Thursday, October 27, 2011

"...not under bondage" to what? (1 Cor. 7:15)

In my senior year of undergraduate Bible study, I completed a study on a text dealing with a most difficult subject:  divorce and remarriage.  I had read the back&forth debate between Thomas B. Warren and James D. Bales, and deteremined to try my own exegesis.  I was surprised at the satisfying results.  To date, I have seen no other work that has found the same solution to the troubling question:  to what is the brother or sister not under bondage in such cases?  I think I know the answer, let's see if you agree with my findings.

The year was 1989.  I was taking two Greek classes and Hebrew within a very full course load.  I was also working 32 hours a week at a Wal-Mart warehouse, arriving home around midnight when study began.  At home, we had two new children.  What saved me?  I credit a first-period auditorium class, Psych 101, in which the professor insisted on playing a recording of a Swiss psychologist instructing on relaxation techniques!  In stressful situations, I still apply them.  On one occasion in this year, I took off from a gas station with the nozzle still inserted.  I suppose if that was the worst mistake I made that year, I did OK.

The file from an antique word-processor (WordPerfect) is not perfect.  Inexplicably, some of the Greek characters had fallen out and I've replaced them.  There is a chart, and the "arrows" (from a line-draw function) discussed in the explanation no longer exist--use your imagination please.  My blog, unfortunately offers no Greek font, so I did my best to transliterate.  Also, in removing excess "white space" in the working copy, it seems I should have left it.  For all this, I think the paper will repay careful study.

I promise, I will re-present this later in renovated form!


The issue of divorce and remarriage is of vital importance to the present-day church.  Family relationships hang in the balance, as do relationships between churches and between Chris­tians in the churches.  Besides these personal considerations, honoring God's will in the matter is no less crucial.
          This issue brings to mind the lengthy and bitter debate which has embroiled many Christians in Churches of Christ over the years.  The volume of such written material that aimed at bring­ing all to a truthful position is enormous.  To this day no clear consensus has been achieved and, not infrequently, lines of fellow­ship have been drawn according to the various positions held.  The proper understanding of the issue has been portrayed as simple by some.  However, the proliferation of posi­tions, of books and debaters supporting them, would suggest otherwise.  The issue is incredibly complex.
          In fact, it is an oversimplification to see the matter as a single issue.  There are specific aspects which involve the mar­ried, the pre-married, and the post-married.  The issues may also be classified for Christians, non-Christians, and also for spiri­tually mixed relation­ships.  Beyond the handling of family rela­tionship matters, there also remains the need to evaluate spiri­tu­al mat­ters:  the salvific status of people involved, the draw­ing of lines of fel­lowship, and the detection of heresy.  As if all of this were not enough, the handful of relevant passages of Scrip­ture must in some fash­ion be applied to a bewilder­ing array of relationship situations, brought on by the proliferation of bro­ken homes, which never crossed the minds of the Bible writ­ers.

          The intent of this paper is to examine the text of 1 Corin­thians 7 for information which may contribute to the understand­ing of the issue of divorce and remarriage.  The methodology employed involves a prelimi­nary exegesis of the text, inte­grating the results with the other relevant texts of Scrip­ture, and in­teracting with various secondary sources of research.  
          Basic observations from the text offer a great deal of in­formation about the recipients of the 1 Corinthian letter and about their situa­tion.  Exegesis must properly begin with the text itself.  The sound­ing pro­vid­ed here is drawn en­tirely from the evi­dence in the text; the re­sults can be con­sid­ered but ten­ta­tive, since drawing in­sights from ar­chae­ol­o­gy and other sec­ond­ary re­search is beyond the scope of this effort[1].  Appeal to sec­ondary sources will be made in the exegetical sections which follow.
          The Corinthian church was a very diverse group.  There were rich and poor; Jew and Gentile.  Some were married, others for­mer­ly had been (being either divorced or widowed), and some were yet sin­gle.  Many came from pagan backgrounds with the attendant worldviews and behaviors.  Before their renewal in Jesus, some had indeed been wise, influential, and of noble birth[2] as society views such matters.  The status derived from their background seems to have led to a haughty self-image, which continued even after they had been sanctified in Christ Jesus.  Now bound to­gether in one body and in great diversity, they were together waiting for Jesus to be revealed.
          The church came into existence through the preaching of Paul, his subject matter being the cross of Christ.  He had even baptized a few of their number, yet was grateful to have baptized no more after witnessing the tendency in the church to divide over allegiance to favorite teachers.  As he wrote, there were those denying Paul's status as an apostle.  They were quite will­ing to pay the expenses of other leaders, while denying this to Paul himself.  Out of concern, some Christians from Chloe's household (house church?) informed Paul by letter of the current prob­lems (especially that of division), while others had written him for an­swers to trou­bling doc­trinal questions.  Paul wrote in response to both of these con­cerns.  The issue of marriage, di­vorce, and remarriage received significant attention in Paul's response.
          God had endowed the church richly with both knowledge and grace-gifts[3], both of which fell into terrible misuse in local practice.  The loyalty due to the Lord Himself was divided within the group among various church leaders (Paul included).  The lines of division were drawn on the basis of whichever leader had administered the baptismal rite to each member.  None seemed to have concern for what the Lord Himself might think of the situa­tion.
          Abundant knowledge did not prevent to lingering lack of spiritual maturity at Corinth.  The members remained worldly in attitude and behavior, provoking Paul to chide them.  Greed was displayed at the "sharing" of the Lord's Supper.  Christian lib­erty (based on true knowledge) was also abused to the hurt of others.  Individual independence was standing in the way of real­izing a one-body relationship.  Some had become so self-suffi­cient in Paul's absence that they even began to feel superior to the apostle himself!  For his part, Paul was ready to deal with their arrogance.  The Corinthians, trying to carry their exalted social status into the church, had overlooked the surpassing status available to one and all in Christ.
.         In their haste to "go beyond what was written" (4:6), the church failed to see the Cross as the true source of power and wisdom.  Instead, the Jewish segment sought (miraculous) signs and the Greek segment sought after (philosophical?) wisdom.  They failed likewise to recognize both the Spirit which bodily indwelt both Christian and church and the great price which had been paid to secure their redemp­tion.  Further signs of confusion surface in their perception of gender roles in church functioning, in the continued recognition of idols, and in the misuse of grace-gifts.
          Few, it seems, pursued sanctification and so were in peril of losing their salvific status.  An occasion of extreme immoral­ity brought pride instead of shame.  Some visited prostitutes and others engaged in idolatry.  Christians cheated one another and then chose to settle their legal disputes before unbelievers.  The inability to judge such matters for themselves bespoke their  own immaturity.  Sin was tolerated and discipline was not being administered as a corrective.
          Not surprisingly, the worship assembly did more harm than good.  There were abuses in the exercising of grace-gifts and in the Lord's Supper celebration.  Spiritually-gifted members failed to appropriately appraise the relative value of the variously dis­trib­ut­ed gifts.  The assembly grew disorderly, with one cha­rismatic trying to upstage the next.  The underlying cause of the immaturity and the disorder was a lack of love in the church.
          For all of their faults, Paul regarded them as a sanctified church and was unwilling to write them off as beyond hope.  To­gether this diverse group of immature, haughty, and self-centered Christians waited for Jesus to be revealed.  Yet they could not claim even this as a commonly shared hope, for some were doubting that there would be a resurrection at all.

