Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
Verses 1-58. - The doctrine of the resurrection. This chapter, and the thirteenth, on Christian love, stand out, even among the writings of St. Paul, as pre-eminently beautiful and important. No human words ever written have brought such comfort to millions of mourners as the words of this chapter, which form a part of the Burial Service of almost every Christian community. It is the more deeply imprinted on the memory of men because it comes to us in the most solemn hours of bereavement, when we have most need of a living faith. The chapter falls into six sections.
1. The evidence of Christ's resurrection (vers. 1-11).
2. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith in the general resurrection (vers. 12-19).
3. Results to be deduced from Christ's resurrection (vers. 20 - 28).
4. The life of believers an argument for the resurrection (vers. 29-34).
5. Analogies helpful for understanding the subject (vers. 35-49).
6. Conclusion and exhortation (vers. 50-58). Verses 1-11. - The evidence of the resurrection of Christ. Verse 1. - Moreover. The δὲ of the original merely marks the transition to a new topic. The gospel. He here uses the word with special reference to the Resurrection, which is one of the most central and necessary doctrines of the "good tidings," and which always occupied a prominent place in St. Paul's preaching (Acts 17:18; Acts 23:6), as well as in that of all the apostles (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 3:21). Ye have received; rather, ye received. The "also" is emphatic. The Corinthians had not been like Christ's "own," who "received him not" (John 1:11).
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Verse 2. - By which also ye are saved; literally, ye are being saved. It is as if some surprise was expressed at the necessity for again making known to them a gospel which
(1) he had preached and
(2) they also received; and
(3) in which they now stood fast (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 6:13); and
(4) by means of which they were now in a state of safety, they were of the class of sozomenoi (Acts 2:47). If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you. The order, which is peculiar, is, "In what words I preached to you, if ye hold [it] fast." Possibly the "in what discourse" depends on "I make known to you." The duty of "holding fast" what they had heard is often impressed on the early converts (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Hebrews 10:23). Ye have believed; rather, ye believed; i.e. ye became believers. In vain. The word may either mean "rashly," "without evidence," as in classical Greek; or "to no purpose," "without effect," as in Romans 13:4; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11. In this case they would have received the seed in stony places (Matthew 13:21).
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
Verse 3. - First of all; literally, among the first things; but this idiom means "first of all." It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in Genesis 33:2; 2 Samuel 5:8 (LXX.). This testimony to the Resurrection is very remarkable, because:
1. It is the completest summary.
2. It refers to some incidents which are not mentioned in the Gospels.
3. It declares that the death and resurrection of Christ were a subject of ancient prophecy.
4. It shows the force of the evidence on which the apostles relied and the number of living eye witnesses to whom they could appeal.
5. It is the earliest written testimony to the Resurrection; for it was penned within twenty-five years of the event itself.
6. It shows that the evidence for the Resurrection as a literal, historical, objective fact, was sufficient to convince the powerful intellect of a hostile contemporary observer.
7. It probably embodies, and became the model for, a part of the earliest Creed of the Church. For our sins; literally, on behalf of. The passage is remarkable as the only one in which "on behalf of" is used with "sins" in St. Paul. In 1 Corinthians 1:13 we are told that he died" on behalf of us" (Romans 5:8; see 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). The expressions involve the image of Christ as a Sin Offering for the forgiveness of sins. According to the Scriptures. The chief passages alluded to are doubtless Isaiah 53:5, 8; Daniel 9:26; Psalm 22; Zechariah 12:10; together with such types as the offering of Isaac (Genesis 22.) and the Paschal lamb, etc. Our Lord had taught the apostles confidently to refer to the Messianic interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:25, 46: Acts 8:35; Acts 17:3; Acts 26:22, 23; John 2:22; John 20:9; 1 Peter 1:11).
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Verse 4. - And that he rose; rather, that he had been raised. The burial was a single act; the Resurrection is permanent and eternal in its issues. According to the Scriptures (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:10; comp. Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:4; Acts 2:31; Acts 13:34).
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
Verse 5. - Was seen of Cephas (Luke 24:34). The appearances to the women (John 20:14, etc.) are omitted, as being evidential rather to the apostles than to the world. The twelve (John 20:19, 26). Some officious scribes have in some manuscripts altered the word into" the eleven." But "the twelve" is here the designation of an office, and great ancient writers are always indifferent to mere pragmatic accuracy in trifles which involve nothing. To witness to the Resurrection was a main function of "the twelve" (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15; Acts 10:40, etc.).
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.
Verse 6. - Above five hundred brethren at once. We cannot be certain whether this memorable appearance took place in Jerusalem or in Galilee. It is, however, most probable that this was the appearance on the mountain (Matthew 28:16, 17; comp. Matthew 26:32). Of whom the greater part remain unto this present. This sentence - a confident contemporary appeal to a very large number of living witnesses, by one who would rather have died than lied - is of the highest evidential value. It shows that the Resurrection was not "a thing done in a corner "(Acts 26:26). Fallen asleep. The beautiful and common word for death in the New Testament (Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60, etc.). Hence the word "cemetery" - "a sleeping place."
