This writing is an interpretation based on the literary principle that the literary context has to be the guide to the interpretation of each part of the text. Since the verse is very difficult to interpret, this writing gets clues from the context. The context of the passage is obvious from the rest of it. It is talking about the hope of resurrection and the hope is the reason for perseverance of sufferings in this life. According to the context, this writing interprets the word ποιέω in a different meaning from many other interpretations. And then, it applies the context to interpret “who are baptized for the dead.” This writing discusses the emphasis on the contrariness between their reason for which they are baptized and the condition assumed in the verse. Having figured out the meaning of ποιέω and the intended contrariness, this writing discusses the awkwardness of the syntax made by the addition of “for the dead.” It suggests how to overcome the little awkwardness through the guide of the context.
I welcome critiques and advices, on the interpretation and my writing as well, from anybody who will have read this poor writing.
May 30, 2014.
A Literary Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29
Regarding interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29, Anthony C. Thiselton said, “Verse 29 is a notoriously difficult crux.” The difficulty lies in baptism “for the dead.” It has brought about so many interpretations throughout the history. Thiselton categorizes them into four and then gives also an overview of the thirteen detailed categories of the interpretations. However, not one of them is accepted as so convincing by most of the commentators. This invites attempts for interpretation of the verse.
This writing is an attempt to interpret the notorious crux. The attempt is based on my belief concerning the interpretation of the Bible. I believe the most important part of interpretation of a literature is reading the text in the languages the reader understands. It is based on the assumption of the reader’s competency that he or she can comprehend the text. As the Bible is also a literature, even if it is that of the divine origin, written in human languages, the interpretation has to be based on the same principle on which that of literatures of human origin is based. Some exegetical tools, such as lexicons and grammar books, may help the reader with reading the text. However, they do not necessarily give a deeper and, much less necessarily, a better understanding of the text. The most important process of interpretation of a text is reading itself.
It is closely connected with the understanding of the text that reading is the most important part of interpretation. The word, text, means a text has all essential literary elements as a text. In other words, a text is a literature that can be read and understood by competent readers of it. The literary elements of the text work all together that the competent readers may comprehend what it says and means. So, reading has to be focused on the text and its literary elements to get what it says and means. For this reason, the knowledge of the language in which the text is written is the basic requirement for interpretation. Adding to the objective requirement, the reader’s literary competency, the ability to comprehend the text, is another basic requirement for interpretation of the text. This is subjective one. The text, the knowledge of the language of the text, and the literary competency of the reader are the basic elements for interpretation. The competent reader will get the working of the literary elements of the text as he or she reads it and the elements will work for the reader to understand what the text says and means.
The literary context, an element of the text, is one of the most important elements for interpretation because it guides interpretation. As all other literary elements of the text, the context works for the reader but what it does is related with what the text really says and means. Actually what the text as a whole says is the context. Since competent writers produce texts in context, as the readers get it, they sense and experience what the writer was writing about. Through the sensing and experience, the reader gets what the text says and means. As the reader does, the context guides the reader’s reading into a direction that fits the context. It is like the recalculating function of the GPS navigation; when the driver loses the direction, the GPS navigation finds a new route from that point. Like this, most of competent readers will finally get the right interpretation through the process. For example, when the reader did not understand a part of a text correctly, if he or she has gotten the context of the text, he or she will try to interpret it to fit the context. It is the same, for example, with a sentence in the text. If there is a confusing sentence in a passage, the reader, having gotten the context of the passage, will use it to find the best fit interpretation of the sentence. In this case, the context is like a ruler for the interpretation. The context works as the ruler by which the reader can interpret parts of the text. It means that the context is the guide to the reader for interpretation of the text. It is a basic principle of the literary interpretation.
This writing is an attempt to interpret 1 Corinthians 15:29 on the basis of the principle. The principle gives a hope to interpret the verse better through the guide of the context. That is, fortunately, even if the verse is a “notoriously difficult crux,” as we can get the context, it will be our guide for interpretation. So, first this writing will discuss the context and then, using the context as the guide, will attempt to interpret the verse. For the context, we can get it in 15:29-34, the chapter, 1 Corinthians, or the Pauline epistles. However, as we will see, for this verse, I could get the enough context from the passage, 15:29-34. So, this writing will focus on the passage for the context. To make the interpretation simpler, this writing will focus on the necessary part for the purpose and will not discuss verses 33 and 34, which are the final words to exhort the readers to get what Paul already has said in the passage.
