Barry Newman's Blog

September 24, 2011

Baptised on behalf of the Dead (part V)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 4:58 am

Concluding Comments

In the 1 Corinthian 15 text “baptizo” can be understood metaphorically, in accordance with a not uncommon practice in the ancient Greek speaking world of “baptizo” being applied in a metaphorical abstract sense.  With such an understanding, verse 29 takes up the notion of the mortality of humanity referred to in verse 22, and raises the problem of why anyone would suffer so much for the sake of those who have death written into them and who in the end will simply die if indeed there is no resurrection of the dead.  Focussing on this suffering that to begin with he associates with others, Paul moves from verse 30 through to verses 31 and 32a where the focus is simply on himself.  Understanding “baptizo” in this way places verse 29 contextually both within what he writes before but particularly within what he writes thereafter.

On the other hand, a traditional understanding somewhat isolates verse 29 contextually with the verse being understood as a reference to a practice that is theologically highly objectionable (and for which there is no historical evidence) but about which Paul makes no comment.

If the understanding of verse 29 argued for here is correct, it suggests that we need to be at least cautious when arguing for a water ceremony in some other texts where there are no explicit references to such.


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