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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
1 Corinthians 7

 

 

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 7:1. περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε: “Now about the things on which you wrote (to me)”.— περὶ ὧν = περὶ τούτων περὶ ὧν (not ); cf. the constructions of rel(996) pron(997) in 1 Corinthians 7:39, 1 Corinthians 10:30; see Wr(998), p. 198.— δὲ metabatikon leads to a new topic, in orderly transition from the last: “Now I proceed to deal with the matters of your letter to me”; the questions proposed about marriage are discussed on the ground prepared by the teaching of chh. 5 and 6. They form a part of the wide social conflict between Christian and Pagan life at Corinth: see Introd. to Div. II. P. answers at once, affirmatively, the question of principle put to him: “It is right ( καλόν, honourable, morally befitting—pulchrum, conveniens, Bg(999); see note on 1 Corinthians 5:6) for one ( ἀνθρώπῳ, homini: not ἀνδρί, man distinctively, viro) not to touch a woman” (to live in strict celibacy).— καλὸν contradicts the οὐ καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ present in the minds of some of the questioners, influenced by the sensuous atmosphere of Cor(1000) Paul is not disparaging marriage, as though he meant καλλίον μὴ ἅπτ., but defending celibacy against those who thought it inhuman.


Verses 1-9

1 Corinthians 7:1-9. § 20. MARRIAGE OR CELIBACY? At this point the Ap. takes up the questions addressed to him by the Cor(993) Church (see Introd., chap. 2). In replying to Paul’s previous letter, they had asked for clearer instructions to regulate their intercourse with men living in heathen sins (1 Corinthians 7:5); this request led up to the inquiries respecting the desirability of marriage, respecting the duties of married Christians, and the lawfulness of divorce for a Christian married to a heathen, with which ch. 7 is occupied. The headings of 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:25, chh. 8, 11, 16, indicate various matters on which the Cor(994) had consulted their Ap. The local impress and temporary aim of the directions here given on the subject of marriage must be borne in mind; otherwise Paul’s treatment will appear to be narrow and unsympathetic, and out of keeping with the exalted sense of its spiritual import disclosed in Ephesians 5. Indeed, ch. 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 of this Ep. show that P. had larger conception on the relations of man and woman than are here unfolded. The obscurity of expression attaching to several passages betrays the writer’s embarrassment; this was due partly to the low moral sensibility of the Cor(995), and partly to the uncertain continuance of the existing order of life (1 Corinthians 7:26-31), which weighed with the Ap. at the time of writing and led him to discourage the formation of domestic ties. In later Epistles, when the present economy had opened out into a larger perspective, the ethics of marriage and the Christian household are worthily developed (see Col. and Eph.).


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 7:2 a single life is good in itself, “but” is not generally expedient at Cor(1001)διὰ τὰς πορνείας, “because of the (prevalent) fornications” (the unusual pl(1002) indicating the variety and extent of profligacy: cf. 2 Corinthians 12:21); for this reason marriage, as a rule, is advisable here.—It must be Christian marriage, as opposed to heathen libertinism and Jewish polygamy: “let each (man) have his own wife, and each (woman) her proper husband”. The pr(1003) impv(1004), ἐχέτω (sc. directive, not permissive), signifies “have and keep to” (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13), The variation ἑαυτοῦ γυν.… ἴδιον ἄνδρα distinguishes the husband as head and principal (1 Corinthians 11:3); “if this passage stood alone, it would be unsafe to build upon it, but this diff(1005) of expression pervades the whole of the Epp.” (Lt(1006): cf. 1 Corinthians 14:35; Ephesians 5:22, etc.; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5). Throughout the passage there is a careful balancing of the terms relating to man and wife, bringing out the equality of the Christian law.—P. does not lay down here the ground of marriage, as though it were “ordained for a remedy against sin,” but gives a special reason why those should marry at Cor(1007) who might otherwise have remained single: see note on δέ, 1 Corinthians 7:1.


Verse 3-4

1 Corinthians 7:3-4. Within the bonds of wedlock, “the due” should be yielded (1 Corinthians 7:3) by each for the satisfaction and according to the rights of the other (1 Corinthians 7:4). This dictum defends marital intercourse against rigorists, as that of 1 Corinthians 7:1 commends celibacy against sensualists. The word ὀφειλὴ guards, both positively and negatively, the κοίτη ἀμίαντος (Hebrews 13:4); what is due to one alone must be given to one alone ( τῇ γυναικί, τῷ ἀνδρί). The gloss of the T.R., as old as the Syriac Version, is a piece of mistaken delicacy.—The precise repetition of ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ corrects the onesidedness of common sentiment and of public law,—both Greek and Jewish: she is as much the mistress of his person, as he the master of hers.— ἐξουσιάζω (= ἐξουσίαν ἔχω) implies moral power, authority (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12). τοῦ ἰδίουοὐκ ἐξουσιάζει, “elegans paradoxon” (Bg(1008))—his (her) own is not his (her) own.


Verse 5

1 Corinthians 7:5. μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε κ. τ. λ.: “Do not rob one another”—sc. of the ὀφειλή; the deprivation is an injustice (same vb(1009) as in 1 Corinthians 6:7 f.); “congruit hoc verbum cum verbo debendi” (Bg(1010)). This also, with 1 Corinthians 7:4, against the rigorists. The impvs. of this context are pr(1011), relating to habits of life.— εἰ μὴ κ. τ. λ. qualifies the command not to rob, by stating an exception: this exception, however, the Ap. “valde limitat” (Bg(1012)), first by τι (in some measure, somehow), next by ἄν (haply, if the case should arise), thirdly by ἐκ συμφώνου (of consent: making the separation no longer robbery), lastly by πρὸς καιρόν (for a season). Such separation may be made for specific religious ends—“that you may be disengaged for prayer” (vacetis orationi, Vg(1013)), and with a view to renewed intercourse ( καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε). So fearful was the Ap. of putting a strain on the ill-disciplined Cor(1014) nature, with sensual incitements rife in the atmosphere: “lest Satan be tempting you because of your want of self-control”.— ἀκρασία, later Gr(1015) for ἀκράτεια (opp(1016) of ἐγκράτεια, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25), signifies non-mastery of appetite.— σχολάζω (here in aor(1017), of particular occasion; πειράζητε, pr., of constant possibility), construed with dat(1018) or πρός τι, in cl(1019) Gr(1020) often denotes leisure from ordinary for higher pursuits—e.g., σχολάζειν μουσικῇ, φιλοσοφίᾳ; also used of scholars who “devote themselves” to a master: a negative condition of προσκαρτερεῖσθαι τῇ προσευχῇ (Romans 12:12, Colossians 4:2).


