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: -
1.Whether there be a resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:1-35.
2.What will be the nature of the resurrection bodies? 1 Corinthians 15:35-51.
I.The resurrection he proves,
1.From Scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
II.He proves the resurrection by showing the absurdity of the contrary doctrine: -
1.If the dead rise not, Christ is not risen, 1 Corinthians 15:13.
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.
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:
1.Christ, who rose from the dead by his own power.
2.Them that are Christ‘s; all his apostles, martyrs, confessors, and faithful followers.
3.Then cometh the end, when the whole mass shall be raised.
Whether this order be exactly what the apostle intends, I shall not assert. Of the first, Christ‘s own resurrection, there can be no question. The second, the resurrection of his followers, before that of the common dead, is thought by some very reasonable. “They had here a resurrection from a death of sin to a life of righteousness, which the others had not, because they would not be saved in Christ‘s way. That they should have the privilege of being raised first, to behold the astonishing changes and revolutions which shall then take place, has nothing in it contrary to propriety and fitness;” but it seems contrary to 1 Corinthians 15:52, in which all the dead are said to rise in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. “And, thirdly, that all the other mass of mankind should be raised last, just to come forward and receive their doom, is equally reasonable:” but it is apparently inconsistent with the manner in which God chooses to act; see 1 Corinthians 15:53. Some think that by them that are Christ‘s at his coming, “we are to understand Christ‘s coming to reign on earth a thousand years with his saints, previously to the general judgment;” but I must confess I find nothing in the sacred writings distinctly enough marked to support this opinion of the millennium, or thousand years‘ reign; nor can I conceive any important end that can be answered by this procedure.
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.
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:
1.The doctrine of the resurrection of our Lord was a grand doctrine among the apostles; they considered and preached this as the demonstration of the truth of the Gospel.
2.The multitudes who embraced Christianity became converts on the evidence of this resurrection.
10.The sum of the apostle‘s meaning appears to be this: If there be no resurrection of the dead, those who, in becoming Christians, expose themselves to all manner of privations, crosses, severe sufferings, and a violent death, can have no compensation, nor any motive sufficient to induce them to expose themselves to such miseries. But as they receive baptism as an emblem of death in voluntarily going under the water, so they receive it as an emblem of the resurrection unto eternal life, in coming up out of the water; thus they are baptized for the dead, in perfect faith of the resurrection. The three following verses seem to confirm this sense.
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,
1.From his own silence on this subject, when enumerating his various sufferings, 2 Corinthians 11:23, etc.
2.From the silence of his historian, Luke, who, in the acts of this apostle, gives no intimation of this kind; and it certainly was too remarkable a circumstance to be passed over, either by Paul in the catalogue of his own sufferings, or by Luke in his history.
5.From the positive testimony of Tertullian and Chrysostom, who deny the literal interpretation.
On the other hand, it is strongly argued that the apostle is to be literally understood; and that he did, at some particular time, contend with wild beasts at Ephesus, from which he was miraculously delivered.
1.That the phrase κατα ανθρωπον signifies as men used to do, and never means according to the manner of men, as implying their purpose, or, to use their forms of speech, etc.
2.From the circumstances of the case in Ephesus usually referred to, viz. the insurrection by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen; where, though Paul would have been in danger had he gone into the theater, he was in little or none, as he did not adventure himself.
6.That this is the case he refers to, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10: For we would not, brethren, have you if ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, καθ ‘ ὑπερβολην εβαρηθημεν ὑπερ δυναμιν , insomuch that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead; who delivered us from so great a death: for these expressions refer to some excessive and unprecedented danger, from which nothing less than a miraculous interference could have saved him; and that it might have been an actual exposure to wild beasts, or any other danger equally great, or even greater.
What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? - I believe the common method of pointing this verse is erroneous; I propose to read it thus: If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it advantage me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.
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.
There is a proverb much like this among the rabbins:
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.
Ανδρασιν, αλλ ‘ αιει των αγαθων εχεο·
Ἱζε, και ἁνδανε τοις, ὡν μεγαλη δυναμις.
Συμμιχθῃς, απολεις και τον εοντα νοον.
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.
1.The question is stated, 1 Corinthians 15:35.
2.It is answered:
first, by a similitude, 1 Corinthians 15:36-38;
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.
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 first of which is possessed by צדיקים (tsaddikim), the just, who observe the covenant of the holy, blessed God, and subjugate all evil affections.”
There is a saying among the rabbins very like that of the apostle in this and the preceding verse Siphri, in Yalcut Simeoni, page 2, fol. 10: “The faces of the righteous shall be, in the world to come, like suns, moons, the heaven, stars, lightnings: and like the lilies and candlesticks of the temple.”
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.
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.” אית אדם דאיהו אדם דנשמתא ואיה אדם רגופא “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 אדם הראשון (Adam harishon), “Adam the first;” and אדם קדמאי (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 נשמת חיים (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: ויהי האדם לנפש חיה (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.
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 עפר מן האדמה (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, קניתי איש את יהוה (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.
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.
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 בלע המות לנצח (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.
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: אהי דבריך מות אהי קטבך שאול (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 אהי מלך (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.
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.
1.The chapter through which the reader has passed is a chapter of great importance and difficulty; and on its difficulties much has been written in the preceding notes. Though I have used all the helps in my power to guide me in explaining it, I have, upon the whole, been obliged to think for myself, and claim only the praise of severe labor, ever directed by honest intention and an earnest desire to find out the truth.
2.There are many questions connected with the doctrine of the resurrection which I could not introduce here without writing a book instead of short notes on a very long chapter. On such subjects, I again beg leave to direct the reader to Mr. Samuel Drew‘s Essay on that subject.
1.The quantum of mind; and
(1.) It is idle to suppose that God has made all human souls with the same capacities: he has not. There is an infinite diversity; he who has the greatest mind can know most, do most, suffer most, and enjoy most.
6.That there will be great diversity in the states of glorified saints is the apostle‘s doctrine; and he illustrates it by the different degrees of splendor between the sun, moon, planets, and stars. This needs little application. There are some of the heavenly bodies that give heat, light, and splendor, as the Sun; and are of the utmost service to the world: some that give light, and comparative splendor, without heat, as the Moon; and yet are of very great use to mankind: others, again, which give a steady but not a splendid light, at the Planets; and are serviceable in their particular spheres: and lastly, others which twinkle in their respective systems, as the stars of different magnitudes.
Visit Our Sponsors
Search This Commentary