TABLE OF CONTENTS
TOC o “1-3” h z u INTRODUCTION PAGEREF _Toc512375624 h 23.1. MARRIAGE as a way to avoid fornication PAGEREF _Toc512375625 h 23.1.1. MUTUALITY IN MARRIAGE PAGEREF _Toc512375626 h 33.1.2. SPOUSAL RIGHTS PAGEREF _Toc512375627 h 43.1.3. AUTHORITY IN MARRIAGE PAGEREF _Toc512375628 h 43.1.4. DIVORCE AND SALVATION PAGEREF _Toc512375629 h 63.2. Can CELIBACY AVOID impending crisis? PAGEREF _Toc512375630 h 83.2.1. CELIBACY IN JUDAISM PAGEREF _Toc512375631 h 83.2.2. MARRIAGE BRINGS TROUBLES IN THE FLESH PAGEREF _Toc512375632 h 93.2.3. DUE TO THE PASSING NATURE OF THE WORLD PAGEREF _Toc512375633 h 103.2.4. HAVE AN UNDIVIDED HEART PAGEREF _Toc512375634 h 103.3. IS CELIBACY SUPERIOR TO MARRIAGE? PAGEREF _Toc512375635 h 113.3.1. CELIBACY IS NOT A MORAL GOOD PAGEREF _Toc512375636 h 123.3.2. FREEDOM IN CELIBACY PAGEREF _Toc512375637 h 133.3.3. THE PRINCIPLE OF GIFT PAGEREF _Toc512375638 h 133.3.4. THE PRINCIPLE OF CALLING PAGEREF _Toc512375639 h 14CONCLUSION PAGEREF _Toc512375640 h 15
INTRODUCTIONPaul has written this letter to Corinthians to confront their slanted view of spirituality, end of the age which resulted in confusions regarding marriage and celibacy. By using the rhetorical method for the exegetical analysis, we have come across different argumentations made by Paul to correct the views of his children in faith. Pauline preference for celibacy confirmed with the words like ‘well’ (vv. 1b. 8. 26. 37), ‘I wish’ (v. 7), ‘better’ (v. 9. 38), ‘benefit’ (v. 35) and ‘blessed’ (v. 40) again poses some theological questions. Thus in this chapter we will deal with three important questions which require an adequate answer from Pauline perspective itself. More often, it is criticized as a peripheral reading of our passage ends with the view that celibacy is superior to marriage but a deeper eye could catch that it all depends on the divine gift and the personal aptitude. Thus, the principle is stated in digressio has a great role in determining the position of Paul. The following study may enlighten our mind.
3.1. MARRIAGE as a way to avoid fornication
The main criticism on Pauline view expressed in 1 Corinthians 7 is the question on marriage as a way to avoid fornication. It is to be noted seriously that the word porneia is used only once in this chapter and also in a general sense which comprises all sexual deviations. To answer the above problem we will analyze the peculiarities of marriage stated by the skillful apostle of Gentiles.
3.1.1. MUTUALITY IN MARRIAGEThe first and foremost principle in marriage can be stated as the mutuality according to Paul which expressed in the propositio (7, 2b). The usage of ekastoj (each) is the marking point which clearly denotes fidelity along with mutuality. Orr says, “the use of the possessive reflexive pronoun e`autou/ and the adjective i;dioj implies monogamy”. According to Pierce, sexual immorality denoted by pornei,a is the occasion for the first principle on marriage in the discourse. The mutuality of marriage is centered in the unity of the marriage partners (7, 4). In marriage the man and woman are united together as one flesh (6, 16b). Because of the unity in marriage, each partner is no longer the master of his or her body, both of them in a spirit of mutuality should agree on their sexual relations (7, 5).
In the view of Danker, by calling each man to be faithful to his own wife and each woman to her own husband, Paul also condemns in principle a wide range of unsanctioned sexual intercourse such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality and polygamy. Pauline use of the middle voice here evidently connotes an intimate relationship.
Paul makes this imperative at v.3 in the midst of Greco-Roman culture with abuse of marital fidelity. Demosthenes, a Greek statesman and an orator from Athens summed up in this way: “courtesans were for companionship, concubines to meet every day sexual needs and wives to tend the house and bear legitimate children”.
