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Abstract

The issue of divorce is highly debatable due to the confusions created by various manuscripts, lexical and cultural issues. The Moses’ exception clause and the “one flesh” union argument stand in conflict due to the contextual issues. Matthew 19 lays down clear statements and while addressing the issue of divorce and remarriage thereby eliminating the cause of confusion, however, some phrases are confusing. In this paper, I seek to address all the issues addressing that divorce is a sin as against the one flesh rule but all sins are forgivable and divorce should be viewed in coherence with the exceptional clause and he or she is free to marry.

  1. Introduction

The teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage has been a question of crucial importance for the Christian churches.[i] Pope Francis and the Bishops agenda on families have time and again brought these issues into consideration.[ii] Entire Bible has repeatedly discussed about the sanctity of the relationship of marriage and the purity it holds within itself. New Testament has within its ambit limited contributions of Jesus on this issue.[iii] But the teachings of Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke has been confronting to the contemporary sensitivities. There is therefore a need of clear analysis to remove the confusion of whether divorce and remarriage are sinful, and if they are then are these sins forgivable.[iv]

I will explain in this paper a brief history of the teachings of the New Testament, Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke and further conclude on what Jesus exactly meant when he answered the questions of the Pharisees.

  • Geographical Setting and Transitional Conclusion

The views and teachings of the Baptist church on the issue of divorce are as follows:

“God hates divorce and marriage should last until one spouse dies. A man should leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become ‘one flesh’.[v]

Only biblical provisions for divorce including marital unfaithfulness (adultery or extra marital affair) by the other spouse or in circumstances of desertation of the spouse are the ones which are permitted and allowed.

Considering the occasion of remarriage after divorce, it is only permitted in case of divorce due to marital unfaithfulness or when it is impossible to restore the relationship of ‘one flesh’ due to death or remarriage of the other spouse. (Gen. 2:21-24; Mal. 2:14-17; Matt. 19:3-12, Rom. 77:1-3; Cor. 7:10-15)”

This statement on divorce is a biblical reference and can be considered as a fair reference and is regarded as the exceptional clause. The teachings are based on the entire references of the Holy Scriptures guiding and are clear. However, there lies an ambiguity. In case of adultery, divorce and remarriage are considered as righteous and it is the will of the God for a man and a woman to be one flesh. On the contrary, the above statement clearly emphasizes on how God provides some ways to break the sacred relationship and commit a sin.

These statements have been taken from the teachings of Matthew 19. In this paper I will rely on Mathew 19 and address all the issues on how the divorce is a sin but the sin of divorce is forgivable and divorce should be viewed in coherence with the exceptional clause and he or she is free to marry.

  1. Hermeneutical Foundations

“Analogy of Scripture”[vi] is considered as the idea of using scriptures to interpret the scriptures with usage of clear passages as against the unclear ones. The idea is to establish doctrine and practice on passages which are clear rather than unclear passages which create confusion.

His great Sermon laid down the disciples focusing on the sin of divorcing the husband or wife and breaking up a marriage by the commission of adultery.[vii] The men who are party to breaking up someone else’s marriage are guilty of adultery (Matthew 5). Further, he had interchange with the Pharisees wherein he reaffirmed the teachings (Luke 16).[viii]

Pharisees came to Jesus twice and queried about his beliefs on divorce and remarriage [ix](Matthew 19 and Mark 10). Matthew 19:9 accords the alternative views about the exception clause.

There are various interpretations to Matthew 19:9 which is a challenge and the interpretations have been very speculative. There interpretation has also been unclear due to the blurry and different meanings of the word “porneia” (sexual immorality). There has been no consensus between the interpretations and the true meaning. Verse 9 is the most confusing verse in the Bible; however it is used vey frequently.[x]

  1. The Pharisees and Rabbinic Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

The rabbinic teaching behind the Pharisees question is important to be understood. Pharisees made an attempt to trap Jesus and they wanted to put him in a situation of conflict. They wanted to determine if Jesus sided with Rabbi Shammai or Rabbi Hillel.

Mishnah stated in Gittin 9:10 that the school of Shammai states that a man cannot divorce his wife unless his wife is unchaste; on the other hand, the school of Hillel stated that a man may divorce his wife even if she spoiled a dish for him. These two views are conflicting views which concern divorce.

Deuteronomy 24:1 lays down these teachings and Shammai has expressed that divorce is acceptable only when a woman becomes indecent and unfaithful. This view is clearly opposite and narrow from the Rabbi Hillel statement which states that the man can divorce his wife for almost any reason which causes him to lose favor in her.

There has been a constant debate about which one of the two views was dominant during the time of Jesus. Some have taken up the views of the Shammai and the others are in tune with the Hillel view. Jesus was trapped between the two views in order to choose one and be criticized for the other.

Deuteronomy 22:22-27 and Leviticus 20:10 highlight the fact that penalty for the crime of adultery is not divorce but death. In case Jesus supported the Shammai statement, Jesus would have been trapped with this lack of knowledge of law and would have been extensively criticized.

On the other hand, if Jesus would have taken the side of the liberal teaching of Hillel, the situation of the women would have worsened.

I believe that Jesus did not side with any of the statements and went on to offer a third insight of wisdom. The response of the Jesus had set forth a principle to further stand by. The comments in 19:9 muted the Pharisees.

