1 Corinthians 7:1
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
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1 Corinthians 7:1-2. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me — The letter of the Corinthian believers to which the apostle alludes here, and in which it appears they put divers questions to him, hath long been lost; a circumstance to be much regretted; for had it been preserved, it would doubtless have illustrated many passages of the two epistles to the Corinthians, which are now obscure because we are ignorant of the matters to which the apostle alludes in these passages. It is good for a man — Who is master of himself, and has his passions and appetites under due control; not to touch a woman — That is, not to marry; so great and many are the advantages of a single life, especially in the present calamitous state of the church. Nevertheless — Since the God of nature has, for certain wise reasons, implanted in the sexes a mutual inclination to each other; to avoid — That is, in order to prevent; fornication — And every other species of uncleanness and pollution; let every man — Who finds it expedient in order to his living chastely; have his own wife — His own, for Christianity allows no polygamy; and every woman her own husband — “Here the apostle speaks in the imperative mood, using the style in which superiors give their commands; but although he recommends a single life in certain circumstances, this and the injunction (1 Corinthians 7:5) given to all who cannot live chastely unmarried, is a direct prohibition of celibacy to the bulk of mankind. Further, as no person in early life can foresee what his future state of mind will be, or what temptations he may meet with, he cannot certainly know whether it will be in his power to live chastely unmarried. Wherefore, as that is the only case in which the apostle allows persons to live unmarried, vows of celibacy and virginity, taken in early life, must in both sexes be sinful.” — Macknight.

7:1-9 The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.Now, concerning ... - In reply to your inquiries. The first, it seems, was in regard to the propriety of marriage; that is, whether it was lawful and expedient.

It is good - It is well. It is fit, convenient, or, it is suited to the present circumstances, or, the thing itself is well and expedient in certain circumstances. The apostle did not mean that marriage was unlawful, for he says Hebrews 13:4 that "marriage is honorable in all." But he here admits, with one of the parties in Corinth, that it was well, and proper in some circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation; see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Corinthians 7:31-32.

Not to touch a woman - Not to be connected with her by marriage. Xenophon (Cyro. b. 1) uses the same word (ἅπτω haptō, "to touch") to denote marriage; compare Genesis 20:4, Genesis 20:6; Genesis 26:11; Proverbs 6:29.


1Co 7:1-40. Reply to Their Inquiries as to Marriage; the General Principle in Other Things Is, Abide in Your Station, for the Time Is Short.

1. The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which tended to disparage marriage, and had implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an unbeliever.

good—that is, "expedient," because of "the present distress"; that is, the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties. Heb 13:4, in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is stated in 1Co 7:34, 35, "that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those of Paul.1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Marriage is to be used as a remedy against fornication. 1 Corinthians 7:10,11 Christ hath forbidden to dissolve the bond thereof. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Directions how to act where one of the parties is an

unbeliever. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Every man must abide in and fulfil the duties of the

state wherein he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 Directions concerning the marriage of virgins,

respecting the distress of the times, 1 Corinthians 7:39,40 and concerning the second marriage of widows.

It seemeth, that though this church was very much corrupted, yet some of them retained a reverence for this great apostle, and had wrote one or more letters to him about some points, to which he returneth answer. It seemeth that one thing they had wrote to him about, was about marriage; not about the lawfulness of marrying, (that doctrine of devils was not broached so early in the world), but concerning the advisableness of marriage, and men’s use of their wives, in that afflicted state of the church. The apostle answereth, that

it is good for a man not to touch a woman. When he saith: It is good, he means only more convenient, or better, with respect to the troubled state of the church, or that persons might be more at liberty for the service of God and the duties of religion. Upon these accounts it were more convenient for a man not to marry, for that he meaneth by touching a woman.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,.... Though the false apostles had greatly influenced the members of this church, yet there were many among them that had a very great respect for the apostle, and kept up a correspondence with him, though at a distance from him, by writing; in which way they informed him of their doubts and difficulties, that arose in their minds about certain things, and desired his judgment in them, to which they paid a very great deference. The things they wrote to him about, here referred to, may be collected from the contents of this chapter, and some others following; as whether a Christian man ought not to abstain from the use of women; whether a believer ought to live with an unbelieving yoke fellow; whether such as had been circumcised should not make use of some methods to draw on the foreskin of their flesh; whether apprentices, who were called by the grace of God, ought to serve out their time with their masters; and concerning celibacy or virginity, the eating of things offered to idols, and the maintenance of ministers: and he begins with the first; to which he answers,

