from that, his energy and toil would have been without fruit (Romans 15:19). In himself he is greatly inferior to the Twelve; in his work, which is God’s, greatly superior. His labour (κόπος) means his work as a whole, including his success; and his great success was evidence that he was an Apostle. See on 16:16. Thus his great work was evidence of the Resurrection, for it would never have been undertaken if the Risen Lord had not appeared to him, nor would it have had such results without His help.
ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ σὺν ἐμοί. ‘So far from its being 1 (alone) who did all this, it was the grace of God with me.’ There were two who laboured, two co-operators, grace with himself (Acts 14:27); but it was grace which made the labour effective (Galatians 2:20). The Apostle’s satisfaction with his own labours “from a human point of view is as the joy of a child who gives his father a birthday present out of his father’s own money” (Weinel, p. 178). Dobschütz (Probleme, p. 58) shows how true this estimate of his labours is. The reading ἡ σὺν ἐμοί (see below), which Calvin characteristically adopts, makes grace the sole worker; ‘not I, but the grace of God which was with me, did the abundant and fruitful work.’ Atto more reasonably says; quibus verbis, ‘gratia Dei mecum,’ ostendit quia nec gratia sine libero arbitrio, nee liberum arbitrium sine gratia, hominis salutem operatur. So also Augustine; nec gratia Dei sola, nec ipse solus, sed gratia cum illo.
For οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, D* has πτωχὴ οὐκ ἐγενήθη, while F G have πτωχὴ οὐ γέγονεν. A E K L P have ἡ σὺν ἐμοί, but א* B D* F G, Latt. Goth. omit ἡ.
11. εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κ.τ.λ. ‘Whether then it were I or they (who laboured most abundantly after seeing the Risen Christ), so we continually preach (1:23), and so ye once for all believed,’ when ye accepted the preaching. He does not mean that they had ceased to believe, but that there was a definite time when they accepted this belief as the result of Apostolic preaching. The οὖν resumes the main argument (vv. 3-8) after the digression (vv. 9, 10), and οὕτως looks back to τίνι λόγῳ. Evans, somewhat hesitatingly, questions this, and prefers to render οὖν ‘however.’
Harnack points out that “legends concerning the appearances of the Risen Christ and the Ascension are difficult to explain, on the assumption that they arose before the destruction of Jerusalem” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 291). It is quite clear from these verses that appearances of the Risen Christ were firmly believed in long before a.d. 70. Harnack himself places 1 Corinthians in a.d. 52 or 53. The inference is that the reports about the appearances were not “legends.”
There is nothing to show that St Paul meant this list of the appearances to be exhaustive, and that he mentions no others because he knew of no others. He omits five of the appearances which are mentioned in the Gospels: to the women, to Mary Magdalen, to the two on the way to Emmaus, to Thomas with the other Apostles on the second Lord’s Day, and to certain disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He probably knew of some of these, if not of all. His reason for confining himself to those which he mentions can be easily conjectured. The witnesses whom he cites were persons well known to the Corinthians as leaders of the Church; Kephas, the Apostolic body, James, and himself; to which he adds a large company, some of whom could be easily found and questioned. The evidence would not have been strengthened by mentioning appearances to persons of whom the Corinthians had never heard. See F. H. Chase and A. J. Mason in Cambridge Theological Essays, pp. 396-401, 424-429; also J. O. F. Murray, pp. 329-332.
“It is curious that, in Paul’s time, it was the principle of the resurrection which was denied by the Corinthians to whom he is writing, while the actual fact of the resurrection of Jesus was admitted. Now, it is the principle which is admitted, while the actual resurrection of Jesus is denied.” But the life and teaching of St Paul, and the evolution and continued existence of the Christian Church cannot be explained, if the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ was based on hallucination. Can any Christian believe that Christianity is built upon this fundamental error?
“The reality of the resurrection is maintained, so long as the cause of the appearances of Jesus is attributed to Jesus, and not to the imaginations of the disciples. To the twentieth-century mind a spiritual manifestation seems open to less objection than the reanimation of the physical body which had been laid in the grave. We do not know, however, sufficient either of matter or spirit to justify any dogmatism either in the one direction or the other. The narratives will support either theory. The story of the empty tomb, however, certainly implies that the physical body of Jesus disappeared, though what finally became of it is not expressly explained. It must be admitted that the reanimation of the physical body of Jesus presents difficulties to the modern mind in the way of its final disposal which cannot lightly be ignored. The old conception of its literal ascension into heaven is in these days inconceivable. Our ignorance on this matter, however, ought not to invalidate the knowledge we undoubtedly possess of the empty tomb, nor ought we to allow the difficulty of accounting for the final disposal of the body to lead us to reject the plain story of its disappearance. Certainly, on the hypothesis of pure hallucinations, the speedy cessation of the appearances is a difficulty more easily ignored than explained” (The Fifth Gospel, pp. 169, 191-194).
15:12-34. If Christ is Risen, the Dead in Christ Will Rise
Here again we have three subdivisions: (a) The Consequences of denying the Doctrine of the Resurrection, 12-19; (b) The Consequences of accepting the Resurrection of Christ 20-28; (c) Arguments from Experience, 29-34.
How is it that, in the face of this Apostolic proclamation, some people go about and declare that a resurrection of dead people is impossible; thus making Apostolic preaching to be a lie, and your faith to be a delusion, and the condition of dead Christians to be quite hopeless, and the condition of living Christians to be pitiable in the extreme?
But they are quite wrong; for Christ has risen, and therefore resurrection is for us certain. For in this matter Christ is the first sheaf of a vast harvest; and when He has conquered all that opposes Him, including death itself, then, as the Son of God, He will yield up everything to His Father, and God will be supreme.
Baptism for the sake of the dead would lose all its meaning, and Christian self-sacrifice would lose most of its inspiration and comfort, if there were no resurrection and no future life.
12 Now, if Apostles are continually proclaiming Christ as having been raised from the dead, how is it that some are declaring among you that there is no such thing as a resurrection of dead people? 13 If there is no such thing, then Christ Himself cannot have been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation of the Gospel is empty verbiage, and your faith in it is empty credulity. 15 And, what is more, we are found guilty of misrepresenting God, because we have represented Him as having raised the Christ, whereas He did nothing of the kind, if as a matter of fact dead people are never raised. 16 For it is quite clear that, if dead people are never raised, Christ Himself has not been raised. 17 And in that case your faith is futile; you are still living in your sins. 18 Yes, and it follows that all those who went to their rest trusting in Christ, forthwith perished utterly and are now lost to Christ! 19 If our case is no better than this, that just in the present life we have had hope in Christ, there are no human beings more truly to be pitied than we are.
20 But this dismal doctrine is not true. Christ has been raised from the dead; and He is no solitary exception, but the first and foremost example of many that are to be awakened. 21 For since it is through a man that we have death, it is through a Man also that we have resurrection from the dead. 22 For as in virtue of our union with Adam we all die, so also in virtue of our union with Christ we shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his proper order; Christ the first sheaf; afterwards Christ’s own harvest in the Day of His Coming. 24 After that will come the End, when He is to give up His Kingship into the hands of His God and Father; and that will be when He has brought to nought all other rule and all other authority and power. 25 For He must retain His Kingship until God has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last foe to be brought to nought is death. 27 For God has put all things, death included, in subjection under Christ’s feet. (Now, when it is said that all things have been put in subjection to Christ, it is obvious that God, who put them thus in subjection, is not included.) 28 But when every power has been made subject to the Son, then, but not till then, even the Son Himself will become subject to the Father who put all things under Him, in order that God may be everything in every creature, and the Divine immanence be perfect and complete.
