I learned a lot from my studies and I present the following andd let each
person decide for himself (or herself)
In1 Cor. 15, Paul reminded the Corinthians that
he had taught them categorically, as a first and foremost component of his good news, how Christ "died for our sins" but had
been "raised to life again on the thirdday",.
He listed the witnesses who had seen him, "most of whom are still living." He reminded them
that he to witness to the Risen Christ, how meeting Christhad revolutionized
Paul, so that "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I but the grace of God which is with me" If he and the
other witnesses were proclaiming Christ as risen from the dead, "how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of
the dead, then Christ? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised."
If Christ had never , in precise historic fact, risen from the dead then Paul's preaching
and Corinthians faith and actions were for nothing:' You are still in your sins" On the other hand if no dead are ever raised
Paul had willfully misrepresented God and his Son had committed perjury by swearing that Christ had risen. "But Christ has
raised from the dead!" Paulcountiues "And he makes certain that others
will also be raised to life because of Christ". Paul, then in 1 Corinthians 15:29 refers to an early practice of vicarious baptism
for the dead.
While explaining that without the resurrection of Christ and of all mankind, faith and repentance
and even his own preaching would be in vain, he asks "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead?' What does
this mean? Some Christians Pastors I have discussed this with thought that Paul mentions this custom almost in passing, using
it in his arguments substantiating the resurrection of the dead, but without necessarily approving the practice (this is a
very common explanation). But why would Paul use some heretical practice in his arguments for the resurrection? In my studies
of Paul there is NO WAY he would stand for it!
This is the same Apostle who went to great lengths to correct wrong teachings. And if he mentioned
it in passing, wouldn't that mean that his listeners, the Corinthians, were fully familiar with the practice and its ramifications?
Many Commentators have long recognized that the plain meaning of the passage is that living
people were being baptized for dead friends or relatives, but they usually try to get out of it by placing some other, more
dubious interpretation on this verse. Thus Henry Halley: (Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 600.)
This seems to mean vicarious baptism, that is, baptism for a dead friend. But there is no other
Bible reference to such a practice, and no evidence that it existed in the ApostolicChurch. Perhaps a better translation would be "baptized in hope of the resurrection.
But Paul's statement itself is evidence that baptism for the dead existed in the ApostolicChurch! The NIV Study Bible admits that, "The present tense suggests that at
Corinth people were currently being baptized
for the dead." And if "baptized for the dead" really means "baptized in hope of the resurrection", it is expression translators
have no knowledge of, or they would have used it to avoid the apparent meaning of the passage.
What does the evidence show? 1) It was practiced 2) Paul was aware of the practice and
did not clearly condemn it as heretical
It appears to me that the early church practiced an ordinance known as baptism for the dead.
As I consider my own historical knowledge of the early church limited, let me refer you to the writings of Dr. Hugh Nibley's.Mormonism & Early Christianity
Christ Preached to the Dead
Following 1 Peter 4:6, it was believed in the early church that Christ preached "to them that
are dead." "For this reason," says the Lord in the "Discourse to the Apostles," "have I gone below and spoken to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, to your fathers, the prophets, and preached to them, that they might enjoy their rest in heaven."To quote more fully a passage already cited from the Epistle of Barnabas, "He opens to us, who were enslaved
by death, the doors of the temple, that is the mouth; and by giving us repentance introduced us into the . . . spiritual temple
builded for the Lord."Christ is the king "of those beneath the earth," says
Hippolytus, "since he also was reckoned among the dead, while he was preaching the gospel to the spirits of the saints [or
holy or righteous ones]." The same writer says Jesus "became the evangelist of the dead, the liberator of spirits and the
resurrection of those who had died."The idea is thus expressed by the
author of the Sibylline Discourses: "He will come to Hades with tidings of hope to all the saints, and [tidings] of the end
of time and the last day."Clement of Alexandria
is thus following the accepted doctrine when he says: "Christ went down to Hades for no other purpose than to preach the gospel."
A great favorite with the early Christians was a passage from the apocryphalBook of Sirach: "I shall go through all the regions deep beneath the earth, and I shall visit all those
who sleep, and I shall enlighten all those who hope on the Lord; I shall let my teaching shine forth as a guiding light and
cause it to shine afar off." Schmidt distrusts the claims that this was a genuine Hebrew scripture, since it is found only
in Christian translations;but for our purpose that fact only enhances its value.
