Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Corinthians 15
The Gospel which the apostle preached to the Corinthians; viz. that Christ died for our sins, and rose again the third day, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The witnesses of his resurrection, Peter, James, and more than five hundred brethren, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7. Lastly, Paul himself saw him, and was called by him to the apostleship, 1 Corinthians 15:8-11. Objections against the resurrection of the dead answered, vv. 12-34. The manner in which this great work shall be performed, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. The astonishing events that shall take place in the last day, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. The use we should make of this doctrine, 1 Corinthians 15:58.
It appears from this chapter that there were some false apostles at Corinth, who denied the resurrection, see 1 Corinthians 15:12; in consequence of which St. Paul discusses three questions in this chapter: -
The Gospel which I preached unto you - This Gospel is contained in Christ dying for our sins, being buried, and rising again the third day. See the following verses.
By which also ye are saved - That is, ye are now in a salvable state; and are saved from your Gentilism, and from your former sins.
If ye keep in memory - Your future salvation, or being brought finally to glory, will now depend on your faithfulness to the grace that ye have received.
For I delivered unto you first of all - Εν προτοις· As the chief things, or matters of the greatest importance; fundamental truths.
That which I - received - By revelations from God himself, and not from man.
That Christ died for our sins - The death of Jesus Christ, as a vicarious sacrifice for sin, is εν πρωτοις ; among the things that are of chief importance, and is essential to the Gospel scheme of salvation.
According to the Scriptures - It is not said any where in the Scriptures, in express terms, that Christ should rise on the third day; but it is fully implied in his types, as in the case of Jonah, who came out of the belly of the fish on the third day; but particularly in the case of Isaac, who was a very expressive type of Christ; for, as his being brought to the Mount Moriah, bound and laid on the wood, in order to be sacrificed, pointed out the death of Christ; so his being brought alive on the third day from the mount was a figure of Christ's resurrection. Bishop Pearce and others refer to Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; and Luke 9:22; "which two Gospels, having been written at the time when Paul wrote this epistle, were properly called by the name of the Sacred Scriptures." It might be so; but I do not know of one proof in the New Testament where its writings, or any part of them, are called the Scriptures.
That he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve - This refers to the journey to Emmaus, Luke 24:13, Luke 24:34; and to what is related Mark 16:14.
Then of the twelve - Instead of δωδεκα, twelve, ενδεκα, eleven, is the reading of D*EFG, Syriac in the margin, some of the Slavonic, Armenian, Vulgate, Itala, and several of the fathers; and this reading is supported by Mark 16:14. Perhaps the term twelve is used here merely to point out the society of the apostles, who, though at this time they were only eleven, were still called the twelve, because this was their original number, and a number which was afterward filled up. See John 20:24.
Above five hundred brethren at once - This was probably in Galilee, where our Lord had many disciples. See Matthew 28:16. What a remarkable testimony is this to the truth of our Lord's resurrection! Five hundred persons saw him at one time; the greater part of whom were alive when the apostle wrote, and he might have been confronted by many if he had dared to assert a falsity.
After that, he was seen of James - But where, and on what occasion, we are not told; nor indeed do we know which James is intended; James the son of Zebedee, or James the son of Alpheus. But one thing is sufficiently evident, from what is here said, that this James, of whom the apostle speaks, was still alive; for the apostle's manner of speaking justifies this conclusion.
Then of all the apostles - Including, not only the eleven, but, as some suppose, the seventy-two disciples.
And last of all - of me also - It seems that it was essential to the character of a primitive apostle that he had seen and conversed with Christ; and it is evident, from the history of Saul's conversion, Acts 9:4-7; (note), that Jesus Christ did appear to him; and he pleaded this ever after as a proof of his call to the apostleship. And it does not appear that, after this time, Jesus ever did make any personal discovery of himself to any one.
As of one born out of due time - The apostle considers himself as coming after the time in which Jesus Christ personally conversed with his disciples; and that, therefore, to see him at all, he must see him in this extraordinary way. Some have entered into a very disgusting detail on the figure used here by the apostle. The words, ὡσπερει τῳ εκτρωματι, signify not merely one born out of due time, but one born before his time; and consequently, not bidding fair for vigor, usefulness, or long life. But it is likely that the apostle had a different meaning; and that he refers to the original institution of the twelve apostles, in the rank of whom he never stood, being appointed not to fill up a place among the twelve, but as an extra and additional apostle. Rosenmuller says that those who were beyond the number of twelve senators were termed abortivi, abortives; and refers to Suetonius in Octavio, cap. 35. I have examined the place, but find no such epithet. According to Suetonius, in that place, they were called orcini - persons who had assumed the senatorial dignity after the death of Julius Caesar, pretending that they had derived that honor from him.
I am the least of the apostles - This was literally true in reference to his being chosen last, and chosen not in the number of the twelve, but as an extra apostle. How much pains do some men take to make the apostle contradict himself, by attempting to show that he was the very greatest of the apostles, though he calls himself the least! Taken as a man and a minister of Christ, he was greater than any of the twelve; taken as an apostle he was less than any of the twelve, because not originally in that body.
Am not meet to be called an apostle - None of the twelve had ever persecuted Christ, nor withstood his doctrine: Saul of Tarsus had been, before his conversion, a grievous persecutor; and therefore he says, ουκ ειμι ἱκανος, I am not proper to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God, i.e. of Christ, which none of the apostles ever did.
But, by the grace of God I am what I am - God, by his mere grace and good will, has called me to be an apostle, and has denominated me such.
And his grace, etc. - Nor have I been unfaithful to the Divine call; I used the grace which he gave me; and when my labors, travels, and sufferings are considered, it will be evident that I have labored more abundantly than the whole twelve. This was most literally true.
Yet not I, but the grace of God - It was not through my own power or wisdom that I performed these things, but through the Divine influence which accompanied me.
Whether it were I or they - All the apostles of Christ agree in the same doctrines; we all preach one and the same thing; and, as we preached, so ye believed; having received from us the true apostolical faith, that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again for our justification; and that his resurrection is the pledge and proof of ours. Whoever teaches contrary to this does not preach the true apostolic doctrine.
