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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

1 Corinthians 7

Verses 1-99

7:1-40. MARRIAGE AND ITS PROBLEMS

We here begin the second main division of the Epistle, if the Introduction (1:1-9) is not counted. The Apostle, in a preamble (1-7), points out that marriage is a contract, and the normal relations must be maintained, unless both parties agree to suspend them. Ideally, celibacy may be better, but that is not for every one. Then (8-40) he gives advice to different classes. Superius (5, 6) locutus fuerat de illicitis; nunc vero (7) loquitur de licitis (Atto).

7:1-7. Celibacy is Good, But Marriage is Natural

As you ask me, I prefer my own unmarried condition; but for most of you it is safer to marry, and let husband and wife observe conjugal duty to one another.

1 But now, as to the questions raised in your letter to me. Continence, as you suggest, is doubtless an excellent thing. 2 But this ideal state is not for every one, and, as temptation is inevitable, and abounds at Corinth, the right remedy is that each man should have a wife of his own, and each woman a husband of her own. 3 And the marriage should be complete, each side always rendering to the other what is due. 4 A married woman cannot do as she likes respecting her own person; it is her husband’s. And in the same manner his rights are limited by Heb_5 Abandon the attempt to combine celibacybv with matrimony. When both agree to it, continence for a limited time may be a good thing, if you have the intention of devoting yourselves the better to prayer, and then coming together again. If the time is not limited, you will be giving Satan a permanent opportunity of using your incontinence to your ruin. 6 But I give this advice rather by way of permission and indulgence than of injunction and command. 7 Still, my own personal preference would be that all men should remain unmarried, as I do myself. But people differ, and God’s gifts differ, and each must act as God’s gift directs him.

It is clear from the words with which this section opens that the discussion of the questions which were raised in the letter sent by the Corinthians begins here. In the remaining chapters (7-16) we cannot always be sure whether he is referring to their letter or writing independently of it: but in the first six chapters there are no answers to questions asked by them. With regard to the questions discussed here, it is likely enough that every one of them had been asked in the letter. The Apostle does not write a tract on marriage; it would, no doubt, have been different if he had done so. He takes, without much logical arrangement, and perhaps just in the order in which they had been put to him, certain points which, as we can see, might easily have caused practical difficulty in such a Church as that of Corinth.* In so licentious a city some may easily have urged that the only safe thing to do was to abstain from the company of women altogether, γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι, like those condemned in 1 Timothy 4:3. Or they may have maintained that at any rate second marriages were wrong, and that separation from a heathen partner was necessary. Our Lord’s words (Matthew 19:11, Matthew 19:12), if they were known to the Corinthians, might easily give rise to the belief that marriage was to be discouraged. Quite certainly, some forms of heathen philosophy taught this, and asceticism was in the air before the Gospel was preached. In any case, it is unlikely that disparagement of marriage was a special tenet of any one of the four parties at Corinth. No one has conjectured this of the Apollos party: but for different and very unconvincing reasons different commentators have attributed this tenet to one or other of the three parties. Still, some persons at Corinth had raised the question, “Is marriage to be allowed?” They had not raised the question, “Is marriage to be obligatory?” See Journ. of Th. St., July 1901, pp. 527-538.

1. Περὶ δὲ ὧν�Luke 9:36; John 7:31. Bachmann quotes from papyri, περὶ ὧν ἔγραψας, μελήσει μοι. Note that there is no μοι after ἔραψας, and there is probably no μοι here: א B C 17, Am. RV. omit. The δέ is perhaps merely transitional; but it may intimate that the subject now to be discussed is in opposition to the one which has just been dismissed. He is passing from what is always wrong to what is generally lawful. It is putting too much meaning into the plural verb to say that we may infer from it that the letter was written in the name of the whole Church. It is probable that it was so written; but even if it came from only a few of the members, the Apostle would have to use the plural. There is nothing to show that the words which follow are a quotation from the letter, but they express what seems to have been the tone of it. Having in the two previous chapters warned the Corinthians against the danger of Gentile licentiousness, he here makes a stand against a spirit of Gentile asceticism.

καλὸν�Galatians 4:18. He is not dissuading from marriage or full married life; he is contending that celibacy may be good.* For those who can bear it, it may be a bracing discipline (9:24, 27): but not all can bear it. For ἅπτεσθαι see Genesis 20:6; Proverbs 6:29; and cf. virgo intacta.

2. διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας. The plural (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21) refers to the notoriously frequent cases at Corinth. Atto paraphrases ‘Neque enim ita volo prohibere licita, ut per illicita errent,’ and adds, Nota quia non dicitur, propter propaginem filiorum, sed propter fornicationem. To Christians who believed that the end of the world was very near, the necessity of preserving the human race from extinction would not have seemed a very strong argument.

This passage is sometimes criticized as a very low view of marriage. But the Apostle is not discussing the characteristics of the ideal married life; he is answering questions put to him by Christians who had to live in such a city as Corinth. In a society so full of temptations, he advises marriage, not as the lesser of two evils, but as a necessary safeguard against evil. So far from marriage being wrong, as some Corinthians were thinking, it was for very many people a duty. The man who wrote Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:32, Ephesians 5:33 had no low view of marriage.


ἕκαστος … κ̔κάστη. This forbids polygamy, which was advocated by some Jewish teachers.

τὴν ὲαυτοῦ γυναῖκα … τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα. The Apostle seems always to use ἑαντοῦ, ἑαντῶν, or αὐτοῦ (Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:31, Ephesians 5:33) of a man’s relation to his wife, but ἴδιος (14:35; Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5) of a woman’s to her husband (1 Thessalonians 4:4 is doubtful). Does this show that he regarded the husband as the owner and the wife as being owned? Romans 14:4 somewhat encourages this. But the difference between ἑαντοῦ and ἴδιος was becoming blurred: see J. H. Moulton, Gr. 1. pp. 87 f.; Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 122 f. A few texts omit καὶ ἑκάστη κ.τ.λ.


ἐχέτω. ‘Have,’ not ‘keep,’ as is clear from the use of�

τὴν ὀφειλήν. Not found in LXX, but frequent in papyri in the common sense of debt (Matthew 18:32; Romans 13:7). See Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 221.

ἀποδιδότω. Present imperative: the mutual recognition of conjugal rights is the normal condition, and it is not the conferring of a favour (διδότω), but the payment of a debt �Matthew 22:17, Matthew 22:21.

τὴν ὀφειλὴν (א A B C D E F G P Q 17, Vulg. Copt. Arm. Aeth.) is to be preferred to τὴν ὀφειλημένην εὔνοιαν (K L, Syrr.), or τ. ὀφ. τιμήν (Chrys.), or τ. ὀφ. τιμὴν καὶ εὔνοιαν (40), which may have been euphemisms adopted in public reading. Or they may be ascetic periphrases to obscure the plain meaning of τ. ὀφειλήν. Cf. Romans 8:7.


A, Copt. Arm. omit δέ before καί.

4. ἡ γυνή. It is probably not in order to mark the equality of the sexes that the order is changed: the wife is here mentioned first because she has just been mentioned in the previous verse. Equality between the sexes is indicated by using the same expression respecting both, thus correcting Jewish and Gentile ideas about women.

τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει. The words involve, as Bengel points out, elegans paradoxon. How can it be one’s own if one cannot do as one likes with it? See on 6:12. But in wedlock separate ownership of the person ceases. Neither party can say to the other, ‘Is it not lawful for me (ἔξεστίν μοι) to do what I will with mine own?’ (Matthew 20:15). By pointing out that the aim is to be, not self-gratification, but the fulfilment of a duty which each owes to the other, St Paul partly anticipates the criticism mentioned above. He raises the matter from the physical level to the moral.

