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.

We don’t have a convenient passive for “commit adultery” in English, but we can look at another verb to get one sense of the original Greek. “A man who cheats on his wife causes her to be deceived, and a man who cheats on another’s wife deceives her.” Whatever the merits of my new sentence, we see that replacing “to be deceived” with “deceives” changes the meaning. “A man who cheats on his wife causes her to deceive…” does not mean the same thing as “…causes her to be deceived….”

Similarly, the usual translation pair “causes her to commit adultery” / “[he] commits adultery” does not mean the same thing as “causes her to have adultery committed against her” / “[he] commits adultery.”

So far, the NRSV (representing the usual translation of the verse) seems wrong, because it doesn’t reflect the change from passive to active. And the NIV2011 is starting to look pretty good. Even though “makes her the victim of adultery” isn’t exactly the same thing as “causes her to have adultery committed against her,” the NIV’s rendition has the merit of being considerably less awkward.

What does the Passive Mean?

However, the matter is even more complicated, because when a man and woman both commit adultery in the Bible, the verb describing the man’s act is active, but the woman’s act is sometimes passive, even though many modern speakers of English would call what they are doing the same thing, and even though those same speakers of English would use an active verb in both places.

For instance, John 8:4 describes a woman who “was caught in the act of [committing] adultery.” But the Greek verb there is passive. Does John 8:4 really mean “a woman caught in the act of having adultery committed against her”?

Maybe not. Maybe moicheuo is similar to the English “widow” and “widower.” In that modern case, a man whose spouse had died is a “widower” (having done something), while a woman whose spouse has died is a “widow” (having had something done to her).

In other words, the passive/active distinction in the Greek of Matthew 5:32 may, like John 8:4, reflect the purely grammatical matter that moicheuo means for a “man to commit adultery against a woman,” just like “to widow” means for a “man to leave a woman spouseless.”

Hosea 4:13-14, however, works against this hypothesis and makes matters even more complex, because in Hosea, the active verb moicheuo is used for the women who commit adultery.

Another Active/Passive Example

In this regard, we might also consider the concept of a “foster” parent or child in English. When a child and a parent enter into a foster relationship, the child is a “foster” child and the parent is a “foster” parent. But in a very similar relationship, the child is adopted (passive) while the parent adopts (active). Is the passive/active distinction between “to adopt” and “to be adopted” merely grammatical, or does it represent our modern view that the parents have done something to the children?


One central question about Matthew 5:32 is whether the active/passive distinction in the Greek verb moicheuo represents a mere grammatical fact or a difference in the role of an adulterous man and an adulterous woman. I think it’s the latter.

Another central question is whether “commit adultery” in English works the same way. I think it does not. So sometimes we may need the active “commit adultery” for the passive of moicheuo.

A third question is how the different roles of the man and woman may have been seen.

An Answer

Returning to Matthew 5:32, it seems to me that both the NRSV (and similar translations) and the NIV2011 get it wrong. The NRSV wrongly suggests that what the man and woman are doing is the same thing, while the original assumption (like “adopt” and “be adopted”) was that they are doing different things. The NIV2011, however, wrongly suggests that the woman is a victim, while the original (as we see by comparing John 8:4) did not consider her to be (only?) a victim.

So we need a translation that shows that the man and woman do different things, even though they are both (equally?) culpable.

Any suggestions?


November 28, 2010 - Posted by | translation practice | , , , , , ,


  1. Could the essence of the term relate to “sharing”? “You shall not share your woman.” And Jesus: “He causes her to be shared.”

    As I understand it, in scripture, a man can be shared by many wives, and that is not a problem, but a woman becomes the unique property of only one man.

    So the man is actively “sharing” the woman when he puts her away, and the woman is passively “shared” when she is put away and becomes the property of another.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | November 28, 2010

  2. Thank you for making a post of my passing comment. And I think you have hit the nail on the head. I note part of Iver’s comment on my post:

    In John 8, the self-righteous, and dare I say chauvinistic, Pharisees only brought the woman for punishment and not the man who was really the one who had committed adultery, although probably with the woman as consenting to it.

    Indeed the woman wasn’t guiltless – Jesus told her to “sin no more”. But the main fault was the man’s, not least because he was presumed to have taken the more active part in the relationship.

    I am reminded of Deuteronomy 22:22-29, where a betrothed girl who sleeps with a man is considered guiltless if it happens in the country, but not in a town, as she is presumed to be a victim of rape. This scenario clearly presupposes a small quiet town, not a noisy modern city. Interestingly there is no such get-out clause for a married woman, probably because in that culture she shouldn’t have been out in the country alone in the first place.

    Comment by Peter Kirk | November 28, 2010

  3. I went to Perseus to see the way the word was used in context and found this:


    Here’s the Greek:

