Re: AGAMOS in 1Cor. 7

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Thu Oct 02 1997 - 11:05:47 EDT

At 07:05 AM 10/2/97 -0400, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 12:09 AM 10/2/97 -0400, David L. Moore wrote:

>> I'm wondering about AGAMOS in 1Cor. 7; in v. 11 it refers to a woman
>>separated from her husband, in V. 34, it is paired with PARQENOS but
>>apparently not as a full synonymn (cf. v. 28). In v. 8 f. similar counsel
>>is given to the AGAMOIS and widows that if they find it difficult to remain
>>sexually continent, they should marry.
>>One might infer there is an implication in Paul's use of the word
>>AGAMOS of having been married but presently being in an unmarried state.
>>The citations above from 1Cor. 7 suggest it.
>Is there any evidence that AGAMOS clearly implies whether someone has been
>previously married? To me, "unmarried" seems to make sense, and it is also
>the translation Louw & Nida prefer.

        Consider v. 34 where we have hH GUNH hH AGAMOS KAI hH PARQENOS
MERIMNA.... If this were referring to the same person, wouldn't one expect
to see an anarthrous PARQENOS. So the subject of the text as it stands in
N-A 26/27 is compound; the singular verbs and adjective following should be
taken as distributive. One might ask why hH AGAMOS was not sufficient to
cover all possibilities here.

>In verses 8-9, Paul tells the widows and AGAMOIS that it is good for them to
>remain single, but that it is better to marry than to burn. In verses 10-11,
>Paul says that the wife should not separate from her husband, but if she
>does, she is to remain AGAMOS or else reconcile herself to her husband;
>likewise, the husband is not to divorce his wife.
>We can use the "unmarried" to translate both verses in English, and if we
>do, the implication in verses 10-11 is clear: the wife was married before
>she left her husband. In verses 8-9, the instructions given to the AGAMOIS
>allow them to marry, so it seems that if you say only that someone is
>AGAMOS, people might generally assume that the person has not yet been married.

>> When I checked out the references for AGAMOS at Perseus, however,
>>the meaning of the word was invariably "never married" - in some authors,
>>very explicitly so. Even Plutarch, from the Koine period, used AGAMOS in
>>this way.
>Did you see anything on Perseus that would rule out the meaning "unmarried"
>or "single", without unambiguously specifying whether the person had been

        It isn't clear to me exactly what you are asking. What I did *not*
find on Perseus is any instance of the meaning Paul clearly gives AGAMOS in
1Cor. 7:11 - a meaning also echoed in the popular Koine of Moulton and
Milligan. This suggests to me that, according to the data available to me
(Perseus, not TLG), there has been a shift in the semantic domain of AGAMOS
between the Greek of the Classical authors and the popular Koine of Paul and
the papyri. Is this a matter from which we can draw conculsions concerning
the use of AGAMOS in 1Cor. 7? Maybe. I would want to have more complete
data before making any bold statements, but it seems to me to be a theme
worth exploring.

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
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