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Saturday, July 21, 2007

1 Cor. 7: 1-4

Gordon Fee had a lot to say about 1 Cor. 7 in class the other day. He was pretty upset about the way the first verse looked in the NIV.
    Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. NIV

    1 Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. TNIV

    Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:(A) "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3(B) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. ESV
First, verse 1 is simply not accurate in the NIV. The Greek simply does not say "It is good for a man not to marry" and who knows how that got into the NIV.

Second, verse 4 is not literal in the NIV because it says "authority" and this is indeed the only time in the scriptures where "authority" is mentioned in connection to marriage. It is clearly a matter of mutual consent between spouses.

However, the NIV does get verse 2 correct. Sexual immorality, actually, the word used is that for visiting prostitutes, is in the plural here. It means, not the potential for immorality, but actual instances of immorality.

The TNIV recognizes this and has corrected verse 1 and verse 4 and maintains a correct translation for verse 2 when it says "sexual immorality is occurring", meaning there is more than one instance of sexual immorality occurring.

The ESV ignores the fact that "immorality" is in the plural in Greek, that is "immoralities". In fact, the ESV has inserted a very odd addition to the Greek text when it says "temptation to sexual immorality". That is clearly not what the Greek says. The ESV and the NIV are therefore both adding some peculiar things to this passage.

However, when it says "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband," Gordon Fee insists that this means that the husband is to "have" his wife, the wife is to "have" her husband - anyway, I'm sure you get his drift. It doesn't say that each man should marry a wife, but that they were to "have" the wife they did have - and vice versa.

Dr. Fee said that he speaks at a lot of weddings and he thinks of lots of things that he would like to say in the homily that he doesn't feel is appropriate to say, but it all goes along this line.

He held out his arms in class and said "These days there is all too much abuse in marriage, emotional abuse and physical abuse." He felt that this passage was written in a context where women, possibly recently converted women, were abstaining from sexual relations in their marriages, and, on the other hand, there was also a trend towards asceticism among some of the men. So both prostitution and a reactionary trend.

Anyway, I hope this explains why the TNIV says "each man should have sexual relations with his own wife," - and vice versa. Although this makes the TNIV appear to be less literal, I would hasten to point out that all other translations have their verses where they are not literal either, words added here and dropped there. Do people feel that the translation of verse 4 in the TNIV makes it less literal? Which of these translations - each with its peculiarities - seems to be the closest to Paul's intent?

Come to think of it, it all sounds so much better in the KJV. All this "duty" and "rights" business sounds very tiresome.
    Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(Actually, I just checked - the Greek does say "duty". Oh well. Sometime the KJV improves on the original.)

(I am still organizing my notes from my meeting with Bruce Waltke.)

43 Comments:

At Sat Jul 21, 09:30:00 PM, Blogger Jay Davis said...

How does the NLT compare for being correct in verse 1, 2 and 4?

1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.[a] 2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

 
At Sat Jul 21, 09:44:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I only issue that I can see is in the first verse. "Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.[a]" That is treated as a quote in most other versions. What does the note [a] say?

Otherwise it seems to line up.

 
At Sat Jul 21, 10:02:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

On second thought, I think there are more problems. First, the NLT implies that the comment "It is good to live a celibate life" as if Paul said that, then says "each man should have his own wife", implying "to get married" not simply that they should have sexual relations with their wife,- and vice versa. Finally, the use of "needs" instead of "what is owed". That is what the Greek says, not "fulfill the needs of". I do think that giving what is owed, cold as it sounds, is much more accurate than "fulfilling someone's needs". "Needs" can be interpreted in a fairly individualistic manner, and, I suppose, the term could be misused. In any case, that is not what the Greek says.

Let me just say that this is not marriage counselling on my part, this is purely related to what the Greek says.

 
At Sat Jul 21, 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

The RSV/NRSV's translation, is far superior: "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: 'It is well for a man not to touch a woman.' " This has a much broader set of meanings (including congress), but more properly fits in the themes of 1 Corinthians' discussion of Jewish law by referring to the laws of niddah.

 
At Sat Jul 21, 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Iyov,

You're right the NRSV is more literal and allows for the allusion to Jewish law. The NRSV is more literal for this entire passage than any of the translations I provided.

However, what do you mean by "a broader set of meanings". That is, it surely can't mean literally "touch", it still means "sexual relations" or is there more to this?

