From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 15                    Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2012








Chapter 6:

Explicit Quotations:

Hosea 13:14









The ultimate triumph over death is

made possible by the change made in the body

at the resurrection:

The use of Hosea 13:14




            The second text Paul utilizes to prove the resurrection is quoted in verse 55, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory.”  (Modern critical texts reverse the order of the questions and speak of “death” in both of them.  Hence the ATP rendering, “O death, where is your triumph?  O death, where is your stinging pain?”)  In different form, this is based upon a statement of one of the Minor Prophets.  In Hosea 13:14 there is a pledge of Yahweh to Ephraim that He will enable them to conquer over their demise, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  O death, I will be your plagues!  O Grave, I will be your destruction!  Pity is hidden from My eyes.” 

            The apostle’s quotation does not match either the LXX or the Hebrew, however.[1]  The non-quoted words from Hosea 13:14 are rendered this way in the earlier versions:  “From the hand of Hades I will deliver them, and from death I will redeem them” is the Septuagint.  The Hebrew Masoretic is, “Will I ransom them from the hand of Sheol, redeem them from death?”[2]  Note that the Greek consists of direct, declaratory statements while the Hebrew takes the form of questions.[3]  

The quoted words from Hosea 13:14 in verse 55 are found this way in the earlier versions:  “Where is thy punishment, O death?  Where is thy sting, O Hades?”

[Page 101]  (Septuagint) versus “O death, where are thy plagues?  O grave, where is thy destruction?” (Masoretic Text of the Hebrew).[4]  (In contrast to the non-quoted part, both languages have the text in question form.)  They are so significantly different from Paul, that some have suggested that it is not so much a citation as the free use of words and imagery from Hosea.[5] 

The point of Hosea 13:14 is that death deserves punishment because of the pain (“sting”) it inflicts on us mortals and the “victory” it has in destroying our existence in the current world.  A. E. Harvey notes in regard to the “sting” that, “In Greek (and Paul is quoting from a Greek version of the Hebrew) it meant the goad used on an animal, or an instrument of torture used on human beings.”[6]  Death treats us as nothing better than animals (if the animal goad is in mind) or as nothing better than a mortal being tortured, normally considered an example of injustice and evil.

Arthur P. Stanley stresses that Paul’s rendition of the text is more emphatic than either the Hebrew or the LXX:  we still find “the overthrow of Death, but that overthrow is now described, not as in the Hebrew and LXX, as a punishment inflicted on Death, but as the annihilation of his power.”[7]  But Paul’s adaptation of the language makes perfect sense—and treats the original quite fairly—if one has in mind the permanent elimination of physical death as a potential danger.  (Aside:  Since the situation today remains that depicted by Hosea—temporary defeats of death, whether on a personal or national level—rather than a fatal death blow to it as depicted by Paul, nothing that has happened in the past does justice to the scope and permanency of victory that the apostle promises.) 

Many object that Paul’s usage has to be in line with the Old Testament original context.  Consistent with its language, of course; consistent with the kind of event, of course not.  When Matthew 2:15 quotes Hosea 11:1 (the same book we are examining here), he applies, “Out of Egypt I called My Son” to Jesus rather than to its original reference, the nation of Israel.  But the language remained fully applicable because it fit, not because it originally described the same event.  Paul is applying the language of resurrection, not claiming to present its original contextual meaning.[8]     

            In its original setting, the text is typically understood as talking about rescue from political death and from the extermination of national independence.[9]  Marvin A. Sweeney argues, in effect, that the text does this through a comparison of what the nation was going through to a woman during childbirth (Hosea 13:13), which can go either very well or very tragically.  In the latter case, still births could occur due to genetic problems or the lack of knowledge to perform a Caesarian section—now common—that would have allowed the child to survive.  The issue with Israel is similarly one of survival of its birth pangs:  will it or won’t it?[10]  Be that as it may, just as Yahweh had once rescued his people collectively from national death, Paul argues He will in the future rescue them from individual, personal death.

            But this assumes an up-beat, optimistic reading of Hosea for the parallel of the two experiences to be appealing even as sermonic-type illustration.  The closing words of Hosea 13:14, however, are “pity is hidden from My eyes”—which reads as if God will not rescue them.  Interpreted this way the preceding words (which initially sound like a promise of redemption from disaster) can be interpreted as ironic/sardonic.  They are actually a command to death to do its worst against a rebellious people God now refuses to rescue.[11]

            Alternatively, the preceding text can be interpreted as questions, to which the [Page 102]   closing words give an emphatic “no” answer.  Taken this way, the result is a translation such as this, “Shall I redeem them from the power of Sheol?  Shall I ransom them from death?  Where are your thorns, O Death?  Where is your sting, O Sheol?  Compassion is unknown to my eyes.”[12]  (Contrast the optimistic reading, in which what God has no compassion or pity concerning, is not Israel, but Israel’s greatest enemy, death.)

