To indicate a change in subject, Paul used the word dé (commonly meaning “but”), which here may be understood to denote “now” (“Now I want to make known to you”). His “making known” the evangel or good news he had proclaimed was from the standpoint of reminding his “brothers” (fellow believers in Corinth) about what he had taught them. This was because certain ones were advancing a view about the resurrection that did not harmonize with the glad tidings about Christ. In response to the apostle’s initial preaching, the Corinthians had accepted the evangel and, as persons who continued to adhere to it as trustworthy, they could be spoken of as “standing” in it. (15:1)
The good news that focused on Christ revealed how sinful humans could be forgiven of their transgressions and be saved or delivered from being condemned as persons who failed to reflect God’s image. When the Corinthians accepted the evangel, they responded in faith to Christ and the forgiveness of sins made possible through his death. Therefore, “through” the glad tidings about the Son of God, the “word” or message Paul had proclaimed to them, “they were also saved,” provided they continued to adhere to it. If they did not maintain their firm hold on the “good news,” their initial faith in the message the apostle had made known to them would have proved to be in vain. (15:2)
He handed on to them the same word or message that he had received. The expression that literally means “in first things” could be understood to signify that the teachings Paul next mentioned were of first importance when he shared this message with the Corinthians. He taught them “that Christ died for our sins” and that this occurred “according to the Scriptures.” (15:3; see the Notes section.)
Likely the apostle had in mind prophecies in Isaiah and Zechariah. “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NRSV) “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NRSV) “And I [YHWH] will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him.” (Zechariah 12:10, NRSV) “On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” (Zechariah 13:1, NRSV)
After being buried, Christ “was raised on the third day.” This also took place “according to the Scriptures.” (15:4) From the book of Acts, we know that Paul used words from Psalms (16:10; 15:10, LXX) to show that Christ was foretold to rise from the dead. “You will not permit your holy one to see corruption.” (Acts 13:35) While Jesus was on earth, he referred to the sign of Jonah as indicating that he would be resurrected on the third day, and the apostle may have had this in mind. (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40) There is also a possibility that Paul may have thought about a reference in Hosea (6:2, LXX), “On the third day, we will rise and live before him.”
Cephas (the Semitic form of the name “Peter,” meaning “rock”) was the first apostle to see the risen Christ. The occasion on which Jesus later appeared to the “twelve” seems to have been when Thomas was present. (John 20:26, 27) At that time, the apostles numbered eleven, which suggests that Paul used the designation “the twelve” as representative of the entire company of the apostles. (15:5; see the Notes section.)
It must have been at a mountain in Galilee that the risen Christ appeared to upward of 500 brothers, most of whom were still alive when Paul sent his letter to the Corinthians. (15:6) This appears to have been the meeting Christ had prearranged, as suggested by the fact that so many were assembled at one place. (Matthew 28:10, 16) According to Matthew 28:17, “some doubted.” This could not have applied to the apostles, for they had been fully convinced that Christ had been resurrected. Even the previous doubts of Thomas had been completely overcome. This reference to doubts confirms that the account in Matthew refers to a meeting with more disciples than the apostles. Considering the difficulty even the apostles had in believing the reports about Christ’s resurrection, one can readily see why there may have been some who doubted after their seeing him for the first time since his rising from the dead.
Paul mentioned that some of the upward of 500 brothers had fallen asleep in death. (15:6) Included among those who had died was the apostle James whom Herod Agrippa I had executed with the sword. (Acts 12:1, 2)
The James to whom Jesus appeared next could not have been the apostle James, the brother of John. He was among the apostles who had previously seen the resurrected Son of God. So it must have been the James who was widely known among believers. (15:7) This would have been “James the brother of the Lord.” Like his other brothers, he did not become a believer during the early period of Jesus’ ministry. (John 7:3-5; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19) It may well be that Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance eliminated all his former doubts and moved him to put faith in him as the promised Messiah and God’s beloved Son.
