Monthly Archives: February 2014
This chapter was much longer than most that we’ve seen, and it generated a lot of commentary on my part. I hope the commentary was both necessary and enlightening. My goal is to provide a perspective that I have not found much in the books on the NT that I’ve read. With luck, I’m providing a new, or at least different, point of view. As I publish these, I take a moment to see what else is out there; so far, I haven’t found anything quite like this.
When doing line-by-line commentary, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest by looking at the individual trees too closely. As such, when I sat down to review this chapter as a whole, I thought I was going to be writing a lot about Paul lecturing on sexual morality, marriage, and celibacy, because those three interrelated themes seemed to be what I talked about the most. I thought they (it?) were the dominant themes. But once I got to a certain point in review, I realized that his position and advice on these topics was, really, only the third most important them of the chapter.
What is really most important about 1 Corinthians 7 is Paul’s willingness to make up rules and doctrine on his own authority. Now, he does cite Jesus directly in V-10, when he says “I do not say this, but the Lord.”* Prior to that, however, in V-8 when he gave permission to married couples to abstain from sexual relations for a contracted period of time on his own authority. In V-12, he again stresses that he says this, not the Lord. In V-16, he more or less flatly contradicts Jesus, by allowing marriages of a believer and a non-believer to stand. This is enormously significant. The QHJ tries to filter through what Jesus is said to have said to get what he really said. However, if Paul is making up rules that Jesus did not preach, and if these rules, or interpretations then entered the various traditions, by the time words are put in Jesus’ mouth the message has been even slightly altered–or possibly distorted–then recovering Jesus’ message based on what the gospels alone tell is is a very, very dodgy effort.
Why does Paul do this? Why does he feel it necessary to go beyond what Jesus said, or even to contradict Jesus? That, obviously, is a crucial question, and one that plays directly into Theme #2 of the chapter. Paul believes that the Parousia, the return of the Lord, is imminent (used the right word this time…), believes that it could happen tomorrow. This lends an incredible sense of urgency to Paul’s mission, and to his message. He wants to make sure the communities he has founded, or that he is nurturing are ready for the Day of the Lord (1 Thess 5:2); presumably, this is the day when The Christ comes down from heaven, and the believers are lifted up to the sky (1 Thess, 4:16-17). Why is this important? Because, IMO, Paul’s sense of urgency, of immediacy is far stronger than anything we read in Mark. This implies, IMO, that the idea of Jesus coming back had decreased somewhat in its intensity between the time Paul wrote and the time Mark wrote. This, in turn, implies that perhaps Jesus’ message was not so heavily apocalyptic as someone like JD Crossan, or EP Sanders believes. The latter, in particular, believes that the coming apocalypse was central to Jesus’ message. If this came more from Paul, then we have to re-think what Jesus’ message was.
On this topic, recall that I suggested, or argued, that Mark was composed of two parts: the first half, which dealt with the wonder-worker, and the second half in which Jesus was the Christ. In the first half, Jesus certainly talks about the kingdom of God, but the allusions are vague, to the point that they may–or may not–refer to a change in the status of this world. To put this in Paul’s terms, whether the form of this world is passing away. This idea is much stronger in the second half, which was more focused on Jesus as the Christ. Given Paul’s constant message that Jesus was The Christ, my suggestion was that this half represented the message of the Pauline community, while the first half owed more to the tradition of James and the Jerusalem Assembly. This has the advantage that, while the wonder-worker was an instrument of God, he wasn’t necessarily divine himself. He was more akin to Elijah than Alexander the Great or Herakles.
And we get clues, I think, as to how Paul operates. In V-25 he talks about how he has given his judgement after he was ‘shown compassion (or perhaps mercy) by the Lord’. What this sounds like, I think, is that Paul came to his conclusion after praying–the ‘mercy/compassion’ shown by the Lord. Why is this significant? Because in a situation like this, Paul is not looking backward to what Jesus said while he was alive. He’s not consulting some hypothetical ‘sayings gospel’ (that may never have existed) for his answers. Rather, he seeks the mercy of the Lord in the here-and-now moment. And he follows this up again in V-40 when he says that he makes his pronouncement after being filled by the sacred breath. As such, Paul is looking inward for his answers; or, he is looking directly to the Lord in the moment. He is not citing the precedent left behind by the man Jesus; he is receiving his guidance from the risen Christ who has joined God, and is expected to return shortly. Or, imminently, one might say.
But, what Paul talks about mostly in this chapter is exactly sexual morality, marriage, and celibacy. He admonishes his audience to remain celibate, on his authority, and following his example. Given the imminence of the Lord’s return, the idea of raising the next generation is not an issue; there won’t be time. So, the issue becomes keeping one’s focus on God, rather than on the concerns of this world. This set the pattern for the church-to-come, and provided one of the mainstay arguments for a celibate priesthood for the next 2,000 years. Interesting that it was on the word of Paul, and doesn’t exactly trace back to Jesus.
Finally, we had several instances of what I am going to dub “Paul-speak”. Sections, or passages in which we aren’t entirely sure what Paul was actually saying, in the sense that more commentary was devoted to deciphering what he’s saying, rather than focusing on the implications of the words. Plus, we had a few passages in which modern translators felt it necessary to add words to the actual text. Where the KJV followed the original and said it’s ‘better to marry than to burn’, more recent translations added ‘burn with passion’. The clarification is likely necessary, but it’s still an addition to the text.
*Corrected. The post originally said that in V-10 he was speaking on his own authority. He was not; rather, he was citing Jesus.
I have been using the word ‘immanent’ in the sense of ‘close at hand’. Generally, it’s been in the sense of Paul thinking that the Parousia is ‘immanent’, as in, ‘it will occur shortly’.
The word I should have been using is imminent. That is the proper word for “the Parousia is close at hand. It is imminent.”
I did realize there were two separate words, but I thought I was using the proper one. “Immanent” means something that is
existing or operating within; inherent. “the protection of liberties is immanent in constitutional arrangements”
In a religious sense, it means that the supreme deity is part of creation, not separate from it. This how a pantheist would describe the supreme deity. OTOH, Christianity believes in a transcendent God, one that is separate from creation. Joseph Campbell uses this dichotomy to great effect (not ‘affect’!) in his magisterial The Masks Of God series.
This one took much longer than I expected. Probably should have broken it in two pieces. Apologies for the delay in posting, and for the length of the post.
We’ve been talking about Paul’s admonitions to ‘remain as you are’, especially regarding the marital state. This also includes ideas on celibacy.
25 Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω, γνώμην δὲ δίδωμι ὡς ἠλεημένος ὑπὸ κυρίου πιστὸς εἶναι.
But regarding virgins, I do not have a command from the Lord, but I give judgement as one having been shown compassion under (by) the Lord, to be faithful.
