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X. The Resurrection of the Body. Chap. 15.
From ecclesiastical, moral, and liturgical questions, the apostle passes to one of a dogmatic nature. He has reserved it for the last, no doubt, because of its importance. Doctrine is the vital element in the existence of the Church. The Church itself is in a manner only doctrine assimilated. Any grave corruption in teaching immediately vitiates the body of Christ. The apostle opened his letter by laying down as the foundation of his work, Christ crucified; he concludes it by presenting as the crown of his work, Christ risen. In these two facts, applied to the conscience and appropriated by faith, there is concentrated indeed the whole of the Christian salvation.
The subject of the resurrection of the body does not appear to have been treated in the letter which the Corinthians had addressed to Paul. 1Co 15:12 of our chapter rather leads us to think that he had accidentally learned, perhaps from the delegates of the Church who were now with him, what was being said at Corinth by some individuals ( τινές ) who posed as adversaries of the resurrection.
Did they deny the resurrection of Christ Himself? It does not seem so at the first glance, for the apostle starts from this fact as admitted, to infer therefrom our own resurrection. But he takes such pains to lay this foundation of his argument, that it seems to me impossible not to hold, in opposition to the opinion of most modern commentators, that the conviction of those people, and even of many members of the Church, was shaken on the point. One of the two negations could not in the long run fail to lead to the other; for in virtue of the close union between Christ and believers, salvation cannot otherwise be realized in the latter than in the person of their Head.
Who were these certain? It has been supposed that they were former Sadducees who, while going over to Christianity, had imported into it some remnants of their former opinions. But there is no proof of the propagation of Sadduceism outside of Palestine; and a Sadducee converted to Christianity would have experienced too radical a change to admit easily of such a mixture of heterogeneous opinions. All the religious and moral deviations which we have hitherto observed at Corinth proceeded from the Greek character; it is probable that it was so also in this case. From the Greek point of view, especially since the time of Plato, it was customary to regard matter, ὕλη , as the source of evil, physical and moral, and consequently the body as the principle of sin in human nature. It is obvious, therefore, that the resurrection of the body which, from the Jewish Messianic viewpoint, was looked upon as the consummation of the expected salvation, and as an essential element of future glory, must have appeared to the Greek mind as a thing very little to be desired, as the restoration of the principle of evil. This view had even gained the Jewish thinkers of Alexandria who came under the influence of Greek philosophy, such as the author of Wisdom and the philosopher Philo, to whom we may add the Essenian monks. They all agree in regarding death as setting man free from the bonds of the body, and in making the immortality of the soul, of the soul alone, the object of their hope. Heinrici thought he found in Josephus evidence of a change of opinion on this point even among the Pharisees, as if they had come to hold metempsychosis, instead of the resurrection of the body. But the passage quoted by this critic ( Bell. Jude 1:2; Jude 1:2.8, Jude 1:14) proves nothing of the kind: “Every soul is immortal; either it passes into another body, which is the abode of good, or it is punished through the eternal chastisement of evil actions.” The meaning of these words is, that resurrection of the body is a privilege granted to righteous souls only.
There is nothing, I think, to prevent us from connecting with the denial of the resurrection by certain of the Corinthians what Paul says in 2Ti 2:18 of two heretics: “That, according to them, the resurrection of the dead was past already.” Evidently these teachers would not see in the resurrection anything else than spiritual regeneration; the restoration of the body was relegated by them to the domain of fable. It must be remembered that there was not yet in the Church any positively formulated system of doctrine, and that the teaching was being gradually formed by the labours of prophets and teachers under the direction of the apostolate.
One or two passages of this chapter, particularly 1 Corinthians 15:32-34, have led some to suppose that those whom the apostle combats, denied not only the resurrection of the body, but even the immortality of the soul and the judgment; and it has been thought that they belonged to the materialistic sect of the Epicureans. But it seems to us impossible that men of that stamp could have have adhered to Christianity; see besides on this question at the passage indicated.
Should we identify the opponents of the resurrection with one of the four parties mentioned 1Co 1:12 ? Those of Paul and Peter are evidently at once beyond suspicion. Meyer, Heinrici, and others think of the disciples of Apollos as men who cultivated human wisdom. But we think we have refuted the prejudice relative to the disciples of Apollos. There would remain only οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ , those of Christ. Perhaps, indeed, it might be concluded from some parallels (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, for example) that it was in this camp those τινές were found; but, on the other hand, the Second Epistle shows that the party of those of Christ had at its head men who had come from Jerusalem and were ultra-Judaizing. Now, as we have seen, antipathy to the resurrection cannot well have come from the Jewish side. All idea must therefore be given up of connecting the subject in question with the dissensions treated chaps. 1-4.
In the following discussion the apostle begins by showing that with the resurrection of the body the entire system of Christian salvation rises or falls: 1 Corinthians 15:1-34; then he resolves the difficulties which the fact presents, and concludes by raising the triumphant song of life over death: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
On Chapter 15.
Reuss and Heinrici think that the notion of a spiritual body is incompatible with the gospel narratives which describe the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection; for Jesus seems still to have had during that period His earthly and psychical body. A journal ( l'Alliance libérale) has gone further, and concluded that the accounts of the appearances of Jesus in the Gospels are only later legends, due to the ever grosser and more materialistic ideas which were formed of the resurrection.
To remove the difficulty raised by the two writers just named, we need not have recourse to the expedient of B. Weiss, who thinks that every time Jesus wished to appear, He clothed Himself in a sensible and corporal exterior. It needs simply to be remembered that, according to our Gospel narratives, the body of Jesus was not immediately transformed into a spiritual body by His resurrection. It was still in His former body restored that He showed Himself, though this body was already subject to other conditions of existence and activity than our earthly body. It was not till the ascension that the substitution of the spiritual for the earthly body was fully consummated. Jesus Himself indicated the gradual process which was taking place in Him when He said to Mary Magdalene, on the very day of His resurrection, John 20:17: “I am not yet ascended unto My Father..., but I ascend...”
As to the opinion which, because of this alleged contradiction, would convert the Gospel narratives into later legends, it meets with an insurmountable obstacle in the fact that these narratives are the redaction of the apostolical tradition daily reproduced in the Churches by the apostles themselves, and the evangelists formed by them, from the day of Pentecost downwards. This is what appears from the nature of things, and what we find established in this very chapter, in which the apostle enumerates as apostolical traditions the principal appearances described in our Gospels. That Paul himself thinks of bodily appearances is beyond all doubt, in view of the inference which he draws from them, to wit, our own bodily resurrection.
The treatment of the subjects which the apostle had in view being finished, it only remains for him to close this letter with a conclusion like those which are generally found at the end of his Epistles, and which refers to certain special communications (matters of business, commissions, news, salutations) which he had to make to the Church.
Vv. 1, 2. “Moreover, brethren, I make known unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein also ye stand; 2. by which, also, ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”
There is something surprising in the term γνωρίζω , I make known to you, for in the immediately following words Paul declares that the gospel he is about to expound to them, he preached to them, and they themselves received and held it. This, however, is not a sufficient reason for abandoning the natural meaning of the verb, and making it signify, as some do: “I remind you...,” or with others: “I call your attention to...” Some (Bengel, Ewald, Heinrici, etc.) think that we have a construction similar to that of 1 Corinthians 3:20, or Galatians 1:11: “I make known to you the gospel..., in what way I preached it to you ( τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ..., 1Co 15:2 ),” meaning: “I make known to you in what way I preached to you the gospel.” But the contradiction between making known and having preached remains all the same, though the first term should apply to the form and not to the substance. If the Corinthians had heard Paul, and believed through his ministry, they must have known both the substance and form of his preaching. Hofmann seeks the solution in the special sense he gives to τίνι λόγῳ : “In what thought, that is to say, with what aim, I preached to you.” The apostle's intention in preaching to them was, according to this critic, to show them by the resurrection of Christ that salvation is for us, as for him, a principle of glorification. But how is it possible to read all this in 1Co 15:1-2 Paul would easily have succeeded in expressing this thought more clearly if it had really been his. It seems to me, as to Holsten, that the word: I declare to you, is chosen with the intention of humiliating the readers. Paul wishes to bring out by the intentional contradiction between this term and those which follow: “I preached, you received, you stand fast,” the corruption which has been introduced among them of the conception of salvation, to the extent of transforming the meaning of the message he had brought them, so as to make it a wholly different thing, though outwardly speaking they remained faithful to it. Thus is explained the somewhat strange form of the τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισαμην , 1 Corinthians 15:2. Meyer and Holsten seem to me to hold, as to this proposition, the only possible construction, by making it depend, not on σώζεσθε , ye are saved, but on κατέχετε , keep in memory: “If you firmly keep in mind how I preached it to you (the gospel).” There is an inversion, as so often in Paul (1 Corinthians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 7:17, 1 Corinthians 14:12, etc.), and that with the view of bringing out clearly the whole dependent proposition which is the object of κατέχετε : “If, in the sense in which I preached it to you (the gospel), you hold it firmly.” They run no risk of denying Christianity, but of abandoning the true sense in which they received it from Paul, and in which it can preserve its saving power. And this is why Paul is obliged to make, as it were, a new communication of it to them. There is between the verb γνωρίζειν , to make known, and εὐαγγελίζεσθαι , to preach, this difference: that the second indicates the simple statement of the historical fact, and the first embraces the explanation of its full meaning and its relation to salvation as a whole.
The two καί , also, which follow one another, clearly indicate a gradation. To preaching succeeded the acceptance of faith; to this, perseverance in profession.
Vv. 2. But this acceptance and profession are not yet salvation itself. There is needed the κατέχειν , the act of keeping in mind and keeping well. This is why Paul adds: “whereby also you are put in possession of salvation, if you hold it as I have taught it to you.” The word λόγος here denotes the exact meaning Paul had given to the facts here related. Faith should grasp not only the fact, but also the Divine thought realized in the fact.
The pronoun of direct interrogation, τίνι , is designedly used instead of the relative pronoun ᾧ : “If you keep in mind in what way...,” instead of: “If you keep in mind the manner in which...” The first form is more suited to express a qualification. Paul alludes in this τίνι to a variety of conceptions as to the facts of salvation.
But why to this first restriction: if you keep in mind, does he add a second: at least unless you believed in vain? The former bears on the subjective perseverance of the Corinthians to keep the true meaning of the facts of salvation; the latter bears on the objective reality of the facts themselves. Salvation by faith in Christ crucified and risen is impossible except as this Christ crucified and risen is a reality. Now there is a supposition on which constant faith in Him, as Paul preached Him, would not save, viz. that Christ did not exist. This supposition, revolting as it is to the Christian conscience, Paul nevertheless expresses, and seems to take in earnest in the following demonstration; and in the minds of many certainty as to the Divine facts, and of the resurrection in particular, must evidently have been shaken.
As to the form ἐκτὸς εἰ μή , see on 1 Corinthians 14:5. The word εἰκῆ , in vain, may signify: without foundation, without sufficient reason, as in Mat 5:22 and Colossians 2:18. But ordinarily it signifies without result, without effect, as in the classical expression εἰκῆ βάλλειν , to throw an arrow which does not hit; comp. Romans 13:4; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11. In the former sense: “unless you believed in a pure fable” ( 1Co 15:14-15 ). In the latter: “unless your faith remains without effect (because its object is nothing real).” Substantially the two meanings come to the same.
The apostle had ( 1Co 11:2 ) praised the Corinthians for maintaining the ecclesiastical institutions which he had given them; he is evidently careful not to say as much here in regard to their keeping of his doctrinal traditions. And now he sets himself to expound to them the whole doctrine of the resurrection which he had declared to them, and he begins by reminding them, 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, of that whole series of irrefutable testimonies on which faith in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus rests, the fact which forms the foundation of that which he wishes to develop.
I. With the Fact of the Resurrection of the Body Christian Salvation rises or Falls. VERS. 1-34.
The apostle's first care is to establish firmly the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, on which rests the expectation of our own ( 1Co 15:1-11 ).
Vv. 3-5. “For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, 5. and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve.”
The for bears, not on either of the secondary ideas of the previous verses: If you hold firmly, or: By which you are saved, but on the principal idea: “I declare to you what I preached to you.” Paul means: “The points which I put in the first rank, when I preached the gospel to you, are the following.” He had laid down as the basis of Christian teaching, in the same way as he does here, the facts of the Lord's death and resurrection. We need not, with Chrysostom and Hofmann, give the word first the temporal meaning; it is the fundamental importance of those one or two points which Paul wishes to characterize by the term.
It was formerly held that the word I received referred, as in 1 Corinthians 11:23, to a direct communication from the Lord. Modern commentators rather think that the reference here is to a human tradition, to the narrative of the Twelve as witnesses to facts. And indeed it should be remarked that the apostle does not here say ἐγώ , I [emphatic], and that he does not add, as in the passage quoted, of the Lord. He evidently knew the facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in the same way as the whole Church, by their public notoriety and the narratives of the apostles. If Paul afterwards speaks specially of two appearances which were granted to Peter and James, this agrees well with the fact that it was with these two men he had conferred personally during his first stay at Jerusalem, after his conversion ( Gal 1:19 ). But, true as this view is, perhaps it is incomplete. In the gospel preached by Paul at Corinth, there was not only, as we have seen, the historical side of facts; his preaching contained a higher element, the understanding of those facts as expressed in the words: for our sins, and: according to the Scriptures. And on such points Paul had received, as he says, Galatians 1:12, the teaching of the Lord Himself whereby alone the external facts related in apostolical tradition had become to him soteriological facts; I think, therefore, that he designedly used the verb παρέλαβον , I received, without regimen, leaving it in all its generality, that it might embrace both human tradition and Divine teaching.
The καί , also, expresses the exact conformity between the deposit committed to Paul and his conveying of it to the Corinthians.
The regimen: for our sins, has special importance, because it is the Divine meaning of the fact, as he will afterwards explain it, 1 Corinthians 15:17-18. It is quite clear that in this phrase the ὑπέρ does not signify: in place of, but: in behalf of: “In behalf of our sins to expiate them.” This phrase is found nowhere else in Paul; but comp. Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 10:12.
The regimen: according to the Scriptures, has its importance: the Divine testimony of the Scriptures is designedly placed before all the apostolic testimonies which are about to follow. The Scriptures had said the event would happen; the witnesses declare it has happened.
Vv. 4. It is asked why the burial of Jesus occupies a place among these few essential facts. It is certainly not with a view to the spiritual application which is made of it, Romans 6:4; for this belonged to a more advanced stage of teaching. Neither is it to establish the reality of the death, for interment does not exclude the possibility of a lethargy. But the fact of interment ever recalls “that empty tomb on which, as has been said, the Church is founded,” and which remains inexplicable by all who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. It is indeed what excludes both the supposition of hallucination on the part of the apostles and that of a purely spiritual reappearance of Jesus after His death. The dead body laid in the sepulchre disappeared. What became of it? No explanation other than the fact itself of the resurrection has ever been able to account for this mystery.
Passing from the facts of the death and burial to the resurrection, Paul discontinues the aorists ( died, was buried) for the perfect ( ἐγήγερται ). For the risen Christ continues in life.
Does the regimen: according to the Scriptures, which is repeated here, apply only to the fact in general or specially to the detail: the third day? In the former case, we must think of Isaiah 53:0 and Psalms 16:0; in the latter, we must add to these passages the history of Jonah and Hosea 6:2.
This date of the third day was not accidental; for, as Hofmann observes, it is precisely then that dissolution ordinarily begins to appear.
Vv. 5. The two first appearances mentioned here, that to Peter in the course of the day of the resurrection, and that to the Twelve on the evening of the same day, are also mentioned by Luke ( Luk 24:34-36 ); the second only by Joh 20:19 seq. Paul omits that to the two disciples going to Emmaus described in detail by Luke, and that to Mary Magdalene related by John. The reason no doubt is, that neither those two disciples, nor Mary, were of the number of the witnesses expressly chosen by the Lord.
The term ὤφθη may signify was seen, or appeared ( in vision); in each case the context must decide. In this passage, after the word: He was raised ( 1Co 15:4 ), the choice is not doubtful; it can only designate, according to the writer's view, a bodily appearance. This is also plain from the very object of this whole enumeration of apostolic testimonies. What is St. Paul's aim? To prove our bodily resurrection. Now it is impossible to understand how a simple vision, a purely spiritual appearance of the Lord, could serve to demonstrate our bodily resurrection. The appearance to Peter, mentioned here and in the passage of Luke, is one of the traits which reveals the close relationship between Paul's tradition and the third Gospel.
The εἶτα , then, of the Vatic. and the Byz., separates the two facts less than the ἔπειτα , afterwards, of the Sinaït. and the Alex. The former reading is the better; for the appearing to the Twelve was much more closely connected with that to Peter than those which follow; comp. Luke 24:35-36. With greater reason must we set aside the reading of the Greco-Lats.: καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα , and after these things. The same MSS. read τοῖς ἕνδεκα , to the eleven, instead of τοῖς δώδεκα , to the twelve. This reading is either due to the reflection that Judas was wanting on that occasion, or it is borrowed from Luke 24:33. The Twelve were still the Twelve, notwithstanding the absence of one or even two of them (Thomas). For the term calls up above all the official character which had been impressed on them at the time of their election. Holsten suspects the authenticity of the last words, τοῖς δώδεκα , because of the difficulty of explaining their relation to the end of 1 Corinthians 15:7 (see on this passage). But notwithstanding the Greco-Latin variant ( τοῖς ἕνδεκα ), they are not really wanting in any document.
Thus far all was dependent on the verb παρέδωκα , I delivered unto you. But from this point the sentence breaks off, and the following appearances are stated in the form of independent propositions. Should we infer, with Heinrici, that Paul had not spoken at Corinth of the facts afterwards mentioned on the occasion of his first preaching? In any case that would not apply to the appearance mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:8. Holsten thinks that Paul no longer remembered the limit between the appearances which he had mentioned and those he had omitted. But this even is unnecessary. He may very well have broken the construction in order to prevent the sentence from dragging.
Vv. 6. “After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, and some are fallen asleep.”
The ἔπειτα , thereafter, separates more forcibly than the εἶτα , then, of 1 Corinthians 15:5; it makes the following appearance a new step in the series, and rightly so. This appearance took place considerably later, and certainly in Galilee. Already before His death Jesus had told His disciples that after His resurrection He would go before them into Galilee (Matthew 26:32; Mar 14:28 ). The angel and Jesus Himself (according to Mat 28:10 ) had repeated this promise to the women on the day of His resurrection ( Mar 16:7 and Mat 28:7 ). Moreover, Matthew 28:16, mention is made of a command which Jesus gave to His disciples to gather together on a certain mountain in Galilee all the believers of that country. No doubt Matthew, in relating the appearance so solemnly prepared for, speaks only of the Eleven; but if it was, as it is impossible to doubt, that which the angel and, according to Matthew, Jesus Himself announced to the women on the morning of the resurrection, this gathering must have embraced all the followers of Jesus, and not only men, but also women. This is what explains a gathering together in a given place, at a certain time fixed beforehand. It must therefore be held that the appearance mentioned in our 1Co 15:6 is no other than that related by Matthew at the end of his gospel, and in which Jesus took leave of all His Galilean followers, that is to say, of His Church. The Eleven were there in the foremost rank, and it was to them in particular that the command was addressed to begin the mission to the whole world ( Mat 28:18-20 ). This is no doubt the reason why Matthew mentions them only. We should not be surprised that the apostle so expressly mentions this testimony. It was that of the whole Church, the apostles included; what a difference between it and a simple private testimony! The word ἐπάνω , more than; above, is not a preposition, but an adverb; as a preposition it would govern the genitive ( Mar 14:5 ). The word ἐφάπαξ does not here signify, as often, once for all, but at one time.
The words five hundred and still live have evidently, in the apostle's view, an apologetic bearing: “You can go and ask them, if you like: there they are, still, and in great numbers.” Here we have a striking example of the small value which in criticism belongs to the argument taken from silence. Here is a fact of public notoriety, quoted in a writing the authenticity of which is indisputable, by a witness whose declaration is above suspicion; and the fact is omitted in our four Gospel narratives, or, if it appears in one of them, it is devoid of the circumstances which render it so striking in the narrative of it given by St. Paul. After this, what is to be thought of arguing against the reality of an act or saying of Jesus because it is mentioned only in one Gospel and not in the others!
The apostle now passes to a third group.
Vv. 7. “After that He was seen of James, then of all the apostles.”
