Does 1 Cor 7:27-28 refer to divorced people?

(Alistair Robertson) #1

I’ve been reading Craig Keener’s “…and marries another” again, and I really like his understanding of 1 Cor 7:27-28. Basically, he understands the phrase, “Are you freed from a woman” in v27 to refer to divorcees, and then argues that v28 allows for (but does not encourage) remarriage.

It seems to me the context and wording backs up his position, but very few people seem to agree. I’m wondering if anyone here has a comment about this.

(Fr. Bill Mouser) #2


I’d go along with the notion that “released from a wife” in this context entails the permission to remarry. I would not agree that “released from a wife” equates to a divorced man. On other Scriptural grounds (e.g. Matt. 5, Matt. 19, Mk. 10, Rom. 7), divorce does not release a divorcee from obligations to the spouse who either initiates a divorce or suffers to be divorced. Remarriage, therefore, is a transgression against the still valid union which our Lord says “God has created.” According to Paul in Romans 7, only the death of a spouse ends a marriage.

(Alistair Robertson) #3

I’m a little confused. “Released from a wife” entails remarriage but doesn’t refer to a divorced man? Who else is a candidate for remarriage?..unless you are suggesting it refers to a widower. I’m not sure I’d go with that interpretation.

Father Bill, I’m afraid I also disagree with the doctrine that does not allow remarriage after divorce, but I understand the arguments for it. That’s one of the reasons I think this section in 1 Cor 7 is so intriguing because it potentially explicitly states that marriage after divorce is permissable.

(Nathan Smith) #4

“potentially explicitly.” I would argue neither. But I can’t even comprehend an argument for “potentially explicitly” permitting divorce.

Verse 11 explicitly rejects divorce.

Verse 15 seems to make an exception for a believer who is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever decides to leave the marriage. (This situation should never be the result of a believer marrying an unbeliever, but of two unbelievers marrying and one of them later coming to follow Christ as Lord.) In this instance I believe that the divorce is not sin for the believer, but what about remarriage? I’ve seen it argued either way, but I think the believer who has been abandoned (divorced) by the unbeliever is free to remarry. I take vv 15, 28, and 39 as evidence for that position.

(Fr. Bill Mouser) #5

Indeed, that’s what Paul’s other dictum on the ending of a marriage refers to in Romans 7.

Jesus’ teaching (see above) is better characterized as not allowing the putting away of a spouse in order to take a second one. That the original marriage is still operative, still in effect, in spite of what men call a divorce, is shown by our Lord’s verdict that the second marriage is adultery. Adultery is a sin against an operative marriage.

(Alistair Robertson) #6

There are better word choices than “potentially explicitly”, but I thought the meaning was clear enough.

Evidentally not.

Please read my comment again, Nathan and note that what is under consideration is remarriage after divorce, not divorce. However, ironically enough, you yourself explicitly say divorce is permissable in your comment - under certain conditions, of course, but I foolishly thought that would be a given.

(Alistair Robertson) #7

“Freed from a wife” seems a rather callous way to refer to the death of a spouse.

Clearly there are deeper interpretative issues here. I confess I’m surprised to find proponents of the “no-remarriage-after-divorce” position on this forum.

But I’m confused. Your restating of the doctrine I called “no-remarriage-after-divorce” is quite vague. I don’t know of anyone who disagrees that Jesus’ teaching forbids putting away one wife to marry another. I agree with that. You do seem to be saying something extra, i.e. that divorce for any reason does not free a person to remarry.

Is that what you are saying?

(Zak Carter) #8

My understanding of remarriage is that it is only permissible

  1. after the death of a spouse (Rom. 7:3),
  2. after divorce when a believer has been abandoned by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15), or
  3. after divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9).

Oh, and 4) the remarriage of husband and wife to each other after previously getting divorced.

If I recall correctly, John Piper argues against 2 and 3 above in his book This Momentary Marriage, though I don’t exactly remember what his arguments were.

To nuance a bit: 2 and 3 would only permit the injured spouse to remarry. The offending spouse must remain single if they cannot be reconciled.

Also, I don’t think it’s ever wise for a believer to divorce or remarry without guidance from the local church. Ideally, every divorce would either be sanctioned or censured by the church’s elders before it happens. Permission to remarry would be either granted or denied by the elders (based on their judgement of the grounds of the divorce) along with the sanction of divorce or else some other time before a potential remarriage. The believer should defer to the elders judgement in this, including their judgement about whether remarriage is even permissible under 2 and 3 above.

(Nathan Smith) #9

I guess my beef was with the phrase “potentially explicitly.” I can be a little pedantic at times but I can’t imagine ever using that phrase.

But I take your point as far as that goes. (That you are speaking if remarriage and not divorce.)

I’m still not completely clear on your overall position/argument. None of this seems that complicated to me. Jesus and Paul both seem pretty clear. I’m in agreement with Zak Carter above. And I don’t think it’s all that complicated a question.

(Alistair Robertson) #10

Ok, well let’s go back to the title of this conversation: Does 1 Cor 7:27-28 refer to divorced people?

That is my question, and considering the disagreement among translations and commentaries, it seems to have some complications.

(Personally, I want these verses to refer to divorced people, and so I’m hoping for more impartiality to test that reading.)

In my attempt to work it through, I think there are good reasons for saying, “Yes”.

  1. The phrase “bound to a husband/man” in v39 obviously refers to marriage in that context. It makes sense, then, that “bound to a wife/woman” in v27 refers to marriage also.

  2. The next sentence in v27 “Do not seek to be loosed” would naturally mean, do not seek to be free from the marriage through divorce, (not death…unless Paul was saying, “Don’t kill your spouse” which is unlikely). He has just been talking about divorce after all.

  3. Paul then says in v27, “Have you been loosed from a wife/woman?” Unless Paul in the previous phrase is forbiding the killing of your wife, it reads most naturally that here he is talking about divorce again.

  4. Paul then says, “Do not seek a wife”, but continues on in v28 to say, “But if you do marry, you have not sinned”, i.e. remarriage after divorce is not a sin.

The arguments against this reading usually come down to identifying the people referred to in v27 as betrothed couples, but while vv36-38 appear to refer to betrothed couples, Paul is not using the same wording as he does in v39 where marriage is clearly in view (and so v27).

My own view of divorce and remarriage is close to your own. Even if v27-28 does not refer to divorced people, I still hold that divorced people can remarry without sinning from the rest of the biblical teaching on the subject. It just seems that the often tense discussions about the matter would be over if we had this explicit statement confirmed.

(Alistair Robertson) #11

Father Bill, I have re-read your previous post (accidentally, but providentially :slight_smile:) and see that it is clear you are a proponent of no remarriage at all after any divorce. I’m happy to discuss why this is not a fair reading of the Scriptures, but perhaps on another thread. I’ll leave it to you to initiate if you are interested.

(Fr. Bill Mouser) #12

Not interested.

This forum is - excepting for me - a population of the Reformed, who owe allegiance to doctrinal standards that expressly endorse the lawfulness of some divorces. I have, as you’ve noticed, a contrary allegiance.

Neither of us is going to persuade the other. So, we’ll wait for the Lord to render His verdict.

(Alistair Robertson) #13

G’day Zak.

I agree with your numbered reasons for remarriage, but believe there may be others (e.g. non-consumation).

I also believe the guilty party may remarry in certain circumstances.

But this is all tangential to my original query. :slight_smile: