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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle replies to several questions, about which he was consulted, regarding matrimony and virginity. The first question was, whether a Christian, engaged in marriage, was allowed marriage intercourse? In reply to this question, he tells them, that taking all things into account, it would be better for the married to abstain altogether from marriage intercourse; as a remedy, however, against incontinence, he says they may cohabit, unless it be that they consent, on certain solemn occasions of public prayer, to separate for a short time, after which time they should again continue to live on the same familiar terms as before. This, however, the Apostle does not command them to do, but only allows it by way of indulgence; for, if it were possible, he would prefer that all should lead the same chaste life that he followed himself (verses 1–8).

The next question was, whether it was expedient for the unmarried to engage in the marriage state? In reply, he tells them that it is better for them to remain single, if they can do so without incontinence; if not they should marry (8, 9).

The next question regarded divorce. To this he replies, in accordance with the doctrine of our Redeemer, that the marriage of Christians., once consummated, is indissoluble (10, 11).

The next question regarded the marriage of parties, one of whom is a believer, and the other an unbeliever. He replies, if the unbelieving party wishes to adhere to the marriage contract, and does not interfere with the faith or morals of the believing party, the latter is not free to leave the unbeliever; but, if the unbeliever first break through his marriage contract and abandons the believing party, or does not permit him to enjoy Christian peace—then, the, marriage contract is not binding on the latter (13–17). He then subjoins some counsel respecting other conditions in life generally (17–21).

In the next place, he commends virginity, and gives it a preference before matrimony, for several reasons. He gives a counsel, but he gives no command respecting it; he says, that matrimony is good, but virginity and celibacy are better (25–40).

Paraphrase

1. As to the questions about which you have written to consult me, I say, with reference to the use of matrimony, that it is an act of virtue, or it is better, taking all things into consideration, for a man to abstain from all marriage intercourse with his wife.

2. But in order to avoid fornication and uncleanness of all kinds, let each husband cohabit with his own wife, and each wife with her own husband.

3. Let the wife and husband mutually discharge the marriage debt.

4. Because from the very nature of the marriage contract, the husband and wife have mutually transferred to each other, a power over their persons. They are not, therefore, at liberty to decline discharging the marriage debt, or to make a transfer of their persons to any other parties.

5. Do not, therefore, defraud one another of your just rights, unless it be that abstinence from mutual cohabitation be agreed upon by both parties, and that only for a time, for the purpose of more freely discharging the duty of prayer; and afterwards return to the same marriage intercourse; lest Satan may take occasion from your incontinency to tempt you.

6. But all that I have said regarding marriage intercourse is to be regarded not in the light of a precept, but rather of indulgence or permission in condescension to your infirmity.

7. For I would have you all to be like myself, living in a state of perpetual continence; but, each person has his proper gift from God; one indeed hath this gift and another that.

8. But to the widows and the unmarried, I say, it is good, or, an act of virtue, for them to remain in a single state, such as I myself continue to live in.

9. But if such persons do not contain themselves, then let them have recourse to marriage (as a remedy against concupiscence); it is better to marry than be a slave to the passions of lust.

10. But, with regard to those already engaged in the marriage state, I give them a command, not from myself, but on the authority of the Lord; that the wife should not depart from her husband.

11. But, if from any just cause she depart, she has but one alternative, viz., that of remaining unmarried, or of becoming reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.

12. For, as to the rest, that is to say, the unmarried I have no precept on the part of the Lord to propound. I only give a counsel from myself. In reference to the marriages contracted by you before your conversion, I say, if a Christian have an unbelieving wife, and if she consent to dwell with him, let him not send her away.

13. The same is to be said of a Christian wife similarly circumstanced, in regard to an unbelieving or Pagan husband.

14. The reason of this precept is, that if the unbelieving party consent to remain with the believer, both physically and morally, i.e., without any attempt to seduce him into infidelity or any other mortal sin, the unbelieving party receives a sort of extrinsic sanctity, and becomes disposed for the true sanctity of the faith by such cohabitation; moreover, if a separation took place, your children would be regarded as illegitimate, or, rather, would receive a Pagan, unchristian education; whereas, now, owing to the peaceable cohabitation of the Christian and unbelieving parties, they are permitted to be brought up in a state of sanctity, viz., in the Christian religion.

15. But if the unbelieving party be the first to depart, let him do so: the Christian party is no longer bound by a marriage, the vinculum of which is dissolved. He is no longer subject to the servitude entailed by the painful alternative of either remaining unmarried, or of becoming reconciled to such a person (verse 11). Because God has called us to a state of peace, and not of annoyance of this sort.

