A Comparison of St. Paul's Texts on Marriage and His Modus Operandi Argumentum: An Analytic Approach

My goal in this paper is to essentially examine the types and modus operandi of Paul's arguments found in the relevant texts on marriage. Although some may contend that Paul did not give arguments in the strict sense, and strictly speaking I would agree; but I would suggest that most people, including Paul, present arguments for persuasive strategies without being overtly aware of it. And Paul of course is easily included into this general category of reasoning powers. But I will avoid arguing for a position, which I hold to; viz., that all literary, critical, and general correspondence ultimately presupposes logic in the broadest sense of the term; for me to argue for this position would digress us from the scope of this short essay.

Instead, this paper will primarily be a topical expository analysis ultimately reducing the study to a focus on the relevant Ephesians and Corinthian texts concerned with marriage. In doing this, we will be better able to bring out what can be explicitly said about Paul's position on marriage. I will first present the general context of first Corinthians (found below in: "Where and When of First Corinthians?"). Second, I will give a more focused analysis of chapter seven on marriage (discussed below in: "Chapter Seven of First Corinthians"). From there we will proceed to a contextual breakdown of Ephesians ("Context of Ephesians") to be followed with an analysis of chapter five of Ephesians ("Chapter Five on Marriage"). Finally, we will concern ourselves with a comparison and contrast of the two chapters ("Comparison of Chapter Five of Ephesians with Chapter Seven of First Corinthians").

Our first order of business is in addressing the question of context for first Corinthians, for without the proper context it would be futile to try to situate Paul's arguments in their appropriate setting. For the most part, we will limit ourselves to finding the answer to this question, concerning context, to the text itself. By this approach we may avoid some confusion, and in many cases, avoid contradictory views found in many secondary sources. Where do we look though? We can look in at least two places. First, Acts chapter eighteen gives some information as to where and when Paul was writing; but of course, such an appeal accepts some presuppositions that may give rise to greater difficulties concerning the letter of Acts itself. Nonetheless, we will still appeal to Acts primarily for approximating the place and time for first Corinthians. But the derived conclusion from Acts can be reinforced by appeals to first Corinthians; and as such, we will examine first Corinthians to see if Paul gives us a glimpse (if any) as to where, or possibly when, he is writing the text. More importantly though, after addressing the approximate place and origin of the letter, we need to examine the implicit (sometimes explicit) efficient cause for, and aims of, Paul's writing of this letter. We will draw directly from the text itself at this point. If we can find the answer to these contextual questions we have made at least some progress in our first task of discovering the context of Paul's letter to the Corinthian Church. In other words, to ask what is the context of Paul's writing of first Corinthians implicitly asks for the efficient and final causes of this letter. And this question further compels us to look directly at the text for an answer to the issues that Paul addresses.

Where and When of First Corinthians?

As far as the time and geographical frame is concerned, it appears that Paul wrote first Corinthians from Ephesus some time after his first visit to Corinth.

After these things he [Paul] left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila...and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them...And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. [1]

After his visit to Corinth Paul, through his travels, ends up at Ephesus. [2] And it is while in Ephesus that Paul may have learned of the problems arising from the Church at Corinth. He even seems to suggest he was writing from Ephesus in first Corinthians 16:8-9, 19: - "But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost...The Church of Asia greets you...Aquila and Prisca greet you...". In 11:12 Paul implies that Apollos had already been to the city of Corinth. It makes little sense for Paul to be suggesting that the Corinthian Church is disputing over whom they should follow, but in the same moment, mention one that has never visited the city. And to suggest that Paul argues (and being fully aware of it) that the Corinthians do not know of Apollos, but he still mentions him as a persuasive tool, is not founded on either common sense, nor Paul's usual ad hoc modus operandi. At least we can say he knows his audience, and they indeed knew Apollos and him. As a result, these texts show that Paul probably wrote first Corinthians after his and Apollos' visit to the city, and that it was probably written from Ephesus.

