Breaking up Blues

Let's start by puzzling over a story:
How could she [a budding authoress] justify putting expressions with a modern ring in the mouth of an ancient Greek, except of course as an easy route to a cheap laugh? Here for instance in the stranger's reaction ...

"Odysseus, you say. Now him I have heard of. Right slippery customer from all accounts. Buy a used boat off him and you'd soon have a wet arse. Well, it takes all sorts to make a world, eh? So your lot lost this war then? That's always the way, there's got to be losers and winners. But I'm right glad you and your old father and these good-looking lads here all managed to come off safe and sound."

That bit about buying a used boat bothered her slightly, with its clear reference forward to modern car salesmen. Did this make it unusably anachronistic? On the whole she thought not. The phrase might ring modern, but it wasn't really anachronistic either in content or in concept. The notion of sharp practice was as old as Homer himself. Wasn't there a bit in The Iliad where a Greek warrior spares one of the Trojans he recognizes as a distant relative, then as a token of their kinship offers to exchange armor with him, a noble-seeming gesture until the poet wryly points out that the Greek's gear is a right load of old tin while the gullible Trojan's is all bronze and gold?

As to the objection that this didn't sound like the way an ancient Greek would speak, well of course it didn't! For a start he'd be speaking in ancient Greek. And why that should have to be presented in some version of eighteenth-century poetic diction she couldn't see. It struck her as being as daft as those movies where foreigners allegedly speaking in their own native tongue are made to speak English with a foreign accent.

Reginald Hill, Arms and the Women
Regarding a sermon I heard on being in the pits, well, there are pits and there are pits.
Working-class background. Can't have been easy growing up feeling as you did in a Yorkshire mining village, son of a lurcher-loving, pigeon-fancying father, with the pit gaping at your feet and the only traditional ways out university for the very bright or professional rugby for the very brawny.

You were neither, Edgar, but you found a third way which, though it attracted the contumely of your peers, diverted their suspicion from the truth of you.

      but when you came to man's estate,
      with hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
      'gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate ...
The police.

Were you perhaps still trying to convince yourself that it was, as they used to say, only a phase? That given the right environment you'd wake up one day and say to yourself, what I really fancy is finding a willing lass and giving her a right good shagging?

Or were you looking for a job where most people see only the uniform, never the man?

Reginald Hill, Arms and the Women310
If life is sometimes the pits, then one's having grown up in a mining town, his life work might be in one. Even if he escapes that visible pit, there is the other one.

Once many years ago an international student, a new sister in Christ, from Singapore, confided to me her problem. She was wanting to have a regular marriage and family and all. She was still young, attractive, intelligent. But she had problems relating to men. Something about her temper and how she treated them.

Anyway, seems she accepted Christ here in the U.S. and went to one of the ministries catering to international students. At one point they told her that since Christians are forbidden to marry an unbeliever, she had to break up with her fiancé of nine years. She was unwilling to accept that until they showed her where it said so plainly in the Bible. She was devastated.

I tried to understand her perspective. I studied Chinese for two years and then attended a Chinese church for several. I was pretty much accepted there and understood their culture enough to appreciate their concept of long engagements, and that there was an expectation that the parties would go through with it.

Eventually I started going to mid-week Bible study. We broke down into different language groups, and I went with the native English speakers, which included some sisters from Singapore where they speak the King's English.

As mentioned in my movie review,

Indeed, in First Corinthians, the way is prepared to care about marriage to someone in the world when Paul tells us, I Cor. 3:21-22, "All things are yours; whether ... the world, or things present, or things to come; all are your's." The world being a Christian's can include marriage to an unbeliever. Whether things present, means he was married to her at the time of his conversion to Christ. Whether things to come, means a marriage taking place afterwards, after one had accepted Christ, marriage to an unbeliever. Good background, that.

Paul tells us, I Cor. 7:14a, that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse. I Cor. 7:14b tells us that since the children of a mixed marriage are holy, the marriage itself is clean.

We find in I Cor. 7, where Paul says a widow may marry whomever she will, "only in the Lord" (vs. 39). At first blush it sounds like Paul is saying the widow, and presumably any Christian, must marry only to another Christian. But, no, if you look at it closer, that is not the plain teaching of Paul, like he teaches plainly elsewhere, but a different thought altogether. The reference is to the thought in I Tim. 5:11-12, that a widow remarrying runs the danger of "waxing wanton against Christ," therefore she must marry only in the Lord, meaning not wantonly against Christ, be it to a Christian or no.

In fact the New International Version™ trying to interpret Paul in a way that would discourage mixed marriage, reworks "only in the Lord," to say her intended "must belong to the Lord." That is not the simpler English the NIV™ espouses, but a reworking of the thought to say something Paul did not clearly say in the first place.

In II Corinthians, there's the passage (II Cor. 6:14a) where Paul says, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." He is talking about Christian ministry here, to be sure, and not marriage per se, but as Priscilla and Aquila were a gospel team laboring in the lord, their labor would be covered here.

We take the frame of reference of the guy who decides to get married and his marriage will be sanctified because he is teaming up with a matched Christian worker to be equally yoked together. Since that yoking refers to labor, he is in effect receiving the sanctification as a payment for labor, a penny a day, say. Lends itself to the parable.

