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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

The Apostle devotes this, almost concluding chapter, to arrest the progress of an error which teas broached at Corinth regarding the fundamental dogma of the resurrection of the body. Among the Corinthian converts, many, it would seem, were deeply imbued, before embracing the faith, with the scepticism of the Sadducees, and certain doctrines of Pagan philosophy, both equally subversive of the resurrection as well of the soul as of the body. Others among them had adopted the tenets of those who denied the resurrection of the body only. Having embraced the faith at an advanced period of life, they could hardly divest themselves of the false notions which they had for a long period of time entertained. In this chapter, the Apostle proves the resurrection of the body, and, as the basis of this proof, he establishes, on several grounds, the fundamental dogma of the Resurrection of Christ, from which he infers the general resurrection of all men. He first reminds the Corinthians of the gospel preached by himself among them, the leading heads of which were, Christ’s death for our sins, his burial and resurrection (1–4). He proves the truth of Christ’s Resurrection from several testimonies and arguments (4–12). From the Resurrection of Christ, he infers the general resurrection of all: such being the connection between both, that if we rise not again, neither has Christ arisen. After pointing out the absurd consequences which the denial of the Resurrection of Christ would involve (12–22), and having explained the order in which the dead shall arise (22–24), he introduces a new argument in favour of the general resurrection, grounded on the total subjection of all things, death included, to Christ (24–29). He advances new arguments to prove our future resurrection, and shows the origin of the unbelief of the Corinthians—viz., evil communications (34). In the next place, he replies to the principal difficulties against the resurrection (34–42). After describing the qualities of glorified bodies (42–46), and after showing that as we are now earthly, we shall then be heavenly, he exhorts us to conform to our heavenly model (46–50). He points out the mode of the resurrection, and exhorts the Corinthians to the performance of good works.

Paraphrase

1. I wish, brethren, to recall to your minds the gospel, or the truths of faith, which I preached to you, which you received and embraced, and in which you have hitherto persevered.

2. In the belief and profession of which you have received that initial salvation of justice which places you in the way of consummate salvation in the life to come, provided you adhere to it, according as I have preached it; otherwise, you shall have believed in vain.

3. I taught you among the first and principal articles of faith, which I myself received, as I did my gospel from the revelation of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins, as has been predicted regarding him in the Scriptures.

4. And that he was buried (in testimony of his being really dead), and that he rose again on the third day, as was prefigured and predicted in Scripture.

5. My next argument in proof of his resurrection is the testimony of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, to whom he appeared in the first instance, after having previously appeared to the women, and after him, to the eleven Apostles.

6. Afterwards, he was seen by more than five hundred disciples, assembled together, of whom many are still alive to attest the fact; others have slept in the Lord.

7. Afterwards, he was seen by James (surnamed the Just); and after that by all the Apostles and Disciples at his Ascension.

8. And last of all, he was seen by me, who am, as it were, an abortion, and deserving only of contempt, compared with the other Apostles.

9. I say an abortion, or, something contemptible; for, I am the least of the Apostles, unworthy of the name. Since (instead of building God’s Church, as is meet for an Apostle), I only attempted to demolish and tear it down (by persecuting it).

10. But as to my present state, I can only attribute it to the gratuitous call of God conferring on me the gift of Apostleship, and his grace was not lost on me; for, in the discharge of the duties of my office, I laboured more than all the rest; not I alone, but the grace of God, as the principal cause acting with me.

11. But to return to my subject. Both they, who have seen him, as well as I, preach this regarding his Resurrection, and such is your faith also.

12. If, then, it be a matter preached by all the Apostles, and confirmed by your faith, that Christ has risen; how comes it that some amongst you say, that there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead, the necessary consequence of the Resurrection of Christ?

13. For, if the dead will not rise again, it follows, that Christ has not risen. Such is the intimate connexion between both.

14. The greatest inconveniences would result from the supposition that Christ had not risen. In the first place, your faith would be vain, having been founded on the words of a man who would have proved himself to be an impostor. So would the preaching of the Apostles (having their commission from the same).

15. Nay, even, we Apostles would be convicted of being false witnesses, and of being witnesses against God. Since, pretending to act on his authority, we attributed to him a fact—viz., Christ’s Resurrection, which he would have never accomplished unless the dead arise.

16. For if they will not arise, neither has Christ arisen.

17. And, if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain in the remission of your sins; for your sins are still unremitted.

18. Another inconvenient consequence flowing from a denial of Christ’s Resurrection would be, that those who have died professing the Christian religion, are lost eternally, since they died professing a false faith, and, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

19. And if our hopes in Christ are to be confined to the present life, we are the most miserable of men, having been debarred by our religion from certain pleasures, in which others, less observant of religious ordinances, freely indulge.

20. (Such, then, being the absurd consequences of the denial of Christ’s Resurrection), we must firmly believe that Christ has arisen, as the first-fruits among the dead, both in time and dignity, and thus consecrating, by his Resurrection, the general resurrection of all.

21. And that our resurrection should be consecrated in his merits, is quite congruous; for, as by one man came death; so by one man, the destruction of death, which is effected by the resurrection.

22. And, as in Adam, all die; so also in Christ, shall all who are vivified, be vivified.

23. But each man shall rise in the class to which his merits during life will have entitled him; a greater degree of glory shall fall to the lot of certain saints beyond others. Christ shall be first; next, those who are of Christ, who have believed in his visible coming to judge mankind—a truth intimately connected with the resurrection.

