Concerning Mixed Marriages

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b) 1 Cor 7:12–13: Close to 177 AD, the Greek philosopher Celsus noted that women constituted a large majority of new converts among the gentiles.[1]

For those whose husbands remained polytheists, 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, both Jews 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 5:9–10; 1 Cor 6:15–20).[5]

Indeed, Paul later commanded the Corinthians not to enter into marriages with 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, the believer was no longer bound to maintain the union.[7]

Since Paul viewed matrimony as a genuine partnership, he refrained from urging the 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. How did Paul’s advice to those who converted to Christ while married differ from that for believers who contemplated union with a non-Christian? Why was his advice revolutionary in that society?







Go to Contagious Holiness


[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.