The time “all the apostles” saw Jesus probably is to be linked to his last appearance. (15:7) The fact that they are not referred to as “the twelve” suggests that the group included other men. Matthias, the replacement for Judas Iscariot, may have been one in this group. (Acts 1:6-26)
Last of all, Jesus appeared to Paul, as if to one of “abnormal birth” (éktroma). The Greek term éktroma can denote an untimely birth, miscarriage, or a birth later than the usual term. Paul seems to have used this designation to indicate something disparaging about himself. Perhaps he meant to indicate that his situation at the time Jesus appeared to him resembled that of a prematurely born infant that had no opportunity for life, no name, and no potential for anything that life might have to offer. (15:8)
None of the disciples numbered among “the twelve” had ever been active opposers. Paul, however, had been a rabid persecutor of the “congregation of God.” As persons purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, believers belonged to his Father and so were his people or his congregation. When Paul had his encounter with the risen Christ, he was on a mission to arrest believers in Damascus and to bring them to Jerusalem for punishment. (Acts 7:58-8:1; 9:l-6; 22:4-9; 26:9-15) In view of his past record as a persecutor, Paul acknowledged himself to be the “least of the apostles” and unfit to be called an apostle. (15:9)
He attributed his being an apostle (“I am what I am”) to God’s favor or unmerited kindness. This favor had not been extended to him in vain, for he labored in the advancement of Christ’s cause to a greater extent than all the other apostles. Nevertheless, he did not take personal credit for his hard work but minimized his own role, adding that he was able to accomplish what he did by the “favor of God” that was with him. Divine aid strengthened and sustained him in carrying out his ministry. (15:10)
Although Paul labored harder than the other apostles, he and they proclaimed the same message, which the Corinthians had come to believe. A prominent part of this message related to Christ’s death and resurrection. (15:11)
The reliable testimony of many witnesses established that Jesus had been resurrected. Appropriately, therefore, Paul asked, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as having been raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” Jesus’ resurrection confirmed the certain fulfillment of the hope that the dead would live again as the very same persons. (15:12)
A denial of the resurrection would constitute a rejection of the reality of Christ’s resurrection. If he was not raised from the dead, all of Paul’s hard work would have been for nothing. Apparently using the editorial first person plural, the apostle continued, “Our proclamation [would be] in vain, and your [our, according to other manuscripts] faith [would be] in vain.” (15:13, 14)
Besides having exerted himself in a meaningless endeavor, Paul would have been guilty of spreading false testimony about God. He would have been telling others that God resurrected Christ, whereas, if there is no resurrection of the dead, he had not done so. (15:15; see the Notes section.)
The resurrection hope is so inextricably linked to the reality of Christ’s resurrection that the apostle could say, “For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised.” (15:16) There would have been no basis for the Corinthians to have faith in the Son of God if he had not been raised from the dead. His resurrection confirmed that he was God’s Son and not just another notable teacher or prophet whose life ended prematurely and whose death could not provide deliverance from the condemnation of sin. Rejection of the reality of Christ’s resurrection would have made the faith of the Corinthians useless, for it would have left them without hope and in the same sinful condition existing prior to their response to Paul’s proclamation. They would have continued to be in their sins, with no basis existing for forgiveness and reconciliation with God as his beloved children. (15:17)
This also would have meant that those who had fallen asleep in death as persons “in Christ,” or as believers at one with him as members of his body, perished. They would have died without any hope of their ever living again as the same persons. (15:18)
In the world alienated from and at enmity with God, believers endured much distress. They were often the objects of intense hostility. So, “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ [with everything terminating at death],” Paul reasoned, “we of all men are to be pitied.” The lot of believers would indeed have been tragic if the suffering and reproach they bore for the sake of Christ would finally all be for nothing. (15:19)
“Now, however, Christ has been raised from the dead, [the] firstfruits of those asleep [in death].” As the first one to be resurrected to immortal life, Jesus Christ is the firstfruits. His resurrection assured that many more would be raised from the dead, just as the ingathering of the firstfruits is followed by the major harvest. (15:20)
Death came into the world of humankind through a man — the first man, Adam. While on earth, Jesus Christ also was a man and, through him, resurrection from the dead came to be a certainty. (15:21)
In Adam, the original progenitor of the human family, all his descendants are dying. As a sinner, he could only father sinful offspring under the condemnation of death. In Christ, though, “all will be made alive.” God’s unique Son, the sinless one, is in possession of life-giving power. (John 5:26-29) In him, therefore, resides the life that makes resurrection possible. (15:22)
The resurrection takes place according to a specific “order” (tágma). Having been the first to rise from the dead, Christ is the firstfruits. Thereafter those who belong to him come to life at his “arrival” (parousía). The Greek word parousía denotes “presence,” “advent,” or “arrival” and here applies to Jesus’ return in the capacity of king and judge. (15:23; see the Notes section.)