5. μὴ�Ecclesiastes 3:5; Joel 2:16; Zechariah 12:12-14:* but it is an exception for certain circumstances, not a rule for all circumstances: illud sane sciendum quia mundae et sanctae bunt nuptiae, quoniam Dei jussu celebrantur (Atto). For ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό cf. 11:20, 14:23; Luke 17:35; Acts 1:15, Acts 1:2:1, 44, 47, Acts 1:4:26; for�Matthew 23:25. Here διὰ τὴν�



The ἄν after ἔι μήτι (or εἰ μή τι) is omitted in B and bracketed by WH. Before τῇ προσευχῇ, KL, Syrr. Goth. Thdrt. insert τῇ νηστείᾳ καί; a manifest interpolation similar to καὶ νηστείᾳ in Mark 9:29, and νηστεύων καί in Acts 10:30. In all three places ascetic ideas seem to have influenced copyists, but the evidence differs in the three cases. In Mark 9:29 the words in question are omitted in א B K, a very strong combination. In Acts 10:30 the words are wanting in א A B C, Vulg. Copt. Arm. Aeth., a much stronger combination. Here the evidence against τῇ ν. καί is overwhelming; א A B C* D* E F G 17, Latt. Copt. Aeth. The case of Matthew 17:21 is not parallel to these three. The whole verse is an interpolation from Mark 9:29 after that passage had already been corrupted by the addition of καί νηστείᾳ. The practice of fasting has sufficient sanction in the N.T. (Matthew 4:2, Matthew 4:6:Matthew 4:16-18, Matthew 4:9:15; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35; Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3, Acts 13:14:23), without introducing it into places where it was not mentioned by the original writers, who, moreover, would not have placed it on the same level with prayer. Fasting is an occasional discipline, prayer an abiding necessity, in the spiritual life. Stanley attributes the readings σχολάζητε (KL) for σχολάσητε (א A B C D, etc,), and συνέρχεσθε or συνέρχησθε (KLP) for ἧτε (א A B C D, etc.) to ascetic influence: σχολάζηνε would refer to general habit, ordinary and not extraordinary prayer, and ἦνε refers to what is usual, not exceptional. In commenting on these words, Origen makes a remark which is of no small liturgical interest. He quotes the case of Ahimelech, who was willing to let David have some of the shew-bread, εἰ πεφυλαγμένα τὰ παιδάριά ἐστιν�1 Samuel 21:4). He assumes οὐκ οἶον δὲ�

This passage is one of the few in N.T. which touch on the private devotions of Christians in the Apostolic age. See Bigg on 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Peter 4:7.


6. τοῦτο δὲ λέγω. It is not clear how much the το͂νο covers; probably the whole of vv. 1-5. The least probable suggestion is that it refers solely to the resumption of married life, καὶ πάλιν κ.τ.λ.

συνγνώμην. ‘Concession,’ or ‘indulgence,’ or ‘allowance.’* The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. and is very rare in LXX.

οὐ κατʼ ἐπιταγήν. ‘Not by way of command’ (2 Corinthians 8:8).

7. θέλω δὲ πάντας. This is in harmony with the καλὸν�Acts 26:29 (ὁποῖος καὶ ἐγώ εἰμε): in both places we have the comparative use of καί, as again in v. 8 and 10:6.


ἀλλά. He admits that his own personal feeling is not decisive; indeed, is not in accordance with conditions of society which have their source in God. Here χάρισμα (see on 1:7) is used in the sense of a special gift of God, a special grace to an individual. Origen points out that if celibacy is a χάρισμα, so also is marriage, and those who forbid marriage forbid what has been given by God.

ὁ μὲν οὕτως. ‘One in this direction and one in that.’ The recognition that opposite courses may each of them be right for different individuals is more fully drawn out Romans 14:1-12: and see Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10. We have οὕτως … οὕτως, Judges 18:4; Jdg_2 Sam, 11:25, 17:15: it is not classical.

We perphaps understand the Apostle’s wish better if we assume that it refers, not so much to the fact of remaining unmarried, as to the possession of the gift of continence, without which it was disastrous to remain unmarried. God had given him this gift, and he wishes that all men had it: but it does not follow that every man who has this gift is bound to a life of celibacy. In the Apostle’s day (v. 26) the χάρισμα of continency was specially valuable. Cf. Matthew 19:11.


We must read θέλω δέ (א* A C D* F G 17, Am. Copt., Orig.) rather than θέλω γάρ (B D2 K L P, Syrr. Arm. Aeth.). The δέ marks a slight opposition to the concession just mentioned. That concession is not his own ideal; ‘I rather wish that all men were as I myself also am.’ Failure to see this has caused the substitution of γάρ for δέ.

K L, Arm. have χάρισμα before ἔχει: ἔχει χάρισμα is doubtless right: so also ὁ μὲν … δ̔ δέ (א* A B C D F P) rather than ὅς μὲν … ὅς δέ (א3 K L).

7:8-40. Advice to Different Classes

To the unmarried or widowed, to the married where both parties are Christians, to the married where one of the two is a heathen, I would advise, as a rule, that you should remain as you are, or as you were when you became Christians. The same principle would apply to circumcision, and also to slavery; but an opportunity for emancipation may be accepted.

8 To the unmarried and to widows I affirm it to be an excellent thing for them, if they should continue to remain single, as I also remain. 9 If, however, they have not the special gift of self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to be on fire. 10 But to those who have married as Christians I give a charge—and it is really not my charge, but Christ’s—that a wife is not to seek divorce from her husband. 11 But if unhappily she does do this, she must remain single, or else be reconciled to her husband. In like manner a man is not to divorce his wife.

12 To those whose cases are not covered by these directions I have this to say; and I say it as my own advice, not as Christ’s command: if any member of the Church has a wife who is not a believer, and she consents to live with him, let him not divorce her; 13 and if a wife has a husband who is not a believer, and he consents to live with her, let her not divorce her husband. 14 And for this reason: the consecration of the believing partner is not cancelled by union with an unbeliever. On the contrary, the unbelieving partner is sanctified through union with a believer. If this were not so, the children would be left in heathen uncleanness; whereas in fact, as the offspring of a Christian parent, they are holy. 15 But if, on the other hand, the unbelieving partner insists on a separation, separation let there be. No servile bondage to a heathen yoke deprives a Christian man or woman of freedom in such cases. There need be no scruples, no prolonged conflict with the unbeliever who demands separation: it is in peace of mind that we have been placed by our calling as Christians. 16 For how can you tell, O wife, whether, by keeping your heathen husband against his wish, you will be able to convert him? Or how can you tell, O husband, whether you will be able to convert your reluctant wife?

17 Still, the general principle is this: In each case let people be content with the lot which God assigned them, and with the condition in which God’s call has come to them, and let them continue in that course so far as may be. This is the rule that I am laying down in all the Churches.

18 This principle holds good with regard to circumcision. Were you already circumcised at the time of your call? Do not attempt to efface the circumcision. Or have you been called in uncircumcision? Do not seek to be circumcised. 19 Neither the one nor the other is of any consequence. What really matters is keeping God’s commandments, and that is vital. 20 Each one of you, I say, should be content to remain in the condition in which God called him. 21 And this applies to slavery also. Were you a slave when you were called? Do not be distressed at it; yet, if you can become free, make use of the opportunity.

22 I say that you need not be distressed at being a slave when you became a Christian: every such slave is the Lord’s freed man. And the converse is true: he who was free when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with the price of His blood, and to Him, whether you are bond or free, you belong. Cease to regard yourselves as belonging to men in the sense in which you belong to Him. 24 I repeat, Brothers, the general rule. In that state in which each man was called, let him be content to remain, remembering God’s presence and His protecting care.

