Reference in 1 Cor 7:8, 10, 12

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at
Fri Sep 7 00:24:25 EDT 2001

At 05:59 PM 010906 -0500, Steven R. Lo Vullo wrote, in reply to Kimmo 
Huovila, re who is being addressed in 1 Corinthians 7:

>Hi Kimmo:
>Yes, it think you are right when you say the text reads somewhat 
>awkwardly. And I think the interpretation I offered is less than obvious. 
>The key, I think, may be in the word "reader" in your question, "What 
>signals are there to help the reader understand that GEGAMHKOTES are not 
>all married people, but only those who are Christians married to a 
>Christian?" If by "reader" we mean those to whom the letter was not 
>originally targeted (like us), then there are probably few linguistic 
>features that would tip us off. On the other hand, if by "reader" we mean 
>someone to whom the letter was originally addressed, that may be a 
>different matter. I think we have to remember that Paul is responding to 
>questions raised by the Corinthian congregation (PERI DE hWN EGRAYATE, v. 
>1). So the original readers would have the advantage over us in that they 
>were privy to the exact nature of the issues in view, since they are the 
>ones who raised them.

This is a valid comment by Steven, in the light of the evidence in the 
passage. In chapter six we find Paul dealing with all the possible sexual 
relations between people - except for questions of marriage and marriage 
break-up. And these comments are clearly addressed to Christians (cf. 
6:11). When in 7:1 Paul expressly says he is responding to issues they have 
raised with him in their letter to him, it is valid to interpret what he 
writes in reply as also primarily referring to Christians.

Steven goes on to say:

>Also, I think that in light of the fact that Paul surely has *believing*
>AGAMOI and CHRAI in mind in vv. 7-8, it is only natural that he turn to
>believing married people in vv. 8-9, and then to mixed couples in vv. 12-16.
>There is a natural progression: unmarried believers-married believing
>couples-married believers with unbelieving spouses.

I reckon that is a fair comment. And it will indeed account for the TOIS 
LOIPOIS in 7:12.

However, two comments about going in this direction.

Firstly, I feel we must also strike a note of caution here, lest we draw a 
mistaken conclusion from this data. The mistaken conclusion would be that 
7:1-11 ONLY applies to Christians. I am not suggesting that Steven implies 
this, but we must specifically avoid this implication.

For what Paul says in 7:1-11 applies to EVERYONE, even though it may be 
true that only Christians are going to take much notice of what Paul says.

In 7:1 the Corinthians advocate the view that husband and wife are better 
off (perhaps more "spiritual") if they abstain from sexual relations in 
their marriage (see Greek, and NRSV). Paul disagrees totally with this, and 
instead expounds (7:2-5) the God-given relational purpose of sex within 
marriage (in contrast with the wrong use of sex he discusses in chapter 6), 
ending up with counselling strongly against adopting the Corinthians' 
recommendation of sexual abstinence within marriage. Clearly this teaching 
applies whether the husband and wife are Christian, non-Christian, or "mixed".

Next, Paul addresses the issue of those who are AGAMOS. There has been 
extensive discussion of the meaning of this word on b-greek in the past; my 
own conclusion is that it refers to the "no-longer-married", the 
"used-to-be-married", i.e., to the widowed and divorced. Strong evidence 
for this view (in my judgement) is furnished by 7:11, a few verses further 
on, where Paul uses this word in respect of those who have had a broken 
marriage. Whatever view is taken re AGAMOS, however, there would be no 
reason for deciding that this passage did not apply to non-Christians.

Similarly, neither Christian nor non-Christian marriage partners should 
split up. Paul here quotes (7:10) the command of the Lord (found in Matthew 
19:6), which clearly the Lord intended to be of universal applicability.

Then we get to the TOIS LOIPOIS reference (7:12), concerning which I wish 
now to make my second comment.

It could indeed refer to "other people", in which case we would understand 
it along the lines Steven has spelt out. However, it could also be taken to 
refer to "other situations" (that is, situations other than those which 
Paul has dealt with thus far in chapters six and seven), and not mean much 
more than that he is going on to a new topic.

Another possibility though - and this is the one which appeals to me - is 
that Paul means "the rest of the issues which you raised with me", i.e., he 
is now about to address specifically the rest of the matters which the 
Corinthians had written about in their letter to him. I think it quite 
reasonable to see TOIS LOIPOIS as a reference back to the PERI hWN of 7:1.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers        Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street          Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM  NSW  2049      email: bwpowers at
AUSTRALIA.                         Director, Tyndale College

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