29 Otherwise, what will be the position of those who from time to time are being baptized out of consideration for the dead? If dead men never rise at all, why in the world are people baptized out of consideration for them? 30 And why do so many of us stand in peril every hour? 31 I protest to you, my Brothers, as surely as I glory over you—and you know that I do that in Christ Jesus our Lord, there is not a day that I do not stand face to face with death. 32 If, looking at it from a purely human point of view, I was near being torn in pieces at Ephesus, what did I gain by it? If dead men do not rise, the human point of view gives as a practical inference, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.’ 33 Do not make the serious mistake of supposing that there is no risk in being friendly to these views and to those who advocate them. ‘Fair characters are marred by foul companionships.’ 34 You must rouse yourselves from this paralysing delusion in a right spirit, and cease to persist in culpable error. You pride yourselves upon your religious enlightenment: crass ignorance as to the very meaning of God is what some of you have. It is to make you ashamed of yourselves that I speak like this.
12. Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται κ.τ.λ. ‘Now if Christ is continually preached that He hath been raised from the dead, how comes it that it is said among you by some persons that resurrection of dead men does not take place?’* St Paul has just shown how full and unanimous is the testimony to the fact of the Resurrection of Christ, and from that solid basis he now passes on (δέ) to the main question, using a current sceptical assertion as a text. It is one statement against another. On the one hand the declaration of all the Apostles, from the first to the last of them, and of many other eyewitnesses, that Christ has been raised and abides for ever as the Risen Lord (this is the force of the perfect ἐγήγερται throughout the argument); on the other the a priori dictum of certain cavillers, unsupported by any evidence, that there is no such thing as a resurrection of dead people. The latter position is analogous to the modern one; “Miracles don’t happen.” Which will the Corinthians, who long ago accepted Apostolic preaching, hold to now? And a decision is necessary, for the conflict of statement continues. The Apostles continue to preach the Resurrection of Christ (κηρύσσομεν, κηρύσσεται), and the sceptics continue to assert (λέγουσιν) that resurrection is impossible. And this is the situation which has to be explained. If resurrection is impossible, how do you account for the large volume of testimony from official and unofficial witnesses, who are still alive to be questioned, that one resurrection has taken place?* It is possible that these teachers did not deny that Christ had risen; and if so, this indicates how strong they felt the evidence for it to be. They may have declared that His case was unique, and proved nothing as to the rest of mankind. But this the Apostle cannot allow. If it is certain that any one man has risen, then the position that resurrection is impossible is untenable. If Christ is risen, others can rise. Indeed, when His relation to mankind is considered, we may say that others will rise. Deny this consequent in either form, “Others will not rise,” or “Others cannot rise,” and you thereby deny the antecedent, “Christ is not risen.” There is no escape from this logic; but some Corinthians did not see it.
It has been pointed out already that the τινες were almost certainly Gentiles, brought up under the influence of Greek philosophy, not Jews with Sadducean prejudices. Possibly they held that matter was evil, and that it was incredible that a soul, once set free by death, would return to its unclean prison. Or they may have been influenced by a popular form of Epicurean materialism. They had been brought up in the belief that at death existence either ceases entirely, or becomes so shadowy as to be worthless: in any case the body perishes utterly. The idea of a glorified body, in which the highest part of man’s nature would be supreme, without opposition or hindrance from any other part, was beyond even Plato’s vision, and they could not attain to it. Aeschylus (Eum. 647) makes Apollo say,
ἀνδρὸς δʼἐπειδὰν αἷμʼ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις
ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστʼ ἀνάστασις.
And that is just what these Corinthians declared. See also the view of Cebes (Plato, Phædo, 70 A). There is no evidence of such theories as those of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17, 2 Timothy 2:18).
St Paul’s treatment of these dangerous doubters is to be noticed. He does not suggest that they should be excommunicated; he argues with them through those who are in danger of being perverted by them. And in his arguments he is less severe than he is with some other victims of false teaching. The πῶς λέγουσιν here is more gentle than the indignant astonishment of Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε κ.τ.λ. and ῏Ω ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν κ.τ.λ. (Galatians 1:6, Galatians 3:1). The πῶς reminds us rather of Galatians 2:14, Galatians 2:4:9; 1 John 3:17: it expresses surprise at something incongruous. Moreover, he does not name these teachers of error; there is no need to brand them: compare 4:18; 2 Corinthians 10:2; Galatians 1:7, Galatians 1:2:12; Acts 15:24; and it is not likely that they are to be identified with any of the four parties in 1:12.
Χριστός is attracted from the dependent clause into the main sentence in order to make the word more prominent. Christ is the sum and substance of the Gospel, the central fact of which is His Resurrection. Throughout the passage νεκροί has no article: it is not ‘the dead’ as a class that are under consideration, but individuals who are in this condition, ‘dead persons,’ ‘dead men.’
ἐν ὑμῖν τινές (א A B P 17, Syrr., Orig. Chrys.) is to be preferred to τινὲς ἐν ὑμῖν (D E F G K L, Arm.), and ἐν ὑμῖν belongs to λέγουσιν. It is in Christian society (1:11) that this statement is made.
13. These sceptics are supposed to hold to their doctrine: they deny the consequent in the Apostle’s conditional proposition. If Christ is risen, dead people can rise. Dead people cannot rise. Therefore, Christ is not risen. ‘But if resurrection of dead men does not take place, Christ also hath not been raised,’ and οὐδέ may be kept in the front place by rendering, ‘neither hath Christ been raised’ (RV.). But οὐδέ must not be rendered ‘not even,’ which would rather obscure the line of argument. The fact of the Incarnation involves a difference in kind between the Resurrection of the Son of God and that of His adopted children. The connexion between antecedent and consequent is therefore not logical merely, but causal: the Resurrection of Christ is not viewed by the Apostle as one particular case of a general law, but as the source of Divine Power which effects the Resurrection in store for His members (v. 23). Deny the effect, and you overthrow the cause; accept the cause as a fact, and the effect will certainly follow.
14. The sceptics still persist, and accept the denial of the antecedent: Christ is not risen. St Paul goes on to show what this denial involves, viz. (1) the falsification of Apostolic teaching and of Christian faith (14-17), and (2) the destruction of all Christian hope (18, 19). Thus by a reductio ad impossibile the denial is disproved. In short, the Resurrection of Christ is not an isolated fact or doctrine which can be accepted or rejected independently of other truths: it is the very centre of the Gospel.
εἰ δὲ Χρ. οὐκ ἐγήγερται. ‘But if Christ hath not been raised (οὐκ emphatic), void certainly (ἄρα) is our preaching, void also is your faith.’* Τὸ κήρυγμα looks back to κηρύσσομεν (v. 11), and means, ‘what we preach,’ the substance of it (1:21, 2:4); and πίστις looks back to ἐπιστεύσατε (v. 11): ἄρα, ‘in that case,’ ‘then,’ as an inevitable result; κενός, inanis (see above on v. 10), ‘empty,’ ‘hollow,’ ‘devoid of reality’: comp. κενὴ ἡ ἐλπὶς αὐτῶν (Wisd. 3:11); κεναὶ ἐλπίδες καὶ Ψευδεῖς (Ecclus. 31:1). Here κενόν and κενή are emphatic by position. But, as Origen points out, ‘Seeing that our preaching is not void, and your faith is not void, then Christ has been raised.’ Cf. Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:8.
15. εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ Θεοῦ. ‘And (as a further consequence) we are found to be also false witnesses of God (obj. gen.), because (in preaching) we bore witness respecting God that He raised the Christ, whom He did not raise, if indeed after all dead men are not raised’; si videlicet mortui non suscitantur (Beza). AV. has ‘rise not’; but ἐγείρονται is passive, not middle. Εὑρίσκω is often used of moral judgments respecting character, and conveys the idea of discovering or detecting: 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:12, 2 Corinthians 11:12:20; Galatians 2:17; Php 3:9. We may take τοῦ Θεοῦ as the subjective genitive, ‘false witnesses in the service of God,’ ‘Divine witnesses telling lies,’ but this is less suitable; and ‘falsely claiming to be God’s witnesses’ is certainly not the meaning. There is a similar doubt respecting κατὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, which would usually mean ‘against God,’ adversus Deum (Vulg. Luth.), but may mean ‘about God,’ ‘of God,’ de Deo (Erasm. Beza), although not a Deo (Calv.). The meaning ‘respecting’ or ‘about’ is fairly common in class. Grk., although not in the N.T., and is perhaps to be preferred here (Tyn. Genev. Rhem. AV. RV.). For, although every lie dishonours God, yet there is no special dishonour in saying that He raised Christ, if He did not do so; and if St Paul had meant ‘against God,’ he would probably have put κατὰ τ. Θ. after ψευδομάρτυρες rather than after ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν. Nevertheless, ‘against God’ (Wic. Cov.) may be justified on the ground that to attribute to a person a good or glorious act, which it is well known that he never performed, is to cause him to be suspected of having prompted the false assertion. The Apostles, if they falsely declared that God had raised Christ, would lead people to think that God had inspired them to tell lies about Him. This, however, is rather far-fetched. St Paul’s evident horror of being convicted at the bar of Divine justice of bearing false witness in this matter shows his estimate of the importance of the matter. And it is to be noted that the alternative possibility,—that he and the other Apostles were honest, but deluded witnesses, does not occur to him at all. The modern theory, that those who believed that they had seen the Risen Lord were victims of an hallucination, is wholly absent from his thought, even as a possibility. The force of the article before Χριστόν perhaps is ‘the Christ of whom we have all along been speaking.’ For εἴπερ see on 8:5: here the addition of ἄρα indicates that the hypothesis is not St Paul’s own.
16. A solemn repetition of the argument in v. 13; sublato effectu, tollitur et causa. Here the form is slightly changed, and additional inferences (17, 18) are drawn from it.
17. A solemn repetition and enlargement of v. 14, showing more clearly what the loss to the Corinthians would be if this theory were true. Both AV. and RV. render κενή in v. 14 and ματαία here ‘vain,’ and sometimes there is little difference between the two words: but here there is; κενή is ‘wanting in reality,’ ματαία ‘wanting in result,’ ‘fruitless,’ ‘futile’ (Titus 3:9; 4 Macc. 16:7). In class. Grk. μάταιος is of two terminations (Jam 1:26); but here and 1 Peter 1:18 the fem. occurs, as often in LXX.
ἓτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. This may mean one of two things. If Christ has not been raised for our justification (Romans 4:25), His death is made a nullity, for there is no redemptive power in it. It does not save us from the guilt and penalty of sin; for how can a dead Christ save others from death, which is the penalty of sin? And how can He secure for others a life beyond the grave which He Himself does not possess? Comp. Romans 6:1-11; Php 3:10; Colossians 3:1. Or, the words may be an appeal to their personal experience. If Christ had not risen, they would still be living in their original heathen wickedness, for baseless credulity could never have delivered them. It was faith in a living Christ that had done that. Therefore Christ has been raised. This is a more telling argument than the other, because it is based on what the Corinthians could not help knowing. They were as sure that they were not continuing their old heathen life as the Apostles were that they were not lying witnesses. But the former is closer to the context, and to St Paul’s doctrinal purpose.
18. ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. ‘So then, they also who were laid to sleep in Christ have perished’; an amazing result! By ἐν Χρ. is meant ‘believing in Christ, and in communion with Him.’ It is those who are not ἐν Χριστῷ when they die that perish. This denial of the resurrection of the dead throws everything into confusion. The ἀπώλεια is the utter loss consequent upon dying in sin. This meaning is frequent in St Paul (1:18, 8:11; 2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 2:4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). See Cremer, p. 452; also Beet, The Last Things, pp. 122 f., a valuable discussion. They have surrendered everything in order to have eternal life with Christ at His Coming, and they have died. If they are dead beyond possibility of restoration, then death separates us for ever from Christ. Is that credible? This is not an appeal to mere sentiment: it is an appeal to our sense of what is morally fitting, and this is a good supplement to the appeal to fact (v. 17).
In class. Grk. ἄρα rarely, if ever, stands first, as here; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:21, Galatians 2:5:11; etc. It is a little doubtful whether οἱ κοιμηθέντες is not a true passive, ‘those who were put to sleep,’ rather than middle, ‘those who fell asleep,’ both here and 1 Thessalonians 4:14. See J. H. Moulton, Gr. p. 162, and on the other side Milligan on 1 Thessalonians 4:14, a passage which throws much light on this verse. The expression does not imply that the departed are unconscious, but that they are at rest, and may be raised again to full activity. See above on 11:30.
19. εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον. The first and last words, ‘in this life’ and ‘only,’ are emphatic; nevertheless, they should not be taken together; ‘in this life only.’ The μόνον qualifies either ἠλπικότες or the whole clause, and ἐσμέν is the copula, not the auxiliary to the participle to form an analytical tense. ‘If we are having only hope in Christ in this life’; or, ‘If in this life we are hopers in Christ and have nothing beyond’; i.e. If all that Christians have got is hope in Christ, without possibility of life with Him hereafter, what can be more pathetic? See RV. marg.
ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν. ‘We are more to be pitied than all men’; not ‘more miserable,’ ‘more wretched,’ but ‘more deserving of compassion.’* In that case, Christians would be toiling and suffering here under a great delusion, a hope that has no foundation and will never be fulfilled—and such a glorious hope! For ἐλεεινός see Revelation 3:17 and LXX of Daniel 9:23, Daniel 9:10:11, Daniel 9:19.
The right order is ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπ. ἐσμὲν (א A B D* E F G), not ἠλπ. ἐσμὲν ἐν Χρ. (K L P); and πἀντων ἀνθρ. ἐσμέν (א A B E F G K L P), not ἐσμέν π. ἀνθρ. (D, Latt., Orig.).
20-28. The sum of the arguments in vv. 13-19 is that the doctrine maintained by the τινές (v. 12) cannot be true, because it involves such monstrous consequences. And it is not true, so that the consequences are of a wholly different character, and we can rejoice abundantly. Christ has been raised, and His Resurrection carries with it that of all those who are Christ’s, for the Risen One is the first fruit of a vast harvest (6:14). Apostolic preaching is not void; their faith is neither void nor futile; they are not in their sins; those that are asleep have not perished; Christian hope is not limited to this life; and Christians are not the most pitiable of men (die bedauernswürdigsten or bejammernswerthesten unter allen Menschen).