16. (Nor should the hope of bringing the other party to embrace the faith, be alleged as a reason for remaining in this state of annoyance; for, the hope of conversion in such a case is by no means so certain); for how dost thou know, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or, how dost thou know, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (therefore, allow the reluctant party to depart, and use thy liberty).

17. But, however, passing over dubious matters, let each person continue to act or live according to the degree of talents or ability granted to him, and in the condition of life in which God has placed him, and in which he was when called to the faith; and this is the doctrine which I teach in all the churches.

18. With regard to the religion out of which each one was called to the faith, if a Jew, when called, let him not affect the manners of the Pagans and desert the synagogue; if a Gentile, let him not submit to the Jewish ceremonies.

19. For circumcision is no avail, neither is uncircumcision. The only thing profitable is the observance of the commandments of God.

20. In whatever state or condition of life a person may chance to be placed, when called, let him remain in that state.

21. If in a state of servitude, be not troubled about it, but even if you could obtain your freedom, avail yourself rather of your former servile condition.

22. For he who is called to the faith, though in a state of servitude, is made the freed man of the Lord, having been freed from the worst state of moral servitude, the slavery of the passions. While in another point of view, the man called to the faith in a state of freedom, is made the slave of Christ; being bound by the indispensable obligation of observing his commandments, or, because he is become such by purchase, at the price of his most precious blood (verse 23).

23. Whether slaves or freemen, you are the purchased slaves of Christ; do not, therefore, enter into any engagement, that might in any way interfere with the service which you owe Christ.

24. Brethren, let every one continue in the state wherein he had been when called to the faith, provided, however, it be such a state as may be persevered in, consistently with the duty which he owes God.

25. With reference to virginity, I have no precept from the Lord to propound enjoining its observance, I have only a counsel to propose on the subject; the counsel, however, of a man, who, through the mercy of God, has been called to the exalted office of the Apostleship, to be a faithful expositor of his holy will.

26. Favoured, therefore, with a knowledge of God’s will and heavenly counsels for the purpose of faithfully expounding them, I give it as my opinion, that it is an exercise of virtue (or, better) for one to remain a virgin, on account of the pressing necessities of the marriage state.

27. While recommending virginity, I by no means wish that persons already engaged in the marriage state, should seek a divorce. All I recommend is, that the unmarried should not engage in marriage.

28. From this it is by no means to be inferred, that to marry is a sin; if a virgin marry, she commits no sin, although by engaging in the marriage state, she and other such shall have to endure the tribulations of the flesh; but I wish to spare you these, by recommending a course which will exempt you from them; viz., a continuance in a state of virginity.

29. What I, then, say to all of you, brethren, is this; the term of this life is but short; the consequence should, therefore, be, that those who have wives should be as if they had them not, the term of enjoyment being so very brief.

30. And those who are sad from enduring tribulations and the crosses of this life, should be like persons neither sad nor weeping; and those who rejoice from prosperity, should not be, in consequence, too much elated; and those who buy and acquire possessions, should be like persons who, having no permanent dominion over earthly goods, merely enjoy their passing use.

31. And those who enjoy the goods of this world should be as persons who indulge not in their immoderate enjoyment; for the outward scene, the external show of this world, quickly passes away.

32. Now, in dissuading you from entering the marriage state, and in exhorting you to celibacy, I have only in view to free you from all the solicitude that interferes with the concerns of the life to come. The man who is without a wife has all his solicitude centered in the things whereby he may serve God in a most perfect degree.

33. Whereas, the married man has his solicitude centered in the things of this world, his whole anxiety is, how he may best please his wife, and thus his care is divided between his wife and God.

34. The same is equally true of the virgin and married woman. The former is anxious about the things of the Lord, and the service of God, preserving her body free from all carnal defilement and her soul from the least stain of sin; whereas, the latter is distracted by the cares of the world, and by endeavouring to please her husband.

35. Now, in all that I have said in praise of virginity, I had solely for object to promote your spiritual interests; I, by no means, intended to lay a snare for you, by deterring you from embracing a lawful state, and forcing you to embrace the state of virginity which may not suit you. I had solely in view to encourage you to embrace that more perfect state, which will afford you greater facilities of serving God without interruption or restraint.

36. If a man thinks himself exposed to ridicule and derision on account of his virgin daughter having passed the flower of her age, and if it must be, that she will marry, he may act as he pleases, he shall not sin, if she marry.

37. For, he who comes to the steadfast determination, without any necessity to pursue a different course, and having free power to act as he pleases; he, I say, who comes to the determination of preserving his virgin in an unmarried state, does well.

38. To remove, then, all difficulties on the subject, he who gives his virgin in marriage, does well—marriage being a lawful state—but he who preserves her in a state of virginity does better, virginity being a more perfect state than marriage.

39. During her husband’s life-time, the woman is bound by the indissoluble tie of the marriage law; but after his death, she is free to marry whom she pleases; he should, however, be a Christian.

40. But she shall be more happy, by remaining according to my advice, in a single state, in the state of holy widowhood; for, in giving this counsel, I am persuaded that I am following the dictates of God’s spirit.

Commentary

1. In this chapter, according to Theodoret, commences the second part of the present Epistle. It appears, from the words of this verse, that he was consulted about certain doubts which the Corinthians entertained on several points both of faith and morals. The first question about which, either the vain teachers, in order to show their zeal for sanctity, or the faithful themselves, for the purpose of prayer, wished to consult him, regarded the lawfulness of marriage intercourse with the wives whom they had espoused before their conversion. To this the Apostle replies that it is “good,” καλον, i.e., an act of virtue; or the word may mean, better to abstain from all such intercourse, which is modestly expressed by the Apostle in the words, “not to touch a woman.” The words convey the avoidance of the slightest sexual intercourse.

2. “Fornication,” is in the plural in the Greek, δια τας πορνειας “Have his own wife.” The word, “have” bears the meaning of, cohabit with, his own wife; in which signification the word is employed (chap 5 verse 1). That there is no precept here conveyed to enter the married state is clear, since the Apostle is evidently addressing those who are already married, as appears from verse 8, where he addresses “the unmarried.” Moreover, if the Apostle delivered a precept here for all Christians to marry, he would be contradicting himself, for he says: “he speaks not by commandment, but by indulgence” (verse 6), and wishes all to be like himself (verse 7), and he tells us (verse 38), that virginity is better than matrimony.

3. Although, in the marriage state, the rights of the husband are more extensive than those of the wife, yet, so far as the marriage debt is concerned, both parties are on a perfect equality; “render the debt,” οφειλην. In the common Greek text, for οφειλην, we have την οφειλομενην ευνοιαν, but this latter reading is rejected by Griesbach and other critics, who prefer the former reading, on the authority of the chief MSS. and versions.

4. “The wife hath not power,” &c. In this verse is assigned a reason for the precept contained in the preceding; both parties have an equal right, in this respect, owing to the very nature of the marriage contract.

5. “Defraud not one another.” The word “defraud” shows the strict justice of the marriage debt. “That you may give yourselves to prayer.” This does not refer to the ordinary exercise of prayer, which men are enjoined to practise at all times; it refers to their meeting at public prayer and sacrifice, where, in compliance with early usage, all present partook of holy communion. Hence, the Church counsels the married to abstain from the marriage intercourse some time before holy communion, and that for greater purity of soul. Even in the Old Law, the priests, while engaged in the ministry of the temple, were obliged to abstain from their wives.

In the Greek copies, “fasting” is added to “prayer,” thus: That you may give your selves to (fasting) and prayer. In the reading of St. Chrysostom and Theophylact, and many other Greek copies, the word “fasting” is not, however, found; nor does it well accord with the Greek word for “give yourselves to,” (σχολαζητε). “And return together again,” &c., i.e., after the time of public prayer has expired, return again to your former terms of intimacy, lest Satan, taking advantage of your incontinency and infirmity, may tempt you to more grievous sins. The words “your incontinency,” may, in the construction, be connected with the words, “return together again,” thus: return again to the same marriage intercourse to avoid incontinency, lest otherwise Satan might tempt you. This construction is rendered probable by a similar passage (verse 2), “for fear of fornication,” where the same idea is conveyed by the Apostle as here.

6. All that the Apostle has said about “each man having his own wife,” &c. (verse 2), and “return together again” to marriage intercourse, &c., is not a precept, but an indulgence or permission which he grants in condescension to their weakness, and of which they may decline availing themselves, should they please. It is not likely that “indulgence” supposes the opposite course to be sinful; for, St. Paul, instead of permitting a sinful course, would counsel them to avoid all sin whatsoever.

