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Question for discussion:

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

What does this mean?

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Shalom James, good question, and there is ONLY one answer.  Do you know it?  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

Shalom James, are you too busy to respond, or do you not have any understanding of what Paul meant?  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

In the past I have said Paul is referring here to the Jewish practice called TAHARAH, the ceremonial washing of a dead body before burial. In this “baptism for the dead” the deceased is placed on a special board called a “ṭaharah-board” washed and then “baptized” either by immersion in a mikveh or by pouring a continuous stream of 9 kavim (usually 3 buckets). ”. Of course the soul has departed from the body, so the body is baptized for the soul which is no longer within it. The ritual of TAHARAH is performed because even the dead are entitled to some degree of ritual purity. In 1Corinthinas 15 Paul would then be arguing in favor of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and in doing so Paul points out that this ritual of “baptism for the dead” would be pointless “if the dead rise not at all”. The TAHARAH ritual would not be performed if there was to be no physical resurrection.

However Epiphanius writes of the  Gnostic Cerenthians:

From Asia and Gaul has reached us the account [tradition] of a certain practice, namely that when any die without baptism among them, they baptize others in their place and in their name, so that, rising in the resurrection, they will not have to pay the penalty of having failed to receive baptism, but rather will become subject to the authority of the Creator of the World. For this reason this tradition which has reached us is said to be the very thing to which the Apostle himself refers when he says, "If the dead rise not at all, what shall they do who are baptized for the dead?"
(Panarion 1.28.6). 

The Marcionites also practiced this proxy Baptism for the dead (Tertullian (AD 145–220) in Against Marcion 5.10).  St. Chrysostom (AD 347–407) tells how, when one of their catechumens died without baptism, the Marcionites would place a living person under the dead man's bed and ask whether he desired to be baptized. The living person would respond in the affirmative and was then baptized as a proxy for the deceased (see Homily 40 on 1 Corinthians 15).

Tertullian also writes:

I don't believe that the Apostle was giving his approval to the practice, but rather signifying that those who practised it thereby indicated their belief in a physical resurrection, being foolishly [vane] baptized for the dead. . . . For elsewhere he speaks of only one baptism. Therefore to baptize "for the dead" means to baptize for bodies; for the body, as we have demonstrated, is really dead.
(Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion) 5, 10, in PL 2:495.)

According to Tertullian, this proxy baptism for the dead was a heresy and orthodox Christians understood Paul to be speaking not of a proxy baptism, but of the baptism of a dead body itself.

Baptism for actual dead bodies was in fact practiced by some early Christians as indicated by the decisions of two late fourth-century councils. The fourth canon (fifth in some lists) of the Synod of Hippo, held in 393, declares: "The Eucharist shall not be given to dead bodies, . . . nor baptism conferred upon them." The ruling was confirmed four years later in the sixth canon of the Third Council of Carthage.  (For the canons and details, see J.-P. Migne, ed., Dictionnaire universel et complet des conciles, Première encyclopédie théologique, vol. 13 (Paris: Ateliers Catholiques, 1847), 1:477, and Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896), 2:397–402.)

Shalom James, I appreciate you presenting those different suggestions.  The Gospel, which is according to the Scriptures (what Moses wrote concerning Yeshua), is that He would suffer, die, be buried, and then raised on the third day, and that is where it speaks about baptizing "on account of/or because" of the dead.  You see, the Foundation of the Torah, The Ordinance/Ritual of the Red Heifer, was FOR those who had been defiled by the dead, and it gave THEM the means to where that defilement could be cleansed.  Paul was speaking about the Jews, who would "wash/baptize" on account of the dead, and thus be purified.  Paul's thinking is, "WHY go through this ritual, to be cleansed from the defilement of death (the dead), if there is NO resurrection."  Paul KNEW that the Law was Spiritual, and he also KNEW that the ultimate CLEANSING from death IS the resurrection, and IF there is NO resurrection, why even go through this process of washing/baptizing for, or on account of the defilement caused by the dead.  I can assure you James, there is NO other viable explanation that can explain it better, than understanding Paul to mean it was THOSE (the Jews) who were washing/baptizing on account of the dead, to be cleansed from that defilement.  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

Someone might do well to consider:
“Knowledge puffeth up, but the love of God edifieth.”