Here Paul is being very honest. He has no idea what Jesus commanded on the subject of virginity. At least, that’s how I believe this should be taken. And again, this echoes what we said earlier about celibacy, that this was not a concern of Jesus. He did not give his judgement on the subject; as such, we have to be extremely suspicious of interpretations of Jesus’ teaching that state, or even imply, that Jesus was fired up and gung-ho for the coming apocalypse. Paul is; I don’t think the same is true for Jesus. That is why Paul is telling us that this is his opinion, his considered judgement (the word has both senses), because Paul believes that this is how we should conduct ourselves. This is very important, I believe.
This seems to be saying that, as we would say it, Paul has prayed on the matter. God has shown him compassion. so Paul is able to be faithful to God’s will. Paul is not claiming to be inspired by the Holy Spirit–or by the sacred breath, either–in so many words, but that is the gist of this. Which should tell us that Paul was not always acting on precepts direct from Jesus. This was not a sacred text sort of relationship for Paul. He was not reading Jesus’ words–or even remembering them–or sifting through them for guidance. Rather, he is looking into himself, as one shown compassion by God, and giving his opinion. As such, this is a very signficant revelation for how the assembly grew into the Church.
More, I think we need to keep this very much in mind when we are talking about the historical Jesus. Or, maybe we should be mindful of this when others begin to parse texts in Matthew or Luke, arriving at indications of other traditions, ones that may very well trace back to Jesus. I do not think that is what happened. I think we had people like Paul, and James, each adding their own twist to what they believed to be Jesus’ central message. Given the interpretations of Paul and James, it’s but a small step to Matthew and Luke creating the message that they believe Jesus gave, because he should have given this message.
This makes the path backward to the historical Jesus a thorny one indeed.
25 De virginibus autem praeceptum Domini non habeo; consilium autem do, tamquam misericordiam consecutus a Domino, ut sim fidelis.
26 Νομίζω οὖν τοῦτο καλὸν ὑπάρχειν διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην, ὅτι καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ οὕτως εἶναι.
So I consider this good thing to start on account of the present necessity, that it is good for a man to be in this way (= ‘as he is’; i.e., ‘in his present state).
Here, << ὑπάρχειν >> presents something of a problem. The base meaning is ‘to start’, or possibly ‘to become’. Here, it is taken as ‘to be’, or just ‘is’. Not only do my crib translations do this; the Latin below does it, too. The Vulgate renders this as ‘esse‘, which is the verb ‘to be’. Now, looking through the other NT uses, some form of ‘to be’ seems to be a fairly common usage. So, perhaps I shouldn’t be too much of a stickler and render this as “to start”.
So I consider this to be good on account of the present necessity, that it is good for a man to be in this way (= ‘as he is’; i.e., ‘in his present state).
The next issue is << ἀνάγκην >>. The word means ‘necessity’ or ‘compulsion’, and this is how it gets used in most of the NT, including most of Paul’s uses of the word. And the Vulgate renders this as ‘necessitatem’, which means pretty much what it sounds like. And yet, most English translations, starting with the KJV, render it here as ‘distress’. Now, if you squint your eyes a bit and let your mind drift, you can see the connection between ‘compulsion’ and ‘distress’. And Liddell & Scott acknowledge ‘distress’ as a legitimate definition, even if it is used this way mostly in the NT.
Back in 1 Thessalonians, we had Paul talking about ‘troubles’, or ‘trials’. This hearkens back to those passages. And Christian commentary has been very consistent in the idea that the early church (even before that word was really appropriate, given all the modern implications) was under constant persecution from both Jews and Romans. The problem is that the words Paul uses are a bit generic, or soft, to carry the idea of persecution. So, especially in this passage, I want to stand by my choice to render this in its base meaning of ‘necessity’. For what Paul is saying is that, under the necessity of the immanent coming of the Lord, we must need remain in our current state. So I don’t think ‘distress’ is at all appropriate.
26 Existimo ergo hoc bonum esse propter instantem necessitatem, quoniam bonum est homini sic esse.
27 δέδεσαι γυναικί; μὴ ζήτει λύσιν: λέλυσαι ἀπὸ γυναικός; μὴ ζήτει γυναῖκα.
Have you been given to a woman? Do not seek to be loose (= free from the commitment). Have you been loosened (=divorced or separated) from your wife? Do not seek a woman/wife.
More of ‘stick with the status quo’. (Parents of kids between the ages of, say, 8 and 16 will recognise the quote.)
27 Alligatus es uxori? Noli quaerere solutionem. Solutus es ab uxore? Noli quaerere uxorem.
28 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ γαμήσῃς, οὐχ ἥμαρτες: καὶ ἐὰν γήμῃ ἡ παρθένος, οὐχ ἥμαρτεν. θλῖψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκὶ ἕξουσιν οἱ τοιοῦτοι, ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι.
But if you have been married, do not sin. And if you are married, or a virgin, do not sin. For such things have tribulations for the flesh, but I spare you.
Not quite sure, so comment deferred.
28 Si autem acceperis uxorem, non peccasti; et si nupserit virgo, non peccavit. Tribulationem tamen carnis habebunt huiusmodi, ego autem vobis parco.
29 τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν: τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὦσιν,
But this I say, brothers, the time is having been shortened (is short). (For) the rest (of time) in order also those having wives should be as those not having wives.
The ‘in order’ in that last clause is obviously terrible English, but I wanted to get across (however badly) the twin ideas of being consequent, and being purposed that << ἵνα >> carries here. It’s also present in the Latin ‘ut‘ that you will see below.
My take on these two verses is that we should all maintain celibacy. That way, we don’t sin (V-28), and that way we live without wives (i.e., no sexual activity) as a consequence of the short time that remains. Not sure about you, but don’t exactly see how little remaining time warrants sexual abstinence unless you perceive sexual activity to be more or less a bad thing in & of itself. A lot of ascetically inclined religious views have held this view. Many of the dualistic religious movements that circulated through Europe in the later Middle Ages believed exactly that. Paul was, apparently, of the same mindset.
Just to reiterate, at risk of being annoying, this insistence on celibacy comes from Paul, not Jesus.
29 Hoc itaque dico, fratres, tempus breviatum est; reliquum est, ut et qui habent uxores, tamquam non habentes sint,
30 καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες, καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες, καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες,
And those crying, (should be) as not crying, and those rejoicing (should be) as those not rejoicing, and those purchasing (should be) as those not holding,
30 et qui flent, tamquam non flentes, et qui gaudent, tamquam non gaudentes, et qui emunt, tamquam non possidentes,
31 καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι: παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου.
and those using this world (should be) as those not abusing; for the form of this world is passing.
First, these two verses are still operating on the verb << ὦσιν >> back in V-29t; that’s where the ‘should be’ comes from. The subsequent clauses are governed by the main verb of the sentence. Second, the crying/not crying & other contrasts are, obviously, rhetorical devices. The choice of contrasting pairs is, IMO, largely irrelevant. He could have said ‘those who are brown-haired should be as those who are not brown-haired. Feel free to disagree, but I don’t see any true significance; crying/happy is a pretty obvious contrast.
