Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
Why Stand We in
Amazing Conclusions have been made regarding this Enigmatic Question.
Does the Apostle Paul advocate one person being Baptized on behalf of Another?
Or, Was his REAL point something more practical and entirely different?
Few of us in this modern age fully appreciate the consequences of embracing the Faith of Christ and becoming converted to Christianity under conditions that existed in the first century. As a result, passages such as a particular one found in the 15th chapter of First Corinthians can pass right by our notice without registering as to their fullest meaning.
Despite an aberrant practice invented by a well-known religious establishment in the nineteenth century, based on the literal idea of “being baptized for the dead”, (in other words, attempting to effect the salvation of ‘other’ people, distant deceased, unconverted relatives, and the like), this practice had no place in the belief system of the early New Testament Church. The modern idea had no such application with them, nor would it have. This idea, in fact, misses the entire point of what Paul was explaining to them in their time and to us.
Being set within a chapter devoted to explaining a fundamental doctrine of the Church (as identified in Hebrews 6), the resurrection from the dead, we should focus on that context as being more the point than simply the commitment of baptism itself, in spite of who we assume it might be for. The passage in question is 1st Corinthians 15:29-31. The chapter itself deals directly with the subject of the resurrection: Christ’s first and foremost, and also ours’! “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” Paul continues by illustrating examples of his personal experiences, even having been put in a situation where he had to fight with wild beasts in the arena for his faith! That should direct our thinking in what we are to take him to be saying.
Questions we should be asking ourselves are: How does one person being baptized effect or guarantee the resurrection of another person? If that even was Paul’s point. What does Paul mean by, “I die daily”? and how is that claim relevant?
In order to adequately comprehend the point of this passage, we have to acquaint ourselves with the political climate of their day. That climate provides us with a major set of considerations.
Threat and Counter -Threat
later called ‘Christianity’, was at first accommodated by the local culture,
but as it spread, gaining in popularity, and as it was demonstrated to be at
odds with certain prevailing Jewish beliefs and practices, persecutions began
to emerge against it. At first from the Jewish quarter, but later from the
Roman political establishment: The latter being the more lethal.
So, to better comprehend Paul’s real point, we should acquaint ourselves with the religious climate of his day. First Corinthians was likely written in 57 AD. Important things were happening in that era having begun some two decades before.
While we’re familiar with the Jewish historian, Josephus, known for his meticulously detailed accounts of late first century Jewish history, he had his counterparts, in the Roman world as well, who preserved accounts of historical events significant to Christian history. They would include Tacitus, Irenaeus and Tertullian. 2 We will be considering historical facts preserved by these and other early and reputable historians.
While the following is lengthy, a great deal more could be drawn from the pages of history. I will attempt to limit it to a coherent condensation, while retaining sufficient detail to create for the reader a vivid picture of the severe trials the early Christian community had to endure.
Christianity Takes Root in
after the crucifixion, in the mid 30’s AD, a small entourage, including
Joseph of Arimathea, great uncle of Christ, were exiled from
It was from
this nucleus that Christianity began a rapid spread in
The Claudian Edict
In 42 AD, Emperor Claudius, issued an edict to… destroy Christian Britain, man, woman and child, and its great institutions, and to burn its libraries. (From this, we can see that it was their learned and free culture that posed the great threat to the Empire.) In this edict, Claudius also proclaimed to the Roman Senate that… “to accept the Christian faith was a capital offense.” Of special note, the edict also included instructions to kill “any person descended from David”, which will have special importance as this story progresses. 5
(We should be reminded that this was more than two and a half to three centuries before the founding of the Roman Catholic Church!)
his edict, Claudius then amassed the largest Roman invasion force ever,
including some of
It should be
noted that the invasion of
invasion force began a nine-year war in which Claudius’ Legions faced
frequent defeats, at times suffering massive losses. The British proved to be
no easy conquest. After two years of brutal battles, Claudius then sought a
temporary armistice, in which the leaders of the British resistance were
armistice, hoping to secure a peace, Claudius offered his daughter, Venus
Julia, to Arviragus. Here, we see the strange situation, where a Christian
king became son-in-law of the pagan Roman Emperor, Claudius! One who earlier
had sworn to exterminate Christianity and
strange enough, in
One can see
God’s hand in these highly unusual unions. Events that, as we will see, had
profound effect on the situation with the soon-to-be-establish-ed
Barbarians They Were Not!
situation of the armistice and the invitation of the adversary to come to
Caradoc’s Betrayal and Capture
With the armistice ended, hostilities once again resumed but under a new general, Ostorius Scapula. The war continued for another seven years, until disaster occurred in 52 involving the capture of the feared Pendragon, Caradoc.
