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Married to an Unbeliever: Households, Hierarchies, and Holiness in 1 Corinthians 7:12–16*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2010

Caroline Johnson Hodge*
College of Holy Cross, Worcester


In his Advice to the Bride and Groom, Plutarch famously pronounces: “A married woman should therefore worship and recognize the gods whom her husband holds dear, and these alone. The door must be closed to strange cults and foreign superstitions. No god takes pleasure in cult performed furtively and in secret by a woman.”1 These comments represent a patriarchal ideology that the wife (along with the whole household) should follow the worship practices of the husband. It also suggests the possibility that this counsel was not always followed and that wives might bring their own gods into a marriage, attempting to maintain ritual practices in their honor, perhaps secretly.

Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 2010

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1 Advice to the Bride and Groom 140D (Moralia I.140D); ET: Plutarch's Advice to the Bride and Groom and A Consolation to His Wife: English Translations, Commentary, Interpretive Essays and Bibliography (ed. Sarah B. Pomeroy; New York: Oxford, 1991) 7.

2 See Acts 11:14; 16:14–15, 31–34.

3 For recent discussion of the nature of “household” and “family” religious practices, see Jonathan Z. Smith, “Here, There, and Anywhere,” in his collection of essays, Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004) 323–339, esp. 325–28; Stanley K. Stowers, “Theorizing Ancient Household Religion,” in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (ed. John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2008) 5–19; Christopher A. Faraone, “Household Religion in Ancient Greece,” in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity, 210–28; Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, “Further Aspects of Polis Religion,” in Oxford Readings in Greek Religion (ed. Richard Buxton; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 38–55; Deborah Boedeker, “Domestic Religion in Classical Greece,” in Household and Family Religion, 229–47; John Bodel, “Cicero's Minerva, Penates, and the Mother of the Lares: An Outline of Roman Domestic Religion,” in Household and Family Religion, 248–75. Some of the issues relating to the definition of household religion are whether there is a distinction between family religion (related more to ancestors) and domus or оἶκоς religion (related more to the space of the house and the possessions in it), and whether household religion is only that which occurs in the space of the house or also that which occurs in spaces outside the house (such as during funerary processions or at rituals marking boundaries of property).

4 Later texts include: 1 Pet 3:1–2; Justin Martyr, Second Apology 2.1–6; Tertullian, Ad Uxorem 2. In addition, the stories in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles often revolve around the conflict between a recently converted wife and her unbelieving husband.

5 Translating ἄπιστоς as “unbeliever” is not entirely satisfactory for two reasons: 1) it does not adequately express first-century understandings of this term; and 2) it contributes to a common but anachronistic perception of first-century Christianity as a religion primarily of “belief” over and against “acts” (especially in Paul). As I argue elsewhere, ἄπιστоς could also be translated “untrustworthy,” or “unfaithful” (see If Sons, then Heirs [New York: Oxford University Press, 2007] 82). See also Will Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Cor 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 144–48. In the context of marital relations, however, these translations (especially “unfaithful”) are misleading because they imply marital infidelity, which is not Paul's topic here.

6 Paul's apocalyptic outlook informs much of his advice, including in 1 Corinthians 7 (see vv. 26, 29, 31). A number of scholars argue that Paul is firmly opposed to mixed marriages (and tolerates them only when a person converts after marriage). The two passages typically cited as evidence for this are 1 Cor 7:39 (widows may remarry, “only in the Lord”) and 2 Cor 6:14–18 (“do not be mismatched with unbelievers …”). For examples of this view, see two excellent studies: Christine Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (New York: Oxford University Press: 2002) 92–98, and Kathy L. Gaca, The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003) 146–52. I am not convinced the case is so clear in either 1 Cor 7:39 or 2 Cor 6:14–18. Regina Plunkett-Dowling argues that this 2 Corinthians passage is not about marriage but about those who have defected from Paul's teachings (“Reading and Restoration: Paul's Use of Scripture in 2 Corinthians 1–9,” [Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2001] 121–73). I would also caution against the anachronistic assumption that there is an established, “Christian” view of marriage and intermarriage that Paul echoes (or even argues for). Later Christian authors will use these passages to argue for Christian endogamy (as Hayes and Gaca both discuss), but this is not a concern of Paul. For Paul, marriage is a stop-gap for uncontrollable desire rather than as an end in itself. Furthermore, Paul does not think in terms of “Christians” and “non-Christians,” but in terms of Jews, gentiles, and members of both groups who are in Christ. In 1 Corinthians Paul advises gentiles-in-Christ on how to be true to their calling as God's people and still interact with those outside the ἐκκλησία.