When referring to the “end” (“next the end”), Paul appears to have meant the conclusion or fulfillment of Christ’s work, his reducing to nothingness all dominion, authority and power that is hostile to his Father. Once he has accomplished this, Jesus Christ will hand over the kingdom or the royal authority he exercised in destroying everything that is out of harmony with God’s will and purpose. The handing over of the kingdom signifies that his Father will then be the Sovereign over everything without there being any elements in a state of enmity with him. (15:24; see the Notes section.)
Jesus Christ acts as his Father’s agent. For this reason, Paul could speak of Christ as reigning until “God has placed all enemies under his feet,” granting him the complete triumph comparable to trampling upon them. (15:25)
Death is the “last enemy” to be deprived of might. When Christ uses his God-given power to resurrect the dead (John 5:26-28), death is defeated, unable to keep the dead in its unyielding grip. (15:26)
Drawing on the words of Psalm 8:6(7), Paul continued, “For [God] subjected all things under his [Christ’s] feet.” As a man on earth, Jesus Christ was lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5(6); Hebrews 2:7), but that ceased to be the case when he rose from the dead. His Father then gave him “all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Subjection to that authority could be expressed by acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord in full support of his Father’s will. Otherwise, the subjection would take the form of utter defeat, for the Father would let his Son vanquish everyone and everything that remained out of harmony with his purpose. (15:27)
Next the apostle called attention to a fact that is self-evident. “All” or everything that is subjected to Christ does not include his Father, “the one who subjected all things to him.” (15:27) When all things have been subjected to Christ, he will subject himself to his Father, “so that God may be all in all.” To all, God will then be the Sovereign in the ultimate sense, and he will be in complete harmony with all, working in and through them for the accomplishment of his will and purpose. (15:28)
Continuing to develop his argument about the resurrection, Paul raised the questions, “What will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are they also baptized for them?” (15:29; see the Notes section.) While the Corinthians knew exactly what Paul meant, we today cannot be certain.
One view is that some in Corinth got baptized for persons who had died before being able to get immersed. If the reference is to vicarious baptism (as Tertullian [c. 160-c. 221 CE] concluded [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, chapter XLVIII]), there is no need to regard Paul’s questions as endorsing the practice. The apostle’s mentioning it served his purpose to call attention to a contradiction. Such an act would have been completely meaningless if the dead are not to be raised to life. In view of other innovations the Corinthians introduced, it is not completely inconceivable that the practice started among them and that this is a matter Paul may have planned to handle when again with them. (15:29; compare 11:34.)
Another possible explanation that has gained a measure of acceptance is understanding the questions to relate to baptism with suffering and death in view. For one to become a disciple of God’s Son included the possibility of having to face death for his sake. (Compare Mark 10:38, 39; Luke 12:50.) The Greek wording, though, is not specific enough to suggest this significance.
