This is the first of two posts on the subject of divorce and re-marriage. More than ever these two issues are relevant given the reductionist view of marriage in our culture and the divorce rate in our country. Part 2 will compare Paul’s understanding with that of Jesus’, summarize the results, and offer possible implications.

The majority of these findings come from Divorce and Remarriage: Recovering the Biblical View (now updated and re-published), by William F. Luck. For an equally important treatment, refer to Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, by David Instone-Brewer. Also, sincere appreciation goes to my good friend Louis McBride who not only sat under Bill Luck at Moody Bible Institute, but helped me think deeply about much of this material.

Despite some teaching in churches today, this series suggests that both Jesus and Paul permitted divorce and re-marriage under certain conditions. The following brief study will address important questions that are not typically taken into account on a more traditional view and challenge that view where necessary. Advisement: Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it is strongly suggested that prayerful and biblically responsible consideration be given to this study before reaching any conclusions.

Why Has Remarriage Traditionally Been Understood As Adultery?
Typically, prohibition against remarriage rests on two main arguments:

  1. Marriage is permanent.
  2. Divorce does not dissolve the original marriage, hence subsequent remarriages are adulterous.

It is important at the outset to define “marriage” and “adultery.” Marriage, at minimum, is a bilateral covenant; a contract or agreement between two persons to uphold their end of the covenant. It entails three bonds or unions between a man and a woman, that are to be secured in systematically and in orderly fashion. Getting these out of order has and will continue to hinder or severely damage any relationship.

  1. Moral bond = the relationship of unconditional love and life-long commitment to the opposite partner. This is the metaphysical relationship between a man and woman. In Jewish culture it occurs at the betrothal stage. A biblical example would be Joseph who is said to want to divorce Mary while still pledged to be married (Mt. 1:18-19).
  2. Legal/Social bond = The public ceremony that was officiated by community elders/certified licensed officials.
  3. Sexual/One-flesh bond = This is the sexual union between man and woman. It is not some mystical union whereby the identity of one covenant member becomes lost in the other.

Adultery is marital unfaithfulness. This may or may not take the form of sexual unfaithfulness. Hence, there is sexual and non-sexual adultery. Physical abuse, for example, is a form of non-sexual adultery (see, Ex. 21:10 for essential responsibilities of the husband). Jer. 3:1-10 is an example of non-sexual adultery where Israel commits adultery against God by worshiping idols.

What Does “one flesh” Mean?
The expression, “one flesh” is used nowhere else in the Old Testament except Gen. 2:24. It is used in the New Testament in three places (Mt.19:5; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31).

  • Mt. 19:5, 6 – Jesus quotes Gen. 2:24. He explains “one flesh” constitutes a social unit that ought not be broken. But, if the marriage ought not be broken, this implies that it could. It is possible for the bond, moral, legal, and physical, to be broken. Therefore, there is nothing intrinsically permanent to the marriage covenant itself. The permanence is one of intent, not of fact.
  • 1 Cor. 6:16 – if “one flesh” is synonymous with the marriage bond, then how do we explain Paul’s use of it as a sexual bond outside of marriage? In this passage, “one flesh” was intended to be used to constitute the illegitimate physical union between a man and a woman, hence Paul’s command to “flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). Being physically united to another without a commitment to that person is considered treason in God’s moral order.
  • Eph. 5:31 – Paul cites Gen. 2:24 in the context of the Church’s relationship with Christ and the husband’s relationship with his wife. Just as Christ cares for his Church, so too the husband is to care for his wife. The union between the husband and wife is similar to the union between Christ and his Church, but it is not the same. For example, there is no explicit indication in the analogy regarding the duration of the union. Dissimilarities in the analogy include:
  1. The husband is not the savior of the wife
  2. The husband is not the sanctifier of the wife
  3. The union between Christ and the Church is unilateral (conditioned upon one party, namely, God), whereas the union between husband and wife is bilateral (conditioned upon two parties).

Therefore, an analogy should never be used to illustrate more than one point. In Ephesians 5, Paul is simply saying that the husband must sacrificially love his wife just as Christ sacrificially loved the Church. That Paul goes on to expound a bit on Christ and the Church is due to his high Christology. He’s not intending to teach more than one point to the husband.

Does “cleave” (NASB) or “united” (NIV) Imply Permanence?
Some (e.g., J. Carl Laney, The Divorce Myth, 1981 and Paul E. Steele and Charles C. Ryrie, Meant to Last, 1983) suggest this term, as used in the OT, implies permanence. However, consider the following:

  • Regarding “cleaving”: The word is used of dirt clods sticking together in the rain (Job 38:38) and of Israel’s alliance with the people of Canaan (Josh. 23:12). In Job, the point is not to demonstrate the permanence of dirt clods but the mighty acts of God in designing weather patterns. So, it’s a major leap to go from mud to marriage! Joshua actually indicates that the alliance is not permanent. The context is prohibiting alliances with pagan nations. And the history of Israel clearly shows that this prohibition was not heeded. Did God see these alliances as permanent? Obviously not. The prophets, who are inspired by God, are continually calling Israel to break off such cleavings and return to God. Here is a case where cleaving is immoral and leaving is the order of the day!
  • In Mt. 19:5, 6 – Jesus is stressing the importance of men keeping their end of the bargain in the marriage covenant. Jesus never said it was impossible for the covenant to be broken. He only addresses the morality of keeping the covenant, not its duration. That a marriage ought to be life-long is not the same as saying it is life-long.
  • 1 Cor. 6:16 – Paul admonishes the Corinthian men to break off relationships with temple prostitutes, which necessarily presuppose a temporary relationship. Who, in their right psychological mind, would think of anyone being permanently bound to a sexual partner from their past? Although our therapeutic age may capatalize on such notions, there’s no biblical warrant for this whatsoever.

Is the Marriage Relationship Really Permanent?
If the marriage union entails some inseparable, mystical union between two souls that lasts indefinitely, then how do we explain Jesus’ teaching in Mk. 12:25 that the marriage union does not extend beyond the grave? Could it be that the marriage union was intended, by design, to be temporary? Life-long and not eternal?

What is lost in a marriage is not individuality but independence. Members of a Christian marriage covenant are two distinct individuals that make up a team or unit who have chosen to live dependently upon each other under the headship of Jesus Christ.

What About the “Certificate of Divorce” in Deuteronomy 24:1-4?
This passage is explaining an aspect of stealing. Here Moses is charging that the man who has stolen the woman’s dignity by illegitimately divorcing her does not have the right to have her back. This passage does not say:

  • The woman cannot remarry another.
  • The first husband cannot remarry someone else.

The divorce legislation of Deut. 24:1-4 falls within a larger pericope beginning at 23:15 and ending at 24:7, in which we find Moses’ explication on the 8th commandment (namely, prohibition against stealing). This is not to say that marriage partners are mere property or chattel, but more in the spirit of “belonging” (e.g., Song of Songs 2:16). It is possible, therefore, that 24:1-4 is explaining an aspect of stealing whereby the man who has stolen the woman’s dignity by illegitimately divorcing her does not have the right to have her back.

Deut. 24:4 could read “since she has been made to declare herself defiled.” Note the reflexive passive form of the Hebrew Hothpa’el, possibly meaning that the divorce legislation is a provision for the woman to remarry and she is not responsible for her own defilement. Naturally, the fact that the verb “defiled” is a hapax legomenon (one-time occurrence) doesn’t help with any type of dogmatic conclusion, but the Hothpa’el form with the once-only “defiled” is strange. Could it be that Moses went out of his way to make this verb unusual?

Practically speaking, although the stigma of defilement is upon the woman, she may very well be the innocent party in an unjustifiable divorce by the hardness of the man (much in the way that the stigma of a raped woman is more a reflection upon the rapist rather than upon her). Hence, the stigma of defilement (stolen dignity?) in Deut. 24:1-4 does not carry with it the burden of moral guilt upon the woman nor her subsequent remarriage. Therefore, the legislation of divorce in Deut. 24:1-4 could be seen as a provision for the innocent woman, wrongly divorced by her first husband, to remarry (This comports with 1 Cor. 7:15ff.).

