The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 8: Marriage and Divorce

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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 8: Marriage and Divorce

While Paul of Tarsus discusses several things which open up for us other avenues of interest which merit attention, here in our presentation of 1 Corinthians chapters 6 and 7 we have made it a point to illustrate the Biblically Christian definitions of marriage, fornication and adultery. Doing this, we hope to have established that the term fornication describes race-mixing as well as prostitution and other forms of illicit sexual activity, such as sodomy. We also hope to have established that adultery is the violation of the marriage of another, however for an Israelite adultery is also the violation of the marriage covenant which Yahweh God has with the children of Israel, and therefore race-mixing can also be considered as adultery in that context, as it is so frequently found in the words of the holy prophets. One example is given in Numbers chapter 36, where it says “7 So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.” These definitions may be contested by the water-carriers for the denominational sects, but they have been established from Scripture and they certainly should not cause controversy within Christian Identity circles.

However what we have established from Scripture as marriage broaches a topic which can be controversial even within Christian Identity circles, and we perceive that is mostly because of the attachment which even the finest men and women have for the societal constructs to which they are accustomed. There are many Christians who would insist that marriage happens at an altar. The only marriages which happened at altars in the ancient [Hebrew] world were those which had occurred in the temples of Baal, and they were very likely instances of fornication rather than marriage. Likewise, there are Christians who would insist that marriage happens upon an exchange of vows before witnesses. However while that may be one way to express ones commitment to a marriage, it is not the marriage itself, as we shall see here in the second part of our presentation of 1 Corinthians chapter 7, when we encounter verse 36.

The patriarch Isaac saw the wife which the servant of his father had procured for him, and never having made any public display or ceremony, he took her to his tent where she became his wife. The patriarch Jacob worked seven years so that he could marry Rachel. The contract and promises involved for the hand of Rachel were made not with the maiden, but with her father. That is because in the world of the Bible, women were the property of their fathers, or any surviving brothers or uncles, until they were handed over to a man for marriage. Jacob met the requirements laid upon him in exchange for Rachel, and a wedding feast was celebrated. However Rachel's father Laban was dishonest and that night when it came time to bring the maiden to the bridal chamber he substituted the older sister Leah. The contract Jacob made with Laban was for Rachel. The seven years which Jacob worked was for Rachel. The marriage feast to celebrate the marriage was for the intent that Jacob would marry Rachel. But on the next morning, Jacob realized he was married to Leah, rather than to Rachel. Why? Because the contract and the marriage feast are not the marriage. The act of sexual union is the marriage. It is the factual reality which matters before God, and not the societal constructs which man adds to the factual reality. Jacob realized this, and kept Leah as his wife, agreeing to work yet another seven years for the hope of obtaining Rachel as well.

There are other ways in Scripture in which marriage occurred. David took Bathsheba in sin, and when Uriah was killed, he was relieved of the penalty for adulterers even if he suffered punishment in other ways. But while David was admittedly wrong in the way he obtained Bathsheba, at the end of the day she was still his wife, and there were no recorded vows or ceremonies or any other such thing. It was the factual reality of the matter which made Bathsheba the wife of David, as the Scripture labels her in 2 Samuel chapter 12. We see in the law that it is written in Deuteronomy chapter 22 that “28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” While that may be a poor way to find a wife, it is evident that there are many ways to get married, however marriage is indeed the act of sexual union, which is the factual reality.

The only actually Biblical prerequisite for a proper marriage is what we see in scripture: that the woman be of the same flesh and bone as her husband. Societal constructs are erected by men for various reasons. It is noble to ensure that a young man bidding a maiden's hand have good intentions, that he is seriously concerned for her interests, that they are committed to one another, etc. But all of the constructs which society imposes cannot ensure the success or duration of a marriage, which is something that only Yahweh God can do. The man who seduces or rapes a virgin and agrees to pay the price is no less married than the man who works seven years to prove his commitment to the father of his prospective wife, even if the rapist is a cad. In the end, it does not really matter if the marriage occurs in a cathedral or in a hayfield. What matters is that the man and woman keep the law of Yahweh their God, and by itself no vow, altar or certificate ever kept a man from apostasy.