Sort of an aside: does this remind anyone of the first/last contrast that we saw in Mark? Was this a rhetorical device of Jesus? Against this, I would say that the first/last comparison was pretty much the only time that Jesus used such a contrasting pair. Or am I forgetting something? So, if it wasn’t Jesus, did the yes/no contrast come from Paul, which then got adapted by Mark as first/last? Or, is this just such a common technique that it gets used all the time by writers who have no necessary affiliation? I suspect this third possibility, and bring it up only to make us wary about seeing connections that may not really exist.
The real point of these passages is the part about “the form of this world is passing away”. I find it odd that he says ‘the form’ and not just ‘this world’. Why? This brings us back into the whole crazy world of apocalyptic thinking. Sometimes it’s the complete end of the world; this is, from what I gather, the standard current interpretation of Revelations among a lot of Christians these days. Here, the world is more or less destroyed while the Elect are taken up to heaven. (My apologies if I’ve not understood properly). Sometimes it’s just the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine; thanks R.E.M.), and the coming of a heavenly kingdom. This is how I read Revelation: the world as currently configured will be replaced by a city or a kingdom descending from the sky; hence, the new Jerusalem. This also seems to match what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians. Finally, there is simply a change in the configuration of the world, but the leadership is all of this world, even if the new leader (as anyone with any German knows, that is a rather uncomfortable turn of phrase) is chosen or designated by God.
Paul, it seems to me, falls into the middle sort. That is what both 1 Thessalonians and this verse seem to say. Or, it seems that Paul’s two passages say this pretty explicitly. Does this matter? I suppose, from a theoretical point of view, if one wants to be all academic and delve into apocalyptic taxonomy. From a “practical” stand point, it probably doesn’t matter at all. The current order will have been replaced.
31 et qui utuntur hoc mundo, tamquam non abutentes; praeterit enim figura huius mundi.
32 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους εἶναι. ὁ ἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ:
I wish (that) you be unconcerned. The unmarried (man) is concerned about the things of the lord, how to please the lord.
32 Volo autem vos sine sollicitudine esse. Qui sine uxore est, sollicitus est, quae Domini sunt, quomodo placeat Domino;
33 ὁ δὲ γαμήσας μεριμνᾷ τὰτοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί,
Bug the married man is concerned about the things of the world, how to please his wife, (V-34) and he is divided.
Tacked on the first bit of Verse 34, since that’s where the sentence ends properly.
There you have it: the argument for asceticism and/or celibacy summarized neatly. The Roman Rite still uses this as a reason for not allowing priests to marry. I’m not denying that it’s true, but it becomes a question of priorities and definitions. Or the other way around: what is holy? What is most holy? What about the family? Isn’t that a holy thing? Of course.
We have to keep in mind that Paul had a very, very short time-horizon. Raising the next generation was not the priority because there would not be time to raise the next generation. I’m not sure we grasp how immediate the return of the Christ was for Paul. So, we need to dwell for a moment on passages like this in order to get a better, deeper understanding of how urgent this all was for Paul.
Which leads to this question: what was there in Mark that gave us anything like the same sense of urgency? I am very much looking forward to Matthew now that we’ve gotten a little deeper into Paul’s conception of how it was. We have to keep going back to whether any of this urgency came from Jesus. Given that other apostles traveled with their wives (that will be coming up in a couple of chapters), it seems as if they did not have quite the same sense of immediacy that Paul had. As such, this seems to indicate that this apocalyptic strain arose from Paul; or, at least, it was greatly magnified, or intensified, by Paul. So maybe apocalypticism was not a major part of Jesus’ message. That is my growing sense; but, as always, I reserve the right to change my mind when presented with additional evidence.
33 qui autem cum uxore est, sollicitus est, quae sunt mundi, quomodo placeat uxori,
34 καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι: ἡ δὲ γαμήσασα μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί.
and he is divided. (included with Verse 33). And the unmarried woman and the virgin is concerned with the things of the Lord, so that both the affairs of (lit= ‘to’) the body and of the spirit are holy. The married woman, on the other hand, is concerned with the affairs of the world, as how she pleases her husband.
This celibacy/ascetic thing works for the goose as well as the gander; it’s equally bad for both.
34 et divisus est. Et mulier innupta et virgo cogitat, quae Domini sunt, ut sit sancta et corpore et spiritu; quae autem nupta est, cogitat, quae sunt mundi, quomodo placeat viro.
35 τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον καὶ εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως.
I say this for your profit (or ‘benefit’), not so that I throw a snare over you, but towards the gracefulness and assiduousness to the Lord without distraction. [that’s the very literal rendering.] Or-
What’s the first you notice about the last part of that sentence, beginning with “but”? That there is no verb? No, I didn’t forget it; there isn’t one there. This brings up all sorts of problems. My first impulse was this:
…that you contemplate without distraction the beauty and the constancy of the Lord.
“Of the Lord” requires reading this as a dative of possession; the “c’est a moi” construction in French. While this is a possible reading, it’s probably not the most natural reading. The key, or the trick, is the preposition, ‘pros‘ << πρὸς >>, the most common meaning, especially with the accusative, is ‘motion towards’, which explains my literal translation. But if you take ‘in the direction of’ a bit more figuratively, you arrive at ‘about’ or ‘for’. So one is moving mentally towards…<< τὸ εὔσχημον >>this is kind of an odd word. In its Classical sense, it’s more or less some kind of synonym for ‘beauty’ (comely; graceful of mien…). Liddell & Scott also give it a late meaning of ‘dignified’ or ‘honourable’. Here, perhaps we can split the difference and use ‘seemly’, or rather, the noun form of ‘seemliness’. I don’t think that’s doing too much violence to either the spirit or the letter.
But it’s “seemliness and…” And what? Here, interestingly, L&S cite this passage as the only use of this word, and they translate as “constant waiting on the Lord.” I will argue with Biblical scholars; I will not argue with Liddell and Scott; although, if I ever considered it, here would be the time to do so. This leaves us with:
…towards seemliness, and waiting on the Lord without distraction.
Which eliminates the dative of possession. But we’re still lacking a verb. Given the preposition used, my impulse is to use something like ‘turn’. So, all together, we have:
I say this for your profit (or ‘benefit’), not so that I throw a snare over you, but so you turn towards seemliness and and waiting on the Lord without distraction.
As for the content, the idea of the snare is interesting; how would pointing out the benefit of celibacy be a trap? Is this because the inability to maintain this ideal would mean that the members of the community have fallen into sin, and so Paul is catching them in flagrente, as it were? Some more of Paul’s particular brand of reasoning. That took a whole lot less time than figuring out what it’s likely that Paul actually said.