    κἄπειτ᾽ ἢν τοῦτ᾽ ἐπανεστήκῃ, τὴν ἀρχὴν τὸν Δί᾽ ἀπαιτεῖν:
    555κἂν μὲν μὴ φῇ μηδ᾽ ἐθελήσῃ μηδ᾽ εὐθὺς γνωσιμαχήσῃ,
    ἱερὸν πόλεμον πρωὐδᾶν αὐτῷ, καὶ τοῖσι θεοῖσιν ἀπειπεῖν
    διὰ τῆς χώρας τῆς ὑμετέρας ἐστυκόσι μὴδιαφοιτᾶν,
    ὥσπερ πρότερον ***μοιχεύσοντες*** τὰς Ἀλκμήνας κατέβαινον
    καὶ τὰς Ἀλόπας καὶ τὰς Σεμέλας: ἤνπερ δ᾽ ἐπίωσ᾽, ἐπιβάλλειν
    560σφραγῖδ᾽ αὐτοῖς ἐπὶ τὴν ψωλήν, ἵνα μὴ βινῶσ᾽ ἔτ᾽ἐκείνας.
    τοῖς δ᾽ ἀνθρώποις ὄρνιν ἕτερον πέμψαι κήρυκα κελεύω,
    ὡς ὀρνίθων βασιλευόντων θύειν ὄρνισι τὸ λοιπόν,
    κἄπειτα θεοῖς ὕστερον αὖθις: προσνείμασθαι δὲ πρεπόντως
    τοῖσι θεοῖσιν τῶν ὀρνίθων ὃς ἂν ἁρμόττῃ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον:
    565ἢν Ἀφροδίτῃ θύῃ, πυροὺς ὄρνιθι φαληρίδι θύειν:
    ἢν δὲ Ποσειδῶνί τις οἶν θύῃ, νήττῃ πυροὺς καθαγίζειν:
    ἢν δ᾽ Ἡρακλέει θύῃ τι, λάρῳ ναστοὺς θύειν μελιτοῦντας:
    κἂν Διὶ θύῃ βασιλεῖ κριόν, βασιλεύς ἐστ᾽ ὀρχίλος ὄρνις,
    ᾧ προτέρῳ δεῖ τοῦ Διὸς αὐτοῦ σέρφον ἐνόρχην σφαγιάζειν.

    And here’s the English translation:

    Then, when this has been well done and completed, you demand back the empire from Zeus; [555] if he will not agree, if he refuses and does not at once confess himself beaten, you declare a sacred war against him and forbid the gods henceforward to pass through your country with their tools up, as hitherto, for the purpose of **laying** their Alcmenas, their Alopes, or their Semeles! if they try to pass through, [560] you put rings on their tools so that they can’t make love any longer. You send another messenger to mankind, who will proclaim to them that the birds are kings, that for the future they must first of all sacrifice to them, and only afterwards to the gods; that it is fitting to appoint to each deity the bird that has most in common with it. [565] For instance, are they sacrificing to Aphrodite, let them at the same time offer barley to the coot; are they immolating a sheep to Poseidon, let them consecrate wheat in honor of the duck; if a steer is being offered to Heracles, let honey-cakes be dedicated to the gull; if a goat is being slain for King Zeus, there is a King-Bird, the wren, to whom the sacrifice of a male gnat is due before Zeus himself even.

    So the usage seems to be “laying with carnally” (the punishment for which involved some kind of debilitating ring on their “tools.”)

    Comment by WoundedEgo | November 28, 2010

  4. My take is that ALL the NT verses on divorce need to be “married” in order to form a coherent and comprehensive teaching on divorce, as the verses in isolation APPEAR to contradict each other. See David Instone-Brewer for how he does this.

    Comment by Don | November 28, 2010

  5. Isn’t it easier to talk in terms of ‘subject’ and ‘object’?
    The woman is obviously the object of the divorce. But is she also the object of the adultery that is attributed to her? And if she is the object of the adultery (passive), is that because husband no. 1 divorced her or because husband no. 2 married her?

    Comment by Robert Kan | December 31, 2010

    • Robert,

      The grammatical notions of “subject” and “object” do not always match up with what we think of as subject and object. For example, the French word for “miss” (as in “long for”) is manquer. But the subject and object are reversed compared to English, so “I miss you” in English comes out in French as “you manquer me.”

      We see from this and many other examples that knowing grammatical roles is not enough.

      Comment by Joel H. | January 2, 2011

      • Joel, I understand what you are saying, but if grammatical details are not enough then how can we understand anything? I have to assume, for the most part, that our English translation is somewhat reliable. Sure, it may not express every single detail that is in the original Greek, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 2, 2011

      • I’m certainly not saying we should ignore the grammatical details.

        My point is that the grammatical notions of “subject” and “object” do not always match the intuitive understanding of those concepts. Often the grammatical subject is what we think of as an object, as in the French example I gave, or, for that matter, the Russian expression “to like,” in which the thing that is liked is the subject.

        So we have to be careful not to jump to the wrong conclusion when we see a passive verb.

        Comment by Joel H. | January 3, 2011

  6. I think I have found a more suitable translation.
    If the ‘commit adultery’ is indeed passively applied to the wife then it could be adequately translated: ‘I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife…makes her to suffer adultery…’
    The nature of adultery is that it could be active and passive at the same time. I sin against my wife by sleeping with another woman, and the woman I sleep with sins against me and my wife.

    Comment by Robert Kan | December 31, 2010

    • Or, “be adulterated” or “shared.”

      A woman can only be naked [passive verb] by one man. If two, she’s considered a “skank.” (Unlike a man, who, in the scriptures (and Utah) can have hundreds of women (if he can afford that many “love nests”).

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 8, 2011

  7. What do you think of my suggestion that the word “adultery” is better (more clearly) translated as “sharing”?

    Comment by WoundedEgo | December 31, 2010

    • Point 1: The concept of adultery is different to that of sharing. Adultery is always represented as an offense/violation in the New Testament.
      Point 2: The second verb is said to be active, meaning husband #2 actively commits adultery. It makes no sense to say that husband #2 is actively ‘sharing’, when it was actually husband #1 who put her away.
      Point 3: Jesus does not address the issue of a man marrying multiple times. His issue was remarriage post divorce. The two issues are mutually exclusive.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 1, 2011

      • So, Robert, the “sin” is remarriage? Ie: What offends God is remarriage? Why?

        In other words, “adultery” is a meaningless term, in and of itself, is it not? It is like saying “thou shalt not spoodle.” Unless you know what “spoodling” is, you can’t appreciate its moral implications.

        To you, remarriage is the offense. To me, this seems like something good. Who loses?

