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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

1 Corinthians 7

Introduction

V. Marriage and Celibacy. Chap. 7.

Some commentators begin the second part of the Epistle here. According to them, the apostle up to this point answered the reports which had been made to him viva voce ( 1Co 1:11 and 1Co 5:1 ); now he takes up the letter of the Corinthians to answer the questions it contains. It is certain that in 1Co 7:1 the subject which he proceeds to treat is presented in reply to a question which had been addressed to him. A similar formula occurs 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 12:1, 1Co 16:1 ; 1 Corinthians 16:12; and it is natural to hold that in each of these cases it introduces a subject raised by the letter of the Corinthians. Nevertheless the difference between verbal reports and epistolary communications would be too external to have determined the general arrangement of our Epistle. It is impossible to overlook a moral relation between the matter about to be treated in this chap. 7 and that of fornication, treated in the second half of chap. 6. It is easy to establish a still closer connection with what precedes. In 1Co 7:12 of chap. 6 there had been put the question of Christian liberty and its limits. It was from this point of view that the apostle had treated the subject of fornication. Now the question of marriage (chap. 7), as well as that of sacrificed meats (chaps. 8-10), and even, up to a certain point, that of the behaviour of women in meetings for worship (chap. 11), all belong to this same domain. If then it is true that the apostle here passes to the questions put to him by the Corinthians, it must be acknowledged, on the other hand, that he does not do so without establishing a logical and moral connection between the different subjects which he treats in succession.

The questions examined in this chapter, the preference to be accorded to celibacy or marriage, as well as others subordinate to it, must have been discussed at Corinth, since the apostle's advice was asked about them. There were therefore in the Church partisans of celibacy and defenders of marriage. Did this division coincide in any way with that of the different parties? The attempt has been made to prove this. Schwegler regards the admirers of celibacy as Judeo - Christians of Essenian tendency, and identifies them with the party of Peter. But Peter himself was married (1 Corinthians 9:5; Mar 1:30 ). Others Ewald, Hausrath, for example have supposed that they were members of the party which designated itself those of Christ, and that they alleged against marriage the example of Jesus. But this example was too exceptional; and in any case Paul would have required to rebut this argument. The general current of the Jewish mind recommended and glorified marriage. We might therefore take them to be members of the Pauline party, who rested their argument on the apostle's example, and on some mistaken saying which he had uttered during his stay at Corinth. But there is nothing in chap. 7 leading to this supposition. Grotius thought that the opponents of marriage at Corinth were men of culture, who, influenced by certain sayings of the Greek philosophers, regarded marriage as a vulgar state and one contrary to man's independence. But the apostle in his answer makes no allusion to such an idea, and the sayings of the Greek sages, which might be quoted, have rather the effect of whimsical utterances called forth by the troubles of family life, than of a serious theory. It seems simpler to hold that the opposition to marriage at Corinth proceeded from a reaction against the licentious manners which reigned in that city. New converts often go beyond the just limit of opposition to the life of nature, and easily lose sight of the Divine basis of human relations. The history of the Christian Church is full of examples of such extreme tendencies. It is easy therefore to understand how among the most serious Christians, especially among Paul's converts, men should be found, who, disgusted with all that belonged to the relations between the two sexes, proclaimed the superiority of the celibate life.

It was certainly one of the most delicate tasks for him whom God had called, not only to create the Church among the Gentiles, but also to direct its first steps in the new way which opened before it, to show the young Churches what they ought to reject and what they might preserve of their former life. So we shall see in this very chapter the apostle enlarging the question, and applying the solution which he gives in regard to marriage to other social relations in connection with which analogous difficulties were raised. The apostle needed all the wisdom which God had bestowed on him when entrusting him with his mission ( Rom 12:3 ), and all the natural subtlety of his understanding, to resolve the questions proposed to him, without compromising the future of individuals and of the Church. Thus, as to marriage, he could not forget that the conjugal bond was a Divine institution; he had himself just quoted 1 Corinthians 6:16, the saying on which the sacred and exclusive character of this relation rests. But, on the other hand, he contemplated the ideal of a Christian life freed from every bond and wholly consecrated to the service of Christ, and every day he felt from his own experience the value of such a state. The question must therefore have presented itself to his mind in two aspects equally grave, neither of which could be sacrificed to the other, and yet aspects apparently contradictory. The task was thus at once important and difficult.

He begins by treating of the formation of the marriage bond, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; then he takes up questions relative to the loosing of the bond, 1 Corinthians 7:10-24; finally, he deals with the preference to be given to celibacy or marriage in the case of virgins and widows, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman; 2. but, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

The form περὶ δέ , now concerning, is common in the classics (see Heinrici, p. 60). Paul thereby intimates that he is passing to a new subject, but one which has already been raised. The περὶ ὧν ought certainly to be grammatically expanded in this way: περὶ ἐκείνων περὶ ὧν ἐγράψατέ μοι λέγω τάδε .

The δέ , now, lightly marks the contrast between the questions which Paul had treated at his own hand and those which were put to him by the letter of the Corinthians.

The pronoun μοί has been added rather than omitted by the copyists; there was no reason for rejecting it.

In what sense are we to take the word καλόν , it is good? Jerome, the great partisan of celibacy, took it in the moral sense: “it is holy...; ” and he did not fear to draw from it the conclusion: “If it is good not to touch, then it is bad to touch.” The logic of this argument is by no means unassailable. Anyhow, this consequence does not agree with the true notion of marriage according to St. Paul. To evade it, some have given the word καλόν , good, a purely utilitarian sense: “It is expedient...” And the possibility of this sense seems clearly to result from the comparison of Mat 5:29 with Matthew 18:8, where in the same saying of Jesus the term συμφέρειν is used the first time, and καλόν the second. But the question is whether the word συμφέρειν itself has in the mouth of Paul and Jesus a purely utilitarian sense. In any case, it is not so in our Epistle, where, in the passages 1Co 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 10:23, and in 1Co 7:35 of our chapter, the word συμφέρειν certainly contains the notion of moral utility. With stronger reason ought it to be so with the word καλόν . In the well-known epithet καλὸς κἀγαθός , by which the Greeks designated the man every way honourable, man as he should be in all respects, the first adjective expressed the idea of beauty linked to that of goodness, the high propriety which distinguishes moral worth. Such, it seems to me, is the notion which the apostle would here express by the word καλόν . He proclaims aloud that the state of celibacy in a man is absolutely becoming and worthy, has nothing in it contrary to the moral ideal. There were assuredly at Corinth persons who maintained the contrary. This first verse has often been taken as a concession: “ No doubt it is well to... but ” ( 1Co 7:2 ). In this case, Paul must have said: καλὸν μέν . It becomes then a positive declaration, independent of what follows. Thereafter will come the restriction indicated by δέ .

In speaking thus, Paul felt himself supported by a decisive example, that of Jesus Christ, the realization of supreme moral beauty in human form, and moreover by the saying of Jesus, Luke 20:34-35: “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage,” a saying from which it followed that the splendour of the ideal shines still more perfectly in the person of the celibate than of the married Christian. No doubt there might have been quoted in objection to the apostle the words of God Himself: “It is not good that man should be alone,” οὐ καλὸν εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον μόνον ( Gen 2:18 ). But the answer would not have been difficult. The believer who lives in union with Christ is no longer in the same position as the natural man. He has in the Lord that complement of his personal life, which the latter seeks in marriage. No doubt that does not prove and St. Paul, we shall see, does not seek to affirm that celibacy in itself is holier than married life. The point in question is one of dignity, propriety. The apostle means simply to assert that there is nothing unbecoming in a man's living in celibacy.

The expression μὴ ἅπτεσθαι , not to touch, does not refer, as Rückert has thought, to the conduct of those united in marriage; it is at a later stage ( 1Co 7:3-5 ) that Paul treats this point. He wishes to tranquillize unmarried persons who are uncertain about the line of conduct they have to follow. The expression used is probably borrowed from the letter of the Corinthians. Holsten thinks that the expression also applies to illicit relations. But in chap. 6 Paul had completely exhausted this subject.

After clearly reserving the honourableness of celibacy, Paul passes to the practical truth which he is concerned to establish, the general necessity of marriage. For, as Reuss says, “his object is rather to protest against ascetic exaggerations than to favour them.’

Vv. 2. The δέ is adversative: “ but, honourable as celibacy is, it should not be the rule.” The plural fornications refers to the numerous acts and varied temptations which abounded at Corinth. When he says, every man, every woman, Paul of course understands the exception pointed out in 1 Corinthians 7:7, and the case which he will treat specially 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 (virgins). Baur, Rothe, Scherer, Holsten, and even Reuss accuse the apostle of proceeding on a view of marriage much inferior to the moral ideal of the relation. It would seem that he regards it only as a makeshift intended to remove a greater evil. But it is forgotten that the apostle is not here framing a theory of marriage in general; he is answering precise questions which had been put to him, and of whose tendency and tenor we are ignorant. In our very chapter, 1Co 7:14 proves clearly that he knows the moral side of the relation perfectly; the same is true of the words 1 Corinthians 11:3, which make marriage the analogue of the most exalted of all things: the relation between Christ and the human soul; nay, even of the relation between God and Christ. Reuss acknowledges “that in other Epistles, marriage is spoken of from a less contemptuous point of view;” comp. Ephesians 5:25-27. Now, as it is improbable that Paul modified his conception of marriage, and as the passages of our Epistle quoted above show that in fact there is nothing of the kind, it must be concluded that in this exposition the apostle desired to keep strictly within the limits traced out for him by the questions of the Corinthians on the subject. But still, that marriage may correspond to the end pointed out, the life in this state must be in accordance with its nature. This is the meaning of the 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, which are a short digression; after which the apostle follows up in 1Co 7:6 the idea of 1 Corinthians 7:2.

Verses 1-40

Vers. 1-9.

Notwithstanding the intrinsic excellence of celibacy, marriage should be the rule in practice. Such is the general meaning of this first passage.

Verses 3-5

Vv. 3-5. “Let the husband render unto the wife her due, and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent, for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

The reading of the T. R., due benevolence, is a paraphrase substituted for Paul's real words, the debt, with the view of avoiding what might be offensive in the latter in public reading. This verse confirms us in the idea that among some of the Corinthians there existed an exaggerated spiritualistic tendency, which threatened to injure conjugal relations, and thereby holiness of life.

Vv. 4. This verse justifies the direction given in the preceding. By the conjugal bond, each spouse acquires a right over the person of the other. Consequently each alienates a portion of personal independence. Hence precisely the καλόν of celibacy.

Vv. 5. In this verse there is reproduced the direction given in 1 Corinthians 7:3, but in a negative form: Defraud not, to exclude expressly the contrary opinion, and at the same time to limit this prohibition, nevertheless under certain conditions fitted to remove the danger of the restriction. The interruption of the conjugal relations authorized by the apostle may take place on three conditions: 1. mutual consent; 2. temporary duration; 3. the aim of securing spiritual meditation; and the particle εἰ μή τι ἄν , unless it is, by which Paul authorizes the exception, is immediately determined by two restrictions, one of which gives it a purely contingent or doubtful ( ἄν ) character, the other a limited ( τι ) character. To prayer T. R. adds fasting; but this is an interpolation arising from later ecclesiastical usages.

The reading συνέρχεσθε or συνέρχησθε , in the Byz. documents, instead of ἦτε , is due to the same cause as the variant of 1 Corinthians 7:3.

Among the Jews, also, it was customary to prepare by temporary separation for acts of particular solemnity (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4; comp. Joshua 7:13, etc.). The spirit, by asserting its dominion over the senses, becomes more conscious of its own proper life, and by this concentration on itself, opens more profoundly to the communications of the higher world.

