First Corinthians
Chapter 15


I. Introduction: a Difference of World Views

In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul pushed against a faction within that Greek church who considered the Resurrection only as a metaphor, not as a historic event. His argument revealed more than a difference of theological opinion; it represented a Jewish world view against a Hellenistic one. To understand why Paul railed against those who denied the reality of the Resurrection, we must first consider those world views, then ponder its implications before we can investigate the chapter in detail.

A. Jewish vs. Greek World Views

In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul laid out his argument for his "gospel" in a manner that resonated with the times and the culture. He lived in a multicultural, multi-ethnic world that divided itself along different fault lines: philosophic (Greek), ethnic-religious (Jewish) and political-military (Roman). These "dualisms" were implicit in his thoughts. So, we should take a moment to unpack some of these assumptions.

Jew vs. Gentile was an underlying tension in the Corinthian community. Jews and Gentiles might profess faith in Christ, but that did not stop them from interpreting faith through their cultural bias. When Paul defended his "gospel," he had to address that "clash of cultures." To understand his frame of mind, let's review some of the cultural differences between Jew and Gentile.

1. Concept of Time.

The first difference between Jewish and Greek culture was the concept of time. Jews saw time in a linear fashion; in other words, time had a beginning and an end. Greeks viewed time as an endless series of interlocking cycles based upon nature. Day led to night that led to day; fall led to winter which was followed by spring, then warmed by summer.

2. Concept of God.

The second difference was the concept of God. Greeks attributed the cycles of nature to divine forces: gods and demigods. Unlike many of the other nations, the Greeks envisioned these gods and demigods in human form. Their pantheon of the gods were super-human with specific powers, in the way we Americans see our comic book heroes.

Jews pledged an allegiance to a God that had no form and transcended any particular power of nature. The faceless deity acted in the life of the nation at critical moments.

Notice how the first and second differences interweave. The Greeks saw their gods within their concept of never ending natural cycles. The Jews saw time as the result of their God's intervention within history; the activity of YHWH defined the beginning of time, the events of history within time, and would define the end of time.

3. Concept of the Person.

The third difference was the concept of the person. To Jews, the person was a unified whole with inter and outer aspects. As Genesis 2:7 noted: "YHWH God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (World English Bible). Notice the verb in the last clause; when YHWH breathed his Spirit into the dust, man did not gain a living soul, but became a living "soul." Soul, in this sense, meant a whole person that was the result of Spirit-infused dust.

To Greeks, the person had two distinct parts, body and soul. This is the classic dualism or "two part" theory we're familiar with. Some of the more extreme Greek thinkers reduced the person to his life-force or "soul." In this sense, the soul was trapped in the body.

4. Concept of Morality.

This leads us to the final difference between Jews and Greeks, that of morality. The views of each group on morality followed their world views. Jews had a backward and forward view. YHWH created his people and had given them the Torah, which included precepts for right living; indeed, these rules defined a person as a Jew. But there was also a forward dimension to Jewish morality. At the end of time, their God would return to punish wrong doers and reward the faithful. A popular notion held that strict adherence to the Torah brought the time of God's return closer. This belief gave the people hope.

Greeks, however, did not have such a clearly defined set of norms. Instead, the will of the ruler and the traditions of their city defined their morality. While traditions might be consistent, the ruler's edicts might be capacious, even malevolent. The worldview of Greek culture compounded inconsistency. Life within an endless series of interlocking cycles left little reason for moral improvement. One's place in the world was cast. The wheel of one's life went round and round. It would be easy to become fatalistic about one's prospects. The cacophony of many philosophic teachers and movements competing for adherents only compounded the problem. On top of these issues, devotion to many gods was just overwhelming; partaking in religious rites, especially fertility rites like that of the love-goddess Aphrodite in Corinth only added to moral uncertainty.

Paul of Tarsus, a Jew, addressed a mixed Jewish-Gentile audience with these tensions in the background. Preaching a Christ from Galilee, Paul had to defend a Jewish outlook while including both Jews and Gentiles in his message.

