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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on First Corinthians

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15, 1–58 :

Some consider this chapter an earlier Pauline composition inserted into the present letter. The problem that Paul treats is clear to a degree: some of the Corinthians are denying the resurrection of the dead ( 12 ), apparently because of their inability to imagine how any kind of bodily existence could be possible after death ( 35 ). It is plausibly supposed that their attitude stems from Greek anthropology, which looks with contempt upon matter and would be content with the survival of the soul, and perhaps also from an overrealized eschatology of gnostic coloration, such as that reflected in 2 Tm 2, 18 , which considers the resurrection a purely spiritual experience already achieved in baptism and in the forgiveness of sins. Paul, on the other hand, will affirm both the essential corporeity of the resurrection and its futurity.

His response moves through three steps: a recall of the basic kerygma about Jesus’ resurrection ( 1–11 ), an assertion of the logical inconsistencies involved in denial of the resurrection ( 12–34 ), and an attempt to perceive theologically what the properties of the resurrected body must be ( 35–58 ).

15, 1–11 :

Paul recalls the tradition ( 3–7 ), which he can presuppose as common ground and which provides a starting point for his argument. This is the fundamental content of all Christian preaching and belief ( 1–2.11 ).

15, 3–7 :

The language by which Paul expresses the essence of the “gospel” ( 1 ) is not his own but is drawn from older credal formulas. This credo highlights Jesus’ death for our sins (confirmed by his burial) and Jesus’ resurrection (confirmed by his appearances) and presents both of them as fulfillment of prophecy. In accordance with the scriptures: conformity of Jesus’ passion with the scriptures is asserted in Mt 16, 1; Lk 24, 25–27.32.44–46 . Application of some Old Testament texts (Pss 2, 7; 16, 8–11 ) to his resurrection is illustrated by Acts 2, 27–31; 13, 29–39; and Is 52, 13–53, 12 and Hos 6, 2 may also have been envisaged.

15, 9–11 :

A persecutor may have appeared disqualified (ouk … hikanos) from apostleship, but in fact God's grace has qualified him. Cf the remarks in 2 Cor about his qualifications ( 2, 16; 3, 5 ) and his greater labors ( 11, 23 ). These verses are parenthetical, but a nerve has been touched (the references to his abnormal birth and his activity as a persecutor may echo taunts from Paul's opponents), and he is instinctively moved to self‐defense.

15, 12–19 :

Denial of the resurrection ( 12 ) involves logical inconsistencies. The basic one, stated twice ( 13.16 ), is that if there is no such thing as (bodily) resurrection, then it has not taken place even in Christ's case.

15, 17–18 :

The consequences for the Corinthians are grave: both forgiveness of sins and salvation are an illusion, despite their strong convictions about both. Unless Christ is risen, their faith does not save.

15, 20–28 :

After a triumphant assertion of the reality of Christ's resurrection ( 20a ), Paul explains its positive implications and consequences. As a soteriological event of both human ( 20–23 ) and cosmic ( 24–28 ) dimensions, Jesus’ resurrection logically and necessarily involves ours as well.

15, 20 :

The firstfruits: the portion of the harvest offered in thanksgiving to God implies the consecration of the entire harvest to come. Christ's resurrection is not an end in itself; its finality lies in the whole harvest, ourselves.

15, 21–22 :

Our human existence, both natural and supernatural, is corporate, involves solidarity. In Adam … in Christ: the Hebrew word ’aDdaDm in Genesis is both a common noun for mankind and a proper noun for the first man. Paul here presents Adam as at least a literary type of Christ; the parallelism and contrast between them will be developed further in vv 45–49 and in Rom 5, 12–21 .

15, 24–28 :

Paul's perspective expands to cosmic dimensions, as he describes the climax of history, the end. His viewpoint is still christological, as in vv 20–23 . Verses 24 and 28 describe Christ's final relations to his enemies and his Father in language that is both royal and military; vv 25–28 insert a proof from scripture (Pss 110, 1; 8, 7 ) into this description. But the viewpoint is also theological, for God is the ultimate agent and end, and likewise soteriological, for we are the beneficiaries of all the action.

15, 26 :

The last enemy … is death: a parenthesis that specifies the final fulfillment of the two Old Testament texts just referred to, Ps 110, 1 and Ps 8, 7 . Death is not just one cosmic power among many, but the ultimate effect of sin in the universe (cf 56; Rom 5, 12 ). Christ defeats death where it prevails, in our bodies. The destruction of the last enemy is concretely the “coming to life” ( 22 ) of “those who belong to Christ” ( 23 ).

