1 Cor 7 - Greco Roman Marriage and Divorce


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1 CORINTHIANS 7 IN THE LIGHT OF THE GRAECO-ROMAN MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE PAPYRI David Instone-Brewer Summary The language and social background ofl Corinthians 7 are compared with that of the Greek and Latin marriage and divorce papyri. These papyri are found to be particularly useful for illuminating the issue of divorce-byseparation, which Paul appears to be combating in vv. 10-15. They also give insights into Paul's unusual use of άφίημι for 'divorce', and the curious absence of teaching about
  1 CORINTHIANS 7 IN THE LIGHT OF THE GRAECO-ROMAN MARRIAGE ANDDIVORCE PAPYRIDavid Instone-Brewer  Summary  The language and  social background ofl  Corinthians 7  are compared with that  of  the Greek  and  Latin marriage and  divorce papyri. These papyri  are  found  to be particularly useful  for  illuminating  the issue of divorce-by-  separation, which Paul  appears to becombating in vv. 10-15. They also  give insights into Paul'sunusual  use of  άφίημι for 'divorce', and thecurious absenceof  teaching about  remarriage in this chapter. Paul  is found  to have a positive approach to marriage, emphasising  the commitment  it  involves, while warning  that  bringing up a family was difficult at the present  time of  famine. I. Introduction Paul's teaching on divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7 is regarded as so problematic that there is still a debate about whether  or  not it contains any  teaching on remarriage at all. We can assume that a first century reader  at Corinth would not find the chapter  so difficult to understand because Paul was a successful communicator who knewhis readership at Corinth. Important light is thrown onto the issue  when the chapter  is read with a wider  understanding of  the social background and language of  the Corinthian Christians.The background literature which is the nearest equivalent to 1 Corinthians 7 is the legal papyri regarding marriage and divorce. Paul is presenting a Christian response to problems concerningmarriage which were faced by  Graeco-Roman and (to a lesser  extent) Jewish converts at Corinth. He does not give a complete outline of  Christian teaching in this area, but he deals with questions and problems which have arisen, and a few related issues. He is therefore  102TYNDALE BULLETIN 51.2 (2001)dealing with legal concepts which would be found in marriagecontracts and divorce certificates of his readers. The Roman statutesand rulings of the time have been preserved to a large degree in the 4 th century digests of Justinian, though for specifically Greek law wehave just one very fragmentary papyrus. 1 Jewish law is preserved inbetter condition, but is still found only in 3 rd -6 th century collections.Our best sources are therefore the legal papyri of the time.Marriage and divorce papyri have never been collected in oneplace. They are scattered throughout a large number of editions, and afew are found only in isolated articles. Montevecchi publishedincomplete lists of marriage and divorce papyri in 1936 and 1973 butdid not collect the texts. As a basis of this study I collected all theavailable marriage and divorce documents in Greek, Latin andAramaic from the 4 th century BC to the 4 th century AD and publishedthem as a web site. 2 I have also consulted other documents as far asthe 8 th century BC and the 7 th century AD in these languages and inNeo-Babylonian, Demotic and Hebrew. The most useful of these arethe Graeco-Roman papyri of the 1 st centuries BC and AD, whichprovide precise parallels to the vocabulary and concepts which arefound in 1 Corinthians 7. II. Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri Most of the papyri which have survived srcinate in Egypt. Acomparison with the few papyri which have survived outside Egyptshows a general homogeneity in legal papyri throughout the Graeco-Roman world. This is especially true for marriage and divorcepapyri. 3 There was no specific set of words which were followed bythe marriage contracts or divorce deeds, though the same featuresappear in most such papyri. These features are present partly throughcustom, and partly because they were necessary for reporting the facts. 1 GR50b, i.e. Chr.M.29\~P.Fay.22. This is copy of a series of regulations. It isvery fragmentary (only the left half is legible), so only the drift can be followed.The editor concludes that 'The rules here laid down for divorce are very similar tothose actually found in marriage contracts of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.'(Bernard P. Grenfell, Fayûm Towns and Their Papyri [Graeco-Roman memoirs 3;London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1900], p. 126). 2  http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Brewer/marriagepapyri/   3 Hannah M. Cotton, Ά  CancelledMarriageContract from the Judaean Desert(XHev/Se Gr.2)\ J. Roman Studies  84 (1994) 64-86, esp. pp. 64f.  