We also might make note of the fact that he possibly heard of the problems at Corinth from at least one of two sources. First, in first Corinthians 1:11: "For I have been informed by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you." Also, in 16:17 and 18 Paul writes: "And I rejoice over the coming (presence) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; because they have supplied what was lacking on your part (or made up for your absence)...Therefore acknowledge such men." It seems possible that either one of these two sources, or both, supplied Paul with information of the Corinthian Church. It could also explain the comment in 7:1, concerning the letter that Paul received from the Corinthian Church. How did he get this letter any way? Either one of these groups could have been carriers of such a letter. Nonetheless, this is speculative, and rests primarily on a weak inductive argument lacking sufficient textual evidence. Thus, without more explicit textual evidence we unfortunately need to generalize, and speculate, far too much to come to a more probable conclusion concerning who the carriers of the letter where. For myself then, I wish to err on the side of caution and suggest only that he wrote to the Corinthian Church some time after his first visit there (the exact or even approximate date seems rather irrelevant for my purposes). And as to the question of who brought him the information, or who may have brought him an unknown letter mentioned in 7:1, I leave as inconclusive. I have a similar conclusion when it comes to who carried Paul's letter to the city of Corinth. What I contend is that we are unable to conclude either deductively or inductively (at least with probability versus possibility) who did or did not carry the letter to the Corinthian Church; and equally so, when we try to decide who supplied him with the initial information concerning the condition of the Church. [3] We can at least conclude, as a tentative probability, that Paul wrote first Corinthians from Ephesus sometime after his first visit to the city. In my opinion though, any more than this requires further textual (and archeological) evidence, than what has already been given.

We now need to know the general and overshadowing problems that were present in the Corinthian Church. In other words, what does Paul at least imply are the major problems for the Corinthian Church? By doing this we will also be indirectly establishing the overall context for chapter seven, while still concretizing the principle causes behind the writing of this letter. Because we are only looking for a more general account of the situation in the Corinthian Church, I will save the bulk of my appeals to scripture for when we analyze chapter seven in first Corinthians and chapter five in Ephesians. As a result, a limited (although sufficient for my purposes) appeal to textual support will be utilized here.

If we were to parcel first Corinthians into themes we could first suggest that chapters one through four deal with divisions amongst the Corinthians; but primarily, with Paul's defense of his status as an Apostle. In particular, Paul argues that he does not come to baptize, but to preach; and that these divisions found within them are not acceptable behavior amongst believers. Furthermore, Paul contends that he may not be eloquent in speech or superior in many other human ways; but his power is divinely given, and that he judges spiritually and speaks with the power of God, and that God's gifts are given to him for his calling as an Apostle. Two points of clarity may be suggested at this juncture: first, Paul seems to implicitly (if not explicitly) give indirect ad hominem arguments in his suggestion that only those who are outsiders would see Paul's speaking as poor. Second, one gets the impression by reading these chapters, up to this point, that Paul has underlying the ad hominem arguments, ad incitationem ones; viz., who would really want to be called unspiritual when they profess to be spiritual. The bottom line found in these chapters is that the Corinthian Church is to be imitators of Paul. Essentially, they should stop listening to those troublemakers and listen to what Paul has to say, for he speaks with the power of God, and they only speak from the flesh. [4]

Our second dissection may appropriately be placed at chapters five through seven. The two main elements to be derived from these chapters seem to be that Paul has been called from his mother's womb to an apostolic status; and secondly, that he utilizes different kinds of ad hoc argumentation in order to be persuasive. In chapter five Paul condemns the man who is living with his father's wife, and consequently appeals to ad verecundiam arguments (namely himself and scripture) to cajole them to action. His condemnation of such immoral behavior is met head on by his maintaining that they should excommunicate this man (versus administering 39 stripes), and that he has himself judged this person already in spirit. The bottom line is this kind of immorality should not be allowed to continue within the body of believers, and they should not associate with such a person ("Remove the wicked man from among yourselves"). [5] In chapter six Paul addresses some legal issues of believers taking their quarrels to unbelievers. Paul wants them to settle their problems amongst themselves, and gives an embellished ad baculum argument in order to be more compelling. (We will side-step chapter seven for now, and wait until we get to the analysis and comparison section to discuss it).

The next distinction could be appropriately placed from chapter eight to chapter ten. Sticking to the general matter of the ongoing mode expression of his themes, we can say these chapters are concerned primarily with idol-food. [6] Each of Paul's arguments should be understood in their context, as all of the arguments should. So, when he is addressing market food we should understand that the same requirements don't apply as when he addresses food that is prayed over by pagans. [7] The main thrust of his argumentation focuses on the mature Christian who abuses his liberties by eating these foods.