The reading ἔπειτα , afterwards, is preferable here; for we come now to the last appearances granted to the apostles. That given to James no doubt preceded by a short time the appearing on the day of the ascension, which immediately follows. This James can only be the one who played a considerable part in the Church of Jerusalem, as head of its council of elders (Acts 15:13; Act 21:18 ), and who is called, Galatians 1:19, “the Lord's brother,” and 1 Corinthians 2:9, “one of the pillars of the Church.” He was not a believer during the Lord's lifetime ( Joh 7:5 ); but we find him united with the apostles and holy women, in the upper chamber, immediately after the ascension ( Act 1:14 ). This extraordinary change was no doubt brought about by the appearance here mentioned, which should not be confounded with that described by a legend preserved in the Gospel of the Hebrews (Jerome, de viris illustr. c. 2); for had there been a foundation of truth in this narrative of the apocryphal book, the fact must have immediately followed the resurrection.
The subsequent appearance to all the apostles can only be that of the day of ascension. But why the adjective all, and why is it placed so emphatically after the substantive? Meyer thinks Paul wishes thereby to indicate a larger circle of persons than that of the Twelve properly so called ( 1Co 15:5 ), including, for example, James or others, such as Barnabas or Silas, who sometimes in the New Testament bear the title of apostles; comp. Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:6. But the expression all the apostles does not naturally express the idea of a circle larger than the Twelve, and at the time when this appearance took place, before Pentecost, no apostles different from the Twelve could possibly be thought of (see Holsten). On the other hand, if the expression all the apostles has the same meaning as that which was used in 1 Corinthians 15:5 ( the Twelve), why this wholly different expression here? Hofmann answers: Because in 1Co 15:5 the apostles were mentioned as forming the intimate companions of Jesus, while here they are mentioned as founders of the Church. Holsten rightly regards this distinction as arbitrary, and on this, according to him, inexplicable difference of expression he again fastens the suspicion of inauthenticity, which he throws on the last words of 1 Corinthians 15:5. But this is a very risky conclusion. Perhaps the particular expression used here is explained by the special character of this last gathering of the apostles round their Master. One is struck with the two expressions in Luke's narrative, Acts 1:4; Acts 1:6: καὶ συναλιζόμενος , and having assembled them; then: οἱ μὲν οὖν συνελθόντες , they, therefore, having come together. It is obvious that this gathering was, like that of 1 Corinthians 15:6, the result of a positive and solemn convocation on the part of Jesus. It was to be the last, His adieu to the apostles, as that of 1Co 15:6 had been His adieu to the Church. The apostolic college must be there in full, and Jesus had provided that none of the apostles should be wanting. This explains the πᾶσι , all, especially if we think of Thomas, who was absent the first time (the appearance of 1Co 15:5 ), and must on no account be wanting this last time. The term apostles reminds us of their mission to the world, of which the ascension was about to become the signal.
Finally, Paul mentions the fact which closed the series of the appearances of the risen One, and which was separated from all the preceding by a much greater interval than those which had separated these from one another.
Vv. 8. “And lastly, after all, He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time [the untimely birth]”
By the first words the apostle seems to indicate not only that the appearance to him came after the others, but that it was the close of the appearances of the risen One in general. He is not speaking in this passage of visions, like those he himself had afterwards, or like that of the Apocalypse.
The adverb ἔσχατον , in the last place, is used before the gen. πάντων , all, as a preposition. The word all may relate to all the individuals mentioned in the foregoing enumeration, or, with Meyer, to the apostles only, because of the term τὸ ἔκτρωμα which follows; or finally, we may apply it, as Edwards does, to all Christians in general, in the sense that no one after Paul was to see, and no one really saw, the risen Christ. I doubt whether the apostle had these three shades distinctly present to his mind. He certainly thought of all the persons enumerated above, among whom the apostles ranked first, and judged that with this appearance granted to him, the list of such facts was closed.
The strange word ἔκτρωμα , abortion, untimely birth, from τιτρώσκω , pierce, tear, denotes a child born in a violent and premature way. And as such children are generally inferior in strength to those who are born in a normal way, the expression has been taken as denoting nothing more than a feeling of infirmity: “As a helpless babe scarcely deserves the name of man, I dare hardly regard myself as an apostle;” so Theodoret, Bengel, de Wette, Meyer, Edwards. But Paul himself affirms in 1 Corinthians 15:10: “that he laboured more than they all.” This is no admission of weakness. And why not abide by the explanation indicated by the etymological and uniform meaning of the word used? Why not take it to denote the violent and unnatural mode of his call to the apostleship, especially at the moment when he is recalling the appearance of the Lord on the way to Damascus? So Calvin, Grotius, Billroth, Heinrici. The other apostles were called when they were already believers; they are like ripe fruits which fell, so to speak, of themselves from the tree of Judaism, and which the Lord's hand gathered without effort, whereas he, Paul, was torn, as by a violent operation, from that Judaism to which he was yet clinging with all the fibres of his heart and will. Ambrosiaster understands the word in this sense: born out of time (too late), when Christ had already returned to heaven. But this circumstance would rather imply something honourable ( Gal 1:1 ).
The article the ( τῷ ) designates Paul as the only one so named, and probably alludes to the fact, that in a numerous family there is often a child ill-born. It is obvious that when he recalls the boundless grace which was shown him in that striking act of mercy, the apostle feels the need of casting himself in the dust.
The form ὡσπερεί occurs nowhere else in the whole New Testament except in a variant ( 1Co 4:13 ); but it is frequent in the classics, especially in Plato. The final ει is properly a conjunction belonging to a verb understood (“as if it were”).
These two sides of his ministry, the facts which humble him and the height to which grace has raised him, are developed in the following verses:
Vv. 9, 10. “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
The for bears on the repulsive figure which has just been used. It by no means justifies the explanation of ἔκτρωμα , which we have set aside; its whole force falls on the sequel of our verse on to the ἐδίωξα , I persecuted. The apostle cannot think of that decisive moment of his life without remembering that at that very time he was playing the part of a persecutor. For this it was which necessitated the violent operation to which he was subjected. On ἐλάχιστος , comp. Ephesians 3:11.
The word ἱκανός , capable, when a moral act is in question, takes the meaning of “ morally capable,” and thus becomes synonymous with ἄξιος , worthy; comp. Mat 3:11 with John 1:27 (see Edwards). Καλεῖσθαι , to bear the title of...
On the whole passage, comp. 1 Timothy 1:12-14.
Vv. 10. The δέ is strongly adversative; it contrasts with what Paul was, when he was yet left to himself, what grace made him.
By the expression: what I am, Paul means first a saved believer, then an apostle, finally, the apostle of the Gentile world. It is this last idea which he specially develops in the following words.
The word κενή , empty, applies to the intrinsic power of the grace which was shown toward him.
If with the Greco-Lats. the ἡ were omitted after the word αὐτοῦ , the εἰς ἐμέ might depend on the verb: “ was not in vain toward me; ” but this idea does not suit the context so well as that of the ordinary reading, which preserves the ἡ : “The grace shown toward me was not in vain.”
The word ἐκοπίασα , I laboured, denotes not only labour properly so called, effort, toil, sufferings, journeys, prayers, but also the fruits obtained; comp. John 4:38. The inward power of grace in Paul was demonstrated by its fruitfulness. Indeed, it is only from the viewpoint of the works accomplished that Paul can add without presumption, and as appealing to a patent fact, more than they all. These words might signify: more than any one of them in particular. But they should rather be understood, with Meyer, Osiander, Edwards, in the sense of: more than all of them together. The first meaning would be too weak; the second contains no exaggeration; comp. Romans 15:19. After thus suddenly rising to the full height God gave him, he abases himself again, as if he were alarmed at what he has just declared. This extraordinary labour was not, strictly speaking, his own, but that of the grace which wrought with him. The art. ἡ , which is here read by the Byz. before σὺν ἐμοί , connects this regimen closely with the word χάρις : “The grace which is with me, it was that which wrought.” But the omission of the article in the other two families leads us to apply the regimen with me to the verb laboured (understood), which is better: “It was not I, however, who laboured, but the grace of God laboured with me. ” It seems as if by me would have been more logical, as corresponding better to the absolute negative: not I. But Paul cannot overlook all the intensity, good-will, and personal devotion which he has thrown into this immense labour. And hence, notwithstanding all his humility, the with me forces itself into his thought. If he had not been open to the impulse and power of grace, how could it have produced such effects by him!
Evidently these two verses are a digression, but for the digression there is a good reason. We have already seen at the beginning of chap. 9 that there were people at Corinth who were making inquiries as to the reality of Paul's apostleship, and who said: He has not seen the Lord; therefore he is not really an apostle. Paul does not in this First Epistle enter upon a direct discussion with such opponents, as he will be forced to do later. He restrains himself, till the latent evil shall be unmasked. But he makes certain allusions to the accusations which he cannot yet combat. His object in this passage is to show that although he has been called quite differently from the Twelve, God has nevertheless certified him to be a true apostle, and that consequently he is entitled to join his testimony to theirs. It is precisely this parity with them, in the matter of bearing witness to the resurrection, which is expressed in the following verse, the conclusion of 1 Corinthians 15:3-10.
Vv. 11. “Therefore whether I, or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”
The οὕτω , so, expressly goes back on the τίνι λόγῳ , in what sense, of 1 Corinthians 15:2. The present κηρύσσομεν , we preach, denotes a constant fact; the aorist ἐπιστεύσατε , ye believed, a past fact done once for all, but without the idea of a spiritual decline, which Chrysostom found in this past. This declaration proves that it was matter of notoriety in the Church that the gospel of Peter and of the Twelve rested on the same foundation as that of Paul, on the facts of Christ's death and resurrection regarded as having effected the salvation of the sinful world ( for our sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3; and that according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:3-4 ). The historical conception of primitive Christianity presented by Baur is incompatible with the fact attested by Paul.
This verse, while summing up the foregoing passage, forms the transition to the following section.
Vv. 12. “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
Why, then, it has been asked by Rückert and Scherer, would the resurrection of Christ be denied by denying the resurrection of the dead? If Christ is of a different nature from us, as Paul holds, it does not at all follow from the fact that He rose, that we ourselves should rise. And M. Scherer adds: “It is easier to doubt apostolic infallibility than the laws of logic.” Grotius, Meyer, and Kling have sought to answer by these very laws of logic, and explained the reasoning thus: If there be no resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of Christ cannot be a fact; the genus not existing, the species cannot. But if such were the apostle's thought, he would certainly, in 1 Corinthians 15:13, have put the οὐκ ἔστιν before the subject; for this verb would contain all the force of the argument. Besides, it is not of the resurrection of the dead as an abstract idea that Paul would speak; he designates by this name a definite historical event, the resurrection of the dead expected at the end of the earthly economy. Finally, the argument would not be decisive, for one might always lay down an exception in favour of Christ, not only because of His superior nature, but especially, as would apply much better here, because of His perfect holiness, which did not allow of His remaining under the power of death. Paul is not reasoning as an abstract logician, but as an apostle. The basis of his argument is a fact which pertains to the essence of the Christian salvation: our new life, flowing from union with Christ, is nothing else than participation in His life. Salvation therefore cannot be realized in us otherwise than it is realized in Him. If to the heavenly life upon which He has entered there belongs the possession of a risen and glorified body, it must be so with us. Our glory being His glory, which He communicates to us, it must be homogeneous with His. The apostle's question, 1 Corinthians 15:12, is therefore perfectly justified: How say some among you . ?
The expression κηρύσσεται ὅτι signifies: “He is preached as risen; ” still the τίνι λόγῳ of 1 Corinthians 15:2.
Conclusions regarding the passage. 1 Corinthians 15:12-28 .
On this passage we find four principal views:
1. Some, like Reuss, think that it applies throughout only to believers, and that it contains absolutely nothing in regard to unbelievers, because in the context Paul deals only with the development of true life.
2. Weiss and R. Schmidt go further. According to them, Paul holds absolutely no resurrection of the unbelieving. The latter, according to Paul, remain, without returning to life, in the gloomy existence of Hades.
3. Grimm holds, on the contrary, a universal resurrection, which will open up to all men, without exception, participation in eternal felicity.
4. Meyer thinks that our passage contains the idea of a universal resurrection, embracing unbelievers as well as believers.
This last viewpoint appears to me the only admissible one. The opinion of Reuss can hardly give an adequate explanation of 1 Corinthians 15:26; for the complete victory over death announced in this verse can only be found in a resurrection which will extend to all the victims of death without exception. This same passage seems to me also incompatible with the opinion of Weiss, notwithstanding the efforts this critic makes to harmonize it with the expressions of the apostle (§ 99, note 4). 1Co 15:26 has no meaning unless it adds to the idea of 1Co 15:23 that of universal resurrection. Besides, we have the express words of Paul, Acts 24:15: “Having hope in God, which they (the Jews) also share, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, of the just and of the unjust. ” Luke knew St. Paul sufficiently to avoid attributing to him on this point a declaration which would have been contrary to his view.
As to Grimm's opinion, we have spoken of it already in connection with 1 Corinthians 15:22. We merely add here the words of Reuss regarding this view: “Neither Paul nor any member of the primitive Church dreamed of it.”
It must therefore be admitted with Meyer and the majority of the commentators, that Paul teaches a resurrection to life, and a resurrection to condemnation, agreeably to the Lord's express declaration John 5:28-29, and to the delineation Revelation 20:12-14. Return to the fulness of personal existence by the resurrection of the body is the necessary condition of judgment in the case of both.
Does St. Paul distinguish two epochs of resurrection?
Reuss, Weiss, and many others do not think that Paul distinguishes a first resurrection, that of believers, at the Advent, from a second general, and later, resurrection. 1Co 15:23 is sufficiently explained, according to Weiss, if it is supposed that Paul meant to anticipate this objection: Why, since Christ is raised, is no dead believer yet raised? The answer, according to Weiss, is: Each in his order; Christ first; the others afterwards, only at the time of His Advent. But is this contrast between Christ and believers sufficient to explain naturally the term ἕκαστος , each, of 1Co 15:23 ? Besides, it is impossible to find, either in this passage or in any other part of the New Testament, the least trace of an objection like that which Weiss here imagines. In the passage 1Th 4:13 seq., Paul is not answering the objection: Why are our dead not raised? but the question: Why do we, believers, die before the Lord's return?
Reuss and Weiss also allege that the Advent being, according to the whole of the New Testament, the signal of the end of things, there would not be between this event and the giving up of the kingdom to the Father the interval needed for a new act of resurrection. But we have seen, on the contrary, that Paul distinctly separates the Advent from the end (the giving up of the kingdom to the Father). “Then the end,” says he, “when He shall give up the kingdom, when He shall have put down (or after having put down) His enemies...” This putting down is an action which requires some time; now this action is, on the one hand, the consequence of the Advent, and, on the other, the condition of the end. It is therefore posterior to the one, anterior to the other. And if the victory over death is to take place in this period, and to mark its close, if moreover, as we have seen, it can only be found in universal resurrection, the distinction between two resurrections, that of believers and that of human beings in general, in Paul's mind, can no longer be contested. The same conclusion follows clearly from Philippians 3:11, which can only apply to universal resurrection.
Moreover, there is nothing so wonderful in this idea of two resurrections in Paul's writings. There are two sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke which prove that He taught exactly to the same effect, Luke 14:14: “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just;” this expression has no meaning unless it is contrasted with another resurrection, that of the unjust, Luke 20:35: “They who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection (literally: that) from the dead. ” This expression contrasts the first resurrection (that of the just from the dead) with the resurrection of the dead generally. Finally, we find the same distinction in the Apocalypse, Revelation 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection!”
Finally, let us compare the principal parallel passages in the New Testament on the subject treated in this section:
1. In 1Co 15:51 of our chapter there is described the resurrection of believers of which 1Co 15:23 speaks. Only an important circumstance is added, of which no mention is made here: the transfiguration of believers who are living at the time of the Advent. The apostle had no occasion to mention this detail in our passage. It is obvious how prudently the argument e silentio must be used in criticism.
2. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. At the time of the Advent the dead in Christ rise which implies that the rest do not rise, and living believers are carried to meet the returning Lord which implies a bodily transformation effected in them, precisely that which is expressly mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:51. There is therefore entire harmony between our passage and that of Thessalonians. The Advent will be accompanied by the resurrection of believers, and of believers only.
3. Philippians 2:9-11; Philippians 2:9-11. Mention is made of the supreme elevation of the Messiah terminating in the universal homage rendered to His kingship throughout all the domains of heaven and earth, and places under the earth. This homage corresponds to the universal submission spoken of in 1Co 15:27 of our passage.
4. Revelation 20-21. Meyer, Grimm, and others hold that this passage is irreconcilable with ours. Let us see. The Advent was described at the end of the preceding chapter, from Revelation 19:11. What takes place after this event?
Satan is cast into prison for a thousand years; then, being set free, he makes a last attempt to overthrow the work of God by destroying the community of the saints; after which he is finally judged and goes into the lake of fire to rejoin the Beast and the False Prophet who had been cast into it at the time of the Advent ( Rev 19:20 ).
Does not this whole representation exactly correspond to what St. Paul called, in 1 Corinthians 15:24, the putting down of hostile powers, which takes place during the reign of Christ inaugurated by the Advent?
At the time of the Advent the saints, the martyrs, and all those in general who refused to take part in the work of the Beast, rise again, and thrones of judgment are given them ( Rev 19:20 ).
This is the resurrection of believers mentioned in our 1 Corinthians 15:23. It is objected that only those martyrs and believers are mentioned who have overcome the test of the kingdom of Antichrist, and not those who have struggled and conquered during the whole course of the history of the Church. It is forgotten that from the New Testament point of view this last crisis is very near to the apostolic times. It is the last hour, says John ( 1Jn 2:18 ). The mystery of iniquity doth already work, says Paul, speaking of the work of the Man of Sin. The believers of the eighteen centuries which have followed are therefore implicitly included in those who are mentioned in the Apocalyptic description, as they are in our 1 Corinthians 15:23. Let us add, as an interesting parallel, what Paul said 1Co 6:2 of the judgment of the world and even of angels by the saints. The reign of Christ and of the Church of the risen is a time of judgment in Paul as well as in the Apocalypse.
At the end of the thousand years the resurrection and the last judgment take place; and death is cast into the lake of fire ( ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἐβλήθησαν εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρός ). Here we have the most exact parallel to our 1 Corinthians 15:26, where death is destroyed, and destroyed as the last enemy.
The new heaven and the new earth replace the work of the first creation; “ the tabernacle of God ( θεοῦ σκηνή ) comes down among men; God dwells with them, their God. ”
Had John meant to give a commentary on the last words of our 1 Corinthians 15:28: And God shall be all in all, could he have done better?
And it is between these two representations that there are said to be insoluble contradictions! There are in each only one or two features which more particularly distinguish it from the other; in that of Paul: the giving up of the kingdom to the Father; in that of the Apocalypse: the indication of the duration of a thousand years as the interval between the Advent and the end, and the setting in relief of a last attempt on the part of Satan, at the end of the Messianic reign of Jesus, which leads to his final perdition. These special features only serve to demonstrate the originality and independence of the two conceptions.
5. If, finally, we consider the sayings of Jesus relative to His future Advent, it is evident that the Master's coming described in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:0), in that of the pounds (Luke 19:0), and in the parable of the virgins, refers to the Advent by which the Messianic kingdom will be inaugurated. The same is true of the prophecies relative to the preliminary division which on His return takes place within His Church, Luke 17:22-37, and in which some are taken, others left. These sayings refer to the Advent, when, according to Paul, those who are in Christ shall alone be raised ( 1Co 15:23 ). It is no less clear that in the great description of the final and universal judgment ( Mat 25:31 ), we find ourselves face to face with an entirely different scene. Here it is not the members of the Church who are called to give account of the use of the gifts which they have received; it is all nations ( πάντα τὰ ἔθνη , all the Gentiles) who appear before the judgment-seat. As Edwards says: “In Matthew 25:31 a transition is unquestionably made from the resurrection of saints which takes place at the coming of Christ to the general judgment which takes place after that event.” The ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου , but when the Son of man shall come, seems therefore to denote a final coming, posterior to the Advent.
This doctrine of the apostle is not to be regarded as an importation into the gospel of his former Pharisaism. I believe it is impossible to cite a passage of Jewish theology really like that of our Epistle or the parallel passage of the Apocalypse (see Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes, 1886, § 29).
There is a real harmony, therefore, between the different eschatological passages of the New Testament. Ewald himself pronounces on the central point of the question, when he says: “Though Paul does not expressly mention the Millennium of Revelation 20:0, he yet places, between the preceding period and the end of that which follows, a sufficiently long interval filled with many various and considerable events.” If this harmony is not recognised by Meyer, it is the consequence of his false interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:23-24. It is, besides, perfectly legitimate to complete, as we have done, the one of these representations by details taken from the other, since we are obliged to do something similar with the various passages of St. Paul himself. Thus in 1Co 15:50-51 of our chapter he supplies the fact of the transformation of those Christians who shall be alive at the Advent, of which he says nothing in our passage, and in 1Th 4:15-17 he supplies the fact of their being caught up into the air, of which no mention is made in the two passages of our chapter.