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
Verse 7. - Seen of James. The "James" intended is undoubtedly the only James then living, who was known to the whole Christian Church, namely, "the Lord's brother," the author of the Epistle, and the Bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18). James the son of Zebedee had by this time been martyred, and James the son of Alphaeus was never much more than a name to the Church in general. There is no mention of this appearance in the Gospel; but in the Gospel of the Hebrews was a curious legend (preserved in St. Jerome, 'De Virr. Illust.,' 2.) that James had made a vow that he would neither eat nor drink till he had seen Jesus risen from the dead, and that Jesus, appearing to him, said, "My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from the dead." The truth of the appearance is strongly supported by the fact that James, like the rest of the Lord's "brothers," "did not believe" in Christ before the Crucifixion, whereas after the Resurrection we find him and the rest of "the Lord's brothers" ardently convinced (John 12:3-5; Acts 1:14; Acts 9:5, etc.). Of all the apostles (Acts 1:3; Luke 24:50). James the Lord's brother was only an apostle in the wider sense of the word.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
Verse 8. - He was seen of me also. The reference undoubtedly is to the vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5; Acts 22:14; Acts 26:16). As of one born out of due time; literally, as to the abortive born. The word means "the untimely fruit of a woman," a child born out of the due time or natural course; and hence "diminutive" and "weakly." The Greek ektroma is represented by the Latin abortivus. St. Paul, when he remembered the lateness of his conversion, and his past persecution of the saints, regards himself as standing in this relation to the twelve.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Verse 9. - For. This and the next verse are an explanation of the strong and strange term which he had applied to himself. The least of the apostles. In St. Paul there was a true and most deep humility, but no mock modesty. He knew the special gifts which he had received from God. He was well aware that to him had been entrusted the ten talents rather than the one talent. He could appeal to far vaster results than had been achieved by the work of any other apostle. He knew his own importance as "a chosen vessel," a special instrument in God's hands to work out exceptional results. But in himself he always felt, and did not shrink from confessing, that he was "nothing" (2 Corinthians 12:11). The notion that he here alludes to the meaning of his own name (Paulus, connected with παῦρος, φαῦρος, equivalent to "little") is very unlikely. In Ephesians 3:8 he goes further, and calls himself "less than the least of all saints," though even there he claims to have been the special apostle of the Gentiles. Because I persecuted the Church of God. This was the one sin for which, though he knew that God had forgiven him (1 Timothy 1:13), yet he could never quite forgive himself (Galatians 1:13). In my 'Life of St. Paul' I have shown from the language used, that this persecution was probably more deadly than has been usually supposed, involving not only torture, but actual bloodshed (Acts 8:4; Acts 9:1), besides the martyrdom of St. Stephen. We can imagine how such deeds and such scenes would, even after forgiveness, lie like sparks of fire in a sensitive conscience.
"Saints, did I say? with your remembered faces;
Dear men and women whom I sought and slew?
Oh, when I meet you in the heavenly places,
How will I weep to Stephen and to you!"
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.
Verse 10. - By the grace of God I am. what I am. And therefore he was "in nothing behind the very chiefest apostles." However humbly he thought of himself, it would have been mere unfaithfulness to disparage his own work (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6). I laboured more abundantly than they all. Because God wrought effectually in him (Galatians 2:8). The word used for "labour" implies the extreme of toil (Matthew 6:28: Philippians 2:16), etc. But the grace of God. "It is God that worketh in you" (Philippians 2:13; Matthew 10:20; Colossians 1:29).
Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Verse 11. - Whether it were I or they; namely, who preached this gospel to you. It is not his immediate object to maintain his independent apostolic claims, but only to appeal to the fact of the Resurrection which was preached by all the apostles alike. So. In accordance with the testimony just given (vers. 4-8). We preach. There are in the New Testament two words for "preaching." One is often rendered "prophesy," and refers to spiritual instruction and exhortation. The other, which is used here, is "we proclaim," or "herald" (kerusso), and refers to the statement of the facts of the gospel - Christ crucified and risen (1 Corinthians 2:2; Acts 4:2; Acts 8:5). Besides these, there is the one word for "to preach the gospel," or "evangelize."
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Verses 12-19. - The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith in the general resurrection. Verse 12. - Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead. St. Paul sees that if One has risen from the dead, the fact of that miracle, taken in connection with the rest of the gospel, furnishes Christians with a sufficient proof that they shall rise. "For," he had already said to the Thessalonians, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (see the same argument in Romans 8:11). That there is no resurrection of the dead. These deniers of the resurrection are usually called "the Corinthian Sadducees." After the state of social and moral laxity of which we have been reading, we can scarcely be surprised at the existence of any disorder or anomaly in the Church of Corinth. Yet it comes with something of a shock on our paralyzed sense of astonishment to read that some of these Christians actually denied a resurrection! The fact at once proves two remarkable truths, namely,
(1) that the early Christian Church had none of the ideal purity of doctrine which is sometimes ecclesiastically attributed to it; and
(2) that there was in the bosom of that Church a wide and most forbearing tolerance. We have no data to enable us to determine what were the influences which led to the denial of the resurrection.