In chapter ten we see his typical modus operandi of juxtaposing inside/outside phraseology; specifically, food that is either of God, or food that is of idols. [8] Paul takes an exclusionist position and reinforces the notion that Christians (as insiders) are the only group who should be truly united, and as such, all should abstain from eating idol-food. Considering chapter eleven as separate, Paul argues against the abuses taking place during the Lord's supper; specifically, to those who are eating prior to showing up to the Lord's supper. He also admonishes them for making social and class level distinctions.

The next theme distinction we will make can be found at chapters twelve to fourteen. In chapter twelve we might suggest that Paul's main point, or bottom line, is that the spiritual gifts should be understood as on a level playing field. The abuses occurring in the Corinthian Church require Paul to make such a claim; i.e., he needed to bring them down a peg or two, for it seems that there were some that thought their gifts made them more superior than others. [9] Finally, when we get to chapter fifteen of first Corinthians we see that the first problem appears to be about those that say that there is no resurrection. The second element suggested is that some are asking what the status of the body is after the resurrection. For the former, Paul gives several arguments, but we will deal only with what I feel is the primary one. Clearly, verses twelve through nineteen of chapter fifteen are an enthymeme argument that implies a reductio ad absurdum (and a rather persuasive one too, surprisingly). [10] Essentially, the enthymeme goes as follows: If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised; If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is worthless; If your faith is worthless, then those who have fallen asleep are perished forever (no hope); If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, then we are of all men most to be pitied. [11] The contrary implicit conclusion follows logically, that is, that the reasonable person will believe then that Christ rose from the dead in order to avoid being labeled the "most pitied." In the second component of these resurrection problems, Paul deals with the type (or kind) of body the believers are to have. Paul's bottom line is that it is a mystery and we should not concern ourselves with such issues. [12]

What can we now conclude concerning the principle causes operating in Paul's life with the Corinthian Church? First, we can safely say Paul was provided the information concerning the behavior of this Church while staying at Ephesus (from who is irrelevant, as stated above). So, the principle efficient cause is the information he was provided. That is, Paul decided to write the Corinthian Church because he clearly disapproved of their behavior, and furthermore (given the textual evidence), he clearly felt his apostolic status was being threatened within the Corinthian congregation. Now this should not be misinterpreted as some psychological discussion of Paul's mind; on the contrary, this is the logical conclusion one must make given the textual data. Now it should also be apparent that Paul's final cause is to influence what was going on in the Corinthian Church. Of course, this could not be done without them getting, and reading, Paul's position on these issues. Hence, by giving a topical view of first Corinthians we have successfully determined Paul's efficient and final cause behind the letter, along with an overview of its context. [13]

Clearly we can see then, that the context for chapter seven, of first Corinthians, will be in the same tone; viz., correcting what he believes are abuses or misbehavior within that Church. There should be little doubt that this letter is primarily for the chastising of the Corinthian Church's behavior, and as such, should not be interpreted as accolades given by Paul for approval or permission for their conduct. The bottom line in this letter reveals that Paul is primarily aggravated with their actions. Thus, we have successfully answered the question for what the context was for both first Corinthians and chapter seven. We have given a general time and geographical framework of the writing of this letter. We also have glossed over the bulk of the problems Paul seems to address in his letter in order to discover the context. Finally, for the most part, we relied on what the text either implied, or explicitly stated, in order to answer our questions. We must now turn to chapter seven to see what Paul has to say regarding the problems of marriage, in particular, within the Corinthian Church.