        What seems to be at stake is that the woman being shared is an offensive notion to God. She is to be covered up to everyone but one man.

        In the OT, a man can have many wives, but the woman is to be the exclusive sexual property of one man.

        The view from here.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 1, 2011

  8. Point 1: The sin is not remarriage. The sin is remarriage *post* divorce. Jesus said that this is also adultery, in four places. Adultery is not a meaningless term if you accept how Jesus described it.
    Point 2: Adultery is always an offense in Scripture. Adulterers do not inherit the Kingdom of God. For definition of adultery, see point 1.
    Point 3: The teaching of adultery is symmetrical, i.e. applies equally to both genders. It is not gender-specific, such as ‘wives submit to husbands’. The 4th Commandment is for all. Jesus taught likewise. See Mark 10:11-12.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 2, 2011

    • Sorry, I should have meant 7th commandment.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 2, 2011

  9. Robert wrote: “Point 1: The sin is not remarriage. The sin is remarriage *post* divorce. Jesus said that this is also adultery, in four places. Adultery is not a meaningless term if you accept how Jesus described it.”

    It may not seem like it to you, but you are taking these verses out of context, specifically the context of the whole Bible and the Hebrew cultural context in which they were said. In other words, you are reading this text as a Greek might, and not a Hebrew and the result is condemnation in the body of Christ. It is very unfortunate that many teach what you are claiming.

    If you wish to study this aspect more, see David Instone-Brewer’s books and website on this subject.

    Comment by Don | January 2, 2011

    • Don, I am sorry if you have taken this correspondence personally. I am not trying to play the blame game. You would do better to say what you think Jesus meant rather than accuse me of ignoring the context.
      If our translation does not say what the original means, then obviously most of us would not know what the original means. I am treating the sayings of Jesus as nothing more than an accurate historical account of what he said.
      My general understanding of Jesus is that everything he taught was more or less groundbreaking. His teachings were completely foreign to how the Jews thought about moral life. His sermon on the mount opposed and challenged the mindset of his time, and before his time. With this perspective, I don’t believe I have to think like a Hebrew. I have to think like Jesus.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 2, 2011

      • Sure, the goal is to think like Jesus/Yeshua. But Yeshua was a Torah-observant Jew and therefore a Hebrew thinker, as well as the authors of the Gospels.

        I think the TRANSLATION is OK as far as it goes and accurate as a portion of what Jesus taught, but you (and many others) are taking these verses out of Scriptural and cultural context, but they are in immediate textual context. You are inadvertantly negligant of knowing these other 2 contexts and I have given you a pointer on how to see what they say if you wish to pursue it. It is simply too much to post.

        FWIIW, Jesus was novel in some of what he taught and aligned with some Pharisees in other parts of what he taught. In no case did he negate Torah.

        Comment by Don | January 2, 2011

  10. >>>…The sin is not remarriage. The sin is remarriage *post* divorce…

    But what is different the second time from the first? It is that she is already someone else’s exclusive sexual property. Hence, the identical act (“marriage”) is now sin, because she is not to be shared.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 2, 2011

  11. >>>…But Yeshua was a Torah-observant Jew…

    Actually, Jesus wasn’t a Jew, though he was “considered to be” by his contemporaries. The only way to be a Jew is to have a Jewish father, and Jesus’ father was not a Jew.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 2, 2011

    • Regardless of parentage, anyone can convert.

      Comment by Don | January 2, 2011

      • Not really. The covenant was with Abraham and his offspring.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 2, 2011

      • Ah, but people can be offspring of Abraham either physically or spiritually or both. One can claim Abraham is their father by having the (active) faith of Abraham in believing God’s promises.

        Comment by Don | January 2, 2011

      • But being a child of Abraham does not make one a Jew, because one must also be the child of Isaac. The Jews are the *physical* lineage of Abraham.

        Mar 12:35 And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?
        Mar 12:36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
        Mar 12:37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 2, 2011

      • This is too easy. Isaac had the faith of Abraham but not Ishmael as did Jacob and not Esau.

        Jews might have said that having Abraham as their (physical) (fore)father was enough, but Jesus corrected them.

        Comment by Don | January 2, 2011

    • According to halakha law, Jewishness is primarily matrilineal. Tribal identity is patrilineal (this is present since ancient times), but can be easily adopted (not switched) for all except Levites.

      Jesus was a Jew from birth. He was addressed by all contemporaries as such.


      Comment by wm tanksley | January 3, 2011

      • Thank you WM. Even I knew that. Mary was a Jew, her children are Jews -passes through mother not father. One was said to inherit the nature of his Father and that is where Jesus’ paternal lineage is relevant. Further, Jesus was not a “Hebrew thinker” because He is God and His “thoughts are not our thoughts”. Often when comparing the proper contexts we can forget to first factor out our own personal cultural/social biases and precepts. That said, God did not ordain marriage as between a man and his many wives, but one wife. It is an unbreakable bond of love and faithfulness and not an institution of the proprietary sexual rights of a man. The entire conversation misses the lifelong covenant of marriage as a reflection of God’s eternal covenant with His people. In this way, divorce is tantamount to Israel’s rebellion against God. Yet He is still married to her. He addresses that divorce was in God’s permissive will through Moses and Jesus is teaching His perfect will. He is teaching the aggregiousness of breaking COVENANT through God’s eyes. So in that aspect divorce and resulting adultery carry equal culpability if she does not remain faithful to the one who betrayed her as God has remained faithful in His covenant with His people. Seems unfair and definitely hard to swallow for the woman, if life in Christ was about fairness we would all be consumed. We confuse God’s justice with fairness and therein lies the basis for the appearance of conflict in these verses. If we miss that due to our own cultural filters it doesn’t matter how precisely you reconcile the languages. In fact, if we are not careful we will cause ourselves to study academically but not spiritually.

