Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Understanding 1st Cor. 15.29-31 - baptized for the dead

Understanding 1st Cor. 15.29-31

"29. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?
Why are they then baptized for the dead?
30. And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31. I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. {your: some read, our}"
1 Cor 15:29-31 KJV

I was meditating in this difficult passage concerned that in might mean that somehow we should baptize in favor of our loved ones that are already dead. But this would make no sense according to the biblical doctrine of baptism and all the things about it that our Lord have already confirmed to us, so I prayed to the Lord our God for understanding on this passage and searched about the Greek text behind it.
I noticed that the versions differ a small thing on text, but nothing really on meaning, and tend to two Greek texts as follows:

RP Byzantine Majority Text 2005
Greek Orthodox Church 1904
Scrivener's Textus Receptus 1894
Stephanus Textus Receptus 1550  
  Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; Εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν;

Westcott and Hort 1881
Tischendorf 8th Edition
Nestle GNT 1904  
 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν;

Both texts refers to the same meaning of the baptism for the dead.

So the main problem was to understand the meaning of the expression "hiper ton" ὑπὲρ τῶν that presided the word for "dead" νεκρῶν in the "for the dead part".

In order to know that I searched in
and could see that the expression "hiper ton" ὑπὲρ τῶν can mean also:
"for, above, more than, on behalf of, for the sake of"

But this only confirmed that the translation of the Greek text was right.
It is really written that on the Greek versions we have, so in order to understand its meaning
we need to see that in verse 31 Paul uses a figurative meaning of death: " I die daily " he says.
So the death he is talking about in 1st Cor 15.29 must have a figurative meaning too and to understand that meaning we must look at another Paul letter.

"3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? {were: or, are}
4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also {in the likeness} of {his} resurrection:
6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with {him}, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7. For he that is dead is freed from sin. {freed: Gr. justified}
8. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:"
Rom 6:3-8 KJV

This is the figurative meaning! In 1st Cor. 15 Paul is reminding the Corinthians that it is very important to believe in the resurrection from the dead because that's our big hope, to be one day resurrected with Jesus Christ!
So when he says something close to "So why are they baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?"
He is referring to the meaning of baptism that the Corinthians should know. The baptism meaning a death for the old life as a sinner and a new birth to the new life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Thank you Lord God for this clarification that you gave us. It may be a simple matter for some, but it was a difficult text for me and by posting this explanation I hope some of our brother can also be blessed with the understanding of this verse.