Re: AGAMOS in 1Cor. 7

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Thu Oct 02 1997 - 12:32:27 EDT

At 11:28 AM 10/2/97 -0400, Jonathan Robie wrote:

>>>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.
>I think that it is clear that AGAMOS refers to people who are not married.
>You suggest that the term also means that the person has never been married
>when it appears in classical Greek. When you say this, do you mean only that
>the uses you see seem to refer to someone who has never been married, or is
>there evidence that the term clearly implies someone who has never been

        As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did come across some references
in Perseus in which the meaning of "never married" for AGAMOS was quite
explicit. I will be away from my computer and e-mail for the next couple of
days and am not able to send examples now because of time constraints.
Anyone could look over the data himself by doing a Greek word search at the
Perseus site for AGAMOS in all authors.

>Let me give some examples. Suppose we see this paragraph:
>1. "She had never had a husband, and was AGAMOS"
>That tells me that the woman had never been married, and was AGAMOS, but it
>does not tell me that AGAMOS always means that the person has never been
>married, and Paul's usage clearly refers to a woman who *has* been married,
>so I would assume that the term means simply "unmarried". On the other hand,
>if I found a use that says:
>2. "Now we know that a person who is AGAMOS has never had a spouse"
>That would tell me that the term, as used in this quote, clearly means that
>the person has never been married.
>In English, the terms "single" or "unmarried" do not say whether the person
>has been married, but the terms "divorced", "separated", and "widowed" give
>a clearer picture of the past. Terms like "virgin" or "never-married" are
>necessary if we want to be clear about this. I do not know whether AGAMOS is
>more like the English "single" or more like the English "never-married". Do
>you know of any uses of the word which would make this clear?

        I don't know that we need absolute logical certainty to be able to
say that a usage is normative. What I recall of the Perseus data is about
twenty references in a good sampling of classical authors. I found none of
them that implied previous marriage. Someone more familiar with all the
characters of Classical Greek literature might be able to point out some
instance of AGAMOS referring to a previously married person if such a
reference exists among Classical texts.

David Moore

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