24. Afterwards, the end of all things, when, after having triumphed over the different orders of devils, he will present to God the Father, the whole assemblage of his elect, and refer to him all the glory of his triumphs.

25. But in the mean time, even while his enemies are not perfectly subdued, he shall reign until God the Father shall have placed his enemies under his feet, that is, until the end of the world.

26. And the last enemy whom he shall vanquish is death. For, that death shall be vanquished is clear from the Psalmist:—He hath put all things under his feet, which words mystically refer to the total subjection of all things to Christ.

27. But by saying, all things are put under him, the Scripture cannot, surely, include God the Father, by whom all things were subjected. He must be excepted from the term, all things.

28. For, when all things are subjected to Christ, then Christ, as man, will himself be subjected to God the Father, to whom all things else are subjected, so that God may become all in all, and by this universal dominion be acknowledged as sole master and universal ruler of all things.

29. Another argument in favour of the resurrection. If the dead will not arise, what means the profession of faith in the resurrection of the dead, made at baptism? Why are we all baptized with a profession of our faith in their resurrection?

30. If there be no such thing as a resurrection, and no reward to be expected, why should we, Apostles and preachers of the gospel, expose our lives to continual dangers, in the hope of such rewards?

31. So far as I myself am concerned, I call God to witness, and I swear by the subject for glorying which our Lord Jesus Christ has given me in you, brethren, that I die daily.

32. To speak after the fashion of men, when they willingly recount their actions, and the dangers from which they were rescued—of what avail was it to me to have fought the beasts at Ephesus, if the dead will not arise? We should rather follow the Epicurean maxims of indulging in all kinds of bodily pleasures and gratification; for, to-morrow we shall die.

33. Be not, however, seduced by holding any intercourse with the misguided professors of such wicked doctrines. They are certain to mislead you; for, evil communications corrupt good morals.

34. Awake, ye just, from the sleepy intoxication of error and pleasure—refraining from sin, put on justice. For I say it to your shame and confusion, some amongst you are ignorant of the truths of God, or, at least practically, know him not.

35. But, the faith of the resurrection being now established, a two-fold question may arise:—first, how is it possible for the bodies of the dead, after having become putrified and corrupt to arise again?—and, secondly, supposing this possible, in what state are these resuscitated bodies to arise?

36. In reply to the first question:—If thou, who aimest after secular wisdom, while in reality thou art only a fool, were to consider the process of reviviscence in nature, thou couldst see, that, so far from the corruption of the grain committed to the earth proving an obstacle, it is even necessary for its reviving again.

37. And what you sow is not the body that is to spring forth; you only sow a mere grain of wheat or of some other kind, which buds forth in the more beautiful and perfect form of a stalk or stem, furnished with leaves and ears.

38. But God gives to the body, after corruption, a form such as it pleases him, and to each seed a body peculiar to its kind (so shall it be also in the resurrection; by the omnipotence of God, the resuscitated bodies shall be endowed with glorious qualities different from those of their former state, and each shall possess these glorious qualities in a degree proportioned to its merits in this life).

39. This diversity of glory in the resuscitated bodies may be illustrated by several examples. The flesh of all sorts of living creatures, is as different as the creatures themselves; it is quite different in man, in beasts, in the winged fowl, and in fishes.

40. And the celestial bodies, viz., sun, moon, and stars, and the terrestrial, viz., gems, precious stones, &c., have a glory and lustre, differing from each other.

41. Even among the celestial bodies, viz., the sun, moon and stars, there is a difference of brilliancy and glory; for, one star differs from another in brightness and beauty.

42. So will it also happen in the resurrection of the dead. (Although the resuscitated body shall be the same as that which was committed to the earth, its condition shall be quite different in its resuscitated state; and the glory of these resuscitated bodies shall differ according to their different degrees of merit in this life; to each one of the glorified bodies, however, the following qualities belong): it is committed to the earth in a state of corruption, it will rise in a state of incorruption (the quality of impassibility).

43. It is committed to the earth in a gross, clumsy form; it shall rise brilliant and shining like the sun (clarity). It is committed to the earth in a weak motionless state; it shall rise in a condition of activity, to move wheresoever the soul may command (agility).

44. It is committed to the earth in an animal state, requiring earthly ailments to preserve and prolong life; it shall rise in a spiritual state, requiring only the activity or power of the soul to give it support (subtlety). When I say, in a spiritual state, requiring neither meat nor drink, I express nothing to be wondered at; for, as there is such a thing as an animal body, which we inherit from Adam, so, there is also a spiritual body, which we will have from Christ.

45. The first part, viz., that there is such a thing as an animal body is proved from the words in Genesis, wherein it is said of Adam, that after “the Lord God hath breathed into his face the breath of life, he was made unto a living soul.”—(Gen. 2 verse 7). From the fact of the Scripture saying that man, or the first Adam, to whom reference is here made, was made into, that is to say, was made, having a living soul, is inferred the existence of an animal body. The last Adam, viz., our Lord Jesus Christ (last, because he is to be succeeded by no other new principle of life), was made “into, or having a vivifying spirit,” that is, a spirit which is the source of spiritual life in our bodies, without requiring the aid of earthly aliments to uphold or prolong it.

46. But the spiritual body is not the first which we have in the order of time, the animal precedes the spiritual state—the perfect succeeds the imperfect—we have, first, the animal communicated to us by Adam, and afterwards, the spiritual, the principle of which is Christ.