7. It is the common opinion of the Holy Fathers, that St. Paul lived in a state of perpetual continence. St. Jerome (ad Eustochium de Continentia, chap. viii.); St. Augustine (de Libero Arbitrio, chap. iv.); St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c. Hence, the unmeaning folly of Erasmus, in his notes on this passage, who holds that St. Paul must have been married, because, addressing those engaged in the married state, he proposes himself as their model. The Apostle addresses, in this passage, not only the married, but “all men.” “For, I would that all men were even as myself,” and in the Greek reading, which Erasmus himself adopts, it is, θελω γαρ παντας ανθρωπους ειναι ὡς και εμαυτον, I wish that all men were even as I am myself. Moreover, if the words of this verse proved that he was married, the words of the next, where, addressing the unmarried, he counsels them to continue like himself, would prove him to be unmarried, at the same time. “I would that all men,” &c. This wish of St. Paul regards mankind, abstracting from circumstances, and only refers to the absolute superiority of continence, as a state, over the opposite state. “But every one has his proper gift from God.” The Apostle adds this, lest he might dishearten those already engaged in the marriage state, who, in consequence of their marriage obligations, could not be in the condition in which, abstracting from circumstances, he wished all mankind to be—“one after this manner,” &c. The gifts of God are different, and differently dispensed. Those who have not the more exalted gift of virginal chastity, may, still, have the gift of conjugal chastity. He calls one and the other the “gift” of God, because, although requiring human co-operation, they, still, must proceed from God’s grace.

8. From this verse it is clear that the Apostle, in the foregoing passage, has been addressing those who were already engaged in the marriage state. The “unmarried,” may refer to those who never contracted marriage, in contradistinction to “widows,” under whom are included, widowers; or, it may simply refer to those now unmarried, without considering whether they were married before or not. “For them it is good,” which does not simply regard their exemption from temporal afflictions and solicitude. The word “good” (καλον), means, is is a matter of virtue, or of moral goodness. “If they so continue even as I am.” These words furnish the clearest evidence of St. Paul’s having been unmarried; for, how could he exhort others to continue unmarried after his own example, unless he himself also remained unmarried?

9. “If they do not contain themselves,” which is corruptly rendered in the Protestant version, “if they cannot contain themselves,” the Greek being, εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατευονται. “Let them marry.” Of course, this advice to marry, in case they do not wish to practise continence, is to be taken restrictively, and to be confined to those who may lawfully and without impediment do so. For, speaking in his first Epistle to Timothy, (chap. 5:12), of the widows who married in violation of their vows of chastity, he says, “habent damnationem, quia primam fidem irritam feceruut.” Hence, in reference to such persons, St. Paul never would say, “it is better to marry.” For, he could never say, any state was better or even good, the embracing of which would be a cause of damnation. Such persons must look for other remedies against concupiscence, such as fasting, prayer, pious reading, meditation on God’s holy presence, constant occupation, fervent and repeated appeals to the most chaste Virgin Mother of God, St. Joseph, &c. But they cannot marry. Just as a man already married, who is in danger of violating conjugal fidelity (v.g.), in case of lawful divorce, or in case of the absence, long sickness, or the inveterate aversion entertained towards the other party, cannot marry. Of him the Apostle would not say “it is better to marry,” &c. For, having once freely engaged in the marriage state, he must submit to its inconvenience, and have recourse to other means than remarrying for preserving the chastity of the marriage bed. So, in like manner, a person who has freely and voluntarily made a vow of perpetual chastity, must have recourse to other means different from marriage, to resist the assaults of impurity. God, who never refuses to anyone the graces necessary for his state, will, if fervently invoked, give to every such person the graces necessary to preserve chastity. Hence, the words, “it is better to marry than burn,” must be received with the limitations which the SS Scriptures and reason have affixed to them. The word “burn,” does not merely imply violent assaults of impurity. Those, if manfully resisted and combatted, may be, and often are, designed by God, as means of heaping up a treasure of merit. It implies consent to these temptations; it refers to those who “do not contain themselves,” just as a person is said to be burned by fire, when he is injured by it. St. Paul himself, though continent, and recommending continence to all, was not, still, exempted from the stings of the flesh.—(2 Cor. 12:7).

10. Among other things, it would appear from this verse that the Apostle was consulted regarding the right of separation on the part of those engaged in the marriage state, and also regarding the nature of the marriage tie. This verse is, of course, to be understood with the limitations affixed to this command by the Lord himself in the Gospel. The case of separation quoad thorum, admitted by the Lord himself as lawful, is that of fornication; because “fornication,” i.e., adultery, is the only just cause of separation peculiar to the marriage contract. The other causes ordinarily admitted are such as are common to any other contract whatever, as well as the marriage contract. “From her husband,” απο ανδρος, “from the husband.”

