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Community Is a Body: Sex, Marriage, and Metaphor in 1 Corinthians 6:12–7:7 and Ephesians 5:21–33

Jill E. Marshall
Journal of Biblical Literature
Vol. 134, No. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 833-847
DOI: 10.15699/jbl.1344.2015.2889
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15699/jbl.1344.2015.2889
Page Count: 16
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Community Is a Body: Sex, Marriage, and Metaphor in 1 Corinthians 6:12–7:7 and Ephesians 5:21–33
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Abstract

First Corinthians 6:12–7:7 and Eph 5:21–33 present opposing views about the values and dangers of sex and marriage. In 1 Corinthians, sex with outsiders precludes one from unity with the spiritual body of Christ, and marriage is a means to avoid illicit sexuality and to keep from “burning.” In Ephesians, marriage is characterized by hierarchy, yet the husband–wife relationship is analogous to that of Christ and the church. These texts reach their different conclusions even though they share cultural and rhetorical resources: scriptural recitation of Gen 2:24 and the metaphor of the community as a body. This article analyzes the body metaphors in each text, using cognition-based theories of conceptual metaphor and paying attention to how the Genesis recitations function in the metaphor. The analysis demonstrates how marriage and sexuality are topics that the authors use to discuss yet another idea—the spiritual or mysterious union of the community with Christ. This topic, along with the visual potential of the body metaphor, infuses arguments about sexuality and gender with importance beyond issues of family life and reproduction.

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