All these restrictions are suggested to the apostle by a double fear; on the one hand, the natural incontinence of his readers ( ἀκρασία from ἀκρατής , one who is not master of himself), and on the other, the working of Satan, who fans carnal desires with his breath, and thus brings about from the smallest occasion the cause of a fall. These occasions were frequent at Corinth; there was one especially, of which the apostle will afterwards speak, participation in idolatrous banquets.

Verses 6-7

Vv. 6, 7. “Now I speak this by permission, not of commandment. 7. But I wish that all men were even as I myself; yet every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.”

The remark which the apostle makes in 1Co 7:6 might be applied to the foregoing prohibition: “Defraud not...;” or, as is done by Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Calvin, to the precept: “that ye come together again.” But this precept had been given only accidentally, and the ground for it had been too strongly stated to admit of its being afterwards presented as a simple counsel, and not as a positive rule. Meyer and Beet make this remark bear on the restriction: “Except it be for a time.” Meyer paraphrases thus: “If I recommend you to keep apart only for a time, it is not an absolute command I give on the subject, it is a simple counsel. But you may, if you think good, remain in this state of separation, provided it be with common consent.” But, in the first place, this meaning is overturned by the same reasons as the preceding, from which it is not essentially different. Then what right have we to separate one of the three conditions ( common consent) from the other two? Are they not put on exactly the same footing in 1Co 7:5 ? Far from wishing by 1Co 7:6 to attenuate the importance of the limits traced in 1 Corinthians 7:5, the apostle aims, on the contrary, throughout this whole passage to combat a too pronounced ascetic tendency which threatened to prevent marriage, or to turn it aside from the end for which the apostle claims it as a general rule. If it is so, the remark of 1Co 7:6 can only refer, as has been clearly seen by Beza, Grotius, de Wette, Hofmann, to the essential idea of the passage, as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:2, and as it is to be restated in a new form in 1 Corinthians 7:7: the general duty of marriage. 1Co 7:3-5 have only been a digression intended to maintain in the normal state the practice of marriage. The apostle now returns to the principal idea ( 1Co 7:2 ): “In speaking as I do, I do not for a moment mean to give you an apostolical command to marry. I give you a simple counsel, founded on the knowledge I have of your weakness.”

The verb συγγινώσκειν , to know with, denotes the sympathetic feeling with which one appropriates the thought or state of another, condescension, accommodation, and even pardon. The substantive συγγνώμη consequently expresses an advice in which one takes account of circumstances. It was precisely in this sense that the apostle had laid down as a rule the married state.

Vv. 7. The received reading γάρ , for, rests on the Vatic., the Peschito, etc. Its meaning is easy: “I certainly did not mean to enjoin you to marry; for my desire is rather...” But all the other Mjj., the Itala, and several Fathers read δέ , but, which is more difficult, and for that very reason more probable, and which can also be justified: “I commit you in general to marriage, but that is not my wish, absolutely speaking; on the contrary...” It seems as if instead of the indic. θέλω , I wish, the optative would have been required. But this would only have expressed a contingent wish, whereas the indicative expresses a real wish of the apostle, though he gives up its fulfilment for reasons independent of his wish. As Osiander observes, the form θέλω has in it something subjective.

Is the phrase, all men, which does not signify merely all Christians, as Osiander still thinks, determined by the near prospect of the end of the world? This is unnecessary. Absolutely speaking, Paul can only desire for every man what he has found best for himself; but no doubt on the condition that there be no essential difference between him and others.

From the words, as I myself, it may be inferred with certainty that Paul was not married, and quite as certainly that he was not a widower. For how could he have expressed the desire that all men were widowers! See on 1 Corinthians 7:8.

The καί , also, after as, strengthens the idea of the resemblance which he would like to see existing between him and other men (Romans 1:13; Act 26:29 ).

But the preference which Paul gives to celibacy meets with an obstacle in practice. There is a difference among men of which account must be taken. Jesus had already pointed it out ( Mat 19:10-12 ), and He had Himself drawn from the fact the practical consequences relating to the subject before us. There are men whom their natural temperament, in the first place, and then a spiritual grace which takes possession of this particular disposition, render capable of living in the state of celibacy without struggle and without inward pollution. Agreeably to this saying of Jesus, Paul desires that when one has the privilege of possessing the glorious faculty of consecrating himself without encumbrances to the service of God and men, he should not sacrifice it.

The expressions, one after this manner, and another after that, denote respectively, aptitude for life in celibacy, and aptitude for married life. It should be observed that these two aptitudes bear, both alike, the name of gift, χάρισμα . And we can thus put our finger on the error into which Reuss falls, when he says: “If abstention, life in celibacy, is a particular gift of God's grace, it is evident that something is wanting to the man who does not possess it.” The apostle is innocent of this erroneous conclusion. For he declares that there is not one single gift, but two different gifts. If the one is the gift of celibacy for the kingdom of God, the other is that of marriage, also for the kingdom of God. Meyer, it is true, alleges that the apostle is here expressing an abstract maxim, and that the two οὕτως , thus, do not properly apply either to celibacy or marriage specially. But what matters? If it is a general maxim, it is in any case stated here only with a view to its application to the two positions compared in the passage. Hence it follows that there is no less need of a gift of grace to use marriage Christianly than to live Christianly in celibacy.

In 1Co 7:1-7 Paul laid down two principles: the intrinsic honourableness of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:7 a), and the preference which must as a rule be given to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:7 b). He now draws, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, the consequences of these two principles; and first, 1 Corinthians 7:8, the consequence from the first; then, 1 Corinthians 7:9, that from the second.

Verses 8-9

Vv. 8, 9. “I say then to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as 1 Corinthians 1:9. But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.”

The δέ , then, indicates the transition from the grounds to the final sentence.

On καλόν , good, see on 1 Corinthians 7:1. The αὐτοῖς , for them, is remarkable; used without regimen, the word καλόν would have been too absolute; it might have seemed to ascribe a moral superiority to celibacy.

The contrast between ταῖς χήραις , widows, and τοῖς ἀγάμοις , the unmarried, has led Erasmus, Beza, etc., to regard the latter as embracing only widowers. But there is no ground for thus restricting the meaning of ἀγάμοι ; the word naturally comprehends also young unmarried men. On the other hand, Meyer extends the meaning of the word too far when he brings under it also virgins. The latter will have their chapter for themselves ( 1Co 7:25 seq.). It would even be altogether unsuitable to apply to them what is said in 1 Corinthians 7:9. Why, finally, would the apostle have joined them with unmarried men and widowers, instead of joining them with widows?

The reason why widows are mentioned separately, while widowers are confounded with bachelors, is this, widowhood creates, in the case of the woman, a more special position than in that of a man; a widow differs much more socially from a virgin than a widower from a young man. Besides, the masculine χῆρος , widower, is in Greek an adjective rather than a substantive, while the opposite is the case with the feminine χήρα , widow.

From these last words, if they abide even as I, Luther, Grotius, etc., have concluded that Paul must have been a widower, but erroneously. The idea of abiding as Paul, according to the true meaning of ἀγάμοι , may embrace perseverance in celibacy, as well as perseverance in the state of widowhood (see on 1Co 7:7 ). Clement of Alexandria also alleged that Paul was a widower; but it was neither on the ground of a tradition nor on account of this verse. Eusebius cites this Father's opinion ( H. E., 3.24); he justified it by the passage Philippians 4:3, where he erroneously ascribed to the word σύζυγος the meaning of spouse.

Verse 9

Vv. 9. It is a good thing ( καλόν ) to remain free from every bond, if one can do so without sinning; but if sin is to be the result, it is better to marry; for sin is an evil, while marriage is not. The compound word ἐγκρατεύεσθαι includes three ideas: to possess in oneself ( ἐν ) the power of ( κρατεῖν ) controlling oneself (the middle form). It is the opposite of the ἀκρασία of 1 Corinthians 7:5.

The aor. imper. γαμησάτωσαν , let them marry, has something about it abrupt and dry: “Let them marry and have done with it!” The aor. ἐγάμησα in later Greek sometimes takes the place of the primitive aor. ἔγημα , which is found Luke 14:20.

The term πυροῦσθαι , to burn, does not at all apply to the torments of hell, as Tertullian and Pelagius thought. Paul by this word denotes every painful exercise of soul; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:29; here: the fire of inward lusts in conflict with conscience. Comp. the ἐξεκαύθησαν of Romans 1:27, not-withstanding the difference of situation.

The fundamental question regarding the formation of the marriage bond is resolved. The apostle now examines the questions relating to the maintenance or breach of this bond. He here encounters two different positions. The first is that of the married who both belong to the Church ( 1Co 7:10-11 ); the second, that of the married of whom one only is a Christian ( 1Co 7:12-16 ). There follows an appendix relating to some analogous questions ( 1Co 7:17-24 ).

Verses 10-11

Vv. 10, 11. “But unto the already married I command, not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from the husband, 11. that if she is parted, she ought to remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband, and that the husband do not put away his wife.”

The γεγαμηκότες , married, are contrasted, on the one hand, with those who are widowers or bachelors ( 1Co 7:8-9 ), and on the other, with the τοῖς λοίποις , the others, or the rest ( 1Co 7:12 ); as these are also married, those of 1Co 7:10 can only be regarded as spouses living in Christian marriage on both sides, and the others, of 1 Corinthians 7:12, as living in mixed marriage (a Christian spouse with a Jewish or heathen spouse). To understand the apostle's mode of expressing himself, we need only call to mind that this letter was intended to be read in the assembly of the Church; consequently, when the apostle said: “Those who are in the state of marriage” ( γεγαμηκότες , the perfect), he could only thereby designate two spouses who were both Christians.

The verb παραγγέλλω , I command, sometimes includes, along with the idea of commanding, that of transmitting; perhaps it is so in this passage: “As to this command, I do not give it to you myself; I transmit it to you.”

What are the meaning and bearing of the distinction which Paul establishes in the words, not I, but the Lord? The simplest supposition is that he means to speak here of a command given by Jesus Himself during His earthly sojourn. And what confirms this meaning is, that we really find this precept in our Gospels proceeding from the mouth of Jesus, just as we read it here; comp. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18. Not that I hold that the three first Gospels were already composed and circulated in the Churches at the time when Paul wrote; rather he derives his knowledge of this saying from the oral tradition which proceeded from the apostles. Baur has objected that if Paul had meant to cite a positive command of the Lord, he must have used the past παρήγγειλεν ( He commanded), and not the present. But the command of Jesus is regarded as abiding for the Church throughout all time. No doubt it might also be that the apostle meant to say he had received this command by way of revelation. But the fact that we find it expressly given in our Gospels by the Lord proves that this is the saying to which he alludes.

And what is the effect of the distinction which Paul establishes between what the Lord commands and what he himself prescribes ( 1Co 7:12 )? Does he mean that his apostolical commands are less infallible than those of the Lord? But this would be to sap apostolical authority with his own hands, and the words, 1 Corinthians 14:37, where he calls certain prescriptions in regard to worship a commandment of the Lord, would certainly not confirm this distinction. He means rather to establish the difference between the commands given expressly by the Lord, which have consequently indisputable force for the whole Church, and those which emanate from himself, and which, as such, are law only for the Churches founded by him and subject to his apostleship. So the former required only to be cited; they had no need of being demonstrated to any one who professed faith in Christ. The latter, on the contrary, assumed the acknowledgment of Paul as an apostle of the Lord; the apostle therefore felt himself called to expound the reasons which justified them; comp. 1Co 7:14 ; 1 Corinthians 7:16.

In quoting the words of Jesus, Paul omits the limitation put by the Lord on the command not to separate: “unless it be for adultery.” Luke and Mark likewise omit it in the account of this discourse. The reason is that it was taken for granted; for in this relation adultery is equivalent to death; and such a crime was not to be thought possible in the Christian community.

