the use and meaning of agamos

Ward Powers (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 15:19:42 +1100

Many thanks for offers of help.

The Greek word "agamos", "unmarried", occurs only four times in the Greek
NT, all in 1 Corinthians 7. In verse 8, Paul addresses himself to those who
are agamos, apparently placing himself in this category; in verse 11it is
used of a woman whose marriage has broken up; in verse 32, of an unmarried
man; in verse 34, of an unmarried woman.

But the question is, What kind of "unmarried" does it mean? (a) Never been
married? (b) No longer married (i.e., widowed or divorced)? (c) Equally,
either or both of these?

Verse 11 rules out option (a). What of options (b) and (c)?

Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker is not at all helpful in clarifying this;
other lexicons I have consulted say even less.

We turn to the context of the use of this word. If, as the available
evidence strongly indicates, Paul was a widower (or possibly, a divorcee -
see FF Bruce p.68, 1 and 2 Corinthians, NCB, Oliphants 1971), then verses 8,
11 and 34 (where agamos is complementary to parthenos, "virgin, never been
married", to cover between them the whole range of "not married" females)
support the meaning "no longer married", option (b). On the other hand,
verse 32 seems to imply option (c), referring to all unmarried males, and
embracing both categories of "unmarried".

What light can be thrown on this question by usage outside the NT, and by
detailed word studies?

1. Where does agamos occur in the Septuagint, and with what implications as
to its scope?

2. Where does agamos occur in literature outside the NT (secular and
Christian), and with what implications as to its scope?

3. What word studies have been done on this word - published and
unpublished, books or articles?

4. Has there been any previous discussion of this question on the List?

Anyone able to help?

Ward Powers

Rev Dr B. Ward Powers			Email:
10 Grosvenor Crescent			International Tel: +61-2-9799-7501
SUMMER HILL  NSW  2130			Australian Tel:     (02) 9799-7501