Monday, December 18, 2006

Paul's Choice of Greek in 1 Corinthians 7

In a previous post I commented on some people's issue with Paul's choice of Greek 'aphiemi' instead of 'apoulo' in 1 Co 7. Aphiemi is used in verses 11, 12, and 13 of 1 Co 7. These particular analyses claim that Paul was not referring to divorce in this chapter because of his choice of Greek aphiemi. This runs against Paul's use of the Greek 'agamos' or unmarried for the divorcing wife in verse 11. Also consider the number of synonyms of divorce we have in English.

Another common argument against remarriage for the Christian involved in the outcome of 1 Co 7:15-16 is Paul's choice of Greek 'douloo' (to enslave) in verse 15 instead of 'deo' (to bind) for the bond between husband and wife.
  • 15: (NAS) Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
i.e. some translations say 'no longer enslaved' as opposed to 'not under bondage'. Paul uses 'deo' in verses 27 and 39.
  • 27: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
  • 39: A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

This is an analysis from one well know ministry:

  • "word rendered “bondage” (15) is the Greek term douloo, which means “to make a slave of.” Observe how the word is translated in Titus 2:3—”enslaved to much wine.” Biblically speaking, marriage is never viewed as slavery! The “bondage,” i.e., enslavement, does not refer to the marriage union. If the unbeliever departs, that is not the Christian’s responsibility. The brother or sister is not enslaved to maintain a togetherness (note the allusion of v. 5) at the expense of fidelity to the Lord."

In Titus 2:3 Paul's warning against too much wine should not be taken lightly as being enslaved to much wine is an indication of alcoholism. It's true that nowhere else does Paul refer to the husband/wife relationship as slavery.

From another well-known ministry:

  • "The word used for "bound" (douloo) in verse 15 is not the same word used in verse 39 where Paul says, "A wife is bound (deo) to her husband as long as he lives." Paul consistently uses deo when speaking of the legal aspect of being bound to one marriage partner (Romans 7:2; l Corinthians 7:39), or to one's betrothed (l Corinthians 7:27). But when he refers to a deserted spouse not being bound in l Corinthians 7:15, he chooses a different word (douloo) which we would expect him to do if he were not giving a deserted spouse the same freedom to remarry that he gives to a spouse whose partner has died (verse 39)."

When using a unique word Paul either wanted to trivialize or call attention to a superlative when describing the relationship in the Christian-unbeliever couple.

Consider the condition of a 1st century Roman slave:

My convicted choice is that slavery is much worse than the bonds of marriage. Paul was referring to a superlative situation and a very negative one.

Paul was referring to situation in which a spouse called to Christ had to deal with in a bad marriage with an unbeliever. I've commented on this before. As having witness this before, the bad marriage between a Christian and an unbeliever quickly deteriorates into a form of slavery for the believer. The Christian will do what it takes to avoid the sin of divorce and allow the unbeliever a free reign on household finances, gambling, inappropriate friendships, drugs, alcohol etc. Yes, it's a form of slavery that hopefully no Christian (or anyone else) will experience.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had a good description of the use of douloo vs. deo by Paul in 1 Co 7:15:

  • In 1 Cor. 7:15 the apostle uses the verb which he uses elsewhere to denote a state of slavery, not the weaker verb deo, which is not his word to express what it means to be under the ownership of someone else. The stronger expression "is not bound" suggests that the believing spouse is no longer tied to the obligation to preserve the marriage, since the unbelieving party has already withdrawn consent to maintain the union. Admittedly, Paul does not expressly state that the Christian may remarry. However, neither does he expressly forbid remarriage as he did explicitly in verse 11 of the Christian spouse who departs.... therefore, the Christian spouse is no longer bound, such a one is free to secure a civil divorce and remarry. [84]

Verse 4 shows how Paul views the marital bonds:
  • 1 Co 7:4 NAS he wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
It is a form of allegorical slavery as mentioned in Instone-Brewers analysis. This is all good and well in a relationship between believers. In a bad (as opposed to good) marriage between a Christian and an unbeliever there is no reciprocation from the latter. Slavery sets in. Paul tells us that the believer is free when that bond is broken in verse 15-16.

As a final note see verse 23 of 1 Co 7:
  • 23: you were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men

Greek for slave is doulos.

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