1 Corinthians 7:34
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
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7:25-35 Considering the distress of those times, the unmarried state was best. Notwithstanding, the apostle does not condemn marriage. How opposite are those to the apostle Paul who forbid many to marry, and entangle them with vows to remain single, whether they ought to do so or not! He exhorts all Christians to holy indifference toward the world. As to relations; they must not set their hearts on the comforts of the state. As to afflictions; they must not indulge the sorrow of the world: even in sorrow the heart may be joyful. As to worldly enjoyments; here is not their rest. As to worldly employment; those that prosper in trade, and increase in wealth, should hold their possessions as though they held them not. As to all worldly concerns; they must keep the world out of their hearts, that they may not abuse it when they have it in their hands. All worldly things are show; nothing solid. All will be quickly gone. Wise concern about worldly interests is a duty; but to be full of care, to have anxious and perplexing care, is a sin. By this maxim the apostle solves the case whether it were advisable to marry. That condition of life is best for every man, which is best for his soul, and keeps him most clear of the cares and snares of the world. Let us reflect on the advantages and snares of our own condition in life; that we may improve the one, and escape as far as possible all injury from the other. And whatever cares press upon the mind, let time still be kept for the things of the Lord.Between a wife and a virgin, - Between a woman that is married and one that is unmarried. The apostle says that a similar difference between the condition of her that is married and her that is unmarried takes place, which had been observed between the married and the unmarried man. The Greek word here (μεμέρισται memeristai) may mean, "is divided," and be rendered, "the wife and the virgin are divided in the same manner;" that is, there is the same difference in their case as exists between the married and the unmarried man.

The unmarried women ... - Has more advantages for attending to the things of religion; has fewer temptations to neglect her proper duty to God.

Both in body and in spirit - Entirely holy; that she may be entirely devoted to God. Perhaps in her case the apostle mentions the "body," which he had not done in the case of the man, because her temptation would be principally in regard to that - the danger of endeavoring to decorate and adorn her person to please her husband,

How she may please her husband - The apostle here intends, undoubtedly, to intimate that there were dangers to personal piety in the married life, which would not occur in a state of celibacy; and that the unmarried female would have greater opportunities for devotion and usefulness than if married. And he intimates that the married female would be in danger of losing her zeal and marring her piety, by attention to her husband, and by a constant effort to please him. Some of the ways in which this might be done are the following:

(1) As in the former case 1 Corinthians 7:33, her affections might be transferred from God to the partner of her life.

(2) her time will be occupied by an attention to him and to his will; and there would be danger that that attention would be allowed to interfere with her hours of secret retirement and communion with God.

(3) her time will be necessarily broken in upon by the cares of a family, and she should therefore guard with special vigilance, that she may redeem time for secret communion with God.

(4) the time which she before gave to benevolent objects, may now be given to please her husband. Before her marriage she may have been distinguished for zeal, and for active efforts in every plan of doing good; subsequently, she may lay aside this zeal, and withdraw from these plans, and be as little distinguished as others.

(5) her piety may be greatly injured by false notions of what should be done to please her husband. If he is a worldly and fashionable man, she may seek to please him by "gold, and pearls, and costly array." Instead of cultivating the ornament of "a meek and quiet spirit," her main wish may be to decorate her person, and render herself attractive by the adorning of her person rather than of her MinD.

(6) if he is opposed to religion, or if he has lax opinions on the subject, or if he is sceptical and worldly, she will be in danger of relaxing in her views in regard to the strictness of Christianity, and of becoming conformed to his. She will insensibly become less strict in regard to Sunday, the Bible, the prayer meeting, the Sunday School, the plans of Christian benevolence, the doctrines of the gospel.

