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Most people in the West see asking for a blessing before marriage as respectful of the feelings of a father, not respectful of a right. However, in the passage of 1 Cor. 7:36-38, Paul seems to be saying that the father decides for the virgin daughter whether she will or will not marry. I went to biblehub.com, looking at the commentary section of the website, Ellicot's commentary stated without reserve "All throughout this passage the Apostle takes for granted the absolute control of the parent over the child, in accordance with the principles of both Greek and Jewish jurisprudence. Hence, no advice is given to the young maiden herself, but only to her father."

Is this an instance of Paul affirming that the father is a sort of Lord of his house, or is this culturally based, and how so given the stakes for young women?

1 Cor 7:36-38 - However, if someone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his betrothed, and if she is beyond her youth and they ought to marry, let him do as he wishes; he is not sinning; they should get married. But the man who is firmly established in his heart and under no constraint, with control over his will and resolve in his heart not to marry the virgin, he will do well. So then, he who marries the virgin does well, but he who does not marry her does even better.

Edit:

I found a related question that should be examined prior to this one.

"A believers' virginity" or "a believer's daughter's virginity" in 1 Corinthians 7:36-38?

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    I do not see the basis for the question. The father is never mentioned in the passage and not even in all of the chapter of 1 Cor 7. Equally, nor are the parents mentioned.
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2023 at 4:07
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    The father is not mentioned in the NASB either.
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2023 at 4:12
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    The current edition of the NASB does not have "daughter".
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2023 at 4:45
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    @Michael16 - I do not think the cultural bias is with the OP but with the NASB translators who inserted the unwarranted "daughter" in their translation.
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2023 at 4:55
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    This is opinion based.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 22, 2023 at 7:10

2 Answers 2

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First, we should be clear that the addressee here is not the woman's father but her potential husband. Paul is giving advice about whether men should marry or not. He is not advising fathers how do treat their daughters.

That said, it may be culturally based, but it is not a commandment. This is clear from the immediate context:

I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction. 36 If anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, and if a critical moment has come and so it has to be, let him do as he wishes.

Not only does Paul preface vs. 36 by saying he does not intend to impose a restraint, he also say "let him do as he wishes." In other words, he should follow his conscience whether to go ahead with the marriage. Paul prefers that a man devote himself exclusively to Christ, but not if this results in his failing to treat "his virgin" (we would say "his fiancée") properly.

Conclusion: Paul does operate in a cultural milieu different from our own. Christians of that era believed Christ could return any day and wondered if it was appropriate to marry. No pastor today would say to the men in his congregation: "Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife." (v. 27) Nor would a pastor today speak of a man's fiancée as "his virgin." But the advice is expressly not given as a commandment, and it says nothing about a father deciding whom his daughter should marry.

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This is quite obvious. You cannot read the ancient Jewish text from your cultural perspective. In many nations, from Israel to Asia, there is hardly anything as children deciding or doing affairs and dating. When the kid elopes with someone it is the biggest shame for that family (this has just happened in my community); and you also know about honour killing in certain conservative cultures which maintain ancient tradition, though it is not practised among Christians, it is a good thing to study and compare with the Scriptural laws to see Jewish customs of ancient times.

While that is very common in your western culture, that comes directly from the Roman culture, and this Roman culture has directly influenced the present Rabbinic tradition regarding arranging marriages. I got the impression from a Talmudic expert that "the decision of marriage is purely for the bride and groom, not their parents, who have no legal standing in the matter", and not only that I sensed even worse shocking feminist responses.

Historical and cultural background must be considered. The topic of feminism is so sensitive that it is hard to even answer it without offending people's feelings; there's a debate among Western nations whether there is such a thing as a female. You should discern by yourself by studying more books or commentaries from real scholarly sources.

NET Bible notes explain

7:38 [29] sn 1 Cor 7:36–38. There are two common approaches to understanding the situation addressed in these verses. One view involves a father or male guardian deciding whether to give his daughter or female ward in marriage (cf. NASB, NIV margin). The evidence for this view is: (1) the phrase in v. 37 (Grk) “to keep his own virgin” fits this view well (“keep his own virgin [in his household]” rather than give her in marriage), but it does not fit the second view (there is little warrant for adding “her” in the way the second view translates it: “to keep her as a virgin”). (2) The verb used twice in v. 38 (γαμίζω, gamizw) normally means “to give in marriage” not “to get married.” The latter is usually expressed by γαμέω (gamew), as in v. 36b. (3) The father deciding what is best regarding his daughter’s marriage reflects the more likely cultural situation in ancient Corinth, though it does not fit modern Western customs. While Paul gives his advice in such a situation, he does not command that marriages be arranged in this way universally. If this view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his unmarried daughter, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his daughter unmarried, does well. 7:38 So then the one who gives his daughter in marriage does well, but the one who does not give her does better.” The other view is taken by NRSV, NIV text, NJB, REB: a single man deciding whether to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. The evidence for this view is: (1) it seems odd to use the word “virgin” (vv. 36, 37, 38) if “daughter” or “ward” is intended. (2) The other view requires some difficult shifting of subjects in v. 36, whereas this view manages a more consistent subject for the various verbs used. (3) The phrases in these verses are used consistently elsewhere in this chapter to describe considerations appropriate to the engaged couple themselves (cf. vv. 9, 28, 39). It seems odd not to change the phrasing in speaking about a father or guardian. If this second view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his fiancée, if his passions are too strong and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well. 7:38 So then, the one who marries his fiancée does well, but the one who does not marry her does better.”