Shabbat Shalom achim, would like to add my 2 cents to this discussion and hope it does add. Given the context of the entire subject matter Shaul is speaking of here with a very problematic congregation that was factionalizing and this argument he is dealing with being one of many. Here a few verses before Shaul is speaking to those who doubt that there is such a thing as a resurrection and he tells them that if there is not resurrection then Mashiyach is not raised from the dead, meaning He is still dead and if this is the case then their faith in Him is meaningless and quoting Is 22:13 which was another crazy situation, he says if that is the case we may as well eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. But to the point Shaul in Romans 6:2-5 says we are buried into the death and burial of Mashiyach so then as He rose from the dead thus we also shall be of the resurrection as well. So Shaul here is speaking in blunt terms here that if there is no resurrection then neither is Yeshua raised from the dead therefore if He is still dead then we who are Mikvehed in His Name our Mikveh is meaningless the Aramaic and also the Greek is awkward using for the dead to be very blunt with those who deny the resurrection then are mikvehed in a dead man’s name and following a dead man’s way of keeping the Torah, we have been excommunicated from Israel and suffer immense persecution by Israel and Rome for our faith in a dead man for if there is no resurrection then He is not raised and our mikveh our suffering all of it is for a dead man who can give us no reward it is then all meaningless we might as well eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Sorry for the repetitiveness 

Shabbat Shalom Lawrence, yes, you are very correct, knowledge without the love of Elohim makes someone a tinkling cymbal.  Yet, it is stated that Elohim's people have went into captivity because they have no knowledge (Isa 5:13), and they even perish (are destroyed) for the same reason of lacking in knowledge (Hos 4:6).  And even Yeshua rebuked the two disciples for being "foolish," because they were "slow of heart" to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Luke 24:25-26).  Now, when I opened to you the KNOWLEDGE of what Paul meant concerning the baptism or "washing" that the Torah required for coming into contact with the dead (baptism for the dead), do you think I was doing that because I lack love?  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

Lawrence Zupan said:

Someone might do well to consider:
“Knowledge puffeth up, but the love of God edifieth.”

Shabbat Shalom Kyle, thank you for adding your 2 cents.  In a nutshell, are you saying that those whom Shaul/Paul was referencing, the ones who were baptizing "for" the dead, that THEY were believers?  And would you include Shaul/Paul as part of THOSE whom he was speaking about in verse 29 that were baptizing "for" the dead?  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

Kyle Leib Strokovsky said:

Shabbat Shalom achim, would like to add my 2 cents to this discussion and hope it does add. Given the context of the entire subject matter Shaul is speaking of here with a very problematic congregation that was factionalizing and this argument he is dealing with being one of many. Here a few verses before Shaul is speaking to those who doubt that there is such a thing as a resurrection and he tells them that if there is not resurrection then Mashiyach is not raised from the dead, meaning He is still dead and if this is the case then their faith in Him is meaningless and quoting Is 22:13 which was another crazy situation, he says if that is the case we may as well eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. But to the point Shaul in Romans 6:2-5 says we are buried into the death and burial of Mashiyach so then as He rose from the dead thus we also shall be of the resurrection as well. So Shaul here is speaking in blunt terms here that if there is no resurrection then neither is Yeshua raised from the dead therefore if He is still dead then we who are Mikvehed in His Name our Mikveh is meaningless the Aramaic and also the Greek is awkward using for the dead to be very blunt with those who deny the resurrection then are mikvehed in a dead man’s name and following a dead man’s way of keeping the Torah, we have been excommunicated from Israel and suffer immense persecution by Israel and Rome for our faith in a dead man for if there is no resurrection then He is not raised and our mikveh our suffering all of it is for a dead man who can give us no reward it is then all meaningless we might as well eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Sorry for the repetitiveness 

Frankly, my friend, ImaHebrew, in my opinion, you didn’t show respect to Rabbi Trimm on his website but assumed a posture which sounded like you were talking down from a superior position. I’m only telling you this now because you just asked. Your way of presenting yourself in my opinion interferes with what is probably very good information, thus you are defeating your own highest intentions. If I am wrong, please, may I be forgiven. If you reflect and gain something from this comment, All to the good. I am done with this subject now. God bless you.
Sholom ImAHebrew. Pardon the miss wording before. No what I am saying is that Shaul/Paul was writing to a problematic congregation that began with those who were willing to forsake everything for the sake of Messiah’s Name including excommunication from Israel as they left the local Jewish Synagogue for the Nazarene Synagogue being established by Shaul. This local Synagogue they left was probably Hellenistic because in1 Cor 15:12-16 he writes that there are those there who don’t believe in the resurrection and there is no resurrection, Shaul writes, then Messiah is not raised from the dead and the his preaching is in vain and so is the Corinthians faith and they remain in their sins and those who were martyred for their faith in Messiah are perished/destroyed/condemned then he says if our hope in Mashiyach is only for this life then we are the most pitiful lot but Mashiyach is raised from the dead as the 1st fruit of the resurrection then he continues. This here is the context of the controversy Shaul is dealing with in this chapter and his statement “Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead IF THE DEAD DO NOT RISE AT ALL WHY ARE THEY BAPTIZED FOR THE DEAD” he continues this argument saying if the dead do not rise why am I persecuted for preaching Mashiyach... the Apostles worshipped when they were considered worthy to suffer For His Name Acts 5:41 and in Mattisyahu 5:11,12 Mashiyach says blessed are you when you are hated and persecuted, falsely accused FOR MY SAKE. I site these two places here to show that they were suffering For Messiah as an aid for understanding Shaul’s words to show as they were suffering, persecuted for Messiah’s Name what Shaul was speaking about. He said if the dead don’t rise from the dead then neither is Mashiyach risen and if Messiah is not risen meaning Mashiyach is then still dead so then when you are being Mikvehed into His Name you are getting Mikvehed in the name of the dead, so then you are being Mikvehed and persecuted for the dead because if there is no resurrection then He is still dead if He is still dead then you’re being Mikvehed and persecuted for the dead which is pitiful but your rejoicing which Shaul has in Mashiyach tells me otherwise. I hope that clarified what I was trying to express earlier that Shaul was speaking in a very blunt manner that there is no resurrection then Mashiyach is still dead then your baptism and persecution for His Name is pitiful. Not telling you or anyone what you have to believe but expressing contextually what Shaul was talking about