8. τοῖς�

καλόν. As in v. 1, this introduces the Apostle’s own ideal, as illustrated by his own life. As τοῖς�Philippians 4:3) as meaning the Apostle’s wife (Clem. Alex. Strom. 3:6. p. 535, ed. Potter) may safely be set aside, for this passage shows that, if he ever had been married, his wife died before he wrote to the Philippians. And if he had been married then, would he not have written γνησία in addressing his wife. The argument that, as a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), he must have been a married man and a father, is not strong. This rule (Sanh. fo. 36 b), as a security for clemency, may be of later date, and κατήνεγκα ψῆφον may be a figurative expression for approving of the sentence. The probability is that St Paul was never married (Tertull. De Monogam .8; Ad Uxor. 2:1). In all his writings, as also in Acts, there is no trace of wife or child.* The καί in ὡς κἀγώ, as inὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν (v. 7), is the comparative use of καί. He compares his own case with that of those whom he desires to keep unmarried, and emphasizes it. The aorist (μείνωσιν) suggests a life-long and final decision.

9. εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται. ‘But if they have not power over themselves’ (midd.). It is doubtful whether the negative coalesces with the verb so as to express only one idea. In N.T. we more often have εἰ οὐ for ‘if not’ than εἰ μή, which means ‘unless.’ “Where a fact has sharply to be brought out and sharply to be negatived, there εἰ οὐ seems to be not only permissible, but logically correct” (Ellicott). See Burton, Moods and Tenses, §§ 242, 261, 469; and compare Romans 8:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:14, etc.

What is meant by this failure to have power over themselves is partly explained by πυροῦσθαι (present tense in both verbs). A prolonged and painful struggle seems to be intended, a condition quite fatal to spiritual peace and growth: cf. 9:25; Genesis 43:30; 1 Samuel 13:12. Elsewhere we have πυροῦσθαι of burning with grief and indignation (2 Corinthians 11:29).† The advice given here is similar to that given in v. 5, διὰ τὴν�1 Timothy 5:11-15.


κρεῖττον (א B D E) is here the better reading, κρεῖσσον in 11:17, where see note. It is not easy to decide between γαμεῖν (א* A C* 17) and γαμῆσαι (א3 B C2 D E F, etc.). Editors are divided. Perhaps γαμῆσαι was changed to γαμεῖν to conform to πυροῦσθαι. But the change of tense is intelligible; ‘better to marry once for all than to go on being on fire.’ In this Epistle, as elsewhere in N.T., the later form of the aor. (ἐγάμησα) is more common (vv. 33, 34) than the earlier (ἔγημα; in v. 28 both forms occur.

10. τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσιν παραγγέλλω. He passes from those to whom it is still open to marry or not to marry. ‘But to those who have already married (since they became Christians) I give command.’ To render, ‘I pass on the order’ from Christ to you, is giving too much force to the preposition. Christ, does not ‘pass on’ the order. The meaning is, ‘I give the order; no, not I, Christ gives it.’ In class. Grk. παραγγέλλω is used of the military word of command: see 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; often in 2 Thess., 1 Tim., Luke, and Acts. When the Apostle gives directions on his own authority (v. 12), he says ‘speak,’ not ‘command.’

οὐκ ἐγὼ,�Mark 10:9; Luke 16:18), and His Apostle repeats His teaching: see also Malachi 2:16. St Paul is distinguishing between his own inspired utterances (v. 40) and the express commands of Christ, not between his own private views and his inspired utterances. And there is no need to assume (as perhaps in 1 Thessalonians 4:15) that he had received a direct revelation on the subject. Christ’s decision was well known. See Dobschütz, Probleme des Ap. Zeitalters, Leipzig, 1904, p. 109; Fletcher, The Conversion of St Paul, Bell, 1910, p. 57.


γυναῖκα�

11. ἐάν δέ καὶ χωρισθῇ. ‘But if (in spite of Christ’s command) she even goes so far as to separate herself,’ she is not to marry any other man. The divorce is her act, not her husband’s. “Christianity had powerfully stirred the feminine mind at Corinth (11:5, 14:34). In some cases ascetic aversion caused the wish to separate” (Findlay). With the καί compare εἰ δὲ καί in 4:7. Christ had forbidden marriage with a divorced with (Luke 16:18), and His Apostle here takes the same ground. If the wife who has separated from her husband finds that, after all, she cannot live a single life, the only course open to her is to be reconciled to the husband whom she has injured. For the construction (καταλλ. c. dat.) see Romans 5:10. Like εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος (v. 15) and�Matthew 5:32, Matthew 5:19:9; see Allen and Plummer ad loc.) was unknown to the Apostle, because it had not been made by Christ.

12. τοῖς δὲ λαιποῖς. Having spoken of those converts who were still unmarried, and of those who had married since their conversion, he now treats of those who belonged to neither class. There were some who had married before their conversion and now had a heathen wife or a heathen husband. Were they to continue to live with their heathen partners? Yes, if the heathen partner consents to the arrangement. St Paul elsewhere uses οἱ λοιποί of a remainder which is wholly or largely heathen (Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:6).


λέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ Κύριος. This is the right order (א A B C P 17), not ἐγὼ λέγω (D E F G). He means that he is not now repeating the teaching of Christ, who is not likely to have said anything on the subject. He does not mean that he is speaking now, not with Apostolic authority, but as a private individual. All his directions are given with the inspiration and power of an Apostle, and he speaks with confidence and sureness. He applies Christ’s ruling as far as it will reach in the case of a mixed union. The Christian party must certainly not dissolve the marriage, if the heathen party does not desire to do so.

γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον. Here ἔχει must mean ‘has,’ not ‘keeps,’ ‘retains,’ and this shows the meaning of ἐχέτω in v. 2. It is the case of a Christian with a heathen wife whom he married when he himself was an unbeliever.

συνευδοκεῖ. ‘Agrees in being content.’ The compound verb (Romans 1:32) indicates mutual consent, implying that more than one person is satisfied (Acts 22:20); often with a dative of the thing in which agreement is found (Luke 11:48; Acts 8:1; Act_2 Mac. 11:24).


μὴ�

ἐπεὶ ἄρα. ‘Since it would then follow,’ i.e. if it was the impurity of the heathen partner which prevailed on the analogy of Haggai 2:11-13; there it is uncleanness that is communicated, while consecration is not communicated. The Apostle argues back from the children to the parents. The child of a parent who is ἅγιος must ipso facto be ἅγιος: that he assumes as axiomatic. He is not assuming that the child of a Christian parent would be baptized; that would spoil rather than help his argument, for it would imply that the child was not ἅγιος till it was baptized. The verse throws no light on the question of infant baptism. He argues from the fact that the Corinthians must admit that a Christian’s child is ‘holy.’ Consequently, it was born in wedlock that is ‘holy.’ Consequently, such wedlock need not be dissolved. But he is not approving such wedlock. Marriages with heathen are wrong (2 Corinthians 6:14). But, where they have come into existence through the conversion of one partner in a heathen marriage, the Christian partner is not to seek divorce.


D E F, Latt. add τῇ πιστῇ after γυναικί, אA B C K L P omit.�

With the argumentative use of ἐπεί, ‘since, if that were so,’ cf. 15:29 and see not on Romans 3:6. In v. 10, 11, we have a similar ἐπεί followed by νῦν, as here. See Burton, Moods and Tenses, §§ 229, 230.


15. εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται. ‘But if it is the unbeliever that is for separating.’ The emphasis is on ὁ ἄπιστος, and the present tense indicates the heathen partner’s state of mind. What follows shows that ὁ ἄπιστος, covers both sexes, and in such cases the Apostle has no injunction to give to the unbeliever. ‘For what have I to do with judging them that are without’? (5:12); so the responsibility rests with them, and they may do as they please, χωριζέσθω. If, therefore, the heathen partner seeks divorce, the Christian partner may consent. The Christian partner is under no slavish obligation to refuse to be set free. Just to this extent the law against divorce has its limits. Marriages between Jews ought not to be dissolved, and marriages between Christians ought not to be dissolved; but heathen marriages stand on a different basis. These ought to be respected as long as possible, even when one of the parties becomes a Christian. But if the one who remains a heathen demands divorce, the Christian is not bound to oppose divorce. In such matters the Christian οὐ δεδούλωται, has not lost all freedom of action; independence still survives.