Vv. 13-15. “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. 14. But if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.”
After descending from the cause (the resurrection of Christ) to the effect (ours), the apostle ascends, in 1 Corinthians 15:13, from the denial of the effect to the denial of the cause, to show afterwards that this last denial is a belying of the unanimous apostolic testimony which he has just cited.
Vv. 14. The testimony of the apostles had for its essential subject the resurrection of Christ. If this is not a fact, their testimony is an imposture.
The word κενόν , vain, denotes a testimony the matter of which is an unreal event. And if the testimony is such, it is the same with faith in the testimony; it is also vain ( κενή ), in that the object which it believed itself to be taking hold of is purely fictitious.
In the reading of B L ( καί after ἄρα ) the two καί should be regarded as correlative: “ both...and...”
Vv. 15. And what in this case are the apostles who have borne witness to the world of an unreal fact? Impostors, and impostors of the worst kind, for their testimony bears on a false fact which they dared to ascribe to God Himself! The verb εὑρισκόμεθα , we are found, expresses the idea of surprisal: “Lo, we are taken in the flagrant sin of falsehood!” The word ψευδομάρτυρες θεοῦ , false witnesses of God, might be understood in the sense: “Divine messengers giving false testimony;” the gen. θεοῦ being made dependent on μάρτυρες alone. Or it might be explained in the sense: “Falsely calling ourselves messengers of God;” θεοῦ depending in this case on the term ψευδομάρτυρες taken as a whole. But the explanation which best agrees with the context is this: “Testifying falsely in regard to God;” in the sense that, as is said afterwards, the apostles ascribe to God a work which He never really did. The gen. θεοῦ is that of the object: false witnesses regarding God, and even according to the following words: κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ , against God. Such a testimony is indeed an act of impiety, an act of violence to God Himself. For is it not to assail His honour to ascribe an act to Him which He never really did? It is exactly the same as if an act done by Him were denied.
The conj. εἴπερ , if truly, recalls the saying of the τίνες : “If the thing is real, as they allege.”
Vv. 16. “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.”
This verse seems to be a needless repetition of 1 Corinthians 15:13. It is not so. Paul once more takes up the inference already drawn in 1 Corinthians 15:13, in order to deduce from it a second conclusion parallel to that which he had expounded in 1 Corinthians 15:14-15. The denial of Christ's resurrection, as it follows from the denial of the resurrection of the dead, implies the accusation of imposture against the apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:13-15. But more than that: this same denial, following from the same premiss, implies the nothingness of the Christian salvation, 1 Corinthians 15:16-19.
Vv. 17, 18. “Now, if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
Once deny Christ's resurrection, and there is no more salvation in Him.
The word ματαία denotes, as often, the vanity of the thing from the standpoint of its effects, its uselessness. Such is the difference between it and the κενή , vain, of 1 Corinthians 15:14. Faith in the resurrection, not taking hold of a real fact ( κενή ), cannot procure for the believer the salvation he expects ( ματαία ). It is completely to mistake the meaning of this saying, to follow Heinrici and several others, in applying the expression: to be yet in one's sins, to the moral bondage of sin. The apostle certainly does not mean: “If Christ be not really risen, you will not be able to conquer your evil inclinations.” Nothing in this Epistle has prepared us for such an idea. It is of the state of condemnation arising from unpardoned sins that he wishes to speak, as is clearly shown by the following verse. The idea is this: Condemnation can only be taken away by the expiatory death of Christ, and expiation would never have taken place if the victim who accomplished it had not been restored to life. As long as the security is not let out of prison, it must be concluded that the debt is not paid. If then Christ did not leave the prison of death, our justification was not obtained by His death; and we are still, we believers, as much as others, condemned. Bonnet rightly says: “No one can understand the doctrine of Scripture regarding the resurrection, unless he has clearly present to his mind the intimate and indissoluble relation there is between sin and death.” Christ dead without resurrection would be a condemned, not a justified, Christ. How could He justify others?
Hence there follows immediately the disastrous consequence drawn in 1 Corinthians 15:18: the perdition of those who have been seen to die peacefully in the faith of Christ.
Vv. 18. There is a sharp contrast between the two terms. falling asleep in Christ and having perished. To close the eyes in the joy of salvation, to open them in the torments of perdition! The verb ἀπώλοντο , perished, cannot designate annihilation, for it is explained by the preceding expression: to be yet in sins. It denotes a state of perdition in which the soul remains under the weight of Divine condemnation. Nor does the aorist allow us to explain this idea of perishing proleptically, as the sense of destroying or annihilating would require.
So much for the dead; and what follows for us who still live here below in the faith of that unrisen Christ? The apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19:
Vv. 19. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Rückert makes the adverb only apply to the regimen in Christ: “If we have rested all our hopes here below on Christ only...” But in order that this conditional proposition might form a ground for the following inference, Paul would have required to add the idea: and this one hope ended in deceiving us. The position of μόνον , only, in the Greek clause, shows, besides, that this adverb bears on the clause as a whole, verb and subordinate clauses included: “If we are men who have only our hope in Christ during the course of this life...” The opposite, they are men whose hope in Christ is eternally realized above. We must not translate ἐν , in, in the sense of εἰς , for, which would lead to a slightly different idea.
The word ζωή is used here in the sense of βίος , as in Luke 1:75; Luke 16:25, etc.
The position of the words ἐν Χριστῷ , in Christ, after ταυτῇ , is certainly the true one.
The apostle has been charged, on the ground of the last words of the verse, with taking up a very inferior moral standpoint, because he seems to say that the practice of virtue has no value in itself, but acquires it only by the reward which crowns it. Stoicism, with its maxim: “Virtue is its own best reward,” is, it is alleged, far superior to the apostle's standpoint. But it is forgotten that it is not the fulfilment of the simple moral law which is here in question; no natural duty imposes on man a life of labours, privations, and sufferings of all kinds, such as that which the apostle accepted, and which should be accepted by Christians in general in the service of Christ. The free choice of such a life can only be justified by the hope of the most excellent blessings, and these blessings consist by no means of certain external pleasures granted by way of reward, but in the satisfaction of the noblest and most elevated wants of human nature, of the aspiration after holiness and life eternal. To see these blessings escape you, when all inferior ones have been sacrificed to gain them, to have renounced earth for heaven, and instead of heaven to find hell, like other sinners, for it is salvation that is in question here, would not this be a still sadder condition than that of worldly men who at least allowed themselves on the earth a comfortable life and the lawful pleasures which were within their reach? To the sufferings accumulated during this life there would come to be added the most cruel deception after this life. Is there not here enough to justify the apostle's exclamation in the view of sound sense?
Thus, the resurrection of the dead falling, everything falls: (1) the resurrection of Christ Himself, 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; (2) the veracity of the apostolic testimony and the reality of the great object of Christian faith, 1 Corinthians 15:14-15; (3) salvation itself, with its eternal blessings, 1 Corinthians 15:16-19.
And now let us replace the foundation, which by supposition we had for a moment removed: the whole majestic edifice of the Christian salvation rises again before us even to its sublime consummation! Such are the contents of the following description, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. The resurrection of the dead, closely bound up with the resurrection of Christ, appears as the fundamental fact on which rests the Christian hope to its furthest limit.
Vv. 20-22. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep. 21. For since by a man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
The words: But now, are, as it were, the cry of deliverance, after the nightmare through which the apostle has brought his readers, by opening up to their view the abyss into which we should be plunged by the denial of the resurrection. The now contrasts the certain reality of the fact with the perfect void resulting from its denial; this void, opened up for an instant, no longer exists, except as a vanished past.
The words ἐκ νεκρῶν , from the dead, would suffice to prove that Paul is thinking of a bodily resurrection; for spiritually Christ never was among the dead.
The verb became, added by the Byz. reading, must be rejected; the word first-fruits is not a predicate, it is a simple apposition: “He rose again as first-fruits,” and not to remain alone in His state of glory. Christ risen is to the multitude of believers who shall rise again at His Advent what a first ripe ear, gathered by the hand, is to the whole harvest. Is there in this expression a distant reminiscence of the rite in which the apostle had so often taken part as a Jew, the offering in the temple of the first sheaf of the year, as the first-fruits of the harvest? This festival took place yearly, on the morrow after the Passover, the 16th Nisan. It is difficult to doubt this recollection in the apostle's mind, especially if it is held, according to the fourth Gospel, that Jesus was crucified on the afternoon of the 14th Nisan, and that consequently He was raised on the morning of the 16th. But this reminiscence, even if it is real, did not determine the idea and expression of first-fruits. Both offered themselves spontaneously.
The term first-fruits is justified in 1 Corinthians 15:21 ( for).
Vv. 21. In the expression ἀπαρχή , first-fruits, there was implicitly contained the notion of a community of nature between Christ and us. For the ear gathered as first-fruits is corn like all the rest. This is the idea which the apostle expounds in this verse. As it was by a member of the human family that it was smitten with death, so it is by a member of the family that it must obtain resurrection. The Apostle Paul here proclaims the idea with arresting solemnity: that death and resurrection are human facts, that is to say, the causality of them belongs to man himself. The idea is not exactly the same as that expressed in Rom 5:12 seq., though closely connected with it. In the passage of Romans, the emphasis is on εἷς , one, in opposition to many: one involving the many in his death, and one in His salvation. Here there is no εἷς ; the emphasis is on ἀνθρώπου , man. It is the truly human origin of these two opposite phases in the existence of humanity which Paul wishes to set in relief. By man subjection to death was imposed on men; by man there must come to them the power of rising again. It is for man to repair the evil done by man.
In 1Co 15:21 there is stated, in the form of an abstract law, the necessary correlation between these two analogous but opposite facts. In 1Co 15:22 the two historical personalities will be contrasted with one another in whom this colossal antithesis has been realized.
Vv. 22. The fact proves the principle; hence the for.
It is not without intention that Paul in this verse substitutes the preposition ἐν , in, for the διά , by, of the preceding verse. The relation expressed by διά was more external; it was that of causality. The relation expressed by ἐν is more intimate; it is that of moral solidarity, community of life. The latter explains the former: “If all died by Adam, it is because all were smitten with death in him, in whom they were embraced; if all are to live again by Christ, it is because there is in Him the power which justifies them and which will make them live again because of their relation to Him.”
Must we give to the word πάντες , all, the same extension in the two propositions? Some answer in the affirmative, and infer from it universal final salvation; so Origen, Olshausen, de Wette, etc. But this notion does not seem to agree either with the scriptural view in general, or with that of Paul in particular: Matthew 12:32; Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:48; Mark 14:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Philippians 3:19.
Others, like Julius Müller, find expressed in the verse merely the destination of all to resurrection in Christ, a destination which may be annulled by refusal to believe in Him. But the future shall be made alive means more than this. It denotes, especially in contrast to the present, die, a positive and indubitable fact. Most commentators (Augustine, Bengel, Rückert, Hofmann, Holsten, Beet, Edwards, etc.) think that we must understand a self-evident condition, that of faith: “As in Adam all men die, so in Christ shall all (believers) be made alive.” This limitation of the meaning of the second πάντες , all, seems at first sight very arbitrary, in view of the absolute meaning of the first. But we shall get reconciled to this interpretation if we take account of Hofmann's observation that ζωοποιεῖσθαι , to be made alive, is a more limited idea than ἐγείρεσθαι , to be raised. For this second term applies in general to all who shall live again, even to perish, whereas the first applies to the complete gift of perfect life ( Rom 8:11 ). The limitation of the subject can therefore naturally proceed from the special meaning of the verb itself. “The two πάντες embrace those only to whom each of the two powers extends” (Hofmann). Moreover, it should be remembered that Christ can hardly be regarded as the first-fruits of the damned who are raised again, and 1 Corinthians 15:23, which continues the development begun in 1 Corinthians 15:20, evidently takes account only of believers. These reasons have great force, and perhaps this interpretation is really that which corresponds best to the apostle's view. But there is another which, without falling into the thought of universal salvation, preserves the equality of extension which it is so natural to hold between the two πάντες . It is more or less the view of Chrysostom, Calvin, Meyer, etc. May it not be said of those who shall rise to condemnation, that they also shall rise in Christ? The judgment to which they shall be subjected in the clear and perfect consciousness of their personality will bear on their sins in general, but especially on their unbelief in the Lord and on their rejection of the amnesty which was offered them in Him. The Saviour having once appeared, it is on their relation to Him that the lot of all depends for weal or woe; it is this relation consequently which determines their return to life, either to glory or to condemnation. And it is with this fact of a moral nature that the other, and more external one, is connected, which was implied in the διά of 1 Corinthians 15:21, and which is expressed in John 5:28-29: the resurrection of all by the power of the Son of man, whether to condemnation or to life. It is true that in this passage John does not use the term ζωοποιεῖν , which he had employed in 1 Corinthians 15:21, in an exclusively favourable sense. And the New Testament contains no other passage in which the term is not applied to spiritual or physical quickening in a good sense. But we have just seen the word ζωή ( 1Co 15:19 ) applied to earthly existence in itself, and there is nothing to prevent the word ζωοποιεῖν , taken alone, from being used to denote restoration to the fulness of spiritual and bodily existence, with a view either to perdition or salvation. The term is applied to bodily healing and bodily life in the LXX. (2 Kings 5:7; Neh 9:6 ); see Meyer. It has also been proposed to give πάντες a purely restrictive sense: “ None will be raised otherwise than in Him.”
This meaning would be admissible if Paul were here treating of the means of resurrection. But the one point about which he is concerned is the certainty of the event, which does not suit this explanation.
In what follows, the apostle assigns to the resurrection its place in the totality of the Divine dispensations which are to close the history of the development of humanity.
Vv. 23. “But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, and afterward they that are Christ's at His coming.” The word τάγμα , order, denotes the place assigned in a series to each individual or group. The apostle has here before him two ranks of the risen: the first formed by Christ alone, moving foremost; it is He who opens up the way to the life of glory. Then He is followed by all His faithful people who form the second rank. It is the same idea as was expressed by the figure of the first-fruits and the harvest.
There is no solid reason for including, as Meyer would, in the expression οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ , they that are Christ's, all who confess the name of Christ, Christendom in general. Paul explains clearly enough what he understands by being Christ's when he says, Romans 8:9: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” In Colossians ( 1Co 3:4 ) he says likewise: “When Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory,” which shows that in his view Christ must be our life if His advent is to be the signal of our participation in His glorious appearing. The same also is clearly obvious from Philippians 3:11, where he goes the length of employing this expression of doubt in regard to himself: “If by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” He could not so express himself in speaking of the universal resurrection, for all will infallibly share in it; he is therefore thinking of the special resurrection, in which only true believers will participate; and he recalls the constant effort whereby alone he can reach that desirable goal. For, in order to reach it, it is necessary, according to 2 Corinthians 7:1, “to be cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” and “to perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Such, according to St. Paul, is the character of those who are Christ's, and who shall form the second order in the company of the risen. It will not therefore be all those who bear the name of Christians. There will be a first division, which will be effected at the time of the Advent, between the true and the false members of the Church; this will be the prelude of the universal final judgment. Van Hengel has unfortunately thought of applying the word Parousia to the epoch of Christ's presence on the earth. The believers who had the privilege of living with Jesus Christ here below will also have, according to him, the privilege of rising first with Him. But how should this privilege have attached to an external and accidental circumstance? And is not the term Parousia in the New Testament a constant expression, all the meanings of which were known to the Churches? Finally, the article οἱ could not be wanting before the regimen ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ .
Edwards, at least if I understand him, refers the ἕκαστος , each, in this verse, to God, to Christ, and to believers: Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:23 a; believers, 1 Corinthians 15:23 b; God, 1 Corinthians 15:28.
The apostle now establishes the relation between this resurrection of believers at the Advent, and the whole cycle of events which shall precede the end of all things.
Vv. 24. “Then the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father: when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power.”
The εἶτα , then, does not allow us to identify the time of the τέλος , the end, with that of the Advent. Paul would have required to say in that sense τότε , at that time, and not εἶτα , then or thereafter. The εἶτα implies, in the mind of the apostle, a longer or shorter interval between the Advent and what he calls the end.
What is this end? According to Theodoret, Bengel, Meyer, Osiander: the end of the resurrection, the third act of the drama of which we have just seen the first two (the resurrection of Christ and that of believers); consequently the universal resurrection. But would not Paul have qualified the word the end more precisely, if such had been his thought? And would he not have brought out more clearly the relation between this third phase and the two preceding? Used without qualification, as it is here, the end must designate the end absolutely speaking, πάντων τὸ τέλος , the end of all things, as Peter puts it (1 Eph 4:7 ), the goal of the entire economy of education, redemption, and sanctification, the time when God's thought shall be at length fully realized in regard to man, come to his perfect stature in Christ. Chrysostom explains: the end of the present age; which is true only if we include within the present age the whole interval between the Advent and the end; Holsten: the end of this created world, which, when believers have once been removed by resurrection to a higher world and hostile powers vanquished, has no more value and passes away. This critic rightly points out the mistake of Meyer, who thinks that Paul makes the present age end at the Advent, failing to remember that so long as death is not destroyed ( 1Co 15:26 ), the present age still continues. Besides, the apostle will say positively what he understands by the end in 1 Corinthians 15:28.
And what fact shall mark this solemn epoch which the apostle calls the end? He explains in the following words: when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God and the Father. A reading which is found in two Byz. and in the T. R. runs: “When He shall have delivered up,” ὅταν παραδῷ (the aorist subjunctive). If this were the true reading, the end would not coincide with the delivering up of the kingdom into the hands of the Father; it would follow it. But this reading is too weakly supported and has not sufficiently appreciable intrinsic superiority to make it preferable to that of the Alex. and Greco-Lat. documents. The latter read παραδιδοῖ or παραδιδῷ (two equivalent forms of the present subjunctive), which signifies: “When He delivers up,” for: “when He shall deliver up. ” According to this reading, what Paul calls the end coincides absolutely with the delivering up of the kingdom into the hands of the Father. The same follows from 1 Corinthians 15:28.
We may understand by βασιλεία ( the reign), either the kingdom, the state of things in which God shall reign perfectly, or the kingship, the dominion exercised over this state of things. The second is the more natural meaning according to 1 Corinthians 15:25 (“He must reign till...”) and 1 Corinthians 15:28, where it is said the kingdom of the Father must follow from the cessation of that of the Son.
In the expression: to God and the Father, are contained the two relations of Jesus to God: His subordination to Him as His God and His essential union to Him as His Father.
How will the interval be filled between the Advent and the end when the kingdom shall pass from the Son's hands into those of the Father? This is what the apostle explains in the following words: When He shall have put down all rule...He really uses here the subjunctive aorist, according to all the documents, which proves that he is taking a step backwards. For this aorist is equivalent to our future perfect. It implies that the event which is about to be mentioned will transpire, on the one hand, immediately before the end, on the other, after the Advent. It is obvious how false it is to translate, as is often done: “When He shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father and put down all powers...” This translation makes two events coincide, which, according to Paul, are successive. The meaning, on the contrary, is: “When He shall deliver up the kingdom to God and the Father, after having put down all powers...” The Advent will therefore be separated from the end (the delivering up of the kingdom) by an epoch of judgment. The word καταργεῖν strictly signifies: to reduce to impotence; hence to put down a power. The powers put down can only be the powers hostile to God and His kingdom; for they are called enemies in 1 Corinthians 15:25, and their fall is the condition of the establishment of the Divine kingdom ( 1Co 15:28 ). It has been thought that the reference here was to earthly powers (Calvin, Grotius); but the terms used by the apostle are so frequently employed by him to designate the invisible powers which contend against God and which seek to drag mankind into their opposition to His kingdom (comp. Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 2:2; Eph 6:11-12 ), that it is impossible to depart from this almost technical meaning. What confirms this explanation is, that in 1Co 15:26 death personified is ranked among the powers put down by the reigning and judging Christ. By ἀρχή , command, may be understood the superior beings who, in this invisible domain, exercise command over the others; the ἐξουσίαι designate authorities armed with legal qualification; δυνάμεις , the executive forces. The πᾶσαν , all, is not repeated with the third term, which would have been monotonous.
Such, then, will be the use of the interval between the Advent and the end. This period of judgment will only end with the complete reduction of the last enemy; and it must be so, for such is the declaration of Scripture.
Vv. 25. “For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”
Paul cites the well-known words of Psalms 110:1: “The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” The Divine necessity expressed by He must follows from this promise of Jehovah to the Messiah.