  1. Preliminary Analysis

I will do a preliminary analysis of all the theories and teachings which have been stated in here and determine the literary context and forms which were adopted to make the determinations and conclusions. I will further throw light on the parabolic themes which have been adopted herein. I will also lay down a complete description and diction about the controversial dispute herein. I will further examine the literary structure that has been used herein along with the Biblical theory in Matthew 19:1-12.[xi]

  1. Literary Context and Forms

In Matthew 19:9, the teachings of Jesus caused a controversy. This has further resulted in various different interpretations. However, it is necessary to understand what Jesus clearly meant when he gave his statement about how divorce is a sin.[xii]

There is no ambiguity in the first eight verses of Matthew 19, however, these verses often have different interpretations due to the confused interpretation of the 19:9. Jesus has responded by explaining the God’s Original Design and he has further stated the simple principle by which all humans should live by.[xiii]

Jesus settled the Shammai and Hillel debate by showing them the God’s original design in verses 4 and 5. He answered in 4, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE” and in 5, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”

Jesus made no arguments about the rabbinic tradition and answered the questions on divorce by explaining the God’s original design wherein there is no room for homosexuality, remarriage, adultery, divorce, or polygamy.[xiv]

The original design of the God was for a man and a woman to be joined together for life. The aim was to explain the intentions of God for our life[xv]

Further, Jesus gave the people a simple principle to hold and live by. In verses 6 he states, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

Jesus explains how God joins the two souls together as one for the purpose of procreation, mutual edification and personal happiness. The God’s plan is to unite the two individuals by taking vows before him.

Christ aimed at reminding the basic principle and ideology behind marriage and it is never justified to apart from what God has united. The vows made to each other before the God in his presence are never acceptable to be broken and a man would never be right to break something done by God since it is against his will.

It is necessary to understand that how Jesus tries to make people understand that divorce and remarriage are sins and against the will of the God. He compels people to refrain from such acts out of love for God and not as a crime or because of a legal system which punishes them.

The God is the creature of wholeness and order and he wishes for every man and woman bonded together to strive as one. Committing a sinful act of divorce is against his desire and is a result of the actions of the humans.

  1. The Parabolic Themes

In order to explain the terms of the texts, the teachings of Jesus on divorce and remarriage appeared in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Mark 10:1-12; Matthew 5:32; 19:1-12; and Luke 16:18. Further reliance has been placed on Paul (1 Cor 7:10-11).[xvi]

In 19:1-12, Matthew reported the encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees which was originally found in Mark 10:1-12. The reports of Matthew have been prepared from Mark 10:1-12 as the source, but the report has been made by him in his own fashion. The narrative context has been used more coherently than in Luke 16:18. Matthew has dealt with the question of divorce in 5:17-8.

Jesus further extended the commentaries to the legislations of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. He further comments, “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of unchasity, makes her an adulterous; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery’.[xvii]

  1. Description and Diction

Although centuries and worlds apart, there is a nexus between the challenges faced by the teachings of Jesus then and now. Even though this modern society has become structured, economically, socially and legally, the practice and questions about divorce and remarriage still continue to subsist. These questions were also existent at the time of Jesus too.

The only difference that lies in here is that earlier the practice of divorce and remarriage was not widespread and now people have taken a liberal view and divorce and remarriage which were earlier considered as sin have now become acceptable.

 Deuteronomy 24:1-4 states that a man is permitted to dismiss his wife and marry another woman; however, this was contradicted by the teachings and practice of Jesus. He did not approve the commission of such acts and considered the bond of marriage to be God’s original plan.

In his teachings, Matthew 5:32; 19:9 adds the exceptional clause of ‘unchasity’ and provides it to be a ground for divorce. The motivation of this expression has been described by making use of the word ‘porneia’. This is a Greek word which is difficult to translate but specifically denotes immoral acts.

The Christian Church has not based its teaching solely on the authentic and traditional practice of the historical Jesus. Various theories have been relied on including the New Testament, Gospel of John, and Teachings of Paul in order to establish the rule of faith.[xviii]

  1. Literary Structure

The two teaching of Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18 are close. There are slight changes in style and content but the two authors have relied on the same source. Even though Matthew takes the details of the divorce between a husband a wife for granted and on the other hand, Luke clarifies the problems; it can be said that literary structure and the content state that both have used Mark as their soure.

Mathew 19:1-8 brings about clarity upon the teachings of the divorce.[xix] New Testament teaching further explains how divorce is a sin. Divorce and remarriage are prohibited has been also affirmed by Mark, Luke and Paul.[xx]

Mark 10:2-12 clearly throws light upon the intention of the God. The teachings on how divorce and remarriage are adultery are also clearly stated and no exceptions have been laid down for escaping from such a sin.

Mark 10:10-11 states, “And He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

Luke devoted a single verse to divorce. In 16:18, he states, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and a man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” However, there is no context which i given along with the statement for explanation and there are also no exceptions to it.

Further, Paul explains the concept of divorce in two situations; firstly, using marriage and divorce for explaining the laws in Romans 7, second, in 1 Corinthians 7 a detailed teaching on divorce is given.[xxi] In

Romans 7:1-3, Paul makes illustrations to reiterate the basic principle that marriage is a sacred bond for life in contrast to divorce and remarriage which are adultery.

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-39, Paul has interpreted the teaching of the Jesus and explained his full teachings on divorce. In verses 10-11, he states, “To the married I give this command, (not I but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband, but if she does she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”

Paul has reiterated the teachings of Jesus and he has clearly established that the aim of the Jesus was not for people to get divorced. The alternatives which he has suggested in a situation of divorce confine only to reconciliation or celibacy. The individual who divorces his partner should either reconcile or stay single.

