The biblical text portrays the unity among two individuals as highly esteemed by different prophets, writers, and Jesus Himself. While the biblical source has a lot to say about marriage, there are two texts that speak in regards to the idea of permanent singleness, celibacy. One of them found in Matthew shows that there are different people who engage in this practice.
The other one in Corinthians promotes the idea of celibacy in the light of eschatological fulfilments. The purpose of this document is to highlight the concept of celibacy as found in the two textual references of the New Testament Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 and understand the underlying ethical choices one must make in order to live a celibate life.
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There will be a primordial emphasis on the Pauline passage given that it is more detailed than the Gospel mention. The Gospel, on the other hand, would serve as a supporting passage rather than a direct correlate.
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The first passage forged, 1 Corinthians 7, presents evidence of Paul describing the life in which he desires other believers to live, a celibate life a. While Paul desires this to all people, he understands it is implausible for them as not all have received the same gift b. The text also shows that this kind of life must be adopted as a result of the eschatological concerns of the kingdom and in order to dedicate one's life to the attention and service of the Lord.
The text is discursive in nature and the letter from Paul in this first half of the chapter is concerning married people. In regards to celibacy, the passage elongates the conversation about it from verse 7 to 9. This conversation results as a small interjection between the counsel to the married individuals, rather than a detailed way of living for those who are not in a covenant relationship. Paul does give a more detailed list in where he reinforces the idea singleness. The unit functions as a general counsel of relational life for both married and unmarried individuals.
A basic analysis of the structure of the passage reveals a semi-chiastic construction with an emphasis on the section of verses from where the apostle gives an exhortation to remain in the condition in which one had been called. The other two sections have small interjections, one focusing on unmarried and the other one on the married, which attest to the catholicity of the unit. While there is basis for the analysis of to be interpreted separately from , such as literary issues see below , it is implausible to approach the text in this manner given that there are significant stylistic features i.
The latter is an expansion of the first mention after Paul has finalized his counsel to the couples of the Corinthian Church. Historical Analysis The letter of Corinthians is a wide rebuke full of counsel and direction for the people at Corinth. Written on A.
The call to celibacy
The apostle discusses many topics, such as sexual immorality, divisions in the church, food offerings to idols and others. Throughout chapter 7, Paul shifts the style of conversation from speaking in regards to the reports about the Corinthians Ch. The Corinthians seemed to have understood sexual relations in different manners which led them to ask Paul in regards to the matter.
Moreover, the Apostle only speaks of celibacy as a gift, which is limited to those who are not married or are widowers. X Abingdon Press, , San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, , Sacra Pagina Series, Vol.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, , for a more detailed discussion regarding the Corinthians' view of asceticism and marriage. The passage does not have any remarkable features when it comes to issues of structure. However, it is important to notice that the passage is a Catholic letter initially addressed to the Corinthian church which expands to those who are able to grasp the truths from this letter by manuscript or oral form. One can gather this understanding by noticing the mention of Paul's rules in all churches and the general language used by the apostle in the composition of the text.
Thus, Paul desires the church to understand that this is a general teaching that concerns not only the Corinthians but all of those with a misunderstanding of the marital relation due to Greek Hellenization views. The apostle mentions in the previous verse "I say this as a concession and not a command. For example, it does follow the same structure of verses and following where the apostle says that he does not possess a command from the Lord in regards to the views presented.
Moreover, it also parallels the stylistic use of verses 16 where he does not give a command to the married people again.
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This is not to say that the 5 Garland Ibid. Some have adopted this view since early Christian times with Church Father Ambrosiaster being one of the ones who interprets the passage as a weak suggestion at best. By employing this term, he introduces his argument, which he will later reinforce in vv. A last key portion to analyse from this text is the correlation between celibacy and the gift that individuals receive. Paul refers to his wish for everyone to be like he is, single as the passage indicates. However, he has told the Corinthians that he desires that they do not lack in any gift from the Lord.
Moreover, he does enumerate and explains in a detailed manner the ways in which the Spirit manifests in a later chapter 1 Cor. While there is no explicit mention of celibacy as a gift in the future list, the apostle does show that the way of living he desires for all believers must 8 Ambrosiaster, and Gerald Lewis Bray.
Commentaries on Romans and Corinthians. Moreover, Paul mentions that each individual has their own gift, pointing towards how some would be unable to remain single and needing to be married, lest they sin. Eschatological Celibacy The Pauline declaration during this passage while not a direct command from the Lord is still authoritative. Paul urges those who are not married to not seek a wife if it is possible for them.