            Gale A Yee writes that the verse is “perhaps one of the most disputed verses in the book” both as to proper Hebrew text and in regard to the implications of the language.[13]  Francis I. Anderson, and David N. Freedman concede that “the line may describe the suppression of God’s own compassion,”[14] but their sentiments seem clearly—at least marginally—toward an upbeat, triumphant rendering of the text.  The reason for this is the broader context, of how the verses (stressing temporary tragedy or not) set the context for a glorious future, “Why should God banish regret unless it is the eschatological abolition of all sorrow promised in Isaiah 25:8, a hope of joy that will reach a crescendo in Hosea 14?”[15] 

The majority of commentators today appear to have adopted the pessimistic reading of the potential for Divine mercy on the Israel of Hosea’s day.[16]     But if this approach is correct, why then does Paul appeal to the passage?  One scholar explains it on the grounds that the wording “express[es] his own triumphant feelings.  Triumphant the tone of Hosea’s words certainly is. . . .”[17]  But triumphant of the very opposite phenomena--defeat by death and not victory over it!  Could Paul have missed it this much?  Applying victorious rhetoric to a different kind of victory, yes, one in which death again loses decisively; but victorious rhetoric concerning the victory of death to a situation in which death is defeated?  That would be far harder to understand.  

            H. Wheeler Robinson develops the same point of an incongruous Pauline misunderstanding of the text, “The next verse (14) should be taken as rhetorical questions, implying a threat, not a promise:  ‘From the hand of Sheol shall I ransom them?  From death shall I redeem them?’  The answer is an emphatic No!  Note the question of 14b with reversed meaning in 1 Corinthians 15:55.”[18] 

If the meaning of the Hebrew was all that definitive against Paul’s reading how would he have dared used it?  Not all of his foes were Gentiles.  Not all were ignorant and unlearned in the Hebrew scriptures.  How could a man in his right mind use a text that so “self-evidently” said the very opposite?  Such factors argue strongly that his own understanding and victorious usage of the Hebrew text was, at worst, controversial among his contemporaries and, at best, widely accepted as definitive. 

In either case, it ill becomes someone two millenniums later to claim he did not read the text rightly!  And if one feels impelled to do it, would not one expect the rejection to be worded cautiously and with respect for the man who, 2,000 years closer to the original documents, insisted on reading it in a different manner than we do?     

            Furthermore the triumphant overtone may well have been found in the Hebrew itself, not merely in Paul or the Septuagint alone.  Osvaldo D. Vena renders the words this way, “O Death, where are your plagues?  O Sheol, where is your destruction?”[19]  Vena notes the contrast between context (“one of punishment”) and current text (“an oracle of deliverance”) and concludes that there must have been a later interpolation because of this victorious imagery.[20]  But why?  Even assuming that the deceiving copyist wanted to interject the supposedly more recently evolving doctrine of survival of [Page 103]   death, why put it in this passage?  That it seemed a logical and appropriate place to him would argue that there already was an upbeat/optimistic interpretation of the original wording; but if one concedes that, there is no reason to assume an interpolation in the first place.      

            A more recent commentator defends (implicitly rather than explicitly) the propriety of Paul’s use of the passage on the grounds of the text’s alleged lack of clearness.  There is an “ambiguity” in the verse as to whether this is strictly an oracle of condemnation or one of punishment ultimately tempered with mercy.  Hence Paul “capitalizes on [the text’s] ambiguity” to make his point.[21]  

            In the nineteenth century there was a tendency to read the Old Testament as extremely supportive of concepts most commonly associated with the New Testament.  The twentieth century saw the tendency to reject the reasonableness of conceptual linkages by putting an equally determined theological “spin” in the opposite direction.  Could this be such a case? 

            Admittedly, New Testament writers are quite willing to use statements supporting a point not just in cases where it is clear that they regard them as prophetic in the narrow sense, but also because the wording so precisely fits the point they wish to make--though not originally written on the same theme.  Henry Cowles, right after the U.S. Civil War, worded it this way:  The original words were not written as a description of the resurrection, yet “the words are beautifully applicable to the latter event, and are, therefore, fitly used.”[22]  They are germane, relevant, apropriate because the language so ably interlocks with what Paul is driving at, even though that was not part of the original context.

But there is a vast difference between this and to think his use of the Old Testament was so superficial that he would reverse the commonly perceived thrust of the verse in their own age (in this case from pessimistic to optimistic) and expect to get away with it.  This argues strongly that an upbeat understanding of the passage already represented acceptable Jewish usage in the first century. 

There are at least three major points that need to be made in defense of Paul’s optimistic approach to Hosea.  The first is that it did not originate with him.  The Hebrew text itself can actually be read as either questions or assertions[23]--it has to be a matter of interpretive judgment.  (The version quoted at the beginning of our study took it to be questions.)  Furthermore the rendering of the Hebrew in the LXX suggests that at least that far back such a hopeful “spin” was put on the wording just as does Paul centuries later,[24] i.e., God will punish in the short term but will redeem from Sheol and death in the long term.  The possible significance of this has been countered on the ground that the Septuagint “normally translates Hosea clause by clause, as literally as possible, without much regard for the sweep of the logic.”[25]        

            Secondly, the unexpected insertion of a few optimistic notes in a context of pessimism and Divine wrath is not without precedent in the writings of Hosea.   As a defender of the “redemptive” reading suggests, “It seems too abrupt a change to move from the certainty of doom (verses 12-13) to a strong assurance of deliverance (verse 14), but this is not untypical of Hosea.  The theological framework for this motif appears in 11:8-9, where an affirmation of doom (verse 7 [sic, 5-7]) was followed by the description of Yahweh’s burning love (11:8-9).”[26]

            This is not the only example of where Hosea dramatically switches course from condemnation and destruction to rescue and salvation.  Duanne A. Garrett argues that,[27]
[Page 104]

It follows the rhetorical strategy already begun in 1:6-10 in which promises of destruction and of salvation are set side by side without transition or explanation.  The motif of slaying and then resurrecting Israel occurs elsewhere, as in 5:14-6:2, a text that, like 13:7-8, presents Yahweh as a devouring lion.  The purpose of the [rhetorical] strategy is to maintain the certainty of salvation in the ultimate plan of God while yet confronting Israel with the reality of their doom in a manner that does not allow for rationalistic evasion.