Verse 6-7

1 Corinthians 7:6-7. τοῦτο δὲ λέγω points to the leading direction given in 1 Corinthians 7:2, from which 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 digressed: “I advise you to be married (though I think celibacy good, 1), κατὰ συνγνώμην,” secundum indulgentiam (Vg(1021))—i.e., συγκαταβαίνων τ. ἀσθενείᾳ ὑμῶν (Thp(1022)); οὐ κατʼ ἐπιταγήν,—ex concessione, non ex imperio (Bz(1023)). The rendering “permission” is somewhat misleading; συνγνώμη is quite distinct from the γνώμη opposed to ἐπιταγὴ in 1 Corinthians 7:25; it signifies either pardon (venia, excuse for a fault), or, as here, allowance, regard for circumstances and temperament.—In θέλω δὲ κ. τ. λ. the Ap. states his personal bent, which he had set aside in the recommendation just given: “But I would have all men to be as indeed myself,” sc. cœlibem—and contentedly so (cf. Acts 26:29). ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν, paratactic acc(1024) (attracted to πάντας ἀν θρώπους) = ὡς καὶ αὐτός εἰμι; καὶ emphasises the assertion that the writer is what he would like others to be. It is manifest (see also 1 Corinthians 9:5) that the Ap. was unmarried, although Clem. Alex. and some moderns have inferred otherwise from Philippians 4:3. That he had never been married is by no means certain. Two things, however, are clear: that if P. had known the married state, it was before his apostleship—“wife and children are never hinted at, he goes about entirely free from such ties” (Lt(1025)); further, that if in early life he had entered this state, it was not διʼ ἀκρασίαν; he possessed the “grace-gift” ( χάρισμα) of undisquieted continence (opposed to πυροῦσθαι, 1 Corinthians 7:9; cf. Matthew 19:12), which was in his case an adjunct of his χάρις ἀποστολῆς.—“However (= I cannot have every one like myself, but) each has a charism of his own from God, the one in this shape and the other in that.” δὲ οὕτως does not refer to the married Christian, as though his state were in itself a charism, but to any special endowment for service in Christ’s kingdom other than that stated. On χάρισμα see 1 Corinthians 1:7; and cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.


Verse 8-9

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 re-state the answer given in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 to the question concerning celibacy v. marriage. “But I say to the unmarried and the widows, it is right ( καλόν; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1) for them if they remain as indeed I (am).” The Ap. extends the reassurance given in 1 Corinthians 7:1, and fortifies it by his own example, so that those out of wedlock who were under no constraint to enter its bonds might be free from misgiving and reproach. τοῖς ἀγάμοις, in contrast to τοῖς γεγαμηκόσιν, 1 Corinthians 7:10 : the term is masc.—“to unmarried men”; the case of “maidens” is discussed later (1 Corinthians 7:25 ff.). “The widows,” who would frequently have the disposal of themselves, are included here—they are advised again to the like effect in 1 Corinthians 7:39 f. Holsten omits καὶ ταῖς χήραις as out of place; Bois ingeniously suggests that this may be a primitive corruption for καὶ τοῖς χήροις, “the widowers”.—As the πορνείαι without (1 Corinthians 7:2), so ἀκρασία within (1 Corinthians 7:5) might make abstention from marriage perilous; hence the qualification added in 1 Corinthians 7:9 : “But if they have not self-control, let them marry; for better it is to marry than to burn on (with desire)”.— πυροῦσθαι, pr(1026) of continued state—“occulta flamma concupiscentiæ vastari” (Aug(1027)); the vb(1028) is used of any consuming passion, as in 2 Corinthians 11:29. Not “better in so far as marriage is sinless, burning is sinful (Matthew 5:28),”—so Mr(1029); if marriage and parenthood are holy (1 Corinthians 7:14), the fire which burns toward that end surely may be so—“the sacred lowe o’ weel-placed love”; but “better” as the unsatisfied craving is a continual temptation, and according to the rule of 1 Corinthians 7:35. Better to marry than to burn; but if marriage is impossible, better infinitely to burn than to sin.


Verse 10-11

1 Corinthians 7:10-11. “But in the case of those that have married ( τ. γεγαμηκόσιν, pf. of settled fact), I charge … wife not to separate from husband … and husband not to send away (or let go) wife.” The parenthesis, “not I but the Lord” (it is His command, not mine), refers the indissolubility of marriage to the authority of Christ. The exceptional cause of divorce allowed by Jesus, παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; also unmentioned in Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18), is not contemplated in the instance of wedded Christians (Paul is addressing both partners at once). The Apostle’s tone is changed (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:6 ff.); he is laying down the law, and on Supreme Authority. He cites Christ’s words in distinction from his own (1 Corinthians 7:12), not as though his word was insufficient (see, to the contrary, 1 Corinthians 7:40, 1 Corinthians 2:16, 1 Corinthians 5:3 f., 1 Corinthians 14:37, etc.), but inasmuch as this was a principle upon which “the Lord” had pronounced categorically.—It is noticeable that the case of the woman seeking separation comes first and is dwelt upon; Christianity had powerfully stirred the feminine mind at Cor(1031) (see 1 Corinthians 11:5 ff., 1 Corinthians 14:34 f.). In some cases, not so much incompatibility as ascetic aversion (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3 f.) caused the wish to separate.—The γυναῖκα μὴ χωρισθῆναι is qualified by the parenthesis ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ: “but if indeed she have separated, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband”. P. is not allowing exceptions from the rule of Christ, but advising in cases where the mischief was done; the aor(1032) sbj(1033), χωρισθῇ, is timeless, taking its occasion from the context: see Bn(1034), § 98. Her remaining unmarried is virtually included in the law of Christ (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9). καταλλαγήτω, pass(1035), “let her get herself reconciled”: the vb(1036) indicates the fact of alienation or dissension, but not the side on which it exists (cf. the theological use of καταλλάσσω in Romans 5:10 f.); if the husband disallows her return, she must remain ἄγαμος.—Romanists have inferred from the text, after Aug(1037), and notwithstanding Matthew 5:32, that even adultery leaves the marriage-vow binding on the wronged partner; but this question is not in view here (see Ed(1038) in loc.).


Verses 10-16

1 Corinthians 7:10-16. § 21. PROHIBITION OF DIVORCE. Pagan sentiment and law, while condoning fornication, were exceedingly lax in permitting divorce (see Hermann-Stark, Griech. Privat-alterthümer, §§ 30. 15, 17), as Jewish practice was on the side of the husband (Matthew 5:31 f., Matthew 19:7 ff.); and marriages were often contracted without affection. Unfit unions became irksome in the extreme, with the stricter ethics and high ideal of the new faith; in many cases one of the partners remained a heathen (1 Corinthians 7:12 f.). It was asked whether Christians were really “bound” ( δεδουλωμένοι, 1 Corinthians 7:15) by the ties of the old life formed under unholy conditions, and whether it was right for man and wife to live together while one was in the kingdom of God and the other in that of Satan. These questions, propounded in the letter from Cor(1030), Paul has now to answer—(a) as respects Christian couples (1 Corinthians 7:10 f.), (b) as respects married pairs divided in religion (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).


Verse 12-13

1 Corinthians 7:12-13. “But to the rest”—as distinguished from Christian couples (1 Corinthians 7:10)—“say I, not the Lord”: this is my word, not His. On the problem of mixed marriages, which Jesus had no occasion to regulate, the Ap. delivers his own sentence. Not that he exhorts, whereas the Lord commands (Cm(1039))— λέγω is a word of authority (virtually repeating παραγγέλλω, 1 Corinthians 7:10), as in 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Corinthians 15:51, 2 Corinthians 6:13, Romans 12:3; much less, that he disclaims inspiration upon this point (Or(1040), Tert(1041), Milton), or betrays a doubt of his competence (Baur): he quoted the dictum of Jesus where it was available, and on the fundamental matter, and indicates frankly that in this further case he is proceeding on his personal judgment. The Christian spouse is forbidden to cast off the non-Christian in terms identical for husband and wife, only γυνὴ ἣτις (or εἴ τις: 1 Corinthians 7:13) standing over against εἴ τις ἀδελφός (1 Corinthians 7:12). ἀφίημι, used of the ἀνὴρ specifically in 1 Corinthians 7:11, is now applied to both parties: cl(1042) Gr(1043) uses ἀποπέμπειν or ἀπολύειν (Matthew 5:31) of the husband as dismissing the wife, ἀπολείπειν of the wife as the deserting husband; “in the structure of the two verses, with their solemn repetition, the equal footing of man and wife is indicated” (Hn(1044); cf. notes on 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 above). συν- ευδοκεῖ, “is jointly well-pleased,”—implying that the ἄπιστος agrees with the Christian spouse in deprecating separation, which the latter (after 1 Corinthians 7:10 f.) must needs desire to avoid; cf., for the force of συν-, Luke 11:48, Acts 8:1.


