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1 Corinthians 7:12-15


7:12 To the rest I say – I, not the Lord 1  – 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. 2  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. 3  God has called you in peace.

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.”

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