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1 Corinthians 15:48-57

15:48 Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear 1  the image of the man of heaven.

15:50 Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: 2  Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15:51 Listen, 3  I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, 4  but we will all be changed – 15:52 in a moment, in the blinking 5  of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 15:54 Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,

Death has been swallowed up in victory. 6 

15:55Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting? 7 

15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

1 tc ‡ A few significant witnesses have the future indicative φορέσομεν (foresomen, “we will bear”; B I 6 630 1881 al sa) instead of the aorist subjunctive φορέσωμεν (foreswmen, “let us bear”; Ì46 א A C D F G Ψ 075 0243 33 1739 Ï latt bo). If the original reading is the future tense, then “we will bear” would be a guarantee that believers would be like Jesus (and unlike Adam) in the resurrection. If the aorist subjunctive is original, then “let us bear” would be a command to show forth the image of Jesus, i.e., to live as citizens of the kingdom that believers will one day inherit. The future indicative is not widespread geographically. At the same time, it fits the context well: Not only are there indicatives in this section (especially vv. 42-49), but the conjunction καί (kai) introducing the comparative καθώς (kaqws) seems best to connect to the preceding by furthering the same argument (what is, not what ought to be). For this reason, though, the future indicative could be a reading thus motivated by an early scribe. In light of the extremely weighty evidence for the aorist subjunctive, it is probably best to regard the aorist subjunctive as original. This connects well with v. 50, for there Paul makes a pronouncement that seems to presuppose some sort of exhortation. G. D. Fee (First Corinthians [NICNT], 795) argues for the originality of the subjunctive, stating that “it is nearly impossible to account for anyone’s having changed a clearly understandable future to the hortatory subjunctive so early and so often that it made its way into every textual history as the predominant reading.” The subjunctive makes a great deal of sense in view of the occasion of 1 Corinthians. Paul wrote to combat an over-realized eschatology in which some of the Corinthians evidently believed they were experiencing all the benefits of the resurrection body in the present, and thus that their behavior did not matter. If the subjunctive is the correct reading, it seems Paul makes two points: (1) that the resurrection is a bodily one, as distinct from an out-of-body experience, and (2) that one’s behavior in the interim does make a difference (see 15:32-34, 58).

2 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10.

3 tn Grk “Behold.”

4 tc The manuscripts are grouped into four basic readings here: (1) א C 0243* 33 1739 have “we all will sleep, but we will not all be changed” (πάντες κοιμηθησόμεθα, οὐ πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα); (2) Ì46 Ac (F G) have “we will not all sleep, but we will not all be changed” (πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, οὐ πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα); (3) D* lat Tert Ambst Spec read “we will all rise, but we will not all be changed.” (4) The wording πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα (“we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed”) is found in B D2 Ψ 075 0243c 1881 Ï sy co. How shall we interpret such data? In light of the fact that Paul and his generation did in fact die, early scribes may have felt some embarrassment over the bald statement, “We will not all sleep” (πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα). This could account for the first variant. Although the second variant could be viewed as a conflation of (1) and (4) (so TCGNT 502; G. D. Fee, First Corinthians [NICNT], 796), it could also have arisen consciously, to guard against the notion that all whom Paul was addressing should regard themselves as true believers. The third variant, prominent in the Western witnesses, may have arisen to counter those who would deny the final resurrection (so TCGNT 502). In any event, since the fourth reading has the best credentials externally and best explains the rise of the others it should be adopted as the authentic wording here.

tn See the note on the word “asleep” in 15:6.

5 tn The Greek word ῥιπή (rJiph) refers to a very rapid movement (BDAG 906 s.v.). This has traditionally been translated as “twinkling,” which implies an exceedingly fast – almost instantaneous – movement of the eyes, but this could be confusing to the modern reader since twinkling in modern English often suggests a faint, flashing light. In conjunction with the genitive ὀφθαλμοῦ (ofqalmou, “of an eye”), “blinking” is the best English equivalent (see, e.g., L&N 16.5), although it does not convey the exact speed implicit in the Greek term.

6 sn A quotation from Isa 25:8.

7 sn A quotation from Hos 13:14.

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