35 Porro hoc ad utilitatem vestram dico, non ut laqueum vobis iniciam, sed ad id quod honestum est, et ut assidue cum Domino sitis sine distractione.
36 Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ νομίζει ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος, καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι, ὃ θέλει ποιείτω: οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει: γαμείτωσαν.
If someone considers to be (acting) unseemly towards his virgin, if she is (sexually) mature, and in this way he becomes obligated, let him do as he may wish. He does not sin. Let them marry.
First, the NASV takes the ‘virgin’ as ‘virgin daughter‘. My other cribs render this as ‘virgin fiancee’, and I would agree with that. Second, this ‘unseemly’ behaviour is sexual passion (which, we might say, Paul always considers unseemly and improper). Some of this bloodless translation is a relic of the Victorian era prudishness that infects Liddell & Scott; it was compiled in the latter 19th Century, after all. But, overall, this is more or less a restatement of ‘it’s better to marry than to burn with passion’. Why? Because the passion will distract you from holy things. Yes, being married will do that, but I think Paul believes–perhaps rightly–that the state of constantly being inflamed is much worse, and may lead to much more unseemly sorts of passion.
36 Si quis autem turpem se videri existimat super virgine sua, quod sit superadulta, et ita oportet fieri, quod vult, faciat; non peccat: nubant.
37 ὃς δὲ ἕστηκεν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἑδραῖος, μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην, ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος, καὶ τοῦτο κέκρικεν ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ καρδίᾳ, τηρεῖν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον, καλῶς ποιήσει:
For he who stands firmly in his heart, not having compulsion, he has power over his own desires, and this he has decided (lit = ‘judged’) in his own heart to keep watch on his virgin, he will do well.
Basically, stiff upper lip, be in control of yourself, keep a lid on your passions, and you will do the right thing. Primarily by your fiancee, but also in general. This is a root of what became later Christian practice–or at least, later Christian teaching. Few could actually live up to this ideal; the fact that so few, even those actively in the church, could live up to this, was a large factor in the causation of the Reformation.
37 Qui autem statuit in corde suo firmus, non habens necessitatem, potestatem autem habet suae voluntatis, et hoc iudicavit in corde suo servare virginem suam, bene faciet;
38 ὥστε καὶ ὁ γαμίζων τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον καλῶς ποιεῖ, καὶ ὁ μὴ γαμίζων κρεῖσσον ποιήσει.
Therefore, he also does well in the marrying of his virgin, and the not marrying he does even better.
In case we didn’t get the message the first four or five times: Stay Celibate!
This is where Paul gets his bad rap, I think. He doesn’t just tell us that celibacy is better; he tells us over and over and over again. It gets to the point that it’s not an admonition; it’s something bordering on obsession. Now, one could argue two different ways: that the city of Corinth was notorious for the lax morals of its citizens. I have the idea that this is true, but I’m not sure that the idea didn’t come from Paul’s letters. That is, I’m not sure that I have independent verification. But, assuming this, we can take Paul’s continued harping on this theme as necessary to correct an existing condition.
Or, we can assume that the morals of the citizens of Corinth weren’t all that much different from the morals in other places. And, let’s recall, some members of the community may have been Jews who, presumably, did not sink into the depravity that the pagans often did. In this case, the continued harping indicates that this was an issue for Paul, so he projected it on to the members of the community. I think, generally, that the former suggestion is more likely closer to the truth; this was not so important an issue in the other letters that we’ve read; however, I think that, some of this anyway, is because of Paul. I think this was an issue for him.
38 igitur et, qui matrimonio iungit virginem suam, bene facit; et, qui non iungit, melius faciet.
39 Γυνὴ δέδεται ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς: ἐὰν δὲ κοιμηθῇ ὁ ἀνήρ, ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ᾧ θέλει γαμηθῆναι, μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ.
For a woman is bound for however much time that a man lives; if the man sleeps, she is free to marry whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
First, the word for ‘bound’ is the same word used for the Gerasene demonaic who could not be fettered. So there is an undertone of enslavement here. This implication is increased by the idea of her being ‘freed’ upon the husband’s death.
Second, ‘alone/only in the Lord’? I am not at all sure what that means. Or, I understand the words here, but not the intent. All of my cribs render this as ‘only’, but the concept behind it is ‘single’;the word is << μόνον >>, “monon“, the is the root of ‘mono-rail’ and ‘monk’. It is the neuter singular nominative used as an adverb. The Latin isn’t a lot of help here, since it seems to be going in a different direction.
Most of my crib translations give this as ‘only in the Lord’, as I have, but the NIV translates this as “she must belong to the Lord”. This is an entirely different thing, unless I absolutely do not understand (always a possibility) what is meant by ‘alone in the lord’. The Revised English Bible gives this as ‘provided the marriage is within the fellowship of the Lord’. OK. There’s a lot there that I don’t see, but they are smarter people than I am…Bottom line is that, once again, Paul has managed to confound a lot of modern readers.
39 Mulier alligata est, quanto tempore vir eius vivit; quod si dormierit vir eius, libera est, cui vult nubere, tantum in Domino.
40 μακαριωτέρα δέ ἐστιν ἐὰν οὕτως μείνῃ, κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην, δοκῶ δὲ κἀγὼ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἔχειν.
But she is more blessed is if in this way she remains, according to my opinion, for I seem to have the holy spirit.
40 Beatior autem erit, si sic permanserit secundum meum consilium; puto autem quod et ego Spiritum Dei habeo.
I can’t seem to get the last part about the sacred breath part correctly, in a way that gets across the full impact of the Greek. Apparently, St Jerome couldn’t figure it out either, because my translation is pretty much matches what the Latin gives us.
And I’m also struck by how Paul sort of pulls rank by claiming to have the sacred breath in him. This would make it very difficult to argue with him; after all, would that not be like arguing with God? If Paul is full of God’s breath, if he has been breathed into (in-spired), then how can a human compete with that? So he’s told us that he is speaking, not the Christ/Lord, but now he tells us that he is speaking with the breath of God. Isn’t there something of a contradiction there? Seems like it to me.
So I wonder if this was not Paul’s overall technique: make a statement on his own authority, then say he was speaking with God’s breath. This would certainly be a way to assert one’s authority. Such an inference, of course, is just that: an inference, one with no way to verify or falsify. However, given what we’ve read of Paul so far, such a tactic seems like it would be consistent with Paul’s personality. Feel free to disagree.
Chapter 7 continues. It’s been very interesting so far. We were talking about marriage and celibacy, and whose idea this all was.
12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς λέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος: εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν:
For the rest I say (this), not the Lord. If some brother has a non-believing wife (lit = ‘woman’), and she agrees to live with him, let him not divorce her.