7 Cynthia B. Patterson argues that in Classical Athens, marriage is understood primarily as the establishment of a household. See Patterson's “Marriage and the Married Woman in Athenian Law,” in Women's History and Ancient History (ed. Sarah B. Pomeroy; Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1991) 47–72.

8 In the following paragraphs, I draw from archaeological and literary evidence of household religious practices from different parts of the Roman empire. It is not my intention to offer a comprehensive discussion of households or domestic religious practices. There are many problems with such a task, including the variety of household practices in different places, and the relative lack of attention to households by scholars (in contrast to civic spaces and activities) until recently. Describing household practices in a place like Corinth, for example, is a complicated task. The material evidence from Corinth, a Roman colony with a long Greek history, yields a mix of Greek, Roman and foreign traditions, and scholars are just beginning to study this multiplicity. See Jorunn Økland, Women in Their Place: Paul and the Corinthian Discourse of Gender and Sanctuary Space (New York: T&T Clark, 2004) and the essays in Urban Religion in Roman Corinth: Interdisciplinary Approaches (ed. Daniel Schowalter and Steven J. Friesen; Harvard Theological Studies 53; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Divinity School, 2005).

9 For descriptions of this view into houses and the social ritual of the salutatio, see John R. Clarke, The Houses of Roman Italy 100 BCAD 250: Ritual, Space, and Decoration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) 1–12, and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) 12.

10 Michele George, “Servus and domus: The Slave in the Roman House,” in Domestic Space in the Roman World: Pompeii and Beyond (ed. Ray Laurence and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill; Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 22; Portsmouth, R.I.: 1997) 15–24.

11 Susan Treggiari, Roman Marriage: Iusti Coniuges From the Time of Cicero to the Time of Ulpian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) 420–24.

12 George K. Boyce, “Corpus of the Lararia of Pompeii,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 24 (Rome: American Academy in Rome, 1937) 12–14 and passim.

13 Clarke, The Houses of Roman Italy, 9; Daniel P. Harmon, “The Family Festivals of Rome,” ANRW 2.16.2 (1978) 1595; David G. Orr, “Roman Domestic Religion: The Evidence of the Household Shrines,” ANRW 2.16.2 (1978) 1569–75.

14 Tibullus offers a glimpse of a celebration of a birthday of a daughter, Sulpicia: “Juno of the birthday, receive the holy piles of incense which the accomplished maid's soft hand now offers you. Today she has bathed for you; most joyfully she has decked herself for you, to stand before your altar a sight for all to see.… She is making an offering to you, holy goddess, three times with cake and three times with wine, and the mother eagerly enjoins upon her child what she must pray for” (3.12.1–4, 14–15). ET: amended Catullus, Tibullus, Pervigilium Veneris (trans. John Percival Postgate and rev. by George Patrick Goold; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988) 331.

15 Charles K. Williams II discusses the figurines of Aphrodite and other deities found in Corinth: “Roman Corinth: The Final Years of Pagan Cult Facilities along East Theater Street,” in Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, 221–47. These statuettes seem to have been part of domestic religious practices, and Williams argues that those of Aphrodite related to concerns of families and especially wives, a theory that coheres with the use of similar figurines in Egypt and Pompeii (“Roman Corinth,” 245–46).

