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proposition: The Bible teaches that all divorce is null and void in the eyes of God.

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1 Cor. 7:15 Does Not Support Modern Divorce - Proof


PROPOSITION: 1Corinthians 7:12-15 speaks of cohabitation only and does not support, bless or condone ‘modern divorce’ with its belief in the termination of marriage and right to remarry.




The currently accepted interpretation of 1Cor 7:12-15 which takes this passage to support the practice of ‘modern divorce’ ought not to be considered a correct interpretation because it artificially and needlessly produces four contradictions within chapter 7 of Corinthians. Additionally, it uses non-dictionary definitions of the words: ‘dwell’, and ‘bound’, taking them to mean ‘married’ and takes ‘depart’ to mean ‘divorce’. As opposed to this interpretation, the ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation produces no contradictions between texts in 1Cor.7 and uses dictionary definitions of words.

-end of abstract-


    In this article I will attempt to prove that 1 Cor.7:15 refers to cohabitation only and does not support the currently accepted interpretation which argues that this text proves modern divorce is allowed (and modern divorce includes the idea that the marriage is terminated and after such a divorce, the spouses are allowed to remarry). For the purposes of debate, I will refer to this currently accepted interpretation as ‘the current interpretation’. As opposed to this interpretation, I will refer to my proposition as the ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation. All  word definitions are from the Compact Oxford Dictionary at indicated by (COD). All Bible texts are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

    The saying, ‘That is a stretch’, when referring to an idea, means that the idea has stretched the normal, dictionary definition of words to their outmost limits and perhaps beyond, creating a situation where the idea seems to defy common sense. To treat words in this manner is not incorrect. New word definitions are born in this manner. It is a necessary part of word evolution.

    In the practice of interpretation of Bible texts, the limit of stretching word definitions is reached when ­­– seemingly out of nowhere – contradictions between verses appear. The presence of contradictions violates the cardinal rule of Bible interpretation: that there are no contradictions between Bible texts – there are only incorrect interpretations of Bible texts.

    My main evidence that the current interpretation of 1Cor 7:15 is incorrect is that it unnecessarily produces four contradictions between other texts within the same chapter. These contradictions disappear if we take 1Cor 7:15 to be referring to ‘cohabitation’ only. My second piece of evidence is that the current interpretation uses word definitions that are, more or less stretched whereas my ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation uses dictionary definitions of words.




    The passage of interest begins in verse 12 and culminates in verse 15. This section speaks of marriage between a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse and addresses the question of whether or not they should continue “to dwell” together.

    1 Cor 7:15 (KJV) “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases…”

     Some, more modern Bible versions translate ‘is not under bondage’ as ‘is not bound’.

     According to the current interpretation, the words: ‘dwell’ and ‘depart’ are considered to be much more than the ordinary dictionary definition of the word. They reason: ‘the entire chapter is about marriage, so ‘dwell=marriage’ and ‘depart = divorce’. So, substituting words placing the text in modern language, 1 Cor 7:15 would read:

 "But if the unbeliever [divorces], let him [divorce]. A brother or sister is not [under obligations] in such cases."


    Some members of the ‘current interpretation’ camp, interpret the word ‘bondage’ or ‘bound’ to mean marriage making this text read:


"But if the unbeliever [divorces], let him [divorce]. A brother or sister is not [married] in such cases."


    (Not many go this far, but we need to deal with this case nonetheless.)

     They argue that this text means that divorce is allowed and further, the divorcees ‘are not bound’ or have no obligations to one another, thus their marriage is terminated and they are free to remarry.

     I argue that taking the word ‘dwell’ to mean ‘marriage’ and ‘depart’ to mean ‘divorce’, (i.e. modern divorce which includes the idea of termination of marriage and ability to remarry) is a bit of a stretch. They are definitely not the dictionary definition of the words.

     The Dictionary (COD) defines thus:




  • verb (past and past part. dwelt or dwelled) 1 live in or at a place



  • verb 1 leave, especially to start a journey. 2 (depart from) deviate from (a course of action).

  — ORIGIN Old French departir, from Latin dispertire ‘to divide’


  • noun 1 a boundary. 2 a limitation or restriction.

  past and past participle of bind

  • adjective. 2 destined or certain to be, do, or have. 3 obliged to do. 


    As a consequence of the current interpretation (supporting divorce), defining ‘dwell’ and ‘depart’ as ‘marriage’ and ‘divorce’ respectively, the number of verses which speak directly on divorce and remarriage are artificially expanded to five. Of these five verses, four condemn divorce and only one (1 Cor 7:15) supports divorce. This means that there are four artificially created contradictions in this one chapter alone.




