Puberty Or Passion? The Referent Of ΥΠΕΡΑΚΜΟΣ In 1 Corinthians 7:36 -- By: Bruce W. Winter

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: Puberty Or Passion? The Referent Of ΥΠΕΡΑΚΜΟΣ In 1 Corinthians 7:36
Author: Bruce W. Winter

Puberty Or Passion? The Referent Of ΥΠΕΡΑΚΜΟΣ In 1 Corinthians 7:36

Bruce W. Winter


The word ὑπέρακμος has a male as opposed to female referent and should be translated ‘full of sexual passion’. It is based on a survey of this term in ancient literature and the verb ἀσχημονέω (to behave unseemly) in the preceding clause. It is further re-enforced by the grammatical constructions following the particles εἰ and ἐάν (if), the role of καὶ οὕτως (and thus it is bound to happen) in the following statement, the meanings of θέλημα (sexual desire) and ἀνάγκη (sexual necessity) in verse 37 and the Greek word for ‘past one’s prime’, i.e.,παρακμή.

I. Introduction

The traditional rendering of the clause ‘if she be past the flower of her age’ (1 Cor. 7:36) has long created unease among commentators. For example, in their early twentieth-century commentary, Robertson and Plummer suggested that ‘“past the flower of her age” is too strong for ὑπέρακμος (Vulg. superadulta)’.1 According to a late first-century AD Ephesian doctor, Soranus, this was when menstruation, and thus child-bearing, ceased (Gynaecology 1.20). It occurred after the age of forty and not later than fifty.2 If ὑπέρακμος means ‘past her prime’, then what Paul is saying was that it was only after the age of forty Christian women were permitted to marry!

Some commentators have also expressed uncertainty about whether the issue related to the woman or the man—the abstract noun, ὑπέρακμος, could refer to either. J.S. Kistemaker recently concluded that the word means ‘past marriageable age’ if the reference is to the woman. If it is to the man, then it is to one ‘with strong passions’3 and he cites as support the comments of BAGD. They themselves suggest that depending on the meaning of γαμίζω, the term refers either to the woman ‘past one’s prime, past marriageable age, past the bloom of youth’ or to the man ‘in which case ὑπέρ

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