This chapter is addressed to some among the Corinthians who denied the resurrection: S. Paul, therefore, in order to cure this philosophical opinion, gives them his counsel and advice in this chapter; and lest he might be thought to preach up a new doctrine, in the beginning of his admonitions he informs them that he is preaching no other gospel than what he has always taught, and wherein they believe. Estius.
Ver. 7. He was seen by James. The time is not mentioned in the gospels. Wi.
Ver. 8. As by one born out of due time; not born at the ordinary term, meaning after Christ's ascension. He calls himself so out of humility, abortives being commonly imperfect and less than others. Wi.
Ver. 10. I have laboured more abundantly. He does not say better, or that he excelled them; and even as to his labours, he gives the honour to God: Not I, but the grace of God with me. Wi.
Ver. 13-23. He brings many reasons to convince them of the resurrection. 1. If there be no resurrection for others, Christ is not risen again: but his resurrection (as he tells them v. 4) was foretold in the Scriptures. 2. And if Christ be not risen again, . . your faith is also in vain, this being one of the chief articles of your belief. 3. We shall be found guilty of lies and impostures; and yet we have confirmed this doctrine by many miracles. 4. It would follow that you are not freed from your sins; i.e. unless Christ, by his resurrection, has triumphed over sin and death. 5. Without a resurrection we Christians, who live under self-denials and persecutions, would be the most miserable of all men, neither happy in this world nor in the next, for the happiness of the soul requires also a happy resurrection of the body. 6. Christ is the first-fruits, and the first begotten of the dead, of those who have slept: and by his being the first-fruits, it must be supposed that others also will rise after him. 7. As death came by the first man, (Adam) so the second man (Christ) came to repair the death of men, both as to body and soul; and without Christ's resurrection, both the souls of men have remained dead in their original sins, and their bodies shall not rise again. Wi.
Ver. 24. &c. Afterwards the end; i.e. after the general resurrection of all, will be the end of the world. Then Christ shall deliver up his kingdom, as to this world, over all men, over the devil and his apostate angels, signified by principalities and powers; not but that Christ, both as God and man, shall reign for all eternity, not only over his elect but over all creatures, having triumphed by his resurrection over the enemy of mankind, the devil, over sin, and over death, which is as it were the last enemy of his elect. At the general resurrection, Christ will present these elect to his heavenly Father, as the fruits of his victory over sin and death; and though as man he came to suffer and die, and was also made subject to his eternal Father, yet being God as well as man, he is Lord of all, and will make his faithful servants partakers of his glory in his heavenly kingdom. Wi.
Ver. 28. The Son also himself shall be subject to him. That is, the Son will be subject to the Father, according to his human nature, even after the general resurrection; and also the whole mystical body of Christ will be entirely subject to God, obeying him in every thing. Ch.
Ver. 29. Who are baptized for the dead.† He still brings other proofs of the resurrection. This is a hard place, and the words are differently expounded. 1. Several late interpreters understand a metaphorical baptism, and that to be baptized for the dead, is to undertake self-denials, mortifications, and works of penance, in hopes of a happy resurrection; and this exposition agrees with what follows, of being exposed to dangers every hour, of dying daily, &c. But if this had been the apostle's meaning, he would rather have said, Who baptize themselves. Besides, this exposition is not so much as mentioned in any of the ancient interpreters. 2. Some think that S. Paul tells the Corinthians that they ought not to question the resurrection of the dead, who had a custom among them, if any one died without baptism, to baptize another that was living for him; and this they did, fancying that such a baptism would be profitable to the dead person, in order to a happy resurrection. Tertullian mentions this custom in one or two places, and also S. Chrys. on this place. But it does not seem probable that S. Paul would bring any argument of the resurrection from a custom which he himself could not approve, nor was ever approved in the Church. 3. S. Chrys. and the Greek interpreters, who generally follow him, expound these words, who are baptized for the dead, as if it were the same as to say, who receive baptism with hopes that they themselves, and all the dead, will rise again; and therefore make a profession, when they are baptized, that they believe the resurrection. So that S. Paul here brings this proof among others, that they who have been made Christians, and continue Christians, cannot call in question the resurrection, which they professed to believe in their creed at their baptism, the creed being always repeated before they were baptized. 4. Others, by being baptized for the dead, understand those who begged and called for baptism when they were in danger of death, and would by no means go out of this world without being baptized, hoping thereby to have a happy resurrection of their bodies; so that to be baptized for the dead is the same as on the account of the state of the dead, which they were entering into. See S. Epiphan. hær. viii. p. 114. Edit Petavii. Wi. Some think the apostle here alludes to a ceremony then in use: but others, more probably, to the prayers and penitential labours performed by the primitive Christians for the souls of the faithful departed: or to the baptism of afflictions and sufferings undergone for sinners spiritually dead. Ch.