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 7:14 obviates the objection which the Christian wife or husband (for the order, see note on 10 f.) might feel to continued union with an unbeliever (cf. Paul’s own warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14 ff.): “Will not the saint,” some one asks, “be defiled, and the ‘limbs of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 6:15) be desecrated by intercourse with a heathen?” To such a protest ἡγίασται γὰρ κ. τ. λ. replies: “For the husband that is an unbeliever, has been sanctified in his wife,” and vice versâ. ἡγίασται ἄπιστος is a paradox: it does not affirm a conversion in the unbeliever remaining such—whether incipient or prospective (D. W(1045), and some others)—the pf. tense signifies a relationship established for the non-Christian in the past,—sc. at the conversion of the believing spouse; but man and wife are part of each other, in such a sense (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:16 f., by contrast) that the sanctification of the one includes the other so far as their wedlock is concerned. The married believer in offering her- (or him-) self to God could not but present husband (or wife) in the same act—“sanctified in the wife, brother,” respectively—and treats him (or her) henceforth as sacred. “Whatever the husband may be in himself, in the wife’s thought and feeling he is a holy object.… Similarly the Christian’s friends, abilities, wealth, time, are, or should be, holy” (Bt(1046)). Marriage with an unbeliever after conversion is barred in 2 Corinthians 6:14.

The (relative) sanctity of the unconverted spouse is made more evident by the analogous case of children: “Else one must suppose that your children are unclean; but as it is, they are holy!” P. appeals to the instinct of the religious parent; the Christian father or mother cannot look on children, given by God through marriage, as things unclean. Offspring are holy as bound up with the holy parent; and this principle of family solidarity holds good of the conjugal tie no less than of the filial derived therefrom. See the full discussion of this text in Ed(1047); it has played no small part in Christian jurisprudence, and in the doctrine of Infant Baptism; it “enunciates the principle which leads to Infant Baptism, viz. that the child of Christian parents shall be treated as a Christian” (Lt(1048)).—On ἐπεὶ ἄρα, alioqui certe, si res se aliter haberet, see 1 Corinthians 5:10 and parls.; νῦν δὲ, as in 1 Corinthians 5:11, is both temporal and logical (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20, Romans 6:22).


Verse 15

1 Corinthians 7:15 a. The Christian wife or husband is not to seek divorce from the non-Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12-14); but if the latter insists on separation, it is not to be refused: “But if the unbeliever separates, he may separate”—let the separation take its course ( χωριζὲσθω, pr(1049) impv(1050)): for this impv(1051) of consent, cf. 1 Corinthians 7:36, 1 Corinthians 14:38.— οὐ δεδούλωται (pf. of fixed condition) “the brother or the sister in such circumstances is not kept in bondage”; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39—the stronger vb(1052) of this passage implies that for the repudiated party to continue bound to the repudiator would be slavery. Christ’s law forbids putting away (1 Corinthians 7:10 ff.), but does not forbid the one put away to accept dismissal. Whether the freedom of the innocent divorced extends to remarriage, does not appear: the Roman Church takes the negative view—though contrary to the Canon Law (see Wordsworth, in loc.); the Lutheran Church the affirmative, allowing remarriage on desertio malitiosa; “in view of 1 Corinthians 7:11, the inference that the divorced should remain unmarried is the safer” (so Hn(1053), against Mr(1054)). If, however, the repudiator forms a new union, cutting off the hope of restoration, the case appears then to come under the exception made in Matthew 5:31. With ἐν τοιούτοις, neut., cf. ἐν τούτοις, Romans 8:37; and ἐν οἷς, Philippians 4:11.

1 Corinthians 7:15 b, 1 Corinthians 7:16. ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ θεόςσώσεις; The Christian spouse forsaken by the heathen is free from the former yoke; but such freedom is undesirable. Two considerations make against it: Peace is better for a Christian than disruption ( 1 Corinthians 7:15 b); and there is the possibility of saving the unbeliever by remaining with him, or her (1 Corinthians 7:16). Thus P. reverts, by the contrastive δέ, to his prevailing thought, that the marriage tie, once formed, should in every way possible be maintained. On this view of the connexion, the full stop should be set at ἐν τοιούτοις, and the colon at θεός. “In peace,” etc.—opposed to χωριζέσθω, like καταλλαγήτω in 1 Corinthians 7:11—appeals to the ruling temper of the Christian life, determined once for all by God’s call in the Gospel, “ex quo consequitur retinendum esse nobis infidelem, ac omnibus officiis demerendum; nedum ut vel eum ipsi deseramus, vel ad nos deserendos provocemus” (Bz(1055)); cf. Romans 12:18, for the general thought. For the construction of ἐν εἰρήνῃ, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Galatians 1:6, Ephesians 4:4.


Verse 16

1 Corinthians 7:16 follows up the appeal to Christian principle, by a challenge addressed in turn to the wifely and the manly heart: “(Keep the peace, if you can, with the unconverted spouse), for how do you know, O wife, that you will not save your husband? or how do you know, O husband, that you will not save your wife? “That εἰ in this connexion (see parls.), after τί οἶδας implying a fear, may mean “that … not” in English idiom (as though it were: “How do you know? it may be you will save, etc.!”) is admitted by Hn(1056) and Ed(1057), though they reject the above interpretation, which is that of the ancient commentt. from Cm(1058) down to Lyra, of Cv(1059) and Bz(1060), and of Ev(1061) and Lt(1062) amongst moderns: see the convincing notes of the two last-named; “Confirmatio est superioris sententiæ: non cur discedente infideli liberetur fidelis; sed contra, cur ita sit utendum hac libertate, ut infidelem, si fieri potest, retineat fidelis ac Christo lucrificet” (Bz(1063)).— τί οἶδας; connotes “not the manner in which the knowledge is to be obtained, but the extent of it” (Ed(1064))—“what do you know as to the question whether, etc.?”

The above sentences are curiously ambiguous; taken by themselves, they may be read as reasons either against or for separation. The latter interpretation is adopted, as to 1 Corinthians 7:15 b by most, and as to 1 Corinthians 7:16 by nearly all execent exegetes (including Bg(1065), Mr(1066), Hf(1067), Hn(1068), Al(1069), Bt(1070), Ed(1071), Gd(1072), El(1073)): “God has called us in peace (and peace is only possible through separation); for how do you know, wife or husband, that you will save the other?” As much as to say, “Why cling to him, or her, on so ill-founded a hope?” Grammatical considerations being fairly balanced, the tenor of the previous context determines the Apostle’s meaning. In the favourite modern exposition, the essential thought has to be read between the lines. It should also be observed that the Cor(1074), with their lax moral notions, needed dissuasives from rather than encouragements to divorce; and on the other hand, that to discountenance the hope of a soul’s salvation is strangely unlike the Ap. (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:33). On the construction here adopted, P. returns at the close of the Section to the thought with which it opened— μὴ χωρισθῆναι.


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 7:17. “Only, in each case as the Lord has apportioned to him, in each case as God has called him, so let him (the believer) walk.” Under this general rule the exceptional and guarded permission of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:15 was to be understood. For εἰ μὴ in this exceptive sense (= πλήν), cf. Romans 14:14, Galatians 1:7; Galatians 1:19; see Bm(1077), p. 359. The repeated distributive ἔκαστος extends the principle pointedly to every situation in life; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24, 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 3:8-13. On μεμέρικεν, see 1 Corinthians 7:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:12 : the Christian’s secular status is a μέρος which “the Lord,” the Disposer of men’s affairs, has assigned him (cf. Matthew 25:14 f.).— ὡς κέκληκεν, on the other hand, refers not to the secular “vocation” but, as always (see 1 Corinthians 7:15; 1Co_7:18; 1Co_7:21 f., 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:26, etc.), to the “call” of God’s grace in the Gospel, which came to the individual readers under these circumstances or those.— οὕτως περιπατείτω enjoins the pursuance of the Christian life in harmony with the conditions thus determined at its outset. P. does not mean to stereotype a Christian’s secular employment from the time of his conversion, but forbids his renouncing this under a false notion of spiritual freedom, or in contempt of secular things as though there were no will of God for him in their disposition.

