Baptized for the Dead

Several years ago I was invited to contribute to a Festschrift in honor of Jack Welch. I have long admired Jack and so was happy to do so. My contribution was titled “Baptized for the Dead.” It was part of an academic collection titled “To Seek the Law of the Lord,” and I assumed it would have only a niche academic readership. But I recently sort of stumbled on the fact that the publisher had put my contribution on line, which you may now read here:

My thesis is that the Mormon reading of the key expression in 1 Cor. 15:29, “baptized for the dead,” is referring to a practice of vicarious baptism for the deceased, as Joseph Smith took it. I go over the Greek of the passage, then focus on the three key words in the expreession: baptized, for, and dead.

This is actually the majority scholarly view. That notwithstanding, amazing creative energy has been devoted to trying to figure out some other way to read the text. The centerpiece of the article is a catalog of 54 other ways to read the passage. But in the end I don’t think any of these theories makes more sense that the proxy baptism understanding.

Since I was the author of the piece and I didn’t even know it was available for free online, I thought I would let my blog friends know it is there if you happen to be interested in the subject.


  1. J. Stapley says:

    Awesome work, Kevin.

  2. Thank you for this reference, Kevin! I loved how supremely organized you were in laying out your essay. Many of the alternative explanations were quite interesting, and I thought your conclusion was compelling. But I was most fascinated by the robust body of debate, not about which theory may be right, but about the number of discrete theories! I felt a little embarrassed reading that portion. It brought to mind an uncomfortable parallel in our own discussions of how many Mrs. J. Smith Jrs there were…

  3. For those who are interested, Interpreter releases articles (book chapters) such as this on a regular basis for free, along with their weekly articles. Just go to the website and subscribe (no charge). Take what you want and for what its worth.

    I’ve never met you, Kevin,(although my Interpreter Radio co-hosts have), but I’m a HUGE admirer of all of his work.

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