Being baptised for the dead…

There is an interesting passage of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:29

1Co 15:29  Otherwise, what will those people do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are they being baptized for them?

It has often puzzled me, and I have wondered what this passage really means. I have heard there are cults that actually practice baptising people for their dead relatives and friends. While this seems whacky;  it appears this is what the Apostle Paul is writing about.

Tonight I couldn’t find my normal Bible and so picked up my Interlinear Greek New Testament for my reading material as I went about doing some paper work in the bathroom… 😉 There I just opened it up and started to read from the beginning of chapter 15.

Suddenly I had an aha moment. The verse isn’t saying that people are being baptised for the dead at all. Paul is using a high level of hyperbole and sarcasm. He is continuing his theme of Christ’s resurrection. In 15:13 he makes the point that if Christ hasn’t truly been resurrected then we are fools for believing he did so.

His point in verse 29 is a continuation of his whole theme about the resurrection. And therefore says…hey if Christ did not raise to life after death… then when you are baptised you are being baptised into a dead christ and not the living Christ.

Like wow… puts a whole new meaning to the passage doesn’t it?

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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13 Responses to Being baptised for the dead…

  1. vern j miroth says:

    I cant remember the details, but the way I had this passage explained,, was the he WAS speaking of baptism for the dead, but NOT in the usual interpretion. In the Torah we are told if we touch a dead body we are to wash in water and be unclean till evening. In ancient Israel they had certain plces you could go to wash ( or baptize) to clean yourself in such a situation, this was what Paul was referring to

    • Craig Benno says:

      I have not heard that one before Vern.
      Are you saying that if Christ truly didn’t raise from the dead then they need to go and get re-baptised as in go and wash themselves? I’m not sure how that Jewish / Torah context fits in with the Gentile believers though.

  2. T.C. R says:

    Hmm… Interesting! Let me look into that right now! You might be right. 😉

  3. vern j miroth says:

    What I am saying is that there is a common misunderstanding of Brit Hadith (New testament) since the Tanakh is so misunderstood, . It is not a “Jewish Torah” despite what seminaries teach! The Torah is God’ rules instruction for ALL mankind. To understand what Paul was saying without an understanding of the scripture he was trained in is impossible. An important exegetical rule is that we must interpret a given passage with the same interpretation the original audience would understand it. To the first century hearers, the phrase baptism for the dead would be an obvious allusion to Numbers 19

  4. T.C. R says:

    Craig,

    I went back to the Greek text and “the dead” is plural, not singular, so Christ couldn’t be the referent.

  5. Brian Sleeman says:

    We have been doing studies on the Corinthian letters- to date we have not covered tgis chapter and I will be very interested to hear what is revealed at that time. However, I do not feel that the explanation supplied by Vern is a very good one – particularly as it has become apparent to me that we seem to so often read Corinthians incorrectly. It seems that we often do not realise that these are letters in RESPONSE to issues raised by the Corinthians – so many of the statements that Paul makes are basically repeating the question or statement posed by the Corinthian Church.

    Anyway, whilst no expert on the subject – but in light of the what I have been learning about Corinth during the 1st century, the following explanation seems to be very viable http://carm.org/baptism-for-the-dead-in-1-corinthians-15-29

  6. Craig Benno says:

    Interesting.
    I’m not 100% convinced its not talking about Christ here.

    Verse 21 gives us great context about by one man death came to all and by one man resurrection came to all. Then verses 30 onwards are talking about the foolishness of the Christian faith if the dead are not raised….

    Yet Brian your link does tend to make sense of the strange arrangement of the Greek construct. This raises an interesting question as to how Paul uses current cultural practices to engage with culture to prove his points.

    • T.C. R says:

      Craig,

      I’m still not seeing what you’re seeing. Besides, the pronoun at the end is also plural.

      Some kind of proxy baptism seems to have been going on.

  7. Brian Sleeman says:

    The main reason that I think this is a likely explanation of this passage is that seems Paul uses the approach of linking in the actions and ways of the pagans in and around Corinth at that time, because the Corinthians were well aware of the rituals etc. that were undertaken by the pagans.

    In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul talks about ‘being all things to all people’, so I think you’re correct in thinking that Paul uses (not only) cultural practices to engage with the culture to prove his points.

  8. vern j miroth says:

    As I said before and I stand by this assertion, rejecting out of hand that Paul might actually be referring to Torah leads to misunderstanding. This is the cause for the hellenization of the church and its anti nomian attitude

    • Craig Benno says:

      Vern.

      I don’ t think Paul is referring to the Torah here for the context doesn’t fit. I’m open to the possibility if you can show through this book where and how Paul does refer to the Torah.

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