Either using the editorial first person plural “we” or including his close associates, Paul raised the question, “Why also are we in danger every hour?” Would it have made any sense for the apostle constantly to expose himself to danger, having his life repeatedly threatened because of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, if there was no resurrection hope? (15:30)
So real was the risk of death that Paul said, “I die every day.” If it had not been for his service in the cause of Christ, he would not have faced constant peril. The apostle affirmed his words about dying daily, implying that this proved to be just as certain as his boasting over or exulting in his Corinthian “brothers” or fellow believers. Based on his expressions, they knew that he did indeed take pride in them. He boasted “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The apostle could speak of boasting in Christ because of being at one with him as a member of his corporate body. Paul could rightfully take pride in the Corinthians, for they were the fruit of his labor. This fruit from laboring in the service of his Lord made it worthwhile for the apostle to endure all the perils to which he had been exposed. (15:31; see the Notes section.)
Paul called attention to a grave danger he had faced in Ephesus. Concerning this, he raised the question, “If, according to man, I fought wild beasts in Ephesus, what benefit [was] this to me?” The expression “according to man” may be understood to mean “in the manner of humans,” “like a human,” “like an ordinary man without hope in Christ,” “for purely human reasons without the hope of a resurrection,” or “so to speak” (as an idiom). (15:32)
Paul’s words would seem to indicate that, while in Ephesus, he faced wild animals in an arena but escaped death. When (in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27) referring to the perils he had endured, however, he did not mention fighting wild beasts, and the incident is not included in the book of Acts. This suggests that he may not have been forced to engage in combat with wild animals but that he had to contend with vicious opposers who, like fierce predators, were determined to harm him. It would have been pointless for Paul to have continued pursuing a course that put him in harm’s way if the dead are not resurrected. He would have been better off to live according to the saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (15:32; see the Notes section.)
During the time of Isaiah, faithless Israelites expressed themselves to this effect. (Isaiah 22:13) Faced with Assyria’s threatened siege of Jerusalem, the people strengthened the city’s fortifications and secured the water supply, but they failed to look to YHWH, the sure source of dependable protection. The existing threat should have moved them to repentance and a rejection of their former lawless ways, but they chose to engage in unrestrained carousing (eating and drinking) in view of the possibility of death at the hands of enemy forces. For persons without faith and hope, this is the option they are inclined to adopt, and it would have appeared preferable for persons without any hope of a resurrection to get and secure as much pleasure out of life as possible. (Isaiah 22:9-14)
The Corinthians may have thought that freely associating with those who rejected the resurrection hope and listening to their arguments would do no harm. Paul, however, recognized the danger faithless companions posed and how destructive to faith their influence could be. He admonished the Corinthians not to be deceived and then added, “Bad companionships corrupt noble habits.” Ancient Greek dramatist Menander (342-292 BCE) expressed the same thought, and it is likely that the Corinthians were familiar with it. For the Corinthians to avoid having their faith undermined would have required being careful about whom they made their close associates, not allowing themselves to be deceived into thinking that faithless ones could not sway them with their arguments. (15:33)
With some among the Corinthians saying that there was no resurrection (15:12), the potential for spiritual harm was very real, calling for vigilance on the part of the others. Paul urged the Corinthians to become fully alert, sobering up in the right way as from a drunken stupor, and not to sin. When individuals cease to believe in the resurrection and any future accountability for their actions, this commonly leads to their adopting a way of life contrary to God’s ways. So there was good reason for the apostle to tell the Corinthians, “Do not sin.” The ones to whom he referred as being ignorant of God were those who denied the divine power that made the resurrection from the dead possible. (15:34)
Paul’s strong language was designed to move the Corinthians to “shame,” causing them to recognize how wrong they had been in their reasoning. It should have been a cause for shame that, despite the overwhelming evidence regarding Christ’s resurrection, some among them denied the resurrection hope. There should also have been shame in the case of any who may have allowed themselves to be wrongly influenced by false teaching about the resurrection or who may have been very tolerant respecting such false teaching. (15:34)
Addressing those who argued against belief in the resurrection, Paul continued, “But someone will say, How are the dead to be raised, and with what kind of body are they coming [back]?” Any objectors would have known that dead bodies decayed, and the question implied that there were no existing bodies to be restored to life. (15:35)
From the apostle’s perspective, those who raised the issue about the resurrection were “senseless,” for they had not really given sufficient thought to their conclusions. (15:36) Using illustrations from the physical world, Paul pointed out that the decay of the body had no bearing on the resurrection and that bodies of various kinds or forms existed.
