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In the TR of 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says

ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν

The following is how some of the major English versions translate the Greek:

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (KJV)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (ESV)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; (NIV)

I don't know Greek grammar, and I am not an expert in interpretation. But as Paul is referring to your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, I was trying to figure out if he was talking about your bodies collectively or your body individually... or phrased another way, was he referring to his total audience as a whole or his to the individual person who would be reading his epistle.

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  • Generally, since soma is singular in form in this verse, it would be singular. IIRC, Wallace notes that neuter nouns such as this can be plural in a sense when singular in form - but that usually is in a collective sense, not a plurality - i.e. Normally a group of things identified as a group rather than a number of individuals seen as individuals. I do not have my resources in front of me, but I believe the KJV & ESV renderings are better.
    – user13379
    Nov 23, 2016 at 16:45
  • @user13379 Collective nouns that are in the plural take singular verbs. Here we have a singular noun ("body"). So that feature of Greek usage wouldn't fit here.
    – Epimanes
    Nov 30, 2023 at 12:41

3 Answers 3

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At the time when the KJV was written English still distinguished between the 2nd person singular (“thou, thee, thy”) and the 2nd person plural (“ye, you, your”). It was thus clear to the 17th-century reader that “your body” means “the body of each and every one of you” (τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν), that is: “all of your bodies”. In modern English “your body” means “the body of one of you”. The editors of the NIV have simply tried to hammer in the fact that this verse is addressed not to one singular “you” but to a whole group of people.

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  • Okay so it seems as if soma is being used here in the collectibe sense from whatyou all are saying, but now a plurality. So that would make its reference the body of Christ as a single entity and not the plurality of believers?
    – C Bryant
    Dec 1, 2016 at 6:10
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Given the excellent reasoning in the answer above ( referring to the linguistic rules in the 17 th century), it seems to me that the term ‘bodies’ used in the NIV to refer to the ‘bodies of each of you’ (… in the corporate Body of Christ) is correct. This interpretation supports Paul’s previous reference to God’s temple in chapter 3:16f in which he uses the second person plural consistently when describing/explaining the temple. This, from both texts, I gather the meaning to be: the Body of Christ is the collective of all believing ‘bodies’, each one being accountable to the Body.

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    Nov 30, 2023 at 4:19
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Paul here is speaking about each person individually (not as a sort of collective plural).

Let's take a little wider scope, backing up to vs. 18:

“«18» Φεύγετε τὴν πορνείαν. πᾶν ἁμάρτημα ὃ ἐὰν ποιήσῃ ἄνθρωπος, ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν· ὁ δὲ πορνεύων εἰς τὸ ἴδιον σῶμα ἁμαρτάνει. «19» ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν; «20» ἠγοράσθητε γὰρ τιμῆς· δοξάσατε δὴ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν.” (Κορινθίους α 6·18-20 THGNT-T)

So, in vs. 18, Paul starts out telling them (plural, Φεύγετε) to flee from sexual sins. Then he transitions to the singular:

  • if a person (singular subject ἄνθρωπος)
  • Does (singular verb: ποιήσῃ)
  • that person sins against his own body (singular and specific: ἴδιον)

In vs. 19 then we have the context we need to work through the singular vs. plural dilemma. Paul starts out with a plural question: "You know this, don't you...?" (οὐκ οἴδατε). When we get to "your body" (τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν) we note that the noun is singular but the possessive adjective is plural. So the interpretation could go in two ways:

  • You (plural), as a body, are the temple of the Holy Spirit
  • You (singular), each of you as individuals has a body which, individually, is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

The context strongly leads us to conclude that the 'singular' view is the better choice:

  • ...because of all the singular referents in the previous verse
  • ...because sexual sins are being referenced. These are not sins that are usually considered in the context of one mass of people engaging with another mass of people. It is considered in the context of one individual with another individual.

Finally, the use of "your" (in "your body") in Greek is called the partitive genitive ( or genitive of the whole). The idea then is that each individual body out of your grouping of people is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is hard to drag over into English from Greek, since Greek has more tools in its linguistic tool kit to distinguish singular from plural.

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