The true nature and meaning of Mathew 19 has been lost in the transmission and different interpretations. The passages in Luke, Mark, Paul and Matthew 19:1-8 are although clear and without any ambiguity and it is considerable to set aside all other ambiguities and focus on the clear verses wherein there exists no iota of doubt and uncertainty.

It has been rightfully viewed by Jay Adams that the exception clause cannot be denied and it is present.[xxii] However, due to the complexity with its interpretation, it is not easy and effective to apply it. It is also necessary to be noted that the exception has to be considered and viewed in consonance with the verses without an exception.

  1. Biblical Theory of Matthew

The confusion in Matthew 19:9 relates to the query that whether the exception clause applies to both divorce and remarriage or only upon the situation of divorce? The second confusion herein is the definition of the word porneia and its meaning in the context herein.

With respect to the first question, Matthew 19:9 states, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immortality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The sentence has been viewed differently and has been subject to different interpretations. Heth and Wenham in Jesus and Divorce: the Problem with Evangelical Consensus explain:

“The construction of Matthew 19:9 highlights two crucial statements:

  1. A man may not put away his wife unless she is guilty of adultery
  2. Whoever marries another after putting away his wife commits adultery.”[xxiii]

The view stated herein is that divorce is allowed in special cases of immorality, but remarriage after divorce is unacceptable. Divorce is often considered as a possibility but remarriage is not. These views are in consonance with the views of Paul a Corinthians 7:11 and the only options available o an individual after divorce are either reconciliation or remarriage.

However, Heth and Wenham in their Hasmian view state that the exception clause is applicable both to remarriage and divorce.[xxiv] Therefore, it grants the authority and acceptability to divorce and remarriage in immoral cases.

The syntax view is another common view which places exception between the two conditions and qualifies both divorce and remarriage. John Murray states, “In the syntax of the sentence as it actually is, the meaning and relevance of the exception clause cannot be maintained apart from its application to the remarriage as well as to the putting away.[xxv]

Porneia

With respect to the second question, the word Porneia is a controversial word which has several meanings. It is necessary to determine the meaning of the word to understand the nature of the exceptions.

There have been several definitions of the term ‘porneia’. BAG defines it as, prostitution, unchasity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.”[xxvi] The word Porneia is a general word and it can have various meanings and interpretations. The word thus appears in the context of different sins. It has been referred to as sexual act committed outside the course of marriage.

Corinthian 5:1 refer it to as incest wherein a man commits an immoral act with his father’s wife and Revelation 19:2 state it as prostitution wherein the harlot corrupts the world. The word stays the same however, its interpretation and meaning changes with the context in which it is used.

Therefore, it can be clearly stated that it is difficult to attach one meaning to the word Porneia and it can be interpreted in various ways since it is a general term deriving specific meaning from its context wherein it is used.

  1. Carl further states that the word Porneia has four common interpretations and meanings: 1. Adultery, 2. Unfaithfulness during betrothal, 3. Unlawful marriage to gentile idolaters, and 4. Marriage within the prohibited relationships of Leviticus 18.[xxvii]

Adultery

NIV translates porneia as “marital unfaithfulness”. This interpretation narrows the meaning of the word porneia. Various scholars such as John MacArthur, Stanley Ellison, John Murray, jay Adams have argued that Jesus has sided with Rabbi Shammai and has limited the practice of divorce.

I believe the meaning adultery is the least possible interpretation of the word Porneia. This interpretation would further indicate that Jesus has contradicted his own teaching in Mark and Luke along with conflict with teachings of Paul in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7.[xxviii]

Unfaithfulness during The Betrothal Period

The word porneia is also interpreted as unfaithfulness during the betrothal period. The period of engagement before the marriage is considered to be a binding period and was similar to marriage, probably te precursor of marriage holding the couple as good as a married couple. Jesus allowed the people at these stages to break the bond in case of discovery of unfaithfulness.

The word porneia in this context has been used as fornication i.e. sxual relation between unmarried people. This definition and exception applies to people who were not completely married. But the meaning of the word porneia has been narrowed in here.

Jay Adams states that this view is not the correct view since Pharisees and Jesus were not debating about the bond of engagement but they were discussing about marriage.[xxix] Pharisees asks the Jesus about the relationship between husband and wife and there exists no real reason to shift the argument from marriage to engagement.

Unlawful Marriage to Gentile Idolaters

In Ezra 9-10 and Nehemiah 13, the people of the God were instructed to divorce gentile idolaters for ensuring that the Jewish race was pure.[xxx] The word porneia herein relates to the sexual sinful acts which are related to idolatrous worship in Acts 21:25. The same idea if was used by Jesus in Matthew 19:9, the exception would only be applicable to Jews who married the idolaters.[xxxi]

This argument is also against the teaching of Paul in Roman 1 and Corinthians 7 since Paul guides the believers married to unbelievers to perform all they can to stay married and there arises no need to divorce an unbelieving spouse.[xxxii]

Paul has made no statements in contradiction to Jesus, however, he has merely written to Christians and not Jews. If Jesus was referring specifically to Jews in Matthew 19:9, then this instruction would have been specified clearly and there would be no need of an exception clause.

Incest

Carl Laney, Lowther Clarke and Charles Ryrie have suggested that the word porneia refers to incest. Leviticus 18 has prohibited marriage between relatives making any such union as null and void. 1 Corinthians 5:1 is a clear biblical text.

The definition of porneia has again been narrowed too much and the reference to porneia has been made in terms of incest. However, it may not suggest that Jesus has given this narrowed meaning. Edgar suggests that there is merely little connection between Matthew 19 and Leviticus 18.