INSTONE-BREWER: 1 Corinthians 7 103 A marriage contract normally consisted of: ã date and place of the agreement ã names and home towns of the individuals concerned ã a detailed list of the dowry and the property brought by the bride ã stipulations about returning the dowry if  there was a divorce ã signatures of  witnesses  A marriage contract might also include many other matters such as: ã stipulations about behaviour of the woman and/or the man within the marriage ã stipulations about supporting the wife if  the husband were to die first ã stipulations about inheritance by male and female children  A divorce deed normally consisted of: ã date and place of the agreement ã names and home towns of the individuals concerned ã acknowledgement that the dowry had been returned ã acknowledgement that neither party had grounds for litigation against the other ã signatures of  witnesses  A divorce deed might also include many other matters such as: ã a list of the dowry and property  of the wife which had been returned ã an affirmation that husband and wife were free to remarry whomever they wish The following three papyri were among those chosen by  Hunt for  theLoeb series to illustrate typical Graeco-Roman marriage and divorceagreements. Specific names have been replaced by W (for wife or   bride), H (for  husband or  groom), WM, WF, and WB (for wife's mother, father and brother) to help the reader understand relationships which might be obscured when using the names. Details such as lists of  property, dates, and locations, have been summarised by  words in square brackets. Marriage Contract, AD 66, Bacchias, Egypt  (GM66  = P.Ryl.i54^: 4 [Time, Place]. H acknowledges to WF that he has received from him as adowry on his daughter W, who has previously been living with H as his wife, [list of  dowry], and as parapherna, [list of  wife's personal belongings], and without valuation in usufruct and as a gift from the current year, [a field,described in detail]. Wherefore let the parties to the marriage, W and H, live together blamelessly as they have previously been doing, H conducting all the agricultural work  of  each year on [the field]. If  a difference (διαφοράς) arise between them and they separate from each other (|χ]ωρίζονται άπ' αλλήλων), whether Η sends away  (άποπέμποντος) W or she voluntarily  leaves him (έκουσίω[ς ά]παλλασσομέν[η]ς [ά]π' αύτοΰ), [the field] shall belong to WF or, if  he is no longer alive, to W. And Η shall moreover return to her the aforesaid dowry and the parapherna in whatever state they may eventually be through wear, in the case of dismissal (αποπομπής) immediately, and in the case of her voluntary departure (έκουσ[ίο]υαπαλλαγής) within 30 days of demand. In whatever year the separation 4 Translation based on A.S. Hunt, C.C. Edgar, eds., Select Papyri, Loeb Classical Library; no. 266, 282, 360 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University; London: Heinemann, 1959-70) v. 1. Non-Literary  Papyri: Private Affairs,^. 12-17.  104 TYNDALE BULLETIN 51.2 (2001) (χ]ωρ[ι]σμο[ν]) of the parties to the marriage takes place, the proceeds of the holding for the 12 months of the year of the divorce ([ά]ποπλοκής) shall be divided [more details]. To enforce the terms of the contract WF or, if he is no longer alive, W and those for her shall have the right of  execution upon Η and all his property as if by legal decision. The signatory is WF, Η beingilliterate.  Whenever  a couple lived together  with the intention of  being manand  wife, this constituted a legal marriage. Cicero recounted a case of a Roman citizen who left his pregnant wife in Spain, and set up house with another  woman in Rome without having told his intentions to hisfirst wife. His sudden death and the birth of a son to both womenposed the question as to which son was illegitimate. He considered that though it was not legally  necessary  to give notice of  a divorce, he should have done so. 5 The law continued in this way at least till Diocletian who ruled in AD 294 that 'Even though a bill of  repudiation was not delivered or  known to the husband, the marriage is dissolved.' 6 The reference to previously  living together means that they  previously  had an 'unwritten marriage' (γάμος άγραφος) which is here replaced by a 'written marriage' (γάμοςέγγραφος). A  written contract was usually  entered into when children were born or  when there was a significantvalue of  dowry involved. This was a  widespread practice and an unwritten marriage was not considered less valid or less pious. 7 Termination of a marriage was almost as simple. Either partner  could leave or  be dismissed (depending on who 5 De Oratore I, XL, 183—discussed in A.M. Rabello, 'Divorce of Jews in theRoman Empire', Jewish Law Annual  A (1981) 79-102, esp. p. 80. 6 More examples and references are usefully collected in Craig S. Keener, ...And  Marries  Another: Divorce and  Remarriage in the Teaching of the New Testament  (Peabody  MA: Hendrickson, 1991), p. 51. 7 This is found also outside Egypt, in early 3 rd century Syria (GD204) and early  2 nd century Palestine (JM131). Lewis, who first edited JM131, thought that thisreferred to a minor living with her groom before marriage—Naphtali Lewis, Yigael Yadin, Jonas C. Greenfield, eds., The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period  in the Cave of Letters: Greek Papyri  (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; Hebrew University of Jerusalem: Shrine of the Book, 1989), p. 130. Cotton pointed out that other documents of the same family show that she was not a minor—Hannah M. Cotton, and Ada Yardeni, Aramaic, Hebrew and  Greek  Documentary  Texts from Nahal Hever and Other Sites: With an Appendix Containing Alleged Qumran Texts  (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 27; Oxford,Clarendon, 1997), p. 227. On this subject in general, see Hans Julius Wolff, Written and Unwritten Marriages  in Hellenistic and Postclassical Roman Law  (Philological Monographs of the American Philological Association; no. 9;Haverford, Pa.: American Philological Association, 1939).
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