                                       PAUL'S PURPOSE IN WRITING
          The purpose of the epistle is threefold.  First, Paul was responding to the divided state of the church as reported from Chloe's household.  He sought to restore to the Lord the loyalty which had wrongly been assigned to mortals.  The immaturity that brought division would also be given a response as Paul dealt with specific problems of immorality, ignorance, lawless behav­ior, and idolatry.
          Paul's second purpose was to answer the doctrinal questions which were addressed to him in the correspondence from Corinth.  These subjects apparently included the following:
•marriage and celibacy
•responsible love toward less informed brothers
•proper gender roles in church functioning
•the proper exercise of grace-gifts
•the truth about the resurrection of the dead
•the administration of the financial collection
The answers to these questions form the bulk of the epistle.
          Paul's third purpose in writing was to prepare the way for successful visits to Corinth by himself and Timothy.  Paul was ready to reclaim his apostolic status among the Corinthians and so laid down instructions on the proper appraisal and proper func­tioning of human leaders within the church.  He aimed to topple rivals who threatened to undermine previous efforts or to hinder future progress.

                            TEXTUAL CONSIDERATIONS
          The UBS textual apparatus[4] lists six variants for 1 Cor. 7.  None of these figure significantly for the subject at hand.  The text may be considered well-established at least as regards this discussion.
                                  THE SETTING OF CHAPTER SEVEN
          The epistle begins with the greeting and introductory sec­tion in 1:1-9.  Then Paul addresses the matters submitted by Chloe's household from 1:10 to 6:20.  The remainder of the letter is a response to the questions which had been sent to Paul in a letter.  Chapter Seven begins this section with its subject of marriage and celibacy as the first of several subsections.
          This final major section begins with the words "now concern­ing (per‹i de) the things of which you wrote."  This formula (peri de) introduces the several subsections, each one apparently a re­sponse to a separate question.  In 8:1, the matter of food ad­dressed to idols is addressed.  In 12:1, the subject of grace-gifts is introduced.  Finally, Paul speaks to the administration of church collections in 16:1.  Each repetition of the formula has as its referent the initial appearance in 7:1, identifying each subsection as a mat­ter ad­dressed to Paul from Corinth.

                      THE ARGUMENT OF CHAPTER SEVEN
           Chapter Seven presents a connected argument unified by a single general principle.  James Walters has noted that "our ten­dency is often to change the subject before the Bible writer does,"[5] and most treatments of the text fail to deal with its central orga­nizing feature.  The convenient breakdown of the argument on the basis of the different groups which Paul address­es has proba­bly led many expositors to treat the chapter in dis­jointed fash­ion.  Another factor making recognition of the prin­ciple diffi­cult is that Paul applies the principle variously according to the needs of the specific categories of people and according to the various situations on which he instructs.
          The overarching principle governing the argument is stated emphatically four times in Chapter Seven:
•"each one has his own gift from God--one in this way and another in that" (v. 7)