The gender inclusive pattern used by Paul in his rhetoric is specialized to point the mutuality in marriage as the basic principle that upholds Christian marriage rather than avoiding porneia which denotes to a vast area of sexual immorality.
3.1.2. SPOUSAL RIGHTSThe heart of the rhetorical discourse on Christian marriage lies in the mutual sexual responsibility within marriage. Paul considers sexual unity in marriage as a mutually obligatory service which is expressed with ‘due’. Sexuality always has rightful place in marriage. Paul’s concern on sexual immorality continues as he calls believers to offer to their spouses what is rightfully theirs which is regular and voluntary sexual intimacy. Pierce says,
They are to give generously not depriving each other. The longer statement addresses the husband first then comes a shorter statement to the wife, but the inclusive compound conjunction ‘and likewise also’ makes it clear that the same obligation evenhandedly applies to both.
The verbs used to denote spousal rights are ‘to give up or yield’ (v. 3) points clearly to most intimate rights in marriage. In this situation the husband is called upon first to yield by giving what rightfully belongs to wife. Then, the wife is told as having the same obligation. Such mutuality regarding marriage rights is remarkable in a predominantly patriarchal world like that of ancient system.
3.1.3. AUTHORITY IN MARRIAGEThe Christian view on marriage is of two equal partners united by harmony and loyalty upto the end of their lives. Even in the contemporary world we could trace very hot debate on the male authority over women in the society, church and home. In this context it is better to realize that 1 Corinthians 7, 4 is the only biblical text that clearly addresses the question of authority in marriage and it is always mutual. Piper and Grudem acknowledge the emphasis on mutuality in this passage very well but then go on to qualify the principle by insisting that the husband as head should develop the way of intimacy for himself and his wife. But this passage nowhere suggests such a qualification.
Paul firstly states personal rights with a model of giving what is due to the recipient that is sexual intimacy in v. 3. Then he expands this call to include the principle of submission to the presumed authority of marriage partner rather than exercising it in v. 4. From this Paul goes out of his way with gender inclusive pattern of referring man…woman.
Two other Pauline passages are considered as opposing to the principle of authority stated in our passage are 1 Cor 11 and Eph 5. In 1 Corinthians 11, 10 Paul states that the wife should cover her head which represents her husband. But the word used here to denote authority is head (kefalh,) can also denote ‘authority over’ but can also mean the ideas like ‘topmost, prominence, point of origin or source of provision’. In the second passage from Ephesians 5, 21-24 we find Paul says to wife to submit herself to her husband as part of his principle of submitting one another in the church. But the headship metaphor can be taken in the larger context of Ephesians. On this particular point Arnold has made a quotable and long study. In the Ephesians the author only reinforces the idea of source of provision for husbands to wives. Paul calls husbands to sacrifice lovingly for their wives by imitating Christ did for the church.
In our pericope Paul makes his point is that neither spouse should claim authority over his or her body. Each partner should yield that authority to the other. This mutual yielding of authority is the basis and specialty of Christian marriage partners.
3.1.4. DIVORCE AND SALVATIONDivorce in Christian marriage is not permitted by Paul that is expressed with the appealing to the authoritative command by using parangello of Jesus instead of lego ego which points on his own authority. Paul announces that married persons should not seek divorce (7, 10-11). Pauline stress on man-woman pattern is also clear with twice appeal not to leave the partner. This command is given to the married believers. Conzelmann says, “the regulation is absolute for it comes from Lord Himself”. Making the idea more clear Bruce says, “for a Christian husband or wife divorce is excluded by the law of Christ, here Paul has not needed to express a judgment of his own, for the Lord’s ruling on the matter was explicit”. Thus we could not find any exception clause in the command of Jesus known to Paul. Stein restates the above view on the absence of exception clause among believing Gentiles. The exception that was granted by Paul consists of two conditions such as to remain permanently unmarried or to be reconciled to the partner. This clearly expresses the permanence of marriage rather than divorce in marriage. In the words of Mare, “the stress of the passage on maintaining the marriage bond unbroken definitely strengthens the injunction for separated marriage partners to become reconciled”.