In Greek, as in Spanish and Latin, the use of the pronoun in the nominative case as the subject is not necessary (and is usually avoided). The nominative first person singular is << ἐγώ >> (“ego”), just as it is in Latin. So, by inserting it here, Paul is really emphasizing that it is he himself who is speaking. In English, we would add the ‘my/him/ herself to get this emphasis across.
Now, is Paul contradicting something the Lord said? Is that why he emphasizes that this is he speaking? Did the Lord tell his followers to divorce women who were not followers of Jesus? That’s kind of the implication, but there is nothing whatsoever anywhere else in the NT that comes close to indicating this. Anyone?
12 Ceteris autem ego dico, non Dominus: Si quis frater uxorem habet infidelem, et haec consentit habitare cum illo, non dimittat illam;
13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.
And if some woman has a non-believer husband (lit = ‘man’) and he agrees to live with her, let her not divorce the man.
This is kind of interesting. The bottom line is that, throughout this section, Paul is telling the community to stick to the way things are. If you’re married, stay married, even if to someone who’s not a believer. If you’re single or widowed, stay that way. But then, if the end of all times is immanent, then why rock the boat?
13 et si qua mulier habet virum infidelem, et hic consentit habitare cum illa, non dimittat virum.
14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ: ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.
For the non-believing man is blessed in this women (by being in this marriage), and the non-believing woman is blessed in this man (by being married to this man); for they say that their children are unclean, but now they are blessed.
Even back then, the products of mixed marriages were considered…suspect. I recall the standard line when an interracial couple wanted to marry was ‘think of the children’. Here, Paul is showing an admirable sense of toleration and acceptance, to a level that was rare for the time. He was willing to accept the offspring of such a marriage, even though many of the cultural norms of his time considered such children unclean.
This strikes me as something Paul sort of came to on his own. Once again, this is issue is not really addressed in the parts of the NT that deal with Jesus. Jesus was the idea man; it was Paul, and those like him, who had to implement the ideas and make them work in the practical world. And again, this is something that really does reflect on the question of just what Jesus’ actual message was. Why did Jesus not consider this? Because he spent his entire ministry talking to other Jews? And, as such, the idea of a mixed marriage just didn’t come up? That is very possible. It is not necessary, IMO, to read into Jesus’ message (0r lack of message) about mixed marriages that he expected the Apocalypse (in the Capital-A sense of the word) soon, which rendered such questions moot. I am not sure that such was part of Jesus’ message; but, if not, where did Paul get it? Did he make it up?
Actually, I consider that to be a real possibility. That Paul took the idea of “the kingdom” and morphed it into, or mixed it up with, the coming apocalypse. But, more on that as the themes develop.
14 Sanctificatus est enim vir infidelis in muliere, et sanctificata est mulier infidelis in fratre. Alioquin filii vestri immundi essent; nunc autem sancti sunt.
15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω: οὐ δεδούλωται ὁἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις: ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ὑμᾶς ὁ θεός.
But if the non-believer departs, let him/her depart. The the brother or the sister or sister are not enslaved in this way. But in peace God has called you.
Rather an interesting way to put the point across about a life-long, unbreakable commitment. Guess the “ball and chain” metaphor hadn’t been invented yet; probably because the ball-and-chain hadn’t been invented. Slavery would easily have been the best metaphor for this.
15 Quod si infidelis discedit, discedat. Non est enim servituti subiectus frater aut soror in eiusmodi; in pace autem vocavit nos Deus.
16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;
For what do you know, woman, if you will save your husband (lit= ‘the man’)? Man, what do you know if you will save your wife?
Most modern translations render this as ‘how do you know whether you will save your spouse?’ That works; it’s just not particularly literal, but this is one of those times when not being too literal is justified..
Now, this doesn’t exactly square with Jesus discussion on marriage in Mark, where divorce wasn’t allowed. This passage is often used to show Paul disagreeing with Jesus. While this is true, it also misses some of the point. Yes, Paul here is condoning divorce where Mark tells us that Jesus would not do so. However, context means a lot in this discussion. Jesus was talking to Jews, about a Jewish man married to a Jewish woman. As such, the circumstances here are very different. Just to be clear, I do think that the way Paul talks about this does lend weight to the idea that Jesus did talk about marriage in something like the terms that Mark relates. The way he refers to the Lord, then more or less contradicts him is, I think, very significant. So we can chalk that up as an authentic saying of Jesus. JD Crossan is of the opinion that the earliest stratum of Jesus sayings were the so-called wisdom sayings. This doesn’t exactly fit in with that. Rather, it’s the sort of something someone who was really interested in Jewish law would say. IOW, it’s not exactly anything revolutionary, nor particularly apocalyptic. What this says about Jesus’ ‘program’ will require some additional consideration; however, this is, I believe, a very important clue since it’s the first thing that we’ve been able to demonstrate is authentically traceable to Jesus.
When discussing Verse 14, my speculation was whether Paul’s directive to celibacy arose from the idea of the immanent Parousia. If so, we really have to ask if there are any implications for Jesus’ attitude towards an, or the apocalypse couched inside his attitude about no divorce. However, while I’m not sure we’re justified to draw any such conclusions, we still have to ask the question.
16 Quid enim scis, mulier, si virum salvum facies? Aut quid scis, vir, si mulierem salvam facies?
17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω: καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι.
Except as to each as the lord has assigned, (or as) each (whomever) as God has called, let him go about it in this way (let it be done in this way). And I will command all the communities thus.
KJV: But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so I ordain I in all churches.
NASB: Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.
My translation leaves a lot to be desired. But…once again, we come across another situation where the literal translation really doesn’t seem to work all that well. This does seem to be a particular problem of Paul. I never had to resort to something like this in Mark.
The idea behind this verse, I think, is that each has to listen to his or her own conscience. Or, probably more accurately, to the Voice of God that speaks to all of us. This sentiment would become very important for the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century. It may not have arisen solely, or even primarily from this passage, but it is the sort of thinking that did lead to the break from Rome.
17 Nisi unicuique, sicut divisit Dominus, unumquemque, sicut vocavit Deus, ita ambulet; et sic in omnibus ecclesiis doceo.
18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω. ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω.
Was anyone having been circumcised called? Let him not be uncircumcised! Who is called by non-circumcision? Let him not be circumcised.
Now we’re back to the circumcision debate. Currently, I’m reading a book called What Paul Meant by Garry Wills. Wills was educated in Classics, but went on to a career as a political pundit. He is also a Catholic, and a knowledgeable individual, even if not an expert in this field. Now, he brings up the point that Paul would have spent his time preaching in synagogues, and that many–if not most–of his converts would have come from the ranks of those usually called “God-fearers”. These were pagans who were interested in following Jewish law, even if they didn’t always fully convert. His point is that these God-fearers would have been very important to the Jewish community, acting as intermediaries between the Jews and the pagans, and that they also would have been financial supporters of the synagogue. As such, the authorities of the synagogue would not have been thrilled that Paul was winning them over to the teachings of Jesus. Here we have, perhaps, the root cause of the animosity between the Jews and Paul, the reason that Paul persecuted the nascent church. This also, then, explains the continued debate about whether or not circumcision was necessary or even desirable. For the orthodox Jews, of course, it was both. For the pagans, it was a stumbling block to them converting. So, for Paul to accept the uncircumcised as full members of the community, when the Jews could not, put the latter at a significant disadvantage when trying to attract the God-fearers to their respective communities. So the issue was a fundamental one, and, as such, it kept coming up.