15, 27b–28 :

The one who subjected everything to him: the Father is the ultimate agent in the drama, and the final end of the process, to whom the Son and everything else is ordered (24.28). That God may be all in all: his reign is a dynamic exercise of creative power, an outpouring of life and energy through the universe, with no further resistance. This is the supremely positive meaning of “subjection”: that God may fully be God.

15, 29–34 :

Paul concludes his treatment of logical inconsistencies with a listing of miscellaneous Christian practices that would be meaningless if the resurrection were not a fact.

15, 29 :

Baptized for the dead: this practice is not further explained here, nor is it necessarily mentioned with approval, but Paul cites it as something in their experience that attests in one more way to belief in the resurrection.

15, 30–34 :

A life of sacrifice, such as Paul describes in 4, 9–13 and 2 Cor, would be pointless without the prospect of resurrection; a life of pleasure, such as that expressed in the Epicurean slogan of v 32 , would be far more consistent. I fought with beasts: since Paul does not elsewhere mention a combat with beasts at Ephesus, he may be speaking figuratively about struggles with adversaries.

15, 35–58 :

Paul imagines two objections that the Corinthians could raise: one concerning the manner of the resurrection (how?), the other pertaining to the qualities of the risen body (what kind?). These questions probably lie behind their denial of the resurrection ( 12 ), and seem to reflect the presumption that no kind of body other than the one we now possess would be possible. Paul deals with these objections in inverse order, in vv 36–49 and vv 50–58 . His argument is fundamentally theological and its appeal is to the understanding.

15, 35–49 :

Paul approaches the question of the nature of the risen body (what kind of body?) by means of two analogies: the seed ( 36–44 ) and the first man, Adam ( 45–49 ).

15, 36–38 :

The analogy of the seed: there is a change of attributes from seed to plant; the old life‐form must be lost for the new to emerge. By speaking about the seed as a body that dies and comes to life, Paul keeps the point of the analogy before the reader's mind.

15, 39–41 :

The expression “its own body” ( 38 ) leads to a development on the marvelous diversity evident in bodily life.

15, 42–44 :

The principles of qualitative difference before and after death ( 36–38 ) and of diversity on different levels of creation ( 39–41 ) are now applied to the human body. Before: a body animated by a lower, natural life‐principle (psycheD) and endowed with the properties of natural existence (corruptibility, lack of glory, weakness). After: a body animated by a higher life‐principle (pneuma; cf 45 ) and endowed with other qualities (incorruptibility, glory, power, spirituality), which are properties of God himself.

15, 45 :

The analogy of the first man, Adam, is introduced by a citation from Gn 2, 7 . Paul alters the text slightly, adding the adjective first, and translating the Hebrew ’aādā twice, so as to give it its value both as a common noun (man) and as a proper name (Adam). Verse 45b then specifies similarities and differences between the two Adams. The last Adam, Christ (cf 21–22 ) has become a … spirit (pneuma), a life‐principle transcendent with respect to the natural soul (psychā) of the first Adam (on the terminology here, cf the note on 3, 1 ). Further, he is not just alive, but life‐giving, a source of life for others.

15, 49 :

We shall also bear the image: although it has less manuscript support, this reading better fits the context's emphasis on futurity and the transforming action of God; on future transformation as conformity to the image of the Son, cf Rom 8, 29; Phil 3, 21 . The majority reading, “let us bear the image,” suggests that the image of the heavenly man is already present and exhorts us to conform to it.

15, 50–57 :

These verses, an answer to the first question of v 35 , explain theologically how the change of properties from one image to another will take place: God has the power to transform, and he will exercise it.

15, 50–53 :

Flesh and blood … corruption: living persons and the corpses of the dead, respectively. In both cases, the gulf between creatures and God is too wide to be bridged unless God himself transforms us.

15, 51–52 :

A mystery: the last moment in God's plan is disclosed; cf the notes on 2, 1.7–10a . The final trumpet and the awakening of the dead are stock details of the apocalyptic scenario. We shall not all fall asleep: Paul expected that some of his contemporaries might still be alive at Christ's return; after the death of Paul and his whole generation, copyists altered this statement in various ways. We will all be changed: the statement extends to all Christians, for Paul is not directly speaking about anyone else. Whether they have died before the end or happen still to be alive, all must be transformed.

15, 54–55 :

Death is swallowed up in victory: scripture itself predicts death's overthrow. O death: in his prophetic vision Paul may be making Hosea's words his own, or imagining this cry of triumph on the lips of the risen church.

15, 56 :

The sting of death is sin: an explanation of Hosea's metaphor. Death, scorpion‐like, is equipped with a sting, sin, by which it injects its poison. Christ defeats sin, the cause of death (Gn 3, 19; Rom 5, 12 ).

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