Chapter Seven on Marriage

Turning to chapter seven we will first divide it into two primary and general concerns of the Corinthian Church; viz., should a Christian get married, and should a virgin get married? Second, we will concretize Paul's points by addressing specific problems found within these general concerns.[14] Verse one clearly implies that the Corinthian Church had some, at least general, questions that they wanted Paul to address; furthermore, Paul states his position right up front. Namely, it is better not to be married. But why would Paul say this? His argument is simple; he gives us reasons that he believes are sufficient for stating this conclusion. First, he implies that the distraction that arises within a marriage can turn one away from the things of God, and toward the concerns of a spouse. [15] Second, Paul himself was not married, and remaining consistent with his typical rhetoric, he adamantly believed he was a more mature Christian than most, if not all. Hence, they would be better off if they could imitate him in this way also. Thus, his second premise might simply be "because I am not married." Here we have a simple appeal to authority. [16] So, in Paul's opinion it was better to not be married; but he further recognized that his ability to be celibate was not something that all could follow. [17] He then gives us his reasons for this second conclusion. First, in order to prevent a greater evil (one's immoral behavior due to his or her lack of self-control) it would be best to be married or remain married. [18] Second, he argues that, generally speaking, some have been called to a particular way of life; viz., some have been called to marriage and some have not, and that it would be better for one to remain in the condition he or she is presently. [19] We can reasonably conclude that Paul's position on marriage is that you are better off if you are not married, but due to weakness and temptations to sin one should either be married or remain married; and, that each of us has a particular place in life according to God. We then have two conclusions, stay as you already are, and it is better to be single.

However, within this general pronouncement of Paul's opinions on marriage are specific (although implicit) references to concrete problems within the Corinthian Church. In verses four through five Paul implies that some married couples in the Corinthian Church were depriving one another of sex, and this may have been creating some problems. [20] Paul seems to suggest that this abstaining should be done within certain limitations (specifically during periods of prayer), but without neglecting the other spouse's needs along with recognizing one's own weaknesses.

In verses eight and nine we can see additional instruction given to those who are not married. Specifically, he wants them (widows and unmarried) to remain so. This seems to imply (as stated above) that there were some disputes over whether it was better to be married or not, and it is already quit clear what Paul's position on this issue is.

In verses ten through sixteen we have two concrete issues being addressed. First, implicitly there seems to be disputes over whether one should remain married at all (which was addressed above); and secondly, whether one should remain married if his or her spouse was an unbeliever. His arguments are straightforward; first (as stated above) one should remain in the condition he or she was prior to becoming a Christian. [21] Second, the unbeliever in the marriage may in some way receive the grace of God by being married to the believer. "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save you wife?" [22]

Turning to verses seventeen through twenty-four we have one of three possible ways to interpret it. First, is it possible that these are concrete examples of problems arising in the Corinthian Church? That is, some were to be circumcised when they were not, and was this the Christian thing to do? The other way to interpret these verses is as a simple continuation of his theme of remaining as you are, along with his emphasis on unification. That is, is Paul using a previous example of similar problems found in another Church in order to both reduce the potential for like problems and/or exemplify his point of remaining as you are, while still remaining unified in their belief? But why can it not be both? Could Paul have been using problems that have arisen elsewhere, but were festering at Corinth? It could have been that Paul had prior experiences that this division over circumcision was harmful, and that some Christian Jews at Corinth were advocating circumcision. Paul's point though seems to be that these types of distinctions are divisive and have little significance in the big picture. The important issue is that one keeps God's commandments. Hence, I think it is best to understand these verses with Paul addressing a concrete problem, but with an emphasis on Christian unity to each other and in obeying God. [23] Paul then, in my opinion, is using an implicit appeal to unification, and to the importance of remaining in the condition in which he or she is already found in as a believer; this was in order that they may avoid further problems, i.e., temptations, etc.

Turning now to our second primary question, Paul now addresses the Corinthian Church's concerns over virgins. He is rather unambiguous at this juncture, and sticks to his guns concerning remaining as you are, i.e., if married remain so, if single remain so. And if the virgin decides to marry then "...such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you." [24] Paul clearly prefers that they remain single, but if one does marry "you have not sinned." And of course, given Paul's position, one has not sinned if she or he remains single. As a matter of fact, they would be better off if they could remain single, as he is. The concrete problem that Paul addresses here seems to imply that some may have thought that it was sinful to be married, or that marriage itself was the best state to be in upon Christ's return; i.e., given the tone of rushing into changing ones position before his immediate coming. Paul also implied this same problem with those who were abstaining from sex, for they possibly thought marriage was a more sinful condition to be in. It seems apparent though, that Christ's impending return was an influence for both the Corinthians and within his own thinking. For what utility would there be in marriage in these end times?

In verses twenty-nine through thirty one, we may see some glimpse of one additional problem with the Corinthian Church; viz., the Corinthian believers may have been preoccupied with things of the world, and Paul was trying to straighten out their priorities at this juncture. [25] In verses thirty-six through thirty-eight Paul seems to be directly addressing some concrete abuses in the Corinthian Church; viz., the mistreating of the virgins. What this mistreatment entails is not clear. Nevertheless, we can see that the implication is to treat virgins appropriately (whatever that may be).

In summary, we saw that Paul addresses abuses occurring within marriages and the misunderstanding of the significance of being married and being single. Concretely though, we saw Paul address specific misunderstandings of sexuality in marriage, celibacy, and the question of to be married or not to be married. His conclusion was that one should not abstain from sex in marriage except for devotion to the Lord. Furthermore, Paul argued that he would prefer one to remain single, for that was a better position to be in, at least in two ways: viz., in that Paul implicitly appeals to himself and the need that one should imitate him whenever possible. Second, one can devote greater time to the Lord's work versus preoccupation with the spouse or the things of the world (for Christ's return was near). But probably most important for Paul was the necessity for unification and remaining in one's present condition; i.e., not to hurriedly change one's conditions because of their newfound beliefs and the immanent return of Christ. Do not look to change the conditions, if you are married remain so, if single remain so; but it is not a sin to change. Implicitly then, we can see that after becoming Christians there must have been disagreement in the concrete issues addressed above, and that Paul was trying to correct such misunderstandings. [26]

Context of Ephesians?

We now will turn our attention to the letter to the Ephesians. [27] Unlike first Corinthians, Ephesians is not as easy to situate the place, time, location, and carriers of this letter. [28] Although, whoever the author is, it does seem reasonable to conclude he is writing from prison. [29] It further seems possible that the carrier of the letter was Tychicus, although an appeal to one text makes this rather skimpy evidence. [30] But this is general speculation, in my opinion, which can not be easily settled; as a result, I hold to an inconclusive conclusion to the above questions (viz., place, time, location, etc.). Nor do I believe that the answers to such questions will have a big impact, or importance, for this project.

As an overview of Ephesians we do not get a picture of concrete problems being addressed in particular situations; instead, it appears that the author gives his pronouncement on some general teachings that can benefit the believer. With this in mind, let us begin to lay out (as we did with first Corinthians) the general themes found in the text. We will then be able to set up the context for chapter five on marriage.

Our first division may appropriately be from chapters one through three. The general theme here seems to be that there are certain consequences for being a Christian. It seems that as a Christian the author stresses God's divine plan as a mystery, and that we are to ultimately give Him praise. [31] The remaining verses of chapter one seem to reinforce the idea of further blessings given to the saint, but also to add that the author is praying for these believers to further see the great mysteries of God's purpose for them. [32] In chapter two, (specifically, chapter two verses one through ten) the author presents a view of the place of the believer contrasted with his or her previous condition. That is, they were once alive to sin, now they are dead to sin and alive to Christ. [33] But again, this is in the context of understanding that it is within God's great plan for them. In verses eleven and following we see he is making these claims about the Christian primarily to a Gentile [34] audience; and that their condition was worse before Christ, but that now has all changed for the better of course. The author ends chapter two on the notion of both Jew and Gentile being reconciled. [35]

Turning to chapter three the author asserts that these mysteries (one's found in chapters one and two) are revealed to him (and also to the prophets) in order for him to be a minister to them (i.e., the Gentiles). And he prays that they should be given strength through Christ within them so they may be able to comprehend these great mysteries he talks about.