Those commentaries like Ellicot are good, but the deep study is a long term practice. The passage is not even talking about the father but the man for his fiancé (virgin). So, it doesn't even directly relate to obvious authority and requirement of parental permission for the marriage. It's about the groom's decision to marry his fiance quickly or to wait for some customary period, which would obviously implies in conjunction with her parental permission. Even though the permission of the girl mattered less in ancient cultures, it is not a matter of command or to suggest that there should be no choice of the girl in marriage.

The passage seems to talk about the customary period of taking the girl for consummation of the marriage, as it used to happen, and still happen in certain poor, village regions in Asia that marriages were fixed in childhood, and the girl stays with her parents but goes to the husband after a period as she reaches puberty.

Wikipedia on child marriage>History

In many ancient and medieval societies, it was common for girls to be betrothed at or even before the age of puberty.[31][32] According to Mordechai A. Friedman, "arranging and contracting the marriage of a young girl were the undisputed prerogatives of her father in Ancient Israel." Most girls were married before the age of 15, often at the start of puberty.[33] It has been claimed that in the Middle Ages, marriage took place around puberty throughout the Jewish world.[34]

Ruth Lamdan writes, "The numerous references to child marriage in the 16th-century Responsa literature and other sources shows that child marriage was so common, it was virtually the norm. In this context, it is important to remember that in halakha, the term "minor" refers to a girl under twelve years and a day old. A girl aged twelve and a half was considered an adult in all respects."[35]

In Ancient Greece, early marriage and teenage motherhood for girls existed.[36] Boys were also expected to marry in their teens. In the Roman Empire, girls were married at the age of 12 and boys from the age of 14.[37] In the Middle Ages, under English civil laws derived from Roman laws, marriages before the age of 16 existed. In Imperial China, child marriage was the norm.[38][39]

Geoffrey David Miller writes in Marriage in the Book of Tobit, p. 94:

The onus for arranging the marriage fell primarily upon the child's father, as evidenced by several passages. Sirach 42:9 says, “A daughter is a secret anxiety to her father, and worry over her robs him of sleep; when she is young, for fear she may not marry, or if married, for fear she may be disliked.” In the narrative texts of the Old Testament, several fathers arrange marriages for their children. In Genesis 24, Abraham wants to find a wife for his son Isaac, but Abraham is too old to travel to his homeland to find one. He sends his senior servant Eliezer instead, and Eliezer brings home Rebekah to be Isaac's wife. In 1 Sam 18:17, Saul first offers his daughter Merob in marriage to David and later does the same with his daughter Michal in 1 Sam 18:20-27. Furthermore, 1 Sam 18:21 relates that on each occasion, Saul says to David, “You shall become my son-in-law today.” According to Roland de Vaux, this statement constitutes “the formula spoken by the girl's father to make the encasement valid".

Michael L. Satlow's Jewish Marriage in Antiquity (2001) would be the best source for an in-depth study. In chapter 5, after mentioning the plot of the book of Tobit, he describes a story from Menander's "Dyskolos", where after being rejected on the proposal for someone's daughter, a man schemes with a friend who succeeds in betrothing with this girl, and this friend gives her to his friend. In an incident in the Babylonian Talmud, two men casually arranged their children's marriage while drinking in Babylonia. On p. 112 he writes,

Without doubt, some marriages really were handled mainly, or entirely, by fathers. Yet it is more likely that most "real" marriages, like the comically complex one portrayed by Menander, were far messier to contract, involving protracted negotiations not only between two fathers (if living), but between the parents and the children themselves. Jewish sources from antiquity testify nearly unanimously to the importance of male initiative in finding a bride. In the "purest" form of the ideal, a father would suggest to his son that he betroth a particular woman, and his son would, without hesitation or even necessarily seeing the bride, acquiesce. This, for example, is what we find in Tobit, when the angel Raphael (a kind of surrogate father) tells Tobias that it is "most fitting" (dedikaiotai) for him to marry Sarah (6:13), whom he has never met. "And when Tobias heard the words of Raphael, and that she was his sister of the seed of his father's house, he loved her exceedingly, and his heart clave unto her." After that, Tobias directs Raphael to ask Raguel for his daughter's hand. A fragment from Qumran, as we have seen, assumes that a man contracts a marriage directly with the father of the bride.

Josephus too thinks that this is the "proper" way to arrange a marriage. The law, he says, "commands us . . . to sue from him who is authorized to give her away."

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  • Any scholarly source in particular that you would recommend? I ask in all sincerity.
    – gbmye
    Dec 22, 2023 at 4:36
  • I added details
    – Michael16
    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:07
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    I am downvoting this answer. As @Dottard notes, there is no reference to father nor daughter in these verses. So also, while it is customary to seek the blessing of the father in OT contexts, there are so many exceptions to this (Joseph, David, et al), that making this a prescription rather than a description makes this answer untenable. Likewise, as a believer in the NT, no one is bound by OT customs.
    – Epimanes
    Dec 22, 2023 at 8:10
  • You are free to downvote due to your religious or traditional bias, it only reveals your own bias and insecurities.
    – Michael16
    Dec 22, 2023 at 8:20
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    @Michael16 nowhere in my rationale is there a "religious or traditional bias." there are only facts: 1) no reference to father or daughter. 2) Many examples of marriages that did not follow your eisagetical conclusion. 3) There are no passages that demand we follow OT customs in the NT in the same way they did back then. I do not bring insecurities to my comments here, just facts.
    – Epimanes
    Dec 22, 2023 at 9:51

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