The number of interpretations and solutions to the term are not exhaustive and all scholars have come up with different arguments. The confusion arises from Matthew 19:9 and the definition of porneia and the sentence structure of 19:9 is unclear. However, the further parallel passages of Paul’s teachings, Mark and Luke are clear.

  • Critical Analysis

I will critically analyze the question which the Pharisees had placed before the Jesus questioning about the Moses. I will further explain how Jesus has created a meta-narrative and knowledge about the principles of divorce and remarriage. Further, it is also necessary to understand that how God intended to join but man has repeatedly separated him by breaking the bond of marriage. I will further analyze the exceptional clause and throw light on the final disclosure by Jesus.

  1. The Question

The Pharisees did not settle after the answers given by Jesus and they further questioned him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”

The question put by the Pharisees before Jesus was a fair and just question since Jesus had told them that divorce was unacceptable. Therefore, they appealed to Moses.

I believe that the question was a practical one but the Pharisees were just not ready to settle with the answers of the Jesus and aimed at further creating a trap and find different means to criticize him. Although the question has been relevant and has provided various answers to the people today and holds crucial importance under the subject of divorce and remarriage.

  1. Jesus’ creation meta-narrative

In order to answer the question, Jesus again reiterated his basic principle and said. “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

Divorce was no where accepted or acknowledged in the scriptures and what was stressed upon was merely the original God’s plan. Jesus explained to them that Moses had granted the permission of divorce to be continued because people had hard hearts. Divorce has been always considered as a sin and a sign of weakness of human to value the other being. Moses wrote about divorce in order to impose restrictions upon it and limit it to certain situations only. (Leviticus 21:7; Deut. 22:19; Deut. 22:28)

Jesus has clearly explained that the God’s plan did not involved breaking of the bond and the aim was co-existence of a man and woman as one flesh. This union was considered sacred and was not meant to be broken.

Some have suggested the fact that since humans have become sinful, they have lost compassion, honour and devotion making divorce inevitable. Jesus further admitted that hard-heartedness of humans was the reason for the occurrence of divorce. Jesus suggested that even if divorce is condoned as a sin, the original design of God of marriage would still be valid.

The answer to the Pharisees question regarding the acceptability of divorce has been negative. In 19:1-8 Jesus has stated that divorce is not the intention of the God. No man is at liberty to separate what god has joined.

  1. God Joining but Man Separating

In answering the Pharisees about the Moses question, Jesus said,

have you not read, that he who created them from the beginning of creation made them male and female, and said ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh’? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

Jesus explains how God joins the two souls together as one for the purpose of procreation, mutual edification and personal happiness. The God’s plan is to unite the two individuals by taking vows before him.

Christ aimed at reminding the basic principle and ideology behind marriage and it is never justified to apart from what God has united. The vows made to each other before the God in his presence are never acceptable to be broken and a man would never be right to break something done by God since it is against his will.

It is necessary to understand that how Jesus tries to make people understand that divorce and remarriage are sins and against the will of the God. He compels people to refrain from such acts out of love for God and not as a crime or because of a legal system which punishes them.

The God is the creature of wholeness and order and he wishes for every man and woman bonded together to strive as one. Committing a sinful act of divorce is against his desire and is a result of the actions of the humans.

Jesus clearly states that the sanctity of a relationship lies in the marriage and it was the God’s original plan for a man and a woman to live together and procreate. Therefore, what God has planned to join together should not be separated by any other man. However, people tend to commit this sin more often and they separate from each other. Jesus has regarded this separation as a sin.

It is not right for a man to separate what God had created to be one. But it is often a case that a person becomes a party to break up someone else’s marriage and is regarded as guilty of adultery.

A woman sunders her marriage not when she is raped or has done sex but when she is willing to engage with someone else in an act which sunders her marriage and which she had promised in her vows not to do. For a man, the bond is broken not when he has sex with another woman but when he forsakes his covenant partner to devote himself to another partner in bed and breaks the promises made to the first wife.

However, this also does not mean that every breach of each covenant results in a legal divorce. Once the party breaking the bond resumes restoring the covenant, there is no requirement of any disciplinary action. It is also sufficient for the erring party to promise and reassure his attention of not breaking any further covenant.

Celibacy and Renunciation

Heth and Wenham advocated the traditional view of renunciation[xxxiii] Jesus agrees with the disciples and he states that celibacy is elevated as a valid option for those who are not given the gift of marriage (cf. Matt. 19:12).[xxxiv] Carson suggests that for those to whom it is given ‘it is better not to marry’ and ‘That one who can accept this should accept it.”[xxxv] Jesus therefore suggests that marriage is not intended for those who have the gift of celibacy.

Jesus has further suggested the plumbing rule i.e. those who have the plumbing and intention to use it, should further follow the rules.[xxxvi] In other words, those who are in possession of the genitals and wish to use them must adhere to the saying of the plumbing rule.

I believe that there is no clear interpretation and understanding of the “gift of celibacy” and it has to be one’s own choice and not enforced by others.

  1. The Exception Clause and the Controversial Pronouncement

Matthew 5:32; 19:9 adds the exceptional clause of ‘unchasity’ and provides it to be a ground for divorce. The motivation of this expression has been described by making use of the word ‘porneia’. This is a Greek word which is difficult to translate but specifically denotes immoral acts.

Heth and Wenham indulged in a major controversy and noted that the exception clause could have been placed in one of the three locations in the protasis:

Whoever...divorces his wife... and marries another....