it is good for a man not to touch a woman; which is to be understood, not of merely touching a woman, which can neither be criminal, nor in all cases inexpedient, or be attended with any ill, or dangerous consequences; nor of the matrimonial contract, which is lawful and honourable; but of the act of carnal copulation with a woman: in this sense the Jews use the phrase,

"there are three (they say (r)) that fled from transgression, and the blessed God joined his name with them; and they are these, Joseph, and Joel, and Phalti. Joseph, as appears from what is said, Psalm 81:5 "a testimony in Joseph is his name"; what is the meaning of the phrase "in Joseph?" this testifies concerning him, , "that he did not touch Potiphar's wife" (i.e. he did not lie with her); Jael, as is clear from what is said, Judges 4:18 "and Jael went forth to meet Sisera, and she covered him with a mantle"; what is the meaning of the phrase, (which is rendered, "with a mantle";) our Rabbins here (in Babylon) say with a linen cloth; but our Rabbins there (in the land of Israel) say with bed clothes; says Resh Lekish, if we run over the whole Scripture, we shall not find any household goods so called; wherefore what is it? it is all one as , "my name is thus": and the meaning is, my name witnesses concerning her, , "that that wicked one (Sisera) did not touch her" (s); (i.e. had not carnal knowledge of her;) Phalti, as is evident from hence, one Scripture says, "and Saul gave Michal his daughter to Phalti", 1 Samuel 25:44 and another Scripture says Phaltiel; sometimes he is called Phalti, and sometimes he is called Phaltiel; who takes Phalti? and who gives Phaltiel? but I testify concerning him; , "that he did not touch David's wife"; (i.e. did not lie with her;)''

see Genesis 20:6. And in this sense also is the word "touch" used, both by Greek and Latin authors. The apostle's meaning is not that it is unlawful to marry, or that it is sinful to lie with a woman in lawful wedlock; but that it is much better, and more expedient on several accounts, to abstain from the use of women, when persons have the gift of continency.

(r) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 4. & 165. 1. Vid Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 4. (s) Vid. Kimchi in Jud. iv. 18.

Now {1} concerning the things {a} whereof ye wrote unto me: It is {b} good for a man not to touch a woman.

(1) He teaches concerning marriage that although a single life has its advantages, which he will declare afterwards, yet that marriage is necessary for the avoiding of fornication. But so that neither one man may have many wives, nor any wife many husbands.

(a) Concerning those matters about which you wrote to me.

(b) Commodious, and (as we say) expedient. For marriage brings many griefs with it, and that by reason of the corruption of our first estate.