            Jeffrey S. Rogers concedes that in 11:8 God’s “compassion for Israel won out over fierce anger (verses 8-9). . . .  This time ‘compassion is hidden’ from Yahweh’s eyes (verse 14; cf. verse 9).”[28]  So he attempts to have both results concerning the Israelites referred to in this chapter, but at different points in their history. 

On its own merits, actually either vengeance or forgiveness would make total sense.  Vengeance because God had already given the people opportunity and they had failed the test; compassion because God was all too aware that the consequences of totally unleashing Divine wrath would be beyond their ability to even adequately grasp—or survive.  But when Pauline usage interprets it in an optimistic direction, to those who respect his analytical skill, that makes it a near prohibitive certainty.

            Finally there is a snide underside to the language of certain critics of Paul that becomes extremely annoying.  Take the English scholar T. W. Crafer, writing a few years after World War One ended.  He concedes (1)  Paul took it as “a beautiful promise” from antiquity; (2) the [English] Revised Version “suggests the same” interpretation by how it renders the verse; (3) Hosea can provide rapid transitions from despair language to optimism “which are no less violent than this one” in Hosea 13.  Yet, “the words are capable of an entirely different meaning which accords better with the rest of the passage, and editors are now agreed in taking them not as a promise, but as an invoking of destruction upon them.”[29]      

            We exaggerate only mildly when we describe the subtext in these words:  “In short, Paul got it wrong.  The translators got it wrong.  But we are so smart we got it right.  The issue has now been settled.  Now shut up and fall in line!”  Even if you do not wish to be so harsh, is there not a clear cut arrogance implying we know so much better than these other people?  There are many places where individuals past and present choose to challenge Pauline or Biblical accuracy but, after conceding so many critical points, doesn’t it seem incredible that someone can so cavalierly do so—and without even making a case that the evidence is strongly on his own side?  

            In my judgment, the strongest arguments for a negative, condemnatory, reading of Hosea 13:14 come from two strains of thought.  The first line of argument is that the Pauline interpretation may be right—but only if it one concedes the propriety of going to the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew.  John M. P. Smith makes the argument this way, “ ‘O death, where are thy plagues, etc.;’ not a cry of victory over death but a summons to death to send its destroying agencies against Israel.  The interpretation of this verse embodied in 1 Corinthians 15:55 was based upon the Greek translation found in the Septuagint, which was the Bible of the early church, and does not represent the thought of Hosea.”[30]   

[Page 105]         Two facts already noted are especially relevant here.  First, it is admitted that the Hebrew can be read in more than one way—either as inflicting death or saving from it.  Because Smith’s personal preference is for the first possibility does nothing to prove Paul improper or wrong in choosing the latter.  Furthermore, the Septuagint long antedates the church’s existence and the Pauline approach can, therefore, be proved to be an acceptable interpretive option long before the question of vindicating apostolic interpretation ever existed.  It can hardly be over-emphasized that it was an acceptable Jewish version of scripture centuries before it became a Christian one.

            The second line of reasoning defending a triumph of death scenario rests not in the disputed area of interpretation or disputed textual readings but in what actually happened.  Daniel J. Simundson properly raises the fact that “God did not, in fact, save Israel from the power of Assyria.”[31] 

On the other hand, did God permit the destruction to be as total as Hosea 13:14 envisions?  For that matter, chapter 14 goes on at length about the people rejecting the power of Assyria to “save us” (verse 3).  This was a dramatic change; a much later generation would have said the Assyrians had “the biggest cannon.”  Based upon its status as the dominant regional power, it seemed the only one who could intervene to harm or help them.  Yet they have rejected that power.  God’s “anger has turned away” from them (verse 4) and they are reconciled with Yahweh. 

It sounds like not only that they survived the threatened “death,” but that they had also been brought back from it.  This sounds like a more prolonged description of a “resurrection” from the power of the nation that had seized control of their territory—on a de facto if not de jure basis.  How then is chapter 13 likely to have intended the total victory by death that is often assumed?

            Paul cites the Hosea and Isaiah passages with the interpretive comment that it is via the change in the body at the resurrection that it “shall be brought to pass the saying that is written” (15:54) and then proceeding from Isaiah 25 to Hosea 13.  Paul could be asserting that he finds direct proof of the doctrine in these two texts.  On the other hand his wording might suggest that his purpose is more limited:  that they permit the doctrine and represent the ultimate way in which death can be triumphed over.  If so, they illustrate rather than directly teach or predict the coming resurrection change. 

