Baptisms for the Dead in Idaho Falls

Yesterday morning, our church family examined I Corinthians 15: 29.  If you were to google, “baptized for the dead”, you will find page after page related to the LDS Church.

In Southeastern Idaho, I wonder how many baptisms for the dead have been performed in these first three months of 2012?  Thousands?

The topic of baptisms for the dead has gone national in the past couple of weeks.  One LDS apologist,Dan Peterson, relies upon Lutheran heavyweight, Krister Stendahl, to bolster their case.

And yet others see I Corinthians 15:29 in a different light.  In my studies, here are five sources interacting with Mormonism (emphasis is mine).

1. Alan Johnson writes,

Thiselton counts no fewer than forty different explanations [on I Corinthians 15:29]; Ralph Martin suggests two hundred is closer to the truth. . . . It might be objected that if this proxy baptism was in fact the case in point, why didn’t it continue in the church (except among early Marcionites and now Mormons)?  Why doesn’t the New Testament mention it elsewhere?

2. Craig Blomberg writes,

So there remains no justification for making any of these practices prescriptive rather than descriptive, and certainly no evidence that Christians ever considered proxy baptism valid for total unbelievers.  Both of these observations, therefore, contradict historic Mormon belief and practice, despite their appeal to verse 29 for support.

3. Robert Gromacki simply notes the Mormon view,

Over thirty different interpretations have been given for this difficult verse.  The Mormons practice proxy baptism in which the living are baptized for dead ancestors who were not Mormons.

4. Gordon D. Fee explains,

On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine any circumstances under which Paul would think it permissible for living Christians to be baptized for the sake of unbelievers in general.  Such a view, adopted in part by the Mormons, lies totally outside the NT understanding both of salvation and baptism.

5. ESV Study Bible shares,

Some interpreters through the centuries have thought this referred to vicarious baptism on behalf of deceased people, probably those who had believed in Christ but had not been baptized before they died (cf. Luke 23:43).  But the interpretation is uncertain, and whatever the practice is, Paul reports it without necessarily approving it, and is clearly not commanding it.  Baptism for the dead is an important part of Mormonism, but the Bible gives no support to the idea that anyone can be saved apart from personal faith in Christ (see notes on John 3:18; 14:6).  Other interpreters argue that by “the dead” Paul means the bodies of living Christians, which are subject to death and decay: they are baptized “on behalf of their dying bodies,” showing hope that their bodies will rise again (see Rom. 8:23, I Cor. 15:42-22, 47-49, 53-54).  On this view, Paul argues here that the baptism of perishing bodies is useless if the dead are not raised.


  1. And another Lutheran heavyweight, Joachim Jeremias (“Eucharistic Words of Jesus” among many others), has another hypothesis. Jeremias, fully fluent in koine Greek, reads the phrase “baptism BECAUSE OF the dead”. Based on this reading, his hypothesis is that this passage refers to people who are baptized so that they will be able to participate in the resurrection to eternal life and thus be able to once again see relatives who have previously died as Christians.

    Makes sense to me.


  2. “Thiselton counts no fewer than forty different explanations [on I Corinthians 15:29];”

    “Over thirty different interpretations have been given for this difficult verse.”

    “Some interpreters through the centuries have thought this referred to vicarious baptism on behalf of deceased people”

    “has another hypothesis”

    Thank you for showing one of the reasons God had to restore His Church. There are just too many different understandings of God’s Word that has been created by men to make it very hard to know the truth of what God means.


  3. To call the bishop of the state church of Sweden a “heavyweight” in Lutheran circles is NOT indicative of orthodox Lutheranism. The State church of Sweden in some ways has abandoned the faith far more than the ELCA in the America. If they want an actual biblically and classically oriented Christian to comment, see the LCMS, WELS, or the smaller confessional bodies in Sweden itself.

    @Fred, still waiting for why I should worship a god who needs materials to create, needs to exist within time and space, needs a body, when I worship a God greater than all those things. The god of the LDS is way too small. Also, basing an entire practice on one verse (by the way, the Jochaim Jeremias quote from Greg gets into the original Greek, something I rarely see the LDS do), irrespective of historical theology and in a vacuum based on some sort of “restoration” is the height of arrogance.

  4. Forty different interpretations is not much concern for me compared to the can of worms opened up by the emphatic, dominant, authoritarian ruling by the LDS hierarchy on this one Bible verse amid the entirety of the Biblical data from the prophets, to Jesus, to the apostles. Fred, based on the biblical writings, what do you think would be their united consensus on I Corinthians 15:29?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s