The emphasis in the saying quoted is put by Paul on the till; for the object of the quotation is to justify the terms of 1 Corinthians 15:24: when He shall have put down. According to this Divine declaration, the reign of the Messiah on the throne of the Father must last till there be no longer any enemy left capable of separating God and man. Then this reign will cease. It has therefore for its essential object the carrying out of this judgment on the opposing powers which still remain after the Advent. The subject of the verb put is, according to some, God, as in the Psalm (Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Holsten); according to others, Christ Himself (Chrysostom, Rückert, de Wette, Meyer, Hofmann, Edwards). The latter rest their view on the fact, that it is the reigning Christ who must act. But, even if it is God who fights, Christ is not therefore inactive; God acts with Him and by Him. If the αὐτοῦ after πόδας is unauthentic, we cannot well think of any other feet than those of Him who is the subject of the verb; in this case Christ is the subject. As the till indicates the certainty of victory, the ἄν , if it is authentic, expresses the uncertainty of the moment when the struggle shall cease.
At what time does the apostle make the kingdom of Christ, of which he here speaks, begin? It seems at first sight as if it could be no other than the date of the ascension. But would the idea of a purely spiritual reign, such as that which began with the ascension of Jesus, harmonize with a context like this, where the external and universal fulfilment of the Divine plan is in question? Is it not more natural to take the term βασιλεία in its full sense, at once spiritual and external, as in 1Co 15:50 ? Comp. also 1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:5; Galatians 5:21, then the prayer: “Thy kingdom come,” and the words of the Apocalypse 1 Corinthians 12:10: “I heard a voice saying: The kingdom of God is come.” The reign begins, according to Luke 19:15, when Jesus, after receiving the kingship in heaven, returns to the earth to exercise it. It is the coming of Jehovah in the person of the Messiah, promised by the prophets, and which Jesus called His Advent. We must therefore regard the reign of Christ as the whole state of things which follows the Advent, and which will last till the epoch called the end. It is the whole interval between the time when He shall appear visibly as king, and that when He shall cease to be so ( 1Co 15:28 ); and as among the ancients reigning meant judging, and judging reigning, so the Saviour's reign here consists of judgment.
The till setting a limit to Christ's reign, it has been asked if there was not a contradiction between these words and those of Isa 9:6 and Luke 1:33, where it is said, “that of His kingdom there shall be no end.” This question has been variously answered (see Meyer). It seems to me that the simplest solution is this: Christ's kingdom in these prophetic sayings is confounded with that of God, which He is commissioned to establish. The distinction between the two is a new revelation whereby the apostle gives precision and completeness to the prophetic revelations. What remains true in these is, that Christ has no successor; for God cannot be regarded as the successor of the Messiah.
Christ's victory, to be complete, must reach to the last enemy, and that even in the external and bodily domain.
Vv. 26. “The last enemy which is destroyed is death.”
The literal rendering is: “As last enemy, death is destroyed.” Here is the consummation of the reign and of the judgment exercised by Christ over the powers opposed to God. Death is impersonal, no doubt, but its reign nevertheless does violence to the Divine glory, and after the personal powers have been put down ( 1Co 15:24-25 ), this gloomy power of death must be destroyed, that God's glory may shine forth freely throughout the entire domain of existence. This judgment of death consists of two acts. Firstly, all beings who have become its prey must be rescued from it; this is what will be effected by the final and universal resurrection, which will bring to the light the third rank of the risen. In the second place, death must no longer have power to make new victims; this will be the result of the resurrection itself, which, by transforming our perishable into incorruptible bodies, will put them for ever beyond the reach of death. The apostle declares that this will be the enemy last conquered. Why so? Because the power of death rests on certain profound bases of a moral nature, which must be taken away before the throne of this enemy can fall. Death is an effect; the suppression of the effect supposes that of the causes. The apostle will explain this more clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:56. It was so in the life of Christ, in which the victory over sin and Satan, during His life, and the victory over the law and condemnation, in His death, became the foundation of His resurrection. It must be the same also for mankind (see at 1Co 15:56 ).
Without this last victory of the Divine work, there would remain in human existence a domain, that of the body, to which Divine power would not have penetrated, and in which God's work, conquered for a time, had not taken its revenge. This is why the body of the last man must participate in the victory over death, as well as that of Christ Himself; comp. Revelation 20:12-13, where there is a magnificent description of the general resurrection in which the Messianic kingdom of Jesus will issue.
As Edwards rightly observes, it follows from this passage that death will continue to reign over the earth between the Advent and the end.
It has been asked whether, in the final judgment which will follow the universal resurrection, there will only be the condemned. This might be inferred from the fact that all who are Christ's are raised at the time of the Advent ( 1Co 15:23 ). But is it not allowable to think with Luthardt, that among the multitudes who have gone down, and who go down daily, to the place of the dead, without having known the gospel or expressly rejected it, there will be individuals who shall yet accept it; for it is said that it will be preached to them also (1 Peter 3:19; 1Pe 4:6 ), and Jesus positively declared that there is still pardon in the other world for the man who has not committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ( Mat 12:32 ). The judgment which will follow the universal resurrection will therefore have a double issue, as Jesus expressly says (Matthew 25:46, and as appears from Rev 20:15 ).
Vv. 27. “For He hath put all things under His feet; now when He saith all things are subjected to Him, it is manifest that He is excepted who subjected all things to Him.”
The first proposition is laid down as an indisputable truth; because it is taken from Scripture, Psalms 8:7. In the Old Testament it relates to man in general, at the time of his creation. But as the destiny of man thus declared is not realized, because of the fall, in any one save in the person of the Son of man, the normal man, the Messiah, it is with good right applied to Him in the New Testament; comp. Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:8.
The subject of ὑπέταξεν , subjected, can only be God, as in the Psalm. The verb in the past refers to the Divine decree appointing Christ sovereign of the universe; of course the execution of the decree does not take place without His own co-operation. But why does the apostle insist on expressing the exception relating to God? Who could suppose that God formed part of those: all things, which were to be subjected to the Messiah? In the state of exaltation which prevailed among the Corinthians, had some one advanced the idea that God, considered as the impersonal force which animates the universe, would one day be wholly subject to the Messiah, as the supreme representative of the world? We met in 1Co 12:3 with an opposite eccentricity which is not more startling. But perhaps this remark, introduced by the apostle in the second part of our verse, is meant only to pave the way for the idea of the subordination of Christ to the Father ( 1Co 15:28 ).
The subject of εἴπῃ seems to me to be simply: God, by the Scripture. Meyer thought that the εἴπῃ should rather be applied to the declaration which God will make when the decree subjecting all things to Christ shall be realized, and God shall have proclaimed the fact in the ears of the whole universe. The δῆλον ὅτι would require in this case to be regarded as an adverbial form, in the sense of evidently: “When God shall have declared that all is subjected to Him, evidently He will Himself remain outside of this universal subjection.” But the connection between the two propositions would not be logical; what would be needed would not be: When God shall have said that..., but: When the fact itself shall have taken place. The second proposition gives the impression of a principle, as well as the first, and seems in no wise to refer to a particular time. As to the δῆλον ὅτι , Meyer's meaning is admissible, but not necessary. We mention only as an exegetical curiosity the explanation of Hofmann, who makes the two propositions beginning with ὅταν , when ( 1Co 15:27-28 ), two parallel propositions, the principal one beginning at the τότε , then, of 1 Corinthians 15:28. The δῆλον ὅτι signifies, according to him, that is to say, and the proposition depending on it is a parenthesis!
The evident fact which Paul wishes to express is, that at the time when all shall be subjected to Christ, voluntarily or involuntarily, only two powers will remain in existence: that of Christ, a power visible and universal, and that of the Father, who gave the Son this sovereign position. But this duality will last only for an instant; it will be immediately terminated by the free act of the Son which will close the development of things:
Vv. 28. “But when all things shall be subjected unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”
The δέ is progressive: from the subjection of all things to Christ, Paul passes to the subjection of Christ to the Father. We here return to the idea of 1 Corinthians 15:24: “Then the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom...after having put down...” The last victory is gained, the end comes. Thus the meaning of the digression interposed in 1Co 15:25-27 is obvious: the end or the delivering up of the kingdom to the Father must be preceded by the destruction of all rebel forces (1 Corinthians 15:24 b); for the Son cannot give up to the Father an empire which has not been completely pacified; and this subjection of rebel forces can only take place through the Messianic reign and judgment of Jesus ( 1Co 15:25-26 ); as the result of all, the subjection of all things to the Son ( 1Co 15:27 ). And now the conditions of the end are given.
What follows: “Then shall the Son Himself be subject,” reproduces more emphatically what had been said in 1Co 15:24 in the terms: “When He shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father.” The condition of the end was the subjection of all things to the Son; the end itself is the subjection of the Son, and in Him of all things, to God. The subjection of the Son is evidently voluntary. Hence it is that the apostle uses the second aorist passive, which more easily takes the reflective sense than the first aorist. The latter would express entire passivity. We here come on one of the most important and difficult conceptions of our Epistle, and of St. Paul's Epistles in general. It is very difficult to harmonize this idea of the subjection of the Son with the ordinary conception of the Trinity, according to which the Son is eternally equal with the Father. To escape the advantage which the Arians took of this passage, it has been sought in various ways to eliminate from it the idea of submission. The subjection of the Son, according to Chrysostom, denotes His full agreement with the Father. According to Augustine, it is the act whereby the Son will guide the elect to the contemplation of the Father; according to Beza, the presentation of the elect to the Father; according to others, the manifestation by means of which the Son will make the Father fully known to the whole world (Theodoret): meanings which are all utterly insufficient to render the force of the expression used by the apostle. It has also been attempted to understand by the Son here the mystical body of Christ, the Church (Ambrose); and this is perhaps the reason why the words ὁ υἱός , the Son, are omitted in some of the Fathers. A larger number distinguish between the Divine and the human nature of Christ, and ascribe what is here said of Him only to the latter. This attempt to divide the Lord's person into two natures, one of them subject, while the other remains free and self-sufficient, is the more unfortunate in this passage, as the word used to designate Christ is precisely that which most forcibly characterizes His Divine being, ὁ υἱός , the Son, absolutely speaking.
Many commentators apply what is here said of Christ to the cessation of His mediatorial office between God and men; for where there is no more sin, there is no more need of redemption or intercession. To the reign of grace, administered till then by the Son, there will succeed the state of glory (Luther, Melanchthon, Bengel, Olshausen, etc.). But Paul is not speaking of the cessation of priesthood; it is the delivering up of the kingdom which is in question, and of a kingdom whose principal work is to judge, a very different thing from redeeming and interceding, and in any case it is not to God that He could deliver up His mediatorial function. This is recognised by Meyer, Hofmann, Heinrici, and others. These apply the term βασιλεία , kingdom, to the judicial sovereignty exercised by Christ over the hostile powers ( 1Co 15:24 ), and to His universal sovereignty, which flows from it ( 1Co 15:27 ). “The subordination of the Son to the Father,” says Hofmann, “consists in the fact that He ceases to have in the view of the world that mediate position between the world and God, in consequence of which the world saw in Him a ruler different from God, possessing a sovereignty which belonged to Him as His own. This rule within the world ceases because it has reached its end.” This explanation would be satisfactory if we had only to account for the expression of 1 Corinthians 15:24: “to deliver up the kingdom to the Father.” But the phrase used in 1Co 15:28 to designate the same fact is very different: “the voluntary submission of the Son to Him who subjected all things to Him.” For this expression does not bear only on the function of the Son, but also on His personal position, and it seems difficult with such words before us to avoid the conclusion of R. Schmidt, when, in his monograph on St. Paul's Christology, he thus expresses himself: “Either the characteristic of absolute existence is not essential to the notion of God, which no one will allow, or it must be confessed that the apostolic conception here stated is incompatible with the Divine nature of Christ.” This author concludes that the idea of the subjection of the Son, as here taught by the apostle, is in contradiction not only to the ecclesiastical dogma of the Trinity, but also to all the expressions of St. Paul which imply Christ's divinity and pre-existence.
I do not think that so logical a mind as that of the apostle can with any probability be suspected of self-contradiction, especially on a point of such fundamental importance. I have already remarked once and again ( 1Co 3:23 and 1Co 11:3 ), that the idea of the subordination of the Son to the Father expressly forms part of his Christological conception, no less than that of His Divine pre - existence. The two notions are simultaneously included in the title Son, which, as Edwards says, implies “the possibility of subjection and, at the same time, equality of nature.” Exactly so is it with the term Word in John. As the word is subordinate to the thought, and yet one with it, so in the notion of Son there are united the two relations of subordination and homogeneity. The living monotheism of Paul, John, and the other apostles was not less rigorous than ours, and yet it found no contradiction between these two affirmations. Now if, in Paul's view, it is so with the Son in His Divine state, must not the position of subordination have appeared in Him still more compatible with the character of the Son when He had once entered into the mode of being belonging to a human personality? Subordination was therefore, according to him, in harmony with the essential relation of the Son to the Father, in His Divine and human existence. If consequently He is called to reign, by exercising Divine sovereignty within the universe, it can only be for a time, with a view to the obtaining of a particular result. This end gained, He will return to His normal position: subordination relatively to God the Father. Such, as it seems to me, is the true thought of the apostle. How did he understand the state of the Son after this act of voluntary subjection? In his view, this act of subjection could be no loss to the Son. It is not He who descends from the Divine throne, it is His subjects who are raised to it along with Him: “To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit on My throne, as I overcame...” ( Rev 3:21 ). Even on the Divine throne, Christ is only “as an elder brother in the midst of many brethren” ( Rom 8:29 ). “Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” says St. Paul in the same sense, that is to say, sharing with Him the Divine inheritance, the possession of God Himself. He is therefore no longer a king surrounded by His servants, but a brother who in relation to His brethren keeps only the advantage of His eternal priority ( πρωτότοκος , first-born). We must therefore beware of understanding this subjection in the sense of an absorption of Christ in the Deity, so that His personality thenceforth disappears. The expression to be subjected denotes quite the opposite of this idea, which is besides incompatible with the apostle's various sayings which we have just quoted. The thought of St. Paul seems to me to be this: The Son returns to the state of submission which He had left to fill the place of Messianic sovereignty, because, God communicating Himself directly to all, He ceases to be mediator of God's sovereignty over them.
The καί , also, before αὐτός ( Himself), in the Byz., ought certainly to be preserved; it has been rejected as too closely identifying the Son's subordination with ours, in the same way as it was thought necessary here to reject ὁ υἱός to avoid the risk of doing wrong to His divinity.
The periphrasis: to Him who subjected to Him, serves to justify the delivering up of the universe to the Father; He restores it to Him who gave it to Him.
The last words: that God may be all in all, do not depend, as Hofmann and Grimm think, on the secondary idea: who subjected all things to Him. What needs to be explained is, not the end for which God subjected all to the Son, but the end with a view to which the Son restores all to God. Such is the dominant thought of the whole passage from 1 Corinthians 15:24. This in order that depends, therefore, on ὑποταγήσεται , shall be subject. He effaces Himself to let God take His place. Formerly it was He, Christ, in whom God manifested Himself to the world; it was He who was all in all ( Col 3:12 ). But He took advantage of His relation to the faithful only to bring them to that state in which God could directly, without mediation on His part, live, dwell in them, reveal Himself, and act by them. This time having come, they are, as to position, His equals; God is all in them in the same way as He was and is all in His glorified Son. They have reached the perfect stature of Christ ( Eph 4:13 ).
But, strange to say, Paul does not use either the name Father, or that of God and the Father ( 1Co 15:24 ); he says: “that God may be all in all.” And yet it seems as if the name Father would be the corresponding one to the title Son. All is so maturely weighed in the apostle's style, that he must have had an intention in his choice of the name. He did not here wish to designate God specially as Father, in opposition to the Son and the Spirit, but God in the fulness of His being, at once as Father, the source of all, both in Himself and in the universe, as Son revealing Him, and as Spirit communicating Him. It was in this fulness that God dwelt in the man Jesus, and it is with the same fulness He will dwell in every man who has become in Him His child and heir. Such are “those things” of which Paul spoke 1 Corinthians 2:7, “which God has prepared for our glory.”
The expression: πάντα or τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν , all in all, certainly does not merely signify: to be all to them (to their hearts) because of their love and admiration, as has been concluded from certain analogous Greek expressions. The in denotes a real indwelling. The living God thinks, wills, and acts through them. They are as Jesus was, on the earth, at once His free and submissive agents, the depositaries of His holiness, the bearers of His love, the interpreters of His wisdom throughout the boundless spaces and unnumbered worlds of the universe. It is by filling them that through them God fills all things. It seems to me that the neuter πάντα , all things, by no means obliges us to take the ἐν πᾶσιν , in all, in the neuter sense. The meaning is: all in each, so that every member of this glorified society has no longer anything in him which is not penetrated by God, as the transparent crystal is all penetrated with light. The masculine sense is demanded, as Meyer well says, by the correlation to the αὐτὸς ὁ υἱός , the Son Himself. This meaning also comes out very naturally from the analogous saying Colossians 3:11: πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός . At the height at which he has arrived, the apostle can only think of a being of God spiritually, like that of which Jesus speaks in His last prayer: “As Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be in us” ( Joh 17:21 ). It is therefore a mistake in Hofmann and Edwards to take πᾶσιν in the neuter sense: “all in all things,” even in inanimate beings.
We must certainly read, with the Vaticanus and the Cantabrigiensis, πάντα without the article; the τά has come in from the three τὰ πάντα which precede; but there τὰ πάντα denoted the totality of the universe, which is unsuitable here.
The partisans of universal salvation have always regarded this last saying as one of the most solid points in support of their theory. But the expression in all may be explained in two ways, without ascribing this idea to Paul. Either it may be held that he is thinking only of those who have freely joined in the submission of the Son, and who, united to Him, are embraced in Him; or the in all may be applied even to the reprobate, in the sense that in them too the Divine perfection will shine forth, in the twofold aspect of justice and power; comp. Philippians 2:10-11, a passage which, however, refers neither to the same time nor to the same fact. If the idea of universal salvation were Paul's view, it must apply also to devils, as Olshausen himself cannot help admitting. But 1Co 15:25 does not lead to such a conclusion, and this thought evidently goes beyond all the limits of the biblical view. What the apostle meant to express here is this sublime idea: that the goal of history and the end of the existence of humanity are the formation of a society of intelligent and free beings, brought by Christ into perfect communion with God, and thereby rendered capable of exercising, like Jesus Himself when on earth, an unchangeably holy and beneficent activity. This view, which is also that of one of the greatest thinkers of our day, Lotze, exclusive of the Christian element on which it rested in the case of the apostle, sets aside, on the one hand, the Pantheism which denies all existence of its own and all free activity to the creature, this is contradicted by the ἐν πᾶσιν , in all, and on the other the Deism, which ascribes to man an activity in good separately from God, which is excluded by the πάντα ἐν , all things in, of St. Paul.
The apostle has thus assigned to the resurrection of the body its place in the system of the Christian salvation as a whole. He has brought out its three phases (Christ's resurrection, the resurrection of believers, the universal resurrection), and he has pointed out the correspondence between these phases and the three principal epochs of the Divine work (the consummation of salvation in Christ Himself, the inauguration of His Messianic kingdom, and the close of His whole work). Certainly such a discussion exhausted the first side of the question, the reality of the resurrection of the body. Before, however, passing to the second aspect of the question, the possibility of so extraordinary a fact, Pauls adds one or two considerations as to the practical consequences, to which the denial of this truth naturally leads ( 1Co 15:29-34 ).
Vv. 29. “For else, what shall they do which are baptized for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they baptized for them?”
The ἐπεί , for since, is here taken, as often, in the sense of: for if it is not so (if the dead rise not). The English translation can render this idea by: for otherwise, else. This conjunction rests, not on 1Co 15:28 only, but on the whole preceding passage, from 1 Corinthians 15:20: “If Christ risen be not the first-fruits of a harvest of glorified ones in whom God will become all in all...”
We must not confound the expression τί ποιήσουσιν , what shall they do? with the form τί ποιοῦσιν , what do they? The understood answer with the verb in the present would be: Nonsense, an absurdity; whereas with the verb in the future the meaning is: what result, what profit will they gain? Answer: none. It has been sought to explain the future in a purely logical sense: “What will every baptism be, performed under such conditions (once the resurrection is denied)?” But the following verses show that Paul's eye is really turned to the future, the future which is to follow death: and if such was the meaning of this future tense, the logical condition would have required to be more expressly indicated. The meaning is certainly the same as that of the question: τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος , what advantageth it me ( 1Co 15:32 )? The idea therefore is: “What will accrue to them from such a baptism?” Holsten recognises this: “The future relates to the result yet to come.”
Somewhere about thirty explanations are reckoned of the expression: to be baptized for the dead. This diversity is due, on the one hand, to our ignorance of the usage to which Paul alludes, on the other, to the absence of any parallel expression to guide us in the explanation of it. The term used by the apostle was evidently well known to his readers. In their Christian vocabulary it was a sort of technical phrase.