We cannot safely argue with Luther that οὐ δεδούλωται implies that the Christian partner, when divorced by the heathen partner, may marry again. And Luther would have it that this implies that the Christian partner, when divorced by “a false Christian,” may marry again. Who is to decide whether the Christian is “false” or not? And the principle, which is far older than Luther, that “reverence for the marriage-tie is not due to one who has no reverence for the Author of the marriage-tie” will carry one to disastrous conclusions. Basil (letter to Amphilochius, Canonica Prima, Ep. clxxxviii. 9) does not write with precision. All that οὐ δεδούλωται clearly means is that he or she need not feel so bound by Christ’s prohibition of divorce as to be afraid to depart when the heathen partner insists on separation.

ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ὑμᾶς. ‘It is in an atmosphere of peace that God has called you.’ This is ambiguous. To what is the ‘peace’ opposed? If to bondage, which seems natural, then the meaning will be that to feel bound to remain with a heathen partner, who objects to your remaining, would violate the peace in which you were called to be a Christian. If ‘peace’ is opposed to separation, then the meaning will be that you ought to do your utmost to avoid divorce. The former is probably right: cf. Colossians 3:15. Heathen animus against Christianity would greatly increase the difficulty of insisting upon living with a heathen who was anxious for a divorce. In such a state of things Christian peace would be impossible. With ἐν εἰρήνῃ compare ἐν ἁγιασμῷ, 1 Thessalonians 4:7. The δέ supplies the positive complement to the negative οὐ δεδούλωται.




Editors are much divided as to whether ὑμᾶς (א* A C K, Copt.) or ἡμᾶς (א3 B D E F, Latt. Syrr. AV. RV.) is the better reading.

16. τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι. As in v. 15, the case of the heathen husband desiring to divorce his Christian wife is uppermost, although the other case is also considered. And this verse is as ambiguous as the concluding part of v. 15. Either, ‘Do not contend against divorce on the ground that, if you remain, you may convert your heathen partner; for how do you know that you will do that?’ Or (going back to μὴ�Esther 4:14; Joel 2:14; Jonah 3:9; 2 Samuel 12:22. On the ground that these four passages express a hope rather than a doubt, Lightfoot prefers the interpretation that the chance of saving the unbelieving partner is “worth any temporal inconvenience.” So also Findlay. But the other interpretation is probably right. The sequence of thought is then quite clear. ‘If the unbeliever demands divorce, grant it: you are not bound to refuse. If you refuse, you will have no peace. The chance of converting your heathen spouse is too small a compensation for a strained and disturbed life, in which Christian serenity will be impossible.’ To call the latter “temporal inconvenience” is a serious understatement. See Stanley. For σώζειν see Romans 11:14; 1 Timothy 4:16; and for the history of the idea, Hastings, DB. IV. pp. 360 f.; DCG. II. P. 556. The εἰ μή (v. 17) is almost decisive for this view.


17. This verse may be taken either as a summing up of what has just been stated, or as a fresh starting-point for what is to follow (18-24). It states the general principle which determines these questions about marriage, and this is afterwards illustrated by the cases of circumcision and slavery. Conversion to Christianity must make a radical change in the moral and spiritual life, but it need not make any radical change in our external life, and it is best to abide in the condition in which the call came to us. Therefore the Christian partner must not do anything to bring about a dissolution of marriage, any more than the Christian slave must claim emancipation. But if the heathen party insists on dissolution, or grants emancipation, then the Christian may accept freedom from such galling ties.*

Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς μεμέρικεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον κ.τ.λ. ‘Only as our Lord has appointed to each, as God has called each, so let him walk.’ In both clauses ‘each’ is emphatic; and while the assignment of circumstances to each individual is attributed to Christ, the call to become a believer comes from the Father, as in Romans 8:28. The εἰ μή (introducing an exception or correction) defines and limits the somewhat vague ‘is not under bondage in such cases.’ There remains some obligation, viz. not to seek a rupture. One is not in all cases free to depart, simply because one cannot be compelled to stay. But nothing is here said against the improvement of one’s circumstances after embracing Christianity. What is laid down is that, unless one’s external condition of life is a sinful one, no violent change in it should be made, simply because one has become a Christian. One should continue in the same course (περιπατείτω), glorifying God by a good use of one’s opportunities; status, in quo vocatio quemque offendit, instar vocationis est (Beng.). This general principle seems to the Apostle so important that he states that he has established it in all the Churches under his care, and then goes on to illustrate it by two frequent examples of its application. On περιπατεῖν and�1 Peter 1:15 and Lukyn Williams on Galatians 1:13. See on 3:3.

The verse reads better as a fresh starting-point (WH., Way, Weymouth, B. Weiss) than as a summary of what precedes (Alford, Ellicott). But even if the latter arrangement be adopted, there is no close connexion between vv. 16 and 17. Some join εἰ μή with εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις, ‘whether thou shalt save thy wife, whether not.’ But that would require ἢ οὐ, as in Matthew 22:17. Others understand χωρίζεται after εἰ μή, ‘If he does not depart’; others again understand σώσεις, ‘If thou shalt not save her.’ This makes very bad sense, and would almost certainly require εἰ δὲ μή. Theodoret runs the two verses into one sentence, ‘How knowest thou … except in so far as our Lord has apportioned to each?’ This is very awkward, and gives no good sense. ‘Only’ or ‘Save only’ is the best translation of εἰ μή. It introduces a caution with regard to what precedes, and this forms a preface to what follows. St Paul is opposing the restless spirit and desire for further change which the Gospel had excited in some converts.

καὶ οὑτως … διατάσσομαι. As in 11:34; Titus 1:5; Acts 24:23, we have the middle; in 9:14, 16:1 he uses the active. This is evidently spoken with Apostolic authority, and it indicates that the restlessness and craving for change, against which he here contends, was common among Christians. He lets the Corinthians know that they receive no exceptional treatment, either in the way of regulations or privileges. This checks rebelliousness on the one hand and conceit on the other. Odiosum fuisset Corinthiis arctiore vinculo quam alios constringi (Calv.). Cf. 4:17.

ought we to read μεμέρικεν (א* B) or ἐμέρισεν (א3 A C D, etc.)? Aor. might he changed to perf. to haxmonize with κέκληκεν, and perf. (being less common) might be changed to aor. The perf. is preferable. Certainly ὁ Κύριος … ὁ Θεός (א A B C D E F) is to be preferred to ὁ Θεός … ὁ Κύριος (K L). Elsewhere it is God who calls (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Romans 4:17, Romans 4:8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9), while the Lord distributes the gifts (12:5; Ephesians 4:11). D* F, Latt. substitute διδάσκω for διατάσσομαι.

18. Περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη. The sentence is probably interrogative (AV., RV.), not hypothetical (Tyndale). The sense is much the same. A man who was circumcised before conversion is not to efface the signs of his Judaism. Jews did this sometimes to avoid being known as Jews in gymnastic exercises in the palaestra (1 Macc. 1:15; Joseph. Ant. XII. V. I).* And an uncircumcised Gentile is not to seek circumcision; Galatians 5:2, Galatians 5:3; Acts 15:1, Acts 15:5, Acts 15:19, Acts 15:24, Acts 15:28. St Paul, while proclaiming Gentile liberty, acts as a Jew to Jews (9:20). See Dobschütz, Probleme, p. 84.


κέκληταί τις (א A B P), τις κέκληται (D F G), τις ἐκλήθη (E K L). κέκληται τις is doubtless right; the perf, may indicate that these cases were generally earlier, Jews converted before Gentiles.

19. ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ�Galatians 5:6 and 6:15; ἐν γὰρ ΧριστῷἹ̓ησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε�

Photius, G. Syncellus, and others say that the maxim is a quotation from an Apocalypse of Moses. It is extremely unlikely that such a principle would be contained in any Jewish book earlier than St Paul. Such a book, however, might afterwards wards be interpolated by a Christian with these words of the Apostle. See Lightfoot on Galatians 6:15; Weinel, St Paul, p. 56; and consider the Apostle’s action in circumcising Timothy and not circumcising Titus.

