Married and Looking: Thank God for Polygamy in Canada

March 5, 2010

It is Not good for a man not to touch a woman.

Filed under: Bible commentary — prariepolyguy @ 8:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

St. Paul has been railed against on many sides in the past and recently even by those who believe in Jesus. The forefront of the assault against him, so far as I’ve seen, deals with the perception that Paul was some way anti-marriage. This comes from various groups of Old Testiment thumpers who correctly see marriage and family as being crucially important to God’s plan, thus if Paul is against it, he is against God.

There are many points of Paul’s writings to consider, but for now I want to address 1 Corinthians 7. First I’d like to remind people that chapter and verse breaks (while ancient) are not original and thus for all intents and purposes arbitrary. They break mid topic or thought on a regular basis and are ultimately distracting. Anyway, Paul started talking about Fornication in 6:13 and finishes talking about it in 7:2 or 7:6 depending on how you look at it, and either way the chapter break tends to mess up both interpretation and translation.

Lets have a look at it, Verse 7:1 finishes “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” where the italics, like in a Bible, are words inserted for English readability with no original language parallels in original manuscripts. Those readability words are nice, in in the overwhelming majority of scripture they don’t change the meaning of the verse one bit. As they shouldn’t since they are not actually in the verse.  By itself it really doesn’t look good when compared Gods own statement “It is not good that Man should be alone.” and his solution to that problem, creating women.  Add Gods general command that mankind should leave their father and mother and cleave to their wife, and that one of the most basic marital duties (on both sides, as Paul himself elaborates on imminently after this subject) requires a great deal of touching.

Now, 7:2  “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” Why let everyone have their own spouse? To avoid. The reason here is in italics, the very focus of this verse is added by the translators. Now, I’m not saying they did a bad job, translation is very difficult and has to be done bit by bit then contextualized. 7:2 appears to be a rough translation done by verse rather than by subject and never properly reconciled (for it was properly reconciled to the context, the translator would not have had to create its focus from scratch). Normally you can cut out the italics and make good sense of the verse, “good for a man not to touch a woman” may not be exactly coherent, but anyone who reads on the internet regularly can see what the intent was.  “Nevertheless fornication” makes it sound like fornication is a positive here.  Now, I think we all know Paul is anti-fornication and the rest of the verse only makes sense in an anti-fornication light, so inserting to avoid is fair game if you only have the words in verse 2 to create a sentence.

Now, lets try ignoring the verse division, and cutting things off in our own way, lets start with “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication” Next, lets cut out the non-original stuff, the italics and punctuation. “good for a man not to touch a woman nevertheless fornication” and the astute will already see what I’m getting at. Now, we have another oddity in this verse, an unexpressed Greek word. If you use something like Strongs you can see that there is a number in parentheses over it, meaning there is a word there but it doesn’t mean what they said. I can scarcely express the word better than Strong did, it is “A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act”*.  Remember I said fornication looks like a positive here? Well that’s because Paul is talking about a case where someone commits fornication, not avoiding it. So, now if we re add the appropriate italics we have

It is good for a man not to touch a woman and** cause fornications***”

Now that is a passage that harmonized perfectly with reason and scripture. It  doesn’t cause a problem with what come before it, and it harmonizes with what comes after, we now have.

It is good for a man not to touch a woman and cause fornications. Let every man have his own wife and every woman have her own husband.” Beautiful. Harmonious.

*He does include to avoid on the list of things this has been translated to for his own reasons.

** Nevertheless can be more accuratly translated ‘but’ here, though rendering it ‘and’ lets me explain the passage much faster in English. ‘and’ is a valid rendering anyway

***This is plural in the Greek. I believe the reason is can be deduced from Matt 5:32 where both the divorced wife and whoever marries her are caused to commit adultery. Fornication is like adultery in that it takes at least two,  causing one act of fornication invariable causes at least one other. The ramifications of that may cause others as well.

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6 Comments »

  1. I’m glad if it was any help.

    Comment by prariepolyguy — January 3, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

  2. This was a great breakdown. I quickly read this, I’ll go over it again to study how you came to your translation of this passage. Thanks.

    Comment by Larry — January 1, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

  3. Yes, I was criticized for the title once already, and I agree it is too sweeping a title and is misleading as to what I mean. My primary objective was to counter people who say celibacy is always better based on that passage, hence the title.

    Comment by prariepolyguy — June 7, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  4. I agree with your deduction of Paul’s marital status being one who was previously married. I would say either a widower OR a rabbi who divorced his wife, in which case that divorce before being saved could explain why he didn’t remarry, if Jesus’ words on divorce are understood a certain way.

    As for your conclusion of “I see this as saying celibacy is better in those who have the gift of continence, but it is better to marry if you do not”, I agree that that was the opinion of Paul. However, that does seem to stand a bit against your title “It is Not good for a man not to touch a woman.”

    Comment by sadanyagci — June 7, 2010 @ 5:48 am

  5. Thanks Sadan,

    Lets see, we have 7:6-8, 27, 28 and 40. Usually I wouldn’t list versed like that but I need to take the time to see exactly what you where getting at in you’re version, I’ve seen it before but its quite different than any of the three versions I have on hand.

    First I should put forward what I believe about Pauls marital status, I believe that as a pharisee of such esteem he would have been married, but it is clear from here and other places in scripture that at this point he is a widower (or his wife left him for being a Christian, but I prefer to think the first) He was married and is now loosed.

    The statements in 7,8, and 9 taken together taken together are very similar to what I’m trying to convey above. He starts that he wishes everyone could be like him, with the special gift of continence, but everyone has their own special gift from God. If they have continence, if they have no need, it is good for them to stay as he is. If they are not like he is, if they do not have that gift, it is better that they should marry than burn in desire (or commit fornication). This says celibacy is good, but it is not favored unless someone has a special gift for it, indeed V9 says it is better to marry. In most people it is better to marry.

    27 is where I will have to simply say the rendering that you’re using in this passage is not technical enough to establish doctrine on. Compare

    ASV 1Co 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.
    MKJV 1Co 7:27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

    While verse 8 talks to people in general who are unmarried (agamos 🙂 ) this one speaks specifically about those who where bound in marriage and that bond has been severed by death or divorce. I suppose in these cases a person has had the chance to get better control of their passions and has had the chance to have children. Even in this case to marry is no sin. One way or another this section, (V 28 included) is Pauls Judgment for what is best their present distress\persecution. Our distress and persecution (and I know mine is very light and suspect you’re is much heavier) requires different judgment does it not?

    I see this as saying celibacy is better in those who have the gift of continence, but it is better to marry if you do not.

    Comment by prariepolyguy — May 23, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  6. Interesting, but that still doesn’t explain the rest of the comments in that chapter.

    “I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good fro them to stay unmarried, as I am.”

    “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.”

    “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

    “In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is–and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”

    He gives reasoning for the latter statements (the end being near), but the former statements only seem to make sense with a Paul that has no wife at the time and favors celibacy.

    Comment by sadanyagci — May 23, 2010 @ 12:01 pm


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