Summary: Clearifying misconceptions regarding 1 Cor 7
ISSUES OF MARRIAGE AND SINGLENESS FOR DISCIPLES
Context of 1 Corinthians 7
It is a interest to see the background of 1 Corinthians 7 in order to understand better this chapter of Corinthians. The information in extracted from two sources: 1) The letters to the Corinthians. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press; and 2) 1 Corinthians. MacArthur, J. (1996, c1984). Includes indexes. Chicago: Moody Press.
Corinth “was a very ancient city. Thucydides, the Greek historian, claims that it was in Corinth that the first triremes, the Greek battleships, were built. Legend has it that it was in Corinth that the Argo was built, the ship in which Jason sailed the seas, searching for the golden fleece. But in 146 B.C. disaster befell her. The Romans were engaged in conquering the world. When they sought to reduce Greece, Corinth was the leader of the opposition. But the Greeks could not stand against the disciplined Romans, and in 146 B.C. Lucius Mummius, the Roman general, captured Corinth and left her a desolate heap of ruins.
But any place with the geographical situation of Corinth could not remain a devastation. Almost exactly one hundred years later, in 46 B.C. Julius Caesar rebuilt her and she arose from her ruins. Now she became a Roman colony. More, she became a capital city, the metropolis of the Roman province of Achaea, which included practically all Greece.
In those days, which were the days of Paul, her population was very mixed. (i) There were the Roman veterans whom Julius Caesar had settled there. When a Roman soldier had served his time, he was granted the citizenship and was then sent out to some newly-founded city and given a grant of land so that he might become a settler there. These Roman colonies were planted all over the world, and always the backbone of them was the contingent of veteran regular soldiers whose faithful service had won them the citizenship. (ii) When Corinth was rebuilt the merchants came back, for her situation still gave her commercial supremacy. (iii) There were many Jews among the population. The rebuilt city offered them commercial opportunities which they were not slow to take. (iv) There was a sprinkling of Phoenicians and Phrygians and people from the east, with their exotic customs and their hysterical ways. Farrar speaks of “this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice.” He characterizes her as a colony “without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens.”
Like most Greek cities, Corinth had an acropolis (literally, “high city”), called Acrocorinth, which was used as a place of defense and for pagan worship. From its top on a clear day Athens can be seen, some forty–five miles away. Situated on a 2,000–foot high granite mound, Acrocorinth was large enough to hold all the population of Corinth and of its surrounding farmlands in time of siege. It also held a famous temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love. The temple normally housed some one thousand priestesses, ritual prostitutes, who each night would come down into Corinth and ply their trade among the many foreign travelers and the local men.
Even to the pagan world the city was known for its moral corruption, so much so that in classical Greek corinthiazesthai (“to behave like a Corinthian”) came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery. The name of the city became synonymous with moral depravity. In this letter to the church there, Paul lists some of the city’s characteristic sins—fornication (porneia, from which comes our term pornography), idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, homosexuality, stealing, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (abusive speech), and swindling (6:9–10).
Some of the Corinthian believers had been guilty of practicing those sins before their conversion and had been cleansed (6:11). Others in the church, however, were still living immorally, some involved in sins worse than those—sins that Paul reminds them even pagan Gentiles did not commit, such as incest (5:1).
So in conclusion we can say that the church in Corinth was compound of Jews, Romans and Greeks. Morally, the Corinthian believers had a history of involvement in sexual immorality (6:9-10), and were proud of incest case (5:1-13). A constant temptation for the believers in Corinth was the presence of the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, part of whose worship was sexual intercourses with the its 1000 temple-prostitutes. Problems of pride were evident in this church and are addressed by Paul in chapters 1-4. It is against this background that Paul writes in chapter 7 to the Corinthians “for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry” (7:1).