Question: Why did Paul say that it was not good for a man to touch a woman?

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Question: Why did Paul say that it was not good for a man to touch a woman?

Paul begins verse 1 by quoting a statement that the Corinthians made in their letter to him. His response is to correct the false idea which they have expressed by pointing out the importance of each man having his own wife

The King James Version of 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 reads:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. [1 Corinthians 7:1-2 KJV]

The King James version of this passage is not clear as to who is saying "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." The original Greek for this verse is likewise unclear. However, the translators of the New Jerusalem Bible felt that this must have been a quote from Paul, so they render it, more clearly, as

Now for the questions about which you wrote. Yes, it is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman; yet to avoid immorality every man should have his own wife and every woman her own husband. [1 Cor 7:1-2, NJB]

which indicates that the words advising not to touch a woman are Paul's words in answer to some unspecified question. On the other hand, the English Standard Bible translates the original manuscript as

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. [1 Cor 7:1-2, ESB]

which puts the statement into quotation marks and into the mouths of the Corinthians as part of their previous letter to him. And so Paul’s answer, that “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” represents just the opposite advice from the New Jerusalem Bible. Which translation is correct? Well, Joseph Smith would have sided with the ESB translators, because the Joseph Smith Version has

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me, saying: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. [1 Cor 7:1-2, JSV, emphasis added]

This is not a radical idea. The Cor 7:1 footnote from the New English Translation (NET) Bible reads:

Many recent interpreters believe that here again (as in 6:12-13) Paul cites a slogan the Corinthians apparently used to justify their actions. If this is so, Paul agrees with the slogan in part, but corrects it in the following verses to show how the Corinthians misused the idea to justify abstinence within marriage (cf. 8:1, 4; 10:23). See also G. D. Fee, “1 Corinthians 7:1 in the NIV,” JETS 23 (1980): 307-14.

These translators, along with Joseph Smith, feel that Paul begins verse 1 by quoting a statement that the Corinthians made in their letter to him. His response is to correct the false idea which they (and some modern critics of our doctrine) have expressed by pointing out the importance of each man having his own wife and vice-versa.

Notes