1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and the Teaching of Continence in “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” -- By: W. Edward Glenny

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 11:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and the Teaching of Continence in “The Acts of Paul and Thecla”
Author: W. Edward Glenny


1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and the Teaching of Continence
in “The Acts of Paul and Thecla”

W. Edward Glenny

This study purposes to present the meaning of 1 Cor 7:29–31 in its original literary context and then to contrast that meaning with its application in The Acts of Paul and Thecla.

This contrast is the basis for a critique of Dennis Ronald MacDonalds theory that The Acts of Paul preserve aspects of Pauline teaching which should be considered on a level with the Pastoral Epistles; MacDonald implies that The Acts of Paul are closer to the primitive Pauline teaching on the role of women than the Pastorals are.

The supposed similarity of the teaching on marriage in 1 Cor 7:29–31 and the application of this passage in The Acts of Paul and Thecla is a crucial link in MacDonalds argument that The Acts of Paul reflect primitive Pauline teaching. This study of 1 Cor 7:29–31 proposes, however, that the teaching of The Acts of Paul and Thecla concerning marriage is closer to the doctrine of the opponents of Paul in 1 Corinthians, than it is to the teaching of Paul in 1 Cor 7:29–31.

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Introduction

Even the casual reader of The Acts of Paul is struck by the author’s emphasis on sexual continence. This is an emphasis seen most clearly in The Acts of Paul and Thecla where in Iconium, Paul preaches “the word of God concerning continence and the resurrection.”1 Some of the statements concerning purity and continence in the sermon are general and the exact application intended is unclear. However, the sermon is summarized in a series of beatitudes, which tie

the author’s notion of purity to the matter of sexual continence. According to the beatitudes those who are married should refrain from normal conjugal relations and live as if they are unmarried, and those who are unmarried should remain pure and renounce marriage.

The beatitude series shows a clear connection with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 72 and some similarity to the beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6. The clearest similarity to 1 Corinthians 7 occurs in the beatitude “Blessed are tho...

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