47. The first man (Adam) being from the slime of the earth, had an earthly body, subject to the agencies of material causes; the second man (Christ) being from heaven—eternally begotten of the Father—became celestial in body after his Resurrection. It was only then he received the spiritual properties, even as to body, suited to his dignity, viz., impassibility, clarity, &c.

48. As from our earthly Father (Adam) we received an earthly animal body, such as he himself had; so, owing to our spiritual birth from Christ, our heavenly principle, we shall receive such a body as he had, viz., a heavenly and spiritual one.

49. As, then, before our baptism, we were assimilated by our corrupt morals to the earthly and sinful Adam, let us, in order to become celestial and spiritualized in body hereafter, bear the image of the heavenly Adam, Christ, by the conformity of a holy life.

50. And I exhort you to pursue such a course, brethren, for this reason, that the works of the flesh, or, rather, men following the dictates of corrupt nature, shall never possess the inheritance of God’s kingdom; neither shall a life of corruption ever give us an entrance into the kingdom of incorruption.

51. Behold, I disclose to you a secret, with which you have been hitherto unacquainted, regarding the mode of resurrection; we shall all rise, both elect and reprobate, but we shall not all be changed in the glorious way, which I have been hitherto describing.

52. This resurrection shall take place instantaneously, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet; for, the trumpet shall sound, and all the dead, even the reprobate, shall rise in a stale of immortality, not subject to the corruption of their members; and we, the just, shall be changed from an animal to a spiritual state.

53. For, according to the decree of God, this corruptible body shall be clothed in incorruptibility, and this mortal body shall put on immortality.

54. And when this same mortal body shall put on immortality, then shall be fulfilled the saying of Scripture: Death shall be utterly destroyed, and swallowed up, without a trace of it remaining, owing to the victory obtained over it by the resurrection.

55. Where, O Death, is thy victory, by which thou were wont to triumph over the human race, deceived by the devil?

Where, O Death, is thy sting, by which thou wert wont to wound mankind and domineer over them?

56. Now, the sting through which death wounds us is sin. But the law it is, that has given to sin, its strength, since by occasion of the law prohibiting sin, it only revived; for our corrupt nature tends to what is prohibited; and, moreover, the knowledge which the laws imparts, aggravates the sin.

57. But thanks be to God, who has given us a victory over sin and death, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whose mediation and merits all good comes to us.

58. Wherefore, my brethren, the truth of the resurrection being now established, continue firm and unshaken in the faith of this fundamental article; advance more and more constantly in the performance of good works which please the Lord, and are performed by the aid of his grace. Being firmly persuaded that all the labour which you shall undergo in the performance of these good works, shall meet with a sure reward, for we shall all one day rise from the dead, and live in blessedness with God for endless ages.

Commentary

1. “Now I make known unto you,” &c. This he says, for the purpose of showing that in the instructions which he is about giving them, he is only reminding them of those matters which they already heard himself preach when among them.

2. “By which you also are saved,” refers to salvation by grace here, which shall lead to consumate salvation hereafter. “If ye hold fast,” &c. This he adds in consequence of the metaphorical interpretation put by some of them on the words of our Redeemer regarding the Resurrection, as if they meant a rising out of sin and ignorance and leading a new life. Some interpreters include from the words—“I preached to you,” verse 1, to “after what manner,” &c., verse 2, in a parenthesis; and interpret the passage thus:—I wish to recall to your minds the gospel which I preached unto you (…) and “after what manner I preached unto you,” i.e., by what arguments I establish this preaching. From thus reminding you, you know if you have adhered to what I preached; for, if you do not persevere in it, you have believed to no effect. The construction and interpretation in the Paraphrase are, however, the more probable. “Unless,” has the meaning of otherwise.

3. “How that Christ died.” This, he adds, to introduce the subject of the resurrection; since there would be no resurrection unless Christ died. “According to the Scripture.” This he mentions for the purpose of removing the scandal which the death of Christ was apt to beget in the minds of the weak and unstable.

4. “That he was buried.” These words are employed for the reason already assigned regarding Christ’s death. “The third day.” When the Evangelists say he was buried three days, they mean three partial days, viz., a part of the first day, the entire second day, and a part of the third. Hence, no contradiction between them and St. Paul here. The first argument adduced in favour of the resurrection is the testimony of the Scriptures.

5. The next argument is the testimony of St. Peter, and the “eleven.” Judas was dead; and hence, only eleven of the apostolic college remained. In Greek, we read, ειτα τοις δωὃεκα, and after that, by the twelve. This reading is susceptible of explanation, although only eleven were present by a figure common to all languages, according to which a number of persons acting in concert and forming a body of colleagues, are designated by the number of which the body was originally composed—although at the time that a particular act was ascribed to them, some of the members may have been absent (v.g.) the same form of expression is used in reference to the Decemvirs. It is said the Decemviri did, what was only the act of a lesser number than ten; so it is also with regard to the “twelve” here.—(See also Gospel of St. John, 20:24). It is likely the Apostle refers here to the second apparition of our Redeemer to his Apostles on the octave of Easter day, when the “eleven” were present.—(John, 20:26). The Apostle does not, in his account of Christ’s several apparitions, follow the order of the Evangelists; for the first apparition was made to the women. Peter was the first of the men that he appeared to. After this, happened the apparition to the disciples going to Emmaus, to wich no allusion is made here by the Apostle.

6. This probably refers to the apparition to his disciples in Galilee. The Evangelist does not mention the number of persons present on that occasion. St. Matthew (28:16, 17), says: “the eleven” saw him, he but does not say how many more besides.