Whatever its source, the ancient church received it gladly, as it did another Jewish text attributed to Jeremiah and quoted
by Justin and (no less than five times) by Irenaeus: "The Lord God hath remembered his dead among those of Israel who have
been laid in the place of burial, and has gone down to announce to them the tidings of his salvation."The Christians angrily accused the Jews of having expunged this passage from their scripture in order to
damage the Christian cause, from which it would appear that the doctrine of salvation for the dead was a major issue in those
early times, and a most precious possession of the church.
In all these texts we are told that Jesus did not simply "harrow" hell and empty it with a
single clap of thunder, as was later imagined. The whole emphasis in the Descensus was on the Kerygma, or the Lord's preaching
of the gospel.He preached the gospel in the spirit world exactly as he had done
in this one. Our informants insist, in fact, that Christ's mission below was simply a continuation of his earthly mission,
which it resembles in detail. The spirits there join his church exactly like their mortal descendants, and by the same ordinances.
"Descending into the other world," says the old hymn, Christ "prepared a road, and led in
his footsteps all those whom he shall ransom, leading them into his flock, there to become indistinguishably mingled with
the rest of his sheep." "I made a congregation of the living in the realm of the dead," says the Lord in the Odes of Solomon,
"I spake to them with living lips . . . and sealed my name upon their heads, because they are free and belong to me." Another
Ode says: "I went to all my imprisoned ones to free them . . . and they gathered themselves together to me and were rescued;
because they were members of me and I was their head.""He went down alone,"
writes Eusebius, citing a popular formula, "but mounted up again with a great host towards the Father."Tertullian is more specific: "Christ . . . did not ascend to the higher heavens until he had descended
to the lower regions [lit. lower parts of the worlds], there to make the patriarchs and prophets his compotes."The word compos [singular form] in Tertullian always denotes "one who shares secret knowledge;"he made them his disciples in the other world.
Thoughrejected at his first coming, says Irenaeus,
Christ nonetheless "gathers together his dispersed sons from the ends of the earth into the Father's sheepfold, mindful likewise
of his dead ones who fell asleep before him; to them also he descends that he may awaken and save them." 106 The philosopher
Celsus, making fun of the strange doctrine, asks Origen: "Don't you people actually tell about him, that when he had failed
to convert the people on this earth he went down to the underworld to try to convert the people down there?" It is significant
that Origen answers the question, for all its mocking tone, in the affirmative: "We assert that Jesus not only converted no
smallnumber of persons while he was in the body . . . but also, that when he
became a spirit, without the covering of the body, he dwelt among those spirits which were without bodily covering, converting
such of them as were willing to Himself." 107 According to this the dead not only have the gospel preached to them, but are
free to accept or reject it, exactly like the living. (Mormonism
& Early Christianity : 4 : 121 : 1 - : 4 : 122 : 1 )
How the Dead Received Baptism
John's function in the spirit world, like the Savior's, was identical with his mission on
this earth. Yet his very special mission here was to baptize. Likewise the worldly preaching of the Lord and the apostles
was to prepare their hearers for baptism. It is not surprising then to read in the Pastor of Hermas, one of the most trustworthy
guides to the established beliefs of the early church, that not only Christ and John but also "these Apostles, and the teachers
who had proclaimed the name of the Son of God, after they had fallen asleep in [the] power and faith of the Son of God preached
likewise to the dead; and they gave them the seal of the preaching. They accordingly went down with them into the water and
came out again. But although they went down while they were alive and came up alive, those who had fallen asleep before them
(prokekoimemenoi) went down dead, but came out again living; for it was through
these that they were made alive, and learned the name of the Son of God."The
Latin version reads: "These Apostles and teachers who had preached the name of the Son of God, when they died in possession
of his faith and power, preached to those who had died before, and themselves gave them this seal. Hence [igitur] they went
down into the water with them; but they who had died before went down dead, of course, but ascended living, since it was through
them that they received life and knew the Son of God."
Needless to say, this text has caused a great deal of embarrassment to interpreters, ancient and
modern. The source of the trouble is obvious: there are two classes of living persons referred to, those who enjoy eternal
life, and those who have not yet died on this earth. The apostles (or whoever "they" were) belonged to the latter class when
they went down living to be baptized for those who had gone before; a sharp contrast is made between their state--they being
alive both before and after the ordinance--and that of those who were actually dead and yet received eternal life through
the ministrations of baptism. What is perfectly clear is that the apostles while they were still living performed an ordinance--the
earthly ordinance of baptism in water--which concerned the welfare of those who had already died. That it was an earthly baptism
which could only be performed with water is emphatically stated in the sentences immediately preceding those cited: "It is
necessary, he said, for them to come up through the water in order to be made alive; for otherwise none can enter the Kingdom of God . . . therefore even the dead receive the seal. . . . The seal is of course,
place a person verify such a practice ever existed is fromnon-LDS sources .