“What you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” The sown seed ceases to exist, and the plant that develops bears no resemblance to a single seed. (15:36)
Therefore, as Paul continued, only a bare seed, either of wheat or of another grain, is sown. The sower does not sow the “body” or the plant in its developed form. (15:37)
According to Genesis 1:11, God created plants to produce according to their kind. Rightly, then, Paul could speak of God as giving to the sown seed a body just as he willed, and to each of the distinctive seeds its “own body” or plant form. (15:38)
The nature of animal and human bodies also differs. The flesh of humans, cattle, birds, and fish is not identical. (15:39)
Both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies exist, with the heavenly bodies having a distinctive glory or splendor and the earthly bodies having a different magnificence. The glory of the sun differs from that of the moon and from that of the stars. “Star differs from star in glory.” The widely different “earthly bodies” or forms of plant, animal, and human life possess their own distinctive glory, beauty, attractiveness, or suitability for their existence. In view of Paul’s reference to the sun, moon, and stars, he evidently did not use the expression “heavenly bodies” to mean bodies existing in the invisible spirit realm. Instead, he seems to have chosen to refer to things the Corinthians could readily see and observe. The perceivable brightness of the sun was much greater than that of the moon and of any of the stars that appeared as much smaller objects of light in the night sky. Even in the case of the stars, a difference in brightness could be seen. (15:40, 41)
Based on what the Corinthians could readily observe in the physical world, Paul made the application to the resurrection. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. If a physical body exists, a spiritual one also exists. And thus it is written [in Genesis 2:7], ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul’; the last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit.” (15:42-45; see the Notes section on verse 45.)
The human body is perishable, but the resurrection body is not of a perishable nature. It is incorruptible. When compared to the transcendent magnificence of the immortal resurrection body that is free from the limitations associated with the present earthly existence, the physical human body appears to be in a state of humiliation and frailty. The contrast between the body of the first man, Adam, and the resurrection body of Jesus Christ, the “last Adam,” proves the existence of two different bodies — one earthly and the other heavenly. (15:42-44)
The first man, Adam, “became a living soul,” a physical being suited for an earthly existence and endowed with the capacity to father offspring. Jesus Christ, as a spirit person (no longer in his physical state as a man), is in possession of living-giving power. His Father has not granted nor will he grant this power to anyone else, making Jesus Christ the “last Adam.” As a life-giving spirit, he can impart life that transcends the physical life which has been passed on to all members of the human race through the procreation process that started with Adam. God’s unique Son can raise the dead to a newness of life on a far higher plane than that of the present physical existence. (15:45)
For humans, the physical life precedes the spiritual. “First” comes the physical (not the spiritual), then comes the spiritual. (15:46) The first man, Adam, was “from the earth, the dust,” his physical body consisting of earthly elements. This was not so with the second man. The Lord Jesus Christ is from heaven and, therefore, is “spiritual.” (15:47; see the Notes section.)