First, let’s discuss the context. What does Paul say in verses 30 through 32? In verse 30, by the rhetorical question, he emphasizes that there is a reason that he does not avoid standing in jeopardy every hour. In verse 31, he emphasizes on the seriousness of the jeopardy by saying that he risks his life every day. What Paul is emphasizing by saying so is that he does not fear death. By the emphasis, what Paul really draws attention of the readers to is the reason, what enables Paul to risk his life every day and hour with no fear of death. The first sentence of verse 32 makes it clear that Paul is risking his life for a benefit (ὄφελος). The benefit is the reason.
What is the reason? The first very significant clue to the answer lies in the phrase, κατὰ ἄνθρωπον of verse 32. Let’s talk about the translation of the phrase and then try to get the clue for the context. In Pauline epistles κατὰ ἄνθρωπον is used six times in the UBS4. ESV translates it into “humanly speaking.” However, there is no element from which “speaking” can be derived. When Paul particularly argues borrowing just the human perspective, he adds the verb such as λέγω. The case, Romans 3:5, that is to be translated into “humanly speaking” is obvious. So, the phrase of verse 32 is not to be translated so; ESV’s translation is not correct.
Then, what is the best translation? ESV shows no variation among the translations of the six occurrences that all take κατὰ to mean manner. NKJV’s “in the manner of men” also adopts the same meaning for the phrase of verse 32. However, κατὰ ἄνθρωπον of verse 32 does not make very good sense with the meaning of κατὰ, ‘in a manner.’ Paul is not pointing out the manner or mode, how he fought. What he is really emphasizing by the phrase is the nature and characteristics in which he fought with the beasts. He is saying that he fought with the beasts as a being that was not just a natural human being. In other words, the κατὰ is used “to indicate the nature, kind, peculiarity, or characteristics of a thing.” Therefore, the best translation for κατὰ ἄνθρωπον is ‘as a man.’
What is the nature and characteristics that Paul wants to point out by this phrase? They are those of a Christian. That is, they are those of a human being whose death was not the end of life and so to whom such fight was not a thing to be feared but a glorious tribulation to gain something. All the six occurrences of κατὰ ἄνθρωπον are adopted to denote that the nature is just natural human being, who does not know the truth of the gospel and eternal life. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 gives us the clear meaning of the phrase. Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their still being ‘fleshly,’ which means the person of them was of a natural human being who did not accept the things of the Spirit of God (v. 14). He contrasts this kind of person to spiritual one (v. 15). With the contrast in mind, he uses, in 3:3, σαρκικοί (“of the flesh”) and κατὰ ἄνθρωπον in the parallel to mean the same thing. Therefore, the nature and characteristics Paul is emphasizing by the phrase is that of a natural man, who does not know the truth of the gospel and is not born again of the spirit. So, the best translation of κατὰ ἄνθρωπον that denotes the nature and characteristics is “as a natural man.”
Now, it is the turn to figure out the clue that this phrase gives for the readers to get the context? By emphasizing that he did not fight with the beasts as a natural human being, Paul draws the readers’ attention to what makes him different from the natural man. The difference makes a huge difference for human beings. The difference will bring about the ὄφελος (“benefit,” v. 32) that he or she cannot gain who fought with the beasts as a natural human being. Paul has it and it is what enables him not to fear of death and to risk his life everyday willingly. In other words, the hope for it is the reason that he risks danger every hour and death every day. It must be a thing that makes one have eternal life. It must be what makes the physical life not the end of life but a beginning of the perfect life that is promised to those who are not just natural human beings. It must be the process that actually makes one’s being perfect, in the body as well, that the soul lives eternally. Therefore, it is resurrection. The next sentence of the verse makes it clear that the hope of resurrection is what Paul is talking about. It begins with “If the dead are not raised.” What he really means by this sentence is that, otherwise, he would not do such dangerous things but just would enjoy eating and drinking as others do, who do not have the hope. In other words, he is saying that he would live just so as others do who do not have the hope of resurrection. “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die,” expresses ironically his conviction for his current lifestyle and assurance for his hope.
Now the context is obvious that Paul is emphasizing on the hope of resurrection for Christians. One thing we have to get from Paul’s argument is the feature of the Christian life in terms of time joined by resurrection. The Christian life is one in which one is willing to take and endures sufferings and persecutions in this life in the hope of resurrection in the afterlife. Therefore, the Christian life goes through two planes of time: One, the present plane of time, the present life, and the future plane of time, the afterlife. In the time frame, resurrection is the beginning of one’s future plane of time, the eternal life in heaven, and the joint that connects one’s present plane of time to the other. Resurrection represents salvation for Christians, eternity of their lives, and the beginning of their perfect life in heaven. Therefore, as one who knows the truth that there is resurrection, Paul sets all of his hope on it (cf. Phil. 3:7-11). For the hope he risks his life everyday. So, the passage in question testifies that there is resurrection.
