Paul And The Permanence Of Marriage In 1 Corinthians 7 -- By: J. Carl Laney

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:3 (Sep 1982)
Article: Paul And The Permanence Of Marriage In 1 Corinthians 7
Author: J. Carl Laney

Paul And The Permanence Of Marriage
In 1 Corinthians 7

J. Carl Laney*

Much of the recent debate regarding divorce and remarriage has centered on the teachings of Jesus (Matt 5:31–32; 19:1–12; Mark 1:1–12; Luke 16:18), particularly the meaning of the “except for porneia” in Matt 5:32; 19:9.1 It is generally argued that divorce and remarriage are allowed in the case of porneia, which is interpreted as adultery or some form of sexual sin, unfaithfulness during betrothal, or marriage within the prohibited relationships of Lev 18:6–18. Christians struggling with this issue are faced with confusing and often contradictory arguments. What did Jesus teach regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage?

It would be most helpful to know how a first-century Greek scholar and theologian understood Jesus’ teaching. Fortunately, we have such a first-century interpreter of the words of Jesus in the apostle Paul. This study focuses on Paul’s concept of the permanence of marriage as expounded in 1 Corinthians 7. His analysis and understanding of the teachings of Jesus regarding marriage and divorce shed much-needed light on the present divorce and remarriage controversy.

First Corinthians contains Paul’s replies to a number of inquiries made by the Corinthian believers. This is evidenced by his words, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote” (7:1), and the repeated use of the introductory phrase peri de (7:25; 8:1; 16:1). In chap. 7 Paul responds to several questions that the Corinthian believers had asked concerning marriage.

I. Is Marriage Permitted? (7:1-9)

While most orthodox Jews of the first century were opposed to celibacy and regarded marriage as a duty, there were some ascetics at Corinth who advocated celibacy and wanted Paul to make it obligatory. Paul states in v 1 that it is “good” for a man not “to touch” a woman. It is debated whether the apostle was (1) asserting his position in his own words, (2) quoting a Corinthian slogan that he accepted, or (3...

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