  1. Between whoever and divorces
  2. Between the wife of him and marries another (Matthew’s choice)
  3. At the end of the protasis (i.e. after marries another) and before the apodosis (i.e. the result, commits adultery).

The first option would have resulted in a situation of divorce as a mandatory outcome and resort. The second option would make groundless divorces and remarriage as adultery. The third option would have permitted remarriage after groundless divorce.[xxxvii]

Heth/Wenham disapproves all the three options and affirms the right to remarry after divorce. They believe that this is a right which has been denied to them by the early Church fathers. These modern proponents have rejected the Erasmus who was the sixteenth century humanist. They have further criticized the work of John Murray, late theologian of Westminster.

Heth/Wenham is incorrect in making their conclusions because they have forgotten the complexities and the negating phrase which interrupts the conditions. It is also doubtful that exact phrase can be put at any other place. It is not the intention to make the phrase emphatic and I believe this is the reason for not placing it at the first position. The exception clause is clearly an exception to the verse and there is no merit in placing it at any of the points. I believe placing the clause at first position would have only caused confusion.

Further, the third position is also confusing grammatically and conceptually. The negating prepositional phrase makes a modification to the verb preceding it: “He who marries another, except for fornication commits adultery. The phrase “marrying another except for fornication” creates confusion and seems negative and harsh. This negating clause would have implied that the first wife had been divorced by her husband because she was a fornicator. This position is harsh and makes the first wife guilty, even though it is not clear who might have committed the sin of fornication.[xxxviii]

Only position 2 is left wherein the Gospel writer had put it. This position has logical implications.[xxxix]Firstly, the negation clause is not emphatic and only asides from the major point. The husband is not granted the right to divorce his wife or end his marriage.[xl] Secondly, unchasity is a valid ground for divorce but not for remarriage. Therefore, grammatically it emphasizes how unchasity would only relate to divorce and not remarriage. Lastly, It is therefore improper to say that all the divorces which end in remarriage are adulterous. [xli]

Therefore, I believe that the intention of the scholars in syntax of the Gospels here is to imply that adultery and divorce are sins.[xlii] Further, Heth and Wenham have put in their own conclusions into syntax. Statements in Mark and Luke further prohibit all kinds of divorce and remarriage. But when a view is taken in context of the exception clause in the Matthew, it prohibits only divorces which are ill grounded i.e. not grounded in porneia.[xliii]

In conclusion, it can be derived that a man has committed a sin if he divorces his wife without the proper grounds of porneia; he commits the crime of adultery. Heth and Wenham aimed at making remarriage as the point of committing adultery. However, the real point where adultery is committed is divorce (as stated in Matthew 5:32a that one who allows the first saying is independent of the second.

Remarriage by the “Innocent Party”

There have been various reflections on these points. The verse clearly states that the groundless divorce which involves a remarriage is adulterous. This clearly indicates that the divorce which has been made on proper grounds, then remarriage is not adulterous. However, this interpretation is liberal and vague. If the words in the verse intended to grant such liberty then there would have been the mention of the words ‘only if’. However, in the absence of such words casts a shadow of doubt over a remarriage by an innocent party. The passage fails to explain the rights of such innocent person. The remarriage has been permitted by the scriptures in two ways:

  1. A man can marry a woman as long as she was a valid married partner and not a relative or woman of the land.[xliv]
  2. A woman who was divorced treacherously can remarry without any moral stigma
  3. There are no sources in the current document.[xlv]

Remarriage by the guilty party

Another question that arises is whether the guilty party entirely exhausts its right to remarry for divorcing his wife groundlessly. In case Jesus completely wished to eliminate the right of such a person to remarry he would have to abrogate Old Testament doctrine which discusses about polygyny which is permissible on morality. It cannot be therefore concluded that Jesus condemns the second marriage and that it would be unjust for a guilty man to remarry.

However, these important words are omitted in significant manuscripts of Matthews (especially Codex Vaticanus). Therefore, these important combinations of conditions cannot be ignored.

Although it cannot be denied that it is the person who is remarrying and divorcing is committing adultery. But, such a man divorces his proper wife to remarry another woman (i.e. the woman of the land). It is also to be noted that the Hebrews could have taken these women as concubines or half wives with absence of any moral stigma, but they choose to remarry which is not a sin in comparison to the sin of rejecting a valid partner. The only sin that exists is the sin of divorcing the first wife without any unjust ground. But it has been pointed out by teaching of Paul that the act of putting away the rightful partner to achieve desirous monogamous relationship is itself adulterous.

It has to be understood that remarriage is not the actual goal of the divorce and it forms only the part of the combined action of divorce. The real sin lies in the initial act and not the gratification which is made subsequent to the sin.

I condemn how divorce and remarriage are united historically in the wrongdoing and are being together considered as a sin. I believe that it is only the action of divorce which can be considered as a sin.

Moreover, it has to be understood that the term used to indicate the offense is “is committing adultery.” The use of these words simple denotes that the sin is not an endless sin and it continues only till repentance. When a husband commits adultery by divorcing his wife groundlessly, it cannot be stated that the sin he has committed is endless and not unpardonable. The sin is ongoing and it continues up to the point at which it stops. This ongoing sin stops with repentance.

Repentance would refer to a guilty party confessing his sins to God. It also implies correcting the wrong that has been done. Repentance does not indicate dissolution of the second marriage to rectify and re-establish the first one. The man should pay a reasonable sum of money i.e. alimony for the maintenance of the wife and the child after the divorce. I believe repentance is served with the act of maintenance and confession of the sin.

