1 Corinthians


5. Celibacy, divorce and marriage, 7:1-40

v] Celibacy, 7:25-40

d) Marriage is not sin.


In v32-35 Paul has considered the maxim remain as you are as it relates to married and unmarried men and women. His general conclusion is that following the maxim makes for a less stressful life. Yet, in line with the argumentative style of this chapter, Paul weighs his argument in the passage before us in favor of his qualifications (de, "BUT .....", v36), here offering two particular qualifications, one with respect to "virgins" and one with respect to "widows".

Paul again applies his standard answer to this issue. A single person does well if they remain single, in fact, due to the present distress (it is difficult to protect a family at a time of social unrest, or persecution), they do "better". On the other hand, a person who pursues marriage "is not sinning", in fact, where passions are strong they should marry. In v39-40 Paul addresses this issue as it relates to widows. He did touch on the issue of widows and remarriage in v8, but now gives his specific advice. He follows the same line of argument used throughout this chapter. Marriage binds a couple together and should not be dissolved, but if a partner dies, the living partner will be "happier" if they remain unmarried, but at the same time, they are "free to marry" if they wish.


i] Context: See 7:25-28.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9.


iii] Structure: Marriage is not sinful:

Concluding instruction

The person who marries "does right"

and the person who does not "does better."

Young men, v36-38:

Widows, v39-40.


iv] Interpretation:

It seems likely that in v36-38 Paul addresses a specific question put to him by parents (the father) regarding the marriage of their virgin daughter/s (the argument is inclusive of sons). Should parents apply the remain as you are maxim, or should they let their daughter/s marry? Paul again applies his argumentative style, agreeing with the maxim remain as you are, but at the same time qualifying it - it's good to remain single, BUT "it is no sin" to marry.

So, the issue concerns single young people, not betrothed, seeking to get married. Given the contractual nature of a betrothal (in legal form virtually a marriage), it is very unlikely that Paul would approve the breaking of such a contract. He has already argued that those "bound to a woman" = "betrothed / engaged", should "not seek to be free", v27a. Those free (not betrothed) should not seek (a partner) to marry BUT ...., v27b-28. So here, thn parqenon, "the virgin", is not "the virgin he is engaged to", TNIV, but a single yet-to-be-engaged young person. Paul's advice is, remain as you are, BUT getting married "is not sinning."

Numerous alternative expositions have been proposed for this passage. Barclay, in his translation, even offers all three of the alternatives below, see p.47, vol.2. This indicates that there is little agreement as to Paul's intended meaning.

IThe tiV, "anyone", is a young man who is betrothed / engaged to a virgin and has decided not to progress to marriage, cf., Garland, Thiselton, Collins, Barrett, .... Paul approves of this decision, but with a proviso, as NIV11.

IThe tiV is not a young man, the suitor, but the father of the "virgin", cf., Barnett, Morris, R&P, Lightfoot, .... see NASB. This view is driven by oJ gamizwn, v38, not "the one marrying [his own virgin]", but "the one giving in marriage [his own virgin]." The verb gamizw can mean "to marry", but normally means "to give in marriage." It is unusual for a father to speak of his daughter as "his virgin", but not unusual to speak of her as "his virgin daughter."

IThere is the argument that Paul is using the word parqenoV, "virgin", of a couple who have undertaken a vow of living a spiritual life without sex. This is a somewhat speculative point of view, influenced by Eastern asceticism, syneisakthsiV, cf., Moffatt, 1938, See NEB, "a partner in celibacy."


v] Comment:

Paul's advice to fathers reflects the social customs of the day, yet, none-the-less, behind those social sensitivities there are propositional truths which apply to all people of all ages. The task of the expositor is to uncover and apply them. A preacher, suggesting that the young people in the congregation would do well not marry, may find some opposition to that point of view today! It may be possible to explain the benefits of the single life, of the opportunities the single life provides for gospel ministry, but "better to marry than burn." Some years back there was a move among English evangelicals to dedicate part of their early years to ministry, delaying marriage into their late thirties, a kind of modern version of doing "better", v39. However we apply the "doing better", it must be remembered that Paul is arguing against asceticism, not for it.

