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Paul’s Sexual and Marital Ethics in 1 Corinthians 7

An African-Cameroonian Perspective


Alice Yafeh

Paul’s Sexual and Marital Ethics in 1 Corinthians 7: An African-Cameroonian Perspective provides readers with an innovative interpretation of Paul’s pastoral and pedagogical approach and solutions to the multifaceted ethical problems presented to him by the Corinthian community, revealing a wide-ranging, complex, and flexible decision-making process. Alice Yafeh’s analysis also illuminates two different evaluations of the same ethical problem may be simultaneously relevant where operating assumptions diverge: first as a community in pursuance of the goal of undistracted devotion to the Lord, and, second, as individual members who must pursue that goal within the specific lifestyles in which they have been called.
The author argues that Paul’s pastoral and theological approach, which is deeply motivated by a desire to inspire faithful Christian living and witness, can serve as a new model for evaluating pre-conversion polygyny; a model that is oriented toward positive and substantive change in the lives of women and children. Consequently, the implication of Paul’s approach and judgments for contemporary Christian communities suggests the same believing community may adopt different ways of faithfully living out the practical implications of Christian view of marriage extended by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.
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General Conclusion


Paul’s discourse in 1 Cor 7 on sexual and marital ethics has generated extensive scholarship for both ancient and modern readers and interpreters. The text easily lends itself to such scholarship because it contains the most explicit discourse on sexual and marital issues of any New Testament text, and because the entire chapter is quintessentially focused on both themes of sex and marriage. Not surprisingly, then, 1 Cor 7 has played a central role in both ancient and modern Christian sexual practices and discourses. Evaluations of Paul’s discourse have largely fallen in to two categories. On the one hand, the text is seen and portrayed as an unromantic characterization of marriage, serving merely as a prophylaxis against porneia and a prophylaxis for the “weak.” On the other hand, the text is evaluated as Paul’s appreciation (rather than depreciation) of sex and marriage. Addressing both views, I have nevertheless argued that Paul’s discourse in 1 Cor 7 is multivalent but inclusive. To relate to the multiple audiences with diverse experiences in the Corinthian Christian community, Paul adopts a theological-pedagogical strategy that is exhortative, with a specific goal of inspiring undistracted devotion to the Lord.

To arrive at this goal of undistracted devotion to the Lord, Paul approached the multiple sex-and-marriage related sociological and theological issues in the Corinthian community in a multivalent and inclusive manner. I showed ← 199 | 200 → that Paul couches his inclusive and multivalent argument for single-minded devotion in distinctive commonplace terms (charisma and enkrateia)...

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