It is not necessary for a woman to remarry her husband if her husband does not marries someone else after a divorce. A woman might not wish to commit to a man again but she can forgive and not remarry. She can further, remarry herself.

  1. Jesus’ Final Discourse

The final teachings of divorce and remarriage are as same as that of Old Testament Law and the Prophets. Jesus greatly emphasized that groundless situations of divorce is the sin of adultery in the eyes of God. Matthew 5:31-32a clearly highlights that when a person divorces another on no substantial grounds, the person who divorces the other commits the sin of adultery.

Further, Matthew 5:32b and Luke 16:18b affirm that a man who remarries a woman who has divorced her husband, also commits the sin of adultery and is therefore guilty for it. The situation wherein a woman divorces her husband for another man commits the act of sexual adultery which is further set forth by the law. (Lev. 18 and 20; Deut. 22:23 ff) Further, such a sin is committed by another man for sexual purposes and he is therefore guilty for such a sin.

Luka 16:18a, Mark 10:11 and Matthew 19:9 highlight the unjust divorcing of a wife for marrying another woman and it is further regarded as a sin. In Mark 10:12, the principle of reciprocal guilt and punishment was admitted. Further, the exception clause is merely application of the Old Testament Prophets principles which state that divorce is a tragic means to make the offending spouse come back to his or her senses. There is no provision in the Old Testament which discusses the remarriage by the innocent party and the same is not condoned also. (Explicit in Deut. 24:1-4 and implicit in Exod. 21:11, 26 f.).

Moreover, there has been no explicit mention by Jesus of the right of a woman to divorce her husband for mistreatment. Jesus passed the Old Testament instruction (Exod. 21:10 f.) without a word. This omission does not reject the right of a woman; however, it can also not be seen as extension of the grounds of divorce to include sexual infidelity (porneia). This exception clause is limited only to the context of unchaste of the wife and not that of the husband. It also does not allow a husband to escape from the sin of divorce. It only grants him protection from the penalty of the divorce. The porneia committed by a husband is to be dealt like any other marital offense i.e. confession, repentance or communication with the fellowship of the church.

  1. Conclusion

The clear teachings in Matthew 19:1-8, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-13 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-39 highlight that divorce is not a part of the intention of the God’s plan of marriage and remarriage is always unacceptable. This doctrine is clear and is further taught under the scriptures.

It is necessary to provide biblical provisions for divorce and there are further no biblical allowances for remarriage. The church has made no provision for divorce since they never aimed at making allowances for actions which were condemned by Paul and Jesus.

  1. Objections

There are certain objections against the teachings of divorce and remarriage.

Firstly, there are various instances of abuse and marital infidelity which further causes sufferance in the marital home and there is no meaning of “one flesh” for these brutal souls. Prohibition of divorce and remarriage can seem heartless and cruel. There are many instances where people are abused, abandoned, or married at a young age against their will. These people suffer at the cost of the set customs and rules since they are in hope of a second chance and they seek help.

The first treatment that is given to the situation of divorce and remarriage is to prevent it just like some other sin like drug abuse, homo sexuality, etc. It is therefore sometimes complicated and difficult to apply the will and intention of the God upon the lives of humans. The secular society has led the church to a path wherein divorce is no longer a sin and is acceptable as against the biblical provisions. Society and customs became more acceptable to divorce and remarriage and the choice became a free will of the parties which is in contrast to the teaching under Matthew 19:9.

It is essential for people to transform the culture with the advent of the changing times, society and morals. However, the people need right direction to be given b the church and the Bible as against the desires and social trends.

Moreover, there are many people within the Church who aim at divorce and remarriage and a large number of people within the church are themselves divorced people. These members of the Church who themselves have suffered the pain can understand the situation of the struggling couples and can offer there teachings and guidance to prevent the couples from going through the same pain.

Secondly, it has been claimed by many that there lies no need to punish the sin of divorce or remarriage since the god has already forgiven them. However, this view is misguided and not in place.

God’s grace is defined as “God’s unconditional acceptance, but not unconditional approval.” God accepts his children unconditionally; however, he does not approve it or grants the license to commit any sin. Past actions of humans have future consequences which can either be temporary or for eternity. God’s grace is felt in a significant manner in their lives. However, God will never abandon those who have not chosen to remarry and have been divorced and God will honor them.

Thirdly, the authentic tradition has been adopted by the current legislation and is unrelatable to the present circumstances of the society. The leadership of the Church should take it into consideration and there is a need to transform the set rules and traditions as per the existing trends. The confusing challenges which exist in the contemporary society should be examined and determined. These should not be based purely on the basis of mercy and compassion.

I have made various arguments scripturally and hermeneutically focused. The subject of divorce and remarriage is a sentimental and personal subject for people. However, it is also necessary to search the true meaning beneath the scriptures as against our personal desires which can erode the sanctity of a relationship.

  1. Applications

The discussion can be brought to an end with some practical points upon implementation and application of this view. Since this study has no meaning without its practical application. The problem of divorce and remarriage are gradual progression. It requires love and humility along with courage and conviction.

Teach Adolescents: Teenagers should be taught the importance of a marriage and how God gives sanctity to the bond. They should also be taught the consequences of breaking this bond by the means of divorce.

Counseling before marriage: Those in need of premarital counseling should be provided with guidance and they should be taught that divorce and remarriage is not an option.

Counseling for resolving marital issues: Counseling will also be required to resolve marital issues such as infidelity, anger, cruelty, abuse, etc. Guidance should be give to the couple and they should be explained that there is no escape from the holy bond of marriage and divorce cannot be considered as an option and solution to personal problems. Marriage is a knot which is tied to strengthen and encourage each other to achieve to the best of their abilities. Separation for a certain period might be necessary to cool down the conflict and to resolve the issue.

