Well there was such a rousing discussion about the first verse of chapter 7 that the rest of it was overlooked. Once more into the breach!
Since this chapter touches on the question of divorce, and remarriage after divorce, I want to mention this first before going on to the translation issue in this chapter. At the beginning of his lecture on 1 Cor. 7, Gordon Fee said that he was greatly disturbed at the high incidence of – and at this point I fully expected him to say “divorce” but he didn’t – he said, “abuse”, physical and emotional abuse, the extent to which one human being will inflict pain on another human being is incredible.
Then, he went on to explain that this chapter did not mean that people, either a man or woman, should not leave a marriage in which they were being abused. That was not the issue. He explained that this chapter is about what people should do when they become Christians, whether they should change their marital situation in those circumstances or not – Paul says no, stay as you are.
Just so I don’t give the wrong impression, I will link to this book, endorsed by Fee, on remarriage after divorce. Fee did not continue on that topic but returned to a discussion of the chapter in detail, in particular verse 8.
- Now to the unmarried [a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
- 1 Corinthians 7:8 Or widower
Fee pointed out that all the instructions as the beginning of the chapter are explicitly to both the man and the woman equally, and that since Greek has no common word for widower, “unmarried” meant “widower”. The instructions for those who are unmarried comes later.
He also brought attention to the way both husband and wife have equal authority and influence in terms of sanctification of the family, in terms of decisions about the relationship. Add to this the fact that there must have been some men and women who stayed unmarried. This provides the context for the later chapters. In chapter 11 and 14, Paul cannot possibly be implying that all women had husbands, under whose authority they lived, and to whom they could address their questions. Women are often mentioned without spouses. This provides context.
I especially want to continue working through my notes from Fee’s class since he announced that this was the last class that he would teach. He does not expect to teach again.