In these verses the Apostle ceases to argue, and authoritatively declares the truth. Human logic is for the moment dropped, and the inspiration of the Prophet takes its place. Confident in the possession of knowledge which transcends experience and reason, he authoritatively declares what has been revealed to him respecting the relations between mankind and Christ, and between Christ and the Father. See Evans, pp. 354, 361; Schiele, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1719-1731.
20. Νυνὶ δέ. These words begin a joyous outburst in contrast to the dreary pictures which he has been drawing. The denial which produced those pictures is not true; ‘But, as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, first of those that are asleep.’ The addition of ἐκ νεκρῶν implies a bodily resurrection, for Christ could not be thought of as among the spiritually dead. And ‘firstfruit’ implies community of nature. The first sheaf offered in the Temple on the morrow of the Passover was the same in kind as the rest of the harvest, and was a sort of consecration of the whole (Leviticus 23:10, Leviticus 23:11).* For ἀπαρχή comp. 16:15; Romans 8:23, Romans 8:11:16, Romans 8:16:5; Jam 1:18, where see Mayor; Revelation 14:4, where see Swete; Clem. Rom. Cor. 24, 42. Christ is the first instalment, an earnest that many more are to follow. Comp. πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν (Colossians 1:18), πρ. τ.ν. (Revelation 1:5).
The AV. has, ‘and become the firstfruits of them that slept.’ There is neither ‘and’ nor ‘become’ in the true text: ἐγένετο (K L, Syrr. Goth.) is a manifest correction; א A B D* F P 17, Latt. Copt. Arm., Orig. omit. Ἁπαρχή is in apposition with Χριστός, Christus resurrexit, primitiae dormientium (Vulg.).
21. Christ leads the way in resurrection, as Adam did in death. In each case a man was the instrument of a great change in the condition of mankind, the one of a great disaster, the other of a great deliverance. ‘For since through man (by Adam’s sin) is death, through man also is resurrection of the dead’: Romans 5:12, where see Sanday and Headlam. He says διὰ ἀνθρώπου, not ἐξ ἀνθρ. The deadly wound came ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ: similarly the cure comes διὰ Χριστοῦ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρός.
How can Adam be said to have led the way in death,—to have been the means of introducing death, where death was previously unknown? Death, as geology teaches us, was in the world long before man existed on the earth. Granted; but death as the penalty of sin could not be in the world, until there was sin. Possibly St Paul believed Gen_2. and 3. to be literally true;† at any rate he regards the narrative as sufficiently true to be made the basis of a lesson. Genesis does not tell us that man was created immortal; it implies the contrary. But man was created with the opportunity of becoming immortal, for he was placed within reach of the tree of life. Because of his sin he was deprived of this opportunity, was driven from the tree of life, and consequently died. In this sense death came to the human race through his instrumentality. The fact that the brutes had been dying for ages before man existed does not affect the question. See Goudge, p. 149.
And how can Christ be said to have led the way in resurrection, and to be ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων? Others had been raised from the dead before He was; He had raised some Himself. But only to die again. None of those who had been restored to life remained for ever alive, for death had not yet been conquered. Christ was the first, and thus far is the only human being, who non moriturus surrexit—rose never to die again.
22. Transition from abstract to concrete. ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’* By ‘in Adam’ and ‘in Christ’ is meant ‘in the person of,’ as having a community of nature with. In different ways, Adam and Christ were each of them Head of the human race and could represent it. But the simple ‘in’ is as intelligible as any paraphrase. It is more important to determine the meaning of πάντες in each clause. The argument, that πάντες must have the same meaning in both clauses; πάντες in the first clause must mean the whole human race; therefore πάντες in the second clause must mean the whole human race, is somewhat precarious. The meaning may be, ‘As it is in Adam that all who die die, so it is in Christ that all who are made alive are made alive.’ It is still more precarious to argue that ‘in Christ shall all be made alive’ implies that all mankind will at last be saved.† The meaning may be that all will be raised, will be quickened, which is not the same as saying that all will be saved. See Daniel 12:2, where a resurrection of the wicked is taught for the first time in the O.T., together with a belief in future rewards and punishments; but of Israelites only, and perhaps not all of them, for the ‘many’ (not ‘all’) possibly refers to great saints and great sinners, and to no others. ‘Many of them that sleep (Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57) in the ground of dust (Job 20:11, Job 21:26) shall awake (Isaiah 26:19), some to eternal life (Ps. of Sol. 3:16; Son_4 Macc. 15:3; Enoch 37:4, 40:9, 58:3, 62:14), and some to reproaches and eternal abhorrence’ (Isaiah 66:24). See Driver, ad loc.; Dalman, The Words of Jesus, pp. 156 f.; and the parallel passage John 5:28, John 5:29. In v. 36, as in Romans 4:17, ζωοποιεῖν is used in a natural sense, in John 5:21, John 6:63 in a spiritual sense: in each case the context must decide. See Hatch, Ess. in Bibl. Grk., p. 5, for the Hellenistic use of the word.
23. ἔκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι. ‘But each in his own division.’ There is little doubt that τάγμα is a military metaphor; ‘company,’ ‘troop,’ ‘band,’ or ‘rank.’ We are to think of each ‘corps’ or body of troops coming on in its proper position and order: 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 4:10; Josephus B.J. 1. ix. 1, III. iv. II. In B.J. 2. viii. 14, after mentioning the Pharisees, he goes on, Σαδδουκαῖοι δέ, τὸ δεύτερον τάγμα, … ψυχῆς τε τὴν διαμονὴν καὶ τὰς καθʼ ᾅδον τιμωρίας καὶ τιμὰς ἀναιροῦσι. Of these τάγματα there are two, clearly marked, in the present passage; Christ, who has already reached the goal of Resurrection; and Christ’s Own, who will reach it when He comes again. Perhaps St Paul is thinking of a third τάγμα. those who are not Christ’s Own, to be raised from the dead some time before the End. But throughout the passage, the unbelievers and the wicked are quite in the background, if they are thought of at all. The whole context is governed by ἐν Χρ. ζωοποι. (v. 22). It is perhaps because only the good are under consideration that St Paul used παρουσία rather than κρίσις or ἡμέρα κρίσεως. With the beautiful expression, οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, comp. 3:23; Galatians 5:24; John 10:3, John 10:14: it means all the saved, whether Christians, Jews, or heathen. Deissmann (Light, pp. 372, 382) has shown that παρουσία was a technical term for the arrival of a potentate or his representative, and that Καίσαρος “belonging to the Emperor,” was used in much the same sense as Χριστοῦ is used here.
24. εἶτα τὸ τέλος. ‘After this will come the End’ is perhaps to be preferred to ‘Then cometh the End’; but the latter has the advantage of being as indefinite in meaning as the Greek seems to be. It is evident that there is an interval (ἔπειτα), which still continues, between the first and the second τάγμα. Christ’s Own are still waiting. Is there also to be an interval between His Coming and the End? Or does St Paul mean that the Coming is the End—that the two are simultaneous? It is impossible to say, for εἶτα, like ‘then,’ may introduce either what is subsequent or what is immediately consequent. In vv. 5 and 7 there is an interval: comp. 1 Timothy 2:13, 1 Timothy 3:10, the only other passages in which St Paul uses εἶτα: and what follows seems to imply an interval. See Thackeray, The Relation of St Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought, pp. 120 f., and comp. 1 Peter 4:7. ‘The End’ may be compared with ἡ συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος (Matthew 13:40, Matthew 13:49, Matthew 13:24:3, Matthew 13:28:20); it balances ἀπαρχή.
ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ. ‘Whenever He delivereth the Kingdom to the God and Father.’ The ὅταν indicates that the time for this is quite uncertain. As no ἡμῶν is expressed, the meaning probably is ‘His God and Father.’ It is to God that the Kingdom belongs, and it is to Him both as God and as Father that the Son delivers it. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:11:31; Romans 15:6; Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17; Mark 15:34; John 20:17; John 1:6, John 1:3:2, 1 Peter 1:3, where see Hort’s note. Our Lord Himself spoke of the Father as His God, and His Apostles are not afraid of asserting the same truth. Usually ὁ Θεὸς κ. πατήρ is followed by genitive to show whose God and Father is meant, but in Ephesians 5:20 and Jam 1:27 there is no genitive, as here, and ‘of us’ may be included with ‘of Him.’ What exactly is meant by παραδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν, is beyond our comprehension. Sovereignty has been committed to the Son for a definite purpose: when that purpose has been fulfilled, the sovereignty returns to the original Source. We need not think of Christ as losing anything or as ceasing to rule, but as bringing to a triumphant conclusion a special dispensation. It is His work to put an end to all that opposes the sovereignty of God. When all opposition is brought to nought, the Divine sovereignty, in which the Son shares (John 17:10; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 11:15, 22:1, Revelation 11:3), will be complete, and the reign of God, which is the reign of love, will no more have let or hindrance. We lose ourselves, when we try to define the details of this consummation: it is wiser to adopt a reverent reticence and reserve.
ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν. ‘Whenever He shall have done away with every principality, and every authority and power.’ Although this clause is placed after ὅταν παραδῷ, it precedes it in time, as is shown by the change from present subjunctive to aorist. The ‘doing away’ is prior to the ‘delivering up.’ The order of events is (1) the abolition of all that opposes, (2) the handing over of the sovereignty, which is the End. This is not argument, but a revelation of mysteries. Nevertheless, the revelation has a place in the argument, for it shows how death, which at present has dominion over the human race, will at last be done away in the removal of every power that opposes the will of God. The terms, ἀρχή, ἐξουσία, and δύναμις, do not necessarily imply evil powers (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 1:3:10, Ephesians 1:6:12; Colossians 1:16): the context must decide.* Here they are evil—τοὺς ἐχθρούς, and all evil influences, human (2 Thessalonians 2:8) and superhuman, are included. The verb is frequent in this Epistle, and has various shades of meaning; ‘reduce to inactivity,’ ‘supersede,’ ‘subdue,’ ‘abolish,’ ‘destroy.’ See Cremer.
It is not easy to decide between παραδιδῷ (א A D E P) and παραδιδοῖ (B F G), and it is not important to do so, for παραδιδοῖ may be a subjunctive: comp. Mark 4:29, Mark 5:43, Mark 9:30. Both forms are found in papyri; see Milligan on 1 Thessalonians 5:15. παραδῷ (K L) is a correction, to make agreement in tense with καταργήσῃ.
25. δεῖ γάρ. This explains why the Son continues to hold the βασιλεία. It has been so decreed by God, and the decree has been made known in prophecy (Psalm 110:1; Mark 12:36): βασιλεύειν, ‘to be King, remain King’ (imperf. infin.). See Luke 1:33, and Pearson, On the Creed, Art. 6. p. 282. The nominative to θῇ is Christ, not God, as is clear both from the syntax of the sentence, and the context generally. For the constr. comp. 11:26; Galatians 3:19; Romans 11:25. In the Pauline Epp., as in the N.T. generally, ἄχρι is more common than μέχρι, but ἄχρι occurs only to this group, excepting Php 1:5, Php 1:6.
The MSS. vary much between ἄχρι and ἄχρις, and K L add ἄν after ἄχρις οὑ. A F G 17 and several versions add αὐτοῦ after τοὺς ἐχθρούς.
26. ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος. No article; there can be only one last: comp. ἐσχάτη ὥρα (1 John 2:18). ‘As the last enemy, Death is brought to nought—is done away’: present tense of what is certain. Death is brought to nought when all his victims are restored to life. This same truth is expressed by St John in symbolical language when he says that Death and Hades were cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14, where see Swete).* As vv. 54, 55 show, St Paul probably has in his mind Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14. Here καταργεῖται seems to imply total destruction; but, whatever may be said on other grounds for the theory of the ultimate annihilation of the wicked, it can hardly be said that the destruction of Death lends support to it. See Beet, Last Things, pp. 236 f.; Langton Clarke, The Eternal Saviour Judge, pp. 91, 181, 306, 336; Briggs, The Messiah of the Apostles, pp. 114 f. B. Weiss contends that the depriving Death of all power does not exclude the possibility that those who have definitely rejected salvation will, in accordance with God’s will, remain in death because they remain in sin. But it is only because God wills it that Death ever has any power. Does He will that in certain cases that power should continue for ever?
27. πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν. The first word is emphatic. ‘For all things (and therefore Death among them) did God put under Christ’s feet.’ The aorist points to some remote past, and should not be made a perfect, as ‘hath put’ (AV.). The meaning cannot be that God put all things under Death’s feet; for this is not true, and is not the meaning of Psalm 8:4-7, which tells of man’s marvellous dignity as God’s vice-gerent in the universe (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:28). This dignity the first Adam and his descendants lost through disobedience, but the Second Adam, through His obedience, has it in untold fulness, and at the Second Advent it will be complete.*
ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὐποτέτακται. Strict grammar requires that the nominative to ὑπέταξεν be the nominative to εἴπῃ, and this on other grounds is probable. It also requires that εἴπῃ be treated as the futurum exactum: ‘when God shall have said’ at some time in the future. Quando autem dixerit, omnia subjecta sunt (Iren. 5:36:2); when the End shall have come and God shall have proclaimed, ‘All things have been brought into subjection.’ Others refer the εἴπῃ to God’s declaration by the mouth of the Psalmist; cum autem dicat (Vulg.), ‘But when He hath thus said’ (Ellicott), which is much the same as ‘But when He saith’ (AV., RV.), quum autem dicit (Beza). Those who make ‘Christ’ the nominative to εἴπῃ, must make the verb refer to His final triumph; ‘When Christ shall have said,’ as He will say at some time in the unknown future. The change from ὑπέταξεν to ὑποτέτακται is in favour of the reference to a future declaration rather than to what is said in the Psalm: ‘have been subjected and remain in subjection.’ In that case, after δῆλον ὅτι we must supply πάντα ὑποτετάξεται, ‘it is manifest that (all will be subjected) with the exception of Him (God) who subjected the all to Him (Christ)’; or, more simply, ‘of course with the exception,’ etc.
The ὅτι before πάντα ὑποτέτακται is of doubtful authority: B, Vulg. and other Latin texts omit. The αὐτῷ, ‘under Him’ (AV.), after ὑποτέτακται has very little authority.
28. ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε κ.τ.λ. ‘When, however, the all shall have been subjected to Him (the Son), then (and not till then) shall the Son Himself also be subjected to Him (the Father) who subjected the all to Him (the Son), that God may be all in all.’ The passage is a summary of mysteries which our present knowledge does not enable us to explain, and which our present faculties, perhaps, do not enable as to understand. See Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. x. 9, xv. 29-31; Hooker, Eccl. Pol. v. Lev_8. Perhaps τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ υἱός should be rendered, ‘then shall even the Son Himself,’ or ‘then shall the Son of His own free will.’ But the καί is of doubtful authority; B D* E F G 17 and other witnesses omit.
ἵνα ᾖ ὁ Θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. The ἵνα depends on ὑποραγήσεται, not on τῷ ὑποτάξαντι. This is the purpose of the ultimate subjection of the Son to the Father, ‘that God, and God alone, may be everything in everything,’ i.e. may fulfil all relations in all creatures. The πᾶσιν is probably neuter, but the comprehensive neuter, including both persons and things: see J. A. Robinson on Ephesians 1:23, p. 44, and comp. 3:22, 8:6, 11:12; 12:6; Colossians 3:2. Wetstein gives examples of πάντα and τὰ πάντα being used as predicates of persons; e.g. πάντʼ ἐκεῖνος ἦν αὐτοῖς (Dem. De Cor. p. 240). The meaning seems to be that there will no longer be need of a Mediator: all relations between Creator and creatures, between Father and offspring, will be direct. Nunc adhuc non est omnia in omnibus, quia singuli sancti diversas virtutes ejus in se habent. Tune autem universa unus habebit, et erit ipse omnia in omnibus (Primasius). Tunc remoto velo palam cernemus Deum in sua majestate regnantem, neque amplius media erit Christi humanitas, quae nos ab interiore Dei conspectu conhibeat (Calvin). Deus immediate se ostendens, vivificans et effundens in beatos suam mirandam lucem, sapientiam, justitiam, et laetitiam (Melanchthon). See also Origen De Prin. III. v. 7; Gregory of Nyssa on 1 Corinthians 15:28, on the Soul and the Resurrection, and the Great Catechetical Oration; Weinel, St Paul, p. 50; Knowling, Messianic Interpretation, pp. 45, 110 f. See on πάντες in v. 22.
It is uncertain whether we should read τὰ πάντα (אE F K L P, Ath. Chrys.) or πάντα (A B D* 17, Arm., Hipp.). Origen has both readings.
29-34. Once more there is an abrupt change of tone;—“one of the most abrupt in St Paul’s Epistles. He leaves the new topic just when he has pursued it to the remotest point, and goes back to the general argument as suddenly as if nothing had intervened” (Stanley). He ceases to prophesy and reveal mysteries, and again begins to reason, as in the paragraph before 5:20. Two subsidiary arguments are here added, one based on baptism for the dead (v. 29), the other on the motive of the Christian life (30-34); and each has given rise to so much perplexity that some have proposed to omit ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν and ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν, or the whole of v. 29, or even the whole paragraph, as an interpolation.* But, apart from the violence of such emendations, what induced an interpolator to insert enigmas?
29. Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; ‘Otherwise, what will they do who receive baptism for the dead?’ ‘Otherwise’ or ‘Else’ (5:10, 7:14) means, εἰ ἀναστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν (v. 13): and τί ποιήσουσιν may mean either, ‘what will they have recourse to?’ or, ‘what will they gain?’ The second question, εἰ ὅλως κ.τ.λ., is in favour of ‘what will they gain?’ Neither Mark 11:5 nor Acts 21:13 is quite parallel, for there the verb is present, not future. Jeremiah 4:30 and Hosea 9:5 have the future, with the meaning, ‘what will you resort to?’ The question here implies that they will be in an absurd and piteous state. We might render, ‘what will be the position of those who receive baptism for the dead?’
The meaning of οἱ βαπριζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν will remain doubtful. J. W. Horsley (Newbery House Magazine, June 1890) has collected thirty-six explanations; see also Meyer. Only three need be noticed.
1. The Greek expositors (ably supported by Evans) explain the expression as referring to ordinary Christian baptism, ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν being taken as meaning ‘with an interest in the resurrection of the dead,’ i.e. in expectation of the resurrection. But is there any authority for this use of ὑπέρ? And is not the supposed ellipse of τῆς ἀναστάσεως very violent? If St Paul had wanted to abbreviate ὑπὲρ ἀναστάσεως τῶν νεκρῶν, he would have left out τῶν νεκρῶν, not τῆς ἀναστάσεως. Lastly, the article with the present participle, οί βαπτιζόμενοι, seems to imply a class of people who practise something exceptional.
2. The reference is to some abnormal baptismal rite known to the Corinthians, which would be meaningless without a belief in the resurrection. This hypothesis, when left quite indefinite, is admissible. But when it is defined as vicarious baptism, i.e. of baptizing living proxies in place of those who had died unbaptized, it becomes highly improbable. This practice existed in some quarters in Tertullian’s day (De Resur. 48; Adv. Marcion. v. 10), but perhaps only among heretics. There is no evidence that this vicarious baptism was practised anywhere in St Paul’s time; and if it had been, would he have used such a superstitious rite as an argument? Granted that such an argument does not necessarily imply approval of the rite, yet it would have laid him open to the retort, “But we do not practise anything of the kind; what is that to us?”
3. The reference is to something exceptional, but which may often have occurred at Corinth and elsewhere, and which the Apostle would approve. Persons, previously inclined to Christianity, sometimes ended in being baptized out of affection or respect for the dead, i.e. because some Christian relation or friend had died, earnestly desiring and praying for their conversion. Such might reasonably be designated as ‘those who receive baptism on behalf of the dead.’ See Findlay, ad loc.; also Hastings, BD. i. p. 245. Stanley gives thirteen interpretations, but not this last, which is one of the best. With regard to the arguments as a whole he says; “They may fail of themselves in persuading us of a future state, but they cannot fail in persuading us of his intense conviction of the reality of Christ’s resurrection; and not of its reality only, but of its supreme importance as a turning-point in the destinies of the human race” (p. 313).
εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. To be taken with what follows (RV.), rather than with what precedes (AV.). “If dead people are not raised at all (if this is quite certain), why in the world (καί intensive) are they baptized for them?” Comp. εἰ μὴ γὰρ τοὺς προπεπτωκότας ἀναστὴναι προσεδόκα, περισσὸν καὶ ληρῶδες ὐπὲρ νεκρῶν εὔχεσθαι (2 Macc. 12:44), an instructive passage in connexion with this verse. With ὅλως here comp. μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως (Matthew 5:34), and see on 5:1, 6:7. In all four places the Vulg. has omnino, a word which has as many shades of meaning as ὅλως. ‘Actually’ or ‘absolutely’ might serve here, as in 5:1. With the intensive καί comp. the readings Romans 8:24, τί καὶ ἐλπίζει and τίς καἰ ὑπομένει. If resurrection is absolutely a fiction, then baptism for the dead is an absurdity.
Both 2. and 3. have the decisive merit of satisfying the ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν at the end of the verse. These words would be superfluous, or even inexplicable, if St Paul were speaking simply of ordinary Christian baptism.
