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54When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

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54. Then shall be brought to pass the saying This is not merely an amplification, (ἐπεξεργασία,) 137137     “Vne declaration ou amplification;” — “A declaration or amplification.” but a confirmation, too, of the preceding statement. For what was foretold by the Prophets must be fulfilled. Now this prediction will not be fulfilled, until our bodies, laying aside corruption, will put on incorruption Hence this last result, also, is necessary. To come to pass, is used here in the sense of being fully accomplished, for what Paul quotes is now begun in us, and is daily, too, receiving further accomplishment; but it will not have its complete fulfillment until the last day.

It does not, however, appear quite manifest, from what passage he has taken this quotation, for many statements occur in the Prophets to this effect. Only the probability is, that the first clause is taken either from Isaiah 25:8, where it is said that death will be for ever destroyed by the Lord, 138138     “The words, as alleged by Paul,” (from Isaiah 25:8,) “are found in the version of Theodotion, with which the Targum and Syriac agree, in reading the verb as a passive, כלע in Piel, as here, commonly signifies to destroy, destroy utterly; in Kal, the more usual signification is that of swallowing, which most of the versions have unhappily adopted, לנצח the Greek translators render by; ἰσχύσας, εἰς τέλος, εἰς νῖκος; attaching to the term the idea of what is overpowering, durable, complete. The significations of the Hebrew root נצח, used only in Niphal and Piel, are — to shine, lead, lead on, be complete; in Chald. to surpass; excel, vanquish; hence the idea of victory, eternity, etc., attaching to נצח, and of completely, entirely, for ever, etc., to לנצח נצח. The words are therefore equivalent to ὁ θάνατος ὀυκ ἐσται ἐτι(Death shall be no longer,) Revelation 21:4, where there seems to be an evident allusion to our text; and where the subject is, as here, not the millennial state of the Church, but the state of glory after the resurrection of the body. It will be then only, that a period shall be put to the reproachful persecutions of the righteous, which Isaiah likewise predicts.”Henderson on Isaiah. — Ed. or, (as almost all are rather inclined to think,) from Hosea 13:14, where the Prophet, bewailing the obstinate wickedness of Israel, complains that he was like an untimely child, that struggles against the efforts of his mother in travail, that he may not come forth from the womb, and from this he concludes, that it was owing entirely to himself, that he was not delivered from death. I will ransom them, says he, from the power of the grave: I will rescue them from death. It matters not, whether you read these words in the future of the indicative, or in the subjunctive 139139     “Ie les eusse rachetez — ie les eusse deliurez;” — “I could have ransomed them — I could have rescued them.” for in either way the meaning amounts to this — that God was prepared to confer upon them salvation, if they would have allowed the favor to be conferred upon them, and that, therefore, if they perished, it was their own fault.

He afterwards adds, I will be thy destruction, O death! thy ruin, O grave! In these words God intimates, that he accomplishes the salvation of his people 140140     “Lors vrayement et a bon escient il sauue les fideles;” — “He then truly and effectually saves believers.” only when death and the grave are reduced to nothing. For no one will deny, that in that passage there is a description of completed salvation. As, therefore, we do not see such a destruction of death, it follows, that we do not yet enjoy that complete salvation, which God promises to his people, and that, consequently, it is delayed until that day. Then, accordingly, will death be swallowed up, that is, it will be reduced to nothing, 141141     “This victory will not be gradual only, but total and entire. Every thing of mortality, that was hanging about these glorious victors, shall be swallowed up in perfect and endless life. Death is unstung first — disarmed — and then easily overcome. Its sting is said to be sin — the deadliest thing in death. A plain farther proof, by the way, the Apostle intended death also in the moral sense. And the insulting inquiry, ‘where is it?’ implies ‘tis not any where to be found; and signifies a total abolition of it, and, by consequence, must infer that every thing of death besides must, as to them, for ever cease and be no more. Which also the phrase of swallowing up doth with great emphasis express.”Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) page 1035. — Ed. that we may have manifestly, in every particular, and in every respect, (as they say,) a complete victory over it. 142142     “En sorte que nons aurons plene et parfaite victoire a Pencontre d’elle;So that we shall have a full and complete victory over it.”

As to the second clause, in which he triumphs over death and the grave, it is not certain whether he speaks of himself, or whether he meant there also to quote the words of the Prophet. For where we render it, “I will be thy destruction, O death! — thy ruin, O grave!” the Greeks have translated it, “Where, O death, is thy suit? 143143     “Ou est ton plaid, c’est a dire, le proces que tu intentes contre nons, o mort?” — “O death, where is thy suit — that is to say, the process that thou carriest on against us?” where, O grave, thy sting?” Now although this mistake of the Greeks is excusable from the near resemblance of the words, 144144     “The passage (says Dr. Bloomfield) is from Hosea 13:14, and the Apostle’s words differ only by the transposition of νῖκος (victory) and κέντρον, (sting,) from the ancient versions; except that for νῖκος the Sept. has δίκν (law-suit.)” It is noticed, however, by Granville Penn, that “in the most ancient of all the existing MSS. (Vat. and Ephr.) there is no transposition of θανατος (death) and κεντρον, (sting;) and the Apostle’s sentence preserves the same order as in the Greek of Hosea; so that the transposition lies wholly at the door of those MSS. which are more recent than those ancient copies.” The Vat. version has νεικος; instead of νικος, but from the circumstance that in that version νεικος is used in the 54th verse manifestly instead of νικος, it abundantly appears that it is a mere difference of spelling. The words to which Calvin refers, as having been mistaken for each other from their near resemblance, are, δικη (law-suit) and νικος, (or νικη,) victory.Ed. yet if any one will attentively examine the context, he will see that they have gone quite away from the Prophet’s intention. The true meaning, then, will be this — that the Lord will put an end to death, and destroy the grave. It is possible, however, that, as the Greek translation was in common use, Paul alluded to it, and in that there is nothing inconsistent, though he has not quoted literally, for instead of victory he has used the term action, or law-suit. 145145     “Car en lieu du mot δίκη, qui signifie plaid ou proces, il a mis νῖκος, qui signifie victoire;” — “For in place of the word δίκη, which signifies an action or law-suit, they have used νῖκος, which signifies victory.” I am certainly of opinion, that the Apostle did not deliberately intend to call in the Prophet as a witness, with the view of making a wrong use of his authority, but simply accommodated, in passing, to his own use a sentiment that had come into common use, as being, independently of this, of a pious nature. 146146     “Bonne et saincte;” — “Good and holy,” The main thing is this — that Paul, by an exclamation of a spirited nature, designed to rouse up the minds of the Corinthians, and lead them on, as it were, to a near view of the resurrection. Now, although we do not as yet behold the victory with our eyes, and the day of triumph has not yet arrived, (nay more, the dangers of war must every day be encountered,) yet the assurance of faith, as we shall have occasion to observe ere long, is not at all thereby diminished.