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Revisiting the Issue of the Age for Marriage

Sam Shamoun

This article is intended to provide further confirmation for the arguments that I raised in the following paper. I sought to demonstrate that the Holy Bible presupposes that men and women must have reached an age beyond puberty in order to be mature enough to get married. I will provide further substantiation for this view by citing the blessed Apostle Paul.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses a series of questions which the believers had sent him. One of their questions had to do with the issue of whether it was better to remain celibate or to get married. In addressing these concerns the Apostle mentions the status of virgins, whether it was better for them to remain as they were or not. Here is the verse in question:

“And if any man guesseth himself to be seen foul on his virgin, that she is full waxen [that she is well old] (hyperakmos), and so it behooveth to be done, do she that that she will; she sinneth not, if she be wedded.” 1 Corinthians 7:36 Wycliffe Bible

Note how the following lexical sources define the word hyperakmos:

NAS Exhaustive Concordance

Word Origin
from huper and the same as akmazó
NASB Translation

Thayer’s Lexicon

STRONGS NT 5230: ὑπέρακμος

ὑπέρακμος, ὑπερακμον (Vulg.superadultus);

1. "BEYOND the ἀκμή or BLOOM OF LIFE, PAST PRIME" (Plato, de rep. 5, p. 460 e. ἀῥ οὖν σοι ξυνδοκει μέτριος χρόνος ἀκμῆς τά εἴκοσιν ἔτη γυανικι, ἀνδρί δέ τά τριάκοντα): Eustathius.

2. OVERRIPE, PLUMP AND RIPE (and so in greater danger of defilement): of a virgin (R. V. PAST THE FLOWER OF HER AGE), 1 Corinthians 7:36. (Bible Hub by Biblos; capital emphasis ours)

The point that the blessed Apostle is making here is that it is permissible for male or female virgins that have gone past the age of puberty, and have therefore attained full physical maturity, to marry. In stating this, Paul is presupposing that a person is mature enough to marry when s/he has gone beyond puberty.

We are now going to cite from a variety of translations and commentaries in order to help the readers see that this is precisely Paul’s meaning. 



“But if any man think that it is uncomely for his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them be married.” 1599 Geneva Bible

“But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.” Authorized (King James) Version

“But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.” New King James Version

“But if any man think that he seemeth dishonoured, with regard to his virgin, for that she is above the age, and it must so be: let him do what he will; he sinneth not, if she marry.” Douay-Rheims

“But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemly toward his virgin daughter, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry.” American Standard Version

“But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” New American Standard Bible

“and if any one doth think [it] to be unseemly to his virgin, if she may be beyond the bloom of age, and it ought so to be, what he willeth let him do; he doth not sin -- let him marry.” Young’s Literal Translation

“But if any man thinks that he is behaving inappropriately toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he desires. He doesn’t sin. Let them marry.” World English Bible

“But if any man thinks that he is not acting properly toward and in regard to his virgin [that he is preparing disgrace for her or incurring reproach], in case she is passing the bloom of her youth and if there is need for it, let him do what to him seems right; he does not sin; let them marry.” Amplified Bible

“No father would want to do the wrong thing when his virgin daughter is old enough to get married. If she wants to get married, he isn’t sinning by letting her get married.” Names of God Bible

“But suppose you are engaged to someone old enough to be married, and you want her so much that all you can think about is getting married. Then go ahead and marry. There is nothing wrong with that.” Contemporary English Version

“If a man thinks he is not doing the right thing with the girl he is engaged to, if she is almost past the best age to marry and he feels he should marry her, he should do what he wants. They should get married. It is no sin.” New Century Version

A man might think that he is not doing the right thing with his fiancée. She might be almost past the best age to marry. So he might feel that he should marry her. He should do what he wants. It is no sin for them to get married. Easy-To-Read English

“No father would want to do the wrong thing when his virgin daughter is old enough to get married. If she wants to get married, he isn’t sinning by letting her get married.” GOD’S WORD Translation

“But if any man thinks he is acting improperly toward his virgin, if she is past marriageable age, and so it must be, he can do what he wants. He is not sinning; they can get married.” Holman Christian Standard Bible

“But if anyone thinks he is behaving dishonorably concerning his virgin, if she is past her prime and it ought to be thus, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin. Let them marry.” Lexham English Bible



Unless stated otherwise, all bold emphasis in this section will be ours.

