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1 Corinthians 7-1 in the NIV, Gordon Fee

1 Corinthians 7-1 in the NIV, Gordon Fee

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JETS
23/4(December1980)30314
1CORINTHIANS7:1INTHE
NIV
GordonD.Fee*Inapublicresponsetoanopenquestion,Iwasoncequoted(correctly)by
ChristianityToday
ascommendingthe
NIV
forbeing"gutsy"initstranslationmethodology.'Imeantbythatthattheywerewillingtomaketoughchoicesaboutthemeaningoftextsandthattheytranslatedaccordingtothosechoicesratherthantryingtoescapethroughthesaferouteofambiguity.Istillstandbymyformerapplause.Beingcourageousintranslationalsohasitsobviouspitfalls,however,especiallywhenthewrongchoicemisleadstheread-erastothemeaningofthetext.Thereisonesuchtextinthe
NIV
thathasregu-larlygivenmeconcern,especiallysonowthatthewholeBibleisavailableandtherevisionoftheNThasneithercorrectedwhatseemstomanyofustobeamis-translationnorofferedevenamarginalnotetothe(moresurelycorrect)alterna-tive."Thetextis1Cor7:1,translatedinthe
NIV:
"Nowforthemattersyouwroteabout:Itisgoodforamannottomarry."!Myproblemwiththistranslationistwofold:philological(themeaningof
gynaikoshaptesthai=literally
"totouchawoman")andexegetical(themeaningofthewholechapter,andespeciallyofvv1-7).Thepurposeofthispaperis(1)topresentalloftheavailablephilologicalevidence,whichseemssoincontrovertibleastorenderthetranslation"tomarry"tobewithoutfoundation;(2)toofferanexegesisof7:1inlightofthewholeof1Corinthians7,whicharguesthattheordinarymeaningoftheidiommakesthemostsensehere;and(3)tosuggestthatsuchaninterpretationfitswellwithcur-rentthinkingastothenatureoftheCorinthianfalsetheology.
If
thereconstruc-tionoftheCorinthianpositionissomewhatspeculative,itisnotsowiththephilologicalevidenceortheexegesis.
I.
THEMEANINGOFTHEIDIOM
Theidiom
haptesthaigynaikos
oritsequivalentoccursatleastseventimes(exceptingourpassage)inextantliteraturefromantiquityfromthefourthcen-turyB.C.tothesecondcenturyA.D.
In
alloftheseoccurrencesitisaeuphemism
'GordonFeeisprofessorofNewTestamentatGordon-ConwellTheologicalSeminaryinSouthHamilton,Massachusetts.'See
ChristianityToday
21(January21,1977)42[4621.ItshouldbenotedthatIwasnotoneofthe
NIV
translators.Cf.mylettertotheeditor(March4,1977)8[616].2Myurgencytowritethispaperwasfinallypromptedbyarecentevaluationof"TheLiteraryMeritoftheNewInternationalVersion"byL.Ryken
(ChristianityToday
23[October20,1978]16·17[777]).Hesays:"AndIhopeitwilldispelsomefolliestoreadthat'itisgoodforamannottomarry'insteadof'nottotouchawoman.'"Ifearthatthistranslationcreatesevengreaterfollies.'The
NIV
isnotthefirstsototranslate.IcheckedoverthirtyofthenearlyeightyEnglishtranslationssince1900.Thosethattranslate"tomarry"are
TwentiethCentury
(1898),
Weymouth
(1903),
Good·speed
(1923),
Williams
(1937),
Amplified
(1958),
LivingBible
(1962),
TEV
(1966).Myreasonfor"pick-ingon"the
NIV
ispreciselybecauseIthinkitissuchagoodtranslationand,contrarytoRyken(seen.2),IwishtoseeithavelongusefulnessasapewBible.Whileitistruethatnotranslationwillpleaseallthepeopleallthetime-andIhaveseveralotherplaceswhereIthinkthe
NIV
couldbeimproved-formanyofuswhoteachNT,andespecially1Corinthians,itshandlingofthistextseemstobeaglaringerror.
307
 
308
JOURNALOFTHEEVANGEUCALTHEOLOGICALSOCIETY
forsexualintercourse,andinnotoneofthemistheretheslightesthintthattheidiomextendstosomethingverycloseto"takeawife"or"marry."Theevidence(inroughlychronologicalorder):
(1)
Plato
Leges
8.B40a:"Duringalltheperiodofhistraining(asthestorygoes)henevertouchedawoman
(gynaikoshepeato),
noryetaboy."(LCL11.162-163)(2)Aristotle
Politico
7.14.12:"Astointercoursewithanotherwomanorman,ingeneralitmustbedishonourable
(mehalon)
tobeknowntotakeanypartinit
(haptomenon)
inanycircumstanceswhatsoeveraslongasoneisahusband."(LCL21.624-625)(3)Gen20:6LXX(ofAbimelechwithSarah):"ThatiswhyIdidnotletyoutouchher
(hapsasthaiautes),"(NIV)
Cf.Ruth2:9LXX:"Ihavetoldthemennottotouchyou
(hapsasthaisou)."(NIV)
(4)Prov6:29LXX:"Soishewhosleepswithanotherman'swife;noonewhotouchesher
(hohaptomenosautes)
willgounpunished."
(NIV)
(5)Plutarch
Alex.M.
21.4:"ButAlexander...neitherlaidhandsuponthesewomen,nordidheknowanyotherbeforemarriage,exceptBarsine.Thiswoman...wastakenprisoneratDamascus.AndsinceshehadaGreekeducation,...Alexanderdetermined...toattachhimselftoawoman
(hapsasthaigynaikos)
ofsuchhighbirthandbeauty."(LCL7.284-285)(6)Josephus
Ant.
1.163:"TheKingoftheEgyptians...wasfiredwithade-siretoseeherandonthepointoflayinghandsonher
(hapsasthaitesSarras).
ButGodthwartedhiscriminalpassion."(LCL4.80-81)(7)MarcusAurelius
Ant.
1.17.6:"ThatIdidnottouchBenedictaorTheodo-tus
(meteBenedikteshapsasthaimeteTheodotou),
butthatevenafterwards,whenIdidgivewaytoamatorypassions,Iwascuredofthem."(LCL,pp.22-23)Cf.Josephus
Ant.
4.257:"Shouldamanhavetakenprisoner...awoman...andwishtolivewithher,lethimnotbepermittedtoapproachhercouch
teuneshapsasthai)
andconsortwithheruntil...."(LCL4.598-599)Giventhisoverwhelmingphilologicalevidence,onemightwonderhowthetranslatorsofthe
NIVand
theirpredecessorsevertranslatedthetext"tomarry."Theanswerofcourseliesintheirunderstandingofthe
context;'
whichseesthewholechapterasaddressingthequestionof"tomarryornottomarry"andvv1-7asanintroductiontothewhole.ThusitissuggestedthatonthisquestionPaulprefers-celibacy(v1)butthatbecauseofsexualpassions(v2interpretedinlightofvv9,36)heconcedesmarriage(vv2,6).Ifthereisamarriage,thenthereshouldbefullsexualrelations(vv3-4)exceptforoccasionalperiodsofabstinence
'See,e.g.,theargumentsinF.W.Grosheide,
CommentaryontheFirstEpistletotheCorinthians
(NICNT;GrandRapids:Eerdmans,1953)154·155;L.Morris,
TheFirstEpistleofPaultotheCorin-thians
(TyndaleNTCommentary;London:Tyndale,1958)105·106.Forthetranslatorsofthe
NIV
thecontextapparentlyincludedanunderstandingof6:12·20aswell.OneoftheanomaliesofthetranslationisthatquotationmarksindicatingtheCorinthianpointofviewarefoundonlyat6:12·13and10:23(at8:1-butnot8:4!-thereisamarginalnote).Apparently,sincetheyconsidered6:12·13toreflecttheCorinthianpointofviewtheycannotimaginethat7:1bcouldalsocomefromCorinth.
 