B. Framing the Resurrection Within the Jewish World View:
Creation and New Creation.

St. Paul had to walk a thin line to preach a Jewish Messiah to a Gentile audience. He did this by comparing the beginning and end of time. Genesis 1-2 formed the backdrop for his apocalyptic teaching. This created a duality of divine purpose. In the beginning, God create, then humanity spoiled. At the end, God would recreate, thus fulfilling his original intent. Both creation and recreation are the work of the Spirit, but the first Adam sinned and brought death into the world, while the second Adam obeyed and defeated death. The psyche-animated body of marred creation was still subject to the effects of sin and death (immorality, corruption, weakness). The Spirit-animated body of the new creation was free from such limitations.

In Paul's mind, both creation and new creation had a definite moral component. The question that he raised before potential converts was: do you want to obey God or not? By comparing the works of God in the past and in the future, Paul could clarify the role of the Christian, Jew and Gentile, squarely in the frame of the Jewish world view. Obeying God meant life, righteous living now and eternal life at the end. Disobeying God meant death, a squandering of life now and existence without God forever.

For the last apostle, the Resurrection was the starting marker for the new creation. The community of Jesus, then, was the end time gathering of the faithful. The Church was an integral part of the end time process. The purpose of the Church was evangelization, proclaiming Christ and add as many believers to the fold before the immanent return of the Risen Lord. But, there was a deeper reality to the Church; it not only existed, but grew because of its relationship with the Risen One. The Church had the Spirit of Christ; it was a community that had an ontological basis in Christ. What happened to Christ happened to the community. Christ died and rose again. The Church died to the world and its immorality; it eagerly waited for the coming of its Savior so it could be raised in glory. Along the way, it strove to walk and wait in righteousness.

In sum, St. Paul defended his Jewish outlook by contrasting the beginning and end of time (a distinctly Jewish notion) while including all people because the beginning and the end were universal in intent. The Jewish God created all nations in the beginning and wished to save all in the end. In such a contrast, ethic differences were swept aside.

C. Paul's Argument in 1 Corinthians 15

How did Paul try to defend the gospel of a Jewish Christ to an audience influenced by Greek culture? First, Paul employed a dualistic method, an "us vs. them" technique. As part of that method, he employed an argument against his opponents that philosophers call "reductio ad absurdum" or reducing an argument to its logical and absurd conclusion. Next, he responded to the question of the resurrection (the core of Paul's "gospel") using an agricultural analogy and comparing the original creation found in Genesis 1-2 with the "new" creation of the end times. Paul placed protagonists of creation (Adam and Christ) in that comparison and employed the human body as a means to highlight the comparison. Finally, Paul sounded a note of hope, even for those who would be alive at the end. That hope was the ultimate defeat and shaming of death itself.

II. Outline and Commentary

A. Step A1: "Gospel" of the Resurrection (15:1-11).

1. The gospel of salvation (15:1-2, parallel 15:50-53)

2. Resurrection over death (15:3-11, parallel 15:54-58)

B. Step B1: Chiasmus, Paul's argument for the Resurrection (15:12-34)

1. Sub-chiasmus A1: Reductio: denial leads to despair (15:12-20).

2. Sub-chiasmus B: Paul's "gospel" in his apocalyptic vision (15:20-28).

3. Sub-chiasmus A2: Reductio: denial lead to immorality (15:29-34)

C. Step B2: Parallels, Paul's response to questions of resurrection (15:35-49)

1. Parallel A1: The "seed" analogy in the backdrop of the Genesis 1-2 (15:35-37).

2. Parallel B1: Creation and limitations of creature types (15:38-41)

3. Parallel A2: Four seed parallels to the body (15:42-44)

4. Parallel B2: Creation and salvation, the first Adam and last Adam (15:45-49).

D. Step A2: Participation in the Resurrection (15:50-58)

1. Salvation, the transformation of the living (15:50-53, parallel 15:1-2)

2. The shaming of death (15:54-58, parallel 15:3-11).

A. Step A1: "Gospel" of the Resurrection (15:1-11).

1. The gospel of salvation (15:1-2, parallel 15:50-53)

1 I made known to you the Good News, that I evangelized among you, (that) which you received, (that) in which you have stood, 2 through which you are being saved, in which word I evangelized among you, if you hold onto–certainly unless you believed without good reason.