Paul was the last of the primitive apostles. The primitive apostles were those who had seen Christ, and got their call to the apostolate immediately from himself. There were many apostles after this time, but they were all secondary; they had a Divine call, but it was internal, and never accompanied by any vision or external demonstration of that Christ who had been manifested in the flesh.
Now if Christ be preached, etc. - Seeing it is true that we have thus preached Christ, and ye have credited this preaching, how say some among you, who have professed to receive this doctrine from us; that there is no resurrection of the dead, though we have shown that his resurrection is the proof and pledge of ours? That there was some false teacher, or teachers, among them, who was endeavoring to incorporate Mosaic rites and ceremonies with the Christian doctrines, and even to blend Sadduceeism with the whole, appears pretty evident. To confute this mongrel Christian, and overturn his bad doctrine, the apostle writes this chapter.
If there be no resurrection of the dead - As Christ was partaker of the same flesh and blood with us, and he promised to raise mankind from the dead through his resurrection, if the dead rise not then Christ has had no resurrection. There seem to have been some at Corinth who, though they denied the resurrection of the dead, admitted that Christ had risen again: the apostle's argument goes therefore to state that, if Christ was raised from the dead, mankind may be raised; if mankind cannot be raised from the dead, then the body of Christ was never raised.
Then is our preaching vain - Our whole doctrine is useless, nugatory and false.
And your faith is also vain - Your belief of a false doctrine must necessarily be to you unprofitable.
False witnesses - As having testified the fact of Christ's resurrection, as a matter which ourselves had witnessed, when we knew that we bore testimony to a falsehood. But could five hundred persons agree in this imposition? And if they did, is it possible that some one would not discover the cheat, when he could have no interest in keeping the secret, and might greatly promote his secular interest by making the discovery? Such a case never occurred, and never can occur. The testimony, therefore, concerning the resurrection of Christ, is incontrovertibly true.
If so be that the dead rise not - This clause is wanting in DE, Syriac, some of the Slavonian, and Itala; several also of the primitive fathers omit it. Its great similarity to the following words might be the cause of its omission by some copyists.
Ye are yet in your sins - If Christ has not risen from the dead, there is no proof that he has not been justly put to death. If he were a malefactor, God would not work a miracle to raise him from the dead. If he has not been raised from the dead, there is a presumption that he has been put to death justly; and, if so, consequently he has made no atonement; and ye are yet in your sins - under the power, guilt, and condemnation of them. All this reasoning of the apostle goes to prove that at Corinth, even among those false teachers, the innocency of our Lord was allowed, and the reality of his resurrection not questioned.
They also which are fallen asleep - All those who, either by martyrdom or natural death, have departed in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, are perished; their hope was without foundation, and their faith had not reason and truth for its object. Their bodies are dissolved in the earth, finally decomposed and destroyed, notwithstanding the promise of Christ to such, that he would raise them up at the last day. See John 5:25, John 5:28, John 5:29; John 11:25, John 11:26, etc.
If in this life only we have hope - It would be better to translate and point this verse as follows: - And, if in this life we have hoped in Christ only, we are more to be pitied than all men. If, in this life, we have no other hope and confidence but in Christ, (and if he be still dead, and not yet risen), we are more to be pitied than any other men; we are sadly deceived; we have denied ourselves, and been denied by others; have mortified ourselves, and been persecuted by our fellow creatures on account of our belief and hope in One who is not existing, and therefore can neither succor us here, nor reward us hereafter. Bishop Pearce.
But now is Christ risen - On the contrary, Christ is raised from the dead, and is become the first fruits of them that slept. His resurrection has been demonstrated, and our resurrection necessarily follows; as sure as the first fruits are the proof that there is a harvest, so surely the resurrection of Christ is a proof of ours. The Judaizing teacher at Corinth would feel the force of this observation much sooner than we can, who are not much acquainted with Jewish customs. "Although," says Dr. Lightfoot, "the resurrection of Christ, compared with some first fruits, has very good harmony with them; yet especially it agrees with the offering of the sheaf, commonly called עומר omer, not only as the thing itself, but also as to the circumstances of the time. For first there was the passover, and the day following was a Sabbatic day, and on the day following that the first fruits were offered. So Christ, our passover, was crucified: the day following his crucifixion was the Sabbath, and the day following that, He, the first fruits of them that slept, rose again. All who died before Christ, and were raised again to life, died afterwards; but Christ is the first fruits of all who shall be raised from the dead to die no more."
For since by man came death - Mortality came by Adam, immortality by Christ; so sure as all have been subjected to natural death by Adam, so sure shall all be raised again by Christ Jesus. Mortality and immortality, on a general ground, are the subject of the apostle's reasoning here; and for the explanation of the transgression of Adam, and the redemption by Christ, see the notes on Romans 5:10, etc.
But every man in his own order - The apostle mentions three orders here:
We should be very cautious how we make a figurative expression, used in the most figurative book in the Bible, the foundation of a very important literal system that is to occupy a measure of the faith, and no small portion of the hope, of Christians. The strange conjectures formed on this very uncertain basis have not been very creditable either to reason or religion.
When he shall have delivered up the kingdom - The mediatorial kingdom, which comprehends all the displays of his grace in saving sinners, and all his spiritual influence in governing the Church.
All rule, and all authority and power - Αρχην - εξουσιαν - και δυναμιν . As the apostle is here speaking of the end of the present system of the world, the rule, authority, and power, may refer to all earthly governments, emperors, kings, princes, etc.; though angels, principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and all spiritual wickedness in high places, may be also intended. Our Lord Jesus is represented here as administering the concerns of the kingdom of grace in this lower world during the time that this Divine economy lasts; and when the end - the time determined by the wisdom of God, comes, then, as there is no longer any need of this administration, the kingdom is delivered up unto the Father: an allusion to the case of Roman viceroys or governors of provinces, who, when their administration was ended, delivered up their kingdom or government into the hands of the emperor.