Is There a Legitimate Biblical Example of Divorce?
In Ezra 9-10 we find a kind of spiritual apostasy of God’s Remnant who had intermarried with their pagan neighbors. Ezra, taking Shecaniah’s counsel, put all of Israel under oath to do “God’s will” (10:11) and separate themselves from their foreign (spiritually, that is) wives; the high-level principle being that intentional interfaith marriages compromise the believer’s walk and invites disaster into the kingdom of God (cf., perhaps 2 Cor. 6:14 for the corresponding NT application). Scripture does have at least one example that presents divorce as an act of obedience. This seriously complicates the equation of the doctrine of divorce and remarriage. In this passage we find that divorce is the morally proper corrective for spiritual apostasy. However, whether this is a precedent to follow is not clear and application of Ezra 9-10 is tenuous at best.

Jer. 3:1-10 records a different kind of adultery and divorce. God divorces “faithless Israel” due to her repeated spiritual idolatries, which is tantamount to moral adultery. Hence, Scripture speaks of adultery in a variety of ways: moral, physical, as well as sexual. Obviously, there was no sexual adultery between the Northern Kingdom and its “foreign gods” (v. 13). Rather there was a moral adultery involved, which invoked God’s discipline of divorce (v. 8). A spouse can be an adulterer(ess) without being physical with another (see, Mt. 5:28). While Ezra 9-10 (see above) is an instance of divorce as a form of obedience, Jeremiah demonstrates divorce as a form of discipline.

Part 2 asking “Is Paul’s Teaching Consistent with Jesus?” can be found here.


  1. You can find more information on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage at:

    Marriage is for Life!

    “A wife is married to her husband as long as he lives.”
    1 Corinthians 7:39

    Marriage = A Covenant Between One Man And One Woman…Until Death

    “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.” —Jesus Christ
    Luke 16:18

    Divorce + Remarriage = Adultery

    “A husband must not divorce his wife.”
    1 Corinthians 7:11

    “Let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”
    Malachi 2:15

    “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
    Exodus 20:14

    “Marriage is to be held in honor among all and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
    Hebrews 13:4

    “The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul.”
    Proverbs 6:32

    “Do not be deceived…adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
    1 Corinthians 6:9

  2. Dear “Search Your Bible”
    I have “searched my Bible” and my findings are posted here.
    Thanks for reading!

  3. Paul,
    Greetings. Much has happened since you, Louis, and I met together. Write me at my email address and I’ll update you. Bill Heth has changed his view to one much more moderate and Carl Laney (Divorce Myth) and I have become good Christian brothers to each other…writing back and forth on divorce and remarriage and finding much in common. I have a nearly 100 slide PowerPoint presentation on divorce and remarriage that goes beyond the book, and a case study book coming out (co-written with a Christian clinical psychologist, Dennis Gibson–20 cases, covering most issues).
    Bill Luck

  4. It’s interesting that you speak of Moody Bible Institute. R.A Torrey addressed this issue in his book on prayer. He said that divorce was a form of LEGALIZED adultery and that those who remarried were living with other people’s spouses. Wonder what he would think of the teachings coming out of Moody Bible Institute today? I’m sure he would be quite grieved at the way people are twisting God’s Word to support sin.

  5. I’d like to see more lexical support on this statement: “Adultery is marital unfaithfulness. This may or may not take the form of sexual unfaithfulness. Hence, there is sexual and non-sexual adultery.”

    If the conclusion will be sound, the premises must also be sound. I’m unconvinced on this point. Could you shed some more light on this for me?

  6. Greetings and thanks for your question.

    I’m currently away from my lexicons, but if memory serves me rightly, the Septuagint repeatedly translates Jeremiah 3:8-9 using πορνεια to define Israel’s unfaithfulness (browse here for LXX). As mentioned, clearly there is no sexual sin involved between Israel and God, but their unfaithfulness to God in idolatry is well recorded, of which “adultery” is the charge.

    Does this help?

  7. Thanks for the quick answer, Paul.

    I had always thought that the charge of adultery against Israel was hyperbole, for lack of a better word (I’m struggling to express today).

    Isn’t this similar to what James does in 4:4? He uses the vocative and calls the believers adultresses (moixalides) for their friendship with the world.

    I see both of these as “shock and awe,” likening their spiritual choices to the marital infidelity in the sexual realm.

    Is this feasible in your estimation?

  8. Interesting insight. I think the pointer to James 4:4 is an important one. James likens friendship with the world to Israel as the faithless wife of God (see Is. 54:1-6; Jer 3:20; Hosea). Jesus, too, alluded to an “adulterous generation” (Mt. 12:39). James, thus, depicts his readers as “spiritual adulteresses.”

    Once again, the sexual act of adultery is merely the outworking of an unfaithful heart. It’s not so much the act itself but the heart condition that constitutes “adultery” (Mt. 5:27-30).

    “Shock and awe?” Let’s hope so!!


    What terminates a marriage before God?
    Four Contextual Biblical Situations

    1. Death > Bound + Death (Koimao) = Unbound > Free
    1Corinthians 7:39 “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

    2. Unchastity > Bound + Unchastity (Porneia) = Unbound > Free Matthew 5:32 “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever * marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

    3. Abandonment > Bound +leaves (Chorizo) = Unbound > Free
    1Corinthians 7:15 “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” Ro 8:35 “Who shall separate (Chorizo) us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ” Ro 8:39 “nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate (Chorizo) us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    4. Reconciliation’s Priority and limitations in OLD Pre Christ Relationships > new creature (Kainos Ktisis)
    2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” PRIORITY > Biblical reconciliation should be attempted if possible.

    Thanks Paul for your Study > What do you think of:

  10. It’s sad to see that just as the Pharisees sought ways to expand the separating of the ONE FLESH God (not man) joined together, men today try to twist and turn God’s Word so immorality and hard heartedness can continue. Instone Brewer will have much to answer for to the Lord. He is leading many astray and is the cause/justification for many broken marriages and the defrauding of the brethren going on today within the confessing church. He is also the cause for many NOT repenting of the sins they have entered into—-the cause for families God put together NOT being restored. I guess when we, as the Church, have no real understanding of what I Cor. 13 means and no real understanding of what “love your neighbor” means, it is no big deal to take another person’s spouse/daddy/mommy, etc………..even from one’s one Christian brother/sister. I thess 4:1-9

  11. lastblast:
    Did you have a particular issue to raise over the teachings presented here or by Instone-Brewer? Please read the guidelines, particularly #2, before posting on this blog.

  12. Sorry, Paul, I am very zealous on this issue due to being involved in a marriage ministry. I see all the people affected by it—those who are abandoned, those whose spouses have committed adultery, those who have entered into unbiblical marriages and have since repented (forsaken their adultery), etc–not to mention the children of original marriages as well as those involved with illicit marriages. It is a heartbreaking thing, so sometimes I wear my heart and my frustration on my sleeve. I will try to be more careful in my dialogue in the future.

    I believe the Lord has shown me this topic on every side (differing situations). I dont’ believe every side is ever discussed on most Divorce/remarriage discussions. The focus is mostly on the “innocent” party and what they are or are not allowed to do in such cases. However, I rarely, if ever see any discussion on the one who is FAITHFUL to the marriage and FAITHFULLY stands for the restoration of their marriage when their spouse has entered into “legalized” aka: state sanctioned, adultery, according to the Word of God. Most would tell them to “move on” that the new relationship is honored by God, yet there is absolutely no biblical evidence to support this. The reality is this: we DO have 4 very clear examples of “re” marriages in which the original marriage is still binding–in spite of divorce, or in spite of a remarriage, or in spite of adultery (David/Michal, Mal 2’s priest/new wife/covenant wife, Herod/Herodias/Philip, woman of Rom. 7:2-3). There is so much more I can say, but I will stop at this to hear what you have on each of these biblical situations. Blessings……….

