1 Corinthians 9:5
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
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(5) To lead about a sister, a wifei.e., to take with us on our journeys a Christian woman as a wife. Roman divines have interpreted this as referring to “the custom of Christian matrons attending as sisters upon the Apostles.” But as the Apostle illustrates his meaning by a reference to Peter, who we know had a wife, such an interpretation is inadmissible. St. Paul, in this verse, carries his statement of apostolic right to support one step further. Not only had he a right to be supported himself, but the support of the married Apostles and their wives by the Church implied the same right on the part of all. A practice which grew out of a misapprehension of the real meaning of this passage, led to grave scandal, and was finally condemned by the first Council of Nicæa (A.D. 325).

The brethren of the Lord, and Cephas.—These are mentioned specially, not as distinct from the Apostles (for Cephas, of course, was one), but as examples which would have great weight with the particular Jewish faction to whom this argument was adduced. James was Bishop of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18). The other brethren of our Lord were Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). They were not of the twelve Apostles, even after their conversion being mentioned as distinct from the Twelve (Acts 1:14), although James subsequently occupied an apostolic position (Galatians 2:9). Various and ingenious suggestions have been made as to who these “brethren of the Lord” were; amongst others, that they were cousins, or that they were children of Joseph by a former marriage. These views grew out of a desire to establish the perpetual virginity of Mary. The natural conclusion from a study of the mention of their names in the Gospels, without preconceived prejudice, would be that Joseph and Mary lived together after the miraculous birth of Christ, and that these were their children. This, too, is supported by the use of the word “first-born” in reference to our Lord (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7), and the word “till” (Matthew 1:25), and “before they came together” (Matthew 1:18), and the repeated mention of them as brethren in connection with His mother Mary. (See Note on Matthew 12:46.)

9:1-14 It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.Have we not power? - Have we not a right? The objection here seems to have been, that Paul and Barnabas were unmarried, or at least that they traveled without wives. The objectors urged that others had wives, and that they took them with them, and expected provision to be made for them as well as for themselves. They therefore showed that they felt that they had a claim to support for their families, and that they were conscious that they were sent of God. But Paul and Barnabas had no families. And the objectors inferred that they were conscious that they had no claim to the apostleship, and no right to support. To this Paul replies as before, that they had a right to do as others did, but they chose not to do it for other reasons than that they were conscious that they had no such right.

To lead about - To have in attendance with us; to conduct from place to place; and to have them maintained at the expense of the churches amongst which we labor.

A sister, a wife - Margin, "or woman." This phrase has much perplexed commentators. But the simple meaning seems to be, A wife who should be a Christian, and regarded as sustaining the relation of a Christian sister." Probably Paul meant to advert to the fact that the wives of the apostles were and should be Christians; and that it was a matter of course, that if an apostle led about a wife she would be a Christian; or that he would marry no other; compare 1 Corinthians 3:11.

As well as other apostles - It is evident from this that the apostles generally were married. The phrase used here is οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι hoi loipoi apostoloi ("the remaining apostles," or the other apostles). And if they were married, it is right and proper for ministers to marry now, whatever the papist may say to the contrary. It is safer to follow the example of the apostles than the opinions of the papal church. The reasons why the apostles had wives with them on their journeys may have been various. They may have been either to give instruction and counsel to those of their own sex to whom the apostles could not have access, or to minister to the needs of their husbands as they traveled. It is to be remembered that they traveled among pagans; they had no acquaintance and no friends there; they therefore took with them their female friends and wives to minister to them, and sustain them in sickness, trial, etc. Paul says that he and Barnabas had a right to do this; but they had not used this right because they chose rather to make the gospel without charge 1 Corinthians 9:18, and that thus they judged they could do more good. It follows from this:

(1) That it is right for ministers to marry, and that the papal doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy is contrary to apostolic example.

(2) it is right for missionaries to marry, and to take their wives with them to pagan lands. The apostles were missionaries, and spent their lives in pagan nations as missionaries do now, and there may be as good reasons for missionaries marrying now as there were then.

(3) yet there are people, like Paul, who can do more good without being married. There are circumstances, like his, where it is not advisable that they should marry, and there can be no doubt that Paul regarded the unmarried state for a missionary as preferable and advisable. Probably the same is to be said of most missionaries at the present day, that they could do more good if unmarried, than they can if burdened with the cares of families.

