God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Adultery in Matthew 5:32

Adultery and Matthew 5:32

According to Matthew 5:32, divorcing a woman causes her to commit adultery.

But Peter Kirk notices that the new NIV (“NIV 2011”) translation has a new take on the verse. Peter writes:

One rather odd change I noticed, which some might attribute to political correctness: in Matthew 5:32 the “adulteress” (1984, TNIV) is no longer a wrongdoer but has become “the victim of adultery” (2011).

More specifically, the NIV 2011 translates:

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

It’s a fascinating and complicated issue.

What Victim?

At first glance, the introduction of “victim” seems uncalled for. The NRSV, for example, representing the usual translation of the verse, goes with (my emphasis):

I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife … causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

The usual translation makes the case look entirely parallel. A divorcee does the same thing as the man who marries a divorcee. They both “commit adultery.”

But the original is more nuanced.

Active and Passive Adultery

The original Greek uses the verb moicheuo (“commit adultery”) twice. It’s true that marrying a divorcee is moicheuo-ing, that is, committing adultery. But divorcing a woman is to cause her to be moicheuo-ed, or to have adultery committed against her. That is, the first verb is passive and the second is active. The man and the woman here do not do the same thing, according to the Greek.
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November 28, 2010 Posted by | translation practice | , , , , , , | 339 Comments

A New Collection of Questions and Comments About Bible Translation

The popular Better Bibles Blog (“BBB”) has a new feature: Share, where you can leave questions about Bible translation and share links.

From the announcement there:


We would like to hear from you. The Internet is a big place with far too much interesting stuff for our small group of writers to keep up on. Tell us what you’re reading and what stories on the Internet you’ve discovered that relate to Bible translation.


What questions do you have about Bible translation? Have you read a verse and wondered if it’s an accurate translation? Ask about it here.

Recent questions there have dealt with which translation to choose and the Hebrew word nephesh.

Take a look!

November 28, 2010 Posted by | announcements | , , | 1 Comment