Lastly, in a recent thread a very educated Catholic commented on Baptism for the Dead. Here are his words.
[quote=AugustineH354]The following is from one of my posts on ZLMB:
Simon J. Kistemaker in BakerBooks New Testament Commentary - 1 Corinthians had the following to say about 1 Cor. 15:29 on page 558: “Throughout the centuries, explanations for verse 29 have been numerous and varied; many of them concern the phrases baptized for the dead and baptized in their behalf. In spite of all exegesis, a satisfactory solution appears to be elusive. I am not presenting a resume of every possible suggestion; instead I mention several attempts to clarify the text.” Kistemaker then provides a list of 7 possible explanations. The first explanation listed is, “** Living members of the church were baptized vicariously for those believers who had died but had not received the sacrament of baptism**.” (Emphasis mine) Kistemaker himself does not like this explanation and says so. But he later on admits that, “…many scholars suggest a literal interpretation as a vicarious baptism…”; to which he adds, “the objections are formidable.” They are formidable for Kistemaker because he is a Reformed Calvinist, and if he accepts the literal interpretation of this verse he would have to radically change his view of the role and nature of baptism, both for the living and dead. As to the other six explanations, Kistemaker concludes with, “In all humility I confess that the sense of this text escapes me; verse 29 remains a mystery.” (ZLMB thread, “Paul Taught Against Baptism for the Dead?”.)>>
But our good Protestant commentator neglected to mention an interesting interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29 presented by a Catholic saint, St. Francis de Sales, for reasons that should be become obvious.
The following in St. Francis de Sales interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29:[font=Arial][/font]
- What shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why then are they baptized for them? *This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized as often taken for afflictions and penances: as S. Luke, chap xii., where Our Lord speaking of his Passion says: *I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished ! – *and in S. Mark chap x., he says: *Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of; or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized ? – *in which Our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism. This then is the sense of Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? (St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, Tan Books, p. 368.)>>[font=Arial][/font]
As one can see, de Sales incorporates the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, and the work for the dead on the part of living for those therein, as an explanation for the passage. His remarks that baptism does not always refer to the rite of baptism, but also to “afflictions and penances” should be noted.[font=Arial][/font]
The above interpretation, incorporated with the Catholic doctrine of “baptism of desire” (see tdknick’s helpful post) offers the only reasonable alternative explanation to the literal reading of 1 Cor. 15:29 in my opinion. Though, I must admit, the LDS view remains the most natural (i.e. literal) reading.
Anyway, Baptism for the Dead in my opinion is an area in which the CoJCoLDS presents a much more clear and defendable position than the any other Christian group. While it is true there are few references to this practice in the Early Church (and none that would be truly similar to the way LDS practice BOD), as a practice that occurs in Temples were a sacredness effectively results in secrecy, it is not too surprising that evidence of this practice was largely lost.