Re: the use and meaning of agamos

Paul Zellmer (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 00:49:42 -0500

Ward Powers wrote:
> 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 unpublished, books or articles?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

Dr. Powers,

The subject was broached back in the August-September timeframe. You
might look at the b-greek homepage ( to
see what was said at that time. I believe the subject was something
like, "Loosed from a wife".

Of course, just because a topic is talked about one time does not mean
that someone else cannot have more to say about it ;^>.

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions