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1 Corinthians 7:25-40

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to give advice related to sex and marriage, now addressing the unmarried congregants. While he does not have a direct statement from the Lord to draw from, his advice is weighty given the position he has been granted by the Lord. If possible, he thought it better for single men among the Corinthians to remain that way for the time being. In all likelihood there was a recent or ongoing famine that made family life difficult, a famine which was a pointer to the end to which they were all awaiting.[1] Being overly concerned about familial concerns would detract from ones ability to be wholly devoted to the Lord, and during times of hardship that distraction is acute. There is nothing wrong with the decision to get married but staying single allows less divided devotion to the Lord. Paul applies this basic point to three categories of people: men engaged to previously unmarried women[2], previously unmarried women, and widows.

In both circumstances Paul gives latitude because, ultimately, all he wants to see is for people to serve God to the fullest, because, when Jesus returns, that is what will matter most. But any choice, whether to marry, delay marriage, or refrain from marriage is acceptable in the eyes of Paul.[3]

[1] Both Thiselton and Ciampa and Rosner support this interpretation of 'impending crisis.'

[2] While I understand Ciampa and Rosenr's point that the word means 'virgin,' I think Thiselton is correct in looking for alternative renderings to avoid the cultural baggage of the term.

[3] I won't go through Paul's comments to each group one by one since they're similar in purpose and content. However, two points about translation should be mentioned. First, in vs. 27, Ciampa and Rosner argue (in my view successfully) against the NRSV rendering suggesting Paul is discussing divorce. He is probably discussing betrothal. Second, Ciampa and Rosner argue (again, I think successfully) that the issue in vs. 36 is probably not discussing a situation where a man is lusting after his fiance, but rather is that the woman is advancing past the usual age of marriage.


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