            The pioneer American modernist Charles A. Briggs—who did so much to introduce the “enlightened” unbelief of German religious scholarship into post-Civil War America—emphatically saw in the original context a strictly national event (the spelling in the following is his),[32]


Jahveh here summons death and Sheol to do their worst—bring on their worst—bring on their plagues and pestilences, and put Israel to death.  He will not interpose in His compassion to save the nation.  But after the nation has died and has gone into the Sheol of the nations, then Jahveh will redeem them by bringing them up from Sheol and by imparting to them new life.  The prophet thus predicts a national resurrection.  This is the first appearance of the conception of a resurrection in the Old Testament theology.  It first emerges as a Messianic idea, in connection with the restoration of the nation as a whole.[33]

            Yet in his footnote on this text he can concede the credibility of the text being [Page 106]   applied to the individual future in spite of his biases, “The passage is quoted by Paul in1  Corinthians 15:55 and applied to the triumph of the individual believer over death.  The application was a proper one.  It is not, however, an interpretation of our passage, for it has in mind only the resurrection of Israel as a nation, and has no reference to the resurrection of the body” (our emphasis).

We should also consider this:  It happens to the “nation” because it happens to all who are part of the nation:  “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.”  Hence to the extent that it is a national resurrection, it is because it happens to all those who constitute the nation. 

By speaking of what would happen to one and all in Hosea 13, we have a parallel in the future of the spiritual Israel, the church.  The parallelism is especially relevant because the resurrection of the unbeliever is conspicuously not mentioned in either place.  Whatever happens to them is not part of Paul’s immediate concern.  In light of such parallelism one can easily see the reasonableness of arguing a valid “application” of Hosea’s text even if we choose to hesitate to call it a direct prophecy of the Christian resurrection.

At this point, one’s acceptance (or rejection) of Paul’s apostolic teaching credentials becomes pivotal:  if one accepts them, then his application of the texts (whether originally written directly concerning the subject) must be accepted as definitive truth.  If one questions those credentials, then one may well challenge the propriety of his exegesis or application of the texts.      


            Pauline reliance on Hosea in other parts of 1 Corinthians 15?  It should be noted that some argue that Paul is significantly affected by Hosea, not only in regard to a resurrection doctrine but also in regard to other ideas and concepts he raises or implies in chapter 15—sometimes utilizing the same Greek word(s) as found in the LXX version of Hosea.  Building on the descriptive work of Samuel Frost we could come up with a list like this (a more concise form of what he develops at greater, prose-style narrative length; the quotes are his):[34]

            1.  The sowing and planting of the seed:  Israel is also called “Jezreel,” a combination of two Hebrew words meaning “to plant” and “God;” Israel is sowed “among the nations” (Hosea 8:8);

            2.  The place of sowing is world-wide:  “among the nations” (Hosea 8:8).

            3.  The seed dies :  Israel “sowed wind and reaped the whirlwind. She plants, but no stalk is raised (8.7). Israel ‘planted’ wickedness and ‘reaped’ evil (10.13).”  

            4.  “Change,” “glory” and “honor” are involved:  Negatively in the book of Hosea, “She has ‘changed’ her ‘glory’ for ‘dishonor.’  She is ‘weak’ or ‘stumbles’ (5.5 – one stumbles because they are weak).”

            5.  The comparison to Adam:  “She is ‘like Adam’ in that she has ‘broken the covenant’ (6.7).  They have broken the covenant and have rebelled against ‘the torah.’ ”   

            6.  The implied crop analogy in the seed analogy:  In their restoration to divine favor “they will sow righteousness and reap unfailing love. The ground will be plowed up and God will come and shower them with ‘righteousness’ (10.12). This is ‘the harvest’ appointed for Judah and Israel when God ‘restores’ their fortunes and ‘heals’ Israel (6.11-7.1).”

            7.  In their new state they will live under the Divine king:  “During their exile they [Page 107]   lived ‘many days’ without king or priest ‘among the nations’, but ‘in the last days’ God would bring David their King (the ‘one leader’). It is in this context of restoration that the ‘in the third day he will restore us that we may live in his presence’ (6.2)”  When this happens the promise of 13:14 becomes a reality.

            Although the comparisons are interesting, they come from varied places in Hosea and are open to the accusation that they are a synthetic compiling of unrelated comments in a manner to make them appear related.  Proving they were intended to be related would be extremely difficult to do.  As so often in regard to TFP, we have to assume the validity of that interpretative framework before we would even suspect that these particular passages have any tie-in with the intent of 1 Corinthians 15.  

We also have at least some significant differences between these matters and what Paul presents here in chapter 15.  Here the seed planted is good seed and the crop good as well; there is not the slightest hint that the individuals described had undergone the kind of spiritual/character reversal Frost finds in Hosea, from bad seed/crop to good seed/crop. 

The “Adam” reference may technically be correct but is totally misleading.  In the NKJV we find Hosea 6:7 saying, “But like men they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt treacherously with Me.”  The comparison is not with the historic Adam (as is clearly the case in 1 Corinthians 15) but with the way generic Adam/mankind behaves:  “They are acting just like everyone else” would be a good paraphrase; one would never (unaided) suspect the intention is to say, “They are acting just like Adam in the Garden of Eden.”

“Transgressed the covenant” also makes far better sense as “Mosaical law” (with the many provisions one would normally associate with the word “covenant”) than as a description of the violation of the sole and single law existing in Eden (don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil).  One law, conceptually, is hard to picture as a “covenant; perhaps not always impossible but extraordinarily difficult.

