1 Corinthians vii.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Now
concerning. The heads of the Church of Corinth had written to St. Paul, desiring to know whether he thought it more expedient
to marry or not. This was a question which the sages of antiquity had frequently taken into consideration. To this question
St. Paul here delivers his opinion. (Calmet) --- Others, with greater probability, suppose the chief question proposed to
St. Paul was, whether they were not bound, upon their conversion, to abstain from their infidel wives. (St. Jerome, cont.
Jovin. chap. iv.; St. Chrysostom, on this location, hom. xix.) --- To this he answers in ver. 12. and 13. --- It is good.
That is, according to the style of the Scriptures, it is better, if we consider the advantage of every particular,
Ver. 2. &c.
But because of fornication, let every man have, and live with his own wife, and not leave her, nor dismiss
her. Take notice, that St. Paul speaks these words to those that are already married, and speaks not of the unmarried till
the 8th verse. He does not then here exhort every one to marry, but admonishes married persons to live together, and not to
refuse the marriage duty, which neither the husband nor the wife can do without mutual consent, because of the marriage engagement.
Yet he advises them to abstain sometimes from what they may lawfully do, that they may give themselves to prayer,
and as it is added in the common Greek copies, to fasting. St. Chrysostom observes, that the words of St. Paul, are
not only, that they may pray, (which no day must be omitted) but that they may give themselves to prayer, that
is, may be better disposed and prepared for prayer, contemplation, and for receiving the holy Sacrament, as we find the priests
even of the ancient law, were to abstain from their wives, when they were employed in the functions of their ministry. But
such kind of advice is not relished by all that pretend to be reformers. And return together again....yet I speak this
by way of indulgence, of what is allowed to married persons, and not commanded them, unless when one of the married couple
is not willing to abstain. (Witham)
Ver. 6. By
indulgence. That is, by a condescension to your weakness. (Challoner)
Ver. 7-8. I
would, or I could wish you all were even as myself, and as it is said in the next verse, to continue unmarried
as I do. From hence it is evident, that St. Paul was not then married, who according to the opinion of the ancient
fathers, was never married. But when the apostle says, I would this as to you all, he only signifies what could
be wished for, the particular good of every one considered as a particular person, but what cannot be hoped for, considering
the state of mankind in general, and the temptations, and frailty of men. --- But every one hath his proper gift from God,
so that some prudently embrace a single life, and also make a religious vow of always living so, as it has been practised
by a great number both of men and women in all ages, ever since Christ's time. Others have not this more perfect gift: they
find themselves not disposed to lead, or vow a single life, they marry lawfully: it is better to marry than to burn,
or be burnt by violent temptations of concupiscence, by which they do not contain themselves from disorders of that
kind. It is against both the Latin and Greek text to translate, they cannot contain themselves, as in the Protestant
and Mr. N....'s translation. Dr. Wells, in his paraphrase, gives the sense of this place in these words: The inconveniences
of marriage are to be undergone, rather than such sinful imaginations, or practises, as arise from the flames of an ungovernable
lust. They therefore that are unmarried or widows, (to whom St. Paul speaks in these two verses) may have recourse to marriage
as a remedy. But let it be observed, that when St. Paul allows of marriage, he speaks not of those who have already made a
vow of living always a single life. Vows made to God must be kept. (Psalm lxxv. 12.; Ecclesiastes v. 3.) And St. Paul expressly
says of such persons, who have made a vow of perpetual continency, and afterwards marry, that they incur damnation, because
they violate their first faith, or vow made to God. See 1 Timothy v. 12. This saying, therefore, it is better to marry
than to burn, cannot justify the sacrilegious marriages of priests, or of any others who were under such vows. There are
other remedies which they are bound to make use of, and by which they may obtain the gift of continency and chastity. They
must ask this gift by fervent prayers to God, who gives a good spirit to them that ask it. (Luke xi. 15.[13.?]) They
must join fasting, alms, and the practice of self-denials, so often recommended in the gospel. See the annotations on Matthew
xix. The like remedies, and no others, must they use, who being already in wedlock, are under such violent temptations, that
they are continually in danger of violating, or do violate the chastity of the marriage-bed. For example, when married persons
are divorced from bed and board, when long absent from one another, when sick and disabled, when one has an inveterate aversion
to the other: they cannot marry another, but they can, and must use other remedies. (Witham)
Ver. 9. If
they do not contain. This is spoken of such as are free; and not of such as by vow have given their first faith to God;
to whom, if they will use proper means to obtain it, God will never refuse the gift of continency. Some translators have corrupted
this text, by rendering it, if they cannot contain. (Challoner)
Ver. 10. But
to them that are married, &c. He tells these persons, that they ought not to part, or if a separation for weighty
reasons can be allowed, neither party can marry another. (Witham) --- That the wife. Jesus Christ has expressly declared,