The wife is placed first, because it is from her, as the weaker party, that the inclinations for separation oftenest come. The apostle says, in speaking of her, χωρισθῆναι , to be separated, while in the end of the following verse, in speaking of the man, he says ἀφιέναι , to send away, or let go. The reason perhaps is because the man is in his own home, and remains there, whereas the woman leaves the domicile.

Vv. 11. The first part of the verse is a parenthesis; for the proposition begun in 1Co 7:10 finishes with the last words of 1 Corinthians 7:11. The apostle anticipates the case in which, notwithstanding his, or rather the Lord's, prohibition, a Christian woman has left her husband: ἐὰν δὲ καί , but if even (with and in spite of this prohibition). Such a violation of the Lord's words have been regarded as inadmissible. Hofmann therefore supposes that it is solely deeds already consummated at the time when Paul wrote his letter that are in question; and Holsten concludes from this same alleged impossibility that the parenthesis, ἐὰν δὲ ... καταλλαγήτω , is only a later interpolation. All this is unnecessary. Paul could perfectly anticipate the case in which, notwithstanding this prohibition, a wife, outraged by the bad treatment of which she was the victim, would go off abruptly in a moment of lively irritation. Fearing to do more harm than good by doing violence to the state of things, Paul accepts the situation. But first he seeks to prevent a second and still graver evil from being added to the first, and that by a new marriage of the separated wife, a marriage which Jesus called adultery; then he recommends a reconciliation as soon as possible. It has been asked whether the interdict against a new marriage applied also to the case in which one of the spouses had been guilty of adultery; and next, whether in this case the prohibition applied to the injured party as well as to the criminal spouse. Catholic law absolutely forbids divorce, even in the case of adultery, while Protestant law in these circumstances allows it. And, as to second marriage, Protestant law likewise permits it, but only to the innocent party. The refusal of divorce in the case of adultery seems to us to transgress the meaning of the Lord's words; for by these adultery is implicitly put on the same footing as death. And, as to the right of remarriage granted to the innocent party, it does not seem to me at all contrary to the text of Scripture. But what seems to me absolutely irreconcileable with the Lord's words, is the readiness with which Protestant pastors, becoming the agents of a purely civil legislation, consent to bless in the name of the Lord marriages contracted between persons whose first marriage had not been dissolved for the only reason authorized by the Lord, so that this new union, according to His positive declaration, is adultery. To bless on His part what He Himself characterizes so severely is a strange way of acting in His name. The State may have excellent reasons for not imposing on human society in general such rules as in their severity go beyond its moral level ( Mat 19:8 ); but the Church has reasons not less valid for refusing to follow it in this region contrary to the will of its Master. Of course this faithful conduct of the Church demands, as a consequence, the distinction between State legislation and Church legislation. After this parenthesis, the apostle finishes the quotation of the Lord's words, by adding what concerns the husband. On the term ἀφιέναι , to put away, see on 1 Corinthians 7:10. For the rest, the two sexes are put on the same footing. Among the Greeks, the wife could separate freely from her husband.

Verses 10-16

Vv. 10-16.

The rules to be followed in the case of two Christian spouses ( 1Co 7:10-11 ).

Verses 12-13

Vv. 12, 13. “But to the rest, speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away; 13. and the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband.”

Those whom the apostle calls the rest, in contrast to the spouses of 1 Corinthians 7:11, can only be the married who do not both belong to the Church, and only one of whom was present at the reading of this letter. The sequel will leave no doubt of this interpretation. It is clear that neither the apostle nor the Church would have authorized a marriage between a member of the Church and a Jew or heathen; but one of two spouses might have been converted after marriage; hence the possibility of mixed marriages. Jesus could not have thought of giving a direction for such cases; so the apostle declares that he has no command to transmit from the Lord on this subject. It is therefore himself, Paul, who must regulate the case, drawing its solution, by way of deduction, from the essence of the gospel. It seems to me even that the expression, I, not the Lord, excludes not only any positive ordinance uttered by the Lord during His life, but even any special revelation proceeding from Him on the subject. It does not follow, however, that he puts himself in this respect on the same footing as any other Christian. How, if it were so, could he say with authority in 1 Corinthians 7:17: “So ordain I in all the Churches”? He knew himself to be enlightened, as an apostle, with a wisdom superior to ordinary Christian wisdom, and that even in cases in which he had neither an external revelation ( 1Co 7:10 ), nor an inward revelation properly so called ( 1Co 11:23 ) to direct him.

Two cases might present themselves in mixed marriages: Either the heathen spouse consented to remain with the Christian spouse; this is the case treated 1 Corinthians 7:12-14. Or he refused; this is the case treated 1 Corinthians 7:15-16.

On the first supposition, the Christian spouse, whether husband or wife, ought to remain united to the Jewish or heathen spouse; for the consent of the latter implies that he will not annoy the Christian in the discharge of her religious obligations.

The term ἀφιέναι , put away, is here applied to the wife as well as to the husband, perhaps because, as Bengel finely observes, in the eyes of the Church the Christian wife is, despite her sex, the nobler of the two; or, more simply, because, in case of the heathen desiring to remain with his wife, it is she who would speak the leave-taking (give the congé) if she refused. This direction given for the first case, the apostle is careful to justify it, precisely because this is his ordinance, and not the Lord's.

Verse 14

Infant Baptism, in relation to the passage, 7:14.

German commentators are almost unanimous (except Hofmann, who here follows a way of his own) in regarding infant baptism as incompatible with these words of the apostle. The latest English critics (Edwards, Beet), though knowing the German works, do not adhere to the conclusion drawn in them, and do not believe the words to be incompatible with the ecclesiastical practice of baptizing infants. For my part, I do not find Paul's expressions intelligible except on the supposition that this practice existed.

In his interesting and able work already quoted, Professor Ménégoz has proposed an intermediate way. According to him, when Paul baptized whole families, Jewish or heathen (Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; 1Co 1:16 ), it is indisputable that the children were included. But 1Co 7:14 proves, he thinks, on the other hand, that in Christian families the children born after the baptism of the parents did not receive it themselves, which M. Ménégoz explains by supposing that their baptism was regarded as included in that of their parents. They were looked on “as baptized in the womb of their mother.” It was not, according to him, till later and gradually that baptism was extended to the children of Christians themselves, because this rite being the mode of enlisting into the Church, it could not in course of time be refused to the descendants of Christians without effacing the line of demarcation between them and the world.

This hypothesis, intended to reconcile the two classes of passages, which M. Ménégoz thinks he finds in the New Testament, seems to me inadmissible. According to it, there were in Paul's Churches two classes of Christians: the one baptized, those who had passed from heathenism or Judaism to Christianity; the other unbaptized (except in the person of their parents), those who were born of parents already Christian. But where in the New Testament is there a trace of such a difference? Does not the apostle say: “We all ( ὅσοι , as many as there are) who were baptized in Christ...?” The same expression, Galatians 4:27, and in our own Epistle, 1 Corinthians 12:13: “We all ( ἡμεῖς πάντες ) were baptized into one Spirit to form one body.” These expressions show that baptism was regarded as the external bond of all the members of the body of which the Spirit was the soul. And why, if M. Ménégoz' supposition was well founded, was not the baptism of children born of parents not yet Christian regarded as involved in that of their parents, as well as that of the infants born after their conversion, unless we are prepared to ascribe to the Church, and to Paul himself, the most grossly materialistic ideas? Has not M. Ménégoz himself very properly reminded us of the fact that, according to the notions of antiquity, the father's religion determined that of the family? His personal baptism should therefore have sufficed for all in the one situation as well as in the other. Finally, I think I have shown that the passage, 1 Corinthians 7:14, in favour of which so strange a hypothesis is proposed, not only does not require, but excludes it.

But does not ecclesiastical history protest against our exegetical result as false? With the exception of two passages, the one from Origen, the other from Tertullian, it is silent on the point before us. Now, of these two passages, that of Origen is positive in favour of the apostolic origin of infant baptism ( Comment. in epist. ad Rom. t. 5.9): “The Church learned from the apostles that it ought to give baptism to infants.” In the second, Tertullian, after his going over to Montanism ( De baptismo, c. 18), dissuades parents from baptizing their children; which proves that the practice existed in his time, but that Tertullian himself did not regard it as apostolical. These facts are insufficient, from the historical point of view, to authorize a sure conclusion either on the one side or the other. It is therefore for exegesis to enlighten history rather than the reverse.

The apostle now passes to the opposite case, that of the Christian spouse whose heathen partner does not consent to live with her.

Verses 15-16

Vv. 15, 16. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such things; but God hath called us in peace. 16. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? and how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”

The rule to be followed in this case is given in 1 Corinthians 7:15; the reason follows in 1 Corinthians 7:16. The Christian spouse should in this case consent to a separation which she could not refuse without going in the face of incessant conflicts. The word, let him depart, throws back the whole responsibility on the non-believer. The expression ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις might signify, in such circumstances (the refusal of the heathen spouse). But the plural leads more naturally to the sense, in such things, in this kind of matters. The apostle is no doubt thinking of the transient element in earthly relations in general, when compared with the eternal interests which alone can bind the believer absolutely. He has probably already in view the other analogous relations with which he proceeds to deal in this connection from 1 Corinthians 7:17. The words ἐν εἰρήνῃ , in peace, have often been understood as if they were εἰς εἰρήνην , “to peace.” But if this had been Paul's idea, why not express himself so? He means rather that the call to faith which they accepted, bore from the first a pacific character, for it consisted in the offer of peace with God; and consequently the stamp of peace ought to be impressed on all their earthly conduct. Chrysostom regarded this last remark as intended to restrict the liberty of separation granted in the previous words; in this sense: “Nevertheless consider well that it is to peace thy Master has called thee, and see yet whether thou couldest not maintain the union.” But as Edwards says, if the non-believer has left the Christian, how is it possible to exhort the latter to live in peace with the former? Is it not clear that by persisting to impose her presence, the Christian spouse would put herself directly in contradiction to the spirit of peace? For this conduct could not fail to issue in a state of perpetual war. The δέ is adversative: but. It contrasts with the subjection, which is denied, the duty of living in peace, which is affirmed. One might also, like Beet, translate the δέ in the sense of, and moreover; this would give a gradation: “And not only are ye not subject in this case..., but moreover there is a duty to...”

The difficult question in regard to this verse is to determine whether the is not under bondage includes, besides the right of separation, that of remarriage for the Christian spouse. Edwards cites the fact that this was the opinion of Ambrosiaster, whereas the Council of Arles (314) decided the question in the opposite sense. Among Protestants, malicious desertion such is the judicial name for the χωρίζεσθαι on the part of one of the spouses is regarded in general as equivalent to adultery, and consequently as authorizing a new marriage. I do not think that it is possible exegetically, as Edwards proposes, to decide the question in the latter sense, for, as Meyer observes, the οὐ δεδούλωται simply authorizes separation, without containing, either explicity or implicitly, the idea of a new union. In any case, in application to our present circumstances, it must not be forgotten that separation between a Christian and a heathen spouse is not subject to the same conditions as separation between two Christian spouses. For the latter, the rule has been given, and that by the Lord Himself, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11.

The two questions of 1Co 7:16 have been frequently understood, from Chrysostom to Tholuck, in a sense opposed to liberty of separation: “What knowest thou whether thou shalt not save...?” Edwards has proved by several examples, taken from classic Greek, the grammatical possibility of taking εἰ in the sense of whether; comp. moreover in the LXX. Joel 2:14; Jonah 3:9. But, as he rightly says, the context is decidedly opposed to this interpretation. It would assume that meaning of the preceding proposition which we have been obliged to reject; and so understood, the saying would demand of the Christian, with a view to a result very problematical and rendered almost impossible by the refusal of cohabitation on the part of the heathen spouse, an altogether disproportionate sacrifice.