Our next division is in chapters four through six; however, we will only concern ourselves with the theme in chapter four, then we will proceed to do an analysis of chapter five and what the author has to say about marriage. In chapter four the author seems to be exhorting the believer to be unified; but unified in what? It appears to be one in doctrine: "...one body, and one Spirit...one hope... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." [36] Possibly a general appeal to unity, which would be consistent with the verses in the previous chapters; however, now the author is a bit less obscure and gives us a list of beliefs. It would however, in my opinion, be rather presumptuous of us to take a dogmatic position concerning this list. Given the general tone of the letter and the comprehensive nature of the exhortation about nonspecific matters, we are best to avoid giving this text a concrete problem for a specific Church. [37] We see in chapter four a prohibition with "sensuality," "impurity," and "greed." This is the nearest we get to what we see in first Corinthians; nonetheless, immediately following such a prohibition the author turns back to the rather general reasons for not behaving in this manner. In verses twenty-five and following of chapter four we see another list of things not to do: "do not lie," "be overly angry," "do not steal," etc. Again, this is far too general in order for us to infer that there is a specific group he is referring to. And over and over again the author's main reasons for them to behave in the fashion that he exhorts them to, is because it is a better way to live, and life will be better for one who lives in this fashion. Additionally, to live otherwise is not what the new nature does; to act otherwise is considered to be behavior that is of the old nature. So up to this juncture of the text, we ask, what is it that we can say about the Ephesians? In my estimation, this letter appears to have an author that represents general problems with general guidelines that are appeals to "do this because you get this" argumentation. He is primarily exhorting the believer in a way that would be explanatory for why they should follow certain doctrines, i.e., for their own benefit. But as for concrete problems directed at a specific Church, as found in first Corinthians, this seems to be totally absent at worse, and inconclusive at best. We find themes such as: the after-effect of being a Christian, and the need for the Christian to understand the great mysteries, and the necessity for the Christian to be unified in love as a community. These themes are clearly not of a chastising nature as we find in first Corinthians; instead, they are words of a persuasive and encouraging nature that appear to be meant for a more general audience. And this is clearly contrary to the themes we found in first Corinthians (with exception of unification). With this said, we now turn our attention to chapter five on marriage.

Chapter Five on Marriage

Turning to chapter five verse three the audience is encouraged not to be accused of any immoral behavior that would be unbecoming of a saint; instead, the believer is to be thankful. The author slips in an exaggerated ad baculum argument in order to back up his position. Namely, that none of the people that behave immorally will "inherit the kingdom," and the "wrath of God" comes down on those who do. Furthermore, the believers are exhorted not to participate with such people; instead, they must expose such behavior. [38] This might imply that some saints were, to a certain degree, associating in an unbecoming way with those that participated in such immoral behavior; and this may have been the author's motivation behind the ad baculum argument. In verse fifteen we see a summary of why the believer should behave as the author has exhorted them to, he says: "Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." [39]

We are now ready to turn our attention to the text that is of our utmost concern; viz., verses twenty-two through thirty-three. The necessity found here for the wife to be subject to the husband as she is subject to the Lord clearly implies a voluntary submission. Obviously, analogously, the Christian Church believed that to come to Christ had to be by a reciprocal nature, and not something unwillingly forced upon the pagan. And implicitly this seems likewise with marriage. [40] The author exhorts the husband to love his wife as he loves Christ. This is an odd metaphor, but if we understand the context it seems to be emphasizing the loving union with husband and wife with the loving relationship of Christ with the Church. Furthermore, the author seems to imply that: as the husband should not obviously usurp authority over Christ, he should neither do this with his wife; coequal as body and head, but yet hierarchical as the body willingly submits to the head for the betterment of the whole. Finally, the husband is exhorted to love his wife as much as he loves himself. "He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it...For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." [41] So, the several themes of unification in belief, and in love for one another, along with moral obedience, will reveal at the end a beneficial life for the saint. To do otherwise, is to bring upon oneself the wrath of God; and that of course is "foolish" behavior, not as a "wise" saint should behave.

Comparison of Chapter Five of Ephesians with Chapter seven of First Corinthians

At this juncture the comparison of the two chapters is relatively straightforward. We saw that in chapter seven of first Corinthians a body of believers that had numerous concrete problems. Specifically, the misunderstanding of the purposes and significance of marriage contrasted with the purpose and significance of being single. We further noted concrete problems such as sex in marriage (or possibly lack of), celibacy, etc. In this text Paul clearly puts forward the more practical and holy position of being single. But we noted that this was probably due to the abuses taking place in the Corinthian Church. Finally, we brought a main theme running through this chapter; viz., to remain in the condition one found oneself when one became a believer. That is, do not seek to change--if single remain so, if married remain so. Clearly then, Paul was addressing concrete problems with concrete answers for a specific body of believers in the Corinthian Church, primarily for the more general principle of unification.