In respect to judgment for criminal matters, it is said in the law that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”. Men have since found that same principle to be useful in other areas of life as well, and therefore it has been employed as part of the modern marriage tradition. However we must understand that our modern perception of marriage is just that, a tradition, and not necessarily the law of God. For the first 18 centuries of the Christian era, when wedding feasts were celebrated they were celebrated at home, and the various traditions related to marriage varied from family to family and region to region. But the celebration should not ever be confused with officiation. We may assert that any man who pretends to officiate over another man's marriage pretends to be God and is no different from a pope. It is fair, however, for a man to be appointed to officiate the celebration of a marriage. The distinction is not a minor one. When marriages were celebrated at home, or even if they were not celebrated at all, for many centuries in the Middle Ages and until recent times all a couple did was stand outside of their church on a Sunday and announce to their fellow parishioners that they were married. In that manner, the whole community became witnesses to the wedding and would consider the couple man and wife.

With this, there are some rather common words which appear in this chapter which are often poorly perceived, and their meanings should be discussed. This is because there are men who would make doctrines from the perceived meanings of English words while the actual meanings of the original Greek and Hebrew terms do not necessarily uphold such doctrines.

A παρθένος is a virgin, or a maiden. There are several other ways to say girl or young woman in Greek without the implication of virginity, such as κόρη or τᾶλις. Here in this chapter Paul uses the word παρθένος four times, and without a doubt he is referring to a young woman who is a virgin.

The word γυνή is a wife, but it is also a woman. It appears 19 times in this chapter where the King James Version translated it as wife or wives, and once more in verse 13 where the King James Version translated it as woman. Liddell and Scott define the term as a woman, as opposed to a man, but as a wife, as opposed to a virgin. There was no specific word in Greek or in Hebrew for wife, however in English words meaning woman could be translated as wife in an appropriate context. In the ancient Greek world, a woman was a maiden or virgin even if she was espoused, or betrothed, up until the act of consummation of a marriage in sexual union. Once the consummation occurred, the woman was no longer considered a παρθένος, or maiden. While a wife was no longer a παρθένος, either a maiden or a wife could have been considered a γυνή.

The verb μνηστεύομαι (3423) is usually rendered as promised in marriage in the Christogenea New Testament, and as espoused in the King James Version. It appears in Matthew chapter 1 and in Luke chapters 1 and 2 in relation to the virgin Mary, who was espoused, but not married, to Joseph the step-father of Christ. The word does not appear here, but the condition does where later in the chapter we see a man may possess a virgin to whom he is not yet married, and therefore it is expedient to note.

There is another Greek word, ἀνήρ (Strong's # 435) which may signify a grown man as compared with a boy, or a male as compared to a female. However in contexts such as here in 1 Corinthians 7 where women and marriage are discussed, it can be interpreted as husband as opposed to a wife. Like γυνή, while there is no specific Greek word for husband, ἀνήρ can be translated as husband in the appropriate context.

The Greek word γαμέω is a verb meaning to marry. According to the 9th edition of the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon, which always supplies citations, it was used of mere sexual intercourse as well as of more formal and intricate marriage arrangements. The Greek word γάμος, a noun, described the act of marrying, and the act of sexual intercourse, as well as being used to describe the marriage feast (for which there were also other related words, such as γαμηλία). That γάμος referred to a union in sexual intercourse is further realized with the existence of compound words such as the verb γαμοκλοπέω and the corresponding adjective γαμοκλόπος. Both words are from γάμος and the verb κλέπτω which means to steal, and both words refer to an engagement in illicit sexual intercourse. The Greeks used the phrase ἱερὸς, meaning priest, and γάμος to describe a marriage ritual presided over by a pagan priest, something which is not found among the Hebrews of the Old Testament except in veiled references to Baal worship. Even among the pagan Greeks there was what we may consider proper marriage, including contracts and other accoutrements, and there was improper marriage, or what we may call “casual sex”, yet either sort was described with the word γάμος.

It is important to understand these words so that we are not misled by particular translations, or by anyone who having an agenda insists that they are to be understood in any particular manner in any given Bible verse. A virgin is just that, not a young woman, but a woman of any age who has never had a sexual relationship. Everywhere the words wife and woman are interchangeable, as are the words husband and man. There are no special meanings beyond that. Among the Greeks, a wife was a woman who belongs to a man that she has a sexual relationship with, and a husband was the man to whom a wife belongs. With some more intricate connotations for slaves which we shall omit here, that is how the words were used in the Biblical world.