Verse 17

Vv. 17. “Save this, that as the Lord hath distributed to every man, as God hath called every one, so let him walk; and so ordain I in all the Churches.”

The particle εἰ μή , unless, or, if it is not so, has been explained in a multitude of ways. Some have connected it with the preceding verse, in this sense: “What knowest thou whether thou shalt save thy wife, or not? ” But there would have been needed at least ἢ εἰ μή , or better, ἢ μή ; and it is certainly from this that there has arisen the reading ἢ μή , or not, which is followed by Chrysostom and others, but which has no authorities in its favour. Besides, why not add this or not also to the first question? (de Wette). This addition, finally, would be most superfluous. Rückert would be disposed to make εἰ μή (supplying σώσεις , thou shalt save) a new proposition: “But if thou knowest not whether thou shalt save thy wife, here in any case is the rule to be followed.” This meaning would be admissible, but an adversative particle would have been indispensable. Beza takes εἰ μή in the sense of ἀλλά , but, which cannot be supported grammatically.

Already by the words ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις , in such things, the apostle had betrayed his intention of extending the treatment of the question proposed to other analogous subjects. This transition is indicated by the particle εἰ μή , unless that, which marks his return to the general rule from which he had been forced to deviate in the exceptional case treated, 1 Corinthians 7:15-16. The principle, on which rested the two directions given to spouses, 1 Corinthians 7:10-14, was to remain as Christians in the situation where marriage had previously placed them. After the exception to this rule which he authorized, 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, the apostle returns, by the particle, unless that, or, saving the case that, to the line of conduct indicated in the outset, and which he now states in a perfectly general way in 1 Corinthians 7:17: every believer ought to remain in the earthly situation in which the call to salvation found him. This is the meaning held by most modern interpreters (de Wette, Osiander, Meyer, Hofmann, etc.).

The authority of the Mjj. hardly allows us to admit the received reading, according to which the subject of the first clause is ὁ θεός , God, and that of the second, ὁ κύριος , the Lord, evidently Jesus Christ; comp. 1 Corinthians 8:6. This reading is, however, the most natural, for in the first proposition the subject in question is external circumstances over which God presides, and in the second the calling to salvation which is undoubtedly often ascribed to God, but which may also be attributed to Christ. Hofmann, too, prefers this reading to that of the majority of the Mjj., which reverses the order of the two subjects. With this last reading it must be held that Christ is regarded here as directing from the midst of His glory the course of things on the earth. For it does not seem to me possible to apply, as Reiche and Heinrici do, the verb ἐμέρισεν , has distributed ( μεμέρικεν , of א B, is probably a correction after κέκληκεν ), to the share of spiritual graces bestowed on each believer. The assigned portion in which each should continue can only be, according to the context, the circumstances, analogous to the state of Christian or mixed marriage, in which the believer was providentially placed at the time of his conversion: “The position in which thou didst hear and receive the Divine call is also that in which thou shouldest continue to live” ( περιπατεῖν , to walk). A situation which could not prevent salvation from being realized in us, will not be incompatible with life in salvation.

The two everys are, by a strong inversion, placed before the conjunction which begins the proposition to which they belong. Thereby the apostle would emphasize the idea that there are as many particular positions as individuals called, and that each of them is their Divinely distributed lot which they ought not to change at will.

But Paul would not have it thought at Corinth that the principle here laid down is invented by him with a view to some present and special application which he contemplates within that Church. As to the rule, he lays it down in all the Churches founded by him, whose conduct amid such delicate questions he is called to direct. The word διατάσσομαι , I ordain, contains two ideas: that of a summary decision ( διά ), and that of apostolical competency (the middle, τάσσομαι , I regulate in my sphere). The word all must of course be limited to the Churches dependent on his apostleship; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:37. The rule laid down in this verse is therefore this: the calling to the gospel ought not to be a reason with the believer for changing his outward situation. This principle well shows with what a conviction of its victorious power the gospel made its entrance into the world. It did not fear to confront any earthly position, lawful in itself; but it faced them all with the certainty of being able to penetrate and sanctify them by its spirit. As Edwards says: “The gospel introduces the principle of order as limiting that of liberty in the present life. It does not make slaves of us, but it does not plunge us into anarchy. It is not despotic; but neither is it revolutionary.”

The apostle cites and deals with two examples: the state of circumcision or uncircumcision, and that of slavery or freedom.

Verses 17-24

Vers. 17-24.

To illustrate the spirit of the prescriptions which he has just given, and to trace at the same time the line of conduct to be followed in certain analogous cases which occurred in the life of the Church, the apostle widens the question, and shows that the general viewpoint which he has taken, to solve the questions relating to marriage, commands all the relations of the Christian life. The following passage is therefore a digression, but one intended to elucidate more completely the subject treated. In 1Co 7:17 the principle is laid down on which all such questions depend; in 1Co 7:18-19 this principle is applied to a first example; it is repeated in 1 Corinthians 7:20, then applied to a second example, 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; finally, it is repeated anew by way of conclusion, 1 Corinthians 7:24.

Verses 18-19

Vv. 18, 19. “Is any man called being circumcised, let him not become uncircumcised; is any called in uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised. 19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God is everything.”

Whether we give to the two verbs in the indicative the interrogative or affirmative sense matters little; it is here the hypothetical indicative.

The apostle is alluding to a custom which was introduced among the Hellenistic Jews, of practising a surgical operation intended to disguise their state of circumcision. They wished thereby to escape either persecution, or ridicule, in the public baths or games. These renegades were called meschoukim, recutiti. Epiphanius ascribes the invention of the process to Isaiah. Mention is made of it in the Book of Maccabees (1 Corinthians 1:11; 1Co 1:15 ) and in Josephus ( Antiq. 12.5. 1). This difference, circumcision or uncircumcision, which had played so decisive a part from the religious standpoint of the Jews, was reduced to nothing by the gospel, which absolutely subordinates the ritual to the moral side of things. The coming of Christ inaugurated a new era, in which holiness alone remains; comp. Romans 2:29. In the expression commandments of God there are embraced the moral contents of the Jewish law and of the example and teachings of Jesus, as well as the directions of His Spirit. Paul in like manner elsewhere contrasts with circumcision and uncircumcision the new creature ( Gal 6:15 ), or faith acting by love ( Gal 5:6 ); comp. Romans 13:9, where the whole law is summed up in love. It is evident that Paul is here speaking of the end to be realized, not of the means indispensable to its attainment.

Verse 20

Vv. 20. “Let every man remain faithful to the calling wherewith he was called.” Literally: “Let every man abide in the calling wherewith he was called.” The word κλῆσις , call, vocation, cannot denote the earthly state or profession; it is applied here, as elsewhere, to the call to salvation. The pronoun ᾗ with ἐκλήθη would suffice to prove this: “the call with which he was called.” Only the idea of the call must be taken to embrace all the external circumstances which furnish the occasion and determine the manner of it. What a difference between the manner of calling in the case of one circumcised and of one uncircumcised! Now this earthly situation, appointed by God, must not be left at one's own will. What was the means of thy call will not fail to exercise thy fidelity.

This maxim, which closes the treatment of the first example, serves as a transition to that of the second.

Verse 21

Vv. 21. “Thou wast called being a slave, care not for it; but if therewith thou mayest be made free, use it rather.”

Here in this domain is the extreme case which can be conceived. Few situations could appear so incompatible with Christian holiness, dignity, and freedom as that of a slave. But a multitude of evidences proves that Christianity had quite specially found access to persons of this class. But, abnormal as this position may appear, it will not remain beyond the victorious influence of the gospel. The spiritual elevation which faith communicates, places the believer above even this contrast: slave, free.

There is something heroic in the word of the apostle: care not for it. “Do not let this position weigh either on thy conscience or on thy heart!” Hofmann applies these words, not to the state of slavery, but to the counsel which the apostle has just given, in this sense: “Do not torment thyself with the counsel I give thee; it should not prevent thee from accepting thy liberty, if an opportunity of recovering it presents itself.” This explanation is not natural. For it is evident that it was his enslaved condition which would above all fill a Christian in this position with concern. The anxiety which Paul's order could cause him was only an effect of that which the position itself caused.

The second part of this verse has been understood in two diametrically opposite senses. The ancient Greek exegetes, and, among the moderns, de Wette, Meyer, Osiander, Kling, Reuss, Renan, Heinrici, Holsten, Edwards, Jean Monod (in a pamphlet published in connection with the American War on the subject of slavery), among translators, Rilliet, Oltramare, Segond, Weizsäcker, think that the apostle means: “But, though thou mayest become free, use rather (slavery).” Calvin, Neander, Hofmann, Bonnet, Beet give this meaning, on the contrary, to the apostle's words: “But nevertheless, if thou canst become free, profit by it (by accepting the advantage which is offered thee).”

The reasons ordinarily alleged in favour of the first interpretation are: 1. The conjunction εἰ καί , which signifies even if, although: “But although thou mightest become free, remain a slave.” 2. 1 Corinthians 7:22, which more naturally justifies the idea of remaining a slave. 3. The whole context, which rather calls for encouragement to remain what one is than to change his state. Renan compares Paul's counsel thus understood with the words of the sages of the time: “The Stoics used to say like St. Paul to the slave: Remain what thou art; think not of freeing thyself.” According to this interpretation, the Christian slave would be invited to refuse, should the case occur, the liberation which was offered him, and “to regard his state, to use Reuss' expression, as a means of education to salvation and as a special sphere of activity assigned to him.” But these reasons are far from seeming to me decisive. The form εἰ καί has not always the sense of even if or though. The two elements of which it is composed may remain distinct, so that the εἰ continues an if, and the καί an also. This is established by Passow by many examples (2.1540). We see this in our Epistle ( 1Co 4:7 ), and even in our chapter, in 1 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Corinthians 7:28, where the meaning of though would be absolutely illogical, and where the εἰ καί evidently signifies: If therewith, if however. A new fact ( καί ) presents itself, which gives a new aspect to the case. It is precisely so in our passage: “But if therewith (besides the internal liberty which thou possessest, or thy tranquillity of soul, thy οὐ μέλεσθαι ), thou canst also become outwardly free...” ( καί applying to δύνασαι γένεσθαι ). It might even be asked whether, in the other sense, Paul would not have required to say: καὶ εἰ , and even if. On the connection with 1 Corinthians 7:22, see below. Finally, as to the context, it agrees perfectly with the second explanation, if this counsel be regarded as a restriction brought into the general rule. This is what is naturally indicated by the ἀλλά , but, for in the other sense it would require to be taken as an ἀλλά of gradation: but moreover; which is rather forced. We here find a restriction parallel to that of 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, which was also introduced by an adversative particle ( εἰ δέ , but if). As, in these verses, the Christian spouse was authorized to deviate from the general rule and to separate from the heathen spouse who refused to remain with her; so in our verse the Christian slave, after having been exhorted to bear without a murmur the state of slavery, is authorized to take advantage of any opportunity which occurs of exchanging it for freedom: “But if, therewith, thou mayest be made free...”

