Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The unmarried (agamos) in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16

In previous posts Paul's meaning of unmarried or Greek agamos was found to be a distinct class apart from virgins and widows. The agamos therefore are the previously married people. In verses 10-11 this is clearly the case as Paul refers to the divorced wife in verse 11 as required to remain in the unmarried (agamos) state.

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 are verses aimed at the Christian-unbeliever couple (mixed). In verse 15:

15: 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.

Paul instructs in the Holy Spirit that the Christian spouse is not to prevent the unbeliever from divorcing them for the sake of keeping the peace. Some modern Christians take leaving to be a form of legal separation, however this was unknown in the Greco-Roman world. The acting of leaving is considered to be a divorce-by-separation.

In verse 16 a lament is expressed by Paul that waiting for the unbelieving spouse to come to the light can be futile:

16: For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

In what state should the Christian consider themselves in after the events of verse 15 unfold? There is only one possible state, unmarried or agamos.

Should this Christian unmarried person be able to remarry? The instructions in verse 11 do not apply as this was aimed at the Christian couple and not the mixed couple. Therefore verses 8-9 apply. This unmarried person is able to remarry.

Now why do some people suppose that this be contradictory to Christian thought and principles as it would make the marriage in a mixed couple seem less sanctified than the Christian couple? I would argue that this is not the point that Paul was making. Paul was looking at each divorced couple, the Christian and the mixed ones and the forces that will bring them back together. These forces are different for each set of couples. I'll post my thoughts in the future.

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