1 Corinthians


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

v] Celibacy, 7:25-40

a) Singleness is preferable, but not required


Paul continues to address questions put to him in a letter from the church in Corinth. Further to questions on sexual matters, Paul deals with the issue of young people who are considering marriage. It's as if parents have asked Paul whether, given the present circumstances (do they think they are in the midst of the tribulation? - See Background 7:6-9), they should neither betroth their daughters (parqenoV, "virgin"), or let them proceed to marriage if betrothed. Paul's advice is that the young men who are pledged to a "woman", as with a virgin betrothed to a man, should fulfill their commitment and marry. Where there is no such commitment, then the maxim / rule-of-thumb remain as you are may be applied, but if a person chooses to marry they have not sinned ("it's better to marry than burn", v9).


i] Context: See 7:1-5. In the argument covering 7:25-40, Paul agrees with the ascetics in the Corinthian congregation on the maxim "remain as you are", but also qualifies it. The argument proceeds as follows:

IPaul first provides a rule for the unmarried, "it is good for the virgins to remain as they are" "but if you marry you do not sin", v25-28;

IWith five exhortations Paul pushes past the issue of the single, as opposed to the married life, and draws out a life-principle - in view of the impending distress believers need to focus on eternal verities, v29-31;

IHe then applies this principle as it relates to the unnecessary anxiety often found in both single and married relationships, v32-35;

IFinally, applies the principle: First, to engaged people, v36-38;

ISecond, to widows, v39-40.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9.


iii] Structure: Singleness is preferable but not required:

Topic, v25:

The issue of celibacy as it relates to "virgins";

source of he advice.

Proposition / instruction, v26:

"remain as you are".

oJti, "because of" the present necessity.

Application, v27.

Qualification, v28:

to marry is not to sin, but comes with its difficulties.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul now focuses on the issue of asceticism. He is not opposed to the ascetic single life, but he ends up arguing against sexual abstinence in marriage, divorce / separation on ascetic / spiritual grounds, and even the ascetic single life itself. As far as Paul is concerned, authentic Christian life is not dependent on whether a believer is married or not. As is typical, Paul affirms some of the arguments of his opponents, but ends up with an argument counter to theirs. Marriage partners are not to separate or abstain from sex (except for an agreed interim). Unmarried believers should marry rather than "burn", even though Paul does not want the Corinthians to "experience distress in this life" and that therefore, there is some value in remaining as they are. What is important is to recognize that "the present form of this world is passing away" and that therefore, there is something more important to focus on than the business of living in a married, or single state, of buying or selling, using, rejoicing, etc. A believer is to focus on eternal verities that transcend both marriage and the single life, while at the same time negotiate the natural order of things, temporary as they are.

So, as already indicated, the maxim remain as you are may be a slogan used by the enthusiasts in Corinth, or it may be a rule-of-thumb that Paul uses to suit the occasion. Either way, Paul affirms it, arguing for it (it suits "the present distress"), but then qualifies it - "if you do marry, you have not sinned." The weight of Paul's advice lays with the qualification, rather than the maxim.

Text - 7:25

There is value in being single, but it is not required, v25-28. i] The issue of celibacy as it relates to "virgins", v25.

de "Now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, as NIV.

peri + gen. "about" - concerning. Expressing reference / respect; "now about the matters which you wrote concerning virgins", cf., v1.

twn parqenwn (oV) gen. "virgins" - the virgins. The ESV "betrothed" is too limiting because it doesn't cover those not yet betrothed, those whose parents are looking for that opportunity. The word can extend to just mean "unmarried women", inclusive of widows and divorced, but given that Paul has already covered these categories it is unlikely that he has them in mind. The word may well extend to single men, not yet married, and the passage certainly implies that they are also in mind. The word is used of men in Rev.14:4.

kuriou (oV) "from the Lord" - [i do not have command, order, instruction] of lord. The genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin. "I know of no instruction from the Lord on this matter."

de "but" - but/and [i give an opinion]. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a concession, "even so, ...". See "The Inspiration of Scripture", 7:10-16, with regard Paul's opinions. It has been argued that "opinion" is too soft and that the word here means "decision", so Fitzmyer. This seems unlikely, although Paul's "opinion" is not merely an opinion!!!

wJV "as" - as The following participle hlehmenoV, "having been shown mercy", is often treated as a substantive, "as one who has received mercy from the Lord", Berkeley, with wJV, "as", taking an adverbial sense "in the manner of." Yet, this particle is sometimes causal, standing in for oJti, or epei. The following participle would then be treated as adverbial, causal, so Barrett, ref. Robertson; "I give my opinion because I have been shown mercy / I have had mercy conferred upon me by the Lord." The mercy conferred by the Lord (perf. part. = in the past and continuing into the present) is obviously Paul's apostolic calling. It is a mercy because he once persecuted the church.

uJpo + gen. "by" - by [lord]. Expressing ultimate agency, "by", but possibly "through", even source / origin "from".

