Love Honor and Vacuum from the Pulpit

Many spouses are suffering today in loveless and sexless marriages, or being manipulated and abused by a spouse that is withholding various forms of intimacy in an attempt to punish or control their spouse.  All forms of withholding erode trust and destroy the relationship whether it be the silent treatment, refusing physical affection, depriving of sexual needs, spending no time together, or others.  Withholding is not built on the foundation of a godly, selfless, giving, sacrificial, and mature love.

I recently heard a sermon on 1 Corinthians 7, and in that sermon the following two points made zero sense to me:

1) Since verse 3 comes first, nothing else that follows matters if that prerequisite is not met.
2) The powers in verse 4 negate each other.

The word singled out as the prerequisite in the verse 3 was “benevolence” which is Eunoia in Greek and is defined as “good will, kindness”. The pastor was claiming if a spouse felt the other was being unkind, then verses 4 and 5 had no application in that situation.

The word before “benevolence” is “due” which is Opheilo in Greek and is defined as “to owe, to owe money, be in debt for, that which is due, the debt”.  Do people get married just so someone will be kind to them?  Is that what is owed them, kindness?

Below are 37 translations of verse 3.  Absolutely no translation includes the idea that if a spouse feels the other is “not kind” then they are free to be “not kind” in return.  Not a Christlike idea to be sure.  Not an idea that follows the Golden Rule.  The opposite of the Sermon on the Mount.

What the translations do include are concepts like conjugal rights, satisfying each others sexual needs, giving what is due, fulfilling marital duty, giving affection owed, fulfilling a debt, and fulfilling an obligation, but read them for yourself:

(JUB) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(KJV) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(KJVA) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(TMB) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(TMBA) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(TYN) Let the man geve vnto the wyfe due benevolence. Lykwyse also the wyfe vnto the man.
(WBT) Let the husband render to the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife to the husband.
(YLT) to the wife let the husband the due benevolence render, and in like manner also the wife to the husband;

(ESV) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
(NRS) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
(NRSA) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
(RSV) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
(RSVA) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

(CEB) The husband should meet his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should do the same for her husband.
(CEBA) The husband should meet his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should do the same for her husband.
(NIRV) A husband should satisfy his wife’s sexual needs. And a wife should satisfy her husband’s sexual needs.
(NLT) The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.
(GW) Husbands and wives should satisfy each other’s [sexual] needs.
(MSG) The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband.

(ASV) Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(DBY) Let the husband render her due to the wife, and in like manner the wife to the husband.
(WNT) Let a man pay his wife her due, and let a woman also pay her husband his.(RHE) Let the husband render the debt to his wife: and the wife also in like manner to the husband.
(WYC) The husband yield debt to the wife, and also the wife to the husband.
(NCV) The husband should give his wife all that he owes her as his wife. And the wife should give her husband all that she owes him as her husband.
(OJB) Let the ba’al render the conjugal choiv (debt) to his isha, and likewise also the isha to her ba’al (husband).

(NAS) The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
(GNT) A man should fulfill his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs.
(GNTA) A man should fulfill his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs.
(CSB) A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.
(NIV) The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

(HNV) Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
(WEB) Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
(NKJV) Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

(BBE) Let the husband give to the wife what is right; and let the wife do the same to the husband.
(LEB) The husband must fulfill his obligation to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
(CJB) The husband should give his wife what she is entitled to in the marriage relationship, and the wife should do the same for her husband.

There are people that would twist verse 4 to support taking sex by physical force or coercion, but verse 3 is clear the responsibility is for the spouse to give, the idea that it is okay to take if they do not give is not in there.

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible has some interesting comments about verse 3, including declaring “due benevolence” a euphemism.

 

My Power is Bigger Than Your Power!

In the sermon it was also claimed that the second part of verse 4 had the power to negate the first part or vice versa.  I first read the nonsense “If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, ‘I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.’” on the Love Honor and Vacuum (mocking Love Honor and Obey) blog years ago.  Below was my comment at the time:

I am surprised you were able to take this Scripture which seems so obviously pro-sex and turn it completely around so people could use it contra-sex. I see at least three problems with your interpretation:

1) You said “If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, ‘I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.'” which seems completely taken out of context.  The power over a spouse’s body is for sexual relations, not anything a spouse might want or nothing as your statement claims.  Even if your assertion were correct, if the wife’s body belongs to him, then he has the ability to also say “I want you using your body sexually right now with me.” which ends up in the ludicrous situation where they are still having sex, but the husband just has to lay there and do nothing while the wife who did not want it in the first place has to do all the work.  The power is pro-sex and should be used to request anything sexual or loving that is not prohibited (i.e. not sodomy, orgies, etc), even communication could be a request that a spouse should lovingly try to fulfill.

2) While 16 of the 25 translations at BibleHub do use “deprive” the other 9 translations use the word “defraud” which seems a much better word choice given the context.  Deprive the way you use it is very subjective, and who gets to decide what exactly deprived is anyway, the person feeling deprived or the person depriving?  Yes, even withholding sex one night could be considered depriving the other person of sex for that night which will never come again.  Certainly does not sound like “power”.  Deprive in Webster’s 1828 is “applicable to a lawful or unlawful taking”, while defraud is “withhold wrongfully from another what is due to him”.  The word in Greek is Apostereo which is defined as “to defraud, rob, despoil” and the word origin “from (575) and stereo (to deprive)” is interesting because they already had another word for “deprive”.  Defraud is a much better translation which keeps the power in the spouses domain.

3) You completely ignore the injunction in verse 5 that in order to deprive or defraud a spouse is to get consent.  Getting consent perfectly fits the context of both rendering due benevolence and the spouse having power of the others body.  I like how you teach that sex should be mutually pleasing to both partners, and I can appreciate the wisdom of the Bible that abstaining from sex should also be mutual.  The directions God gives us are for our own good “to avoid fornication” and that “Satan tempt you not”.

P.S. On a side note, some will desire to misapply verse 6 to all the directives above it in order to get rid of them, but it more appropriately goes with the context in verses 7 and 1 where Paul is expressing his opinion/wish/desire. Humans are amazing rationalization machines when it comes to maintaining their bias/worldview in the face of cognitive dissonance.

Might be an easy way to lose weight if our spouses could just tell our bodies to “do a thousand jumping jacks a day” or “eat only celery” and we would be obliged to obey!  Claiming the powers negate each other in effect returns to the spouse power over their own body, which is the exact opposite of what the Bible plainly says, and yet another case of “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition”. Sadly it is a modern tradition that encourages strife and divorce compared to the rest of history and the majority of the world’s population that still recognizes the conjugal right to sexual and other forms of love.

The pastor did bring up some good points in his sermon including some on domestic violence.  The Bible is clear that no one should physically force or harm or coerce another person for their own personal gain.  In a perfect marriage physically forcing your spouse would not even be possible because a spouse acting in a loving and godly manner would never withhold without consent.  A loving spouse gives love freely.  A godly spouse will be obedient to God knowing their body is His first and foremost.  A spouse not fulfilling their marital duties is neither being kind nor following God’s ways.  Stronger censure from pulpits would help deter such behavior, but it is a rare voice that is brave enough to speak such unpopular truths in this culture.  Of course should a spouse actually physically force, harm, or coerce no matter the reason then the condemnation is theirs for that action.  One unloving act does not justify another.

Posted in Bible

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: