1 Corinthians 7 (The Early Church Fathers on Divorce and Remarriage)

[This is long enough for at least two posts, but given its nature, I thought it would be more helpful to the readers to post this all at once and then skip a day. And I'm posting this from the hospital. I have had kidney stones once again -- removed this morning by an unspeakable procedure using the only available orifice through which to one might remove such things. So any mistakes are the fault of the pills I'm on.]

1corinthiansIt’s commonly stated that the early church fathers (ECFs) (generally, orthodox uninspired Christian writers from the late First Century until Augustine in the Fourth Century) support the traditional view of the Churches of Christ of divorce and remarriage. Let’s see whether that is so.

Unless otherwise noted, my source is On the Divorce Teachings of the Early Church. Obviously, the early church fathers have no canonical or other authority, especially in a community that lives by “We’re silent where the scriptures are silent.” Nonetheless, the argument is often made to buttress certain conclusions about the biblical text and wouldn’t be brought up at all unless early church teachings were considered by its proponents to carry some exegetical authority.[1]

I am enough of a Campbellite to reject the notion that early church teaching carries any more authority than Calvin, Luther, Stone, Campbell, Wright, or Hauerwas, but I thought it would be a helpful exercise to see what truth there is behind the claim that the early church fathers support the Church of Christ interpretation. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 7:27-28 (“But if you do marry, you have not sinned”)


(1Co 7:27 ESV) 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

The first question and answer is clear enough. Those who are married should not divorce. The second question and answer are less clear.

“Free from a wife” is literally “have you been loosed from a wife.” The verb is perfect passive. A few translations translate the words as written —

(1Co 7:27 NET)  The one bound to a wife should not seek divorce. The one released from a wife should not seek marriage.

(1Co 7:27 NASB)  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

(1Co 7:27 YLT) Hast thou been bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed; hast thou been loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

(1Co 7:27 CEB) If you are married, don’t get a divorce. If you are divorced, don’t try to find a spouse.

(1Co 7:27 ASV) Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.

The perfect tense refers to a circumstance that has changed. The Greek can be translated as “free from wife,” with no indication whether the man has been previously married or not, but this seems very unlikely in context. After all, Paul addressed the unmarried and widows in 7:8-9. And then he addressed “virgins” in 7:25-26. It seems unlikely that he would once again address the state of the never married here. Having discussed the married, the never married, widows, and the engaged, it seems much more likely that he’d address the one class he’d not yet discussed: the previously divorced. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 7:17-26 (“Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him”)

[I'm splitting Part 2 posted yesterday into Part 2 and Part 3 as Part 2 dealt with two very different subjects and to better set up the posts that will follow.]


(1Co 7:17-20 ESV) 17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

Huh? Why is Paul suddenly talking about — of all things! — circumcision? Well, he was just addressing whether the Jewish mamzer laws apply to the church. And his point is that while there is “neither Jew nor Greek” in the church, that doesn’t mean we have to be or not be circumcised.

Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 7:5-16 (Divorce and Remarriage, Part 1)


(1 Cor 7:5 ESV) Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Paul seems very strict. He grants an exception, but only for prayer and only by mutual agreement. And in the modern world, how often does a husband or wife want to pray so much and for so long that sex needs to be given up?

Well, the fact that we pray so little and so poorly demonstrates how far removed we are from the mind of Paul. Paul surely spent hours a day in prayer. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 7:1-4 (Conjugal rights of spouses)

1corinthiansIn chapter 7, Paul changes the subject from prostitution to marriage. At this point, it appears that he turns his attention to a letter received from the Corinthians.

(1 Cor 7:1 ESV) Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

It’s surprising that some of the Corinthians would reject heterosexual sex given that Paul had just addressed incest and prostitution. But this is one of the peculiarities of Grecian Platonic thought. Philosophers call Plato’s thinking “dualism.” Continue reading

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Apologetics: August 3, 2014 Sunday School Class (Historical Evidence for Jesus and the Resurrection)


Here are the notes —

Apologetics: Did Jesus Really Exist?

Apologetics: The Resurrection of Jesus

Here’s the audio —

August 3, 2014 Class

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Time Out

I’m going to slow the pace of posting for a while. I’m headed into yet another back surgery on Tuesday, and so my time will be limited.

It seems that the rumors have all been true: I have a screw loose. And so the surgeon has to go into my back and tighten things up a bit. It’s supposed to make me feel better.

We’ll see.

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N. T. Wright’s “Surprised by Scripture”

surprised_by_scripture_200wN. T. Wright continues to produce an astonishing volume of excellent writing, targeted at Christian audiences at all levels of scholarship.

Most recently, Wright has released Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, a collection of essays on various issues pertinent to life in the church.

These essays are written at a college level. They aren’t quite as easy to read as his New Testament For Everyone commentaries (a better, sounder set of commentaries serving much the same role as William Barclay’s venerable New Daily Study Bible). But they are far easier reads than, say, his Christian Origins and the Question of God series.

The essays were written for other purposes, and then later assembled into this collection. As a result, there’s a certain inevitable level of repetition, but not too much. And some of the arguments that he makes are made in other earlier works of his, so that a devoted reader such as myself will find himself covering very familiar grounds at times. Nonetheless, there much here that is new and needed. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 6:15-20 (“You were bought with a price”)


(1 Cor 6:15 ESV) 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

Why is prostitution wrong? Paul doesn’t say because it violates a command of God (although it does). Paul reasons from the gospel. It’s wrong because Christians have been baptized into Christ. We are his body on earth! And for a Christian to have sex with a prostitute is to join Christ himself to the prostitute!

(1 Cor 6:16 ESV) Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul then refers back to Genesis 2 — regarding Adam and Eve — in which Moses comments on marriage. Paul points out that the sexual union is more than sex. It’s a union of two people who become in a sense one. Continue reading

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Instrumental Music: Further on Eph 5:19

glory in Solomon's templeI recently enjoyed a lunch conversation with a bright, inquisitive young member of my congregation. We discussed instrumental music. As we were talking, several themes of the Scriptures came together.

We start in 1 Kings, at the dedication of the Temple by Solomon. When the ark of the covenant was brought into the Holy of Holies, a wondrous thing happened —

(1 Kings 8:10–11 ESV) 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

Yahweh himself, represented by an intensely bright cloud called God’s “glory,” filled the Temple — and so filled the space that the priests couldn’t perform their duties — being the very duties that God required of them. Continue reading

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