11. It is clear that, in this verse, the Apostle contemplates the case of separation quoad thorum with a just cause, (v.g)., fornication, &c; since, if the wife departed from her husband without a just cause, the Apostle, far from giving the alternative of remaining unmarried, or of becoming reconciled, &c., would order her to return at once to her husband, this being the only way of complying with the precept of the Lord, non discedere (verse 10), or, at least, of making reparation for it, when violated. He then supposes, in this verse, a case of just separation such as adultery, which is one of the most prominent justifying causes for such separation. And this at once proves the indissolubility of Christian marriage, not excepting the case of fornication, i.e., adultery. Because, if the marriage tie, or vinculum, was dissolved by the fornication of the other party, why should the Apostle prevent the woman from marrying?

OBJECTION.—By saying, “or be reconciled with her husband,” does not the Apostle suppose the departing wife to be in fault; and hence, she is supposed to have departed without just cause; for, who is to seek a reconciliation but the offending party?

RESP.—The corresponding Greek word for “reconciled,” καταλλαγητω, simply signifies mutual reconcilliation of parties at variance, and is understood as well of the offending as of the offended party. Thus, in SS. Scripture, God is said to be reconciled with man.—(2 Machabees, 1:5, 7:28, 8:29). Thus, we also find it said of the Levite, whose wife was guilty of fornication, that “he followed her, willing to be reconciled with her” (Judges, 19:3), although she was the offending party. The Apostle employs the form “depart” in reference to the woman, and “put away” in reference to the husband, since the separation was supposed to be effected by the wife departing, and the husband putting her away, although he uses the word “put away” in reference to the wife also—(verse 13).

12. In the Paraphrase, the words, “the rest,” are made to refer to the unmarried; for, the form is perfectly similar to that in verse 25, where there is reference expressly made to virgins. “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord.” Again, in the words immediately preceding, he expressly refers to the married; and if the words, “the rest,” be referred to infidels, as is done by some Commentators, the other member of the antithesis would not be clearly expressed; for, the Apostle does not in express terms speak of the believers as such, while he expressly speaks of the married; hence, the opposition requires that “the rest” should refer to the unmarried. Add to the foregoing, the perfect analogy between the phrase here, “I speak not the Lord,” and that employed in verse 25. Others make “the rest “refer to the following, thus: with reference to the married Christians, I have the express command of the Lord, but with reference to the married couple, both of whom are not Christians, the Lord has given no precept, but I, as an inspired Apostle, give the following precept, viz.: “if any brother have a wife that believeth not,” &c. In the words, “if any brother,” &c., the Apostle commences a new subject regarding the indissolubility of marriages contracted in infidelity, about which it is likely they consulted him. From this verse it follows that a marriage contracted among unbelievers is not dissolved by the conversion of one of the parties.

13. The Apostle here says, that if the unbelieving party consent to live with the Christian, the marriage is not dissolved. But if the unbelieving party depart, either physically or morally, i.e., if he consent to remain with the believing partner, to the evident danger of corrupting either his faith or morals, the case is quite different as in verse 15. “Put away her husband,” in the common Greek, “put him away,” αυτον; the chief MSS. have τον ανδρα.

14. In case of consenting to remain on these terms, the unbelieving party, far from imparting defilement to the believer—as many amongst them, probably, seemed to dread—would, on the contrary, become sanctified by this union (vide Paraphrase); for, the good example of the Christian party would ultimately have the effect of converting a person thus disposed. “By the believing wife;” “believing” is not in the Greek, which is, ἐν τῇ γυναικὶ; the same holds regarding “the believing husband”; “believing” is wanting in the Greek. “Your children should be unclean,” which, according to some, means, they would be illegitimate, the marriage of the parents having been dissolved. According to others, the words, more probably, refer to the idolatrous and unchristian education of the children in all the defilements of Paganism. For, in case of the departure of the Christian party without cause, the Pagan party would, very likely, insist on this, and would be supported by the laws.

“But now they are holy,” because in the case made, the Pagan party would allow them to be educated in the Christian faith. This permission on his part would appear to be included in his consenting to “remain” morally with the other party; for, if he insisted on bringing up the offspring in Paganism, notwithstanding the pious zeal of the Christian party for the contrary, he would, undoubtedly, blaspheme the Christian religion, and far from consenting to “remain” peaceably, he would morally “depart” from the Christian party. This interpretation leaves no room for the heresy of Calvin, viz., that by our birth of faithful parents, we are saints; for, we might equally infer from the passage, that the unbelieving Pagan is really a saint by his union with a Christian spouse. Moreover, the word “holy” or “saints,” is frequently employed by St. Paul, as here, to refer to a state of sanctity, the profession of Christianity, whether each individual referred to was really a saint or not.

15. The Apostle now explains the words, “and she consent to dwell with him,” verse 12. “But if the unbeliever depart,” which is understood, both by Canonists and Divines, not only of physical, but also of moral, departure. The party is said to depart morally, when he wishes to seduce the other party from the faith, or lead him into mortal sin, manet non sine contumelia Creatoris, as is expressed by Canonists after Innocent III. In the case of either physical or moral departure, as now explained, on the part of the unbeliever, the believing party is no longer bound by the tie or vinculum of marriage, no longer subject to the servitude referred to in verse 11.—(See Paraphrase). From the words of this verse Canonists and Divines commonly prove, that in case of the conversion of either of two parties who were united in the bonds of marriage in a state of unbelief, should the infidel party refuse to remain with the Christian, or consent to remain only with evident risk to either his faith or morals, non sine contumelia Creatoris, the Christian party may again marry, and the instant he marries, the former marriage is dissolved. This interpretation is given to the passage by Innocent III., and by Divines generally. The former marriage is dissolved even quoad vinculum, when the Christian party, in whose favour only, this exceptional law of privilege is laid down by the Apostle, actually contracts another marriage, but not before he actually does so.—(See Carriere, De Proprietatibus Matt., pars. II.) The case here contemplated is, therefore, an exception to the general law of the indissolubility of marriage propounded by our Blessed Lord in the gospel; and hence, commonly termed, casus Apostoli. With us, this can hardly ever become a practical case. In infidel countries only, where both parties may contract marriage in a state of infidelity, can it have any practical bearing.

16. In this verse the Apostle meets an objection which might be made against his teaching in the preceding. Ought not the believing party remain in every case, in the hope of bringing about the conversion of the other? He tells them in reply, that the hope of conversion is by no means certain in the case in question; and, therefore, such a hope is no reason why the believing party should remain exposed to the danger of fornication, in the case of the physical departure, or, of perversion, in the case of the moral departure, of the unbelieving party.

17. The meaning of “however,” given in the Paraphrase, to the Greek words, εἰ μὴ, (in Latin, nisi), seems far the more probable. In them the Apostle commences a reply to other questions proposed to him. It appears, that, among other matters, he was consulted about the propriety of Christians remaining in a state of servitude after their conversion, as being inconsistent with that Christian liberty into which Christ had asserted us all. The Apostle undertakes here the correction of this error, and recommends all to remain in the condition of life in which they were found at the period of their conversion to the faith. He thereby lays down a great principle of Christian policy, and fully meets one of the charges preferred against the Christian religion, viz., that it dissolved the social relations and the other pre-existing obligations, which were the bonds of civil society. Others connect the words “but as” (εἰ μὴ) with the preceding words, thus: Let the unbelieving party depart, for why expose yourself on account of, at best a doubtful good (verse 16), unless, indeed, God has inspired you with the courage to submit to the inconvenience of living with such a person, in order to procure his conversion. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable. The common Greek text has, “but as God has distributed to every one, as the Lord has called,” &c. Our reading is the one found in the chief MSS. and ancient versions.

18. “Procure uncircumcision,” by bringing back the foreskin, a thing said to be attempted in some cases. Among others it is recorded of the famous interpreter of the SS. Scripture, Symmachus, that he attempted to do so. The words, however, more probably mean (as in Paraphrase), let him not affect the manners, &c. It is to be borne in mind that the Jews could at this time practise the ceremonies of their religion. These were, as they are termed, mortua, but not mortifera, or sinful. This was allowed them, for the purpose, as St. Augustine expresses it, of burying the Synagogue with honour.

19. The Apostle speaks of circumcision in reference to the Jews only, for it would be clearly illicit in the Gentiles to practise the Jewish ceremonies, as a matter of precept, or necessity; and it could be only as a matter of precept or necessity a Gentile would resort to their ceremonies.

21. “Use it rather.” The Apostle adds this to guard against one of the charges made against Christianity, viz., that it subverted the pre-existing relations of society, as explained, verse 17. Some Commentators, imagining the interpretation now given of the words, “use it rather,” too harsh and severe, explain them thus: if you have been a slave, when called to the faith, you should not be concerned about it: this, however, should not prevent you from embracing a state of freedom, as preferable, should an opportunity offer.