John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible 

By the flower of her age he means the marriageable age. This lawyers define to be from twelve to twenty years of age. Paul points out, in passing, what equity and humanity ought to be exercised by parents, in applying a remedy in that tender and slippery age, when the force of the disease requires it. And it requires to be so. In this clause I understand him as referring to the girl’s infirmity — in the event of her not having the gift of continency; for in that case, necessity constrains her to marry. As to Jerome’s making a handle of the expression sinneth not, for reviling marriage, with a view to its disparagement, as if it were not a praiseworthy action to dispose of a daughter in marriage, it is quite childish. (444) For Paul reckoned it enough to exempt fathers from blame, that they might not reckon it a cruel thing to subject their daughters to the vexations connected with marriage.


Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Holy Bible 

“… In this passage the apostle is commonly supposed to give advice about the disposal of children in marriage, upon the principle of his former determination. In this view the general meaning is plain. It was in that age, and those parts of the world, and especially among the Jews, reckoned a disgrace for a woman to remain unmarried past a certain number of years: it gave a suspicion of somewhat that was not for her reputation… if any man thinks he behaves unhandsomely towards his daughter, and that it is not for her credit to remain unmarried, when she is of full age, and that upon this principle it is needful to dispose of her in marriage, he may use his pleasure. It is no sin in him to dispose of her to a suitable mate. But if a man has determined in himself to keep her a virgin, and stands to this determination, and is under no necessity to dispose of her in marriage, but is at liberty, with her consent, to pursue his purpose, he does well in keeping her a virgin. In short, he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that keeps her single, if she can be easy and innocent in such a state, does what is better; that is, more convenient for her in the present state of things, if not at all times and seasons… Note, 1. Children should be at the disposal of their parents, and not dispose of themselves in marriage. Yet, 2. Parents should consult their children's inclinations, both to marriage in general and to the person in particular, and not reckon they have uncontrollable power to do with them, and dictate to them, as they please. 3. It is our duty not only to consider what is lawful, but in many cases, at least, what is fit to be done, before we do it… But I think the apostle is here continuing his former discourse, and advising unmarried persons, who are at their own disposal, what to do, the man's virgin being meant of his virginity… seems to be rather meant of preserving his own virginity than keeping his daughter a virgin, though it be altogether uncommon to use the word in this sense. Several other reasons may be seen in Locke and Whitby, by those who will consult them. And it was a common matter of reproach among Jews and civilized heathens, for a man to continue single beyond such a term of years, though all did not agree in limiting the single life to the same term. The general meaning of the apostle is the same, that it was no sin to marry, if a man thought there was a necessity upon, to avoid popular reproach, much less to avoid the hurrying fervours of lust. But he that was in his own power, stood firm in his purpose, and found himself under no necessity to marry, would, at that season, and in the circumstances of Christians at that time, at least, make a choice every way most for his own conveniency, ease, and advantage, as to his spiritual concerns. And it is highly expedient, if not a duty, for Christians to be guided by such a consideration.”


John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible 

If she pass the flower of her age; that is, one that is arrived to years of maturity, is ripe for marriage, and is what the Jewish doctors call בגרת; who, according to them, was one of twelve years and a half oldF20, at which age virgins were judged fit to marry: hence that saying of theirsF21.

"if thy daughter, בגרה, "is ripe", or come to the flower of her age, make thy servant free and give her to him.'

Moreover, according to their canons, such an one was no longer under her father's power; for so runs the canonF23,

"hrgbv Nwyk "when she is at the flower of her age", she is no more under her father's power:'

her father cannot make void her vows, though a husband canF24:

and need so require: that she be given in marriage to a man; if she has not the gift of continence; if she is in danger of falling into the sin of fornication, and the father or guardian are sensible of this:


Albert Barne’s Notes on the Whole Bible

Toward his virgin - His daughter, or his ward, or any unmarried female committed to his care.

If she pass the flower of her age - If she pass the marriageable age and remains unmarried. It is well known that in the east it was regarded as especially dishonorable to remain unmarried; and the authority of a father, therefore, might be the means of involving his daughter in shame and disgrace. When this would be the case, it would be wrong to prohibit her marriage.

And need so require - And she ought to be allowed to marry. If it will promote her happiness, and if she would be unhappy, and regarded as dishonored, if she remained in a state of celibacy.


Adam Clarke Commentary 

I speak this by permission, etc. - It was a constant custom of the more conscientious rabbins, to make a difference between the things which they enjoined on their own judgment, and those which they built on the authority of the law. Thus Rabbi Tancum: “The washing of hands before meat is in our own power; washing after meat is commanded.” In relation to this point Dr. Lightfoot produces some examples from the Jewish writers: “The man is commanded concerning begetting and multiplying, but not the woman. And when does the man come under this command? From the age of sixteen or seventeen years; but, if he exceeds twenty years without marrying, behold he violates and renders an affirmative precept vain. The Gemara says: It is forbidden a man to be without a wife; because it is written, It is not good for man to be alone. And whosoever gives not himself to generation and multiplying is all one with a murderer: he is as though he diminished from the image of God, etc.” We may understand the apostle here as saying that the directions already given were from his own judgment, and not from any Divine inspiration; and we may take it for granted that where he does not make this observation he is writing under the immediate afflatus of the Holy Spirit…

It is generally supposed that these three verses relate to virgins under the power of parents and guardians and the usual inference is, that children are to be disposed of in marriage by the parents, guardians, etc. Now this may be true, but it has no foundation in the text, for τηρειν την ἑαυτου παρθενον is not to keep his daughter‘s, but his own virginity, or rather his purpose of virginity; for, as Phavorinus says, He is called a virgin who freely gives himself up to the Lord, renouncing matrimony, and preferring a life spent in continency. And that this must be the true import of these words appears from this consideration, that this depends upon the purpose of his own heart, and the power he has over his own will, and the no necessity arising from himself to change this purpose. Whereas the keeping a daughter unmarried depends not on these conditions on her father‘s part but on her own; for, let her have a necessity, and surely the apostle would not advise the father to keep her a virgin, because he had determined so to do; nor could there be any doubt whether the father had power over his own will or not, when no necessity lay upon him to betroth his virgin. The Greek runs to this sense: if he had stood already firm in his heart, finding no necessity, viz. to change his purpose; and hath power over his own will, not to marry; finding himself able to persist in the resolution he had made to keep his virginity, he does well to continue a virgin: and then the phrase, if any man think he behaves himself unseemly towards his virgin, if it be over-aged, and thinks he ought rather to join in marriage, refers to the opinions both of Jews and Gentiles that all ought to marry. The Jews say that the time of marriage is from 16 or 17 to 20; while some of the Gentiles specify from 30 to 35. If any think thus, says the apostle, let them do what they will, they sin not: let them marry. And then he concludes with those words applied to both cases: so then, both he that marries doeth well, and he that marries not, doeth better.

This last opinion seems to be the true sense of the apostle.

It may be necessary to make a few general observations on these verses, summing up what has been said.

1. Παρθενος here should be considered as implying not a virgin, but the state of virginity or celibacy.

2. Ὑπερακμος , over-aged, must refer to the passing of that time in which both the laws and customs of Jews and Gentiles required men to marry. See above, and see the note on 1 Corinthians 7:6.


Henry Alford’s Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary 

virgin daughter (viz. in setting before her a temptation to sin with her lover, or at least, bringing on her the imputation of it, by withholding his consent to her marriage. Or the reference may be to the supposed disgrace of having an unmarried daughter in his house), if she be of full age (for before that the imputation and the danger consequent on preventing the marriage would not be such as to bring in the ἀσχημοσύνη.

The ἀκμή of woman is defined by Plato, Rep. v. p. 460, to be twenty years, that of man thirty. See Stanley’s note [and ref. Sir.]), and thus it must be (i.e. and there is no help for it,—they are bent on it beyond the power of dissuasion:—depends not on ἐάν, as the indic. shews, but on εἰ. οὕτως, viz. that they must marry.


Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 

uncomely — is not treating his daughter well in leaving her unmarried beyond the flower of her age, and thus debarring her from the lawful gratification of her natural feeling as a marriageable woman.

need so require — if the exigencies of the case require it; namely, regard to the feelings and welfare of his daughter. Opposed to “having no necessity” (1 Corinthians 7:37).

let them marry — the daughter and her suitor.


A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament 

If she be past the flower of her age (εαν ηι υπερακμος — ean ēi huperakmos). Old word, only here in N.T., from υπερ — huper (over) and ακμη — akmē (prime or bloom of life), past the bloom of youth, superadultus (Vulgate). Compound adjective with feminine form like masculine. Apparently the Corinthians had asked Paul about the duty of a father towards his daughter old enough to marry.

If need so requireth (και ουτως οπειλει γινεσται — kai houtōs opheilei ginesthai). “And it ought to happen.” Paul has discussed the problem of marriage for virgins on the grounds of expediency. Now he faces the question where the daughter wishes to marry and there is no serious objection to it. The father is advised to consent. Roman and Greek fathers had the control of the marriage of their daughters. “My marriage is my father‘s care; it is not for me to decide about that” (Hermione in Euripides‘ Andromache, 987).


John MacArthur

“In Jewish culture, parents, and particularly fathers, had long had a dominant role in deciding whom their children would marry. The same general custom prevailed in many ancient societies, including that of Rome. Some historians credit Rome's decline in part to the weakening of the family caused by loss of parental control in arranging marriages. In New Testament times the arranged marriage, especially for young people, was the norm.

“In light of the extant teaching about the advantages of singleness, some of the fathers in Corinth apparently had dedicated their young daughters to the Lord as permanent virgins. But when the daughters BECAME OF MARRIAGEABLE AGE, many of them no doubt wanted to be married, and their fathers were in a quandary. Should they break the vow they made for the girl? It is likely that many of the girls did not have the gift of singleness and were struggling with their desire to get married and their desire to please their fathers and the Lord. The problem was among those mentioned in the church's letter to Paul (7:1).

“After all, it was a vow made for someone else and was therefore subject to that person's spiritual needs. If she should be of FULL AGE, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. Just as unmarried people themselves are under no restraint (v. 35) and do not commit sin by marrying (v. 28), neither does a father who has made a vow do wrong by changing his mind. His making the vow is good; but if his daughter is not able or inclined to follow it, both she and her father are free to do as they wish. If it must be so indicates that she really is resigned for marriage, and the father should allow it.

“But if the father stands firm in his heart, that is, does not change his mind about the promise; and is under no constraint by the daughter to change his mind; and has a good and pure motive (has authority over his own will) and is deeply committed (decided this in his own heart); he may keep his own virgin daughter. Constraint is better translated "necessity," referring to the daughter's necessity to get married (cf. "if it must be so," v. 36). Only the daughter's unwillingness to keep the vow should cause the father to change his mind. His steadfastness in his vow will encourage his daughter to be steadfast in hers. In doing that he will do well.

“Paul repeats the option: So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better. As with the single themselves (v. 28), the choice is not between right and wrong but between good (well) and better.” (MacArthur, The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians [Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 1984], pp. 185-186; capital and underline emphasis ours; bold emphasis in the original)


William MacDonald

7:36 Verses 36-38 are perhaps the most misunderstood verses in this chapter, and perhaps in the entire Epistle. The common explanation is this: In Paul’s day a man exercised rigid control over his home. It was up to him whether his daughters married or not. They could not do so without his permission. Thus these verses are taken to mean that if a man refuses to allow his daughters to marry, that is a good thing, but if he allows them to marry, then he is not sinning.

