What Is The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:1?

What Is The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:1?

Paul is introducing a new topic based on the phrase “now concerning” (1 Corinthians 7:1,25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1).

There are a variety of translations on this verse:

NIV 2011: Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

NRSV: Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.”

ESV: Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

NKJV: Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

NASB: Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

As you can see, some of the translations rightly put the last phrase in quotation marks to show a question submitted by the Corinthian brethren to Paul (such as the NIV 2011, NRSV, and ESV). This is a correct rendering because…

First, the idiomatic phrase “to touch a woman” means “to have sexual intercourse” (this is what is meant in all seven incidences in ancient literature from the fourth century B.C. to the second century A.D.:1) Plato Leges 8.840a; (2) Aristotle Politica 7.14.12; (3) Gen 20:6 LXX; (4) Prov 6:29 LXX; (5) Plutarch Alex.M. 21.4; (6) Josephus Ant. 1.163; (7) Marcus Aurelius Ant. 1.17.6. (Fee, Gordon D., “1 Corinthians 7:1 in the NIV.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23, p. 308).

Second, in the context of 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul is correcting the false thinking of some of the Corinthian brethren. Paul shows that it is true that we are not to engage in sexual activity outside of the scriptural, marital covenant (which would be fornication, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Evidently, some of the Corinthians took this phrase to mean that it was a sin to engage in intimate acts even in their own scriptural marriage.

In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul states: “Nevertheless, because of fornication, let each man have...” The original word that is translated “have” also means to have sexual intercourse (evidence: immediate and remote context of the Bible, such as, Exodus 2:1 LXX; Deuteronomy 28:30 LXX; 2 Chronicles 11:21 LXX; 1 Esdras 9:12,18; Tobit 3:8 (BA); Isaiah 13:16 LXX; 54:1 LXX; Mark 6:18; 12:33; Matthew 22:28; Luke 20:33; Luke 20:28; John 4:18; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 7:29. (Fee 310). In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul writes in response to this false thinking: "Nevertheless, because of fornication, let each man have [literally - have sexual relations – 1 Corinthians 5:1; 7:29] with his own wife, and let each woman have [literally- have sexual relations] with her own husband.”

Paul proceeds to talk about the responsibilities spouses have toward each other, including not depriving one another of the blessing of sexual intimacy within the marital covenant (1 Corinthians 7:4,5). It is a false, spiritualized idea of celibacy to believe that it is “more” holy to abstain from sexual intercourse even though they were scripturally married.



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