ἀλλὰ τήρησις κ. τ. λ. ‘But keeping of the commandments of God is everything.’ As in 3:7 and 10:24, the strongly adversative�Galatians 5:6 and 6:15 the�Matthew 19:17; 1 Timothy 6:14; 1 John 2:3, where see Westcott. On ἐντ. Θεοῦ see Deissmann, Light, p. 381.

20. Repetition of the principle laid down; ‘In the secular surroundings of the calling in which he is called, in these let him, abide’; and ἐν ταύτῃ emphasizes the charge to make no change of condition.† In N.T., κλῆσις is almost exclusively Pauline, and it means either the act of calling (Philippians 3:14) or the circumstances in which the calling took place (1:26 and here): it does not mean ‘vocation.’ Lightfoot quotes Epictetus (i. 29 § 46), μάρτυς ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ κεκλημὲνος, and (§ 49) ταῦτα μέλλεις μαρτυρεῖν καὶ καταισχύνειν τὴν κλῆσιν ἣν κέκληκεν [ὁ Θεός].

21. δοῦλος ἐκλήθης. ‘Wast thou a slave when thou wast called? Do not mind that.’ A slave can be a good Christian (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; Titus 2:9). Thackeray quotes the iambic line in Philo, Quod omn. prob. Liber 7, δοῦλος πέφυκας; οὐ μέτεστί σοι λόγου. Here again, the clause might be either interrogative or hypothetical.


ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ … μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. ‘But still, if thou canst also become free, rather make use of it than not.’ The καί affects δύνασαι, not εἰ: ‘if thou art also able to become free as well as to remain a slave’; if the one course is as possible as the other; then what? It is remarkable that the Apostle’s advice is interpreted in opposite ways. He says, ‘Rather make use of it.’ Make use of what? Surely, τῷ δύνασθαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, the possibility of becoming free. This was the last thing mentioned; and ‘make use of’ suits a new condition better than the old condition of slavery. Still more decidedly does the aorist. (χρῆσαι, not χρῶ) imply a new condition. The advice, thus interpreted; is thoroughly in keeping with the Apostle’s tenderness of heart and robustness of judgment. ‘Do not be miserable because you are a slave; yet, if you can just as easily be set free, take advantage of it rather than not.’ He regarded marriage as a hindrance to the perfection of the Christian life (vv. 32-35). Was not slavery, with its hideous temptations, a far greater hindrance?*

Nevertheless, various commentators, ancient and modern, insist on going back to δοῦλος for the dat. to be supplied with χρῆσαι and understand τῇ δουλείᾳ. Utere servitute quasi re bona et utili: servitus enim valet ad humililatem servandam et ad patientiam exercendam (Herv.) It is urged that in this way the Apostle remains consistent with his rule, ‘Abide in the calling in which thou wast called.’ But�

22.. ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος. ‘For he who, while in slavery, was called to be in the Lord is the Lord’s freedman.’† Or we may take ὁ with δοῦλος, ‘For the slave who was called in the Lord’; but the next clause is against this. A slave ‘called in the Lord’ is in relation to Christ a freedman:�Romans 6:6). There is no hint here that his master, if he were a Christian, would be sure to set him free; and even Philemon 1:21 does not imply that. See Harnack, Mission and Expansion, 1. pp. 167 f.; Deissmann, Light, PP. 323, 326-333, 382, 392.

‘In like manner, he that was called being free is Christ’s slave’; or, ‘the free man by being called is Christ’s slave,’ he can no longer do as he likes to his own hurt; he is bound to obey his new spiritual Master and Lord. Such a bondservant of Christ was the Apostle himself, and he gloried in the fact (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). Nowhere else in the Bible is�


K L, Copt. Aeth. Arm. add καί after ὁμοίως: D E F G add δὲ καί: א A B P 17, Vulg. omit. καί or δὲ καὶ is usual after ὁμοίως, and hence the insertion; but here neither is required.

23. τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε. This recalls 6:20 and applies it to both classes. The social slave, who has been set free by Christ, and the social freeman, who has become enslaved to Christ, have alike been bought by God, and are now His property. In one sense Christ’s death was an act of emanicipation, it set free from the thraldom of sin; in another sense it was a change of ownership.* It is a mistake to suppose that the words are addressed only to those who are socially free, charging them not to lose their freedom. Such a charge would be superfluous. Moreover, the change from the singular to the plural intimates that both classes are now exhorted. See below.

In commenting on this verse, Origen lets us know that he was not the first to comment on this Epistle. He speaks of what οἱ λοιποὶ ἑρμηνευταί say on the subject. See on 9:20.

μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι�Leviticus 25:42, Leviticus 25:55). The interpretation, ‘Do not become enslaved to any party-leader,’ is remote from the context. More probably, ‘Do not let social relations or public opinion or evil advisers interfere with the absolute service which is due to Him who bought you with His Son’s blood.’


24. The general principle is stated once more with the addition of παρὰ Θεῷ. This may mean ‘in the presence of God,’ or ‘in God’s household,’ or ‘on God’s side.’ The last agrees well with μενέτω, and makes a good antithesis to�

25. Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων. It is clear from the use of παρθένος in vv. 28, 34, 36, 37, 38, that the word here applies to women only; contrast Revelation 14:4. On this subject no traditional teaching of Christ had reached the Apostle (v. 10); he could not frame a judgment partly based upon His teaching (v. 12); nor did he feel justified in giving an independent Apostolic decision (v. 17), for the responsibility of deciding must rest with the father. He is willing, however, to state his own opinion; and he intimates that his wonderful conversion and call are strong evidence that the opinion of one who has been so divinely favoured is worthy of trust. As in 1 Peter 2:10 (see Hort), ήλεημένος is used “in reference to the signal mercy of the gift of the Gospel”; and this in his case included the call to be an Apostle. We have a similar use of ἠλεήθημεν in 2 Corinthians 4:1, and of ἠλεήθην in 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:16. Here πιστός, ‘trustworthy,’ is used as in 4:2 and 1 Timothy 1:12; cf. ἡ μαρτυρὶα Κυρίου πιστή (Psalms 19:8); not as in 2 Corinthians 6:15 and 1 Timothy 4:10.

We have the same contrast between ἐπιταγή and γνώμη in 2 Corinthians 8:8, 2 Corinthians 8:10. Here the Vulgate has Praeceptum and consilium to distinguish the words, which led to the later distinction between ‘precepts’ and ‘counsels of perfection’ (Stanley).


26. νομίζω οὖν. ‘I think therefore.’ He does not mean that he is not sure: what is stated in v. 25 shows that οὖν introduces a decided conviction; and perhaps the use of ὑπάρχειν rather than εἶναι shows that the conviction is of long standing. He holds that this is a sound axiom to start from; it is good in principle.

διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν�Hebrews 9:9), owing to the disturbances and dangers which he saw; and also by the Advent which he believed to be very near (16:22), although not yet present (2 Thessalonians 2:2). We cannot assume that his opinion would have been the same in a more peaceful period, and after experience had proved that the Advent might be long delayed. For�Luke 21:23, where the meaning is very similar to the meaning here; 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 6:12:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; Ps. Song of Solomon 5:8; Testament of Joseph ii. 4. Thackeray (St Paul and Jewish Thought, pp. 105 f.) thinks that this passage may reflect Jewish beliefs in the “Woes of the Messiah,” the birth-pangs which were to precede His Advent (2 Esdr. 5:1-12, 6:18-24, 9:1-9; Jubilees xxiii. 11-25; Assump. of Moses x. 3-6; Apoc. of Baruch xxvii. 1 f., where see Charles, xlviii. 31-39, lxx. 3-10). Lightfoot (on Galatians 1:4) contends that ἐνεστῶσαν means‘present’ rather than ‘imminent,’ but the difference is not great. A trouble which is believed to be near and certain is already a present distress.