(7) to please him, she will be found in the frivilous circle, perhaps in the assembly room, or even the theater, or amidst companies of gaiety and amusement, and will forget that she is professedly devoted only to God. And,

(8) She is in danger, as the result of all this, of forsaking her old religious friends, the companions of purer, brighter days, the humble and devoted friends of Jesus; and of seeking society among the frivilous, the rich, the proud, the worldly. Her piety thus is injured; she becomes worldly and vain, and less and less like Christ; until heaven, perhaps, in mercy smites her idol, and he dies and leaves her again to the blessedness of single-hearted devotion to God. O! how many a Christian female has thus been injured by an unhappy marriage with a frivilous and worldly man! How often has the church occasion to mourn over piety that is dimmed, benevolence that is quenched, zeal that is extinguished by devotion to a frivilous and worldly husband! How often does humble piety weep over such a scene! How often does the cause of sacred charity sigh! How often is the Redeemer wounded in the house of his friends! And O how often does it become necessary for God to interpose, and to remove by death the object of the affection of his wandering child, and to clothe her in the habiliments of mourning, and to bathe her cheeks in tears, that "by the sadness of the countenance her heart may be made better." Who can tell how many a widow is made such from this cause; who can tell how much religion is injured by thus stealing away the affections from God?

34. difference also—Not merely the unmarried and the married man differ in their respective duties, but also the wife and the virgin. Indeed a woman undergoes a greater change of condition than a man in contracting marriage. There is the same difference between a married woman and a single woman, as there is between a married man and a single man. If a woman be unmarried, and be piously disposed, she hath leisure and opportunity enough to mind the things of God; but if she be married, she will then be obliged to attend secular affairs, to take care for her family, and to please her husband. It is the same thing that was before said of the man. The sense is, that a conjugal relation draws along with it many diversions, from which a single life is free.

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin,.... The word translated "there is difference", stands in some copies at the end of the last verse, and in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, by which it is rendered, "and is divided"; referring to the married man, whose thoughts are distracted with the cares of the world, and his mind divided between the Lord and his wife, between the things that please the one, and those that please the other; so that he cannot attend upon the Lord without distraction, as the unmarried person may; see 1 Corinthians 7:35. But the more generally received reading is what we follow; in which words the apostle shows, that there is just the same difference between a married and an unmarried woman, as there is between a married and an unmarried man. There is no difference in their nature, nor sex, but in their state and condition, and in the cares which involve the one and the other.

The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord; not everyone that is unmarried, but one that has the grace of God, being in a single state; as such an one is more at leisure, and can more conveniently attend on the service of the Lord, so she ought, and generally speaking does: and her end in so doing is,

that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; not in body only, but in spirit also; for outward chastity, without internal holiness, will be of little avail: but as a close adherence to the Lord, and to his worship and service, may be a means of preserving from external pollutions of the body, so likewise of carrying on the internal work of grace upon the soul; not that it is to be thought that unmarried persons are the only ones that are holy in body and spirit; there are some that are so in neither; and there are many married persons that are chaste in their bodies, and possess their vessels in sanctification and honour, and are blessed with inward spiritual purity.

But she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband; not by beautifying and adorning herself with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; though this is all that some care for; but with good works, taking care of her household and family affairs, bringing up her children in an orderly manner, honouring and obeying her husband, doing everything to oblige him, and to engage his love and affection to her, as becomes her; nor is this said of her by way of criticism, only that such is her state and situation in life, that she has not the opportunities and advantages the unmarried person has of serving the Lord; on which account the single life is represented as most advisable to abide in.

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in {f} spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

(f) Mind.

