The Greek Text:
- Περι δε ων εγραψατε, καλον ανθρωπῳ γυναικος μη ἁπτεσθαι.
- δια δε τας πορνειας, εκαστος την εαυτου γυναικα εχετω, και εκαστη τον ιδιον ανδρα εχετω.
- τῃ γυναικαι ὁ ανερ την οφειλεν αποδιδοτω, ὁμοιως δε και ἡ γυνη τῳ ανδρι.
- ἡ γυνη του ιδιου σοματος ουκ εξουσιαζει, αλλα ὁ ανερ. ὁμοιως δε και ὁ ανερ του ιδιου σοματος ουκ εξουσιαζει, αλλα ἡ γυνη.
- μη αποστειρητε αλλελους. ει μητι αν εκ συμφονου προς καιρον, ἱνα σχολασατε τῃ προσευκῃ, και παλιν επι το αυτο ητε, ἱνα μη πειραζῃ υμας ὁ σατανας δια την ακριασιαν υμων.
A rough translation:
- Now for the things you wrote about: “it is good for a man not marry.”
- But on account of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.
- The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife. In the same way, the wife to her husband.
- The wife is not the master of her own body: the husband is. Likewise, the husband is not the master of his own body: the wife is.
- Do not deprive one another. Whenever you withdraw from sexual union, do it for a short time in order to devote yourselves to prayer. Then, come together again so that Satan won’t tempt you with your lack of self-control.
The challenge here is figuring how much of this is a quotation from the Corinthian letter. The, “it is good for man not to marry” bit could be a statement by Paul or a quotation from their letter. I *think* that this bit is a quotation and then the following verses are Paul’s instructions. O that quotation marks were a later invention! Also, I don’t think I’d be able to make sense of verse 5 yet without a translation. It seems like there’s at least two implicit verbs that you have to supply when translating into English. Literally, it’s something like, “if ever from union to a time.” I’ve chosen withdraw and do.
Paul’s statements on marriage are very interesting. What might be surprising is the “reciprocity” of the commands. Given the paternalism of both the Jewish and Graeco-Roman culture of the era, one might only expect commands to be directed at the wives. It’s not surprising that wives are commanded to fulfill their marital duty to their husbands, or that they’re told that they’re not the “masters of their own bodies.” What is surprising is that the husbands are told the same things. I can’t be certain, since I haven’t done that much background research, but I’d expect that the statement, “the husband is not the master of his own body: the wife is,” would have been surprising to first century ears.
Also, even in a passage where Paul makes clear his preference for celibacy, he recognizes the “goodness” of the creation, including marriage. From chapter 6:16-17, he likely understands marriage, in particular sexual union, as a “shadow” in some way of our relationship with the Lord. There is a parallel between sexual intimacy and “being one with the Lord in Spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). I’m not sure how to define that any farther. Frankly, it can get really weird, really fast to pursue that line of thought. I’m sure it’s something I’ll understand more after marriage, but it is important to point out before hand. I’m content to revisit that line of thought in the future.