Totally Fulfilled Prophecy and Hosea 13:14.   (1)  The citation of Hosea must be interpreted in the same sense as Hosea originally intended it.  A pivotal interpretive pillar of Covenant Eschatology is that New Testament usage of prophetic texts must conform to their Old Testament use and intent.  Of Isaiah 25:8 one writes, “While a futurist, sensually focused paradigm makes physical death and a physical bodily resurrection the redemptive event which accomplishes ‘the swallowing up of death’ in 1 Corinthians 15, the context from which Paul is quoting does not allow for that interpretation” (our emphasis, RW).[35]

Don K. Preston drives home the same thrust in one of his writings after referring to both Hosea and Isaiah 25:8,[36]


From these texts, it is undeniable that the resurrection hope expressed by the New Testament writers was nothing other than a reiteration of what had already been written long ago in the Old Testament scriptures! . . . 

You simply cannot say that the New Testament prophecies of the resurrection are not grounded in and based on the Old Covenant prophecies. This is to deny Paul who said he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in  Moses and the prophets. 1 Corinthians 15 is not different from Isaiah 25 or Hosea 13:14, for Paul says that when the resurrection occurred, it would be the fulfillment of those prophecies. To say that 1 Corinthians 15 is the explication of those prophecies is not the same as saying that they are different from those prophecies (our emphasis, RW).

 [Page 108]

It is hard—I think impossible—to read such individuals without concluding that the defining of what the New Testament teaches must be strictly within the confines of what its quoted Old Testament texts have to say.  “Original intent,” with a vengeance.  We have already seen that this simply isn’t valid.  We raise it again because of the direct relevance of these quotes to the two prophetic resurrection texts we are studying in particular. 

It is also more than a little odd that Paul’s original intention disappears from the picture.  That becomes irrelevant.  He becomes a virtual walking and talking automation merely repeating what Hosea and Isaiah intended.  His approach has to be in concurrence with the original intent of Hosea and Isaiah because he rooted his teaching in those sources.  Period. 

Yet it is crystal clear that he felt quite free to read the fuller implications differently or in a far broader sense than the original writers.  In 1 Corinthians 15 we have Psalms 8:6 quoted and shifted in two important aspects:  (1)  It becomes a prophecy of the Messiah rather than humanity; (2) it becomes a prophecy of supremacy over the human species while in its original sitting it speaks of supremacy over the non-human “animal” world (animal, birds, fish).  Original intent did not determine the proper application of the text did it?    

Even a further distance from its original setting is the usage of God calling His “son” out of Egypt—a prophecy related to the calling of the Israelite nation out of captivity—when it is applied by Matthew in a very different sense to the one person, Jesus of Nazareth. 

Prophecy can be cited as predictive for at least two reasons:  1) because it directly is and 2) because its language so perfectly describes a very different situation.  These two examples prove it and others can be cited as well. 

Not to mention the possibility that it was originally intended to carry theological “freight” that was not in the original author’s mind.  Indeed, one could have an interesting time developing the scenario that this has to be the case because the New Testament writer’s do clearly utilize texts in both their obvious and “unrelated” ways as well. 

One could tellingly argue—to religiously conservative folk--that “since an inspired apostle took it in this manner, it is you who must be imposing on his usage the fetters of an unjust and improper limitation to the long-range originally intended purpose of the passage.”  In other words there is original intent and there is ultimately intended usage.  Covenant Eschatology says we must embrace the former to properly interpret the New Testament; we argue that one must embrace both to do full justice. 

In short, you interpret both Testaments in light of their own intended usage of a text.  You may well argue that Paul is flat out wrong because the original author did not mean any such thing.  That is a totally separate issue.  You might even argue (in at least [Page 109]   some cases) that Paul’s usage more faithfully represents the logical implications of the OT writer than the original author recognized at the time.  That, too, is a separate issue. 

You do not, however, have the right to impose upon his words a meaning in contradiction to what he himself has written.  Or to twist straightforward rhetoric into meanings no one would think of unless needing to force the language into a synthesis with his or her other convictions.  Paul means what he says and not what you have pre-determined he must mean.  Furthermore, also inherent in the situation is that the definition of proper usage of Old Testament precedent is better determined by how the apostles actually used it rather than forcing the usage into your interpretive framework of how it “must” be read.  Paul was the inspired man, not you or me.

These words are addressed to those who still maintain their freedom of choice in such matters.  No amount of proof of divergent usage between original context and Pauline context is likely to be successful for some--scripture has to be interpreted within an original intent only framework for them.  This is to make Covenant Eschatology a viable scenario.  And that framework has to be right or the New Testament makes predictions that simply aren’t true. 

But that is to judge the accuracy and validity of NT teaching by our interpretive scenario rather than seeking out a different one to replace it—one more compatible with how the New Testament actually utilizes passages rather than imposing our theologically necessitated straightjacket of how it “has to be.” 

One other observation.  Preston implicitly applies his Old Testament interpretive framework far wider, citing Acts 26:21-23 and claiming from it, “Paul said he preached nothing, nothing but the hope of Israel found in Moses and the prophets.  Do you catch the power of that?  (his emphasis).[37] 

Logically applied that means everything in the New Testament has its Old Testament precedent.  Oh, it has piles of them—as we’ve amply demonstrated through the “Old Testament precedents” section of each chapter of this book—but everything?  The eldership?  Divorce and remarriage?  Organization of the church (which didn’t even exist back then)?  Perhaps I misread him and he is only trying to say that in regard to the resurrection that this is true, but the principle is laid down so broadly I find it hard to believe that such a limitation was intended. 

