This is the title of an article in The Word of Truth for June, 1957, by its Editor, Mr. Otis Q. Sellers.
He maintains that some of the Corinthian believers said, "There is no resurrection of the dead," meaning that they denied "the totality of resurrection, the universality of resurrection so far as men are concerned." Moreover, "they did not deny the resurrection of some of the dead, but they did deny the resurrection of the dead."
Now Mr. Sellers would most likely have been quite correct had Paul mentioned the resurrection of "the dead." But what Paul did write was something quite different. There is a big difference between saying the dead, and dead people, or dead ones. In this chapter, 1. Cor. 15, Paul utilizes both of these expressions, and most unfortunately, Mr. Sellers has missed this point.
John Nelson Darby long ago set the matter of the Greek Definite Article very clearly before the eyes of students of the Greek. "When the Article is used, it always marks the totality of the subject named, because it is a definite entire object before my mind, and of course complete in itself." But when there is no Definite Article in the Greek, it "describes, or attaches a descriptive idea to the designated object." One of the most useful little books that can be studied is his one "On the Greek Article."
Unfortunately, almost every English version fails us here. Perhaps the only one which tells the truth is Rotherham's first or second edition. Here in 1. Cor. he puts in brackets certain Definite Articles, in order to guide us. His later editions removed those brackets, sad to say, probably after his death.
Even the complete Edition of the Concordant Version (1925 and 1930) failed badly here, by inserting the word the wrongly in verses 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 21, 29 and 32, before the word "dead." The question in verse 12 is, "How are some among you saying that there is no resurrection of dead ones (or, dead persons)?" Not the whole of the dead, but that kind of person, one who was dead. The next verse states that "if there is no resurrection of dead ones (that kind of person), neither has Christ been roused."
What we ought to do is to observe those cases in this. chapter where the Definite Article is used before the word dead. Thus, verse 29, "Else what shall they be doing who are being baptized for the sake of the dead?" This reters to certain dead people. Verse 35, "How are the dead being roused?" This refers to the dead in general. Verse 42, "Thus also is the resurrection of the dead." Verse 52, "and the dead will be roused incorruptible." Had Paul here stated that "dead ones will be roused incorruptible," he would have meant some of them only.
Even among ourselves today are there not some Christians who have come to believe that the resurrection of the dead is something quite unreal? Do we with all our heart realize the fact of the coming resurrection? Do you believe, in your heart, that you will yet meet all God's saints, not to mention His Christ? If we have only a dim perception of God's reality and presence, we might have a dim perception of the fact of resurrection. Those members of the Corinthian Church who had been soulish or carnal might easily have been rather dubious about the coming resurrection.
Would Paul's statement have made sense in verse 13, had he meant "Now if there is no resurrection of the dead universally, neither has Christ been roused"? Was the Lord's resurrection contingent on every dead person being resurrected? The same might be said of verse 16.
Again unfortunately, Mr. Sellers seems to have failed to observe Greek grammar here. For any Greek-speaking person to have set in apposition a feminine noun and a masculine adjective would be an enormity quite intolerable, especially in the Divine Scriptures. The two Greek words are aparchE Christos. Of these the former is feminine, and the latter masculine. If the term Christos is to be taken here as an adjective, it should have had feminine form, spelt christE, to agree with the feminine noun aparchE. If confirmation of this is necessary, turn to Romans 11:16, "Now if the first fruit is holy. . . . and if the root is holy. . .." In both cases the word for holy is feminine (hagia) to agree in gender with the word aparchE.
Not only so, but as I have frequently pointed out, the word Christos means strictly one who is anointable, the ending -tos; answering to the Latin -tus. Dunbar's Greek Lexicon at page 1246 gives the meaning as "that may be anointed." No form of the verb chriO (I anoint) contains the letter T. An anointing is not christma but chrisma. An act of anointing is not christis but chrisis.
Therefore the word Christos, Christ, is a noun, and in verse 23 is in apposition to the noun firstfruit. This destroys the opinion given to Mr. Sellers seventeen years ago by Mr. Emil Wuinee, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that aparchE christos; must mean the "anointed firstfruh class."