The reasons which appear to me to decide in favour of this meaning are the following: 1. The natural regimen of χρῆσαι , make use of, after the words which immediately precede, If thou mayest be made free, is certainly: “make use of the possibility.” It is much less natural to go to the preceding sentence to borrow the idea of slavery. 2. The μᾶλλον , rather, which some oppose to this meaning, is on the contrary much more naturally explained if the apostle has in view the acceptance of liberty. He was well aware that the slave's situation might be such that he could legitimately prefer to remain in it. Hence it is that to his counsel to accept he delicately adds the word rather, which takes away from his words everything of an imperative character: “I would have thee in this case to incline rather to liberty.” From the rule so forcibly inculcated: to remain in his position, there might in fact arise this misunderstanding, that a slave should not think himself free to profit by an offer of emancipation; this is what the apostle wishes to avoid. 3. Could Paul reasonably give to the Christian slave the advice to remain a slave if he could lawfully regain his freedom? Is not liberty a boon? Is it not the state which accords with the dignity of man? one of the features, the fundamental feature perhaps, of God's image in man? No doubt the Christian slave possesses inward liberty; for the Lord has set him free, not only from condemnation and sin, but also from the yoke of external circumstances, which he can henceforth accept as a gift of God. Nevertheless it remains true, that enjoying liberty, he will be able as a rule to give himself more efficiently to the service of God. What would be said of a prisoner who should refuse liberation, alleging that in his prison he enjoys moral liberty? Or of a sufferer, who, being able to recover health, should refuse to do so for the reason that on his couch he possesses spiritual life? The apostle had too much wisdom from above, and also too much natural good sense, to give himself up to such exaggeration, which belongs to an unhealthy asceticism. Heinrici points out, rightly no doubt, the much more gentle and humane form which slavery had taken at that period. This is true: the master had no longer the right of life and death over his slave; but nevertheless he had the disposal of his person. And if the Christian could find strength in communion with Christ to overcome the temptations attached to such dependence, what an exaggeration would it be to bind him to reject an opportunity providentially offered of becoming free, and escaping from the cause of such conflicts! 4. Moreover, the apostle has himself clearly enough expressed his judgment on this question in the Epistle to Philemon; and all the torture to which Meyer subjects his words (see in his Commentary) does not avail to show that the apostle did not really and positively claim from Philemon the emancipation of Onesimus, who had become his brother by the common faith: “Knowing that thou wilt do even beyond what I say” ( Phm 1:21 ). This passage may certainly be called the first petition in favour of the abolition of slavery. It is not by violent means, like servile wars, it is by the spirit which breathes in such words that Christianity has made and still makes the chains of the slave to fall. And as St. Paul could not contradict himself on this point, we may be assured that his thought was no other than this: “But if therewith (while consenting to live in the state of slavery, enjoying moral liberty) thou mayest become free, take advantage of it.”

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22, 23. “For he that was called in the Lord being a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he that was called being free is Christ's slave. 23. Ye were bought with a price: become not the slaves of men!”

According to most commentators, 1Co 7:22 is intended to justify the counsel to prefer servitude. Edwards: “A reason why the Christian slave should continue a slave rather than accept liberty.” The reasoning in itself would be admissible: “The slave being spiritually free, and the free believer morally a slave, the contrast is neutralized; why make a change of state?”

But this verse may quite as well justify the counsel of 1 Corinthians 7:21, as we have understood it; not in the sense that the first proposition of 1Co 7:22 would justify the first counsel of 1 Corinthians 7:21, and the second proposition the second. For in this case the second proposition would not answer the purpose, for the Christian slave called to liberty is not in the position of the free Christian who becomes the slave of Christ. It must be borne in mind that the second part of 1Co 7:21 was a restriction arising in connection with the first, a sort of parenthesis; after which Paul returns to the general idea. We must therefore disentangle the thought common to the two propositions of 1 Corinthians 7:22, and apply it to the passage as a whole: If in Christ slaves become free, and the free slaves, then neither slavery nor liberty is to be dreaded for the believer! Slavery will not take away from him his inward liberty, for he is Christ's freedman; and liberty will not plunge him into licence, for he has become Christ's slave. The consequence is, that the Christian slave may either remain a slave, or become free, without harm. For, in the latter case, he enters the class of the free who become the Lord's slaves.

The expression ἐν κυρίῳ κληθείς does not signify: called to communion with the Lord, but: called by a call addressed in the Lord.

The gen. κυρίου here is at once that of cause and of possession. The sentence of emancipation was pronounced by the Lord; by it He delivered this spiritual slave from the power and condemnation of sin; thenceforth this freedman belongs to Him as His servant.

Verse 23

Vv. 23. The second person plural which comes in here shows that the apostle is addressing the entire Church without distinction. If some from being slaves have become free, and the others from being free have become slaves, it is because a purchase has been made; this purchase, so far as it is a ransom, has freed the slaves, and, as a purchase price, it has brought the free into servitude.

But how is the warning which follows connected with the mention of the great fact of redemption? Some have thought that Paul meant thereby to prevent the free men of Corinth from selling themselves as slaves for the service of Christ (Michaëlis, Heydenreich). But no trace is found of such conduct, and in any case the transition to so new an idea would be denoted by some particle or other.

Monod compares this saying with a passage of the letter of Ignatius to Polycarp (c. 4), where the former writes of male and female servants: “Let them not desire to be set free at the charge of the common treasury, lest they should be found the slaves of their lust.” Paul, he thinks, is reminding Christians thus redeemed that they ought to take care to maintain their independence over-against the Church, or those who have rendered them this service. But how can we bring ourselves to apply to such a purchase the solemn expression, bought with a price? comp. 1 Corinthians 6:20. Besides, Paul addresses this recommendation, as we have seen, to the whole Church. This last reason equally forbids us to accept the opinion of Chrysostom ( De Virgin., c. 41), quoted by Edwards, according to which Paul recommends slaves not to serve servilely, but as exercising their spiritual liberty; comp. Colossians 3:23. Rückert, Hofmann, compare this warning with 1 Corinthians 3:21: “Let no man glory in men;” they think that Paul is inviting the Church to shake off the yoke of the party leaders spoken of in the first chapters. Nothing appears in the context which could call forth such a warning here, and how should Paul immediately return from this strange thought to the general rule, 1Co 7:24 ? Meyer's solution seems to me the most natural. Paul, he thinks, wishes to combat the docility of the Church towards certain agitators who were urging believers, in consequence of their conversion, to change their external situation. Indeed, Meyer rightly observes that unless we assume such a tendency, this whole digression ( 1Co 7:17-24 ) lacks a basis. Perhaps it was above all in regard to questions about slavery and liberty that those men sought to impose their opinions on the other members of the Church. Let the severe saying, 1 Corinthians 4:15, be remembered: “Though ye should have ten thousand tutors in Christ...!”

The apostle concludes by reproducing in a summary form the general principle already twice stated, 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:20.

Verse 24

Vv. 24. “Brethren, let every man wherein he was called, therein abide before God.”

The principal idea is not that of abiding before God in that state; it is abiding in that state, and that before God. By these last words, Paul reminds his readers of the moral act which has the power of sanctifying and ennobling every external position: the eye fixed on God, walking in His presence. This is what preserves the believer from the temptations arising from the situation in which he is; this is what raises the humblest duties it can impose on him to the supreme dignity of acts of worship. Hofmann seeks to give to 1 Corinthians 7:24 a different meaning from that of 1Co 7:17 ; 1 Corinthians 7:20, by referring the two pronouns ᾧ and τούτῳ to the person of the Lord. But the parallelism with 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1Co 7:20 is obvious at a glance; and the repetition is easily justified by the importance of the principle enunciated.

In fact, this principle has been of incalculable importance in the development of the Church. It is by means of it that Christianity has been able to become a moral power at once sufficiently firm and sufficiently elastic to adapt itself to all human situations, personal, domestic, national, and social. Thereby it is that without revolution it has worked the greatest revolutions, accepting everything to transform everything, submitting to everything to rise above everything, renewing the world from top to bottom while condemning all violent subversion. Whence has the apostle derived this principle in which there meet the most unconquerable faith and the most consummate ability? “I say unto you by the grace given unto me;” so Paul expressed himself when opening a series of purely practical prescriptions, Romans 12:3. Wisdom from on high did not less direct Paul the pastor than Paul the teacher. And then it is probable that he was not unacquainted with the Master's homely saying: “And she put the leaven into the meal, until the whole was leavened.” The Holy Spirit had given him the commentary on this short parable.

Verse 25

Vv. 25. “Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”

The form of transition used by the apostle would lead us to suppose that he is replying to a special article of the letter of the Corinthians (comp. 1Co 7:1 ); questions had certainly been put to him on the subject which he proceeds to treat.

If we compare 1 Corinthians 7:27-29, where the apostle addresses young men, a reason might be found for applying the word παρθένος , virgin, with Bengel, to bachelors as well as to spinsters. Rev 14:4 has been quoted for this wide meaning. But the uniform use of the word in classic and sacred literature does not authorize this meaning. In the passage of the Apocalypse it is an adjective, and ought probably to be taken in a moral sense. The entire sequel, 1 Corinthians 7:32-38, proves that it is of maidens Paul meant to speak, and that if he says a word about young men, it is only in passing and to show that radically he makes no difference, in what he says here, between the two sexes. The principle which guides him is and remains this: to abide in the position where the Divine call found us.

The expression commandment of the Lord cannot denote, as in 1 Corinthians 7:10, an order that proceeded from the mouth of Jesus during His earthly life. The form οὐκ ἔχω , I have not, would not be suitable in this sense, a commandment of Jesus not being Paul's personal property, but belonging to the whole Church. Paul therefore does not possess, either by way of tradition or of revelation, an order emanating from Jesus on this point.

But, as the Corinthians may desire to know his personal opinion, he does not refuse to communicate it to them. He rests the value of his counsel on the mercy of which he has been the object, a mercy which has made him a man worthy to be believed. The word πιστός , faithful, has, as we have seen, 1 Corinthians 4:17, two closely connected meanings: one who believes firmly, and one who may be trusted. The second meaning appears in the context the more natural: “I have no infallible direction, coming from the Lord, to give you. But through the grace shown to me, I find myself in a position to give you a good advice.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:40.

Hence it follows that Paul does not give the counsel immediately to be mentioned in virtue of his apostolic authority, but as a simple Christian. The words are very instructive, as showing with what precision he distinguished apostolical inspiration from Christian inspiration in general, making the former not only the highest degree, but something specifically different from the second. He thus, with a consciousness perfectly assured, traced the limit between what he had directly received by way of revelation, with a view to his apostolic teaching, and what he himself deduced from Christian premisses by his own reflections, as any believer may do under the guidance of the Spirit. We thus see what is implied in his view by the title of apostle, under the guarantee of which he places the contents of his Epistles. He was not of the mind as is sought to persuade the Church in our day that his gospel was only the result of his meditations and researches.

After this preface, he states the advice he has to give.

Verses 25-31

Vers. 25-31: The present state of things.

Verses 25-40

Vers. 25-40.

In this third part of the chapter, the apostle discusses the question of marriage as it relates to virgins ( 1Co 7:25-38 ), adding at the end a word in regard to widows ( 1Co 7:39-40 ). No doubt in the first part of the chapter ( 1Co 7:1-9 ) he was occupied with the formation of the marriagebond, and it might appear that the question of the marriage of virgins comes under this head. But the grounds which he had made good in this passage, as to celibates, widowers, and widows, did not altogether apply to virgins; and then, according to ancient custom, it was the father who decided the lot of these last. Hence Paul reserved to himself the opportunity of addressing parents on this subject in a separate passage. The advice which he gives, and then develops, is this: Parents, if circumstances allow it, will be right in preferring celibacy for their daughters ( 1Co 7:25-26 ), and that for these two reasons: the difficulties of the present situation ( 1Co 7:27-31 ); the advantage which will accrue from it to their Christian activity ( 1Co 7:32-38 ).

Verse 26

Vv. 26 therefore embraces two propositions, the first of which contains the particular counsel called for by the circumstances, the second the indication of the general preference to be given to celibacy. It is these two propositions which are taken up again and developed in the sequel, the first in 1 Corinthians 7:27-31, the second in 1 Corinthians 7:32-38.

Verses 27-28

Vv. 27, 28. “Thou art bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed; thou art loosed from a wife, seek not a wife. 28. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned; nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh; but I would spare you.”