Having gotten the context of the passage, let’s begin the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29a, in the guide of it. First, the “do” has to be discussed in two aspects: One, the tense, and the other, the meaning. The Greek word, ποιήσουσιν, is in future tense, active voice, indicative mood for third person plural of ποιέω. The future tense generally signifies what will happen or be brought about in the future. The future tense has to be understood in connection with the context. Now, the context is obvious: Paul is talking about the hope of resurrection that belongs to the future time plane, which will be given to those who are enduring all sufferings in this life, the present time plane. Therefore, by the future tense, Paul must be referring to something that is closely related with the hope, which will come true in the afterlife. The context supports the use of future tense.
Now, what does ποιέω mean in this verse? Many interpreters applied the most common meaning to it, to do an action. The application of the meaning does not make very good sense in connection with the future tense in this sentence—“What will they do?” A dilemma of this translation is in that the tense of the main clause is future and that of the relative clause is present. With the meaning of the “do,” the two different tenses in the sentence raise confusion. What will they do really in the future, that is, in the afterlife? Any Bible reference does not come up to mind as an answer to this question. After the physical death the saints will have nothing to do to be saved actively but to receive the resurrection and enjoy it passively. They will not have to do anything in the afterlife; everything necessary will have had to be done before death. Therefore, to do an action does not seem to be a meaning of the ποιέω in this sentence. Probably the application of the typical meaning to the ποιέω has brought about the most part of the confusion of many interpretations.
The use of the two tenses in the sentence is to be a clue to the meaning of the ποιέω instead of confusion. The meaning of it should be one that connects what is now happening or being done (the relative clause) with what will happen or be done in the future (the main clause). The ποιέω has to mean to make a thing happen on the future time plane as the result of the doing something in the present time plane. In other words, the translation of ποιέω has to be a verb that means to bring about a result in the future by doing something in the present. The candidate words or phrases possible in the glossary of ποιέω are those such as ‘cause,’ ‘produce,’ and ‘bring about.’
Let’s take “to bring about” as the representative. It can connect the future tense of the main clause with the present tense of the relative clause. If we apply the time planes connected with the context, the subject, “they,” are doing something on the present time plane to bring about what they hope on the future time plane. The ποιέω does not denote an action the subject of the sentence, they, themselves will do in the future, but what they will bring about by doing something in the present. The ποιέω denotes they are doing something in the present time in the hope to bring about the thing, which they hope for, in the future. The verb expresses the context—risking life in this life in the hope of resurrection in the afterlife—very well. In other words, the context supports the meaning of ποιέω.
With the meaning of ποιέω, now, it is the time to interpret the notoriously difficult phrase, “who are being baptized for the dead.” Before going on, we need to affirm that Paul is saying the sentence on the assumption that there is no resurrection. The assumption is made by “Otherwise.” The assumption makes the judgment day totally different. Who will be there alive on the day? It is obvious there will be no one alive. Actually, there will not be such a day as the judgment day because Jesus would not have been raised at all and, it means, there was not God and Jesus’ gospel was a lie. Everybody will be found dead, physically and spiritually, or whatever. All will be dead and there will be no life on the day. This is what the assumption, “otherwise” signifies.
The assumption makes the difference between what Christians hope when they are living and what they will bring about after death. They believe the gospel and live according to it, enduring sufferings and persecutions, risking lives in the hope of resurrection and eternal perfect life in heaven. However, under the assumption, for actually there are no such things, they are just living such life for nothing; what they hope regarding salvation will not come true at all. They will bring about nothing after death, however godly they may live in this life. They are being deceived and so they are most pitiful people. Baptism is an example. It is supposed to be for the resurrection. It is true for both kinds of it: Immersion in the water for the remission of sins and baptism through the tribulation as a Christian. What they hope for by baptism is resurrection for eternal salvation. However, despite their belief and hope, baptism is not for resurrection, for there is no such thing. Even though they are truly baptized for resurrection, they will bring about nothing in their afterlife, for there is no afterlife. Even Christians, who are being baptized, will be found dead after death along with those who are not saved. Therefore, even if they are baptized for resurrection, contrary to their belief, they are baptized for the dead. “For the dead” is in the clause to denote the contrariness of the imaginary reality under the assumption to their belief.