It wasn’t on
the field of battle that Caradoc was outmaneuvered. Caradoc’s forces were, at
his final battle at Clune, arrayed against four top generals,
including Vespasian, a future Emperor, his brother and his son Titus, who
gained fame 18-years later in the siege and destruction of
escaped the field of battle, Caradoc’s location was betrayed, and he was
later captured. He and his entire family: his father, brother, wife, sons,
daughter (Gladys – a different Gladys than his sister mentioned earlier), the
entirety of three generations! Tacitus writes 7 that 3-millions crowded the
usual Roman practice was to incarcerate captive enemies in the horrible fetid
dungeon called, among other things, the Tarpeian, this indignity was not
inflicted on this royal British Silurian family. Nor was the usual practice
carried out of later publicly strangling the victims and dragging
their bodies through the streets of
We can detect a major consideration in Caradoc’s defense before the Roman Senate. (Caradoc was called Caracticus by the Romans).
It is recorded in Roman and British annals that there were 39 pitched battles in the nine years prior to Caradoc’s capture, with no clear overall victory on either side. In consideration of that, we then can appreciate the great interest the whole world had in the reputation of this great warrior, who was, with his loyal subjects, able to withstand the finest Legions that the Empire could field. 9 One thing one can say, after 38 bloody battles, Caradoc and his forces stood, unconquered.
A Most Revealing Self-Defense
Such is the nature of modern education, but a narrative well known among British schoolchildren in generations past, is largely extinct among our ‘enlightened’ societies today. Entering the Senate Chamber, Caradoc (Caracticus), stood before the Emperor, defiant and unconquered in spirit, and in Latin, addressed the Senate with this defense, as recorded by Tacitus. 10 “Had my government in Britain been directed solely with the view to the preservation of my hereditary domains, or the aggrandizement of my own family, I might long since have entered this city an ally, not a prisoner: nor would you have disdained for a friend a king descended from illustrious ancestors, and the dictator of many nations. My present condition, stript of its former majesty, is as averse to myself as it is a cause of triumph to you. What then? I was lord of men, horses, arms, wealth; what wonder if at your dictation I refused to resign them? Does it follow, that because the Roman’s aspire to universal domination, every nation is to accept the vassalage they would impose? I am now in your power – betrayed, not conquered. Had I, like others, yielded without resistance, where would have been the name of Caradoc? Where your glory? Oblivion would have buried both in the same tomb. Bid me live, I shall survive forever in history one example at least of Roman clemency.”
For reasons not fully explained by later historians, Claudius granted not only the requested clemency, but also provided the family a degree of accommodation, highly unusual in Roman history. We can understand when we know what they understood. There is a history that has become largely unknown in our generations that would explain it. That is no inadvertent oversight.
Few tourists who explore the ruins of Imperial Rome’s greatness are aware of, or care to visit, what was known as the Palace of the British. On the Mons Sacer, called Scarus, is a large residence, which Romans knew as “Palatium Britannicum”. The curious aspects of this magnanimous grant on the part of the Roman government is a truth as strange as fiction. Even more significant with the emerging Christian community is who lived on these grounds, and what its existence meant to those who dared defy the Empire, embracing the Faith!
the reasons: Caradoc’s cousin, Arviragus, was son-in-law to the
Emperor Claudius, he being married to Claudius’ daughter. Second, Claudius’
highly regarded general, Aulus Plautius, was married to Caradoc’s sister.
Third, among the captive Silurian family was a young maiden who captured the
heart of the Emperor. Gladys, teenage daughter of Caradoc, known for her
exceptional beauty, was adopted by the Emperor Claudius, and was given a
Roman name, that of Claudia, a name which Romans were prohibited from using.
(The different last letter only indicating gender in Latin). It was unlawful
to name a child (irrespective of gender) with the name of the ruling Emperor,
without official approval. (Claudia (nee-Gladys) was a fervent baptized
Christian!) Perhaps this adoption is partly explained by the Emperor having
given his natural born daughter in marriage to the now current foe,
Arviragus, who a few years later returned to
Emperor Claudius was well aware of Claudia’s Christian faith and devotion, and contemporaries were amazed that the terms of her adoption did not require she abandon her faith.
