Is remarriage permitted? Now, the next question — although it’s really the same question — is whether the Christian may remarry. I mean, if the couple is “unmarried,” it follows that they may marry because they’re not married — unless Paul were to say otherwise. And there are several other reasons that the text says that the innocent Christian divorced by a pagan spouse may remarry — 1. Paul uses douloo to mean “bound.” It’s the verb form of doulos, meaning slave or bond-servant. Obviously, Paul is using it metaphorically. If “enslaved” doesn’t mean “can’t remarry” and can’t mean “must refuse to consent to the divorce,” then what on earth is the sense in which he or she might be enslaved? What is he or she being freed from? Continue reading
I get emails. I respond to an edited version of reader Mojohn’s extensive comment in this and in the next few posts. The full text of the comment is linked here. This and the next post will deal with the meaning of “not under bondage” in 1 Corinthians 7:15 — in particular, Mojohn’s assertion that remarriage is not allowed after a Christian is divorced by a non-Christian spouse. Mojohn is referencing arguments I made in But If You Do Marry …, available as a free ebook download in .pdf format. The question is important to me because it’s part of a larger argument as to whether divorced Christians may remarry at all, a topic that we’ll take up in future posts dealing with Mojohn’s thoughtful comment on the topic. Continue reading
[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.]
It’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.
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
(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
[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.
(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
In 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
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.
N. 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