More likely he only means to include a narrower range of matters--the resurrection, the prophecies of the Messiah, God’s judgment, the resurrection, and related subjects.  If so, he still has a problem.  What Paul’s religious foes got out of the same passages was clearly different—or they would have become Christians themselves! 

The issue came down to who interpreted the direct teachings and implications of Moses and the prophets most correctly—the rabbis or the Christians.  Appealing to “original intent” wasn’t going to settle all the differences; they profoundly differed as to the nature of the original intent and to the implications to be brought out of the texts. 

Battling forms of exegesis would then be brought to bear by the two sides in an effort to properly determine what God had intended, from of old, for their own age.  You had to convince people from “proof texts” that the “proof” was really there.  We do much the same today.

We have abundantly shown that in addition to direct prophecy, the New Testament freely utilizes parallelism (the national Son out of Egypt; the individual Son of [Page 110]   God out of Egypt) and applying texts to different situations (applying a passage about mankind’s supremacy over the animal world to a) Jesus in particular and b) the subjects changed to humans instead of animals).  Did Paul’s words in Acts 26:21-23 mean that he was always interpreting or applying these texts in the way the Old Testament originally did?  These examples clearly prove that the apostolic answer was “no,” even in a Messianic context. 


(2)  Since Hosea promises redemption then the resurrection promised must be redemption from sin.  Ward Fenley stresses that this Hosea text promises both “ransom” and “redeem[ing].”  “Here God explicitly associates ransom and redemption with the very passage Paul cites to support the resurrection of the ‘dead’ ” in 1 Corinthians 15.  “We must ask:  Have we, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, been ransomed and redeemed? If the answer is yes, then Hosea tells us what else we have” and then quotes 13:14 on being rescued from the grave.  “If we believe that we do not have the fullness of resurrection, then we cannot truly say that we have the fullness of redemption” either.[38]

Of course this gets into the earlier question of whether they were really, fully, completely saved at the time of conversion or merely had the promise of it coming—in 70 A.D.  (If they weren’t and then were martyred before that date, doesn’t that logically require that they were lost?)  If they were in possession of the promised salvation prior to that date, then this approach to Hosea and Paul simply won’t work because they were saved prior to the resurrection.

On its own merits—in both Hosea and 1 Corinthians—can a salvational element be made a/the key component of the resurrection?  Let’s look more closely at Hosea in particular.[39]  In Hosea 13:1-2, Israel is rebuked, “When Ephraim spoke, trembling, He exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended through Baal worship, he died.   2 Now they sin more and more, and have made for themselves molded images, idols of their silver, according to their skill. . . .”  Then we get to Hosea 13:14’s, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues!  O grave, I will be your destruction!”

Interpreting these two in the light of each other, it can be argued that since Israel “died” due to sin and since they will be resurrected from death, that the death they are rescued from is sin.  Furthermore, since this involves being rescued from “the grave,” the grave can simply represent being in unforgiven sin.  (Again the image of salvational resurrection we encountered earlier.)  An excellent pruning of the text, I must admit! 

However it overlooks that they had already spiritually died.  What they were encountering now was physical death on top of that, “So I will be to them like a lion; like a leopard by the road I will lurk; I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion.  The wild beast shall tear them”  (Hosea 13:7-8).  In light of this, the “grave” they stood in danger of was quite literal, not metaphorical.  In fact they were already in their grave, spiritually; what God is pleading with them to do is avoid physical death on top of that.

As we read on we continue to find that God is describing the death and devastation that He had accomplished through their current enemies, “O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me” (13:9).  They can escape physical death through relying on Yahweh (13:15-16):  These two verses appear to be describing what God is [Page 111]   going to do to their enemy.  But, even if interpreted of Israel’s own fate lacking repentance the image is still of physical death, “Samaria is held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God.  They shall fall by the sword, their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped open” (13:16).  There is simply no way any system of sound exegesis is going to get out of that verse spiritual death being referred to instead of physical.  

Hence 13:14 happens in a context of escaping physical death, not spiritual.  That physical death is a consequence of their sin and if they are going to escape that physical death they are going to have to repent.  But the resurrection promised is in a context of physical perishing and avoiding it. 

To put it a different way:

The resurrection, by its inherent nature, is a supernatural act.

To escape spiritual death, however, is our decision and our act via repentance.

Therefore the resurrection image can not have escaping from spiritual death under consideration.

Before we pass on, let us raise that question of “original intent.”  We have been told it is the focal point of how we are to interpret passages quoted in the New Testament.  But what is the normal focal point of “redemption” in its Old Testament sitting? 

After all, redemption doesn’t have to have a spiritual context, especially in the Old Testament.  In the other reference to being “redeemed” in Hosea (7:13) it is in an apparent context of redemption from national foes.  The return from Babylon:  “There you shall be delivered; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies (Micah 4:10).  Micah again:  “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage” (6:4).  Jeremiah:  “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible” (15:21).

Hosea 13:14 also speaks of having a “ransom.”  Although not as common as redemption language as a description of escape from the power of a conqueror, it certainly is utilized in such a manner upon occasion.  Isaiah 35:10:  “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing.”  A statement that is repeated in Isaiah 51:11:  “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing”  Jeremiah 31:11:  “For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.”