•"But only as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each one, so let him continue to walk...." (v. 17)
•"Each one, in that calling in which he was called, in this let him continue." (v. 20)
•"Each one, in that to which he was called, Brothers, in this, let him remain before God." (v. 24)
The principle turns on the idea of one's "calling".  The idea begins with one being called into fellowship (1:9), thus linking it with conversion.  The Christian is to continue in the condi­tion in which he was found at his or her conversion; it is his gift from God and his assignment as well.  The Christian is not to abandon this calling.
          It is likely that the demonstrably self-exalting recipients had sought to gain status for themselves based on categories of marriage/celibacy, Jew/Gentile, and slave/free distinctions.  Paul denies the validity of this quest, insisting that none are superior and that those seeking to jump categories for selfish reasons should remain as they are.  However, let it not be missed that Paul grants permission for category-jumping for other genu­inely valid reasons.
          It is admitted that one's Christian calling is not strictly equivalent to his social status at the time of his conversion.  Yet it is clear that the Corinthian situation has led Paul to speak as if the two were one and the same, for this im­proper association was assumed at Corinth.  Strictly speaking, one's social condition has nothing to do with his Christian calling; the ground beneath the cross is level.  However, the Corinthian Christians were using their initial social condition or were using their changed social condition as a lever for one-upmanship in the fellowship.  Re­call that one's bap­tiz­er at con­ver­sion led to di­vid­ed cate­go­ries with­in the fel­low­ship lead­ing Chris­tians to seek sta­tus by attachment to these famous teach­ers.  The spiritu­al fratri­cide over "knowledge" concerning meat sacrificed to idols turned on Jew/Gentile culture distinctions.  The Lord's Supper abuse could be traced to a line dividing rich and poor.  Matters of status play strongly into the discussions of marriage and celiba­cy as well, as will be seen.  The deni­gra­tion that re­sult­ed from so­cial/racial/religious/gender snob­bery led many to seek to jump cate­go­ries to mobilize them­selves up­ward.  The pur­suit is vain, claimed Paul, in a vie for spiritual status.  Both Paul's polemic and his terminology are adapted to this Corinthian confusion, yet Paul himself was by no means confused.
          The governing principle is an interpretive key which conve­niently fits all of the locks in Paul's argument.  Paul will twice illustrate the principle, will discuss at length its pur­pose, and will then apply it pertinently to the various groups involved.  It will be seen that the principle falls across a dual dis­tribution of two broad groups:  the married and the unmarried.  Also, the principle is subjected by Paul to three methods of application:  either it is enforced, or it is encouraged with recourse left to individual discretion, or the principle is ex­cepted.  The following schematic diagram illustrates the dual distribution for married/unmarried categories and the specific method of application involved for the principle:  "let each remain in that calling wherein he/she was called."
INDICATIONS:      M = married
                          S = single, or unmarried
                          ENF = principle "enforced"
                          ENC = principle "encouraged" (but left discretionary)
                          EXC = principle "excepted"
                         *** = principle stated

   1- S:ENC
   2- S:EXC
   3- M:ENF
   4- M:ENF
   5- M:ENF
   6- S:ENC
***7- S:ENC
   8- S:ENC
   9- S:EXC
  10- M:ENF
  11- M:ENF
  12- M:ENF
  13- M:ENF
   15- M:EXC
   18- FIRST
   22- SECOND
   26- S:ENC
   27- S:EXC/ENC
   28- S:EXC
   30- OF THE
   36- S:EXC
   37- S:ENC
   38- S:EXC/ENC
   39- M:EXC
   40- S:ENC
          The table above was developed by considering the relation­ship of each verse to Paul's governing principle.  The broken arrow from v. 6 shows the syntactical relationship to vs. 1-2 (Instead of to vs. 1-5 entirely).  The arrows to verses left blank indicate continued discussion from the beginning applica­tion; these may or may not continue to address the governing principle. 
          Chapter Seven may be outlined topically according to the same prin­ci­ple as follows:
I.   THE PRINCIPLE STATED (vs. 7, 17, 20, 24)
          A. By Circumcision/Uncircumcision (vs. 18-20)
          B. By Slavery/Freedom (vs. 21-24)
          A. To The Married:
                    1. Enforced (vs. 3-5 and 10-14)
                    2. Encouraged--this is never done
                    3. Excepted:
                             a. spouse deserted by unbeliever (v. 15)
                              b. those widowed (v. 39)
          B. To The Single or Unmarried:
                    1. Enforced--this is never done
                    2. Encouraged (vs. 1 and 6, 8, 25-27, 38, and 40)
          3. Excepted:
                             a. to prevent fornication (v. 2)
                             b. to prevent fornication (v. 9)
                             c. to honor a betrothal (vs. 28 and 36-37)
Having already discussed the first major division of this out­line, we will now examine the remaining sections.
II. THE PRINCIPLE'S PURPOSE (vs. 29-35):  Since the eschaton looms near, Paul would have all, whether married or single, to serve the Lord with undivided devotion.  Although neither state is forbid­den, the celibate life comes with the apostle's high recom­mendation.  In whichever state one finds himself, he is not to shirk the Chris­tian responsibility to which God has assigned him.  Paul's purpose for so instructing also surfaces in v. 26, where the "present distress" is that which is part and parcel of the manner of life destined to end along with the form of this world; this situation embraces all time this side of eternity.  While the intensity of the situation Paul addresses stems without a doubt from some trouble historically specific to his own day, the urgency of securing devotion to God free of all compet­ing attractions is foundational to the Christian covenant (cf. Luke 9:57ff., 14:25ff., etc.) and so finds application in every age.
Contextually, the explanation of purpose falls within the section addressed to virgins (vs. 25-38).  Even so, it is clear that the purpose applies as well to the other groups (cf. vs. 2, 5, 9, and 19); divided loyalty presents a threat to all.
III. THE PRINCIPLE ILLUSTRATED (vs. 17-24):  The principle is illustrated twice:  by circum­cision/uncircumcision in vs. 18-20 and by slavery/freedom in vs. 21-24.  It is significant that this entire section begins with one of the explicit statements of the principle (v. 17) and further that each of the respective illustrations is concluded in the same way (v. 20 and v. 24).
          A. CIRCUMCISION/UNCIRCUMCISION (VS. 18-20):  The attempt to change one's status by changing his state is  prohibited.  Put another way, the principle has been strictly enforced.   Yet Paul gives assurance that God's out­look is unaf­fect­ed by such anyway.  Jewish claims to superior­ity are ad­dressed di­rectly in the very next chapter re­garding meat sacri­ficed to idols.  Boast­ing and vaunting one­self on this basis is out of place; what counts, says Paul, is keeping God's com­mands.
          B. SLAVERY/FREEDOM (vs. 21-24):  Rather than enforcing the principle as before, Paul encourages the slave to not be overly concerned about his low state and perhaps to remain there.  This is justified, he says, because the slave status is equivalent to another's free state, and visa versa, in God's sight.  However, the slave who is able to change his state of affairs is granted an exception to the guiding principle.[6]
          Notice that, among the two illustrations, we find the three meth­ods of the principle's application:  enforcement, encourage­ment, and exception.  Paul's applications follow suit. 