However, we do not see a similar context when we turn to Ephesians chapter five. The entire letter has a different tone. That is, in first Corinthians chapter seven (as stated above) Paul is chastising misbehavior concerning concrete problems; but in the Ephesians' letter we see exhortation, not chastisement. As a result, the themes in each letter will also be different. The audience in Ephesians appears to be nonspecific, i.e., it is likely addressed to the believer in general; but we see in first Corinthians that it seems to be specific, and likely not applicable to all believers. Furthermore, chapter seven of first Corinthians utilizes arguments primarily of an appeal to authority kind, and implications to remain as you were before coming to be a Christian; but in Ephesians chapter five we see analogical arguments by appeals to Christ's relationship with the Church being similar when considering the relationship between the husband and wife. Thus, not only are the audiences different, the goal and themes of each writer is different. Furthermore, the means for how to achieve each writer's goal is found to be different. Finally, as stated above, the tone of each letter was different; i.e., in Corinthians it was primarily of chastisement, while in Ephesians it was primarily of encouragement to behave so that one may obtain a better good. Hence, at first glance, there appears to be more differences than similarities between the two chapters. But what about similarities, what are they-if any?

First of all, it is obvious that both chapters are concerned with the issue of marriage. Clearly, they both assume marriage is something God approves of (sometimes more explicit in Corinthians). Also, both letters assume sex does, and will, take place within the marriage. Both also show either explicitly or implicitly, that marriage will have its own share of problems. Both share the notion of unification (more implicit in Corinthians); and as such, warn the believing couple (either implicitly or explicitly) to remain with one another and to be faithful (Ephesians implicitly suggests this by appeals to the analogy of Christ and the Church). Whatever we want to say about these chapters, we must pronounce that they are far more different than alike. They go to different audiences with different emphases and different goals; and to suppose that somehow they can be unified overlooks these contextually significant differences. If there were one main similarity it would likely be that both letters appear to presuppose an impending return of Christ, and a necessity for unification of the body of believers as a good for the Christian family. Hence, we can say the same, at least analogously, for marriage.


[1] Acts 18:1-4.

[2] Ibid., 19:1.

[3] See The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Pub., 1976, Vol.10, pp.179-180. W. Harold Mare argues: "it is logical to conclude...[that] Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus" were the carriers of the letter to the Corinth Church. In my opinion he does not build a strong inductive (a posteriori) case on one or two ambiguous texts, and his further appeals to Acts seem even more problematic; hence, I suggest it is inconclusive, that is at best, possible but not probable. His argument borders on being an over simplification. More specifically, I side with Tatum where he says "The use of Acts is its own reward; it does not help to account for the rhetorical situations and the argumentation of Paul's letters." Putting Galatians in its Place: The Sequence of Paul's Undisputed Letters, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Duke University, 1997, p. 11. Although, in Prof. Tatum's context he is specifically referring to Galatians, but implicitly his argument can equally apply to first Corinthians. He seems to suggest that appeals to Acts essentially opens a can of worms when it comes to interpreting and situating Paul's letters. I would agree.

[4] 1 Cor. 1:12ff.; 2:1-5 for Paul's power from God; see chp. 3 for his juxtaposing argument for his maturity and their lack of. When one reads these chapters one naturally wonders if Paul is rather defensive; and at times appears somewhat insecure or very protective with his apostolic status.

[5] Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21. Paul's appeals to scripture for support.

[6] See Tatum p.44. He says that "Paul treats the issue of food offered to idols." Specifically, "[m]eat and wine," footnote number six.

[7] Tatum says on pp.47-48: "Food that might or might not be idol-food is permitted, whether on one's own table or on that of a non-Christian host (1Cor 25,27-28). And??"He [Paul] does, however, by implication permit the buying and consuming of 'Gentile wine' just as he permits the buying and consuming of 'Gentile meat.'"

[8] Ibid., p.50 "The differentiating principle is thus the owner of the food: the one God and one Lord, or the many gods and many lords."

[9] Notice that it does not logically follow from this point that: the spiritual gifts are indeed equal; instead, we can say that Paul may have used this strategy to get the Corinthian Church to conform to a less arrogant position than the one they presently held. Paul, and elsewhere in scripture, there is a given hierarchy with gifts. But the contrary implication here is used primarily as a persuasive tool.

[10] That is: A -> B; B -> C; C -> D; therefore, A -> D

[11] vv.16ff. He actually has two enethyemes (note vv.12-15 for the first), but I chose this one for its stronger reductio aspect. This should not be understood that Paul intentionally set out these arguments. Lay thinkers, without realizing it, regularly present arguments of their own. What is remarkable is how tight it is, given Paul's usual loose structure of arguments.

