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1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (NASB)

10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

I have been studying this passage for a long time now and I would really appreciate your responses to what Paul means when he says, "Not under bondage in such cases".

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    It doesn't make a a huge difference but it's worth noting that the NASB has "cases" in italics to indicate they had to add that word in that position to form a grammatical English sentence that fleshed out what they believed the Greek was implying but didn't actually say with so many words. I updated your citation to have formatting from the original (and added your bold to highlight the phrase in question). – Caleb Mar 15 '17 at 8:01
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Versus 12-16 teach a second ground for divorce, besides adultery, that applies strictly to the marriage of a believer and a nonbeliever. Such a marriage should arise only if one of two married unbelievers becomes a believer. This is true since it is written that believers should not yoke themsleve in marriage with unbelievers (see v. 39 & 2C 6:14). The ground is stated explicitly in v. 15, and it is clear that if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, the believing spouse can get a divorce and remarry. On the other hand, a believing spouse would be violating verses 12-13 if they initiated the divorce. In other words a divorce can only happen if the non-believer initiates the process. Disannulment of the marriage contract and the right to remarry must be allowed in such a case or the believer would be enslaved to a marriage that is formal on paper only.

David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 454.

See also:

Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (New York: R. Carter & Bros, 1857), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "1 Corinthians 7".

Both sources agree with the outcome in their interpretation.

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Paul is referring to bondage to the law as a way of saying the law does not apply to this situation and they are free to divorce.

Galatians 5 has

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

What is the slavery to which Paul refers here? The law. Again in chapter 3:

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian...

So in our verse in 1 Corinthians, Paul says one is "not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace". Being at peace with eachother and with outsiders is more important, to Paul, than obeying the letter of the law because we are now adults with freedom rather than children who only obey a law.

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  • Since you made a case for "under bondage" as reference to the Law, I can't disagree with the hermeneutic; however, "Pauline Privilege" doesn't refer to the Law, but to Christ's specific commandment(1 Cor. 7:10, as referenced to Matt. 5:22). Therefore I would have to disagree with your answer contextually, because Paul is not referencing the Law, but Christ's commandment. – Tau Apr 5 '15 at 1:30
  • I agree with Tau. Paul's writings upholds Written Torah always. Your interpretation is, imo, eisegesis. You are injecting the "law" where there is no reason to do so based on the context. – user6053 Apr 5 '15 at 7:07
  • Please note that the question is specifically about the phrase "not under bondage". If you think that the answer is that it is specifically referring to not being in bondage to one of Christ's particular commandments, then you should make your case in your answer. Given that Paul elsewhere has a trope about, variously, being in bondage to sin, law and Christ, I think bondage here is referring to using our freedom from laws and rules. It does not look like eisegesis to interpret a word by referring to the usage elsewhere of the same word by the same author. – Paul Dean Apr 5 '15 at 11:48
  • It does to me. The usage in one place doesn't automatically presume identical meaning else where. – user6053 Apr 5 '15 at 12:18
  • That's fine. I'd be interested to know your answer, but unfortunately the answer you've given doesn't refer to the specific phrase that is being asked about - "not under bondage in such cases" and so at the moment I have no alternative and my answer is the best I can think of. – Paul Dean Apr 5 '15 at 12:41
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The context of 1st Corinthians 7 is all about marriage. It's Paul's opinion that all marriage is a type of bondage / slavery. He even recommended that men be like him by avoiding marriage if possible (7:7).

In 'such cases' refers to believers marrying non-believers. The unbelieving spouse is free to depart from the believing spouse, but two believers must not ever divorce, they must remain in bondage, enslaved to one another.

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A few lines above these verses, God, not Paul, speaks through Paul to tell us that "a wife must not leave her husband, but if she does, she must remain unmarried or reconcile with her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife." This refers to all husbands and all wives. He then gives his opinion as to what to do if an unbeliever leaves a believer. As Paul has just stated that people who leave are to remain single or reconcile, why would he then tell the spouse who was just abandoned that they may remarry? Would he not have given them more instruction as to when one can consider the other to have "departed" or may one remarry ten minutes after the unbeliever has departed? Would he not have said something like "and then the unbeliever may remarry." He had just told the entire audience to remain single or reconcile if they depart from their spouses. Why on earth would he tell believers who had been left they could remarry? Would he not know he would set off a cottage industry of people trying to label their spouses as unbelievers who either left or behaved so badly as to constructively leave their marriages? What of Jesus's words trumping the opinions of Paul. Jesus said nothing about divorce and remarriage for those who were abandoned--for some unspecified time-by their spouses.

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  • It's very difficult to follow an argument that has no formatting. Please add some paragraphs at least. – Jack Douglas Mar 16 '17 at 11:09

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