Do you think the TNIV and ESV are not accurate for verse 1?

 
At Sat Jul 21, 11:22:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The NASB is also literal for this passage but the HCSB isn't quite.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 05:09:00 AM, Blogger Apprentice2Jesus said...

Good thoughts. Again, I am just jealous you get to sit in on a class taught by GORDON FEE! He is one of my modern day heroes. You are so blessed!

 
At Sun Jul 22, 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

It is mistake to focus on the issue of "accuracy", as if it admitted a simple yes-no answer. haptesthai has multiple meanings, of which the primary one is to "not touch", and additional meanings include "clinging to", "congress", "adhere to", etc. The English word "touch" is closer to the set of meanings indicated by the Greek, while "have sex with" only is one potential sense of the word. Thus "have sex with" is unnecessarily interpretative.

Certainly the parallel with the usage in 2 Corinthians 6:17 is particularly strong, and there, the sexual meaning by itself would be "inaccurate." (And that can be said doubly of uses that are not parallel, such as Matthew 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22, 10:13; Luke 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44,45,46,47; 18:15; 22:51; John 20:17; Colossians 2:21; 1 John 5:18.)

Now, why it is not necessarily best to always translate a single word in just one way, if it is can be done without losing meaning, it is to be preferred.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 11:01:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov asked:

Now, why it is not necessarily best to always translate a single word in just one way, if it is can be done without losing meaning, it is to be preferred.

The answer, I believe, is in your question itself, i.e. because for many words/expressions it cannot be done without losing meaning.

The Corinthians and Paul all knew that he was not referring to literal touching in this passage from 1 Cor. Nor do we express that intended meaning in English with the word "touch." We simply cannot use the same word in different contexts when the meaning is different in each of those contexts. This is esp. true of translation, where the word-meaning set/composite is almost never the same from one language to another.

There are very few, if any, other languages, besides English, where our noses "run," and fish "run", as do stockings, and bulls (!) on the stock market, and the mouth of someone who prattles on and on, etc. etc.

Accurate translation for 1 Cor. 7:1-4 is not a matter of matching up words from Greek to English, but of matching up English words that have the same meaning as the Greek words. If we do not deal with meaning, then we are not addressing the parameter of accuracy. And we cannot discover meaning unless we follow some kind of socially acceptable procedures of interpretation. We can call it interpretative translation, but it results is more accurate translation than if we simply have concordance, matching up words from one context to another, even when the words are used differently in those contexts.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Jay Davis said...

Suzanne:

The NLT (a) note in verse 1 is:
1 Corinthians 7:1 Greek It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Wayne:
"Accurate translation for 1 Cor. 7:1-4 is not a matter of matching up words from Greek to English, but of matching up English words that have the same meaning as the Greek words."

Which version does that the best in your opinion?

 
At Sun Jul 22, 02:15:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I made a typo. I didn't mean to phrase that as a question (although it is a mightily ungrammatical questions), but as an assertion:


Now, while it is not necessarily best to always translate a single word in just one way, if it is can be done without losing meaning, it is to be preferred.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov clarified:

Now, while it is not necessarily best to always translate a single word in just one way, if it is can be done without losing meaning, it is to be preferred.

I think I agree, Iyov, all things being equal, but I would need to look at specific exx. to evaluate translation possibilities better.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jay asked:

Which version does that the best in your opinion?

I agree with Suzanne: I think the TNIV is the more accurate than most literal to essentially literal translations. Paul is quoting back to the Corinthians what they had originally written to him, asking his opinion about the notion that it is best for people to live celibate lives.

The ESV is equally accurate for v. 1, but diminishes accuracy some in following verses as Suzanne points out.

The CEV is, IMO, the clearest, and no less accurate than the TNIV:

Now I will answer the questions that you asked in your letter. You asked, “Is it best for people not to marry?” ‡ 7.2 CEV 1 Corinthians 7.2 Well, having your own husband or wife should keep you from doing something immoral. 7.3 CEV 1 Corinthians 7.3 Husbands and wives should be fair with each other about having sex. 7.4 CEV 1 Corinthians 7.4 A wife belongs to her husband instead of to herself, and a husband belongs to his wife instead of to himself. 7.5 CEV 1 Corinthians 7.5 So don't refuse sex to each other, unless you agree not to have sex for a little while, in order to spend time in prayer. Then Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The NLT is also excellent:

Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.* 7.2NLT 1 Corinthians 7.2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
7.3NLT 1 Corinthians 7.3 The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. 7.4NLT 1 Corinthians 7.4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
7.5NLT 1 Corinthians 7.5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.