  13. Cindy. I personally agree with RA Torrey regarding divorce as a form of legalized adultery–if we are talking about divorce not based upon a prior breach of the marriage vows by the person divorced. That’s one of the major points of my book. However, we must not go against Jesus’s own acceptance of divorce based on “fornication.”

    I rather imagine that RA regrets having said the rest, because there is no Biblical basis for it. Though I would be quick to add that Jesus in Matthew 5:32b is condemning men who, like Herod Antipas, would conspire with a married woman to divorce her husband in order for her to be free to marry him. Even for them it is not the remarriage in itself that is adulterous, but their complicity in the unjust divorce of the first husband.

    What RA failed to see was that marriage is, in Scripture as in life, a legal concept. Divorce ends the marriage on any account. The conclusion of whether or not adultery has taken place in the divorce must be determined by the grounds used. If it was for “fornication,” clearly it is not, and remarriage in that case is not discussed by Jesus.

    Remember, it is as bad in God’s eyes to”twist God’s Word” and put unjustified “moral” burdens on the faithful as it is to “twist God’s Word” to support sin among them. Which is another way of saying that is it is as wrong to call a good an evil as it is to call an evil a good. And the Spirit, through Matthew, calls disciplinary divorce a righteous thing (Matt. 1:19). Which we would expect, since divorce in that instance stood in the place of execution for adultery in Lev. 20:10. And execution ended the marriage.

    And, by the way, I haven’t taught at Moody since 1987, so don’t blame them in any account.

  14. Dear, Clearly said.
    The issue is not one to be settled completely by the lexicon. Lexicons state word use and are only as good as the function of the words in life. Regarding sexless-adultery…you need to consider the OT use of treachery in regard to both sexual adultery and the unjustified divorce of a wife (Mal. 2). The implication that Jesus was calling unjustified divorce “adultery” is what astonished His disciples.

    For more on the subject, I have an entire appendix on the subject in the book.
    William Luck

  15. Dear Lastblast,

    The Pharisees clearly had a low standard of righteousness regarding marriage. They wrongly believed that a man could unilaterally end his marriage. The interesting thing is that Hillel’s liberal view of “erwat dabar” in Deut. 24:1 is probably the right understanding of those words. The Pharisees’ failing was in not seeing that the husband who divorced his wife for such reasons was a covenant breaker in the eyes of God. To use Jesus’ word, committing “adultery.”

    Neither the Pharisees nor Jesus, however were wrong in believing that fornication (read that as “harlotry” or uncovenanted sex) was not the issue. Lev. 20:10 prescribed execution for adulterers and adulteresses, but Israel quickly abandoned that penalty and substituted divorce for it. God could have used the prophets to order them to reinstate capital punishment for adultery, but He did not. Instead He used it to speak to His own dealings with Israel (so Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah).

    You are concerned with men twisting and turning God’s Word. Remember that it is just as wrong to add human restrictions to God’s Word as it is to lessen God’s ordained limitations. Indeed the Pharisees more often added strictures to God’s requirements than they did relax them. God’s law is loving and just. It did not place a burden on an abused woman by demanding that she remain in her marriage when her husband was minimizing her support (Ex. 21:10-11), nor did it force the hardhearted man to keep his wife (so Deuteronomy 24:1). Neither did Jesus deny the right to divorce for (unrepented) “fornication.”

    Marriage is a legal concept in the Scriptures just as it is in our law. God recognizes all divorce as ending “marriage,” but that doesn’t answer the question as to whether or not a given divorce is treachery and will be dealt with as adultery by a Holy God.

    It is good for people to hear that some of those who cause havoc in their marriages repent and their marriages restored. Hosea is a wonderful Biblical statement of that option. But God did not require the abused woman in Ex. 21 nor the wrongfully divorced woman in Deut. 24 to wait forever to see if that repentance would occur. Neither does Jesus require it in the case of the exception clause. Paul might seem to say it in 1 Cor. 7:11, but the use of “reconciled” there implies that the woman in question was the guilty party. Biblically, reconciliation is only demanded of them.

    Perhaps why Instone-Brewer and I have spent so much time with the question of the innocent party being permitted to divorce/remarry is that in our backgrounds there has been far more abuse of the innocent parties than there has been instances of repentance and restoration.

    I would make this suggestion too. Write Instone-Brewer and listen for his heart. It is easy to shoot at other believers who disagree with us on such important subjects. I had a longstanding, and bitter disagreement with another brother on the subject of divorce and remarriage. But I reached out to him in Christian love and we now pray for each other and our families. And…surprise, surprise…in our recent discussions about divorce, we find that both our hearts and our positions are closer to each other than we thought.

    William Luck

  16. Dear Search Your Bible,

    I despair of responding to your numerous citations in the space alloted to this blog. If you wish an answer in detail, I’ll send you one via email if you will send your email address to me. Mine is That response is already written, but it is a couple of pages long. Be sure to put something about Paul’s blog in the subject so that I don’t dump it as junk mail. 🙂 Incidentally, each of those passages is discussed in detail in my book.

    In short, Scripture must be used to interpret Scripture. You present your view and then cite passages. But those citations are variously off point (as are all you give for your third “equation”) and/or are interpreted in a way which cannot harmonize them with other Scriptures (as are the ones you cite for your first two).

    I respect your passion for the truth and your desire to find it in God’s Word. I used to hold your view until I researched all the Scripture and found that I needed to adjust my view so as to bring it into agreement with the whole counsel of God. Remember that it is just as wrong to add human traditions to God’s Word as it is to fail to live up to the standard of God’s Holiness…just as wrong to add burdens upon the backs of the faithful as it is to build the broad gate.

    William Luck

  17. William, you say that God sees all divorces as ending a marriage. You say marriage is a “legal contract”. That is not what Jesus said. Also, the Early Church Fathers did not agree with you according to what they wrote on the subject either— and they knew Greek much better than we do today. They believed the “innocent” party was NOT free to remarry—-until the original spouse died or else they too would be adulterers. One ECF writer said concerning remarriage that although some THINK they are legally married, they are in fact adulterers. This very much aligns with what Jesus taught and ,in fact, explains His disciple’s strong reaction to His teaching, since they knew both views of that time.

    When Jesus used the word “adultery” in speaking of those who remarry, we must not insert a “symbolic” meaning. The clear context of His Words is this: Whosoever puts away their wife and marries another, has unlawful relations with this woman who is NOT their wife, and whosoever marries her that is divorced, has unlawful relations with this woman who is NOT their wife. To say Jesus sees divorce as dissolving the ONE flesh HE (not man) joined together, is to nullify what He teaches after speaking of divorce. He most certainly does NOT give any indication that divorce dissolves a marriage joined by Him. Does divorce dissolve marriages NOT joined by Him (adulterous, homosexual, incestual, etc)? Yes, but those “marriages” were never joined by God in the first place, they were sinful unions—-yes, “legal” CONTRACTS in the eyes of the civil authorities, but never “legal” in God’s sight—never a valid, joined by Him, marriage.

    Going back to the OT to find what is “acceptable” to God is to do as the Pharisees did, in my opinion. Many practices that were tolerated/legislated in the OT clearly go against what Jesus spoke. It’s difficult for me to understand why people want to go “back” to see what sinful man did or what God TOLERATED in the OT, but they do not want to take Jesus at face value: He brought marriage back to the ORIGINAL intent—before man’s fall, before man’s sinfulness was “tolerated” for a time. Jesus DEFINED what marriage is for Him—from now on out. One man/One woman for life. Every relationship outside of that “one flesh” joined by HIM (not the sinful one flesh joined by man), is sin, no matter what man’s laws say to the contrary. Adulterous remarriage, polygamous marriage, homsexual marriage—none are valid marriages in the sight of God………..again, despite the “laws” man passes saying such are ok.

    Speaking of Deut, 24, we never see the wife charged with adultery for marrying another man (though it was, just as polygamy was a form of adultery too—both “tolerated” for a season). Jesus, however, clearly laid out that to join with another AFTER a divorce, was to enter into an illicit relationship—adultery. Paul reaffirmed that (Rom. 7:2-3, I Cor. 7:39). Paul also reaffirms the Lord’s teaching that marriage is until death when he spoke I Cor. 7:10-11—saying it was not he that was saying this, but the Lord Himself. The woman MUST remain unmarried………..or be reconciled. It is obvious that she is still “joined” to her husband even though she departed, even though she is “unmarried”. Remarriage is not an option for her. “Waiting” for one to repent, is not an option, it is a requirement from God. If one does not choose to follow God in His expectations/treatment of marriage, then they will choose rather to enter into sin. God has given us that choice.

    One more issue: you said Israel did away with the death penalty for adultery(stoning). We can see from scripture that this is not true. Jesus would not have come upon a woman being readied for stoning if it was not still being practiced. Maybe not on a widespread level, but it was still being practiced. Blessings………

  18. William, the “fornication” issue is one hotly debated. What does it mean? Does it have to do with PRE-marital relations as spoken of in Mt. 1:18-24 (during the betrothal period)? Does it have to do with ILLICIT marriages that should have never taken place? What we can see from scripture (not man inserting “burdens” on others) is that in spite of ADULTERY, in spite of new “marriages” contracted, original marriages continue in the sight of God (Rom. 7:2-3, Herod/Herodias, Michal/David, Priest of Mal 2, Hosea/Gomer). God seems to hold much value on the original marriage bond as seen time and time again throughout scripture.

    Concerning Herod/Herodias’ marriage, John certainly speaks as if she does NOT belong to Herod, but still belongs to Philip. There is nothing in his words which speak otherwise. Herod had his brother’s wife and it was not lawful for him to have her. John was not addressing a PREVIOUS sin, but an apparent ongoing sin, and for his declaration of such, lost his head.

    As for putting “moral burdens” on the faithful……… someone “faithful” if they transgress the commands of God? Did not Jesus say, “if you love me, obey me”? Did not Jesus say that on that day, MANY who call Him ‘Lord’ will be cast away from Him as lawbreakers/workers of iniquity? It is a serious thing to “add” to God’s Word to allow for relationships Jesus Himself called sinful—telling people those relationships really aren’t adultery. Jeus said the sexually immoral would find their place in the lake of fire. For me, to say remarriage AFTER divorce is not sin, though Jesus said it was, would be to encourage many to end up in a place the Lord never intended them to end up………..and their blood would be on my hands. I cannot live with that………

  19. Lastblast:
    Highly recommend reading William F. Luck’s book (linked from this post) and taking to heart all that is said there. While you may not agree, you will come away informed far more than these brief posts could offer.

  20. Paul,

    I have read many books—-scholarly as well as “emotion” based reasonings to support the practice of remarriage after divorce. I actually was of the mindset that it was ok until the Lord caused me to study this for myself. Every scholarly article/book I have read that supports remarriage after divorce goes back NOT to what Jesus and Paul teach, but back to the culture of the day (Jewish culture/Roman culture, etc) and/or OT practices to justify divorce/remarriage and show that original marriages are not “God joined unions”(contrary to what Jesus speaks), but merely a contract, civilly made and civilly dissolved. The lack of scriptural support for such assertions makes it clear to me what is man’s doctrines and what is God’s doctrines. Seems to me Jesus laid it out very clearly how HE saw marriage and no amount of human reasoning to the contrary can I be satisfied with, even though this issue affects my family and puts me in an uncomfortable position.

    As I said, the view I have come to aligns with how the Early Church Fathers viewed scripture (the Ante-Nicene Fathers), so I am comforted I am in good company. Besides the Word of God being evidence to me that remarriage=continual state of adultery until forsaken, another “fruit” that this teaching did not come from Christ is the devastation to family/marriage. None of this is from Christ………none of it.

  21. The debate over “fornication” has been much ado over what should have been obvious. I say that to my own chagrin, since I was a part of that debate for years. Then one day it hit me. What did the word mean in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was current in Jesus’ day? There, porneia means “harlotry.” It is used of apostasy—going after other gods. A careful consideration in such cases shows that “fornication” refers to the uncovenanted side of that behavior (their relationship to a god who was not their Covenant God), while adultery referred to that aspect of such behavior which was a breach of the covenant with God. Though the OT seldom speaks of spiritual “adultery” (preferring the term whoring—porneia in the LXX), Jesus speaks without qualms of an “adulterous generation.”

    Applying this to human marriage, when a married woman had an extramarital affair, her sin with regard to her lover was, most strictly speaking, fornication—since uncovenanted, but the same act was also adultery—since it was a breach of her marriage vows to her husband. Because it was the same act, in common parlance, either word could be used to describe it. Thus, to say that a wife had committed “fornication” was simply to note that she had had a relationship with someone to whom she was not married—someone other than her husband. Either term could have been used by Jesus to describe the sexual marital unfaithfulness. Why didn’t He use “adultery”? I can’t say for sure, but perhaps to highlight His unique use of “adultery” to refer to an unjustly divorcing husband. The OT simply called such divorce treachery (Mal. 2).This is what astounded the Disciples in Matt. 19:10.

    I understand that you draw your conclusion about Herodias as still belonging to Philip from the fact that the wording of John speaks of her as his wife. But there are reasons for seeing it simply as a common figure of speech. Much as we do in our times when a divorced man speaks of his “ex” as his wife. My cousin once asked his brother, “What’s the name of my third wife?” Trust me, he didn’t mean that he considered himself still married to her. She can be called his wife because she once was, not because she still was.

    1) The first reason for seeing it as meaning “the woman who was formerly married to Philip” is that Jesus agreed with the Samaritan woman that she was not married to any of her prior 5 husbands (Jon 4). 2) Jesus clearly teaches that divorce ends the moral bond of marriage as well as the legalities. When asked about grounds for divorce in the Law, He condemns “sundering” the joining, not divorcing the married. The second set relates to the legalities, the former to the moralities. 3a) The entire function of the divorce writ, which Jesus did not challenge, was to prove the end of the legal bond, freeing the divorced woman from her vow of monogamy to the man and him from his legal obligation to provide for her support. The wording of the writ, from the first instances we have of it shows it to be 3b) almost identical to the statement God authorized in Hosea: “I am not your husband. You are not my wife.” 4) If there were still some ownership after ungounded divorce, why is the unjustly divorced wife of Deut. 24:1-4 NOT permitted to return to the first husband. 5) if divorce doesn’t end all obligation, why does Paul say that the unjustly divorce, Christian wife has no “obligation” toward her divorcing husband (1 Cor. 7:15? No matter what interpretation of that that you take, it clearly means she no longer “belongs” to the divorcing man. Even when speaking to the Christian who divorces her unbelieving husband without grounds, he does not say that she still belongs to him, but that she may either remain unmarried or be reconciled (a term which Biblically implies fault for the person who needs to reconcile). 6a) In Ezra (9-10) and Nehemiah (13) the legal interfaith marriages required divorce. Do you think that God considered the cast-off heathen wives to still belong to their former Hebrew husbands? Clearly not. To this 6b) Paul agrees when he says, “Come out and be separate (Aphorizo—to mark off with boundaries)” (2 Cor. 6:17).

    I respect your passionate, commitment to what you think is Jesus’ meaning regarding the sin of divorce and remarriage, but I cannot agree that you have understood what Jesus means.Every instance of Jesus’ consideration of divorce and remarriage is in the context of the God’s Law and that Law never prohibited the remarriage of divorced people, even guilty ones. Since Jesus states that Deut. 24:1 was not given for the benefit of the hardhearted husbands (whose remarriage isn’t even suggested), it must have been for the benefit of the cast off woman, who is permitted to remarry except to the first husband after another marriage intervened. Only priests were prohibited from marrying a divorced woman. This should be your first clue that Jesus is not condemning remarriage in His teaching. The second should be that the OT permitted multiple marriages for the man. Dating all the way back to Ex. 21:10-11 men have sought ways to diminish the rights of their first wives on the basis of a desire to devote those resources to a woman they liked better. Just as Ex. 21 did not deny the man the right to take a second wife aside from such diminishing, it is wrongheaded to interpret Jesus’ reference to a remarriage by the unjust divorcer as essential to his sin. “And marries another” is included to point out the motive of the divorcing man, not to identify an essential element in his sin. If it is essential than Jesus’ condemnation of unjust divorce in Matt. 5:31a should have mentioned his remarriage, but it does not. It was enough to note that his divorce was unjustified in order to brand him guilty of adulterizing his wife. Nor is it proper to say that Jesus was holding him responsible for his wife’s remarriage by hooking 32b to 32a. Jesus never elsewhere makes the meaning of the first of two paired sayings to be dependent upon the second. They are independent sayings.