The apostle may refer, also, to an opinion of the ancient Jews, that there should be ten kings who should have the supreme government of the whole world: the first and last of which should be God himself; but the ninth should be the Messiah; after whose empire the kingdom should be delivered up into the hands of God for ever. See the place in Schoettgen on this verse, and on Luke 1:33.
For he must reign, etc. - This is according to the promise, Psalm 110:1; : "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Therefore the kingdom cannot be given up till all rule and government be cast down. So that while the world lasts, Jesus, as the Messiah and Mediator, must reign; and all human beings are properly his subjects, are under his government, and are accountable to him.
The last enemy - Death, shall be destroyed; καταργειται, shall be counter-worked, subverted, and finally overturned. But death cannot be destroyed by there being simply no farther death; death can only be destroyed and annihilated by a general resurrection; if there be no general resurrection, it is most evident that death will still retain his empire. Therefore, the fact that death shall be destroyed assures the fact that there shall be a general resurrection; and this is a proof, also, that after the resurrection there shall be no more death.
For he hath put all things under his feet - The Father hath put all things under the feet of Christ according to the prophecy, Psalm 110:1-7.
He is excepted - i.e. The Father, who hath put all things under him, the Son. This observation seems to be introduced by the apostle to show that he does not mean that the Divine nature shall be subjected to the human nature. Christ, as Messiah, and Mediator between God and man, must ever be considered inferior to the Father: and his human nature, however dignified in consequence of its union with the Divine nature, must ever be inferior to God. The whole of this verse should be read in a parenthesis.
The Son also himself be subject - When the administration of the kingdom of grace is finally closed; when there shall be no longer any state of probation, and consequently no longer need of a distinction between the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory; then the Son, as being man and Messiah, shall cease to exercise any distinct dominion and God be all in all: there remaining no longer any distinction in the persons of the glorious Trinity, as acting any distinct or separate parts in either the kingdom of grace, or the kingdom of glory, and so the one infinite essence shall appear undivided and eternal. And yet, as there appears to be a personality essentially in the infinite Godhead, that personality must exist eternally; but how this shall be we can neither tell nor know till that time comes in which we shall See Him as He Is. 1 John 3:2.
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead - This is certainly the most difficult verse in the New Testament; for, notwithstanding the greatest and wisest men have labored to explain it, there are to this day nearly as many different interpretations of it as there are interpreters. I shall not employ my time, nor that of my reader, with a vast number of discordant and conflicting opinions; I shall make a few remarks:
And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? - Is there any reason why we should voluntarily submit to so many sufferings, and every hour be in danger of losing our lives, if the dead rise not? On the conviction of the possibility and certainty of the resurrection, we are thus baptized for the dead. We have counted the cost, despise sufferings, and exult at the prospect of death, because we know we shall have a resurrection unto eternal life.
I protest by your rejoicing - Νη την ὑμετεραν καυχησιν· By your exaltation or boasting. Dr. Lightfoot understands this of "the boasting of the Corinthians against the apostle; that he considered himself continually trampled on by them; rejected and exposed to infamy and contempt; but that he took this as a part of the reproach of Christ; and was happy in the prospect of death and a glorious resurrection, when all those troubles and wrongs would terminate for ever." Instead of ὑμετεραν, Your exultation or boasting, ἡμετεραν, Our exultation, is the reading of the Codex Alexandrinus, and several others, with the Ethiopic, Origen, and Theophylact. This will lead to an easier sense: I declare by the exultation which I have in Christ Jesus, as having died for my offenses, and risen again for my justification, that I neither fear sufferings nor death; and am daily ready to be offered up, and feel myself continually exposed to death. But the common reading is probably to be preferred; for your glorying is the same as glorying on your account: I profess by the glorying or exultation which I have on account of your salvation, that I anticipate with pleasure the end of my earthly race.
I die daily - A form of speech for, I am continually exposed to death. The following passages will illustrate this. So Philo, p. 990. Flaccus, who was in continual fear of death, says: καθ ' ἑκαστην ἡμεραν, μαλλον δε ὡραν, προαποθνησκω, πολλους θανατους ὑπομενων ανθ 'ἑνος του τελευταιου· "Every day, rather every hour, I anticipate death; enduring many deaths before that last one comes." So Libanius, speaking of his own miseries and those of the people of Antioch, Epist. 1320, page 615, says: ετι ζωντες τεθνηκαμεν· "Though living, we are dead." Livy has a similar form of expression to signify continual danger, xxix. 17: Quotidie capitur urbs nostra, quotidie diripitur. "Daily is our city taken, daily is it pillaged."
If, after the manner of men, etc. - Much learned criticism has been employed on this verse, to ascertain whether it is to be understood literally or metaphorically. Does the apostle mean to say that he had literally fought with wild beasts at Ephesus? or, that he had met with brutish, savage men, from whom he was in danger of his life? That St. Paul did not fight with wild beasts at Ephesus, may be argued,
What the apostle says here is a regular and legitimate conclusion from the doctrine, that there is no resurrection: For if there be no resurrection, then there can be no judgment - no future state of rewards and punishments; why, therefore, should we bear crosses, and keep ourselves under continual discipline? Let us eat and drink, take all the pleasure we can, for tomorrow we die; and there is an end of us for ever. The words, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die, are taken from Isaiah 22:13, as they stand now in the Septuagint; and are a pretty smooth proverbial saying, which might be paralleled from the writings of several epicurean heathens, φαγωμεν και πιωμεν· αυριον γαρ αποθνησκομεν . The words of Isaiah are נמות מחר כי ושתו אכול akol reshatho, ki machar namuth : "In eating and drinking, for to-morrow we die;" i.e. Let us spend our time in eating and drinking, etc. See a similar speech by Trimalchio in Petronius Arbiter, Satiric. cap. xxxvii: -
Heu, heu nos miseros! quam totus homuncio nil est!
Sic erimus cuncti, postquam nos auferet orcus.
Ergo vivamus, dum licet esse bene.
Alas! alas! what wretches we are! all mankind are a worthless pack: thus shall we all be, after death hath taken us away. Therefore, while we may, let us enjoy life.
Be not deceived - Do not impose on yourselves, and permit not others to do it.