[†] V. 29. Qui baptizantur pro mortuis, oi baptizomenoi uper twn nekrwn. See S. Chrys. om. m. p. 154. epi th pistei tauth, &c. see Tertul. l. de resurrec. carnis c. 48. and l. v. cont. Marcion. c. 10. and the notes of Rigaltius on these places. See S. Epiphan. hær. viii. p. 114. epi tauth th elpidi, &c.
Ver. 31. By your glory.† He seems, especially by the Greek text, to call God to witness, and to protest by the reasons he has to glory or boast in their conversion, that his life is as it were a continual death. Other expound it, I die daily for your glory; or, that I may have reason to glory for the progress of the gospel. Wi.
[†] V. 31. Morior per vestram gloriam, nh thn umeteran kauchsin.
Ver. 32. With beasts at Ephesus. He seems to mean, with men as cruel and brutal as beasts: for there is not sufficient reason to think that at Ephesus he was exposed to beasts in the amphitheatre. Wi.
--- Interpreters are divided upon this passage. Calmet is of opinion that S. Paul was exposed in the amphitheatre at Ephesus, but was secured from all injury by the all-powerful hand of God: he produces the testimony of S. Chrys. Theo. S. Amb. S. Cyp. and S. Hil. all of whom understand this passage in the literal sense. Nicephorus cites a book, entitled The Travels of S. Paul, in confirmation of this fact, wherein (he informs us) there is a long account of this transaction. S. Jerom says, that S. Paul was condemned by the governor of Ephesus to be devoured by beasts. Estius seems to maintain the same opinion as Chall. To inspirit us to combat, it is advisable to turn our eyes frequently to a future life. The brevity of the present is a principle common to the morality of Jesus Christ, and to that of Epicurus. But how contrary are the conclusions! Why should we not rather say: "Let us watch, and fast, and pray, and do penance, for to-morrow we die; and after that, judgment."
--- Let us eat and drink, &c. That is, if we did not believe that we were to rise again from the dead, we might live like the impious and wicked, who have no belief in the resurrection. Ch.
Ver. 33. Evil communications (or discourses) corrupt good manners. He hints that this error against the resurrection, and the other faults into which they had fallen, were occasioned by the heathen philosophers and other vain teachers among them. Wi.
Ver. 35-50. How do the dead rise again? He now answers the objections these new teachers made against the resurrection. S. Chrys. reduces them to these two questions: how is it possible for them to rise? and in what manner, or with what qualities, will they rise? To shew the possibility, he brings the example of a grain of wheat, or of any seeds, which must be corrupted, and die as it were in the ground, and then is quite changed, comes up with a blade, a stalk, and an ear quite different from what it was when sown, and yet comes to be wheat again, or to be a tree that produces the same kind of fruit: so God can raise our bodies as he pleaseth. He also tells them that there are very different bodies, terrestrial, and celestial, some more, some less glorious, differing in beauty and other qualities, as God pleaseth. As the sun is brighter than the moon, and as one star is brighter than another, so shall it be at the general resurrection. But all the bodies of the elect shall be happily changed to a state of incorruption. v. 42. Here the bodies even of the just are subject to corruption, to decay, liable to death, but they shall then rise to a state of incorruptibility and immortality: And so he answers the second question, that here every one's body is a weak, sensual, animal body, clogged with many imperfections, like that of Adam after he had sinned; but at the resurrection, the bodies of the saints shall be spiritual bodies, blessed with all the perfections and qualities of a glorified body, like to that of Christ after he was risen.