1. They can hardly have been Jewish. The mass of Jews at this time shared the views of the Pharisees, who strongly maintained the resurrection (Acts 23:6). If they were Jews at all, they could only have been Sadducees or Essenes. But
(1) the Sadducees were a small, wealthy, and mainly political sect, who had no religious influence, and can certainly have had no representatives at Corinth; and
(2) the Essenes, though they had considerable influence in Asia, do not seem to have established themselves in Greece, nor are we aware that they were hostile to the doctrine of the resurrection.
2. Probably, then, they were Gentiles. If so, they may have been
(1) either Epicureans, who disbelieved in a future life altogether; or
(2) Stoics, who held that the future life was only an impersonal absorption into the Divine. Both these schools of philosophers "jeered" at the very notion of a bodily resurrection (Acts 17:32). In 2 Timothy 2:18 we read of some, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who erred, saying "that the resurrection was past already." These teachers were incipient Gnostics, who spiritualized the resurrection, or rather said that the term was only applicable to the rising from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. The Corinthian doubters seem from the arguments which St. Paul addresses to them, to have been rather troubled with material doubts which they may have inherited from their Gentile training.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
Verse 13. - Then is Christ not risen. If the possibility of a resurrection be generically denied, it cannot in any instance be true. Yet you admit as Christians that Christ rose! and his resurrection "has begotten us again to a lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3; see 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; John 14:19).
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
Verse 14. - Vain. You accepted our proclamation (kerugma), yet it would be utterly void if its central testimony was false. The word translated "then" has a sort of ironic force - "after all," or "it seems." The whole argument is at once an argumentum ad hominem and a reductio ad absurdum. Your faith is also vain. For it would be faith in a crucified man, not in the risen Christ.
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.
Verse 15. - We are found. The word means, "we are proved to be," convicted of being false witnesses. False witnesses of God; i.e. concerning God. St. Paul does not shrink from the issue. It is not one - it could not be one - between truth and mistake, but between truth and falsehood. We have testified of God that he raised up Christ; rather, the Christ. "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:32; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:30).
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
Verse 16. - This verse is a repetition of Ver. 13, to emphasize the argument that the Christian faith in the Resurrection rests not on philosophic theory, but on an historic fact.
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Verse 17. - Vain; rather, frustrate. The word used (mataia) is different from the word used (kene) in ver 14. Ye are yet in your sins. Because a dead Redeemer could be no Redeemer. Christ's resurrection is the pledge of his Divine power. He was "raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25). It is only "as a Prince and Saviour" that "God hath exalted him to give repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31; Romans 5:10).
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
Verse 18. - Which are fallen asleep in Christ. Christians whose bodies have sunk into the sleep of death. Are perished. A notion which he feels that Christians must reject as utterly impossible. All that goodness, faith, tenderness, love, have not been dissolved to nothing.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
Verse 19. - If in this life only we have hope in Christ. The word to which "in Christ" should be joined is uncertain; the order st the original is, "If in this life in Christ we have hoped only." The "only" seems therefore to qualify the whole sentence: "If we have merely hoped in Christ, and that only in this life." We are of all men most miserable; literally, we are more pitiable than all men. The remark only has an absolute bearing when Christians really are suffering from persecutions, as they did in St. Paul's day (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:12). But to some extent all Christians have to bear their cross, and if all that they give up and suffer is sacrificed to a delusion, they deserve most pity in one sense, because they have been most conspicuously befooled. In another sense they are still the happiest of men; for their delusion, judged by its fruits, is more blessed than the dreary blank which is the only alternative.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Verses 20-28. - Results to be deduced from the fact of Christ's resurrection. Verse 20. - But now. Since the supposition that Christ has not risen involves so many suppositions which you will rightly reject as absurd, we may assume the eternal fact that Christ has been raised. And become the firstfruits of them that slept. As the wave sheaf (Leviticus 23:10), which was the firstfruits of the harvest, is also a pledge of the harvest, so Christ is the firstfruits and pledge of the resurrection of all mankind.
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.
Verse 22. - As in Adam all die. All of us partake of Adam's nature, and are therefore liable to the death which that nature incurred as the law and condition of its humanity. In Christ shall all be made alive. It is St. Paul's invariable habit to isolate his immediate subject; to think and to treat of one topic at a time. He is not here thinking directly and immediately of the resurrection in general. In this verse, writing to Christians who are "in Christ," he is only thinking and speaking of the resurrection of those who are "in Christ." That any can be nominally "in Christ," yet not really so, is a fact which is not at present under his cognizance; still less is he thinking of the world in general. In other words, he is here dealing with "the resurrection of life" alone, and not also with the "resurrection of judgment" (John 5:26-29). Still, as far as his words alone are concerned, it is so impossible to understand the phrase, "shall all be made alive," of a resurrection to endless torments, that his language at least suggests the conclusion that "the principle which has come to actuality in Christ is of sufficient energy to quicken all men for the resurrection to the blessed life" (Baur, 'Life of St. Paul,' 2:219).
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Verse 23. - In his own order. The word in classic Greek means "a cohort." Here it must either mean "rank" or be used as in St. Clement ('Ad. Corinthians,' 1:37), in the sense of "order of succession." They that are Christ's. "The dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). At his coming. The word here used for the second Advent is Parousia, which means literally, presence. It is implied (apparently) both here and in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 20:5, that there shall be an interval - how long or how short we do not know - between this resurrection of the just and the final resurrection. But all the details are left dim and vague.
