PAUL MAKES NO SENSE to me sometimes.
He really did seem to need some follow up questions from news journalists. Those could have helped us a lot.
Let me ask for your ideas about something. I know that folks don’t usually respond to blog articles. So many blog articles. So little time. But perhaps a few of you will give me a hand with something here.
At the moment, I’m paraphrasing 1, 2 Corinthians for the Casual English Bible. I’m in part of the letter where bachelor Paul is giving advice about sex and marriage.
I’m wondering how on earth I’m supposed to put 1 Corinthians 7:14 into the kind of casual English that we use when we talk to each other.
Here’s how the first part of this verse reads in an extremely literal translation from the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament, which you can read on the free Bible Gateway website. This Bible resource shows the words side-by-side in English with the original Greek language that Paul used when he wrote the letter.
“For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through union with his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through union with her husband.”
Now here’s how the New American Standard Bible, which is widely respected among Bible scholars, translates the Greek.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband.”
The New Living Translation is one of my favorites. Here’s how it approaches the verse.
“For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage.”
Is holiness a thing?
It sounds as though Paul is saying that a Christian woman, for example, can take some of her holiness, put it on a platter, and serve it to her partner—making the partner as holy as she is.
That’s pretty much the question Bible scholars ask: Is Paul treating holiness like it’s a thing that one person can give to another?
As I think about this, I’m wondering if Paul means that we can pass holiness on to someone else the way we give them the flu. Someone else can catch what we’ve got. And it doesn’t always have to be something as nasty as nausea and diarrhea. It can actually be something good, for a change. Like catching a ride, a fly ball, or a rainbow trout in the Missouri Ozarks.
See what you think of my first pass at paraphrasing the verse, along with the footnote I’ve written to accompany it.
I welcome insights, brainstorms, or passing thoughts. Just please don’t cuss me out. I get enough of that in the comments on my YouTube channel.
“A believing wife brings her devotion to God into the marriage. This holiness will save her husband. The same is true for a believing husband with a wife who’s not a believer.”
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Casual English Bible
 7:14. Bible scholars struggle to understand what Paul meant when he said, more literally, “the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife.” It sounds as though Paul is treating holiness as an object you can pass around from person to person instead of as a matter of personal devotion to God. Something or someone is considered holy when it is devoted to God (Leviticus 8:11). One suggestion scholars make is that because the unbelieving husband is devoted enough to his Christian wife to stay with her, he comes into contact with the devotion she has to God, and he will be changed by that holiness. She gives him her holiness by exposing him to it and letting him catch it.
Thank you for all your blog posts. Full of insight and very inspiring – even those that bring about controversy. Thanks also for your honest and respectful replies.
As a translator myself (from English to French), I know how huge is your project to put the Bible in Casual English. God is guiding you with His Holy Spirit. I translate Christian stuff and I often struggle, and I am not dealing with the Word of God itself!
I have read 1 Cor.7.14 in a French version (Parole de vie), which is considered as being written in “basic French”. I am translating it for you as I think it might be useful for this brainstorm of yours.
” The husband who is not Christian is close to God because he is united to his wife. The wife who is not Christian is close to God, because she is united to her husband. Otherwise, your children would be like children separated from God, but, in reality, they are close to God.”
The translators (Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical scholars altogether from Alliance biblique universelle) chose to present holiness as closeness to God. I find that interesting.
Also, here is the verse from the French Bible du Semeur, a kind of paraphrase.
“For because of his union with his wife, the non-believing husband is actually a legitimate husband to the eyes of God, and likewise, because of her union to her Christian husband, the non-believing woman is actually a legitimate wife to the eyes of God. Otherwise, their children would be illegitimate children, whereas in reality they are legitimate.”
I hope this will fuel your own reflection!
Have a blessed day!
Stephen M. Miller
Chantal, merci beaucoup for those French to English versions. Scholars certainly do take that verse in many different and helpful directions. I think Paul would have been pleased at all the attention and insightful application Christians are finding in his words…whether he intended those ideas or not.
Stephen M. Miller
Chantal, if it’s okay, I’d like to use your translations in the leader’s guide I’m creating for 1, 2 Corinthians. I think it would be a fun activity for Bible study groups to look at several ways scholars approach this verse. Thanks.
I wrote a personal litteral translation, but the verses I quoted were taken respectively from: 1) Parole de vie, Alliance biblique française and 2) Bible du Semeur, Biblica, Inc.
I am glad that those two versions added some grist to your mill. (Actually, in French, we talk about adding water to the mill! 🙂 )
May God bless your work!
Mr. Miller, Thank You! You know I love your blog, and I repost it everywhere I am able to. I like your translation and I can faithfully report that what St. Paul the bachelor says is in fact correct. My husband, although is not a non-believer; he is not devout like I am. However my Priests all assure me daily of the Grace that is rewarded by my singular intentions. And, the “no cost -added benefit”: my husband is more than a little-bit coming around, by proxy! So please don’t have any doubts about what St. Paul says…I’m (we) are living proof of its Truth! May God continue to Bless your endeavors! Take Care!
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, Anastasia. Keep living your faith and trusting that Love wins.
Just as the marriage bed is undefiled, so is the covenant made between a man and a woman in God’s presence. In His sovereignty, He acknowledges their union as holy, hence any progeny from that union.