7. “James,” the venerable first Bishop of Jerusalem, whose testimony was of the greatest weight with the Jews. This apparition is not recorded by any of the Evangelists. Hence, it must refer to some private one with which St. James was favoured, distinct from those made to him, in common with the other Apostles.

8. “As one born out of due time,” or abortion, the meaning of the Greek word, εκτρώμα. This word contains no allusion to the late period of his call to the Apostleship. It is expressive rather of his unworthiness and imperfection, which is conveyed in the idea of an abortive offspring, as appears from following verse. Christ was seen by St. Paul at his conversion.—(Acts, 9:3).

9. He refers to his past life and former sinfulness, from feelings of humility, and with a view of commending the more God’s goodness towards him, in calling him to the apostleship. How sincerely should not we cry out with the Royal penitent, David, from the very bottom of our hearts: “Peccatum meum contra me est semper.” “Tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci.” “Ego in flagella paratus sum et cogitabo de peccato meo.”

10. “By the grace of God … and his grace hath not been void,” &c. “Grace” has two different meanings in this passage. In the words, “by the grace of God,” &c., it denotes the grace of the apostleship. In the words, “his grace hath not been void,” it denotes the grace of God, properly so called, or internal grace. “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me,” is a Hebrew form of giving preference to anything. Similar are the words, “I wish mercy and not sacrifice.” They express a preference for mercy without depreciating sacrifice. The grace of God and the free will of man concur in producing an action, not as partial causes, but each produces it entirely. The will of man is the subordinate—grace, the more excellent, cause. The sentence could not be transposed so as to run—not the grace of God but I with it, as such a form of expression would imply that the will of man is the more excellent cause, which is untrue. The words, “with me,” show that the will of man concurs in producing an action. In the common Greek, we have, “but the grace of God which was with me,” ἡ χαρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ συν εμοι, the article ἡ, which, is wanting in the chief MSS.

11. “For,” (in Greek, οὖν, then or therefore), which is resumptive of the subject of the resurrection, which was dropped at verse 8.

12. The fact of Christ’s Resurrection, proves the possibility of such a thing taking place; and hence, destroys the argument against the general resurrection of all, on the ground of its impossibility.

QUERITUR.—How does the resurrection of all follow, in the mind of the Apostle, as a necessary consequence from the Resurrection of Christ, in such a way, that if you deny the consequent, therefore the dead will arise, you destroy the antecedent—viz., Christ has arisen. The same reason would not appear to hold for Christ and the other dead. He had greater power, neither did he see corruption, and the corruption of the dead bodies was the great difficulty in the minds of the philosophers against the doctrine of the resurrection.

RESP.—The reasoning of the Apostle, deducing from the Resurrection of Christ, the general resurrection of all mankind, is founded on the end and object of Christ’s Resurrection. The object of his Resurrection was to obtain a signal victory over death, and entirely to overcome death introduced by sin into the human race. It was only after securing this happy consummation, he could sing the song of triumph over prostrate death, referred to in verse 55, of this chapter. Now, he would not have overcome death in this perfect way, unless all mankind arose again. For, in what does death consist? How had it effected a triumph over the human race? Was it not in the separation of the soul from the body? So must, therefore, the victory over death consist in their reunion. Now, this is the Resurrection. Hence, unless all mankind were to arise again, Christ would not have secured the end of his own glorious Resurrection.

14. “Your faith is vain,” because founded on the words, &c. (vide Paraphrase), and because the Resurrection of Christ is the fundamental article of the Christian faith. “Our preaching is vain,” because their preaching had Christ’s Resurrection for its fundamental article.

15. It would follow that the Apostles have borne testimony against God—a testimony attended with injury to him—by attributing to him a fact, viz., the Resurrection of Christ, which had the effect of deluding mankind in the important concern of religion, and the non-performance of this fact might imply a want of power in God.

17. The consequence of Christ not having arisen would be, that their faith, as regards the remission of their past sins, would be in vain, or of no benefit, since they are still in their sins: for, Christ rose for our justification. Hence, if he did not arise, we are not justified, nor are our sins remitted. The Greek reading of this verse omits the causal particle “for,” which, in our reading, assigns the following words:—“You are yet in your sins,” as a reason why “their faith is vain.” According to the Greek reading, these latter words only express an inference drawn from the words, “your faith is vain;” and hence, you are still in your sins, since faith is necessary for justification.

19. “We are the most miserable of all men,” since, from a false and delusive hope of a resurrection never to take place, unless Christ has arisen, we submit to the greatest corporal austerities and self-denial.

OBJECTION.—What, if the dead will never arise? Is not the soul immortal? May not this more noble part of man, which is capable of felicity, as appears from the examples of the saints now reigning in glory without their bodies, enjoy supreme felicity—enjoy the promises of Christ, even though the body never arise? How, then, are the conclusions of the Apostle warranted?

RESP.—Some say the Apostle is here combatting such persons (viz., those of the Sadducean persuasion), as denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of spirits; and hence, he takes the resurrection of the dead in an extended sense, to comprise the resurrection or immortality of the soul, as in Matthew, 22:31. It may, however, be given as a general answer, that the Apostle considers not the immortality, but merely the happiness of the soul, which can never be obtained by persons dying in a false faith, such as ours would be if Christ had not risen. The heretics, whom the Apostle here combats, did not deny the divinity of the Christian religion; and hence it is, that he grounds his arguments in favour of the resurrection, on the inconvenience which the denial of this fundamental article would cause to the Christian religion. It may be also said, in reply to the objection from the immortality of the soul, that the Apostle considers the present order of things, consequent on the decree of God—that the merits of Christ should prove of no avail to us, unless he arose and overcame death in us. If, then, Christ had not arisen, and if we were not to rise again, the merits of Christ would be of no avail to us, nor would our souls be happy, since a reunion with our bodies was decreed by God, as a condition of their eternal happiness.