1 Corinthians 7:1. Δέ] leads over to the answering of questions put in the letter from Corinth.

ἐγράψατέ μοι] Differences of opinion must have prevailed respecting the points discussed in this chapter, and these had been laid before the apostle by the church. In particular, there must have been at Corinth opponents of marriage. This is wrongly denied by Baur, who imagines merely an attempt made among the Corinthians to defend fornication from the analogy of marriage; of which there is not a trace in the apostle’s words. Whether, now, the doubts in question, more especially as to the lawfulness of marriage,[1050] were mixed up with the subsistence of the parties at Corinth, it is impossible to make out with any certainty, although in itself it seems likely that a matter of opinion so important practically would be turned, with other points, to account in the interest of party. Grotius holds that those who raised such points of debate were “sub Christianorum nomine philosophi verius quam Christiani.” But such of the Greek philosophers as advocated views adverse to marriage did so upon the ground of the cares and dangers connected with marriage (see Grotius in loc[1051]), not from any doubt regarding its morality, as, according to 1 Corinthians 7:28; 1 Corinthians 7:36, must have been the case among the Corinthians. Further, it is certain that the adversaries of marriage could not be of the Petrine party; for Peter himself was married (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5), and the Judaizing tendency, which cannot be proved to have had an Essene-Ebionitic character in Corinth (Schwegler, I. p. 163 f.[1052]), could be nothing else but favourable to marriage (see Lightfoot, Horae, p. 189). Olshausen (comp also Jaeger, Kniewel, Goldhorn, Ewald) decides for the Christ-party, in whose idealistic tendency he considers there were contained the germs both of moral indifference and of false asceticism. But this party’s idealism in general is a pure hypothesis, which is as little established by proof as their Essenism in particular, to which Ewald traces back the rejection of marriage among the Corinthians.[1054] In the last place, that it was the followers of Paul (Storr, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Pott, Neander, Räbiger, Osiander, Maier; Rückert refuses to give a decision), who—in opposition, perhaps, to the Petrine party, and appealing to the celibacy of Paul himself, he never having been married (see on 1 Corinthians 7:8)—overvalued celibacy, and pronounced marriage to stand lower in point of morality and holiness, is the most likely view, for this reason, that the apostle’s sentiments upon this point were in themselves, as we see from the chapter before us, quite of a kind to be readily misunderstood or misinterpreted by many of his disciples—more especially in partisan interests—as being unfavourable to marriage.[1055] It merely required that men should overlook or wish to overlook the conditional character of the advantages which he ascribes to single life. The opponents of marriage referred to in 1 Timothy 4:3 were of a totally different class. Those with whom we are now concerned did not forbid marriage and so endanger Christian liberty (otherwise Paul would have written regarding them in quite another tone), but simply undervalued it, placing it morally below celibacy, and advising against it, hence, too, as respects married persons, favouring a cessation from matrimonial intercourse and even divorce (1 Corinthians 7:3 ff., 1 Corinthians 7:10 ff.).

καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ] With respect to what you have written to me (ΠΕΡῚ Κ.Τ.Λ[1056], absolute, as in 1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12; Bernhardy, p. 261; Bremi, a[1057] Demosth. Ol. p. 194; Maetzner, a[1058] Antiph. p. 170), it is good for a man, etc., that is to say: it is morally salutary[1059] for an (unmarried) man not to touch a woman. That, in a general theoretical point of view, is the prevailing axiom, which I hereby enunciate as my decision; but in a practical point of view, seeing that few have the gift of continence, the precept must come in: because of fornication, etc., 1 Corinthians 7:2. In Paul’s eyes, therefore, the γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι is, indeed, something morally salutary in and by itself; but this affirmation, made from a general point of view, finds its necessary limitation and restriction in the actual facts of the case, so that just according to circumstances marriage may be equally a duty. Hence the καλὸν κ.τ.λ[1060] is not appropriate for the defence of celibacy in general (“si bonum est mulierem non tangere, malum ergo est tangere,” Jerome, a[1061] Jovin. i. 4, and see especially Cornelius a Lapide in loc[1062]).

ἍΠΤΕΣΘΑΙ, like tangere in the sense of sexual intercourse (Genesis 20:16; Genesis 21:11; Proverbs 6:29). See Wetstein and Kypke, II. p. 204 f. Marriage is the particular case coming under this general γυναικὸς ἅπτεσθαι, to be treated of in detail hereafter. Rückert, failing to recognise this progress in the apostle’s argument (so, too, Kling in the Stud. u. Krit. 1839, p. 444), holds that the reference is to sexual intercourse in marriages already formed (and that nothing is said of entering into matrimonial connections). Did Paul, as Kling supposes, here give it as his opinion that “a chaste life, as of brother and sister, was more consonant, on the part of married persons, with delicacy of moral feeling” (καλόν); this would be a sentimental error, which ought not to be attributed to him, whether considered in itself, or in view of his high appreciation of marriage as a union of the sexes (2 Corinthians 11:2; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:28 ff.).

