John Bengel Commentary - 1 Corinthians 15:29 - 15:29

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John Bengel Commentary - 1 Corinthians 15:29 - 15:29

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1Co 15:29. Ἐπεὶ τί ποήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; τί καὶ ἡμεῖς χινδυνεύομεν τᾶσαν ὥραν;) We shall first say something on the pointing of this verse.[138] Many rightly connect, and have long been in the habit of connecting this clause, ΕἸ ὍΛΩς ΝΕΚΡΟῚ ΟὐΚ ἘΓΕΊΡΟΝΤΑΙ, with what follows; for the particle ἘΠΕῚ alone exhausts the force of the same clause in the first part of the verse. ΕἸ begins the sentence, as in 1Co 15:32, it does so twice; and often in 1Co 15:12, and those that follow. Hence the pronoun ΑὐΤῶΝ is to be referred to ΝΕΚΡΟῚ.[139] Furthermore, of the baptism for (over) the dead, the variety of interpretations is so great, that he who would collect, I shall not say, those different opinions, but a catalogue of the different opinions, would have to write a dissertation. At that time, as yet, there were neither martyrdoms nor baptisms over sepulchres, etc., especially at Corinth; but baptism over sepulchres, and baptism for the advantage of the dead came into use from a wrong interpretation of this very passage; as fire was used among the Egyptians and Abyssinians in the case of the baptized, from Mat 3:11. Often, when the true interpretation is nearer and easier than we think, we fetch it from a distance. We must mark-I. The paraphrase: Otherwise what will they do who are baptized for (super) the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they also baptized for the dead? and why also are we in danger every hour? II. The sense of the phrase, βαπτίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, to be baptized for (over) the dead. For they are baptized for (over) the dead [super mortuis], who receive baptism and profess Christianity at that time, when they have death set before their eyes, who are likely every moment to be added to the general mass of the dead, either on account of the decrepitude of age, or disease, or pestilence, or by martyrdom; in fact, those who, without almost any enjoyment of this life, are going down to the dead, and are constantly, as it were, hanging over the dead; they who might say קברים לי, the graves are ready for me, Job 17:1. III. The first part of the verse is of a milder character; but the last part which begins with if after all, has also an epitasis [an emphatic addition. Append.] expressed in its own protasis by after all, and in the apodosis by the even [ΤΊ ΚΑῚ]: and these two particles correspond to each other; and the same apodosis has an anaphora [the repetition of the same words in the beginnings of sections], joining its two parts by why even. IV. We must mark the connection of the subject under discussion. With the argument respecting the resurrection of Christ, from which our resurrection is derived, Paul connects the statement of two absurdities (indeed there are more than two, but the preceding absurdities are repeated, though they have been already sufficiently refuted by former reasonings) which would arise, if there be no resurrection of the dead, if Christ have not risen: and in the meantime, having disentangled the argument concerning Christ, 1Co 15:20-28, he refutes those two absurdities by a discussion of somewhat greater length, which draws the sinews of its strength from the argument concerning Christ. The latter absurdity (for this has its relation to the argument more evident) regarding the misery of Christians in this life, he set forth at 1Co 15:19, and now discusses at 1Co 15:29 in the middle, and in the following verses; if after all: and in like manner he stated the former concerning the ‘perishing’ of the Christians that are dead, at 1Co 15:18, and now discusses, or repeats, or explains it in the first part of 1Co 15:29. V. The force of the apostle’s argument, which in itself is both most clear and most urgent. I. The propriety of the several words consistent with themselves. Α) What shall they do? is future, in respect of eternal salvation, i.e., such persons being baptized, will be disappointed, their efforts