ὂτι καλὸν�Romans 9:20 is similar. There is not much difference in effect between (1) and (3) Origen prefers (2), and points out that this is the fourth time (vv. 1, 8, 26 bis) that the Apostle has used καλόν of, celibacy, whereas all that he says of marriage is that it is not sin.

27. δέδεσαι γυναικί; Like vv. 18 and 21, this may be either interrogative or hypothetical. The perfect indicates the settled condition of the marriage-tie, and γυναικί means ‘wife,’ not ‘woman’: betrothal to an unmarried woman is not included. There could be no doubt about this case. The Lord had prohibited divorce; therefore μὴ ζήτει λύσιν, ‘never at any time (pres. imperat.) seek freedom.’ The advice is permanent. No where else in N.T. does λύσις occur. In LXX it is used only of the solving of hard sayings (Ecclesiastes 8:1; Daniel 12:8; Wisd. 8:8). See Milligan, Greek Papyri, p. 106.


λέλυσαι�

θλίψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκὶ ἓξουσιν οἱ τ. ‘But affliction for the flesh will be the lot of those who act thus.’ Quum diceret, habituros tribulationem carnis, vel in carne, significat, sollicitudines et angustias, quibus conjuges implicantur, ex negotiis terrenis provenire. Caro igitur hic pro homine externo capitur (Calv.). This would be specially true in the persecutions which were to precede the Advent. As Bacon says, “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune”; and “children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter.” Origen makes θλίψις refer specially to the wife, quoting Genesis 3:16. The dative may be locative; ‘in the flesh’ (AV., RV.); tribulationem carnis (Vulg.); Pressuram carnis (Tert.); aflictionem in carne (Beza). Cf. σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί, ‘thorn for the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7).

ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι. ‘But I for my part spare you’: this is his aim as their spiritual adviser. The emphatic ἐγώ makes ‘I won’t pain you by saying more’ an improbable interpretation. In what way does he spare them? Nolo vos illam tribulationem sentire (Herv.). Ideo quia, secundum indulgentiam conjugia non omnino prohibeo (Primasius). Atto admits both reasons, but the former is probably right, and it almost excludes the latter. He aims at keeping them from affliction by persuading them not to marry. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 12:6, 2 Corinthians 13:2.


γαμήσῃς (א B P [γαμήσῃ A] 17) rather than γήμῃς (K L, Orig. Chrys.) to agree with the following γήμῃ or λάβῃς γυναῖκα (D F, Latt. acceperis uxorem), Tert. duxeris uxorem. It is less easy to decide whether ἡ before παρθένος should be inserted (א A D E K L P) or omitted (B F G). D* F insert ἐν before τῇ σαρκί.

29. Τοῦτο δέ φημι. ‘But this I do declare.’ The change from λέγω (v. 6, 1:12, 6:5) to φημί should be marked in translation, whether the change has significance or not; but even the RV. fails to do this. The change probably gives special seriousness to the assertion. ‘But, though I counsel none to change their state, I do counsel all to change their attitude towards all earthly things.’ We have the same expression, introducing a solemn warning, 15:50; cf. 10:15, 19: nowhere else in N.T. or LXX does the 1st pers. sing. occur. The τοῦτο does not refer to what precedes; he is not repeating what he has just said. He is reminding them of a grave fact, which has to be considered in connexion with marriage, and indeed with the whole of life. He has been insisting on the�

ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστιν. ‘The allotted time has become short,’ lit. ‘has been drawn together so as to be small in amount.’ As in Romans 13:11, ὁ καιρός is used almost as a technical term for the period before the Advent (Westcott on Hebrews 9:9). Hort (on 1 Peter 1:11) thinks that it was owing probably to its use in Daniel (9:27, etc.) that in our Lord’s time it was specially used with reference to national religious expectations. But St Paul by no means always uses it in this special eschatological sense, although he commonly uses it of ‘a fixed and limited time’ or ‘a fitting period,’ while χρόνος is time generally, and is unlimited. That he still believed that the Second Coming was near is evident from 10:11, 15:51; but a little later his view seems to be changing (Sanday and Headlam, Romans, p. 379; Sanday, Life of Christ in Recent Research, p. 113). Calvin and others explain the words here of the shortness of human life; ‘you are sure to die before long.’ This makes good sense, but probably not the right sense.

Some texts (D E F G) ins. ὃτι before ὁ καιρός: the best omit. A more important point is the punctuation of what follows. Should a stop, comma, or colon be placed after ἐστίν, and τὸ λοιπόν be taken with ἳνα κ.τ.λ.? Or should it be placed after τὸ λοιπόν, and τὸ λοιπόν be taken with what precedes? Editors are divided; but the former is better for two reasons. In the Pauline Epp. τὸ λοιπόν commonly leads (Philippians 3:1, Philippians 3:4:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:1), as also does λοιπόν (2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8). And τὸ λοιπόν is weak after συνεστ. ἐστιν, ‘is straitened as to its residue.’

τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἐχ. γ. ‘So that, henceforward those also who have wives may be as though they had none.’ St Paul rather frequently puts words in front of ἵνα for emphasis; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10; Romans 7:13; Colossians 4:16. It is quite clear that, if the conditions of the time are such that those who have wives ought to be as if they had none, then it is foolish to marry; for as soon as one had taken a wife one would have to behave as if one had not got one, i.e. one would undertake a great responsibility, and then have the responsibility of trying to be free from it. Far better, in such circumstances, never to undertake it. In 2 Esdr. 16:40-48 there is a good deal that resembles this passage; but 2 Esdr. 15., 16. are an addition made by a Christian about a.d. 265, and the writer very likely had this passage in his mind when he wrote.


The force of the καί is not quite certain. He has been saying that in such times the unmarried state is best, and then goes on to say that not only the married, but also all bound in any earthly circumstances, should practise ‘detachment’; then the καί would mean ‘both’ (AV., RV.). Even when three or four things are strung together in Greek, the first may have καί as well as the rest. In Acta Pauli et Theclae (p. 42, ed. Tisch.) we have μακάριοι οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ γενήσονται.

The meaning of the illustrations is fairly clear. Married men are apt to become absorbed in domestic cares, mourners in their sorrow, buyers in the preservation of what they have bought. A Christian, with dangers all round him and the Advent close at hand, ought not to be engrossed in any of his surroundings, knowing how temporary they are. He should learn how to sit loose to all earthly ties.

30. ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες. ‘As not entering upon full ownership,’ or ‘keeping fast hold upon’ (11:2, 15:2; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, where see Milligan, p. 155). Earthly goods are a trust, not a possession.


31. ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι. ‘As not using it to the utmost’; lit. ‘using it down to the ground,’ and so, ‘using it completely up.’ We are not to try to get all we can out of externals. The rendering ‘abusing’ or ‘misusing’ is not the right idea.* Here and in 9:18 only: in Ep. Jer_28 of the idolatrous priests ‘using up for their own profit’ the sacrificial offerings. The man who remembers that he is only a sojourner in the world is likely to remember also that worldly possessions are not everything, and that worldly surroundings cannot be made permanent. Lightfoot quotes from Seneca (Ep. Mor. lxxiv. 18), “Let us use them, let us not boast of them: and let us use them sparingly, as a loan deposited with us, which will soon depart.”


παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τ. κ. τ. ‘For transitory is the fashion of this world.’ There is no need to take the γάρ back to ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν. Indeed, this does not make very good sense. The γάρ explains the reason for the preceding counsels, especially the last one. Τὸ σχῆμα τ. κ. is not a mere periphrasis for ὁ κόσμος: the phrase expresses ‘the outward appearance,’ all that can be apprehended by the senses. This may change, and does change, season by season, although the world itself abides. Praeterit figura mundi, non natura, ut in aliam speciem mundus vertatur (Herv.).† Cf. 2 Esdr. 4:26; and see Deissmann, Light, p. 281; Resch, Agrapha, p. 274.

