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PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY, MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY AND SOME ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS: A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH
A Paper Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Subject BBNT17000 Epistles A
by Brendan Knudson
“I certify that this assignment is my own work and is free from plagiarism. I understand that the assignment may be checked for plagiarism by electronic or other means. The assignment has not previously been submitted assessment in any other subject or institution.” Signed ______________
the body. the other bad. Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids. So glorify God in your body. 24. TN: Review and Herald. 3 Ibid. The predominant Greek understanding of his day split man into two parts. for instance. this study will consider the whole corpus of traditional ‘Pauline’ writings with the exception of Hebrews. marriage and the family as found largely in 1 Corinthians. homosexuality beginning at passages like Romans 1:26-27 or 1 Corinthians 6:7. MI: Zondervan. 1980).”6 This statement immediately precedes Paul’s most comprehensive discussion on sexuality in 1 Corinthians 7. the paper will then consider ethical considerations such as non-marital sexuality and homosexuality. that the “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you. along with passages from Paul which address these matters.Introduction This paper will look at the statements of the apostle Paul regarding sexuality. While many start looking at Bible ethics regarding. 1994). 9.2 As such. 2 Wayne Grudem. Paul’s theology of sexuality. Marriage and Family The two millennia gap between the first century and today means a wide cultural divide for those seeking to find contemporary meaning to New Testament teachings.1 It will consider the basis of Pauline theology as rooted in the creation account. the issues of homosexuality and cohabitation are among those that churches are grappling with. All Scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version. The systematic approach. 1 . this paper will take a systematic approach. We see that Paul does not look down on the body as While it is acknowledged that some consider Ephesians and Colossians to be deuteron-pauline.”5 Paul declares. Today. 20.”4 And so we shall take a moment to consider what Paul says about that. used here. 4 Sakae Kubo. which is imprisoned in the bad part. 24. is a modified version of the definition of systematic theology given by Wayne Grudem. “Any theology of sex must begin with a theology of the body. 6 1 Corinthians 6:19. the idea of agape and the image of God motif. whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought with a price. 9. Sexuality. there is a need to look at the most comprehensive treatments of these matters and only then can we safely look at the specific issues that radiate from the core doctrine. Ephesians and Colossians. Theology and Ethics of Sex (Nashville. From this positive standpoint. marriage and family will be “treated in an orderly or ‘systematic’ way. 5 Ibid. “The good part is the soul. one good. in opposition to this teaching.”3 To begin with.
9 1 Corinthians 7:2. 1995). Paul quoted Genesis 2 in his discussion of immorality. καθως) ̔ comparing such things as the submission and love between Christ and the church to the husband and wife.inherently evil. it is a duty.”14 1 Corinthians 11 also parallels these two 1 Corinthians 6:13. ibid. continually draws parallels between the marriage relation and the Christ-church paradigm. 156. but the husband does. and not sex itself. where Paul most clearly speaks of the marriage relationship. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.’”12 “Paul reaches back to Gen.. The passage is replete with similies (ως. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights. 10 1 Corinthians 7:3. 18. 12 1 Corinthians 6:16.”9 Even more than this. It is the misuse or impure expression of sex which tarnishes the body. We next move to Ephesians 5. and likewise the wife to her husband. Jr. The section of this epistle concerning the domestic life (5:22-6:9) and specifically chapter 5. 11 Oster. Oster. The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Joplin. but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. For the wife does not have authority over her own body. the proper sphere for sexuality is within the marriage relationship.”13 We have seen that for Paul. each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”7 “The apostle’s affirmations in 6:13b about the body and the Lord were radically out of step with the cultural values and ethical mores indigenous to a pagan urban setting.”11 In the previous chapter. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body. 2:24 to find the language of ‘oneness’ related to sexual intercourse. and the Lord for the body. MO: College Press. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality. 14 Ephesians 5:23 8 7 . ibid. and is informed by his anthropology. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body. 144. 4. Paul highlights the importance attributed to sexual intimacy within biblical theology.”8 While Paul does address specific concerns in chapter 7. ώ̔σπερ. Richard E. “[D]o you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For. he is consistent in his message that sex is a privilege of marriage.. ‘The two will become one flesh. but the wife does. His theology of sexual intimacy is also seen to be rooted in the early chapters of Genesis.”10 “[B]y his use of the term duty [rights] (ojfeilhv). but for the Lord. but views the body as a potential vessel for the Lord. The idea of headship is also found here. as it is written. 13 Oster. 147. “because of the temptation to sexual immorality.