    Indeed if we take Jesus to mean that all remarriage after divorce is adulterous, then there is absolutely no basis for Deut. 24:1-4 to exist as legislation in a Holy Law. Instead we would be suggesting that God legally permits sin in order to accommodate hard-hearted and sinful man. As if to say, “Oh well, boys will be boys. You just can’t stopem.” Which I find blasphemous. If God permits divorce to free the innocent (Deut. 24:1-4) or demands divorce for the same purpose (Ex. 21:11) and permits the innocent to remarry (Deut. 24;1-4), who are we to burden Christians by teaching otherwise?

  22. William, thank you for your time in trying to explain your position to me. However, to me, the reality is Jesus said to marry another AFTER a divorce is to commit adultery (to have UNLAWFUL relations with someone who is NOT your spouse—the definition of adultery). To say the “act” of divorcing is adulterous but the new union is not is ridiculous to me. It is the act that follows divorce, the taking of another spouse, which is adultery. You keep saying that Jesus CLEARLY taught that a marriage is dissolved by a divorce, but Jesus NEVER said that. Paul did make it clear that after divorce (departing and remaining “unmarried”), “if she does depart, she is to remain UNMARRIED OR be reconciled to her husband”, there is STILL a tie to her husband. I think it is taking GREAT liberty to say that the bond—the one joined by God—is dissolved by a divorce. The Words of scripture just do not support such a position. It is clear a divorce DOES not dissolve the union, hence she is prohibited from marrying ANOTHER person. She must remain UNMARRIED or reconcile WITH HER HUSBAND. If a divorce truly does dissolve, then reconciling with her HUSBAND would not be an issue—she would be completely free from that bond, but that is not what we find Paul teaching—a teaching He says is directly from the Lord.

    In regards to I Cor. 7:15, we see a similar thing—-the one deserted is not “under bondage”……….but that does not mean they are “free” to marry another. It simply means that they are free from guilt regarding their being unable to fulfill their marital obligations (they can freely live as UNMARRIED). They are free from SERVITUDE, which is what it means in the Greek. A different word was used in regards to the marital BOND, as used in Rom. 7:2-3 and I Cor. 7:39.

    Another thing, you keep speaking about God’s laws and ordinances regarding marriage. Did Jesus take us back to Jewish law/ordinances or did He take us back to the Father’s creation of marriage? If you say, Jewish Law/ordinances, where do we ever see a person, woman OR man being charged with adultery for divorcing their spouse and then marrying another in OT Jewish law? Where do we ever see a WOMAN divorcing her husband as we see Jesus addressing in Mk 10?

    Concerning your last paragraph, you are speaking of freeing the “innocent” yet didn’t you say you believe the LIBERAL view (Hillel) is probably the correct interpretation of Deut 24:1-4? If so, then wouldn’t the “innocent” party be the woman wrongly put away? If that be the case, and then we go to Mt. 19:9, Jesus speaks of an “innocent” wife being put away…………and the man who marries her commits adultery? Why would he have that charge placed upon him if the “innocent” was free to marry again? If divorce truly does dissolve the original marriage bond, then NOONE who marries a divorced person would be charged by Jesus as one who is committing adultery………….but that is not what Jesus says.

    I am curious what you make of the ECF’s position on divorce/remarriage. As we all know, they were closest to the time of Christ, far more proficient at Greek than probably ANY Greek scholar today and they held that marriage is for life and ANY remarriage entered into before the death of a spouse is an ONGOING adulterous union, not a lawful marriage in the sight of God. They not only knew Greek, they also knew the culture of their day (Hebrew/Greek/Roman), yet this is the position they maintained. I believe it is because they were standing on God’s Word alone—not looking at the traditions and culture of man to determine how to walk out Jesus’ words, but took Jesus literally, knowing Jesus’ words are outside time and culture……….they are for ALL peoples of ALL cultures for ALL times. At least that is my take and it appears that was the take of the early church as well. As for “burdens” being placed on Christians: “it is no longer “I” that live, but Christ who lives within me”………. We are called to love as Christ loves, because He dwells within us. His love is: ICor 13……….suffers long……….LOVE NEVER fails. The “fruit” of divorce/marriage is destruction/chaos/pain/suffering. There is nothing of Christ in that……….only sinful man. Where Christ CAN be found in such situations is within those who are remaining faithful to their vows–to God and man, irregardless if another becomes wayward and enters into sin. The Godly/loving thing is to pray for repentance and restoration/reconciliation—THAT is the call for a Christ follower………..LOVE NEVER FAILS. This is Jesus……….and this is not a “burden” for those who love Him and love their neighbor. Blessings…………

  23. Regarding the early church fathers, I have an entire appendix in my book devoted to them. I taught Church History and have read all their writings on the subject. I disagree with the interpretation of much of what you may have been told they said. We must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not Scripture by the fathers. Their knowledge of the Greek language does not necessarily give them any interpretative edge on us. Just look at the mess that English speaking jurists have made of the US Constitution regarding the ‘”wall of separation.” Read my book, and if you don’t believe me on the subject, consider the work of William Heth, whose dependence on the father led him astray until he had a change of heart based upon a reconsideration of Paul in 1 Cor.7. In his more recent works Bill has spoken against attempts to read Scripture through the eyes of Church traditions.

    There is nothing symbolic about saying that the “and” (Greek kai) in “and marries another” is historical and purposive (revealing the divorcer’s motive) rather than combining remarriage to divorce as an essential ingredient of the sin. Your extended interpretative translation of Jesus is not itself a context. The context of His words in Matthew 5 is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The historical context is Herod. The context of Matt. 19 is, again, Deuteronomy 24 as it is in Mark 10. The context of Luke 16 is Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees as being poor stewards of the Law of which they professed to be custodians. John is offered as an example of a good steward. John was then in prison for condemning Herod’s incestuous marriage as “unlawful.”

    The prior context of the gospels is the Old Testament, Scripture comprised of Holy Writings which Jesus and Paul repeatedly cited with such respectful words as “it is written.” Your contention that “commits adultery” is synonymous with ”has unlawful relations with a woman not his wife,” places the focus nearly wholly on the remarriage, because that’s what you want it to do. The context of Deuteronomy and questions about it (in all but perhaps Luke16) all focus upon divorce (Matt. 5:31a doesn’t mention remarriage; 5:32b, with its probable use of the middle voice in the key verb, places the focus of his sin at her divorcement of her first husband. Mark 10 and Matt. 19 are the same event, which arose with a question about the legal ground for divorce, not remarriage, and Jesus’ response to the Pharisees itself focuses upon the first marriage which would be broken by divorce. It is not clear whether Jesus even mentioned remarriage to the Pharisees at that time. In Matthew it seems so, but in Mark it is presented as a private comment to His disciples. So Matthew may have condensed the discussion at that point.

    The short of it is that the Pharisees had been teaching that Moses permitted men to end their marriages as long as they gave their wives the Writ Moses mentions in Deut. 24:1. Jesus disagrees stating that divorce (that is, non-disciplinary divorce, i.e., that for fornication) renders the man who divorces or is complicit in another man’s groundlessly divorce, an adulterer. He later condemned them for not standing up for God’s laws related to marriage, mentioning John the Baptist, but focusing on the non-incestuous marital sins of Herod (remember the Scriptures says that John condemned Herod for his other sins—sins in marriage which included divorcing his own wife without grounds and instigating the breakup of Herodias’s marriage to his half brother Philip). For Herodias’s part, He condemns any woman like her who herself divorces—implication: without grounds—in parallel with what He says about the man.