that in one case only a divorce may be allowable, and that is in the case of adultery. (Estius)
For to the rest, &c. This was a case entirely new, which the wisdom of the apostle regulates according to the laws
of charity. Tertullian thinks that some of the faithful, who had been converted from paganism, did not esteem it lawful to
live any longer with their wives, who were yet buried in the superstitions of idolatry, which scruples St. Paul answers, guided
as he was, by the particular lights of the Holy Ghost. (Calmet) --- Not the Lord. That is, it is the command of the
Lord, for such even as are separated, not to marry to another, but when I advised the unmarried not to marry, this is a counsel,
or advice, not a divine precept, which doctrine he repeats again before the end of this chapter, ver. 25, 28, and 39. ---
If any brother have a wife that believeth not, &c. St. Paul speaks of two that were joined by a contract of marriage,
when both of them were infidels, and that one of them is converted to the Christian faith: we do not read of any precept that
Christ gave, as to those marriages, but the apostle seems to order by his apostolical authority, that they continue as man
and wife, unless the party that remains still an infidel, will needs depart; then, says the apostle, let such an one
depart. There is also another case, to wit, when the man or woman remaining an infidel, will not live without continual
injuries and blasphemies against God and the Catholic religion, so that there can be no peace on that account betwixt
them. In these two cases, according to the canons of the Church, it is looked upon as no marriage, so that the party converted
may marry another. And this seems grounded on the reason, which the apostle here gave, that God hath called us in peace.
Is sanctified. The meaning is not that the faith of the husband, or the wife is of itself sufficient to put the unbelieving
party, or their children, in the state of grace and salvation: but that it is very often an occasion of their sanctification,
by bringing them to the true faith. (Challoner) --- Sanctification which has different significations, cannot here signify
that an infidel is truly and properly sanctified, or justified, by being married to a faithful believer; therefore we can
only understand an improper sanctification, so that such an infidel, though not yet converted, need not be looked upon as
unclean, but in the dispositions of being converted, especially living peaceably together, and consenting that their children
be baptized, by which they are truly sanctified. --- How knowest thou, O wife? &c. These words seem to give
the reason, why they may part, when they cannot live peaceably, and when there is little prospect that the party that is an
infidel will be converted. (Witham)
Ver. 17. &c.
But as the Lord hath distributed,...and called every one, &c. St. Paul proceeds to other points of discipline,
that persons converted may remain and continue in the same employments, and lawful state of life as before, that it is nothing
to the purpose, whether before his conversion he was a circumcised Jew, or an uncircumcised Gentile, circumcision
being no longer of obligation in the new law. If any one that is converted was a bond-man, or a slave, let him not
be concerned at this, but use it rather, which many interpret, let him rather endeavour to be made free, though
St. Chrysostom and others understand, let him rather remain content with his servile condition. Perhaps it was an admonition
to those new converts, who might imagine that their Christian liberty exempted them from being servant of men. However,
he gives them this great comfort, that such an one is the Lord's free-man, that is, whoever is a Christian, and in
the grace of God; but he adds, let him not be a slave to men, that is, not follow their sinful ways, nor consent to
any thing that is criminal. (Witham) --- All consists in doing the will of God, by loving him with our whole heart; without
this, all is illusion. To attach ourselves to exterior practices contrary to the order of God, is the superstition of circumcision;
to despise what comes from God, is the pride of uncircumcision.
Ver. 23. With
a price. Viz. with the price of the precious blood of Christ. (Estius) --- Him only should we serve, for whatever draws
us from this allegiance, is perfect servitude, such as the love of any person or thing out of God.
Now concerning virgins, &c. He turns his discourse again to the unmarried, who (if they have made no vow) may lawfully
marry, though he is far from commanding every one to marry, as when he says, seek not a wife. And such shall have
tribulation of the flesh, cares, troubles, vexations in the state of marriage, but I spare you, I leave you to
your liberty of marrying, or not marrying, and will not discourage you be setting forth the crosses of a married life. (Witham)
Ver. 29. The
time is short, &c. Incomparable instructions to the end of this chapter, which are not obscure. (Witham)
Ver. 30. And
they who weep. In this passage the apostle teaches us, in the midst of our greatest afflictions not to suffer ourselves
to be overwhelmed with grief, but to recollect that the time of this life is short, and that temporary pains will be recompensed
with the never-fading joys of eternity. (Estius)
Ver. 33. It
is far easier to give our whole heart and application without any the least reserve to God, than to divide them without
Ver. 36. Let
him do what he will, he sinneth not, &c. The meaning is not as libertines would have it, that persons may do what
they will, and not sin; provided they afterwards marry: but that the father with regard to the giving his virgin in marriage,
may do as he pleaseth: and that it will be no sin to him if she marry. (Challoner)
Ver. 38. &c.
