Saturday, October 23, 2004

Textual Notes on I Cor 7:36-38 from the NET Bible:
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1 Cor 7:36-38. There are two common approaches to understanding the situation addressed in these verses. One view involves a father or male guardian deciding whether to give his daughter or female ward in marriage (cf. NASB, NIV margin). The evidence for this view is: (1) the phrase in v. 37 (Grk) “to keep his own virgin” fits this view well (“keep his own virgin [in his household]” rather than give her in marriage), but it does not fit the second view (there is little warrant for adding “her” in the way the second view translates it: “to keep her as a virgin”). (2) The verb used twice in v. 38 (gamivzw, gamizw) normally means “to give in marriage” not “to get married.” The latter is usually expressed by gamevw (gamew), as in v. 36b. (3) The father deciding what is best regarding his daughter’s marriage reflects the more likely cultural situation in ancient Corinth, though it does not fit modern Western customs. While Paul gives his advice in such a situation, he does not command that marriages be arranged in this way universally. If this view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his unmarried daughter, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his daughter unmarried, does well. 7:38 So then the one who gives his daughter in marriage does well, but the one who does not give her does better.” The other view is taken by NRSV, NIV text, NJB, REB: a single man deciding whether to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. The evidence for this view is: (1) it seems odd to use the word “virgin” (vv. 36, 37, 38) if “daughter” or “ward” is intended. (2) The other view requires some difficult shifting of subjects in v. 36, whereas this view manages a more consistent subject for the various verbs used. (3) The phrases in these verses are used consistently elsewhere in this chapter to describe considerations appropriate to the engaged couple themselves (cf. vv. 9, 28, 39). It seems odd not to change the phrasing in speaking about a father or guardian. If this second view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his fiancée, if his passions are too strong and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well. 7:38 So then, the one who marries his fiancée does well, but the one who does not marry her does better.”
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The first view, as seen in the KJV and NASB, I would support for several reasons:
1. v.38, ekgamizo, literally means to marry off. Other places where this same Greek word is used have the translation (at least in the KJV) of giving in marriage. The man of v.38(which is the same man in vs.36&37) would not be a fiancee in this case because he would not be wanting to give her in marriage, but rather marry her himself.
2. v.37, parthenos, literally means maiden. The phrase "keep his (own) virgin" is true to the literal meaning of the original language. This poses a problem for the idea that the man is a fiancee- to "keep his (own) virgin" is put in contrast with the end of v.36, "let them/her marry". A fiancee keeping his girl without marrying her makes no sense. The NIV gets around this problem by inserting the word "marry" in v.37 where it doesn't exist; and the otherwise excellent ESV comes off looking very confused by actually recommending what I said doesn't make sense:
"37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well."
The NET Bible marginal alternate rendering does no better:
"37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well."
The NRSV also recommends a perpetual, never-ending engagement:
"37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well."

Now to the issue at hand. The father's ability to limit his daughter's chance at marriage is expressly limited in v.37 by the words "having no necessity". The NASB is clearer, "being under no constraint". This phrase connects back to v.36, "if she...need so require" ("if it must be so" NASB). In other words, if the daughter expresses the "need" to be married this places a "constraint" upon the father which does not allow him to "keep his virgin (daughter)" at home.

As to the choice of man he will give his daughter to, this passage does not explicitly give the father veto power. You will have to look elsewhere for that. The end of v.36 simply says, "let them marry" ("gameo" present active imperative).

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