Show Examples: It is further important to indicate and show various examples of individuals who were able to pass this phase of conflict and resolve their issues. They should be taught to take the matter of divorce more seriously.

Preach it: People should be taught the God’s design of marriage and marriage should be preached personally too.

No inflation: Churches often refuse to accept and forgive the sins of divorce and they preach marriage extensively. This is not the right approach since those who are subject to divorce might be in a lonely situation and they are left with their entire life to love. Paul has also highlighted that that there is a need not to inflate the concept of marriage and there should be a balance. A marriage is not a functional necessity and as it has been rightly said by Jesus those who can cherish it, should do.

Forgiveness and Love: With the change in the culture and the society, the trends have become different and there are many remarried and divorced people in the church. These people are required to share the same support and forgiveness to the couples who have been subjected to divorce or remarriage. Love and support should be given to them to help them pass the difficult phase and struggles.

Repentance: It is necessary for a man who has committed the sin of divorce to make a confession of his sin and seek forgiveness. He should accept the sin he has committed and he should be willing to maintain his first wife and children as a sign of repentance. Such a man should not remarry unless he seeks repentance of his sins.

Clearly, the teaching of Mark, Luke and Paul are clear and Scriptures have clearly highlighted that divorce and remarriage are sins and are not acceptable. However, it has also been clearly established that even though divorce is a sin and since all sins are forgivable, divorce when takes place in the situation of exception clause and deserting partner, he or she is free to remarry.

[i]James Montgomery Boice: Foundations of the Christian Faith (Hardcover- Revised Ed.) 1986.

[ii] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Anchor Bible Reference Library, 4 vol. (New York, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991-2009)

[iii] Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids, Mich: Erdmann, 2002.

[iv] Holmes, Michael W. (Michael William). “The Text of the Matthean Divorce for Adultery: The Influence of R H Charles.” Trinity Journal 11, no. 2 (1990): 143-59

[v] J, Kostenberger Andreas, David W. Jones. God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2 Ed. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2010.

[vi] Osborne, Grant R., The Hermeneutical Spiral, (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 19991) pp. 11

[vii] Heth, William A. “The Changing Basis for Permitting Remarriage after Divorce for Adultery: The Influence of R H Charles.” Trinity Journal 11 no. 2 (1990): 143-59

[viii] Moloney, Francis J. “A New Testament Hermeneutic for Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Tradition.” Australian Catholic Record 92, no. 3 (2015): 269-88.

[ix] Isakson, Abel. Marriageand Ministry in the New Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1. Cor. 11:3 -16 Ejnar Munksgaard, Copenhagen: C. W. K. Gleerup Lund, 1965.

[x] Hanger, Donald A. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 33a, Matthew 1-13. 483pp. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1993.

[xi] Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. 8.2.2008 edition. Los Angeles, Calif: Creation House, 2008.

[xii] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical doctrine. Leocester, England: Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Academic, 1994.

[xiii] Blomberg, C.L. “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3 -12.” Trinity Journal 11, no. 2 (1990): 161-96.

[xiv] Instone –Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities. 2007 or Later Printing edition. Downers Grove, Ill: IV Books, 2006.

[xv] Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition o holy Scripture. Nashville, Tenn: Holman Reference, 1992.

[xvi] M. Robinson, Paul Hoffmann and John S. Kloppenburg, The Critical Edition of Q: Synopsis including the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mark and Thomas with English, German, and French Translations of Q and Thomas, Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000)

[xvii] Matt 5:32

[xviii] Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Leicester, England: Erdmann, 1992.

[xix] Flowers, Andy. Divorce in Matthew 19: 1-12.The Clear and the Clouded. Evangelical Theological Society Papers: ETS-0726, 2004.

[xx] Hamer, Colin G. “Marital Imagery in the Bible: An Exploration of the Cross-Domain Mapping of Genesis 2:24 and Its Significance for the Understanding of New Testament Divorce and Remarriage Teaching.” Ph.D., University of Chester, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/607240.

[xxi] Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “Matthean divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence.” Theological Studies 37, no. 2(1976): 197-226.

[xxii] Adams, Jay, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, (Zondervan publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980)

[xxiii] Heth, William A.; Wenham, Gordon J., Jesus and Divorce: The Problem With Evangelical Consensus, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville TN, 1984) pp 51

[xxiv] ibid, pp. 52

[xxv] Murray, John, Divorce, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1961) p. 41

[xxvi] Bauer, Walter; Arndt, William; Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL, 1957) Porneia

[xxvii] Laney, J. Carl, The Divorce Myth, (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis MN, 1981) pp. 66-77

[xxviii] Laney 67-68.

[xxix] Adams, Jay, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, (Zondervan publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980) p.55

[xxx] Amram, David Werner. The Jewish Law of Divorce according to the Bible and Talmud with some reference to its Development in Post Talmudic Times. New York, NY Harmon Press, 1968.

[xxxi] Mielziner, M. The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce in Ancient and Modern Times and Its Relation to the Law of the State: Cincinnati: Bloch, 1884.

[xxxii] Laney, p. 71

[xxxiii] W. D. Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge University Press, 1964); D. R. Catchpole, The Synoptic Divorce Material as a Tradition-Historical Problem”, Bulletin of the John Ryland’s University Library 57 (Autumn 1974): 95.