As Adam, the one from “dust” or from earthly elements, was physical in nature, so his descendants share the same nature, for all are also from “dust” or from earthly elements. Jesus Christ, the “heavenly one,” is “spiritual” in nature, and this would also be true of all other “heavenly ones.” In the context of his comments about the resurrection, Paul appears to have used the expression “heavenly ones” regarding believers who would come to be such, for he added, “And just as we have borne the image of the [man] of dust, we shall bear [let us bear, according to many other manuscripts] the image of the heavenly one.” The resurrection body of believers ceases to bear the image of the first earthling, Adam. Suited for life in the realm the Son of God occupies, the resurrection body bears his image, a heavenly one. (15:48, 49)
For them to be united to Christ in his kingdom or royal realm, believers cannot continue to have a body appropriate only for an earthly existence. “But this I say, brothers,” Paul continued, “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither can corruption inherit incorruption.” God’s kingdom, or the realm where he exercises his sovereign will through his Son, is heavenly. “Flesh and blood,” though essential for life on earth, are unsuitable for a heavenly existence. Whatever is corruptible or perishable in nature cannot be part of an imperishable realm. (15:50)
Upon Christ’s return as king and judge, believers then alive will be changed in order to be with him. This aspect had been an undisclosed divine “mystery” for centuries, but was revealed after Jesus Christ came to the earth. Commenting on the “mystery,” the apostle explained, “We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In his first letter to the Thessalonians (4:15-17), Paul indicated that the “dead in Christ” would be resurrected first and afterward believers who were then alive would join the Lord. At the divinely designated time (represented as being announced by a trumpet blast), this would take place. The reference to the “last trumpet” suggests that this would herald the last event for believers on earth. Just as the resurrection of the Son of God occurred suddenly, the change living believers would experience from the mortal to the immortal state is described as taking place quickly (“in a moment, in the blink of an eye”). (15:51, 52)
For their new life (whether by change or through the resurrection), believers must be in possession of incorruption and deathlessness. Therefore, Paul said that it was necessary for “the corruptible to put on incorruption and the mortal to put on immortality.” (15:53) With the corruptible replacing the incorruptible and the immortal the mortal, death will have been defeated. The words of Isaiah 25:8 will then be fulfilled, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (15:54; see the Notes section.)
Paul followed the quotation of Isaiah with one from Hosea 13:14, “Where, O death, [is] your victory? Where, O death, [is] your sting?” The swallowing up of death signifies defeat, not triumph. Also the sting that brings about death would be rendered ineffective. (15:55; see the Notes section.)
The apostle identified “sin” as being the “sting of death,” for sin brings about the condemnation that leads to death. He referred to the law as the “power of sin,” for the law clearly set forth what constituted sin. In identifying individuals as having sinned or missed the mark of moral rectitude in attitude, word, or action, the law declared them to be subject to sin and under condemnation. (15:56)
With the law providing no help in the victory over death but proving to be the power of sin, revealing those under the law to be condemned sinners, the triumph over death had to come from another source. Gratefully, the apostle exclaimed, “But thanks [be] to God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” In expression of his deep love for humankind, God gave his unique Son as the means for liberation from sin and death. The Son of God died sacrificially, taking upon himself the consequences of human sin — past, present, and future. Through faith in him and his sacrificial death, believers are freed from condemnation and their resurrection is assured, with the resultant defeat of death. (15:57)
Paul urged his “beloved brothers” or fellow believers in Corinth to become “steadfast” and “immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Particularly in their faith regarding the resurrection, they needed to be firm and unwavering. The surety of the resurrection hope should have motivated them to be diligent in advancing the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. With their resurrection being assured, they would know that their labors would not be in vain. Neither God nor Christ would forget their rightly motivated service, and so their future reward was certain. (15:58; compare Hebrews 6:10.)
The apostle did not indicate how he had received the message that he proclaimed. (15:3) In his letter to the Galatians (1:11, 12), he identified the source as having been direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15:5, some later copyists changed “twelve” to “eleven” to correct what they seemingly perceived to be an error.
Paul’s words (in 15:15) indicate that he took very seriously any misrepresentation of God’s activity. Attributing to God what is definitely not his work would make one guilty of spreading false testimony about him.
In 1 Corinthians 15:23, the apostle’s focus was on the resurrection as it related to fellow believers in Corinth. For this apparent reason, he may have chosen to mention only those who are “of Christ” or who belong to him. Paul’s comments (in Acts 24:15) about a resurrection of “both the righteous and the unrighteous” indicate that he did not intend to limit the resurrection to the dead in Christ. Moreover, for “each one” to be made alive in his own order would require that others besides the dead belonging to Christ be resurrected.