The last clause of the ver. shows that the tendency here reproved was widespread; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:36.


Verses 17-24

1 Corinthians 7:17-24. § 22. GOD’S CALLING AND ONE’S EARTHLY STATION. In treating of questions relating to marriage, the Apostle’s general advice—admitting of large exceptions (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15)—had been that each, whether single or married, should be content with his present state (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:10-14; 1 Corinthians 7:27). The Christian revolution had excited in some minds a morbid restlessness and eagerness for change, which disturbed domestic relations (cf. Matthew 10:36), but was not confined thereto. This wider tendency the Ap. combats in the ensuing paragraph; he urges his readers to acquiesce in their position in life and to turn it to account as Christians. In Thessalonica a similar excitement had led men to abandon daily work and throw their support upon the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:11 f., 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Hn(1075), in Meyer’s Comm(1076), p. 229, points out the close resemblance, both in form and matter, between this section and certain passages in Epictetus (Dissertt., I., xix., 47 ff.; II., ix., 19 f.). The freedom of the inner man and loyal acceptance of the providence of God are inculcated by both the Stoic and the Christian philosopher, from their differing standpoints.


Verse 18-19

1 Corinthians 7:18-19. The rule of 1 Corinthians 7:17 applied to the most prominent and critical distinction in the Church, that between Jew and Gentile: περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη κ. τ. λ.; “Was any one called (as) a circumcised man? let him not have the mark effaced”.— ἐπισπάσθω alludes to a surgical operation ( ἐπισπάω, to draw ever) by which renegade Jews effaced the Covenant sign: see 1 Maccabees 1:11 ff., Joseph., Ant., xii., 5, 1; Celsus, vii., 25. 5; also Schürer, Hist. of Jewish People, I., i., p. 203, and Wetstein ad loc(1078) Such apostates were called m’shûkím, recutiti (Buxtorf’s Lexic., p. 1274).—On the opp(1079) direction to the Gentile, μὴ περιτεμνέσθω, the Ep. to the Gal. is a powerful commentary; here the negative reasons against the change suffice (1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:19).—The variation in tense and order of words in the two questions is noticeable: “Was any one a circumcised man at the time of his call ( ἐκλήθη)?… Has any one been called ( κέκληται) though in uncircumcision?”—To clinch the matter (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:31, 1 Corinthians 3:7) P. applies one of his great axioms: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping of God’s commands”—that is everything.

In Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15 this maxim reappears, with πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη and καινὴ κτίσις respectively in the antithesis: this text puts the condition of acceptance objectively, as it lies in a right attitude toward God (cf. Romans 2:25 ff.); those other texts supply the subjective criterion, lying in a right disposition of the man. In Galatians 5, οὐκ ἰσχύει—opposed to ἐνεργουμένη—signalises the impotence of external states, the other two passages their nothingness as religious qualifications.—“Those who would contrast the teaching of St. Paul with that of St. James, or exaggerate his doctrine of justification by faith, should reflect on this τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ” (Lt(1080)).


Verse 20

1 Corinthians 7:20. Diff. views are taken of this ver., as κλῆσις is referred to the religious call or secular calling of the man; and as is accordingly rendered “wherewith” (instrum. dat(1081): cf. Ephesians 4:1, 2 Timothy 1:9), or “wherein” (governed by the foregoing ἐν: cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15; 1Co_7:18; 1Co_7:24; see Wr(1082), pp. 524 f.). The latter interpretation is negatived by the fact that it destroys the unity of sense between κλῆσις and ἐκλήθη (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:18 : does κλῆσις in Gr(1083) anywhere mean avocation?). Besides, “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” are not “callings”. Yet P. is manifestly referring to outward conditions affecting the religious call. The stress of the sentence lies on μενέτω (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:24); and Galatians 3:2 f., 1 Corinthians 5:2-6, give the clue to the Apostle’s meaning. A change of secular condition adopted under the idea that circumcision or uncircumcision is “something,” that it makes a diff(1084) in the eyes of God, would be a change of religious princple, an abandonment of the basis of our call to salvation by grace and through faith; cf. Galatians 2:11-21. The Gentile who embraced circumcision in order to fulfil the law of God was severing himself from Christ and falling from grace. The “abide” of 1 Cor. is parl(1085) to the “stand fast” of Gal.


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 7:21. From the chief religious, the Ap. passes to the chief social distinction of the times: cf. Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11. This contrast is developed only on one side—no freeman wished to become a slave, as Gentiles wished to be Jews; but the slaves, numerous in this Church (1 Corinthians 1:26 ff.), sighed for liberty; their conversion stimulated this longing. The advice to the slave is read in two opposite ways: (a) “In slavery wast thou called? never mind ( μή σοι μελέτω)! But still if thou canst also become free, rather make use of it (than not)”—so Ev(1086) excellently renders, with Cv(1087), Bz(1088), Gr(1089), Hf(1090), Bt(1091), Gd(1092), Lt(1093), supplying τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ for complement to μᾶλλον χρῆσαι; while (b) Est., Bg(1094), D.W(1095), Mr(1096), Hn(1097), Weiss, Weizsäcker, Al(1098), El(1099), Sm(1100) supply τῇ δουλείᾳ, and suppose P. to recommend the slave, with liberty offered, to “make use rather” of his servile condition. εἰ καὶ may either mean (a) “if verily” (Luke 11:18; so ἐὰν καὶ in 1 Corinthians 11:28, Galatians 6:1), or (b) “although” (Philippians 2:17, Luke 11:8, etc.). The ancient commentators differed on this text, with a leaning to (b). The advocates of (b) exaggerate the sense of 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24, which condemns change not per se but, as in the case of circumcision, because it compromises Christian faith and standing. “Freedom” is the object proximately suggested to “rather use” by “free” just above; and the sense of χράομαι in 1 Corinthians 7:31, 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 9:15—to “avail oneself of an opportunity of good” (Lt(1101))—speaks in favour of (a). The οὐ δεδούλωται of 1 Corinthians 7:15 and the μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων of 1 Corinthians 7:23 indicate Paul’s feeling for freedom; and the δύνασθαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι was to the Christian slave a precious item in his providential μέρος (1 Corinthians 7:17).

Upon this view, ἀλλὰχρῆσαι forms a parenthesis, resembling in its connexion the οὐ δεδούλ. clause of 1 Corinthians 7:15, by which P. intimates that in urging contentment with a slave’s lot he does not preclude his embracing liberty, should it be offered. Having said this by the way, he supports his μή σοι μελέτω by the comforting reflexion of 1 Corinthians 7:22 a, which is completed in 1 Corinthians 7:22 b by the corresponding truth for the freeman.


Verse 22

1 Corinthians 7:22. The two sentences, balanced by ὁμοίως (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3 f.), do not precisely match: ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος is “the slave that was called in the Lord” (i.e., under Christ’s authority), but ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς is rather “the freeman, in that he was called”; his call has made the latter Christ’s slave, while the former, though a slave, is the Lord’s freedman.— ἀπελεύθερος, libertus (the prp(1102) implying severance as in ἀπολύτρωσις, 1 Corinthians 1:30)—freedman of a Lord; “Christ buys us from our old master, sin, and then sets us free; but a service is still due from the libertus to the patronus” (Lt(1103)); cf. Romans 6:17 f.; also ἔννομος χριστοῦ, 1 Corinthians 9:21, with the same gen(1104) of possession. Ignatius makes a touching allusion to this passage, ad Romans , 4 : “I am till the present time a slave; but if I suffer I shall be Jesus Christ’s freeman, and I shall rise up [in the resurrection] free!”