          1. Enforced (vs. 3-5, 10-14):  That Christians in vs. 3-5 are forbidden to bypass the governing principle is seen in the command to not separate unless it be for a temporary period of prayer, and that by mutual consent.  However, they are to remain in their married state.  The Rabbis likewise limited a spouse's withholding of marital relations.[7]  Paul does fol­low up in v. 6 by ad­mit­ting that he speaks by way of conces­sion rath­er than com­mand.  Howev­er, it is most natu­ral to find the refer­ent of this declara­tion in the option grant­ing a choice between celi­bacy and mar­riage a few verses earlier (i.e. vs. 1-2 only).  While it is grammatical­ly and syntactically pos­sible to extend the conces­sion through v. 5, it is clear that Paul offers no option in vs. 3-5.[8]  The in­struc­tions to the mar­ried are in fact a com­mand, and not a mere concession.  The same imperative is reiterated for the mar­ried in v. 10.[9]
          Paul then gives instructions in v. 11 regarding those who heed not this command; they are either to reconcile or remain single (in the sense of being separated from their mate!).  His legislation is akin to that of Deut. 24:1-4, which presuppos­es--rather than permits--marital separation.  Hence, Paul's appli­ca­tion neither makes an exception nor merely encourages the prin­ci­ple in the case of married Christians; the principle is en­forced.
          Before addressing vs. 12-14, it is appropriate to note the function of the two complementary phrases "not I, but the Lord: (v. 10) and "say I (not the Lord)" (v. 12).  The former may be taken as a reference to the dominical saying of Jesus.
          Objection to this connection is raised on two fronts.  First, it is difficult to envision Jesus issuing a command re­quiring a Jewish woman not to divorce, when she would not have had legal recourse to such action anyway.  Only Mark records this in 10:12 of his gospel.  In response, Robert W. Herron Jr. has co­gently argued in support of a textual variant which substitutes exeltha apo for apolusasa in this pas­sage.[10]  Thus, he envi­sions a situation where the wife might desert rather than formal­ly divorce and provides a plausible Sitz im Leben for the Markan pericope. 
          A second objection is that the husband and wife are in reverse order of the dominical saying if indeed Paul has used it.  However, a situation is proposed by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor which may underlie vs. 1-11; thus Paul may have intentionally reversed the order to address an actual Corinthian situation.[11]  He sug­gests a situation in which a Christian woman sees celibacy as a spir­i­tu­al­ly superior state and who is looking for a way out of her mar­riage.  In sup­port, he notes the pos­si­ble trans­la­tion of the pas­sive infini­tive chwristhanai as "the wife should not allow herself to be separat­ed from her hus­band"[12] (italics mine).  Again, the wife is not seen as the ini­tiator of the di­vorce ac­tion (although she was able to do so in Greco-Roman soci­ety).  It seems best to take the in­struc­tions to married Chris­tians as Paul's enforce­ment of his princi­ple on the prece­dent estab­lished in the dominical say­ing of Je­sus.  Ones status is not raised by jumping from marriage to divorce.
          New on the salvation-history horizon was the prospect of legitimate marriages between God's people and pagans, which Paul addresses in 12-15.  Paul begins this verses by referring to the mixed marriages with the phrase tois de loipois, which sets them off as a different class from the purely Chris­tian mar­riag­es just addressed before.  That dissolving a such a relationship might lead to spiritual advantage seems to make good sense, but Paul again enforces the principle as he had done before.  This instruction is purely Paul's legislation--"say I (not the Lord)" (v. 12).  The Christian--he or she--is not to depart if the unbeliever is content to live with the Christian.  Paul goes on to allow an exception in v. 15 should the unbeliever depart[13] (see discussion below under IV. A. 3.).  Paul is not being arbi­trary; he denies category-jumping as a means of gaining spiritual status but he makes an exception based on a more noble agenda (theologi­cal considerations are set within in a canonical context in the Ex­cur­sus be­low).
          2. Encouraged:  Paul at no time encourages marriage (except as an preventative against fornica­tion).  In fact, his strong encouragement of celibacy may be taken as discouragement regard­ing marriage (cf. IV. B. 2.).  Paul recognizes, however, that each has his own gift from God (v. 7).
          3. Excepted (vs. 15, 39):  Two exceptions to the principle are grant­ed for married Christians, and some would find a third in vs. 27-28  This doubtful exception is based upon a minority interpretation which identifies the one "having been loosed" in v. 27b as one who has been divorced.[14]  This person is permitted to marry (again) in the following verse.  However, the position adopted here is that the reference is instead to a betrothed male virgin who has broken an engagement (cf. IV. B. 2.).[15]  Verse 27 is a natural progression of the instructions to virgins, both male and female, that began in v. 25.  Divorce was required to end a betrothal, at least among the Jews (cf. Matt. 1:19).  One who ended a betrothal could yet mar­ry.
          A clear exception is given in v. 39 to those married who have then been widowed.  Admittedly, it seems equally valid to classify the widowed as unmarried, as we shall in fact do in IV. B. 2.  Even so, Romans 7:3 is instructive.  At the death of the spouse the widow is released from the law of mar­riage.  Thus, the widow is permitted to regard herself as free to change her social station; she is thus considered single (unmarried) and is free to remarry.  There is no hint of an attempt to gain spiritual status thereby.
          The other exception for the married is hotly debated to the present day.  It is found in v. 15b and has been dubbed, inaccu­rately I believe, the "Pauline privilege" (in the Excursus, pre­ference is given to the expression, the "Pauline protection").
          With the assumption that the now familiar principle indeed governs the entire argument, we are provided with the interpre­tive key needed to unlock the meaning of dedoulwtai.  Paul is saying that the Chris­tian spouse "has not been bound in such cases."  Bound to what?, is the critical question.  Let it be submitted here that we may fill in the full meaning legitimately by drawing it from the contextual data gathered from our under­standing of Paul's argumentation.  This yields an implied meaning intended by Paul as in this paraphrase:  "The brother or the sister, in such cases [when deserted by unbeliev­ing spouses], has not been bound [to remain in the state wherein he or she was called]."
          Failure to interact with the larger context has led to many fanciful conjectures.  Representative are those of Laney, who suggests either the Christians necessity of "preserving the union through legal maneuvers" or the absurd notion of "[p]ursuing the unwilling partner all over the Roman Empire."[16]  While neither option has a shred of contextual support, the former is based on a fact of Roman law--a man could be punished for failing to di­vorce his adulterous wife.[17]  This law was adopted from 18 BC to 9 AD[18].  Whether any corresponding legal tradition continued in Paul's day is unknown to the present writer.  The interpretation offered here has the advantage of having contextual support.
          Sharpening the focus from the broader to the more immediate context yields further support for our interpretation.  First, Paul is speaking where the Lord has not (v. 12, cf. v. 10).  He has fully agreed with applying the substance of Jesus' legisla­tion as per the dominical logion also to mixed mar­riages in vs. 12-13, and Paul ex­plains why in v.14:  the unbeliever is sanc­ti­fied in the Chris­tian spouse.  Hence, it is altogether feasible that Paul's in­struction that allows an exception to the deserted Christian is ex­tra, and not con­tra, to that of Jesus.  Deser­tion by an unbe­liev­ing spouse was not a problem faced by Jesus in His Pales­tin­ian minis­try, but it was a problem Paul had to face in his Greco-Roman setting.
          Second, "in such cases" creates an antithesis to what has gone before.  We are again dealing with mixed marriage situa­tions, but now in opposite circumstances.  The antithesis may extend back even further, so that Paul's instructions in v. 15 may be seen in contradistinction with the dominical saying of Jesus.  Jesus addressed a spiritually homogenous cul­tural matrix for marriage; Paul a heterogenous matrix.  Their legislations should not be considered contradictory, especially if some encom­passing principle is seen to incorporate them in complementary fashion (this will be argued in the Excursus).
          Third, support is found when we finish the reading of v.15 while con­sid­er­ing the interpretation we postulate.  This yields:  "The brother or sister, in such cases, has not been bound [to remain in the state wherein he or she was called]:  but God has called us in peace."  We find here a most natural echo if the governing principle is, in fact, functioning through ellipsis to complete the meaning of dedoƝlwtai.
          Finally, support for this interpretation is found in v. 16 which immediately follows.  The question, which queries the pos­sibility of the Christian's likelihood of saving the unbeliever, is most likely ex­pressive of pessimism towards the possibility.  Paul said, "Let him depart...for how do you know, O wife, if you shall save your husband?"  The deserted believer is free of re­sponsibility for the unbeliever's faithless decision. 