16 Bodel, “An Outline of Roman Domestic Religion,” 264–68; Pedar Foss, “Watchful Lares: Roman Household Organization and the Rituals of Cooking and Eating,” in Domestic Space in the Roman World: Pompeii and Beyond (ed. Ray Laurence and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill; Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 22; Portsmouth, R.I.: 1997) 197–218; Michele George, “Repopulating the Roman House,” in The Roman Familiy in Italy: Status, Sentiment, Space (ed. Beryl Rawson and Paul Weaver; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) 316–17. Others have argued, however, that family members may have come to the “service areas” to worship, so that the religious practices in the household was not necessarily segregated. For this view, see David L. Balch, “Rich Pompeian Houses, Shops for Rent, and the Huge Apartment Building in Herculaneum as Typical Spaces for Pauline House Churches,” JSNT 27 (2004) 39–40.

17 For evidence of religious practices in workshops, shops, depots, and hotels in Ostia, see Jan Theo Bakker, Living and Working With the Gods: Studies of Evidence for Private Religion and its Material Environment in the City of Ostia (100500 AD) (Dutch Monographs on Ancient History and Archaeology, 12; Amsterdam; J. C. Gieben, 1994) 56–95; John R. Clarke, Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans: Visual Representation and Non-elite Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C.A.D. 315 (Berkeley: University of California, 2003) 85–87.

18 Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society, 132–33; idem, “Domus and Insulae in Rome: Families and Housefuls,” in Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue (ed. David Balch and Carolyn Osiek; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003) 3–18; Bakker, Living and Working with the Gods, 44–55.

19 Clarke, Houses of Roman Italy, 25–29; idem, Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans, 75–78. On the living conditions of the poor in Roman cities, see C. Richard Whittaker, “The Poor in the City of Rome,” in Land, City, and Trade in the Roman Empire (Variorum Collected Studies, CS 408; Aldershot: Ashgate, 1993) art. VII, 8–12.

20 Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society, 103–16. Wallace-Hadrill gives Peter Laslett the credit for the distinction between household and houseful (92, 103): Household and Family in Past Time (ed. Peter Laslett and Richard Wall; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972). Also on the different status positions of household members see David Balch, “Rich Pompeian Houses,” 42.

21 Dale M. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 183; Andrew McGowan, Ascetic Eucharist: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999) 47; Martin Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion, 73–74; Stanley K. Stowers, “Theorizing Ancient Household Religion,” 11. My thanks to John Lanci for access to his unpublished paper, “Many Gods and Many Lords: Perspectives on Indigenous Religious Culture in Corinth,” in which he also makes this point (21–22).

22 Frankfurter, Religion in Roman Egypt, 131–42; Williams, “Roman Corinth,” 221–247; Ursula Quatember “Ego Lar Sum Familiaris: Private Frömmigkeit und Religionsausübung im Hanghaus 2 in Ephesos,” Forum Archaeologiae—Zeitschrift für klassische Archäologie 13.XII (1999); Maria Aurenhammer, “Sculptures of Gods and Heroes from Ephesos,” in Ephesos: Metropolis of Asia: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Its Archaeology, Religion and Culture (ed. Helmut Koester; Harvard Theological Studies 41; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Divinity School, 1995) 251–80; Thomas Fröhlich, Lararien- und Fassadenbilder in den Vesuvstädten. Untersuchunges zur ‘volkstümlichen’ pompejanischen Malerei (Mitteilungen des deutschen archaeologischen Instituts. Römische Abteilung, Ergänzungsheft 32; Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1991); George K. Boyce, “Corpus of the Lararia of Pompeii,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 24 (Rome: American Academy in Rome, 1937); David G. Orr, “Roman Domestic Religion: The Evidence of the Household Shrines,” ANRW 2.16.2 (1978) 1557–91.

23 Frankfurter, Religion in Roman Egypt, 136–138; Clarke, Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans, 75–78.

24 Jorunn Økland includes a helpful discussion of the intersection and intermingling of Greek, Roman and other traditions in Corinth as a Roman colony (Women in Their Place, 74–77 and bibliography listed in her notes).