        Comment by Kim M. | July 26, 2013

  12. I don’t understand how anyone can say that Jesus was a Hebrew thinker. If he was, why did he heal on the Sabbath, why did he cleanse the temple, why did he say: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”? They couldn’t even follow what he was talking about. In fact, he didn’t talk or think like anyone else before him.
    On the issue of divorce, Jesus certainly negated Torah. “It was said….but I say to you….” (Mt 5:31-32). Torah permitted divorce and remarriage. In Matthew 19, Jesus explained why – the reason of hardness of heart. He claimed that it was not this way from the beginning. He then goes on to equate divorce and remarriage with adultery. From his viewpoint, the spirit of the Law and the letter of the Law are not same with respect to divorce. The concept of divorce was never in the spirit of God’s marriage Law as given in Genesis.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 3, 2011

    • On the issue of divorce Jesus claimed to have the correct reading of the same text (in context), not a different text.
      You might want to look again at the text, by the way. The Torah doesn’t directly regulate or define divorce; it merely mentions it in passing while regulating remarrying an already-remarried ex-wife. It’s a very complex sentence, hard to translate, and normally taken out of context. The NASB does well, I think, at the cost of a HUGE “if-then” paragraph.

      As for marrying a divorced woman: it should be noted that this was not forbidden, but rather was mentioned in the same way that giving a woman a certificate of divorce was. It was specifically forbidden to the Levitical priests, but apparently as a matter of cleanliness (wearing sweaty garments was also forbidden).

      Comment by wm tanksley | January 3, 2011

    • Jesus healed on the Sabbath as God heals on the Sabbath. It was against the so-called Oral Torah as taught by some of the Pharisees, but so what? It was not against Written Torah, which is what counts.

      Jesus cleansed the temple as it was being polluted.

      Yes, even his disciples did not understand some of what he said at first. They did understand later.

      Jesus could NEVER have negated Written Torah or he would have been a false prophet and certainly NOT a messiah, see Deu. This is what the Pharisees were always trying to catch him in, but he always interpreted Torah correctly and they failed. But he did negate Oral Torah when it negated Scripture.

      Jesus did NOT negate Written Torah on ANYTHING; if you think he did, this just means you are misunderstanding something, this is a basic rule of interpretation.

      Torah includes Genesis so again they cannot contradict each other. Jesus NEVER equated divorce and remarriage with adultery, that is misunderstanding the text, altho I agree it is what it might seem to say when reading it as a Greek thinker. One needs to see the whole counsel of Scripture and read it as a Hebrew, part of which is comprehensively and into a coherent teaching of which the Mat 5 part is a portion.

      There is no concept of “spirit of the law” in Scripture, altho that is again a common misunderstanding. What there is is the Holy Spirt writing Torah on our hearts in the new covenant, versus on stone and scrolls in previous covenants.

      It is true that God wishes there was no divorce, that is God’s perfect will, which also includes no one breaking their marriage covenant vows. But because of sin, God’s permissive will allows divorce in some cases, such as adultery, abuse or neglect, as these break the marriage covenant vows.

      I recommend you study David Instone-Brewer, who is a 2nd temple scholar on this subject so you will make less mistakes in this area of divorce.

      Comment by Don | January 3, 2011

      • >>>David Instone-Brewer



        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 3, 2011

      • The claim that I am reading the text as a Greek thinker has no relevance when that text happens to be an objective historical account of real events and dialogue.
        What really matters is whether we have an accurate translation. Then determine secondary issues like whether the style is literal or metaphorical.
        Always let the text speak for itself. Let it say what it says. I have not misunderstood the text. I have just taken it for what it is. I do the same if I’m reading a news article. If a news reporter says that ‘A’ has killed ‘B’, what other conclusion can I make? If Jesus said, ‘he commits adultery’, what other conclusion can I make?
        You may call it Greek thinking. But what is wrong with that? Didn’t Paul tell us not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds? The benchmark for clear thinking is not a Hebrew mindset. It is a renewed mindset. Paul didn’t tell his Gentile audience to think like Jews. He told them they had the mind of Christ. And he was referring to spiritual things.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 4, 2011

      • The reason I am objecting to your misreading of Scripture is because your misreading results in condemnation in the body of Christ. If it were not for that I would not be so strident.

        Matthew is the most Hebraic of the gospels and his original audience were Judeans and Galileans, that is 2nd temple Jews. In order to read the text as they did, one needs to see that each of the texts is a remez/hint to a comprehensive and coherent teaching from Jesus on divorce. In other words, one needs to recontruct the whole teaching from the parts given in the gospels, and see how each portion refers to the whole thing.

        Besides this, one needs to know some Jewish religious technical terms that any 1st century Judean or Galilean would know, but might not even be guessed if one does not know them.

        In other words, THEY would be able to understand what Jesus is saying, but YOU are not understanding as they would have, hence your error that results in condemnation in the body of Christ, which I oppose.

        Comment by Don | January 4, 2011

  13. >>>According to halakha law, Jewishness is primarily matrilineal.

    For our purposes, I consider that irrelevant.

    >>>Tribal identity is patrilineal (this is present since ancient times), but can be easily adopted (not switched) for all except Levites.

    ? Is this from the scriptures? If not – irrelevant.

    >>>Jesus was a Jew from birth. He was addressed by all contemporaries as such.

    They presumed him to be the son of Joseph. But he was not.

