Celibacy and Marriage
1 Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”#tn Grk “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” a euphemism for sexual relations. This idiom occurs ten times in Greek literature, and all of the references except one appear to refer to sexual relations (cf., e.g., Josephus, Ant. 1.8.1 [1.163]; Gen 20:6 [LXX]; Prov 6:29 [LXX]). For discussion see G. D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT), 275. Many recent interpreters believe that here again (as in 6:12-13) Paul cites a slogan the Corinthians apparently used to justify their actions. If this is so, Paul agrees with the slogan in part, but corrects it in the following verses to show how the Corinthians misused the idea to justify abstinence within marriage (cf. 8:1, 4; 10:23). See also G. D. Fee, “1 Corinthians 7:1 in the NIV,” JETS 23 (1980): 307-14. 2 But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with#tn Grk “each man should have his own wife.” “Have” in this context means “have marital relations with” (see the following verse). The verb ἐχέτω (ecetw, “have”) occurs twice in the Greek text, but has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons. This verb occurs 8 times in the LXX (Exod 2:1; Deut 28:30; 2 Chr 11:21; 1 Esd 9:12, 18; Tob 3:8; Isa 13:16; 54:1) with the meaning “have sexual relations with,” and 9 times elsewhere in the NT with the same meaning (Matt 20:23; 22:28; Mark 6:18; 12:33; Luke 20:28; John 4:18 [twice]; 1 Cor 5:1; 7:29). his own wife and each woman with#tn Grk “should have.” For explanation of the translation, see the note on “have relations with” earlier in this verse. her own husband. 3 A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights,#tn Grk “fulfill the obligation” or “pay the debt,” referring to the fulfillment of sexual needs within marriage. and likewise a wife to her husband. 4 It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. 5 Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.#tc Most later witnesses (א2 Ï sy) add “fasting and” (τῇ νηστείᾳ καί, th nhsteia kai) before “prayer.” But such an addition is motivated by ascetic concerns; further, its lack in Ì11vid,46 א* A B C D F G P Ψ 33 1739 1881 2464 al latt co argues decisively against its authenticity. Then resume your relationship,#tn Grk “and be together again.” so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.
8 To the unmarried and widows I say that it is best for them to remain as I am. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them get married. For it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.#tn Grk “than to burn,” a figure of speech referring to unfulfilled sexual passion.
10 To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lord#sn Not I, but the Lord. Here and in v. 12 Paul distinguishes between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during his earthly ministry. In vv. 10-11, Paul reports the Lord’s own teaching about divorce (cf. Mark 10:5-12). – a wife should not divorce a husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say – I, not the Lord#sn I, not the Lord. Here and in v. 10 Paul distinguishes between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during his earthly ministry. In vv. 12-16, Paul deals with a situation about which the Lord gave no instruction in his earthly ministry. – if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husband.#tc Grk “the brother.” Later witnesses (א2 D2 Ï) have ἀνδρί (andri, “husband”) here, apparently in conscious emulation of the earlier mention of ἀνήρ (ajnhr) in the verse. However, the earliest and best witnesses (Ì46 א* A B C D* F G P Ψ 33 1739 al co) are decisively in favor of ἀδελφῷ (adelfw, “brother”), a word that because of the close association with “wife” here may have seemed inappropriate to many scribes. It is also for reasons of English style that “her husband” is used in the translation. Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound.#sn Interpreters differ over the implication of the statement the brother or sister is not bound. One view is that the believer is “not bound to continue the marriage,” i.e., not so slavishly tied to the instruction about not divorcing (cf. vv. 10-11) that he or she refuses to face reality when the unbelieving spouse is unwilling to continue the relationship. In this view divorce is allowable under these circumstances, but not remarriage (v. 11 still applies: remain unmarried or be reconciled). The other view is that the believer is “not bound in regard to marriage,” i.e., free to remain single or to remarry. The argument for this view is the conceptual parallel with vv. 39-40, where a wife is said to be “bound” (a different word in Greek, but the same concept) as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is “free” to marry as she wishes, only in the Lord. If the parallel holds, then not bound in v. 15 also means “free to marry another.” God has called you in peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will bring your husband to salvation?#tn Grk “will save your husband?” The meaning is obviously that the wife would be the human agent in leading her husband to salvation. Or how do you know, husband, whether you will bring your wife to salvation?#tn Grk “will save your wife?” The meaning is obviously that the husband would be the human agent in leading his wife to salvation.
