1 Corinthians 15:36
You fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(36) Thou fool.—Better, Fool, or more literally, Senseless one. The word in the Greek has not the sense of opprobrium conveyed in the word translated “fool” in Matthew 5:22; Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19. You who with your own hand sow seed, ask such a question as that! The Apostle now proceeds to show, by the analogies in Nature, how a resurrection of a body is possible, how substantial identity may be preserved under variation of form. The Apostle does not here prove anything. Analogy cannot ever be regarded as logically conclusive as an argument. The object of analogy is to show how a difficulty is not insuperable. The doctrine of the resurrection has been logically established. A difficulty is suggested as to how it is possible. Analogy shows that the same difficulty exists in theory in other directions where we actually see it surmounted in fact. It is most important to bear this in mind, as some writers, forgetful of the difference between a logical argument and an illustration from analogy, have regarded some of the Apostle’s “arguments” in these verses as inconclusive. The fact of a buried seed rising into flower does not and cannot prove that man will rise; but it does show that the objection suggested in the question, “How are the dead raised up?” is not a practical difficulty.

We have in these verses three illustrations of the preservation of identity under change of form:—(1) Seeds growing into flowers and fruit; (2) flesh in the variety of men, beasts, fishes, and birds; (3) heavenly and earthly bodies in infinite variety of form and of glory.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38. Thou fool — Greek, αφρον, without mind, or understanding. Or, thou inconsiderate and thoughtless creature, who thinkest a matter impossible, of the possibility of which thou hast an example in the very seed thou sowest. Macknight thinks the apostle here addresses the false teacher at Corinth, “giving him the appellation of fool in the same sense, and for the same reason, that our Lord himself called the Pharisees fools, namely, on account of their ignorance and wickedness, Matthew 22:17.” What thou sowest is not quickened except it die — “To illustrate the possibility of the resurrection, the apostle appeals to a thing which men every day behold, and which is little less wonderful than the resurrection itself, the reproduction of grain from seed sown, which does not grow unless it be rotted in the ground. But after its body is destroyed something springs out of it, which, by a wonderful process, the effect of the power of God, ends in the reproduction of the same kind of grain, not bare as it was sown, but richly adorned with blades, stalk, and ear.” Thomas Paine, in his “Age of Reason,” and some other modern infidels, have maintained, against the apostle, “that the seed does not die in vegetation, because the germe lives and expands itself, and only the extraneous matter corrupts. But in fact the seed, as such, doth die: it ceases to be a grain of corn; though a part of it springs, as it were, into new life, by a process which we can no more comprehend than we can the manner of the resurrection. Even Lucretius, the Epicurean atheist, says, ‘Whatever change transfers a body into a new class of beings, may be justly called the death of the original substance: for what is changed from what it was, that dies.’” — Scott. And that which thou sowest is not the body that shall be — Produced from the seed committed to the ground; but bare, naked, grain — Widely different from that which will afterward rise out of the earth. But God — Not thou, O man, nor the grain itself; giveth it a body — In the course of his natural operations, by certain laws of vegetation, with which thou art entirely unacquainted; as it hath pleased him — With such a variety of parts as he hath thought fit to determine for that particular species; and to each of the seeds — Not only of the fruits and plants, but animals also, to which the apostle rises in the following verse; its own body — Not only a body of the same sort, but that which, by virtue of some connection it had with this or that individual grain, may properly be called its own, though in its form much different, and much more beautiful. It is justly observed by Dr. Macknight here, that, “having such an example of the divine power before our eyes, we cannot think the reproduction of the body impossible, though its parts be utterly dissipated. And although the very numerical body be not raised, which the apostle intimates when he affirms that the grain produced from the seed sown is not the very body which is sown, yet the body is truly raised; because what is raised being united to the soul, there will arise in the man, thus completed, a consciousness of identity, by which he will be sensible of the justice of the retribution which is made to him for his deeds. Besides, this new body will more than supply the place of the old, by serving every purpose necessary to the perfection and happiness of the man in his new state. According to this view of the subject, the objection taken from the scattering of the particles of the body that die, has no place, because it does not seem necessary that the body to be raised should be composed of them; for the Scripture nowhere affirms that the same numerical body is to be raised. In the opinion of some, indeed, the example of the grain which first dies, and then revives, is mentioned to intimate, that in the human body there is a seminal principle, which is not destroyed by death; and which, at the appointed season, will reproduce the body in a more excellent form than before, through the quickening influence of his power. But is a seminal principle any thing different from that power? What occasion then have we to carry our thoughts in this matter beyond God’s power? Besides, as there is no inextinguishable principle in plants, the analogy doth not hold. I therefore suppose this wonderful, though common instance, is mentioned, to show that the resurrection of the body is not beyond the power of God to accomplish; and that it may certainly be expected according to Christ’s promise.” 15:35-50 1. How are the dead raised up? that is, by what means? How can they be raised? 2. As to the bodies which shall rise. Will it be with the like shape, and form, and stature, and members, and qualities? The former objection is that of those who opposed the doctrine, the latter of curious doubters. To the first the answer is, This was to be brought about by Divine power; that power which all may see does somewhat like it, year after year, in the death and revival of the corn. It is foolish to question the Almighty power of God to raise the dead, when we see it every day quickening and reviving things that are dead. To the second inquiry; The grain undergoes a great change; and so will the dead, when they rise and live again. The seed dies, though a part of it springs into new life, though how it is we cannot fully understand. The works of creation and providence daily teach us to be humble, as well as to admire the Creator's wisdom and goodness. There is a great variety among other bodies, as there is among plants. There is a variety of glory among heavenly bodies. The bodies of the dead, when they rise, will be fitted for the heavenly bodies. The bodies of the dead, when they rise, will be fitted for the heavenly state; and there will be a variety of glories among them. Burying the dead, is like committing seed to the earth, that it may spring out of it again. Nothing is more loathsome than a dead body. But believers shall at the resurrection have bodies, made fit to be for ever united with spirits made perfect. To God all things are possible. He is the Author and Source of spiritual life and holiness, unto all his people, by the supply of his Holy Spirit to the soul; and he will also quicken and change the body by his Spirit. The dead in Christ shall not only rise, but shall rise thus gloriously changed. The bodies of the saints, when they rise again, will be changed. They will be then glorious and spiritual bodies, fitted to the heavenly world and state, where they are ever afterwards to dwell. The human body in its present form, and with its wants and weaknesses, cannot enter or enjoy the kingdom of God. Then let us not sow to the flesh, of which we can only reap corruption. And the body follows the state of the soul. He, therefore, who neglects the life of the soul, casts away his present good; he who refuses to live to God, squanders all he has.Thou fool - Foolish, inconsiderate man! The meaning is, that it was foolish to make this objection, when the same difficulty existed in an undeniable fact which fell under daily observation. A man was a fool to urge that as an objection to religion which must exist in the undeniable and everyday facts which they witnessed. The idea is, "The same difficulty may be started about the growth of grain. Suppose a man who had never seen it, were to be told that it was to be put into the earth; that it was to die; to be decomposed; and that from the decayed kernel there should be seen to start up first a slender, green, and tender spire of grass, and that this was to send up a strong stalk, and was to produce hundreds of similar kernels at some distant period. These facts would be as improbable to him as the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. When he saw the kernel laid in the ground; when he saw it decay; when apparently it was returning to dust, he would ask, How can these be connected with the production of similar grain? Are not all the indications that it will be totally corrupted and destroyed?"