Evil communications corrupt good manners - There are many sayings like this among the Greek poets; but this of the apostle, and which according to the best MSS. makes an Iambic verse, is generally supposed to have been taken from Menander's lost comedy of Thais.
Φθειρουσιν ηθη χρησθ 'ὁμιλιαι κακαι·
Bad company good morals doth corrupt.
There is a proverb much like this among the rabbins:
לרטיכא יכישי אוקרן רטיכא ותר יכישי אורי תרי
"There were two dry logs of wood, and one green log; but the dry logs burnt up the green log."
There is no difficulty in this saying; he who frequents the company of bad or corrupt men will soon be as they are. He may be sound in the faith, and have the life and power of godliness, and at first frequent their company only for the sake of their pleasing conversation, or their literary accomplishments: and he may think his faith proof against their infidelity; but he will soon find, by means of their glozing speeches, his faith weakened; and when once he gets under the empire of doubt, unbelief will soon prevail; his bad company will corrupt his morals; and the two dry logs will soon burn up the green one.
The same sentiment in nearly the same words is found in several of the Greek writers; Aeschylus, Sept. Theb. ver. 605: Εν παντι πραγει δ ' εσθ 'ὁμιλιας κακης κακιον ουδεν· "In every matter there is nothing more deleterious than evil communication." - Diodorus Siculus, lib. xvi. cap. 54: Ταις πονηραις ὁμιλιαις διεφθειρε τα ηθη των ανθρωπων· "With these evil communications he corrupted the morals of men."
Ταυτα μεν οὑτως ισθι· κακοισι δε μη προσομιλοπ
Ανδρασιν, αλλ ' αιει των αγαθων εχεο·
Και μετα τοισιν πινε και εσθιε, και μετα τοισιν
Ἱζε, και ἁνδανε τοις, ὡν μεγαλη δυναμις.
Εσθλων μεν γαρ απ 'εσθλα μαθησεαι· ην δε κακοισι
Συμμιχθῃς, απολεις και τον εοντα νοον.
Theogn. Sent., ver. 31-36.
Know this: Thou must not keep company with the wicked, but converse always with good men. With such eat, drink, and associate. Please those who have the greatest virtue. From good men thou mayest learn good things; but if thou keep company with the wicked, thou wilt lose even the intelligence which thou now possessest.
Awake to righteousness - Shake off your slumber; awake fully, thoroughly, δικαιως, as ye ought to do: so the word should be rendered; not awake to righteousness. Be in earnest; do not trifle with God, your souls, and eternity.
Sin not - For this will lead to the destruction both of body and soul. Life is but a moment; improve it. Heaven has blessings without end.
Some have not the knowledge of God - The original is very emphatic: αγνωσιαν γαρ Θεου τινες εχουσι, some have an ignorance of God; they do not acknowledge God. They have what is their bane; and they have not what would be their happiness and glory. To have an ignorance of God - a sort of substantial darkness, that prevents the light of God from penetrating the soul, is a worse state than to be simply in the dark, or without the Divine knowledge. The apostle probably speaks of those who were once enlightened, had once good morals, but were corrupted by bad company. It was to their shame or reproach that they had left the good way, and were now posting down to the chambers of death.
But some man will say - Αλλα ερει τις . It is very likely that the apostle, by τις some, some one, some man, means particularly the false apostle, or teacher at Corinth, who was chief in the opposition to the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and to whom, in this covert way, he often refers.
The second part of the apostle's discourse begins at this verse. What shall be the nature of the resurrection body?
secondly, by an application, 1 Corinthians 15:33-41; and
thirdly, by explication, 1 Corinthians 15:42-50.
Thou fool - Αφρον . If this be addressed, as it probably is, to the false apostle, there is a peculiar propriety in it; as this man seems to have magnified his own wisdom, and set it up against both God and man; and none but a fool could act so. At the same time, it is folly in any to assert the impossibility of a thing because he cannot comprehend it.
That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die - I have shown the propriety of this simile of the apostle in the note on John 12:24; (note), to which I must refer the reader. A grain of wheat, etc., is composed of the body or lobes, and the germ. The latter forms an inconsiderable part of the mass of the grain; the body, lobes, or farinaceous part, forms nearly the whole. This body dies - becomes decomposed, and forms a fine earth, from which the germ derives its first nourishment; by the nourishment thus derived the germ is quickened, receives its first vegetable life, and through this means is rendered capable of deriving the rest of its nourishment and support from the grosser earth in which the grain was deposited. Whether the apostle would intimate here that there is a certain germ in the present body, which shall become the seed of the resurrection body, this is not the place to inquire; and on this point I can with pleasure refer to Mr. Drew's work on the "Resurrection of the Human Body;" where this subject, as well as every other subject connected with this momentous question, is considered in a very luminous and cogently argumentative point of view.
Thou sowest not that body that shall be - This is decomposed, and becomes the means of nourishing the whole plant, roots, stalk, leaves, ear, and full corn in the ear.
But God giveth it a body - And is there any other way of accounting for it but by the miraculous working of God's power? For out of that one bare grain is produced a system of roots, a tall and vigorous stalk, with all its appendages of leaves, etc., besides the full corn in the ear; the whole making several hundred times the quantum of what was originally deposited. There are no proofs that what some call nature can effect this: it will ever be a philosophical as well as a Scriptural truth, that God giveth it a body as it pleaseth him; and so doth he manage the whole of the work, that every seed shall have its own body: that the wheat germ shall never produce barley; nor the rye, oats. See the note on Genesis 1:12.
All flesh is not the same flesh - Though the organization of all animals is, in its general principles, the same, yet there are no two different kinds of animals that have flesh of the same flavour, whether the animal be beast, fowl, or fish. And this is precisely the same with vegetables.