2. Resurrection over death (15:3-11, parallel 15:54-58)

3 I passed along to you in the first (of importance) what I received: that Christ died on behalf of our sins according to the Scriptures; 4 that he was buried and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; 5 he was seen by Kephas, then the Twelve; 6 then he was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at once, out of whom more remain (alive) until now, but some fell asleep (in death); 7 then he was seen by James, then all of the apostles. 8 But, certainly last of all, as a premature birth, he also appeared to me. 9 For I am least of the apostles, as I am not worthy to be called "apostle," because I persecuted the Church of God. 10 But, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace did not become empty in me, but I worked to a greater degree than all of them, but (indeed) not I, but the grace of God [the (one)] with me. 11 So, whether I or those (other preachers), we proclaimed, and so you believed.

15:1 "Good News" is "evangelion" in Greek. So, the next phrase "that I evangelized among you" is redundant; the verb "evangelize" the verb form of the noun "evangelion." Paul used this language for emphasis.

15:1-2 This sentence focused on Paul's "evangelion" (i.e., Good News). After the main clause, he built an "A-B-A" structure:

Chiasmus A1: His preaching of the Good News ("that I evangelized among you").

Chiasmus B: That preaching formed the community ("(that) which you received"), gave its reason for being ("in which having stood"), and indicated its direction ("through which you are being saved").

Chiasmus A2: The preaching was repeated ("in which word I evangelized among you").

In other words, the Good News Paul preached resulted in the establishment of the community at Corinth and the salvation of that community. If the members deviated from that Good News, their faith was in vain.

15:3b-8 Did Paul argue out of a strict time frame? Or did he rearrange the time frame for his argument? Clearly, 15:3b-5 was the correct time sequence: Jesus died, rose, and was seen by Peter (Kephas in Aramaic) and the Twelve. But, the rest of the sequence could be questioned. Was Paul really the last to see the Risen Lord? Or, did he use the end position to argue that he was "least of the apostles?" While a definitive answer was not possible, Paul did argue the "last is first" in 15:10; he worked harder than any other apostle.

15:6 "...he was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at once, out of whom more remain (alive) until now, but some fell asleep (in death)." Could one of the living witnesses collaborate Paul's gospel to the Corinthian community? Ultimately, we do not know. Beyond the mention of those witnesses in 15:6, there is no other reference to this group of people in the New Testament.

15:8 "as a premature birth" implied a near miscarriage. The result of Jesus' appearance to Paul was a weak, sickly, almost near-death reaction. Paul did not immediately change into the bold preacher of the Good News that the Pentecost experience implied. Instead, he was cut down in stature, from that of a proud man to that of babe, a person whose raison d'etre had just been taken away from him. (See Acts 9:1-19)

This introductory passage to 1 Corinthians 15 emphasized two points: the content of evangelization and the act of evangelization. 15:1-11 summarized the Good News for St. Paul, up to the moment he wrote his letter. Paul preached the salvific death of the Christ in the context of Hebrew Scriptures; his burial and resurrection were also according to Scripture. Paul first and foremost placed the "evangelion" directly upon Hebrew tradition as proof Jesus was the Christ (15:3-4). The appearances of the Risen Lord was a secondary, but complimentary proof (15:5-7). Notice, the hierarchy of the appearances, first to Cephas (Aramaic for "Peter"), then the Twelve, followed by a multitude of witnesses (500, according to Paul) and the apostles (those unknown people who, like Paul, saw the appearance of Jesus and were given the ministry of mission). For Paul, the Good News stood on two pillars, Hebrew Scripture (or, to be correct, a certain interpretation of that Scripture) and the witnesses to the appearances of Jesus.

Implicitly, St. Paul insisted that his understanding of Scripture and his witness to the Risen Lord coincided with that of Peter and the mother Church at Jerusalem. His gospel and that of the Christian leadership were one and the same. In a sense, Paul challenged the community at Corinth to double check his "facts" with that leadership. Despite the fact the situation in Jerusalem was deteriorating on the eve of the revolt in Jerusalem (60 AD), reliable travel within the Empire around the late 50's AD (as dangerous as it was) did allow such correction. While the notion of getting feedback from Jerusalem might be speculative, it was entirely possible. The lines of communication were open.

So, St. Paul's argument for the content of his gospel rested on Scripture and personal witness. He was a Scripture scholar trained in rabbinic rhetoric and one to whom the Risen Lord appeared. Paul backed up his argument for the gospel with his power of intellect and his lived experience. This leads us to the second point of these verses, the act of evangelization.