Yet, says Paul, this is connected with the hope of the harvest, and this fact should remove all the objection which is derived from the fact that the body returns to its native dust. The idea is, that there is an analogy, and that the main objection in the one case would lie equally well against the acknowledged and indisputable fact in the other. It is evident, however, that this argument is of a popular character, and is not to be pressed to the quick; nor are we to suppose that the resemblance will be in all respects the same. It is to be used as Paul used it. The objection was, that the body died, and returned to dust, and could not, therefore, rise again. The reply of Paul is, "You may make the same objection to grain that is sown. That dies also. The main body of the kernel decays. In itself there is no prospect that it will spring up. Should it stop here, and had you never seen a grain of wheat grow; had you only seen it in the earth, as you have seen the body in the grave, there would be the same difficulty as to how it would produce other grains, which there is about the resurrection of the body."

Is not quickened - Does not become alive; does not grow.

Except it die - See the note on John 12:24. The main body of the grain decays that it may become food and nourishment to the tender germ. Perhaps it is implied here also that there was a fitness that people should die in order to obtain the glorious body of the resurrection, in the same way as it is fit that the kernel should die, in order that there may be a new and beautiful harvest.

36. fool—with all thy boasted philosophy (Ps 14:1).

that which thou—"thou," emphatical: appeal to the objector's own experience: "The seed which thou thyself sowest." Paul, in this verse and in 1Co 15:42, answers the question of 1Co 15:35, "How?" and in 1Co 15:37-41, 43, the question, "With what kind of body?" He converts the very objection (the death of the natural body) into an argument. Death, so far from preventing quickening, is the necessary prelude and prognostication of it, just as the seed "is not quickened" into a new sprout with increased produce, "except it die" (except a dissolution of its previous organization takes place). Christ by His death for us has not given us a reprieve from death as to the life which we have from Adam; nay, He permits the law to take its course on our fleshly nature; but He brings from Himself new spiritual and heavenly life out of death (1Co 15:37).

