Re: AGAMOS in 1 Cor. 7

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Mon Oct 20 1997 - 02:23:51 EDT

At 11:36 97/10/11 -0400, David L. Moore wrote:
>At 08:29 AM 10/10/97 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>At 10:03 PM -0500 10/9/97, David L. Moore wrote:
>>> Despite the alpha privative (or a privative) as a fairly well known
>>>construction, words must be defined by their usage. I am not aware of any
>>>instance of AGAMOS in a classical author in which it means anything but
>>>"never married." If anyone knows of one, I'd be glad to hear of it.
>>I'd want to check this by running a TLG search of classical usage, but I
>>should note that LSJ (the new one) says: "unmarried, single, whether
>>bachelor or widower, ANANDROS being used of the woman." Some examples are
>>cited, some of which, while not ruling out the possibility that the word
>>might there mean "never married," appear to mean exactly the same as
>>English "unmarried."
> Certainly L&S's definition needs to be given a great deal of weight.
>I do find it odd, though, that I haven't been able to come across a single
>instance in classical authors where AGAMOS unequivocally means "widowed" or
>"divorced." That's not to say for certain that none exists. Carl's
>suggestion of a TLG search of classical usage could give a definitive
>answer. I may have to look into getting that done.
> Part of what makes me think it may have a meaning in classical
>authors of "never married" are the very clear instances of such usage, as in
>_Oedipus Rex_ (1502), when Oedipus, orphaned, bereft, and blind laments to
>his daughters that they must perish barren and unmarried (XERSOUS FQARHNAI
>KAGAMOUS / hUMAS XREWN) because no man will want to join himself to the
>scandle of their family. Or in Aeschylus _The Supplicant Maidens_ (143),
>where AGAMOS is employed in an expression that is translated "a virgin to a
>virgin's aid."

Is anyone out there actually engaged in or planning to undertake this
proposed checking of classical usage with a TLG search?

It would be a shame (it seems to me) to let this thread lapse with such an
important and relevant piece of information missing from it. But more than
a week has passed now (am I too impatient?) and nothing more has been said.

Though from one point of view it must be acknowledged that a catalogue of
classical usage of AGAMOS will not directly affect the interpretation of 1
Corinthians 7. In his last contribution on this thread (which David has
cited above), Carl said, "words must be defined by their usage". And as a
couple of us have aimed to show in contributions to this thread, Paul is
clearly using the word AGAMOS in 1 Corinthians 7 (the only place it occurs
in the NT) with the meaning "not now married" and definitely including the
widowed and divorced. And this has GOT to be taken into account in pastoral
situations regarding the remarriage of divorcees by any of us who really
want to be biblical in our pastoral practice. Because Paul tells the AGAMOI
that if they have not now been given the gift of continence and chastity,
"they MUST (imperative) marry" (1 Corinthians 7:9).

Even so, I reckon it would be REALLY interesting to get a comprehensive
catalogue of the usage of AGAMOS in the wider Greek world.

Those with TLG access: please help here.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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