Vincent's Word Studies
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
It is good (καλὸν)
See on John 10:11. Not merely expedient, but morally salutary. The statement, however, is made in the light of circumstances, see 1 Corinthians 7:26, and is to be read with others, such as 2 Corinthians 11:2; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:28-33, in all which marriage is made the type of the union between Christ and His Church. See also Hebrews 13:4.
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
May give yourselves (σχολάσητε)
Lit., may have leisure. Like the Latin phrase vacaare rei to be free for a thing, and so to devote one's self to it.
Only here and Matthew 23:35, on which see note.
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
Not unmarried, but continent. It is not necessary to assume that Paul had never been married. Marriage was regarded as a duty among the Jews, so that a man was considered to have sinned if he had reached the age of twenty without marrying. The Mishna fixed the age of marriage at seventeen or eighteen, and the Babylonish Jews as early as fourteen. A rabbinical precept declared that a Jew who has no wife is not a man. It is not certain, but most probable, that Saul was a member of the Sanhedrim (Acts 26:10). If so, he must have been married, as marriage was a condition of membership. From 1 Corinthians 7:8 it is plausibly inferred that he classed himself among widowers. Farrar ("Life and Work of St. Paul," i., 80) has some beautiful remarks upon the evidence for his marriage afforded by the wisdom and tenderness of his words concerning it.
See on Romans 1:11. As regards the matter of continence, fitting some for marriage and some for celibacy.
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
Cannot contain (οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται)
Rev., have not continence. Only here, and 1 Corinthians 9:25, of athletes abstaining from sensual indulgences when preparing for the games.
Continuous present, to burn on: continuance in unsatisfied desire.
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
Not I, but the Lord
Referring to Christ's declarations respecting divorce, Matthew 5:31, Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:3-12. Not a distinction between an inspired and an uninspired saying. Paul means that his readers had no need to apply to him for instruction in the matter of divorce, since they had the words of Christ himself.
But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
To the rest
He has been speaking to the unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8) and to married parties, both of whom were Christians (1 Corinthians 7:10). By the rest he means married couples, one of which remained a heathen.
I, not the Lord
These cases are not included in Christ's declarations.
Be pleased (συνευδοκεῖ)
Rev., be content. Better, consent. Both the other renderings fail to express the agreement indicated by σύν together.
And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
Is sanctified (ἡγίασται)
Not, made morally holy, but affiliated to the Christian community - the family of the ἅγιοι saints - in virtue of his being "one flesh" with his Christian wife.
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
Is not under bondage (οὐ δεδούλωται)
A strong word, indicating that Christianity has not made marriage a state of slavery to believers. Compare δέδεται is bound, 1 Corinthians 7:39, a milder word. The meaning clearly is that willful desertion on the part of the unbelieving husband or wife sets the other party free. Such cases are not comprehended in Christ's words.
Hath called us to peace (ἐν εἰρήνη κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς)
Rev., correctly, in peace. Compare Galatians 1:6, "into the grace" (ἐν χάριτι, Rev., in); Ephesians 4:4, in one hope (ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι); 1 Thessalonians 4:7, in sanctification (ἐν ἁγιασμῷ). Denoting the sphere or element of the divine calling. Enslavement in the marriage relation between the believer and the unbeliever is contrary to the spirit and intent of this calling.
For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
But (εἰ μὴ)
Rev., only. Introducing a limitation to the statement in 1 Corinthians 7:15. There is to be no enslavement, only, to give no excuse for the reckless abuse of this general principle, the normal rule of Christian life is that each one should seek to abide in the position in which God has placed him.
See on Matthew 11:1.
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
Become uncircumcised (ἐπισπάσθω)
The reference is to the process of restoring a circumcised person to his natural condition by a surgical operation. See Josephus, "Antiquities," 12:5, 1; 1 Macc. 1:15; Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible," Article Circumcision; Celsus, "De Re Medica," cited in Wetstein with other passages. See, also, Edwards' note on this passage.
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Not the condition or occupation, a meaning which the word does not have in classical Greek, nor in the New Testament, where it always signifies the call of God into His kingdom through conversion. Paul means: If God's call was to you as a circumcised man or as an uncircumcised man; as a slave or as a freedman - abide in that condition. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:26.
Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
Use it rather
Whether the apostle means, use the bondage or use the freedom - whether, take advantage of the offer of freedom, or, remain in slavery - is, as Dean Stanley remarks, one of the most evenly balanced questions in the interpretation of the New Testament. The force of καὶ even, and the positive injunction of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 7:20 and 1 Corinthians 7:24, seem to favor the meaning, remain in slavery. The injunction is to be read in the light of 1 Corinthians 7:22, and of Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 12:13, that freeman and slave are one in Christ; and also of the feeling pervading the Church of the speedy termination of the present economy by the second coming of the Lord. See 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:29. We must be careful to avoid basing our conclusion on the modern sentiment respecting freedom and slavery.