Because χρᾶσθαι commonly has the dative (2 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 3:12) some texts have corrected τὸν κόσμον (the reading of א* A B D* F G 17) to τῷ κόσμῳ. Even in class. Grk., καταχρᾶσθαι often has the accusative: in 9:18 it has the dative.

32.�Mark 4:19) and distract from the thought of ‘that Day’ (Luke 21:34). ‘Without carefulness’ (AV.) is not the meaning: cf. Matthew 28:14; Wisd. 6:15, 7:23. ‘Carefulness’ formerly meant ‘anxiety’ (Psalms 127:3). Bacon couples it with ‘trouble of mind,’ and Latimer calls it ‘wicked’ (Wright, Bible Word-Book, p. 111). In papyri the wish that a person�

πῶς�Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:4:1; Colossians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9). See on 10:33. Throughout vv. 32-34�Matthew 6:24 and 2 Timothy 2:4.


33. ὁ δὲ γαμήσας. The aorist points to the time when the change of interest took place: ‘once a man is married.’ Epictetus (Enchir. 18) holds that the care of external things (τὰ ἐκτός) is fatal to devotion to one’s higher nature: a man is sure (πᾶσα�

34. ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία. Bengel remarks that ἁγία here means more than it does in v. 14: what is set apart from the world for God ought to conform to the purity of God and not to the defilements of the world: Trench, Syn. § lxxxviii.; Cremer, pp. 598 f. See 1 Timothy 5:5, and the art. Heiligung in Herzog (Hauck). Stanley quotes Queen Elizabeth, who said that England was her husband.

35. πρός τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον. His aim is not to glorify his ministry as Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), but to keep them free from cares (v. 32). Cf. 10:33, the only other place in N.T. in which σύμφορος occurs. The reading συμφέρον is probably wrong, as in 10:33.

βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω. ‘Cast a snare upon you’ (AV., RV.) gives a wrong idea: βρόχος is a halter or lasso, not a trap (here only, in N.T.). He has no wish to curtail their freedom, as one throws a rope over an animal that is loose, or a person that is to be arrested: accesserat lictor injiciebatque laqueum (Livy i. 26). Cf. Philemon 1:14; Proverbs 6:5. Laqueo trahuntur inviti (Beng.).

ἀλλὰ ρὸς τὸ κ.τ.λ. ‘On the contrary, with a view to’: what follows is an expansion of�Romans 13:13.

εὐπάρεδρον. Cf. παρεδρεύοντες in 9:13, and ‘Give me wisdom, that sitteth by Thy throne,’ τὴν τῶν σῶν θρόνων πάρεδρον (Wisd. 9:4). The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. or LXX. Combined with�Luke 10:40). Cf. ἵνα�


36. The verse indicates that the Corinthians had asked him about the duty of a father with a daughter of age to marry. The question is what he ought to do, not what she ought to do: his wishes, not hers, are paramount. This is in accordance with the ideas of that age, and the Apostle does not condemn them.

There is no need to place a comma after νομίζει: her being of full age is what suggested to the father (who may have been warned also by friends) that he is not behaving becomingly towards his child in not furthering her marriage. Apparently νομίζει, like νομίζω in v. 26, is used, not of a hesitating opinion but of a settled conviction; and verbally�

οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι. That he had better let her marry, not simply propter voluntatem puellae (Primasius), but because of the possible consequences of refusing. “Let him do what he will’ does not mean that it is a matter of indifference whether he allows the marriage or not, and that he can please himself; it means that he is free to do what his conviction (νομίζει) has led him to wish. It is wholly improbable that τις, αὐτοῦ and ὅς (v. 37) refer to the suitor, the prospective bridegroom. The Corinthians would not have asked about him. It is the father’s or guardian’s duty that is the question. Still more improbable is the conjecture that the Apostle is referring to a kind of spiritual betrothal between unmarried persons. It is supposed that Christian spinsters with ascetic tendencies, in order to avoid ordinary marriage, each placed themselves formally under the protection of a man, who was in some sense responsible for the woman. She might or might not share the same house, but she was pledged to share his spiritual life. And the meaning of v. 36 would then be that the man who has formed a connexion of this kind may, without sin, turn it into an ordinary marriage. In this way the plural γαμείτωσαν is free from all difficulty. But, quite independently of the improbability that St. Paul would sanction so perilous an arrangement, there is the obstacle of γαμίζων in v. 38, which everywhere in N.T. (Matthew 22:30, Matthew 22:24:38; Mark 12:25; Luke 17:27, Luke 20:35) means ‘give in marriage’ (in LXX it does not occur). In spite of this, some make it mean ‘marry’; while others accept the absurdity that the man who has formed a special union with a woman may give her in marriage to another man. The γαμίζων is decisive: the Apostle is speaking of a father or guardian disposing of an unmarried daughter or ward.

γαμείωσαν. The plural is elliptic, but quite intelligible; ‘Let the daughter and her suitor marry.’ Cf. μείνωσιν, 1 Timothy 2:15.


To avoid the awkwardness, D* F G, Arm., Aug. read γαμείτω, while d e f Vulg., Ambrst. have non peccat si nubat, ‘he sinneth not if she marry.’

37. ὃς δὲ ἕστηκεν … ἑδραῖος. It is assumed that a father would originally be of the Apostle’s opinion, that διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν�Colossians 1:23); in LXX it does not occur, but is frequent in Symm. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15.

ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἒχει περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θ. ‘He can do as he likes about his personal wishes’ (ἒξεστιν, 6:12, 10:23), cum virgo non adversaretur sed assentiretur huic paternae voluntati (Herv.). The repetition of ἴδιος respecting his will and heart, and the change to ἑαντοῦ respecting his daughter, seem to mark the predominance of the father in the matter. Similarly, in v. 2 we have τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα, and in v. 4 τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος. With κέκρικεν compare κέκρικα in v. 3, and with the emphatic τοῦτο preparing for what is to follow, compare 1 Thessalonians 4:3.


τηρεῖν. ‘To keep her as she is,’ ‘guard her in a state of singleness,’ not ‘to keep her for himself.’ On ποιήσει see v. 38.

ἑδραῖος comes last in its clause with emphasis (א A B D E P), not immediately after ἓστηκεν (K L): F G, d e Aeth. Arm. omit ἑδραῖος. K L omit αὐτοῦ before ἐδραῖος. After κέκρικεν, ἐν τ. ιδίᾳ κ. (א A B P) is to be preferred to ἐν τ.κ. αὐτοῦ (D E F G K L). τοῦ before τηρεῖν (D E F G K L) should be omitted (א A B P 17, e d).

38. καὶ ὁ γαμίζων … καὶ ὁ μή. This probably means ‘Both he who does and he who does not’: they both act well. Or, ‘It is equally true that A. acts well, and that B. will act better.’ By a dexterous turn, which perhaps is also humorous, the Apostle gives the preference to the one who does not give his daughter in marriage. The change from ποιεῖ to ποιήσει is also effective: the one ‘does well,’ the other ‘will be found to do better,’ for experience will confirm his decision. This καλῶς and κρεῖσσον may be said to sum up the results of the whole chapter.

γαμίζων (א A B D E 17) rather than ἐκγαμίζων (K L P). τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον (א A P) is perhaps preferable to τ. π. ἑαυτοῦ (B D E, Vulg. virginem suam): K L, AV. omit the words. καλῶς ποιεῖ (א A D E K L P, Vulg.) rather than Κ. ποιήσει (B); and κρεῖσσον ποιήσει (א A B 17, Copt.) rather than κρ. ποιεῖ (D E F G K L P, Vulg.). Copyists thought that both verbs must be in the same tense; some changed ποιεῖ to ποιήσει, and others ποιήσει to ποιεῖ, as in AV.