There are certain other words which appear in the verses just before where we left off in our last presentation of the earlier part of this chapter which merit even further discussion. Therefore we shall repeat a few verses that we already discussed, and commence with verse 10 of the chapter:

10 Now to they who are married I give order, (not I but the Prince,) for a wife not to be separated from a husband; 11 (but if perhaps then she does separate, she must remain unmarried, or to the husband be reconciled;) and a husband not to put away a wife.

The word for separate in verses 10 and 11, where the King James Version has depart from and depart, is χωρίζω (Strong's # 5563). The same word appears in Acts 1:4 where the apostles were told not to depart from Jerusalem, and in Acts 18:1 where Paul departed from Corinth. The word appears several times in Paul's epistles in other contexts unrelated to marriage. By itself the word has no legal or religious connotation, but only means to be separated, divided, or apart from something. In later Greek, that of the New Testament period, it was used in the passive voice to mean to depart from something.

We have already noted that separation of a wife and a husband is a state of unmarriage as Paul fully infers here, where if a woman separates from a husband she must “remain unmarried”, then departing from a husband is being unmarried. The word for “unmarried” is a noun, ἄγαμος, which is γάμος, or marriage, prefixed with the negative particle. Of course, according to Yahshua Christ fornication is grounds for valid departure.

12 Now furthermore I (not the Prince) say: if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to dwell with him, he must not put her away. 13 And any woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to dwell with her, she must not divorce that husband.

We have already discussed Paul's assertion that mere unbelief, or religious disagreement, by itself is not valid grounds for separating oneself from a husband or wife. Describing that separation, here in verses 12 and 13 the same word is repeated twice by Paul, but in our translation it is expressed in two different ways. That word is the verb, ἀφίημι (Strong's # 863), and here in the context of marriage and separation from marriage it is put away in verse 12 and divorce in verse 13. This was done purposely, as an assertion that in the Bible a putting away and a divorce are one and the same thing. We discussed this same word in Part 6 of our presentation of this epistle, in the context of sin where it was very often translated in the King James Version as forgive. According to Liddell & Scott ἀφίημι primarily means “to send forth, discharge … to let loose … to let fall … to give up … to send away, let go, loose, set free … to dissolve, disband, break up ...” and as it was used from the time of Herodotus in reference to marriage “to put away, divorce”.

It is fully evident, when honest word studies are conducted, that the act of putting away a spouse and the act of divorce are one and the same thing in the Bible. Whether the husband issues a bill of divorcement or not is immaterial, since the paper only documents the factual reality, but the paper does not replace the factual reality. To satisfy the Law and to protect the former wife, which is the spirit of that law, then the paper should be issued by the husband. Just as modern society has done for marriage, modern society has also adopted its own procedures for what it calls divorce. Those procedures are based upon public policy – which means that the government asserts control over the lives of men – and they are not based upon the laws of God. Sadly, many Christians accept the government definitions of words according to its own public policy, and then they seek to apply those definitions to the use of such words in Scripture. That is precisely the opposite of what men should be doing. Christians should instead see how words are used in Scripture, and then they should apply that usage to the factual realities of their daily lives! We do not bring God into line with public policy. Rather, we should seek to bring our lives into line with God.

When a woman enters a man's home and agrees to abide with him, upon initiating a conjugal relationship they are married, providing they are not committing adultery, and that is the factual reality reflected in the Scriptures. When a man puts a wife out of her home or when a wife leaves the home, that is divorce. Although the Scripture limits the legitimate reasons for divorce to fornication, it is divorce under any circumstances, legitimate or not. Ostensibly, if one remarries after divorcing for any reason other than fornication, one is committing adultery. This is what the Scripture informs us, however the public policy of the government under which we live differs from the Word of God. If a Christian insists upon keeping the public policy, then the government is actually his god, and not Christ.

