on 1-corinthians 15 :32
If, after the manner of men, etc. - Much learned criticism has been employed on this verse, to ascertain whether it is to be understood literally or metaphorically. Does the apostle mean to say that he had literally fought with wild beasts at Ephesus? or, that he had met with brutish, savage men, from whom he was in danger of his life? That St. Paul did not fight with wild beasts at Ephesus, may be argued,
1. From his own silence on this subject, when enumerating his various sufferings, 2 Corinthians 11:23, etc.
2. From the silence of his historian, Luke, who, in the acts of this apostle, gives no intimation of this kind; and it certainly was too remarkable a circumstance to be passed over, either by Paul in the catalogue of his own sufferings, or by Luke in his history.
3. From similar modes of speech, which are employed metaphorically, and are so understood.
4. From the improbability that a Roman citizen, as Paul was, should be condemned to such a punishment, when in other cases, by pleading his privilege, he was exempted from being scourged, etc. And,
5. From the positive testimony of Tertullian and Chrysostom, who deny the literal interpretation.
On the other hand, it is strongly argued that the apostle is to be literally understood; and that he did, at some particular time, contend with wild beasts at Ephesus, from which he was miraculously delivered.
1. That the phrase κατα ανθρωπον signifies as men used to do, and never means according to the manner of men, as implying their purpose, or, to use their forms of speech, etc.
2. From the circumstances of the case in Ephesus usually referred to, viz. the insurrection by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen; where, though Paul would have been in danger had he gone into the theater, he was in little or none, as he did not adventure himself.
3. From his having endured much greater conflicts at Lystra and at Philippi than at Ephesus, at the former of which he was stoned to death, and again miraculously raised to life: see the notes on Acts 14:19, etc. And yet he calls not those greater dangers by this name.
4. That it cannot refer to the insurrection of Demetrius and his fellows, for St. Paul had no contention with them, and was scarcely in any danger, though Gaius and Aristarchus were: see the whole of Acts 19. And,
5. As we do not read of any other imminent danger to which he was exposed at Ephesus, and that already mentioned is not sufficient to justify the expression, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, therefore we must conclude that he was at some time, not directly mentioned by his historian or himself, actually exposed to wild beasts at Ephesus.
6. That this is the case he refers to, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 : For we would not, brethren, have you if ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, καθ' ὑπερβολην εβαρηθημεν ὑπερ δυναμιν, insomuch that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead; who delivered us from so great a death: for these expressions refer to some excessive and unprecedented danger, from which nothing less than a miraculous interference could have saved him; and that it might have been an actual exposure to wild beasts, or any other danger equally great, or even greater.
What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? - I believe the common method of pointing this verse is erroneous; I propose to read it thus: If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it advantage me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.
on 1-corinthians 15 :32
If after the manner of men - Margin, "To speak after the manner of men" (κατὰ ἄνθρωπον kata anthrōpon). There has been a great difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of these words. The following are some of the interpretations proposed:
(1) If I have fought after the manner of people, who act only with reference to this life, and on the ordinary principles of human conduct, as people fought with wild beasts in the amphitheater.
(2) or if, humanly speaking, or speaking after the manner of people, I have fought, referring to the fact that he had contended with mcn who should be regarded as wild beasts.
(3) or, that I may speak of myself as people speak, that I may freely record the events of my life, and speak of what has occurred.
(4) or, I have fought with wild beasts as far as it was possible for man to do it while life survived.
(5) or, as much as was in the power of man, who had destined me to this; if, so far as depended on man's will, I fought, supposing that the infuriated multitude demanded that I should be thus punished. So Chrysostom understands it.
(6) or, that Paul actually fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.
(7) others regard this as a supposable case; on the supposition that I had fought with wild beasts at Ephesus. Amidst this variety of interpretation, it is not easy to determine the true sense of this difficult passage.
The following thoughts, however, may perhaps make it clear:
(1) Paul refers to some real occurrence at Ephesus. This is manifest from the whole passage. It is not a supposable case.
(2) it was some one case when his life was endangered, and when it was regarded as remarkable that he escaped and survived; compare 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.
(3) it was common among the Romans, and the ancients generally, to expose criminals to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheater for the amusement of the populace.
In such cases it was but another form of dooming them to certain death, since there was no human possibility of escape; see Adam's Rom. Ant., p. 344. That this custom prevailed at the East, is apparent from the following extract front Rosenmuller; and there is no improbability in the supposition that Paul was exposed to this - "The barbarous custom of making men combat with wild beasts has prevailed in the East down to the most modern times. Jurgen Andersen, who visited the states of the Great Mogul in 1646, gives an account in his Travels of such a combat with animals, which he witnessed at Agra, the residence of the Great Mogul. His description affords a lively image of those bloody spectacles in which ancient Rome took so much pleasure, and to which the above words of the apostle refer. Alumardan-chan, the governor of Cashmire, who sat among the chans, stood up, and exclaimed, 'It is the will and desire of the great mogul, Schah Choram, that if there are any valiant heroes who will show their bravery by combating with wild beasts, armed with shield and sword, let them come forward; if they conquer, the mogul will load them with great favor, and clothe their countenance with gladness.' Upon this three persons advanced, and offered to undertake the combat.
Alamardan-charn again cried aloud, 'None should have any other weapon than a shield and a sword; and whosoever has any breastplate under his clothes should lay it aside, and fight honorably.' Hereupon a powerful lion was let into the garden, and one of the three men above mentioned advanced against him; the lion, upon seeing his enemy, ran violently up to him; the man, however, defended himself bravely, and kept off the lion for a good while, until his arms grew tired; the lion then seized the shield with one paw, and with the other his antagonist's right arm, so that he was not able to use his weapon; the latter, seeing his life in danger, took with his left hand his Indian dagger, which he had sticking in his girdle, and thrust it as far as possible into the lion's mouth; the lion then let him go; the man, however, was not idle, but cut the lion almost through with one stroke, and after that entirely to pieces.
on 1-corinthians 15 :32
15:32 If to speak after the manner of men - That is, to use a proverbial phrase, expressive of the most imminent danger I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus - With the savage fury of a lawless multitude, Acts 19:29, and c. This seems to have been but just before. Let as eat, and c. - We might, on that supposition, as well say, with the Epicureans, Let us make the best of this short life, seeing we have no other portion.