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "is [trustworthy]" - to be [trustworthy, faithful, true]. The infinitive may be taken as epexegetic, specifying what is shown, namely, that Paul is trustworthy, or possibly adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "with a view to Paul being trustworthy / so that Paul may be trustworthy" = "but I give my opinion because the Lord, in his mercy, has set me apart as apostle to the Gentiles so that I may be a trustworthy exegete of God's word."


ii] Instruction: Paul again affirms the maxim remain as you are (but note to ... einai below), noting the reasoning behind it, namely, "the present threatening situation", Barclay.

touto pro. "-" - [i think, therefore,] this [to be good because of the present distress that it is good for a man to be thus = as one is]. The demonstrative pronoun is forward referencing to the dependent statement introduced by oJti, "that". The infinitive uJparcein, "to be", forms a dependent statement expressing what Paul thinks, namely" that this (it is good for a man to be thus / as one is) is good because of the present crisis."

dia + acc. "because" - Causal; "because of, due to, on account of."

thn enestwsan (enisthmi) perf. part. "the present [crisis]" - the that which has come upon, begun [calamity, distress, trouble / necessity]. The articular participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "distress." The perfect tense would imply a past action with ongoing consequences, although this verb in the perfect tense is often treated as a durative present. Anyway, the Corinthians are presently experiencing this distress, probably viewed as the end-time tribulations - the present drought throughout the Empire, persecution, .... In such circumstances the maxim remain as you are is a good rule-of-thumb.

nomizw (nomizw) pres. "I think" - i suppose, think. "I consider."

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul thinks.

anqrwpw/ (oV) dat. "for a man" - good [a man]. Dative of interest, advantage.

to .... einai (eimi) pres. inf. "to remain" - to be. The articular infinitive with the adverb ouJtwV, "thus, so", forms a substantival construction, either "to be thus", referring to what follows, or, as with most translations, the maxim as already stated, "as one is", BDF #399.1.


iii] Application: It is unclear to what degree the maxim remain as you are applies in v27-28. Both verses may be qualifications offered against the prevailing view held by the Corinthians. If parents were wanting their daughters to break their betrothal on the basis of the maxim, then Paul's advice is yes, given the present circumstance the maxim is good advice, but where a pledge has been made it is best to proceed to marriage. Also, yes, where no commitment has been made there are advantages in remaining single, but if a person does seek marriage, they have not sinned.

dedesai (dew) perf. "are you married / are you pledged to [a woman]? - you have been bound to [a woman, do not seek loosing (being set free from the commitment)]. The perfect expressing a past act producing a present state. The NIV11 is to be preferred. The noun gunh can mean "wife", but surely here "woman" (dative of direct object after the verb "to bind"; dative of persons). "Bind" could mean "married", but surely "betrothed", referring to an engaged person; gunh, feminine, so "fiance", but Paul's advice would also apply to a groom-to-be. Usually treated as a question.

apo + gen. "[are you unmarried] / [are you free] from [such a commitment]" - [have you been released, loosed = of being free] from [a woman]. The NIV11 is to be preferred. Expressing separation; "away from." Sometimes the verb luw, "to release" is taken as meaning "divorced" here, with v28, implying that remarriage is not a sin; "has your marriage been dissolved ....", Barclay. This is unlikely, given the perfect tense; "are you in a state of being free from a woman" (= a not yet married person), rather than "set free from a woman." Given the context, it is likely that Paul has in mind young people not yet engaged, to whom he says "do not seek a woman" = "don't try to get married", de, "BUT ......."


iv] Paul qualifies his advice. To marry is not to sin, but it does come with its difficulties.

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

ean + subj. "if" - if, as the case may be, [you marry, then you did not sin, and] if, as my be the case [the virgin marries, then she did not sin]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true. First addressing young men not yet married, and then the women / girls. "Whether to marry or not, in itself, is not a moral question for Paul, for marriage is always God's good gift", Pfitzner. A case can be made out to not marry, given the present circumstances, so remain as you are, BUT what will be will be.

kai "-" - and. Probably emphatic here, "but if indeed you marry", or ascensive, "but even if (though) you marry."

oiJ toioutoi pro. "those who marry" - such ones [will have affliction, trouble, tribulation, stress]. The articular pronoun serves as a substantive.

th/ sarki (x koV) dat. "in this life" - in the flesh. Dative of reference / respect; "with respect to this earthly existence", or local, sphere, "in his early life", or interest, disadvantage, "for this life." The qliyiV, "affliction, tribulation", in the flesh is not indwelling sin, but something from outside a person which causes them trouble. Probably not marital trouble, but more likely persecution and the like which is harder to avoid if a person has a family.

egw pro. "I" - [but/and] i. Emphatic by position and use.

uJmwn gen. pro. "[would spare] you this" - [i am sparing] you. Genitive of direct object after the verb feidomai, "to spare." The present tense of the verb here is possibly tendential / connotative, "I am trying to spare you such trouble"; "I am trying to spare you", Barrett. Possibly as a wish "I would like to spare you", BAGD.


1 Corinthians Introduction


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