          Discussion of the divorce/remarriage issue revolves upon the binding nature of the one-flesh relationship of Gen. 2:24, to which Jesus referred in Mt. 19:5 and Mark 10:7-8.  A crucial factor too often neglected in the discussion the God-intended beneficent nature of the marriage covenant.[19]  This beneficent intent for marriage by God as summed up by F. F. Bruce:  "Mar­riage, like the Sabbath, was instituted for man, and not vice versa."[20]  With such an understanding, the legisla­tions of Deut. 24:1-4, Matt. 19:9, Rom. 7:1-3 (par. 1 Cor. 7:39), and 1 Cor. 7:15 begin to look much like "prote­ction clauses" to the Gen. 2:24 legislation, rather than to function merely as "exception clauses".  These passages may be seen to express a uniform pattern of divine concern.  We shall examine each in turn.
          The Mosaic protection clause of Deut. 24:1-4 was predicated upon broken relationships in Israelite society, rather than being per­mis­sive to­wards them.  The result of divorce was a victim (the wife) where God had intended a beneficiary.  The bill of divorce­ment mandated in this passage, ac­cording to the Mishnah, first and fore­most gave the vic­tim permission to remarry.[21]  God is seen as the victim's pro­tec­tor.
          The Mathean protection clause (19:9) upholds the cause of the would-be beneficiary whose covenan­tal rights have been violated by a fornicating spouse.  Some interpreter's even deny this as an "exce­ption" to the binding nature of marriage.[22]  The Lord's in­tention from the beginning was for two (and not more!) to share in the one-flesh relationship.  How can it be imagined that the innocent victim should yet be bound in such cases?  Again, God has offered protection, and not merely an "exce­ption".
          The "widow's protection" of Rom. 7:1-3 (par. 1 Cor. 7:39) offers protection to those who have been victimized by the death of a spouse.  God's concern for the widows and fatherless is an oft-repeated theme in Scripture.
          The "Pauline protection" of 1 Cor. 7:15 (this terminology pre­ferred to "Pau­line privilege") protects victims from desertion by an unbelieving spouse.  Why?  Because God has called us in peace!  His covenant, like the marital covenant, aims at making benefi­ciaries.  God is willing to help victims in a beneficial way that ends the abuse; He is opposed to people changing mari­tal status on the supposi­tion that such category-jumping will exalt their spiritual status in His eyes (or in the eyes of others).  The deserted Christian, in this reading of v. 15, is permitted to leave that social state in which he or she was called.  He be­comes "unmarried" and has the right to remarriage implicit in a legal divorce.[23]  Both Roman law[24] and rabbinic tradition of the Mishnah[25] granted this right.  Nowhere in Scripture is an unmar­ried person forbidden to marry.  A married person who fornicates would be denied this privilege because "they have unfinished covenantal business.  They have a moral, not a mystical, obliga­tion to reconcile."[26]  The fornicator, victimizer rather than victim, has no benefit in Jesus' protective legisla­tion.
          A common pattern runs through these protection clauses.  First, in each case, an exception is made to the binding nature of the mar­riage based on God's legislation in Gen. 2:24 (cf. Matt. 19:3-6).  Second, each of these exceptions is predicated upon an already invalidated relationship; the covenant has been broken.  Third, the covenant-breaking by one spouse has victim­ized the other, which does violence to the beneficent purpose for marriage which the Almighty intended.  Fourth, God offers protection to the victim in every case to pursue a legitimate relationship. 
          Some, who see only God's intent to preserve[27] marriage bonds, are at times prone to castigate those who also see God's beneficent intent to protect victims.  Our interpretation must allow space for God's express will in both areas.  A victimized spouse, after all, stands on Square One where Adam once stood when God declared:  "It is not good for man to be alone; I shall make a partner suited to him."  May God open our eyes to see the whole picture of His attitude toward marriage and divorce and remarriage!
          We began earlier to follow Paul's argumentation topically according to the scheme outlined on page 6-7.  Thus far we have examined the governing principle for the chapter, its stated purpose, its two-fold illustration, and its application (whether enforced, encouraged, or excepted) to those having married.  We now turn our attention to the application of the principle to the unmarried.
        IV. THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED  B. To Those Single or Unmarried:
          1. Enforced:  Paul at no time requires the unmarried to remain in that state wherein he or she was called.  This accords well with the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 19:10-12)
          2. Encouraged:  In v. 1, Paul says:  "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," and in v. 6 he clarifies that he is speak­ing by way of concession, and not by way of command.  The option remains, weighted to one side.
          In v. 8, the unmarried and the widows are encouraged to remain even as Paul himself is--i.e., presumably single (cf. 9:5-6).  The "unmarried" here may refer to people of either gender.[28] The word here seems to refer to widowers, since tois agamois stands in appo­si­tion to "wid­ows".  Paul has already ad­dressed the premaritally single of both sexes in vs. 1-2.
          Virgins are addressed in vs. 25ff.  Paul's advice is for them to remain as they are.  In vs. 27-28, a good case can be made that specific reference is being made to affianced virgins.  To marry would not be a sin, but it is warned that trouble will follow as a result.  Engagement was viewed as a binding arrange­ment which required a divorce for annulment (Matt. 1:18-19).  The application is prescribed to secure undivided devotion to the Lord.  Attention to Christians committed to entering a marriage is resumed in v. 36.[29]  The en­cour­age­ment to re­main sin­gle is re­peat­ed in vs. 37 and 38. 