Read the following: (Sorry for spelling errors these are from my notes and files)
It will be seen that even those scholars who opine that Paul disapproved of proxy baptism
acknowledge that he was citing the practice as part of his defense of the resurrection.
Harper's Bible Commentary: The first two rhetorical questions [asked by Paul in vs.
29] refer to thepractice of the Corinthians to undergo baptism vicariously for their dead inthe hope of saving them. More
than thirty interpretations have been proposed to explain this practice, but none is satisfactory. Paul does not questionthe
merits of it but refers to it to elucidate his point. (Harper's Bible Commentary, San Francisco, California: Harper &
Row, Publishers, 1988, p. 1187)
The Abingdon Bible Commentary: Paraphrase:
"We can scarcely bring ourselves to imagine what is involved indenying the resurrection. Even some who deny the doctrine prove
that they really believe it by their otherwise meaningless custom of undergoingvicarious baptism for their relatives who
have died before being received by baptism into the Christian fellowship. . . ."
The interpretation followed above
presupposes a local usage--namely, baptism in behalf of the dead--which Paul neither commends nor condemns. . . . (The Abingdon
Bible Commentary, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957, reprint, p. 1192)
One Volume Commentary on the Bible:
St. Paul then, almost in parenthesis, touches on what appears to have been acustomamong the Corinthian Christians of baptizing by proxy on behalf ofsome, presumably members of the same
family, who had died unbaptized and might therefore, it was thought, miss their chance of being incorporatedinto the fulness
of Christ's Kingdom at his Advent. This practice, says theapostle, makes as little sense as his own daily contempt for physical
death,if there is no resurrection. (William Neil, One Volume Commentary On The Bible, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973,
The Interpreter's One-Volume
Commentary on the Bible: After sketching briefly the drama of the end, Paul resumes his attack onthose denying the
possibility of man's resurrection. Scribes andcommentators have sought to avoid translating vs. 29 as in the RSV, since it is
difficult to think that Paul would approve of baptism by proxy. But atthis place he is throwing up questions to expose the
illogical nature of the beliefs and practices of those denying the resurrection, and he withholds his personal judgment
of baptism on behalf of the dead. (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Nashville: The Abingdon Press,
1971, p. 811)
The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: . . . the most natural meaning of the expression [used by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:29]
is that some early believers got themselves baptized on behalf of friends of theirs who had died without receiving that
sacrament. (Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, London: Tyndale Press, 1964, p. 218)
The New Century Bible Commentary: The prima facie meaning of these words [in 1 Cor. ] points to a practice of baptism by proxy. (F. F. Bruce, The New Century
Bible Commentary: 1 and 2 Corinthians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971, p. 337)
James Moulten and George Milligan, The Vocabulary
of the Greek New Testament: Close inspection of the language of the reference makes all attempts to soften or
eliminate its literal meaning unsuccessful. An endeavor to understand the dead as persons who are "dead in sin" does not
really help; for the condition offered, if the dead are not being raised at all, makes it clear that the apostle is
writing about persons who are physically dead. It appears that under the pressure of concern for the eternal destiny of
dead relatives or friends some people in the church were undergoing baptism on their behalf in the belief that this
would enable the dead to receive the benefits of Christ's salvation. (James Moulten and George Milligan, The Vocabulary
of the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981, p. 651, original emphasis)
Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament: None of the attempts to escape the theory of a vicarious baptism in primitive
Christianity [as indicated in 1 Cor. 15:29] seems to be wholly successful. (Harald Riesenfeld, "Hyper" ["huper"], in Gerhard
Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, editors, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Michigan: Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1974, vol. 8, pp. 512-513)
Krister Stendahl, "Baptism for the Dead: Ancient Sources, in Encyclopedia of Mormonism: . . . the text [1
Cor. ] seems to speak plainly enough about
a practice within the Church of vicarious baptism for the dead. (Krister Stendahl, "Baptism for the Dead: Ancient Sources,"
in Daniel Ludlow, editor, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: MacMillan, 1994, vol. 1, p. 97) The Expositer's Bible Commentary: Here
Paul returns to his argument for the resurrection of the dead. There is a special difficulty in understanding v. 29 because
we do not know the background of the words "baptized for the dead." There are many interpretations, but it is difficult
to find a satisfactory one. The present tense "baptize" suggests that the practice of baptizing for the dead was current
and evidently well known to the Corinthians. . . . . . . its ["huper's", the Greek word behind "for" in "baptized for the dead"]
basic meaning with the genitive is "for," "in behalf of," or "in the place of." According to [H. A. W.] Meyer, this
verse means that believers already baptized were rebaptized for the benefit of believers who had died unbaptized. This
was done on the assumption that it would count for the unbaptized dead and thereby assure their resurrection along with
the baptized, living believers. . . .