In opposition to this general assertion of St. Paul, there are certain people who tell us that fish is not flesh; and while their religion prohibits, at one time of the year, the flesh of quadrupeds and fowls, it allows them to eat fish, fondly supposing that fish is not flesh: they might as well tell us that a lily is not a vegetable, because it is not a cabbage. There is a Jewish canon pronounced by Schoettgen which my readers may not be displeased to find inserted here: Nedarim, fol. 40: והגים רגים בבור אסור יהא הבשר מן הנודר He who is bound by a vow to abstain from flesh, is bound to abstain from the flesh of fish and of locusts. From this it appears that they acknowledged that there was one flesh of beasts and another of fishes, and that he was religiously bound to abstain from the one, who was bound to abstain from the other.
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial - The apostle certainly does not speak of celestial and terrestrial bodies in the sense in which we use those terms: we invariably mean by the former the sun, moon, planets, and stars; by the latter, masses of inanimate matter. But the apostle speaks of human beings, some of which were clothed with celestial, others with terrestrial bodies. It is very likely, therefore, that he means by the celestial bodies such as those refined human bodies with which Enoch, Elijah, and Christ himself, appear in the realms of glory: to which we may add the bodies of those saints which arose after our Lord's resurrection; and, after having appeared to many, doubtless were taken up to paradise. By terrestrial bodies we may understand those in which the saints now live.
But the glory of the celestial is one - The glory - the excellence, beauty, and perfection. Even the present frail human body possesses an indescribable degree of contrivance, art, economy, order, beauty, and excellence; but the celestial body, that in which Christ now appears, and according to which ours shall be raised, ( Philemon 3:21;), will exceed the excellence of this beyond all comparison. A glory or splendor will belong to that which does not belong to this: here there is a glory of excellence; there, there will be a glory of light and effulgence; for the bodies of the saints shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. See Matthew 13:43.
There is one glory of the sun - As if he had said: This may be illustrated by the present appearance of the celestial bodies which belong to our system. The sun has a greater degree of splendor than the moon; the moon than the planets; and the planets than the stars. And even in the fixed stars, one has a greater degree of splendor than another, which may proceed either from their different magnitudes, or from the comparative proximity of some of them to our earth; but from which of these causes, or from what other cause unknown, we cannot tell, as it is impossible to ascertain the distance of any of the fixed stars; even the nearest of them being too remote to afford any sensible parallax, without which their distances cannot be measured. See the concluding observations, ( 1 Corinthians 15:58; (note), points 1-8)
So also is the resurrection of the dead - That is, the bodies of the dead, though all immortal, shall possess different degrees of splendor and glory, according to the state of holiness in which their respective souls were found. The rabbins have some crude notions concerning different degrees of glory, which the righteous shall possess in the kingdom of heaven. They make out seven degrees: -
"The second is possessed by those who are ישרים yesharim, the upright; whose delight it is to walk in the ways of God and please him."
"The third is for תמימים temimim, the perfect: those who, with integrity, walk in the ways of God, and do not curiously pry into his dispensations."
"The fourth is for קדושים kedoshim, the holy ones; those who are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all God's delight." Psalm 16:3.
"The fifth is for תשובה בעלי baaley teshubah, the chief of the penitents; who have broken through the brazen doors, and returned to the Lord."
"The sixth is for ht si rof רבן בית של תינוקות tinukoth shel beith raban, the scholars and tender ones; who have not transgressed."
"The seventh is for חסידים chasidim, the godly: and this is the innermost of all the departments." These seven degrees require a comment by themselves.
It is sown in corruption - The body is buried in a state of degradation, decay, and corruption. The apostle uses the word sown to intimate that the body shall rise again, as a seed springs up that has been sown in the earth.
It is raised in incorruption - Being no more subject to corruption, dissolution, and death.
It is sown in dishonor - Being now stripped of all the glory it had as a machine, fearfully and wonderfully made by the hands of God; and also consigned to death and destruction because of sin. This is the most dishonorable circumstance.
It is raised in glory - It is raised a glorious body, because immortal, and for ever redeemed from the empire of death.
It is sown in weakness - The principles of dissolution, corruption, and decay, have prevailed over it; disease undermined it; and death made it his prey.
It is raised in power - To be no more liable to weakness, through labor; decay, by age; wasting, by disease; and dissolution, by death.
It is sown a natural body - Σωμα ψυχικον· An animal body, having a multiplicity of solids and fluids of different kinds, with different functions; composed of muscles, fibres, tendons, cartilages, bones, arteries, veins, nerves, blood, and various juices, requiring continual support from aliment; and hence the necessity of labor to provide food, and skill to prepare it; which food must be masticated, digested, and refined; what is proper for nourishment secreted, brought into the circulation, farther elaborated, and prepared to enter into the composition of every part; hence growth and nutrition; without which no organized body can possibly exist.
It is raised a spiritual body - One perfect in all its parts; no longer dependent on natural productions for its support; being built up on indestructible principles, and existing in a region where there shall be no more death; no more causes of decay leading to dissolution; and consequently, no more necessity for food, nutrition, etc. The body is spiritual, and has a spiritual existence and spiritual support.
What the apostle says here is quite consistent with the views his countrymen had on this subject.
In Sohar Chadash, fol. 43, it is said: "So shall it be in the resurrection of the dead; only, the old uncleanness shall not be found."
R. Bechai, on the law, fol. 14, says: "When the godly shall arise, their bodies shall be pure and innocent; obedient to the instinct of the soul: there shall be no adversary, nor any evil disease."
Rab. Pinchas says: "The holy blessed God shall make the bodies of the righteous as beautiful as the body of Adam was when he entered into paradise."
Rab. Levi says: "When the soul is in heaven, it is clothed with celestial light; when it returns to the body, it shall have the same light; and then the body shall shine like the splendor of the firmament of heaven. Then shall men gain the knowledge of what is perfect." Sohar. Gen., fol. 69.
The Jews have an opinion that the os coxendicis, the lower joint of the backbone, survives the corruption of the body; and that it is out of this bone that the resurrection body is formed. In the place last quoted, fol. 70, we have the following teachings on this subject: "Let us borrow an example from what relates to the purifying of silver. First, the ore is cast into the burning furnace, that it may be separated from its earthly impurities; it is then silver, but not perfect silver. They put it into the furnace a second time, and then all its scoriae are separated from it, and it becomes perfect silver, without any adulteration. Thus does the holy blessed God: he first buries our bodies under the earth, where they putrefy and corrupt, that nothing remains but that one bone: from this a new body is produced, which is indeed a body, but not a perfect body. But in that great day, when all bodies are hidden in the earth, and the soul departs, then even that bone decays, and the body which was formed out of it remains, and is as the light of the sun, and the splendor of heaven. Thus, as the silver was purified, so is the body: and no imperfect mixture remains." See Schoettgen.