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.
Verse 24. - The end. That "end of all things," beyond which the vision of Christian eschatology does not look. When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God. The "kingdom" delivered up is not that of the coequal Godhead, but the mediatorial kingdom. The Divine kingdom "shall have no end" (Luke 1:33, etc.), and "shall not pass away" (Daniel 7:13). But the mediatorial kingdom shall end in completion when the redemptive act has achieved its final end. When he shall have put down; rather, shall have annulled or abolished. All rule. Because then "the kingdoms of the world" shall all "have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15).
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
Verse 25. - He must reign. He must reign in his mediatorial kingdom as the God Man. He hath put. The "he" probably means Christ himself (comp. Psalm 2:9; Hebrews 10:13), though it makes no real difference in the sense if we understand it of God, as in Psalm 110:1.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Verse 26. - The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. This rendering might imply that other enemies should still exist, though Death should be the last who would be destroyed. The original is more forcible, and implies, "Last of enemies doomed to annulment is Death;" or, as in Tyndale's version, "Lastly, Death the enemy shall be destroyed;" or, as in the Rhemish Version, "And at the last, Death the enemy scal be distried." The present, "is being annulled," is the praesens futurascens, or the present of which the accomplishment is regarded as already begun and continuing by an inevitable law. Death and Hades and the devil, "who hath the power of death," are all doomed to abolition (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 20:14).
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.
Verse 27. - But when he saith. The "he" refers to God. This indirect method of quotation is common in the rabbis. The reference is to Psalm 8:7 (LXX.), and the words, spoken of man in general, are here Messianically transferred to the federal Head of humanity, the ideal and perfect God Man, Jesus Christ. (For the fuller explanation of the matter, see Hebrews 2:5-10.) He is excepted, which did put all things under him. So our Lord says, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father" (Matthew 11:7). The universal dominion of Christ is also insisted on in Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22.
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.
Verse 28. - Then shall the Son also himself be subject, etc. The words can only be taken as they stand. The attempts to explain them have usually been nothing but ingenious methods of explaining them away. Of these the one usually adopted by the Fathers is the limitation of the statement to Christ's human nature (John 5:26, 27, 30) and mediatorial kingdom, just as we find in 1 Corinthians 11:3. The head of Christ is God." We can easily "darken counsel by words without knowledge" in dealing with this subject, and hide an absolute ignorance under a semblance of knowledge; but anything and everything which we can say in "explanation" of this self subjection of the Son to the Father is simply involved in the words which follow. That God may be all in all. "All things in all things" or "all things in all men." The words involve a complete and absolute supremacy. It is quite an easy matter for commentators to say that the scope of the words "must be confined to believers," if they chose to make "all" mean "some." Such methods often lead to an irreligious religionism and a heterodox orthodoxy. The reader will find the same phrase in Colossians 3:11. I confine myself to the comment of the profound and saintly Bengel: "There is implied something new, but also supreme and eternal. All things, and therefore all men, without any interruption, no created thing claiming a place, no enemy creating opposition, shall be subordinated to the Son, the Son to the Father. All things shall say, 'God is all things to me.' This is the consummation; this the end and summit. Further than this not even an apostle can go."
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?
Verses 29-34. - Arguments from the practices and lives of Christians. The three arguments used in these verses are: If there be no resurrection:
1. Why do some of you get yourselves baptized on behalf of your dead friends?
2. Why do we face lives of daily peril?
3. How would it be otherwise possible to resist Epicurean views of life? Verse 29. - Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, etc.? This clause can have but one meaning, and that its obvious one, namely, that, among the many strange opinions and practices which then prevailed, was one which was entirely un-warranted-but which St. Paul does not here stop to examine - of persons getting themselves baptized as it were by proxy for others who had died. Doubtless some of the deaths alluded to in 1 Corinthians 11:30 had happened to persons who had been cut off before they were actually baptized; and their friends had as it were gone through the rite in their stead, in the hope of extending to them some of its benefits. It is argued that St. Paul could not possibly mention such a practice without reprobation; but that is an a priori assumption not warranted by St. Paul's methods (see 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 11:6). He always confines his attention to the question immediately before him, and his present object is merely to urge a passing argumentum ad hominem. There is nothing at all surprising in the existence of such an abuse in the medley of wild opinions and wild practices observable in this disorganized Church. It accords with the known tendency of later times to postpone baptism, as a rite which was supposed to work as a charm. We also find that the actual practice of baptism on behalf of the dead lingered on among Corinthians (Epiph., 'Haer.,' 28:7) and Marcionites (Tertullian, 'De Resurrect.,' 48; 'Adv. Marc.,' 5:10). Tertullian accepts the words in their obvious sense in his 'De Praeser. Haer.,' 48, but accepts the absurdity of "the dead" meaning "the body" ("pro mortuis tingui est pro corporibus tingui") in his book against Marcion (5:10). St. Chrysostom tells us further that the proxy who was to be baptized used to be concealed under the bier of the dead man, who was supposed to answer in his name that he desired to be baptized. How perfectly natural the custom was may be seen from the fact that among the Jews also a man dying under ceremonial pollution was cleansed by proxy. The "interpretations" of this verse are so numerous that it is not even possible to give a catalogue of them. Many of them are not worth recording, and are only worth alluding to at all as specimens of the wilful bias which goes to Scripture, not to seek truth, but to support tradition. They are mostly futile and fantastic, because they pervert the plain meaning of the plain words. It is a waste of time and space to give perpetuity to baseless fancies. Such are the notions that "for the dead" can mean "for our mortal bodies" (Chrysostom); or "for those about to die" (Estius, Calvin, etc.); or "over (the sepulchres of) the dead" (Luther); or "to supply the vacancies left by the dead" (Le Clerc, etc.). Equally unwarrantable are the "explanations" (?) which make those who are being "baptized" mean those who are "passing through a baptism of suffering" (!). Not a single argument which is worth a moment's consideration can be urged in favour of any one of these, or scores of similar views. If we are to get rid of everything that is surprising on the ground that it is "immensely improbable," we may as well discard Scripture at once, and reconstruct early Christian history out of our own consciousness. It has been very usual to represent it as we think that it ought to have been, and not as it was. The disuse of this vicarious baptism among orthodox Christians may have been due to the discouragement of it by St. Paul when he went to Corinth, and "set in order" various erroneous customs (1 Corinthians 11:34).