I agree with both Mr. Trimm and Mr. Strovkoski in the following ways:

1. The ritual immersion of a dead body which is could be substantiated by Acts 9:37

2. The context of Paul's words and his possible reference to the THEY ("believers") being immersed for the DEAD ("YESHUA")

both show that such practice by both groups of Jews stem from a belief in the Resurrection of the Dead principle. Hence a double whammy argument used by Paul.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom Kyle, thank you for clarifying, but it still appears to me that you believe Paul was speaking about believers who were baptized, and then THEY came to believe that Yeshua did not rise, so the one they were baptized into is dead.  So baptizing for the dead would be THEIR being baptized into an un-risen Messiah, who is still dead?  Hopefully I have presented back to you what you believe, and I do not make any accusations against you, but would respectfully disagree with your interpretation.

Here is why.  Paul starts out 1 Cor 15 by REMINDING the Corinthians about the Gospel that he passed on to them, and it was what he had FIRST received.  This Gospel that he FIRST received was according to what Moshe wrote in Numbers 19, the suffering, death, burial, and 3rd day resurrection of Yeshua.  Accordingly, it makes perfect sense that Paul would be referencing what the Jews did in baptizing/washing for the dead as commanded in Numbers 19.   Hopefully, you might be able to receive this.  Blessings in The Name, ImAHebrew.

Kyle Leib Strokovsky said:

Sholom ImAHebrew. Pardon the miss wording before. No what I am saying is that Shaul/Paul was writing to a problematic congregation that began with those who were willing to forsake everything for the sake of Messiah’s Name including excommunication from Israel as they left the local Jewish Synagogue for the Nazarene Synagogue being established by Shaul. This local Synagogue they left was probably Hellenistic because in1 Cor 15:12-16 he writes that there are those there who don’t believe in the resurrection and there is no resurrection, Shaul writes, then Messiah is not raised from the dead and the his preaching is in vain and so is the Corinthians faith and they remain in their sins and those who were martyred for their faith in Messiah are perished/destroyed/condemned then he says if our hope in Mashiyach is only for this life then we are the most pitiful lot but Mashiyach is raised from the dead as the 1st fruit of the resurrection then he continues. This here is the context of the controversy Shaul is dealing with in this chapter and his statement “Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead IF THE DEAD DO NOT RISE AT ALL WHY ARE THEY BAPTIZED FOR THE DEAD” he continues this argument saying if the dead do not rise why am I persecuted for preaching Mashiyach... the Apostles worshipped when they were considered worthy to suffer For His Name Acts 5:41 and in Mattisyahu 5:11,12 Mashiyach says blessed are you when you are hated and persecuted, falsely accused FOR MY SAKE. I site these two places here to show that they were suffering For Messiah as an aid for understanding Shaul’s words to show as they were suffering, persecuted for Messiah’s Name what Shaul was speaking about. He said if the dead don’t rise from the dead then neither is Mashiyach risen and if Messiah is not risen meaning Mashiyach is then still dead so then when you are being Mikvehed into His Name you are getting Mikvehed in the name of the dead, so then you are being Mikvehed and persecuted for the dead because if there is no resurrection then He is still dead if He is still dead then you’re being Mikvehed and persecuted for the dead which is pitiful but your rejoicing which Shaul has in Mashiyach tells me otherwise. I hope that clarified what I was trying to express earlier that Shaul was speaking in a very blunt manner that there is no resurrection then Mashiyach is still dead then your baptism and persecution for His Name is pitiful. Not telling you or anyone what you have to believe but expressing contextually what Shaul was talking about

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