25 See Benjamin W. Millis, “The Social and Ethnic Origins of the Colonists in Early Roman Corinth,” in Corinth In Context: Comparative Perspectives on Religion and Society (ed. Steve J. Friesen, Daniel Schowalter and James Walters; Novum Testamentum Supplement 128; Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2010). John Lanci discusses this issue as well in his unpublished paper, “Many Gods and Many Lords: Perspectives on Indigenous Religious Culture in Corinth.”

26 For an attempt to better understand the economic status of early believers, see Steven J. Friesen, “Poverty in Pauline Studies: Beyond the So-Called New Consensus,” JSNT 26 (2004) 323–61.

27 Although I have included the evidence from Corinth in the material above, I am not focusing solely on Corinth because Paul was eventually read around the empire and believers adapted this advice to their particular situations. So while I am interested in imagining the responses of this first audience, I am also thinking more broadly about how believers empire-wide may have reacted to this advice.

28 Jonathan Z. Smith remarks that the everyday-ness of domestic religion is one of the reasons it is not studied as carefully as civic, public religious traditions (“Here, There, and Anywhere,” 325).

29 Pedar Foss notes that there are more exceptions than patterns in the houses he studies in “Watchful Lares,” 217. See also John Bodel, “Cicero's Minerva,” 251.

30 These scholars draw upon anthropological approaches to space such as those explored in Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu, “The Berber House,” in Rules and Meanings: The Anthropology of Everyday Knowledge (ed. Mary Douglas; New York: Penguin, 1973) 98–110; and Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith; Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).

31 Kate Cooper, “Closely Watched Households: Visibility, Exposure and Private Power in the Roman Domus,” Past and Present 197 (2007) 9.

32 Kristina Sessa, “Christianity and the Cubiculum: Spiritual Politics and Domestic Space in Late Antique Rome,” JECS 15 (2007) 176.

33 See Treggiari, Roman Marriage, 169; Clarke, Houses of Roman Italy, 10; Harmon, “Family Festivals,” 1599–1600. See Sarah Pomeroy's important caution against conflating Greek and Roman evidence, especially regarding the issue of whether brides left the gods of their natal households (presumably their fathers’) in order to pledge loyalty to their husbands’ gods (Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Representations and Realities [Oxford: Clarendon, 1997] 70–71).

34 Jo Ann McNamara, “Gendering Virtue,” in Plutarch's Advice, 154–55. See also Margaret Y. MacDonald, Early Christian Women and Pagan Tradition: The Power of the Hysterical Woman (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 49–126.

35 Orr, “Roman Domestic Religion,” 1569–75; Harmon, “Family Festivals,” 1595.

36 Rolf A. Tybout, “Domestic Shrines and ‘Popular Painting’: Style and Social Context.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996) 370; Mary Beard, John North and Simon Price, Religions of Rome. Volume I: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 184–85. On the relationship between the imperial cult and households, see Ittai Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002) 198–212.

37 For an introduction to the theme of household management, and for the text and an analysis of Xenophon's Πconomicus, see Sarah B. Pomeroy, Xenophon: Πconomicus: A Social and Historical Commentary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). Chapter five discusses the various subjects covered in household management discourses and chapter six traces the authors that follow this genre into the Roman period. See also David L. Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Code in 1 Peter (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1981).

38 We find this thinking in Plato (Laws III 690A–D) and Aristotle (Politics I 1260a 9–14). See Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive, 63–116, on the ways in which later moralists continue this thinking.

39 Pomeroy, Xenophon, 69–73.

40 Translation from Pomeroy, Xenophon, 139.

41 Similar elite values are expressed centuries after Xenophon by Hierocles, a second-century c.e. Stoic proponent of marriage, who argues that, “the beauty of a household consists in the yoking together of a husband and wife who are united to each other by fate, are consecrated to the gods who preside over weddings, births and hearths … who exercise appropriate rule over their household and servants, take care in rearing their children, and pay attention to the necessities of life.” (On Duties: On Marriage 4.22.21–24; Moral Exhortation, A Greco-Roman Sourcebook [trans. Abraham J. Malherbe, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986] 102). Greek text of Hierocles (in Stobaeus): Ioannis Stobaei Anthologium (ed. Curt Wachsmuth and Otto Hense; 5 vols.; repr., Berlin: Weidmann, 1974). In this passage, Hierocles focuses less on gender hierarchy in order to foreground the notion of unity of the husband and wife—a unity determined by fate and consecrated by the gods—in all facets of household life.