And as the brethren of the Lord - The brothers of the Lord Jesus, James and Joses, and Simon and Judas, Matthew 13:55. It seems from this, that although at first they did not believe in him John 7:5, and had regarded him as disgraced Mark 3:21, yet that they had subsequently become converted, and were employed as ministers and evangelists. It is evident also from this statement that they were married, and were attended with their wives in their travels.

And Cephas - Peter; see the note at John 1:42. This proves:

(1) as well as the declaration in Matthew 8:14, that Peter had been married.

(2) that he had a wife after he became an apostle, and while engaged in the work of the ministry.

(3) that his wife accompanied him in his travels.

(4) that it is right and proper for ministers and missionaries to be married now.

Is it not strange that the pretended successor of Peter, the pope of Rome, should forbid marriage when Peter himself was married? Is it not a proof how little the papacy regards the Bible, and the example and authority of those from whom it pretends to derive its power? And is it not strange that this doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy, which has been the source of abomination, impurity, and licentiousness everywhere, should have been sustained and countenanced at all by the Christian world? And is it not strange that this, with all the other corrupt doctrines of the papacy, should be attempted to be imposed on the enlightened people of the United States, or of Great Britain, as a part of the religion of Christ?

5. lead about a sister, a wife—that is, "a sister as a wife"; "a sister" by faith, which makes all believers brethren and sisters in the one family of God: "a wife" by marriage covenant. Paul implies he did not exercise his undoubted right to marry and "lead about" a believer, for the sake of Christian expediency, as well to save the Church the expense of maintaining her in his wide circuits, as also that he might give himself more undistractedly to building up the Church of Christ (1Co 7:26, 32, 35). Contrast the Corinthians' want of self-sacrifice in the exercise of their "liberty" at the cost of destroying, instead of edifying, the Church (1Co 8:9, Margin; 1Co 8:10-13).

as other apostles—implying that some of them had availed themselves of the power which they all had, of marrying. We know from Mt 8:14, that Cephas (Peter) was a married man. A confutation of Peter's self-styled followers, the Romanists, who exclude the clergy from marriage. Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 7.63] records a tradition that he encouraged his wife when being led to death by saying, "Remember, my dear one, the Lord." Compare Eusebius [Eccleiastical History, 3.30].

brethren of the Lord—held in especial esteem on account of their relationship to Jesus (Ac 1:14; Ga 1:9). James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Probably cousins of Jesus: as cousins were termed by the Jews "brethren." Alford makes them literally brothers of Jesus by Joseph and Mary.

Cephas—probably singled out as being a name carrying weight with one partisan section at Corinth. "If your favorite leader does so, surely so may I" (1Co 1:12; 3:22).

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife? Those that by those terms, adelfhn, gunaika, understand, not (as we translate it) a sister, a wife, but a woman, that should out of her estate have contributed to the apostle’s maintenance, (as Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, followed Christ, and ministered to him of their substance, Luke 8:3), seem not to consider:

1. That such women would have been no burden, but a help to the church (which is quite contrary to the apostle’s sense).

2. That the term lead about, imports a conjugal relation to the woman.

3. That if this had been the sense, it had been enough to have said, to lead about a woman; he should not need have said, a sister, a woman.

4. That such leading about a woman, not their wife, had been scandalous.

5. That the very phrase, a sister, a wife, answers the phrase, Acts 23:1, Men, brethren, which signifies no more than, O ye Christian men; as a sister, a wife, signifies here a Christian wife.

6. That we no where read, that Peter, James, John, Judas, (here called the brethren of the Lord), or any of the other apostles, ever in their travels carried about with them any such rich matrons, not their wives, who (as those, Luke 8:3) ministered to them of their substance. Our interpreters have therefore justly translated it, a sister, a wife; and the sense is: Have I not power to marry? Yet the phrase teaches us two things:

a) That Christians have no power, that is, no lawful power, to marry such as are no Christians, their wives must be their sisters also in Christ.

b) That husbands and wives ought to be undivided companions one to another.

As well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas: he instanceth in several apostles that were married, Peter, (called Cephas), James, John, and Judas the son of Alpheus, Christ’s kinsmen. Whence we may observe, that ministers may lawfully marry, no law of God hath restrained them more than others. The popish doctrine forbidding to marry, is by the apostle determined to be a doctrine of devils, 1 Timothy 4:1,3.

