by: Phillip Ross
Paul’s marriage counseling in 1 Corinthians 7:6-17 is not a biblical command but a personal recommendation based on his knowledge of both Scripture and people. It was a recommendation based on his observations about the Corinthians and their church difficulties. And because it comes from Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, it deserves serious consideration.
What is Paul’s recommendation? He began by setting the context, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). From very early in Christian history this verse was considered to refer to Paul’s married life. But in spite of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church believes that he was not married, the evidence is not conclusive. He may have been married, or he may have been a widower when he wrote these words. There really isn’t enough evidence to establish anything certain about his state of marriage.
Nonetheless, we note that the traditional understanding has been that Paul was not married, and that his celibacy is here spoken of as a “gift.” But if we examine both the context and the implications of this idea, we will find that Paul was not speaking about celibacy at all. The idea that Paul was saying that celibacy is a gift is absurd for a couple of reasons.
First, he wished that “all” people were like he was with regard to whatever he was talking about. Do you think that Paul really wished that all people were celibate? Ridiculous! We know that Paul clearly understood that the gifts of the Spirit were many and diverse, and that their diversity was a strength. Paul celebrated the diversity of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:1-12, 30). So, for him to want all Christians to have the same gift is ridiculous.
Secondly, Paul surely knew that if all Christians were celibate, they would die out. The Essenes believed that Paul wanted all Christians to be celibate, and they actually died out. Paul was not stupid. Celibacy is a strategy of death, not life. This all suggests that Paul was not speaking in this verse about celibacy as a gift of the Spirit. This misunderstanding has been read into the verse, not taken from it. Even more, it suggests that he was not talking about celibacy as a lifestyle at all. Why not?
We have already determined that Paul was trying to correct a Greek misunderstanding that lead to confusion about the nature of biblical sexuality, that the Bible taught neither that all sex was okay, nor that all sex was to be avoided. Rather, the Bible teaches covenant responsibility with regard to sex — covenant responsibility, or marriage. And celibacy is an avoidance of covenantal responsibility in as much as it is an avoidance of marriage. But don’t jump to the false conclusion that this means that unmarried people are unfaithful. It does not mean that. The point is simply that the whole idea that Paul was talking about celibacy is a Greek misunderstanding about what the Bible teaches.
So, what did Paul mean? Actually, his words are not perfectly clear. He assumed that his audience knew exactly what he meant, and it is likely that they did. The subject that Paul was talking about was assumed rather than stated. But it is nonsense to think that he wished that all Christians were celibate. It just doesn’t fit with anything that Paul taught anywhere, and especially not here in First Corinthians.
So, what was Paul talking about? Earlier Paul urged Christians to “be imitators of” him (1 Corinthians 4:16). In all likelihood, Paul was referring to this idea. It is more likely that Paul was referring to his commitment to Jesus Christ, to the fact that he had been waylaid by the Holy Spirit on the Road to Damascus, to the fact that he had been born again by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and to the fact that his regeneration had actually changed his life. This is what Paul wanted for every Christian. Paul was referring to the gift of regeneration, not celibacy. Paul wanted every Christian to be born again, to enter into a covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ and with the fellowship of saints.
About The Author
Author of many Christian books, Phillip A. Ross has been a pastor for over 25 years. In 1998 he founded http://www.Pilgrim-Platform.org , which is loaded with information about historic Christianity. He published an exposition First Corinthians In 2008 that demonstrates the Apostle Paul’s opposition to worldly Christianity. Paul turned the world upside down and Ross captures the action in Arsy Varsy — Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthians.
The author invites you to visit: http://www.pilgrim-platform.org
- Same-sex attraction and the vocation to love | CNA Columns: Guest Columnist (amhec.wordpress.com)
- Different Rules For Different Rites (orthocath.wordpress.com)
- Spiritual Gifts: Part 1 (christical.wordpress.com)
- Pope defends priest celibacy (rawstory.com)
- Celibacy No Be Beans (demorrieaux.wordpress.com)
- Let’s Talk About Sex Part 2 (brucegerencser.net)
- The Bible in Context: 1 Corinthians 2:9 (theologicallyspeaking.com)
- Celibacy, The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563), and the Anathema (larrysmusings.wordpress.com)
- Orthodox Christianity and Marriage (irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com)
The percentage of women living with a man in a sexual relationship almost quadrupled from 3 percent in 1982 to 11 percent in the 2006-2010 period. Yet in spite of many claims that were made in the 70′s and 80′s by liberal marriage councilors and others, this pre-marital learning experience did not result in lower divorce rates. Indeed, living together before marriage was counterproductive to a long-lasting union, particularly for men. For women, those who didn’t cohabit before their first marriage were more likely to survive to the 20-year marriage mark than those who did live together premaritally (57 percent versus about 45 percent, respectively).
