How do catholics explain baptism for the dead?

There’s a chapter in the bible that refers to people being baptized for the dead, how does this work in a catholics eyes? 1 corinthians 15:29… I’m a mormon so I have a lot of feelings about baptism. But I’m curious to know what your understanding is.

[15:29] Baptized for the dead: this practice is not further explained here, nor is it necessarily mentioned with approval, but Paul cites it as something in their experience that attests in one more way to belief in the resurrection.

Oh ok. :slight_smile: thanks for answering my question. :slight_smile:

I looked at the Greek of the text, and the word translated as “for” (“for the dead”) literally means “above” - “above the dead”, so, “If the dead are not raised, why are people baptized above them?”

A possible understanding is that there may have been a practice of baptizing at the gravesites of the departed, so that not only the living, but also the dead are witnesses of the new life found in baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If the dead are not raised, why do some people desire and consider the dead also witnessing their entry into the Church, into the Kingdom of God?

People often do things, even today, at gravesites with the intent of showing something to the deceased.

Not sure how that fits with your Mormon understanding, but it would mesh with what we know as Catholics and how Baptism is the granting of citizenship into the People of God with Jesus as our King.

One commentary I consulted honestly stated that this passage continues to baffle us. It is entirely possible that some few in the early Church were performing or receiving baptisms on behalf of their dead relatives, but this practice was ultimately rejected.

It’s my understanding that Mormons are baptized for the dead today, and this explains the extensive genealogical work done by the LDS, but I say again that this practice was rejected, and no Christian Church today performs baptisms for the dead.

If you have any quotes from the Early Church Fathers documenting this practice, I would be interested in seeing them.


I found the following to be helpful:

The connection with 1 Cor 15:29 thus becomes clear. Certain groups in Corinth were brought to faith and baptized “on account of” some of the apostles, especially Paul and Apollos, to whom they subsequently and quite naturally felt an affinity, but their preferences resulted in the development of competitive allegiances to one or the other of the apostles. In our text, Paul points out the inconsistency of this fact with their denial of the resurrection. If “truly dead” persons are not raised, what sense does it make for the Corinthians to be baptized on account of those who are “dying all the time,” namely, the apostles? In other words, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then the Corinthians’ allegiances to the apostles under whose ministries, respectively, they were converted is all the more ludicrous since the apostles, figuratively speaking, are already dead. Apart from the resurrection, both the willingness of the apostles to suffer on behalf of the gospel and the gospel itself would be futile and pitiful mistakes, and the Corinthians would be fools to accept their message and be baptized because of it. Thus, in our text Paul’s willingness to suffer becomes a powerful confirmation of the validity of the resurrection and is, in turn, confirmed by the Corinthians’ baptism on the basis of Paul’s life and message.

White, J. R. (1997). “Baptized on Account of the Dead”: The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in Its Context. Journal of Biblical Literature, 116, 498.

Here’s what a few commentaries I have say about the verse:

**29. ***For what good will they do …’ *The meaning is very doubtful. Perhaps some persons at Corinth had desired to become Christians but had been overtaken by death before they could be baptised and some Christian friends had been allowed to undergo a (purely symbolical) baptism for them to show that the dead were counted as Christians. If so, the practice was soon dropped for fear of misunderstanding. Here again and in 30–32 Paul seems to be dealing with a teaching that dead Christians had perished.

Rees, W. (1953). 1 and 2 Corinthians. In B. Orchard & E. F. Sutcliffe (Eds.), A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (p. 1097). Toronto;New York;Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson.

Ver. 29. Who are baptized for the dead. He still brings other proofs of the resurrection. This is a hard place, and the words are differently expounded. 1. Several late interpreters understand a metaphorical baptism, and that to be baptized for the dead, is to undertake self-denials, mortifications, and works of penance, in hopes of a happy resurrection; and this exposition agrees with what follows, of being exposed to dangers every hour, of dying daily, &c. But if this had been the apostle’s meaning, he would rather have said, Who baptize themselves. Besides, this exposition is not so much as mentioned in any of the ancient interpreters. 2. Some think that S. Paul tells the Corinthians that they ought not to question the resurrection of the dead, who had a custom among them, if any one died without baptism, to baptize another that was living for him; and this they did, fancying that such a baptism would be profitable to the dead person, in order to a happy resurrection. Tertullian mentions this custom in one or two places, and also S. Chrys. on this place. But it does not seem probable that S. Paul would bring any argument of the resurrection from a custom which he himself could not approve, nor was ever approved in the Church. 3. S. Chrys. and the Greek interpreters, who generally follow him, expound these words, who are baptized for the dead, as if it were the same as to say, who receive baptism with hopes that they themselves, and all the dead, will rise again; and therefore make a profession, when they are baptized, that they believe the resurrection. So that S. Paul here brings this proof among others, that they who have been made Christians, and continue Christians, cannot call in question the resurrection, which they professed to believe in their creed at their baptism, the creed being always repeated before they were baptized. 4. Others, by being baptized for the dead, understand those who begged and called for baptism when they were in danger of death, and would by no means go out of this world without being baptized, hoping thereby to have a happy resurrection of their bodies; so that to be baptized for the dead is the same as on the account of the state of the dead, which they were entering into. See S. Epiphan. hær. viii. p. 114. Edit Petavii. Wi. Some think the apostle here alludes to a ceremony then in use: but others, more probably, to the prayers and penitential labours performed by the primitive Christians for the souls of the faithful departed: or to the baptism of afflictions and sufferings undergone for sinners spiritually dead.

