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2 Corinthians 6:14 is the well known "unequally yoked" passage. While the common interpretation is that it is about marriage, the heading translators added in NIV is "Warning against Idolatry", and there was nothing about marriage.

  1. Was it ever discussed what sort of event or situation that Corinthian church was in that inspired Paul to write such a passage?

  2. What other interpretations exist of the "unequally yoked" passage that Bible scholars have proposed?

  3. How did the idea that this verse refers to marriage come from, given that marriage was not mentioned in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, 6 or 7?

  • Good question, it wasn't like that in the 1984 edition - the preceding section title used to be Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers - they've modified this in the 2011 edition for some reason. – bruised reed Sep 9 '14 at 16:45
  • I imagine "yoked" might be a word used in some situations to discuss marriage, but I'm not sure; that would be a Biblical Hermeneutics question. – Matt Gutting Sep 9 '14 at 18:36
  • The RSV uses the word "mismated", and the NRSV uses the word "mismatched" instead of unequally yoked. Unequally yoked was probably a better metaphor in the days of animal power, when it was part of the common experience that yoking a very large ox with a smaller one was not the best practice. – brasshat Sep 9 '14 at 18:40
  • or, @brasshat, an ox with a donkey – warren Sep 9 '14 at 19:02
  • Plowing with an ox and a donkey is a violation of the commandments (cf. Deut 22:10); plowing with a large ox and a small one is just a bad idea. – brasshat Sep 9 '14 at 19:13
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Paul is teaching about all close relationships between believers and non-believers, and while this could include marriage, it would also apply to other areas of life, for example a business partnership. The context of the passage (verses 15 to the end of the chapter) talk about how the beliefs of the unbeliever could lead the believer astray, and while I can see how the passage could be headed as a warning against idolatry, since the passage in question seems to be more than that I don't think the heading is the best possible choice. Both the RSV and NRSV group verse 7:1 with 6:14-18 in one section, which adds the verse

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God. [NRSV]

and the NRSV uses for the heading of the passage "The Temple of the Living God." [The RSV--or at least my copies of it--does not add section headings.

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While the particular passage you ask about is not specifically addressing marriage it would by it's nature include marriage.

All Scripture is quoted from the New revised King James translation, unless otherwise noted.

2nd Corinthians 6:14 through 18 Be all of you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for all of you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be all of you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and all of you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

The following is an excerpt from the whole Bible commentary by David Guzik.

  1. (14-18) Paul tells them to narrow their love. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." a. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: Paul is speaking to the overly broad affections of the Corinthian Christians. They had joined themselves to unbelievers, and this was affecting their reconciliation with Paul. i. The idea of do not be unequally yoked together is based on Deu. 22:9, which prohibited yoking together two different animals. It speaks of joining two things that should not be joined. ii. In what ways had the Corinthian Christians become unequally yoked together with unbelievers? How can we do this? Certainly by marrying an unbeliever and this is the most common way this principle is applied. "A very wise and very holy man was given his judgment on this point: 'A man who is truly pious, marrying with an unconverted woman, will either draw back to perdition, or have a cross during life.' The same may be said of a pious woman marrying an unconverted man. Such persons cannot say this petition of the Lord's prayer, Lead us not into temptation. They plunge into it of their own accord." (Clarke) iii. But Paul means much more here than only marrying an unbeliever. It really applies to any environment where we let the world influence our thinking. When we are being conformed to this world and are not being transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2), we are joining together with unbelievers in an ungodly way. iv. This speaks especially to the issue of influence. Paul is not suggesting that Christians never associate with unbelievers (he makes this clear in 1Co. 5:9-13). The principle is that we are to be in the world, but not of the world, like a ship should be in the water, but water shouldn't be in the ship! But if the world is influencing us, it is clear we are unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And this unequal yoke, or ungodly influence, may come through a book, a movie, a television show, a magazine, or even through worldly Christian friends. Most Christians are far too indiscriminate about the things they allow to influence their minds and lives. v. We all like to believe that we can be around ungodly things as much as we want, and that we are strong enough to ward off the influence. But we must take seriously the words of Scripture: Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1Co. 15:33). It needs to come back to the simple question from Rom. 12:2: are we being conformed to this world or are we being transformed by the renewing of your mind? vi. The Corinthian Christians were thinking like worldly people, not like godly people. They gained this way of looking at life - or at least stayed in it - because of their ungodly associations. Paul tells them to break those yokes of fellowship with the ungodly!

What Paul is apparently warning the Corinthians about is the same as what God himself warned the Israelites about when they went in to possess the Promised land.