18 Circumcisus aliquis vocatus est? Non adducat praeputium! In praeputio aliquis vocatus est? Non circumcidatur!
19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ.
Circumcision is nothing, and (being) uncircumcised is also nothing, but keeping the commands of God (is something).
That it did keep coming back to circumcision really does support Wills’ contention that the God-fearers were the primary consideration. This would only have mattered to pagans. And Paul truly wants to avoid further divisions amongst an already riven community. Now, this makes me wonder: JD Crossan says that Apollos was a Jew. Was he preaching circumcision? If so, this would be another way for Paul to undermine his authority, or at least his influence.
19 Circumcisio nihil est, et praeputium nihil est, sed observatio mandatorum Dei.
20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ἧ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω.
Each in the calling to which s/he has been called, in this let him/her remain.
IOW, maintain the status quo. Now, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see the danger of this passage, how it could be and likely was used to defend an unjust status quo.
20 Unusquisque, in qua vocatione vocatus est, in ea permaneat.
21 δοῦλος ἐκλήθης; μή σοι μελέτω: ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι.
Were you a slave (when) having been called? Do not let it be a concern to you. But, if you are able to become free, better you do this.
And this is exactly what I was thinking of: the slave owners in the American South prior to the civil war used passages such as Verse 20 to claim that slavery had a Biblical justification. And such passages have been used very often by repressive regimes.
To be clear, in context, I do not believe that Paul is saying that we should all meekly submit to authority. That is certainly not the message of Paul’s actions. Rather, the times were extraordinary in his view: The Christ was returning. Soon. As such, minor worldly details like marital status, or free/slave really didn’t matter, because these states would prove to be very temporary.
21 Servus vocatus es? Non sit tibi curae; sed et si potes liber fieri, magis utere!
22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν: ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ.
For the slave having been called in the Lord, is a free person of the Lord. In the same way, the free person called is a slave of the Christ.
Because here, Paul continues with his egalitarian message that we saw in Galatians 3:28, in which he said that, for God and his Christ, there were no distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free. Plus, the image of the “slave of Christ” is used by Paul in a number of instances. It’s meant to emphasize our level of total dependence on God. This egalitarianism mattered. A lot. This was a radical departure from the class-stratified society of the ancient world. In fact, this message is probably one of the most appealing message of Christianity, one that facilitated its acceptance by so many people.
Being a classicist, I have to point out that this message was not necessarily novel with Christianity. Rather, the idea of a universal siblinghood (f.k.a. ‘brotherhood’) was part of the beliefs of the Stoics. And, as we have seen, Greek ideas were part of the predominant culture of the Eastern Mediterranean. However, a lot of reading of the development of religious thought has taught me that ideas are constantly being rediscovered; they show up in one religion, then in another a few thousand miles away and a few hundred years later. Yes, the first may have influenced the second, but the connection is not necessary, and should not be accepted unless there is real proof of direct influence. Dualism is the best example of this. Dualistic ideas showed up in Mediaeval Europe in several places and at different times. For a long time, it was believed that these beliefs represented a direct descent from Manicheanism. However, subsequent examination showed this theory had serious flaws, and now it’s generally acknowledged that these dualistic ideas came about on their own.
For example, when I read the first edition of Malcolm Lambert’s Medieval Heresy back in grad school, he argued for direct affiliation. When I recently (well, within the last decade) read the second edition, Lambert had modified his original position in favor of the idea of independent development. I give him credit for this. Too many academics are reluctant to make such a correction.
22 Qui enim in Domino vocatus est servus, libertus est Domini; similiter, qui liber vocatus est, servus est Christi!
23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε: μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων.
You were bought dearly. Do not become slaves of men.
Two things. Taking the second first, we have the ‘slaves of men’. By ‘men’ he means ‘slaves of the world’, or simply ‘non-spiritual’, hearkening back to Chapter 2. So, speaking of dualism, we get another example of Paul’s quasi-dualistic thinking.
Then the first idea. This is the idea of being ‘bought’. We saw this back in 6:20. We will see it again later in the chapter. We don’t see it anywhere else except 2 Peter 2:1 and a couple of times in Revelation. The repetition in this letter, and nowhere else in the Pauline corpus is very, very interesting. This narrow occurrence seems to indicate that it was something that Paul considered important for a while. That it did not occur earlier could indicate it was a concept, or an analogy that he only thought of in the middle of his career. That he did not develop it seems to indicate that he came to find the idea, or the analogy, unsatisfactory for whatever reason. But it remain in the sacred text, so the church fathers had to deal with it. They had to take this into consideration when they were working out the implications of the sacred text, and it had an impact on later theological developments. As we mentioned, the problem was, if we were purchased, the question was from whom? And was Jesus’ death a ransom? Which is one possible translation of ‘redemption’, or was Jesus an expiating sacrifice? This is how the bulk of the NT portrays Jesus’ death, but then, where does the idea of purchase, which is a form of ransom, arise? It seems to be something Paul came up with, and even he wasn’t completely sold on the idea. However, it carried forward since nothing in sacred scripture can be overlooked.
23 Pretio empti estis! Nolite fieri servi hominum.
24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.
24 Unusquisque, in quo vocatus est, fratres, in hoc maneat apud Deum.
Each in the state s/he was called, brother, in this state let him/her remain in God.
So, stick to the status quo. My sense is that Paul says this because he believes the conditions will only be temporary.
Starting Chapter 7.
1 Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι:
But regarding the things I wrote you about, it is better for a man not to fasten (himself) to a woman.
Most translations render this as ‘touch’ a woman. I think there are slightly different connotations. ‘Touch’ would mean remain celibate completely. ‘Fasten to’ would have more the context of ‘marry’. The former is, technically, the more stringent sanction, but Paul does not countenance sex outside of marriage, so this is close to a distinction without a difference. Basically, Paul’s idea is celibacy.
Working backwards, not entirely sure what the ‘things I wrote you about’ refers to; whether it’s a reference back to Chapter 5, or to something previous. Was there a letter to the Corinthians before First Corinthians?
1 De quibus autem scripsistis, bonum est homini mulierem non non tangere;
2 διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω, καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω.
On account of debauchery, let each of you have a wife, and let each (female) her own personal man.