He saith not: Thou fool, in anger, (which is that using of this term which our Saviour saith, Matthew 5:22 brings a man under the danger of hell fire), but in the way of a grave and authoritative reproof, calling them fools for their want of a due understanding of the things and ways of God. He lets them know, that they might as well ask, how the grain of wheat, which they ordinarily sowed in their field, did rise again; for that grain also rotteth under the clods of the earth, under which it is buried, before it again riseth. Thou fool,.... Not transgressing the law of Christ, which makes him that calls his brother a fool in danger of hell fire; for the apostle said not this in anger, and from a malevolent disposition, as that rule supposes, but out of zeal for truth, and to reprove the stupidity and folly of such a bold objector; in opposing the veracity and power of God, in setting up his reason above divine revelation, and in not attending even to natural philosophy itself; in which professing to be wise he might be justly called a fool, and therefore sends him to the husbandman to learn of him how to answer his own queries:

that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and which is more especially true of a grain of wheat: our Lord observes the same; see Gill on John 12:24, and designs by the simile his own death, and resurrection, and the fruit following thereon. This seed being cast into the earth corrupts, rots, and dies, and then is quickened, and rises up in stalk, blade, and ear. Which shows that the dissolution and corruption of the body by death is so far from being an objection to its resurrection, that it is necessary to it, even as the dying and putrifying of the seed, or grain of wheat, is necessary to its quickening and rising up again; and that if God is able to quicken a seed or grain that is rotten and entirely dead, and cause it to rise up in verdure and with much fruit, as he does every year in millions of instances, why should it be thought incredible that God should quicken dead bodies, when the one is as much an instance of his power as the other? The Claromontane exemplar reads, "except it die first"; and so the Vulgate Latin version.

{21} Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

(21) You might have learned either of these, Paul says, by daily experience: for seeds are sown, and rot, and yet nonetheless they are far from perishing, but rather they grow up far more beautiful. And whereas they are sown naked and dry, they spring up green from death by the power of God: and does it seem incredible to you that our bodies should rise from corruption, and that endued with a far more excellent quality?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 15:36-41. In the first place, analogies from the experience of nature,[72] by way of preparation for the instruction, which then follows at 1 Corinthians 15:42 ff., regarding the ποιότης of the resurrection-body inquired abou.

ἄφρων] The deniers have thus, on the assumption of the identity of the resurrection-body with the body which is buried, found the ποιότης of the former to be inconceivable; but how foolish is this assumption! The nominative is not address, because without the article, but exclamation; so that to explain it grammatically we must supply εἶ. Comp. Luke 12:20 (Lachmann, Tischendorf), and see, generally, Bernhardy, p. 67; Winer, p. 172 [E. T. 228]; Kühner, II. § 507 c, remar.

σὺ ὃ σπείρεις] What thou sowest, is not made alive, etc. The σύ has the emphasis of the subsequent contrast with the divine agency in 1 Corinthians 15:38 : Thou on thy part; hence we must not take ἄφρων σύ togethe.

ζωοποιεῖται] description (suggested by the thing typified) of the springing up of the seed, which must first of all die; inasmuch, namely, as the living principle in it, the germ, grows out thereof, and the grain containing it becomes subject to decomposition. Comp. John 12:24. The ἀποθανεῖν is therefore, in the case of the seed sown, the analogue of the decay of the body buried. As the seed-corn in the earth must die by decomposition, in order to become alive in the springing germ, so must the body decay in the earth in order to become alive in the resurrection-body arising out of it at the resurrection of the dead. That it is not simply the necessity of dying to attain the resurrection-life (van Hengel; comp. Rückert and Holsten, z. Ev. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 374) which is depicted, is clear from this, that in the explanation of the resurrection the being sown necessarily represents the burial, and consequently the ἀποθανεῖν of the seed-corn, because it follows after the being sown, must correspond to the decay of the body.