42 ET amended from Marcus Porcius Cato “On Agriculture”; Marcus Terentius Varro “On Agriculture” (trans. William David Hooper and rev. Harrison Boyd Ash; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1934) 123–25.

43 We find other instances of husbands directing wives in matters of domestic cult in Roman comedy. In a scene from Plautus's Trinummus, Callicles calls to his wife: “I want our Lar to be decorated with a garland. Wife, pray (venerare) so that the Lar may raise this dwelling up to be upright, happy, fortunate and prosperous for us” (lines 39-42). And in a passage from Rudens, the dominus orders his wife: “… prepare (adorna) things for me to make an offering (rem divinam faciam) to the household gods (Lares familiares) when I return home, since they have augmented our household. We have lambs and pigs for sacrifice (sacri) at home” (lines 1206–1208). Translation of Rudens amended from Plautus in Five Volumes (trans. Paul Nixon; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1932) 4:409. My thanks to Mandy Wall for these references.

44 Pedar Foss, “Watchful Lares,” 218; R. A. Tybout, “Domestic Shrines and ‘Popular Painting’: Style and Social Context,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996) 367–70; Michele George, “Repopulating,” 316–17.

45 Kate Cooper describes the importance of the reciprocal (if asymmetrical) power in the Roman household in “Closely Watched Households,” 7.

46 Elizabeth Castelli, “Interpretations of Power in 1 Corinthians,” Semeia 54 (1991) 203.

47 Catherine Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

48 Bell, Ritual Theory, 204.

49 Jorunn Økland discusses the differences between “oikia space” and “ekklesia space” (Women in Their Place, 131–43).

50 I have translated the Greek preposition ἐν as “by,” treating it as instrumental. See Rom 15:16 where the offering of the gentiles is “sanctified by (ἐν) the holy spirit.” Another possibility is to read this ἐν as “in,” so the unbeliever is made holy “in” the believer. Dale Martin makes this argument, and compares this to believers being “in” Christ (The Corinthian Body, 218). I am not sure the two readings (ἐν as “by” or as “in”) are mutually exclusive, although I do not think the use of ἐν in 7:14 is quite the same as being “in Christ.” I have argued elsewhere that when Paul says that the gentiles are “in Christ,” he refers to a kinship ideology in which descendants are “in” their ancestors (If Sons, 93–107). See also Stanley K. Stowers, “Pauline Participation in Christ,” in Redefining First-Century Jewish and Christian Identities: Essays in Honor of Ed Parish Sanders (ed. Fabian Udoh; Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

51 Many questions remain despite significant scholarly attention: by what mechanism is one made holy by one's spouse? Why is it a given that the children are holy— have they been baptized? Are the children and the ἄπιστоς spouse considered members of the community? For discussion of these issues, see Hans Conzelmann, First Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress, 1975) 121–23; Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (Sacra Pagina 7; Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1999) 262–73; MacDonald, Early Christian Women, 189–95; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 527–30. Thiselton is less persuaded by the “contagion” theories, and argues (following Owen Roger Jones and Jerome Murphy-O'Connor) that Paul's concept of holiness could have an ethical dimension, so that the behavior of the believing spouse could affect the whole household (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 529–30). For a connection between Paul's “sanctification” language and later Jewish texts, see David Daube, “Pauline Contributions to a Pluralistic Culture: Re-creation and Beyond,” in Jesus and Man's Hope (ed. Donald G. Miller and Dikran Y. Hadidian; Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1971) 223–45 and Yonder Moynihan Gillihan, “Jewish Laws on Illicit Marriage, the Defilement of Offspring, and the Holiness of the Temple: A New Halakic Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:14,” JBL 121 (2002) 711–44. For a study of Paul's concept of holiness, see J. Ayodeji Adewuya, Holiness and Community in 2 Cor 6:147:1: Paul's View of Communal Holiness in the Corinthian Correspondence (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2001) chs. 5 and 6.