will be vain, if the dead sleep the eternal sleep. Β) The term baptism continues to be used in its ordinary meaning; and indeed in this epistle Paul has made more mention of baptism than in any other, ch. 1Co 1:13-17, 1Co 10:2, 1Co 12:13. γ) The preposition ὑπὲρ with the genitive might be thus also taken in various senses; of the object simply, as the Latins use super, with respect to, about, so far as it concerns; with this meaning, that they may put the dead before them without consideration of the resurrection; or the words may be used of paying as it were a price, viz., that they should account the dead as nonentities; or of obtaining as the price for their trouble, viz., that they should be gathered to the dead for ever: but we maintain the propriety with which ὑπὲρ denotes nearness, hanging over [such propinquity as that one hangs immediately over] anything, whence Theocritus speaks of ἀσφόδελον τὸν ὑπὲρ γᾶς, the asphodel (king’s spear) that grows on the ground, Idyl. 26. Lexicographers give more examples, especially from Thucydides. So they are baptized over [immediately upon] the dead, who will be gathered to the dead immediately after baptism: and then over the dead is said here, as if it were said over the sepulchre, as Luk 24:5, with [Engl. Vers., among] the dead, i.e., in the sepulchre. Nor is it incredible, that baptism was often administered at funerals. Δ) The term dead is used in its ordinary sense of the dead generally, as the article also requires, taken in as wide a sense as the resurrection, ε) The adverb ὅλως, after all, is used by a Corinthian who is supposed to be led on by Paul, and who had rather peevishly opposed the resurrection, not reflecting on the loss of the advantages even in this life, which result in baptism: and ΕἸ ὍΛΩς is employed in the same way as ἘΠΕΙΔΉ ὍΛΩς in Chrysost. homil. 5, c. Anomoeos: Notwithstanding, though man differs little from an angel, since there is nevertheless [after all] some difference (ἘΠΕΙΔῊ ὍΛΩς ἘΣΤΊ ΤΙ ΜΈΣΟΝ), we know not accurately what angels are. ζ) καὶ is not redundant, but strengthens the force of the present tense, βαπτίζονται, what do they do who are baptized? in antithesis to the future, ΤΊ ΠΟΙΉΣΟΥΣΙ, what shall they do? Comp. καὶ, 2Co 1:14; 2Co 11:12; Php 3:7-8; Php 4:10. Paul in fact places those who are baptized for the dead, as it were at the point of death, and shows that no reward awaits them either for the future, if they denied the resurrection, or for the past. Paul seems to confute those who denied both the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul. The vindication of the former is a sufficient and more than sufficient vindication of the latter. This is an example of the συγκατάβασις, condescension of Scripture, which, out of regard to the weak and simple, does not enter into that subtle controversy, but lays hold of the subject at that part of it, which is easier to be proved, and yet also carries along with it the proof of the more difficult part. Η) The two clauses beginning with ΤΊ admirably cohere: with a gradation from those who could only for a little enjoy this life [i.e., those baptized at the point of death] to (us) those who could enjoy it longer, if they had not had their hope fixed in Christ.-ΝΕΚΡΟῚ, dead) Throughout this whole chapter, in the question, whether [dead men rise at all], Paul speaks of dead men, ΝΕΚΡΟῪς, without the article; afterwards, when this question has been cleared out of the way, in the question how, 1Co 15:35, etc., he uses the article; but τῶν in this verse has the meaning of the relative [τῶν νεκρῶν, those who are dead already spoken of, 1Co 15:12-13; 1Co 15:16].

[138] Lachm. and Tischend. punctuate as Bengel. Rec. Text puts the question not after νεκρῶν, but after ἐγειρονται; thus connecting this clause with what precedes, instead of with what follows.-ED.

[139] The Germ. Ver. repeats the noun τῶν νεκρῶν, instead of the pronoun at the end of the verse, and differs from the margin of both editions.-E. B.

Αὐτῶν is the reading of ABD corrected later, Gfg Vulg. Memph., later Syr. Origen. Τῶν νεκρῶν of Rec. Text is only found in later Uncial MSS. and Syr. Version alone, of the oldest versions.-ED.