In the first letter to Corinthians, Paul offered notable insights on the notion of love with regards to the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is one of the widely quoted and referenced Epistles of Paul due to its comprehensive coverage of various and integral Christian subtopics, such as remembrance of the Last Supper, Holy Communion, as well as the compelling gifts of Holy. However, even with these interesting and crucial details focused on the unity of Christians, it is essential to apprehend that it is also among the Pauline Letters whose verses have been greatly contested by a section of Christian scholars and theologians due to their confusing interpretations. Specifically, one of these relatively controversial and challenging verses of the First Corinthians includes 1 Corinthians (13:10). In its simplest form, the verse states: “When that which is perfect comes, then that which is in part shall be done away” KJV (1 Corinth 13:10).
The root source of controversy in the 1 Corinthians (13:10) is regarding its reference and use of the word ‘perfect’. Various scholars have published distinct articles and exegetical commentaries about the aforementioned verse. The respective publications have been endeavored at enabling the readers to easily interpret the contents of the verse by offering practical, effective guidelines to approach the verse’s underlying message. One of the essential scholars who have attempted to explore the specific meaning of the word ‘perfect’ comprises Compton. Generally, Compton attempted to examine the understandings of the subsequent word based on the existing sources.
However, regardless of the divergent views on the actual apprehension of the verse, particularly consideration of the word ‘perfect,’ the underlying meaning of the verse can be easily approached by analyzing both its textual/literary meaning and its background context. The word ‘perfect’ can be extended to insinuate the essence of perfect knowledge of Jesus and God. Additionally, the term can be used to denote the comprehension of the anonymities of the heavenly kingdom. In this perspective, the verse then implies that the perfect knowledge of God, Jesus Christ, and heaven shall prevail but not in this life. According to the passage, this perfect knowledge will only be attained in the afterlife, and which is to come.
In this concern, Paul was indicating that God’s children will have perfect knowledge of Him and the heavenly kingdom. In this view, then the notion of “of that which is in part shall be done away” can be associated with the imperfection of knowledge which shall be overcome through the acquisition of the perfect knowledge. Therefore, based on the above discussion, it can be ascertained that the primary purpose of this passage (1 Corinthians 13:10) is to enlighten us about the fundamental spiritual gift of the perfect knowledge of God, Jesus, and the heavenly kingdom, which is yet to manifest.
Paul and Practice of Baptism
Towards the middle of his teaching on the issue of resurrection, Paul the apostle breaks to ask his audience in 1 Corinthians (15:29), “now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (NIV).” Alternatively, the verse may be interpreted to denote: “why are some people baptized on the behalf of the dead, if they are certain that the dead are not resurrected at all?” Irrespective of the dimension in which the verse is viewed, it is apparent that Paul’s statement about “baptism for the dead” is unclear and bewildering, which does its translations and meaning to be relatively uncertain. The complexity associated with this verse can be justified by the existence of diverse exegetical commentaries and scholarly articles based on the attempt to explore its underlying meaning.
As a result of these interpretation difficulties, it is, therefore, logical for some people to contemplate why significant emphasis should be placed on the assessment of the passage’s contents. Yet Paul’s notion for “baptism of the dead” is of much importance, first because of its exemplary application on the daily Christian life and secondly, Paul used it to substantiate the anticipated resurrection of Christian/believers. Typically, the verse comprises several interpretations, with the profound readings relating the passage to the act of some Christians of Corinthian who were baptized on behalf of specific individuals who had died. However, the reliability and validity of this interpretation are vague and unrealistic since there is no actual reference of people opting to be baptized on behalf of the dead either in the Bible or ancient Christian writings.
Secondly, the respective assumption greatly conflict with Paul’s ministry about faith and message about salvation. Essentially, Paul expressed in some of his Epistles that salvation is a personal choice and entails making an individual confession and accepting Jesus to become a believer. So what is the accurate translation of the 1 Corinthians (15:29)? The truth is, although Paul’s audience precisely understood what he meant by the ‘baptism of the dead,’ we, the readers, do not know. However, based on Paul’s casual tone while addressing his listeners, he was seemingly aware of the practice of the baptism of the dead among the Corinthian Christians.
Although Paul’s voice illustrates that he did not support the above act, his statement/question was not metaphorical, and he meant what he said. In this concern, it can be denoted that the Corinthians who were baptizing/being baptized on behalf of the dead were aware that baptism could not save the dead, but rather they exaggerated the actual importance of baptism. With this in mind, it is apparent that the Corinthians were overly bothered by believers who demised before being baptized and hence were fearful of spiritual loss as a consequence. The respective translations can be affirmed through the passages from other scriptures, which portray Paul as a lion for challenging some beliefs and practices endorsed by some traditional church communities and even the gospel itself.
Compton, R. Bruce. “1 Corinthians 13: 8–13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 9, no. 2004 (1): 97144.
Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.
White, Joel R. ” Baptized on Account of the Dead: The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15: 29 in Its Context.” Journal of Biblical Literature 116, no. 3 (1997): 487-499.
 Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)10.
 Bruce Compton, “1 Corinthians 13: 8–13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 9, no. 1 (2004): 97144.
 Joel R. White, “Baptized on Account of the Dead”: The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15: 29 in Its Context.” Journal of Biblical Literature 116, no. 3 (1997): 487.
 Ibid, 20