This passage furnishes no argument in favour of the inhuman and unnatural treatment of slaves, recorded of many slave-owners in the Indies and the Continent of America. This shocking crime is denounced by the Apostle (1 Tim. 1:10), and punished with death in the Old Testament (Exod. 21:16, Deut. 24:7). A wide distinction, however, is to be made between slave trading, or the unjust abduction of free mer into a state of servitude, and slave holding. The former is as unjust as any other species of robbery. The latter, as a status, does not seem to be opposed to the law of nature for, it may be a privilege in some cases, as when prisoners captured in a just war accept slavery in exchange for loss of life, or when a man sells his natural liberty for some good which he could not otherwise obtain; nor to the divine law, as appears from the case of Abraham, who had slaves. The same also appears from the fact, that among the laws of Moses, there are found some regulating the relations of masters and slaves; and although slavery prevailed very generally at the introduction of Christianity, neither our blessed Lord nor his Apostles denounced it. On the contrary, the Apostle here recommends the slaves whom he addresses, even if freedom were offered them, to persevere in the state of slavery; in other passages of his Epistles (Ephesians 6.; Coloss. 3; 1 Tim. 6, &c.), he merely contents himself with regulating the relations of masters and slaves; but neither he nor the other inspired penmen denounce slavery in se, as opposed to the law of God. Neither does the status of slavery seem to be forbidden by the Church; for, although many of the Roman Pontiffs, viz., Paul II., Paul III., Urban VIII., Benedict XIV., Gregory XVI., denounced trading in slaves, they still do not seem to have prohibited slave holding. Hence, slavery, although a state to be discouraged, is not per se, unlawful.

22. The words of this verse render the interpretation of “use it rather,” adopted in the Paraphrase, the more probable. In them is conveyed a reason why a man called to the faith in a state of servitude, should not be too concerned about his servile condition, but should rather, for the exercise of virtue, and particularly for the purpose of removing all grounds for the calumnies preferred against the Christian religion, of subverting pre-existing civil relations, continue in servitude. The Christian freeman is a slave, and the Christian slave is a freeman under different respects; hence, viewed under different relations, both are placed on an equal footing, both are equal in Christ, and so the slave need not be over anxious to leave his servile condition.

23. In this verse is shown the species of servitude condemned by the Apostle, viz., moral servitude, or the slavery of sin. The slave should so serve his master as to render his temporal service subservient to the glory of God; hence, this service should not have for ultimate end, the pleasing of men. And the freeman, or temporal master, should refer all his actions to the glory of his supreme heavenly Lord.

24. In this verse, the Apostle repeats his former injunction conveyed to them, in verse 20, to remain in the state wherein they had been when called to the faith, provided it be a lawful one, which is the meaning of the words “with God.”

25. The Apostle now enters on quite a different topic, regarding which, it appears, they consulted him, viz., the subject of the excellence of virginity, and also, whether it was a virtue to be observed by Christians. On this point he, has no precept from the Lord to deliver, but only a counsel of his own.

26. “The present necessity,” means the great difficulty and the many obstacles which prevent the married man from attending to the concerns of his soul, and from which the unmarried man is comparatively exempt. The words have the same meaning as “tribulation of the flesh” (verse 28). Some Expositors understand them to refer to the straitened and distressed condition of the Church of Corinth at the time. However, the Apostle clearly refers to the worldly solicitude induced by marriage, and as he wrote for all times, his words are as true to-day, and in reference to all states of the Church, as when he wrote this Epistle to the Corinthians; moreover, his reasons for dissuading those already married from the exercise of marriage, and the unmarried from entering that state (verse 5), “to give yourselves to prayer” (verses 33, 34), apply to all times and all circumstances. “That it is good (καλον) for a man,” is but a repetition of words, “it is good,” for emphasis sake.

27. While recommending virginity, he would by no means be understood to recommend a single state in such a way, as that the married would desert their partners; “bound,” and “loosed” are allusive to the perpetual vinculum induced by marriage; “loosed,” means free to marry. It may regard either those before married, but now free, or those who never engaged in marriage.

28. While praising virginity, he maintains against another class of heretics, that marriage is not sinful, but only a less perfect state. “Tribulation of the flesh,” refers to temporal inconveniences and crosses, the solicitude about the world, &c. “I spare you.” These words are interpreted by some to mean, I refrain from recounting these tribulations in detail, in order to spare the feelings of the married, and also, lest I should deter the unmarried from a lawful state. The interpretation in the Paraphrase seems the more probable.

30. “They that buy” should regard themselves not as masters of their possessions, but as merely enjoying their passing use. The precepts of the Old Law, commanding that after the lapse of fifty years the several acquisitions among the Jews should revert to their original owners, was a practical exhortation to that detachment from earthly things here inculcated by the Apostle.

