[b-greek] baptism for the dead

From: HARRYJ (harryj@poczta.onet.pl)
Date: Fri Mar 09 2001 - 00:10:18 EST

1 Cor. 15:29 speaks of 'hOI BAPTIZOMENOI hUPER TWN NEKRWN'. The preposition
is usually translated as 'on behalf of' or 'for the dead'. Well, I know it
DOES have this meaning, too; yet I doubt if this is the correct translation
here, and the reason is that you cannot be baptized in lieu of another
person - everybody must do it themselves; as for the dead ones before Christ
came, it is God's concern, not ours. Theologians are usually puzzled by
this, as they find no records in history of such a rite.
Seeing that Christian Baptism is explained in some other places as immersion
into Christ's death (death to sin and to the world), it seems to me 1 Cor.
15:29 means that the person baptized is henceforth considered as 'dead', in
the special sense explained above of course. Therefore, translations like
'on behalf of', like in the New English Bible, are to be rejected it seems,
but what is the best alternative suggestion? 'Baptism for the dead' is
ambiguous. I do not know enough English translations of the Bible, living as
I do in surroundings where other languages predominate. I see a good way of
translating it into Polish, where the ambiguity might be sidestepped (any
Polish readers may contact me off-list about this), but I do not see this
possibility in English, although in the majority of cases it is a much
richer language than Polish. Perhaps some native speakers of English (who
make up the majority of b-Greek members) see such a possibility. Unless of
course they think that it is possible to be baptized on behalf of another
person, but that is a different matter.

Henryk Jedraszczak



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