The apostle would not, however, have 1 Corinthians 7:26 a understood in the sense of a moral superiority granted to celibacy. He therefore expressly repeats what he had said in 1 Corinthians 7:10 (from a somewhat different standpoint): He who is bound, whether as affianced or as married, ought not, with a view to realizing a higher sanctity, to break the bond. I do not think that there is ground for restricting the application of these first words to the affianced, as Hofmann does.

If one were to take the term λέλυσαι , art thou loosed, in the strictness of the letter, it would apply only to widowers and those divorced. But the context proves that, as Origen had already understood it, the word here signifies in general: If thou art free from bond, and that it refers also to celibates.

Vv. 28 is meant to prevent a misunderstanding to which the second part of 1Co 7:27 might give rise. What Paul says here is not a command; if one act differently he will not sin.

The form ἐὰν καί evidently means, as in 1Co 7:11 ; 1 Corinthians 7:21, if therewith, if nevertheless, and not though.

On the two forms γήμῃς and γαμήσῃς , see on 1 Corinthians 7:9. Edwards remarks that if we read γαμήσῃς , we have here the two forms in the same verse.

The flesh strictly denotes the organ of physical sensibility; but the meaning of the word extends very often to moral sensibility.

The term trouble, literally, tribulation, must denote the same thing as the present necessity, 1 Corinthians 7:26, so: the state of permanent conflict in which the Church is with the world till the perfect establishment of the kingdom of God. As long as this state of things shall last, Christian parents who are tender and faithful will have to suffer much for themselves and for their children in a community which is strange to God. The οἱ τοιοῦτοι denotes those who marry in spite of this counsel.

There is a sort of paternal solicitude in the words, but I spare you. The path of celibacy which he recommends will be that in which they shall have least to suffer. St. Augustine makes a singular mistake in giving these words the meaning: “I spare you the enumeration of the troubles of family life.”

But, in all that precedes, Paul has not yet gone to the root of the matter. What is of importance is not: marrying or not marrying; but a habit of soul in keeping with the situation indicated above. And as in 1Co 7:17-24 he had extended his point of view and generalized the question, so as better to justify his counsel to remain in their present state, so in 1Co 7:29-31 he explains, while applying it to various analogous cases, his true view in regard to celibacy and marriage in present circumstances.

Verses 29-31

Vv. 29-31. “But this I mean, brethren, the time is henceforth limited, that they even that have wives be as though they had none; 30. and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31. and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”

The formula τοῦτο δὲ φημί , which begins 1 Corinthians 7:29, does not announce a simple explanation, as a τοῦτο λέγω would do. The term φημί has a certain solemnity: “Now here is my real view, the most essential thing which I have to declare to you.”

By the address: brethren, he draws near to them as if to gain an entrance into their minds for this decisive thought, with the particular applications they are to draw from it, each for himself. If, with T. R., we should read ὅτι before ὁ καιρός , it would require to be translated by because, and τοῦτο referred to what precedes ( 1Co 7:28 ); but the following sentence would become extremely heavy, on account of the two conjunctions ὅτι and ἵνα , which follow one another. We must therefore reject ὅτι . The participle συνεσταλμένος (from συστέλλειν , to furl sails, to pack luggage, to reduce into small volume, to shorten a syllable, etc.) may be taken either in the moral sense (straitened, pressed with trouble, 1Ma 3:6 ; 2Ma 6:12 ), or in the literal sense (reduced to small volume, concentrated, abridged). As the first meaning cannot well apply except to persons, the second is here preferable; only it must be remarked that Paul does not use the word χρόνος , which denotes time in respect of its duration, but καιρός , time in respect of its character, season, opportunity. The apostle therefore means not that the present epoch will embrace a greater or less number of years, but that the character of the epoch is its being contained between precise limits which do not admit of its being extended indefinitely. These limits are, on the one side, the coming of Christ which took place recently, and on the other, His coming again, which may be expected any hour, and which will be the close of the καιρός . There is therefore no longer anything assured in the present existence of the world; it is profoundly compromised since the coming of Christ, who created thenceforth a higher sphere of existence; hence it follows that human life has no longer a future, except one limited and precarious; comp. Philippians 3:20: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We are in the last hour ( ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστί , 1Jn 2:18 ), of which no one knows how long it will last ( Mar 13:32 ); for that depends on God, and also in part on the faithfulness of the Church, and on the conduct of the unbelieving world.

Of the three readings which we have given in the note, that of the T. R., supported by three Byz., signifies: “The time is limited as to what remains, that...” The reading of the four older Mjj. signifies: “The time is limited, that for the future ( τὸ λοιπόν )...” That is to say, that the time for the future ought to be otherwise used than it has been in the past. The third, that of F G, signifies: “The time is limited; it remains (it follows therefrom) that...” This last ought to be rejected without hesitation; for the expression λοιπὸν ἵνα cannot signify: it follows that. In the Alex. reading we must accept the inversion of the τὸ λοιπόν , and bring it into the proposition of ἵνα . The emphasis put by this construction on τὸ λοιπόν is justified no doubt by the contrast between the remaining future and the past which has already elapsed. But the inversion is harsh, and the first reading, that of the Byz., seems to me preferable. Its meaning is very simple: “The time is limited as to what remains.” The time which mankind have yet to pass is limited by the coming of Christ. And so, whereas unbelievers regard the world as sure to last indefinitely, the Christian has always before his eyes the great expected fact, the Parousia; hence there arises in him a wholly new attitude of soul, that which the apostle characterizes in the following words. The: in order that, shows that this new attitude of the heart is willed of God as the proper consequence of the character assigned to the present epoch. We must take care not to make the ἵνα depend on the verb φημί : “ I declare this to you in order that...” This inward disposition of believers springs much more naturally from the character of the epoch in which they live, than from Paul's declaration, which is addressed only to some of them. The anticipation of Christ's coming is that which transforms the mode of regarding and treating all earthly positions.

The καί , which follows ἵνα , should be translated by even: Even the married ought in their attitude of soul to return to the state of celibates. By their detachment from the things of this earth, which are about to fail them, and their attachment to Christ, who is coming again, they recover that state of inward independence which they lost by marrying. Externally bound, they become free again as to their moral attitude; comp. the slave, 1 Corinthians 7:22 a.

Vv. 30. Here is depicted the spiritual detachment in its application to the various situations of life. As nothing in this world has more than a waiting character, the afflicted believer will not be swayed by his pain; he will say to himself: It is no more worth the trouble! The man who is visited by joy will not be intoxicated by it; he will say to himself: It is but for a moment. He who buys, will not seize and hold the object he has got too keenly ( κατέχειν , to hold firmly); for he will look upon himself as always ready to give it up. It is not meant that the believer will not rejoice or be afflicted or care for what he has. But, as Edwards well says: “Excess is prevented, not by the diminution of the joy or of the grief, but by the harmony of both. Joy and grief becoming more profound harmonize in a sadness full of joy and a joy full of sadness.”

Vv. 31. The phrase using this world is a formula in which are embraced marriage, property, commerce, political, scientific, and artistic activity. The believer may use these things, provided it is constantly in a spirit which is master of itself, detached from everything, looking only to Christ.

It is a mistake here to translate the term καταχρῆσθαι in the sense of abusing; for there never is for any one a time of abusing. To the notion of the simple χρῆσθαι , to make use of, the preposition κατά adds, as in the preceding verb, a shade of tenacity, carnal security, false independence. He who uses the world, in these different domains, while keeping his eye constantly fixed on the future, ought to preserve the same inward calm as one might who had broken with the whole train of earthly affairs. The Alex. read the regimen in the accusative ( τὸν κόσμον ); this construction is found only in the later Greek, and that with the compound καταχρῆσθαι . The last words justify the disposition of detachment which the apostle recommends. They do not express merely the commonplace thought: that visible things are transitory in their nature. Undoubtedly Edwards is right in saying: “Every change proves that the end will come;” but we must not forget that this proposition is connected by γάρ , for, with the preceding: “The time is limited.” This relation obliges us to apply the παράγει , passeth away, to the near coming of the Lord, who will transform the present fashion of the world, that is to say, of external nature and human society. The term τὸ σχῆμα , the fashion, the external state of a thing, proves that the world itself will not disappear, but that it will take on a new mode of existence and development; comp. Rom 8:19-22 and Matthew 19:28.

The apostle has just developed the term the present distress (1 Corinthians 7:26 a), and expounded the reason for the preference to be given to celibacy for virgins, taken from present circumstances. He passes to the more general reason stated in 1 Corinthians 7:26 b: “It is good in itself for man so to be.”

Verses 32-33

Vv. 32, 33. “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, [seeking] how he may please the Lord. 33. But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, [seeking] how he may please his wife.”

The subject is no longer merely the exceptional anxieties which the education and care of a family may cause parents, in a time dangerous for the Church. Paul has especially in view here the moral difficulties which the conjugal relation brings with it at all times. The δέ is the transition from the one of these ideas to the other. The term, ἄγαμος , unmarried, includes, as in 1 Corinthians 7:8, bachelors and widowers. With the view of illustrating the general truth which he would apply to virgins, the apostle shows first that it applies also to men. The affirmation: careth for the things of the Lord, is not absolute. It is not always so, it is true; but nothing prevents the Christian celibate from acting thus.

Verses 32-38

Vers. 32-38: The general suitableness of celibacy.

Verse 33

Vv. 33. The aorist γαμήσας signifies: from the time he is married. The step once taken, what follows is the necessary result. But it is no blame which Paul thereby throws on marriage; it is a fact which he states to justify the greater difficulty a married man experiences in realizing in this state entire fidelity to the Lord. The unmarried man has only one question to put to Himself: how shall I act to please the Lord? The married man is obliged to take into account another will than that of the Lord and his own, a will which he should consult and which must be gained for his plans. There are, besides, earthly interests to manage; for they concern the future of her who shares with him the burden of the family. This care is not a sin, otherwise marriage would be a morally defective state; it is a sacred obligation, a duty at once of delicacy and justice, which the husband contracted by marriage. With the same measure of fidelity, the married man will therefore have a double difficulty to surmount, from which the celibate is exempt, that of getting his wife to accept the moral decisions which he feels bound to take, and that of not sacrificing his Christian walk to the earthly fortune of his family. These reflections are true, practical, sensible, in accordance with the experience of life, and they do not in the least justify the charge brought against the apostle of degrading marriage. If the married believer comes out of these difficulties victorious, he will not be either more or less holy than the unmarried believer.

All this is only an introduction; in the following verses, the apostle reaches the subject strictly so called; for it is of virgins he is now speaking.

Verse 34

Vv. 34. “The married woman also is divided. The unmarried virgin careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, [seeking] how she may please her husband.”