More Legitimate than any Roman
significant than that: evidence of which we see in both the Claudian
edict of 42 AD and the defense of Caradoc, made personally and passionately
before the Roman Senate in 51. In Cladius’ malediction against the “descendants
of David” and reflected again a decade later in Caradoc’s address, he
being world known as “a king descended from illustrious ancestors, and
the dictator of many nations”, we see a tacit acknowledgement
on the part of the Romans of his legitimate rule, with a legitimacy that
pre-dated Julius, the Empire’s first Caesar, by no less than a thousand
years! You see, these ancient peoples very well knew where the Throne of
David had been transplanted (‘overturned’) to. Facts ‘conveniently lost’ in
the modern age! A surviving daughter of King David’s dynasty was conveyed
Caradoc’s self-defense strongly reminded the power-obsessed Romans of his royal legitimacy that transcended theirs. Any respect for the God of Israel would have, with this ‘in-your-face’ reminder, imposed a great precaution on their part. Read Caradoc’s appeal once again, with that awareness!
One More Fortuitous
In the year
53, young Gladys (Claudia) married a prominent Roman Senator, Rufus Pudens,
son of Pudentius, also a Senator. Pudens, as he was called, was also an
Aide-de-Camp to the Roman general Aulus Plautius from 42 AD, at the start of
the Claudian campaign in
be a more strange circumstance than for the king of
to Rufus Pudens was not in any palace of the Romans, but was conducted in the
palace of her family, the Palatium Britannicum: the
thereafter lived among the other Christians at the
The Early Church in
While all of
the British hostages were effectively pardoned, conditions were imposed.
Caradoc was sworn to never again take up arms against
the remaining occupants of the
Linus; son of Caradoc and brother of Claudia
Claudia; youngest daughter of Caradoc, adopted daughter of Emperor Claudius and wife of Pudens,
Pudens; Roman Senator and son of a Senator, a man of great wealth and influence,
Priscilla; mother of Pudens, a Jewess,
to Pudens and first pastor of the Roman congregation at the
The four children of Claudia and Pudens: sons; Timotheus and Novatus, eldest and youngest, and daughters; Pudentiana and Praxedes.
Of the above, only Claudia died a natural death! The others were all eventually martyred!
Graecina; sister of Caradoc, and her husband, the Roman general; Aulus Plautius lived nearby.
Paul first came to
What is most interesting is the clear fact that the British brought Christianity to Rome in the mid-first century, while the Roman Catholic Church poses as having brought ‘christianity’ to Britain, though that organization didn’t even exist for another three centuries! And, by then, it represented distinctly different beliefs than did the earliest Churches of God.
Christian Church existed in Rome, prior to the year 51, was small and largely
of Jewish background, (functioning under the ‘shadow sanction’ of their
“Jewish” identity) but by circumstance was compelled to meet in secret 11
on account of he Claudian Edict, and before it, the Tiberian ban, which
imposed the death sentence on all who professed Christianity. As the British
Glory and the Grave!
It is when we have this background that we can better understand the profound anxiety expressed by the Apostle Paul in the above ‘Title Passage’: 1st Corinthians 15:29-30. “Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” In other words, why do we place ourselves into a life-threatening situation continually? These named above, but for one, all dear friends, and even kinsmen of his, were, one by one, over the years, martyred for their steadfastness in the Faith of Christ. In such circumstances, it would be natural to question the advisability or the desirability of becoming baptized. A commitment which itself locks the believer into a double-binding and irreversible decision, with the risk of death at the hands of the authorities, OR death with exclusion from the Household of God in everlasting Judgment, should the believer ever recant!
This situation is the matter Paul is addressing to any who would question why anyone would make such commitment. His justification for putting ones’ self into such continuing danger is the assurance of the resurrection from the dead, the major subject of chapter 15. It wasn’t in regard to one person being baptized on behalf of another, but to replace another, to stand-in-place of another on the front lines of spiritual battle, to replace those who had fallen in martyrdom. Why would a person take on such risk, except under assurance that this life isn’t what it’s all about? We do so striving for Eternal Life, assured of a better Estate. That was Paul’s point.