And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
Verse 30. - Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? The verb means "Why do we incur peril?" The best comment on it will be found in 2 Corinthians 11:26. Cicero says ('Tusc. Disp.,' 1:15) that "no one would be so mad as to live in labour and perils if our instinctive anticipation of future life were taken away."
I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
Verse 31. - I protest. The particle of adjuration here used (νὴ) is found nowhere else in the New Testament. By your rejoicing. This is an erroneous translation. The words mean "by my glorying in you." St. Paul's one subject of earthly glory, his "hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing," was the conversion of Churches (Romans 15:16, 17). In Christ Jesus our Lord. His boasting was not a worldly boasting, but was sanctifled by its reference to the work of Christ. I die daily. St. Paul "died daily" a double death - the ever deepening death unto sin and unto the world; and the daily death of sufferings borne for Christ's sake (see 2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). It is the latter to which he here alludes. "For thy sake are we killed all the day long" (Romans 8:36).
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.
Verse 32. - After the manner of men. The phrase is a qualification of the strong metaphor, "I fought with beasts." It is equivalent to "humanly speaking." This is Chrysostom's view. It is the most reasonable, and accords with the use of the phrase in Romans 3:5; Galatians 3:15. Meyer, however, explains it to mean "with mere human motives." I have fought with beasts. Not literally, for in that case he would have mentioned it in 2 Corinthians 11. as one of his deadliest perils, and it must have been recorded by St. Luke in his full account of St. Paul's life at Ephesus. A Roman citizen was legally exempt from this mode of punishment. The word points to some special peril incurred in resisting the hostility of the worshippers of Artemis (Acts 20:19), but not to the tumult in the theatre, which did not happen till after this letter was despatched (1 Corinthians 16:8, 9). The metaphor is not uncommon. Thus in 2 Timothy 4:17 St. Paul alludes to Nero (probably) as "the lion." David often compares his enemies to wild beasts (Psalm 22:21, etc.). When his jailor informed Agrippa of the death of Tiberius, he did so in the words, "The lion is dead." St. Ignatius writes of the ten soldiers who were conducting him to Rome as "ten leopards." Epimenides, in the line quoted by St. Paul in Titus 1:12, spoke of the Cretans as "evil wild beasts," and the pseudo-Heraclitus gives this same uncomplimentary title to these very Ephesians. Let as eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. Perhaps the "if the dead are not raised" belongs to this clause. He means that such an Epicurean maxim, if never excusable, would at least be natural, if men could only look to life in the present. The sentiment is found on the lips of the despairing and the sensual alike in Isaiah 22:13, and in the writings of the heathen (Horace, 'Od.,' 1:4, 13-17, etc.). St. Paul would be all the more familiar with it because it formed the infamous epitaph of a statue of Sardauapalus, which he must have often seen in his boyhood at Anchiale, near Tarsus. It represented the debased king as snapping his fingers, and using almost these very words. It is strange that similar passages should be found even in the Talmud. Shemuel said to Rav Yehudah, "Seize and eat, seize and drink; for the world is like a wedding feast (soon over)" ('Eiruvin,' fol. 54, 1).
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
Verse 33. - Be net deceived. Do not be led astray by such specious maxims. They can only arise from that too great familiarity with the heathen against which I have already put you on your guard. Evil communications corrupt good manners. An iambic line from the 'Thais' of Menander, and perhaps taken by Menander from a play of Euripides. More accurately it means "evil associations corrupt excellent morals." According to the best reading (χρηστὰ, not χρησθ), St. Paul does not quote it as an iambic, and in itself it does not offer the least shadow of proof that St. Paul was familiar with classic literature. It is just such a line as he might have seen carved on the Hermae of any Greek town, or preserved in any chrestomathy or gnomology which may have chanced to pass through his hands. His other classic quotations (from Epimenides, Titus 1:12; and Aratus or Cleanthes, Acts 17:28) are of the same common and proverbial character. It is very unlikely that he would have deliberately quoted from the immoral play of a corrupt comedian like Menander. (For the sentiment, see 2 Timothy 2:16-18.)
Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
Verse 34. - Awake to righteousness. The word rendered "awake" means "awake at once from a drunken sleep." This verb does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The word rendered "awake" in Ephesians 5:14 and Romans 13:11 is a different one. The metaphor, however, occurs in the simple verb in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 5:8, etc. The word rendered "to righteousness" is literally an adverb, righteously. It may mean "as is fit." And sin not. Here the present tense, "be not sinning," is contrasted with the instantaneous aorist, "awake." Have not the knowledge. The original is stronger, "have an ignorance." They have not a vacuum of nescience, but a plenuum of ignorance. I speak this to your shame; rather, I am speaking to shame you. The object of all I am saying is to excite your shame - not, as in some previous instances, "to spare you."
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
Verses 35-49. - Material objections answered. Verse 35. - But some man will say. The objection is that of some philosophical materialist. The resurrection of the body was a difficulty alike to Sadducees and Gentiles. St. Paul meets this difficulty by natural analogies, which are intended to show that the resurrection body, though identical with the mortal body so far as the preservation of personal identity is concerned, is yet a glorified body, so that the objections urged on the ground that it is impossible to preserve the same material particles which have passed into dust, are beside the mark. St. Paul gives no sanction to the coarse physical conceptions of the resurrection which described the human being as rising (to use the words of the Christian poet Prudentius) "with every tooth and every nail." How are the dead raised up? This question is one which, of course, admits of no answer. And with what body do they come? literally, with what kind of body? St. Paul, while he only answers the question indirectly and by analogy, implies that the resurrection body is the same body, not so much by way of material identity as of glorified individuality.
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
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.
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:
Verse 37. - Not that body that shall be. This deep remark should have checked the idly and offensively materialistic form in which the doctrine of the resurrection is often taught. But bare grain. Wickliffe, "a naked corne." In this passage, almost alone in all his Epistles, St. Paul, who does not seem to have been at all a close observer of external phenomena, uses metaphors drawn from natural life. His usual metaphors are chiefly architectural and agonistic - derived, that is, from buildings and games. That he was not a student of nature arose, no doubt, partly kern his Semitic cast of mind, but chiefly from his being short sighted, and from his having spent most of his early life in large cities. It may chance; if it so happen, (see note on 1 Corinthians 14:10). The English word "chance" occurs but four times in the whole Bible (1 Samuel 6:9; Ecclesiastes 9:11). In Luke 10:31 the words rendered "by chance" mean rather "by coincidence."
But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
Verse 38. - But God giveth it a body. The material body of each living organism results from those laws of assimilation which God has made a part of His secret of life. They are not the life, only the instrument and expression and manifestation of the life. The "life" is the individual identity. The life of Hamlet is not in its essence the physical life of "the machine which is to him Hamlet," but the spiritual life which is linked on earth to that perpetual flux of material particles which we call the body, but is independent of those particles. As it hath pleased him; literally, as he willed. And in the word "as" lies the scope for all theories about the part played by what are called "natural laws." Their action is a part of God's will. To every seed his own body. Each of the seeds sown is provided with a body of its own, which is not identical with the seed, but results from the germ of life in the seed.
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.
Verse 39. - All flesh is not the same flesh. In other words, animal organisms differ from each other, just as do the vegetable. Another... of beasts. "The germinal power of the plant transmutes the fixed air and the elementary base of water into grass or leaves, and on these the organic principle in the ox or the elephant exercises an alchemy still more stupendous. As the unseen agency weaves its magic eddies, the foliage becomes indifferently the bone and its marrow, the pulpy brain and the solid ivory. That which you see is blood, is flesh, is itself the work, or shall I say the translucence of the invisible energy which soon surrenders or abandons them to inferior powers (for there is no pause nor chasm in the activities of nature) which repeat a similar metamorphosis according to their kind: these are not fancies, conjectures, or even hypotheses, but facts" (Coleridge, 'Aids to Reflection ').
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
Verse 40. - There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial. The words are often misunderstood. The "celestial bodies" are not the sun, moon, and stars of the next verse - for that would be a false antithesis to "bodies terrestrial" - but bodies (or organisms) which belong to heavenly beings, such as the resurrection body of our Lord and of glorified saints, or even in some sense of angels (Matthew 22:30).
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.
Verse 41. - There is one glory of the sun. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun" (Matthew 13:43). The point of the illustration is the difference between the earthly and the resurrection body; not the supposed differences between the saints themselves in glory. This is not a question under consideration, and St. Paul, as we have seen, is not in the habit of mixing up half a dozen different questions in the same immediate argument. St. Augustine says of the saints, "Their splendour is unequal; their heaven is one." This may be very true, but to deduce it from this verse is to press into the argument an illustration used for another purpose. Tertullian's comment is very unhappy. He makes "men" mean servants of God; "beasts," Gentiles; "birds," martyrs; "fishes," those who have been baptized; the "sun," Christ; the "moon," the Church, etc. One star differeth from another star in glory. All the righteous shall shine as "the brightness of the firmament and ... as the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3), and their future bodies shall differ from their present, as one star differs from another.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
Verse 42. - So also is the resurrection of the dead. In like manner the dead, when raised, shall have bodies which differ from their body of humiliation (Philippians 3:21). It is sown in corruption. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19). It is raised in incorruption. The word means strictly, "incorruptibility." The resurrection body will not be subjected to earthly conditions (Luke 20:35, 36).