FEE:1CORINTHIANS7:1IN
NIV
309forprayer(v5).Inv7,however,Paulrevertstohisinitialpreferencesexpressedinv
1.
SincePaulsoclearlyaffirmssexualrelationsinvv3-5itishardfortheseinterpreterstobelievethathewoulddenytheminv1,andhencetheidiom-withnophilologicalsupport-isexpandedinto"tomarry."!
As
commonasthatinterpretationhasbeen,itseemstobefacedwithseveralinsuperabledifficulties.Notonlyisthemeaningoftheidiom
haptesthaigynaikos
againstit,butthisinterpretationleadstotwofurtheranomalies.First,itpro-motesanunderstandingofthewholechapterthatseemstoavoid,orabuse,theclearstructuralsignal
peride
("nowconcerning")in7:25.ThusPaul'sargumentisseentomovetoandfrofromcelibacyandmarriage(vv1-7),tomarriageonceagain(vv8-9),todivorce(vv10-16),andbacktomarriagetwiceagain(virginsinvv25-38andwidowsinvv39-40).Second,thisinterpretationfailstodojusticetovv1-7,sinceitseesthemainconcern(vv3-5)asadigressionandthesurroundingmatterasthemainpoint.
II.
THESTRUCTUREOFTHECHAPTER
Anyvalidinterpretationof1Corinthians7musttakeseriouslytheprobabil-itythatthe
peride
in7:25functionsasdoalltheotheroccurrencesof
peride
in1Corinthians(8:1;12:1;16:1,12;cf.15:1)-totakeupanewtopicfromtheCor-inthianlettertoPaul.Thatseemsclearlytobethecasehere.Therearetworecur-ringtermsinvv25-38thatcontrolthediscussionthroughout:
parthenos="vir-
gin"(vv25,28,34,36,37,38)and
gameo/gamizo="to
marry"(vv28[2],33,34,36,38[2]).Theterm
parthenos
doesnotoccurinvv1-24;theverb
gameo,
inthesenseof"getmarried,"occursinvv1-24onlyinv9inconnectionwiththewid-owed,athemetowhichPaulreturnsinvv39-40.Thereisofcoursealongdebateastothemeaningof
parthenos
inthissection.Butattheveryleastitreferstoayoungwomanwhohasnotyetbeenmarried.Verses36-38,whicharetobeseenastheconclusionofthewholesectionandnotsomeadditionalspecialcase(asbyConzelmann),"makeitabundantlyclearthatthe
parthenos
referstoonewhohasnotyetbeenmarried.Furthermore,theap-parentdistinctioninv34between"virgin"and
hegyneheagamos
(=
"unmarriedwoman")suggeststhatthe"virgin"isaspecialclassofunmarriedwomendistin-guishablefromothers.Thebestsolutiontoallthedataisthatwhichunderstandsthe"virgin"tobeayoungwomanengagedtobemarried."Butthesignificantpointhereisthatin7:25Paulbeginsanewtopic,dealingwiththenever-before-marriedastowhetherornottheyshouldgetmarried.Itfol-lows,therefore,that7:1-24ismostlikelynotdealingwithmarriageatallinthesenseofgettingmarried(exceptofcoursevv8-9).Whatthen?Theclueto7:1-24liesintheclearstructuralarrangementofvv8-16,wherePaulinsuccessiveparagraphsspeaks
toisagamoiskaitaischerais
(v8;
NIV:
"totheunmarriedandthewidows"),
toisdegegamekosin.
(v10;
NIV:
"tothemar-
'Morris,
FirstEpistle,
105,simplyasserts:
"In
thiscontext
touch
referstomarriage."Grosheideacknowledgesthattheidiomis"aeuphemismforsexualintercourse"butthengoesontosaythatitisa"questionwhetherornotoneshouldmarry"
(Commentary,155).
'H.Conzelmann,
ACommentaryontheFirstEpistletotheCorinthians
(Hermeneia;trans.J.W.Leitch;Philadelphia:Fortress,1975)134·136.'Thereisaconsiderabletraditionthatseesthissectionasreferringtocelibatemarriage(asinthe
NEB).
ForthemostrecentargumentofthispointofviewseeJ.C.Hurd,
TheOriginofICorinthians
(London:SPCK,1965)169·182.ForthepointofviewadoptedhereseeJ.K.Elliott,"Paul'sTeachingonMarriage
in
ICorinthians:SomeProblemsConsidered,"
NTS
19(1973)21225.

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