“…because he hath wrought folly in Israel.” (Josh. 7:15)
"But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." (I Cor. 7:36-38)
From time to time, Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said…” after which He would contradict accepted thought and practice of His day. (See Matt. 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43.) A modern example of standard thinking and practice that likewise must be exposed is the “millions of years” time frame that is so often associated with subjects like dinosaurs. This time frame is contrary to true science and is the basis for evolution, a world view that has brought about great evils such as abortion and the Holocaust. Even some who claim to believe the Bible have tried to insert particles-to-people evolution into the Bible through ideas such as the “gap theory” which inserts a span of time (“gap”) between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 that supposedly contained events such as the fall of Satan and subsequent “Luciferian flood,” fossils, dinosaurs, and the evolution of man. Many things both Biblically and scientifically contradict both macro-evolution and this so-called “gap.” Though these ideas may generally be accepted by many scientists or Bible scholars, there is a great need to show that they are wrong Biblically. Similarly, there is a great need to expose a common but un-Biblical approach to 1 Corinthians 7:36-38. Much of what has been taught about these verses regarding fathers and daughters contradicts Scripture and is in need of critical examination.
The idea that “any man” in this passage refers to any father may at first seem tenable in light of God’s design for parents to care for and to communicate Biblical wisdom to their children (Eph. 6:4). However, closer examination (Acts 17:11; I Cor. 2:13) reveals that this idea is not in accord with the context of the passage. In addition, it is un-Scriptural and even grossly immoral! A re-wording of this passage, incorporating the father view, will reveal to the reader that the idea is contrary to common sense and to the design of God revealed in Genesis 2:24:
“But if any father thinks that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin daughter, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let the father do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37 Nevertheless the father that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his daughter, doeth well. 38 So then the father that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but the father that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.”
The thought that this passage deals with a father keeping his daughter from marrying is an idea that one must insert into the passage, for it is not clearly expressed. Paul simply refers to “a man” and does not stipulate that this man is a father. It is solely in the reader’s mind as to whether “man” refers to a married man with a daughter or to an unmarried (single) man. As one looks more closely at the passage, several reasons make it clear that “man” in this passage means a single man and not a father:
In the context of verses 36-38, Paul had just referred to women in their positions as either wives or virgins (7:34). Therefore, it is logical that Paul would then address men who were husbands or virgin men. In doing so, he used an indefinite pronoun (Greek, “tis”) meaning “anyone.” It is not the same word that is translated “father” (Greek, “pater”). In fact, there is nothing within the context that clearly indicates Paul is referring to a parental relationship. Rather, the context is the marital relationship throughout this passage. The last instance in which he referred to the parent/child relationship is verse 14.
Paul knew the custom of that day which in modern times is referred to as the “betrothal period,” a Jewish custom that established an engaged man and woman as a legally married couple before they came together as husband and wife. (See Matthew 1:18.) However, this letter was written to believers of Greece who presumably were not as familiar with this custom, a practice that even allowed parents to choose a spouse for their children years in advance of “marriageable age.”
The clearest indication that this passage refers to an unmarried, engaged couple is a word Paul uses.
“But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin…” (v. 36)
“Behave himself uncomely” is a translation from one Greek word, “ah skay moh nayn,” the infinitive form of a word which means “to behave improperly” or “to act unbecomingly.” However, this definition leaves one wondering exactly what kind of behavior the word means. It is therefore helpful to see other Biblical uses of this word (or forms of it):
1 Corinthians 12:23 “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” (ah skay moh nah – adjective form)
1 Corinthians 13:5 “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own…” (ah skay moh nay – verb)
Romans 1:27 “…men…burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly… (ah skay moh soo nayn – noun)
Revelation 16:15 …Blessed is he that … keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (ah skay moh soo nayn – noun)
As one examines these other translations and uses of “ah skay moh nayn” as “uncomely,” “unseemly,” or “shame,” it becomes clear that the uncomely behavior referred to in verse 36 involves unlawful sexual desire or shameful nakedness. Paul certainly would not condone this type of behavior or desire of a father for his daughter, nor would it be within the character of a loving God to allow a father to keep his daughter unto himself for such un-comeliness.
“Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power (or authority) over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.” (1 Corinthians 7:37, 38 - Note the added emphasis upon “her.”)
The “father view” (v. 36) along with the meaning of the words “behaveth himself uncomely,” combine to give more impact to verses 37 and 38. This view even gives authority for a man to retain his daughter for his own needs and desires, and states that it is better for a father to not give away his daughter in marriage! This is inconsistent with the design of God that “marriage is honorable in all…” (Heb. 13:4) and one must leave “father and mother” to become “one flesh” in marriage (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:6). Instead, the father view allows for a spiritual reason for a father to keep his daughter from marrying, offering no reason to do so other than power (or authority) over his own will!
Instead of “man” (v. 36) referring to a father, the view that is clear and consistent both Biblically and logically is that this passage is referring to a single man who has an espoused virgin just as Joseph was espoused to Mary as his wife (Matt. 1:18). In this view, the phrase, “if she pass the flower of her age,” would refer to the age of his fiancé, while “necessity” (v. 37) would mean “necessity to be married.” Therefore, if a young man has “power over his own will” and has “so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin (or keep his espousal a virgin, i.e., refrain from marrying her) doeth well.” Here, Paul repeats the principle that singleness is good:
1 Corinthians 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.
1 Corinthians 7:25, 26 “…concerning virgins…I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. … it is good for a man so to be.”
Under inspiration from God, the Apostle Paul wrote that it is good for a man to remain single and to “attend upon the LORD without distraction” (7:35). Marriage is not only a father giving away his daughter. It also is a “’til-death-do-us-part” vow before God as each partner gives themselves to each other in marriage. Based upon instruction directly from God, Adam said:
Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
In addition, one must remember that “her” (7:38) is in italics, indicating a word that was inserted by the translators for clarity. For our understanding today, the verse may be read this way:
So then the virgin man that giveth (himself) in marriage doeth well; but
he (the virgin man) that giveth (himself) not in marriage doeth better.
Paul then continued the topic of marriage as he addressed the life-long permanence of the marriage relationship (v. 39), but nowhere does this passage express the father/daughter relationship. Instead, one must read into this passage that “man” (v. 36) means “father.” If man does mean “father,” there would be theological, biblical, and moral difficulties and inconsistencies that must be addressed.
The view of “man” as “father” (1 Corinthians 7:36) is inconsistent both Biblically and logically.
The key to understanding that the father view is incorrect is the word “uncomely” (“unseemly” in Romans 1:27 & 1 Corinthians 13:5, and “shame” in Revelation 16:15). Various uses of this word refer either to sexual desire or to physical nakedness (e.g. Romans 1:27; Revelation 16:15).
This view allows a spiritual basis for a father to contradict the design of God for his daughter.
Nowhere in the context of this passage is the father/daughter relationship clearly expressed. Rather, the marital or pre-marital relationship is consistently addressed throughout the context.
As “evolution” has produced wrong ideas about God and life, the father view of 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 results in wrong views about God, marriage, singleness, and the father/daughter relationship.
God is intensely concerned with every area of our lives. He is NOT distant or absent from our day-to-day lives. He cares! He even cares about marriages and the way men and women discover their spouses. He wants for us to experience His best. However, sometimes people hinder what God offers. Sadly, those hindrances might even come from a well-meaning parent who holds a false view of this passage…a view that can bring about folly in the lives of those who do not know the Scripture.
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”