1 Corinthians 7:5 MEANING

1 Corinthians 7:5
(5) Except it be . . . that ye may give yourselves--i.e., that ye may have leisure. Any such separation should be temporary, and with consent of both parties. Even then it must not be from mere caprice, but for some religious purpose, such as a special season of prayer. (See Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4.) The alteration in the Greek text of the word "give" into the present tense, so as to make the word "prayer" refer to daily devotions, and not to special and exceptional seasons, and the interpolation of the word "fasting"--not found in the older MSS.--are a striking example of how the ascetic tendencies of a particular ecclesiastical school of thought led to their "amending" the sacred text so as to make it be in harmony with their own views, instead of reverently regarding it as that by which those very views should be corrected.

And come together again.--Better (as in the best MSS.), and be together again. This is still an explanation of the purpose of the separation, not to be a lasting one, but that we may again return to the state of union. The text here bears further traces of having been altered so as to make it seem that the Apostle meant that the return to matrimonial life should be only to a temporary union, and not to a continuous state of life. The proper reading implies the latter, the word "be" being used as in Acts 2:44.

For your incontinency.--Better, because of your incontinency; the reference being, as in 1 Corinthians 7:2, to the moral condition surrounding them, and to the influence to which a man thus separated would be subject. The Corinthian Christians are here solemnly reminded that this sin, as all sin, is from Satan--because the Corinthians at large did not regard it as sin at all, but even mingled sensuality with worship.

Verse 5. - Defraud ye not. St. Paul purposely leaves the expression general. Primarily he is thinking of "the due" or "the power" which each has over the other, as is shown by the next verse; but he does not confine the expression to this. Except it be; literally, unless by chance. The exception he regards as something possible, but not normal. For a time. By this and the next words he disparages, by anticipation, the celibate and separate married lives which, in a corrupt age, were so much and so unwisely admired in the ascetic saints of the Middle Ages. Temporary separation for special reasons had been recognized from the earliest times (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4). Ye may give yourselves; rather, ye may have leisure. The verb is in the aorist, which shows that the "leisure" contemplated was for brief periods, not during continuous years. It was altered to the present by the officious copyists, who believed in external and mechanical rules of holiness. To fasting and prayer. "Fasting" is an ascetic interpolation, not found in א, A, B, C, D, F. On this interpolation, and perhaps on the analogy of the rule given by Moses at Sinai (Exodus 19:15), rose the practice of married persons living apart at Lent (Stanley). Come together again. The prepossessions of ascetic scribes have again tampered with the text. The true reading is, "be together again" (ῆτε), not "come together" (συνέρχησθε). For your incontinency; rather, because of. Their past lives and their present temptations were a warning that they could not lay on themselves burdens which God did not require. They should not strive

"...to wind themsleves to high
For sinful man beneath the sky."
Violent, unnatural, self tormenting, repressions beyond what God demands, and adopted without reference to the strength or the circumstances of individual natures, only tend, as all ascetics have confessed, to increase rather than to diminish the force of sensual temptations.

7:1-9 The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.Defraud ye not one the other,.... By withholding due benevolence, denying the use of the marriage bed, refusing to pay the conjugal debt, and which is called a "diminishing of her marriage duty", Exodus 21:10 where the Septuagint use the same word "defraud", as the apostle does here; it is what both have a right to, and therefore, if either party is denied, it is a piece of injustice, it is properly a defrauding; though with proper conditions, such as follow, it may be lawful for married persons to lie apart, and abstain from the use of the bed, but then it should never be done,

except it be with consent: because they have a mutual power over each other's bodies, and therefore the abstinence must be voluntary on each side; otherwise injury is done to the person that does not consent, who is deprived against will of just right; but if there is agreement, then there is no defrauding, because each give up their right; and such a voluntary abstinence is commended by the Jews (z);

"everyone that lessens the use of the bed, lo, he, is praiseworthy; and he who does not make void, or, cause to cease the due benevolence, but , "by consent of his wife";''

i.e. he also is praiseworthy: another condition of this abstinence is that it be only for a time; which shall be agreed unto, and fixed by both parties; not for ever which would be contrary to the will of God; the institution and end of marriage, and of dangerous consequence to either party. The Jews allow of a vow of continency for a while; and which they limit to different persons; thus (a),

"if a man by a vow excludes, wife from the use of the bed, the school of Shammai say it is for the space of two weeks, the school of Hillell say one week; scholars go out to learn the law, without leave of their wives, thirty days, workmen one week;''

which vow, for such a limited time, they seem to allow of, without mutual consent; and herein they disagree with the rule the apostle gives; and who further observes, the end to be had in view by such a voluntary separation for a time,

that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; not that this was necessary for the ordinary discharge of such service, as for private acts of devotion among themselves, and constant family prayer; but either when times of fasting and prayer on some emergent occasions were appointed by themselves, or by the church, or by the civil government on account of some extraordinary and momentous affairs; and this seems to be observed by the apostle, in agreement with the customs and rules of the Jewish nation, which forbid the use of the bed, as on their great and annual fast, the day of atonement (b), so on their fasts appointed by the sanhedrim for obtaining of rain (c): the word "fasting" is omitted in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, and so it is in the Alexandrian copy, two of Stephens's; and others: the apostle adds,

and come together again; to the same bed, and the use of it, and that for this reason,

that Satan tempt you not for your incontinence; for not having the gift of continency, should they pretend to keep apart long: Satan, who knows the temperament and disposition of men and women, may tempt them not only to hatred of, and quarrels with one another, but to impure lusts and desires, to fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness; a very good reason why, though abstinence from the marriage bed for a short time, by the consent of both parties, for religious purposes, may be lawful, yet ought not to be continued; since Satan may hereby get an advantage over them, and draw them into the commission of scandalous enormities. The Jews have a notion of Satan's being a tempter, and of his tempting men to various sins, which they should guard against, as idolatry, &c. So say they (d),

"thou mayest not look after idolatry, according to Deuteronomy 4:19 and again, thou must take heed lest this be a cause of it to thee, , "and Satan tempt thee" to look after them, and do as they do:''

and again (e), frequently should a man think

"upon the unity of the blessed God, lest there should be anything above or below, before him or behind him, or by him, and so, , "Satan tempt him", and he come into heresy.''

(z) Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 21. sect. 11. (a) Misn. Cetubot, c. 5. sect. 6. (b) Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 1.((c) Misn. Taanith, c. 1. sect. 6. (d) Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 14. (e) Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 15.

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