The Circumstances of Your Calling
17 Nevertheless,#tn Or “only”; Grk “if not.” as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches. 18 Was anyone called after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcision.#tn Grk “Let him not pull over the foreskin,” that is, attempt to reverse the appearance of circumcision by a surgical procedure. This was sometimes done by Hellenistic Jews to hide the embarrassment of circumcision (1 Macc 1:15; Josephus, Ant. 12.5.1 [12.241]). Cf. BDAG 380 s.v. ἐπισπάω 3. Was anyone called who is uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Instead, keeping God’s commandments is what counts. 20 Let each one remain in that situation in life#tn Grk “in the calling.” “Calling” in Paul is God’s work of drawing people to faith in Christ. As in 1:26, calling here stands by metonymy for a person’s circumstances when he becomes a Christian. in which he was called. 21 Were you called as a slave?#tn Traditionally, “servant” (KJV), though almost all modern translations render the word as “slave” here. Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity. 22 For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. 24 In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters,#tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10. let him remain in it with God.
25 With regard to the question about people who have never married,#tn Grk “virgins.” There are three main views as to which group of people is referred to by the word παρθένος (parqenos) here, and the stance taken here directly impacts one’s understanding of vv. 36-38. (1) The term could refer to virgin women who were not married. The central issue would then be whether or not their fathers should give them in marriage to eligible men. (This is the view which has been widely held throughout the history of the Church.) (2) A minority understand the term to refer to men and women who are married but who have chosen to live together without sexual relations. This position might have been possible in the Corinthian church, but there is no solid evidence to support it. (3) The view adopted by many modern commentators (see, e.g., Fee, Conzelmann, Barrett) is that the term refers to young, engaged women who were under the influence of various groups within the Corinthian church not to go through with their marriages. The central issue would then be whether the young men and women should continue with their plans and finalize their marriages. For further discussion, see G. D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT), 325-28. I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one shown mercy by the Lord to be trustworthy. 26 Because of the impending crisis I think it best for you to remain as you are. 27 The one bound to a wife should not seek divorce. The one released from a wife should not seek marriage.#tn Grk “should not seek a wife.” 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned. And if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face difficult circumstances,#tn Grk “these will have tribulation in the flesh.” and I am trying to spare you such problems.#tn Grk “I am trying to spare you.” Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context. “Such problems” has been supplied here to make the sense of the statement clear. 29 And I say this, brothers and sisters:#tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10. The time is short. So then those who have wives should be as those who have none, 30 those with tears like those not weeping, those who rejoice like those not rejoicing, those who buy like those without possessions, 31 those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away.