52 Jennifer Knust comments on this in Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) 51–87.

53 On notions of purity in Paul, see Michael Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985), but also the revisions of Jonathan Klawans, who argues that it is important to distinguish between ritual impurity and moral impurity, and that Paul is concerned about the latter in regard to gentiles (Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000] 150–56).

54 See Johnson Hodge, If Sons, 49–51.

55 The verse I paraphrase reads: “Those who are sexually immoral (πόρνоι), idolaters, adulterers (μоιχоί), effeminate men (μαλακоί), those who have sex with men (ἀρσενоκоῖται), thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be” (1 Cor 6:9b–11a). On the complications of translating μαλακоί and ἀρσενоκоῖται, see Dale B. Martin, “Arsenokoitēs and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences,” in his collection of essays, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007) 37–50. See also Bernadette J. Brooten, Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 260.

56 See also Rom 6:19b: “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”

57 This kind of purity and holiness language is reminiscent of discussions of the temple among Jewish authors. Indeed, Paul makes this connection explicit a few verses later when he speaks of the Corinthians’ bodies being a “temple” or “sanctuary” (ναός) (1 Cor 6:19; see also 3:16–17). Thanks to my conversation partners Jonathan Klawans, Paula Fredriksen, James Walters, Jennifer Knust and others at the Brown Lecture Series at Boston University, October 2007, for a lively discussion on this point.

58 Jennifer Glancy argues that this prostitute is most likely a slave girl or slave woman in Slavery in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 65. Kathy L. Gaca interprets this πόρνη as a biblical harlot figure, a foreign woman who is devoted to other gods who is often negatively sexualized by biblical writers (The Making of Fornication, 170–72).

59 Christine Hayes, developing the work of Jonathan Klawans on purity categories in Judaism, argues that here Paul conflates two types of impurity systems: 1) ritual impurity (which was contagious, usually connected to bodily processes, and either temporary or treatable); and 2) moral impurity (which was brought on by behavior, was associated with gentiles, and which could not be fixed). Hayes calls this innovation “carnal impurity” (Hayes, Gentile Impurities, 92–98; 3–16 offers a helpful introduction to and outline of the argument).

60 Laura S. Nasrallah, An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity (Harvard Theological Studies 52; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Divinity School, 2003) 78–79. Nasrallah argues that the string of advice about bodies in 1 Corinthians (eating, marriage, sex, etc.) represent various attempts by Paul to subject individual bodies to the corporate body.

61 In most Jewish texts, and elsewhere in Paul, it is pollution that is contagious, not holiness (Hayes, Gentile Impurities, 251, n. 13). For rabbinic exceptions, see Hayes (Gentile Impurities, 145–63) and E. P. Sanders, who describes clean water purifying unclean water (Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE66 CE [Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992] 226). Will Deming finds a parallel in Philo, On the Sacrifices of Abel and Cain 128 (see Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy, 140–41). Forty or so years after Paul, the author of 1 Clement writes: “For it is written, ‘Unite with the holy ones (κоλλᾶσθε τоῖς ἁγίоις), for those who unite with them shall be made holy (ἁγιασθήσоνται)’ ” (46.2). The language of “uniting” (κоλλᾶσθε) and “being made holy” or being “sanctified” (ἁγιασθήσоνται) echoes Paul's language in 1 Corinthians 6:16–17 and 6:11 (respectively).