In the eyes of Paul marriage leads to a sanctification of the body (7, 14) though it is hard to be precise on the real nature of such sanctification. Piper comments, “the meaning of marriage somehow transcends the natural relationship, extending even into the partner’s life”. Morris states, “it is a scriptural principal that the blessings arising from fellowship with God are not confined to the immediate recipients but extend to others”.
Again when speaking on the mixed marriages Paul suggests that the godliness of either is of greater effect than the ungodliness of the other. That means the partners are being better related to God and the other unbelieving partner is apt to be pulled up and strengthened by it (cf. 7, 16). The clear teaching comes from the lips of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 is that the God-ordained marriage union is indissoluble except by death. Hodge says,
The uniform doctrine of the New Testament is that, marriage is a contract for life between one man and one woman: indissoluble by the will of the parties or by any human authority, but that the death of either party leaves the survivor free to contract another marriage.
While Paul also acknowledges that divorce will sometimes take place (7, 10. 15) he does not present remarriage to another person as the better option for the divorced. Reconciliation to the original partner or a single life is the only alternatives that Paul recommends (7, 11).
The above discussions have led to the conclusion that marriage is not a way to avoid fornication. According to Caragounis “Paul uses the arthrous plural dia. de. ta.j pornei,aj can under no circumstances in this context be understood as implying concrete cases of fornication and not the metonymical use of pornei,a to mean ‘lusts’, lusts that can lead to fornication.
Thus as a conclusion from the above discussion we could state that if Paul had intended actual cases of immorality, he would have used moicei,aj rather than pornei,aj .
3.2. Can CELIBACY AVOID impending crisis?The sub-propositio in vv. 25-26 states the necessity of being celibate in the light of impending crisis. By th.n evnestw/san avna,gkhn (impending or present distress) Paul briefs his following points of the rhetorical discourse on celibacy such as worldly distress, brevity of time, serving the lord with undivided heart. To start our question on the value of celibacy in avoiding the impending crisis, we must make a short historical search on the pre-existence of abstinence among Jewish community from which Christ and Paul taught on the celibate way of life (cf. Mt 19, 10-12).
3.2.1. CELIBACY IN JUDAISMPaul is always stated to be influenced by the Cynic-Stoic philosophical thinking on celibacy as the preferred way of life but a deep study through the first century Judaism also gives some influencing figures who kept abstinence. Basically in Judaism it is regarded as a religious obligation for a man to marry and raise a family. McArthur by quoting a rabbinical view says;
The strong rabbinic preference for early marriage is confirmed by a collection of statements. Rabbi Huna was thus in accordance with his views. For he said, he who is twenty years of age and is not married spends all his days in sin. In sin can you really think so? But say spends all his days in sinful thoughts.
But we could also trace a few who kept themselves alone for the ardent love for the Torah like Simeon ben ‘Azzai. McArthur states his words, “what shall I do? My soul thirsts after Torah, let other people keep the world going”. In the Jewish belief sexual intercourse resulted in temporary ritual impurity but this does not mean that sex was regarded as evil. Abstinence from sexual relations was considered a prerequisite for reception of the divine message and for the participation in certain sacred rites (cf. Ex 19, 10-15). Marriage and the regular exercise of the marital duty are the basic norm in the Judaism but also a counter-motif stresses the incompatibility of sexual intercourse with response to God’s presence and participation in divine services. This was explicit during the Day of the Atonement, at certain times of fasting, during the years of famine and also there were restrictions on sexual relations in a room containing the Torah scrolls.
Indeed abstinence from sexual relations for a temporary period is one thing and complete celibacy is another. But by the recognition of this tension between sex and the sacred provides a foundation for the Pauline notion of celibacy which helped him to suggest the opinion that celibacy could be undistracted by the worldly affairs which result in more affinity with divine.
3.2.2. MARRIAGE BRINGS TROUBLES IN THE FLESHPaul states in the first argumentation that marriage causes qli/yin de. th/| sarki, (troubles in the flesh). We have already analyzed the word thliphis in the second chapter and came to the conclusion that it denotes to multi-dimensional situations of life in the world. Garland by quoting Midrash Qoheleth 1, 2 states that;
Here Paul would perhaps share the sardonic attitude of the rabbi who said: a young man is like a colt that whinnies, he paces up and down , he grooms himself with care: this is because he is looking for a wife. But once married, he resembles as ass, quite loaded down with burdens.
