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’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:45-49

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 7, 2016

This post opens with a brief summary of 1 Cor 15:35-58 followed by notes on verses 45-49.


A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:35-58~The fact of the resurrection being established, the Apostle now goes on to describe how it will take place. He first shows, by illustrations drawn from what takes place in the natural order of the world around us, that the risen body will be indeed the same body that was buried, but vested with vastly different qualities (verses 35-50). The manner of the resurrection, the transition from the present to the future life, and the effects of the resurrection are next discussed (verses 51-58).

45. The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a quickening spirit.

The Apostle’s argument here is that there should be two bodies, one natural or animal, and one spiritual, because mankind has two heads, from whom respectively they derive a different life. From the first man Adam, who, in virtue of his origin, abstracting from his elevation to the supernatural order to which he had no claim, had only a natural, or animal body, mankind could derive only natural bodies having the animal qualities mentioned above, in verses 41-43. But from the last Adam, Jesus Christ, the head and author of regenerated humanity (Rom 5:14), whose soul was at all times essentially spiritual and lifegiving, being filled from the first moment of its existence with the fulness of the graces of the Holy Ghost, and whose body at the Resurrection was allowed to manifest the glorious qualities which always belonged to it by reason of the Hypostatic Union of the divine and human natures,—from such a spiritual head the mystical members can inherit only a supernatural and spiritual body. St. Paul is considering Christ’s spirit as it was at the Resurrection in particular; for it was then that the risen Christ possessed the fulness, not only of grace, but of glory, and that He became in a special manner the communicating principle of grace and glory, for body as well as soul, to the members of His mystical body.

It is true that Adam from the beginning was elevated to the supernatural order, that his soul before the fall was endowed with habitual grace and with many other spiritual gifts, and that, had he not sinned, his natural body would have been transformed into a spiritual and immortal body; but St. Paul is not at present considering any of these endowments. He is confining himself to what was essentially and naturally due to Adam as a creature, and to what consequently could be inherited from him in the natural order by his descendants.

A living soul is a Hebraism signifying a being that has a soul.

A quickening spirit, or “life-giving spirit,” means a being having a spirit that gives life to itself and to others. Therefore, as we inherit our natural body from the first Adam, so we shall inherit our supernatural or spiritual body from Christ, the second Adam.

46. Yet that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; afterwards that which is spiritual.

According to the plan of divine Providence the natural or animal body precedes the supernatural or spiritual body. “Even in the order of nature we see that in one and the same being the imperfect precedes the perfect” (St. Thomas).

47. The first man was of the earth, earthly : the second man, from heaven, heavenly.

The first man, etc., i.e., Adam, the first head of the human race, had a body that was earthly in its origin, having been made from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7); it was therefore naturally subject to disease, death and corruption. But the second man, i.e., Christ, the second head of the human race, was from heaven because, as a Divine Person, He was the true Son of God, coexisting eternally with the Father; and in time He took a human body, being “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

The word heavenly (Vulg., coelestis) is wanting in all MSS. except two of inferior authority (F G). Some authorities (Rec. with A and Peshitto) insert “the Lord” before from heaven.

48. Such as is the earthly, such also are the earthly: and such as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly.

The first and the second Adam have bequeathed to their descendants bodies like their own respectively. The first had a mortal and earthly body, and so all his children have inherited bodies that are destined to death and corruption. But the heavenly Adam will give to all His spiritual descendants a body like His own, heavenly, immortal, glorious.

49. Therefore as we have borne the image of the earthly, let us bear also the image of the heavenly.

As we have borne, etc., i.e., before our Baptism we bore the image of the earthly man, that is, a body subject to corruption and death; but now let us bear, etc., i.e., let us become spiritual and lead a holy life, so that in the resurrection we may deserve to have a heavenly and glorified body conformable to the divine image, the risen body of Christ.

It is disputed whether this verse is hortatory or declarative. The great weight of authority is in favor of the former (φορεσωμεν, let us bear), rather than the latter (φορεσομεν, we shall bear). Note that the difference is one letter, ω in the former and ο in the latter.

Therefore (Vulg., igitur) at the beginning of the verse should be replaced by “And,” et, in accordance with all the Greek MSS.


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