Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers Part 2: What Is the Unequal Yoke (ἑτεροζυγοῦντες) in 2 Corinthians 6:14? -- By: William J. Webb
Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:594 (Apr 1992)
Article: Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers Part 2: What Is the Unequal Yoke (ἑτεροζυγοῦντες) in 2 Corinthians 6:14?
Author: William J. Webb
BSac 149:594 (Apr 92) p. 162
Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers
What Is the Unequal Yoke (ἑτεροζυγοῦντες) in 2 Corinthians 6:14?
Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis
London Baptist Seminary, London, Ontario, Canada
In a previous article the identity of the unbelievers (ἄπιστοι) in 2 Corinthians 6:14 was discussed in view of recent “interpretive shifts” and as a necessary step before asking the question of this second article, What is the unequal yoke (ἑτεροζυγοῦντες) that the passage prohibits?1 Having established that ἄπιστοι refers to non-Christians/pagans outside the Corinthian church, the next objective is to determine exactly what is meant by the prohibition μὴ γίνεσθε ἑτεροζυγοῦντες ἀπίστοις. Again, the issue here is primarily one of referent, rather than sense. Almost all commentators agree that ἑτεροζυγέω conveys the idea of “yoking or joining together” two kinds of animals (e.g., an ox and a donkey) and that the background imagery probably comes from Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:10. However, the difficulty lies in knowing what sort of “joining together” activities Paul had in mind with the word ἑτεροζυγοῦντες (2 Cor 6:14) and its restatement within the Old Testament catena as “come out from their midst” (ἐξέλθατε ἐκ μέσου αύτῶν) (6:17).
BSac 149:594 (Apr 92) p. 163
At least 12 options have been proposed as activity referents for μὴ γίνεσθε ἑτεροζυγοῦντες/ἐξέλθατε: (1) complete Qumran-like separation, with minimal social contact, (2) literal-physical idolatry, (3) metonymical idolatry, (4) metaphorical idolatry, (5) going to pagan courts, (6) visiting (temple) prostitutes, (7) mixed marriages, (8) eating meat offered to idols at pagan temples, (9) eating meat offered to idols at pagan homes, (10) speaking in tongues when unbelievers are present, (11) business partnerships, and (12) membership in a local pagan cult. Arranging the options in this order is for a particular purpose. The first option is a watershed in relation to whether the separation called for...
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