    Luk 4:22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 3, 2011

    • Irrelevant? How can you be serious? Jesus met every known cultural and Biblical marker for being a Jew. His identity by blood was Jewish; His bris was Jewish. He accepted everyone’s identification as being Jewish (which is important — one of the reasons we accept Him as being God was that He accepted worship as God). The genealogies given for him establish His identity as Jewish (a tradition with deep Biblical roots).
      It’s less obvious to say that He was adopted by Joseph, but given that Joseph’s genealogy is given as His, it seems certain that Joseph’s genealogy was imputed to Him by some means.
      Any way you put it, the Scriptures everywhere accept Jesus’ Jewish identity, and nowhere question it. The genealogies could be said to argue it. Your claim that He is NOT Jewish is the one that is unsupported in the Biblical text.

      Comment by wm tanksley | January 4, 2011

  14. I’m glad to see a vigorous debate here.

    Equally, I want to remind everyone to remain as civil as possible.

    For example, rather than, “The reason I am objecting to your misreading of Scripture is because your misreading results….” I would prefer to see, “the reason I disagree with your reading of Scripture is that….”


    Comment by Joel H. | January 4, 2011

  15. Thanks Joel, at least someone here is levelheaded about this whole thing.

    OK, so the accusation here is that I have misread it or misunderstood it. Have I misquoted it?

    If the answer is yes, then please point me to a correct version of how it should be written so that we will all read it correctly. If a correct version is not available then I guess we just have to settle with what we have.

    If the answer is no, then I’m off the hook. I don’t have a case to answer. And here is my defense:

    Irrespective of cultural/social contexts and background of the listeners, abstract terms always convey what they were originally meant to convey. Stealing means stealing. Killing means killing. Hating means hating. Adultery means adultery.

    Now I’m not saying that all killing is bad. This is where the art of exegesis or interpretation comes in. With respect to this discussion, I have believed adultery to be a bad thing (in general). And I believe Jesus talked about adultery. You can also read about it in Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. He used the words ‘divorce’, ‘marries another’ and ‘commits adultery’.

    These are all abstract terms. Do they mean the same thing today as they did back then? I have to assume so because that’s the way they were translated – by scholars mind you. In fact, Evangelicals the world over acknowledge the institution of marriage as given in the Garden of Eden. In Mt 19:4-6, Jesus cited the Genesis marriage principle. Kids learn about in Sunday school too, from Genesis as well as the NT.

    Now this isn’t a Hebrew concept, although it was written in Hebrew. There was no Hebrew culture at the time of Adam and Eve. And Moses wasn’t around when creation took place – he got his revelation from another source before he wrote Genesis.

    Of course, things changed a bit over time like the introduction of polygamy. Jesus never said anything about polygamy, so I can’t either. But he did mention ‘divorce’, ‘marries another’, and ‘commits adultery’ – all in the one sentence mind you.

    Unless the scholars got it wrong, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

    Exegesis is another issue. Can adultery be sometimes justified, like lying and killing? David killed Goliath. Rahab lied; so did the Egyptian midwives I think to protect the Israelite babies. BUT exegesis should never be used to destroy the plainest meaning of Scripture.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 4, 2011

    • I was wrong in what I wrote, I do not claim any ability to infallibly interpret.

      I have huge concerns with the supposed “plain” interpretation proposed by Robert, and the concerns are pastoral, sensical, and exegetical in terms of other Scripture and cultural context of the time, in others words in about all ways possible.

      The individual words in these verses are not translated so badly, but the question should always be “what do they mean?” So we in the 21st century read the text and think “If I were to say these words, they would mean X, so X is what it means.” This is the so-called “plain meaning”. However, this totally bypasses what those words would have meant to the original reader and what they meant to the original reader can be very different than what they might mean to us today. Why? Because ANY text is produced in a culture that defines the meaning of the words, phrases, and larger contructs; and we live in a different culture.

      The teachings by Jesus that explicitly mention divorce are found in 2 places in Matthew, 1 in Mark and 1 in Luke and they are all different, they do not just repeat what someone else says. Somehow, one needs to put all these 4 pieces of text together (like a jigsaw puzzle) so that what results fits together. And then afterwards each of the 4 portions of Scripture can be seen as referring to this total teaching as a part.

      When one examines these 4 pieces, one sees that it is NOT obvious on how do assemble them together, they do not seem to easily fit together, as might be expected. This should alert us that perhaps something is going on that we are missing.

      Comment by Don | January 5, 2011

  16. Some time ago I made an effort to put a jigsaw puzzle together. When I did I started with the absolutely sure positions of some of the pieces – say the four corners and the edges, then added to it by connecting the less obvious ones. In this case I have identified several “corners”, which are plain.

    If I am abandoned and divorced by my spouse (without adultery being committed) then I have to stay single or be reconciled to my spouse (1Cor 7:10, 11). If I do re-marry I commit adultery (Matthew 5:32, Luke 16:18)

    Person who is married and divorces without adultery being committed has no right to re-marry (1Cor 7:10, 11). If he does then it is adultery (Mark 10:11).

    Person marrying such a divorcee commits adultery (Mathew 5:32; Luke 16:18).

    It seems pointless to me to scrap the whole jigsaw puzzle in order to make some less obvious pieces fit. Corners will never be made to fit anywhere else.

    Comment by Pav | January 5, 2011

    • There are at least two ways to get the meaning wrong in Scripture:

      1. If the meaning of the original word got lost in translation. Words in English often have more than one meaning. A word may have a common meaning as well as a colloquial one, like in the expression ‘this is cool’. We depend on translators to get it right.
      2. If a word, expression or style is taken literally when it was intended by the speaker to be figurative.

      When one is sure about the meaning, then begins the process of exegesis.

      David Instone-Brewer has a large pastoral/counseling component in his teaching on marriage. We are all entitled to our opinions – provided that those opinions do not judge people in their present state.

      On the other hand, I have put the pieces of the jigsaw together in a 6,000 word article titled:

      “Matrimony, Divorce and the Exception Clause: A New Testament Perspective on the Concept of Permanency in Marriage”

      I deal with principles rather than what to do in specific cases such as abandonment, abuse, neglect or divorce by mutual consent. I believe I have refuted the doctrinal position of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the subject of marriage. I believe I have followed all the rules of exegesis in forming a coherent and sustainable view of the most difficult texts, namely: Mt 5:32, Mt 19:9 and Lk 16:18. My teaching hinges on an implicit understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation, where the death penalty for sexual crimes no longer exists and the offender is repentant.

      Paper yet to be published, if at all.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 6, 2011

      • David Instone-Brewer notes the pastoral concerns, but IS a 2nd temple scholar.

        If you are not and have no studied DIB, then you will almost certainly miss some CRITICAL things about what Jesus said. There are technical terms being used, for example, and if you do not know them it is like you are reading an idiom in a literal and wrong way. To be explicit in an analog, if Jesus said it is raining cats and dogs, you would be looking for cats in the sky; in other words, totally off the mark.

        Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • I too have put the pieces of the jigsaw together, but not in a paper, in an all day teaching I have given at churches. It takes all day as there is a LOT of cultural context to provide so the attendees can understand the NT the way the original readers did.

        And the challenge is that there are 2 basic ways to put the pieces together, a Greek way and a Hebrew way. And the Greek way leads to condemnation in the body of Christ, as I see it.

        Here is a crucial insight. Mat 19:3 was misunderstood by essentially everyone from the time of the 2nd century until the 1850s. That is because there are 2 ways of understanding it, a Greek way and a Hebrew way. The Greek way is that Jesus is being asked whether there is any cause for divorce. The Hebrew way is that Jesus is being asked whether the Hillel “Any Cause” divorce is Scriptural. The former posits a broad scope to the question, the latter says that the scope is limited to Deu 24:1 and actually 2 words there.

        Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

    • Pav,

      My take is that you are exactly wrong. You are taking parts from a teaching without understanding the whole teaching. That the gospels divide the teaching up is no excuse to do this.

      It turns out that what Jesus is MEANING is different than what he seems to be saying. But this claim looks like so much balderdash unless one studies this area, so I strongly suggest seeing David Instone-Brewer’s works.

      Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • Dear Don, please allowe me to point out to you that I used scripture, not my own words. Jesus said that if you divorce your wife and marry another (apart of ‘porneia’) you commit adultery (consistent across all gospels). This is confirmed by the command of our good shepherd in 1Cor 7:10, 11. The complete puzzle.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

      • You used a PORTION of Scripture, ripped from its immediate context. This is NOT the way to understand Scripture.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • Using the jigsaw puzzle analogy, you claimed that a corner piece must go in a corner, but there are advanced jigsaw puzzles that have interior corner pieces, to better befuddle the solver.

      Now I do not think that God is trying to befuddle us, but we can end up befuddling ourselves by not knowing the cultural context of some verses. And we can THINK it means X, when it MEANT Y and X is not even close. This is a danger as I see it in trying to extract principles when one only partially has put together a complete and coherent teaching.

      Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • Don, please, use some common sense (apart from scripture), the example of corner piece “fitting” into the centre of the puzzle is to say the least pretty week, as you after all admit – God is not the kind of God to try to “better befuddle” us. I thought the example of a puzzle (coming from you) had no tricks in it.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  17. Well my question then would be if anyone thinks that Jesus agreed with Moses, or whether he disagreed and changed the precept.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 6, 2011

    • I think Jesus must be understood as AGREEING with Moses and Torah, else he would be seen as a false prophet and certainly not Messiah. This is a basic principle of interpretation, Jesus was a Torah observant Jew, teaching Torah correctly.

      If one THINKS Jesus does not agree with Moses or Torah, then one either misunderstands Jesus or Torah or both.

      Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • So how do you take the words about “Moses suffered you…but…but I say…”?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 6, 2011

      • I see the Mat 19 pericope correcting SEVEN misunderstandings of Torah by the Pharisees. Even tho Jesus was asked a specific question about the Hillel “Any Cause” divorce interpretation of Deu 24:1, there were other mistakes they had made and Jesus needed to correct THOSE first.

        The way one can know those misunderstandings is from the Mishnah, which DIB goes thru. If one does not know the teachings of the Pharisees as recorded in the Mishnah, then one will not see what Jesus is doing in Mat 19 in correcting some of them, 7 in fact. This is the essential cultural context to understanding this pericope, IMO.

        For your specific question, here is the interaction:

        ESV Mat 19:7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
        Mat 19:8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

        The Pharisees taught that in some cases divorce was required in certain circumstances (that is, commanded by Torah). Jesus is pointing out that divorce is NEVER required. This corrects that misunderstanding.

        He also points out the difference between God’s perfect will (in the Garden of Eden), that marriage be honored and kept, and God’s permissive will (as expressed by Moses, who only wrote what God instructed him to write), that divorce is ALLOWED (but not required) in some cases due to sin.

        Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • Re: “God’s permissive will.”

        I find that people often suggest that he has such a thing. For example, the slavery laws. Did God “permit” slavery, and the beating of slaves, because of hardness of the Jews’ hearts? If so, then what does that say about the whole of the Torah? Especially, what does it say about this:

        Exo 22:31 And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

        In other words, is the standard “holiness” or “pretty good”? Is it “try not to enslave men or beat them, but if it is too difficult, at least don’t kill them”?

        Jesus seems to be saying that Moses made provisions that are really concessions that he says are not legit. For example, Jesus seems to be vilifying the act of putting her away as “causing her” to “be adulterated.”