20. “The first-fruits of them that sleep.” The common Greek has, απαρχη εγενετο, became the first-fruits, &c. The word, became, is cancelled by the best critics on the authority of the chief MSS. The fact of his being “the first-fruits” supposes, that others will follow, whose resurrection is consecrated by his—as “the first-fruits” among the Jews consecrated the rest of the harvest.

QUERITUR.—Did not the dead, who arose at Christ’s death, arise before him?

RESP.—The common opinion is, that St. Matthew, in recounting the several phenomena that occurred at Christ’s death, mentions by anticipation, that “the bodies of the saints arose … and appeared to many.”—(Matt. 27 verses 52, 53). It is commonly held that there is an inversion of the order of time in the account left us by St. Matthew, and that the dead arose, only at Christ’s Resurrection.

23. The Apostle does not treat of the resurrection of the wicked, which is unto eternal misery, and is rather a curse than a blessing. It was sufficient for his purpose to prove the resurrection of the just. Besides, all the inconvenient consequences resulting in the mind of the Apostle from a denial of the Resurrection of Christ, regard the good. The words, “who have believed,” are not in the Greek, which runs thus: ἔπειτα οί τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσία αὐτοῦ.

25. The Apostle adds this, lest it might be imagined for an instant, that Christ would not reign in the interim; for, that he would afterwards reign, there could be no doubt whatever.

In this verse is adduced a new argument in proof of the resurrection, grounded on the supreme dominion of Christ, and the absolute subjection of all things to him; hence, death is subject to him; it shall, therefore, be vanquished as one of his enemies, and its power destroyed by the resuscitation of all men, with their souls and bodies reunited.

26. “He hath put all things,” &c. The 8th Psalm, from which these words are taken, literally refers to the benefits conferred on Adam and his posterity, and to the dominion which man enjoys over all terrestrial creatures. In its mystic signification—which is employed here—it refers to the total subjection of all things to Christ, which subjection shall be perfected in the General Resurrection.—(See, also, Hebrews, 2:8).

29. It is almost impossible to glean anything like certainty as to the meaning of these very abstruse words, from the host of interpretations that have been hazarded regarding them.—(See Calmet’s Dissertation on this matter).

In the first place, every interpretation referring the words, “baptized,” or “dead,” to either erroneous or evil practices, which men might have employed to express their belief in the doctrine of the resurrection, should be rejected; as it appears by no means likely, that the Apostle would ground an argument, even although it were, what logicians call, an argumentum ad hominem, on either a vicious or erroneous practice. Besides, such a system of reasoning would be quite inconclusive. Hence, the words should not be referred to either the Clinics baptized at the hour of death, or to the vicarious baptisms in use among the Jews, for their departed friends who died without baptism. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase makes the words refer to the sacrament of baptism, which all were obliged to approach with faith in the resurrection of the dead, as a necessary condition. “Credo in resurrectionem mortuorum.” This interpretation—the one adopted by St. Chrysostom—has the advantage of giving the words, “baptized,” and “dead,” their literal signification. The only inconvenience in it is, that the word, resurrection, is introduced. But, it is understood from the entire context, and is warranted by a reference to other passages of Scripture. For, from the Epistle to the Hebrews (6:2), it appears that a knowledge of the faith of the resurrection, was one of the elementary points of instruction required for adult baptism; and hence, the Scriptures themselves furnish the grounds for the introduction of the word.

There is another probable interpretation, which understands the words “baptism” and “dead,” in a metaphorical sense, and refers them to the sufferings which the Apostles and heralds of salvation underwent to preach the gospel to infidels, dead to grace and spiritual life, with a hope of making them sharers in the glory of a happy resurrection. The word, baptism, is employed in this sense in SS. Scripture, even by our divine Redeemer himself—“I have a baptism wherewith to be baptized,” &c. And the word “dead” is employed in several parts of the New Testament, to designate those spiritually dead to grace and justice. In the Greek, the words “for the dead,” ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, on account of, or, in behalf of the dead, would serve to confirm, in some degree, this latter interpretation. These appear to be the most probable of the interpretations given of this passage; each, no doubt, has its difficulties. The meaning of the words was known to the Corinthians at the time of the Apostle. All that can be known of their meaning at this remote period cannot exceed the bounds of probable conjecture. “For them.” In the common Greek text, for the dead. The chief manuscripts have the Vulgate reading, ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν.

30. In this verse, St. Paul refers to the sufferings of the Apostles. If, however, we were to embrace the second interpretation of the preceding verse, we should maintain, in order to avoid useless repetition, that in this verse, the Apostle refers to his own sufferings—“we,” i.e., St. Paul himself. However, speaking of himself, he employs the singular number (verses 31, 32).

31. The Greek particle, (νὴ), shows that he swears in this verse, “your glory,” Greek, ὑμετέραν καυχησιν, your glorying.—(See Paraphrase). “Brethren.” This word is omitted in the Greek text; but it is read in the Vatican and Alexandrian MSS.