Verse 23

1 Corinthians 7:23. τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε (see note on 1 Corinthians 6:20) explains the position both of the δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος and the ἐλεύθ. δοῦλος by the same act of purchase: the slave has been liberated from sin, and the freeman bound to a new Lord. The point of the appended exhortation, μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλ. ἀνθρ., is not obvious: we can scarcely imagine free Christians selling themselves into slavery; and subservience to party leaders (so Mr(1105), Hf(1106), Lt(1107), El(1108); cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 2:4, etc.) appears foreign to this context. It is better to take the warning quite generally: as much as to say, “Let no human influence divert you from service to God, or infringe on the devotion due to your Redeemer”; cf. Galatians 5:1; Galatians 6:14. Public opinion and the social pressure of heathenism were too likely to enslave the Corinthians.


Verse 24

1 Corinthians 7:24. reiterates with urgency, as addressed to “brethren,” the fundamental rule laid down in 1 Corinthians 7:20. ἐν τῇ κλήσει now becomes, abstractly, ἐν ἐν τούτῳ—“wherein each was called, in that let him abide in the sight of God”; here as there the Christian vocation is intended, the status of faith and saintship, with which no human power may interfere and which, when duly realised, will of itself control outward relations and circumstances (Galatians 2:20, Romans 14:23). For παρὰ θεῷ, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:19 and parls.


Verse 25

1 Corinthians 7:25. περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων: a topic pointedly included in the περὶ ὧν ἐγράψατε of the Church Letter (1). In 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 P. had spoken of the conduct of self-directing men and women in regard to marriage; there remains the case of daughters at home, for whose disposal the father was responsible (1 Corinthians 7:36 f.). On this point Paul has no “command” to give, whether proceeding immediately (1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 9:14) or mediately (1 Corinthians 14:37) from “the Lord”; he “gives” his γνώμη, his settled and responsible “opinion”. He pronounces “as (i.e., feeling myself to be; cf. 29 ff., 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 4:18) one ἠλεημένος ὑπὸ κυρίου πιστὸς εἶναι”—conscious that he is “faithful through the mercy effectually shown” him (pf. pass(1109) ptp(1110); cf. 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:16) “by the Lord,”—faithful in this pronouncement to his stewardship under Christ (see 1 Corinthians 4:1 f., and 1 Corinthians 2:16). His advice is therefore to be trusted. The distinction made is not between higher and lower grades of inspiration or authority (cf. note on 1 Corinthians 7:12); but between peremptory rule, and conditional advice requiring the concurrence of those advised. Paul’s opinion, qua opinion, as much as his injunction, is that of the Lord’s steward and mouthpiece.


Verses 25-35

1 Corinthians 7:25-35. § 23. ADVANTAGES OF THE SINGLE STATE. Paul’s opinion had been asked particularly, in this connexion, about the case of marriageable daughters (1 Corinthians 7:25): was it wise for fathers, as things were, to settle their daughters in marriage? He delivers his judgment on this delicate matter, turning aside in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 to a general reflexion upon the posture of Christians towards the perishing world around them; then returning to point out the freedom from care and material engrossment enjoyed by the unwedded (1 Corinthians 7:32 ff.), he restates in 1 Corinthians 7:36 his advice περὶ τῶν παρθένων.


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 7:26. νομίζω οὖν τοῦτο κ. τ. λ.: “I consider therefore”—the formula by which one gives a γνώμη (contrast the παραγγέλλω, διατάσσομαι of 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1Co_7:17)—“this to be good because of the present straits”: καλὸν ὑπάρχειν, “good in principle” or “in nature” (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7, 1 Corinthians 12:22); the existing situation is such as to make the course recommended entirely right and honourable (see note on καλόν, 1, also 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1Co_7:38).—The ἀνάγκη—narrowness, “pinching stress” (Ev(1111))—belongs to the καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος (1 Corinthians 7:29), the brief earthly continuance visible for the Church, a period exposed to persecution (1 Corinthians 7:28) with its hardships and perils; this “might or might not be the beginning of the ἀνάγκη μεγάλη predicted by Jesus” in Luke 21:23 (Lt(1112)). ἐνεστῶσαν signifies “present” rather than “impending” (see 1 Corinthians 3:22, Galatians 1:4); the distress of the time, which P. was feeling keenly at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 4:9 ff., 1 Corinthians 15:32), portended a speedy crisis.— ὅτι καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ οὔτως εἶναι is open to three constructions, as ὅτι is rendered that, because, or which ( , τι): (a) makes the clause an expanded restatement of τοῦτο καλὸν ὑπάρχειν—“I think then this to be good … that it is good (I say) for a man to remain as he is” (so Mr(1113), Ed(1114), El(1115), and most); (b) makes it the ground, lying in the principle stated in 1 Corinthians 7:1, for Paul’s specific advice in the matter of the παρθένοι—“I think this to be good (in their case) … because it is good for one ( ἀνθρώπῳ; see note on 1) to remain as one is,” sc. to continue single (Bz(1116), D.W(1117), Gd(1118)); (c) by attaching , τι as relative to the antecedent τοῦτο, and defining it by the subsequent τ. οὕτως εἶναι, Hn(1119) gets another rendering—“I think this to be good (in the case of maidens) because of the present straits, which is good (as I have said, 1) for one generally, viz., to remain unmarried.” (b) and (c), yielding a like sense, avoid the anacoluthon—the former at the expense of leaving τοῦτο undefined, the latter by an artificial arrangement of the words; both explanations are somewhat wide of the mark, for διὰ τ. ἐνεστ. ἀνάγκην supplies here the ground of advice, and 1 Corinthians 7:1, on which they are based, is differently conceived (see note). In giving his advice “about the maidens,” P. suddenly bethinks himself to widen it to both sexes (see 1 Corinthians 7:27 f.). So he recasts his sentence, throwing the ὅτι καλόν κ. τ. λ., with characteristic conversational freedom (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9), into apposition to the incomplete inf(1120) clause: “I think this to be good because of the present straits—yes, that it is good ἀνθρώπῳ (for any one, not τ. παρθένοις only) not to change one’s state”. οὕτως εἶναι, “to be just as one is” (see parls.)—a state defined by the context.


Verse 27-28

1 Corinthians 7:27-28 apply in detail the advice just given, and first as it bears on men, then on maidens.— δέδεσαι, λέλυσαι, pf. pass(1121) of present state determined by the past; μὴ ζήτει, pr(1122) impv(1123), “do not be seeking”. The two directions of 1 Corinthians 7:27 reinforce, from the new point of view, the instructions of 1 Corinthians 7:10-16; 1 Corinthians 7:8 respectively.— λέλυσαι, as opp(1124) of δὲδεσαι, applies either to bachelor or widower.