The NET, also, is accurate:

7 7.1NET 1 Corinthians 7.1 Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”a 7.2NET 1 Corinthians 7.2 But because of immoralities, each man should have relations witha his own wife and each woman withb her own husband. 7.3NET 1 Corinthians 7.3 A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights,a and likewise a wife to her husband. 7.4NET 1 Corinthians 7.4 It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. 7.5NET 1 Corinthians 7.5 Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.a Then resume your relationship,b so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

These are the most accurate translations of this passage, IMO. Some are in better English than others. I like to have both high accuracy and natural, good quality literary English.

 
At Sun Jul 22, 03:53:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

There are a lot of different issues here. Yes, I do like concordance in a translation and am often puzzled at why the so-called literal Bibles don't have a much higher degree of concordance.

The NASB is more concordant, but you can't ever tell when the Greek says "man" and when it says "people". Other than that it is pretty concordant.

But, if I had to chose one Bible to teach from, it would very likely be the NRSV. It is a standard.

I do like the Rotherham Bible most for concordance. It is very appealing to me, outstanding, and probably my most exciting discovery this year in Bibles.

Look at 1 Cor. 6:12 in the Rotherham,

All things, unto me, are allowable, but, not all things, are profitable: all things, unto me, are allowable, but, I, will not be brought under authority by any.

No other translation shows that it says "brought under authority".

Back to 1 Cor. 7. "touch" fine by me, but the CEV says "not to marry" like the NIV. Certainly those are two completely different things, having relations with and marrying.
It either means one things or the other.

I also cannot agree that the Greek says to "fulfill each others needs". Let me be clear, this is not about what people should do, but about what the Greek means here.

And finally, the biggest divergence is translating εχειν as "having relations with" instead of gettnig married.

That is, the whole question is, are these people he is talking to mostly already married, very likely, and doesn't Paul talk to the unmarried later on. So I do think that the TNIV sheds new light on the matter when it translates εχειν as "having sex with".

What is up in the air is, who is Paul talking to, what was their circumstance and so on. Can we consider that he is actually talking to people who are already married about being celibate within marriage and he is discouraging this.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 03:16:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thanks for this. Sorry to be slow in responding on what is one of the passages I am most interested in (see my series on it). But also I have little to add except to agree with almost everything you have said about this passage.

I can't agree with Wayne that CEV and NLT are good translations here. They may be very clear and natural, but unfortunately they are both seriously inaccurate in verse 1, as Suzanne has explained. TNIV is the best version I have seen here.

In response to Iyov, I wonder if the quotation in verse 1 might be understood as "a man shouldn't even touch a woman", i.e. let alone do anything more intimate. In Middle Eastern cultures today men are not supposed even to shake hands with women, outside marriage, and maybe some at Corinth were saying this should apply even within marriage. But Fee wrote in his 1987 commentary that the issue "can be resolved beyond reasonable doubt. "To touch a woman" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse". He mentions evidence from nine Greek authors which he presented in detail in a 1980 paper (in JETS (23) - unfortunately despite the claim by ETS that "Nearly all past issues of JETS is now available on our web site for our readers' use and enjoyment" JETS does not now seem to be available). It seems that Fee holds the same view today. And who am I to think I know better than Fee?

 
At Mon Jul 23, 04:32:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter wrote:

I can't agree with Wayne that CEV and NLT are good translations here. They may be very clear and natural, but unfortunately they are both seriously inaccurate in verse 1, as Suzanne has explained. TNIV is the best version I have seen here.

I suspected this would happen since I was hurrying too much to get to the dinner table and posted too quickly. I have now looked again more carefully at the CEV and agree with you, Peter. But I'm missing what you are seeing that is not so good about the NLT. How does it fall short?

 
At Mon Jul 23, 06:51:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, the issue with NLT in verse 1:

Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.

is that it takes Paul to be agreeing with the words at the end. But Fee and indeed the majority of modern commentators and versions take these words to be a quotation from the Corinthians' letter to Paul, with which he is strongly disagreeing. The exegesis in NLT is fundamentally opposite to this.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks, Peter. I've got it now. The interpretation of Fee et al. fits the context better. One of the first things I look for these days in this passage is whether there are quoatation marks in v.l.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 09:03:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Wayne, it was the lack of quotation marks which made me reject NLT. The precise wording almost makes quotation marks unnecessary, but still wrongly implies Paul's agreement.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

In Middle Eastern cultures today men are not supposed even to shake hands with women, outside marriage, and maybe some at Corinth were saying this should apply even within marriage.