62 Yonder Moynihan Gillihan offers an alternative reading in “Jewish Laws on Illicit Marriage,” 711–44. Using Qumran and Mishnaic sources, Gillihan argues that Paul engages in halaka here, commenting on and interpreting the law laid down by “the Lord.” He cites some fascinating parallels in which these other Jewish texts refer to licit marriage as the “sanctification” of the spouse. Gillihan therefore argues that Paul is using this purity language similarly: to argue that the marriage is sanctified and therefore licit. It is through the marriage itself that the unbeliever is sanctified, or made into a legitimate marriage partner. I find the parallel language fascinating and Gillihan's argument mostly convincing. I tend to agree with Christine E. Hayes, however, that there is still some sort of notion of contagious purity implied in 1 Corinthians 7:14. As Hayes points out, Paul is not saying that the marriage sanctifies or legitimizes the unbelieving partner, but that the believing partner does (Gentile Impurities, 251, n. 10; and see 94–96 for further discussion of Gillihan's thesis). Furthermore, for Gillihan's argument to fully convince, more needs to be said about the patterns of influence and shared contexts between Paul and later mishnaic and sectarian texts.

63 Scholars do not agree on what Paul is saying about slaves in 7:21. The Greek is ambiguous, and some argue that Paul is encouraging slaves to seek their freedom. For discussion see: J. Albert Harrill, The Manumission of Slaves in Early Christianity (Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Theologie 32; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995) 77–108; Glancy, Slavery in Early Christianity, 67–69; Collins, First Corinthians, 274–87; Conzelmann, First Corinthians, 125–29. If Paul is telling slaves to remain enslaved, then we might ask the same question we are asking about wives: does he expect that they, too, will continue to worship the gods of the slave holders? What choice do they have?

64 Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991). See also Castelli, “Interpretations,” 216.

65 As Laura Nasrallah points out, this conservative argument is employed by Paul in an attempt “to corral various somatic practices of the Corinthian community—whether celibacy or sleeping with a prostitute or speaking in tongues—and to construct the Corinthian identity” (Nasrallah, Ecstasy of Folly, 81).

66 Mitchell discusses this point in Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 121–23.

67 Margaret Y. MacDonald argues that 1 Corinthians 7 is also primarily aimed at women, even where the advice is couched in symmetrical admonitions to men and women: “Virgins, Widows and Wives,” in A Feminist Companion to Paul (ed. Amy-Jill Levine with Marianne Blickenstaff; Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2004) 148–68.

68 Some examples of scholarship on this topic are the following: Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983) 218–36; Antoinette Clark Wire, Corinthian Women Prophets (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1990); MacDonald, Early Christian Women; Økland, Women in Their Place.

69 Some have argued that Paul encourages evangelizing on the part of wives. This interpretation is based on a particular reading of 1 Cor 7:16, which has been translated two ways. The first communicates a more hopeful attitude, the sense of which is “perhaps you will win over your spouse.” Scholars in favor of this translation argue that verse 16 sums up the whole passage, the gist of which is that Paul has asked the believer to be patient and accommodating, following the will of the unbeliever. Verse 16 then provides the reason for this course of action: perhaps you will win him or her over (the nrsv chooses this option). The second translation, which I find more convincing, expresses a certain resignation, the sense of which is “how will you ever know if you can win over your spouse?” This translation fits well with the previous verse, providing further explanation for why one should let one's spouse separate and also makes better sense of the grammar. If the passage expressed the more hopeful sense, we would expect εἰ μή rather than merely εἰ. It could then be translated “how do you know that you might not save your wife?” (Conzelmann, First Corinthians, 124). Thiselton discusses both translations and while he opts for the less optimistic one, he does not rule out the optimistic sense, arguing that Paul's point is intentionally “open” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 537–40). Those who choose the more hopeful translation assume that Paul has a missionary purpose in mind (meaning that he wants his readers to evangelize to outsiders, and here, to an unbelieving spouse), whereas I do not see evidence of this attitude in Paul's letters. Margaret Y. MacDonald identifies this text as the first example of a strategy of the early ἐκκλησία to gather new members by converting the wife in a household and then encouraging her to influence everyone else (Early Christian Women, 30, 192, 195). I think this is a plausible theory for later Christian texts (1 Pet 3:1–2; Justin Martyr, Second Apology 2.1–6); in 1 Corinthians, however, Paul is more concerned with teaching the Corinthians to manage the situation they are in rather than evangelizing all the unbelievers.