It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
Verse 43. - It is sown in dishonour. "The awful and intolerable indignity of dust to dust." In glory. "Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold" (Psalm 68:13). The expression shows that, throughout, St. Paul is thinking exclusively of the resurrection of the saints.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Verse 44. - A natural body. The adjective is the word ψυχικόν, which is so difficult to translate; it means a body only animated by the psyche, or natural life. The word is sometimes in our Authorized Version rendered "carnal." A spiritual body. The apparent contradiction in terms is inevitable. The thing meant is a body which is not under the sway of corporeal desires or of intellectual and passionate impulses, but is wholly dominated by the Spirit, and therefore has no desire or capacity to fulfil the lusts of the flesh. There is. The better supported reading (א, A, B, C, D, F, G), is, if there is a natural body, etc. The existence of the one is no more impossible than the existence of the other.
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
Verse 45. - The first man Adam was made a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The last Adam. A rabbinic expression also for the Messiah. A quickening Spirit. "The Son quickeneth whom he will" (John 5:21; comp. 6:23). The best comment on the expression will be found in Romans 8:2, 11. Christ is "a quickening," i.e. a life giving, "Spirit," here mainly in the sense that we shall only be raised by "the power of his resurrection" (John 5:24, 25), but also in the sense that his Spirit dwelleth in us, and is our true Life.
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
Verse 46. - That was not first which is spiritual. The imperfect precedes the perfect.
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
Verse 47. - Earthy. Made of" the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). Is the Lord from heaven. The words "the Lord" are a gloss, not found in א, B, C, D, E, F, G. The verse remarkably resembles John 3:31, and probably oral reminiscences of our Lord's discourses were current among the apostles long before the Gospels were written. Tertullian attributes the insertion of "the Lord" to Marcion.
As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
Verse 48. - As is the earthy, etc. Men resemble their first parent Adam; Christians, their spiritual Redeemer, Christ (Philippians 3:20, 21).
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Verse 49. - We shall also bear the image of the heavenly (for the fact, see Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). For "we shall bear," the best manuscripts (א, A, C, D, E, F, G, etc.) read "Let us bear." Our reading is, however, supported by B, and this is just one of the cases in which manuscript evidence (or as it is called "diplomatic evidence") has a minimum value, and other evidence (paradiplomatic) is decisive. For
(1) the pronunciation of the indicative and subjunctive at that time was almost identical, because in conversation the vowels seem to have been much slurred; and
(2) there was a universal tendency to substitute hortative for direct forms, with a view to edification (as in 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 6:2, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:11, etc.). Here the exhortation would ruin the texture of the argument.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Verses 50-58. - Conclusion and exhortation. Verse 50. - Now this I say. This sums up my meaning. Flesh and blood. Our mortal nature and human organism; our "earthly house of this tabernacle" (2 Corinthians 5:1; Luke 20:35). Inherit incorruption. A body liable to corruption, with all its loathly accompaniments, cannot enter into the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4).
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
Verse 51. - I show you a mystery. I make known to you a truth now made known to me by revelation. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. There is a great diversity of readings in this verse, noticed even by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. St. Jerome says that all the Latin manuscripts had "we shall all rise," and that the Greek manuscripts wavered between "we shall all sleep" and "we shall not all sleep." Some Greek manuscripts had "we shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed." This reading cannot be right, for it contradicts the next verse. There is little doubt that the reading of the Authorized version is right. It accounts for all the variations. They arose from a desire to shelter St. Paul from an apparent mistake, since he and his readers did all sleep. But
(1) St. Paul may have written under that conception of the imminence of Christ's personal return which he expresses in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, where he evidently imagines that the majority of those to whom he was writing would be of those who would be "alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord;" or
(2) even if he no longer entertained that expectation, the "we" may naturally apply to the continuity of the Christian Church. For in 2 Corinthians 4:14 he uses "us" of those who shall die and be raised. The universal expectation of the immediate return of Christ in the first century rose
(1) from their non apprehension of the truth that the close of the old dispensation was the "coming" to which our Lord had primarily referred in his great eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:34), and
(2) from the fact that watchfulness was intended to be the attitude of the Church, and the day and hour of Christ's coming were kept absolutely unrevealed (Matthew 24:36; Matthew 25:13).
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.
Verse 52. - The trumpet shall sound. The Lord, he says, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "shall descend from heaven with... the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." The trumpet is, of course, only a natural symbol. It is also found in rabbinic writers, and in the Old Testament (Zechariah 9:14), as well as in Revelation 11:15. We shall be changed. The dead shall be changed by resurrection, the living by transition, into a glorified body. St. Paul, dealing with the essence of the question as it bore on the difficulties of his readers, says nothing here
(1) of those who will arise to judgment, or
(2) of any intermediate condition.