The ancient commentators are not altogether at one about its explanation. In two of his works ( Cont. Marc. 1 Corinthians 5:10, and De resur. carn. 48) Tertullian says that the apostle is here referring to the custom of baptizing a living Christian in place of another who died without baptism; but he does not think it follows from the reasoning of the apostle that he approved of such a custom. Epiphanius relates that the Cerinthians, when one of their catechumens happened to die, caused a member of the Church to be baptized in his room, that the deceased might escape the penalties of the unbaptized. Chrysostom tells the same story of the Marcionites. But these two Fathers do not think the apostle meant to refer to such a custom as existing among the first Christians. It is otherwise with Ambrosiaster: “Paul takes an example from the fact that if any one died before receiving baptism, a living person was baptized for him, because it was feared either that he would not rise again, or that he would rise again to suffer.” A very large number of ancient and modern commentators have adopted this meaning given by the Roman commentator, particularly Anselm, Erasmus, Grotius, Rückert, de Wette, Neander, Kling, Heinrici, Renan, Reuss, Edwards, Holsten. The last, as well as Kling, thinks he can connect this custom of representative baptism with the sickness prevailing at Corinth, mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:30. This connection is inadmissible; for those who were stricken with sickness were unworthy communicants, who were all baptized. As to the explanation itself, I do not think the apostle could have taken as the basis of an argument a superstitious custom absolutely opposed to his spiritual conception. Reuss himself says: “We grant that the argument in itself is extremely weak; indeed, it has probably no other object than to show the opponents guilty of self-contradiction.” But even on this supposition, what purpose would have been served by adopting this course of bad logic and of doubtful honesty? The opponents whom he sought to convince by such means would no doubt have answered that one absurdity is not proved by a greater; for, if they rejected the resurrection of the body, they would evidently reject baptism for the dead so understood. Rückert and Heinrici think that this was merely a preliminary argument, and that Paul had in view to rectify the superstitious custom from which it was drawn, when he should go to Corinth ( 1Co 11:34 ), that is to say, that he had in view then to refute himself! Heinrici supposes that this strange procedure arose from the consideration which he required to show to his colleague Apollos, who was very zealous in the matter of baptism, and who had introduced this kind of ceremony at Corinth. But we have seen that the part ascribed to Apollos by this critic is a simple creation of his imagination. It would consequently be necessary, if such was St. Paul's argument, to go the length of holding with Holsten that the apostle's spiritualism was yet very rudimentary, and that he himself had not drawn from it its last consequences. But who can believe that the man who had combated the opus operatum with such energy in his conflict with Jewish legalism, would have restored or tolerated it himself in a new form in the Churches which he had founded? The man whose spiritualism became that of the entire Church, and ours also at the present hour, certainly did not adopt in his evangelical convictions and practice an element stamped with the grossest religious materialism. Besides, we have no instance which can lead us to suppose that such a custom had a place in the life of the primitive Churches. It was not till after the apostolic period that the idea of the magical virtue of the sacraments began to corrupt the primitive spirituality. To these reasons there is added another, taken from the text itself: As the advantage of such an act must have accrued, not to those who performed it, but to those in whose behalf it was performed, instead of saying: “What shall they gain who are baptized for the dead?” Paul would have required to say: “What will the dead gain for whom such baptisms are performed?” This last reason would seem to me of itself sufficient to secure the rejection of an interpretation otherwise so incompatible with the apostle's moral dignity and with the character of the apostolic Churches. As to the sects mentioned by the Fathers, they belong to a later period, when the life of the Church had lost its primitive simplicity, both in doctrine and ritual. And it may be supposed, not improbably, that it was our very passage, misunderstood, which gave rise to the absurd practices to which we have referred.
This meaning, the first we admit to occur to the mind, being set aside, we find ourselves face to face with a multitude of explanations, no one of which has yet succeeded in gaining general approval. Certain of them may be set aside without discussion, so evidently do they do violence to the meaning of one or other of the terms used by Paul. Beza: “Those who bathe the dead before burying them;” Thomas Aquinas: “Those who are baptized to obtain the pardon of mortal sins;” Olshausen: “The new converts who are baptized to fill the blank left in the Church by the Christians who die;” John Edwards (year 1692), quoted by Edwards: “Those who are converted by contemplating the glorious death of the martyrs, as Paul himself was in consequence of Stephen's death.” Luther and Ewald explain: “Those who are baptized over the graves of the martyrs.” But the preposition ὑπέρ , over, has never this local sense in the New Testament, and such a custom belongs to a kind of devotion posterior to the time of the apostles. Besides, the argument would have proved absolutely nothing. Several commentators apply the word τῶν νεκρῶν , the dead, to the baptized themselves. So Chrysostom and the ancient Greek commentators: “for themselves as dead, that is to say, with a view to their own resurrection;” Chrysostom paraphrases τῶν νεκρῶν by τῶν σωμάτων . To the same effect Linder: “ In gratiam cinerum. ” But to give the argument any force, it would require to be established that the apostolic Church maintained a peculiar relation between the sacrament of baptism and the bodily resurrection of the baptized. The passage Rom 6:1 seq. proves nothing in this respect; for it refers only to spiritual resurrection. Then there would have been no need of the article before νεκρῶν ; Paul must have said in this sense: for [ some ] dead (themselves as dead), and not: for the dead.
Otto has modified this meaning, applying the term the dead to the adversaries of the resurrection at Corinth. The question, according to him, is ironical: “Why, if there is no resurrection, do these people have themselves baptized to result in their being of the dead, not of the living?” The answer would thus be ironically introduced into the question. But in this sense the article would have required to be rejected. And would not this sarcasm be utterly out of place after the sublime thought of 1Co 15:28 ? Finally, the following question, in that case reproducing it a second time, would be grossly out of place. It would be much more natural, starting from this explanation of τῶν νεκρῶν , the dead, to adopt the sense of Epiphanius and Calvin, who apply the words to the catechumens threatened with death by accident or disease, and who asked baptism, as Calvin says, “either for their own consolation, or for the edification of the brethren.” In this case we must understand the words: “for the dead,” in the sense of: in view of death, or: as about to be soon gathered to the dead; as Bengel says: “ qui mox post baptismum ad mortuos aggregabuntur. ” But one cannot help feeling how forced are the two meanings thus given to ὑπέρ , especially the former.
A group of more probable explanations, approaching in meaning the words of Bengel just quoted, is that in which the term: the dead, is applied to all deceased Christians, and to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. So Pelagius and Diestelmann: “For the love of Christ; to be one day united with Him and with the faithful who surround Him in His kingdom.” But the term: they who are baptized, would require in this case to be applied to all Christians; now the οἱ before βαπτιζόμενοι denotes a special class of Christians. As is well said by Calvin: “ Non de omnibus loquitur quum dicit: quid facient qui baptizantur? ” And if Paul wished to characterize Christians in general, why speak of baptism rather than of faith? It is faith, and not the sign of faith, which opens the way into the kingdom of Christ. The same objections are opposed to Köster's meaning: “To remain united to their dead Christian relatives and friends.” This explanation has moreover against it the want of a more precise description added to the general term “the dead.”
But these last interpretations, though we cannot accept them as satisfactory, set us on the way of what seems to us the true one. Morus, Flatt, and Lightfoot (the older) have thought that in this phrase: to be baptized for the dead, the word baptized referred, not to the baptism of water, but to the baptism of blood, by martyrdom. We have two sayings uttered by the Lord, in which the term baptism is used in this meaning; the one pointing to His own death, Luke 12:50: “I have a baptism to be baptized with;” the other, to the bloody death of His disciples, Mark 10:38: “Can ye be baptized with the baptism wherewith I shall be baptized?” One can easily understand how, under the influence of such sayings, there was formed in the primitive Church a new expression such as that used here by the apostle, to denote the bloody death of martyrdom. The words: “for the dead,” would thus signify: to be baptized, not as the believer is with the baptism of water to enter into the Church of the living, but to enter into that of the dead, the word dead being chosen in contrast to the Church on the earth and to bring out the heroism of that martyrbaptism which leads to life only through communion with the dead. Thereby the article οἱ before βαπτιζόμενοι is fully explained; such baptized ones certainly form a class of Christians by themselves. The future also, ποιήσουσιν , is accounted for: “If there is no resurrection, what will be gained by such baptized ones, by their joining the ranks of the dead for the love of Christ and of the Church in heaven?” Finally, we shall see how natural on this explanation is the transition to the question of 1 Corinthians 15:30: “Why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?” To this interpretation it is objected that there had not yet been either persecutions or martyrs in the Church of Corinth. But there had been persecutions and martyrs in the Church in general; comp. Acts 7:58; Acts 9:1; Acts 12:2; Acts 14:19; and there might have been some which are unknown to us. 1Co 15:32 of our chapter shows how many circumstances there are even in the life of the best known of the apostles of which we are totally ignorant.
The second question is a more emphatic repetition of the first. And therefore we are led to refer the proposition εἰ ὅλως ...to what follows. As the first question was prefaced by the ἐπεί , the second is introduced by the subordinate proposition, which is a more emphatic development of the ἐπεί : “If absolutely the dead do not return to bodily life.”
The καί signifies notwithstanding, as in 1 Corinthians 7:21. These are two things which cannot co-exist (to remain dead, and to be baptized for them). Undoubtedly we must read ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν , for them, with almost all the authorities, connecting this regimen with βαπτίζονται , and not with κινδυνεύομεν , as Hofmann will have it.
1 Corinthians 15:29-34 .
After securing for the resurrection of the body its place among the great hopes which stir the hearts of all believers, the apostle adds, as a supplementary argument, a few reflections as to the moral consequences of the denial of the dogma. Suppress the resurrection, and baptism for the dead becomes meaningless, and devotion to the cause of Christ madness. The only true wisdom is to enjoy the good things of this brief life as much as possible.
The apostle, when he reasons thus, seems to confound the dogma of the resurrection of the body with that of the immortality of the soul. We shall examine this difficulty at the close.
Vv. 30, 31. “And why stand we also in jeopardy every hour? 31. I protest, brethren, by that glorying in you, which I have in Christ our Lord, I die daily.”
The transition from the bloody death of the martyrs ( 1Co 15:29 ) to the daily life of the apostles, which is a constant menace of martyrdom ( 1Co 15:30 ), is easily understood. The force of the καί , also, which, in the other explanations, always presents some difficulty, is perfectly simple. The we includes Paul, Silas, Timothy, who laboured together at Corinth; then the other apostles, who live like Paul in perpetual danger of death. This 1Co 15:30 reminds us of the passages 1Co 4:9 ; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Romans 8:35-36.
Vv. 31. Comp. Romans 8:36: “For thy sake are we killed all the day.” There is no day nor hour of the day when they may not expect to be seized and brought to execution.
The classical phrase νή with an accusative of person or thing, as an affirmation on oath, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, yet Paul might have had the opportunity of using it 2 Corinthians 1:23. The reading ἡμετέραν ( our), which signifies: “the cause of glorying which we may have in you,” is condemned not only by the authority of the documents, but by the two verbs in the singular, between which this adjective would stand. According to the reading ὑμετέραν , your, the subject is still the ground of glorying which Paul finds in them: “the cause of glorying you are to me by your faith.” What labours had not this work cost him! What dangers had he not had to run to accomplish it! The last words: in Christ our Lord, soften what might be too self-exalting in these expressions. If all these successes have been gained by him, it is only because of his communion with Christ.
The apostle finally takes from his present stay at Ephesus an example of that daily death in the midst of which he passes his life.
Vv. 32. “If it is as man that I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.”
The meaning of the expression κατὰ ἄνθρωπον , according to man, must be determined by the context. It might be applied to human strength, which was not that with which the apostle laboured; or he might mean that in his work he had a higher end in view than that which the natural man sets before him in labouring. I am inclined to believe in a third meaning: With a view to what man can give by way of recompense. The θηριομαχεῖν , to fight with wild beasts, is taken by almost all modern commentators, down to Meyer, Reuss, Heinrici (Holsten excepted), in the figurative sense: to struggle with a furious multitude excited against him. It is in the same sense that Ignatius ( Ad Rom. c. 5) speaks of the ten leopards (his keepers) with whom he has to fight day and night during his journey ( θηριομαχῶ δέκα λεοπάρδοις ). In favour of this sense we could not quote the tumult raised by the goldsmith Demetrius; for this event did not take place till after the composition of our letter, and Paul did nothing on that occasion which could justify the term fight. But some similar scene might have passed at Ephesus in the first period of Paul's sojourn. I cannot, however, adhere to this explanation of the word θηριομαχεῖν . Similar conflicts were too frequent in the apostle's life to admit of his mentioning this one in so exceptional a way. Unless we are to ascribe to Paul an exaggeration very alien to his character, it will be every way more natural to apply this expression to the punishment of the bestiarii, in the strict sense of the word. This meaning agrees better also with the feeling of free-will which breathes in the words: If I have fought. To this is objected the right of Roman citizenship which Paul possessed, and which secured him from such treatment. But if the thing passed in a popular rising, the apostle's protestations might not have been listened to. It is also said that he could not have escaped death, and that in any case such a fact could not fail to be mentioned in the Acts. But how many facts of this kind are mentioned in the list 2 Corinthians 11:0, of which we have not a hint in the narrative of the Acts! And as to deliverance, it may have been due to some providential circumstance or other which we cannot divine. The fact is that this ἐθηριομάχησα designates in the apostle's view the apogee of the: “I die daily,” and this gradation admits only of the literal sense. As Holsten says: “If there were nothing extraordinary and particular in this fight, Paul would not have so mentioned it in the context.”
When he says: What doth it profit me? the apostle's thought is that only the expectation of a life to come can explain such conduct. Moral duty in itself would not account for it, for there is no natural obligation which requires a man to sacrifice himself in the service of Jesus Christ. Besides, when he speaks of profit, Paul is thinking, not of a reward due to acquired merit, but of God's response to the holy aspirations with which He has Himself endowed the human soul.
The proposition: If the dead rise not, would be awkward, if connected with what precedes; it suits better as an introduction to what follows: “Say then also, in this case, like the despisers of the Divine judgment in Isaiah ( Isa 22:13 ): Let us eat...” Paul does expressly say that such language is used at Corinth; but he declares that it is the natural consequence of what is said there about the resurrection. There is, I believe, less of bravado than of despondency in the saying quoted: “Since we have nothing better to look for, let us at least enjoy the present.” This forms the transition to the word of warning and exhortation which closes the first part of the chapter.
Vv. 33, 34. “Be not deceived: evil company doth corrupt good manners. 34. Awake up righteously, and sin not; for some of you have not the knowledge of God: I speak [thus] to move you to shame.”
The formula μὴ πλανᾶσθε does not signify: Let not yourselves be misled by others; its meaning always is: “Do not deceive yourselves (by false reasonings).” What follows applies undoubtedly to the secret thoughts of the Corinthians whereby they sought to excuse certain acts which still kept up a connection between them and the heathen society around; comp. particularly chaps. 8-10. This meaning seems to me more natural than that of Meyer, who applies the expression evil companionships to the τινές , the some spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:34. Paul is rather addressing the whole Church of which these some still form part. It is they who run the risk of being seduced by their heathen friends.
Erasmus, Luther, and some moderns (Heinrici, Holsten) give to ὁμιλίαι the meaning of conversations. This is a possible meaning. But the ordinary signification, societies, companies, is perfectly suitable.
The saying quoted by Paul has been found in the fragments of the Thais of Menander, a comic poet, who flourished in the 3rd century before Christ. It is easily recognised as an iambic trimeter acatalectic verse, provided it be written, as in the T. R., putting χρῆσθ᾿ and not χρῆστα . We are uncertain whether Menander borrowed this sentence from common usage, and simply made a verse of it, or if it passed from his comedy into ordinary use, as a sort of proverb. Paul himself may have borrowed it either from the one or other of these sources. In both cases, the form χρῆστα is probably Paul's original reading; why should he have been concerned to preserve the exact poetic form? The meaning only was of importance to him. The form χρῆσθ᾿ is therefore a correction. Already true in its application to ordinary moral life, the saying becomes still more so from the religious and Christian standpoint. Spiritual life is quenched in the atmosphere of carnal society, and a sort of intoxication quickly comes over him who frequents it. Hence the following abrupt exhortation.
Vv. 34. The word ἐκνήφειν strictly signifies: to get out of the stupefaction caused by drunkenness. The aorist imperative denotes an energetic, decided act. Nothing less will do if the Church is to shake off the torpor with which some of its members have been seized.
The word δικαίως here signifies seriously, or as we say: en règle, in due order. They were so far awaked already from their natural slumber, from their former carnal state, but only half; and hence the reason why this state had so easily regained the upper hand in many of them.
The present imperative ἁμαρτάνετε , sin, forms a contrast to the preceding aorist: the act of awaking is unique, decisive; but the state of sin which would follow without fail from the intoxication into which they were plunging, would, if they persisted, become permanent; this is what forms the danger of it; for such a life swayed by sin leads to total apostasy. Such is the terrible sin present to the mind of St. Paul when he uses the verb ἁμαρτάνετε , suggesting the strict meaning of the word in Greek: to miss the aim.
The for states the reason why he thinks he ought to address to them so formidable a warning. There was in the Church a knot of strong-headed members who, as we have seen, more than once derided the apostle's directions, and claimed to be more clear-sighted than he. Paul describes these people strangely. Instead of saying to them that they have not the knowledge of God, he says literally: that they have the non-knowledge, ἀγνωσία , of God. It is not merely a deficiency, the lack of a good thing, it is the possession of a real evil. It involves not only inanition, but poisoning. We must beware of limiting this non-knowledge of God to the denial of His power to raise the dead, as might be inferred from the parallel Matthew 22:29; the rebuke is too serious for that: it is the Divine holiness, the apprehension of which these men have stifled within them, by substituting for it a deeply corrupted notion of God's character, that they might give themselves up to their presumptuous and profane frivolity; it is that moral libertinism to which the Pantheistic conception of the Divine Being leads. For as to the suspicion of atheism, it is excluded by the very expression which the apostle uses. In the presence of such a group of men within the Church there is cause for profound humiliation, and at the same time an alarming danger. According to the T. R., the meaning of the last words would be: “I say this to you ( λέγω ) to shame you.” According to the Alex.: “I speak thus to you ( λάλω ) to...,” which is undoubtedly better. The apostle thus insists on the tone he is obliged to take, rather than on the matter of his words.
This severe tone is intended to throw them back on themselves ( ἐντρέπεσθαι ), and so to make humiliation succeed to pride and the feeling of their fall to that of the superiority which they think they possess over all the other Churches; comp. the expressions either analogous, 1 Corinthians 6:5, or opposite, 1 Corinthians 4:14.
The apostle has restored the expectation of the resurrection to its true bases, and so demonstrated its certainty. It now remains to solve the objections which are raised to the possibility of such an event, by showing how it will take place. This is what he does in the second part of the chapter.
But, before passing to the study of this new subject, we have to examine the question put at the beginning of the foregoing discussion: Does not the apostle throughout this passage confound the resurrection of the body with the immortality of the soul, and does he not ascribe to the denial of the former, practical consequences which, strictly speaking, only flow from the denial of the latter?
It seems to me that the Apostle Paul could not possibly be so much of a novice on this question as to be guilty of such confusion. The question of the survival of the personality after death was as thoroughly raised by Sadduceism as that of the resurrection of the body; and it is impossible that in the polemic of the Pharisees against the Sadducees the two questions should not have been distinguished. Are we not entitled to suppose, especially after the immediately preceding verses, that if Paul reasons as he does, it is because in the opinion of the adversaries whom he had before him the two denials were really confounded? And, in fact, once the hope of the resurrection of the body is abandoned, there no longer remains any very solid security for the survival of the person after death. There is a speedy gliding down the incline which leads from the idea of the annihilation of the body to the Pantheistic absorption of the finite spirit in the absolute Spirit. And it seems to me that if we carefully weigh the bearing, not only of 1Co 15:33-34 of our chapter, but also of the passage 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, there can be little doubt that the adversaries of the resurrection at Corinth were on this path, though Paul carefully avoids expressly saying so, and only exhibits this disastrous consequence as a result to be dreaded. But in this question there is another point of view, which is to be carefully taken into account. Paul is reasoning not as a philosopher, but as an apostle, that is to say, from the viewpoint of the Christian salvation. Now if the resurrection be once denied, either as to believers or as to Christ Himself, what means the survival of the soul after death? Paul has told us in 1 Corinthians 15:18: “Then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished;” a saying the meaning of which is obvious from the preceding words: “We are yet in our sins.” Such an immortality is more to be dreaded than desired; it is not therefore of a nature to weaken the pernicious practical consequences drawn from the denial of the resurrection. It rather gives them new force. For is not condemnation following a life of sacrifice still more terrible than annihilation? Weiss says with perfect truth ( Bibl. Theol. § 96d): “If Paul contends against those who deny the resurrection as if this denial involved the negation of all life after death, it must be remembered that with the denial of the resurrection of the body the resurrection of Christ in his view fell to the ground, and that consequently communion with the living Christ beyond the tomb was no longer possible.” In such circumstances, the conclusion was evident: Why torment ourselves to acquire and to bring into the possession of others a salvation which will never be realized? Better enjoy life peaceably till it be withdrawn from us.