The text, at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7:34, has been extraordinarily handled and re-handled. This arises, no doubt, from the uncertainty which copyists felt in regard to the verb μεμέρισται , is divided. Should it be made the end of 1 Corinthians 7:33, or the beginning of 1Co 7:34 ? On this there depended also in part the question of the καί ( and) before the verb. The verb may certainly be connected with the preceding sentence; in this case it ought to be preceded by καί : “He who is married cares for the things of the world, how he may please his wife; and he is divided (in himself).” It will be objected that such an addition destroys the parallelism with 1 Corinthians 7:32; but there was no observation to be made on the result of the harmony between the will of the celibate and that of the Lord, whereas it is otherwise in the case of 1 Corinthians 7:33. This meaning is that adopted by Neander, Hofmann, Edwards, Lachmann, Westcott, and Hort. Only one cannot help asking why the apostle did not likewise add an analogous reflection when concluding the case of the married woman in 1 Corinthians 7:34. The parallelism between the two members of the sentence is rigorous, and seemed to demand it. It is better, therefore, to join the verb μεμέρισται (with or without the καί ) to 1 Corinthians 7:34. But in this case, what is the subject of the verb is divided? And how are we to read and punctuate the following words? One reading gives the epithet ἡ ἄγαμος , unmarried, twice, first after the word ἡ γυνή , the woman, and then after the word ἡ παρθένος , the virgin; another, only after the first of these words; a third, only after the second. Not only does the majority of the documents support this third reading; but its representatives are found in the three families of Mjj., and the two oldest versions testify in its favour, so that we ought to receive it as the most probable. The true text seems to us to be: Μεμέρισται καὶγυνὴ [ καὶ b ἡ παρθένοςἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ ...But the question is, how far we are to extend the subject of μεμέρισται , is divided. Many think that the subject is double: Both the wife and the virgin are divided. Then the new sentence would begin with ἡ ἄγαμος , the unmarried. We should require to take the verb is divided in the sense of is different (so Chrysostom, Luther, Mosheim, etc.), or, what comes to nearly the same thing, in the sense of going in opposite directions (Theodoret, Meyer, Beet): “There is a difference between the wife and the unmarried woman.” But after the idea of a division of the same person by opposite cares had been so forcibly advanced in 1 Corinthians 7:33, it is unnatural to give to the verb μερίζεσθαι , to be divided, the sense of to differ, all the more that the verb is in the singular, and that, notwithstanding all Meyer's subtle explanations, one would expect the plural ( μερίζονται ), as is shown by the paraphrase of Theodoret, who instinctively falls into the plural ( μεμερισμέναι εἰσὶ ταῖς σπουδαῖς ). This verb in the singular can only apply to one whole divided into several parts (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:13; Mark 3:25-26, etc.). Although, then, the Latin and Syriac versions, and almost all the Latin Fathers give this meaning, it appears to me difficult to accept it.

There remains, as it seems to me, only one possible explanation: that which assigns to μεμέρισται as its subject the following term only: the woman, ἡ γυνή , reading the καί : The woman also is divided (evidently the married woman). 1Co 7:33 had just shown the married man divided within himself by different anxieties. It is absolutely the same with the married woman, adds the apostle; and he establishes it in the sequel of the verse, presenting first by way of contrast the description of the virgin who consents to remain so. The beginning of the following proposition is therefore ἡ παρθένος , the virgin. The καί before this word ought either to be understood in the sense of also (like the bachelor, 1Co 7:17 ), or rejected. It may easily have been added under the influence of the widespread interpretation which made the following substantive a second subject of μεμέρισται .

The apostle forcibly brings out the contrast between the married woman who is inwardly divided, and the virgin whose happy inward harmony the apostle proceeds to point out. The apposition ἡ ἄγαμος , the unmarried, is not a pleonasm; it signifies: “the virgin who remains unmarried.” She takes counsel only of the will of the Lord, without being obliged to put herself at one with the will of a human master; she has consequently only one perfectly simple aim to pursue, that which is indicated by the ἵνα , in order that, which follows. The word ἁγία , holy, is equivalent here to the term consecrated, that is to say, entirely devoted in her body and spirit to the service of the Lord. As to the words: in her body, we must compare 1 Corinthians 7:4, where it is said of the married woman that she has not power over her own body. As to the spirit, compare what follows, where it is said of the married woman that she is under obligation to take account of her husband's will, as well as of earthly necessities. It is an ideal full of nobleness and purity which floats before the eyes of the apostle, when he thus describes the life of the Christian virgin being able to give herself up, without the least distraction, to the task which the Lord assigns her. He will give scope to this impression still more fully in 1 Corinthians 7:35. In the last proposition of the verse, the apostle returns to the other alternative, that of marriage, and develops the first words of the verse: The woman is divided. The aor. γαμήσασα signifies: from the moment when she did the act of marrying. In English we should rather join these two propositions by a conjunction: “While the virgin cares for...the married woman cares for...”

Verse 35

Vv. 35. “And this I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”

Paul feels the need of defending himself from the charge which might be brought against him of giving scope to an individual preference, and of letting his private position influence his directions as an apostle. In all that he has just said, he has had in view nothing but the real advantage of those who have consulted him: the simplest and easiest possible consecration of their whole life to the Lord, without any concern to divert them from it.

The word βρόχος denotes the noose thrown in the chase to capture game. Some have thought that Paul meant that while thus recommending celibacy, he did not seek to make them fall into impurity. But would he have needed to set aside such a suspicion? The figure of throwing a net over them contains a wholly different idea: “I do not claim to make slaves of you, to hamper your liberty by forcing you to live to my taste, and according to my personal sympathies; but this is what I have in view.” And he then expounds the ideal of Christian celibacy in the elevated and pure light in which he contemplates it, that is to say, as a state of supreme comeliness through the consecration of body and spirit to the Lord.

Τὸ εὔσχημον denotes perfect fitness. Natural innocence raised to heavenly saintship through union with Christ, such, in the eyes of the apostle, is the incomparable adornment of the virgin. This first term refers to state; the second rather to action. The reading by far most widely spread is εὐπάρεδρον , a term compounded of three words: ἕζομαι , I seat myself; παρά , by the side of, and εὖ , well, honourably. The word therefore calls up the figure of a person nobly seated at the Lord's side. But two Byz. documents read, the one εὐπρόσεδρον , the other πρόσεδρον , an expression if possible still more beautiful, the preposition πρός adding to the idea of παρά , beside, that of being turned toward ( Joh 1:1 ): the state, that is, of a person seated beside the Lord, with his eye turned to Him. Of the two adjectives πάρεδρος and πρόσεδρος , the most frequently used is πάρεδρος ; it is translated by assessor, colleague, disciple, etc. The word πρόσεδρος scarcely figures in Greek literature; a reason for giving it the preference, all the more that to the idea of assiduity it adds a notion of tenderness which is foreign to the other. Let us add that in Hellenistic Greek, which must have been especially familiar to the apostle, the use of the word προσεδρία is established to denote assiduity ( 3Ma 4:15 ). These reasons will have some weight with those who think that in view of the different texts they ought to preserve their liberty of judgment.

The neuter of the two adjectives may be regarded as the equivalent of the verb in the infinitive (with the article); only by the form which the apostle chooses the act becomes in a sense a quality inherent in the subject.

The εὖ , well, in the two adjectives, expresses the propriety, the dignity, the moral beauty of this position, and of the activity of the Christian virgin; here is the excellence, the καλόν , of celibacy, the utility, the συμφέρον of which has been described in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35. Finally, the adverb so full of gravity, ἀπερισπάστως , literally, without dragging in different directions, without distractions, closes this development with a last word which sums it up in its entirety; comp. the ἕως ἄρτι , 1 Corinthians 4:13. The term reminds us of the double solicitude which divides the heart of the married woman: on the one side, concern for the will of the Lord; on the other, concern about the will of her husband and the exigencies of the world.

It is difficult to think that Paul, in writing these exquisite lines on the position of the young Christian, had not in view the picture drawn, Luke 10:39-42, of Mary of Bethany seated at the Saviour's feet and hearing His words. As has been pointed out, the μεριμνᾷ of Paul ( 1Co 7:34 ) corresponds to the μεριμνᾷς of Luke, the εὐπρόσεδρον to the παρακαθίσασα , and the ἀπερισπάστως to the περιεσπᾶτο and the τυρβάζῃ .

The apostle has concluded the exposition of his reasons. The present excellence of celibacy for the virgin arises from the greater facility of life which it will procure for her; and to this advantage another is added, which belongs to the state of celibacy in general: the perfect simplicity of the task for which the unmarried Christian lives.

From these considerations Paul finally draws the practical conclusion. He puts two cases, as he had done in regard to married Christians, 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:15, and gives his decision as to the one ( 1Co 7:36 ), and as to the other ( 1Co 7:37 ); after which he sums up his judgment ( 1Co 7:38 ).

The first case:

Verse 36

Vv. 36. “But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry.”

Paul introduces his advice by δέ , but, because this counsel is in contrast to the thought expressed, 1 Corinthians 7:35. The antithesis of ἀσχημονεῖν to τὸ εὔσχημον is manifest.

The verb ἀσχημονεῖν may have the active or passive sense: to behave uncomely toward any one, or: to be the object of unsuitable treatment. Of these two meanings the first only agrees with the preposition ἐπί which follows, and which indicates the object of the action; comp. also 1 Corinthians 13:5. But it might be a question whether the verb should not be taken here in an impersonal sense: “that there is no uncomeliness for his virgin.” I know no example of this usage; but the if she pass the age, which has embarrassed Hofmann, would fall in better with this meaning than with the active sense. The proposition ἐὰν ᾖ would then be the logical subject of ἀσχημονεῖν . Several commentators (de Wette, Meyer, Edwards even) think that the dishonour of which Paul speaks is that which the virgin contracts by allowing herself to be drawn into evil. But the apostle's thought is far removed from such a supposition; and he would have expressed it by saying: “if any one fears,” and not: “if any one thinks. ” He is speaking solely of that sort of shame which attached to the position of spinster, still more among the ancients than among us; comp. Psalms 78:63, and a passage quoted by Heinrici (p. 213).

With the words: “If she pass the flower of her age” ( ὑπέρακμος ), we must, of course, understand without marrying.

The meaning of the word οὕτως , thus, so, is explained by the beginning of the verse and by the contrast to 1 Corinthians 7:26; it is the state of marriage, whereas in 1Co 7:26 the context would show that it was the state of celibacy. Hofmann, after Theophylact, makes the proposition καὶ οὕτως the principal one: “If any one..., well! so it must be.” But there would be a glaring tautology with the three following propositions, and there would be no ground for the καί . The καί here signifies, and consequently. The ὀφείλει , it must be, follows first from the father's judgment, determined by the general prejudice, and next from the circumstances (the desire of the daughter and mother) which press in favour of a consent, which nothing but the firmly opposed conviction of the father could prevent. Under these conditions, things must take their course.

In what follows the apostle means: “He might, no doubt, have done better for his child's happiness; but he has not made himself liable to any reproach.” Holsten thinks that the subject of ἁμαρτάνει is the virgin; but it is the father who is regarded as acting throughout the whole passage.

The subject of γαμείτωσαν , let them marry, is, quite naturally, the virgin and the young man who asks her in marriage. For there is no reason to suppose that the apostle is alluding, as Rückert has thought, to a definite couple, about whom the Corinthians had addressed a question to him.

The second case:

Verse 37

Vv. 37. “Nevertheless, he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his own heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.”

This long sentence, loaded with incidental propositions, fully represents all the turnings which the father's original wish will have to take in order to reach at length a definite conclusion. This whole domestic drama has for its point of departure a firm conviction, already formed in the father's mind, that celibacy is preferable to marriage for his child; ἕστηκεν ἑδραῖος , he has become and remains firm. The participle μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην , not underlying constraint, qualifies the finite verb ἕστηκεν ; it therefore signifies, the father has become and remains firm because there is nothing to hamper his liberty, neither the fear of opinion nor the character and indomitable will of the virgin, nor too ardent a wish on the part of the mother. The second finite verb ἔχει is not parallel to the μὴ ἔχειν ; the construction, which has nothing irregular, gives it as its subject simply the ὅς , the subject of the first verb. After measuring himself with all the difficulties of the situation, and finding none of them insurmountable, the father remains master of his own deliberate will, and may thus here is the third verb at length take the final resolution henceforth to refuse every offer for his daughter. These long circumlocutions do not at all suppose in him an arbitrary will which takes account of nothing but itself. On the contrary, they imply the fact that before taking the final decision, everything has been heard, examined, weighed.