1 Corinthians 7:34. Taking the reading μεμέρ. κ. ἡ γυνὴ κ. ἡ παρθένος (see the critical remarks), we have: The wife, too, and the maiden are divided,[1240] i.e. they are severed from each other as regards their interests, are separate in what they care for, personae, quae diversae trahuntur. The way in which μερίζεσθαι is used (see Reiche, Comment. crit. I. p. 195) to denote division into different tendencies, views, party-positions, is well known (Matthew 12:25-26; Mark 3:24-26; Polybius, viii. 23. 9; Herodian, iii. 10. 6, iv. 3. 3); but the expression is selected here in reference to the different kinds of μεριμνᾶν. Theophylact says well: Οὐ ΤῊΝ ΑὐΤῊΝ ἜΧΟΥΣΙ ΦΡΟΝΤΊΔΑ, ἌΛΛΑ ΜΕΜΕΡΙΣΜΈΝΑΙ ΕἸΣῚ ΤΑῖς ΣΠΟΥΔΑῖς, ΚΑῚ Ἡ ΜῈΝ ΠΕΡῚ ἌΛΛΑ ΣΠΟΥΔΆΖΕΙ, Ἡ ΔῈ ΠΕΡῚ ἌΛΛΑ. Comp Theodoret. The simple rendering: “There is a difference” (Chrysostom, Luther, Grotius, Mosheim, Zachariae, Heydenreich, and others), would still conduct one back to the sense divisa est, but would give too general and meaningless an idea.

Μεμέρ. is in the singular, because it stands at the head of the sentence, and ἡ γυνὴ κ. ἡ παρθένος embraces the female sex as a whole made up of two halves. Comp Kühner, II. p. 58 f.; Bernhardy, p. 416; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 110 f. [E. T. 126].

ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία Κ.Τ.Λ[1243]] Comp 2 Corinthians 7:1. This moral consecration to God of her whole personality, which she strives after, is the πῶς ἀρέσει τῷ Κυρίῳ explicated. One can hardly conceive that Paul avoided the latter phrase on the ground of possible misconstruction (Hofmann). This, considering the sacredness of the idea of ἀρέσκειν τῷ Κυρίῳ, would be a piece of prudery, which is unlike him.

[1240] If we adopt Lachmann’s reading (defended especially by Hammond among the older expositors), which Ewald also follows (leaving out, however, the second ἡ ἄγαμος), the meaning will be: The married man cares … how he may please his wife, and is divided (in his interest). And the unmarried wife (widowed or divorced) and the unmarried maiden cares, etc. Hofmann, too, prefers this reading, taking the καί, which it has before ἡ γυνή, in the sense of also. The betrothed maiden, in his opinion, is no longer ἄγαμος. But in the whole context there is only the simple distinction made between married and unmarried persons. Betrothed maidens, too, belong to the latter class; comp. ver. 36: γαμείτωσαν.

[1243] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.


There is no ground for inferring from 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 that Paul, himself unwedded, looked “somewhat askance” upon marriage (Rückert). To assume any such onesidedness of view on his part would be a very hasty proceeding (see on 1 Corinthians 7:2). On the contrary, what we have here is not his view of how, from the nature of the case, things must necessarily subsist,[1245] but only his experience of how in point of fact they usually did subsist. This experience he (ὁ ἄγαμος) had arrived at, on the one hand, by consideration of his own case and that of many other unmarried persons; and, on the other, by observing the change of interests which was wont to set in with those who married. We have here, therefore, a purely empirical support for the preference of celibacy,—a preference, however, which with Paul is simply relative, depending upon the nearness of the Parousia and the end of the world, and also upon the subjective gift of being holy in body and spirit (comp Acts 14:4). The expectation of these events being so near has remained unfulfilled, and thereby is invalidated the Pauline support which has been often found in our text for celibacy, which, as a legal requirement, is in principle thoroughly un-Pauline (comp 1 Corinthians 7:35). The apostle, moreover, is speaking generally, and not to one special class among his readers.

[1245] Paul himself, it is plain, had intercourse with numbers of eminent servants and handmaids of the Lord (Priscilla, etc.) who were married. This in opposition to Cropp in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche, Theol. 1866, p. 102.

34. There is difference also] The text is here in great confusion, and there is great variety of punctuation among the editors. The Vulgate and Calvin, who are followed by many modern editors, translate thus: He that is married careth for the things of this life, how he may please his wife, and is distracted. And the unmarried woman and the virgin (some read unmarried virgin) careth for the things of the Lord. There are two objections to this rendering: (1) The term unmarried woman is a singular one to apply either to a widow, or to a married woman living apart from her husband; and (2) it is difficult to see how the Apostle could commend the latter in the face of his express prohibition of separation save in the particular case mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16. Wordsworth translates, “The wife and the virgin, each has her appointed lot,” thus keeping the original meaning of the word here used. See also 1 Corinthians 7:17, where it is translated distributed, and also 2 Corinthians 10:13 and ch. 1 Corinthians 1:13.