St. Paul clearly believed the "evangelion" itself had power, for it was an encounter with Christ. The "evangelion" was the reason the community began. When Paul preached the Good News, people responded in faith. The "evangelion" was the reason the community existed. The faithful "stood firm" in the faith. And the "evangelion" was the instrument of salvation. Through the Good News, the faithful met Christ, hence they were being saved. This last phrase needs to be emphasized. Salvation was dynamic, ever present, AS LONG AS CHRIST WAS PRESENT. Hence the preaching of the Good News and its constant reception by the faithful (forever offer and acceptance), were instruments of Christ acting in the world. Through preaching and faith, people realize Christ is present. So, they can always say "Yes" to the gift God offers them.

Since the Reformation, there has been a split over the instrumentality of salvation through the word preached. Some connect the preacher as the instrument. Others focus upon the Good News proclaimed. Clearly, in 15:1-2, the latter was emphasized. Paul may have preached, but the Good News saved the believer. However, in 15:3-11, the former was emphasized. The apostles were those "sent by" the Risen Christ. They shared not only the Good News, but their experience of Revelation. In this sense, Good News was tactile. What they saw and touched and heard changed them. And it had the power to change others. After they encountered the Risen Lord, they became the face of Christ to others.

Of course, Paul noted the irony of the experience. He experienced the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus. In the encounter, his world was ripped apart. His world view and belief system was turned upside down and inside out. He was no longer the Pharisee who zealously lived out obedience to the Law. He was now the Christian preacher who experienced God outside the Law. And he lived the rest of his life passing that experience along to others.

Paul drew a direct, clear line of ministry to the appearance of Jesus. And he charged his audience to carry on the mission. Evangelization, then, was more than bringing the words of the Good News to life. It was to live the Good News to the extent that it inspired others to believe. In other words, evangelization was to be the presence Christ for others. That presence begins with an experience of the Risen Christ that began with another believer. The ongoing chain of experiences traced its way from us, through the Church, to the apostles that saw the Risen Lord.

B. Step B1: Chiasmus, Paul's argument for the Resurrection (15:12-34)

1. Sub-chiasmus A1: Reductio: denial leads to despair (15:12-20).

12 If Christ is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how (can) some among you say that (there) is no resurrection from the dead? 13 If (there) is no resurrection from the dead, (then) Christ has not been raised. 14 If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is [also] empty, and your faith is empty. 15 So, we are discovered (by others) as false witnesses (in the name) of God, because we witnessed according to God that he raised the Christ, whom he did not raise if truly the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless, you are still in your sins, 18 then the ones having fallen asleep (in death) in Christ are also lost. 19 If in this life we are only placing our hope in Christ, (then) we are the most pitiful of all men.

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead as the first fruit (for the harvest sacrifice) of those having fallen asleep (in death).

15:12-13 "resurrection from the dead" The word for resurrection was "anastasis" in Greek, meaning "standing up." This was a popular word for resurrection in the New Testament.

In 15:12-20, Paul argued a hypothetical denial of the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, the preaching of those like Paul was a sham and the existence of the community would be in vain. The moral status of Christians would not have really changed, and they would be fools. Without the Resurrection, Paul argued, Christianity would be a useless exercise.

2. Sub-chiasmus B: Paul's "gospel" in his apocalyptic vision (15:20-28).

20 But now, Christ has been risen from the dead, the beginning (point) of those having fallen asleep (in death). 21 For, since death (is) through a man, also the raising of the dead (is) through a man. 22 For indeed, everyone died in Adam, so also everyone will come alive in Christ. 23 (This will happen,) however, each in its own order: Christ, the beginning (point), then those of Christ, in his presence, then the finale, 24 when he can give the Kingdom over to God and Father, when he can do away with all rule and authority and power. 25 For, it is necessary for him to rule as King until which (time) he can place all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy destroyed is death. 27 "For, (he) subjugated all things under his feet." When it says that all things were subjugated, (it is) clear that who subjugates all things to HIM (is) outside (of this subjugation). 28 When all things are subjugated to HIM, then the SON HIMSELF will be subject to the (One) who subjugated all things to HIM, so that God will be all in all.

15:27 "For, he subjugated all things under his feet." Psalm 8:6 The subject "he" was God; the possessive adjective "his" in the royal Psalm referred to the king . The notion of "subjugating all things under his feet" was really the subjugation of the populace to the rule of the king; all enemies were defeated, all plots against the throne ceased. Peace in the kingdom was achieved.

