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Keys to First CorinthiansRevisiting the Major Issues$
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Jerome Murphy-O'Connor

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199564156

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199564156.001.0001

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‘Baptized for the Dead’ (1 Cor 15:29): A Corinthian Slogan?

‘Baptized for the Dead’ (1 Cor 15:29): A Corinthian Slogan?

(p.242) 15 ‘Baptized for the Dead’ (1 Cor 15:29): A Corinthian Slogan?
Keys to First Corinthians

Jerome Murphy‐O'connor

Oxford University Press

This verse is commonly interpreted as a reference to vicarious baptism, even though it is usually recognized that Paul would never have approved such a practice. The chapter argues that baptizein should be understood metaphorically (‘to destroy, to perish’), that the first nekros refers to the ‘spiritually dead’, and that the second nekros is intended by means of holôs to designate the ‘physically dead’. The phrase originated as a gibe of those at Corinth who had been influenced by Philo's teaching on the distinction between the ‘heavenly’ and the ‘earthly’ man. They asked Paul why he was destroying himself for the sake of the spiritually dead. The real answer is that he was striving to bring them to existential ‘life’, but as a trained orator Paul takes up their theme and radicalizes it. He is being destroyed for those who will die physically. The point of the argument is left implicit: would he make such sacrifices were there no resurrection from the dead?

Keywords:   1 Cor 15: 29, baptism, baptized for the dead, spiritual death, existential death, physical death, existential life, Philo, heavenly man, earthly man, resurrection, slogan

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