32. “According to man.” Some interpret, “with a view of earthly happiness,” but improbably; for so, why add the words, “if the dead rise not again,” because whether they rise or not, the actions which he here mentions, performed from such motives, would be of no avail with regard to earthly and human happiness.

“Beasts at Ephesus,” according to some, refer to the wild beasts to which he was exposed. According to others, they refer to the savage ferocity with which some men assailed him. This latter is the more probable opinion, as it is likely, had he been exposed to wild beasts we would have some account of it.

“Let us eat and drink,” &c. These words are taken from Isaias, according to the Septuagint (22:13), and originally regarded the Jews, when, besieged by the Chaldeans, they were despairing of safety; or, when they derided their prophet Jeremias continually reminding them of their end; “to-morrow we shall die,” was derisively repeated by them in mockery of the Prophet admonishing them of their impending ruin. The denial of the resurrection would, in its consequences, practically involve a renunciation of Christianity, and the adoption of the Epicurean maxims.

33. “Evil communications,” &c. These words are taken from the poet Menander; and in consequence of being used by the inspired Apostle, form a portion of divine truth. For a similar quotation, see Titus, chap. 1 verse 13.

34. For “ye just,” the Greek has δικαίως, justly, i.e., to a state of justice, “and sin not” in future.

“Have not the knowledge,” the Greek, αγνωσιαν θεοῦ ἔχουσιν, literally is rendered, have ignorance of God, i.e., are ignorant of his omnipotent power.

35. He proposes two questions on points which the philosophers had a difficulty in conceiving with reference to the resurrection. “How do the dead,” that is (as appears from his answer, next verse), by what power is it possible for the dead to “rise again?”

36. He answers the first difficulty regarding the alleged impossibility of the resurrection of the dead bodies, because of their corruption and putrefaction. This was the great difficulty in the minds of the philosophers. “That which thou sowest,” &c. (See Paraphrase), and hence, looking to what the omnipotence of God effects in nature ought we not to form the same judgments of its effects in the operations that lie far beyond the reach of nature, such as the resurrection of the dead?

37. In this verse, he answers the second question, “with what manner of body,” &c., by saying that the resuscitated bodies shall rise with a difference of qualities; although identically the same in substance with those that were buried, as appears from verses 42–53. This example of the grain is not to be fully urged in every respect; otherwise, it would follow, that the resuscitated body is not the same with that from which it sprang. The question proposed regarded the qualities of the resuscitated bodies, “with what manner of body?” and hence the answer is to be confined to the same point; it merely regards the difference of qualities between the same bodies, when resuscitated and when they were buried.

38. What the power of God effects now, through the intervention of nature, it shall then effect directly and immediately, without any intermediate cause, for the bodies of the just.

39. He illustrates, by several examples, the different degrees of glory in the resuscitated bodies. “But one, indeed (is the flesh) of men.” In the common Greek, αλλα αλλη μεν σαρξ ανθρωπων, there is one kind of flesh of men. The chief MSS. simply have αλλα αλλη μεν ανθρωπων, “but one, indeed, of men, omitting flesh.” “And another of beasts.” In the common Greek, αλλη δε σαρξ, another flesh. The chief MSS. want the word “flesh.”

41. Hence, the most exalted among the elect will possess different degrees of glory, proportioned to the different degrees of merits in this life.

42. Here the Apostle applies to his case, the foregoing examples. It is likely, that he refers to all the comparisons adduced from that of the grain (verses 36), to this, and applies them to the resurrection. “So also is it in the resurrection,” &c.—(See Paraphrase). As the grain after putrefaction naturally revives, because of this very putrefaction; so, shall our bodies revive by God’s power in consequence of being reduced to a state of corruption. As the body springing from the grain, after corruption, is more perfect, and beautiful than that which was sown; so shall our bodies, although the same in substance, be more beautiful, when resuscitated. As each grain has a body peculiar to itself, so shall our bodies have a singular glory and beauty proportioned to their merits. This difference of glory is clearly shown from the examples, verses 39, 40, 41.

“It is sown,” in allusion to the grain, with which it is compared, verse 37. “In corruption,” that is, liable to, and actually falling into corruption. “In corruption,” incapable of suffering, so that the most active agency (v.g.) fire, &c., could not affect it.

43. “In dishonour,” in a gross, clumsy form. Commentators observe that the Apostle, in verses 42, 43, 44, refers to the four properties of glorified bodies, viz., impassibility, clarity, agility, subtlety.