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife,.... The phrase "a sister, a wife", is an Hebraism, and answers to "my sister, spouse", Sol 4:9. The Jews called their wives, sisters, not on account of religion, which also is not the meaning here; but because of the common relation that men and women, all mankind, stand in to one another, antecedent to any nearer relation, as that of man and wife. The sense the Papists put on these words, to secure them from being a proof of the lawfulness of the marriage of the ministers of the Gospel, can by no means be the true one; which is, that they are to be understood of a rich woman, or women, the apostles had a power to carry about with them, to minister of their substance to them, and provide for them; for such a sense is directly contrary to the subject and argument the apostle is upon; which is to show the right that he and others had, of casting themselves entirely upon the churches for a maintenance; whereas this is contriving a way for relieving the churches of such a charge; besides, the act of "leading", or carrying "about", is expressive of such a power over them, as cannot be thought to agree with persons of such substance; and whose voluntary act this must be, to go along with them and supply them; add to this, that for the apostles to lead about with them wherever they went women, whether rich or poor, that were not their wives, would be of no good report, and must tend to hurt their character and reputation: moreover, though these words clearly imply the lawfulness of a minister's marriage, and suppose it, yet they do not express the act itself, or the lawfulness of entering into such a state, but rather what follows after it; and the sense is this, that the apostle and others, supposing them to have wives, and it may be added also, and children, they had a right to take these with them wherever they went, and insist upon the maintenance of them, as well as of their own, at the public expense:

as well as other apostles; who it seems did so, that had wives and families, as Philip the Evangelist had four daughters, Acts 21:8.

And as the brethren of the Lord: who it seems were married persons, and took such a method; by whom are meant James, Joses, Judas, and Simon; who were the near kinsmen of Christ, it being usual with the Jews to call such brethren:

and Cephas; that is, Peter, who it is certain had a wife; see Matthew 8:14 and therefore it is with a very ill grace that the pope, who pretends to be Peter's successor, should forbid the marriage of ecclesiastical persons.

Have we not power to lead about a {e} sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

(e) One that is a Christian and a true believer.

5. Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife] The ordinary interpretation of this passage is (1) that St Paul here asserts his right, if he pleased, to take with him a wife who was a member of the Christian body, and to have her maintained at the expense of the community. The word sister, like the words brother, brethren, is equivalent to ‘member of the Christian Church’ in Romans 16:1; St James 2:15; 2 John 1:13 (perhaps) and ch. 1 Corinthians 7:15 of this Epistle. This privilege was claimed by the other Apostles with a view, as Stanley suggests, of obtaining access to the women, who in the East usually dwelt apart. But there is (2) another interpretation which would translate the word here rendered wife by woman (as in the margin of our version), and suppose that the tie which connected St Paul with the Christian woman he claimed to ‘lead about’ with him was nothing but that of their common Christianity. In support of this view St Luke 8:2-3, is quoted. This opinion can be traced back as far as Tertullian in the second century. But St Paul speaks of only one such person, and it is improbable that in a society so corrupt as the heathen society of that age everywhere was, the Apostles of Christ would have run so serious a risk of misconstruction as would have been involved in such a practice. The conduct of Simon Magus, who led about with him a woman of scandalous character, the misinterpretations so common in the Apostolic age of the innocent affection of the Christians for each other, and of their nightly meetings, shew how necessary prudence was. Besides, this interpretation misses the point of the argument, which was, that the original twelve Apostles claimed the right to throw not only their own maintenance, but that of the members of their families, upon the Church. The various readings found in this passage would seem to have been introduced to support the view that a wife could not here be intended.

the brethren of the Lord] These have been regarded (1) as the children of Joseph and Mary, (2) the children of Joseph by a former wife, (3) as the kinsmen of our Lord, the word brother having been used in Hebrew to denote any near relation. See Genesis 13:8; Genesis 29:12; Leviticus 10:4. The question has been hotly debated. (1) or (2) seem the more obvious interpretation of the words; but in support of (3) we find from Scripture and ecclesiastical history that the names of our Lord’s brethren James and Joses and Simon and Judas were also the names of the sons of Alphæus, who were our Lord’s cousins. See St Matthew 13:55; Matthew 27:56; St Luke 24:10; St John 19:25. Also St Matthew 10:3; St Mark 3:18; St Luke 6:16; and Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. iii. 11, 32. See Professor Lightfoot on the Epistle to the Galatians. Also Professor Plumptre on St James, in the present series.

1 Corinthians 9:5. Ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα, a sister, a wife) Expressed in the nominative case this is the proposition implied, this sister is my wife; wherefore the name, sister, does not prevent marriage.—περιάγειν, to lead about) an abbreviated expression[73] for to have and to lead about; for he had no wife. Expense was laid upon the Churches, not from having, but from leading about a wife.—ὡς, as well as) this word also refers to 1 Corinthians 9:4.—οἱ λοιποὶ, the others) The article shows that all the others had done so. We may presume the same of John.—καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου, and the brethren of the Lord) Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19.—καὶ Κηφᾶς, and Cephas) There is a gradation here; comp. 1 Corinthians 3:22, note.

[73] See Appendix, “locutio concisa.”

Verse 5. - To lead about a sister, a wife. There can be no doubt that this represents the true reading, and that the meaning is, "We have power to lead about, that is, to travel in company with, some Christian sister to whom we are married, and who is supported at the expense of the Church." This plain meaning, however, involving the assertion that the apostles and desposyni ("the Lord's brethren") were married men, was so distasteful to the morbid asceticism which held celibacy in a sort of Manichaean reverence, that the scribes of the fourth, fifth, and later centuries freely tampered with the text, in the happily fruitless attempt to get rid of this meaning. They endeavoured, by putting the word in the plural or by omitting "wife," to suggest that the women whom the apostles travelled with were "deaconesses." Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, and others explain the verse of "ministering women" (Luke 8:2, 3). The false interpretation avenged itself on the bias which led to it. Valla adopts the wilful invention that the apostles, though married, travelled with their wives only as sisters. Such subterfuges have eaten away the heart of honest exegesis from many passages of Scripture, and originated the taunt that it is a "nose of wax," which readers can twist as they like. It was the cause of such shameful abuses and misrepresentations that at last the practice of travelling about with unmarried women, who went under the name of "sisters," "beloved," "companions," was distinctly forbidden by the third canon of the first Council of Nice. Simon Magus might unblushingly carry about with him a Tyrian woman named Helena; but apostles and true Christians would never have been guilty of any conduct which could give a handle to base suspicions. They travelled only with their wives. A sister. A Christian woman (1 Corinthians 7:15; Romans 16:1; James 2:15, etc.). A wife; i.e. as a wife. Other apostles. This is a positive mistranslation for "the rest of the apostles." It might be too much to infer positively from this that every one of the apostles and desposyni were married; but there is independent evidence and tradition to show that at any rate most of them were. The brethren of the Lord. They are clearly and undeniably distinguished from the apostles. According to the Helvidian theory (to which the plain language of the Gospels seems to point), they were sons of Joseph and Mary. This is the view of St. Clement of Alexandria in ancient times, and writers so different from each other as De Wette, Neander, Osiander, Meyer, Ewald, and Alford, in modern. The theory of Jerome, that they were cousins of Jesus, being sons of Alphseus and Mary, a sister of the Virgin, is on every ground absolutely untenable, and it was half dropped even by St. Jerome himself, when it had served his controversial purpose. The theory of Epiphanius, that they were sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, is possible, but incapable of proof. It comes from a tainted source - the apocryphal Gospels (see my 'Early Days of Christianity,' 2). Cephas. St. Paul also uses the Aramaic name in Galatians 2:9. Peter's wife is mentioned in Matthew 8:14 and in the tradition of her martyrdom (Clem. Alex., 'Strom.,' 7. § 63). 1 Corinthians 9:5A sister, a wife

Wrong. Sister means a christian woman, a fellow-member of the Church, as Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 7:15; James 2:15. It is in apposition with wife: A wife that is a sister or believer. So Rev. Such an one has also the right, like her husband, to be maintained by the Church. Some of the fathers claimed that not a wife was meant, but a female attendant, serviens mantrona, who contributed to the maintenance of the apostles as certain women ministered to Christ. There is no foundation for this. It is contradicted by the example of Peter cited at the end of this verse; compare Matthew 8:14; and besides, the point of the argument is that these companions should be maintained. Such a practice, however, did grow up in the Church, but was abolished by the Council of Nicaea on account of its abuses. Stanley remarks that the fact of these women accompanying their husbands, may be explained by the necessity of females to gain access to and to baptize the female converts in Greece and in oriental countries; the same necessity which gave rise to the order of deaconesses.

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