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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on 1 Corinthians

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7.1–40 : Discussion of marriage and sexual relations.

In contrast with his combative, authoritarian toneelsewhere, Paul approaches marital and sexual relations with concessions more than commands. Also, in vv. 2–16 and 32–34 Paul addresses alternatively both women and men, unusual for ancient au thors. Verses 2–31 follow the same pattern of argumentation, first enunciating a general rule (vv. 2–3, 8,10,12–13,17 [repeated 20 and 24],26–27 ) and then making an exception (vv. 5,9,11a, 15,21,28 ).

1–16 :

Urges continuing marital relations rather than sexual abstinence because of …. immorality.

1 :

Now concerning …, indicates both a new topic and that Paul is responding to a letter from the Corinthians, as in 7.25; 8.1; 12.1; 16.1 . The form of the ascetic principle of the Corinthians, it is well for a man … (i.e., focused on the man's behavior visàvis a woman), suggests that Paul is addressing primarily women. The principle of sexual abstinence may be connected with certain Corinthi ans' attachment to Wisdom, to whom (as a personified heavenly figure) the wise person is exclusively devoted as a spiritual “lifemate” or spouse as in Wis 8.2,9,16–18 . Touch is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

4 :

The husband's authority over his wife's body is patriarchal convention, but the wife's authority over her husband's body contradicts and challenges patriarchal forms of marriage.

5–6 :

A limited exception to the general rule in vv. 3–4 , and a concession to some people's desire to abstain from sexual relations.

7 :

Perhaps because some were appealing to Paul's own unmarried and celibate status, he declares that celibacy is a special gift from God.

8–9 :

Practicing self control is likely a reference to certain Corinthians' celibacy. The memorable maxim, It is better to marry …, indicates how seriously Paul took the sex‐drive.

10 :

The command of the Lord appears to refer to the sayings in Mark 10.6–9,11–12 and Luke 16.18 , one of only two times Paul cites Jesus' teachings (see 9.14; cf. 11.23–25 ).

12–13 :

Although Paul gives his own opinion here, he appears to be applying the Lord's command against divorce in v. 10 to these special cases.

14 :

The unbelieving spouse is made holy through the believing partner because the latter is separated from the world and sin in the new community of Christ and, Paul believes, in the mutually engaging bond of marriage the holy would be more powerful than the unholy.

17–24 :

In themiddle of his advice about marriage and sexual relations, Paul enunciates his general rule in all the churches (assemblies), in vv. 17,20,24 , with two illustrations, one of which turns out to be an exception to the rule. Closely related to the principle is the baptismal formula cited in Gal 3.28 .

17 :

The translation the life … to which God called you is misleading; to which fits neither illustration, “slave free” or “circumcised‐uncircumcised.” “In the condition in which you were called” in 7.20 gives a better sense: The statement is about the life situation of each believer at the time of God's call to join the new community, not a characterization of that life situation as God's calling.

18–19 :

Circumcision … and uncircumcision then illustrates the “rule” (v. 17 ) intelligibly.

19 :

Obeying the commandments of God indicates that for Paul the law was still valid as a guide for community life.

21 :

The phrase your present condition now more than ever is not in the Greek, where the last, elliptical clause, make use of [it] or “rather use it,” requires completion from the context, i.e., from the nearest noun, freedom. Thus the alternative translation in NRSV footnote a is to be preferred, with the sense being: “If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity!” Since the slavefree relation is not analogous to the male female or the circumciseduncircumcised relations, Paul makes an exception to his rule when it comes to slaves—following the pattern of the four preceding and one following sections of the argument, where he gives a general rule and then makes an exception. Slaves should seize any opportunity to become free.

22–23 :

Explains the exception to the rule: Since both slaves and free were bought with a price, neither can be slaves of human masters.

25–40 :

Now concerning virgins signals a new but related issue; see 7.1n. Abstention from sexual relations, an exception for the married, is the rule for virgins. Except for vv. 32–34 , which is still in genderbalanced statements about both men and women, Paul now addresses not the virgins themselves but men engaged to virgins. The phrase the unmarried woman and the virgin in v. 34 indicates that throughout this section virgins refers to betrothed young women, not young unmarried women generally (see vv. 36–37n. ). That Paul pointedly reassures the engaged men that it is no sin if you marry in vv. 28, 36 (a remarkable statement for a firstcentury Jew) indicates that someone in the Corinthian community was asserting that it was wrong for virgins to marry.

25 :

Paul makes a point of having no command of the Lord but only his own opinion to offer in a relatively gentle attempt at persuasion that emphasizes context.

26 :

Paul agrees with the ascetic principle of some of the Corinthians, formulated exactly like the quotation in 7.1b , that it is well for you to remain as you are, but offers his own reason: in view of the impending crisis (see v. 31; 15.51–55; 16.22n. ).

29–35 :

A lengthy explanation of the advice in vv. 26–28 .

29–31 :

The appointed time has grown short and the present form of this world is passing away in vv. 29 and 31 suggest how imminent in Paul's mind the fulfillment of history inauguratedin the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was. In vv. 29b–31a he offers five illustrations of how the economic system (private property, slavery, commerce) and basic social forms (patriarchal marriage), as well as the emotional aspects of life rooted in them, are about to disappear. Paul's operative principle of as though … not is a detachment from the dominant social forms and cultural values, while continuing to interact with unbelievers (see 5.9–10 ).

32–35 :

Applies the as though … [not] stance to the question of marriage between virgins and those betrothed to them. The phrase is anxious about should be read consistently, and positively, throughout vv. 32–34 . Because the married person's attention would thus be divided between the Lord and the spouse, the unmarried condition is the better one, as stated in vv. 26–28 and again in v. 38 .

34 :

Holy in body and spirit may reflect the Corinthian ascetics' concern for bodily purity for the sake of spiritual transcendence, or Paul's concern that body as well as spirit be kept holy.

36–37 :

Fiancée appropriately interprets the Greek for “virgin,” indicating that she is engaged (see vv. 25–40n. ).

39 :

Apparently addressing Corinthian women's ascetic separation from their husbands as the principal issue at hand, Paul reasserts the traditional Jewish stance on marriage.

40 :

His own opinion comes closer to what the Corinthian ascetics probably wanted to hear. And like them he also has the Spirit of God.

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