1 Corinthians 7:21

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Iver Larsen
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1 Corinthians 7:21

Post by Iver Larsen » October 12th, 2012, 9:11 am

I have two questions about 1 Corinthians 7:21. The text of verses 20-21 is:

ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη, ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 δοῦλος ἐκλήθης, μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ᾽ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι.
A literal rendering could be: Each one in the calling in which he was called, in that he should remain. Were you called as a slave, let not that be a concern to you - however if, in fact, you are able to become free, by all means make use (of it).

My two questions are:
1) What is the implied object of χρῆσαι?
2) What is the nuance of μᾶλλον and which word if any does it qualify?

BDAG states under the entry for χράομαι:
“A dat. is to be supplied w. μᾶλλον χρῆσαι make the most of, take advantage of 1 Cor 7:21, either τῇ δουλείᾳ … or τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ.”

It seems to me that there is third and better option. Rather than referring back to slavery or freedom, none of which occur in the previous clause, why not take it to refer back to the event idea expressed by δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι?
In that case, the meaning would be: Make use of it (the possibility to become free.) And that seems the way that almost all translations have taken it.

There is a similar consctruction in 1 Cor 9:12, but here the dative object for the verb is explicit:
εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ
(Since others partake of this right over you, why not even more us? Howevere, we have not made use of this right (to be paid for our services.))

μᾶλλον is a comparative intensifier. Those who prefer to take freedom or slavery as the implied object, suggest that it means: Use your freedom (or slavery) to serve the Lord even more.

I prefer to link it to the same event idea of the possibility to become free and link it to the verb it precedes. In that case, it would mean: By all means make use of that chance/opprotunity. (Most modern translations make this intensifying word implicit.)

What do you think? I am wondering why BDAG restricted itself to two indirect objects rather than mentioning what seems obvious to me.
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Re: 1 Corinthians 7:21

Post by cwconrad » October 12th, 2012, 9:45 am

I don't disagree with anything Iver's said about what this verse means: "If you have the opportunity to become free, by all means take it." Is there an implicit dative complement of χρῆσαι? Sure. Is it τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι? Well, yes, that would do it, but so would τῷ ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι. We use the expletive pronoun "it" in English. I don't think there's anything ambiguous in the Greek, even if some might call this a case of "idiomatic" expression. If there's anything in BDAG's note on the text in question, I would wonder why δουλείᾳ even deserves consideration. As for μᾶλλον, again the usage is not in doubt: of course it means "preferably." The verse strikes me as rather colloquial in expression, pretty much like English, "But if you do get a chance to be free, you'd better take it!"
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Roy Fredrick
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Location: USA

Re: 1 Corinthians 7:21

Post by Roy Fredrick » October 15th, 2012, 10:59 pm

I think it is self explanatory, and should read "be a user of it more," explained by the next verse 1Co 7:22 For, he who in the Lord was invited, being a bond-servant, is, a freed-man of the Lord: in like manner, he that was called being, a freeman, is Christ’s bond-servant:—
1Co 7:23 With a price, have ye been bought,—do not become bond-servants of men:

Lemma χράομαι with verbal nouns. periphr. for the verb derived from the noun Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon
Middle voice of a primary verb STRONG
ME: the noun from OFr. us, from L. usus, from uti 'to use'; the verb from OFr. user, based on L. uti.
© Oxford University Press, 2004
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1Ch 25:5 All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn.

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