In 1 Corinthians 7:28 the general advice of 1 Corinthians 7:27 is guarded from being overpressed; cf. the relation of 1 Corinthians 7:2 to 1 Corinthians 7:1 and 1 Corinthians 7:9 to 1 Corinthians 7:8. The punctuation of El(1125) and Nestle best marks the connexion of thought, closing 1 Corinthians 7:27 with a full st p, each of the parl(1126) ἐὰνἥμαρτες (- ν) clauses with a colon, and separating θλίψιν δὲ and ἐγὼ δὲ by a comma. In the second supposition (both with ἐὰν and sbj(1127) of probable contingency) P. reverts to the case of “the maiden,” from which he was diverted in 1 Corinthians 7:26; he makes her, by implication, responsible for her marriage, although in 1 Corinthians 7:36 ff., later, the action of the father is alone considered.— γαμέω is used in the act. here, and in 1 Corinthians 7:39, both of man and woman; cl(1128) Gr(1129) applies it to the latter in pass(1130); cf. note on the double ἀφιέτω in 1 Corinthians 7:12 f. ἔγημα and ἐγάμησα are the older and later aors.—The aor(1131) in the apodosis— ἥμαρτες, ἥμαρτεν—is proleptic (Bn(1132) § 50; Bm(1133), pp. 198 f., 202), rather than gnomic (Mr(1134), Hn(1135), Ed(1136)), as though by way of general reflexion: the Ap. addresses specific instances—“thou didst not … she did not sin”; cf. for tense, John 15:11, Revelation 10:7.

The marriage Paul discourages is no sin, but will bring suffering from which he would fain save his friends. “But affliction for the flesh such (as may marry) will have, but I am seeking to spare you.” With θλίψις cf. σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί (2 Corinthians 12:7; also 1 Corinthians 5:5 above); there is some thought, possibly, of recompense to “the flesh” which has had its way against advice. The affliction that Paul foresees is aptly indicated by Photius: “More easily and with small distress shall we endure if we have no wives and children to carry along with us in persecutions and countless miseries”. At such times, for those who have domestic cares, there arises “the terrible alternative, between duty to God and affection to wife and children” (Lt(1137)).— φείδομαι appears to be a conative present (see Bn(1138) § 11; cf. Romans 2:4, Galatians 5:4).


Verses 29-31

1 Corinthians 7:29-31. τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, κ. τ. λ.: “This moreover I assert, brethren: The time is cut short”.— φημί, as distinguished from λέγω, “marks the gravity and importance of the statement” (El(1139)).— συνστέλλω (to contract, shorten sail) acquired the meaning to depress, defeat (1 Maccabees 3:6, 2 Maccabees 6:12); hence some render συνεσταλμένος by “calamitous,” but without lexical warrant.— καιρός (see parls.) is “the season,” the epoch of suspense in which the Church was then placed, looking for Christ’s coming (1 Corinthians 1:7) and uncertain of its date. The prospect is “contracted”; short views must be taken of life.

The connexion of τὸ λοιπὸν and ἵναὦσιν with the foregoing affords a signal example of the grammatical looseness which mars Paul’s style. (a) As to τὸ λοιπόν: (1) Cm(1140), the Gr(1141) Ff(1142), Bz(1143), Al(1144), Ev(1145), Hn(1146), Gd(1147), Ed(1148), R.V. mg. attach it to συνεστ. ἐστίν, in a manner “contrary to its usual position in Paul’s epp. and diluting the force of the solemn καιρὸςἐστίν” (El(1149)). (2) The Vg(1150) and Lat. Ff(1151), Est., Cv(1152), A.V. read τὸ λοιπὸν as predicate to ἐστὶν understood, thus commencing a new sentence,—“reliquum est ut,” etc.; this is well enough in Latin, but scarcely tolerable Greek. (3) Mr(1153), Hf(1154), Bt(1155), El(1156), Lt(1157), W.H(1158), R.V. txt. subordinate τὸ λοιπόν, thrown forward with emphasis, to the ἵνα clause (cf. Galatians 2:10, Romans 11:31)—“so that henceforth indeed those that have wives may be as without them,” etc.; this gives compactness to the whole sentence, and proper relevance to the adv(1159) Those who realise the import of the pending crisis will from this time sit loose to mundane interests. (b) As to the connexion of ἵναὦσιν: this clause may define either the Apostle’s purpose, as attached to φημί (so Bz(1160), Hf(1161), Ed(1162)), or the Divine purpose implied in συνεστ. ἐστίν (so most interpreters). Both explanations give a fitting sense: the Ap. urges, or God has determined, the limitation of the temporal horizon, in order to call off Christians from secular absorption. In this solemn connexion the latter is, presumably, Paul’s uppermost thought.

1 Corinthians 7:29 b, 1 Corinthians 7:30 are “the picture of spiritual detachment in the various situations in life” (Gd(1163)). Home with its joys and griefs, business, the use of the world, must be carried on as under notice to quit, by men prepared to cast loose from the shores of time (cf. Luke 12:29-36; by contrast, Luke 14:18 ff.). From wedlock the Ap. turns, as in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, to other earthly conditions—there considered as stations not to be wilfully changed, here as engagements not to be allowed to cumber the soul. Ed(1164) observes that the Stoic condemned the interaction, here recognised, between “the soul’s emotions and external conditions; the latter he would have described as a thing indifferent, the former as a defect: πᾶν μὲν γὰρ πάθος ἁμαρτία” (Plut., Virt. Mor., 10). “Summa est, Christiani hominis animum rebus terrenis non debere occupari, nec in illis conquiescere: sic enim vivere nos oportet, quasi singulis momentis migrandum sit e vita” (Cv(1165)).— ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες κ. τ. λ., not like, in the manner of, but “with the feeling of those who have not,” etc., ὡς with ptp(1166) implying subjective attitude—a limitation “proceeding from the mind of the speaking or acting subject” (Bm(1167), p. 307); cf. 1 Corinthians 7:25 and note.— ἀγοράζοντες (marketing) gives place in the negative to κατέχοντες, possessing, holding fast (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:10).— χράομαι governs acc(1168) occasionally in late Gr(1169); the case of τὸν κόσμον may be influenced by καταχρώμενοι, with which cl(1170) authors admit the acc(1171) The second vb(1172) (with dat(1173) in 1 Corinthians 9:18) is the intensive of the first—to use to the full (use up); not to misuse—a meaning lexically valid, but inappropriate here. “Abuse” had both meanings in older Eng., like the Lat. abutor; it appears in Cranmer’s Bible with the former sense in Colossians 2:22.

A reason for sparing use of the world lies in its transitory form, 1 Corinthians 7:31 b—a sentence kindred to the declaration of 1 Corinthians 7:29 a.— σχῆμα (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6, and other parls.) denotes phenomenal guise—habitus, fashion—as distinguished from μορφή, proper and essential shape: see the two words in Philippians 2:6 ff., with the discussions of Lt(1174) and Gifford ad loc(1175) “The world” has a dress suited to its fleeting existence.— παράγει affirms “not so much the present actual fact, as the inevitable issue; the σχῆμα of the world has no enduring character” (El(1176)); “its fascination is that of the theatre” (Ed(1177)); cf. 1 John 2:17. The Ap. is thinking not of the fabric of nature, but of mundane human life—the world of marryings and marketings, of feasts and funerals.

Then what this world to thee, my heart?

Its gifts nor feed thee nor can bless.

Thou hast no owner’s part in all its fleetingness.

—J. H. Newman.


Verses 32-34

1 Corinthians 7:32-34. θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κ. τ. λ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7): “But I want you to be unanxious ( ἀμερίμνους);” cf. φείδομαι, 1 Corinthians 7:28. This is the reason why P. labours the advice of this section; see our Lord’s dehortations from μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος in Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 13:22.

