Re: 1 Corinthians 7:27,28

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Wed Aug 05 1998 - 22:27:34 EDT

At 08:00 98/08/06 +0800, Mr. Lemuel G. Abarte wrote:
>My understanding is that the Hebrew custom made betrothal technically a
marriage before sexual relations take place (Matthew 1:19).
>But APOLUO and its cognates seem to mean that the case of separation is
really called divorce (Matthew 19:1-15; Mark 10:1-12).
>The Graeco-Roman custom allowed the woman to divorce her husband.
>It seems that the second part of 1 Corinthians 7:27 does not rule out that
the man did live with his wife for sometime as husband and wife, that a
divorce took place, and he is a divorcee. My understanding of MH ZHTEI
GUNAIKA is that the divorcee should not be in a hurry to marry again.

In his earlier post, Lemuel had raised the question of the meaning of 1 Cor
7:27-28, quoting it, and enquired whether perhaps a divorced Christian may
remarry. He added that his Baptist and Catholic friends would burn him at
the stake for this, but at least he would have an exegetically clear


I reckon your exegesis is headed in the right direction.

Let me draw your attention to the NEB translation of 1 Cor 7:26-28 "26. It
is my opinion that in a time of stress like the preszent this is the best
way for a man to live - it is best for a man to be as he is. 27. Are you
bound in marriage? Do not seek a dissolution. Has your marriage been
dissolved? Do not seek a wife. 28. If, however, you do marry, there is
nothing wrong in it; and if a virgin marries, she has done no wrong. But
those who marry will have pain and grief in this bodily life, and my aim is
to spare you."

The REB is similar in verse 26, the same in verse 27, and in 28 says: "But
if you do marry, you are not doing anything wrong, nor does a girl if she
marries; it is only that those who marry will have hardships to endure, and
my aim is to spare you."

The verb DEDESAI is perfect in form: "Have you become bound, are you now in
a state of "boundness" as a result of a prior act (of binding to a wife)?"
Being bound in marriage is a recognized meaning of this verb DEW (see
DEDETAI, also perfect, in Romans 7:2; BAGD give other examples).

Paul is addressing a married man: "Are you bound to a wife?" he asks, and
to the person of whom this is true he says, "Do not seek a divorce" (i.e. a
sundering of that marriage bond). "Divorce" is LUSIS (this is its only NT
use), from root LU-. Then Paul asks, LELUSAI APO GUNAIKOS, "Have you become
loosed from a wife?" Again the perfect form is used: LELUSAI, from LUW.
BAGD state (on LUW in this verse), "A previous state of being bound need
not be assumed"; but in my judgement they are mistaken in this instance.

The use of the verb LUW here, which is the very next word after LUSIN, and
also from the root LU-, is IMHO very significant. The normal meaning of the
perfect would be, to be now in a state of freedom from a bond of some kind,
having been set free by some prior act or occurrence which has broken that
bond. "Are you now having been set free from a wife?" coming right after
the use of DEW in reference to the bond of marriage shows IMHO that the NEB
and REB are absolutely correct in translating this as, "Has your marriage
been dissolved?"

Paul is here addressing a divorcee, and telling him not to seek for a
second marriage. The basis of this is not on some doctrinal or theological
or moral grounds but (as he tells us in verse 28) because those who marry
(or, remarry) will have hardships to endure, and he would spare them from
these. The thought is parallel to 1 Cor 7:10-11.

But Paul goes on to add that if such a person (the "you" of these verses,
the divorcee) does remarry, then OUC hHMARTES, "you have not sinned". This
is similar to 1 Cor 7:8-9 where Paul in addressing the AGAMOI (a term which
includes the divorced) first tells these people that it is preferable for
them that they now remain unmarried, as he has done since the termination
of his own marriage; and next he goes on to say that if they then find that
they do not have the gift of sexual self-control then they must marry
(GAMHSATWSAN, aorist imperative).

Lemuel, I agree that Paul is saying (in both places in 1 Cor 7) that the
divorcee should not be in a hurry to marry again. But after a divorcee has
tested whether he (she) has now been given the gift of living single and
celibate and has found that this is not the case then remarriage is the

In summary: In Scripture, a broken marriage is always wrong, always
contrary to God's perfect will (and there are no exceptions to this); but
the sin of a broken marriage, like any other sin, is forgivable. Moreover,
there are no prohibitions upon remarriage after divorce: Paul expressly
says that such remarriage is not a sin (1 Cor 7:28) and commands it when
the person who is now AGAMOS sees that he/she does not have the gift of
chastity and continence (1 Cor 7:9).

Lemuel, I would hate to fall into the hands of your Baptist and Catholic
friends - but perhaps the answer for us all is not simply to follow
traditional interpretations but (like the NEB and REB) to look carefully at
what the Greek is actually saying.

Or so it seems to me.



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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