Text - 7:36

i] Marital advice for singles, v36-38. The opening sentence is a horror in the Gk., but the sense is "If a father thinks he is acting unfairly toward his unmarried daughter (by applying the maxim remain as you are???) and she now being of an age to marry (and wants to marry???), then he aught to let matters take their course. Let her do what she wants. Let them marry - it is no sin."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrast; "but if ...." The remain as you are maxim makes for a less stressful life, "BUT ......", v36.

ei + ind. "If" - if, as is the case, [anyone thinks that he is behaving improperly toward the virgin of him], if, as may be the case, [she has reached puberty (of an age to marry), then / and so it ought to be thus, then let him/her do what he/she wants. he/she does not sin. let them marry]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ...." Note that the protasis of the 1st. class condition is coordinate with a 3rd. class condition, as above. There is no connecting conjunction so without "and".

tiV "anyone" - As noted above the referent is unclear, possibly a single young man, but better a father.

aschmonein (aschmonew) pres. inf. "[thinks / is worried] that he is not acting honorably" - to behave improperly. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the person may be worried about, namely, "that he is behaving indecently, dishonorably [toward his virgin daughter]", "not the way he should"; "not behaving properly", ESV. What this means depends on who the "anyone" is, and as noted, the arguments abound! If "anyone" is a father then it is likely that he feels he is acting "unfairly" toward his daughter by demanding she apply the remain as you are maxim.

epi + acc. "toward" - Spatial, direction; "to, up to, toward."

thn parqenon (oV) "the virgin he is engaged to" - the virgin. Probably a young virgin daughter having now reached marriageable age; "his unmarried daughter."

ean + subj. "if" - The protasis of a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of being true, coordinate with the protasis of the 1st. class condition; "if, as may be the case, her passions are strong" = "assuming she is of an age to marry."

uJperakmoV adj. "[she is] getting along in years / [his] passions [are] too strong]" - [he/she is] ??? = [who is now] of an age to marry. The subject of the subjunctive verb to-be, h/\, may be tiV, "anyone", or "the virgin" - the subject is best taken as the unmarried girl. The adjective, serving as a substantive, is unknown in Gk. and so prompts numerous translations. Taking akmh, "highest point", or the verb akmazw, "to be ripe", and the prefix uJper as intensive, giving the sense "exceedingly so", the word probably describes a young fully developed girl having just passed through puberty; "fully developed sexually and therefore ready for marriage", Fee. See J.M. Ford The Rabbinic Background of St. Paul's Use of UJperakmoV, JJS 17 - a girl with fully developed breasts.

kai "and" - and = and so / then = "then let matters take their course", Barclay. This clause may be the apodosis for the 3rd. class conditional clause, with "then what he/she desires let him/her do" the apodosis of the 1st. class clause, but it may be the combined apodosis for the coordinate conditional clause as a whole. The kai is consecutive, "and so / then ....." What aught to be? The father aught to let his daughter marry. Paul's advice is "Let her do what she wants, she does not sin, let them marry."

ginesqai (ginomai) pres. inf. "he ought" - [it aught] to be [thus]. The verb ofeilei, "to be obliged" is impersonal, so "it aught." The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "to become" = "aught"; "and it aught to be thus." "Then he aught let matters take their course", Barclay.


"But on the other hand, if a father has firmly decided to apply the maxim remain as you are and not give his daughter in marriage, and has done so thoughtfully and without undue pressure from outside the family (he hasn't been got at by the ascetics. Is this a little niggle?), then this is also a reasonable course of action." Note the piling up of qualifications in this verse. The father's decision to not allow his daughter to marry is "the right thing" if he has really thought about the implications and is not just acting because of pressure from outside.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a concession.

o}V pro. "the man" - he who. The pronoun serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "has stood." He is the tiV, "anyone", of v36, so the father.

en + dat. "in [his own mind]" - [has stood steadfast, firm] in [the heart of him]. Local, sphere, or adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "has settled the matter thoughtfully." Referring to the person who is firmly established in his thinking ("heart") on this matter, who has a firm opinion on the matter, namely, the application of the maxim. "But if a man is fixed in his resolution", Cassirer.

mh ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "who is under no compulsion" - not having [a necessity = a necessary obligation]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, as NIV; "he who is firmly of his opinion and who is free of undue compulsion from without." "Being free from external restraint", Cassirer.

exousian (a) "[but has] control" - [and has] authority, mastery, control. "And master when it comes to his own decision on the matter at hand."

peri + gen. "over" - Possibly reference / respect, "concerning, about, with respect to [his own desire and this he has decided, judged in his own heart]". "Has come to a final decision and has made up his mind", Barclay.

threin (threw) pres. inf. "-" - to keep [the virgin himself]. "To keep his virgin", NAB. "The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the father has decided, namely, to keep his daughter within the family rather than let her marry.

kalwV adv. "[this man also does] the right thing" - [he will do] well. Modal adverb. "He too will be doing the right thing (as will the father who gives his daughter in marriage)", Phillips.