Fenley’s analysis backreads the New Testament spiritual redemptive usage of “ransom” and “redeem” into the Hosea text.  Remember how we have to interpret New Testament meaning in light of its Old Testament usage in order to come up with the “right” analysis?  Well, here we are told we are to do what we are prohibited from doing in defining the nature of “resurrection!”  The Old Testament has to carry its New Testament usage.

Even though the Old Testament doesn’t always use it that way.

Worse, even though Hosea 13:14 itself doesn’t use it that way!   “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  The specific type of ransom and redemption is specified—not from the moral plague of sin but from physical death.  So a salvational interpretation of “resurrection” is to be obtained by reading into Hosea 13:14 the gloss of sin and exiling from it the object of the real redemption/ransom—escaping physical death!

Any scripture can mean anything.  If you are permitted to play these kind of word games.
[Page 112]

(3)  Incongruities between the events of 70 A.D. and what Hosea prophesied.  Finally, we need to examine whether Totally Fulfilled Eschatology can find an adequate usage of Hosea 13:14 in applying it to the fall of Jerusalem.  Several problems obviously come to mind.


1.  Death is defeated in Hosea; in 70 A.D. it is victorious.  In Hosea, death is destroyed; if the text refers to the fall of Jerusalem, then death gained the victory.  There was no victory over death, but of death.  It was a visible, obvious, undeniable triumph in Hosea.  For Jews in 70, it was a visible, obvious, undeniable disaster.  There is a total disconnect between prophecy and fulfillment which has to be salvaged by injecting into the interpretation a second group (in effect, Christians / the church) that aren’t even hinted at.

We probed at length the vigorously debated issue of whether 13:14 indicates a defeat of death or its triumph, but one thing was conspicuously missing—no one, regardless of theology or personal preferences--found in the text the simultaneous death of one group/entity and the resurrection of another.  It never occurs to them.

Perhaps because there is absolutely nothing in the text to suggest it.  You have one group and one group only.  The same group dies and is resurrected. 

Yet after insisting that we must interpret Hosea only in light of its original intent, we are to gloss it with a second group not even hinted at.  And not only that.  The reason?  Because we need it there to fit what we claim to find in the second testament not the first.  Furthermore, we have to gloss the text yet a second time—changing physical death to spiritual.  Again to make it fit our interpretation of the New Testament.

But we don’t dare consider that the individual resurrection taught by Paul is a proper subject to introduce here.  Even though you do have in both cases a direct escape from physical death .  Even if we accept that odd exclusion, how many interpretive glosses are we permitted before we concede that we aren’t handling the prophet properly?    


            2.  Hosea discusses short-term events; A.D. 70 is far beyond his event horizon. In its original context—rather than any application of what is described—the impression is of immediate danger.  Hence the originally intended context (victorious or disastrous) was almost certainly in Hosea’s own lifetime or close to it.  To make it refer to 70 A.D. requires a “double fulfillment,” in a very different context for very different reasons—not physical resurrection, not even national resurrection but the victory of a different group (in effect, the church), the forgiveness of sin, and the abolition of the Old Testament.  Does any one wish to find the slightest hint that any of these is in Hosea’s mind from what he actually says?  Yet we are told that when the OT speaks of the “resurrection” these are the things that are involved in that event! 

            Furthermore, the one interpretation that is consistent with Hosea’s actual words—the destruction of physical death—is the one that we simply are not permitted because that would be to interpret Hosea retroactively rather than in light of his actual words.  Yet here, at least, we do have the same subject (and nothing more), the crushing of death’s power.  Applied far broader, yes, but the same subject and the addition of no others.


[Page 113]           3.  The victory being given to those not under discussion in the text.  Even laying aside these significant difficulties, where was the triumph in 70 A.D.?  TFE seems to require that it be not a triumph over death but of Christian faith over Jewish Judaism—their  triumph over an oppressor.  But Jewish opposition was hardly likely to stop afterwards where the Jews were a sufficiently sized group and if the Christians became regarded as particularly annoying to them.  Nor did it eliminate the far greater, Roman danger, which was where the real power ultimately lay. 

Furthermore it was death that was triumphed over, according to Hosea, not a rival religious group.  Nor persecution.  If Hosea (or Isaiah 25:8) intended such, where is it found in their respective prophecies?

Furthermore, if original Hosean intent is to define our interpretation, then the wrong side won at Jerusalem in 70 A.D. If there is a resurrection (in any sense) in our passage, it is surely of those who died.  (You can’t resurrect someone who hasn’t died, can you?)  The nation of Israel “died” as the result of following Baal (13:1) and its associated idolatry (13:2).  The promised redemption is also to the same Israel, “I will be your King; where is any other, that he may save you in all your cities?  And your judges to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes?’ (13:10). 

Hence, when they are saved from the power of the grave (13:13-14), the original context is to political independence, a political being revived to life.  Much is said (in the context of Isaiah 25:8 in particular) of the need to interpret to interpret the resurrection texts in light of their original setting.  If we do that in regard to Hosea, then we should be reading of a Jewish triumph and the destruction of the Roman legions as being predicted in our current text! 

Both the bodily resurrection approach and the A.D. 70 one require that this original context be replaced with a new setting when the events it ultimately foreshadowed came to pass.  Both scenarios differ from the original setting.


            4.  Even accepting the church/Christian gloss on the text, what Hosea promises was still not obtained even by the Christians.  In the traditional use of Hosea, as interpreted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, death is destroyed of its very existence to harm and plague anyone at any time.  In the 70 A.D. scenario, physical death still has the upper hand; every single Christian who lived through the obliteration of the Temple was still going to die and be buried.  Hence it was in no way a true victory over death even for the Christians themselves—at least not over the enemy of death that Hosea mentions, temporal, bodily death.  As the old adage goes, “With victories like this, who needs defeats?”  






[1]Bratcher, Corinthians, 157.  

[2] Dearman, The Book of Hosea, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William D. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [Page 114]   2010), 329.  There are verbal differences between Dearman’s translation of the two texts found in verse 55 and that of Bratcher.  Dearman substitutes “destruction” for “punishment” in the LXX as well.


[3] Dearman, 329.


[4] Robert G. Bratcher, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament, Third Revised Edition, in the Helps for Translators series (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1987), 51.   


[5] Both possibilities are suggested by Kugelman, 274.  The free adaptation approach is taken by R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1937, 1963), 745.


[6] A. E. Harvey, A Companion to the New Testament, Second Edition (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2004), 560. 


[7] Arthur P. Stanley, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Fourth Edition (London:  John Murray, 1876), 322.


[8] Schep, n. 93, 62.


[9] E. Henderson, The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets (Andover:  Warren F. Draper, 1868), 80.


[10] Cf. Marvin A. Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets (volume 1), in the series Berit Olam:  Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry, edited by David W. Cotter (Collegeville, Minnesota:  Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 2000), 133-134.


[11] For example, Murray J. Harris, From Grave to Glory, 66, who saw in Isaiah 25:8 an abolishment of death, sees here a command to death to do its worst.  He takes this to be the general thrust of the text without introducing the “pity” reference that others would.


[12] As translated by Hans W. Wolff, Hosea:  A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea, translated into English by Gary Stansell, edited by Paul D. Hanson, in the Hermeneia--A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1974), 221-222.


[13] Gale A. Yee, “Hosea,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, edited by Leander S. Keck, et al., volume 7 (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1996), 291.  Francis I. Anderson and David N. Freedman, Hosea, in the Anchor Bible series (Garden City, New York:  Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980), 639-640, list and describe the five different ways that the Hebrew of 13:14b alone can be rendered. 


[Page 115]   [14] Francis I. Anderson and David N. Freedman 640.

[15] Ibid.


[16] The inevitability of destruction scenario is adopted by H. D. Beeby, Grace Abounding:  A Commentary on the Book of Hosea, in the International Theological Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 171-172; G. I. Davies, Hosea, in the New Century Bible Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), 295-296; Allen R. Guenther, Hosea, Amos, in the Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, Pennsylvania:  Herald Press, 1998), 203-204; James L. Mays, Hosea:  A Commentary, in the Old Testament Library series (London:  SCM Press, Ltd., 1969), 181-182; and James W. Ward, Hosea:  A Theological Commentary (New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1966), 221.


[17] T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Hosea, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges series (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1884; 1913 printing), 124.


[18] H. Wheeler Robinson, “Hosea,” in The Abingdon Bible Commentary, edited by Frederick D. Eiselen, Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downing (New York:  Abingdom-Cokesbury Press, 1929), 767.


[19] Vena, 133.


[20] Ibid.


[21] David A. Hubbard, Hosea:  An Introduction and Commentary, in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (Downers Grove, Illinois:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1989), 221-222, who believes the text does not intend to hold out any hope.


[22] Henry Cowles, The Minor Prophets (New York:  D. Appleton and Company, 1868), 73.


[23] Roy L. Honeycutt, Jr., “Hosea,” in Hosea-Malachi, in the Broadman Bible Commentary series (London:  Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972; British Edition, 1973), 58, and Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, Publisher, 1987), 207.  Both, however, interpret the text as offering no hope for the people.


[24] As noted by defenders of the “question” rendering of the text, G. I. Davies, 296, and Douglas Stuart, 207.


[25] Douglas Stuart, 207.

[26] Thomas E. McComiskey, “Hosea,”  in Hosea, Joel, and Amos, volume 1 of The Minor [Page 116]   Prophets:  An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, edited by Thomas E. McComiskey (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Book House, 1992), 223-224.


[27] Duane Garrett, Hosea, Joel, in the New American Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee:  Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 265.


[28] H. Wheeler Robinson, 733.


[29] T. W. Crafer, The Book of Hosea (Cambridge: A t the University Press, 1923), 74.


[30] John M. P. Smith, A Commentary on the Books of Amos, Hosea and Micah (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1914), 150.


[31] Daniel J. Simundson, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, in the Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries series (Nashville, Tennessee:  Abingdon Press, 2005),  110.


[32] Charles A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Son, 1886),  176.


[33] Ibid.


[34] Samuel Frost, “Hosean Allusions in 1 Corinthians 15.”  At:  http://en.preterism. com/index.php?title=Hosean_Allusions_In_I_Cor_15.  [December 2010.] 


[35] Jelinek, “In This Mountain.”


[36] Preston, “Latest Desperation.” 


[37] Ibid.


[38] Ward Fenley, “Resurrection, the Hope of Israel, and the Song of Moses.”  Included on The Preterist Archive.  At: fenley_song-moses.html.  [June 2011.]


[39] I came across a brief reference in an opponent to TFP to one correspondent of his having developed the text in this manner, but he provided no further details.  This represents how I would develop it if I were arguing the point and I have difficulty believing it would be presented very much differently by those on the other side of this controversy.  If I err, my apologies.