For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
Rev., correctly, freedman; the preposition ἀπ' from implying previous bondage.
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
The servants of men
Not referring to the outward condition of bondage, but to spiritual subjection to the will and guidance of men as contrasted with Christ.
Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
Not the unmarried of both sexes, as Bengel. The use of the word by ecclesiastical writers for an unmarried man has no warrant in classical usage, and may have arisen from the misinterpretation of Revelation 14:4, where it is employed adjectivally and metaphorically. In every other case in the New Testament the meaning is unquestionable.
I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
The present distress (τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην)
Ἑνεστῶσαν present may also express something which is not simply present, but the presence of which foreshadows and inaugurates something to come. Hence it may be rendered impending or setting in. See on Romans 8:38. Ἁνάγκη means originally force, constraint, necessity, and this is its usual meaning in classical Greek; though in the poets it sometimes has the meaning of distress, anguish, which is very common in Hellenistic Greek. Thus Sophocles, of the approach of the crippled Philoctetes: "There falls on my ears the sound of one who creeps slow and painfully (κατ' ἀνάγκην." "Philoctetes," 206); and again, of the same: "Stumbling he cries for pain (ὑπ' ἀνάγκας," 215). In the Attic orators it occurs in the sense of blood-relationship, like the Latin necessitudo a binding tie. In this sense never in the New Testament. For the original sense of necessity, see Matthew 18:7; Luke 14:18; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Hebrews 9:16. For distress, Luke 21:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:7. The distress is that which should precede Christ's second coming, and which was predicted by the Lord himself, Matthew 24:8 sqq. Compare Luke 21:23-28.
Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
I spare you (ὑμῶν φείδομαι)
Rev., "I would spare," is not warranted grammatically, but perhaps avoids the ambiguity of I spare, which might be understood: I spare you further mention of these things. The meaning is: I give you these injunctions in order to spare you the tribulation of the flesh.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
Not, the period of mortal life; but the time which must elapse before the Lord appears.
Rev., correctly, giving the force of the participle, shortened. Compare Mark 13:20, and see on hasting unto, 2 Peter 3:12. The word means to draw together or contract. Only here and Acts 5:6, where it is used of the winding up of Ananias' corpse. In classical Greek of furling sails, packing luggage, reducing expenses, etc. Applied to time, the word is very graphic.
It remaineth that (τὸ λοιπόν ἵνα)
The meaning is rather henceforth, or for the future. That (ἵνα) in any case is to be construed with the time is shortened. According to the punctuation by different editors, we may read either: the time is shortened that henceforth both those, etc.; or, the time is shortened henceforth, that both those, etc. The former is preferable. The time is shortened that henceforth Christians may hold earthly ties and possessions but loosely.
And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
Only here and 1 Corinthians 9:18. The verb means to use up or consume by using. Hence the sense of misuse by overuse. So A.V. and Rev., abuse. But the American Rev., and Rev. at 1 Corinthians 9:18, use to the full, thus according better with the preceding antitheses, which do not contrast what is right and wrong in itself (as use and abuse), but what is right in itself with what is proper under altered circumstances. In ordinary cases it is right for Christians to sorrow; but they should live now as in the near future, when earthly sorrow is to be done away. It is right for them to live in the married state, but they should "assimilate their present condition" to that in which they neither marry nor are given in marriage.
Passeth away (παράγει)
Or, as some, the continuous present, is passing. If the former, the nature of the worldly order is expressed. It is transitory. If the latter, the fact; it is actually passing, with a suggestion of the nearness of the consummation. The context seems to indicate the latter.
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
Without carefulness (ἀμερίμνους)
Not a good translation, because carefulness has lost its earlier sense of anxiety. So Latimer: "This wicked carefulness of men, when they seek how to live - like as if there were no God at all." See on take no thought, Matthew 6:25. Rev., free from cares. Ignatius uses the phrase ἐν ἀμεριμνίᾳ Θεοῦ in godly carelessness (Polycarp, 7).