    Your insistence that Jesus does not see divorce as dissolving marriage is the exact opposite of what Jesus says. Jesus’ point is that a valid marriage covenant should not be sundered or dissolved. “Should not” implies can. And, when there are no proper grounds, divorce does. In context, the sundering would be accomplished by any divorce which is not grounded in fornication.

    Your distinction between “legal” marriages and those recognized by God is a good one insofar as it shows that there is a moral bond that married people may or may not have. Actually “God joining” probably means that God stands behind the legal vows they have taken, rather than implying some mystical union. The very fact that morally invalid marriages exist is proof that the moral bond is not a necessary part of the (denotative) meaning of “marriage.” Jesus does not say, “Those that God has married no man should divorce.” He says that people should not sunder what God has joined. Either the fornication sunders the moral bond of marriage or the divorce does if there were no fornication. It’s one way or the other, but both involve illicit sundering of the moral bond.

    Thus, there is a difference between joining and marriage, between sundering and divorce. Had Jesus intended no such distinction, then you immediately have a problem with the exception clause. Did not God join those, one of whom committed fornication? Jesus does not prohibit the innocent man from divorcing a wife guilty of fornication/adultery. Indeed Matthew, inspired by the Spirit, says that Joseph, being a righteous man, was going to divorce an apparently unrepentant Mary when it appeared that she had committed an act of fornication (Matt. 1). His divorce would not have sundered the moral bond of marriage, because her sin would have previously accomplished that.

    Your comments about the OT are completely out of harmony with both Jesus and Paul. Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce in Matt. 5 are comments on Deuteronomy 24. Indeed the entire Sermon on the Mount is an exposition on the true righteous intent of the Ten Commandments (5:21-6:24) and the prophets (7:1-20), both preceded by Jesus’ word that the Law and the Prophets will not pass away and should be taught and followed by His disciples (5:17-20). As for Paul, not only did he refer of the OT as the “holy writings” to Timothy, but he also stated that all of it was profitable for doctrine (the teaching of precepts), but also reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3) for Christians to do good works. Beyond that Paul in 1 Cor. 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18 shows how he used the OT, by going to an obscure regulation in the Law about oxen and applying it to paying Christian ministers, workers worthy of their hire. His very tone implies that his readers should have known to pay pastors based on their reading of that regulation.

    Your opinion that going to God’s Word in the Old Testament is Pharisaism is unbefitting a follower of Jesus or Paul. Jesus never complained about their using the OT, only their misusing it. Jesus explained the true meaning of the OT, not offering a new and better law. Paul may have spoken harshly of Law in its theological function, but with regard to instruction in righteousness we have seen that he completely accepted the principles of each ordinance including ones about oxen. Your words come very close to being an insult against the Holy Scripture. You do not exhibit the mind or heart of Jesus for the Law of His Father, nor the Holy Spirit’s mind which inspired David to extol the law in Psalm 1 or 119.

    When Jesus says in Matthew 19 that “from the beginning it has not been so, the Greek says, “from the beginning all the way to the present it has not been so.” If you think that He was talking about Deut. 24:1-4 when He speaks of “it” “not being so,” think again. God inspired Deut. 24:1-4. The Holy Spirit didn’t take a coffee break while Moses kept writing. God NEVER tolerates sin in any moral sense. He’s not giving in to hardhearted men. Find another explanation for the legislation, but don’t imply that God inspired sub-New Testament morality, if you please. Jesus was condemning the Pharisaical understanding of that legislation which supposed that it was giving evil men the right to divorce their wives…something you are very close to implying when you speak of sin being tolerated. God granted no such right. He only allowed such divorces to happen to protect the wife from possible abuse in marriage (see Ex. 21:10-11). Thereafter, God clarified the issue by condemning such actions (Mal. 2 and Jesus in the Gospels).

    I’m not sure what you are talking about when you speak of adulterous marriages, unless you are just reaffirming your belief that marriage after divorce is such. I’ve already offered evidence that that is not what Jesus is saying. But please explain what possibly could have been going on when God allowed men of Israel to marry divorced women in the OT (which is implied by prohibiting marriage to divorced women only to priests).

    As much as I have tried, I cannot find Biblical support for saying that polygamous marriages were invalid. There was legislation against homosexual relationships, and incestuous marriages were straightforwardly condemned. But plural marriages were not. Abraham was never told that his marriage to Hagar was invalid. The same with Jacob and Rachel. Should Moses the Lawgiver have dumped Zipporah once the law was given to him? And David….David’s a real problem. God was quick to confront and condemn David for his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, but He never remotely suggested to him that the three wives he already had were two wives above the limit. Indeed, Nathan told him that God had other women available for him when he took Bathsheba….so why did he take a married woman and kill her husband to have sex. At least it seems that God should have prohibited David from taking Bathsheba AFTER all that and in the face of God’s alleged moral rejection of polygamy. But God seems not to have chosen to make His point then, I guess. He waited till Jesus.

    Watch out for reading your subculture views back into the text. Clearly plural marriages were not ideal, but adultery was a capital offense as were homosexual relationships and incest. Grouping plural marriages with them has no such basis in the Law, which is detailed about sexual offenses. I’m not trying to defend the practice of polygamy…just understand what its morality was in the eyes of Jesus’ Father when Jesus spoke. Because if polygamy was morally permitted, then all arguments against remarriage being the main point of sin to Jesus regarding divorce+remarriage are completely out the window…unless of course Jesus is not only correcting Pharisees but also upgrading His Father’s overly tolerant Laws on both divorce/remarriage and polygamy.

    If you make the woman of Deut. 24:1-4 to be charged with adultery by Jesus, then you thereby loose all moral reason to have Deut. 24:1-4 in the text in the first place, and the surrounding context is one of protecting people from being reduced to a chattel. By being divorced she loses her life support from her husband. The man who remarries her saves her from reduction to poverty. To suggest that his act of kindness toward her is adulterous and he is just one more hardhearted man is incredibly inconsistent with and counter to the contextual intention.

    Additionally, if she is guilty of adultery when she takes the second husband, then that leaves us with saying that the God who is not loathe to call for the execution of adulterers and adulteresses, who prohibits divorce in two instances (Deut. 22) where a single woman was taken advantage of before marriage, and Who so easily prohibits incestuous marriages from taking place, suddenly got squeamish regarding “adulterous marriage.” And yet, irony of all ironies, God does take the space to prohibit the return of the woman to her first husband, to whom you say she is still married in God’s eyes. On your line of reasoning God could have and should have simply said, “If a man divorces his wife she must remain single or go back to him.” I’m not God and yet I can produce in 15 words exactly what you think Jesus corrected His Father failed to say using over 100 English/50 Hebrew words. By not being straightforward He simply abandon three people to a state of adultery. Doesn’t sound in any direction like the OT I read.

    Jesus does not “clearly” lay out that marriage after divorce is adulterous. I have said much about that already especially in my other comment below. Even if you take a more rigid stance on “and marries another” than I do, you still have to deal with the exception clause, which excludes from the discussion divorces (and any subsequent remarriages) which were based upon the wife’s prior act of fornication. Remember that the more general statements of Mark and Luke are qualified by the exception clause in Matthew 5 & 19. This is to say that, at best 9for you), no teaching of Jesus condemns all divorces and remarriages..only those which were groundless.

    Paul says that a woman who is unjustly divorced by an unbeliever is not under bondage (1 Cor. 7:15). What was that bondage? Her only bondage in marriage according to the Law was not to have a relationship with another man. If that was so, then to be free of that structure IS to be free to remarry. Paul would hardly have contradict that understanding in the same chapter at verse 39 or in Rom. 7….a passage which, as a matter of fact, is telling us how to be free of our righteous husband the law so that we can get married to another man, Christ. That’s provocative! Both 1 Cor. 7:39 and Rom. 7: 2 speak of women who are still married, and a divorced woman isn’t married to her former husband anymore. Remember, Jesus agreed with the Samaritan woman who said she didn’t have a husband (John 4) then, though she did have 5 before. Do you really want to float the idea that though not married they were still joined in the eyes of God…oops, I mean just the first was still joined and the other were not because they were adulterous marriages. Jesus seems to have considered all her priors same. Shouldn’t he have said: “Bring the first one. You’re still joined to him in the eyes of God.”

