The spread of usage on verse one of chapter seven is set between the ends of the continuum – from “touching/fondling” to “marry”. Touch is used 15 times and marry is used 5 times out of 25 translations. The question we have to ask ourselves is which is more natural? Which is the most likely sense Paul chose? What do you think the question was that the Corinthians asked on this topic? Two translations have taken a guess at what the question was that was asked.
(MSG) Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?
(CEV) Now I will answer the questions that you asked in your letter. You asked, "Is it best for people not to marry?"
The Corinthians question was clearly disparaging of marriage and asking about some aspect of sexual freedom.
In my opinion it makes far more sense for the meaning to be “touch” than it does “marry”. Contrary to the opinion of some, Paul is not putting down marriage. He is realistically balancing it against the nature of the world surrounding the Corinthian church. He is effectively saying rather than touch a woman and ignite passion it is better for you to marry, i.e. commit to a long term relationship. Don’t get into petting, touching and fondling, but rather marry. Save yourself for marriage. Given the sexual freedom that surrounded the Corinthian church, this makes far more sense.
I personally think the earlier translation tended to choose the “marry” end of the spectrum because of prudishness. It was a little too forward and improper back then to suggest the Bible might talk about petting or fondling. The later translations tend to opt for the touching sense. There are many places where the Bible language is very earthy. Very straight and to the point. It is not wrong to come straight out and say it. It saves beating around the bush and not broaching the subject. Paul is very forthright when he needs to be.
Of course God is alive. We just talked. Ian
If God is your co-pilot; swap seats. Ian