The word Christos appears twelve times from verse 12 to verse 23. What logical ground is there for assuming that in one case only, in verse 23, it mmt be taken to signify "anointed" as an adjective, and not "Christ" as a noun?
Mr. Sellers says that the two Greek words (aparchE christos) are not a complete thought (because there is no verb or definite article). This is not true. As well might we reason that at Phil. 4:5 we have "no complete thought." When I supplicate God I must say that the expression, "the Lord is near" is both a most complete thought and a most satisfying and helpful thought, even though in the Greek this can be expressed in two words only, Kurios engus, "(The) Lord (is) near."
Or what of a strange expression in Mark 14:41, where there is only one single Greek word, apechei? The common rendering is "It is enough." The Concordant Version tried first, "It is having its fill," then changed to "It is away." Scarlettin 1798 and Charles Thomson in 1808, read "It is over (the hour is come)." This seems very like the sense required. The verb implies distance. The Companion Bible makes a strange suggestion, "he is receiving" (the money; that is, Judas).
Mr. Sellers admits the truth of verse 20, that Christ is called the "firstfruit of those who are sleeping." Here again we find the two words Christos and aparchE, and they are in apposition. Both in verse 20 and in verse 23 He is called "a firstfruit." It is difficult to think that "a firstfruit Christ" in verse 23 refers to anything different from what is found in verse 20. In other words, if the first "company" or order is a "Firstfruit Anointed Company," in what respect does it differ from Him who is mentioned in verse 20, or "those who are the Christ's" of verse 23? Can it be that this "Firstfruit Anointed Company" are not the Christ's?
Mr. Sellers states that" It takes a measure of courage and deep conviction to challenge and deny an interpretation that is almost universally held throughout Christendom. However, the facts in the case force the admission that the words aparchE christos in verse 23 do not refer to the Lord Jesus Christ." He then gives "five good reasons" for not believing this. "First, Paul is setting forth companies to be raised, and the lone person of Christ is not a company. The word tagmati cannot be used of a single person, it must be used of two or more persons or things that are set in the same position."
My reply to this is that Paul is setting forth orders or ranks of human beings who are to be vivified or made alive. But at the time Paul was writing, it was a very well known fact that the Lord had long since been vivified. In verse 22 Paul is only referring to people who "shall be vivified," that is, in the future. Verse 20 has already shewn that Christ was roused from among dead ones in the past. His vivification could hardly be in the future, so He could not come into verse 22. Christ could hardly be vivified in the future in Himself. That is why Paul reasserts in verse 23 what he has stated already in verse 20. Verse 23 does not mean that Christ is still to be vivified surely?
In any case, Principal Edwards has shewn in his Commentary on First Corinthians that the Greek word tagma (order, rank, group) was used in the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (paragraphs 37 and 41) as meaning "a grade, whether captain of a thousand or captain of a hundred." Twice does Clement quote "but each in his own grade" (or tagma).
Mr. Sellers' second point is that "Jesus Christ cannot be the first one to be 'made alive in Christ.'" I have just dealt with this.
His third point is that "Jesus Christ is not included in the word all when we read 'in Christ shall all be made alive.'" Quite true, because He comes into verse 20.
His fourth point is that "the verb zOopoiEthEsontai, here translated 'shall be made alive' does not in this passage accord with Christ. This verb could have been used of Him before His resurrection, but it could not have been used of Him twenty-five years after He had been raised from the dead.'" True; and that is just why Christ is set by Himself in verse 20 as already roused, as firstfruit of those reposing.
His fifth point I have already dealt with, that there are only two words in the statement, aparchE Christos, which Mr. Sellers does not think form a complete thought. If he still wishes to render these two words as "firstfruit anointed," he will first require to justify their grammatical form and gender. In other words, Mr. Sellers will need to turn to a Greek Grammar and learn a little bit of Greek.
If he does this, I think he will be honourable enough to admit he has been mistaken regarding the two articles with which I have dealt above.
A.T. Last updated 4.11.2005