In orthodox Judaism, this is true, and periods of time when men can touch women are governed by the laws of niddah (a man cannot touch a woman while she she is menstruating until she has gone to a mikvah.) This interpretation fits in perfectly with the conflict between the Jewish Christians and the gentiles at Corinth.

However, as you mention, other interpretations are possible: sex or emotional attachment. Fortunately, we have a word, "touch", which can convey those meanings in English. Alternatively, a reader can select a translation that has already interpreted the verse for him.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

However, as you mention, other interpretations are possible: sex or emotional attachment. Fortunately, we have a word, "touch", which can convey those meanings in English.

In English, at least as I have heard it spoken here in England and by many Americans, Canadians, Australians etc, plus of course on TV, films etc, we have many euphemisms and less euphemistic expressions for sexual intercourse, but I have never heard of "touch" used in this way. I think you are reading back into English usage your correct understanding of the Greek idiom.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 05:29:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

we have many euphemisms and less euphemistic expressions for sexual intercourse, but I have never heard of "touch" used in this way.

These questions can be answered much more easily if you will but consult the Oxford English Dictionary:

touch, v.

2. Specific applications of sense 1. a. To have sexual contact with. trans., or (obs.) intr. with to (till).

13.. Cursor M. 10877 (Gött.) {Th}e womman {th}at neuer touchid man, How sal scho conceyue? tel me {th}an. Ibid. 11139 (Cott.) Als quen he fand wit barn his wijf, {Th}at he neuer had toched till. c1375 Ibid. 2422 (Fairf.) {Th}at mu{ygh}t na mon of lecchery hir body touche wi{th} velany. 1512 Helyas in Thoms Prose Rom. (1828) III. 40 Your noble person hath touched often times to hers after the constitucion of the sacrament of mariage. 1762 BRYDGES Burlesque Homer (1772) 361 May I for cats and dogs turn butcher, If ever yet she'd let me touch her.

The term is used often in contemporary language -- young molestation victims are asked if they have been "touched", to avoid Onanism, we are advised not to "touch ourselves", a jealous person advises a rival "don't you dare touch my lover", and so forth.

I am thus simply incredulous of your claim that you are unfamiliar with this usage.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

By the way, I trust the response to my last comment will not be: "those examples are not sexual relations." (Of course, such an assertion would be absurd -- if a man warns another "not to touch his woman" he is not worried about handshakes.)

But insisting on a strict definition of sexual relations in this verse would be akin to interpreting 1 Cor 7:1 as saying "a home run is forbidden, but getting to third base is just fine."

Or, "What Clinton did to Lewinsky was OK because it wasn't technically sex."

Or perhaps, when your religion forbids birth control, as a "no deposit, no return" philosophy.

Which is not what the Corinthians were discussing.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 06:44:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov concluded about Peter's touching remark:

I am thus simply incredulous of your claim that you are unfamiliar with this usage.

Iyov, I respect you for finding data that you did to try to demonstrate that it is incredulous for an English speaker not to know that the English word "touch" can refer to sexual intercourse. But even though I speak a different dialect of English from that of Peter, I, too, have never heard or even conceived (!) that the English word "touch" would ever be used for intercourse. You have demonstrated that the word has been so used. But it needs to be pointed out how archaic the dictionary meanings senses are that you pointed out. I suggest that if we polled 1000 English speakers, randomly selected, very few would have the knowledge that you do that "touch" can refer to intercourse. I honestly never have heard or read "touch" used in that way until you quoted from the OED.

The question for Bible translators, then, becomes: for whom are we translating? If we are translating for current speakers of English, I think we need to translate using the meanings of words that they are familiar with. This does not mean translating to the lowest common denominator. There can be beautiful English idioms and other lovely turns of phrase. But they each need to be able to be understood accurately with the original biblical meanings by the majority of current English speakers, unless we are translating speciality Bibles for subgroups of English speakers.

This brings us to an empirical issue for Bible translation which I consider to be very important. It is: What data do we use to determine what kind of English to use in English Bible translations?

