In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says regarding marriage,

Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.

What is the "present crisis"?

3 Answers 3


There are plenty of predictions by Jesus and more in the the Epistles that prepared believers not only for the widespread persecuatuon that befell as well as the destruction of Jerusalem. This seems to be a strigjtforward meaning of the crisis that many commnetators note. For example Hodge takes this view:

The awful desolation which was soon to fall upon Jerusalem and on the whole Jewish race, and which could not but involve more or less the Christians also, and the inevitable struggles and persecutions which, according to our Lord’s predictions, his followers were to encounter, were surely enough to create a deep impression on the apostle’s mind, and to make him solicitous to prepare his brethren for the coming storm. It is not necessary, therefore, to assume, as is so often done, that the apostle anticipated the second advent of Christ during that generation, and that he refers to the calamities which were to precede that event. (Charles Hodge Commentary on First Corinthians, P128)


Now concerning virgins παρθενων I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present ενεστωσαν distress αναγκην, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
-- 1 Corinthians 7:25-26

Concerning this passage:

  1. It should be noted that in the context, Paul is unmistakably using the word παρθενων to refer to men, just as the author of Revelation does in reference to the 144,000:
    These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins παρθενοι. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
    -- Revelation 14:4 (KJV)
  2. Paul is not alluding to a particular event at all (specifically not the return of Christ), but rather, is giving his observation concerning the general level of unrest (evil) of the times. According to the time line at BLB Claudius had just been poisoned by his wife, and Nero had taken his place.

    In support of this point:
    • the Greek word ενεστωσαν, given as "present" in the KJV, occurs only a few times in the NT, the most pertinent being:
      Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present ενεστωτος evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
      -- Galatians 1:3-4
    • the Greek word αναγκην, given as "distress" in the KJV, is most often rendered in terms of "need" or "necessity", and there is no good reason to have anything different here.

      Paul uses the word στενοχωρία when specifically referring to distress/anguish/calamity, which can be seen in 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 where it appears together with αναγκη
      But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities αναγκαις, in distresses στενοχωριαις, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
      The word rendered "short" in 1 Corinthians 7:29, συνεσταλμενος, is unique in the NT, but the LSJ indicates it refers to a simple or frugal mode of life, i.e. one of necessity/need. So, perhaps it would have been better given as:
      But this I say brethren, [in a] time of shortage it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
    • Rome was set aflame around 64 CE and, according to Tacitus, Nero played on the attitude expressed by the ruling class -- a disease brought to them from Judaea -- to make Christians his scapegoat.
      Ritual banquets and all-night vigils were celebrated by women in the married state. But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.
      -- The Annals of Tacitus, Book XV:44
    • Paul specifically warned the church at Thessalonica to take care not to believe purported reports from him that Jesus' return was immanent:
      Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

      Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
      -- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3


Paul's use of ενεστωσαν αναγκην, i.e. present distress/crisis is a reference to the state of the world as the leadership of Rome passed from Claudius to Nero. It was a pretty hard time for the early church, and wasn't in the least conducive to marriage and the parenting of children.


Bart D. Ehrman points out in Forged, p106 that Paul expected the second coming of Jesus imminently. This is made particularly clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where he expected to be one of those present at the end: " Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul is telling his followers that it is better not to make new arrangements such as marriage when time is so short, but that if a person must marry, then so be it.

1 Corinthians 7:26 is more widely translated as "present distress," but "present crisis" is possible, although without further discussion it leads us to the possibly unwarranted conclusion that there is a crisis in the ordinary sense. Most importantly, verse 7:26 concludes with Paul advising that it is good for a person to remain as he is.

My reading of this is based on the immediately preceding verse, in which Paul says that he is about to give his judgement on what virgins should do. It follows from this that the "distress" is perhaps hormonal, or perhaps the love felt for another and consequent desire to tie the knot as soon as possible. In a broader interpretation, verse 26 would refer to much of what had preceded in chapter 7.

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