Baptized for the Dead

Baptism for the dead

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor. 15:11-12 NKJ)

29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Cor. 15:29 NKJ)

Some in Corinth rejected apostolic preaching of a future resurrection of the body (1Cor. 15:11-12). Evidently, they still believed in baptism “for the remission of sins” (Ac. 2:38) for they suppose proxy baptism for the dead by the living would effect their salvation.

Paul is neither endorsing the practice, nor citing it without rebuke for the sake of his greater argument for the resurrection. Note the parallel “what will they achieve” (1Cor. 15:29) with “what profit to me” (1Cor. 15:32).

In Talmudic style (Ac. 22:3) Paul rejects the illogic. As the body that was baptized remains dead, it gained nothing. There was no value to the act of baptism:

“What do they achieve who are baptized for the dead, as what was baptized does not rise at all? Why then are they (proxies) baptized for the dead?.

Much can be inferred about the beliefs of these “some” who found the resurrection too hard to believe. It suffices 1 Corinthians 15:29 is irrelevant to our discussion of the intermediate state as a place of possible redemption. Paul’s only goal is to defend the doctrine of the resurrection against heresy, not discuss the intermediate state. Confirming that, everything he says thereafter concerns the resurrection and the sort of body that rises, likely addressing their concerns about it. Therefore, nothing in Paul’s argument supports vicarious baptism for the dead, rather Paul rejected everything the heretics believed about it.

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