The same confusion which is here ascribed to Paul might be imputed to Jesus Himself, on the occasion of His reply to the Sadducees, Mat 22:29-32 and parallels. This reply indeed assumes that the immortality of the soul necessarily implies the resurrection of the body.
The position of Jesus face to face with the Sadducees was almost the same as that of Paul in relation to the Corinthian opponents of the resurrection. The Sadducees could not conceive the existence of the spirit as independent of that of the body; from the annihilation of the latter there followed therefore the annihilation of the former. Hence it is that Jesus, not confining Himself to solving the difficulty which they had put to Him, takes the offensive and saps at the root their view of the resurrection, demonstrating to them, by the declaration of Jehovah to Moses regarding His relation to the long-dead patriarchs, the survival of their persons. He argues on the foundation of Jewish monotheism, as St. Paul here argues on the foundation of Christ's own resurrection. The relation of the patriarchs to the living God implies the permanence of their personal life, as the relation of believers to Christ raised in the body implies the permanence of their personal and bodily life.
Vv. 35. “But some one will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”
These two questions have not altogether the same meaning, as is obvious even from the δέ , and further, which connects them. But neither do they differ, according to Meyer's view, as the general idea from the particular fact. The former bears on the hidden working whereby the awakening of the body which has been given over to death is accomplished ( πῶς , how); the latter, on the result of this mysterious operation, that is to say, on the nature and qualities of the raised body ( ποίῳ σώματι , what body). The passage which follows leaves no doubt as to the reality of the distinction between the two questions, for 1Co 15:36 contains the answer to the former, and 1Co 15:37-49 the answer to the latter.
Τίς , some one; one of those sages whose whole spiritual stock consists in not knowing God ( 1Co 15:34 ).
The verbs in the present: are raised, come, are ideal presents, and as such, include the fact to come in which the idea will be realized.
The apostle replies to the former question in 1 Corinthians 15:36:
II. The Mode of the Resurrection of the Body. 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 .
After demonstrating the essential part played by the resurrection in the Christian salvation, the apostle sets himself to answer the objections which this doctrine might raise. These objections were probably uttered ironically by certain members of the Church of Corinth who wished to parade their wisdom. It was not difficult, indeed, to turn the doctrine into ridicule, especially if it was understood in the gross way in which it was taught by the Rabbins, who regarded the resurrection as a restoration pure and simple of the present body by the reunion of the material elements of which it was composed. This is proved by numerous sayings in the Talmud; and it was probably this point of view at which the Sadducees placed themselves to ridicule this belief; as it is also by representing the resurrection in this way that scoffers of our own day give point to their sarcasms.
The apostle begins by answering two objections which human wisdom raises against the resurrection of the body: 1 Corinthians 15:35-49; then he explains what will happen to the bodies of those who do not pass through death: 1 Corinthians 15:50-53; finally, he closes with a triumphant conclusion: 1 Corinthians 15:54-58.
Vv. 36. “Fool! That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.”
The vocative ἄφρον , fool, is evidently a correction, and ἄφρων to be read as a nominative; comp. Luke 12:20. This nominative is used by apposition: “Fool that thou art, thou that thinkest thyself so wise!”
The pronoun σύ , thou, by its position, is strongly emphatic; according to some, as opposed to θεός , God, in the sense: “As for thee, thou sowest what dies, whereas God sows what is to live;” but this antithesis is foreign to the context. This σύ , thou, put first, is logically connected with the epithet fool: “ Thy own daily experience might instruct thee, if thou hadst eyes to see! Every time thou sowest a grain, thou thyself dost overturn the objection thou art raising.”
The term ζωοποιεῖται , is quickened, does not strictly apply to a grain of corn; it is chosen in view of the application made of it to the raised body.
The death of the seed, the condition of its return to life, consists in the dissolution of its material wrappings under the action of the earth's moisture and heat. It is by this process of destruction that the impalpable germ of life which dwells in it, and which no anatomist's scalpel can reach, is set free. In proportion as the putrefaction of all the material elements takes place, this force awakes and shows itself by the simultaneous appearance, in opposite directions, of the two vital shoots, the stem and the root, the first vestiges of the new organism which is preparing to appear. Such is the answer given by nature to the first question raised: How is the resurrection effected? Through death itself! Through dissolution to true life: such is the way! What appears to be the obstacle is the means. This is the law which nature illustrates, and which satisfies common sense as solving the point in question. The apostle, by answering thus, avoids two rocks, against which those who treat this question lightly are very apt to make shipwreck. The one consists in identifying the raised body with the present body, as if the first must be formed by the reunion of all the material molecules of which the second was composed. Who could regard a magnificent oak, or an apple-tree laden with its vernal beauty, as the material reconstruction of the acorn or of the pip from which they sprang! The other, on the contrary, consists in destroying all connection between the two bodies, as if the latter were a new creation, without organic relation to the former. In this case we could no longer speak of resurrection. In reality, death would not be vanquished; it would keep its prey. God would simply do something new by its side.
In Joh 12:24 the Lord uses this same figure of the grain of corn, applying it, however, to spiritual death and resurrection.
The apostle answers the second question, 1 Corinthians 15:37-40. And first summarily, 1 Corinthians 15:37-38.
Vv. 37, 38. “And when thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38. but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed a body of its own.”
The καί , and, marks the transition to the second question. The answer to it will be much more developed. The first question implied an inexplicable mystery, and the answer could only be given by means of a not less mysterious analogous fact, borrowed from the life of nature. Here it is otherwise, for the point in question is the nature of the new body, which will result from this unfathomable operation, in contrast to the nature of the present body.
In translating: when thou sowest, we have tried to render more exactly the meaning of the construction used by the apostle than when it is translated: as to what thou sowest. Literally, the meaning is this: “What thou sowest, thou dost not sow it (as being) the body which is to spring up...” This singular form, in which the expression: that body that shall be, is the grammatical apposition of: what thou sowest, is intended to express very forcibly the essential identity of the present and the future body.
The expression bare grain tacitly contrasts the grain stripped of all covering or ornament with that wealth of organs (leaves, calyx, corolla), which forms the beauty of the developed plant. By making use of this expression, the apostle no doubt means to suggest the nakedness of the human body when it is laid in the earth. Holsten applies the term bare [naked] to the soul divested of its body in Hades. But the subject in question is the body, and not the soul. The phrase εἰ τύχοι signifies neither perhaps, nor for example, as some translate, but: if so be, that is to say: according to the kind of grain thou hast in hand, at the time when thou sowest.
Vv. 38. With this bareness of the grain deposited in the earth, the apostle contrasts God's creative power, which quickly invests the seed with the covering, the body assigned to its kind, by making the plant sprout which is to serve as its organ. By saying: as it hath pleased Him, and not: as it pleases Him, Paul certainly refers to the law of vegetation established by God for every plant at the time of creation. This Divine volition remains in the bosom of changing nature; it controls beforehand the result of the sower's action. It is obvious how false it is to allege that Scripture knows nothing of the constancy of the laws of nature. The author who wrote, Genesis 1:11, in speaking of plants of all sorts: “bearing fruit after their kind,” already understood this fundamental fact.
Thus the hundred thousand species of plants of which the vegetable kingdom is composed are all organized in such a way that to this infinite variety of seeds there corresponds an exactly similar variety of vegetable organisms. The article τό , the, before ἴδιον is to be rejected. In these last words: “ A body of its own,” there is implicitly contained the answer to the second question of 1 Corinthians 15:35: With what body? The God who took care at the creation to furnish every seed with a body of its own, will know how to give to the energy hidden in our terrestrial body the new organ it will need when this vital principle shall be set free by death from the temporary wrapping in which it is now hidden. And to satisfy the inquirer who put the questions of 1 Corinthians 15:35, on the subject of the new organ which is to replace our earthly body, and to prevent his imagining that God might be at a loss to produce a body entirely different from the present, the apostle invites him to cast a glance over the infinite diversity of the organisms which form the visible universe: 1 Corinthians 15:39-41. The variety of vegetable organisms bears on form only, not on substance; it would not therefore of itself authorize the conclusion which the apostle wishes to establish, namely, the possibility of a new body, substantially different from our present body. Hence it is that he instances in the totality of nature differences still more profound than he had pointed out between the various kinds of plants.
Vv. 39. “All flesh is not the same flesh; but the flesh of men is one, the flesh of beasts another, that of birds another, that of fish another.”
Σάρξ , flesh, denotes the substance of the organism, and not merely its external form. In this series of examples, man is placed at the head; for, while belonging by his body to the animal kingdom, he alone of all living beings possesses the capacity of reaching a higher existence.
Κτήνη , strictly: cattle; a word coming from κτάομαι , to acquire, possess; here, no doubt, denoting all quadrupeds, among which cattle form the class nearest to man.
Πτηνά , birds; this class follows the preceding, perhaps by way of alliteration, the names of the two classes differing very little in Greek.
Fishes are put last, as being lowest in the scale.
These four classes may be united in a single group, that of terrestrial beings, to be contrasted with a higher group, celestial bodies. These latter differ from the former both in substance and splendour.
Vv. 40. “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is different from the glory of the terrestrial.”
In the first words Paul has in view difference of substance. Many, de Wette, Meyer, etc., understand by bodies celestial the bodies of angels; comp. Luke 20:36; Matthew 28:3. For, according to them, the term σῶμα , body, cannot apply to inanimate beings, like stars; unless we ascribe to Paul the ancient superstition which regarded these last as living beings. But we are not obliged so to limit the use of the word σῶμα , body; compare the application made of it to plants in 1 Corinthians 15:37-38. The scoffers who refused to believe in the existence of the future body would hardly have admitted the existence of angelic bodies. To convince them on their own ground, the apostle appeals exclusively to what is seen: the grand spectacle of the starry sky, with the infinitely numerous and varied bodies with which it is studded. It is the counterpart of the not less rich, though less brilliant spectacle which is presented by terrestrial nature. The last words specially bring out this difference of splendour. The word δόξα denotes the brightness raying forth from existing objects. Terrestrial beings have theirs: flowers in the variety of their forms and colours, animals in their agility, grace, or strength, man in the nobility of his bearing, the freshness of his complexion, the light of his eye. But how great is that of the celestial bodies which illumine the earth with their brightness! To be remarked is the use of the adjective ἑτέρα , different, instead of ἄλλη , other. We pointed out, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, that the apostle does not use these terms indifferently. Here his intention is clear. He uses ἑτέρα , different, to denote the general difference between the two great classes of beings, and he applies ἄλλη , other, to the secondary difference distinguishing terrestrial bodies from one another ( 1Co 15:39 ), and celestial bodies from one another ( 1Co 15:41 ).
Vv. 41. “The glory of the sun is one, and the glory of the moon another, and the glory of the stars another: for star differeth from star in glory.”
Even in the case of beings having so great a resemblance in nature (substance and form), if we observe them with some care we discover differences between one and another which attest the infinite riches of God's work and the illimitable range of His power. What a difference between the animating splendour of the sun on a fine day and the quiet moonlight; between the calm beauty of the latter and the penetrating and pure scintillations of the stars! There are differences too between the stars themselves. The brilliance of Venus does not resemble that of Mars, nor the latter that of Jupiter; and what a difference between the planets and the fixed stars! Open your eyes, then, the apostle means to say, and as you see so many different glories shining in the heavens, you will cease to ask, as if God's power were limited: “With what body shall they come?” You will understand how infinite are the resources of Divine power!
It has often been thought, that by stopping to describe so particularly this wide diversity of splendour, the apostle meant to allude to the difference of glory which will exist among the risen, according to the different degrees of moral perfection to which they have attained. The Fathers especially dwelt fondly on this view; see Ambrose, Chrysostom, Tertullian. This last makes the future body of God's servants correspond to the flesh of men; that of pagans, to the flesh of beasts; that of the martyrs, to the flesh of birds; that of the Christians who have had only baptism with water, to the flesh of fishes; then the glory of Christ corresponds to the brightness of the sun; that of the Church, to the brightness of the moon; that of the Jews, to the brightness of the stars ( De Resurrectione, c. 52). All this is evidently only a play of imagination. The context requires no such application; for, as is proved by the sequel, Paul proposes, by bringing as it were before the very eye the infinite resources of Divine power, to show that God can hold in reserve for His elect a body absolutely different from their terrestrial body. But, while holding exegetically by this application, the only one justified by the context, we need not deny the possibility of a purely secondary allusion to the diversity which God may be pleased to make between the bodies of the risen. As Holsten well says: “The way in which Paul emphasizes the diversity of the heavenly bodies implies the supposition of an analogous difference of glory between the risen.”
The apostle now applies the facts which have just been cited to the question under discussion: 1 Corinthians 15:42-49. And that by expounding, first, the difference of nature between the present and the resurrection body.
Vv. 42, 43. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43. it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”
Here, strictly speaking, is the answer to the second question of 1 Corinthians 15:35: With what body? Answer: with a body which, far from being the reappearance of the former, will have characteristics of an absolutely opposite kind. The verb σπείρεται , it is sown, is generally applied, in accordance with the term sow in 1 Corinthians 15:36-37, to the interment of the body. This meaning may no doubt suit the first member of the first antithesis: sown in corruption. But it is impossible to carry out this application in the first members of the three following antitheses. The term weakness is not suitable to the state of the dead body, whatever Meyer may say; and in any case, it would form a singular stage beyond the preceding term, dissolution. Finally, it is still more impossible to apply the term psychical, “moved by a soul,” in 1 Corinthians 15:44, to the body which is laid in the tomb. No doubt it may be said that the point in question here is not the state of the body at that time, but its nature during life. But it is still very forced to apply the term animated to the body when deprived of the breath of life. For this reason, several commentators, such as Erasmus, Calvin, Heinrici, have been led to apply the term sow to the fact of birth. This meaning may suit the second and fourth epithets ( weak, psychical); but hardly the other two ( in dishonour, dissolution). How could Paul thus characterize the life of the child, full of freshness, at the moment when it begins to unfold its powers? Hofmann has been driven by these two impossibilities to understand by the word sow the giving up of the body, not specially to interment, but to the power of death, which works in it all through the duration of its earthly existence. This explanation comes near to what seems to me to be the true meaning of the four antitheses; but it is insufficient, inasmuch as it does not clearly account for their gradation. Their order is in a manner retrograde; and the meaning of the word sow is modified and widened as we pass from one antithesis to another. In the first, it relates to interment, as is required by the word φθορά , dissolution. In the second ( the state of dishonour), the thought, taking a first retrograde step, embraces in the term sow all the miseries of this earthly life, which precede and go to produce the dissolution of the body, all the humiliating conditions to which our body is now subjected; comp. the expression: “the body of our humiliation” ( Php 3:21 ). In the third antithesis, the term weakness brings us to the moment of birth, to that state of entire powerlessness which belongs to the infant at its entrance into life. Finally, the term psychical body, in 1 Corinthians 15:44, carries us further back still, to that moment when the breath of life, ψυχή , is communicated to the physical germ which is about to begin its development in order to serve the ψυχή as its organ. The word sow thus embraces all the phases of the body's existence, which, beginning with the first dawn of being, terminates in committal to the earth. It is in this sense that the earthly life is so frequently compared to the time of sowing, and eternity to the time of harvest. The three first corresponding terms: incorruptibility, glory, and power, are easily understood. The first represents the body to come as exempt from the touch of sickness, decline, and death; the second, as free from the daily infirmities of the present body, and all radiant with the brightness of perfect life; the third, as endowed with unlimited power of action.
But these three opposite characteristics distinguishing between the present and the resurrection body are all three effects; they rest on a fourth contrast which touches the very essence of the two bodies, and which the apostle indicates in the first proposition of 1Co 15:44 by the antithesis between a psychical and a spiritual body. It is this last contrast which is developed in the following passage, 1 Corinthians 15:44-49.
Vv. 44. “It is sown a psychical body, it is raised a spiritual body; there is a psychical body, and there is a spiritual body.”
The terms animated or animal body are the only ones in our language by which we can render the term reproduced in our translation by the Anglicized Greek term. The meaning of the epithet is clear; it denotes a body, not of the same substance as the soul itself, otherwise it would not be a body, but formed by and for a soul, destined to serve as an organ to that breath of life called ψυχή , which presided over its development. Neither, consequently, is the spiritual body a body of a spiritual nature, it would still less be a body in that case, but a body formed by and for a principle of life which is a spirit, and fully appropriated to its service. As the soul does not create the substance of the animal body, but finds it already prepared in a previously existing organism, so the spirit does not create the spiritual body, which would exclude all continuity between it and the earthly body, but it takes hold of a germ released from the present body, and causes it to open, not to resume, as in the generation of plants and animals, the cycle of its former existence, but to begin a mode of existence infinitely superior to the old one. The law of the beings belonging to nature is to revolve uniformly in the same circle; the privilege of spiritual being is to surmount this iron circle and to rise from the natural phase, which for it is only the means, to a higher sphere which is its end. This contrast arises from the wholly different mode of being possessed by the soul and the spirit. The soul is only a breath of life endowed with a certain measure of power, capable of taking hold of a material substance, subjecting it to itself, converting it into its agent, and using this organ for a fixed time up to the moment when it will no longer lend itself to such use. The characteristic of the spirit is that it possesses a life which is constantly being renewed, while acting and communicating itself ( Joh 4:14 ). In a new order of things, after extracting from the body an organ adapted to its nature, it will perpetually renew its strength and glory. Such a body will never be to the principle of its life what the earthly body so often is to the inhabiting soul, a burden and a hindrance; it will be the docile instrument of the spirit, fulfilling its wishes and thoughts with inexhaustible power of action, as we even now see the artist using his hand or his voice with marvellous freedom, and thus foreshadowing the perfect spiritualization of the body. If any one should deny the capacity of matter thus to yield to the action of the spirit, I should ask him to tell me what matter is; then, by way of showing what spiritualized matter may be, I should invite him to consider the human eye, that living mirror in which all the emotions of the soul are expressed in a way so living and powerful. These are simple foreshadowings of the glory of a resurrection body. We cannot go further; a spiritual body is one of those things “which eye hath not seen, which have not entered into the mind of man, and which God reserves for them whom He loves.”
The spirit, the future body's principle of life, is not directly the Spirit of God, it is spirit as the higher element of the human personality, but acting in its union with the Divine Spirit. We have already seen ( 1Co 14:14 ) that the apostle ascribes to man, not only a ψυχή , soul, but also a πνεῦμα , spirit, which is the soul's organ in perceiving the Divine world.
The second part of 1Co 15:44 presents three rather important variants. The Alexandrine and Greco-Latin documents read εἰ , if, before the first ἔστι ; then they place the καί , also, after the second; finally, they omit the word σῶμα , body, in the second proposition: “If there is a psychical body, there is also a spiritual.” The T. R. omits the εἰ , if; it places the καί , and, before ἔστι ; and it reads σῶμα ( body) in the second proposition: “There is a psychical body, and there is a spiritual body.” It is impossible for me to share the preference of modern commentators (de Wette and Hofmann excepted) for the first of these two readings. The apostle had just expressed a paradoxical idea; the term spiritual body seemed even to be a contradictio in adjecto. Hence it is that, according to the reading of the T. R., he stops expressly to affirm the reality of this notion: “I do not use the expression at random: there is truly a psychical body..., a spiritual.” Of this forcible affirmation, the Alexandrine and Western copyists have wished to make a demonstration. They have added εἰ , if, thus making the existence of the psychical body a premiss from which to infer logically the existence of a spiritual body. Then they have transposed the καί , also, to make it the correlative of the εἰ , if, and thereby to emphasize the correctness of the conclusion which is certainly false, for it does not appear how it follows from the fact that a soul can have a body, that a spirit should have one. Meyer seeks to justify this argument logically; but he does not succeed. Holsten appeals to this understood idea: The soul and spirit are only the two modes of existence belonging to one and the same vital principle; whence it follows that if the soul needs a body in order to act, it is so also with the spirit. But if substantially the soul and spirit are one and the same thing, Paul would here prove the same by the same. Beet adduces this law: God ever wills what is perfect; hence it follows that His work proceeding from the imperfect, which is its beginning, must reach the goal which is the perfect. But how can we infer from this the necessity of a spiritual body? If, as was no doubt thought by the opponents of the resurrection, the purely spiritual state is superior to the spiritual state united to the bodily, the law referred to recoiled against the thesis of a resurrection. But, according to the true reading, that of the Byzantines, there is no argument at all. As Hofmann says, the apostle's purpose is simply to state the contrast between the two kinds of bodies. This is exactly what the Byzantine reading does. No doubt it might be denied that the εἰ , if, of the Alex. must be taken in the sense of a proof. But if Paul had meant to make a simple comparison, he would have said καθώς or ὥσπερ .