[72] Comp. Clement, 1 Cor. 24.1 Corinthians 15:36. ἄφρων (opposite of φρόνιμοι, 1 Corinthians 4:10, 1 Corinthians 10:15) taxes the propounder of these questions not with moral obliquity, but with mental stupidity (see parls.). Wanting the art[2481] (cf. Luke 12:20), the word is an assertion rather than an exclamation: “Insensé que tu es, toi qui te crois si sage!” (Gd[2482]). Some attach σὺ as subject to ἄφρων, but this weakens the adj[2483], and the pron[2484] is required to give due emphasis to ὃ σπείρεις following. With a little sense, the questioner might answer himself; every time he sows his garden-plot, he assumes the principle denied in regard to man’s material form, viz., that death is the transition to a further life—“that which thou thyself sowest, is not made alive except it die”.This answers πῶς ἐγείρονται; by ref[2485] to the analogy of nature. P. does not explain, any more than Jesus, the modus operandi of the Resurrection; what he shows is that the mystery raises no prejudice against the reality, for the same mystery is wrapped up in every vegetating seed.—ἐγείρονται in the question is substituted by ζωοποιεῖται in the answer (see note on 1 Corinthians 15:22; cf. other parls.), since it is life that rises out of the dying seed, and the Resurrection is an evolution, not a reinstatement. Our Lord uses the same figure with the like implication, but another application, in John 12:23 f.

[2481] grammatical article.

[2482] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[2483] adjective.

[2484]ron. pronoun.

[2485] reference.36. Thou fool] Literally, O man without understanding. Insipiens, Vulg. Unwise man, Wiclif. The stronger term fool (μωρός) (except in ch. 1 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 4:10) seems in the Scriptures to imply moral as well as intellectual error.

that which thou sowest] The word thou is emphatic in the original: “Thou who art mortal and perishing.’ Chrysostom. “The force or emphasis may be gathered thus. If God doth give a body unto that seed which thou sowest for thine own use and benefit, much more will the same God give a body unto the seed which He himself doth sow.” Dr J. Jackson.

is not quickened, except it die] “Thus what they made a sure sign of our not rising again he makes a proof of our rising.” Chrysostom. Cf. St John 12:24. It is a law of the spiritual as well as the natural world that decay is the parent of life. From the Fall came corruption, from ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ a new and higher life. Humanity died to sin in Christ: it arose again to righteousness in Him.1 Corinthians 15:36. Ἄφρον, Thou fool) The apostle wonders, that any one could have any difficulty on this subject, he considered it as a thing so certain. This also appertains to the shame [which their ignorance of God reflected on them], 1 Corinthians 15:34. To that man inquiring about the way [how are the dead raised?] of the resurrection, and the quality of the bodies rising [with what body do they come?] he answers first by a similitude, 36–42, at the middle; then, without a similitude, 1 Corinthians 15:42, etc. In the similitude, the protasis and apodosis admirably correspond to each other: and the question is concerning the way of the resurrection in the protasis, 1 Corinthians 15:36; in the apodosis, 1 Corinthians 15:42, it is sown, etc.: then concerning the quality of the bodies, in the protasis, 1 Corinthians 15:37-41 : in the apodosis, 1 Corinthians 15:43.—σὺ) thou thyself, silly fellow.—σπείρεις, sowest) in the field. A copious allegory follows.—οὐ ζωοποιεῖται, is not quickened) to a new sprout.—εἂν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ, unless it die) Paul completely retorts the objection [converts the very objection into an argument]: death does not prevent quickening, but goes before it, as the prelude and prognostication, as sowing precedes the harvest.Verse 36. - Thou fool. The expression is too strong, and it is unfortunate that in English it seems to run contrary to the distinct censure of such language by our Lord. But here the Greek word is aphron, "O unreasonable!" (the nominative is used for the vocative); Vulgate, insipiens; Wickliffe, "unwise man." It is merely a reproach for neglecting to exercise the understanding. The word "fool!" (more) forbidden by our Lord (Matthew 5:22) has quite a different meaning, and implies quite a different tone. It involves moral depravity or obstinacy (Matthew 7:26; Matthew 23:17, etc.). The milder aphron is used in 2 Corinthians 11:16, 19; 2 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 5:17; and by our Lord himself. That which thou sowest. The "thou" is emphatic. It merely means "Even the analogy of human sowing ought to remove thy difficulty." The growth of the seed shows that there may be personal identity under a complete change of material conditions. Is not quickened, except it die. The metaphor is used by our Lord (John 12:24, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit"). It is also found in the Talmud. Thou sowest (σὺ οπείρεις)

Thou is emphatic. Every time thou sowest, thou sowest something which is quickened only through dying. Paul is not partial to metaphors from nature, and his references of this character are mostly to nature in connection with human labor. Dean Howson says: "We find more of this kind of illustration in the one short epistle of St. James than in all the writings of St. Paul" ("Metaphors of St. Paul." Compare Farrar's "Paul," i., 20, 21).

Die

Become corrupted. Applied to the seed in order to keep up the analogy with the body.

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