    Your interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:10-11 suffers from not understanding how “reconciliation” is used Biblically. While theologians use that term to refer to both parties in a relational estrangement, the term used Biblically refers to the guilty part. God is never said to be reconciled to us, but we to Him through Christ and our repentance. That’s because God hasn’t sinned. So too, the innocent party in a human situation of reconciliation. Thus Paul is speaking to a woman who has divorce her husband without valid cause, not to a woman wrongfully divorced.

    You are surely aware that John 7:53-8:11 has overwhelming external (manuscript) evidence against its being genuine. Only one old uncial includes it and that wasn’t copied till 400 years after John wrote his book. It is not considered one of the best uncials (manuscript written in capital letters) for a number of reasons. Internally the story disrupts the flow of Jesus’ representation of Himself as the Living Water and the Light of the world, two important elements of that feast that is running in the background. The confrontation is said to have occurred in the temple courts, a place where no self-respecting Pharisee would have brought a defiled woman much less at a high feast. And apparently the author of the story didn’t know that there was no ground to be writing in in the Temple—no dirt or sand, just cut stones. Further the story presents the Pharisees as challenging Jesus regarding a ruling on the woman’s execution for adultery, a topic which would have gained them no ground on Jesus, since His siding with Moses should have been a gimme. Instead Jesus is pictured as demanding a level of purity to which no human can attain, and in the face of which Leviticus 20 could never have been enforced…unless, of course you add “in this matter,” which forces us to speculate about background information behind the story.

    Indeed, the very fact that they are said to have questioned Him on this point, when there is no evidence of it being practiced subsequent to its being given in the Law, is itself a very good reason for believing that the writer of the account was unaware that capital punishment had been replaced centuries before the days of Jesus, as the prophets, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah reveal. In other words, instead of John 8 proving that capital punishment was practiced for adultery after all, the mention of it in the story is an evidence that it is a scribal addition by some uninformed pious monk. And adding to Scripture is just as bad as taking away from it.

    I realize that my tone is strong in this response and that I have resorted to sarcasm on occasion. But I confess that I begin to lose my patience when I feel that someone is being disrespectful to or demeaning the value of the Bible Jesus and Paul used with great reverence. To hold forth as good interpretation the views of early Church fathers while putting down an appeal to the Scripture that God’s Spirit moved holy men of old to write is beyond exasperating to me. It is a breach of the moral principles behind the first three Commandments.
    William Luck

  24. Jesus did not say that to marry someone after a divorce is to commit adultery. He said that to divorce and marry another is adultery. As I noted Malachi speaks of the divorce as treacherous and something God hates. Jesus simply puts the term adultery in the place of the term treachery. No passage prior to Jesus prohibits remarriage and Jesus didn’t come to create new laws but to fulfill the ones His Father gave.

    Jesus does speak of dissolution when He uses the word sunder. He says that the joining by God can be sundered, but shouldn’t be. If the sundering he’s referring to isn’t the divorce of Deut. 24:1-4 then He wasn’t responding to their question. He agrees with the Samaritan woman that she is not married to any of her first 5 husbands. If that doesn’t tell you that divorce ends marriage I’m not sure what could.

    I understand that you simply cannot accept that adultery can happen without a remarriage occurring. But that’s what Matthew 5:32a says.

    Paul speaks to a woman who is guilty, that’s the implication of the word “reconciled.” The woman of 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is not the same as the woman of 7:15, as the first words of 7:15 make clear. If there were still a tie to the former husband for the woman in 7:10-11, then Paul shouldn’t have made reconciliation an option, but should have much more strongly required her to go back and make amends. If the marriage bond is not dissolved by divorce, then his advice in verse 15 is immoral. He specifically says that she is no longer under bondage. You have to argue that that bondage and the bond of marriage are not the same and that’s nonsense. More about that below. But back to Jesus’ words, “what God joins is not to be sundered.” If sundered doesn’t break up the joining, then whatever could it mean? Jesus says the joining shouldn’t be separated, but by saying such He logically implies that it can be, just as Paul’s saying that she is not under bondage logically implies that her marriage obligations are completely ended and she is free to do what a married woman should not do, which is have sex with another man (through a remarriage). Your concept that they are not free to remarry but only from servitude is not founded in Scripture or the lexicon but in your own insistence that it cannot mean what it logically means. Wives were not servants, and their only biblical vow was not to have sex with another man. Again, if they are free from their vows, then they are free to remarry, plain and simple. The freedom you offer is not freedom at all for a woman whose only binding obligation to her husband was monogamy.

    You insist that in spite of a divorce the man is still her husband, even though Jesus agrees with the Samaritan woman that she has no husband after being divorced by 5. How much clearer could Jesus put it to you than that? As I said, people often refer to a former spouse as their husband or wife, when they clearly don’t mean that the marriage exists. Are you going to tell them that they must mean after all? You want more proof, in Hosea the divorce is stated as “I am not your husband and you are not my wife” (2:2) and yet later she says she will go back to her husband (Heb, “my man, the first”—2:7. Now ether when he says she’s not his wife and he’s not her husband, he’s kidding, or she simply means the man who used to be her husband. Frankly I understand people talking about their former spouse as their spouse, but I’ve never heard someone say she’s not my wife and yet he meant she still was. Neither can I understand Jesus meaning that the woman at the well had no husbands, but she somehow she still did. I ask you what could convince you that the marriage was dissolved if you reject such clear statements as that of God through Hosea or Jesus at the well?

    Your distinction between the different words for bond is not going to work. Douloo is a stronger term than deo and is used of our bondage to the Law in Gal. 4:3. Iin Galatians douloo implies “legal” obligation. Legal obligation with regard to marriage amounts to the same thing in the end as deo. Deo implies chosen bondage, while douloo speaks of forced bondage. To say that a woman is not under any forced bondage to her former husband and yet to insist that she still is not free from her marriage bond so as not to be able to remarry, is a contradiction. The concept of free from guilt about not fulfilling her marriage vows misses the point entirely. Her vow was not to have sex with another man. if she’s free from the guilt of not following that, then she free from the guilt of marrying another.

    Your distinction between the creation ordinances in Genesis and the “Jewish law/ordinances” is not very impressive when you realize that Genesis is the preamble to the Law of Moses. The first five books are the Law, not 2-5. Your question regarding remarriage after being charged with adultery makes no sense at all. The law required the execution of adulteresses, or adulterers, and you can’t remarry if you are dead. But, as I have noted before, the Jews did not enforce that law and there is absolutely no telling what happened to those who were divorced adulterers, but I’m betting that many of them did remarry. We do know that divorced people remarried, because they are only prohibited from remarrying priests.

    Your question about women divorcing their husbands is answered in Exodus 21:10-11. There the law forced an abusive man to free his wife from their marriage. Going out without the repayment of money means that the marriage was over. She didn’t need to divorce him. The law did it for her. Instone-Brewer has shown that that was indeed also how the Jewish rabbies understood the passage. Jesus uses the language he did because under Roman rule, woman began to divorce their husbands on their own, just as Herodias did.

    I DO believe that Hillel got the intention the offense term in Deut. 24 correct, but he was dreadfully wrong in supposing that that meant that God didn’t’ hold the “liberal” divorcer guilty of adultery for “taking advantage” of it. Thus, “erwat dabar” is not fornication/adultery and the cast off-wife an innocent party in Deuteronomy 24. In Matt. 5:32b, the man is condemned who marries a woman who has herself divorced. Given the parallel text where the man divorces groundlessly, it should be presupposed that she had not grounds either. Deuteronomy permitted the innocent woman to remarry, just not to her first husband after a second intervened. And you will have a hard time explaining why not, since you think Jesus says they are still married.