I hope we can discuss this issue more fully on this blog one of these days.

 
At Mon Jul 23, 07:03:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I like the Vulgate on 1 Cor 7:1:

De quibus autem scripsistis mihi: Bonum est homini mulierem non tangere.

"It is good for a man not to touch his wife"

(mulier, of course, means 'woman' in the abstract, but very often 'wife' in the concrete, and I imagine that's how it would have been taken by Latin exegetes, but I haven't verified this).

Different again is Gal 3:28: In Christ

non est masculus neque femina

homo and mulier don't work there. Different in the Greek, too.

My point: what Paul is combating is the idea that husband and wife abstaining from having each other is a good thing. Thus 7:2-4 following.

I agree with Iyov that "touch" in English can, by a sort of metonymy, refer to, inter alia, congress. But I wonder if that sense is obvious enough to be active in the reception of the average reader.

In Italian, a literal translation works perfectly, and even has the aphoristic quality of the Greek original, and sets the stage excellently for what follows: "e' cosa buona per l'uomo non toccar donna." "It's a good thing for a man not to touch a woman."

You can get the sense of 1 Cor 7:1 from a literal translation of it if you juxtapose it with a literal translation of Genesis 2:24: "For this reason does a man abandon his father and his mother, and cleave to the woman who is his, that they might become one flesh."

[But you say, says Paul]: "It's a good thing for a man not to touch a woman." [Over the grave of my Jewish mother, thank you very much. Let's get things straight here.]

John Hobbins
ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com

 
At Mon Jul 23, 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I think you folks are missing several points:

(a) The verse does not necessarily refer to "intimate relations." It may, very well, mean "touch" in the simplest meaning of that word. (However, I agree that "intimate relations" is a very possible meaning.)

(b) "Intimate relations" is not the same thing as congress -- congress is an example of "intimate relations" but so are other activities.

(c) The word "touch" is often used to mean "touch in an intimate manner" as I have amply illustrated -- and I believe that the vast majority of contemporary English speakers would recognize that meaning in the three examples I gave above.

(d) Context seems to make clear that the specific meaning of "congress" was not intended here. For example, it stretches credulity to think that the Corinthians would have thought that fondling was acceptable as long as it fell short of congress.

(e) At the very least, I would expect a translation such as the TNIV to include a footnote to mention that this was a speculative interpretation of the Greek, as does, for example, the HCSB. The fact that it does not causes me to (i) identify this verse in the TNIV as a paraphrase; and (ii) question the TNIV's accuracy in this verse. (I would also claim that this verse is a fair example of the strategy of the entire text of the TNIV -- similar liberties were taken with many verses.) In my opinion, it just plays too fast and loose with the meaning of the original.

(f) Here is the text of a popular song. Do you have any trouble understanding the words "hold" and "squeeze" in this context? Or do you believe that "hold" and "squeeze" are commonly used euphemistically while "touch" is not? Or was this written in language that few out of a thousand speakers of English can understand?

Wild thing
You make my heart sing
You make everything...groovy
I said Wild thing

Wild thing, I...think I love you
But I wanna know for sure
So come on, and hold me tight
I love you

(Refrain)

Wild thing, I think I need you
But I gotta know for sure
Come on and squeeze me tight
Oh I need it

(Refrain)

Wild thing

Come on, come on, wild thing
Shake it, shake it, wild thing

 
At Tue Jul 24, 05:19:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov, we are confusing one another by trying to explain one ambiguous euphemism, "touch", by another, "intimate relations". Perhaps we need to use the f*** word to be unambiguous about what we are talking about. According to Fee as I understand his commentary, that is what Paul was talking about. Now Fee may be wrong. But Wayne has replied to me just as I would, that no reader of MODERN ENGLISH would understand "touch" as having this meaning.

You mention cases of molestation where the question is whether the molester has "touched" the victim. Of course that doesn't refer to shaking hands. But as I understand it, this is not a reference to full rape (which is a separate offence and punished far more severely) but to inappropriate fondling of certain parts of the body.

TNIV here is not a paraphrase, in any sense of the word, but an accurate literal translation of the sense of the Greek word used in context, at least according to the exegesis of one of the world's leading experts on this book, Gordon Fee. If you want to promote a different exegesis, that Paul was referring to mere touching or fondling, then you can put this in a different translation which would also be literally accurate but different. But the TNIV translators have chosen their exegesis, and your only grounds to stand on for criticising them is that you have a different exegesis.