70 Margaret MacDonald is an exception to this in that she understands 1 Cor 7:12–16 as describing how Christians, through mixed marriages, can evangelize the household (Early Christian Women, 189–95). As I mention in the previous note, I disagree with MacDonald's view that this is Paul's motivation, although it is possible that believing wives were interested in converting their husbands.

71 I have paraphrased Schüssler Fiorenza's proposal in Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991) 120.

72 Presumably this would have been an issue also if they went to a neighbor's house for dinner, as Paul discusses in 1 Cor 10:27. Here Paul does not object to eating sacrificed meat as long it does not injure another's conscience (10:28–29), but he does not comment on prayers or offerings to other gods.

73 This reciprocal language echoes that of 1 Cor 7:2–6.

74 Castelli, “Interpretations,” 211 and eadem, “Paul on Women and Gender,” in Women and Christian Origins (ed. Ross Shepard Kraemer and Mary Rose D'Angelo; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) 228.

75 For a later example of a Christian wife who leaves her unbelieving husband, see Justin Martyr, Second Apology 2.1–6.

76 Dale Martin argues that Paul shared with the non-elite in Corinth this concern with pollution and invasion of disease, in contrast to the elite view of disease in terms of imbalance (Corinthian Body, 139–97, esp. 159–64).

77 See Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethic, 155–56 and eadem, In Memory of Her, 222. Schüssler Fiorenza's reconstruction is built upon two premises: that “initiation into Judaism dissolved previous kinship and marriage bonds” (In Memory of Her, 222) and that Gal 3:28 incorporates an earlier baptismal formula that abolishes patriarchal marriage (In Memory of Her, 205–231; Rhetoric and Ethic, 155–56). For this latter point Schüssler Fiorenza relies in part on David Daube, “Pauline Contributions,” 223–45.

78 Wire, Corinthian Women Prophets, 182.

79 The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles illustrate that this was a popular theme in Christian literature beginning at least in the second century. In several of these texts, celibacy is central to Christian theology and practice.

80 Wire, Corinthian Women Prophets, 182; Castelli, “Interpretations,” 211; Martin, Corinthian Body, 34–36, 159–62 (for Martin, those not so concerned about pollution and invasion are the elite in the community, who tend to follow a balance/imbalance model). This suggestion that the Corinthians were not concerned about boundaries between insiders and outsiders coheres with James Walters' argument that while there was considerable conflict among believers in Corinth, there was also notably little conflict with those outside the community (at least as far as Paul indicates). Walters relates this phenomenon to the larger context of Roman Corinth, which was experiencing a proliferation of religious groups at the time. See James Walters, “Civic Identity in Roman Corinth and its Impact on Early Christians,” in Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, 397–417.

81 One hundred and fifty years after Paul, Tertullian complains about precisely this problem of the “tolerant husband” (Ad Uxorem 2.5.1.) in his condemnation of exogamous marriage.

82 Perhaps it would not have bothered Paul, either. He clearly does not raise the issue when speaking of these mixed marriages, and in other places he seems remarkably tolerant of other religious traditions (1 Corinthians 8:4–13; 10:23–33).

83 Tertullian addresses the difficulties of this situation as well, describing the various Christian practices that might appear suspicious (Ad Uxorem 2.5.2–4). See also Apuleius, Metamorphoses 9.14

84 Plutarch, Advice to the Bride and Groom 140D (Moralia 1.140 D); Cato, de Agricultura 143.

85 Castelli, “Interpretations”; Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice.

86 Bell, 211.

87 Castelli, “Interpretations,” 209; Wire, Corinthian Women Prophets, 63–66.

88 This is fascinating advice given the climate of ancient households in which “accepting the authority” of one's husband meant worshipping his gods. Although not stated explicitly, the implication seems to be that the believing woman should continue to perform her wifely duties, which would likely include making offerings to the appropriate gods, lighting incense, and decorating the hearth and doorways. Like Paul, this author seems interested in not rocking the boat, even at the expense of honoring other gods.

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