    Again, I offer to you the case of Herod and Herodias, who were the talk of the town and of John the Baptist. Herod divorced his wife without grounds (Matthew 5:32a) and then married a woman (Herodias) who had divorced her husband, at Herod’s encouragement (Matthew 5:32b). Jesus is saying that any man who, like Herod, breaks his marriage vow to provide for the woman (so Ex. 21:10-11) by divorcing her (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) will not escape the judgment of God as an adulterer, whether or not he remarries (as the husband of Deut. 24:1-4 is not said to do). Jesus also condemns ass an adulterer the man who avoids the standard charge of adultery by getting the woman to divorce her husband in order to claim her (Matthew 5:32b). Both sayings deal with men who think that they can get around God’s marriage laws by “legal” means.
    Adultery is a breach of the covenant. Once the covenant is broken, the moral bond is ended, whether it be by an act within marriage or by a divorce which ends it. By the time that the divorce talks place the sin of adultery has been committed. You refuse to allow that “and marries another” can be taken as a statement of the intention of a man who has no grounds, and insist that the remarriage must be an essential fact before adultery can be assessed. That means that a hardhearted man who doesn’t remarry manages to escape the condemnation of committing adultery, even though he broke the only vows he ever made to his wife…to provide for her. Remember that no Jewish man ever pledged monogamy, even if he practiced it. Jesus is avowedly countering the Pharisaical belief that a man had the right to divorce his wife based upon Deut. 24:1. Yet in that passage, the hardhearted man’s remarriage is not even a factor. Jesus is charging men and women who divorce in order to remarry with adultery, thought the adultery occurs when the divorce occurs and not when the remarriage is consummated. You may not accept the idea of “and” in “and marries another” taken that way, but it is possible in the Greek and only if taken in that way do all the verses harmonize.
    Again regarding your commitment to the early church fathers, you have far more confidence in them than I do, although I am quick to add that their alleged rejection of divorce and remarriage is not at all as clear as some modern scholars tell us. That I discovered by reading them myself. Your statements about their Greek abilities is simply not true. Some had a very good grasp of Greek and Hebrew, others had a quite simplistic grasp of the languages. Many did not know Hebrew. Modern day language scholars are generally far more proficient at New Testament Greek than the Fathers and almost certainly more proficient in Hebrew, in the same sense that an English teacher is better at languages then the average person on the streets. Being able to speak a language does not make you an expert on grammar or even word meaning. At least I can admit that about my self. By the time you get into Early Church Scholars you also begin to get into some heavy subcultural influences. But still, I say, the ECF aren’t as clear in their rejection of divorce/remarriage as you think they are. Virtually every ECF citation I looked up didn’t really say what I was told it would by the very conservative divorce/remarriage authors like Wenham and the early Heth. As I said elsewhere, Heth started with a strong commitment to the ECF but then backed off of that when he realized that they didn’t properly represent Paul. Indeed almost all the strong exponents of no-divorce/remarriage or divorce-but-no-remarriage have moderated their positions in their mature years (e.g., Heth, Laney, Walvaard, Ryrie).

    Your own “profession of faith” in your last sentences is, I am sure, sincere. However to say that the fruit of divorce/marriage is (necessarily) destruction/chaos/pain/suffering seems to fly on the face of God, Who used “divorce” in regard to His people Israel. Disciplinary divorce… remember, the kind Jesus allowed?….is reproof and hopefully correction and instruction in righteousness. If Joseph can be called righteous for intending to divorce what he thought was unrepentant Mary, then why can’t you find righteousness in divorce for fornication? Yes, we can pray for repentance and restoration, but sometime it doesn’t happen. God isn’t in the business of forcing sinners to repent…at least not in my theology. And as for the innocent party, the destruction/chaos/pain/suffering which comes with their unjust divorce is multiplied by the destruction/chaos/pain/suffering extracted from them by misguided people who are unable to offer them the freedom that Moses (Deut. 24), Jesus with the exception clause), or Paul (“not under bondage”) did. Such legalistic people need to understand the principle of what Jesus cited regarding the Sabbath when He said that the Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for Man. Likewise marriage was made for man, not man for marriage. Marriage was a gift and not an establishment of slavery, and I cannot image a worse slavery than requiring unjustly divorced people to despair of hope for a fresh start as a team for God by telling them that they must remain unmarried or be remarried to an abusive spouse who may not have repented but is willing to take them back for more abuse. That’s the sin that God found abhorrent in Deut. 24:4. We should have the love that Yahweh had to allow such people to find someone who loves them and would marry them. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was designed to control the hard hearts of men who wanted to deny support to their rejected wives. Neither Jesus nor Paul should be made “to be more loving” by denying what the loving Father enacted to protect and provide for such rejected wives in His Law.
    William Luck

  25. “Jesus did not say that to marry someone after a divorce is to commit adultery. He said that to divorce and marry another is adultery” from William Luck

    Do you see the corner you have painted yourself into? The statements are a non sequitur or rather a redacto adsurdum. Those two sentences completely contradict each other that is if you are saying the first is false and the second is true. However Jesus did say the first statement. “He who marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” By the way the adultery is continuous, I Corinthians 6 not withstanding. I Corinthians 6 is not talking about unbelievers but believers. I also believe in eternal security but not perseverance.

    Ned Pickett

  26. I see your point. If you take those two sentences out of context is could reasonably be construed as a contradiction. However, I like my corner. My point was that Jesus did not put the emphasis upon the remarriage alone as we would expect if the sex of the second marriage was the point of sin…a sin of adultery. But instead He cites the combination of divorce and remarriage. And once that is seen, one asks why the divorce is crucial and if it is, how does that relate to the second marriage? Combine this with the fact that the man could have married another woman in addition to the first and not been guilty of anything. Additionally note that in Matt. 5:32a, the man is guilty of adultery even though no remarriage is mentioned for him or for the woman he divorces. (Attempts to appeal to 5:32b, are improper because the two sayings are –as ALL other of Jesus’s combined sayings–independent of each other for their meaning.) Given that, the only way to resolve these issues is to take the door in my corner. The divorce is THE problem. That is where the sin occurs. But if so, then why did Jesus mention the remarriage? My solution is that it pairs with the exception clause. Jesus is pointing out the usual motivation of a divorcing husband…namely NOT because of the acceptable reason (sexual unfaithfulness), but because he found someone he liked better (see the similar situation for diminishing abuse in Exodus 21:10). Put another way, the “and” (Greek kai) functions as a purpose clause…as in “if he divorces his wife for the purpose of marrying another he commits adultery.” When I say “functions as” I mean that the “and marries another” is “hypothetically historical.” It simply describes what is happening subsequent to the unjust divorce. I do not recall any Greek scholar objecting to this interpretation, and I even checked with my own Greek teacher, Donald Wise at Moody Bible Institute. In his criticism of my work (Ethics for a Brave New World), John Feinberg of Trinity did not provide any convincing criticism that interpretation and he is quite sure of himself when it comes to grammar. Once the divorce is given, there is no marriage, and the remarriage cannot be adulterous…especially for the husband. If you make it essential to the “adultery,” then you have to explain how a hardhearted husband is guilty of anything if he divorces his wife and does not marry another woman. While you are thinking that through, remember that Jesus is commenting in Matt. 5 31 about Deut. 24:1, a text in which the remarriage of the husband is not mentioned at all…and for good reason. It was morally permissible for him to take another wife, either before or after the divorce mentioned. If you doubt that, remember that the person who challenges a practice as immoral has the burden of proof. If you have any proof I would love to hear it. I’ve spent 30 years trying to find that verse and concur with the OT scholar who said that there are a multitude of ways that God could have denied men that right, but none of them are to be found in the OT text. That is the majority opinion of OT scholars, Kaiser and Davidson excepted. Kaiser I responded to Kaiser in my appendix on the subject and Davidson I have responded to elsewhere. Neither of their arguments from Gen. 2:24, Lev. 18:18, or Deut. 17:17 hold water. There simply are no arguments which prohibit polygyny. Given that, my door is the only one in the room which opens to anything other than a blank wall.

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