The axiom is enunciated without a μέν, because it is, in the first place, conceived simply in itself; the limitation which follows is added with δέ by way of antithesis. Comp on Ephesians 5:8, and Fritzsche, a[1064] Rom. II. p. 433. Precisely so, too, in 1 Corinthians 7:8.

[1050] If the opinion that fornication was lawful (1 Corinthians 6:12 ff.) arose at Corinth out of an Epicurean libertinism, the doubts regarding the lawfulness of marriage must have flowed from the opposite source, to wit, from the perverted moral extravagance of others, who, because of the intercourse of sex involved, counted marriage also an impure thing, and would have the maxim: καλὸν ἀνθμώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι, to be of absolute and universal application.

[1051] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1052] One section of the Essenes even declared itself against celibacy, Josephus, Bell. ii. 8. 13; Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 185.

[1054] According to Ewald (comp. too, his Gesch. der apost. Zeit. p. 503 f.), the Christ-party appealed to the example of Christ in regard to this point especially. But had that been the case, we should surely have found some traces of it in Paul’s way of discussing the question, whereas, on the contrary, the reference which he deems it due to make is rather to his own example (ver. 7). Looking at the matter as a whole, it is prima facie improbable that any one should have adduced the unwedded life of Christ as an argument against marriage—in the first place, because He, as the incarnate Son of God, held too lofty a place in the believing consciousness to present a standard for such earthly relationships; and secondly, because He Himself in His teaching had so strongly upheld the sanctity of marriage.

[1055] Just as they were often misinterpreted, as is well known, in after times in the interests of the celibate system, of nunneries and monasteries.

[1056] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1057] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1058] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1059] That we have in καλὸν κ.τ.λ. a moral axiom, a statement of what is ethically salutary, not a mere utilitarian principle of practical prudence, is clear, especially from the comparison in the last clause of ver. 9, and from vv. 32–34, where the ethical benefit of it is explained.

[1060] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1061] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1062] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1064] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9. § 20. MARRIAGE OR CELIBACY? At this point the Ap. takes up the questions addressed to him by the Cor[993] Church (see Introd., chap. 2). In replying to Paul’s previous letter, they had asked for clearer instructions to regulate their intercourse with men living in heathen sins (1 Corinthians 7:5); this request led up to the inquiries respecting the desirability of marriage, respecting the duties of married Christians, and the lawfulness of divorce for a Christian married to a heathen, with which ch. 7 is occupied. The headings of 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:25, chh. 8, 11, 16, indicate various matters on which the Cor[994] had consulted their Ap. The local impress and temporary aim of the directions here given on the subject of marriage must be borne in mind; otherwise Paul’s treatment will appear to be narrow and unsympathetic, and out of keeping with the exalted sense of its spiritual import disclosed in Ephesians 5. Indeed, ch. 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 of this Ep. show that P. had larger conception on the relations of man and woman than are here unfolded. The obscurity of expression attaching to several passages betrays the writer’s embarrassment; this was due partly to the low moral sensibility of the Cor[995], and partly to the uncertain continuance of the existing order of life (1 Corinthians 7:26-31), which weighed with the Ap. at the time of writing and led him to discourage the formation of domestic ties. In later Epistles, when the present economy had opened out into a larger perspective, the ethics of marriage and the Christian household are worthily developed (see Col. and Eph.).

[993] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[994] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[995] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Ch. 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. Advice concerning Marriage and Celibacy

1. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me] The newly converted Corinthians had evidently found themselves in a difficulty concerning marriage. The Jews in general, whatever ascetics like the Essenes and Therapeutæ among them may have done, set a high value upon it; while the best of the heathen philosophers were inclined to depreciate it, and certain sayings of our Lord (see St Matthew 19:5-12) seemed to support their view. The Corinthians had evidently written to consult St Paul on the point. The Apostle’s advice may be thus summarized: that though the unmarried were, from their freedom from all entangling ties, most at liberty to serve God in any way that He might put before them, and though in the present season of temptation and persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:28) the unmarried would be spared much trial and anguish which would fall heavily upon married persons, yet that it was the duty of those who, in an unmarried state, were in danger of offending against that solemn law of Christian purity which he had just laid down, to “marry, and so keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s Body.” The growth in these luxurious days of habits at variance with the simple and unostentatious life of the true Christian, places great difficulties in the way of those who would follow St Paul’s advice, and is, therefore, the cause of an amount of immorality and misery which it were better to prevent than to be compelled to cure.