But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
There is a difference
The textual question here is very perplexing, and it is well-nigh impossible to explain the differences to the English reader. He must observe, 1st. That γυνὴ wife is also the general term for woman, whether virgin, married, or widow. 2nd. That μεμέρισται A.V., there is a difference, literally means, is divided, so that the literal rendering of the A.V., would be, the wife and the virgin are divided. Some of the best texts insert καὶ and both before and after is divided, and join that verb with the close of 1 Corinthians 7:33, so that it reads: careth for the things of the world how he may please his wife, and he is distracted. This makes γυνὴ and παρθένος (A.V., wife and virgin) begin a new sentence connected with the preceding by καὶ and Γυνὴ is rendered woman, and the words η αγαμος the unmarried, instead of beginning a sentence as A.V., are placed directly after woman as a qualifying phrase, so that the reading is ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος the unmarried woman, and both this and ἡ παρθένος the virgin are nominative to μεριμνᾷ careth. The whole, then, from the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7:33, will read: But he who is married careth for the things of the world how he may please his wife, and he is distracted; and the unmarried woman and the virgin care for the things of the Lord.
And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
Lit., a noose or slip-knot for hanging or strangling. Thus Homer of Jocasta: "She went to Hades having suspended a noose on high from the lofty roof" ("Odyssey," 11, 278). Sophocles, of Antigone: "We descried her hanging by the neck, slung by a thread-wrought halter of fine linen" ("Antigone," 1222). Also a snare for birds; the meshes of a net.
That ye may attend (πρὸς - εὐπάρεδρον)
Only here in the New Testament. From εὐ well, πάρεδρος setting beside. That ye may attend is a kind of circumlocution. The Greek reads literally: for that which is seemly and for that which is assiduous. Assiduous conveys the sense of the word as nearly as possible, since etymologically it means sitting close at. One is reminded of Mary at Bethany sitting at Jesus' feet, Luke 10:39.
Without distraction (ἀπερισπάστως)
See on Luke 10:40. The same word compounded here with ἀ not, is used of Martha's being cumbered or distracted with much serving.
But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
Behaveth himself uncomely (ἀσχημονεῖν)
Acts unbecomingly, either by throwing temptation in the daughter's way by constraining her to remain unmarried, or by exposing her to the disgrace which was supposed to attach to the unmarried state. But Paul, in his preceding words, has regarded the latter consideration as set aside by the peculiar circumstances of the time.
His virgin (τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ)
Rev. properly inserts daughter. It is an unusual expression for daughter. Xenophon uses it with the word θυγάτηρ daughter ("Cyropaedia," iv., 6, 9), and Oedipus speaks of his two daughters as my maidens (Sophocles, "Oedipus Tyrannus," 1462)
Pass the flower of her age (ᾐ ὑπέρακμος)
Rev., correctly, be past. Beyond the bloom of life. Plato fixes the point at twenty years ("Republic," 460). Diogenes Laertius says: "An undowered maiden is a heavy burden to a father after she has outrun the flower of her age" ("Lycon," v., 65)
Let them marry
Evidently there was assumed to be another in the case beside the father and the virgin.
Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.
Power over his own will (ἐξουσίαν περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος)
The A.V. is ambiguous, and might be understood to imply self-control. The meaning is rather: is free to act as he pleases. Rev., as touching his own will. The repetition of his own emphasizes the fact that the disposal of the daughter lay wholly in the parent's power. Among the Greeks and Romans the choice of a wife was rarely grounded upon affection. In many cases the father chose for his son a wife whom the latter had never seen, or compelled him to marry for the sake of checking his extravagances. Thus Terence pictures a father meeting his son in the forum, and saving. "You are to be married to-day, get ready" ("Andria," i., 5) Nor was the consent of a woman generally thought necessary. She was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and perhaps to receive a stranger. Thus Hermione says: "My marriage is my father's care: it is not for me to decide about that" (Euripides, "Andromache," 987). Under the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, the father's power over the children in the matter of marriage was paramount, and their consent was not required. After the Exile the parents could betroth their children, while minors, at their pleasure; but when they became of age their consent was required, and if betrothed during minority, they had afterward the right of insisting upon divorce.
So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
Be dead (κοιμηθῇ)
Lit., have fallen asleep. See on Acts 7:60; see on 2 Peter 3:4; compare Romans 7:2, where the usual word for die, ἀποθάνῃ is used. In that passage Paul is discussing the abstract question. Here the inference is more personal, which is perhaps the reason for his using the more tender expression.
But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
More blessed is preferable. The word has a higher meaning than happy. See on Matthew 5:3.
"Such, if on high their thoughts are set,
Nor in the stream the source forget,
If prompt to quit the bliss they know,
Following the Lamb where'er He go,
By purest pleasure unbeguiled
To idolize or wife or child:
Such wedded souls our God shall own
For faultless virgins round His throne."
Keble, "Christian Year," Wednesday before Easter.