1 Corinthians 7

Instructions for Relationships

Authority in Marriage

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does (1 Corinthians 7:4).

To “have authority” refers to the right of control. The wife, Paul asserts, does not have the right to withhold herself from her husband; instead, the husband has the right of control over her body. In the same way, using nearly identical language, Paul asserts that the husband does not have the right of control over his own body, but the wife does. The concept is illustrated here by a bust of Claudius, crowned with an oak-leaf diadem as a symbol of his authority.


Let each one remain in the condition in which he was called (1 Corinthians 7:20).

To “remain” is to continue on in the same state. In this context, it speaks of an ease or serenity, not an anxiousness to change. This sculpture of an older woman seated in a relaxed pose illustrates the contentment Paul advocates for all believers, regardless of the state in which they have been called. This sculpture is considered to be a reworking of an original from the classic period in Greece. It was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

The Ruins of Corinth

Let those who make use of the world be as though they did not make full use of it, for the form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).

This statement evidently is an admonition against material excesses in view of the shortness of the time (v. 29). The remains in this photo are all that is left of the theater at Corinth, and it would be barely recognizable were it not for the excavations that have taken place there. This illustrates the deterioration and “passing away” of the things of the world.

A Snare

I say this to help you, not to tangle you in a snare (1 Corinthians 7:35).

The word “snare” refers to a rope or noose used to restrain. This relief shows men catching deer with a net. Several of the men are shown grasping deer by their antlers or heads, an easy way to control them once they have been caught. However, the word “snare” could also refer to a restraint like a halter or bridle on a horse, used to restrain and then direct the animal.

Greco-Roman Marriage Imagery

Let him do what he wants, he is not sinning—let them marry (1 Corinthians 7:36).

Marriage or the marriage relationship was often indicated in Greco-Roman art by the clasping of hands between a man and woman. The terracotta plaque shown here is thought to depict the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, the parents of Achilles in Greek mythology.

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