Then, what does “for the dead” mean? To figure out the meaning of the phrase, first, we need to discuss the meaning of ὑπέρ. The ὑπέρ means “a marker indicating that an activity or event is in some entity’s interest, for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone/something.” More precisely speaking, it means “the aim, purpose, or objective of an action and implying the ground, motive, occasion of an action.” For example, John 11:4 has ὑπέρ of this meaning: “for the glory of God.” The illness was there, Jesus meant, in order “to manifest God’s glory.” It denotes, when it is used with an action verb, what the subject of the verb wants to accomplish. It is to express the purpose or aim for which the subject does the action. With this meaning of ὑπέρ, the clause is saying that they are being baptized aiming for the dead. However, it does not mean that they intend to be baptized for the dead, but it means that, contrary to their intention, they are.
Therefore, “the dead” should be understood to denote the condition that is assumed by the assumption that there is no resurrection. “The dead” applies to all human beings and their souls on the judgment day when resurrection is supposed to happen. So, those who are being baptized will also be found in “the dead” contrary to their belief and hope. For this reason, “the dead” should not be understood to refer only to the sum of those who are dead, but to the condition that there is no any life after physical death, that is, that physical death is the final end. In this force, “the dead” refers to the opposite to what “resurrection” represents, eternal life and salvation. Simply speaking, “for the dead” is an antonymous expression to “for resurrection.” Therefore, “for the dead” expresses literarily the contrariness of the assumed miserable reality of Christians to the glorious true reality of them.
A close grammatical examination reveals that “the dead” in this verse is different from the general “the dead” the Scripture uses as it talks about resurrection. Paul himself uses it seven times in the chapter: Verses 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 21, and 32. What has to be noted of the use is that the words in the use are in just the masculine plural form of νεκρός, an anarthrous adjective of a case to fit the sentence. This could be a kind of “the independent or substantival use of adjective.” It is an idiomatic use. We can find the use in “the living and the dead,” which are anarthrous adjectives connected by the conjunction. The phrase, “the dead” in verse 29, however, is different from this use—it has the definite article. This is an uncommon use in the New Testament and the only one in the chapter. The definite article may be indicating that Paul is using this word in particular, having in his mind the general use of the word of the scriptures about resurrection. In other words, in this verse, he is not using the general one, but a particular one. The particularity is in that it refers to the condition in which all are dead with no one alive on the judgment day; it denotes the assumption that there is no resurrection. The phrase refers particularly to the imaginary condition of the afterlife contrary to the general true reality of it.
Therefore, “the dead” means for the condition that there is no resurrection but just death of all regardless of whether they are Christians or not. They, who are baptized, are baptized for the condition that there is no resurrection contrary to their belief and hope. By their baptism they will not bring about in their afterlife the thing they are baptized for. “For the dead” is there to denote this contrariness between the imaginary result under the assumption and their belief and hope. He is saying, if the assumption is true, they who are being baptized are doing in vain and they are most pitiful people. He is amplifying the pitifulness of them. However, by expressing it in a rhetorical question, he actually means the opposite. Paul is saying emphatically that they will bring about what they are baptizing for because there is resurrection.
What is the thing that they will bring about? It is what they are baptized for. It is resurrection. They are baptized for the hope of resurrection. By the way of speaking, Paul is really emphasizing on the hope of resurrection. This goes perfectly along with the context we found from the verses 30 through 32.
Even though this interpretation fits the context very well, there still remains a problem. It is a literary one. Probably, without this problem, the verse must not be a notoriously difficult crux. The problem is a syntactical one. Even if “for the dead” is there to denote the contrariness of the imaginary condition to the true reality, according to this interpretation, it makes a redundancy in meaning. As the conjunction that governs the whole sentence, “otherwise” sets the condition on the whole sentence. Then, without “for the dead” the sentence makes sense better without raising confusion. In other words, it seems that the phrase had better not be there. It seems an unnecessary addition, making it a redundancy in meaning and the sentence poor. In other words, the sentence might be clearer and stronger in meaning, if there was not “for the dead.”
