Concerning Mixed Marriages: 1 Corinthians 7:12–13

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For a printable copy of this chapter (5) click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

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For one of Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper


This is the second of four posts on 1 Cor 7:10-16. I recommend starting with Paul’s argument in Marital Separation and continuing by clicking the bold links above the footnotes.

b) 1 Cor 7:12–13: In approximately 177 AD, the Greek philosopher Celsus noted that women constituted a large majority of new converts among the gentiles. He complained, “[Christians] desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children.”.[1]

For those whose husbands remained polytheists, these religiously mixed marriages constituted a serious problem. Greco-Roman society promoted household solidarity and male superiority.[2]

Plutarch (46–122 AD) gave this Advice to a Bride and Groom:

A wife ought not to make friends of her own, but to enjoy her husband’s friends in common with him. The gods are the first and most important friends.

Wherefore it is becoming for wife to worship and to know only the gods that her husband believes in, and to shut the front door tight upon all queer rituals and outlandish superstitions. For with no god do stealthy and secret rites performed by a woman find any favor.[3]



Compounding the problem, Jewish people and Christians viewed gentiles as sexually immoral people.[4] Therefore, the recipients of this letter wondered if sex with an unbelieving spouse would defile a Christian (1 Cor 5:9–13; 1 Cor 6:15–20).[5]

Indeed, Paul later commanded the Corinthians not to marry non-Christians (2 Cor 6:14). With remarkable mutuality, Paul exhorted these Christian men and women to remain married.[6]

However, if the unbeliever chose to leave, God no longer bound the Christian spouse to maintain the union.[7]

Paul viewed matrimony as a genuine partnership. Consequently, he refrained from urging Christian men to force submission or conversion upon their wives, even within that patriarchal culture.[8]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read 1 Cor 7:12–13. What was Paul’s advice to those who converted to Christ while married? Why was that revolutionary in their society? How did that differ from his command for believers who contemplated union with a non-Christian?




Go to Contagious Holiness (1 Cor 7:14)

[Related posts include Marital Separation (1 Cor 7:10–11); Contagious Holiness (1 Cor 7:14); Dissolution of Marriage (1 Cor 7:15–16); A Transfer of Loyalty (Gen 2:24); Slaves and War Brides (Exod 21:10–11 and Deut 21:10–14); God Hates Violence (Mal 2:13–16); Partners in Ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 18–20, 24–26 and 2 Ki 22:11–23:4); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); It is Good Not to Touch (1 Cor 7:1‒5); Three Heads (1 Cor 11:3); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); Unity in the Spirit (Eph 5:18–21); Submissive to One Another (Eph 5:21–24); Sacrificial Love (Eph 5:25–30); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 5: A View from the Ground (Genesis 2:4–25)]


[1]Origen, Against Celsus (ed. A. Cleveland Coxe; vol. 4 of Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucious Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second; trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; ANF; New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1926), 44.3,

[2] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 294.

[3]Plutarch, Advice to a Bride and Groom (Conjugalia Praecepta), 19, Http://

[4] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 290.

[5] Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 135.

[6] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 295–6.

[7] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 329.

[8] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 296.