Friday, December 15, 2006

Why does Paul offer differing instructions in verses 10-11 and in 15-16 in 1 Corinthians 7?

Brief Review - In previous posts I went through Paul's description of unmarried (Greek, agamos) in 1 Co 7. It was a class different from widow (chera), and virgins (parthenos). In using using unmarried (agamos) Paul was addressing the previously married people of Corinth. 1 Co 7 is the only place in the Bible where the word 'agamos' is used.

In a Dec 12 post I went through Paul's instructions to the unmarried. There are two conclusions

1) Paul allows for the agamos (unmarried) to remarry in verses 8-9.

2) Paul prohibits remarriage to the Christian divorced (agamos) woman who leaves her Christian husband in the Greco-Roman style divorce-by-separation.

In a Dec 13 post Paul's advice to the mixed (Christian-unbeliever) couple was to allow the unbeliever to divorce if s/he insists on doing so. I finished up with this:

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.

Both sets of couples the Christian in verses 10-11 and the mixed in verses 15-16 are divorced. The Christian however is bond to Christ as his slave. See the following verses:

Ac 4:29, Ac 16:17, Ro 1:1,1Co 7:22,2Co 4:5,Ga 1:10,Eph 6:6,Php 1:1,Col 4:12,2Ti 2:24,Tit 1:1,Jas 1:1,1Pe 2:16 ,2Pe 1:1,Jude 1:1,Re 1:1,Re 22:6,Re 22:3,Re 15:3

The Christian therefore is obligated to forgive and set aside bitterness. Eph 4:31 Reconciliation is a strong possibility with a divorced Christian couple.

Reconciliation is certainly possible with the unbeliever, but how long should the believer wait and press their case? There is the unequal yoke here. Paul warns against this in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The unbeliever especially in the atmosphere of Corinth had strong and tempting non-Christian forces acting upon them. Corinth had a reputation of hedonism and other vulgarities, this is very similar to modern society. One can reasonably assume that the unbeliever would drift away with these forces. In modern society other forces such as money, gambling, access to easy sex, and drugs can come to bear on the unbeliever. It is certainly reasonable for the Christian ex-spouse to attempt a reconciliation but it can be futile, hence Paul's lament in verse 16.

Finally, in his book "Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible" David Instone-Brewer points out that Paul's 2nd sentence in verse 15 "For God has called us to peace" is very similar to the rabbinic phrase 'for the sake of peace', which means 'when the law fails, we follow a pragmatic solution. Paul was recognizing a situation that was not addressed in Jesus' teachings in the Gospels and was focused on the situation that must have become ever more frequent in Corinth as it is today.

Next I'll comment on common arguments that appear on the web against remarriage in verses 15-16. I think that many fail based on logic, but I will be respectful. Also there are questions to Paul's choice of Greek words. I will discuss this in a few posts.

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