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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s summary analysis of 1 Corinthians 15, followed by his commentary on verses 1-8. Text in purple represents his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The Apostle devotes this, almost concluding chapter, to arrest the progress of an error which teas broached at Corinth regarding the fundamental dogma of the resurrection of the body. Among the Corinthian converts, many, it would seem, were deeply imbued, before embracing the faith, with the scepticism of the Sadducees, and certain doctrines of Pagan philosophy, both equally subversive of the resurrection as well of the soul as of the body. Others among them had adopted the tenets of those who denied the resurrection of the body only. Having embraced the faith at an advanced period of life, they could hardly divest themselves of the false notions which they had for a long period of time entertained. In this chapter, the Apostle proves the resurrection of the body, and, as the basis of this proof, he establishes, on several grounds, the fundamental dogma of the Resurrection of Christ, from which he infers the general resurrection of all men. He first reminds the Corinthians of the gospel preached by himself among them, the leading heads of which were, Christ’s death for our sins, his burial and resurrection (1–4). He proves the truth of Christ’s Resurrection from several testimonies and arguments (4–12). From the Resurrection of Christ, he infers the general resurrection of all: such being the connection between both, that if we rise not again, neither has Christ arisen. After pointing out the absurd consequences which the denial of the Resurrection of Christ would involve (12–22), and having explained the order in which the dead shall arise (22–24), he introduces a new argument in favour of the general resurrection, grounded on the total subjection of all things, death included, to Christ (24–29). He advances new arguments to prove our future resurrection, and shows the origin of the unbelief of the Corinthians—viz., evil communications (34). In the next place, he replies to the principal difficulties against the resurrection (34–42). After describing the qualities of glorified bodies (42–46), and after showing that as we are now earthly, we shall then be heavenly, he exhorts us to conform to our heavenly model (46–50). He points out the mode of the resurrection, and exhorts the Corinthians to the performance of good works.

1Co 15:1 Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand.

I wish, brethren, to recall to your minds the gospel, or the truths of faith, which I preached to you, which you received and embraced, and in which you have hitherto persevered.

“Now I make known unto you,” &c. This he says, for the purpose of showing that in the instructions which he is about giving them, he is only reminding them of those matters which they already heard himself preach when among them.

1Co 15:2 By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.

In the belief and profession of which you have received that initial salvation of justice which places you in the way of consummate salvation in the life to come, provided you adhere to it, according as I have preached it; otherwise, you shall have believed in vain.

“By which you also are saved,” refers to salvation by grace here, which shall lead to consumate salvation hereafter. “If ye hold fast,” &c. This he adds in consequence of the metaphorical interpretation put by some of them on the words of our Redeemer regarding the Resurrection, as if they meant a rising out of sin and ignorance and leading a new life. Some interpreters include from the words—“I preached to you,” verse 1, to “after what manner,” &c., verse 2, in a parenthesis; and interpret the passage thus:—I wish to recall to your minds the gospel which I preached unto you (…) and “after what manner I preached unto you,” i.e., by what arguments I establish this preaching. From thus reminding you, you know if you have adhered to what I preached; for, if you do not persevere in it, you have believed to no effect. The construction and interpretation in the Paraphrase are, however, the more probable. “Unless,” has the meaning of otherwise.

1Co 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures:

I taught you among the first and principal articles of faith, which I myself received, as I did my gospel from the revelation of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins, as has been predicted regarding him in the Scriptures.

“How that Christ died.” This, he adds, to introduce the subject of the resurrection; since there would be no resurrection unless Christ died. “According to the Scripture.” This he mentions for the purpose of removing the scandal which the death of Christ was apt to beget in the minds of the weak and unstable.

1Co 15:4 And that he was buried: and that he rose again according to the scriptures:

And that he was buried (in testimony of his being really dead), and that he rose again on the third day, as was prefigured and predicted in Scripture.

“That he was buried.” These words are employed for the reason already assigned regarding Christ’s death. “The third day.” When the Evangelists say he was buried three days, they mean three partial days, viz., a part of the first day, the entire second day, and a part of the third. Hence, no contradiction between them and St. Paul here. The first argument adduced in favour of the resurrection is the testimony of the Scriptures.

1Co 15:5 And that he was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven.

My next argument in proof of his resurrection is the testimony of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, to whom he appeared in the first instance, after having previously appeared to the women, and after him, to the eleven Apostles.

The next argument is the testimony of St. Peter, and the “eleven.” Judas was dead; and hence, only eleven of the apostolic college remained. In Greek, we read, ειτα τοις δωὃεκα, and after that, by the twelve. This reading is susceptible of explanation, although only eleven were present by a figure common to all languages, according to which a number of persons acting in concert and forming a body of colleagues, are designated by the number of which the body was originally composed—although at the time that a particular act was ascribed to them, some of the members may have been absent (v.g.) the same form of expression is used in reference to the Decemvirs. It is said the Decemviri did, what was only the act of a lesser number than ten; so it is also with regard to the “twelve” here.—(See also Gospel of St. John, 20:24). It is likely the Apostle refers here to the second apparition of our Redeemer to his Apostles on the octave of Easter day, when the “eleven” were present.—(John, 20:26). The Apostle does not, in his account of Christ’s several apparitions, follow the order of the Evangelists; for the first apparition was made to the women. Peter was the first of the men that he appeared to. After this, happened the apparition to the disciples going to Emmaus, to wich no allusion is made here by the Apostle.

1Co 15:6 Then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.

Afterwards, he was seen by more than five hundred disciples, assembled together, of whom many are still alive to attest the fact; others have slept in the Lord.

This probably refers to the apparition to his disciples in Galilee. The Evangelist does not mention the number of persons present on that occasion. St. Matthew (28:16, 17), says: “the eleven” saw him, he but does not say how many more besides.

1Co 15:7 After that, he was seen by James: then by all the apostles.

Afterwards, he was seen by James (surnamed the Just); and after that by all the Apostles and Disciples at his Ascension.

“James,” the venerable first Bishop of Jerusalem, whose testimony was of the greatest weight with the Jews. This apparition is not recorded by any of the Evangelists. Hence, it must refer to some private one with which St. James was favoured, distinct from those made to him, in common with the other Apostles.

1Co 15:8 And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due tine.

And last of all, he was seen by me, who am, as it were, an abortion, and deserving only of contempt, compared with the other Apostles.

“As one born out of due time,” or abortion, the meaning of the Greek word, εκτρώμα. This word contains no allusion to the late period of his call to the Apostleship. It is expressive rather of his unworthiness and imperfection, which is conveyed in the idea of an abortive offspring, as appears from following verse. Christ was seen by St. Paul at his conversion.—(Acts, 9:3).

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