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1 Corinthians 7:1-16

Context
Celibacy and Marriage

7:1 Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 1  7:2 But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with 2  his own wife and each woman with 3  her own husband. 7:3 A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, 4  and likewise a wife to her husband. 7:4 It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. 7:5 Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. 5  Then resume your relationship, 6  so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 7:6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7:7 I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.

7:8 To the unmarried and widows I say that it is best for them to remain as I am. 7:9 But if they do not have self-control, let them get married. For it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire. 7 

7:10 To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.

7:12 To the rest I say – I, not the Lord 9  – if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce her. 7:13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husband. 10  Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 7:15 But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound. 11  God has called you in peace. 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will bring your husband to salvation? 12  Or how do you know, husband, whether you will bring your wife to salvation? 13 

1 tn Grk “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” a euphemism for sexual relations. This idiom occurs ten times in Greek literature, and all of the references except one appear to refer to sexual relations (cf., e.g., Josephus, Ant. 1.8.1 [1.163]; Gen 20:6 [LXX]; Prov 6:29 [LXX]). For discussion see G. D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT), 275. Many recent interpreters believe that here again (as in 6:12-13) Paul cites a slogan the Corinthians apparently used to justify their actions. If this is so, Paul agrees with the slogan in part, but corrects it in the following verses to show how the Corinthians misused the idea to justify abstinence within marriage (cf. 8:1, 4; 10:23). See also G. D. Fee, “1 Corinthians 7:1 in the NIV,” JETS 23 (1980): 307-14.

2 tn Grk “each man should have his own wife.” “Have” in this context means “have marital relations with” (see the following verse). The verb ἐχέτω (ecetw, “have”) occurs twice in the Greek text, but has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons. This verb occurs 8 times in the LXX (Exod 2:1; Deut 28:30; 2 Chr 11:21; 1 Esd 9:12, 18; Tob 3:8; Isa 13:16; 54:1) with the meaning “have sexual relations with,” and 9 times elsewhere in the NT with the same meaning (Matt 20:23; 22:28; Mark 6:18; 12:33; Luke 20:28; John 4:18 [twice]; 1 Cor 5:1; 7:29).

3 tn Grk “should have.” For explanation of the translation, see the note on “have relations with” earlier in this verse.

4 tn Grk “fulfill the obligation” or “pay the debt,” referring to the fulfillment of sexual needs within marriage.

5 tc Most later witnesses (א2 Ï sy) add “fasting and” (τῇ νηστείᾳ καί, th nhsteia kai) before “prayer.” But such an addition is motivated by ascetic concerns; further, its lack in Ì11vid,46 א* A B C D F G P Ψ 33 1739 1881 2464 al latt co argues decisively against its authenticity.

6 tn Grk “and be together again.”

7 tn Grk “than to burn,” a figure of speech referring to unfulfilled sexual passion.

8 sn Not I, but the Lord. Here and in v. 12 Paul distinguishes between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during his earthly ministry. In vv. 10-11, Paul reports the Lord’s own teaching about divorce (cf. Mark 10:5-12).

9 sn I, not the Lord. Here and in v. 10 Paul distinguishes between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during his earthly ministry. In vv. 12-16, Paul deals with a situation about which the Lord gave no instruction in his earthly ministry.

10 tc Grk “the brother.” Later witnesses (א2 D2 Ï) have ἀνδρί (andri, “husband”) here, apparently in conscious emulation of the earlier mention of ἀνήρ (ajnhr) in the verse. However, the earliest and best witnesses (Ì46 א* A B C D* F G P Ψ 33 1739 al co) are decisively in favor of ἀδελφῷ (adelfw, “brother”), a word that because of the close association with “wife” here may have seemed inappropriate to many scribes. It is also for reasons of English style that “her husband” is used in the translation.

11 sn Interpreters differ over the implication of the statement the brother or sister is not bound. One view is that the believer is “not bound to continue the marriage,” i.e., not so slavishly tied to the instruction about not divorcing (cf. vv. 10-11) that he or she refuses to face reality when the unbelieving spouse is unwilling to continue the relationship. In this view divorce is allowable under these circumstances, but not remarriage (v. 11 still applies: remain unmarried or be reconciled). The other view is that the believer is “not bound in regard to marriage,” i.e., free to remain single or to remarry. The argument for this view is the conceptual parallel with vv. 39-40, where a wife is said to be “bound” (a different word in Greek, but the same concept) as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is “free” to marry as she wishes, only in the Lord. If the parallel holds, then not bound in v. 15 also means “free to marry another.”

12 tn Grk “will save your husband?” The meaning is obviously that the wife would be the human agent in leading her husband to salvation.

13 tn Grk “will save your wife?” The meaning is obviously that the husband would be the human agent in leading his wife to salvation.



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