39. A few words are added about the remarriage of widows. As their case is covered by vv. 8 and 34 we may suppose that the Corinthians had asked about the matter. In Romans 7:1-6 the principle stated here is used again metaphorically to illustrate the transition from law to grace: ἐφʼ ὅσον χρόνον appears in both passages. Romans was written soon after 1 Corinthians. There we have εἂν δὲ�

μόνον ἐν Κυρίῳ. ‘Only as a member of Christ,’ which implies that she marries a Christian.† To marry a heathen, especially in Corinth, would make loyalty to Christ very difficult: cf. v. 12, 9:1, 2, 11:11, 15:58, 16:19. For the ellipse of the verb after μόνον see Lightfoot on Galatians 2:10 and 5:13.

Romans 7:2 has influenced the text here. א3 D2 E F G L P ins. νόμῳ after δέδεται, but א* A B D* 17, Am. Copt. Aeth. Arm. omit. For κοιμηθῇ, A, Orig. Bas. have�

40. μακαριωτέρα. In the same sense as μακάριον μᾶλλον, Acts 20:35. She will have more real happiness if she does not marry again. There is no inconsistency between this and 1 Timothy 5:14. The ‘younger widows’ come under the rule given in v. 9.

οὓτως. In siatu quo, as in 2 Peter 3:4, πάντα οὕτως διαμένει. Here the word refers to the condition which she entered when her husband died. This confirms the interpretation of οὕτως in v. 26. In both cases the person had better make no change.


κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην. The ἐμήν is emphatic, and implies that there are other opinions.

δοκῶ δὲ κἀγώ. Non dubietatem significat (Primasius) any more than νομίζω (v. 26). ‘And I also think,’ not ‘I think that I also’ (RV.). Other people may believe that their views are inspired, but the Apostle ventures also to believe that he is guided in his judgment by God’s Spirit. It seems to be clear from this that some of those who differed from him appealed to their spiritual illumination. See Goudge, p. 68; Stanley, pp. 117 f.; Dobschätz, p. 64.

On the authority of B 17, Aeth. and some other witnesses, WH. read γάρ in preference to δέ (א A D E F G K L P, Latt. Copt.), placing δέ in the margin. A few texts have no conjunction.

F G and some Latin texts (habeo or habeam) have ἒχω for ἒχειν.

Alford remarks on ch. 7, “In hardly any portion of the Epistles has the hand of correctors and interpolators of the text been busier than here. The absence of all ascetic tendency from the Apostle’s advice, on the point where asceticism was busiest and most mischievous, was too strong a testimony against it to be left in its original clearness.”

Saepe apostoli in epistolis de conjugio agunt: unus Paulus, semel, nec sua sponte, sed interrogatus, coelibatum suadet, idque lenissime (Beng.). These words are an excellent summary of the teaching in this chapter as to the comparative value of marriage and celibacy: the preference given to celibacy is tentative and exceptional, to meet exceptional conditions. “No condemnation of marriage, no exclusion of the married from the highest blessings of the Christian life, finds a place in the N.T.” (Swete on Revelation 14:4, which he says “must be taken metaphorically, as the symbolical character of the Book suggests.”) See also Goudge, pp. 63-65.










* On Nietzsche’s attack on St Paul, as a man of vicious life, see Weinel, St Paul. pp. 85-93.

אԠא (Fourth century.) The Sinaitic MS., now at St Petersburg, the only MS. containing the whole N.T.

B B (Fourth century.) The Vatican MS.

C C (Fifth century). The Codex Ephraem, a Palimpsest; now at Paris. Lacks 7:18 ἐν�Act_13. Ninth century.) At Paris (Nat. Gr. 14). See Westcott and Hort., Introd. §§ 211, 212.

* Orthodox Jews were opposed to celibacy, regarding marriage as a duty; but there were some who agreed with St Paul. “Why should I marry?” asked Rabbi ben Asaï: “I am in love with the law. Let others see to the prolongation of the race” (Renan, p. 397). The second half of Psalms 120:7 gives the common view.


A A (Fifth century.) The Codex Alexandrinus; now at the British Museum.

D D (Sixth century.) Codex Clarmontanus; now at Paris. A Graeco-Latin MS. 14:13 διο͂ ὁ λαλῶν-22 σημεῖον ἐστίν is supplied by a later but ancient hand. Many subsequent hands (sixth to ninth centuries) have corrected the MS. (See Gregory, Prolegomena , pp. 418-422).

E E (Ninth century). At Petrograd. A copy of D, and unimportant

F F (Late ninth century). Codex Augiensis (from Reichenau); now at Trin. Coll. Cambr. Probably a copy of G in any case, secondary to G, from which it very rarely varies (see Gregory, p. 429).

G G (Late ninth century). Codex Boernerianus; at Dresden. Interlined with the Latin (in minluscules). Lacks 1 Corinthians 3:8-16, 1 Corinthians 6:7-14 (F).


P P (Ninth century). Porfirianus Chiovensis. A palimpsest acquired in the East by Porphyrius Bishop of Kiew. Lacks 7:15 ὑμᾶς ὁ θεός-17 περιπάτει: 12:23 τοῦ σώματος-13:5 οὐ λογί-: 14:23 τὸ λαλεῖν μή. A good type of text in St Paul’s Epistles.

K K (Ninth century). Codex S. Synod. xcviii. Lacks 1:1-6:13 ταύτην καί: 8:7 τινὲς δὲ—8:11�

* σχολάζειν is very rare in LXX (Psalms 65:10), and is nowhere used in this sense; but in class. Grk. it is frequent in the sense of being ‘disengaged for,’ or ‘devoted to,’ a pursuit or a person. We find a similar idea Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:5; 2 Samuel 11:4 Cf. Tibullus 1:3:25. See also 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Peter 4:7. Σύμφωνος occurs nowhere else in N.T.

* ‘By permission’ (AV.) is ambiguous; it might mean, ‘I am permitted by God to say as much as this.’ It was translated venia in some Old Latin texts, and this rendering, understood (by Augustine) as meaning ‘pardon,’ led to far-reaching error. It means ‘By way of concession’: he is telling people that they may marry, not that they must do so: ex concessione non ex imperio (Beza). There is similer uncertainty as to the scope of the τοῦτο in 11:17, and the αὔτη in 9:3. In 1 Timothy 1:1, κατʼ ἐπιταγήν is used in a different sense: ‘in obedience to the command.’

* See Max Krenkel, Beitraäge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte und der Briefe des Apostels Paulus, pp. 26-46, a careful examination of the question, War Paulus jemals verheiratet? Baring Gould thinks that St Paul may have married Lydia (Acts 16:14, Acts 16:40), and that it was she who supplied him with money (Acts 24:26, Acts 28:30). This is not probable.

Ephesians 6:16, it is used of the flaming darts of the evil one; Revelation 1:15, Revelation 3:18, of what has been refined by fire. It is frequent in the latter sense in LXX, and in 2 Macc., with τοῖς θυμοῖς added, of anger. Some understand it here as meaning ‘unsatisfied affection’ rather than�Hosea 7:4 and Cheyne’s note.


* The change from χωρισθῆναι of the wife to�

* Stanley has an interesting, but rather fanciful note, connecting this passage with the Father, Galatians 5:6 with the Son, and Galatians 6:15 with the Holy Spirit.


† Manufacturers of idols who became Christians claimed this principle as justifying their continuing to earn a living in this way. “Can’t you starve?” says Tertullian; fides famen non timet (De Idol. 5.12).

* Bachmann admits that the Apostle’s recommending people to disregard an opportunity of being freed from slavery zweifellos etwas uberraschendas hat.

† In ordinary language,�

† Excepting Philippians 2:8, σχῆμα occurs nowhere else in N. T., and, excepting Isaiah 3:17, nowhere in LXX. The destruction of the material universe is not a Pauline idea.


* See the remarkable parallel in Epictetus (Dis. iii. 22; Long’s translation, Bell, 1903, 2. p. 87): “But in the present state of things, which is like that of an army placed in battle order, is it not fit that the philosopher should without any distraction �

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-corinthians-7.html. 1896-1924.