In regard to the repetition or omission of the word σῶμα , body, in the second proposition, it seems to me that the omission would weaken the force of the paradox which the apostle wishes to affirm, while the exact repetition of the same terms renders the expression of it more striking. In support of this affirmation of two kinds of bodies, Paul produces a saying from Scripture.
Vv. 45. “And so it is written: the first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam, a quickening spirit.”
The apostle does not say, as usually in his Scripture proofs: καθὼς γέγραπται , as it is written. The form οὕτω καί , and so, indicates, not a proof strictly so called, but simple agreement of thought. Hofmann even thinks that he may detach this short proposition altogether from what follows, and connect it with what precedes. But this is only a poor expedient intended to set aside the difficulty which attaches to the following quotation. The difficulty is this: If the proposition relative to the first man is a quotation from Genesis 2:7, it seems as if the same should be the case with the following proposition, relative to the last Adam. But in the Old Testament text there is nothing corresponding to this second idea. How then are we to explain the course taken by the apostle, if the two propositions depend on the: so it is written? The apostle evidently had no intention of deceiving his readers by leading them to believe that the second proposition was taken from the Old Testament as well as the first. Most commentators think that he found in the well-known parallelism between the two heads of humanity the right to introduce the second member into his quotation, though it was not expressly found in the narrative of Genesis. But would not this be to carry freedom of quotation to an unwarrantable degree? I do not think it necessary to apply the: it is written, to the verse as a whole. The first proposition is taken from a universally known Scripture text. The second is borrowed from the fact of the equally well-known appearance of the historic Christ, and Paul expresses it, according to the law of contrast, on the model of the former. As Bengel says: “ Caetera addit ex naturâ oppositorum; ” so that the first proposition alone depends, in his view, on the: so it is written. The sequel will still better explain this procedure.
The form γίνεσθαι εἰς , to be made into..., denotes not only the first moment of man's creation, but also the whole development of this Divine act even to its goal. It is wholly false to make this term ψυχή ζῶσα , living soul, the equivalent of psychical man ( 1Co 2:14 ), and to conclude from this comparison that the was made implies the fall. The one point in question here is the fact of creation. The was made refers to the progress indicated in the account of Genesis itself, according to which man, created at first of the dust, afterwards received the communication of the Divine breath, thereby attaining the form of existence which was provisionally destined for him.
The Hebrew text says: “And Adam was made a living soul;” the LXX. likewise, translating Adam by ὁ ἄνθρωπος , man. Paul preserves the two terms: man and Adam, because the latter contains the idea of the head of a species. Besides, he adds the epithet πρῶτος , first, with a view to the coming antithesis. His object is precisely to trace the line which this man, who is yet only the first, and not the final man, shall not be able to pass. This psychical state will only be a point of departure; a new creative act will be needed to produce the final man.
This limit of the natural man, this provisional maximum, is denoted by the term ψυχὴ ζῶσα , living soul. In the passages Genesis 1:20; Genesis 1:24, this same expression is applied to all the animals, to distinguish them from plants. We thus see that the term signifies: a life-breath individualized and animating a physical organism; an animated being, endowed with a body. But these life-breaths which are the principle of animal existence, may be very variously endowed; and consequently the parity of man with the animal world, so strongly emphasized by this term, does not contradict the superiority and sovereignty ascribed to the human species in this same account of Genesis. The meaning of the word ψυχή , soul, must not be restricted to the purely sensitive and inferior powers of the human soul. There is nothing requiring or even authorizing such limitation. As the life-breath belonging to each animal is distinguished by special powers, more or less elevated, that of man differs from that of other animated beings in certain faculties which constitute his superiority over them all and make him their sovereign: the νοῦς , mind, whereby he distinguishes truth from falsehood, good from evil; will, its own mistress and capable of choosing between opposite motives; the καρδία , heart, that deep and rich soil of feeling into which will and mind strike their roots; finally, the higher organ with which the human soul is endowed for the perception of the Divine, the πνεῦμα , spirit, the religious sense which distinguishes man absolutely from all that is animal and which forms the starting-point of the higher existence in which the natural life is to issue. If Genesis does not mention this special element of human nature, and speaks only of the soul, it is because it embraces it also in this term. It is not till a subsequent period that spirit will become the dominant principle of human life. In the sphere of natural life, it is the living soul which is the characteristic feature. The soul is for the time the seat of the personality which, by the body, communicates with the lower world and, by the spirit, with God in whose image it is created. From the standpoint of Genesis, the expression living soul therefore denotes a terminal point, the goal of the first creation; whereas from Paul's point of view this goal was a first stage, simply a state of expectation. And this is what gives occasion to the second proposition added by the apostle. The first asserted a fulness, but also a void; and this void the second serves to fill.
Christ is called Adam, to characterize Him as head of a race, no less than the first. At the same time He is called the last. Why not the second, as in 1Co 15:47 ? Because in consequence of the subject treated throughout this chapter, Paul is concerned, not about Christ's relation to the other Adam, but about the part He fills in relation to humanity, the mission which He has received to bring it to its final state.
There is found in the treatise Nevé Schalom an analogous expression: “ Adamus postremus est Messias. ” This agreement of Paul with the Rabbinical writing is easily explained; for it is known that the Nevé Schalom is the work of Rabbi Abraham, of Catalonia, who died in 1492.
The last Adam begins by realizing in Himself the perfect state. He is πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν , a quickening [life-giving] spirit. There is no article, as if this were His exclusive privilege. It is a human state, which Paul contrasts with a living soul. The construction εἰς πνεῦμα ..., necessarily leads us to supply the verb ἐγένετο , was made, according to the first proposition. Contrasted as it is with soul, spirit denotes, not only a being that lives, but a principle capable of giving life; which, while continually renewing itself, communicates life to that which it penetrates: “a fountain springing up into eternal life” ( Joh 4:14 ). As Edwards says, “the soul is the object [the seat] of life; the spirit is the source of life.” The epithet ζωοποιοῦν , quickening, is also applied to the πνεῦμα , John 6:63, and there as characterizing its essence: τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστι τὸ ζωοποιοῦν . In our context, it seems to me that the term should not be applied to the communication of spiritual life, but rather to the spirit's action on the body, which serves as its organ. The soul animates the body; it guides and moves it. The spirit does more: it quickens it by communicating to it ever new force and youth. To what point in the life of the Saviour should we apply this γίνεσθαι , becoming, which made Him a quickening spirit? When He was created as the heavenly man, answers Holsten. We delay the examination of this idea of the heavenly man, ascribed to Paul, till 1 Corinthians 15:45. At the time of the incarnation, thinks Edwards: “Then it was that Christ introduced a Divine force into humanity.” This meaning would not, according to this commentator, prevent us from holding that the body of Christ was psychical, like ours, during His earthly life, and that He did not receive His spiritual body till the time of His resurrection, by the quickening spirit whom He possessed from the beginning. Ambrosiaster, Grotius, Meyer, Heinrici, etc., think of the time of the resurrection. Does not the form γίνεσθαι εἰς , to be made, become, relieve us from the necessity of choosing between these different suppositions? From the time of the incarnation there began in Jesus the growing and quickening action of the spirit on the body. This action, suspended by His voluntary submission to the power of death, broke forth gloriously in His resurrection, but in a certain measure only, for the facts prove that in His appearances the risen One still had His psychical body, though already transformed to some extent. Finally, it was at the Ascension that the transformation was completed, and that He put on the spiritual body in which He appeared to Paul at the time of his conversion. Compare on the relation between the spirit of holiness, under the power of which the Lord lived on the earth, and His bodily glorification, Romans 1:4; Romans 8:11.
It may be asked whether the epithet ζωοποιοῦν , quickening, already points to the influence which Christ will exercise over the body of His own at the Advent to glorify it like His own; comp. Philippians 3:21. It is evident that Paul is tending to this idea, which he will express positively in 1 Corinthians 15:48-49; but for the present it is undoubtedly wisest to answer, with R. Schmidt: “Here there is but one thing in question: whether there will be another body completely different from the earthly body. The question how Jesus succeeds in procuring a spiritual body for other men, is a remoter one” (p. 114). We have already seen that the absence of the article before πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν speaks in favour of this answer.
But a question very naturally presented itself: How does it happen, that the spiritual state being superior to the psychical state, God was pleased to begin with the latter, and then delayed so long to grant the former? Does not God in all things will what is perfect? There is a law which has determined the course taken by God, and which the apostle confines himself to stating here without explaining it.
Vv. 46. “Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is psychical; and afterward that which is spiritual.”
Are we right in regarding this as a general law, or must we, with Osiander and others, understand the substantive σῶμα , body, and apply the verse exclusively to the particular fact under discussion? The former meaning alone agrees with the ellipsis of the verb, which, if understood, can only be the present. In the latter sense, Paul would have required to use a verb in the aorist ( ἐγένετο , 1Co 15:45 ). His object is to justify by a general principle what has taken place in respect of the body: the priority of the psychical to the spiritual body.
The law here enunciated, when rightly understood, throws a vivid light on the general course of God's work within humanity. The life of the spirit is substantially identical with holiness; it could not therefore have been given immediately to man at the time of his creation; for holiness is not a thing imposed, it is essentially a product of liberty, the freewill offering of the individual. God therefore required to begin with an inferior state, the characteristic of which was simply freedom, the power in man to give or withhold himself. On the choice which he should make between these two alternatives, to keep his natural life or to give it in order to get it back transformed into a higher life, was to depend his fall or progress. In the former case, spiritual life could not be communicated to man; in the latter, it was accorded to him in response to his free and fervent aspiration; and elevation to the perfect state, even for the body, took place in the direct way of progress. But, even in the opposite case, it was not denied to him for ever; for the miseries of sin might, by a long and sad circuit of experience, bring man to exclaim: “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down!” ( Isa 64:1 ). It was to secure the production of this aspiration, the condition of the gift of the Spirit, that during the course of the psychical period, God adopted a people in the midst of whom this need of the economy of the Spirit was intended to be more forcibly developed under the pedagogic influence of the law and the prophets. And when the longing awakened by these two means had reached its full intensity, the answer could at length be granted: the fulness of the times was come; the Son was sent, and the Spirit given ( Gal 4:4-6 ). The apostle does not therefore share the idea, so long regarded as the orthodox view, according to which humanity was created in a state of moral and physical perfection, and fell from that height. He holds, that even independently of the fall there would have been progress from a lower state, the psychical state assigned as a point of departure, to a higher state, the spiritual state foreseen and willed as the end from the beginning. Apart altogether from sin, psychical humanity was called to develop in all directions the manifold powers with which it was endowed, that it might present to the heavenly guest, the Spirit, when He should come to dwell in it, the psychical and bodily organ fitted to display His perfection in the richest and most varied forms, those of art, science, industry, and social life in all its manifestations. The abnormal intervention of sin did not altogether prevent the realization of this Divine thought. In the East, the sense of the Great; in Greece, that of the True and Beautiful; in Rome, that of the Just; in Phenicia, through its commerce and colonies, that of the Useful; in Israel, that of the Holy, served to prepare for the spiritual economy, the new humanity; that Christendom in which we find so many miseries, but in which notwithstanding also the spirit of Pentecost unfolds. Thus, then, with or without the fall, two economies, that of the human soul (normal ancient history) and that of the Divine Spirit (normal modern history): such is the profound law which, from the viewpoint of a free humanity and a healthy Divine preparatory training, must control the history of man. First the psychical, then the pneumatical. This law applies, as Olshausen already remarked, to the course of collective no less than of individual life. What light is shed by this law on true Christian education! Instead of imposing the spiritual state on the child, begin by awakening the need of it, while giving free scope to the expansion of the psychical powers in every direction, which is morally legitimate.
The apostle renders the distinction palpable between the two economies which he has just distinguished, that of the soul and that of the spirit, by contrasting the two heads of both ( 1Co 15:47 ); thus he will come to the two races ( 1Co 15:48 ), and so return to the two bodies ( 1Co 15:49 ).
Vv. 47. “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is from heaven.”
Here is the sovereign application of the general law enunciated in the previous verse. To the psychical state, which must come first, there corresponds the earthly body of the first man; as to the spiritual state, which comes second, there corresponds the heavenly body of the second Adam. This double correlation is natural; for the organ, the body, should be adapted to the mode of life of which it is the agent. And each of the two periods consecrated to these two modes of living was inaugurated by a typical individual who represented it in its entirety.
The epithet second is here intentionally substituted for last ( 1Co 15:45 ), because the point in question is no longer the final destination of man, but the relation of succession to the preceding phase. The δεύτερος , second, answers, as Meyer says, to the ἔπειτα , afterwards, of 1 Corinthians 15:46. The qualifications: of the earth and earthy, belong both to the predicate: “The first man is of the earth, earthy.” The second term, χοϊκός , is added to show that it is in respect of the body that Paul thus speaks. The word ὁ or ἡ χοῦς denotes the fine dust which lends itself most easily to become organic matter. This term, which is found nowhere else in the New Testament except in Mar 6:11 and Revelation 18:19, is borrowed from the LXX.; Genesis 2:7: “God formed man of the dust of the earth” ( χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ). Because of the contrast, the second man will also be characterized in respect of the body.
The term ὁ κύριος , the Lord, which is added by the T. R. with some documents, after ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος , has nothing corresponding in the former member; and in this context it naturally excites surprise. As it is wanting in the majority of the documents, it should be rejected from the text. The qualifying phrase from heaven corresponds at once to the two predicates of the foregoing sentence. In our ignorance as to what a heavenly body is, Paul could add no precise qualification regarding its nature to contrast with the expression: earthy.
The important question is to what time we should refer the regimen: from heaven. Does it refer to the fact of the incarnation, the coming of the heavenly Christ to the earth to complete the work of redemption? So Athanasius, Baur, Beyschlag, Edwards. Or should we apply this ἐξ οὐρανοῦ , from heaven, to the Advent, when the Lord will descend again in His glorified body to glorify the faithful? It is from the first interpretation that the Tübingen school have deduced their theory, according to which the pre-existing Christ was, in Paul's view, a celestial man, the prototype of terrestrial humanity, possessing a luminous (spiritual) body. And thus this school has succeeded in finding an intermediate being between the purely human Christ of the synoptics and the wholly Divine Christ of St. John. But if such was Paul's view, he must have changed his conception between our Epistles to the Corinthians and those of the Roman captivity (Colossians, Philippians), for in these he distinctly affirms the Divine state of the pre-existing Christ; he must even have changed it between our Epistle and the very near date when he composed the Epistle to the Romans, in which he ascribes to Jesus a body entirely similar to our sinful body ( 1Co 8:3 ), and therefore by no means celestial and luminous, but made of dust like ours. He must even have changed his view in the course of our Epistle, for in chap. 1Co 8:6 he ascribes to the pre-existing Christ the work of creation, and in 1Co 10:4 he identifies Him with the Lord guiding Israel in the cloud; declarations which it is impossible to harmonize with the conception of a Christ pre-existing as a celestial man. But above all, to refer these words to the fact of the incarnation, is to wrench them absolutely from the context. Gess rightly reminds us that everything here tends to the solution of the question: “With what body do they come?” a question which must of course be solved by the relation of the resurrection body, not to the body of the pre-existing, but to that of the risen Christ. As to the ἐξ οὐρανοῦ , from heaven, Gess justly quotes as parallels: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ( καταβήσεται ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ) and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ( ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κ . ᾿Ι . ἀπ᾿ οὐρανοῦ ), two passages which point to the Advent. But the parallel Philippians 3:20-21, is that which above all appears to me decisive in favour of this application in our passage. There, as here, the apostle is comparing our Lord's glorified body as well as that of risen believers made like His, with our present body, which he calls the body of our humiliation; then he says expressly: “Our citizenship is in heaven, whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord” ( ἐξ οὗ ἀπεκδεχόμεθα ...); exactly our ἐξ οὐρανοῦ . Similarly the ὁ ἐπουράνιος , the heavenly, 1 Corinthians 15:48, can only be Christ risen and glorified. For it is to Him we shall be made like, and not to the pre-existing Christ. The title ἐπουράνιοι , given in the same verse to glorified believers, would be enough to prove this. Finally, would it not be strange if Paul, after laying down the principle: first the inferior, then the better, should cite as an illustration of the rule an example which would prove exactly the contrary? For, according to this Christological theory, the heavenly Christ would be first and the earthly Christ second. Thus falls the one solitary ground which the Tübingen school has attempted to find in the whole of the New Testament in favour of the alleged Pauline conception of Christ as a pre-existing celestial man. A similar idea has been put forth as developed by Philo. In commenting on the double account of man's creation, in Genesis, this philosopher lays down a distinction between man celestial and man terrestrial. Only, according to him the celestial is first and the terrestrial second, and that very naturally, because the former is a pure ideal belonging to the world of conceptions. It is thus obvious how far we are from the idea ascribed to Paul. As to the Rabbinical passages, which present similar expressions, they are probably much later than the first age of Christianity. Besides, did not the Old Testament lead men to compare the Messiah with Adam by way of contrast, even as with Moses by analogy?
After showing the law of 1Co 15:46 realized in the two heads, Paul applies it to the two humanities which proceed from them, and he thus reaches the conclusion relative to the resurrection-body of believers.
Vv. 48, 49. “As is the earthly, such are they also that are earthly: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49. And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
The two facts pointed out in 1Co 15:48 rest on this principle: that every race bears the characteristics of the head from which it proceeds. As Adam was, such is Adamite humanity; as is the glorified Christ, such is humanity glorified in Him. Hence the final consequence drawn in 1 Corinthians 15:49.
Vv. 49. Καί : “ and in consequence of this law.” The two verbs, the one in the past, the other in the future, show that Paul transports himself to the time of the Advent, which for believers will separate their Adamite past from their Messianic future. During their whole earthly life, even after their conversion, believers bear to the end the image of man taken from the dust, as he was created at the beginning. The past: we have borne, places us at that glorious point of time when we shall have laid down this inheritance, and when our existence as sons and heirs of Adam will give place to existence as sons and heirs of God, thenceforth like to the Lord Himself.
In the second clause the large majority of the Mjj. and Fathers read the subjunctive aorist φορέσωμεν , let us bear, that is to say: “Let us strive to bear.” And most modern editors think themselves obliged to follow these authorities. But here again, as in the perfectly analogous case Romans 5:1, we do not hesitate for an instant to prefer the reading which is by far the least supported. The future has on its side only the Vaticanus and the Peschito; but it is demanded by the context, which does not admit of an exhortation any more than in the case of Romans 5:1. The object is simply to conclude the argument begun in 1 Corinthians 15:39: “Such, then, is the body with which they will come: a heavenly body like that of the Lord Himself.” If this were an exhortation, it would be necessary, with Chrysostom, to take the word εἰκών , image, in the moral sense: “Let us therefore put on the holiness of Christ,” which is manifestly contrary to the entire preceding and subsequent context. We shall see at 1Co 15:50 what has led this Father into his false explanation. This reading was early introduced, because, as Holsten says, it was customary to quote passages separately, and with a view to giving them a practical application.
The future indicative corresponds to the aorist ἐφορέσαμεν , exactly as these same two tenses correspond to one another, Romans 6:5; with this difference, that the past and the future are there separated by conversion, here by the Advent. The necessity for reading the future is confessed by Meyer, Rückert, Osiander, Holsten, etc.; and it is vain for Heinrici, Hofmann, Beet, Edwards, to defend the other reading so evidently condemned by the context.
The apostle has answered the two difficulties which were raised at Corinth to the hope of a resurrection: How will it be effected after death has dissolved the body? By that very death and dissolution. But with what body will the risen appear?
With a body like that of the glorified Christ, as appropriate to their spiritual state as the present body is to our psychical state.
After this very compact and complete discussion, there remained another case, not anticipated in these answers, that of believers whom the Lord shall find living on the earth at the time of His return. How will it go with them? Here was a question which the apostle, who never forgets a single side of the subjects he treats, could not neglect. This is the theme of the passage 1 Corinthians 15:50-52.
Vv. 50. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”
The formula τοῦτό φημι , here is what I say, is used by the apostle to announce a decisive and final explanation, the exposition of a more profound point of view, which will put the truth previously stated in its full light; comp. 1 Corinthians 7:29. It differs from τοῦτο λέγω , which announces the repetition of the same idea in a more developed form.