30. Another practical result of denying the possibility of resurrection is that it makes a great deal of the Christian life seem absurd, and that it destroys a very powerful motive for good behaviour. The hope of rewards is not the highest motive for virtue, but, if the reward hoped for is not an ignoble one, such as sensual pleasure or financial gain, to be influenced by the hope of rewards is not immoral. Righteousness simply for righteousness’ sake is not a sufficient motive for all of us at all times; and even to those who find it sufficient, the thought of reward may be a help, especially such reward as the joy of a good conscience in this life and the inconceivable bliss of the beatific vision in the next. Destroy the belief in a future life, and, although the joy of a good conscience would still remain, yet a powerful motive for good conduct, and therefore a powerful defence against temptation, would be lost.
After βαπτίζονται we must read ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν (א A B D* E F G K P, Vulg. Copt. Arm. RV.) rather than ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν (D3 L, AV.).
τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; ‘Why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?’ The καί is not intensive as in the previous question; not, ‘Why in the world do we stand in jeopardy?’ The καί means that ‘we also, as well as those who receive baptism for the dead, are affected by the denial of this doctrine.’ The καὶ ἡμεῖς therefore implies that the Apostle and others like him are not among those who receive baptism for the dead. And ἡμεῖς must not be made more definite, as ‘we Apostles’ or ‘we preachers.’ It includes all those who, like St Paul, incur great risks for the Gospel. ‘Every hour’ is a vivid after-thought; danger is never absent from such lives; Romans 8:36; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12.
31. And the danger is neither rare nor trifling. Every day he goes about with his life in his hands: obsideor assiduis mortibus quotidie (Calv.). Possibly he refers also to the moribund condition of his body, but the chief reference is to external perils which might any day be fatal; 2 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 11:23, ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις. What assurance is he to give them for the truth of this strong statement? The estimation in which (as they know) he holds them. ‘As surely as I am proud of you,’ or, ‘I affirm it by the glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ It is, however, not in any earthly sphere that he has this feeling, but ἐν Χριστῷ Ἱησοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. The full titles show how great the security is, and the ἔχω perhaps implies that he regards his exultation over them as a valuable possession. We have similar asseverations 2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 11:10, 2 Corinthians 12:19. Origen asks whether the Apostle does not here violate the evangelical command, Swear not at all, and leaves the question unanswered. Atto remarks that the fact that the Apostle here uses an oath proves that an oath is not always wrong; quod ipse Dominus manifestat, dum non dicit quod amplius malum est, sed a malo (Matthew 5:37). Ωή occurs here only in the N.T., and in the LXX only Genesis 42:15, Genesis 42:16, νὴ τὴν ὑγίειαν Φαραώ: but comp. 1 Samuel 1:26, 1 Samuel 1:3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35. Outside the Pauline Epistles, καύχησις, καύχημα, καυχᾶσθαι are rare in the N.T.; comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Php 2:16; and for the feeling without this word, Colossians 1:4. The affectionate ἀδελφοί (which D E F G L, Orig. Chrys. omit) comes very naturally in the middle of the affectionate asseveration; ‘I assure you by the brotherly pride in your faith with which I am possessed in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rutherford).
32. εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάησα ἐν Ἑφέσῳ. ‘If from merely human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.’ The exact meaning of κατὰ ἄνθρωπον (3:3, 9:8; Romans 3:5; Galatians 1:11, Galatians 3:15) depends on the context. Here it is placed first with emphasis, to show that the Apostle is speaking hypo thetically from the ordinary secular point of view. It is beside the mark to say that he ought to have had a much higher view. Taking common human estimates as his standard, he would have asked, Is it worth the risk? Will it pay? And he would have said, No. Humanae vitae respectu, ita ut nobis constet praemium in hoc mundo (Calv.); humano auctoramento, spe vitae praesentis (Beng.). No doubt, ἐθηριομάχησα, ‘I was a θηριομάχος, a wild-beast fighter,’ is metaphorical.* St Paul was a Roman citizen, and could not be compelled to fight as a bestiarius or venator in the arena, nor could he be flung as a criminal ad leonem. If, in spite of his citizenship, this had taken place, he would have mentioned the outrage and miraculous escape in 2 Corinthians 11:23f., and St Luke would hardly have omitted it in Acts. He means that he was near being torn to pieces by infuriated men. Per allegoriam bestiae intelliguntur adversariae potestates. Sicut in Psalmo; Ne tradas bestiis confitentem tibi (Primasius). Heraclitus is said to have called the Ephesians θηρία, and to have given this as a reason for not being one of their rulers. Pompey at Pharsalus said, οἵοις θηρίοις μαχόμεθα (Appian B.C. ii. 11). Origen characteristically remarks, ἔστι καὶ θηρία νοητά. Comp. Psalm 22:13, Psalm 22:14; Titus 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:17; and Ignat. Rom_5, Smyrn. 4, with Lightfoot’s notes. The uproar caused by Demetrius (Act_19.) was probably later than this. The climax, peril (κινδυνεύομεν), peril of death (ἀποθνήσκω), peril of a horrible death (ἐθηριομάχησα), is perhaps intentional. We have θεομάχος (Acts 5:39), θεομαχεῖν (Acts 23:9, TR.).†
τί μοι τὸ ὅφελοσ; ‘What is the profit to me?’ Where is the gain to compensate a man for such dreadful dangers? Τί ὄφελος, without the article (Jam 2:14, Jam 2:16), is more colloquial; so also in Plato and Philo. In LXX, ὄφελος occurs Job 15:3 only. Here the sentence ends: it has its conditional clause in front of it. The next conditional clause belongs to the next sentence.
εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. For the sixth time we have the foolish dogma of the τινες quoted, ‘Dead people are not raised.’ If that disastrous dictum were true, they might be advising one another to adopt the impious conduct of the people in Jerusalem, Let us eat and drink, etc. (LXX of Isaiah 22:13). St Paul is not stating his own view, but the common view, the inevitable moral result of denying a future life (Isaiah 56:12; Ecclesiastes 2:24, Ecclesiastes 2:3:12, Ecclesiastes 2:5:18, Ecclesiastes 2:8:15, Ecclesiastes 2:9:7; Luke 12:19; and esp. Wisd. 2:6-9). Similar passages abound in classical writers; Hdt. ii. 78; Thuc. ii. 53; Eur. Alc. 788 f.; Hor. Od. II. iii. 13. At Trimalchio’s banquet (Petron. Satyr. 34), the thought of the dead makes the guests exclaim,
Heu ! heu ! nos miseros ! quam totus homuncio nil est !
Sic erimus cuncti postquam nos auferet Orcus.
Ergo vivamus dum licet esse bene.
The advice is despondent rather than defiant; but in any case the Apostle suggests that it is shocking, and therefore the doctrine of annihilation, on which it is based, must be untrue. No Christian can accept it, but those who deny that there is a life after death are only too likely to accept it. Belief in a resurrection is a moral safeguard. See Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, pp. 123-125. St Paul has no sympathy with moral ideals which provide no forgiveness of sins; and without Christ’s Death and Resurrection there is no forgiveness.
33. Having quoted the natural but fatal advice which might be given to them, he passes on to give advice which is wholesome and necessary. Here we get his own view.
μὴ πλανᾶσθε. ‘Do not begin to be led astray’ (6:9), nolite seduci (Vulg.); or (better), ‘Cease to be led astray’ by such Epicurean principles: 6:9; Galatians 6:7; Jam 1:16, where see Hort’s note. He perhaps wishes to intimate that some of them have been captivated by this specious, but immoral doctrine. The quotation that follows confirms this.
φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. ‘Evil companionships mar good morals,’ or ‘Bad company spoils noble characters.’ It is uncertain whether Menander adopted a popular proverb, or the saying passed from the Thais into popular use. St Paul may have got the saying from either source; but the form χρηστά (for the reading χρησθʼ has hardly any authority) points to the proverb rather than the play. The saying is specially true of the Christian life, and the friends and acquaintances of the Corinthian Christians were mostly heathen; 7:12, 8:10, 10:27; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. Neither ὁμιλίαι nor ἤθη is found elsewhere in the N.T. The former combines the meanings of ‘conversations’ and ‘societies’ or ‘companies,’ colloquia (Vulg.), commercia (Beza), LXX of Proverbs 7:21; Wisd. 8:18. We cannot infer from this passage, combined with Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12, that St Paul was well acquainted with classical writers; his quotations may have been common-places. Origen (Hom. xxxi. in Luc.) says that St Paul borrows words even from heathen in order to hallow them.
34. ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε. Aor. imperat., between two presents with the negative: μὴ πλανᾶσθε … ἐκνήψατε … μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε. ‘Once for all shake off your drowsiness in a right spirit, and do not begin to sin,’ i.e. do not let yourselves drift into evil courses by dallying with false opinions; or, ‘Get rid of your stupor with a righteous resolve, and cease to go wrong’ in bad company. The strong metaphor, ἐκνήψατε, implies that they were already in a grievous case. He addresses them, says Chrysostom, as if they were drunk or mad. Hence, evigilate (Vulg.) is hardly strong enough. The verb is used in a literal sense Genesis 9:24; 1 Samuel 25:37; Joel 1:5 cf. ἀνανήψωσιν ἐκ τῆς διαβόλου παγίδος (2 Timothy 2:26). Of its use here Beng. says; exclamatio plena majestatis apostolicae: nowhere else in N.T.
It is possible that these sceptics claimed to be sober thinkers, and condemned the belief in a resurrection as a wild enthusiasm. If so, we have an explanation of the rather strange combination of δικαίως with ἐκνήψατε.
ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ Θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν. ‘For utter ignorance of God is what some (v. 12) have got.’ This is their disease, and they must get rid of it: for ἔχειν in this sense see Mark 3:10, Mark 9:17, Acts 28:9. He says ἀγνωσίαν ἔχειν rather than ἀγνοεῖν or οὐκ εἰδέναι or οὐ γινώσκειν (1:21) as being much stronger; and rather than γνῶσιν οὐκ ἔχειν as intimating that they not merely fail to possess what is good and necessary, but possess what is evil. Agnosticism is not so much privation and poverty, as positive peril. Is St Paul thinking of Wisd. 13:1? Μάταιοι μὲν γὰρ πάντες ἄνθρωποι φύσει, οἷς παρῆν Θεοῦ ἀγνωσία. On “the unquestionable acquaintance of St. Paul with Book” of Wisdom see Hastings, DB. iv. pp. 930f. Ἀγνωσία is not ἄγνοια, ignorantia, the absence of knowledge, but ignoratio, the failure or inability to take knowledge. These Corinthians had no power of appreciating God’s existence or presence, His nature or will. See Hort on 1 Peter 2:15; also on Jam 2:18.
πρὸς ἐντοροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ. ‘It is to move you to shame (6:5; Ps. 34:26) that I am speaking to you in this manner.’ It was indeed a bitter thing for Corinthians, who prided themselves on their intelligence, to be told that as regards the knowledge of God they were more purblind than the heathen. Paulus ignorantiam Dei illis exprobans, omni prorsus honore eos spoliat (Calv.). Their inability to recognize the power and goodness of God was shown in their dogmatic assertion that He does not raise the dead. See on 4:14 and 6:5; also Milligan, Greek Papyri, p. 22.
λαλῶ (א B D E P 17) is certainly to be preferred to λέγω (A F G K L); loquor (Vulg.) dico (f g).
15:35-58. ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS; THE NATURE OF THE BODY OF THE RISEN
Again we have three subdivisions; (a) The Answers of Nature and of Scripture, 35-49; (b) Victory over Death, 50-57; (c) Practical Result, 58.
Plato in the Phaedo, and Cicero in the Tusculan Disputations, argue for a future life; but resurrection is beyond their view. Does St Paul confuse the resurrection of the body with the immortality of the soul? Only so far as those with whom he is arguing confused the two. According to current ideas, to deny the possibility of resurrection was coming very near to denying any real life beyond the grave. The body was commonly regarded as the security for the preservation of personality. If the body was never to be preserved, the survival of the soul would be precarious or worthless. Either the finite spirit would be absorbed in the Infinite Spirit, or its separate existence would be shadowy, insipid, and joyless. St Paul shapes his argument to meet both classes,—those who denied the resurrection of the body, but allowed the survival of the soul, and those who denied both. Christ, in refuting the Sadducees, treated the two doctrines as so closely connected that to admit immortality and deny resurrection was illogical.* Christ argues from the Living God, as St Paul from the Risen Christ. The continued relation of the Living God to each one of the patriarchs implied the permanence of their personal life. The continued relation of believers to the Christ who has been raised in the body implies the permanence of their bodily life. See Swete, The Ascended Christ, p. 138.
In working onwards to the triumphant conclusion, St Paul frequently falls into the rhythmical parallelism which distinguishes Hebrew poetry: see especially vv. 42 f. and 51 f.
People ask how the body that dies and the body that is raised can be the same. Nature itself shows that there is no necessity for their being the same. The seed and the plant that rises from it are so far from being the same, that the one must die in order that the other may live. Even between bodies that are material there are endless possibilities of difference; and not all bodies are material. There may be immense differences, yet real relationship, between the body that dies and the body that is raised. Scripture confirms this.
The transformation of the material body that dies into a glorified body that will not die is not only possible, but necessary and certain; and hence the completeness of the victory over Death.
With this certainty before you, be steadfast, working in sure hope of eternal life.
35 But some one is sure to object, Is it possible for the dead to be raised? Why, with what kind of a body will they come back? 36 The question may seem to be clever, but it is really very foolish, and daily experience answers it. The seed which you yourself sow can have no new life given to it, unless it dies: 37 and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but just a leafless grain; say a grain of wheat, or of any other plant. 38 But it is God who gives it a body just as He ordained it from the first, and to every one of the seeds the kind of body that is appropriate to it. 39 Even now, without taking account of resurrection, flesh is not all of it the same in kind: there is flesh of men, and of beasts, and of birds, and of fishes,—all different. 40 Moreover, there are bodies fitted for existence in heaven, and bodies fitted for existence on earth; but the beauty of the heavenly bodies is quite different from the beauty of the earthly. 41 The sun has a splendour of its own; so has the moon; and so have all the stars, for no two stars are the same in splendour. 42 These differences are very great, yet we think them natural. There is just as much difference between the body that dies and the body that is raised, and the change need not seem incredible. Think of the body as a seed committed to the ground.
It is sown a thing perishable, it is raised imperishable.
43 It is sown in disability, it is raised in full glory.
It is sown in powerlessness, it is raised in full vigour.
44 It is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual body.
As surely as there exists an animal body,
So surely there exists a spiritual one.
45 Yes, this is the meaning of that which stands written,
The first man Adam became a life-having sou
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
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?
And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
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.
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.