Here’s my point about sex outside of marriage. I am not familiar with Jewish customs of the time, but I suspect this was a fairly non-controversial attitude. The Greeks and Romans had other ideas, of course. Sex between a husband and wife was generally for procreation; for men, sex with prostitutes or other men was not necessarily considered a terrible thing. Paul does not find that acceptable; and it really kind of matters if the Corinthians were primarily Jews or Gentiles. If the former, this isn’t telling them anything they don’t already know; if the latter, this may be a big deal. Or, a third possibility is that Jews living in Corinth had become sufficiently Hellenized that they followed the Greek sexual mores. The point is that, for Paul, marriage is really only the lesser of two evils. It’s not something to be encouraged. Most dualist religions abhorred marriage, and marital sex because it’s purpose was to procreate. Procreation created more physical creatures that were inherently base, and debased.
2 propter fornicationes autem unusquisque suam uxorem habeat, et unaquaeque suum virum habeat.
3 τῇ γυναικὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί.
Let a man give over (or even ‘pay’) his obligation to a woman, in the same way that the woman owes it to her man.
This is the injunction to conduct marital relations. That is what husband and wife owe each other, since the purpose of marriage was to create a legitimate heir.
3 Uxori vir debitum reddat; similiter autem et uxor viro.
4 ἡ γυνὴ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ὁ ἀνήρ: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ἡ γυνή.
For a woman does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband (does); in the same way a man does not exercise authority over his own body, but the woman does.
This is perhaps the most non-sexist statement I’ve ever read that was written before…1978 (kidding! Or not…) When I first started this, my thought was, ‘oh boy, here we go…’ but that’s what can happen when you assume you know what’s coming. This goes back to the ‘obligation’ in the previous verse. The thing is, until the past century, and then mainly in the West, marriage was not about hearts and flowers; it was a much more like a business arrangement than a romantic entanglement. Here, we get a sense of this obligation under the terms of the contract: one surrenders one’s body to the other partner.
4 Mulier sui corporis potestatem non habet sed vir; similiter autem et vir sui corporis potestatem non habet sed mulier.
5 μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε ἀλλήλους, εἰ μήτι ἂν ἐκ συμφώνου πρὸς καιρὸν ἵνα σχολάσητε τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε, ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ ὑμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς διὰ τὴν ἀκρασίαν ὑμῶν.
Do not defraud (each) other, unless out of consent towards a season, so that you be freed for prayer and again you would be upon the other, so that Satan does not tempt you on account of the incontinence of you.
Do not withhold from each other, unless (you do so) out of an agreement, and for a (specified) time, so you can have time to pray. But again, go to each other, so that Satan does not tempt you due to your excess of desire.
The first version is altogether too literal, but it took some working out. One of the biggest problems, IMO, in translating Greek is figuring out which preposition to use with the dative. By? For? From? Of (dative of possession)? And so it was here. Sometimes it’s a matter of just trial and error until you get something that sounds right. This was one of those instances. For me, anyway. And there are times that the Latin is immensely helpful. Latin has an ablative case which should help, but the ablative and dative endings are often identical, so it may not be that much help, either.
Anyway, here we really see the contract aspect of marriage. …If the party of the first part, and the party of the second part both agree, there will be a cessation of marital relations until one week after the signatories both agree and both sign the agreement…But that is, essentially, what Paul is saying. The last line is good, too: don’t hold out too long, so that you can’t control yourself and end up succumbing to temptation–presumably with someone other than your spouse. Somehow, I suspect he’s addressing the men here, primarily.
5 Nolite fraudare invicem, nisi forte ex consensu ad tempus, ut vacetis orationi et iterum sitis in idipsum, ne tentet vos Satanas propter incontinentiam vestram.
6 τοῦτο δὲ λέγω κατὰ συγγνώμην, οὐ κατ’ ἐπιταγήν.
I say this upon leniency, not upon command.
Here’s an interesting situation. The word rendered ‘leniency’ is better translated by the modern translations, I think, than the KJV. The latter rendered this as ‘permission’; it works, but I’m not sure that word in English brings across the sense of ‘favor’. Paul is making a concession, which is how the three modern versions I use render the word.
And what a sport that Paul is! He’s granting them this favor, this concession. Remember, we were discussing the idea of cutting a deal to forego marital relations so that both partners could spend more time in prayer.
Or am I being too flippant about this? That is always a possibility.
6 Hoc autem dico secundum indulgentiam, non secundum imperium.
7 θέλω δὲ πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἶναι ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν: ἀλλὰ ἕκαστος ἴδιον ἔχει χάρισμα ἐκ θεοῦ, ὁ μὲν οὕτως, ὁ δὲ οὕτως.
But I prefer all men to be also as I am; but each has his blessing from God, one in this way, while another in that way.
Boy, you read those first few lines and it can give the impression that Paul is pretty full of himself. “Well, be like me…” But he’s referring specifically to his unmarried status. At least, that seems the most likely interpretation, given the context. How old was Paul? The story is that he held the cloaks when Stephen was stoned by the crowd, which means he was probably no older than a young teen. Of course, that assumes that the story was literally true, and I have serious reservations about Acts, just as I have about Luke and John regarding their historical reliability. But still, Paul had been at this for close to twenty years at this point (per his reckoning in Galatians); and he had a stint as a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, and he’d created a rather fearsome reputation for himself. I don’t expect that was the work of young men, and it takes time to build a reputation. So, my point is, Paul was a fully mature man at this time, and it was extremely unusual for men not to marry back then.
So what does it say about Paul that he bucked tradition and remained unmarried? I’m really not certain. Was he married when he was a persecutor? He bragged about being a Pharisee’s Pharisee, and such upstanding men had a duty to marry; and to procreate, which is why one’s body belonged to one’s spouse.
I don’t have answers. I can speculate, but no more.
However, Paul understands–this isn’t a concession, I think–that each has his/her own gifts. This will come up again shortly.
7 Volo autem omnes homines esse sicut meipsum; sed unusquisque proprium habet donum ex Deo: alius quidem sic, alius vero sic.
8 Λέγω δὲ τοῖς ἀγάμοις καὶ ταῖς χήραις, καλὸν αὐτοῖς ἐὰν μείνωσιν ὡς κἀγώ:
But I say to those unmarried, and to the widows, it is better remaining as I am.
Note: he says, “like me”. He doesn’t say “like Jesus”, or “like the other apostles”. In fact, this latter may be because at least some of the apostles were married, and they brought their wives with them on preaching journeys. There is a point in one of Paul’s letters where he complains about these entourages, and the financial burden they put on some of the communities. But what about Jesus?
That Paul does not mention Jesus here is significant, I believe. Not that I think this has any bearing on, or provides evidence for the idea that Jesus may have been married. Rather, this shows that it is Paul who is making rules here, and he’s doing it on his authority. In the same way he was allowing pagan converts to forego Jewish dietary restrictions, circumcision, etc., on his own authority.
I was going to leave off after the last paragraph, but it occurs to me that this is a Big Thing. Paul is setting rules on his own authority. This implies (requires, actually) that Paul does not feel it necessary to verify these ideas with others. He feels that he is free from the strictures of the James Gang, or the Jerusalem Assembly, or pretty much anyone else. The question is, why does he feel this confidence? A few chapters back, and in Galatians, we saw Paul obviously feeling defensive when talking about other gospels, or here when he talked about other leaders like Apollos.
Here is my take on this, and I can pretty much guarantee you won’t hear this suggested elsewhere (or, maybe I just need to read more). Paul’s confidence springs from his conversion experience. He told us in Galatians that the gospel was not revealed to him by men, but by Jesus the Christ himself. Maybe the boldness–or just the implications–of this statement is/are only now truly dawning on me. This gives Paul licence to make statements like this, on his own authority because he is only transmitting the message that he received. He is, in standard Christian terms, full of the Holy Spirit, who shows him the proper interpretation of the gospel. Now, it did not come to him all at once, of course, but when situations arise, he feels confidence that his inner message is coming by virtue of the Holy Spirit.
Really, this shouldn’t surprise me. Inspiration by the Holy Spirit in translating or understanding Scripture, or the will of God is a very mainstream Christian belief. But it does, because the Holy Spirit, as we understand the term, had not been defined yet. Paul doesn’t even believe Christ is co-eternal with the Father, let alone believe in the Third Person. But Paul would understand the idea of being filled with the sacred breath. (Aside: I believe this is how his Jewish ancestors would have understood this, but I’m not certain about that.) I hope you see the difference. Saying that “God has filled me with the sacred breath, so I understand his will” is different from “He was inspired by the Holy Spirit”. The second proposition personifies the idea of ‘sacred breath’ in a way that the first doesn’t. However, “he was filled by the sacred breath/filled by the Holy Spirit” are virtually identical in implication.
Part of the point of this is that this attitude explains why Paul gets so miffed at other gospels, or the showy wisdom of Apollos: Paul was granted a direct revelation. I don’t think he believes the same about others.
8 Dico autem innuptis et viduis: Bonum est illis si sic maneant, sicut et ego;
9 εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται γαμησάτωσαν, κρεῖττον γάρ ἐστιν γαμῆσαι ἢ πυροῦσθαι.
But if not being able to be continent, they should be married, for it is better to marry than to burn.
Now this is really interesting. I have translated this as is; the KJV has basically the same translation. The NIV, NASB, and ESV all add “burn with passion“. Now, I think I happen to agree with the implication. I think. Up until this minute I have to admit that I took this as “to burn in the lake of unquenchable fire”. Which is it? In fact, I have a very clear recollection of my HS religion (CCD) teacher quoting this, and leaving no doubt that he was talking about Hellfire.
Reading this now, my sense is that the addition of the extra phrase–and it was added; it is not there at all in either the Greek, or the Latin–is appropriate, in the sense that it does clarify the meaning of the passage. This does not mean ‘burn in Hell’. One reason to believe this is that, to this point, Paul has not made any allusions to an afterlife, nor to Gehenna, nor to unquenchable fire as we saw in Mark. Given that, ‘hell-fire’ seems completely inaccurate.
The addition of the phrase to the more modern translations again represents a consensus translation; but, rather than settling on a meaning for a passage that is unclear, this is the flagrant addition to the text. That seems very bold. What, if anything, does it say about inerrancy? I don’t ask that to be provocative; my question is sincere. And you have the KJV which does not include the phrase; since that is generally considered the inerrant translation, then I suppose my question is actually moot.
Aside from all that: and this is important. Here we are beginning to get the Christian attitude about celibacy. What this implies is that this attitude did not come from Jesus. And this, in turn, has major–MAJOR–implications for the QHJ people. I’m wading through J D Crossan’s The Birth Of Christianity (more on that later), but a big chunk of it is a discussion about whether Jesus’ message was ascetic, which has implications for whether Jesus’ message was apocalyptic, which has implications…Suffice it to say that if the later Christian attitude towards celibacy did not come from Jesus, but from Paul, it may be necessary to look at Jesus’ message in rather a different light. If he wasn’t preaching about celibacy and/or asceticism, then I think this means we have to re-evaluate the idea that his message was apocalyptic or eschatological. Now, Paul obviously believed that Jesus was coming back, and soon, but what Paul believed and what Jesus preached are not necessarily the same thing. Paul never met the living Jesus. Paul was not instructed by Cephas and James. Paul believed he received the message directly from the Christ. There is a chance–perhaps not a great one, but a real one–that Paul was the author of the apocalyptic thinking. Remember, the idea of apocalypse was more prevalent in the second half of Mark–the Christ half–than it was in the Wonder-Worker section.
9 quod si non se continent, nubant. Melius est enim nubere quam uri.
10 τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσιν παραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι
But to those having been married I preach, not I but the lord, a woman shall not depart from a man
“Depart” is a bit clumsy, or overly literal, but it’s the basic root of the word. It can mean, ‘leave the country’; in modern Greek, it’s the word used for a plane departing. The more idiomatic word would, of course, be ‘leave’, as in, ‘leave your husband’.
10 His autem, qui matrimonio iuncti sunt, praecipio, non ego sed Dominus, uxorem a viro non discedere
11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμος ἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.
but if he should be left, let (him) remain unmarried, or to the man let her be reconciled, and the man shall not leave the woman.
11 — quod si discesserit, maneat innupta aut viro suo reconcilietur — et virum uxorem non dimittere.
Again, a tad clumsy, but I think the meaning is clear enough. Stay married. Don’t get divorced. But if you do get divorced, don’t remarry.
Given my comments on Verse 9, we are are seeing here the beginnings of the celibacy movement. Now, the question becomes, where is this pointing? Or what is the impetus? On the one hand, Paul seems to dislike sexual activity per se; on the other, is it possibly related to the immanent return of the Christ? What is, after all, the point of procreating if the current mode of existence is coming to an end? At least, one presumes that the return of the Christ, and the way that his followers will rise into the air to join him will put an end to the current mode of existence.
In the two books by J D Crossan that I’ve read, he talks a lot–I mean a lot— about resistance movements and cross-cultural studies of anti-imperial reactions by the subject population, and tells us how apocalypse is sort of the last refuge of a defeated people. It’s the reaction brought about by prolonged helplessness in the face of the superior power of the ruling empire. If I’m reading the development of the followers of Jesus correctly, Jesus himself may not have been persecuted–at least, not until he was executed. His brother James was allowed to live, and to preach and organize for perhaps three decades after Jesus’ death. That does not indicate much official resistance to the message. But Paul was a persecutor, and he indicates that he and his assemblies are still being persecuted by unnamed groups. Does the apocalyptic thinking arise from this?
There will be more–much more–on this.