Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 7:36

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Uncomely towards his virgin - Different meanings have been assigned to this verse; I shall mention three of the principal.

  1. "In those early times, both among the Hebrews and Christians, the daughters were wholly in the power of the father, so that he might give or not give them in marriage as he chose; and might bind them to perpetual celibacy if he thought proper; and to this case the apostle alludes. If the father had devoted his daughter to perpetual virginity, and he afterwards found that she had fixed her affections upon a person whom she was strongly inclined to marry, and was now getting past the prime of life; he, seeing from his daughter's circumstances that it would be wrong to force her to continue in her state of celibacy; though he had determined before to keep her single, yet he might in this case alter his purpose without sin, and let her and her suitor marry."
  • "The whole verse and its context speaks of young women dedicated to the service of God, who were called παρθενοι, virgins, in the primitive Church. And a case is put here, 'that circumstances might occur to render the breach of even a vow of this kind necessary, and so no sin be committed.'"
  • "The apostle by παρθενος, does not mean a virgin, but the state of virginity or celibacy, whether in man or woman." Both Mr. Locke and Dr. Whitby are of this opinion, and the latter reasons on it thus: -
  • It is generally supposed that these three verses relate to virgins under the power of parents and guardians and the usual inference is, that children are to be disposed of in marriage by the parents, guardians, etc. Now this may be true, but it has no foundation in the text, for τηρειν την ἑαυτου παρθενον is not to keep his daughter's, but his own virginity, or rather his purpose of virginity; for, as Phavorinus says, He is called a virgin who freely gives himself up to the Lord, renouncing matrimony, and preferring a life spent in continency. And that this must be the true import of these words appears from this consideration, that this depends upon the purpose of his own heart, and the power he has over his own will, and the no necessity arising from himself to change this purpose. Whereas the keeping a daughter unmarried depends not on these conditions on her father's part but on her own; for, let her have a necessity, and surely the apostle would not advise the father to keep her a virgin, because he had determined so to do; nor could there be any doubt whether the father had power over his own will or not, when no necessity lay upon him to betroth his virgin. The Greek runs to this sense: if he had stood already firm in his heart, finding no necessity, viz. to change his purpose; and hath power over his own will, not to marry; finding himself able to persist in the resolution he had made to keep his virginity, he does well to continue a virgin: and then the phrase, if any man think he behaves himself unseemly towards his virgin, if it be over-aged, and thinks he ought rather to join in marriage, refers to the opinions both of Jews and Gentiles that all ought to marry. The Jews say that the time of marriage is from 16 or 17 to 20; while some of the Gentiles specify from 30 to 35. If any think thus, says the apostle, let them do what they will, they sin not: let them marry. And then he concludes with those words applied to both cases: so then, both he that marries doeth well, and he that marries not, doeth better.

    This last opinion seems to be the true sense of the apostle.

    It may be necessary to make a few general observations on these verses, summing up what has been said.

      1. Παρθενος here should be considered as implying not a virgin, but the state of virginity or celibacy.

    2. Ὑπερακμος, over-aged, must refer to the passing of that time in which both the laws and customs of Jews and Gentiles required men to marry. See above, and see the note on 1 Corinthians 7:6.

    3. Και οὑτως οφειλει γινεσθαι, And need so require; or, if there appear to be a necessity; is to be understood of any particular change in his circumstances or in his feelings; or, that he finds, from the law and custom in the case, that it is a scandal for him not to marry; then let him do what he wills or purposes.

  • Instead of γαμειτωσαν, let Them marry, I think γαμειτω, let Him marry, is the true reading, and agrees best with the context. This reading is supported by D*EFG, Syriac, in the Arabic, Slavonic, one of the Itala, and St. Augustine. Si nubat, if he marry, is the reading of the Vulgate, several copies of the Itala, Ambrose, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, and Bede. This reading is nearly of the same import with the other: Let him do what he willeth, he sinneth not, let him marry; or, he sinneth not if he marry.
  • The whole of the 37th verse relates to the purpose that the man has formed; and the strength that he has to keep his purpose of perpetual celibacy, being under no necessity to change that purpose.
  • Instead of ὁ εκγαμιζων, he who giveth her in marriage, I purpose to read ὁ γαμιζων, he who marrieth, which is the reading of the Codex Alexandrinus, the Codex Vaticanus, No. 1209, and of some others: with Clement, Methodius, and Basil. Την ἑαυτου παρθενον, his own virgin, is added after the above, by several very ancient and reputable MSS, as also by the Syriac, Armenian, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Clement, Basil, Optatus, and others; but it seems so much like a gloss, that Griesbach has not made it even a candidate for a place in the text. He then who marrieth, though previously intending perpetual virginity, doeth well; as this is agreeable to laws both Divine and human: and he who marrieth not, doeth better, because of the present distress. See 1 Corinthians 7:26.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    That he behaveth himself uncomely - Acts an unbecoming part, imposes an unnecessary, painful, and improper constraint, crosses her inclinations which are in them selves proper.

    Toward his virgin - His daughter, or his ward, or any unmarried female committed to his care.

    If she pass the flower of her age - If she pass the marriageable age and remains unmarried. It is well known that in the east it was regarded as especially dishonorable to remain unmarried; and the authority of a father, therefore, might be the means of involving his daughter in shame and disgrace. When this would be the case, it would be wrong to prohibit her marriage.

    And need so require - And she ought to be allowed to marry. If it will promote her happiness, and if she would be unhappy, and regarded as dishonored, if she remained in a state of celibacy.

    Let him do what he will - He has the authority in the case, for in the east the authority resided with the father. He may either give her in marriage or not, as he pleases. But in this case it is advisable that she should marry.

    He sinneth not - He errs not; he will do nothing positively wrong in the case. Marriage is lawful, and in this case it is advisable, and he may consent to it, for the reasons above stated, without error or impropriety.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The apostle is thought to give advice here about the disposal of children in marriage. In this view, the general meaning is plain. Children should seek and follow the directions of their parents as to marriage. And parents should consult their children's wishes; and not reckon they have power to do with them, and dictate just as they please, without reason. The whole is closed with advice to widows. Second marriages are not unlawful, so that it is kept in mind, to marry in the Lord. In our choice of relations, and change of conditions, we should always be guided by the fear of God, and the laws of God, and act in dependence on the providence of God. Change of condition ought only to be made after careful consideration, and on probable grounds, that it will be to advantage in our spiritual concerns.
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