15:28 " that God will be all in all." What does the phrase "all in all" mean? For St. Paul, the phrase meant spiritual union in the end times. Paul saw the end times as a period in which God would assert divine dominion, then he would be present to all creation, just as all creation would align allegiance to God. In other order words, St. Paul saw the end times as the ideal covenant relationship. The notion of subjugation gave the context for the end times, but instead of forced allegiance, the offer of covenant would be freely offered and freely received. This is the true understanding of spiritual union in "all in all."

In 15:20-28, "old creation vs. new creation" duality in Paul's thinking came to the fore. He invoked Genesis 1-2 to explain his apocalyptic vision. The old Adam brought death, but the new Adam brought life (15:21-22). This comparison was more than just explanation; it was the second part of Paul's gospel, for it gave a context for the Resurrection. The Resurrection was the tipping point in history for Paul. It was the beginning of the end. God would decisively act.

At the heart of any apocalyptic vision is the belief in the final battle between good and evil. Paul placed the Risen Christ at the center of that struggle. Power would be stripped from every spiritual and physical dominion (15:24), but, implicitly, there would be a demonic revolt. The Risen Lord would act like a loyal client regent whose forces suppressed the revolt and made all powers subject to his patron, the Father (15:25).

Here, Paul invoked the image of Roman rule: control by the Emperor through client kings. Rome gave almost complete control of a local populace to regional potentate in return for tribute (taxes paid to the Emperor along with every official up the chain of command), political and military allegiance and clear deference to Rome in foreign affairs. (An example of this arrangement was King Herod who ruled as a regent in the loyal service of his patron, Octavius Augustus Caesar.)

The last enemy Christ would defeat was death. Note the language of Paul; he did not consider death as the last stage of life or a condition within nature, but a spiritual adversary. If death was defeated, Paul seemed to say, the entire revolt would collapse, for death (not Satan) was the real leader of the opposition. With victory achieved, peace would flourish. All would be subject to the King and the King would be subject to his Patron (15:27-28). The divine order would be firmly established; God would be present to all.

3. Sub-chiasmus A2: Reductio: denial lead to immorality (15:29-34)

29 Otherwise, what will (those) being baptized on behalf of the dead do? If indeed the dead are not raised, why are (these people) being baptized for (the dead)? 30 Why do we live in peril every hour (of the day)? 31 Every day I live with death, (that is) as sure as my boast (ministry) to you, [brothers], which I have in CHRIST JESUS our LORD. 32 If, according to (a common) man, I fought the wild beasts (like a gladiator in the coliseum games) at Ephesus, what gain (is it) to me? If the dead are not raised, 'we should eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' 33 (But) do not be mislead: "Evil companionship corrupts good moral habits." 34 Wake up (from your drunken stupor) to right (living) and do not sin. For some have no knowledge of God, I speak of your shame.

15:29 "baptized on behalf of the dead" 15:29 has generated much controversy. There are two schools of thought on the subject: 1) vicarious baptism (where a church member is baptized on behalf of a deceased loved one or catechumen) and 2) metaphorical baptism. At the root of the controversy is the efficacy of baptism itself. Does baptism forgive sin (support for vicarious baptism) or is it purely symbolic (supporting a metaphorical view of the rite)? Unfortunately, the root of this controversy were the pitched battles of the Reformation, not the troubles in the Corinthian community.

While there is no evidence of vicarious baptism outside this passage, one cannot deny some sort of vicarious baptism occurred in Corinth. Were the deceased loved ones or catechumens who "fell asleep" baptized by proxy? Did the practice spread beyond the local church? We do not know. Clearly Paul reported the practice, but did not disapprove of its use.

15:32 "If, according to (a common) man, I fought the wild beasts (like a gladiator in the coliseum games) at Ephesus..." St. Paul referred to either to arena animal hunts or execution by wild animal. Both were popular in gladiatorial games of the Roman Empire. In these hunts, a gladiator/hunter would have few weapons or armor; the goal was to slay the animal in a dangerous way to show gladiator's bravery. In an execution, the condemned was chained to a poll and hungry beasts (leopards, lion, bears) would be unleashed to maim and devour the criminals. The executions were between the gladiatorial events of the game.

Did Paul really face wild beasts in the games at Ephesus? As a Roman citizen, that was highly doubtful. He was neither gladiator/hunter nor was he a criminal without rights. More likely, Paul spoke metaphorically. His struggle with his opponents was like a struggle with wild beasts in the arena. The battle could be deadly to his reputation and his ministry. See 1 Corinthians 4:9 for another use of the metaphor.