Fresh on his mind, at the point in time that he wrote what he did, was the heartrending losses of these many close and personal friends. One by one, taken and slaughtered under the brutal persecutions of their day. Behind Paul’s lament was profound personal loss, describing a maw into which he himself would eventually be drawn!
thousands of Saints also were martyred in the arena. While no Roman soldier
would dare arrest any of these of the Pudens household or their guests, the
same was not the case with other Christians elsewhere. These of the
the grounds of the
In his final
salutation to the Church at
Timothy 4 also makes mention of these in
History Reflected in Prophecy
While history may not be the major interest of many of us, this is nevertheless important to us personally. I want to shift now to a most important prophecy, one especially addressed to each of us in this generation. A prophecy that we can not fully understand without an awareness of the historical situation, such as what has been presented here, and many circumstances like it throughout history. It would seem that in our ignorance of the extreme trials of our predecessors, we are lulled into thinking that our unmolested situation is more the norm than was the other. No, in fact, our day is the exception, and, we are told, will not always remain such!
Killed AS They Were!
Speaking of the end times, the Book of Revelation alerts us to what we should anticipate in our day. Chapter 6, verses 9-11 has this: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Here we are made aware that there will be an end-time repetition of the trying situations that the early Christians, and Christians through history, had to endure. We have read the names of many of them! Though kept in Heaven, under the Altar, the ‘souls’ (spirits) of these martyred Saints are brought back into a state of consciousness, briefly, for the purpose of asking, “How much longer must we wait?” This is what is referred to as ‘the end-time martyrdom of Saints’.
Now, in some organizations, it has been posed that these end-time Martyrs are killed for their spiritual lethargy or inferiority. That is to great degree refuted by the exemplary status of those of the early Church, and certainly those who throughout the ages, faced the extremes of ‘dungeon, fire and sword’ as the old hymn, ‘Faith of our Fathers’ reminds us of. No, as the prophet Daniel also explains, these martyred in this late era are equally exemplary, and are afforded the same high esteem as we see in Revelation 6. Daniel 11 has this to add, starting in verse 32: “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.” (KJV) These are NOT the slackards! They are the people who do understand, and who DO major exploits using the opportunities and Talents God gives them! Their experiences refine them even further for high positions in God’s Kingdom! Chapter 12, verse 10 explains: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
Raised in Glory!
Illustrating their Glorified resurrected state, we see in Daniel 12:3 two different categories of Saints: Those who exhibit a general glow, comparable to the glow of the evening sky, and those who stand out as bright luminaries, as stars in the twilight, outshining the general glow of their overall celestial setting. These are the wise, the diligent, those who turn many to righteousness!
We have an exciting, though trying, future. Stay diligent, my friends!! &
1 The Mithraic Cult was to large degree an ‘underground’ religion. It was this cult that gathered and worshipped largely in catacombs, a practice mistakenly assigned largely to True Christians. Though Christian gatherings were of increasing necessity held in secret, due to severe persecutions, this was not as common a practice as it had been for generations among Mithras worshippers.
2 Tacitus: 56-117 AD, Roman senator and historian; Irenaeus: 125-189 AD; Tertullian: 122-166 AD; Josephus: 37-100 AD, a Pharisee and official historian under Roman rule.
3 Luke 23:50-53 A man known to have influence with
the Roman authorities, referred to historically as a ‘Noblis Decurio’ (a man
of wealth and notability) who was con-verted, and later an influential
witness of the gospel in exile. Joseph was a former tin merchant, traveling
often between the tin mines of southern
4 Cardinal Baronius, provides names of at least a dozen individuals in this entourage, Christians all!
5 Modern commenters assume this refers to Jews. The British Royalty is known to have descended from the Davidic line. This since the exile of surviving descendants of the Davidic line who were brought there in the time of the Prophet Isaiah. Claudius evidently KNEW something that people today are generally ignorant of. His aim was to exterminate that legitimate royal line.
6 This Roman general, though pagan at the time, was
later converted to Christianity. This union was not one with political
motivation as could be said of the other in
7 Tacitus, Annals, book 12, chapter 36.
8 Tacitus, Annals, book 12, chapter 37.
9 Only the nations of Sythia and
10 Annals, book 12, chapter 37.
11 This group met in the house of Acquila and Priscilla, referenced in Romans 16:5
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