Paul had advised that one should not divorce husband or wife simply because they did not accept the faith in Christ. Then he explained in verse 14 that “14 The unbelieving husband has been sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified in the brother; otherwise then your children are unclean, while now they are holy.” Reading this passage last week, we asserted that the pagan spouse who agreed to live in marriage with a Christian would necessarily have to be removed from those pagan practices which a Christian must not tolerate. Therefore in practice, although not in profession, the pagan being removed from the sins of the society would be sanctified. This is the same sanctification Paul speaks of in regard to Christians in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, where he gave a list of certain sins as examples and then he said, as the King James Version has it, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The Christian profession alone does not sanctify a man, but the keeping of the commandments of Christ sanctifies a man. Therefore if a pagan spouse nevertheless consents to respect the profession of the Christian, then the pagan spouse is sanctified in practice by departing from the sins of the society. Just like the states of marriage and divorce, in reference to sin and repentance it is the factual reality of a situation that matters before God.

Paul then says “15 But if the unbelieving separates himself, let him separate himself; the brother (or the sister) is not reduced to bondage in these instances, but in peace Yahweh has called us.” Therefore we see that a Christian is not bound to a marriage with a pagan spouse if indeed the spouse cannot abide by the Christian. Not being reduced to bondage means that the Christian is free from the marriage obligation when the unbelieving spouse departs.

16 Indeed how do you know, wife, if you shall keep the husband? Or how do you know, husband, if you shall keep the wife? 17 Only as the Prince has distributed to each, as each Yahweh has called, thus he must walk; and thusly in all of the assemblies I prescribe [D has “teach”].

Here Paul is basically asserting that men do not make marriages, but God does. But Paul is not talking about keeping a husband or wife in the Kingdom of Heaven. As Christ is recorded to have said in Mark chapter 12: “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” Ostensibly, once they attain the Kingdom of God the whole family of the children of Israel are united with one another. Rather, Paul means to say that one does not know whether he or she will maintain a spouse in this world. Understanding the context in which Paul is writing would lead to an understanding of the cause for alarm. The statements which he makes in verses 26 and 28 reveal that Paul is writing in reference to the persecutions of Christians which were ongoing at this time, when Christians were being martyred and thrown to the lions at the instigation of the Jews.

18 Being circumcised has anyone been called? One must not be induced. In uncircumcision has anyone been called? One must not be circumcised. [The Nestle-Aland text does not mark any of these clauses as questions.]

The King James Version has the first part of verse 18 to say “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised.” Many commentators have been led to believe that Paul's use of the word ἐπισπάω (1986 – ἐπισπάομαι), which only appears here in the New Testament and which the King James Version rendered as “become uncircumcised”, is a reference to a practice described at 1 Maccabees chapter 1 where it says (from Brenton's Septuagint): “13 Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen: 14 Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen: 15 And made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.” This passage is describing events which occurred over 200 years before Paul wrote.

The commentators who believe that ἐπισπάω should mean “to become uncircumcised”, as if such a thing were possible, are so persuaded by a description of this same thing mentioned in 1 Maccabees which is offered by Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities Book 12. Speaking of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes Josephus says: “241 Therefore they desired his permission to build them a gymnasium at Jerusalem. And when he had given them permission, they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they abandoned all the customs that belonged to their own country, and imitated the practices of the other nations.” (12.241 [12.5.1]).

The Greek word ἐπισπάω is defined by Liddell & Scott to mean “to draw or drag after one...to bring on, cause...to pull to...to attract, gain, win...in Med. [as it appears here in 1 Corinthians 7:18] to draw on, allure, persuade...induce”. That is the literal meaning of the word. But Liddell & Scott go on to add in part 2 of their definition, referring to the Medium Voice, “II. in Med. to become uncircumcised, N.T.”, citing only the New Testament interpretations. We must assert that here Liddell & Scott are only following the King James Version and other New Testament lexicographers who imagined Paul to be referencing what Josephus had described. But we do not agree with this assessment.

The word ἐπισπάω appears 10 times in the Septuagint, and 9 of those times it was used literally, to drag and once in I Maccabees 14:1 it is to persuade. The Greeks in their gymnasiums customarily exercised in the nude, which is necessary to understand in order to understand the commentators positions on this word. Where Josephus explained the practice of the Judaeans at the gymnasium in Jerusalem who had “hid the circumcision of their genitals”, in a note footnote the translator William Whiston claimed that this very thing was “hinted at by St. Paul, 1 Cor. 7:18”, and the lexicographer Joseph Thayer cites this same history to show that the word means “to become uncircumcised”. But Josephus did not use the word ἐπισπάω in his description, and Thayer also cites the description of the same practice at 1 Maccabees 1:15, although the word ἐπισπάω is not used there either. Therefore we can reject the notion that Paul is alluding to that practice, which we will not describe here in detail except to say that it has to do with the mutilation of one's genitals to hide circumcision, and we can also reject the assertion that ἐπισπάω should bear such a meaning.