First time marriages today for women only have a 52 percent chance of lasting to their 20th anniversary, according to a new large scale survey. That number hasn’t budged much in the past three decades of data collected as part of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) the researchers wrote in the March 22, 2012 issue of the National Health Statistics Report. The results are based on interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 with a nationally representative sample of 12,279 women and 10,403 men, ages 15 to 44. This same survey was also conducted in 1973, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002.
But there has been an “increase in the time spent unmarried among women and men. For women, there was a continued decrease in the percentage currently married for the first time — and an increase in the percent currently cohabiting — in 2006–2010 compared with earlier years.” The number of women in a first marriage decreased from 44 percent in 1982 to 36 percent in 2006–2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of women currently living with a romantic other increased from 3 percent in 1982 to over 11 percent now.
Currently, women also seem to be marrying at older ages than in years past, with the recent median age about 26 for women and 28 for men. This also should have lowered the divorce rate since teenage marriages have much higher divorce rates than people married in in their 20′s and 30′s.
The likelihood a first marriage would last at least 10 years was only 68 percent for women and 70 percent for men, in the most recent survey. Looking ahead 20 years the probability declined to 52 percent for women and 56 percent for men. Divorce rates have been fairly stable for more than thirty years, and these estimates are virtually identical to those found in the 1970s, the researchers noted.
Those who married in their teens, and those who married out of their religion were much less likely to reach their 20th anniversary compared with men and women who married in or tied the knot at age 20 or over.
Religious upbringing made a big difference in marriage outcomes. Women who reported being raised Jewish, Muslim and “other religions” had a 65 percent chance of having a 20-year or longer first marriage. That was followed by women raised Catholic (53 percent), and Protestant (50 percent). Only 43 percent of women raised with no religious affiliation made it to their 20th anniversary. Higher divorce rates for those raised in non-religious homes has been reported for over two generations. Since the percentage of people in surveys who state that they have no religious identity has been slowly increasing we might expect the divorce rate to rise even more in the next decade or two.
On the other hand, many religious people seem to be getting more traditional, and much of the super liberalism of the 70′s and 80′s seems to be fading. A 2009 study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality examined New York Times wedding announcements from 1971 to 2005, and found that the number of brides keeping their surname was about 1 percent in the 1980s, rising to 9 percent in the 1980s and 23 percent in the 1990s, and then began declining to 18 percent in the early 2000s.
Another study, this one published in March 2011 in the journal Names: A journal of Onomastics, likewise used New York Times wedding announcements and found that women who had Catholic wedding ceremonies were least likely to keep their names, followed by Protestant and then Jewish women. Women who had non-religious civil ceremonies were most likely to keep their names, with 55.9 percent doing so. If the percentage of women getting married in non-religious ceremonies, and keeping their own names, declines in the next decade or two, prospects for good marital outcomes will improve.
Rabbi Meller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com
- Promiscuity Data: Guest Post. (socialpathology.blogspot.com)
- Cohabitation before marriage? It’s no greater divorce risk. (csmonitor.com)
- Pre-Marital Cohabitation Won’t Screw Your Nuptials After All (inquisitr.com)
- College degree, religious faith help marriages ‘survive’ to 20th year (washingtontimes.com)
- Fewer Americans Tying the Knot, Survey Shows (news.health.com)
- Move-in before marriage no longer predicts divorce (hosted.ap.org)
- Cohabitation before marriage? It’s no greater divorce risk. – Repost by JP & Tracy (recentlyseparatedwhatisnext.wordpress.com)
- Cohabitation no longer a predictor of divorce (washingtontimes.com)
- Living Together Before Marriage No Longer Predicts Divorce (usnews.com)
- Is living together before marriage a recipe for divorce? (theglobeandmail.com)
Special to Earthpages.org
Half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data released 12/14/11. In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.
The Pew Research analysis also found that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may be related in part to the sour economy. The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad.
Although half of the adult population is married now, a much higher share— 72%—have been married at least once. However, this “ever married” share is down 15% from the 85% share of the population in 1960.
The percentage of divorced American adults has almost tripled in the last five decades from 5% in 1960 to 14% in 2010. Almost all of that increase occurred in the two decades following 1967, and divorce rates have been fairly stable over the last two decades. Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who has published several studies of marriage and divorce rates for Catholics, Protestants and Jews, says, “part of the increase in divorce rates in the two decades following 1967 was due to the increase in interfaith mixed marriages. Catholics and Jews who marry out have divorce rates almost twice as high as those who do not marry out.”
Rabbi Maller adds that, “Unifying the family through conversion by one partner to the religion of the other does reduce the divorce rate substantially (but not entirely) for Catholics and Jews, but not for most Protestant denominations because they have higher divorce rates than Catholics and Jews to begin with.”
