Earlier in the chapter (vv. 8, 9) Paul gave brief advice to the unmarried, which here now, in this text he expands upon. While the meaning, overall teaching, and emphasis of the passage is very clear, there are several exegetical difficulties which become obvious by the way that various Bible versions translate the details of the text.
1) Who are the ‘virgins’ (parthenoi) that the text (vss. 25, 28, 34, 36, 37) refers to?
2) Who are the male counterparts of these virgins (vss. 36-38)?
3) What exactly is the “present distress” of verse 26, which seems to set the context of this advice? Does this refer generally to this Gospel-age between Christ’s ascension and second coming? Or is this a reference to a particular crisis that was going on in Corinth at the time?
Of course our interpretive challenge is once again understood as we realize that we are “reading someone else’s mail,” as it were; and we are not made fully aware of the problems at Corinth as to what was going on, and what were the questions they asked in their letter to Paul. Despite these difficulties, the text drives home some very important points about single and married life and living under the New Covenant. It helps us establish Biblical priorities when it comes to issues of marriage and family. So while the details of the text might indeed be culturally specific, the broad lessons from the text are far reaching and clearly applicable to how we live our lives today.