          In each case, Paul has encouraged--but has not demanded--com­pliance with the principle.
          3. Excepted.  Four exceptions are made for two different reasons.  First, Paul desires to prevent fornication.  The celi­bacy (otherwise encouraged in v. 1) is set aside in deference to mar­riage in view of this concern (v. 2).  Likewise, the unmarried (wid­owers) and the widows, after being encouraged toward celibacy, are permitted to marry (v. 9) for "it is better to marry than to burn."  The situation is parallel to the situation in vs. 1-2, and the warning against being burnt seems equivalent to the warn­ing against fornication.  Clement of Alexandria would later ex­claim:  "Adulterer, no longer burn."[30]  Thus, the burning is better taken as that of sexual lust than of the fires of eternal tor­ment.
          Exceptions are also granted to the betrothed for yet anoth­er reason:  ap­par­ent­ly to spare them from the hardships brought on by mar­riage in light of the present situation.  Since the be­trothed live at once with one foot in marriage and one foot in the sin­gle life, the excep­tions are granted both ways.  They are per­mit­ted to end their en­gage­ments in v. 28; and then in vs. 36-37 the man is per­mitted to end his bachelor­hood by marrying.
          Both of these exceptions rest upon difficult interpreta­tions.  The position adopted here on v. 28 is that those in view are be­trothed male virgins (recall discussion in IV. A. 3.) rath­er than divorced persons (as "having been loosed from a wife" might suggest).  In vs. 36ff., the difficulty involves the inter­play between gamew and gamizw.  While gamizw may be equivalent in meaning to gamew ("to mar­ry"), it may also carry the meaning of "to give in marriage."[31]  The former meaning is opted for here.  Yet, the choice is inconsequential, for whether it be a father giving his daughter as a bride or whether it be a man marrying a bride, an exception to the principle is being offered to an unmarried person.
          While extensive treatment of Jesus' statements on divorce within the synoptic gospels is beyond the scope of this paper, a few words should be devoted to interfacing the results of this ex­egesis with the gospel texts.  Matthew 19:9 has already been identified in the Excursus as a protec­tive clause to the Genesis legislation setting forth the binding nature of marriage.  What of the parallel statements in the other gospels?
          Matt. 5:32 may also be viewed as protectionist, employing the phrase parektos logou porneia instead of ma epi porneia as in the parallel in 19:9.  It's interpretation has proven difficult, in part be­cause of its setting within the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus pre­cedes this and surrounding teachings with, "You have heard that it was said that...,"  which He follows up with, "but I declare to you that...."  In each case, except for the divorce teaching, Jesus seems to put forward a more stringent requirement than the teaching of old.  Here however, by allowing an exception, Jesus appears to have liberal leanings!  Seen in light of a protection­ist interpreta­tion, however, Jesus is seen to be even more rigor­ous than the teaching of old.  Whereas the Mosaic legislation had been misused so as to promote victimization by making divorce more ac­ceptable, Jesus instead applies the legislation on behalf of the victims!
          Luke 16:18 finds a better parallel with Matt. 5:32 than it does with 19:9.  The saying is thus from a non-Markan source (such as Q).  Since the passage lacks the Matthean exception clause permitting divorce, Jesus, in­stead of pro­tect­ing the vic­tims of di­vorce, seems rath­er to be inter­ested in preserving the mar­riage bond.  Like­ly, the protective teach­ing (in­tend­ed to pro­tect vic­tims by al­lowing divorce) and the prohib­itive teach­ing (in­tend­ed to pre­serve mar­riage against easy di­vorce), were com­plementary and authentic elements of the teach­ing of Jesus.[32] 
          Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 9:43-48 are clear parallels, al­though clearly Matthew has redacted freely.  Mark, like Luke, includes the prohibition against divorce and includes no excep­tion, as does Matthew.  This teaching of Jesus, which prohibits divorce without any accompanying protectionist legisla­tion, closely resembles the teaching of Malachi 2:10-16 in this regard.

