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The aim of this explanation of Holy Scripture is to share the more accurate translation of 1 Corinthians 7:1 and how it speaks of the instruction to ‘not touch the opposite gender, except for your spouse, or certain close relatives…’. Such a practice can be deduced from both the Old and New Testaments, and also in both ancient and current Judaism as well.
For reference, the practice to not ‘touch’ is known as Negiah, and is defined for reference in the halakhah (the oral and written torah law combined).
Further, linguistic sightings for the same ancient Greek word rendered ‘touch’ from 1 Corinthians 7:1, will be shown in other verses found in the New Testament from a wide range of translations, to show consistency and that ‘touch’ is a legal translation – despite many other translations not following suite in this particular instance.
1 Corinthians 7:1 KJV and Other Translations
The verse reads as follows;
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1 Corinthians 7:1 KJV [also see NASB]
The NASB translation agrees with the KJV in this instance – however, many other translations will render the ancient Greek word ‘touch’ differently, usually along the lines of ‘sexual relations’;
‘…”It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.“‘
(1 Corinthians 7:1 NIV)
‘…“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”’
(1 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)
Contextual Justification For ‘…touch…’ in 1 Corinthians 7:1
‘Touching’ can lead to such immorality amongst unmarried people, and that is a support for the interpretation.
For reference, verse 2 then goes on to speak of the temptation of sexual immorality, and recommends that if a person burns with passion (v.9) – that believers should marry to avoid sinning;
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV
Verse 3 then goes on to state that physical marital intimacy is not forbidden, and that it is a consensual and considerate thing for each spouse to do, and therefore they should not deny each other of it;
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:3 ESV
With this, the other translations which render verse 1 as ‘sexual relations’ instead of ‘touch’ (KJV/NASB) might appear to a reader as missing the sense and intention of this particular verse.
For sake of transparency, the chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 does indeed come with an exhortation to believers who marry their betrothed, and also to the single believers who do not burn with desire and thus remain single;
So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
1 Corinthians 7:38 ESV
In 1 Corinthians 7:1 KJV, if we review the interlinear text – we see that the word rendered ‘touch’ in the KJV and NASB translations, is the Strong’s Concordance Greek word number 680;
Strong’s G680, is also present in other chapters such as 2 Corinthians 6:17, where the word is also rendered as ‘touch’ – though, in a great number of other translations (e.g. ESV, NIV, OJB, etc.), as well as the KJV and NASB;
Further, in Luke 6:19 the very same Ancient Greek word (G680) is also present and rendered as ‘touch’ as well;
and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Luke 6:19 NIV
With this linguistic support, we can see that in this instance the KJV and NASB translation of 1 Corinthians 7:1 with the word ‘touch’, are perhaps more accurate.
This is also what we find, when further contextual support with regard to social interaction and values is referenced from the Gospel, and the Torah and shared along with the linguistic support (above).
Contextual Support in the Gospel and Torah
Talking to the Opposite Gender – is ‘surprising’
John 4:27 perhaps provides us with a glimpse of ancient social moral expectations for conduct during the second Temple period, with regard to dealing with the opposite gender;
‘Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman…’
(John 4:27 NIV)
Here, we see that even talking with a women who is not a spouse or close relative in ancient times, was a surprising thing to some.
Smiling with the Opposite Gender – is an ‘indicator of marital status’
The torah further shows us that even the act of laughing with a women in public; ‘was seen as a sign that a man is intimate with that women, and thus assumed to be married to her’ – it says;
‘…Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife.9 So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife.…’
(Genesis 26:8-9 ESV)
Further Resources for Consideration
Some other further resources and information on the explanation of Negiah to review, include;
R.Machon Shilo with a video talk on this matter;
Two verses civilly submitted with these resources for consideration are;
‘“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you…’
(Matthew 23:2-3 ESV)
‘…“Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”’
(Matthew 16:6 ESV)
May the Holy G-d bless you beyond maximum, believing in His risen Son the Lord Jesus Christ (Adonai Yehoshua HaMoshiach). Omayn (Amen).