At any rate, Paul simply mentions the superstitious custom without approving it and uses it
to fortify his argument that there is a resurrection from the dead. (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, vol. 10, pp. 287-288)
Dictionary of the Bible: . . . [to judge from 1 Cor. ,
certain Christians] would seem to have undergone the rite [proxy baptism] for the benefit of departed relatives. (The
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Nashville: The Abingdon Press, 1962, vol. 1, p. 350)
The Interpreter's Bible: . . . whatever doubt some members of the Church had
concerning it, there were others who were such firm believers in the resurrection that they submitted to this rite of
vicarious baptism on behalf of certain of their brethren, probably catechumens, who had passed away before they had been baptized
and received into full membership of the Church. (The Interpreter's Bible, New York: The Abingdon Press, 1952-1957, vol.
10, p. 240)
The Jerome Biblical
Commentary: It seems that in Corinth some Christians would undergo baptism in the name of their deceased non-Christian relatives
and friends, hoping that this vicarious baptism might assure them a share in the redemption of Christ. Paul sees in
this strange practice an implied faith in the resurrection of the dead. (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Englewood Cliffs,
New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968, vol. 2, p. 273)
Gordon Fee, The First
Epistle to the Corinthians: The normal reading of the text [1 Cor. 15:29] is that some Corinthians are being baptized,
apparently vicariously, in behalf of some people who have already died. It would be fair to add that this reading is such
a plain understanding of the Greek text that no one would ever have imagined the various alternatives were it not for
the difficulties involved. (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing
Co., 1989, pp. 763-764, emphasis added)
And finally , I have found reading differenttranslations and noted private translations of 1 Cor. can
Help me get a clearer view.
Version, a major Catholic translation
prepared under the guidance of the Catholic Bishops of the United States: Else what shall they do who receive
baptism for the dead? If the dead do not rise at all, why then do people receive baptism for them?
The Revised English Bible: Again, there are
those who receive baptism on behalf of the dead. What do you suppose they are doing? If the deadare not raised to life at all, what do they mean by being baptized on their behalf?
The Revised Standard Version: Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the
deadare not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
The New Revised Standard Version, whose translation committee included the renowned Greek scholar Bruce Metzger: Otherwise, what will those
people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the deadare not raised
at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
The New Jerusalem Bible: Otherwise, what are people up to who have themselves baptized
on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, what is the point of being baptized on their behalf? J.
B. Phillips: . . . being baptized for the dead by proxy.
The New English
Bible: Again, there are those who receive baptism on behalf of the dead. Why should they do this? If the deadare not raised to life at all, what do they mean by being baptized on their behalf?
The New Revised Translation: Else what shall
they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they baptized for their dead?
Tell me, what are they doing when they hold proxy baptisms on behalf of departed souls? If
the deadstill aren't going to be raised, why have baptisms for them? (The
Unvarnished New Testament: A New Translation from the Original Greek)
As stated above .." first-century Christians were performing vicarious baptisms at Corinth. In their attempted evasion,
however, they have committed at least three errors: (1) The first-century people performing vicarious baptisms in Corinth
were not Marcionites. Marcion, the eponymous founder of the Marcionites, was born in Asia Minor, spent his career in Rome,
and died well past the middle of the second century. (2) The Marcionites were not pagans. Rather, they were
"heretical" early Christians. And (3) they were not the only early Christians to practice baptism for the dead..".
If someone other than me has written an article, I'll be sure to include a byline at the bottom.
Sources Used and for Further Research
Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book Company, 1983, pp. 403-415).
Michael T. Griffith, One Lord, One Faith: Writings of the
Early Christian Fathers as Evidences of the Restoration, Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1996, pp. 196-206.
Hugh Nibley, "Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times," in Todd Compton and Stephen Ricks, editors,
Mormonism and Early Christianity, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley: Volume 4,
Deseret Book Company and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987, pp. 100-167.