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Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7 [Paperback]

By Will Deming (Author) & Raymond F. Collins (Foreword by)
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Item description for Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7 by Will Deming & Raymond F. Collins...

This study overturns the traditional interpretation of Paul's thinking on marriage and celibacy. By examining established theories about the main influences on his theology, and by reconstructing the Stoic and Cynic discourse on marriage that formed its context, it offers an illuminating reassessment of both Paul's understanding of marriage and his place in the history of Christian asceticism, and provides new information for discussions of Christian sexuality and feminist evaluations of the Bible.

Publishers Description
Paul is traditionally seen as one of the founders of Christian sexual asceticism. As early as the second century C.E. church leaders looked to him as a model for their lives of abstinence. But is this a correct reading of Paul? What exactly did Paul teach on the subjects of marriage and celibacy? Will Deming here answers these questions - often in provocative new ways. By placing Paul's statements on marriage and celibacy against the backdrop of ancient Hellenistic society, Deming constructs a coherent picture of Paul's views. He shows that the conceptual world in which Paul lived and wrote had substantially vanished by 100 C.E., and terms like "sin," "body," "sex," and "holiness" began to acquire moral implications quite unlike those Paul knew. Paul conceived of marriage as a social obligation that had the potential of distracting Christians from Christ. For him, celibacy was the single life, free from such distraction, not a life of saintly denial. Sex, in turn, was not sinful but natural, and sex within marriage was both proper and necessary.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   296
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.28" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.81"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2004
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802839894  
ISBN13  9780802839893  

Availability  143 units.
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More About Will Deming & Raymond F. Collins

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Deming is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Portland, Oregon.

Will Deming currently resides in Portland, in the state of Oregon. Will Deming was born in 1956 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Portland University of Portland, Oregon University of Po.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7?

Non-ascetic Interpretation of 1 Cor. 7--the most sensible interpretation of 1 Cor. 7 I have ever read, with exegetical insights.  Mar 23, 2010
Will Deming's thesis is that Paul does not advocate any sexual asceticism in chapter 7. The context of Stoic-Cynic marriage debate provides a best account matrix in understanding Paul's logic and the Corinthians' position on marriage and finally their dialogue in 1 Cor. 7. It is the most sensible interpretation of 1 Cor. 7 I have ever read, although there are still some points I find at odds with.

Unlike other monographs on 1 Corinthians, Will Deming does engage in the exegesis of the text itself, seeking to answer every tough questions rose from the logic and the meaning of the text. I find some of his interpretation helpful for me to understand Paul's sayings. For instance, Deming points out that v.7 does not state the contrast between incontinent married Christians and continent unmarried Christian, "but between married Christians who are able to forgo sexual relations and those who are not." (p.125) This clarification helps me understand the preceding v.1-6 and the significance of verse 7 as a conclusion. Second sharp interpretation is the relation of v.15a (if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave) and v.15b (the brother or the sister is not enslaved in this). I, like many other commentators, have presumed that the latter further explains the former and so logically come to the conclusion of Pauline privilege for divorce. But it immediately faces the difficulty of interpreting 15c: "God has called you to peace", which sounds irrelevant to the preceding discussion. Deming's suggestion, to my mind, is more sensible: 15b introduces the following instead of further elaboration of 15a: Paul corrects Corinthians' wrong concept of regarding mixed marriage as enslavement. This marital peace of Christians with their unbelieving spouses are not enslavement but the call of God. (p.146ff) Understood in this way, it makes more sense why Paul keep on casting out the hope / mission to believers leading their spouses to Christ in v.16.

However good exegesis Deming has demonstrated, I wonder if his definition of `Stoicism' is too vauge. In chapter 2, he even includes Gospels in NT as possible stoic parallels. In fact, he is talking about the parallels of Jesus' sayings about marriage in Matt 19.10-12 and 1 Cor. 7. (p.97ff) It is hard to tell whether the words of Jesus, as a whole, is parallel to Stoic-Cynic marriage debate. For the meanings of words lies in its semantic usage. Thus, seeking parallels of words must include parallel contexts in the biblical text and stoic materials. He seldom quotes the whole paragraph of Stoic materials to show that the semantic usage of those greek words are similar to Jesus' sayings and 1 Cor. 7. For instance, in n.32 of p.114, he states that Rom 1.29-31 is "a catalog of vices, a literary form also used by Stoics." However, Deming does not submit any stoic material which quote the same vice list. As far as I know, the vice list Paul usually quotes find closer parallels to Old Testament. Rosner has pointed out that the 6 sins in the vice list in 1 Cor 5.11 are found in Deuteronomy where each of those sin is supposed to end with the same sentence: `Drive out the wicked person from among you.' This makes more sense to explain why Paul quotes this phrase in 1 Cor. 5:13. Thus, from his vague assertion of parallels to Stoics' so-and-so, it is difficult to check its validity. This is one major methodological problem.

Second problem I observe is the outcome of interpretation, especially the relation between the section 7.10-24 and 25-28. According to Deming's interpretation, Paul in 7.10-24 urges the Christians with mixed marriage to maintain their marital status in spite of any averse circumstances. Then now to the singles, why does Paul urge them to remain single according to objective averse circumstances? Deming's interpretation seems to make Paul arbitrary to his agreement/disagreement on Stoic's values on marriage. Moreover, Deming seems to have not addressed the question why Paul presumes some of the virgins as having been married in v.27, where married virgins seems to be self-contradictory terms. If it refers to Spiritual marriage, then it violates Paul's teachings of regular sexual intercourse within marriage in 7.1-6. If it refers to fake marriage, just for the sake of taking care of aged widows, it's a good work and Paul's repeated phrases in v.28 of "you/she do/does not sin" becomes incomprehensible. Finally, Deming seems to have not done any interpretation on the most difficult section v.36-40. Finding similarities to Stoic sayings itself is not an interpretation. Deming seems to end his whole chapter's interpretation in a poor manner.

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