To induce generally means to succeed in persuading someone to do something. Paul is not telling people of the circumcision not to become uncircumcised. Rather, those who were circumcised were keeping a host of Biblical laws that the non-Judaeans turning to Christ had long ago abandoned. Paul is only stating that the Judaeans need not abandon the manner and customs in which they had been raised. “Being circumcised has anyone been called? One must not be induced [or persuaded].” Even if we do not agree with the King James translation of this clause in letter, it is accurate in spirit if by circumcised we imagine it to describe one who has maintained truly Biblical customs.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but an observation of the commandments of Yahweh. 20 Each in the calling in which he has been called, in this he must abide.

Paul evidently believed that because he was born into the circumcision, that he should keep the other ordinances of the law that Christians were not compelled to keep, which is the argument among the apostles that is apparent in Acts chapter 15. Therefore in the records of the Book of Acts we see Paul comply with such things as the appearances in Judaea which were required on certain feast days, or with the cleansing ritual in the temple which was suggested to him by James, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 20. As Paul said in Galatians chapter 5, “3 And I testify again to every man getting himself circumcised, that he is obligated to do the entire law.” Ostensibly, Paul believed that he should keep the law because he was circumcised.

21 A bondman, you have been called? It must not be a concern to you, but then if you have the ability to become free, rather you use it. [The Nestle-Aland text does not mark the first clause as a question.]

The word for bondman here, which is servant in the King James Version, is the Greek word δοῦλος (Strong's # 1401), which was properly an involuntary servant or a slave, and originally the word referred to one who was born as a bondman or slave, according to Liddell & Scott. The word διάκονος would more properly refer to a voluntary or paid servant. Another word, ἀδράποδον, properly referred to a man who for some reason was made a slave during his own lifetime.

Here we see that the Christian scripture, as Christ Himself also did, respects the property rights of individuals even when it comes to the ownership of men as slaves. But slavery in the Roman world was not as harsh as one may be led to believe. Slaves were expected to fulfill the tasks assigned to them by their masters, yet in their spare time they were allowed to earn money for themselves and many slaves accumulated great wealth, even becoming slave-owners themselves. Slavery in Rome could indeed be harsh, and especially in certain vocations, but very often slavery was closer in its nature to what we would consider to be corporate employment today. One Biblical example of this is in the parable of the unrighteous steward in Luke chapter 12, where that steward was also called a δοῦλος, or a slave.

The ability to accumulate wealth gave hard-working slaves the ability to purchase their freedom from their masters, if they so desired. Paul is advising slaves here that they should be content with their positions, but if they have the ability to purchase their freedom lawfully then they may exercise it. Ostensibly, a hundred and fifty years ago in this nation over half a million men lost their lives because Christians were not being taught the truth concerning this passage, and the Jews were able to successfully agitate the population to war. Even more apalling, the slaves they were dying to free were not even qualified to be Christians.

22 For he who is called a bondman in the Prince is a freedman of the Prince; likewise he who is called free is a bondman of Christ. 23 You have been purchased for a price, you should not become slaves of men.

Christians have liberty in Christ to serve Him. However the children of Israel belong to Yahweh their God, who paid the price to redeem them from the captivity in the world which they sold themselves into. Therefore they do not have control of their own destinies, and all shall eventually be induced into the obedience of Christ. Having liberty in Christ, Christians should not once again surrender that liberty to the desires of men in sin.

The Greeks and Romans understood that in any land where there was a king, or in the case of Rome an emperor, that the king was the only truly free man in the state, and that in essence all other men were slaves, since they only had the liberty which the king afforded them. The scriptural perception, explained by Paul in Romans chapter 13, is that the children of Israel are in bondage under worldly governments because they rejected Yahweh as King. Yahshua Christ, being Yahweh God manifest in the flesh, when Christians submit to Him they know they shall be free from worldly governments once again, while they maintain their obedience to God. Christians only have liberty in Christ.