3.2.3. DUE TO THE PASSING NATURE OF THE WORLDIn the second argument of Paul implies an over-realized eschatology. Bruce comments, ‘the whole discussion of marriage in this chapter is influenced by Paul’s eschatological awareness in addition to his pastoral concern’. Paul says here marriage is inadvisable because of the urgency of the hour. By the term kairo,j Paul might have referring to the appointed time of the eschatological fulfillment, the day of the Second coming of Christ and the day of final Judgment. Thus Paul might have believed that one would have distress enough in the last days without also having the burdens of marriage responsibilities. Referring to Jewish apocalyptic (1 Enoch 99, 4) mothers would have difficult time much more in the last days which is also influenced in the NT writings too (cf. Mt 24, 19).
Again Paul says that the form of this world with its institutions is passing off the stage. As coined by Garland it is a lame duck and those who are married must realize that in the new world their relationship will be transformed (7, 29. 31).
3.2.4. HAVE AN UNDIVIDED HEARTPaul believed that an undivided heart which thirsts in the affairs of the God can be attained by a celibate. This idea is obviously stated in the third argument on celibacy. Marriage always with its responsibilities divides a person’s heart at a time when singleness of purpose is most needed. Preoccupation with the things of this world will end in a lack of preparedness for the world to come.
Paul shows a complete awareness and respect for the complexities of life in this world. We cannot say Paul is sure about the possibility of avoiding the worldly distress in the celibate life. But by proposing a single-hearted life he thinks that a celibate could spare more time in the affairs of the Lord. He presents this single-hearted way of life that is not attached to the activities of the world (vv. 29-31). Celibacy could offer better chance not to be struggled with the anxieties of the married partner as in the married life. It does not mean that he is free from other worries and worldly emotions but have more possibilities in comparison to marriage.
Paul is not to be stated as an authoritarian but gives authoritative advices. Taking the view of Ramsaran, by starting with gnw,mh Paul puts a maxim rather than a simple opinion which allows the audience to achieve a personal decision regarding his way of life. In 7, 25 he has not received any command of the Lord but he offers his own opinion with, ‘I think’ in 7, 26. At the conclusion of the chapter he adds, ‘I think I too have the Spirit of God on these matters’ (7, 40). Thus Paul was very flexible and practicalities were often his guides. He is very practical regarding his discussions. He is open to the circumstances and life experiences of the world but at the same time he is very much capable of making his preferences which is not compelling anyone but only guiding.
3.3. IS CELIBACY SUPERIOR TO MARRIAGE?Many have succeeded in finding evidences for Pauline preference for celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7. It is evident from our discussions in the previous chapters and also with the opinions of scholars like G. D. Fee, J. Weiss, Robertson and Plummer etc. We must also recognize that some Corinthians themselves inclined toward or even advocated and practiced celibacy and thus Paul wanted to write partly to contest their position. This practice was rooted in the belief that celibacy exemplifies eschatological existence and in a strong sense of eschatological fulfillment displayed in a lively pneumatism.
Hurd says that the Corinthians’ sexual asceticism was based on the belief that the institution of marriage would cease when the kingdom comes. Paul himself had originally taught sexual asceticism in Corinth with enthusiasm and an intense expectation of the imminent Parousia and that the Corinthians had remained faithful to his teaching.
According to Cartlidge, the Corinthian sexual ascetics had an over realized eschatology that led them to an attempt to reconstruct their society along with eschatological lines which ended in a demand for sexual asceticism. Another argumentation can be found in Wire who identifies the sexual ascetics in Corinth as women who have taken up the roles of prophets. Those women advanced themselves socially through asceticism and their prophetic roles. MacDonald suggests that the Corinthians believed that they had already transcended the material world and returned to the primordial excellence in a new sexless state which was symbolized by women’s removal of their veil and that also implied avoidance of sex altogether.