44, 45, “If there be a natural body.” “If” is wanting in the common Greek text, but it is found in the chief MSS. “There is also a spiritual,” to which the common Greek text adds, “body,” but it is wanting in the chief MSS. The Vulgate has only, “est et spirituate.” “As it is written,” (Gen. 2:7). This Scriptural quotation, or, rather, accommodation of the text of Genesis, which runs thus: “and man became a living soul” (the words “first” and “Adam,” are inserted here), regards only the first parts of this verse, the first Adam … “a living soul.” The second part, viz., “the last Adam,” &c., is added by the Apostle, or, it may be said, that the words, “it is written,” may be understood of the entire verse, as if the Apostle meant to say, that in the words of Scripture “man, or the first Adam, was made into a living soul,” it is implied and tacitly insinuated, that the second, or “last Adam,” would be made “into a quickening spirit.”—A’Lapide. By “living soul” is meant, the principle of animal life, such as we have in common with the beasts, requiring meat, drink, &c., for its continuance. By “quickening spirit” is meant, a spirit, which is the source of spiritual life, requiring not the aid of earthly aliments for its support. This is said of our Blessed Lord after his Resurrection, which might be called his glorious Nativity, and of it the Apostle understands the word, “filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.”—(Acts, 13:33). It is true, that from his Incarnation our Lord possessed the life of a spirit, wholly exempt, if he pleased, from the necessaries of animal life; still, it was only after his Resurrection, that he actually began to lead such a life. It was then, by communicating such a life to his own body, that he gave us a sure, and actual earnest of communicating it to us also at a future day. The word “quickening,” or vivifying others, not only means, that he himself was vivified into this spiritual life, but also that he shall communicate this spiritual life to us, at the proper time. From the fact of Adam being made “into.” (or having) “a living soul.” (animam viventem), which, according to our interpretation, designates the principle of animal life, common to us with the brute creation, we are by no means to infer that he had not a spiritual soul also, different in its principle and nature from that of beasts. Moses himself guards against such an erroneous construction in his minute description of the origin and the formation of man and beasts; for, speaking of these, he says (Gen. 1:20): Producant aquæ reptile animæ viventis; verse 24, producat terra, &c.; whereas, when describing the origin of man, he says, formavit Deus hominem de limo terræ et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vitæ. We are not warranted in taking the words, “living soul,” in an exclusive sense with regard to Adam, so as to exclude “a spirit,” any more than we would be in inferring from Christ’s having “a vivifying spirit,” that he had not “a living, soul,” also, which we know he had. Hence, the Apostle views the soul under different respects, or in regard to the different functions which it discharges. As the principle of animal life, discharging the functions common to man with all animals, it is termed, “a living soul:” in this sense, it is said in Genesis (chap. 1 verse 24): Producat terra animam viventem. But, as the principle of operations, peculiar to a rational spiritual being, (v.g.) volition, &c., it is termed, a spirit. Christ is said after his Resurrection to be made into, or to have “a vivifying spirit,” because he is to vivify our bodies, and communicate to them the spiritual life, independent of material agencies, upon which he himself then entered so as to vivify not only himself, but us.

47. The Apostle here contrasts the two principles of our animal and spiritual bodies. “The second man, from heaven,” &c. In the common Greek, ὁ κυριος ἐξ ουρανοῦ, is the Lord from heaven, &c., having been begotten of the Father, by an eternal generation. The word “Lord” is wanting in the chief MSS. This is said of the man, Christ, by what is termed, the communication of idioms; for, it was not, strictly speaking, the man, Christ, but the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity, that was “from heaven,” in other words, that was “begotten eternally of the Father;” it is by what is theologically termed, the communication of idioms, we predicate the properties of one nature in Christ of the other. “Heavenly” is not in the Greek.

49. The Apostle now inculcates a moral lesson; he exhorts us, as we had before our baptism and spiritual regeneration from Christ, been assimilated in our sins to the corrupt Adam, to become now conformable by sanctity of life to the model of our heavenly principle. According to the Greek reading, the words of this verse are not hortatory, as in our Vulgate, but merely confirmatory of the preceding. They run thus, “as we have borne … we will also bear,” &c., φορέσομεν.

51. Having proved the doctrine of the general resurrection, and answered the leading objections against it, the Apostle proceeds to develope some of its circumstances. Before doing so, he wishes to excite their attention by the word “behold.” “We shall all indeed rise again,” &c. The Greek reading is the very opposite of this, παντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησμεθα, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This reading is preferred by Estius, to that of our Vulgate, although he rejects the doctrine which many among the Greeks attempt to prove from it—viz., that the just, who are to be alive at the approach of the day of judgment, shall not die, but shall be changed without death, in which sense also they understood the words of the Apostles’ Creed, the living and the dead. Estius holds the common doctrine, viz., that all men shall die, a doctrine in accordance with the SS. Scriptures, and the faith of the Church at all times: and when asked to reconcile this doctrine with the Greek reading of this text, which he prefers, he says the words, “we shall not all sleep,” are quite different in meaning from the words, we shall not all die. According to him, to “sleep” means more than simply, to die; it means to remain in death; in this sense, the Greek reading is perfectly true, since all shall not remain in death; for, their death shall continue but for a very short time. The Vulgate reading, which is retained by St. Jerome, and found in the MSS. of Clermont and St. Germain, and which, moreover, has the advantage of more clearly expressing the doctrine of the Church, is to be preferred; nor is it clear that the words “to sleep,” means more than simply, to die.—(See 1 Thes. 4:14 and 16).

52. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” shows the astonishing and instantaneous celerity, with which the omnipotent power of God will effect the resuscitation of all the dead. “At the last trumpet;” “last,” as its function shall be to announce the end of all things. Those who adopt the Greek reading, connect these words with the last words of the preceding verse, “shall be changed.” In our reading, they are to be connected with the words, verse 51, “we shall all rise.” “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible,” i.e., to a state of undying immortality, “and we” (the elect) “shall be changed.” “We,” shall be changed, but, “not all” the dead, both reprobate, and elect, verse 51. What this “trumpet” means is disputed. The most probable opinion is, that it refers to the commotion and agitation of the air by which the Archangel, Michael (it is called, voce Archangeli, 1 Thes. 4:13), shall cause a tremendous sound, like that of a trumpet, and louder than thunder.—(Vide 1 Thes. 4:14).

