Questions From Readers
● What did the apostle Paul mean when, in discussing marriage, he spoke of being “past the bloom of youth”?
Basically he was referring to being past the time when one’s sexual desire has first bloomed or become strong.
At 1 Corinthians 7:36 we read: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth,* and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” This counsel can be best appreciated in the light of the context.
Paul had just pointed out that an unmarried Christian is free of the anxieties that go with being married. Thus he or she can give attention to “the Lord without distraction.” (1 Cor. 7:32-35) However, with some single persons their passionate desire might put them under dangerous strains and temptations. For those it would be “better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” (1 Cor. 7:9) But Paul pointed out that there was a factor to consider before deciding that this was one’s situation and that one should marry.
Perhaps one’s desire is merely the first surge or blooming of sexual passion, which one might be able to control and remain single without ‘burning’ or ‘being inflamed’ with passion. Paul understood that as a boy or a girl passes puberty a natural sexual desire begins to grow. As one becomes an adult this desire can seem quite compelling. Self-control is needed. Yet, instead of one’s quickly concluding that having a sexual urge means that one definitely would be better off married, time might show that the Christian could make a success of singleness without being tormented by desire.
So Paul was advising one to consider his or her situation and circumstances. If one was past the initial surge of desire and yet passion continued to be a problem, “let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” But if one’s sexual desire was “past the bloom of youth” and one was not constantly troubled by passion, then one might be able to remain single; one in that situation who resolved in his heart to continue single would do better.—1 Cor. 7:37, 38.
This inspired counsel certainly contains food for thought for young persons. For if a person marries just as soon as his or her sexual desire ‘blooms’ or becomes strong, it might well be that a surge of passion is the dominant influence in determining when to marry and whom to marry. But when one is past the period of the primary surge of desire, one is in position to evaluate more objectively one’s feelings and situation in life.
Further, in most societies today teen-age marriages are marked by an unusually high incidence of unhappiness, failure and divorce. Often those who marry young have been unduly influenced by romanticism and their still-developing physical desire. In many cases they have not yet developed the qualities that contribute to a successful marriage, such as self-control. (2 Pet. 1:5-8; Gal. 5:22, 23) So is it not more likely that a young man or woman who has, over a period of time, shown self-control of physical desire will be able to display this and other fine qualities in marriage?
● Do lewd practices on the part of a married person toward that one’s own mate constitute a Scriptural basis for the offended mate to get a divorce?
There are times when lewd practices within the marriage arrangement would provide a basis for a Scriptural divorce. Of course, the Holy Scriptures do not encourage divorce nor do they command the innocent party to divorce a mate who engages in adultery or gross sexual perversion.
Regarding divorce, Jesus Christ stated: “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9) “Everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of fornication, makes her a subject for adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”—Matt. 5:32.
Thus “fornication” is set forth as the only ground for divorce. In the common Greek in which Jesus’ words are recorded, the term “fornication” is por·neiʹa, which designates all forms of immoral sexual relations, perversions and lewd practices such as might be carried on in a house of prostitution, including oral and anal copulation.
As to Jesus’ statements about divorce, they do not specify with whom the “fornication” or por·neiʹa is practiced. They leave the matter open. That por·neiʹa can rightly be considered as including perversions within the marriage arrangement is seen in that the man who forces his wife to have unnatural sex relations with him in effect “prostitutes” or “debauches” her. This makes him guilty of por·neiʹa, for the related Greek verb por·neuʹo means “to prostitute, debauch.”
Hence, circumstances could arise that would make lewd practices of a married person toward that one’s marriage mate a Scriptural basis for divorce. For example, a wife may do what she reasonably can to prevent her husband from forcing upon her perversions such as are carried on in a brothel. Yet, due to his greater strength, he might overpower her and use her for perverted sex. So as not to be prostituted in this way at another time, a Christian wife may decide to get a divorce. She could establish with the congregation that the real reason for this is por·neiʹa and then proceed to get a legal divorce on any truthful grounds acceptable to the courts of the land.
If, on the other hand, the lewd practices were engaged in by mutual consent, neither mate would have a basis for claiming por·neiʹa as a Scriptural ground for divorce. This is so because neither party is innocent and seeking freedom from a mate guilty of por·neiʹa. Both marriage partners are guilty. Such a case, if brought to the attention of elders in the congregation, would be handled like any other serious wrongdoing.
The Greek word here translated “past the bloom of youth” is hyperakmos, from hyper (beyond) and akme (highest point or full bloom of a flower).