Understanding this predicament, we can see how Peter fully corroborates the words of Paul here and in Romans where he wrote in 1 Peter chapter 2: “13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”

24 Each in that which he has been called, brethren, in that he must remain before Yahweh.

The apostle Peter agreed once again with Paul, at 1 Peter 2:18 where he wrote: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.”

25 Now concerning virgins, a commandment of the Prince I do not have, but I give an opinion, as one having received mercy from the Prince to be trustworthy. 26 Really then I suppose that to be such is good, because of the present violence, that it is well for a man to be so.

The King James Version translated the Greek word γνώμη (Strong's # 1106 ) as judgment. However γνώμη does not refer to judgment in any legal or judicial sense and the rendering is misleading. The word γνώμη is, according to Liddell & Scott, “a means of knowing, a mark, token … the organ by which one knows, the mind: hence … thought, judgment, intelligence … a judgment, opinion … an opinion [or] proposition ... a purpose, resolve, intent ...

The scripture does not compel a man to marry, and therefore a man is free to make his own choice as to whether he should marry. Therefore Paul admits not having a commandment, and offers his own opinion instead. It is a mark of Paul's humility that he does not make his own commandment, and by offering an opinion and beginning it with the words “I suppose” he is also admitting his own fallibility.

There is a phrase here, where it says “because of the present violence”, which indicates exactly why Paul would be advising against marriage at this time, when a few short years later as he wrote the epistle to the Hebrews where he professed that “marriage is valuable in every way”, as we read at Hebrews 13:4. The Greek word ἀνάγκη (Strong's # 318) is violence here, but in the King James Version it is only distress, which seems to be an understatement. Liddell & Scott define the word as “force, constraint, necessity actual force, violence, torture ...” The word is used in its primary sense, necessity, by Paul several times throughout his epistles [Romans 13:5, 1 Corinthians 7:37 and 9:16, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Philemon 14 and Hebrews 7:12, 7:27, 9:16, and 9:23]. But it also appears in this stronger sense, although it is not always translated as violence in the Christogenea New Testament, where the word is found at 2 Corinthians 6:4 where Paul talks about his “endurance in tribulations, in constraints, in difficulties”, in 2 Corinthians 12:10 where he mentions “persecutions and difficulties on behalf of Christ”, and in 1 Thessalonians 3:7 where he discusses the “oppression and anguish” of the apostles on account of the persecutions which the Thessalonian Christians were then withstanding.

Many commentators very wrongly use Paul’s comments here to purport that he was somehow promoting abstinence from marriage, which is an absolute misconception. In 1 Timothy chapters 3, 4 and 5 [1 Timothy 3:1-13, 4:1-3 and 5:14], in Titus [1:6 and 2:5] and in Hebrews [13:4] Paul promoted marriage. Rather here Paul is speaking about the conditions which were present during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Claudius (41-54 AD), and he is considering the danger of starting a family under such conditions. With all certainty this is the reason for his advice here, and also for the sorrow which he expressed in verse 28. Our assertions concerning this passage are corroborated at 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where Paul asks “30 And why do we risk every moment? 31 Daily I am slain; yea, your reason to boast, brethren, which I have in Christ Yahshua our Prince.”

27 Have you been bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Have you been released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. [The NA27 marks none of the clauses in this verse as questions.]

This is Paul's opinion, because it is not wise to start a family when Christians are being persecuted and executed for their faith.

28 But if then you should be married, you have not erred; And if perhaps the virgin should be married, she has not erred; but such as these will have anxiety in the flesh, and for my part, of you I am merciful.

The anxiety in the flesh would be caused by the persecution of Christians if one lost one's spouse on account of the faith. That is why Paul asked earlier in the chapter “16 Indeed how do you know, wife, if you shall keep the husband? Or how do you know, husband, if you shall keep the wife?” Of course it would not be a sin to risk marriage in any situation, but it would be a grief of mind to lose a spouse or even a child in this manner.

29 Now I say this, brethren, the time is shortening; henceforward it is that even those having wives may be as not having; 30 And those weeping, as not weeping; and those rejoicing, as not rejoicing; and those trading, as not possessing;

The words οἱ ἀγοράζοντες here are “those trading”, and the word literally means to occupy the market-place, as if buying and selling. The Greek word for market, agora, was also a Hebrew word.