The single life has advantages for gospel ministry, while the married life can have its downsides, particularly at a time of social unrest, so the single life may be "better", but in the end, the path we take is a matter of personal choice and is not dictated by a moral imperative. So, let the father decide for his daughter without undue pressure from self-righteous commentators, and give his daughter in marriage, or not; it's his decision (See "Comment" above). Marriage is a gift of God for the enjoyment of those created in his image and should be treated as such.

wJste "so then" - Either consecutive, expressing result, "with the result that, so that", or inferential, "therefore, thus, so, so then."

kai ..... kai "..... but ...." - Correlative construction; "both the one giving in marriage ...... and the one not giving ....."

oJ gamizwn pres. part. "he who marries" - the one giving in marriage [his own virgin] = the father who gives [his unmarried daughter] in marriage. The participle serves as a substantive.

kalwV ..... kreisson "[does] right .... better" - [does] well [and the one not marrying will do [better]. The comparative adjective kreisswn, kreittwn, "good, better, best", is used as an adverb.


ii] Marital advice for widows, v39-40.

ef oJson cronon "as long as [he lives" - [a wife has been bound to the husband of her] for as long as a time [the husband of her lives]. The prepositional phrase ef oJson, "for as long as", introducing this temporal construction, specifies that cronon, "time", is to be treated as an accusative of duration; "for a woman, her marriage cannot be terminated during the lifetime of her husband", Barclay. Marriage (as with betrothal, note above) is to be treated as indissoluble. Circumstances may force separation / divorce, but such is not optimal.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrast, "but".

ean + subj. "if" - if, as may be the case, [the husband should sleep, then she is free to be married to whom she wills, wants]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true. "But if, some time in the future, her husband happens to die, then she is free to remarry" (Barrett thinks he has already died, but that would go against the Gk.).

koimhqh/ (koimaw) aor. pas. subj. "dies" - should fall asleep. Death in the terms of "sleep" is an image Paul uses a number of times. This may not be a particularly Christian image, given that the image is also used in the wider society of someone who has died. The euphemism "At rest" is widely used today on gravestones. So, there may not be any theological significance in Paul's use of the word, although the image of a brother or sister asleep in the arms of Jesus is a powerful and comforting one, and true with respect to God's eternal care for us.

gamhqhnai (gamaw) aor. pas. inf. "to marry" - to be married. The infinitive is epexegetic specifying in what sense she is free, namely, "to be married."

w/| dat. pro. "anyone [she wishes]" - to whom [she wills, wants]. Dative of indirect object / reference.

en + dat. "he must belong to [the Lord]" - [only] in [the lord]. The sense of the preposition is somewhat vague here. The NIV takes it to mean that she can remarry, but "only in the community of the Lord", her intended husband must be a Christian, so Thiselton, Garland, R&P, Fitzmyer, Barnett, Bruce ("probably implied"), Fee (although he makes the point that it is not a command, but just "good sense"), So, if Fee is right, we might paraphrase; "but, he should be a believer." On the other hand, en may take its commonly used local sense for "in [the Lord]", expressing incorporative union, "in union with the Lord", so "she must remember that she is a member of Christ's body; and not forget her Christian duties and responsibilities", Lightfoot, so Barrett. Phillips goes out on a limb with "but let her by guided by the Lord", ie., an instrumental use of en.


kata + acc. "in [my judgment]" - according to [my opinion]. Expressing a standard, "in accordance with, corresponding to." Paul is expressing his personal opinion, which opinion carries weight because he is an apostle with "the Spirit of God", ie., he is inspired.

ean + subj. "if" - if, as may be the case, [she remains thus, then she is more blessed]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true.

ouJtwV adv. "[she stays] as she is" - thus, in this way = as she is. Demonstrative adverb. If she follows the maxim, remain as you are, she will be more blessed (the comparative of the adjective makarioV, "blessed"). Paul again affirms the view of the ascetics / enthusiasts, given that it is the life he has chosen - staying single is better than getting married because by being single a person can give more of their attention to the Lord. Paul doesn't labor the point by again qualifying the maxim, but his argument stands; if you want to get married, get married - it's a gift from God, take it up or don't take it up.

ecein (ecw) pres. inf. "[I think] I [too] have" - [and i think] that i [also] have. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul thinks, namely, that he has the Spirit's guidance in such matters.

qeou (oV) gen. "[Spirit] of God" - The genitive is probably ablative, expressing source / origin, but possibly relational. The Corinthian ascetics believe they have the gift of the Spirit empowering them with knowledge, and Paul suggests, with a touch of irony, that he too (kagw, "also", adjunctive) may be in possession of the Spirit, empowering his understanding of the truth, cf., 14:36.


1 Corinthians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]