Before giving the solution of the particular question, Paul lays down a general law which refers equally to the point hitherto treated and to that which is about to follow, so that the verse forms the transition between the two passages. In this context the expression: flesh and blood, can only designate our present physical organism; flesh, in respect of its substance; blood, in respect of the life-principle which animates it; for, according to Scripture, blood is the seat of the vital principle. Irenaeus and Chrysostom took the word in its moral sense: τὰς πονηρὰς πράξεις , as if the passage were parallel to Romans 8:12-13; but the expression σάρξ καὶ αἷμα has never the meaning of σάρξ standing alone. It is from this interpretation, likewise excluded by the context, that the false reading φορέσωμεν , in 1 Corinthians 15:49, has proceeded. What the apostle means is, that it will not be by being clothed with a body of such a nature that the believer will be able to participate in the perfect state of things which is called the kingdom of God. Such a body would be a curtain which would veil from us the face of God, too weak an instrument to bear such emotions, too dull an agent to execute the works to be done in this new state. Paul has taken care not to say σῶμα , a body, because it will be with a body that believers shall take part in that kingdom.
In the second proposition, the verb in the present expresses, as Edwards says, “the nature of the thing;” it is a law which is equivalent to the οὐ δύναται , cannot, in the first proposition; only the particle οὐδέ , neither, and the subject ἡ φθορά , corruption, imply a gradation. Corruption, ἡ φθορά , denotes flesh and blood in a state of dissolution already begun. The expression therefore leads us to suppose that the first proposition refers to Christians who shall be alive at the time of the Advent, and the second to dead Christians who do not inherit, in so far as they are not raised. The idea is this: it is so impossible that the present body should participate in the life of heaven, that, whether dissolved by death or not, it must be transformed. This is precisely what is developed in the following verses.
Vv. 51, 52. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The word ἰδού , behold, is a call to attention, and the term μυστήριον , mystery, justifies the call. It here denotes a special point in God's plan, which the apostle could only know by revelation; comp. the ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου , by the word of the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:15.
Of the three readings presented by the documents in the second part of 1 Corinthians 15:51, the reading of the Sinaïticus and the Alexandrinus would signify, that “we shall all die until Christ come again, but then we shall not all participate in the glorious resurrection granted to believers.” This idea is absolutely away from the line of the apostle's present thought. It is a mistake to introduce here the distinction between those who are saved and those who are not. Perhaps it is the error made in φορέσωμεν which continues here, as if the matter in question were a practical exhortation. The one thing Paul wishes to explain is what will take place in believers who shall be alive at that time. The same holds of the Western reading in the Cantabrigiensis, and the Itala: “We shall all be raised, but we shall not all be changed.” Paul would thus remind his readers that along with the resurrection of the righteous, there is also that of the wicked, which however will not be a change, that is to say, a glorious transformation. This thought is still more wide of the context than the preceding. Moreover, the two readings and the two ideas are both condemned by 1 Corinthians 15:52; for in this verse it is not the saved and the condemned who are contrasted, but the living transformed and the dead who shall be raised. Hofmann has attempted to make this last reading admissible by connecting the negative οὐ with the first proposition. The meaning would be: “Undoubtedly we shall not all be raised (those who have not passed through death), but we shall all be changed, either by resurrection or by transformation.” But in this case the end of 1Co 15:52 would be merely a superfluous repetition; then the position of the negative οὐ at the end of the first proposition ( πάντες μὲν ἀναστησόμεθα οὐ ) is a form without example in the New Testament.
There remains the reading of the T. R., which has on its side the Vaticanus, the Peschito, and the Byz., according to which the apostle says: “We shall not all die, there will be living Christians when the Lord comes again, but we shall all require to be changed: living believers by transformation, the dead by resurrection. For it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of glory with this earthly body, composed of materials subject to corruption” ( 1Co 15:50 ). This idea is obviously connected in the closest possible way with that of 1 Corinthians 15:50, and leads directly to that of 1 Corinthians 15:52. There is therefore no room for doubt as to the correctness of this reading. Moreover, Reiche has clearly proved that it was the prevailing reading down to Origen, and that variants do not begin to appear till about the end of the 3rd century (see Heinrici). Meyer has raised two difficulties, not to the reading in itself, but to the meaning it gives. According to him: (1) this meaning would have required the negative οὐ to be placed before πάντες , all, and not before the verb; for, strictly speaking, the clause means, not: “Some only shall die, not all,” but: not a single Christian shall die; (2) the verb ἀλλαγησόμεθα , we shall be changed, cannot, according to 1 Corinthians 15:52, contain the two notions of resurrection and transformation; it denotes only the second. Meyer therefore thinks that the meaning is this: “All of us (whether myself, Paul, or the other believers presently alive) shall not have to pass through death; there is not one of us who shall die; but yet we must all be changed (by transformation).” If we are resolved to make Paul guilty of an absurdity, it is enough indeed thus to press the form of the phrase. But it is amply proved that in the New Testament, as in the translation of the LXX., the position of the οὐ is not so rigorously observed as in the classic style, a fact arising from the well-known Hebrew usage of connecting with the person the negative relating to the verb; comp. Romans 3:20. Thus Numbers 23:13, Balak, meaning to say to Balaam: “Thou shalt see part of the Israelites, but thou shalt not see them all,” expresses himself in these terms: μέρος τι ὄψει , πάντας δὲ οὐ μὴ ἴδῃς , which, taken strictly, would mean: “All of them thou shalt not see,” that is to say: Thou shalt see none of them; a sense evidently contrary to Balak's thought. On the other hand, Jos 11:13 and Romans 12:4, which are sometimes quoted, seem to me to prove nothing at all. For the meaning of the verb ἀλλάσσεσθαι , to be changed, see on 1 Corinthians 15:52.
Vv. 52. Paul here describes the change which must infallibly be wrought: he distinguishes the two forms in which it will take place. The two expressions ἄτομος , an indivisible moment, and ῥιπὴ ὀφθαλμοῦ , literally: a movement of the eyelid, denote the suddenness with which the event will happen. Then the apostle indicates the signal by which it will be proclaimed: the last trump. It has been alleged that he had in mind a real trumpet; as if the apostle could have imagined that the sound of a metal instrument could penetrate to the ears of the dead reduced to dust! He thereby understands a Divine signal, the nature of which is incomprehensible, and which he describes by a figure taken from Israelitish usages. It was enjoined on the sons of Aaron, Numbers 10:2-10, to sound the trumpet in order to call the people together, to strike their tents, or to announce the feast. Now the Advent is the time of the most solemn reunion, of the last departure, of the most glorious feast. This signal is called in 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “an archangel's voice, a trump of God.” On Sinai the presence of the Lord and of His angels was manifested by noises similar to the sound of the horn. Jesus Himself made use of the figure of the trumpet to indicate the signal which shall gather together His elect from the four corners of the earth. By calling this trumpet the last, Paul does not refer either to the seven trumpets of Jericho, or to the seven of the Apocalypse, or to the seven which the Rabbins have imagined, and which, according to them, must give the signal for each of the seven phases of the act of resurrection. Neither does the term signify, as has been thought, the trumpet which brings in the last phase of the earthly economy. The term last necessarily supposes trumpets anterior to this. I think the apostle means by it the manifestations of the Divine will given to the beings of the invisible world, and on which depend the decisive crises of the kingdom of God on the earth; comp. Zechariah 9:14. The trumpets of the Apocalypse come under this category, but they do not exhaust it.
The apostle adds σαλπίσει γάρ , for the trumpet shall sound, and it has been thought that he does so to materialize the signal. It has not been perceived that the words are closely connected with what follows, and that they serve to indicate how completely simultaneous shall be the signal with its double effect mentioned in the two following propositions: the resurrection of dead believers and the transformation of believers still in life.
There is no difficulty in taking the word shall be changed here in a more restricted sense than in 1 Corinthians 15:51; for here it is no longer contrasted with sleeping, but with being raised. Resurrection and transformation being the two forms of the renewal of the body, the verb ἀλλαγῆναι , to be changed, may either comprehend both of them, or specially denote the second, when it requires a particular term.
By the pronoun we, the apostle understands all believers who shall be alive at the time of Christ's return, and he ranks himself with them contingently; for as he does not know its precise date, it is natural for him, being among the living, to put himself rather among them than in the other class. To rank himself with the dead would have been to say that the Advent would not happen till after his death, and consequently so far to fix its date. In the parallel passage of Thessalonians ( 1Co 4:15 ) he explains himself more clearly: “We,” says he, “that are alive, are left unto the coming of the Lord.” These last words are remarkable. If they are not altogether superfluous, they must serve to define the preceding expression: “We that live,” in the sense: “Those of us believers that are alive, that remain, not then, but at the time of the Advent.” That Paul was not sure of being one of these appears from 1 Corinthians 15:30-31; then from 1 Corinthians 6:14, where he ranks himself among the raised; and from Philippians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:17, where he speaks of his death as an impending possibility. Paul knew that, but not when, Christ should return; and he also knew that, according to Christ's own precept, every believer should live in the attitude of a servant waiting for his master, and be ever ready to receive him ( Luk 12:36 ). Here we see the servant: nothing could be more in keeping with this direction of the Lord than the position taken by the apostle in our passage.
Thus has been demonstrated the possibility of the resurrection, and, as an appendix and confirmation, the necessity of a transformation even for those who shall not have had to pass through the dissolution of death. Now the apostle places the reader face to face with this great hope in its entirety, and closes his dissertation on the subject by celebrating the hope, uttering, as it were, a discourse in a tongue, with himself for an interpreter.
Vv. 53, 54. “For this corruptible body must put on incorruption, and this mortal body put on immortality. 54. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
The first words of 1Co 15:53 reproduce in a positive form the idea of 1 Corinthians 15:50, and constitute the transition to the development following. The striking parallelism of the two propositions marks the ascending movement of the thought as well as the growing exultation of the feeling: it is the poetic rhythm in Hebrew. Perhaps the first proposition applies rather to the resurrection of bodies which have passed through the dissolution of death, and the second to the transformation of bodies constantly threatened with death during their earthly life. In that case, we have here an allusion to the two modes of change indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:52.
The twice repeated expression, this body, and the figure of putting on evidently imply the idea of the continuity of the new body and the old; it is one and the same organic principle which appears successively in two different forms. The permanent element, contained at first in a corruptible covering, is suddenly raised by an act of Divine omnipotence to an incorruptible mode of existence.
Vv. 54. The form of parallelism is continued. The word τότε , then, expresses the grandeur of the time. The participle: that which is written, is added to denote the certainty of fulfilment: Scripture cannot lie. The saying quoted is Isaiah 25:8, the meaning of which is that the theocracy once restored, its members, dead and living, shall be all raised up together to the sphere of immortality. “God,” says the prophet (if God be understood as the subject), “hath swallowed up death for ever.” The LXX., probably following another reading, have translated altogether differently: “Death hath swallowed up triumphantly” (perhaps in the sense of: “It formerly swallowed up...”). Paul follows our Hebrew text, only changing the active into the passive: “Death is swallowed up. ” The word which we translate victory, following Paul, is one of the most beautiful terms in the Hebrew language ( nétsach). It denotes the state of perfect inward vigour which excludes all possibility of outward decay, and hence: eternal duration. The expression: in victory, seems to me to have the meaning: “Death is absorbed in imperishable life.” Such a life is victory gained for ever over death, its enemy. It is not the only time that the LXX. thus render the term lanétsach.
The feeling of gratitude and adoration here reaches its culminating point in the apostle's heart:
Vv. 55, 56. “Where is thy sting, O death? O death, where is thy victory? 56. Now the sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
The text varies considerably in the MSS., influenced no doubt by the differences between the Hebrew text and that of the LXX. Hos 13:14 says, according to what seems to me the most probable translation: “How shall I ransom them from the power of the grave? How shall I deliver them from death? How should I be thy plague, O death? How should I be thy destruction, O grave?” The meaning is this: “Yea, I should have done so, hadst thou repented, O Israel! O death, I should have swallowed thee as thou swallowest up men! O grave, I should have been to thee what thou art to them, thy grave! But to act thus for thee, impenitent Israel, is impossible.” The LXX. have translated thus: “I will deliver them from the power of the grave, and I will ransom them from death. Where is thy right (thy judgment), O death? where is thy sting, O grave!” What in Hebrew is given as a regret on God's part, as an expression of the desire He had to bestow a great blessing on Israel, becomes in the LXX. a promise to grant this extraordinary benefit, as soon as the desired condition shall have been fulfilled. This signification of the LXX., which is followed by the apostle, corresponds therefore, though only indirectly, with that of the Hebrew text. In the first question, the T. R. with the Byz. and the Greco - Lats. reads κέντρον , sting, and in the second νῖκος , victory. The Alex. reverse the words. Perhaps this second reading is the result of a correction after the LXX., who read δίκη (like enough to νῖκος ) in the first and κέντρον in the second. Any-how the term νῖκος , victory, is connected in Paul's mind with the εἰς νῖκος of the preceding verse. It corresponds to δίκη , judgment, in the LXX. And it is not difficult to understand how the two translations may have arisen from the same Hebrew term. The latter, debarim, may be either the plural of dabar, word, and hence sentence (the δίκη , judgment, of the LXX.), or the plural of deber, destruction, and hence victory (the νῖκος of Paul). In the second question, the word κέντρον , sting, is the translation of the Hebrew kétev, ruin. This word denotes the murderous power which death exercises over men. By this figure κέντρον , sting, death is represented as a venomous animal, a wasp, or a scorpion, which has become harmless through the loss of its sting.
According to the T. R. and the Byz., the apostle apostrophizes death ( θάνατε ) in the first question and Hades in the second, this is the exact reproduction of the Hebrew text and of the LXX., whereas in the Alex. and Greco-Latin texts he addresses death both times. The first reading seems to be a correction after the Hebrew and Greek texts. To this reason Edwards adds another, and a very interesting one. He points out that Paul never uses the term Hades (Romans 10:7, he substitutes ἄβυσσος , the abyss), a circumstance which is to be explained, no doubt, by his fear of the superstitious ideas which, among the Greeks, attached to the name. Philo himself is careful to distinguish between the true and the false Hades.
This final defeat of death embraces two things: the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the glorified living. In this saying, Hosea has risen to the sublimest view of Divine salvation. No doubt he described this complete triumph only hypothetically. But as the spokesman of faith in Christ, the apostle proclaims it as a certain reality: γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ( 1Co 15:54 )!
Now he gives, in two powerful and concise sayings, the moral explanation of that defeat of death which he has just celebrated beforehand.
Vv. 56. A subjective sense is often given to the two propositions of this verse; they are taken to describe man's feeling in view of death. The consciousness of sins committed is that which gives to death its sting, its agonizing power; and the threatenings of the law are what produce in man the lively and painful consciousness of his sin. Or again, this second proposition is explained according to Romans 7:8; Romans 7:13; it is the law which, by provoking our inward lusts, renders sin more active in the heart and life; comp. Romans 3:20. But in a discussion on the resurrection, what have we to do with the trouble experienced by the dying man and the peace enjoyed by believers? Does this peace secure their resurrection? 1Co 15:18 proves that it is not so. The same is the case with the action of the law on the human conscience and heart, and with its abolition. None of these can explain the resurrection. But this is the apostle's object. He wishes to show how the power exercised by death has been broken, not only in the experience of believers, but in its entire reality: how it is possible for the believer to rise again, and not how it is possible for him to die in peace. Father Didon recently said, when speaking of the Socialistic manifestations of our day: “There is only one way of protecting ourselves against such forces, and that is to penetrate to the conditions which engender them.” And this is precisely what the apostle does here. He penetrates to the profound conditions which laid the foundation of the reign of death, to explain how the Lord abolished them and thus gained the gigantic result, the death of death. He seems to go down with Jesus Himself into the mysterious laboratory where death distils its poisons, to show us how the conqueror set himself to bring this occult and malignant power to an end. Here we are in the domain of facts the most objective and real in the history of humanity.
The moral bases of the reign of death are these two: sin and the law. It was by sin that death gained its power over man: “In the day thou disobeyest thou shalt die” ( Gen 2:17 ). “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin...” ( Rom 5:12 ). It is said in this same chapter: “As by man came death...” ( 1Co 15:21-22 ). If he had not sinned, man, mortal though he was in his bodily nature, would have been raised without passing through this dissolution of his being to the sphere of imperishable life. It was because of sin that death could pierce man with its fatal arrow; comp. Romans 8:10: “The body is dead because of sin.” But what gave sin this terrible power exercised by it? The law, answers the apostle. This thought is explained by the words, Romans 5:13: “Sin is not imputed where there is no law.” When there is no law, there may be faults, but not positive disobedience, revolt. It is violated law which gives sin the character of high-handed sin, as the Old Testament calls it, transgression wrought with consciousness and freedom, rebellion. Consequently law alone can make sin an act meriting deprivation of life, capital punishment. If sin is the sting whereby death seeks to kill us, it is the law which makes this sting penetrate deeply enough to reach the springs of life and change them into springs of death. The throne of death thus rests on two bases: sin, which calls for condemnation, and the law which pronounces it.
Consequently it was on these two powers that the work of the Deliverer bore.
Vv. 57. “But thanks to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Christ's victory over death has two aspects: the one relating to Himself; the other concerning men. He first of all conquered sin in relation to Himself by denying to it the right of existence in Him, condemning it to non-existence in His flesh, similar though it was to our sinful flesh ( Rom 8:3 ); and thereby He disarmed the law so far as it concerned Himself. His life being the law in living realization, He had it for Him and not against Him. This twofold personal victory was the foundation of His own resurrection. Thereafter He continued to act that this victory might extend to us. And first He freed us from the burden of condemnation which the law laid on us, and whereby it was ever interposing between us and communion with God. He recognised in our name the right of God over the sinner, He consented to satisfy it to the utmost in His own person. Whoever appropriates this death as undergone in his room and stead and for himself, sees the door of reconciliation to God open before him, as if he had himself expiated all his sins. The separation established by the law no longer exists; the law is disarmed. By that very fact sin also is vanquished. Reconciled to God, the believer receives Christ's Spirit, who works in him an absolute breach of will with sin and complete devotion to God. The yoke of sin is at an end; the dominion of God is restored in the heart. The two foundations of the reign of death are thus destroyed. Let Christ appear, and this reign will crumble in the dust for ever. Thus is fulfilled the saying of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:21: “By man came death; by man cometh the resurrection.” Resurrection is a human work, no less than death itself. It should be remarked that the apostle does not say: gave, but: “ giveth us the victory.” Here he is not thinking only of the objective victory which Christ gained once for all in His person, for Himself and us; but of that which He gains daily in believers for whose resurrection He paves the way by destroying the power of the law, which condemns, and that of sin, which leads astray.
It only remains for the apostle to draw from the solemn situation thus described a practical conclusion. This is what he does in few words in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Vv. 58. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, become stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
This ὥστε , so that, therefore, is like all those which in the preceding parts served to introduce the practical conclusions to which the doctrines led up; comp. 1Co 3:21 , 1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 7:38, 1Co 11:33 , 1 Corinthians 14:39.
By the address, so full of tenderness: my beloved brethren, Paul seeks to get near those hearts which he may have repelled by his great severity.
He does not say: Be stedfast, but: become so; they are not so yet either in faith or in conduct. They must become rooted in Christ to be confirmed.
The following word immoveable, reminds them of the perils which their faith runs, such as that which he has sought to set aside throughout this whole chapter. If ye hold fast, he had said to them in 1 Corinthians 15:2, and in 1 Corinthians 15:33: Be not deceived.
Once confirmed, their spiritual activity will unfold: Abounding in the work of the Lord. The verb περισσεύειν , to abound, strictly signifies: to flow over the edges all round. By the work of the Lord, the apostle understands labour for the spread of salvation and for the development of spiritual life. The word always is added to remind them of the indefatigable perseverance which should characterize such work.
The apostle closes by indicating the motive which should always stimulate believers anew in the fulfilment of this task. They know that their labour in this domain is not in vain in the Lord. As the apostle uses the term κενός , empty, and not μάταιος (see on 1Co 15:14 ; 1Co 15:17 ), we must conclude that he is thinking less of the fruits of the labour than of its nature: this is not an activity of external demonstration, wrought in vacuity, as earthly labour so often is, but serious toil wrought in the sphere of eternal reality. This is why Paul also uses the present is, and not the future will be. These last words sum up the whole chapter, and at the same time form the transition to the following verses, which directly remind the Corinthians of one of the works to be done for the Lord. This connection with what follows is evident; but yet it is not a sufficient reason for joining this verse, as some commentators have done, to the following chapter.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany