Often ignored, misunderstood, or compared with Christian belief in a haphazard or inconsistent manner, the Mysteries of the Graeco-Roman world, when handled carefully and consistently, can aid in elucidating the context of New Testament texts. By closely examining the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Mysteries of Isis, and particularly their promises of a pleasant afterlife in Hades for those initiated into the cults, this work offers insight into difficult interpretational issues in First Corinthians 15.
The work proceeds from a methodological commitment to understanding the Mysteries in their own right and without an overlay of Christian belief. The book includes a broad overview of the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Mysteries of Isis and their place in Graeco-Roman culture, taking a deep and careful dive into conceptions of the afterlife in these cults. In each instance available historical data is considered, from works of mythology to dramas to archeological fragments, all with a focus on afterlife beliefs. With an ultimate goal to better understand Paul’s writing in First Corinthians 15, the study includes an overview of Corinthian society and a particular examination of the available evidence concerning the impact of the Mysteries on Corinthians’ expectation of the afterlife.
Having considered the Mysteries independently, the work turns to First Corinthians 15 with a brief exegetical overview before drawing careful comparisons between Paul’s teaching and the afterlife beliefs of the Mysteries. The book concludes with suggestions for interpretational issues on Paul’s teaching in first Corinthians 15 regarding death and resurrection and baptism for the dead.
Terri Moore teaches New Testament and theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and Dallas Baptist University.
1. The Mysteries and Comparative Methodology
2. Afterlife in the Eleusinian Mysteries
3. Afterlife in the Mysteries of Isis
4. The Mysteries at Corinth
5. The Mysteries and 1 Corinthians 15
Summary and Conclusions
Terri Moore’s tour through the mystery religions and 1 Corinthians 15 brings us up to date on an ongoing discussion about the roots of Christianity. Her careful comparison and contrast of the approach to the afterlife in these two ways of thinking help us to see more clearly what is going on in 1 Corinthians 15 as well as appreciating how influence worked between these two ancient avenues of negotiating life. It is a solid work carefully executed with much to teach us about mystery religions and the early church.
The terms resurrection and afterlife are familiar to modern readers of the Bible. However, these concepts did not occur in a vacuum. The earliest Christians faced competing religious beliefs. Some of this competition came from complex religious expressions called the Mysteries. The beliefs and practices of these Mysteries have been quite elusive. Nevertheless, in various ways these religious expressions have been a challenge for Christians for centuries. Dr Moore’s illuminating study sheds light on specific Mysteries and in the process provides the reader with a methodologically convincing means into the first century context of Paul and his Corinthian readers. This book advances our understanding of the resurrection, the afterlife, certain Mysteries, and especially 1 Corinthians 15. Advanced study of these areas must interact with Dr Moore’s work.
Understanding the worldview assumptions of converts to Christianity is vital to facilitating their growth as disciples of Christ. As the Apostle Paul formed communities of believers in the Graeco-Roman world, he was deeply concerned with correcting their mistaken notions and aligning their thinking with the revelation of the one living and true God through Christ. Terri Moore shows how Paul carefully and masterfully helped the Corinthians to adjust their thinking about the afterlife. She rightly points to the deeply rooted assumptions that they continued to hold based upon what they learned through the local Mysteries, especially Demeter and Isis, and how Paul corrected these according to the Gospel. Her contextual exegesis brings light to the text and helps provide perspective on enigmatic expressions in 1 Corinthians 15, such as “baptism for the dead.”