          Paul wrote the epistle of 1 Corinthians to a divided church.  The division was evidenced in many ways, one of which was the attempt to gain status over other Christians by boasting on so­cial, religious, and marital categories.  Some who felt slighted sought advancement by category-jumping.  This was an improper rationale to Paul, who responded by denying such attempts, while permitting other changes of category for genuinely legitimate reasons.  Paul sought undivided glory for God and benefit for the Christians and, whether they knew it or not, they were all equal in status before God.
          Concerning marriage and celibacy, Paul's instruction is summed up well by the principle that governs Paul's approach to the attempt to attain superiority via social categories:  "Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called" (7:20).  The instruction was applied to the married and unmar­ried in one of three ways:  it was enforced, it was encouraged (but left discretionary), or it was given excep­tion.
          Crucial to the current issue over marriage, divorce, and remarriage is the exception provided in 7:15.  The exception is deduced by supplying the governing principle from the surrounding con­text as the completion of the otherwise elliptical meaning of the critical verb dedoulwtai.  The inter­pretation has strong contextual support.
          Paul thus is seen to offer protection to the victim of a situation in which a Christian has been deserted by an unbeliev­ing spouse.  This is of a piece with protectionist legislation allowing divorce and remarriage for victims of other covenantal catastrophes.  Examples were suggested from Moses (Deut. 24:1-4), from Jesus (Matt. 5:32, 19:9), and also another one from Paul on behalf of widows (Rom. 7:3, par. 1 Cor. 7:39). 
          Jesus' teaching on divorce was seen to contain two comple­mentary approaches to divorce.  Passages containing the "exception clause" permitting divorce and remarriage, as in Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 noted above, aim at the protection of the victims of forni­cating spous­es.  Other passages (Mk. 9:43-38, Lk. and Luke 16:18) aim instead at prohibiting divorce so as to preserve the intact covenantal bond of marriage.  These latter prohibitions are of a kind with those of Malachi 2:10-16, in which God proclaimed, "I hate divorce!"
          It is hoped that this paper contributes to the present discussion and stimulates further research.  The findings of this research would suggest that we will find ourselves in line with God's intentions for marriage, divorce, and remarriage if we will seek at once to prohibit the breaking of the bonds of valid mar­riage covenants while protecting the victims of broken cove­nants.  The two aims do no violence to one another.