Exodus 23:20 through 24 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

The Lord went on to say:

Exodus23:32 and 33 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

There is an inherent danger when cohabitating or associating socially with unbelievers, in that Satan has a ready made path of influence into your life. We must of course live in the World but:

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

and

John 17:14 through 16 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

The things of this World should have no meaning to the Christian, since they are all perishable, but the things of God are eternal. The danger of being unequally yoked together whether in marriage or even in society is that through that relationship the things of this World can be portrayed as desirable:

Genesis 3:4 through 6 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Satan has not changed his motes operandi from the day he used it on Eve up until today, except that instead of using Eve he uses others, and especially public entertainment, to influence us. How many times have we heard the television say "and you are worth it" or "this will make you the envy of your neighbors". The most recent I can think of is a commercial for used Mercedes Benz automobiles, which says "It has one previous owner and the attention of all of your neighbors." That probably appeals to many non Christians and probably even some Christians.

Hope this helps.

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12 Cor6:14 is not speaking of marriage.

Let's look at the relevant verses in the Bible and put them in context.

1 Cor 7:14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Paul says the unbeliever is 'sanctified' by the believer.

Since the unbeliever is sanctified by the believer and the marriage becomes HOLY, 2 Cor 6 cannot be speaking of marriage as Paul mentions Belial, idolatry and infidel, and that we should distance ourselves from them. If he had been talking about marriage, he would have been contradicting himself with 1 Cor 7 when he says that if the unbeliever is pleased to remain with the believer, the believer must not separate. Indeed, in 2 Cor 6 :14, marriage is not even mentioned, whereas 1 Cor 7 is all about marriage.

Clearly, if the believer involves himself with other religions, then he/she is no longer a believer. In 2 Cor 6, Paul must be be referring to the behaviour of some at the Corinthian church of associating with unbelievers and accepting and participating in their practices and sacrifices, similar to the behaviour of the Israelites in the past of accepting sacrificial offerings to Baal Peor (Numbers 25 and Psalm 106:28).

Therefore, one is 'equally yoked' if one remains in the Lord and does not become involved with the religious practices of the unbeliever.

At best, one may say that one should exercise caution and be prepared that there may be difficulties in marrying an unbeliever, although Paul also applies this to marriage in general, preferring others to be the same as he is if possible.

Most importantly, 1 Cor 7 was written BEFORE 2 Cor 6. To me, therefore, it is obvious that 2 Cor 6 is not meant to be about 1 Cor 7, but about idolatry instead! Otherwise Paul would have been made clearer to those spoken to in 1st letter, as by the time the 2nd letter was written, there was sufficient time gap for many in the congregation to have got married- to unbelievers! Paul would not give such advice piecemeal, and if, as others claim, he meant marriage in 2 Cor 6, they would certainly justified in telling him off.

What about the advice to widows? Well, it is just that- advice to widows, otherwise he would have said to 'ALL'. Naturally, having been bereaved, a widow would already have suffered once. Paul is merely thinking of the widow in this regard and that it may be more difficult for her to deal with problems later if they occur, hence his statement that 'she would be happier'. At that time, women were mostly subservient to men (whatever the religion) and more than likely she would have been forced to convert or participate in the practices of the unbelieving husband.

In the OT, a split was demanded, but Paul says that if the unbeliever is pleased to stay with the believer, they are to remain together.

One must ask then, why is a marriage between an unbeliever and believer wrong, if the unbeliever is 'pleased' to marry the believer? Paul, after all, says that if the unbeliever is 'pleased' to stay with the believer, they should remain together?

"My yoke is easy and my burden light". The yoke is obviously us being yoked to Christ. There is an 'unequal yoke' with unbelievers if we also involve ourself with/practice their religions, as we cannot pull both ways. In a marriage, if the unbeliever accepts this and does not hinder the believer from following their religion, and wants to stay, then ok, that person is sanctified through the believer. This is not so if we join in their practice.

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What is the context of the “unequally yoked” passage?

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Paul wrote earlier instructions about relationships with unbelievers.

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

The difference between these verses is the word "yoked". The image that comes from this term is one of forced association. Marriage would be the most significant relationship that would represent the highest level of forced association. However, one can also make the case that the verses could apply to other situations where you lose the ability to make your own decisions.

  1. Partnerships
  2. Contracts
  3. Military Service
  4. Indebtedness

A Christian needs to be free so that he is responsible to his Lord for his decisions. In an employment situation a Christian should have the option to quit if he asked to do something wrong.

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