The rise in the percentage of unmarried is caused by several factors, First, is the rise in the age of people getting married. Second, is the rise in the percentage of divorced people in the pool of the unmarried from 5% to 14%.
Previous marriage experience plays a big role in whether people want to get married (again) or not. A majority of adults who have never been married say that they want to get married (61%), compared with only 26% of adults who have ever been married but are now unmarried.
Rabbi Maller’s Website: www.rabbimaller.com
- ‘I do’ not? Marriage rates at record low, Pew analysis finds – Los Angeles Times (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Study: Number of U.S. married couples at record low (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Fewer Americans than ever are getting married: poll – New York Daily News (nydailynews.com)
- Traditional marriage declines in U.S., study shows (sfgate.com)
- Pew: Barely Half of U.S. Adults Are Married A Record Low (bespacific.com)
- Record Number of Americans Are Unmarried (livescience.com)
- U.S. marriage rates at all-time low: Why? (cbsnews.com)
- Fewer Americans Getting Married (myfoxny.com)
Special to Earthpages.org
The most important health care directive ever issued came from God according to Rabbi Allen S. Maller. Genesis 3:18 teaches us that “It is not good that a male should live alone. I (God) shall make a help mate for him.” There are many reasons why bachelorhood is bad for men. The most recent evidence comes from a new study of 440,000 people in Norway diagnosed with cancer, and shows never married men are less likely to survive cancer than married men, and the mortality gap has widened over the last few decades.
In 1970, never-married men with cancer were 18 percent more likely to die than married men with cancer, and this risk increased to 35 percent by 2007. While never-married women were also somewhat less likely to survive cancer than married women, the difference between them remained relatively constant over the years. Past research has shown that mortality rates from all causes are higher among unmarried people. Never married people, as opposed to those divorced or widowed, have the highest mortality rates.
The researchers found that men with cancer who had never been married had the greatest risk of death, regardless of various factors, such as age, education and cancer stage. Moreover, they calculated that the mortality gap between never-married men and married men increased by 3.4 percent every 10 years. Divorced and widowed men with cancer were also more likely to die than married men, though their risk didn’t appear to increase with time. Marriage has a positive effect on health for both men and women because of the pressure a spouse exerts to eat right, exercise and visit the doctor when health issues arise, doctor Kravdal said.
Rabbi Maller relates a modern midrash (a creative rabbinic interpretation of a biblical text) that explains why a help mate is so important for a man. God said to Adam, “It is not good for you to be alone. But now you are free to do whatever you want to do. When you are alone you don’t have to share things with others. You don’t have to stop talking and just listen when someone else needs to talk to you. You don’t have to help when others need help. You don’t have to care about how someone else feels. If you had a sister or a brother or a good friend, you would have to do all these things and many more.”
“I don’t like being lonely” said Adam, “ I have lots of things for fun and games but I get bored with them after a while. I have several pet animals, but even having animals is not good enough for me. I still feel lonely and all alone. I need someone who is like me but at the same time is different. I need a partner. Someone to stand by my side and be my best friend. I need someone I can take care of, and who will care for me.”
“I know just what you need.” said God, “What you need is a help mate. A person with a different personality, who can grow together with you in love, and help you become a mensch. I am going to form her right out of your side, so she will stand side by side with you as your equal partner, your help mate. The two of you will be like one pair of hands. You know, one hand cannot wash itself. But two hands can always wash each other. You will have to be responsible for and to each other. You will no longer be independent. You will not be free to do whatever you want anymore. You will have to think about another person’s feelings. You will have to think less about your self and more about another. You will live a much better and longer life with a partner. I will give you a blessing to help you become a couple.”
God looked down and saw that Adam had fallen into a deep sleep. God hoped that when Adam awoke he would remember all that God had told him. Even if Adam and all his descendants didn’t always become the loving responsible help mates that God wanted them to be, God thought they would be become better by trying. And those who were fully responsible partners and help mates would become God’s blessing for each other.
Doctor Kravdal said he thinks that the cancer survival outlook for unmarried people may be getting worse over time because “our society is becoming increasingly individualistic, with less caring for each other.” Unmarried people now have less social pressure to keep up good health practices than in the past, he argued. The unmarried may be in poorer overall physical and mental health than the married by the time they are diagnosed with cancer, decreasing their chance of survival. The study was published (Oct. 13, 2011) in the journal BMC Public Health.
Rabbi Maller’s web site is rabbimaller.com
- Single Men Slip Further Behind Married in Cancer Survival (livescience.com)
- ‘Never married’ men still more likely to die from cancer (eurekalert.org)
- ‘Never married’ men still more likely to die from cancer (medicalxpress.com)
- Wives ‘saving husbands from cancer’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Married People More Likely to Survive Cancer (webmd.com)
- Bachelors more likely to die of cancer: Study (cbsnews.com)