Corruption

Greek Words that are Translated as corruptible and Incorruptible

The Greek words that are often translated as corruption in the Bible are:
Aphizo
Diaphthero (from which we get the word diphtheria)
Kapeleuo
Sapros
Sepo (from which we get the word septic).
And the word that is often translated as incorruptible or clean is aphthartos.

The Meanings of the Words at 1 Corinthians 15

So, why are we discussing these words? Primarily because we wish to find out what Paul meant when he wrote (at 1 Corinthians 15:50-54), 'I tell you this, brothers: Flesh and blood can't inherit God's Kingdom, nor can [anything that's] corruptible (diaphthero) inherit something that's incorruptible (aphthartos). Look, I tell you a mystery: Not all of us will be laid to rest, but we'll be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. The trumpet will blow and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. But when that which is dying puts on immortality, the words that were written will be fulfilled: Death, which prevails, will be swallowed.'

Much has been written about the meanings of these verses in the past, and translators have used many terms to translate the Greek words that appear there. However, just what was Paul talking about? Was he equating incorruptibility with immortality, or was he speaking of impurity being changed into something that's pure?

Actually, the words aphizo, aphthartos, and diaphthero all seem to be closely related, for aphizo and diaphthero are used interchangeably between writers of the Gospels, and they indicate a deteriorating condition. And aphthartos is the opposite of those two words. Whereas the unrelated word kapeleuo has more to do with the corrupt business or political practices, and sapros and sepo seem to indicate filth, rotting, putrefying, and decaying.

The Case of Jesus' Body

So, to find out what Paul likely meant when he said that the diaphthero would put on aphthartos, let's see how the word diaphthero was used in a situation where we know how matters turned out, as in the case of Jesus.

At Acts 13:34-37 we read, 'Yes, He resurrected him from the dead so that [his body] wouldn't see corruption. For He had said to him, I'll give you the sacred, trusted things of [King] David. And He said in another place: You won't allow your Holy one to see corruption. Yet when David (who served his generation well and followed God's instructions) fell asleep [in death], he was buried with his ancestors, and [his body] did see corruption. But this one who was raised by God didn't see corruption!'

In this case, we can see that Paul used the word diaphthero to describe the deterioration of a human body in the grave, for that's what happened to David's body after he died. However, as he pointed out; Jesus' body didn't deteriorate, for it was taken away.

What happened to Jesus' body? Although countless hours have been wasted debating the subject, we simply don't know, because the Bible doesn't tell us and it makes no difference anyhow. Yet, people like to argue trivial viewpoints and details.

So, What Was Paul Talking About In 1 Corinthians?

Therefore in 1 Corinthians 15, when Paul wrote, 'Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility,' it doesn't appear as though he was saying that the morally impure will be putting on moral purity in the resurrection (although that will likely also be true). For if he had meant that, he would likely have used the more appropriate Greek words kapeleuo and akapeleuo. So, how was Paul applying the words diaphtheroand aphthartos in this case?

Notice that Paul seems to have given another meaning to diaphthero at 2 Corinthians 4:16, where he wrote: 'Although the man [you see] on the outside is wasting away (gr. diaphtheiretai), the man on the inside is being renewed day by day.'

As you can see, here Paul used a form of the word diaphthero to indicate the deteriorating and aging condition of mankind. And if this is how he was applying the word at 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, he was saying that all whom God deems worthy will be resurrected in a non-deteriorating, non-aging condition.'

For more information, see the linked documents, 'God's Promise of an Inheritance' and 'The Resurrection.'

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