[xxxiv] Allison, Dale C Jr. “Divorce, Celibacy and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25 and 19:-12)” . Journal for the Study of the New Testament 15, no. 49 (January 1993): 3-10.

[xxxv] Carson, “Matthew”, p. 419

[xxxvi] Moloney (“Matthew 19, 3-12 and Celibacy: A Redactional and Form- Critical Study”); Journal of the Study of the New Testament 2 [1979]: 42-60

[xxxvii] Jesus, p.117

[xxxviii] Barber, Cyril J. “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: A Review of the Relevant Religious Literature, 1973-1983.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 12, no. 3 (1984): 170-77

[xxxix] France, R. T., The Gospel of Matthew, New International Commentary on the New Testament edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Erdmann, 2007.

[xl] D. A. Carson, p. 416.

[xli] Jesus, p.234, n.20

[xlii] Elledge, Casey Deryl. “From the Beginning It Was Not so...’: Jesus Divorce, and Remarriage in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 37, no. 4 (2010): 371-89.

[xliii] Wenham, The Syntax of Matthew 19:9, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28 (1986): 17-23; Heth, Four Perspectives (pp. 104-05).

[xliv] Heth and Wenham, Jesus, p. 218, n. 17

[xlv][xlv] Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Bibliography

Adams, Jay, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, (Zondervan publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980)

Allison, Dale C Jr. “Divorce, Celibacy and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25 and 19:-12)” . Journal for the Study of the New Testament 15, no. 49 (January 1993): 3-10.

Amram, David Werner. The Jewish Law of Divorce according to the Bible and Talmud with some reference to its Development in Post Talmudic Times. New York, NY Harmon Press, 1968.

Barber, Cyril J. “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: A Review of the Relevant Religious Literature, 1973-1983.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 12, no. 3 (1984): 170-77

Bauer, Walter; Arndt, William; Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL, 1957) Porneia

Blomberg, C.L. “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3 -12.” Trinity Journal 11, no. 2 (1990): 161-96.

Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition o holy Scripture. Nashville, Tenn: Holman Reference, 1992.

Carson, “Matthew”, p. 419

  1. A. Carson, p. 416.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. 8.2.2008 Edition. Los Angeles, Calif: Creation House, 2008.

Elledge, Casey Deryl. “From the Beginning It Was Not so...’: Jesus Divorce, and Remarriage in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 37, no. 4 (2010): 371-89.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “Matthean divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence.” Theological Studies 37, no. 2(1976): 197-226.

Flowers, Andy. Divorce in Matthew 19: 1-12.The Clear and the Clouded. Evangelical Theological Society Papers: ETS-0726, 2004.

France, R. T., The Gospel of Matthew, New International Commentary on the New Testament edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Erdmann, 2007.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical doctrine. Leocester, England: Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Academic, 1994.

Hamer, Colin G. “Marital Imagery in the Bible: An Exploration of the Cross-Domain Mapping of Genesis 2:24 and Its Significance for the Understanding of New Testament Divorce and Remarriage Teaching.” Ph.D., University of Chester, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/607240.

Hanger, Donald A. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 33a, Matthew 1-13. 483pp. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1993.

Heth and Wenham, Jesus, p. 218, n. 17

Heth, William A. “The Changing Basis for Permitting Remarriage after Divorce for Adultery: The Influence of R H Charles.” Trinity Journal 11 no. 2 (1990): 143-59

Heth, William A.; Wenham, Gordon J., Jesus and Divorce: The Problem With Evangelical Consensus, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville TN, 1984) pp 51

Holmes, Michael W. (Michael William). “The Text of the Matthean Divorce for Adultery: The Influence of R H Charles.” Trinity Journal 11, no. 2 (1990): 143-59

Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids, Mich: Erdmann, 2002.

Instone –Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities. 2007 or Later Printing edition. Downers Grove, Ill: IV Books, 2006.

Isakson, Abel. Marriageand Ministry in the New Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1. Cor. 11:3 -16 Ejnar Munksgaard, Copenhagen: C. W. K. Gleerup Lund, 1965.

James Montgomery Boice: Foundations of the Christian Faith (Hardcover- Revised Ed.) 1986.

J, Kostenberger Andreas, David W. Jones. God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2 Ed. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2010.

John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Anchor Bible Reference

Library, 4 vol. (New York, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991-2009)

Laney, J. Carl, The Divorce Myth, (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis MN, 1981) pp. 66-77

Matt 5:32

Mielziner, M. The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce in Ancient and Modern Times and Its Relation to the Law of the State: Cincinnati: Bloch, 1884.

Moloney, Francis J. “A New Testament Hermeneutic for Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Tradition.” Australian Catholic Record 92, no. 3 (2015): 269-88.

Moloney (“Matthew 19, 3-12 and Celibacy: A Redactional and Form- Critical Study”); Journal of the Study of the New Testament 2 [1979]: 42-60

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Leicester, England: Erdmann, 1992.

  1. Robinson, Paul Hoffmann and John S. Kloppenburg, The Critical Edition of Q: Synopsis including the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mark and Thomas with English, German, and French Translations of Q and Thomas, Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000)

Murray, John, Divorce, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1961) p. 41

Osborne, Grant R., The Hermeneutical Spiral, (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 19991) pp. 11

  1. D. Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge University Press, 1964); D. R. Catchpole, The Synoptic Divorce Material as a Tradition-Historical Problem”, Bulletin of the John Ryland’s University Library 57 (Autumn 1974): 95.

Wenham, The Syntax of Matthew 19:9, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28 (1986): 17-23; Heth, Four Perspectives (pp. 104-05).