(1.)  1 Cor 7:10 “…Let not the wife depart from her husband:”


    According to their own definition, ‘depart’ means ‘divorce’, so this verse says, in modern language:


‘let not the wife [divorce] from her husband’.


    This verse condemns and forbids divorce in direct contradiction to the current interpretation of verse 15 which they argue supports divorce.


(2.)  1 Cor 7:11  “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.


    According to their own definition, ‘depart’ means ‘divorce’ and it is generally understood that the words ‘put away’ means divorce, so this verse says, in modern language:


    'But and if she [divorce], let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband [divorce] his wife.'


    The current interpretation tried to argue that verse 15 supports the idea that  divorce means ‘marriage is terminated’ and the divorcees are free to remarry but this text contradicts both contentions. The wife, according to this text, must remain unmarried. How can that be construed to being free to remarry? The fact that one choice is to reconcile to her husband implies that the divorce does not terminate the marriage, as shown by Paul calling the divorced spouse ‘husband’ even after the divorce. Even the last sentence in this verse contradicts the current interpretation, forbidding the husband from divorcing his wife.


(3.)  1 Cor 7:27  “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.”


    I am told by diligent students of the Bible that the Greek word translated as ‘loosed’ in this verse, is the same word used for ‘divorce’. I am unsure of the Greek word translated ‘bound’ here but perhaps it would not be unreasonable to tentatively translate it as married, since a few people of the ‘current interpretation’ camp might try to translate the similar word in verse 15 as married, so, for now, lets translate it as married.


    So verse 27 in modern language might be translated (substituting words):

         ‘Art thou [married] unto a wife? Seek not to be [divorced]. Art thou [divorced] from a wife? Seek not a wife.’


    Here is another command to not divorce in direct contradiction to the current interpretation of verse 15. Additionally, Christians are commanded not to remarry if they are divorced, reiterating the same command in verse 11. Even if we do not substitute the word ‘married’ for the word ‘bound’, but use the dictionary definition, ‘obligation’, the end result makes little difference in this text.


(4.) 1 Cor 7:39:  “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband is dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will…”


    In this text there is a tremendous difference in the meaning depending on how a person renders the word ‘bound’. From the structure of the sentence, ‘bound’ appears to have an opposite meaning to ‘liberty’. The dictionary definition, ‘obligation’ fits the bill here and implies that the word should be rendered thus in the rest of the chapter as well contradicting one groups argument that ‘bound’ means marriage.

    This text is speaking about marriage and since she is at ‘liberty to be married’, it is consistent to render the first part ‘is bound [in marriage]’ since the last part mirrors the first. This text thus teaches ‘wed till dead’; a direct contradiction to the current interpretation’s argument that verse 15 supports divorce and remarriage.


    In the final analysis: the currently accepted interpretation making verse 15 support divorce and remarriage, needlessly creates four contradictions in Chapter Seven of Corinthians.



    In opposition to the current interpretation, I argue that we should use dictionary definitions of the words: ‘dwell’ and ‘depart’ and ‘bound’. If this is allowed, only two texts speak directly to the subject of divorce and remarriage: verse 27 and verse 39. Both still condemn divorce and remarriage. Another benefit of the ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation is that there are no contradictions between texts in this chapter.


    Under this ‘cohabitating only’ interpretation, verse 10, 11 and 15 are merely speaking about believing spouses and their unbelieving partners living together under the same roof – cohabitating. These three texts counsel the Christian to continue to cohabitate with their unbelieving spouse. Verse 15 merely states that if the unbelieving spouse leaves or obtains a Legal Separation, the remaining spouse is not under an obligation to live with their spouse in such a case. That is not to say that the remaining spouse is free to remarry. A legal separation does not terminate the marriage. They must remain single and celibate, waiting for the return to their spouse, even if that takes the rest of their lives.


    This ‘cohabitating only’ interpretation is rather more severe than the currently accepted interpretation. It commands against legal separation. It teaches that it is GOD’s intention that a married couple should live under the same roof, dealing with life’s troubles and pleasures as a single entity.


    To summarize:

     The currently accepted interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:15 uses non-dictionary definitions of ‘dwell’, ‘depart’, and ‘bound’, and this scheme artificially produces four contradictions. The ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation produces no contradictions and uses dictionary definitions of words. On the bases of these facts alone, I propose that the ‘cohabitation only’ interpretation ought to be the only accepted interpretation and the current interpretation ought to be rejected and acknowledged as incorrect.

-the end- 

so says, 

Bob Crawford

10, Feb, 2007

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