Such an interpretation seems almost meaningless as far as instruction for the people of God in this day is concerned. The interpretation does not fit in with the context of the rest of the chapter, and seems hopelessly confusing.

The RSV translates virgin as “betrothed.” The thought would then be that if a man marries his betrothed or fiancée, he does not sin; but if he refrains from marrying her, it is better. Such a view is loaded with difficulties.    

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians William Kelly presents an alternate view which seems to have great merit. Kelly believes that the word virgin (parthenos) may also be translated “virginity.” Thus the passage is not speaking about a man’s virgin daughters, but about his own virginity. According to this interpretation, the passage is saying that if a man maintains the unmarried state he does well, but if he decides to get married, he does not sin.

John Nelson Darby adopts this same interpretation in his New Translation:

But if any one think that he behaves unseemly to his virginity, if he be beyond the flower of his age, and so it must be, let him do what he will, he does not sin: let them marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, having no need, but has authority over his own will, and has judged this in his heart to keep his own virginity, he does well. So that he that marries himself does well; and he that does not marry does better.

Looking at verse 36 in greater detail then, we take it as meaning that if a man has come TO FULL MANHOOD, and if he does not feel that he has the gift of continence, he does not sin in marrying. He feels that the need requires him to do so, and so he should do what he wishes in this case, that is, get married. (MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, edited by Art Farstad [Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., Nashville, TN 1989], p. 1771; capital and underline emphasis ours, bold emphasis in the original)


W. Harold Mare

36 Paul now turns to teaching about virgins OF MARRIAGEABLE AGE, insisting that they must be treated honorably, whether they become married or not. Who is meant by “he” in this verse, the father of the virgin or the man who is engaged to her? Both have been suggested, for in ancient times a father arranged for his daughter’s marriage. But more likely “he” refers to the man considering the possibility of marrying his fiancée. Paul is teaching that if the situation in Corinth seems unfair to a particular virgin and especially IF SHE IS PASSING HER PRIME MARRIAGEABLE YEARS, then the fiancé should go ahead and marry her. There is no sin in their getting married. (Mare, “1 Corinthians,” Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: An Abridgement of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III (consulting editors) [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], Volume 2: The New Testament, p. 629; capital emphasis ours; bold emphasis in the original)


Concluding Remarks

No matter what particular view one happens to take, i.e. whether the verse is speaking of a father pledging to keep his virgin daughters unmarried, or a fiancée deciding that it is better not to marry his betrothed virgin, or a man vowing to remain in his virginity, one thing is clear from the context. Paul, and the folks that he was writing to, presupposed that a person had to become ripened before s/he could be considered physically mature and old enough for marriage. Both the Apostle and his audience believed that this took place at some point after puberty, as implied by the word hyperakmos. As such, Paul’s inspired instructions not only confirm the points I made in my previous article, they also provide further evidence that Muhammad was a false prophet for going against the commands and suggestions of the true prophets and messengers of God. Instead of following the example of God’s inspired emissaries that came before him concerning such issues as the age of marriage, Muhammad decided to not only permit men to wed young immature minors (cf. Q. 65:4), but he also went ahead and married a 9 year old girl whom the Islamic traditions say was still playing with her dolls and on swings! To make matters worse, Muhammad was 54 years old when he did this, exactly six times her age which made him old enough to be her great grandfather!

In light of this, Muslims need to face reality and come to grips with the fact that Muhammad was a false prophet whose teachings and actions have brought greater harm and destruction than good, including untold pain and suffering to women in general and to young girls in particular. The time has come for Muslims to turn their backs on this false prophet and turn to the risen Lord and living Savior, Jesus Christ, who is their only hope of salvation. 


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