     [1]For example, the relevance of archaeological data for in­ter­pretation of 1 Cor. 11 is argued con­vincingly by Oster, who pos­tu­lates a strongly Roman cultural matrix underlying the situa­tion ad­dressed by Paul.  See Richard Oster, "When Men Wore Veils to Worship:  The His­torical Context of 1 Corin­thians 11.4," New Testament Studies 34 (O­ctober 1988), 481-505. 
     [2]1 Cor. 1:26 is often read as a question that expects a neg­ative answer, suggesting that the Corin­thians were by no means of the high social standing.  For a provocative study supporting a mi­nor­i­ty view which suggests that the Co­rin­thi­ans in fact were of high sta­tus, see Gail R. O'Day, "Jer­emiah 9:22-23 and 1 Corinthi­ans 1:26-31:  A Study in Intertextuality," Journal of Biblical Liter­ature 109 (Summer 1990), 259-67.
     [3]"Grace-gift" is the translation of charisma suggested in D. A. Carson, Showing The Spirit:  A Theologi­cal Exposition of 1 Corin­thians 12-14, (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1987), 19.  This trans­la­tion is pre­ferred as it pre­serves the con­nec­tion with its cog­nate charis, i.e. "grace".  The grace-gifts men­tioned by Paul and other NT writers may be either miraculous or non-miraculous in nature.
     [4]Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, and Alan Wikgren, eds., The Greek New Testament, 3d ed. (Lo­ndon:  United Bible Societies, 1983), 591-4.
     [5]James Walters, "Exposition of the Text", a lecture present­ed at Harding university's "13-in-1" Lectureship in 1988, audio cassette by Harding University recording service, P.O. Box 757, Sta. A, Searcy, AR 72143.
     [6]The phrase mallon chrasai may be translated "by all means use it" according to Henry G. Meecham, The Letter of Aristeas (London:  Manchester University Press, 1935), 176.  Similarly, one grammar renders it as "by all means seize (the opportunity)"; cf. James Hope Moulton and Wilbert Francis Howard, Accidence and Word Formation, vol. 2 of A Grammar of New Testa­ment Greek (Edinburgh:  T & T Clark, 1920) 165 (footnote #1).  Yet another grammarian denies alternative transla­tions saying:  "...Corinthian Christians are urged to make use once and for all the opportunity to be free; only with a pres. imper. ought the interpretation to be use your present state to the glory of God."  See Nigel Turner, Syntax, vol. 3 of A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh:  T & T Clark, 1963) 76.
     [7]M. Ket. 5:6-7.
     [8]Contra Laney, who sees vs. 1-5 as being spoken by conces­sion in spite of his recognition that "this" in v. 6 refers back to v. 2.  J. Carl Laney, "Paul and the Permanence of Marriage in 1 Corin­thians 7,"  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (September 1982), 284.
     [9]Reiteration is here likely since vs. 1-11 are likely a uni­fied subsection that deals with an actual rather than a hypothet­ical situation as per Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, "The Divorced Woman in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11,"  Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (December 1981), 601-6.
     [10]Robert W. Herron Jr., "Mark's Jesus on Divorce:  Mark 10:1-12 Reconsidered," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Soci­ety 25 (September 1982), 277-8.
     [11]Murphy-O'Connor, 603-5.
     [12]Ibid., 602.
     [13]Contra Laney, who holds that an exception in v. 15 in­volves a contradiction to the instructions of vs. 10-13.  Such would be this case only if the unbeliever's going or staying did not result in two separate situations demanding individual and separate treatments.  See Laney, 287.
     [14]McGuiggan, following Godet, sees it passing strange that with all of the various groups being given instruction in Chapter Sev­en, the divorced are never themselves addressed as a group and sees the "unmarried" as being such a group.  See Jim McGuiggan, The Book of 1 Co­rin­thi­ans, Look­ing Into The Bible Series (Lub­bock, Tex.:  Montex, 1984), 113-15.
     [15]For an excellent discussion see J. K. Elliot, "Paul's Teach­ing on Mar­riage in 1 Co­rin­thi­ans:  Some Problems Consid­ered," New Testament Studies 19 (date unknown), 219-25.
     [16]Laney, 287.
     [17]"The Julian Law on Curbing Divorce," from various legal sources collected in Regia Academia Italica, Acta Divi Augusti, Pars Prior (Rome 1945), quoted in The Empire, vol. 45 of Records of Civilization Sources, ed. Naphtali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1955), 48-49.
     [18]Pat Edwin Harrell, Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church (Austin, Tex.:  R. B. Sweet Company, 1967), 29.
     [19]Marriage is explicitly referred to as a covenant relation­ship in Prov. 2:17 and Malachi 2:14.  Covenantal concepts and terminology abound in the opening chapters of Genesis where mar­riage is discussed, as well as in the discussions of Jesus on divorce.  That the mar­riage cove­nant is to be in­struc­tive toward one's covenant with God is taught in Hosea as well as in Eph. 5:22ff (where the in­struction is recip­rocal).  That Jewish and Christian interpreters have understood Song of Solomon allegori­cally of their respective covenantal relations to God derives from the obvious points of comparison of the relationships, since pointers to allegory are absent in the text itself.
     [20]F. F. Bruce, Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1977), 268.
     [21]M. Gitt. 9:3.
     [22]For example, Heth argues unconvincingly that the Bible nowhere recognizes a dissolution of marriage which permits di­vorce!  His syntactical/grammatical argument, based upon the protasis of Matt. 19:9, is inconclusive, as Duty, whom he cites in support, has admitted.  See William A. Heth, "Another Look at the Erasmian View of Divorce and Remarriage,"  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (September 1982), 263-72.
     [23]Murphy-O'Connor, 606.
     [24]For example, Berlin Papyrus No. 1,103 (from 13 BC) has:  "Hereafter it shall be lawful both for Zois to marry another and for Antipater to marry another woman without either of them being answerable."  Op. cit., The Empire, vol. 45 of Records of Civili­zation Sources, 407-8. 
     [25]Harrell, 69.
     [26]William F. Luck, Divorce & Remarriage:  Recovering the Biblical View (San Francisco:  Harper & Row, 1987), 175.
     [27]God is interested in preserving the marriage bond insofar as this furthers His beneficent purpose for marriage; otherwise God is interested in protecting victims of broken covenants.
     [28]Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Litera­ture, 2d. ed., rev. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1979), 4.
     [29]The difficulty bedeviling interpretation of these passages is well-known; see Elliot, 219-25.  Here we prefer a rendering such as that in the REB, NIV, etc.  See discussion following in IV. B. 3.
     [30]Clement of Alexandria, The Rich Man's Salvation 40.
     [31]Bauer, 151.
     [32]Contra Stein, who sees in the prohibition the ipsissima verba of Jesus and then sees the Matthean protection clause as the Evangalist's inspired interpretation of Jesus' teaching.  See Robert H. Stein, "Is It Lawful For A Man To Divorce His Wife?"  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22 (June 1979), 115-21.  Stein's posi­tion is ably critiqued by Heth, 266-7.

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Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. Revised by Wil­liam F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rap­ids: Eerdmans, 1977.
Carson, D. A. Showing The Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corin­thians 12-14. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.
Clement of Alexandria, The Rich Man's Salvation. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953.
Elliot, J. K. "Paul's Teaching on Marriage in I Corinthians: Some Problems Considered." New Testa­ment Studies 19 (date unknown): 219-25.
Harrell, Pat Edwin. Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church. Aus­tin, Tex.: R. B. Sweet Company, 1967.
Herron, Robert W. Jr. "Mark's Jesus on Divorce: Mark 10:1-12 Recon­sidered." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Soci­ety 25 (September 1982): 273-81.
Laney, Carl J. "Paul and the Permanence of Marriage in 1 Corin­thians 7." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (September 1982): 283-94.
Lewis, Naphtali and Meyer Teinhold, eds. Roman Civilization. Vol. 2, The Empire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955.
Luck, William F. Divorce& Remarriage: Recovering the Biblical View. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
McGuiggan, Jim. The Book of 1 Corinthians, Looking Into The Bible Series. Lubbock, Tex.: Montex, 1984.
Meecham, Henry G. The Letter of Aristeas. London: Manchester University Press, 1935.
The Mishnah. Translated by Herbert Danby. London: Oxford Uni­versity Press, 1933.
Moulton, James Hope. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. Vol. 2, Ac­cidence and Word Formation, by James Hope Moulton and Wilbert Fran­cis Howard; and Vol. 3, Syntax, by Nigel Turner. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1920 and 1963 respectively.
Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. "The Divorced Woman in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11." Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (December 1981): 601-6.
O'Day, Gail R. "Jeremiah 9:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: A Study in Intertextuality." Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (Summer 1990), 259-67.
Oster, Rick. "When Men Wore Veils to Worship: The Historical Context of 1 Corinthians 11.4." New Testament Studies 34 (October 1988): 481-505.
Stein, Robert H. "Is It Lawful For A Man To Divorce His Wife?" Jour­nal of Biblical Literature 100 (June 1979): 115-21.
Walters, James. Exposition of the Text I, lecture delivered at Hard­ing University 1988 13-in-1 Lectureship. Audio cassette by Hard­ing University recording service: P. O. Box 757 Station A, Searcy, AR 72143.