The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 28, 2011

This post includes and introduction to chapter 15, followed by a summary of verse 1-11 and ending with a commentary on those verses.

Introduction To The Chapter~The final problem discussed by the Apostle in this Epistle concerns the resurrection of the just, and indirectly of all the dead. It was doubtless among the other questions submitted to him by the Church of Corinth, but it is answered last because of its paramount importance, its unusual difficulty, and its far-reaching consequences.

The resurrection of the body had been denied by the Sadducees among the Jews (Matt 22:3 ff.), it had been ridiculed by the pagans to whom St. Paul preached in Athens (Acts 27:18, 32), had been explained allegorically by certain Christians (2 Tim 2:17), and had been regarded as impossible and absurd by some of the Corinthians who were imbued with false philosophical notions (verses 12, 29). Those Christians who denied the resurrection of the body very probably denied also, or at least doubted, the immortality of the soul. About the Resurrection of our Lord, however, it seems there was no special doubt at Corinth. The facts concerning it which had already been made known to the faithful needed only to be restated to evoke a general admission of, and an unshaken faith in it. Hence the Apostle begins to prove the reality of our future resurrection, first by an appeal to the Resurrection of Christ (verses 1-28), and then by referring to a practice of some of the faithful and to the lives of the Apostles (verses 29-34). The fact of the resurrection being established, its mode and the qualities of the resurrection body are next described (verses 35-58).

If it be objected that the argumentation of St. Paul at times (verses 30-32) seems to prove directly the immortality of the soul, and only indirectly the resurrection of the body, this is doubtless due to the fact that to the Corinthians, as to the Jews generally, the two questions formed but one in reality; the whole man, body and soul, was either living or dead hereafter. Thus perhaps St. Paul had explained the matter when preaching to them. Of course there were some among the Greek philosophers, like Plato and his school, who admitted the immortality of the soul, while rejecting the very thought of corporal resurrection (Phaedo, 114 C; cf. Seneca, Ad Marcum xxiv. 4). These philosophers regarded matter as the source of all evil, as a thing essentially alien to the Divine, and the only barrier between the soul and the Absolute Good. Immortality, therefore, for them meant entire freedom from the body and its evil influences. Hence the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was at first the chief stumbling-block to many of the pagans.

Again we must note that St. Paul proves explicitly only the resurrection of the just, although the general resurrection is referred to in a passing way (verse 26), and is taken for granted as positively declared in other passages of Scripture and in Christian tradition (Matt 25:2, 33, 41; Acts 24:15; John 5:18 ff.). Cf. Cornely, h. 1.; Sales, h. 1.; Coghlan, St. Paul, Pg 154).

CHRIST HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11~Lest the Corinthians might think that he was proclaiming a new doctrine, St. Paul first reminds them that the Resurrection of Christ was one of the chief teachings which he delivered to them when founding their Church. It was a doctrine confirmed by the unanimous testimony of the first Apostles, and made certain by numerous apparitions of the Risen Lord to a great variety of other witnesses. To the Apostle himself the Saviour had also finally appeared, so that the preaching of all the Apostles and the faith of all Christians might be one and the same in regard to this fundamental truth.

1. Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand;
2. By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.

I make known (γνωριζω) , i.e., I recall to your minds what I have already preached to you, which also you have received, i.e., have believed, and wherein you stand, i.e., which you have retained till now: by which also you are saved, i.e., in which you are being saved, and shall be saved eternally, if you hold fast, etc., i.e., if you retain, without addition or subtraction, the teaching I have given you. The reference is to all the doctrines, and in particular to that of the resurrection, which he explained to the Corinthians when founding their Church.

Unless you have believed in vain, i.e., unless there is no foundation for your faith.

3. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how
that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures:
4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures:

First of all, i.e., first in order of time, because first in importance. The Apostles were accustomed to begin their preaching with the death and Resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22 ff.; 10:4 ff.; 13:29 ff.; 17:18, 31).

Which I also received by direct revelation from Christ Himself
(1 Cor 11:23; Gal 1:1119).

Died . . . according to the scriptures. Christ’s death for our sins had been foretold by Isaias (Isa 53; cf. Gen 22; Deut 11:24-26; Zech 12:10).

Was buried. The aorist εταφη expresses the single act. The burial of our Lord is explicitly mentioned here, as also in the four Gospels, to show the reality both of His death and of His Resurrection.

He rose. Literally, “Hath risen” (εγηγερται) . Whereas the aorist was used to express the single act of our Lord’s burial, the perfect is employed here to denote His continued existence after His Resurrection.