        But I will admit that both the Deuterononmy passages and the Matthew passages pose translation and interpretation difficulties, even with your suggestions.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 6, 2011

      • I think one should read the Mosaic slavery texts in cultural context, like any text. They were very enlightened for the time and place they were given. As I see it, God leads people (individuals) and peoples into His Kingdom step by step from where ever they are and I do not see how it could be otherwise.

        We look back after 1000s of years of the influence of God’s Torah/instruction and may think it wrong, but at the time it was a stepwise refinement entering the Kingdom.

        I see that God thru Moses did give a concession, due to the sin in human hearts. The basic idea is both parties are to keep their marriage vows; but when one party does not, the other is allowed, but not required, to divorce and start over. God is against the breaking of one’s marriage vows.

        God told Abraham to obey Sarah when she asked him to divorce Hagar and God divorced Israel and God did this because Israel violated the marriage vows between God and Israel and to serve as a warning to Judah.

        Comment by Don | January 6, 2011

      • >>>…They were very enlightened for the time and place they were given…

        Meaning… “they weren’t as bad as…”?

        Well that is my point…

        Was the standard “Ye shall be holy for I am holy” or “Ye shall be less obviously given over to unbridled sin as your neighbors”?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 6, 2011

    • There was nothing to change, Jesus is not referring to written law but to practise based on oral tradition – “It was said…” in Matthew 5:31.

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  18. BTW, the word ‘epitrepo’ in Matthew 19:8 was never meant in a permissive (positive) way, always in its suffering/putting-up-with (negative) way. In Matthew 5 Jesus actually put everyone on the spot and raised the bar – He is not willing to tolerate/put-up-with/suffer divorce any more (apart of ‘porneia’). Most of that part of His teaching is about “tightening the bolts” (vv 21-48 cover topics misunderstood by the Jews).

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  19. Which of these is not accurate?:

    Divorce for adultery: Moses and Jesus allow.
    Divorce for “any cause”: Moses allowed, Jesus did not.
    Man can remarry his ex: Moses and Jesus forbid.
    Woman can remarry someone else: Moses allows, Jesus calls it adultery.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 7, 2011

    • Divorce for adultery: Moses and Jesus allow.


      Divorce for “any cause”: Moses allowed, Jesus did not.

      Neither allowed. Hillel interpreted Deu 24:1 incorrectly.

      Man can remarry his ex: Moses and Jesus forbid.

      Cannot only if she has remarried.

      Woman can remarry someone else: Moses allows, Jesus calls it adultery.

      A divorced woman can marry someone else, that is the purpose of divorce. Jesus does not call this adultery, altho it may seem to some he is doing that.

      Comment by Don | January 7, 2011

  20. Please, let me re-state: Jesus says all divorce and remarriage for reasons beyond ‘porneia’ are adulterous.

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  21. You ask me (and others) which of the four statements are not accurate. With this whole situation the only statements worth understanding are those of Jesus, I am refusing to play a game with words wound up to skew what is being stated by Him. He simply says that apart from ‘porneia’ we have NO grounds for divorce and remarriage becomes adultery, just like the good book says. Jesus says to those who hear what he says and do not obey that those words will judge them at the last day (John 12:47, 48 – If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.)

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  22. For completeness I should state that I used to partake in what I see as an adulterous remarriage. Nearly went mad inside. When the relationship stopped I was released and am able to be a partaker of God’s grace once more!

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 7, 2011

  23. Thank you Pavel for upholding the integrity, credibility and authority of God’s Word.

    Don, I would emphasize to you (because you missed what I pointed out earlier) that there is no cultural context in the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in Mt 19:1-9. Please take another look.

    V. 4-5 Genesis marriage principle
    V. 6 Jesus interpreted marriage principle
    V. 8 Jesus explained what Moses permitted, but qualified it with “from the beginning it has not been this way.” – Another reference to the marriage principle.
    V. 9 Jesus’ final position on the matter.

    Jesus doesn’t play on their terms but replied on his own terms. What context was there when God instituted marriage? Only the context of creation.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 7, 2011

    • >>>…V. 8 Jesus explained what Moses permitted, but qualified it with “from the beginning it has not been this way.” – Another reference to the marriage principle…

      The issue at hand is what “but” means… does he disagree with Moses’ precept or not?

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 7, 2011

      • WoundedEgo, are you asking this question from a legal perspective or a spiritual perspective?

        “Render unto Ceaser the things which are Ceaser’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” – separation of the legal and the spiritual.

        It’s a bit like kids in a shopping mall, pestering their mother for something she doesn’t approve of. In the end, she gives it to them, albeit WITHOUT her blessing. There are things she will give with her blessing, some things she will tolerate and everything else is a simple NO. This is not a perfect analogy by the way.

        Under Covenantal Law, gay marriage was a definite NO. Divorce and remarriage, as Pavel said, was tolerated, put-up-with. Marriage came with God’s blessing.

        Pro 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 7, 2011

      • Jesus said that while Moses put up with people divorcing He won’t. Please, have a look at the written law, it regulates the handling of divorce in some specific situation (man divorcing his wife, her remarrying, second husband divocing her as well, then the first one is disallowed to take her back) but the allowance (in positive sense) is not there. When you stole under torah you had to pay back with an extra for penalty. That doesn’t “allow” you to steal, does it? The law regulated sin. We are after righteousness, not after ways to weasel out of the consequences of our falleness. Why is everybody in church nowadays working out what to get away with? When the righteousness of God has been revealed and is of pure and high moral standard, like when we marry we must not divorce. Loving God is the greatest commandment, yet we are trying forever to justify sin. I obviously made statements and stand by them. Jesus hates divorce. Don, please, go back to scripture.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

      • You seem to miss that Jesus in this section is not arguing with Moses but with their interpretation of the torah.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

      • It is simply not possible for Jesus to contradict Moses or else Jesus would not have been Messiah. This is what the Pharisees were always trying to get Jesus to do, contradict Moses, so they could KNOW he was not what the people claimed he was.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • There absolutely is a cultural context to Mat 19:1-12. Just because you do not know it does not mean it does not exist, it just means you do not know it.