These things must not be treated as rabbinical dotages; the different similes used for the apostle have the same spirit and design: as the seed which is sown in the earth rots, and out of the germ contained in it God in his providence produces a root, stalk, leaves, ear, and a great numerical increase of grains; is it not likely that God, out of some essential parts of the body that now is, will produce the resurrection body; and will then give the soul a body as it pleaseth him; and so completely preserve the individuality of every human being, as he does of every grain; giving to each its own body? 1 Corinthians 15:38. So that as surely as the grain of wheat shall produce wheat after it is cast in the earth, corrupts, and dies; so surely shall our bodies produce the same bodies as to their essential individuality. As the germination of seeds is produced by his wisdom and power, so shall the pure and perfect human body be in the resurrection. Hence he does not say the body is buried, but the body is sown; it is sown in weakness, it is sown in dishonor, etc., etc.
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body - This very saying is found in so many words, in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 126: "There are different kinds of men." רגופא אדם ואיה דנשמתא אדם דאיהו אדם אית "There is a spiritual Adam, and there is also a corporeal Adam."
The first man Adam was made a living soul - These forms of expression are also common among the Jews: hence we find הראשון אדם Adam harishon, "Adam the first;" and קדמאי אדם Adam kadmai, " Adam the last." They assert that there are two Adams: 1. The mystical heavenly Adam; and 2. The mystical earthly Adam. See Sohar Exod., fol. 29; and the several examples in Schoettgen. The apostle says this is written: The first man Adam was made a living soul: this is found Genesis 2:7, in the words חיים נשמת nishmath chaiyim, the breath of lives; which the apostle translates ψυχην ζωσαν, a living soul.
The last Adam - a quickening spirit - This is also said to be written; but where, says Dr. Lightfoot, is this written in the whole sacred book? Schoettgen replies, In the very same verse, and in these words: חיה לנפש האדם ויהי vayehi ha - Adam lėnephesh chaiyah, and Adam became a living soul; which the apostle translates πνευμα ζωοποιουν, a quickening, or life-giving spirit. Among the cabalistic Jews נפש nephesh is considered as implying greater dignity than נשמה nishma . The former may be considered as pointing out the rational, the latter the sensitive soul. All these references to Jewish opinions and forms of speech the apostle uses to convince them that the thing was possible; and that the resurrection of the body was generally credited by all their wise and learned men. The Jews, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, speak frequently of the Spirit of the Messiah; and they allow that it was this Spirit that moved on the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2. And they assert that the Messiah shall quicken those who dwell in the dust.
"It ought not to be passed by," says the same author, "that Adam, receiving from God the promise of Christ - The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent, and believing it, named his wife חוה Chauvah, that is, life; so the Septuagint, και εκαλεσεν Αδαμ το ονονα της γυναικος αυτου Ζωη· And Adam called the name of his wife, Life. What! Is she called Life that brought death into the world? But Adam perceived τον εσχατον Αδαμ, the last Adam exhibited to him in the promise, to be πνευμα ζωο, ποιουν, a quickening or life-giving spirit; and had brought in a better life of the soul; and should at last bring in a better life of the body. Hence is that saying, John 1:4; : Εν αυτῳ ζωη ην, In Him was Life." Some contend that the first Adam and the last Adam mean the same person in two different states: the first man with the body of his creation; the same person with the body of his resurrection. See on 1 Corinthians 15:49; (note).
That was not first which is spiritual - The natural or animal body, described 1 Corinthians 15:44, was the first; it was the body with which Adam was created. The spiritual body is the last, and is that with which the soul is to be clothed in the resurrection.
The first man is of the earth - That is: Adam's body was made out of the dust of the earth; and hence the apostle says he was χοΐκος, of the dust; for the body was made האדמה מן עפר aphar min haadamah, dust from the ground; Genesis 2:7.
The second man is - from heaven - Heavenly, ουρανιος, as several good MSS. and versions read. The resurrection body shall be of a heavenly nature, and not subject to decay or death. What is formed of earth must live after an earthly manner; must be nourished and supported by the earth: what is from heaven is of a spiritual nature; and shall have no farther connection with, nor dependence upon, earth. I conceive both these clauses to relate to man; and to point out the difference between the animal body and the spiritual body, or between the bodies which we now have and the bodies which we shall have in the resurrection. But can this be the meaning of the clause, the second man is the Lord from heaven? In the quotation I have omitted ὁ Κυριος, the Lord, on the following authorities: Manuscripts - BCD*EFG, and two others. Versions - Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian in the margin, Vulgate, and Itala. Fathers-Origen, who quotes it once and omits it once; Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, Nyssen and Nazianzen; Isidore, Cyril, Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary, Zeno, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Philaster, Leo, Pacianus, Primasius, Sedulius, Bede, and others. See these authorities more at large in Wetstein. Some of the most eminent of modern critics leave out the word, and Tertullian says that it was put in by the heretic Marcion. I do think that the word is not legitimate in this place. The verse is read by the MSS., versions, and fathers referred to, thus: The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is of heaven, heavenly; Κυριος being omitted and ουρανιος added. The first man and the second man of this verse are the same as the first Adam and the second Adam of 1 Corinthians 15:45, and it is not clear that Christ is meant in either place. Some suppose that there is a reference here to what Eve said when she brought forth Cain: I have gotten a man from the Lord, יהוה את איש קניתי kanithi ish eth Yehovah, I have possessed or obtained a man, the Lord; that is, as Dr. Lightfoot explains it, that the Lord himself should become man: and he thinks that Eve had respect to the promise of Christ when she named her son; as Adam had when he named his wife. If Eve had this in view, we can only say she was sadly mistaken: indeed the conjecture is too refined.
The terms first man of the earth, and second man from heaven, are frequent among the Jews: לעילא אדם the superior Adam; and תתאה אדם Adam the inferior; that is, the earthly and the heavenly Adam: Adam before the resurrection, and Adam after it.
As is the earthy, etc. - As Adam was, who was formed from the earth, so are all his descendants; frail, decaying, and subject to death.
As is the heavenly - As is the heavenly state of Adam and all glorified beings, so shall be the state of all those who, at the resurrection, are found fit for glory.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy - As being descendants from Adam we have all been born in his likeness, and subject to the same kind of corruption, disgrace, and death; we shall also be raised to a life immortal, such as he now enjoys in the kingdom of God. This interpretation proceeds on the ground that what is here spoken belongs to Adam in his twofold state: viz. of mortality and immortality; of disgrace and honor; of earth and heaven.
But by many commentators the words are understood to refer to Adam and Christ, in 1 Corinthians 15:46-49. By these, Christ is called the second Adam, the quickening Spirit, the second man, and the heavenly; whose image of righteousness and true holiness we are to bear.
But when I consider, 1st. How all these terms are used and applied in the Jewish writings, it appears to me that as this was not their import among them, so it was not the design of Paul; and it would be very difficult to find any place where Jesus Christ is called the second Adam in either Old or New Testament. The discourse of the apostle, Romans 5:14-19, will not prove it, though in those verses there is a comparison drawn between Adam and Christ; but that comparison refers to the extent of the sin and condemnation brought upon all men by the transgression of the first; and the redemption purchased for all men by the sacrifice of the last; and the superabundant grace procured by that sacrifice. But here, the comparison most evidently is between the state of man in this mortal life, and his state after the resurrection. Here, all men are corrupt and mortal, and here, all men die. There, all men shall be incorrupt and immortal, and, whether holy or unholy, shall be eternally immortal.
Of the image of Adam, in his heavenly or paradisaical state, the rabbins talk largely: they say that "God created Adam with a double image, earthly and heavenly; that he was the most perfect of all beings; that his splendor shone from one extremity of the earth to the other; that all feared before him; that he knew all wisdom, both earthly and heavenly; but when he sinned, his glory was diminished, and his wisdom departed from him." Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 10.
They add farther, that "in the time in which Adam received עילאה בדיוקנה the heavenly image, all creatures came to him, and acknowledged him king of the earth." Ibid., fol. 21.
From all this, and much more might be produced on the subject, (see Schoettgen), it appears that the apostle follows, as far as it could comport with his design, the sentiments of his countrymen, and that he adopts their very phraseology; and that it is through the medium of these sentiments and this phraseology that he is to be understood and interpreted. Others may understand all these passages differently; and still consider them as a parallel between Adam and Christ, which is the general view of interpreters. The view which I have taken of them appears to me to be much more consistent with the nature of the discourse, and the scope and design of the apostle. The common opinion is orthodox: what I here propose is no heresy. There are many difficulties in the chapter, and not a few in the verses immediately under consideration.
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom - This is a Hebrew periphrasis for man, and man in his present state of infirmity and decay. Man, in his present state, cannot inherit the kingdom of God; his nature is not suited to that place; he could not, in his present weak state, endure an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. Therefore, it is necessary that he should die, or be changed; that he should have a celestial body suited to the celestial state. The apostle is certainly not speaking of flesh and blood in a moral sense, to signify corruption of mind and heart; but in a natural sense; as such, flesh and blood cannot inherit glory, for the reasons already assigned.
I show you a mystery - That is, a thing which you have never known before. But what is this mystery? Why, that we shall not all sleep; we shall not all die; but we shall all be changed: of this the Jews had not distinct notions. For, as flesh and blood cannot inherit glory, and all shall not be found dead at the day of judgment, then all must be changed - undergo such a change that their bodies may become spiritual, like the bodies of those who shall be raised from the dead.
In a moment - Εν ατομῳ· In an atom; that is, an indivisible point of time. In the twinkling of an eye; as soon as a man can wink; which expressions show that this mighty work is to be done by the almighty power of God, as he does all his works, He calls, and it is done. The resurrection of all the dead, from the foundation of the world to that time, and the change of all the living then upon earth, shall be the work of a single moment.
At the last trump - This, as well as all the rest of the peculiar phraseology of this chapter, is merely Jewish, and we must go to the Jewish writers to know what is intended. On this subject, the rabbins use the very same expression. Thus Rabbi Akiba: "How shall the holy blessed God raise the dead? We are taught that God has a trumpet a thousand ells long, according to the ell of God: this trumpet he shall blow, so that the sound of it shall extend from one extremity of the earth to the other. At the first blast the earth shall be shaken; at the second, the dust shall be separated; at the third, the bones shall be gathered together; at the fourth, the members shall wax warm; at the fifth, the heads shall be covered with skin; at the sixth, the souls shall be rejoined to their bodies; at the seventh, all shall revive and stand clothed." See Wetstein. This tradition shows us what we are to understand by the last trump of the apostle; it is the seventh of Rab. Akiba, when the dead shall be all raised, and, being clothed upon with their eternal vehicles, they shall be ready to appear before the judgment seat of God.
For the trumpet shall sound - By this the apostle confirms the substance of the tradition, there shall be the sound of a trumpet on this great day; and this other scriptures teach: see Zechariah 9:14; Matthew 24:31; John 5:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, in which latter place, the apostle treats this subject among the Thessalonians, as he does here among the Corinthians. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Shall be raised incorruptible - Fully clothed with a new body, to die no more.
We shall be changed - That is, those who shall then be found alive.
For this corruptible, etc. - Because flesh and blood cannot inherit glory; therefore, there must be a refinement by death, or a change without it.