Interpreting “for the dead” as a significant independent notion of some passed people has led many commentators to interpret the baptism of this verse as the vicarious one. Two things have to be pointed out to the view. First, the contexts of the passage, the section, the chapter, and even the New Testament do not support such interpretation. There is no idea of vicarious baptism in both testaments. If the verse is talking about it, the passage (vv. 29-34) loses its context, for the verses 30-34 does not say anything about such strange baptism. Rather, the context is saying that the fate of a soul cannot be changed after death of the person by emphasizing on perseverance in the present life in the hope of perfect life in the afterlife. If there is vicarious baptism, Paul would not say such way. Second, their attempt is like to change the context because of a literary element they are not familiar with. They do not get the principle that the context has to be the guide for the interpretation of a part of the text. They are more focused on the part than on the context as if they do on a tree than on the forest. Probably they did not want to take the awkwardness of “for the dead” as it is for it does not fit the modern scholarly way of speaking and writing. So, they invented the notoriously strange concept, the vicarious baptism and covers the scripture with it. It is not based on the context but rather it destroys it. So, what they made is an eisegesis around the little syntactical awkwardness that “for the dead” makes. However, what if the awkwardness is just strangeness to the ears of modern scholarly readers? Even if the syntax is not exactly the same, there are a couple of cases that the early century biblical and apocryphal writers used similar syntax. By the cases, we may affirm that they are using such a way of expression intentionally for clearness and emphasis. What is more surprising is that one of them belongs to apostle Paul, and that, the same book we are discussing, 1 Corinthians.
Let’s look at each of them briefly. One occasion is in the apocryphal writing, 4 Maccabees 2:7. The verse begins with ἐπεὶ and it is translated into “otherwise.” It says, “Otherwise how could it be that someone who is habitually a solitary gormandizer, a glutton, or even a drunkard can learn a better way, unless reason is clearly lord of the emotions?” The previous section is saying that “reason is able to control desires” (2:6a). So the “otherwise” means ‘if reason is not able to control desires.’ Then, the “unless …,” seems an unnecessary addition for it says the same thing as what “otherwise” means. One other example is in the book of Hebrews. 10:2 has ἐπεὶ in the meaning of “otherwise.” The previous verse is saying, “[The law] can never … make perfect those who draw near.” So, “otherwise” in the verse means, ‘If the law can make perfect those ….’ Here according to the verse and the context, perfect means ‘without consciousness of sins, having been cleansed off the sins by the offerings.’ With this meaning of perfect, the “since” clause means exactly the same with what “otherwise” means. So, the “since” clause seems an unnecessary addition. Now, let’s look at the example in 1 Corinthians 14:6. This verse does not have ἐπεὶ but it is similar in that it is in a conditional mood. Paul might have had ended at this point, “If I come to you speaking in tongues how will I benefit you,” and what he wants to say is clear. However, he continues in the sentence, “unless …?” In the addition, what he lists, knowledge, prophecy, and teaching are the things that he contrasts to the tongue speaking. So, “unless” clause means the same with what ‘if I come to you speaking in tongues’ does. It seems an unnecessary addition.
As we have seen the cases in early biblical and apocryphal writings, such way of expression is a way intentionally adopted by the authors for clearness and emphasis. The one in 1 Corinthians 15:29, made by “otherwise” and “for the dead,” may have to be understood as the same way of speaking. If it is true, as in other cases, two things have to be noted. First, the addition should not be taken as a thing that makes the interpretation difficult, but that just makes the meaning of the “otherwise” clear. Second, therefore, “for the dead” is not to mean something else than what “otherwise” means to make it an addition for clearness and emphasis. Concerned with this point, one thing we need to remember is that such a way of expression, which sounds redundant and awkward to modern scholarly readers and writers, is common in the Scripture. The Hebrew parallelism is the example. If the addition is a kind of the parallelism, we can find numerous examples in both Testaments. Therefore, “for the dead” could be taken as one to make the interpretation easier.
The parallelism is used even in the verse we are interpreting. Paul repeats the point he makes by the first sentence in the second sentence with a little difference. What he repeats is his point but not just words. As the parallelism is for better clearness and emphasis of the point, the difference makes what Paul wants to say clearer and emphasized. Let’s look at each element. First, “if the dead are not raised at all” is the paraphrase of “otherwise” in the first sentence. Second, the question seems different. It is pointing the reason that people are baptized. As we discussed for the previous sentence, the reason, by the way, is what the people would like to bring about by baptism. They are baptized for resurrection, that is, eternal life, but under the assumption, actually they are baptized for the dead. The focus of this question is the contrariness between belief and hope of the people and the assumed reality. Therefore, even with the difference, both questions are making the same point. Third, the sentence uses the pronoun, “them,” as the substitute for “the dead.” It is just a mechanical substitution of the part of the first sentence, which it refers to. For “the dead” is in third person plural, the sentence simply replaces the phrase with ‘them.’ The elements, as they are repeated, do not make any confusion; but they help the readers to get the point more cleared and emphasized.
