Today we look at one of the special passages of the New Testament, 1st Corinthians 6:12-17. Contained in this passage is one of the most interesting and informative passages in the New Testament, verses 14-16. First, the text:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Pro Tip- Things to keep in mind when looking at this passage: Why did the men at that time visit prostitutes? To have sex, without commitment, without sin. To have sex, because that’s why men go to prostitutes, there is no other reason. Without commitment, because they can have sex with the prostitute (the act of initiating marriage) without getting married. Without sin, because under the Law, there was no prohibition anywhere on a man using the services of a prostitute. Most people don’t know that.
Notice how Paul begins this passage, saying “all things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial.” Paul is, in fact, addressing men who knew that nothing in the Law forbid them from having sex with a prostitute. Seriously, I defy anyone to point to any specific provision in the Law that forbid ordinary sex for money with a prostitute.
Paul goes on to say food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Unspoken? Sex is also a need. We are now seeing Paul set up the contrast between the physical and the spiritual. “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” This is the foundational point on which Paul is about to teach.
“Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” Here we see the beginning of the application. Christ is risen and one day we will be raised through His power. In fact, we are spiritually united with Christ. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” As Christians, our physical selves are spiritually members of the body of Christ. And because we are members of the Body of Christ…
“Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!“
Shall I take the physical which is joined spiritually to Christ, and physically join to a prostitute? It’s a nice play on words, the spiritual member of Christ being joined physically as a member of the prostitute. Paul uses the strongest available negative: “May it never be!”
Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her?
This is the key. The one who joins himself to a prostitute physically becomes one body with her. How? With the act of marriage. What does the act of marriage lead to? The spiritual joining of husband and wife that God does when He makes them one flesh.
Spiritually, you are married to Christ as a member of His body. How then can you engage in the act of becoming one body with a prostitute, an act designed to make the two one flesh? And just to make sure we didn’t miss this point, Paul says “For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.“
Catch that? Paul quoted from Genesis 2:24 and making the point (which he also made in Ephesians 5:30-32) that the one-flesh spiritual union of marriage is the same as the spiritual union the believer has with Christ. When a man joins himself to a prostitute, he engages in a physical act designed to cause God to bind the two together as one flesh. And when a Christian does that, because he is a member of the body of Christ, he brings Christ along for the ride. With a prostitute.
Remember: the men have sex with prostitutes because the entire affair is designed get sex without the sex resulting in marriage. The men are abusing the authority to initiate marriage that was granted to them in Genesis 2:24, which allows a man to have sex with any eligible woman, because that is how a marriage is initiated.
Cows, Milk and Commitment…
A man has the authority to buy as many cows as he can afford, and he seals the deal of buying the cow by milking her. This authority confers on him the right to milk any cow that’s not already owned, otherwise how would he purchase the cow? The world is filled with cows and some have impressive teats. A man can look and even touch up to a point, but he demonstrates that he’s buying the cow by milking her. This situation raises an interesting question. What if a man only wants some milk occasionally, not enough to justify buying a cow? What if he has a cow that’s difficult to milk and occasionally wants to enjoy some fresh milk without fighting for it? These are the sorts of situations in which he really doesn’t want to buy the cow- he just wants the milk. But the act of milking the cow is the act of buying her.
So, is there a way to get the milk without buying the cow? Ask a Jewish lawyer.
The answer to the riddle is the difference between eligible to purchase and available to purchase. The solution is to work out a deal to rent a cow that isn’t for sale. She is eligible to purchase so the man isn’t forbidden to milk her, but even though she is eligible for purchase she isn’t available for purchase. He can’t buy the cow because she isn’t for sale, but he can rent the cow for a certain amount of time and enjoy whatever milk he gets. No matter how hard he milks her, nobody can say he bought her because she’s not for sale.
This is how it works with a prostitute. She is not married (if she was this would be adultery) and not a virgin (otherwise the marriage would be automatic), which means she is eligible to marry. However, in order for a marriage to result from sex with her, she must give her consent to marry. The prostitute isn’t going to give consent because she’s in the business of renting, not selling, so she is not available for marriage. The men want the milk but don’t want the cow. To ensure they don’t have to buy the cow they use a professional who sells her milk for a fee. Paul makes the point that this is an abuse of their authority to marry.
Words Mean Things
I recently had an argument with a Jesuit who was adamant that the “shall cleave” portion of Genesis 2:24 meant “commitment” because the Hebrew word “dabaq” that is translated as “cleave” is used to mean “commit” or “cling to” in every other usage in the Hebrew texts. I disagree with the legitimacy of that assertion, because none of the other uses of the word “dabaq” is used to describe the initiation of marriage. However, it doesn’t matter.
The reason is we don’t need to look at the Hebrew word “dabaq” when used in some other context to try to figure out what it means in the context of initiating a marriage, because Genesis 2:24 is translated into Greek with Apostolic Authority, twice. Once when Christ quoted Genesis 2:24, recorded at Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:8; and again when Paul quoted the same verse at Ephesians 5:31. In both cases they used the Greek word “kollaó“ which means to glue, to unite, to engage in sex.