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 describe, not without a touch of humour, the exemption in this respect of the unmarried: he “is anxious in respect of the things of the Lord”—not “of the world, as to how he should please his wife!” After bidding the readers to be ἀμέριμνοι, P. writes μεριμνᾷ τ. τοῦ κυρίου, with a certain catechresis in the vb(1178), for the sake of the antithesis. The accs. are of limitation rather than of transitive obj(1179) πῶς ἀρέσῃ is indirect question, retaining the deliberative sbj(1180)—“is anxious … (asking) how he should please,” etc. For the supreme motive, “pleasing the Lord,” cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:9, etc. γαμήσας, aor(1181) of the event (pf. in 1 Corinthians 7:10 : cf. note), which brought a new care.—Accepting the reading καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ γυνὴ ἄγαμος, with the stop at μεμέρ. (the only possible punctuation with ἄγαμος in this position: see txtl. note), then it is added about the married Christian, that “he has been (since his marriage) divided,”—parcelled out (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:12): part of him is assigned to the Lord, part to the world. Lt(1182) says that this rendering (R.V. mg.) “throws sense and parallelism into confusion, for καὶ μεμέρισται is not wanted with 1 Corinthians 7:33, which is complete in itself”: nay, the addition is made just because the parl(1183) would be untrue if not so qualified; the married Christian does not care simply for “the things of the world” as the unmarried for “the things of the Lord,” he cares for both “and is divided,” giving but half his mind to Christ (so Ewald, Hf(1184), Hn(1185), Ed(1186)). The attachment of καὶ μεμέρισται to 1 Corinthians 7:34, with the Western reading (see txtl. note), retained by Mr(1187), Bt(1188), El(1189), Lt(1190), Sm(1191), A.V., and R.V. txt., in accordance with most of the older commentt., gives to μερίζω a meaning doubtful in itself and without N.T. parl(1192): “And there is a distinction between the wife and the maiden”. Gd(1193) escapes this objection by reading μεμέρισται κ. γυνὴ as a sentence by itself, “the wife also is divided”—then continuing, “And the unwedded maiden cares for,” etc.; an awkward and improbable construction as the text stands (but see Hn(1194) below). Txtl. criticism and exegesis concur in making καὶ μεμέρισται a further assertion about γαμήσας, revealing his full disadvantage.

Hn(1195), by a very tempting conjecture, proposes to insert a second μεμέρισται after the first: πῶς ἀρέσῃ τ. γυναικί, καὶ μεμέρισται· μεμέρισται καὶ γυνή. ἄγαμος καὶ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ κ. τ. λ.—“He that has married is anxious in regard to the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided; divided also is the wife. The unmarried (woman), with the maiden, is anxious as to the things of the Lord.” This would account for the double καί, which embarrasses the critical text; it gives a fuller and more balanced sense, in harmony moreover with Paul’s principle of putting husband and wife on equal terms (1 Corinthians 7:2 ff., 1 Corinthians 7:11-16); and nothing was easier than for a doubled word, in the unpunctuated and unspaced early copies, to fall out in transcription. Placing the full stop at μεμέρισται, without the aid of Hn(1196)’s emendation, γυνὴ ἄγαμος καὶ παρθένος are made the combined subject of μεριμνᾷ (1 Corinthians 7:34), “the unmarried woman” being the general category, within which “the maiden,” whose case raised this discussion (1 Corinthians 7:25), is specially noted; the two subjects forming one idea, take a sing(1197) verb.

The purpose ἵνα ἁγία κ. τ. λ. is the subjective counterpart of the question πῶς ἀρέσῃ of 1 Corinthians 7:32; note the similar combination in Romans 12:1, also 1 Thessalonians 4:3; and see notes on ἁγίοις, ἡγιασμένοις, 1 Corinthians 1:2. Holiness τῷ σώματι (dat(1198) of sphere; see Wr(1199), p. 270) comes first in this connexion (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Corinthians 6:20), and τῷ πνεύματι is added to make up the entire person and to mark the inner region of sanctification; “the spirit” which animates the body, being akin to God (John 4:24) and communicating with His Spirit (Romans 8:16), is the basis and organ of our sanctification (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).—Of γαμήσασα, “she that has married,” on the contrary, the same must be said as of γαμήσας (1 Corinthians 7:33); she studies to “please her husband” as well as “the Lord”.


Verse 35

1 Corinthians 7:35. A third time P. declares that he is consulting for the welfare of his readers (cf. 28b, 32a), not insisting on his own preference nor laying down an absolute rule: “looking to ( πρός) your advantage I say (it)”. τὸ σύμφορον is the abstract of συμφέρει (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23).—The βρόχος is the noose or lasso by which a wild creature is snared: P. does not wish by what he says to deprive the Cor(1200) of any liberty,—to capture his readers and shut them up to celibacy—“not that I may throw a snare over you”. He aims at what is socially εὔσχημον, “of honourable guise,” as belonging to the Christian decorum of life (see parls.); and at what is religiously εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ, “promotive-of-fit-waiting on the Lord”.— ἀπερισπάστως recalls the περιεσπᾶτο used of Martha in Luke 10:38-42, and suggests that the Ap. had this story in his mind, esp. as μεριμνάω, his leading expression in this Section, is the word of reproof used by Jesus there. Epictetus’ dissuasive from marriage, in his Dissertt., III., xxii., 67 ff., curiously resembles Paul’s: τοιαύτης οὔσης καταστάσεως οἵα νῦν ἐστιν, ὡς ἐν παρατάξει, μή ποτʼ ἀπερίσπαστον εἶναι δεῖ τ. κυνικὸν ὅλον πρὸς τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐπιφοιτᾶν ἀνθρώποις δυνάμενον, οὐ προσδεδεμένον καθήκουσιν ἰδιωτικοῖς οὐδʼ ἐμπεπλεγμένον (cf. 2 Timothy 2:4) σχέσεσιν, ἃς παραβαίνων οὐκέτι σώσει τὸ τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ ἀγαθοῦ πρόσωπον, τηρῶν δʼ ἀπολεῖ τὸν ἄγγελον κ. κατάσκοπον κ. κήρυκα τῶν θεῶν; (69).


Verse 36

1 Corinthians 7:36. By a contrastive δὲ P. passes from the εὔσχημον at which his dissuasive was aimed, to the ἀσχημονεῖν that might be thought to result in some cases from following it.—The vb(1202) (= ἀσχήμωι εἶναι) signifies either to act unbecomingly (1 Corinthians 13:5), or to suffer disgrace, turpem videri (Vg(1203)); the antithesis, and the ad junct ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον, dictate the former sense, which is post-classical.—On νομίζε (is of opinion), see 1 Corinthians 7:26. It was socially discreditable, both amongst Greeks and Jews (cf. Sirach 42:9), to keep one’s daughter at home, without obvious reason, for any long period beyond adult age; a Christian father might feel this discredit for his religion’s sake (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32), and might be reproached as doing his child and society a wrong.— ἐὰν ὑπέρακμος, “if she be past the bloom (of youth)”—the μέτριος χρόνος ἀκμῆς, fixed by Plato (Rep., vi., 460 E) at twenty, the œtas nubilis.— καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει (see parls.) γίνεσθαι—“and so matters ought to proceed” (pr(1204) inf(1205))—states a further presumable reason for consent: duty may require it—where, e.g., the girl has been promised, or is so situated that a continued veto may give rise to peril or scandal (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:2). In such circumstances the father’s course is clear: “let him do what he wills” ( θέλει); cf. 1 Corinthians 7:35. γαμείτωσανi.e., the daughter and her suitor, the claim of the latter being hinted at in the previous ὀφείλει: pr(1206) impv(1207); “Let the marriage take its course”.