Considering all things that have been said so far, the first sentence of verse 29 says this: “If there is no resurrection, what will they bring about in their afterlife, who are baptized in the hope of resurrection while they are baptized under the condition that there is no resurrection?” And the second sentence says, “If there is no resurrection at all, why people are being baptized for resurrection while they are baptized for the dead for there is no resurrection?” By all these, Paul is saying that, because there is resurrection, they will bring about resurrection, who are baptized for resurrection. He is emphatically saying, they are the witness that there is resurrection because, otherwise, they would not be baptized for they will not bring about resurrection on the judgment day for there is no resurrection. This interpretation fits the context and the context supports the interpretation.
Aland, Kurt, et al. The Greek New Testament. Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear With Morphology). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993; 2006.
Arndt, William, et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Septuaginta: With Morphology. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996.
The Holy Bible. English Stnadard Version. Weaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001.
The Holy Bible. New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
The New oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha. Revised standard version. Ed. Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. Gerhard Kittel, et al. Electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964.
Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar: Beyond The Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Electronic ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000.
Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1240.
“(a) One category adds σωμάτων to ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, and identifies the dead with those who are being baptized. (b) A second view understands baptism as the suffering and death of martyrdom. (c) A third interprets baptism broadly as washing (where the Hebrew but not the Greek may use a common word). (d) The fourth understands this as vicarious baptism on behalf of people who are dead” (ibid.).
The context this writing is focusing on is the literary context, unless otherwise noted. This is based on my belief that, with the text it is possible that the readers can get what the author of the text intended to say or mean. The outside materials may work as supplements to affirm or justify what the readers already have gotten through the literary context. There are various contexts such as literary one, social one, cultural one, or historical one. Whatever the other contexts are, I believe, all kinds of ones are (probably, have to be) reflected and dissolved in the text. So, the literary context is basically enough for the readers to get what the text says or means.
According to the Logos Bible software reference search, they are Rom. 3:5; 1 Cor. 3:3; 9:8; this verse; Gal. 1:11; and 3:15.
William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 513. BDAG, hereafter.
Tomorrow, in this sentence, does not mean literally next day; but it refers to a specific time in relation with the hope Paul is talking about. Because the hope is for resurrection, the time tomorrow refers to is when it is fixed whether or not one will be resurrected on the judgment day, i.e., the time of the physical death. So, “tomorrow we die” expresses the lack of afterlife.
Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear With Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993; 2006). UBS4 Int., hereafter.
It could be taken as the subjunctive equivalent (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond The Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 571) and it could be the deliberative subjunctive (ibid., 465). Or it could be the gnomic future (ibid., 571). However, whatever the use of future may be, the time reference is the future. So, in those uses, even if it is possible to remove future force in English translation, it is not possible in Greek even in those uses. Therefore, we should take it as a future. By the way, I would take it as a gnomic use, for it is addressing what is true regardless of time.
NKJV. ESV eliminates the future force by translating it “what do people mean …?” I think NKJV is better than ESV for this verse for some reasons. The reasons will become clear in further discussions.
“Bringing something into being, bringing something to pass” (BDAG, 839). An example that the word is used in this meaning is Acts 15:3. “Brought” (ESV) or “caused” (NKJV) of the verse is what ποιέω means here in 1 Cor. 15:29a.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Strong#5228.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel et al., electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 8:514. TDNT, hereafter.
BDAG, 668. It says “νεκροί without the article means all the dead, all those who are in the underworld (νεκροί=the dead).”
Wallace, 294. However, he does not discuss this case particularly. BDAG explains this use of the word as particular cases that the article is omitted for some reasons (668).
E.g., Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5; 7:2.
The manuscript is Septuaginta: With Morphology (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996) and the translation is The New oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha, revised standard version, ed. Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
As a Korean native speaker, I can say, in popular Korean speaking and writing, we have a similar way of expression. Many make repetitions in the sentence to make the meaning clear and put emphasis on the point. I suspect that this kind of redundancy, intended by the author, sounds awkward especially to scholarly people, who are trained in modern way of writing, which, as a norm, degrades repetition and redundancy.
My translation. In Greek, they are genitive. So, ‘them’ is for English translation.