This may be an opportune moment to discuss how participles were handled when translating the Christogenea New Testament. There is a certain individual (whose last name sounds like a popular variety of pasta) who has severely criticized my interpretation of participles, even to the point of making himself look ridiculous. He asserts things such as that I “stumble over” participles, which is not true, yet he cannot point out anything precise as being technically incorrect. He once wrote me a letter insisting that all participles were adjectives, which is certainly not true so I ignored him, and then later he revised his position but not his wrongful criticism.

In truth, participles are verb forms which have tense and voice like verbs do, but in place of the first, second or third person personal endings they have inflectional declensions which give them gender, number and case like nouns have. Participles can therefore function as verbs such as gerunds or infinitives, or they can be used as adjectives or adverbs. Most of the participles that appear in the New Testament manuscripts are verbal participles. Additionally, like other adjectives a participle can be used with the definite article as a substantive. A substantive is a word or group of words which behave as a noun.

Here the words οἱ ἀγοράζοντες represent a participle form of the verb ἀγοράζω accompanied with a definite article οἱ, which is the masculine nominative plural form. If this were a book about merchants where such a term may appear frequently, I might translate the phrase as “the traders”, as a substantive noun. However here in the New Testament where the term does not necessarily refer to any specific class, but may indeed refer to anyone who happens to be making transaction in the market-place at any given time, it is better to write “those who are trading”. An examination of the grammar of the term οἱ ἀγοράζοντες compared to the way it is represented here would reveal that our interpretation is absolutely literal and corresponds appropriately to each facet of the parts of speech of the Greek phrase. The plural article may be rendered as “those” or in this case “those who” in conjunction with the plural verb, for which see Liddell & Scott or Joseph Thayer at their entries for the Greek article, and the plural participle is primarily a verb, therefore it is “are trading” or in this context “who are trading”. The gerund is an English verb form which can also function as a noun, so it is entirely appropriate here.

The objective of the Christogenea New Testament was to be a concordant translation, to represent each Greek word with an appropriate number of English words, and to render the parts of speech of each word as closely as possible to the Greek parts of speech. Doing that, we also intended to be as readable as possible while maintaining our first objective. We certainly do not claim to have achieved perfection, but we strove for accuracy and are willing to correct all of our mistakes, where they actually are mistakes. Our critics, if one scratches the surface, expose themselves as having other agendas which are not really related to the methodology of our translation. Their dishonest attempts to discredit our work shall all fail in the long run, even if we correct some of our actual mistakes along the way.

The King James Version does not often agree with our renderings of the participle. However here, while it employed the third person rather than the gerund, it does agree with our handling of the participles in this passage where it has “30, 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”.

31 and those using this Society for themselves, as not abusing; indeed the form of this Society passes away. 32 But I wish for you to be unconcerned.

The reference to those who abuse this world is certainly another reference to the “fornicators of this world” which Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, and we see that Paul constantly reminds his readers of those eternal enemies of God who are indeed vessels fitted for destruction, and who are never considered as candidates for the Gospel of Christ.

As the apostle Peter wrote in the third chapter of his second epistle “7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Paul likewise, in chapter 15 of this first epistle to the Corinthians wrote “51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Now regardless of whether Peter's reference to a world consumed by fire should be taken literally, the important aspect is that Christians should not be concerned with worldly things. However caring for heavenly treasure Christians turn to treasuring one another, and that edifies the body of Christ.

The unmarried cares for the things of the Prince, how he shall please the Prince; 33 but he who marries cares for the things of the Society, how he shall please the wife, 34 and he is divided.

The King James Version has translated verse 34 as if the first words, “and he is divided”, (although the Greek word for “and” is wanting in the Majority Text) as if they belong to the clause which follows, rather than that which precedes. The Christogenea New Testament follows the chapter and verse divisions of the Nestle-Aland text, but not necessarily the punctuation, or the paragraph and sentence divisions.

When one marries, at least a portion of the attention one should be able to give to the Christian community is diverted to the wife, which is only natural. The needs of the spouse are put ahead of the needs of the community. However there do seem to be some exceptions, such as that of Priscilla and Aquila, where both parties to a marriage put the interests of the Christian community ahead of their own interests. They certainly should represent the ideal for married couples.

