Scripture contains some amazing context clues that point to its trustworthiness. For example, consider the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Corinthians:
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
1 Corinthians 7:10-12 (ESV)
Paul makes a point of stating that verse 10 is from the Lord. But in the very next statement (verse 12) Paul writes, “I just want to add my thoughts here.” He makes it completely clear that these are not God’s words verbatim. This does not imply that Paul’s words should be deprecated or discredited in any way—quite the opposite. Paul was careful to differentiate that which was directly from God and that which was from Paul. Not exactly the approach of someone who is making things up or playing loose with the facts, is it?
This is not a post about divorce. Divorce has to be considered in the context of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s words here and elsewhere have to be read in context. But what is particularly exciting is the nature of Scripture that is revealed in these verses.
Christians believe that the Bible is the authoritative word of God, holy and inspired. Many of us would add ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’. God communicated through special revelation to inspire 40 authors over 1,600 years to write the 66 books comprising the Holy Bible.
1 Corinthians 7:10-12 gives a clear insight into the inspiration of the Scriptures, and in the trustworthiness of the primary author of the New Testament. Why was it important for Paul to differentiate God’s thoughts from his own? From this text we can conclude that the Bible was not dictated to its authors (although in many places God is quoted directly). Paul, in his careful and precise writing, is communicating both truth and character to his readers. He’s not making this up, and he preserves scriptural integrity with these qualifying statements.
The image above is from the Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350 CE), the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. The Greek words in 1 Corinthians 7:12 under the red line are “I, not the Lord.” The KC with a bar over it is a “nomen sacrum” (indicating a sacred name), and shorthand for “the Lord,” a common practice among ancient scribes. Here “C” represents the “lunate” form of the Greek sigma. This post is not about biblical Greek, but as long as we’re looking under the hood…note that there is almost no punctuation, no letter case differentiation, and no verse numbers (they weren’t added until the 16th century). Still the words that Paul used to honestly communicate his thoughts—and God’s—are unmistakable. Enjoy!