"...we should eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." An allusion to Isaiah 22:13; 56:12.

15:33 "Evil companionship corrupts good moral habits." A quotation from the poet Menander (342–291 BC), Thais 218, which Paul uses in a proverbial sense.

In 15:29-32, St. Paul argued the second reductio with three rhetorical questions. First, why continue cultic practices that reaffirm belief in the final resurrection and eternal life with God (15:29)? Second, why tolerate the criticism and persecution the new faith seemed to invite (15:30-32a)? Third, if there is no resurrection, why cling to a false hope of everlasting life? Why not live as a fatalistic narcissist (15:32b)?

Once Paul drew the immoral and hopeless conclusion of a Christian life without belief in the resurrection, he shamed his opponents (15:33-34).

C. Step B2: Parallels, Paul's response to questions of resurrection (15:35-49)

1. Parallel A1: The "seed" analogy in the backdrop of the Genesis 1-2 (15:35-37).

35 But, how can someone say, "How will the dead be raised? With what sort of body will they arrive?" 36 Stupid, the (seed that) you sow does not come alive unless it dies. 37 And, the (seed that) you sow, (you) do not sow the body coming into being, but a naked seed, whether it be a (wheat) grain or some (seed) of the remaining (types of plants).

After taking apart his opponents' arguments with two reductio ad absurdum attacks of his own, St. Paul turned to their objections. To some of the Greek Christians, the notion of a spiritual body made no sense; to them, it was an oxymoron. By definition, the spirit has no material extension. So, how can a body (by definition, something that has extension) be spiritual? Paul answered with an agricultural analogy; a seed cannot bring forth life unless it dies (see John 12:24). And the seed (body) sown was not something coming into being (like a new plant), but, implicitly losing being through the act of dying. Paul added to the seed analogy by adding the word "naked." In other words, the dying person is stripped bare of life; through this process, he finds greater life.

In one sense, St. Paul and his critics were not arguing with each other, but passed each other. His Greek opponents focused on the inherent qualities that made up a body, but Paul concerned himself with the transformative power of the Spirit. Surely, he would have agreed with his opponents that the body had no intrinsic immortality. But, he would disagree about the activity of the Spirit, for it could give eternal life. Beneath this clash of visions lay a tension between present existence (the Greek focus on "being") vs. a future existence (life in the Spirit beyond the grave).

2. Parallel B1: Creation and limitations of creature types (15:38-41)

38 God gives to it a body just as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same (type of) flesh, but one of men, another (type of) flesh of (domesticated) animals, another (type of flesh) of birds, another of fish. 40 (There are) heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of heavenly (bodies) is one type, (that) of the earthly bodies is another type. 41 (There is) a certain glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, (and still) another glory of the stars; for (each) star differs in glory.

15:39 "flesh" In the following argument, St. Paul used the word "flesh" to refer to physicality. A human "body" has one type of "flesh," animals have another type of "flesh," heavenly bodies have another type of "flesh." This line of reasoning might strike us moderns as odd, but Paul lived in a time and culture where abilities were rooted in the body. Humans cannot fly like birds, not because we lack wings (that's obvious), but for a deeper reason; our flesh does not have the capacity to fly, even if we had wings. For Paul, God gave each "seed" a certain body with a certain set of abilities and capacities (i.e., "flesh").

In 15:38, St. Paul considered the type of body God gave to humanity, compared to the "types" of body he gave to other creatures, both animal and cosmic. This line of argument hearkened back to Genesis 1, the first creation story. God made different kinds of bodies to perform different functions in the universe. In other words, the "flesh" (physicality) of each type of creature was unique, so its qualities were unique. Glory was an inherent quality of a body. Heavenly bodies had a physicality that made them rise and luminescent; light was their glory. Earthly bodies, like people, animals and plants, had a physicality that held them down to earth; their glory was found in verbal reputation. Even within these broad classes of "flesh," subdivisions of the glory "quality" existed (15:41)

Paul spoke of God given limitations given to creatures, in order to highlight the power of the Spirit, whose activity transcended those limitations.