The Greek word for “order” (tágma) can also designate a “class” or “group,” and the term for “end” (télos) in verse 24 may signify “conclusion,” “goal,” “outcome,” “rest,” or “remainder.” This is the basis for the view that Paul actually mentioned three groups: (1) Christ the firstfruits, (2) those who belong to Christ, and (3) the “rest” [télos] when the last enemy death is destroyed. Footnotes in the New Revised Standard Version and the German Neue Genfer Übersetzung include “rest” as an alternate rendering, but the reading “end” in the main text is the widely accepted preferred significance.
If the word télos (in 15:24) denotes “outcome” or “goal,” the meaning would be that the goal is for Christ to hand over the kingdom to his God and Father after having reduced all enemies to nothingness. The German Neue Genfer Übersetzung renders the verse according to this meaning. Und dann wird Christus die Herrschaft Gott, dem Vater, übergeben — dann, wenn er allen gottfeindlichen Mächten, Kräften und Gewalten ein Ende bereitet hat; dann ist das Ziel erreicht. (And then Christ will hand over the rulership to God, the Father — then, when he has made an end to all dominions, powers and authorities hostile to God, then is the goal attained.)
Another way in which the questions in 15:29 can be punctuated is, “What will those do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead are not raised at all? Why are they also baptized for them?”
The oldest extant manuscript (P46) omits the word “brothers” in 1 Corinthians 15:31, as do a number of later manuscripts.
The words of 15:32 (“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”) are identical to the extant Septuagint reading of Isaiah 22:13.
Similarly, the Book of Wisdom (thought to have been written in the first century BCE), represents the faithless wicked ones as reasoning among themselves: “Brief and troublous is our lifetime; neither is there any remedy for man’s dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world. For haphazard were we born, and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been; because the breath in our nostrils is a smoke and reason is a spark at the beating of our hearts, and when this is quenched, our body will be ashes and our spirit will be poured abroad like unresisting air. Even our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will recall our deeds. So our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and will be dispersed like a mist pursued by the sun’s rays and overpowered by its heat. For our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred because it is fixed with a seal; and no one returns. Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the freshness of creation avidly. Let us have our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no springtime blossom pass us by; let us crown ourselves with rosebuds ere they wither. Let no meadow be free from our wantonness; everywhere let us leave tokens of our rejoicing, for this our portion is, and this our lot.” (Wisdom 2:1-9, NAB)
The wording of the quotation (in 15:45) is not the same as in Genesis 2:7, but the thought is preserved.
In 1 Corinthians 15:47, the oldest extant manuscript (P46 from about 200 CE) identifies the second man as “spiritual,” whereas numerous other later manuscripts add “the Lord” as the identifier.
The oldest extant manuscript (P46) and a number of later manuscripts contain an abbreviated reading for 1 Corinthians 15:54, omitting the words about the corruptible putting on incorruption.
The quotation from Isaiah 25:8 (in 15:54) conveys the thought of the text, but the wording is not the same as that of the extant text of the Septuagint, the Masoretic Text, or the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. According to the Septuagint, “prevailing death swallowed up,” but no object for the swallowing is included. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah and other Hebrew manuscripts indicate that God has swallowed up death forever. Other Hebrew manuscripts may be rendered, “And he will swallow up death forever.”
In the case of the quotation from Hosea 13:14 (in 15:55), the extant Hebrew text does not convey the same meaning. It reads, “I [YHWH] will be your stings, death. I will be your cutting off, Sheol.” The extant Septuagint text is closer to the way Paul framed the questions. “Where [is] your vengeance, death? Where [is] your sting, Hades?” In 1 Corinthians 15:55, the word “death” appears instead of “Hades,” although a number of manuscripts (apparently through scribal conformity to the Septuagint) do say “Hades.” Instead of “vengeance,” “right,” “justice,” or “penalty” (díke), the Corinthians passage reads “victory” (níke). Additionally, the word order is different, but there are numerous manuscripts that reflect scribal assimilation to the Septuagint text. Whereas the wording of the Hebrew text and the Septuagint differ from Paul’s quotation, all agree in pointing to a marvelous liberation.