Paul’s Source for 1 Corinthians 6:10–7:11 -- By: Robert G. Olender

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 18:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: Paul’s Source for 1 Corinthians 6:10–7:11
Author: Robert G. Olender


Paul’s Source for 1 Corinthians 6:10–7:11

Robert G. Olender

Ph.D. Student in Biblical Studies (New Testament)
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

In 1 Cor. 7:10–11, Paul offers a teaching prohibiting the divorce of married believers. He claims that the authority behind this command is οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλά ὁ κύριος. The fact that Paul is claiming Christ’s authority raises questions concerning the source of the command. First, is there a way of determining if Paul was drawing from either an oral tradition or a written source—one of the extant Gospels or a hypothetical sayings document such as Q? Second, if there are parallels to the extant Gospels, is it possible to determine which Gospel may have been his source?

Evidence from 1 Cor. 6:12–7:111 suggests a strong likelihood that Paul was influenced by the words of Jesus as recorded in the divorce pericopes found in Matt. 19:3–12, Mark 10:2–12, and possibly Luke 16:18.2 It is not the purpose of this study to demonstrate direct literary dependence upon a Gospel. The sampling of 1 Corinthians is too small to address that question adequately. Rather, what this study will demonstrate is that Paul was not only familiar with the divorce tradition found in Matthew and Mark, but his words recorded in 1 Cor. 6:12–7:11 seem to stem primarily from one of these two sources.

It will be shown that there are four instances in 1 Cor. 6:12–7:11 where Paul makes allusions to material common to both Matthew and Mark as well as one place where he alludes to all three Synoptics. In addition to these five, there are three occasions where Paul makes allusions to Matthew’s divorce pericope. And in addition to these, there is one place where it is said that Paul is making a purely Markan allusion. After weighing the evidence, conclusions will be made concerning which Gospel would most likely have influenced Paul as he wrote 1 Cor. 6:12–7:11.

Presuppositions Concerning the Jesus and Paul Debate

One cannot embark upon a study such as this without a few brief comments on the consensus of modern scholarship concerning the relationship between Paul and Jesus. This debate...

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