God’s Words Matter: Consider “not under bondage…”

INTRODUCTION

I do not wish to debate the matter of divorce and remarriage. What I would like to do is highlight the danger of misunderstanding God’s word, His words, and how He forms His (God-breathed) words. The Christian, by God’s grace, should spiritually strive “to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding” [Proverbs 1:2]. When we fail to perceive God’s words, we cannot rightly understand the meaning of His word — i.e. the verses, and passages, containing said words. So please consider:

THE QUOTE

Consider this quote from http://ecclesia.org/truth/divorce.html (emphasis added):

“1 Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under BONDAGE in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Some have tried to use 1 Corinthians 7:15 as a proof-text to teach that remarriage is acceptable for the believer if “willful desertion” has occurred on the part of the unbelieving spouse. Out of poor exegesis, they oddly try and somehow tie 1 Corinthians 7:39 & Romans 7:2-3 to 1 Corinthians 7:15 with the conclusion that the believer is now “free” to remarry and not “under bondage” to a life of singleness as they imagine the text must mean. The problem with this misinterpretation is that “bondage” to a life of singleness and “freedom” to remarry isn’t even Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 7:15.

Let’s briefly look at the Greek text. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul says “A brother or a sister is not under BONDAGE (douloo) in such cases.” He uses completely different words when he is speaking about the aspect of being under “bondage” to one’s partner in marriage in Romans 7:2:

Romans 7:2, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound (deo) by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed (katargeo) from the law of her husband.”

Or by a promise of marriage to one’s betrothed in 1 Corinthians 7:27:

1 Corinthians 7:27, “Art thou bound (deo) unto a wife? seek not to be loosed (luo). Art thou loosed (lusis) from a wife? seek not a wife.”

As we can see, Paul uses a completely different word, douloo, when he refers to the kind of duty or subjection the believer is freed from in 1 Corinthians 7:15. So, then, what is the “bondage” that the believer is “freed” from in 1 Corinthians 7:15?”

THE ERROR

The quoted author makes a very big etymological/grammatical mistake. He argued (emphasis added):

“In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul says “A brother or a sister is not under BONDAGE (DOULOO / G1402) in such cases.” He uses COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORDS when he is speaking about the aspect of being under “bondage” to one’s partner in marriage in Romans 7:2″ AND “As we can see, Paul uses a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORD, DOULOO/G1402, when he refers to the kind of duty or subjection the believer is freed…”

However, consider the nature of the error. The author seems to think that DOULOO is a “completely different word” than DEO. I have come across this “completely different word” argument many times and it never ceases to amaze me. Why? Well consider that:

  1. DOULOO [G1402]: is a masculine noun meaning “to make a slave of, reduce to bondage; metaph. give myself wholly to one’s needs and service, make myself a bondman to him” — this word directly derives from…
  2. DOULOS [G1401]: which is also a masculine noun meaning “a slave, bondman, man of servile condition” — this word directly derives from…
  3. DEO [G1210]: which is the verb form of doulos and douloo. Deo means “to bind, tie, faste, fasten with chains, to throw into chains, to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc; to be bound to one, a wife, a husband; to forbid, prohibit, declare to be illicit.” Clearly, one is made a slave, reduced to bondage, voluntarily becomes a bondman, etc. in light of their being (forcefully, legally, or willingly) bound.

THE LOGICAL QUESTION TO BE ASKED…

How on earth is the masculine noun form of the underlying verb a completely different word than the verb form from whence it is derived? Apart from the obvious grammatical (but not substantive) difference:

  • Is “writer” A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORD than “to write?”
  • Is “bondservant,” “bondage” or “one bound” A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORD than “to bind?”
  • Is the noun “(a) pilot” COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the verb “(to) pilot?”
  • Is the essence of what it means to be a “free man” COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the underlying meaning of the verb “to free” or “to be freed?”

….or is it safe to say that the one implementing the verbal action, or subject to the verbal action, fits under the noun form description of that action? If DEO means to bind, and DOULOUS means “to be bound, as one who is bound” then doesn’t it make sense that DOULOUS, being a derivative of DEO, is directly related to it, and thus, not completely different from it?

CONCLUSION

Far too many people form doctrines, traditions, and commandments of men because they either (a) fail to test their interpretational definitions against the definitions intrinsic to the God-breathed words of God, or else, they (b) haphazardly reference the original words, without following through to verify the actual relationships of the root and derivative words at issue. Either way, no matter which problematic means is employed, the end result is often a contradictory, incoherent, and illogical interpretation — one that is simply not in keeping with the meanings, the definitions, that God has sovereignly chosen to bring about.

So no matter where you stand on the divorce issue, you should at least be able to determine that a close derivative to a root word cannot rightly be deemed a “completely different word” (outside of the clear grammatical aspect) but should be viewed, in essence, as a word that clearly, and coherently, ties-in with its parent. Thus, we are to absolutely understand how the masculine noun DOULOO is to be used based upon the very root verb that gives rise to it; to argue otherwise, at least without some solid, biblical rationale, is not only folly — but potentially harmful to those acting upon said erroneous doctrine or interpretation.

Finally, some may argue against using such means at all (i.e. a lexicon/biblical dictionary), choosing instead to “simply rely upon the Spirit” (to use their common language). To this I say, “fine, whatever you feel most comfortable with and/or deem most right.” However, just keep in mind that though one does not need a lexicon to be brought to truth (spiritually-speaking), in the vast, vast vast majority of cases, God’s truth will mesh (match-up with, not contradict) the very intrinsic meanings that He has sovereignly chosen to give to His God-breathed words. The exceedingly, exceedingly few cases wherein there may be a disconnect between some lexicons, and God’s truth, are most always caused by personal bias over long-contested issues. Said differences tend to tie-in to words like sphere, baptism, and a very small handful of other hotly-disputed terms wherein longstanding bias amongst various camps influence how each defines the terms in dispute. Again, this is exceedingly rare seeing that the overwhelming majority of word definitions are thoroughly and utterly consistent across the most prominent and widely available lexicons — and this consistency matches/reflects their use in Scripture.

So please use means, or do not use means, the choice is yours; but either way, do not play fast, and loose, and irreverent with God’s holy, infallible word… which is made up of His holy and infallible (God-breathed) words.

To God be the glory,

Curt Wildy

A Work in Progress
LAHKnTB

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