Baptism For the Dead
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Baptism For the Dead


(baptizomai huper ton nekron).

_1. Paul's Argument:

Some of the Corinthian Christians denied the resurrection of the dead, and Paul advances three arguments to convince them that the dead will be raised:

(1) "If there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised," but Christ is raised (1 Corinthians 15:13, 20).

(2) If the dead are not raised, why are men being baptized for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29)?

(3) Why should the apostle himself wage his spiritual warfare (1 Corinthians 15:30)? The first argument rests upon the central fact of Christianity, and the other two are appeals to the consistency of the Corinthians, and of Paul himself. Whatever "baptism for the dead" meant, it was, in Paul's opinion, as real, valid and legitimate a premise from which to conclude that the dead would rise as his own sufferings. The natural meaning of the words is obvious. Men in Corinth, and possibly elsewhere, were being continually baptized on behalf of others who were at the time dead, with a view to benefiting them in the resurrection, but if there be no resurrection, what shall they thus accomplish, and why do they do it? "The only legitimate reference is to a practice. of survivors allowing themselves to be baptized on behalf of (believing?) friends who had died without baptism" (Alford in the place cited.).

2. Patristic Evidence:

Tertullian believed that Paul referred to a custom of vicarious baptism (Res., 48c; Adv. Marc., 5.10). There is evidence that the early church knew such a practice. Epiphanius mentions a tradition that the custom obtained among the Cerinthians (Haer., 28 6). And Chrysostom states that it prevailed among the Marcionites.

3. Modern Views:

But commentators have offered between thirty and forty other interpretations, more or less strained, of the passage. (For a summary of different views see T. C. Edwards and Stanley, Comms., at the place) Two of the most reasonable views from recent commentators are: "What shall they do who receive baptism on account of the dead? i.e. with a view to the resurrection of the dead?" and therefore to sharing in it themselves (Canon Evans, Speaker's Comm., at the place); "that the death of Christians led to the conversion of survivors, who in the first instance `for the sake of the dead' (their beloved dead), and in the hope of reunion, turn to Christ" (Findlay, Expositor's Greek Test., at the place). Both ideas may be true, but they are simply imported into this passage, and the latter also is quite irrelevant to the argument and makes Paul identify conversion with baptism.

4. The Difficulty:

But why is all this ingenuity expended to evade the natural meaning? Because

(1) such a custom would be a superstition involving the principle of opus operarum; and

(2) Paul could not share or even tolerate a contemporary idea which is now regarded as superstition.

To reply (with Alford) that Paul does not approve the custom will not serve the purpose, for he would scarcely base so great an argument, even as an argumentum ad hominem, on a practice which he regarded as wholly false and superstitious. The retort of those who denied the resurrection would be too obvious. But why should it be necessary to suppose that Paul rose above all the limitations of his age? The idea that symbolic acts had a vicarious significance had sunk deeply into the Jewish mind, and it would not be surprising if it took more than twenty years for the leaven of the gospel to work all the Jew out of Paul. At least it serves the apostle's credit ill to make his argument meaningless or absurd in order to save him from sharing at all in the inadequate conceptions of his age. He made for himself no claim of infallibility.

T. Rees


In Baptism, which is the Similitude of the Death and Resurrection ...
... therefore to these also applies what follows: "Therefore we are buried with Him
by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the ...
/.../augustine/the enchiridion/chapter 52 in baptism which is.htm

Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, Continued How are the ...
... [5631] Do not then suppose that the apostle here indicates some new god
as the author and advocate of this (baptism for the dead. ...
/.../the five books against marcion/chapter x doctrine of the resurrection.htm

Baptism and Original Sin
... ours, which is springing to life anew from the old death in which we had been dead
to sin. 42. This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is ...
/.../augustine/handbook on faith hope and love/chapter xiii baptism and original.htm

Baptism --A Burial
... because if I am to be buried, it should not be so much because I accept the
substitutionary death of another for me as because I am dead myself. Baptism is ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 27 1881/baptisma burial.htm

On the Instruction of Catechumens, and their Initiation into ...
... Him, therefore, let the priest even now call upon in baptism, and let him say: Look
down ... with Him to the adoption which is in Him, that he may be dead to sin ...
/.../various/constitutions of the holy apostles/sec iii on the instruction of.htm

Epistle Lxx. To Quintus, Concerning the Baptism of Heretics.
... heretics to the true and only and legitimate baptism of the Catholic Church, not
considering that it is written, "He who is baptized by one dead, what availeth ...
/.../cyprian/the epistles of cyprian/epistle lxx to quintus concerning.htm

Sundry Passages in the Great ChapterOf the Resurrection of the ...
... it were a bodily resurrection, there would be no pledge secured by this process
of a corporeal baptism. "Why are they then baptized for the dead," [7630] he ...
/.../on the resurrection of the flesh/chapter xlviii sundry passages in the.htm

Lyra Germanica: Second Series: The Christian Life
... Baptism For a Christian Child. Baptism Renewal of the Vow. THE HOLY COMMUNION. ... AT
THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD. At the Burial of the Dead The Sure and Certain Hope. ...
/.../winkworth/lyra germanica second series the christian life/

On the Sacraments in General
... 141 Q. Why are Baptism and Penance called Sacraments of the dead? A. Baptism
and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead because ...
/.../kinkead/baltimore catechism no 4/lesson 13 on the sacraments.htm

The Mysteries of Christ's Mediatorial Work (48-49) and ...
... What follows in the epistle also pertains to this: "Therefore we were buried with
him by baptism into death; that, as Christ was raised up from the dead by the ...
/.../augustine/handbook on faith hope and love/chapter xiv the mysteries of.htm



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