The third day. This circumstance is insisted upon in the various accounts of the Resurrection of our Lord, (a) because He had foretold that He would rise on the third day, and (b) because such a length of time was a proof that the Saviour was really dead.

According to the scriptures, Ps 16:10; Isa 53:10; Jonah 2:10; Matt 12:40; 16:4, etc.

5. And that he was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven.

The apparitions of the Risen Lord were convincing proofs of the truth of His Resurrection. He was seen by Cephas, i.e., by St. Peter, as St. Luke tells us (Luke xxiv. 34) ; and afterwards by the eleven, i.e., by the whole Apostolic group, except Thomas, on the evening of the Resurrection (John 20:19 ff.; Luke 24:36).

For “eleven” (Vulg., undecim) the best MSS. and many versions have “twelve.” Even without Judas the Apostolic college was called by its usual name, “the twelve.”

6. Then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whommmany remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.

Five hundred brethren. This is probably the apparition recorded in Matt, xxviii. 16-20, where the “eleven disciples” are explicitly mentioned, and some others are referred to as doubting. It is generally believed that these doubters were among the five hundred here alluded to by St. Paul, as it is very unlikely that any of the Apostles doubted after the appearance of our Lord to the eleven eight days after the Resurrection (John 20:28, 29).

Of whom many. Better, “Most of whom” (εξ ων οι πλειους). What a convincing proof of the reality of the Resurrection that most of five hundred eyewitnesses were still living around A.D. 58!

Fallen asleep, i.e., have died in the Lord and are awaiting the resurrection.

7. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

James, i.e., James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem (Matt 13:55; Mark 15:40; Gal 1:19). St. Paul could hardly be referring to James the Greater who was long dead (Acts 12:2) when he preached at Corinth and when this Epistle was written. The apparition here mentioned is not recorded elsewhere in
Scripture.

Then by all the apostles. If St. Paul is relating the apparitions in chronological order, as he appears to be, and if the apparition of verse 5 was the same as that recorded in Matt 28:16-20, we must take the present one to be that which occurred at the Ascension (Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9), as most interpreters think, or some other private manifestation just before the Ascension, of which we have no record.

8. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time.

St. Paul adds his own ocular testimony to that of the other Apostles. He saw the Risen Lord, when on the way to Damascus he was suddenly thrown to the ground and converted to the Apostolic life (Acts 9:3 ff.; 17:27 ff., etc.).

As by one born, etc., i.e., by one who was spiritually immature, unformed, and unprepared to see Christ and be an Apostle. The older Apostles, including Matthias (Acts 1:21, 22), had been trained and developed in the school of Christ while the Saviour was yet on earth.

If the other manifestations of the Risen Lord which are recorded in the Gospels are omitted here, it is not because they were unknown to the Apostle, but because those given would have most weight with the Corinthians.

9. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Another reason why St. Paul considered himself only as an abortive Apostle, unworthy to be named or classed with the rest, was because he had been a persecutor of the faithful (cf. Eph 3:8; 1 Tim 1:12-16).

10. But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me:

In spite of what was just said St. Paul is by the grace of God, i.e., by the special grace of his Apostolate, what he is, namely, a true Apostle; and this grace has not been void, i.e., without fruit, in him, for he has laboured more abundantly, in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, than any other of the Apostles, or, perhaps, than all of them put together.

Yet not I, etc. Lest anyone should think him boasting, St. Paul immediately adds that his Apostolic fruitfulness has been due to the grace of God, with which he has cooperated.

Grace in this verse means the special grace of Apostleship (Eph 3:8; Gal 1:15, 16; Rom 15:15, 16), not sanctifying grace.

11. For whether I, or they, so we preach, and so you have believed.

After the digression of verses 9, 10 concerning his own Apostolate, St. Paul returns to his theme of giving evidence for the Resurrection of Christ, and concludes that he, the least of the Apostles, as well as they, i.e., the older Apostles, preach the same doctrine of the Resurrection, which the Corinthians have believed without hesitation.

7 Responses to “Father Callan on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11”

  1. […] Father Callan on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. 12:05 AM EST. ******************************************************************** […]

  2. […] Father Callan on Today’s First Reading (1 Cor 15:1-8). This post is actually on verses 1-11 and was previously posted. […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. […]

  4. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. […]

  5. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. […]

  6. […] Father Callan on Today’s First Reading (1 Cor 15:1-8). This post is actually on verses 1-11 and was previously posted. […]

  7. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. Includes verse 11. […]

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