Death is swallowed up in victory - Κατεποθη ὁ θανατος εις νικος . These words are a quotation from Isaiah 25:8, where the Hebrew is לנצח המות בלע billa hammaveth lanetsach : He (God) hath swallowed up death in victory; or, for ever. These words in the Septuagint are thus translated: κατεπιεν ὁ θανατος ισχυσας· Death having prevailed, or conquered, hath swallowed up. But in the version of Theodotion, the words are the same with those of the apostle. The Hebrew לנצח lanetsach the Septuagint sometimes translate εις νικος, in victory, but most commonly εις τελος, for ever; both, as Bishop Pearce observes, in such kind of phrases, signifying the same thing, because eternity conquers all things; and accordingly, in 2 Samuel 2:26, where the Septuagint have μη εις νικος καταφαγεται ἡ ῥομφαια, our English version has, Shall the sword devour For Ever? And the same may be seen in Job 36:7; Lamentations 5:20; Amos 1:11; Amos 8:7; from which authority the bishop translates the clause here, Death is swallowed up For Ever.
Death is here personified and represented as a devouring being, swallowing up all the generations of men; and by the resurrection of the body and the destruction of the empire of death, God is represented as swallowing him up; or that eternity gulps him down; so that he is endlessly lost and absorbed in its illimitable waste. How glorious a time to the righteous, when the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick; when God shall have wiped away all tears from off all faces, and when there shall be no more death. This time must come. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? - Που σου, Θανατε, το κεντρον· που σου, ᾁδη, το νικος· These words are generally supposed to be taken from Hosea 13:14, where the Hebrew text stands thus: שאול קטבך אהי מות דבריך אהי ehi debareyca maueth ; ehikatabca sheol : which we translate, O death! I will be thy plagues; O grave! I will be thy destruction; and which the Septuagint translate very nearly as the apostle, που ἡ δικη σου, Θαντε; που το κεντρον σον, ᾁδη ; O death, where is thy revenge, or judicial process? O grave, where is thy sting? And it may be remarked that almost all the MSS., versions, and many of the fathers, interchange the two members of this sentence as they appear in the Septuagint, attributing victory to death; and the sting, to hades or the grave; only the Septuagint, probably by mistake or corruption of copyists, have δικη, dike, revenge or a judicial process, for νικος, nikos, victory: a mistake which the similarity of the words, both in letters and sound, might readily produce. We may observe, also, that the אהי ehi (I will be) of the Hebrew text the Septuagint, and the apostle following them, have translated που, where, as if the word had been written איה where, the two last letters interchanged; but אהי ehi, is rendered where in other places; and our translators, in the 10th verse of this same chapter ( Hosea 13:10;) render מלך אהי ehi malca, "I will be thy king," but have this note in the margin, "Rather, where is thy king? King Hoshea being then in prison." The apostle, therefore, and the Septuagint, are sufficiently vindicated by the use of the word elsewhere: and the best Jewish commentators allow this use of the word. The Targum, Syriac, Arabic, Vulgate, and some MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi, confirm this reading.
Having vindicated the translation, it is necessary to inquire into the meaning of the apostle's expressions. Both Death and Hades are here personified: Death is represented as having a sting, dagger, or goad, by which, like the driver of oxen, he is continually irritating and urging on; (these irritations are the diseases by which men are urged on till they fall into Hades, the empire of Death); to Hades, victory is attributed, having overcome and conquered all human life, and subdued all to its own empire. By the transposition of these two members of the sentence, the victory is given to Death, who has extinguished all human life; and the sting is given to Hades, as in his empire the evil of death is fully displayed by the extinction of all animal life, and the destruction of all human bodies. We have often seen a personification of death in ancient paintings - a skeleton crowned, with a dart in his hand; probably taken from the apostle's description. The Jews represent the angel of death as having a sword, from which deadly drops of gall fall into the mouths of all men.
Hades, which we here translate grave, is generally understood to be the place of separate spirits. See the note on Matthew 11:23.
The sting of death is sin - The apostle explains himself particularly here: death could not have entered into the world if sin had not entered first; it was sin that not only introduced death, but has armed him with all his destroying force; the goad or dagger of death is sin; by this both body and soul are slain.
The strength of sin is the law - The law of God forbids all transgression, and sentences those who commit it to temporal and eternal death. Sin has its controlling and binding power from the law. The law curses the transgressor, and provides no help for him; and if nothing else intervene, he must, through it, continue ever under the empire of death.
But thanks be to God - What the law could not do, because it is law, (and law cannot provide pardon), is done by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: he has died to slay death; he has risen again to bring mankind from under the empire of hades. All this he has done through his mere unmerited mercy; and eternal thanks are due to God for this unspeakable gift. He has given us the victory over sin, Satan, death, the grave, and hell.
Be ye steadfast - Ἑδραιοι, from ἑδρα, a seat; be settled; confide in the truth of this doctrine of the resurrection, and every thing that pertains to it, as confidently as a man sits down on a Seat, which he knows to be solid, firm, and safe; and on which he has often sat.
Unmovable - Αμετακινητοι, from α, negative, and μετακινεω, to move away; let nothing shake your faith; let nothing move you away from this hope of the Gospel which is given unto you. What I tell you I receive from God; your false teachers cannot say so: in a declaration of God you may unshakingly confide.
Always abounding in the work of the Lord - The work of the Lord is obedience to his holy word; every believer in Christ is a workman of God. He that works not, to bring glory to God and good to man, is not acknowledged as a servant of Christ; and if he be not a servant, he is not a son; and if not a son, then not an heir. And he must not only work, but abound in that work; ever exceeding his former self; and this, not for a time, but always; beginning, continuing, and ending every act of life to God's glory and the good of his fellows.
Your labor is not in vain - Your labor in the Lord is not in vain; you must not only work, but you must labor - put forth all your strength; and you must work and labor in the Lord - under his direction, and by his influence; for without him ye can do nothing. And this labor cannot be in vain; you shall have a resurrection unto eternal life: not because you have labored, but because Christ died and gave you grace to be faithful.
(2.) The quantum of grace will be another great cause of diversity and glory. He who received most of Christ here, and was most devoted to his service, shall have the nearest approach to him in his own kingdom. But all equally holy and equally faithful souls shall not have equal degrees of glory; for the glory will be according to the capacity of the mind, as well as the degree of grace and improvement. The greater the capacity, provided it be properly influenced by the grace of Christ, the greater will be the enjoyment.
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