As for your popular song, Iyov, I think it says something about your mind if you interpret "hold" and "squeeze" not as literal (although of course with sexual connotations) but as euphemisms for full sexual intercourse.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 06:17:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

As for your popular song, Iyov, I think it says something about your mind if you interpret "hold" and "squeeze" not as literal (although of course with sexual connotations) but as euphemisms for full sexual intercourse.

I envy your innocence. When I was growing up my parents told me never, never to cross the street. But one day I did: a big mistake. I never should have crossed that street, man.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 06:28:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov, I think that verses 2 and 3 of this passage make it quite clear that what is being talked about is sexual intercourse within the context of marriage, as Suzanne posted.

Verse 5 makes it clear that a husband and wife are not to withhold sexual intercourse from each other, unless they both agree, and it is only to be for a limited period of time when they can concentrate on prayer.

This teaching is in harmony with Hebrew Bible teaching on marital "duty".

 
At Tue Jul 24, 07:14:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

Well, it seems to me that given the references to conjugal rights later in the passage, it strengthens the argument for interpreting the interpretation of "touch", because Paul is playing one Jewish law off another, and there is a law of niddah. There is no Jewish law favoring lifelong celibacy.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov responded:

Well, it seems to me that given the references to conjugal rights later in the passage, it strengthens the argument for interpreting the interpretation of "touch"

Yes, it does strengthen the interp. that Greek aptesthai in 1 Cor. 7:1 refers to intercourse within marriage. Then we come to the next step for translation: how do we most accurately communicate that meaning to current English speakers?

I would continue to claim that the TNIV communicates that meaning more accurately than do English translations which use the word "touch", which is not used by most English speakers for sexual intercourse.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 10:09:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

I would continue to claim that the TNIV communicates that meaning more accurately than do English translations which use the word "touch", which is not used by most English speakers for sexual intercourse.

The problem is that touch can mean sexual intercourse but sexual intercourse cannot mean touch.

One can see the effects of the confusion in the beliefs of many who think that fondling is acceptable while sex is forbidden.

This, of course, is also the point of a major dispute (whether the injunction in 7:1 refers to beginning a relationship or to actions in marriage, since Paul and the Corinthians believed that Jesus' return was imminent.) Again, throwing the interpretation one way -- without even a footnote to alert the reader -- is simply irresponsible.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov wrote: "The problem is that touch can mean sexual intercourse but sexual intercourse cannot mean touch."

No, Iyov, the problem is that touch CANNOT mean sexual intercourse, in modern English. Sure, it can include sexual intercourse, and may even refer to it, but it cannot MEAN it.

Consider:
A: You broke my vase.
B: I didn't even touch it!

That does not imply that "touch" means "break".

Then:
A: You made my wife pregnant.
B: I didn't even touch her!

That does not imply that "touch" means "have sexual intercourse", although "touch" REFERS to the denied act.

Continuing with Iyov: "One can see the effects of the confusion in the beliefs of many who think that fondling is acceptable while sex is forbidden."

Indeed, because translations have mistranslated this "touch" rather than "have sexual intercourse", and so readers wrongly think Paul is allowing the former but not the latter - whereas he is allowing the latter, within marriage only.

"throwing the interpretation one way -- without even a footnote to alert the reader -- is simply irresponsible."

I see your point. But what would your footnote read: "Or, according to Iyov, touch"? Unless you can provide some real exegetical support for this word meaning literally "touch" here, not a reference to sexual intercourse, this alternative can be presented honestly only as your personal exegetical preference.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

The footnote would say "lit. touch"

If I were writing a commentary, I would say "Touch may be a euphemism for sexual contact. Alternatively, it may be a reference to the laws of niddah, see Lev 15:19-30, 18:19, 20:18; particularly 15:19."

Unless of course, Leviticus is not authoritative enough for you. However, I have heard a rumor that Paul claimed to be from the same religion as the authors of Leviticus, so perhaps he read it.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The problem with "lit. touch" is that it implies that the Greek word here "literally" means "touch", whereas in this context (if Fee's exegesis is correct) it does NOT mean "touch". In cases like this the use of "literally" is based on a logical and linguistic fallacy.