A Jesuit might say “Just because you found a Greek word used to translate the word “dabaq” and it’s used to mean sex, once, doesn’t mean the “shall cleave” portion of Genesis 2:24 means sex, because it means commitment.” Well, not so fast. Our Jesuit is holding the frame that sex does not and cannot initiate marriage. The problem is, the word “kollaó“ is used in 1st Corinthians 6:16 to specifically describe becoming one body (sex), which leads to God making the two one flesh. If you try to point this out to someone who knows the argument, there will be a barrage of linguistic arguments and they’ll try to convince you that the word “kollaó“ doesn’t mean sex, that it means commitment. When you hear that, just remember why men go to prostitutes: To have sex and avoid commitment.
The issue is resolved with the question: “What specific act does the man engage in to signify his commitment to marry?” The answer is sex. It’s true that a man can agree to a betrothal period and a wedding celebration and publicly take vows of commitment. That, however, isn’t a requirement. It’s actually very similar to joining the military. The first major event is the “swearing in” in which the recruit raises his right hand and takes an oath of commitment and allegiance. And guess what: It’s meaningless in terms of commitment. The recruit isn’t actually on the hook for the terms of the contract until he or she signs the contract. No signature, no contract. So let’s look at how we know that sex is the man’s definitive act of committing to marriage.
Paul used “kollaó“ in verse 16 of 1st Corinthians 6 to describe the act of having sex with a prostitute. That’s the passage we have been looking at and Paul makes it clear that the act of sex is what is meant when the word “kollaó“ is used to translate Genesis 2:24, because he describes sex with a prostitute in the context of initiating marriage and quotes from Genesis 2:24. Paul also makes it clear that “kollaó“ is not the becoming of one flesh, it is the process by which one becomes one flesh.
We are talking about men who are having sex with prostitutes. It is preposterous to claim that Paul is forbidding men from making a commitment to a prostitute. Men do not go to prostitutes to commit, they go to have sex without commitments. As the old saw goes: “You don’t pay an escort to come, you’re paying her to leave when you’re done with her.” So any claim that Paul is talking about anything other than sex with the prostitute is ludicrous.
Again, the men go to prostitutes in order to have sex without the possibility of becoming married. The ONLY purpose of being with a prostitute is sex. And up until Paul wrote these words, there was nothing to prohibit the men from doing so. The man signifies his commitment to marry by having sex, therefore the man is authorized to have sex with any eligible woman. What Paul was pointing to was the fact that the men were intentionally engaging in the act of marriage, knowing they were with a woman who would not consent to marry, in order that they might enjoy the act of sex without being burdened with a marriage. The woman was a prostitute and offered such a service but they didn’t want to marry her and had no intention of marrying her, because she was a prostitute.
Think of this as Paul saying, in effect,
“Look- just because you are not forbidden to do this doesn’t mean it’s beneficial. We all know sex is a need and that’s what those parts of your body and hers are used for, but that’s only temporary because this world is passing away. You are now Christians and your body is holy to the Lord. You may think this is just getting an itch scratched and it isn’t forbidden… but when you “join” yourself with a woman you are engaging in the act of marriage by becoming “one body” with her, the act that causes God to join you as one flesh. For He has said “and the two shall become one flesh.” Do you not understand the spiritual significance of what you are doing? Just because you arranged things so you can have sex without becoming married by doing it with a prostitute, that doesn’t mean this somehow stopped you from becoming one flesh. Even though she is a whore, you are still becoming one body with her when you “join” yourselves in the act of sex and that is the process by which you become one flesh with her; just like when you “join” yourself to Christ you become one spirit with Him. You are part of Christ’s body, so don’t join Christ’s body to a whore!”
[1.] It is true that cult prostitution was forbidden, but cult prostitution was part of idolatry. There is no prohibition on ordinary prostitution anywhere in Scripture and in spite of the prohibition on men using prostitutes in 1st Corinthians 6:15-16, there is no corresponding prohibition on women working as prostitutes.
[2.] It is reasonable to believe that the same word used in the same context in different places all have the same meaning, but Genesis 2:24 is unique in describing the initiation of marriage. The claim it means only commitment without countenancing the proposition that sex is the method that a man uses to signify such commitment (otherwise, why would he do it?) is preposterous.
[3.] Given the beliefs of the early church with respect to sex, it is easy to see how the word “dabaq” would not be interpreted as meaning any reference to sex, even when it was warranted, such as in 1st Kings 11:2, which describes Solomon with his wives (1000 of them). If one strips out the descriptions, the text reads “Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh. Solomon held fast to these in love and his wives turned his heart away.” A far better reading of the text would be “Solomon loved women and took many foreign wives in addition to the daughter of Pharaoh, 1000 in total. Solomon loved having sex with them and they turned his heart away.”
If the text were rendered that way, it would mean the root word “dabaq” (only used three times) was used once to mean clinging with a hungry need, being clung to tenaciously and sandwiched between clinging to and being clung to is the kind of sexual desire characterized by the man with 1000 wives. Taken together, that is a good description of newlyweds.
[4.] Interestingly, this doesn’t change when the person is drafted. The order (court enforceable) that the inductee receives from Selective Service is to report to an induction center. There is no law that requires anyone who reports to the induction center to take an oath of service or to sign the contract to serve, but the oath is always administered first and that oath is used to pressure those who took it to sign the contract. The nature of the system requires consent and consent is not recognized until it has been demonstrated in the proper way. All that said, there is also nothing to prevent them from signing the contract for you.