--- S. Paul also, comparing the first man (Adam) with Christ, whom he calls the second or the last Adam, (v. 45) says that the first Adam was made a living soul, (i.e. a living animal, or a living creature, with a life and a body that required to be supported with corporal food) but that Christ was made a quickening Spirit: he means, that though he had a true mortal body by his nativity of his Virgin Mother, yet that by his resurrection he had a glorified body, immortal, that needed no corporal food, and that he would also give such spiritual and immortal bodies to those whom he should make partakers of his glory.
--- But not first that which is spiritual, &c. (v. 46) that is, both in Adam and in us, and even in Christ, the body was first mortal, which should afterwards be made spiritual and immortal by a happy resurrection.
--- The first Adam (v. 47) was of the earth, earthly, made of clay, and with such a body as could die, but the second man (Christ) was from heaven, heavenly: not that he took a body from heaven, as some ancient heretics pretended, but he was heavenly not only because he was the Son of God, but in this place he seems to be called heavenly even as to his body, after his resurrection, his body being then become spiritual and immortal.
--- Such as is the earthly man, &c. (v. 48) that is, as the first man, Adam, was earthly by his earthly and mortal body, so were we and all his posterity earthly; but such as the heavenly man, Christ, was heavenly, and rose with a heavenly and immortal body; so shall all those be heavenly, to whom he shall give a spiritual, a heavenly, and an immortal body at their happy resurrection.
--- Therefore, (v. 49) as we have borne the image of the earthly man, (that is, have been made mortal, and also by sin subject to the corrupt inclinations of this mortal body) so let us bear also the image of the heavenly one, by a new life imitating Christ, by which means we shall be glorified with him, both as to soul and body.
--- Now this I say, and admonish you, brethren, (v. 50) that flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God; i.e. those that lead a sensual and carnal life, nor the corruption of sin, deserve the state of incorruption in glory. Wi.
Ver. 51. We shall all indeed rise again, but we shall not all be changed.† This is the reading of the Latin Vulgate, and of some Greek MSS. and the sense is, that all both good and bad shall rise, but only the elect to the happy change of a glorified body. The reading in most Greek copies at present is, we shall not all sleep, (i.e. die) be we shall be all changed: so also read S. Chrysostom: and S. Jerom found it in many MSS. from which divers, especially of the Greek interpreters, thought that such as should be found living at the day of judgment should not die, but the bodies of the elect (of whom S. Paul here speaks) should be changed to a happy state of immortality. This opinion, if it deserve not to be censured, is at least against the common persuasion of the faithful, who look upon it certain that all shall die before they come to judgment. Some expound the Greek only to signify, that all shall not sleep, i.e. shall not remain for any time in the grave, as others who die are accustomed to do. Wi.
[†] V. 51. Omnes quidem resurgemus, sed non omnes immutabimur; and so some Greek MSS. have, panteV anasthsomen, but in most Greek copies we find, panteV men ou koimhqhsomeqa, panteV de allaghsomeqa. See S. Jer. (Ep. ad Minervium Alexandrium, tom. iv. p. 207. et seq. Ed. Ben.) where he gives at large the different opinions and readings. See also his Epist. to Marcella, (tom. iv. p. 166) where he says: Deprehensi in corpore in iisdem corporibus occurrent ci (Christo).
Ver. 52. In a moment, &c. By the power of the Almighty all shall rise again in their bodies, either to a happy or a miserable resurrection. Wi.
Ver. 54. Death is swallowed up in victory, in regard of the saints and the elect, so that it may be said, O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? over which the saints shall triumph, and also over sin and hell. Wi.