CSB News & Information

Don’t Get Baptized for the Dead

Some passages of Scripture are just plain tough to understand (and even tougher to teach).

What does Paul mean when he refers to people being baptized for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29? What was this practice? And was Paul commending it? There are three primary views:

1. The traditional view says that the Corinthians of Paul’s day had this practice of baptizing someone in place of a believer who had died, and that Paul used the practice as more evidence in the case he was making for the resurrection. He was not condoning the practice for today.

2. The second view is that Paul is referring to the normal practice of baptism. Bodies that will die and decay – which ours do as a result of the Fall – undergo this immersion in water, and so the very fact of baptism is pointing to resurrection.

3. A third possible interpretation is that some Christians had died and their testimony led non-Christians to trust in Christ and be baptized. In other words, non-Christians trusted the truth of the gospel and then were baptized, in a sense, “for the dead” or we might say it was “because of the dead” – with the faith that they would be reunited with their loved ones on the day of resurrection.

Which view is most biblically supported? We’re on safe ground with the traditional interpretation – that Paul is mentioning a unique practice that was going on in Corinth. This view seems to have the most biblical-theological warrant, while the others don’t seem to fit with the larger teaching on baptism and resurrection in Scripture.