It is remarked, that in treating of the future condition of the just in the resurrection, the Apostle always speaks in the first person, “we” (verses 51, 52) to teach us, after his own example, ever to keep in mind that great day; to tremble at the thought of it, and be ever vigilant to prepare against it, since it shall virtually take place for us at the hour of death.

53. This, as well as verse 42, shows that we shall all rise in the very same bodies which we had in this life; for, he says, “this corruptible,” the very same body, that is now corruptible and mortal, shall be then clothed with immortality and incorruptibility.

54. “And when this mortal hath put on immortality.” In Greek, “ὅταν δὲ το φθαρτον τουτο ενδυσηται αφθαρσιαν, και τὸ θνητον τουτο ενδυσηται αθανασιαν,” and when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, aud this mortal shall have put on immortality. The former part is omitted in the Vulgate. It is wanting in the Coptic and Ethiopian versions. The words, “death is swallowed up,” &c., are supposed by many, to be quoted, as to sense, from the prophet Osee, 13:14: “From the hand of death I shall deliver them, I shall redeem them from death,” which are in sense the same with these quoted here by the Apostle; for, Christ, to whom reference is made in Osee, by redeeming men from the hand of death, utterly destroyed death and triumphed over it. The opinion which refers these words to Osee, 13:14, derives probability from the circumstance, that the words of the following verse, “O death,” &c., are found in the same place, immediately after the preceding quotation. Others maintain that the passage is taken from Isaias, 25:8, which, although it be rendered by St. Jerome, in our Vulgate, præcipitabit mortem in sempiternum, “he shall cast death down headlong for ever,” may also be rendered, as in this passage of the Apostle, absorbebit ipsam mortem in victoriam, “he shall swallow up death in victory;” for the Hebrew word for, absorta est, “is swallowed up,” may, according to the difference of points, be taken passively, as here, or actively, præcipitabit, or absorbet, shall cast headlong, or swallow up, as St. Jerome has translated it. And the Hebrew word, lanetsach, i.e., “for ever,” also means “victory.” St. Jerome, in explaining the foregoing passage of Isaias, refers to it, as the passage from which these words of the Apostle are taken. It may be, however, as Estius remarks, that the Apostle has taken the quotation, not from any one passage, but from several passages of Scripture.

55. According to the common Greek, the reading is, ποῦ σου, θανατε, το κεντρον; ποῦ σου ἅδη, το νικος,; “O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?” The Vulgate reading is that of the chief MSS. The words, hell, and death, mean the same thing, hell or limbo being the depository of the souls of the dead before Christ. The Apostle follows the Septuagint reading of Osee in this passage, with merely this exception, that he transposes the words “victory,” and “sting,” as found in Osee, and for νικος, victory, we have in Osee, δικη, right or cause; but, the meaning of both ultimately comes to the same.

In the Hebrew and the Vulgate rendering of it by St. Jerome, it runs thus, O death, I will be thy death. O hell, I will be thy bite. In these words is expressed the song of triumph over prostrate death, conquered and vanquished after Christ’s Resurrection, when he brought forth the souls shut up in the prison of Limbo, and led captivity captive. This triumph shall be completed in the general resurrection of all men. It is likely that the word “sting,” contains an allusion to the sting of serpents or scorpions, whose sting constitutes their strength.

56. “The sting of death,” i.e., the sting through which death wounds us is sin; as the scorpion, even when young, wounds through his sting, so death wounds us through sin. “And the strength of sin is the law.”—(See Paraphrase). The Apostle adds this lest any among the converts from Judaism might imagine that the evils of death and sin were removed by the Mosaic law; so far from that being the case, he says that the law only increased sin.—(See Rom. 7:8).

57. God has given us a victory over sin, the sting of death, so as to prevent it from reigning any longer over us, by his gratuitous justification; and over death itself which has now lost its sting, by the earnest he has given us of a future resurrection, and this victory he will complete at a future day, by our own resurrection; all this through the merits of Christ.

58. “Always abounding in the work of the Lord.” He calls good actions “the work of the Lord,” because God is pleased with them; and also because he enables us by his grace to perform them. What will faith avail us, unless our actions correspond with this faith?

“Your labour is not in vain.” The labours undertaken for God shall not be in vain, nor shall they be suffered to pass by unrequited; they shall fructify unto glory, when we shall be resuscitated, and these frail mortal bodies clad with a glorious immortality. Oh, how eminently calculated is not the doctrine of the Apostle throughout this entire chapter, to raise up our hearts to the contemplation of heavenly things, to console and cheer us under worldly afflictions and disappointments, and to stimulate us to labour earnestly and perseveringly for the possession of that glory, which is one day in store for us. What a subject for awful, and, at the same time, for consoling meditation have we not in every line of this chapter? How calculated is not the serious thought of the summons of the Archangel, “of the voice of the Son of God,” “of the last trumpet,” which so surely as we now exist, we shall one day hear, louder than thunder reverberating through the heavens, to strike us with holy alarm, and to keep us in the observance of God’s holy commandments! It is said of the great St. Jerome, that, “whether he eat or drank, or whatever else he did, the dreadful trumpet of the Archangel seemed always sounding in his ears: Arise ye dead and come to judgment.” If such were its terrors for the saints, what a subject of just dread for us, sinners? It is, at the same time, a subject of consolation for us to reflect, that these bodies if at present mortified and rendered obedient to the spirit, shall one day rise again, clad in all the glorious qualities of impassibility, clarity, agility, and subtlety. O God! grant us one day to arrive at this happy term, at this rich inheritance, which we have so often and so recklessly forfeited by our sins.








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