Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 155:617 (Jan 98) p. 104
By the Faculty and Library Staff of
Dallas Theological Seminary
Robert D. Ibach, Editor
“ ‘Baptized on Account of the Dead’: The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in Its Context,” Joel R. White, Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997): 487-99.
The meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 has been an interpretive knot that has proved difficult to untie. This article seeks to explain it in harmony with its context. The verse reads, “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?”
After introducing the problem and reviewing the shortcomings of the major interpretive approaches to it, White offers his solution. He believes that “the dead” in the first half of the verse refers to the apostles rather than unknown dead believers for whom some in the Corinthian church were undergoing water baptism by proxy. White believes this verse is another allusion to the fact that at least some of the Corinthian believers were taking undue pride in one apostle over another (1 Cor. 1:13–17), in this case the one under whose ministry they had been baptized. Paul’s point was that if the dead are not raised, what difference does it make under whose ministry they were baptized since those apostles were already dead, figuratively speaking?
In support of this metaphorical interpretation of “the dead,” White cites other places in which Paul allegedly referred to himself or the apostles as “dead.” In the immediate context (15:31) Paul wrote, “I die daily.” In 4:9 he wrote, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” Yet this verse does not speak of the apostles as dead already, metaphorically speaking, but as those who were about to die as condemned criminals. Second Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” White, following Scott J. Hafemann, interprets this verse as meaning that Paul viewed himself as being led by God to death. However, Paul was using the Roman triumph illustration to encourage the Corinthians by showing that they participated in the victory of Christ. The enemies of Christ whom He defeated are the ones who would die, not believers who participate with Christ in His v...
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