1 Corinthians 7:36-38 says:

But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.


Is Paul saying here that the fathers have authority to decide whether to marry off their daughters? If yes, does he have to consult his daughter or is it fully up to the father?

  • Why do you think it is talking about fathers? Please edit this to explain.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 19 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


There's nothing here about fathers.

The problem is the use of an English translation that was written 500 years ago. Many English words have changed meaning over the centuries, and unless one is careful the message can be completely misunderstood.

(I've seen many words change meaning even within my own lifetime. For instance "gender" now means what "sex" used to mean, while "sex" has taken on a very specific meaning. My printed Oxford English Dictionary says that using "gender" to refer to someone's sex is for jocular use only, yet when I fill in a government form asking for my gender I'm no longer supposed to think they are making an insulting joke.)

In this case "virgin" is translated as "fiancée", "virgin he is engaged to", "his betrothed", etc. in modern English translations.

And to properly understand what Paul is saying, the context of the entire chapter should be considered.

Here are some key points from 1 Corinthians 7 (NLT translation), but one should read the entire chapter:

1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. 2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.

6 I say this as a concession, not as a command.

12 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. 14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. 15 (But if the husband or wife who isn't a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)

25 Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain as you are. 27 If you have a wife, do not seek to end the marriage. If you do not have a wife, do not seek to get married. 28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems. 29 But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage.

35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. 36 But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. 37 But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry. 38 So the person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. 40 But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.

The entire chapter is discussing marriage, divorce, etc. within the Christian community:

  • Celibacy is preferred, but if one can't handle it, keep it within marriage.
  • Only if a non-Christian spouse wants to leave the marriage should they separate.
  • The times ahead will be bad for Christians (they still believed that Christ's return was imminent), so starting new relationships should be avoided.
  • Finally Paul points out that what he has said is his personal advice, not commandments from God, and gives examples of when it is okay to ignore his advice.

The general idea is that old marriages should be maintained (even with non-Christian spouses), and new marriages should be avoided (but only if people can remain celibate).

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