From: A Torah Commentary on First Corinthians 15 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2012
Isaiah 22:13; Genesis 2
The dislodging of behavior limitations when
belief in a personal survival of death is removed—
Paul does not assert that every one who believes the current life is all there is of reality is a moral reprobate. His implied argument is quite a bit different: We might as well be such if there is neither reward nor answerability beyond the current life. To illustrate the unrestrained lifestyle that quite easily develops when accepting such a denial he cites the text, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (“Let us overly indulge in food and drink, for tomorrow we die,” ATP.)
In Isaiah 22:12-15 this attitude is embraced by those who refuse to sorrow for their sin but insist upon continuing their unrestrained life, apparently calculating that if they are going to be punished anyway they might as well go out enjoying themselves,
And in that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Then it was revealed in my hearing by the Lord of hosts, “Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, even to your death,” says the Lord God of hosts.
If they were right and tomorrow they did die, today was literally the last day for repentance and reconciliation with God. They were throwing away the last opportunity. [Page 71] Jehovah treated their actions with the scorn it deserved, “Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, even to your death” (). They had treated their final opportunity with nothing less than contempt while knowing it was their last opportunity; turning His back permanently upon them was no less than what they had asked for.
The desire to eat and drink is not wrong in itself—but we can turn it/abuse it into such. So, in some contexts, such a desire to enjoy life is presented as both praiseworthy and desirable. Indeed Ecclesiastes 2:24 presents it as an ideal when it grows not out of despair or rebellion (as above) but out of joy at being able to reap the temporal rewards of one’s hard work, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor (our emphasis, RW). This also, I saw was from God.”
But this would be true only in “normal” times and for those who viewed success as the blessing of God. The very opposite is involved in the Isaiahian text: God has no place in their plans, either so far as yielding to His moral law and honoring Him nor allowing such factors to influence their behavior. They had consciously and knowingly “cast aside all restraint” and didn’t care who knew it. Perhaps they are the materialists they pretend to be or perhaps they are that class of elitists who assume that disaster is for “lesser” folk and that they will, somehow, worm through the worst disaster at the last moment no matter how superficially despairing their rhetoric may sound.
Instead of being brought to their senses by the Assyrian invaders and repenting of their sins that produced it, all they can think of is emptying the store houses of their abundance and their wine kegs of their contents. In a worst case scenario, there will, indeed, be no tomorrow for them and they would rather go out in gluttony and a drunken stupor while they await the invaders’ knives at their throats. Yet this will do nothing to stop the invaders nor prepare themselves for facing God. It is the one course that will assure they face the morrow totally unprepared.
(An aside: Although the consciousness of the Old Testament writers of a clear concept of what survival of death entailed—or if it even happened—is a vexed topic among scholars, it is hard to read texts like this one without finding the implication that they would survive death and, in some manner, be answerable for how they had lived. Otherwise would not going out in a drunken stupor actually be the wisest and most rational approach to the catastrophe?)
Their advocacy of eating and drinking their way out of concern over the future may well represent their usage of a then existing adage or, perhaps, even words from a drinking song of the day--one in a similar vein is known from ancient Egypt. Whether or not the “quoted” words represent their actual verbal remarks that Isaiah happened to hear or merely their essence, it unquestionably represented the way they were acting and their general frame of mind.
In the deuterocanonical literature we also find the mentality described. Of the violent and oppressors of others, the discourse is attributed to them,
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. For we were born by mere chance, and hereafter, we shall be as though we had never been. . . . Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth. Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower spring pass us by. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither, let none of us fail to share in our revelry; everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this is our lot” (Wisdom 2:1-2, 6-9, NRSV).
Paul does not explicitly introduce the eating and drinking quotation as one from scripture, though the obvious conceptual and wording similarity with Isaiah immediately makes one suspect that this was the reference point he specifically had in mind. (“A loose translation” of the LXX, is the belief of Anthony C. Thistleton.) Paul’s love for the scriptures would naturally incline him to be citing a Biblical critique, but it is far from certain that this was the only source he was alluding to, especially for those of a non-Jewish background.
The Epicurean philosophy was summarized (or mocked, depending on your viewpoint) by attributing this very belief to them. It became a “stock in trade,” so to speak, in presenting the theory and remains with us to this day. That the language originated from within the Epicurean movement itself seems more likely than the alternative that it grew out of “Stoic-Cynic satire on Epicurean satire.” Paul’s scripturally literate listeners would invariably have thought of the similarity of this to the Isaiah text and surely thought, “Times haven’t changed today!”
With our Judeo-Christian heritage, the reality of death is easily seen as a compelling reason for restraint and prudence. Upon occasion, astute polytheists could be aware of this as well. Herodotus refers to the custom of how, “After rich men’s repasts, a man carries an image in a coffin, painted and carved in exact imitation of a corpse two to four feet long. This he shows to each of the company, saying, ‘While you drink and enjoy, look on this; for to this state you must come when you die.’ ”
This became not a warning
against excess in feasting (for it was done “after” the feast) but it
was, at a minimum, a warning not to allow the joys of dining and partying to
blind them to their ultimate mortality.
Only once the delusion of “eternal prosperity and joy” is punctured, is
the stage set for the moral evaluation of one’s success and treatment of
Adam being made alive
Whether we should regard this as a direct quotation or not, the language is certainly that used in the Pentateuch. Paul presents Adam as a lifeless piece of flesh and nothing more without God transforming the result. Beginning with mere flesh, “The first man Adam became a living being (person, ATP).” The text referred to is Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils [Page 73] the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
The interjection of a proper name (“Adam”) in place of the broader “man” or “human” in Genesis 2:7 can be found in the surviving parts of the ancient Greek translations of Theodotion and Symmachus. In these sources it is found in the reverse order of Paul’s “man Adam,” i.e., “Adam man.” In the LXX itself “Adam” does not appear as a proper name under Genesis 2:16.
The Hebrew of Genesis 2:7 for “man” is ambiguous, capable of being a generic name for human beings or of being a distinct individual person’s name. Hence it has been reasonably speculated that Theodotion, Symmachus, and Paul use both terms for the benefit of their non-Hebrew speaking audience.
 John F. A. Sawyer, Isaiah, Volume 1 (chapters 1-32), in the Daily Study Bible series (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984), 193, for Biblical and non-Biblical “wisdom” admonitions in this regard.
 Page H. Kelley, “Isaiah,” in Proverbs-Isaiah, in the Broadman Bible Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1971), 256.
 Ciampa and Rosner, 746.
 For the text see Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 13-39, translated from the German by R. A. Wilson, in the Old Testament Library series (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 143.
 Suggested as a possibility by G. W. Wade, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in the Westminster Commentaries series (London: Methuen & Company, Ltd., 1911), 146.
 J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 185, and Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah; volume 2: Chapters 19-39, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 103.
Thiselton, First Corinthians: A
Shorter Commentary, 276. Similarly
Karl O. Sandnes, Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles (
 Heil, 222, and n. 3, 222.
 Thiselton, Anthony C.
First Corinthians: A Shorter
Commentary, 276. Suggesting similar
alternatives is Alan F. Johnson, 1 Corinthians, in the IVP New
Testament Commentary series (
 Heil, 231-232.
 Ciampa and Rosner, 746.
 Heil, 232.
 Ciampa and Rosner, 746.