31. “Used it not.” The Greek (καταχρωμενος), means, abusing it not.—“For the fashion of this world, &c.” The Greek word for “fashion” (σχημα), means, the outward show of things, the scene of this world. It suggests the idea of a theatrical exhibition, wherein several characters are successively brought upon the stage, and the several acts rapidly succeed each other; so, it is with the world. All its external glory quickly passes away; one actor in human life, one scene quickly succeeds another. The Apostle considers here only the external appearance of the world; for, the substance of this material world shall be changed and transformed into a state suited to the glory of the children of God. Oh! how calculated the serious meditation on the words of the Apostle in this passage is, to inspire us with a salutary detachment from the goods, the honours, the enjoyments, and the pleasures of this life. The world and all its glory are fleeting and transitory; viewed in reference to eternity—to that unchangeable moment of never-ending duration—the longest life is but a mere point; men are but mere actors upon a stage from which they are to be shifted into the imperishable stage of never ending woe or happiness. “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen, are eternal.”—(2 Cor. 4). How excessive, then, the folly and madness of those who, knowing from faith, that when they die, they shall not take anything with them, nor shall their glory go down with them to the grave, yet still devote their whole time and energies to the amassing of wretched pelf, or to leave behind them an empty name, which shall avail but little in hell. Why not, therefore, seek after the eternal possessions of God? Why continue “dull of heart? Why love vanity, and seek after lying?”—(Psalm 4).

32. In this verse, the Apostle assigns a reason for recommending virginity in preference to marriage. “Without solicitude.” He by no means condemns all solicitude, but only the solicitude that interferes with the affairs of salvation. It is clear that the Aposde prefers virginity not simply on account of the exemption it gives us from temporal troubles and uneasiness, but principally on account of the facility it affords us of discharging our duty to God, and gaining eternal life.

33. “He is divided.” Is not marriage, therefore, unlawful, since God hates a divided heart?

RESP.—The married Christian is not always divided in heart, in the sinful manner referred to; that is to say, in such a way as to make creatures his ultimate end. It frequently happens that he makes creatures his immediate end, with the danger of ultimately resting in them; but the unmarried man has God always not only for ultimate, but also for immediate end.

35. “To cast a snare,” &c. The Apostle would have laid a snare for them, if by making a precept of that which was merely a counsel, he induced them to embrace a state of virginity, which might be above their strength. From this and the preceding verses it is clear, that the Apostle estimates the advantages of a single state over the married, not so much on account of the exemption it affords from temporal solicitude and anxieties, and as on account of its advantages in a religious point of view.

36. “He sinneth not, if she marry.” In Greek, οὐχ ἀμαρτάνει, γαμειτωσαν, he sinneth not, let them marry, i.e., the girl and her suitor.

37. “Having no necessity,” i.e., without being necessitated to adopt a different course, either from motives of conscience, arising from the dispositions of his daughter to marry; or, from the circumstances of the impossibility of disposing of her in marriage, owing to personal deformity, want of means, &c. (for, if he cannot dispose of her, there is no virtue in retaining her in a single state); “having power of his own will,” having free power to act as he pleases. In this passage, the question of retaining the virgin unmarried, or of giving her away, is referred to the will of the father or guardian, because it is their business to arrange such things; for, although the personal will of the virgin herself should be principally consulted, still, it would not be quite consistent with virginal modesty on her part to bring about such arrangements.

38. From this verse, it is clear, that, it is in reference to the spiritual concerns of the life to come, the Apostle considers the excellence of the state of virginity; for, otherwise, how could he say, that the man “who gives his virgin in marriage does well,” in reference to exemption from temporal solicitude; when, by the very act of engaging her in marriage, he is involving her in temporal troubles and anxieties? It is needless to argue from this text, in favour of the superior excellence of virginity over marriage. If words have any meaning, they convey this in the clearest form; and hence, as the words of God, dictated by the Holy Ghost, they prove it to demonstration. The words, “doth well,” and “doth better,” uttered absolutely, clearly show the superior excellence of one state of life beyond the other.

39. It appears that, among other points, the Apostle was consulted about the indissolubility of matrimony. To this point he gives a reply in this verse. “Only in the Lord,” i.e., he ought to be a Christian. Hence, it would appear, that even at this early period, infidelity was at least a prohibent impediment of matrimony.

40. The Apostle, although perfectly sure that he was under the influence of God’s spirit, still employs the words, “I think,” through a feeling of humility.








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