3. Parallel A2: Four seed parallels to the body (15:42-44)

42 The resurrection of the dead (is) in like manner. (The seed) sown in corruption, (that seed) is raised incorruptible. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in (miraculous) strength. 44 It is sown in a psyche (animated) body, it is raised in a Spirit (animated) body.

15:44 "psyche (animated) body... Spirit (animated) body." Many times, these two terms are translated "natural body" and "spiritual body" when, in reality, the first term is literally body animated by the "psyche" and the second term is literally "spiritual" or "of the Spirit." Notice the term for "natural body" did not focus on the substance or nature of the body, but what animated the body. Too many people assume the term "natural body" and "spiritual body" reflect a moral dualism they read into nature, where the natural or material body is defective ("evil") and the spiritual body is perfected ("good"). Nothing could be further from Paul's mind. He was concerned about the cause of life in the body, the "psyche" or the "Spirit." And, with the cause of life, he was also concerned about the motivation of the psyche or the Spirit.

St. Paul followed his comparison between earthy and heavenly bodies by a parallel between qualities of the temporal bodies (a product of nature) and spiritual bodies (through the power of the Spirit). Notice the temporal quality stated was at the time of death (sown in corruption, dishonor, weakness and psyche-animation); the spiritual quality stated at the time of its resurrection (raised in incorruption, glory, strength and Spirit-animation). Also notice, if the qualities of the passage were read backwards, one could see the life of the Christian that led to resurrection (life in the community was Spirit-animated, the Christian was strong in the face of evil and persecution, he acted honorable, the reward was his resurrection). Paul emphasized the power of the Spirit in the transformation of the person through resurrection.

4. Parallel B2': Creation and salvation, the first Adam and last Adam (15:45-49).

45 Just as it is written, "Adam, the first man, became a living psyche," so the last Adam (had) a life-giving Spirit. 46 But the Spirit (animated was) not first, but the psyche (animated), then Spirit (animated). 47 The first man (came) from the dust of the earth, the second man out from heaven. 48 As such, the dust (one), so too, (those) dust (ones), and as such (one) of heaven, so too, (those) of heaven. 49 Just as we bore the image of the dust (one), we should bear the image of the (One) of heaven.

15:45 "The first man, Adam, became a living psyche" was a combination of Genesis 1:27a (So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him) and 2:7c (man became a living psyche). The verb "become" had a passive voice, that begged the question, "Who caused this "becoming?'" Of course, the answer was God. In other words, "man" ("Adam") received life from God.

The word "Adam" had the generic meaning of "man," the addition of "Adam" to "man" was actually redundant.

In Jewish thought, the "psyche" in this verse was not a mind/spirit that inhabited a body (a dualistic notion from the Greeks), but a living unity with inter and outer aspects.

15:48 The verse is literally, "Such a one is dusty, such ones are dusty; such a one is heavenly, such ones are heavenly."

15:48 This sentence was a comparison between the "earthly" Adam and the "heavenly" Adam. The sons of the earthy Adam shared the same curses as the first one ("As such, the dust (one), so too, (those) dust (ones)"). Those who believe in the heavenly Adam (Christ) would share in the same blessings he does ("and as such (one) of heaven, so too, (those) of heaven").

15:49 "we should bear..." There is some difference between ancient texts of 1 Corinthians. Some have the subjunctive ("we should bear..."); some have the future tense ("we will bear..."). The result of the subjunctive is more immediate; we bear the image of the Risen One in our faith and moral life. The result of the future tense points to a hope in the final resurrection.

Paul balanced the first Adam with the second, the one who would give life. That phrase was literally "the last Adam into a life-giving spirit." The first Adam received natural life from God's Spirit; the last would gift eternal life through that same Spirit.

After considering psyche-animated body vs. the Spirit-animated body (15:45-49), Paul placed those types in to his juxtaposition of creation (beginning of time) and salvation (end of time). In his creation, God formed the psyche-animated body from the dust, in the image of Adam. In his salvation, God would transform that body into a Spirit-animated one through the resurrection of the dead, in the image of Christ. Notice the emphasis Paul placed on the two poles of time (creation vs. salvation), the archetypes of those two poles (Adam vs. Christ) and the types of bodies (psyche-animated vs. Spirit-animated). Also notice Paul placed the believer into the tension between these poles, torn between the moral and spiritual choices each pole represented. Did the faithful succumb to the sin of Adam or stay true to the life offered in the Risen Christ? Was the person animated by his own psyche or by the Spirit of God? That was the temptation the last Apostle implied.

