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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The Eng. word is used in the Authorized Version only in 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1 Corinthians 15:50; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, but the Gr. word occurs also in Romans 2:7, Ephesians 6:24, 2 Timothy 1:10. The Revised Version renders ‘incorruption’ not only in each of the four verses in 1 Corinthians 15, but in Romans 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:10, where the Authorized Version has ‘immortality.’ In Ephesians 6:24 the Authorized Version gives ‘sincerity’ and the Revised Version ‘uncorruptness.’ In Titus 2:7 ‘uncorruptness’ (Authorized Version and Revised Version ) represents ἀφθορία (or ἀδιαφθορία). The noun ἀφθαρσία is derived from the adj. ἄφθαρτος (a priv. and φθείρω, ‘to corrupt’), which is found in Romans 1:23, 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 3:4, and in the Revised Version is always rendered ‘incorruptible.’ The Revised Version is correct in this consistent use of ‘incorruptible’ for ἄφθαρτος, and more correct than the Authorized Version in using ‘incorruption’ for ἀφθαρσία in those cases where the latter has ‘immortality,’ which properly represents ἀθανασία (1 Corinthians 15:53-54, 1 Timothy 6:16). But corresponding to ‘incorruptible’ for ἄφθαρτος, ‘incorruptibility’ would have been still better than ‘incorruption’ for ἀφθαρσία (Tertullian [de Cultu feminarum, ii. 6] and subsequent writers render incorruptibilitas; Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] in most cases incorruptio, which probably suggested ‘incorruption’ of the English Version ), since the word really denotes the quality of imperishableness. The fact that ‘incorruption’ is the Authorized Version rendering in 1 Corinthians 15, so familiar to English ears from its place in the order for the burial of the dead in the Book of Common Prayer, may have determined the Revisers to use it in that chapter, and the principle of adopting as far as possible a uniform rendering of particular words (see Revisers’ Preface) would lead them to adhere to it elsewhere. In Ephesians 6:24 they have departed from their usage in other places by substituting ‘uncorruptness’ (Authorized Version ‘sincerity’), but it is questionable whether by doing so they have brought out the writer’s real meaning. It seems quite likely that he was employing the word in its usual sense, and was thinking not of the purity of the Christian’s love for Christ, its freedom from corrupt elements, but of its incorruptibility, i.e. its imperishableness. In Titus 2:7, where ἀφθορία is applied to the doctrine which Titus was to teach, that word is properly translated ‘uncorruptness.’

It may be noted that when the two terms ‘incorruptibility’ (ἀφθαρσία) and ‘immortality’ (ἀθανασία) are set side by side in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, we are not to understand the former as applying to the body and the latter to the soul. In classical Gr. such a distinction might be valid, but not in the NT. If we read of God in 1 Timothy 6:16 ‘who only hath immortality,’ we also read in 1 Timothy 1:17 that He is ‘the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible.’ Unlike Plato, St. Paul has no doctrine of the natural immortality’ of the soul; and in 1 Corinthians 15 he is dealing specifically with the resurrection of the body, so that ‘incorruptibility’ and ‘immortality’ are practically synonymous.

J. C. Lambert.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Uncorruptness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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