[12] (Chapter sixteen is irrelevant for our purposes).

[13] We can see that without the final cause Paul would have no reason to write the letter, hence, we should note the simultaneity involved in both the purpose and efficient cause for Paul's writing the letter.

[14] Verses 7:1 and 7:25 respectively. Paul says: "Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman." And: "Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy." Obviously, there had to be disagreement amongst the Corinthians for the questions even to arise.

[15] 7:34. Paul says: "...but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband." Also, see verse 33. This is contrary to the one who is not married in which he says in verse thirty two b: "One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord."

[16] 7:7 Paul says: "Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am." Also, 7:8.

[17] 7:7 Paul says: "...each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that."

[18] 7:2; 7:9.

[19] 7:10-14 & 17. Also, this is implicit in his discussion concerning circumcision-verses 17-24.

[20] Was this forced abstaining or voluntary? I do not think we can infer to either position, for I do not see enough textual support either way. One might try to argue that Paul suggests voluntary abstaining because of the body of the wife is the authority of the husband, and visa versa. But I do not think this gives more weight either way. It seems easier to suggest there was some sexual misconduct in marriages. If we look at chapter six verses twelve and following there might be some support for such an interpretation. Additionally, an obvious assumption Paul makes here is that sex within marriage is approved.

[21] We could interpret this to mean, implicitly at least, that marriage was being taken by some as a non-Christian position. Hence, some were possibly jumping out of their marriages, and Paul was trying to straighten out these abuses. This would be consistent with the view of their general conviction that Christ was coming soon too.

[22] Verse 16; also see verses 13-14 concerning sanctification via the believing spouse or parent.

[23] The unity theme is implicitly and explicitly stressed throughout the letter.

[24] Verse 28.

[25] The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p.235.

[26] Verses thirty-nine and forty seem to imply he is against divorce, but he does not go so far as to explicitly say it is a sin. This view seems to be further supported when he says "in my opinion," on the assumption that such changes will bring distress. I might add, in my opinion, the fact that he says he has "the Spirit of God," seems to give little support to the notion that Paul is commanding it as a sin if done; i.e., one of his not to do commands given by God. I think Paul's typical rhetorical modus operandi (when it comes to commands) leaves little to no wiggle room when something is sinful. Furthermore, to interpret this as a command would clearly take it out of its context and put too much theological baggage on to it. It should be clear that I do not interpret chapter seven as commands of what to do or not to do; instead, Paul is trying to rectify concrete problems by giving general guidelines. All be it, this is probably not the best way to handle these problems (i.e., it is generally best to give concrete answers to concrete problems), but given the magnitude and amount of the problems found in the Corinthian Church it should be no surprise that Paul is overwhelmed here (as elsewhere) by how much he must address.

[27] The authorship of Ephesians is irrelevant to our purposes, thus, the term "author" will be used whenever referring to the writer of this letter.

[28] The problem is not easily addressed by appeals to the opening verse for that is not found in the oldest or most reliable mss. See Expository Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p.9. Also, footnote in Bible says "Some ancient manuscripts do not contain at Ephesus."

[29] See 3:1; 4:1; 6:20. Of course this assumes that the document is not fabricated. I do not wish to get into the controversies dealing with this debate, for it seems irrelevant for our purposes.

[30] See 6:21.

[31] See 1:14.

[32] See 1:15ff.

[33] Verse 3 points out the wretched condition is for all who are not in Christ (Jew and Gentile).

[34] See 3:1 also.

[35] Verses 14ff.

[36] 4:4

[37] When I read this letter, up to this point, there seems to be a clear difference in tone than found in first Corinthians. In first Corinthians his tone is frustrated and angry, here the author seems more like a father saying "no-no, do x because it will help you understand the big mysteries and work together as a family." The harsh rhetoric of first Corinthians is clearly absent here. Chapter four gets the closest to representing a concrete problem, but not quite as clear as what we see in first Corinthians.

[38] See 5:7ff & 11.

[39] Verses 15-17.

[40] Verses 22ff. Arranged marriages were common practice (so I do not believe it is referring to that), so this may be referring to specific problems as sexual misbehavior (given the context of the previous chapter), or mistreatment of the wife by the husband (see verses 25ff.). The context does not seem to be clear, and it is far to general to nail down a concrete problem.

[41] The chapters underlying argument is from analogy.

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