Haydock, G. L. (1859). Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary (1 Co 15:29). New York: Edward Dunigan and Brother.

Baptism of Blood:

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

I don’t believe the Mormon faith has the baptism in blood, or seven sacraments (including baptism & sacrament of anointing of the sick) but our belief tells us that salvation of those not baptized in the name of the Father, The Son, & The Holy Spirit (to my understanding is a major difference in our Beliefs of faith— probably another thread entirely) have an avenue as described above in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

actually the lds church is a christian church. The real name is “The church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints.”

Ah, I didn’t realize the connection of the OP and LDS. So the LDS perform proxy baptisms in regards to family who have passed? Is that for only those in the community of followers who have family who passed on as they came after the thinking into the community? Where does this arrive historically or in holy scripture. I understand Christs words on baptism but I’m attempting to comprehend the concept. I imagine the idea is another chance and with free-will. However, where do we suppose these souls are?

Sorry if this sounds loose, I’m not really familiar with LDS.

To be crystal clear for anyone reading this thread, LDS do not believe in the divinity of Christ. LDS deny that Jesus is God.


To be truly Christian…you must believe in the Trinity…and in the traditional understanding of the Trinity.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given a negative response to a “Dubium” regarding the validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. Given that this decision changes the past practice of not questioning the validity of such Baptism, it seems appropriate to explain the reasons that have led to this decision and to the resulting change of practice

What are the reasons which now led to this negative position regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which seems different from the position of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries?

Huge divergence on Trinity and baptism invalidates the intention of the Mormon minister of baptism and of the one to be baptized

As is easily seen, to the similarity of titles there does not correspond in any way a doctrinal content which can lead to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix.

Now at your original question…

Mormons infer that in 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks approvingly of living Christians receiving baptism on behalf of dead non-Christians; however, the context and construction of the verse indicate otherwise. The Greek phrase rendered by the King James Version as “for the dead” is huper ton nekron. This phrase is as ambiguous in Greek as it is in English. The preposition huper has a wide semantic range and can indicate “for the sake of,” “on behalf of,” “over,” “beyond,” or “more than.” Like the English preposition “for,” it does not have a single meaning and does not require the Mormon idea of being baptized in place of the dead. Such a reading would be unlikely given the more plausible interpretations available, and even if huper were taken to mean “in the place of,” it doesn’t mean Paul endorses the practice.

I am aware of the full name.

Are you aware of the fact that LDS baptisms are considered invalid by the Catholic Church and that, consequently, you are not Christians?

Actually, that is not completely correct. Mormons do believe that Jesus Christ is divine. They believe that He is the literal first born spirit offspring of God the Father (and the Heavenly Mother the Father is married to). They believe that He is Jehovah, God of the Old Testament. They believe in a Godhead of three Gods, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So, while they do not believe in the orthodox Trinity doctrine, they do believe that Jesus Christ is divine (though they also believe that we all, as literal begotten spirit children of the Father, are divine in some sense).

When I saw this thread, I remembered something that was posted on another thread earlier this year that provides an explanation of these verses in 1 Corinthians from St. Francis de Sales that is consistent with ancient Christian teachings.

This helps, thanks.

I couldn’t figure out the context in which Paul brought up the baptism of the dead. He is silent whether he condones it or whether the practice is effective. From a Catholic view, if the dead can be saved after they are gone, then all we believe is moot. All we need is just get someone to baptized us after we are gone and voila clean slate to enter heaven?? Isn’t that nice? No need to do all the things that God asked us to do or not to do.

I think not.

My understanding is, believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the savior of all mankind, doing your best to follow his commandments to love Him and His Father and everyone around you makes you a christian. If I knew the Catholic Church was true, I would certainly be there in a heartbeat. But from the plethora of people who have given me information about the trinity have either not made sense, and/or they were completely sarcastic with me. I find in the church of Jesus christ of Latter day saints, the doctrine explained makes perfect sense, and everyone is kind and gentle with one another. Plain and simple view of mine. Feel free to change it.

If your finite mind has a clear understanding of God, then your God is too small.


  1. Nobody is denying that LDS doesn’t have a reputation for being full of nice, hardworking people. This is certainly to the group’s credit, and I personally think very highly of those Mormon people I know.

  2. However, it is certainly true that LDS teachings don’t actually teach that God is what we would call divine in nature. The whole point of LDS teaching is that the Father is basically an evolved human, the Son is an evolved human, etc; there’s a Quaternity instead of a Trinity; and all LDS people will also evolve into gods with their own planets, etc.

If the only real difference between God and man is putting in time on earth, then there is no divine God; there’s just some really old big brother human. In this case, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the Son taking flesh and dwelling among us as Jesus Christ, son of Mary. It’s just a high school kid sitting in on a kindergarten class.

  1. Anyway… I hope you don’t feel too jumped on. You asked an interesting question and I learned a lot about Greek prefixes!
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