The art. τοῦ before τηρεῖν is omitted in the Alex. reading. It presents a difficulty, which speaks in favour of its authenticity, as Meyer acknowledges. For the rest, if we take the word τηρεῖν , to keep, in its true sense, the difficulty vanishes, and the τοῦ , which expresses an aim, finds an explanation. In fact, the verb to keep does not signify, to maintain his daughter as a virgin (making παρθένον an attribute), but to keep her for the end to which she is consecrated (the service of Christ). Hence it follows that the act τηρεῖν is not an explanatory apposition to τοῦτο , this, which was clear enough of itself, but a definition of the end: “and who has decided this in his heart (not to marry his daughter), with a view to keeping her.”

The words τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον , literally, “ the virgin belonging to himself,” the object of τηρεῖν (see 1Co 7:36 ), express the feeling of solicitude which guides this father: “the cherished being who has been providentially confided to him.”

The principal sentence, which consists of only two words, contrasts by its brevity with the whole series of parentheses which have preceded. It is the simple fact in which all the anterior deliberations issue. Must we read with the Alex. ποιήσει , will do, or, with the other Mjj. and the two ancient versions, Itala and Peschito, ποιεῖ , doeth? Meyer himself abandons the Alex. reading, and rightly. The present agrees better with the parallel term οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει , sinneth not, of 1 Corinthians 7:36. The future has probably been imported here from the following verse, where it has rather fewer authorities against it and more internal probability.

The apostle closes this discussion by the brief and striking summing up of his view:

Verse 38

Vv. 38. “So then he that giveth in marriage doeth well, but he that giveth not in marriage will do better.”

We again find here one of those ὥστε , so that, with which Paul, in this Epistle, loves to formulate his final judgment on a question which he has finished treating.

There is in Greek, before the words he that giveth in marriage, καί , both, which serves to coordinate the subjects of the two parallel propositions: “both...and...” This particle was suggested to Paul, on beginning his sentence, by his feeling of the equality of the two subjects in their doing well, their καλῶς ποιεῖν . But as he proceeds in the expression of his thought, the idea of equality gives place to that of superiority in the second father, and he substitutes at the head of the second proposition, as we have it in the received reading, the δέ , but, which expresses a contrast or a gradation, for the καί , and, which was in his original intention. It is easy to see how the reading of the Byz., notwithstanding its apparent incorrectness, corresponds better with the movement of the apostle's thought than the Alex. and Greco-Latin reading.

There is room for hesitation between the received reading, ἐκγαμίζων , and the Alex. reading, γαμίζων . But there can be little doubt that the words τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον ( א A) or τὴν παρθένον ἑαυτοῦ (B D), his virgin, which are omitted by the T. R., are a gloss. It was easy to add them to fill in the ellipsis of the object, but there was not the slightest reason for rejecting them, if they had existed in the text. Meyer therefore rightly judges that here again the Alex. text is corrupt. There is thus room for supposing that ἐκγαμίζων is the true reading. In any case, it better expresses the feeling of self-deprivation on the part of the father.

The reading of the Vatic. alone, ποιήσει , will do, in the first proposition, is certainly a mistake. On the other hand, the future may well be held to be the true reading in the second proposition, since two other Alex. here agree with the Vatic. It was, no doubt, to complete the parallelism that the future was introduced into this MS. in the preceding member of the sentence, and even by some into 1 Corinthians 7:37. The present was preferable in 1 Corinthians 7:37, which contained a general maxim. But here there is something prophetic, and consequently encouraging, in the future: “This father will see that he has taken the better course.”

This well and better sum up the whole chapter. The well proves that in the eyes of Paul there is neither defilement nor even inferiority of holiness in marriage, and that the better is uttered by him from the prudential point of view, either as to the sufferings avoided or as to the more complete personal liberty for the service of Christ. St. Paul could speak of this position from experience. What would have become of his ministry among the Gentiles on the day when he should have exchanged his independence as a celibate for the duties and troubles of family life? It may be objected, no doubt, that if Paul's principle became a generally observed maxim, the existence of the race would be compromised. But the apostle knew well that Christians will always be a minority in human society, and that among Christians themselves there will not be more than a minority possessing the special gift of which he spoke in 1 Corinthians 7:7.

Verses 39-40

Vers. 39, 40: widows.

It has been asked why Paul returns to widows, after having already given in 1Co 7:8-9 the direction which concerns them. Reuss supposes that Paul forgot what he had said in these verses, or that he judged it suitable to inculcate it anew. But in the verses quoted, Paul had only spoken of widows jointly with celibates and widowers. Now their social position was so far different from that of the latter, that he might judge it necessary to add a special explanation regarding them. According to ancient ideas, there was no doubt as to the legitimacy of a second marriage for widowers; but it was otherwise with widows. It is known how much perseverance in widowhood was honoured among the Jews; comp. Luke 2:36-37; from this to the condemnation of a second marriage was not far. And we also know that among the heathen a sort of contempt was expressed for the mulier multarum nuptiarum, and that they went the length of inscribing this title of honour on the tombstone of a woman: univira. In the second century of the Church we hear even Athenagoras call a second marriage, whether of man or woman, a decent adultery. Probably, therefore, among the questions put to the apostle in regard to marriage, there was one which bore on this particular point. The general answer given ( 1Co 7:8-9 ) required, therefore, to be more specialized and confirmed; and this answer being only a particular application of all that he had just expounded in regard to virgins, could not be placed elsewhere than here. The only difference on this point between virgins and widows is, that in the case of widows everything is referred to their own wish, without any more question of the father's.

Vv. 39, 40. “A wife is bound as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord. 40. But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgment. Now I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”

Γυνή , without article: a wife in opposition to a virgin,

Is bound: to her husband, as long as he liveth. The regimen νόμῳ , by the law, has no doubt been borrowed from Romans 7:2.

Paul limits the liberty which he concedes to the widow by the restriction, only in the Lord. In this context the meaning of the words can only be: on the basis of communion with Christ, consequently with a member of the Christian society. This is the meaning now generally held. The words would be superfluous, if we made them signify, with Chrysostom, Calvin, and others: honourably and piously. Reuss objects to the meaning, “with a Christian,” that the same reservation should have been made also in the case of virgins. But in regard to the latter Paul had not said: to whom she will. For in that case there was the paternal will which watched over their lot.

Vv. 40. By the word happier the apostle sums up the two reasons, the one general, the other particular, whereby from 1Co 7:25 he had justified his preference given to celibacy for the Christian virgin. There is therefore no question of a superior holiness in this world, or a more glorious position in the next, attributed to this state.

The apostle on this point does not arrogate more to himself than a view, an advice, the value of which every one can appraise at his pleasure. It is evident how far he was removed from that exaltation which makes fanatics take all their ideas for revelations. Nevertheless he certainly claims an inspiration, such as that which all Christians share, and consequently he traces to the direction of the Divine Spirit the advice which he has just expressed. But we must beware, as we have already said, 1 Corinthians 7:10, of concluding from this, with several (comp. in particular Reuss, p. 197), that he did not claim, besides this, revelations of a wholly special kind, going beyond what was granted to the Church in general. In other cases he is careful to affirm, in regard to directions which he gives, that they proceed from the Lord; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:37, and also the expression 1 Corinthians 7:17. If he thus expresses himself in connection with simple directions about public worship or Christian practice, how much more conscious was he of being the organ of a Divine revelation of a wholly personal kind when the matter in question was the very essence of his religious teaching, his gospel! We are led, therefore, to distinguish here three degrees of authority, 1. The direct commands of the Lord, which He gave during His sojourn on the earth, and which Paul merely quotes without discussing their grounds ( 1Co 7:10 ). 2. The apostolic commands of the apostle, which are imposed on Churches subject to his jurisdiction, and which he gives them as the organ of a higher illumination attached to his special mission. As to these he is careful to expound their reasons, being unwilling to ask his brethren to give a blind obedience ( 1Co 7:12-17 ); comp. 1 Corinthians 10:15. 1 Corinthians 10:3. The directions which he gives as a simple Christian, which he himself declares to be purely optional, and which he leaves to the judgment of every believer ( 1Co 7:25 ). Far from confounding these different degrees, and assimilating, for example, the second with the third, we should recognise and admire the precision with which the apostle distinguished them and could draw the practical consequences of the distinction.

The word δοκῶ , I think, is not in the least, as Chrysostom and others have thought, a modest way of affirming his inspiration. It is evidently, especially if account be taken of the κἀγώ , I also, an ironical expression: “Now I hope, however, even if my apostolical authority is disputed among you, that you will not deny to me the possession of the Divine Spirit, such as you recognise in all Christians, and specially in the numerous spiritual guides to whom you give your confidence” ( 1Co 4:15 ).

There are few chapters of the apostle which have drawn down on him such severe judgments.

In connection with the passage 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, it has been asserted that his morality itself was “the plaything of a shortsighted Christology.” What we have found in the passage are practical directions in which St. Paul takes account of the relation between the world and the Church on to the Parousia, a relation which may in the course of time be more or less strained, but which in any case renders it always difficult for Christian spouses to educate and guide a family. What pious parents have not had painful experience of the fact? In truth, the apostle did not foresee the armistice which would be established for a time between the two hostile societies; but the conflict between the opposing principles which animate them has never ceased, and, in proportion as the last times approach, it will again become more and more what it was in apostolic times. Paul's ethics do not therefore depend on a chronological error; they rest on the just appreciation of the Church's position in the world down to the coming of the Lord.

It is objected to this same passage that every believer is placed in it face to face with the Parousia, as if this event were to terminate his own life. But, in speaking thus, Paul only does what the Lord Himself did. Jesus very expressly set aside the idea of the nearness of His return (Matthew 25:5; Mark 13:35; Luke 12:45; Luke 13:18-21; Luke 21:24; Matthew 24:14; comp. Mar 13:32 ); and yet this is how He speaks to His disciples ( Luk 12:36 ): “Be ye like men looking for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.” This is because, in fact, death is to every believer a personal and anticipated Parousia. The saying of Jesus is therefore for all on to the last day a moral truth, but this truth is only relative, till the promise be accomplished in its strict sense to the last generation. So it is with the sayings of Paul.

Again, it has been alleged that Paul here taught the religious and moral superiority of celibacy, and while some have praised him for so doing, others have sharply reprimanded him. His accusers charge him with nothing less than putting himself in manifest contradiction to the saying of Jesus, which he quotes himself, and to God; and what is more astonishing is, that they claim to be thereby doing no violence to his apostolic infallibility. Indeed, does not Paul himself declare that he is here speaking as a simple Christian, not as an organ of Divine revelation?

But is it credible that Paul, an intelligent man, should not have noticed the contradictions between his advice and the declarations of God and of Jesus Christ, while the author of the writing quoted discerned them so easily? Or that Paul, having seen these contradictions, should have audaciously faced them, and that without even attempting to say a word to resolve them? The fact is, that all that the author writes on this subject proceeds on the erroneous opinion, that Paul ascribes a superiority in holiness to celibacy. This is what he does not do for an instant, as we have seen, not even in the passage 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.

Sabatier, in l'Apôtre Paul, p. 142, has reproduced, as Reuss and Scherer had done, the judgment of Baur, according to which Paul had formed at this period a gross idea of the conjugal bond. “In the Epistles of the captivity,” says he, “we shall see St. Paul reaching a broader appreciation of marriage and of domestic life.” We shall set over against this judgment the views of a very independent-minded German critic, Heinrici, who thus expresses himself (p. 136): “We have here ( 1Co 7:14 ) the proof that the apostle recognises the moral character of marriage and of its relation to the kingdom of God.” If with this verse we join 1Co 7:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:3, it will be seen which of the two judgments is based on the facts. To save, to sanctify, such is certainly the higher end of the marriage union from the Christian point of view, according to the author of the Epistles to the Corinthians.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/1-corinthians-7.html.