The possibility lays in the kind of gift that they have received and their individual decisions to exercise that gift or not.
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Besides using encouraging language all throughout the chapter, Paul provides eschatological concerns as the main basis for those who are not married to not seek a spouse. Moreover, he supplements these eschatological ordeals with the idea of service to the Lord as the main task of those who are not in a marriage relationship.
Paul mentions that there is an impending distress coming to the church Whether these are apocalyptic signs revealed to Paul himself, persecution, anxiety, or the sight of the promise of the Parousia, one is not able to ascertain easily. The context of this section gives a clue towards the eschatological fulfilment, as Paul expresses that the time is short The vision of Paul in regards to impending judgment and the Lord's Parousia can also substantiate such a claim specially when one evaluates other of his writings e.
Moreover, the sayings of Jesus Matthew 24 and his emphasis on attentiveness, service, and sacrifice substantiate the claim. However, a consideration is to be weighed here. Therefore, Paul could also be only giving general advice to the unmarried people at Corinth. The constant repetition of his wish and positive language used in this unit reveals the exhortative nature of Paul, which signals the reader to understand that it should be a lifestyle priority for those who possess the gift, while at the same time allowing them to decline to exercise their Spirit empowerment.
The conclusion of the passage seems to direct believers who are in possession of the gift of celibacy to live the life which they have been called in order to serve the Lord most effectively, in holiness of body and spirit, and pleasing God through their lives , Paul does not provide any other exhortation for those who are unmarried, neither in the remainder of the letter nor in other letters that he wrote.
This lacuna of information in regards to the issue points towards different understandings. Some of these are: the gift of celibacy is not as common as to the one of marriage, celibacy is not a prescription for the early church, and permanent singleness is a personal choice, although highly encourage given the eschatological concerns. Echoes of Virginity or Not While there are no other Pauline passages that speak to the issue of celibacy in the New Testament, there is another echo in the same manner that reflects the pattern of thought from the apostle Paul.
The supporting passage comes from the Matthaean account of the Gospel. While it reinforces the idea in a different kind of language, the main teaching extracted from this portion of Scripture is that the life of celibacy is encouraged, not commanded. The words of Jesus 9 Collins, Moreover, He also brings eschatological considerations into the matter, which speaks in regards to the continuity among the Scriptures.
Important features from this passage encompass the word Eunuchs, the difference of methodology presented from Jesus i. It is quite peculiar that Jesus uses the word Eunuchs.
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In its Old Testament context, Eunuchs are "those who cannot have children because of congenital defect or castration. The selection of Eunuchs in order to describe those who are not married is supportive and problematic at the same time. It enhances the view from Paul's passage since Jesus says that some make themselves eunuchs, while at the same time it hinders it by "demanding" the same of those who have been born or have been made eunuchs by others. While Jesus automatically does not demand those who are eunuchs to serve the Lord for the sake of the kingdom, it does infer the possibility and suggestion that working for the kingdom should be their task, following the manner of those who made themselves eunuchs.
At a surface reading, there seems to be an ethical issue at hand. However, once the reader notices the last portion of the verse, "who is able," it is evident that the choice relies upon the individual. The discussion on singleness, while a bit more extensive than the interjection of 1 Cor. Celibacy, then, becomes an exception to the norm of marriage, which all who have the gift should accept if they choose to. While the Gospel passage directly supports the idea of celibacy, there is wider evidence of marriage being far more representative and acclamated in the New and Old Testament. Most of the books of the Bible have some sort of mention in regards to the concept of covenantal love in a marriage relationship.
For example, the prophets and apostles utilized the metaphor of marriage Paul, Hosea , spoke about marriage Matthew, John, Moses and counselled in regards to the topic Paul quite more than they commented in regards to singleness. Of even a greater degree of evidence, the reader of the Scriptures will notice that there is a whole book dedicated to the joys of marriage and its blessings for those who engage in it Song of Songs. Therefore, there is no discussion that marriage is crucial for the language of the Bible and that the Lord blesses the union of those who partake of it.
As a result, this document will not engage with which view is better or which one is the norm for Christian practice as the sample of readings about marriage is vastly superior to that of celibacy. However, this is not to point towards celibacy not having its proper place in the realm of Christian practice.
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