SPECIAL TOPIC: BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD
1 Corinthians 1:29 has caused major problems in interpretation. We have no parallel passages in Scripture. We have no other reference for this practice in the early church, although there is some historical evidence about something similar being practiced among the heretics of the second and third century. We must admit we just do not know biblically exactly to what this refers. Some theories are:
1. new Christians baptized to take the place of dead Christians
2. new converts baptized because of their respect for a dead loved one
3. persons in catechism having died before being baptized were proxy baptized by living Christians
4. new converts were baptized over the graves of great Christians
Hermeneutically several assumptions need to be applied to the interpretation of this verse.
1. It basically is in a series of examples/illustrations of the reality of the resurrection.
2. One does not build theology/doctrine on illustrations.
3. Since there is no clue to the exact historical reference, this text should not be emphasized or applied and surely not turned into a doctrine (i.e. Mormonism).
4. It is even contextually uncertain if Paul is affirming this practice or simply making an allusion to it (cf. TEV, NJB).
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