The guy who marries another Christian who is not a part of his ministry is the guy who comes along a little later and will labor for whatever degree of sanctification he gets. Then a little later in the day comes the two Christians who marry to live out the relationship between Christ and the church, not in the ministry as such, but doing their share for the Lord. And the last hour of the day comes the Christian who married a non-believer and must live out his Christian life before her or him in hopes it will lead to a conversion.

At the end of the day they all get paid, but payment starts with the last first. Mixed marriage gets complete sanctification in I Cor. 7, but the other marriages referred to in I Cor. 9, get nothing added to the sanctification of the first.

In the parable there is envy on the part of the full day laborer having borne the heat and burden of the day and receiving nothing more than the one who worked but an hour. That heat and burden of the day represents the "trouble in the flesh" that Paul says they who marry will have. Naturally, if one marries an even matchup for Christian labor, it might not be the best matchup in the flesh, but if one expands his selection to include even unbelievers, he might do better in the flesh, provoking envy from the one who had more of a burden. But it' s God's money, sanctification, to dispense with as He pleases, and He's done the equally yoked laborer no wrong in that He sanctified his marriage indeed. It's just that he sanctifies others as well.311

In the Bible study with the Chinese brethren, everyone but I held the philosophy that if mixed marriage were a boat Paul was trying to sell us on its seaworthiness, then every such boat afloat would be seaworthy, but the ones on the shore not. They had Paul portrayed as a precursor of the shady used-car dealer.

Paul presented himself as, (II Cor. 4:2b) "... not handling the word of God deceitfully." We do have an example of deceitful promise, (Gen. 34:13) "And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister." A deceitful handling of the word would have been Paul telling us in I Corinthians that those boats were seaworthy, and then scuttling them in the next epistle. No, it is not Paul handling the word of God deceitfully, but the NIV™.

Take the movie Tristan and Isolde set in the time after the breakup of the Roman empire, before the tribes of Great Britain united, and they were at war with Ireland. In it an Irish princess Isolde secretly nurses a wounded British prince Tristan and they fall in love. She reads to him from a book, (Song of Solomon 8:7) "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned." Later in the story when there develops a conflict between their love and their respective duties, she explains to him that as love is from God, in avoiding it, he can never be content.

As a farm boy when I read Paul, (II Cor. 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..." I understand he's talking about labor, as in yoked oxen, not to involve nonbelievers in the work of the ministry. The Agrarian society influencing Corinth would have understood it this way too. Urbanized modern translators who can't envision working oxen have applied this to marriage, and have paraphrased a widow marrying "only in the Lord" (I Cor. 7:39b) to read that the one she marries "must belong to the Lord" (NIV™). Completely extraneous to the text, and not even simpler English, but expressing their faulty idea in a way the text itself doesn't.

I'm saying God is likely to be very unhappy with this change. Say he gives a widow a love for a man, and he for her, and they want to marry soon, but he isn't prepared to convert. Maybe some day, but not now. Why, these turkey translators have composed a so-called authoritative book saying she is not permitted to marry in the Lord as God intends it to be.

Sure, a widow must marry only in the Lord, but if she has the right priorities and is marrying the one God has given her a love for, then she is marrying in the Lord, but our modern NIV™ doesn't cooperate with her or with God by placing its extrabiblical restriction on her.

We note that if the NIV™ were a used car, it would break down from time to time. When it comes to prayer, only the older versions properly represent the parable of the friend's importunity. We could not make the point (Heb. 13:17) with the NIV™ that our leaders watch for our souls, as the NIV™ does not include soul in that verse.

Would the pits of life not include those unscheduled stops where one's used car breaks down, the one that was bought from that fast talking salesman?


Dating Questions, God's Answers
Questions of Greek scholarship, context, sanctification, dating, God's authority, & authority of the church
Yoked Together in Christian Ministry,
an attempt to sort out the confusion.
KJV | Context | Mixed Marriage
Comparing the KJV with modern English versions; looking at mixed marriage and being unequally yoked in their own contexts; proper handling of the word of God; vulnerability of widows addressed.
Parable of the Laborers
Episcopalians & diversity. Parable of the laborers.
Unequally Yoked Metaphor
"Unequally yoked" metaphor. New translations muddy the waters regarding a widow marrying "only in the Lord."
Holy Seed
Evil report & good report; King James Bible; "unequally yoked" examined; holy seed means sanctified marriage; marrying "only in the Lord"; Christian liberty; Corinthian epistles
Only in the Lord
"Only in the Lord" for a widow's remarriage; application to the times; sanctification of marriage; accuracy of Bible translations.
Breaking Up Blues
Breaking up is the pits.
Missionary Dating
Missionary dating; circular arguments; "expert" disagreeing opinions; Priscilla & Aquila; parallels in the writing of Paul; spread of primitive Christianity; parable of the laborers.
Pauline Triads
Questions from Corinthian cultural framework; the expert's opinions; triads in Paul; courtship.
Expert Opinion
Eureka! An actual "expert;" the Corinthians' perspective; modern framework; Paul's thought.
Note on Paul's Triad
Note on the triad.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2003, 2006, Earl S. Gosnell III Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this study--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted likely has its own copyrights which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a couple sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in notes. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

A half verse scripture quotation taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION™. NIV™. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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Breaking up blues