1 Corinthians 7:1. Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote) He sets before us his subject at the first with elegance, rather generally than particularly. The apostles in their epistles often treat of marriage; the apostle Paul alone, once and not of his own accord, but when he was asked, advises celibacy, and that too very gently. [So far is this from being a subject, which ought to be obtruded upon mankind by human precepts.—V.g.]—καλὸν, good) This agrees with the feeling, which pervades the preceding chapter. Comp. below 1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:34, in the middle of the verse, 35 at the end, 40. It is good, i.e. becoming, suitable, for the sake of liberty and exemption from what is due [by a husband to his wife], 1 Corinthians 7:3, and for the sake of keeping one’s ‘power,’ which he has over himself undiminished, 1 Corinthians 7:4; though on the other hand touching, 1 Corinthians 7:1, has always modesty as its accompaniment among them that are chaste.—ἀνθρώπῳ, for a man) in general, although he be not a Christian, 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:26.—γυναικὸς, a woman) and in like manner for the woman not to be touched. In what follows, the one relation involves the other.

Verses 1-40. - Answers to the inquiries of the Corinthians respecting marriage. Verses 1-11. - The lawfulness of marriage, and its duties. Verse 1. - Now concerning. This refers to questions of the Corinthians (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1). It is good for a man not to touch a woman. The word used is not agathon, good, but kalon, fair; "an excellent thing." In ver. 26 he limits the word by the clause, "good for the present necessity." There is no limitation here, and it is probable that St. Paul is quoting the actual words of the letter which he had received from Corinth. There had sprung up among them some antinomians, who, perhaps by perverting his own teaching or that of Apollos, had made liberty a cloak of lasciviousness. In indignant reaction against such laxity, others, perhaps, with Essene proclivities, had been led to disparage matrimony as involving an inevitable stain. Gnosticism, and the spirit which led to it, oscillated between the two extremes of asceticism and uncleanness. Both extremes were grounded on the assertion that matter is inherently evil. Ascetic Gnostics, therefore, strove to destroy by severity every carnal impulse; antinomian Gnostics argued that the life of the spirit was so utterly independent of the flesh that what the flesh did was of no consequence. We find the germs of Gnostic heresy long before the name appeared. Theoretically, St. Paul inclines to the ascetic view, not in the abstract, but in view of the near advent of Christ, and of the cares, distractions, and even trials which marriage involved in days of struggle and persecution. Yet his wisdom is shown in the cautious moderation with which he expresses himself. The tone of the letter written by Gregory the Great to Augustine with reference to similar inquiries about Saxon converts is very different. The example of St. Paul should have shown the mediaeval moralists and even the later Fathers how wrong it is "to give themselves airs of certainty on points where certainty is not to be had." Not to touch a woman. St. Paul means generally "not to marry" (comp. Genesis 20:4 [LXX.]). Celibacy under the then existing conditions of the Christian world is, he admits, in itself an honourable and morally salutary thing, though, for the majority, marriage may be a positive duty. He is not dreaming of the nominal marriages of mediaeval ascetics, for he assumes and directs that all who marry should live in conjugal union. 1 Corinthians 7:1It is good (καλὸν)

See on John 10:11. Not merely expedient, but morally salutary. The statement, however, is made in the light of circumstances, see 1 Corinthians 7:26, and is to be read with others, such as 2 Corinthians 11:2; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:28-33, in all which marriage is made the type of the union between Christ and His Church. See also Hebrews 13:4.

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