He that giveth her not, doth better. And more blessed shall she be, if she so remains, according to my counsel.
It is very strange if any one, who reads this chapter without prejudices, does not clearly see, that St. Paul advises, and
prefers the state of virginity to that of a married life. --- I think that I also have the spirit of God. He puts them
in mind, by this modest way of speaking, of what they cannot doubt of, as to so great an apostle. (Witham) --- It is worthy
our notice, that St. Paul on every occasion avoids the least appearance of vanity, and frequently when delivering his own
opinion, gives us only a hint, hoping that we shall supply the rest. Of this apostle's modesty in this particular, we have
many instances in his writings, as in ver. 26. "I think, therefore, that this is good;" and likewise in chap. iv. ver. 9.
"For I think that God." (Estius)
 Ver. 2. Suam uxorem, suam virum. eautou gunaika, ton
 Ver. 5. Ut vacetis orationi, ina scholazete te proseuche.
St. Chrysostom, ouk eipen aplos proseuchesthe.
 Ver. 17. Nisi, &c. ei me, it bears the
sense here of but.
 Ver. 21. Magis utere, mallon chresai. St.
Chrysostom says, touteti mallon douleue.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Lessons relating to marriage and celibacy. Virginity is
preferable to a married state.
1 Now concerning the things whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a
man not to touch a woman:
2 But because of fornication let every man have his own wife, and let
every woman have her own husband.
3 *Let the husband render the debt to his wife: and the wife also in
like manner to the husband.
4 The wife hath not power over her own body; but the husband. And in
like manner the husband also hath not power over his own body; but the wife.
5 Defraud not one another, unless, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that
you may give yourselves to prayer: and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.
6 But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment.
7 For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his
proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.
8 But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: it is good for them
if they so continue, even as I.
9 But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry: for it is better
to marry than to burn.
10 But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, *that
the wife depart not from her husband:
11 And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to
her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.
12 For to the rest I speak, not the Lord. If any brother have a wife
that believeth not, and she consent to dwell with him; let him not put her away.
13 And if any woman have a husband that believeth not; and he consent
to dwell with her; let her not put away her husband.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and
the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister
is not under servitude in such cases: but God hath called us in peace.
16 For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?
Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
17 But as the Lord hath distributed to every one, as God hath called
every one, so let him walk: and so I teach in all churches.
18 Is any man called, being circumcised? let him not procure uncircumcision.
Is any man called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing: but the observance
of the commandments of God.
20 *Let every man abide in the same calling in which he was called.
21 Art thou called, being a bond-man? care not for it: but if thou mayest
be made free, use it rather.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a bond-man, is the freeman
of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bond-man of Christ.
23 *You are bought with a price, be not made the bond-slaves of men.
24 Brethren, let every man wherein he was called, therein abide with
25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give
counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.
26 I think, therefore, that this is good for the present necessity, that
it is good for a man so to be.
27 Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from
a wife? seek not a wife.
28 But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry,
she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you.
29 This, therefore, I say, brethren: the time is short: it remaineth,
that they also who have wives, be as if they had none:
30 And they who weep, as though they wept not: and they who rejoice,
as if they rejoiced not: and they who buy, as if they possessed not:
31 And they who use this world, as if they used it not: for the figure
of this world passeth away.
32 But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without
a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God.
33 But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world,
how he may please his wife: and he is divided.
34 And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the
Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she
may please her husband.
35 And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you, but
for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.
36 But if any man think that he seemeth dishonoured with regard to his
virgin, for that she is above the age, and it must be so: let him do what he will: he sinneth not, if she marry.
37 For he that hath determined being steadfast in his heart, having no
necessity, but having power of his own will; and hath judged this in his heart, to keep his virgin, doth well.
38 Therefore, both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well:
and he that giveth her not, doth better.
39 *A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth: but if
her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry whom she will: only in the Lord:
40 But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel:
and I think that I also have the spirit of God.
3: 1 Peter iii. 7.
10: Matthew v. 32. and xix. 9.; Mark x. 9.; Luke xvi. 18.
20: Ephesians iv. 1.
23: 1 Corinthians vi. 20.; 1 Peter i. 18.
39: Romans vii. 2.