As to the former question, he scarcely ever alludes to it with any definiteness, but seems with deliberate choice to contemplate the final and absolute triumph of good (Romans 8:19-23; Romans 11:30-36). To the intermediate state he does not here allude. He is here only speaking of death and glorious resurrection. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 he says all that he has to say on this latter question. It was not prominent in the minds of the early Christians, who, as Calvin says, were awaiting the return of Christ "from hour to hour."
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Verse 53. - This mortal must put on immortality. When we are "clothed upon" by our "house from heaven," and have put off "this tabernacle," in which we groan being burdened, then "mortality will be swallowed up of life" (2 Corinthians 5:3, 4, where we also find the metaphor of a robe of immortality, mixed up with the metaphor of a building).
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.
Verse 54. - Death is swallowed up in victory. A free citation from the Hebrew of Isaiah 25:8. The words "into victory" are the LXX. rendering in other passages (Amos 1:11; Amos 8:8) for the Hebrew lanetsach, forever. The metaphor, "is swallowed up," implying "the swallowing of the all swallower," is found in the rabbis (comp. Hebrews 2:14, 15).
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Verse 55. - O death, where is thy sting? A triumphantly fervid exclamation of the apostle, loosely cited from Hosea 13:14. The apostles and evangelists, not holding the slavish and superstitious fetish worship of the dead letter, often regard it as sufficient to give the general sense of the passages to which they refer. O grave, where is thy victory? In the best attested reading (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), "death" is repeated, and in the best manuscripts this clause precedes the last. But if the reading, "O Hades," were correct, our translators, since they held it here impossible in accordance with their views to render it by "hell," ought to have taken warning, and seen the pernicious inapplicability of that rendering in other places where they have used it to express this same Greek word. Here "Hades" has probably been introduced into the Greek text from the LXX., which uses it for the Sheol of the original.
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
Verse 56. - The sting of death is sin. Because death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Death is represented as a venomous serpent. The strength of sin is the Law. The best comment on this expression is to be found in the Epistle to the Romans; see especially Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10-12. It must be admitted that this passing allusion to a distinct doctrine does not seem, at first sight, to harmonize with the glorious unity of the subject. No one can read it without a slight sense of jar, because it seems to introduce the element of dogmatic controversy. But this sense of incongruity is removed when we remember how intensely St. Paul felt that man is confronted with the horror of a broken Law, which at once reminds him of a Being infinitely holy, and of his own self condemnation (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 3.). It is the sense that the Law in its deathful aspect is annulled, and the sinful soul delivered, which prompts the outburst of the next verse.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 57. - Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory. The victory consists in the defeat of death by the Resurrection, and the forgiveness of sin through Christ's atone-merit, and the nailing to his cross of the torn and abrogated Law which made us slaves to sin and death (Colossians 2:14). "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37). Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Who, by fulfilling the Law, has robbed it of its condemning power (Romans 8:1), and by his death "hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil" (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
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.
Verse 58. - Therefore. Seeing that you ought not to despair, but to share in this confidence of triumph. Steadfast. Firmly fixed in your own conviction (Colossians 1:23 2John 9). Unmoveable. By others (Ephesians 4:14). Abounding in the work of the Lord. Doing diligently and ungrudgingly the work of your lives, which is his work. That your labour is not in vain. The thought of the verse is the same as that of Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Some general facts are very observable in this glorious chapter. 1. One is that St. Paul does not meet doubt by angry denunciation, or by crushing it with the iron mace of impatient authority. What would now be thought of Christians who denied the resurrection? Doubtless they were net mere speculative deniers of the resurrection, like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17), but recent Gentile converts, who could not get over their pagan difficulties. Yet St. Paul meets them by personal appeals, by helpful analogies, by lofty reasoning, by the glowing force of inspiring convictions. Instead of taking refuge - more ecclesiastico - in anathema and excommunication, he meets error by the counter presentation of ennobling truth. 2. Another noteworthy fact is that St. Paul's hope of the resurrection rests, like all his theology, on the thought that the life of the Christian is a life "in Christ." 3. A third is his superiority to false analogies - like those of the butterfly and the phoenix - which sufficed many ancient reasoners. Even Christian writers like St. Clement of Rome continued to appeal to the phoenix as a proof of the resurrection. The greatest ancient thinkers - like Tacitus - believed in the existence of that fabulous bird, and even in the genuineness of a specimen of it which had been exhibited at Rome. Was there no "grace of superintendency" at work which prevented the sacred writers from adopting the universal error of their day? Had St. Paul appealed to the phoenix, centuries of Christian writers would have continued to maintain the existence of that creature; and science, laughing the belief to scorn, would (most unjustly) have made any allusion to it a proof of mental weakness, and of the falsity of the doctrine which it was supposed to prove. 4. A fourth point to be observed is the wisdom with which St. Paul holds himself aloof from speculative fancies, he does not, like Plato, appeal to the doctrine of "reminiscence" (anamnesis), or of unfulfilled ideas. He does not, like Kant, build any argument on man's failure to obey "the categorical imperative" of duty. He points to the sinless Man - to the fulfilled idea of Christ. His argument, which all could understand, is summed up in the words, "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is risen." Your resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness is a pledge of your participation in Christ's resurrection from the grave.