Verses 36-40

1 Corinthians 7:36-40. § 24. FREEDOM TO MARRY. The question of the marriage of Cor(1201) Christian maidens Paul has discussed on grounds of expediency. The narrow earthly horizon, the perils of the Christian lot, the division between religious and domestic duty esp. probable under these conditions, render the married state undesirable (1 Corinthians 7:28-34). The Ap. does not on these grounds forbid marriage,—to do so would entangle some of his readers perilously; he recommends what appears to him the course generally fitting, and advantageous for their spiritual interests (1 Corinthians 7:35 f.). If the parent’s judgment points the other way, or if circumstances are such as to enforce consent, then so let it be (1 Corinthians 7:36). But where the father can thus decide without misgiving, he will do well to keep his daughter at home (1 Corinthians 7:37 f.). Similarly in the case of the Christian widow: she is free to marry “in the Lord”; but, in Paul’s decided opinion, she will be happier to refrain (1 Corinthians 7:39 f.). The Ap. gives inspired advice, and the bias of his own mind is clearly seen; but he finds no sin in marriage; he guards sensitively the rights of individual feeling and conscience, and leaves the decision in each case to the responsible parties.


Verse 37

1 Corinthians 7:37. For the opposite resolution, adopted by a father who “keeps his own virgin (daughter)” instead of “marrying” her (1 Corinthians 7:38), four conditions are laid down: (1) unshaken firmness in his own mind ( ἕστηκεν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ἑδραῖος, cf. Romans 14:5; Romans 14:23), as against social pressure; (2) the absence of constraint ( μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην) arising from previous engagement or irresistible circumstances; (3) his full authority to act as he will ( ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει κ. τ. λ.)—slaves, on the other hand, could not dispose of their children, and the unqualified patria potestas belonged only to Roman citizens (see Ed(1208) in loc.); ἐξουσία, however, signifies moral power, which reaches in the household far beyond civil right; (4) a judgment deliberately and independently formed to this effect ( τοῦτο κέκρικεν ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ καρδίᾳ). Granting all this, the father who “has decided to keep his own maiden, does well”— καλῶς, rightly, honourably well (see note on καλόν, 1). The repeated καρδία (the mind, the seat of thought and will, rather than the heart with its modern emotional connotation; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 4:5, and notes), and the phrase περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος, press on the father the necessity of using his judgment and acting on his personal responsibility; as in 1 Corinthians 7:6 f., 1 Corinthians 7:28; 1Co_7:35, the Ap. is jealous of allowing his own authority or inclination to overbear the conscience of his disciples; cf. Romans 14:4-10; Romans 14:22 f.—This ἀνάγκη urges in the opp(1209) direction to that of 1 Corinthians 7:26; in both cases the word signifies compulsion, dictating action other than that one would independently have taken.— ἐξουσίανπερί κ. τ. λ. is “power as touching his own resolve,” the right to act as one will—in other words, mastery of the situation.—The obj(1210), τ. παρθένον, suggests the tacit complement to τηρεῖν (see parls.): “to keep intact, in what he believes to be the best state” for the Lord’s service (Ed(1211)). “The will of the maiden is left wholly out of court” (Hn(1212)); social custom ignored this factor in marriage; for all that, it might constitute the opposed ἀνάγκη, and might, in some circumstances, practically limit the paternal ἐξουσία; see 1 Corinthians 7:28 b, and note.


Verse 38

1 Corinthians 7:38, the sum of the matter: either to marry one’s daughter or refuse her in marriage is, abstractly viewed, an honourable course; the latter, in Paul’s judgment, and for Christians in the present posture of things, is better. “Ce bien et mieux résument tout le chapitre” (Gd(1213)).


Verse 39-40

1 Corinthians 7:39-40 dispose, by way of appendix to the case of the maiden and to the like effect, of the question of the remarriage of Christian widows. 1 Corinthians 7:39 is repeated in almost identical terms, for another purpose, in Romans 7:2.—On δέδεται and γαμηθῆναι (cl(1214) γαμεθῆναι), see 1 Corinthians 7:27 f.; κοιμηθῇ, the term for Christian death (see parls.).—“She is free to be married to whom she will,” while the maiden is disposed of by her father’s will (1 Corinthians 7:36 f.); μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14 ff., 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ff.) forbids union with a heathen; it also forbids any union formed with un-Christian motives and otherwise than under Christ’s sanction (cf. Thess. 1 Corinthians 4:4 f.—“But more blessed she is” ( μακαριωτέρα δὲ: see parls.)—not merely happier by exemption from trouble (1 Corinthians 7:26 ff.), but religiously happier in her undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32 ff.)—“if she abide as she is”. This advice was largely followed in the Pauline Churches, so that before long widows came to be regularly enrolled for Church service (1 Timothy 5:3-16).— κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:26): Paul’s advice, not command.— δοκῶ δὲ κἀγώ κ. τ. λ.: “However I think, for my own part (however others may deem of me), that I have (an inspiration of) God’s Spirit” (the anarthrous πνεῦμα θεοῦ: cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3, etc.); see for Paul’s claim to Divine guidance, extending to his opinions as well as commands, 1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, 1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 9:2, 1 Corinthians 14:37.—On δοκῶ, see note to 1 Corinthians 4:9; it is the language of modesty, not misgiving. The Ap. commends his advice in all these matters, conscious that it proceeds from the highest source and is not the outcome of mere human prudence or personal inclination.

DIVISION III. CONTACT WITH IDOLATRY, 8–10. We have traced in the previous chapters the disastrous reaction of the old leaven upon the new Christian kneading at Cor(1215) But Christian society had its external as well as its internal problems—a fact already evident in the discussion of ch. 6 respecting the carrying of disputes to the heathen law-courts. A much larger difficulty, involving the whole problem of social intercourse between Christians and their heathen neighbours, had been raised by the Church Letter—the question περὶ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων (1 Corinthians 8:1). Was it lawful for a Christian to eat flesh that had been offered in sacrifice to an idol? Social festivities commonly partook of a religious character, being conducted under the auspices of some deity, to whom libations were poured or to whom the animals consumed had been dedicated in sacrifice. The “idol’s house” (1 Corinthians 8:10) was a rendezvous for banquets. Much of the meat on sale in the markets and found on ordinary tables came from the temples; and without inquiry it was impossible to discriminate (1 Corinthians 10:25-28). Jewish rule was uncompromisingly strict upon this point; and the letter of the Jerusalem Council, addressed to the Churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, had directed “the brethren from among the Gentiles” to “abstain from idolothyta” (Acts 15:29). The Cor(1216) Church, in consulting Paul, had expressed its own leaning towards liberty in this matter (1 Corinthians 7:8); what will the Ap. say? It is a real dilemma for him. He has to vindicate the broad principles of spiritual religion; at the same time he must avoid wounding Jewish feeling, and must guard Gentile weakness against the seductions of heathen feasts and against the peril of relapsing into idolatry through intercourse with unconverted kindred and neighbours. In theory Paul is for freedom, but in practice for great restrictions upon the use of idolothyta. (1) He admits that the question is decided in principle by the fundamental truth of religion, viz., that God is one, from which it follows that the sacrifice to the idol is an invalid transaction (1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.; 1 Corinthians 10:19; 1 Corinthians 10:26). But (2) many have not grasped this inference, being still in some sense under the spell of the idol; for them to eat would be sin, and for their sake stronger-minded brethren should abstain (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 1 Corinthians 10:23-30). To this effect (3) P. sets forth his own example, (a) in the abridgment of his personal liberty for the good of others (1 Corinthians 9:1-22; 1 Corinthians 10:33 to 1 Corinthians 11:1), and (b) in the jealous discipline of bodily appetite (1 Corinthians 9:23 ff.). The last consideration leads (4) to a solemn warning against contamination by idolatry, drawn (a) from the early history of Israel, and further (b) from the communion of the Lord’s Table, which utterly forbids participation in “the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:1-22). These instances show in a manner evident to the good sense of the readers (1 Corinthians 10:15), that to take part in a heathen sacrificial feast is in effect a recognition of idolatry and an apostasy from Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-corinthians-7.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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