And the unmarried woman and the virgin care for the things of the Prince, that she should be holy in both body and in Spirit, but she being married cares for the things of the Society, how she shall please the husband. 35 Now I say this for your advantage, not that I would cast a net upon you, but in respect to decency, and constantly waiting on the Prince without solicitude.

Solicitude is care or concern for a thing. Paul had said at the beginning of verse 32, “But I wish for you to be unconcerned.” The Greek word ἀπερισπάστως (Strong's # 735), may have been rendered “without solicitude” or “without distraction”. The carnal aspects of marriage are often a distraction to those who await Christ and tend to the body of Christ, which all Christians should do. Paul illustrates this not to accuse or entrap married Christians, but so that they are reminded as to what their priorities should be, “constantly waiting on the Prince without distraction”.

What is meant by “waiting on the Prince” is elucidated in part in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew chapter 25: “37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

36 But if one does consider to be unseemly towards his virgin, if perhaps he is beyond adolescence, (and in this way he ought to be,) that which he wishes he must do, he does not err: they must marry.

The King James Version and other editions interpret the adjective which means to be beyond adolescence as if it applies to the virgin, however the form of the adjective is clearly masculine and must apply to the male. However there were long-standing expectations among both Hebrews and Greeks concerning the marriageable age of maidens, and certainly Paul would not set them aside simply because they are left unmentioned.

To be unseemly, or as the King James Version translated ἀσχημονέω (Strong's # 807) here, to behave uncomely, must be a euphemism for sexual desire since the solution is to marry. Note that the man in the example is already attached in some way to a maiden, and marriage is depicted as the act of consummating a sexual union. If the man already has a maiden, then there is already a commitment. But there is no marriage until the sexual desire is fulfilled.

37 But he who has stood firm, steadfast in his heart, not holding forcibly but who has authority over his own will, and he has decided in his heart to keep himself a virgin, he does well; 38 and therefore he that is giving himself to a virgin in marriage will do well, but he not giving in marriage will do better.

Ostensibly, he not giving in marriage will do better because of the present violence, meaning the persecutions of Christians which was ongoing at the time that Paul had written the epistle.

39 A wife is bound [the MT adds “by law”; the text follows P15, P46, א, A, B, and D] for as long a time as her husband may live, but if perhaps her husband should die [literally “fall asleep”, A has another word literally meaning to die], she is free to be married to whom she wishes.

Paul spoke about men remaining unmarried and left unburdened by a family because of the ongoing persecutions of Christians, and here he suggests that women do the same. His advice is only so that the men are not troubled when the persecutions take away those families, or take the men themselves away leaving the families behind to fend for themselves.

Alone in the Prince 40 if perhaps then she is happier, so she should remain, according to my opinion, and I think that I also have the Spirit of Yahweh.

Every translation I have seen leaves the words which literally mean “alone in the Prince” at the end of the clause which precedes, where they do not fit the context very well, and many translations then add words which are not there in order to try to make sense of them. If we did not seek to adhere to the artificial verse divisions imposed on the Greek text, we would write “If perhaps she is happier alone in the Prince, so she should remain...”

Widows could be of great service to the body of Christ, as we see in the Gospel that many older women who were widows attended to the needs of the Christ. However the early church evidently had some problems with widows who were really not widows, and widows who were too young for the service of widows and were advised to remarry. This is all evident in Paul's advice to Timothy, in 1 Timothy chapter 5: “3 Honor widows, those who really are widows. 4 And if any widow has child or grandchild, they must first learn piety at home and to return compensation to their ancestors. For this is acceptable before Yahweh. 5 Now she who is really a widow and being alone has hope in Yahweh and continues in supplication and prayers night and day. 6 But she living lewdly is living dead.... 9 A widow must not be enrolled less than sixty years old, who had been a wife of one husband, 10 being accredited with good works: if she had raised children, if she was hospitable to strangers, if she washed the feet of saints, if she succored the afflicted, if she complied in every good deed. 11 But younger widows you must excuse, for when they behave wantonly towards the anointed, they desire to marry 12 with judgment because they have set aside that former assurance.”

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