32 And I want you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the things of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and he is divided. An unmarried woman#sn In context the unmarried woman would probably refer specifically to a widow, who was no longer married, as opposed to the virgin, who had never been married. or a virgin#tc There are three viable variant readings at this point in the text. (1) The reading ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος (Jh gunh Jh agamo" kai Jh parqeno", “the unmarried woman and the virgin”) is represented by ancient and important mss, as well as some significant versions (Ì15 B 104 365 1505 pc vg co). (2) The reading ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος ἡ ἄγαμος (“the unmarried woman and the unmarried virgin”) is also found in ancient and important mss (Ì46 א A 33 1739 1881 pc). (3) The reading ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος ἡ ἄγαμος (“the woman and the unmarried virgin”) is found in Western mss (D F G) and the majority of Byzantine cursives. Based upon external evidence, the first and second readings are the strongest; the readings both reach deep into the second century with strong testimony from mss of the Alexandrian texttype. Internal evidence seems equally balanced: Scribes may have wanted to add ἡ ἄγαμος to παρθένος for stylistic reasons, but they might also have wanted to remove it because it sounded redundant. Because Paul’s meaning is not quite clear, a decision on the proper textual reading is difficult. On the whole scribes tended to add to the text, not take from it. Thus the first reading should be favored as original, but this decision should be regarded as less than certain.tn Grk “The unmarried woman and the virgin.” The identity of the “virgin” here is a matter of interpretation (see note on “people who have never married” in v. 25 for discussion), which has in fact contributed to textual variation at this point in the text (see the text critical note above). As far as the translation is concerned, one must determine if one group of women or two are in view. It is possible that Paul means to refer to only one class of women here, namely unmarried virgins, but the use of the adjective ἡ ἄγαμος (Jh agamo", “unmarried”) with “woman” and not “virgin” precludes that interpretation; in addition, the use of the article with both “woman” and “virgin” implies that two distinct groups are in view. If two groups are in view, English would more naturally use the conjunction “or” to indicate the distinction. Thus the translation “An unmarried woman or a virgin” has been used to make clear that two groups are in view. is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord.
36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his virgin,#tn Grk “virgin,” either a fiancée, a daughter, or the ward of a guardian. For discussion see the note at the end of v. 38. if she is past the bloom of youth#tn Or referring to an engaged man: “if he is past the critical point,” “if his passions are too strong.” The word literally means “to be past the high point.” and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his own virgin, does well. 38 So then, the one who marries#tn Or “who gives his own virgin in marriage.” his own virgin does well, but the one who does not, does better.#sn 1 Cor 7:36-38. There are two common approaches to understanding the situation addressed in these verses. One view involves a father or male guardian deciding whether to give his daughter or female ward in marriage (cf. NASB, NIV margin). The evidence for this view is: (1) the phrase in v. 37 (Grk) “to keep his own virgin” fits this view well (“keep his own virgin [in his household]” rather than give her in marriage), but it does not fit the second view (there is little warrant for adding “her” in the way the second view translates it: “to keep her as a virgin”). (2) The verb used twice in v. 38 (γαμίζω, gamizw) normally means “to give in marriage” not “to get married.” The latter is usually expressed by γαμέω (gamew), as in v. 36b. (3) The father deciding what is best regarding his daughter’s marriage reflects the more likely cultural situation in ancient Corinth, though it does not fit modern Western customs. While Paul gives his advice in such a situation, he does not command that marriages be arranged in this way universally. If this view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his unmarried daughter, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his daughter unmarried, does well. 7:38 So then the one who gives his daughter in marriage does well, but the one who does not give her does better.” The other view is taken by NRSV, NIV text, NJB, REB: a single man deciding whether to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. The evidence for this view is: (1) it seems odd to use the word “virgin” (vv. 36, 37, 38) if “daughter” or “ward” is intended. (2) The other view requires some difficult shifting of subjects in v. 36, whereas this view manages a more consistent subject for the various verbs used. (3) The phrases in these verses are used consistently elsewhere in this chapter to describe considerations appropriate to the engaged couple themselves (cf. vv. 9, 28, 39). It seems odd not to change the phrasing in speaking about a father or guardian. If this second view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his fiancée, if his passions are too strong and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well. 7:38 So then, the one who marries his fiancée does well, but the one who does not marry her does better.”
39 A wife is bound as long as her husband is living. But if her husband dies,#tn The verb κοιμάω (koimaw) literally means “sleep,” but it is often used in the Bible as a euphemism for the death of a believer. she is free to marry anyone she wishes (only someone in the Lord). 40 But in my opinion, she will be happier if she remains as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God!