”15 Concerning the Greek word for “head” in Ephesians (and by extension. 16 Kenneth L... Paul clearly intends to use these key words in the same sense. 249.” In Eph 1:22 Paul says that God “subjected” (uJpotavssw) all things under Christ's feet and that Christ was appointed to be “head” (kefalhv) over all things. then.e. ‘Honor your father and mother..”17 Moving on from looking just at the spousal element of the family. it is clear that Paul considers the family marital relation to be a shadow of the divine. and that these become mother and father to any children that are a result of that sexual activity. The complete picture of the Pauline understanding of family. “Children. yet the context of Genesis quotations appears to make this implicit. If we miss the fact that Paul is essentially a sectarian person who is drawing on his heritage for a new social situation and community.. This is all founded upon the creation account. This view is obviously non-Pauline! (See 1 Cor 15:28. That the image of God idea can be seen in the threetiered parallel in verse 3 is recognised by some. rooted in torah.’”18 Again. and so we could consider these parallels to be an allusion to the idea of the “image of God. the head of a wife is her husband. ibid. Ethical Implications A key to understanding Paul’s ethic is to realise that he does not simply reiterate the ethics of the Old Testament. man is the kefalh of woman) at Corinth. For Paul there is a very close connection 15 1 Corinthians 11:3.)” Oster. specifically the ten commandments. MO: College Press. for instance: “Due to the fact that Paul makes a correlation between “divine order” (i. Paul’s theology is firmly grounded in torah. 27). we can fall prey to fundamental misunderstandings. 17 1 Corinthians 11:7 (cf.16 From these headship comparisons. Some argue against “husband” and “wife” as appropriate translations here. though he draws on Old Testament principles and commands from time to time. 312. some interpreters with feminist-egalitarian commitments end up promoting an egalitarian view of the Trinity in its depiction of the relationship between God and Christ.e. for this is right. Some have argued that this word means only “source. . The specific basis of the submission of the wife is that God has set the husband in the family as its “head” (kefalhv). Now. College Press NIV Commentary: Ephesians (Joplin.headship ideas with God and Christ. and the head of Christ is God. Ephesians 6 discusses child-parent relationships.” but the lexical evidence and Paul's own usage in 1:22 are conclusive in support of the meaning “leader” or “ruling authority. Genesis 1:26. and is seen to be an expression of divine realities. Boles. 1 Corinthians 11 also contains references to the creation account. 2. the only valid context for sexuality to be expressed. 18 Ephesians 6:1. is that it includes predominantly a husband and wife relationship. “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ. obey your parents in the Lord. in the context of chapter five. 1995). 1 Corinthians). God is the kefalh of Christ) and male “headship” (i.
The first term. nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. The first term.). he does not go to the extent to redefine sins. is very significant. This word generally speaks of infidelity to the marital covenant and the root word features prominently in the Septuagint of the 10 Commandments. and Paul gives a list of immoral practices in the preceding chapter which includes sexual perversions. translated above “sexually immoral” is “πορνος” and “[t]he Greeks considered one who prostituted himself for gain as a pórnos. 263. “If a man lies with a male as with a woman. IL: InterVarsity. The last reads. It is a composite word that is only used by Paul ̓ and is made up of two words that appear closely together in the Septuagint of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. between Christology and paraenesis in the life of the believer. 1992). The phrase “men who practice homosexuality” includes two Greek terms which cover both the active and passive participants in homosexual couples. nor thieves. 264. But you were washed. 19 . III. Of this list. a number of terms are significant to this paper. nor the greedy. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral. Paul establishes the proper realm of human sexuality so that we might know where safety lies. The other term.” In 1 Corinthians 7. but figuratively refers to one who is effeminate. The Complete Word Study Dictionary (Chattanooga. nor idolaters. you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. literally means “soft to the touch” and is often used of clothing and soft materials.”21 The word “adulterers” from the passage above is the Greek “μοιχος”. Ben Witherington. nor adulterers. and unrighteousness is said to keep a person out. Outside of this is immorality. And such were some of you. The issue at stake in this passage is acceptability to inherit the kingdom of God.between theology and ethics. The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus (Downers Grove. nor revilers.20 This passage is highly significant and will be examined carefully. Often he makes a statement of fact followed by a “therefore. “αρσενοκοιτης”. you were sanctified. nor men who practice homosexuality. 20 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 21 Spiros Zhodhiates (ed.19 Paul relates his ethics closely to his theology. But Paul goes further than his and gives a list of what this constitutes in the context of what the Corinthians dealt with. nor drunkards. While it is true that Paul adapts the theology of his Jewish heritage to new cultural circumstances. 1998). TN: AMG International. “μαλακος”.