D. Step A2: Participation in the Resurrection (15:50-58)

1. Salvation, the transformation of the living
(15:50-53, parallel 15:1-2)

50 I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood do not inherit the Kingdom of God, and the corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible. 51 Look! I tell you a mystery: not all of us will fall asleep (in the Lord), but we will be changed, 52 in the (exact) moment (of time), in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will blast, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be transformed. 53 It is necessary for this corruptible (body) to be clothed in the incorruptible and this mortal (body) to be clothed in immortality.

15:51 " not all of us will fall asleep (in the Lord), but we will be changed" This is one of four variant readings. The others are: 1) "we all will sleep, but we will not all be changed," 2) "we will not all sleep, but we will not all be changed," 3) "we will all rise, but we will not all be changed." The expectation of the immediate return of Christ argued for living witnesses to the end and sudden change.

In order to resolve the tension Paul created, he described the Second Coming as a time of transformation. Those corrupted by death would rise into an incorruptible state; the faithful alive when Jesus returned would become immortal. The immediate change reflected the belief that, when God spoke, things instantly changed.

2. The shaming of death (15:54-58, parallel 15:3-11).

54 When this corruptible (body) will put on the incorruptible, and (that) subject to death will put on immortality, then the word having been written (in the Scriptures) will come (true):

"Death was swallowed up in (God's) victory" (and)

55 "Where of you, death, (is) the victory;
where of you, death, the sting?"

56 The sting of death (is) sin, the power of sin (is) the Law. 57 Thanks be to God, the one giving victory to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 So, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, immovable (ones), always (performing) over and above in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work in the Lord is not empty.

15:54 "(that) subject to death will put on immortality" The phrase "(that) subject to death" is an adjective that meant "death-like." "Immortality" was an adjective in Greek that meant "un-dead."

"Death was swallowed up in (God's) victory" This verse was a Greek translation of Isaiah 25:8; this translation was unique, since it was not found in the Septuagint.

15:55 Where of you, death, (is) the victory; where of you, death, the sting?" This was a very free rendering of Hosea 13:14: "O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction?" (RSV) Hosea used this phrase in the spirit of despair; he felt his condition was worse than death itself. Paul used the phrase in the light of the Resurrection; for Paul, death had been stripped of its power.

15:56 "The sting of death (is) sin." Paul equated the term "sting" with snake bite, a clear reference to the role of the devil in the Garden of Eden narrative. The sin of Adam was like the bite of a poisonous snake that stung of venom. The venom would eventually kill. Paul implied that the victory of the resurrection removed the venom, hence the sting, of the devil's bite.

The resolution that the Second Coming brought meant the victory of life over death. Death, in this sense, did not mean the end of life, but as a force in the world, like malevolent leader backed by his warriors (remember, many ancient people believed sickness, suffering and death were caused by demons). Paul saw defeat not only in terms of diminished power, but also in terms of shame. For the victory to be complete, the reputation of death must fall, like a leader who fell from grace and ridiculed by the masses. Like the fall of a line made with dominoes, death came to an end because sin came to an end with the demise of the Law (no longer necessary at the end of time). To see the defeat of evil and death required strength, a steadfast faith God would deliver in the general resurrection, a "knowing that (their) work in the Lord is not empty."

III. Conclusion

St. Paul argued for the Resurrection as the core of the Good News by placing it within the Jewish world view. Time had a beginning and an end. In his eyes, both bookends of time were events with their own actors. The sin of Adam corrupted creation at the beginning and led to death. The apocalyptic victory over sin and death by Christ restored creation and led to eternal life. The Spirit drove the events of creation and end times redemption. In Paul's mind, redemption commenced at the crucifixion and became tangible in the Resurrection; faith in the death and rising of Jesus gave the Christian direct access to the divine power that saved, the Spirit.

Paul was incredulous about the denial of the Resurrection and concerns over the nature of the risen body. Denying the central tenet of faith undercut the reason to be Christian. Philosophic discourse over the nature of the "spiritual body" led to absurd conclusions and dead-ends. Both tempted the members at Corinth to take their gaze away from faith in Christ and concentrate on their own ideologies, just like the factionalism and libertine attitudes in the community that led to rancor and division. For Paul, faith in Christ and life in the Spirit only pointed to the Second Coming when all would share in the Resurrection.