Iyov, as I have mentioned before, I think a good case can be made for your alternative exegesis of this passage, as "a reference to the laws of niddah". Perhaps you would like to write a scholarly paper on this and submit it to a peer reviewed journal, and then it may be taken up by commentaries and eventually by translators. But in the absence (as far as I know) of any such paper, translators can hardly be blamed for following the exegesis of a well known expert like Fee rather than someone pseudonymous like you.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

Oh please. I'm not the first person to suggest the niddah point. And Fee is not the only person to have studied the Epistle Corinthian. However, if you are willing to rename the TNIV "The Bible according to Fee" then I will gladly drop my point. Alternatively, if Dr. Fee is named Bishop of Rome and wishes to speak ex cathedra, that will be amusing. Otherwise, if you insist on only consulting one commentary, may I refer you to a saying attributed to an Anglican clergyman?

As far as the issue of literalism goes, you are now using a non-standard definition of "literal" which seems to encompass "idiom." I know of no one (other than you) who claims that the literal meaning of haptomai is "copulate." If you confuse the notion of idiom and literalism, then you would seem to have no problem with the person who says "I am literally freezing to death" when the temperature is a balmy 10C, or the child who declares that "I am literally starving to death" when he forced to forgo his afternoon snack.

However, if it is the case that haptomai has the interpretation that you state, it puts a whole new light on the New Testament. For example, Luke 7:39 becomes much more interesting. I must say -- given your "literal" understanding of haptomai, you are hardly one to accuse others of licentiousness.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

to rename the TNIV "The Bible according to Fee"

The main point of my post has been missed. The ESV and the TNIV translate verse 1 in the same way, the committees of both versions endorse the same wording. It is not by any means peculiar to Fee.

I wanted to show how this contrasted with the NIV, which has "It is good for a man not to marry."

 
At Tue Jul 24, 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

You've missed the thread of the conversation. Peter said:

in the absence (as far as I know) of any [contrary opinion], translators can hardly be blamed for following the exegesis of a well known expert like Fee

and then I pointed out that there are other opinions.

As I was saying.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 09:23:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Iyov,

Yes, I now appreciate your comment as a response to that statement. I have enjoyed the discussion very much although maybe I have not followed it in every detail.

Early on, I did ask,

However, what do you mean by "a broader set of meanings". and I appreciate the extent to which you answered that.

 
At Tue Jul 24, 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

In any case, I have tried to give support for my position, rather than just appealing to authority (which is analogous to a reason I find the OED superior to other dictionaries -- rather than merely giving a "definition" it gives examples of words in actual usage).

 
At Tue Jul 24, 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I appreciate that. I think it was very useful. You make an important point, that the evidence is in examples, not references to certain authors and so-called authorities. I don't think one can stress that enough.

 
At Wed Jul 25, 05:01:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

However, if it is the case that haptomai has the interpretation that you state, it puts a whole new light on the New Testament. For example, Luke 7:39 becomes much more interesting.

The claim is that haptesthai can refer to sexual intercourse in a context where one is talking about sexual intercourse, such as 1 Cor. 7:1-5. No one claims that haptesthai refers to sexual intercourse every time it occurs in Greek.

A parallel is usage of the Greek word for "sleep" to refer to death. By no means does the Greek word for sleep always refer to death. It only does so when a speaker or writer uses the word in the metaphorical sense.

Words mean what speakers and writers choose to have them mean in any particular context.

Cool, eh?!

 
At Wed Jul 25, 07:37:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov: I'm not the first person to suggest the niddah point.

I believe you, Iyov, but I would like to have a reference so that I can follow this idea up in more detail. I suppose that this argument is a new one since 1987, as otherwise I cannot explain why a good scholar like Fee does not refer to it. Unfortunately I don't have any other commentaries on this book (I have to balance "Woe be to him that reads but one book" with economic realities), so I cannot see if anyone else refers to this argument.

I think we all need to look more closely at the relationships between literal, idiomatic and figurative language in this connection. Just as you quoted "have sexual contact with" as one of several senses of "touch" in English (an obsolete one, in my opinion), which implies that this is not a metaphor or an idiom, so I would claim that "have sexual intercourse" is one of the senses of Greek haptomai, and so that this is not metaphor or idiom. I would consider a valid literal translation of a word to be the dictionary gloss of that word according to the sense being used in the context - not according to a primary or commonest sense of the word which is not the one used here.

 

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