1 Corinthians 7:34. Μεμέρισται καὶ ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος) That is, there is a difference alse between a wife and a virgin. Not only the unmarried and the married man have duties differing from each other; but also the duties of the wife, and virgin (of the female sex) differ as far as possible from each other. Some connect the word μεμέρισται, having the particle καὶ also before it,[60] by a different pointing, with the foregoing words, but Paul refers it to those which follow. The difference, namely between marriage and celibacy, each of which claims for itself a different class of duties, rather refers to women than to men; for the woman is the helper of the man;—the woman undergoes a greater change of her condition, than the man, in contracting marriage; comp. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40. Further, he is speaking here chiefly of virgins, 1 Corinthians 7:25 : therefore the word μεμέρισται is particularly well adapted to this place; and the singular number does not prevent it from being construed with wife and virgin. So 2 Kings 10:5, in the Hebrew, He that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also and the bringers tip of the children SENT” [singular verb] (Heb. ישלח), so below, 1 Corinthians 9:6, Ἢ ΜΟΝΟΣ ἘΓῺ ΚΑῚ ΒΑΡΝΆΒΑς, Κ.Τ.Λ., “or I ONLY [instead of ΜΟΝΟΊ] and Barnabas.”—ἽΝΑ Ἡ ἈΓΊΑ, that she may be holy) She thus pleases the Lord, if she be holy, being wholly devoted to him. Holiness here implies something more than at 1 Corinthians 7:14.

[60] Lachm. reads καὶ μεμέρισται καὶ with AB Vulg., and punctuates thus, γυναικί, καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ, etc., G fg read μεμέρισται καὶ. Tischend. reads as Lachm., but puts the full stop at γυναικί.—ED.

Verse 34. - There is difference also, etc. The reading, punctuation, and exact sense are surrounded with uncertainty, which does not, however, affect the general meaning. This is probably given correctly in our English Version. He implies that the married woman must of necessity be more of a Martha than a Mary. Nevertheless, two things are certain:

(1) that God intended marriage to be the normal lot; and

(2) that marriage is by no means incompatible with the most absolute saintliness.

It is probable that most, if not all, of the apostles were married men (1 Corinthians 9:5). The spirit of St. Paul's advice - the avoidance of distraction, and the determination that our duty to God shall not be impaired by earthly relationships - remains eternally significant. Another common way of punctuating the words is, "The married man cares.., how he may please his wife, and is divided [in interests]." 1 Corinthians 7:34There is a difference

The textual question here is very perplexing, and it is well-nigh impossible to explain the differences to the English reader. He must observe, 1st. That γυνὴ wife is also the general term for woman, whether virgin, married, or widow. 2nd. That μεμέρισται A.V., there is a difference, literally means, is divided, so that the literal rendering of the A.V., would be, the wife and the virgin are divided. Some of the best texts insert καὶ and both before and after is divided, and join that verb with the close of 1 Corinthians 7:33, so that it reads: careth for the things of the world how he may please his wife, and he is distracted. This makes γυνὴ and παρθένος (A.V., wife and virgin) begin a new sentence connected with the preceding by καὶ and Γυνὴ is rendered woman, and the words η αγαμος the unmarried, instead of beginning a sentence as A.V., are placed directly after woman as a qualifying phrase, so that the reading is ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος the unmarried woman, and both this and ἡ παρθένος the virgin are nominative to μεριμνᾷ careth. The whole, then, from the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7:33, will read: But he who is married careth for the things of the world how he may please his wife, and he is distracted; and the unmarried woman and the virgin care for the things of the Lord.

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