3.3.1. CELIBACY IS NOT A MORAL GOODThe propositio of our pericope, whether a quotation or a Pauline statement in 7, 1b, ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ seems to be present celibacy as a moral good. The meaning of the word kalo,j was much debated in this context and the presence of this word instantly takes to the opinion that marriage is sin or something bad. But Paul explicitly denies the view that one who marries sins in 7, 28. 36. Since Jewish tradition and scripture taught Paul that marriage and procreation were obligatory and part of the created order he would never present marriage as sin. Paul is really convinced of the mortal vulnerability of the believers and also convinced that the celibacy is a gift which is not given to all. Thus in the eyes of Paul celibacy is good for those who have been gifted and it never to be considered as a moral good that everyone should follow.
3.3.2. FREEDOM IN CELIBACYPaul by using his rhetoric skill has dealt with ‘freedom’ or ‘right’ (evxousia,zw) to denote the mutuality in the married life. By using two negative formulations in v. 4, he clearly asserts that the personal right over their body of spouses is taken away within the marriage. By Paul married ones are bound to each other (v. 39) but the celibates are not. As a result, a celibate could enjoy his or her personal freedom in its perfection which helps him/her to devote fully in the affairs of the lord (v. 32). The married are interested in the affairs of the partner and thus gets little time to please Lord but at the same time celibate could have more time.
3.3.3. THE PRINCIPLE OF GIFTPaul clearly argues that the capability of continence itself is a ca,risma (spiritual gift) in v. 7. According to Fee one needs to have this gift in order to live a celibate life. Celibacy is not an obligation that to be observed but a gift. The married is not given the gift of continence; otherwise they would not have married. Barret says that Paul does not mean to say that marriage is a gift but that God gives other spiritual gifts to those without the gift of celibacy. This idea is clear in v. 7b. Paul really wants to state that the gifts are not given because of their own achievement but comes from the divine decision. It originates with one’s personal response to his/her own passions whether it is controllable or not (vv. 36-37) which helps him/her to accept the call of celibacy or marriage.
3.3.4. THE PRINCIPLE OF CALLINGThe usage of digressio in the rhetorical argumentation placed by Paul in the right place to illustrate the underlying principle for both marriage and celibacy is that ‘remain in the condition in which you were called’ (v. 20). Paul makes an exhortation to the Corinthians by using the examples of circumcision and uncircumcision, slavery and freedom. We have already dealt with them in detail in the previous chapters. Sexual ascetics in Corinth have proved that they had a deviated view on the new creation in Christ. Accepting the opinion of Gundry-Volf, Corinthians replaced the creation story of Genesis 1, 27-28 where God created male and female with sexual differentiation with the purpose of procreation. But due to their realized or over-realized eschatology, Corinthians thought that they have surpassed this sexual differentiation. Thus Paul wants to argue that the created order is not abrogated as such with respect to sexual distinctions.
Paul deliberately asserts the Creator’s intention by stating that ‘the one who marries does well’ (v. 38) and by the prohibition of divorce (v. 10). Conjugal relations are a must according to Paul, taken the reality of sexual passion. But in the eyes of the apostle the new creation in Christ also presents new possibilities, including celibacy as a gift. There is no obligation to marry for the sake of procreation which is clear from the absence of the term ‘procreation’ in the long discourse on marriage by the skillful author of the letter.
Thus we could find that the underlying principle in both marriage and celibacy is ‘call’. The confirmation of the principle of ‘remain as you are when God called you’ echoes the Pauline view on the two ways of Christian life. Ultimately over emphasis to any one is not tolerated for God does not look on the status of life but the life itself. We cannot infer that celibacy is better than marriage or vice versa on the basis of accepting one’s own proper way of life. Both are equal and valuable in the eyes of God just as circumcised and uncircumcised or slave or freed one.
CONCLUSIONIn this chapter we have dealt with three important questions emerged from the exegetical study of our pericope. We have analyzed the nature and specialties of marriage and celibacy which got a new face with the rhetorical argumentation of Paul. He is a good practical pastor than a theologian but not missing any theological basis. He uses his rhetorical skills to give proper advice to his audience which upholds their personal freedom to accept each one’s way of life. Paul is not stating that celibacy is the best way of living but he formulates the obligations and advantages of both ways of life. It is one who decides one’s own future as God allows freedom to humanity.