2 Corinthians 6:14, Be not unequally yoked

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

//Long ago, a minister asked me to explain this verse. Many have used this verse to discourage interfaith marriage or marriage to an unbeliever. I was no minister, so I felt a bit proud to be asked my opinion, but I didn’t have much to say. I think I muttered something about how two people sharing a yoke needed to be working equally hard, or one would hold back the other.

Actually, Paul was referring to the law. Deuteronomy 22:10 reads, Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Why? Because sharing a yoke together would cause both animals discomfort in plowing. It was not that they couldn’t or wouldn’t share the same yoke, but that it would be painful.

Paul’s advice, it seems to me, is not to shun unbelievers as potential partners but to be aware that “plowing the field” together will be a painful process. Doesn’t matter whether you’re the ox or the ass.


  1. From a friend on goodreads, I thought worth sharing here:

    As often happens, Paul, writing to different congregations with different needs, says different things. There is also 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”

  2. Anonymous

    I dunno. I kept reading the verse and it does sound like a prohibition against commingling with nonbelievers. He may be referencing Deuteronomy, but the plain reading of the verse strikes me as a command, not a gentle reminder. Paul is a complex character and has his own personality flaws. We shouldn’t sugarcoat his tough sayings to make him more palatable to progressives.

    • Point well taken. I interpret Paul literally on most hot topics, such as his condemnation of homosexuality, so why am I wimping out and sugarcoating here? You’re right to call me on this.

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