Let us look now at one final passage which deals again with homosexuality. ̓ Ephesians 2:1-3. This idea is also found in Ephesians: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. The homosexual practices in 26-27 are listed separately to a larger list in 29-32. Paul initiates a discussion of good and evil with reference to the Creation account. carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. 23 Paul speaks of what the Ephesians “once” did. following the prince of the power of the air. Paul says that that was in the past.24 This passage has traditionally been accepted as a blanket condemnation of homosexual practices. 1978) 30. Homosexuality and the Christian Faith: A Symposium. However. 25 David L. and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. and were by nature children of wrath.”22 Paul clearly condemns each of the sins he lists as “unrighteousness” and goes on to say that some of the 1 Corinthians engaged in these practices before their conversion. significant for its mention of women as well as men. they shall surely be put to death. following the course of this world. meaning that they are no longer bound to these practices. the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh. and apply what we have learned so far of Paul’s belief-ethic approach. If we look at the wider context. 22 23 . PA: Judson Press. like the rest of mankind. Women are supposed to worship God and have intercourse with men. men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 24 Romans 1:26. Paul talks about how God and His goodness are attested to by the natural world.both of them have committed an abomination. "A Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality. 27." In Harold L. Here is where Paul’s ethic comes in: Christ gives us freedom to choose the right when we are prone to the wrong. recently. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature. Verses 21-25 discuss a debasing of the image of God and God handing them over to their own “lusts”. However. where “both idolatry and certain sexual practices change the created order. 31. it has come under reinterpretation as homosexuality has become more socially acceptable. their blood is upon them. In verses 18-20. According to the created order.”25 “αρσενοκοιτης” is also found in 1 Timothy 1:10. and now they are washed and sanctified. males are supposed to worship God and have intercourse with women. Bartlett. “impurity” and “dishonourable passions”. (Valley Forge. Homosexuality is seen as the end cause of idolatry. Twiss (Ed).
PA: Judson Press." In Harold L. and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture. "The Social Context and Implications of Homoerotic References in Romans 1:24-27.There is no mistaking the direction of Paul’s argument. and that sexual identity is essential to humans as bodily creatures. but “unnatural” as in against the original created design. 26 . His terminology shows that he takes the Levitical laws in this regard seriously (though he doesn’t repeat the punishment found there). Paul’s references to homosexuality are found in lists of specific sins which disqualify from inheritance of the kingdom. is that sexual sin as possible to be overcome through Christ. Aberrant behaviour in this regard can keep a person out of God’s kingdom. Homosexuality. Bibliography Bartlett. or its consistency with all other known branches of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. He views any expression of sexuality contrary to the confines of the marriage prototype as sexual immorality. Valley Forge. which Paul also extends to a shadow of Christ and the Church. "A Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality. His view was founded upon the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis. he presents deviations from traditionally Judaic role definitions as indicative of an arrogant assault on the Creator and as a sign of current and forthcoming wrath." In David L. (Grand Rapids. we can see all the hallmarks of Paul’s positive theology – reference to creation and the image of God motif. Convinced that heterosexuality was part of the divinely created order for humankind. In the recently controverted passage of Romans 1. MI: Eerdmans. Twiss (Ed). In this context. 2000) 234. Balch (Ed). where the marriage unit constituted an “image” of God. Paul’s ethics flow naturally out of this theology. David L. heterosexual marriages. Paul does not appear to say that homosexuality is “unnatural” in a biological sense. Science. though. 235.26 Conclusion Paul viewed sex to be pure only when practiced in monogamous. Homosexuality and the Christian Faith: A Symposium. as some today read. The good news Paul points to. 1978. Robert Jewett.
TN: Review and Herald. 1992. College Press NIV Commentary: Ephesians. Ben.Boles. Joplin. The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Jewett. The Complete Word Study Dictionary. "The Social Context and Implications of Homoerotic References in Romans 1:24-27. Jr. Witherington. Kenneth L.). MO: College Press. Spiros (ed. III. IL: InterVarsity. and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture. Richard E. Science. MI: Zondervan. Balch (Ed). 1995. Grand Rapids. MO: College Press." In David L. Nashville. Downers Grove. Homosexuality. Theology and Ethics of Sex. Sakae. Chattanooga. Grand Rapids. Wayne. Joplin. 1998. 2000. The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus. TN: AMG International. Zhodhiates. MI: Eerdmans. 1994. Robert. . 1995. Oster. Grudem. 1980. Systematic Theology. Kubo.
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