      As I wrote earlier, Jesus corrected 7 wrong interpretations of the Pharisees in this text, but if you do not know what they taught, you will not see them as corrections and misunderstand the verses. Your choice.

      Comment by Don | January 7, 2011

    • >>>…Under Covenantal Law, gay marriage was a definite NO. Divorce and remarriage, as Pavel said, was tolerated, put-up-with. Marriage came with God’s blessing…

      Thank you Robert, but don’t you see an inconsistency in this view? That God “tolerated” anything? I mean, what other sins does God tolerate? Isn’t the standard “you shall be holy as I am holy”?

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 8, 2011

      • Oh, God sure tolerates a lot of stuff. He tolerates us…wasting time playing computer games…or sitting in front of the TV…or just generally treating life like it’s one big celebration of ourselves.

        Don’t forget – Levitical priests were not allowed to marry a divorced woman. That’s also the ideal example for us. Think about it. If everyone chose not to marry a divorcee, people would think twice before divorcing in the first place. AND I choose never to marry a divorcee. And if my wife leaves me or commits adultery, I will wait for reconciliation, or wait for her to die.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 8, 2011

      • Anyone can choose to decide potential marriage partners from any group, that is their choice.

        Levitical priests are NOT a standard for a believer (priest) in the new covenant, our high priest is Jesus, of the order of Melchizedek, NOT Levi or Aaron, and Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. Levitical priests could not have wounds or skin diseases either, do you know any pastors with a bad case of acne?

        It is true Levitical priests were not to marry a divorced woman; but this meant that ANY Israelite other than a priest could do so, including those from the tribe of Judah. You do the math.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

      • Robert, the full standard for Levites is “not divorced OR widow, … but a virgin of Israel.” This places widowhood on the same level as divorce in terms of cleanliness.

        Frankly, you’re adding a ridiculous level of ceremonial Law to Christianity.

        Comment by wm tanksley | January 9, 2011

  24. It is simply not true that Jesus says all divorce and remarriage for reasons other than porneia are adulterous.

    1. This violates Torah, which Jesus not only did not do, he COULD NOT do if he was Messiah. So what you are indirectly claiming is that Jesus is not Messiah.

    2. This makes no sense. It is in no way the normal meaning of adultery, not in the 1st century and not now.

    3. What you are doing is taking verses out of context and ending up with a preposterous claim. The solution is to NOT take the verse out of context.

    Comment by Don | January 7, 2011

    • I find preposterous your claim that Jesus did not say that all divorce and remarriage for reasons other than porneia are adulterous. Here is a cut and paste from the latest NIV: Matthew 19:9
      “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

    • It doesn’t violate the torah but simply repeats it, just like Jesus did in Matthew 19:4-6.

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

      • No, you are wrong in this claim on this verse. Torah teaches the possible Biblical reasons for divorce.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • It may not make sense to people trying to weasel out of an inconvenient relationship. It makes sense to me. And it must have made sense to Jesus since He said it.

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

      • Of course it made sense to Jesus, but what you THINK it means is not what it means, as I understand it.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • Pavel,

      I continue to insist that you are taking Mat 19:9 out of context and misunderstanding it. Ripping a verse from its immediate context is NOT the way to understand Scripture. The way of ripping a verse away from its context and making it into a sort of “truth axiom” is a totally false and Greek concept. Read the Bible like a Hebrew.

      Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

  25. As I’ve stated, there is no cultural concept in the Genesis marriage principle, which was the basis of Jesus’ argument. Hebrew culture came much later.

    Abstract terms do not carry any moral connotations of cultural relevance.

    The fact that Jesus initially answered the Pharisees with the Genesis marriage principle proves that, from his point of view, this was a spiritual or moral issue from the start – NOT a legal issue as the Pharisees wanted to make it.

    We cannot read between the lines of text to imagine things that are not there. This is not interpretation – it is just wishy-washy mumbo-jumbo. Treat Scripture with the highest reverence – regardless of what anyone else does with it (including so-called scholars). Don’t forget, the Pharisees were legal ‘experts’ and ‘scholars’. In the end, they were the ones who crucified our Lord and Savior.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 7, 2011

    • Jesus used Genesis to correct a DIFFERENT teaching of the Pharisees that he corrected before going on to other things they misunderstood.

      To take verses out of context like you did in this case is a form of disrespect for Scripture. We are to do our best to NOT take verses out of context, we are to do our best to understand the IMMEDIATE context, the SUBJECT context throughout all Scripture and the CULTURAL context of the text we are studying, as the meaning of any text is a part of the culture it was written in, that is, the words, phrases and high concepts are defined by that culture.

      Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

      • Jesus took care of all three:

        He used Genesis IMMEDIATELY after He was asked the question whether husband can divorce his wife, directly as an answer.

        The SUBJECT context throughout the scripture teaches consistently that what God joins man should not put asunder, Jesus trumps it by equating the very act of marriage after divorce (apart of porneia) to adultery – huge shock to the Pharisees, and possibly to some contributors here, nevertheless consistent with other scripture, e.g. 1Cor 7:10,11 where Paul quotes Jesus and says that when two Christians divorce (or separate) they must stay single or reconcile.

        CULTURE of the time (and time of Moses) was to provide themselves with an excuse for the hard hearts they developed toward God and women and permit themselves to put a wife away. That was corrected by Jesus, too.

        When the puzzle is put together it looks beautiful. Just like the Genesis account of marriage. The mess we have created out of our hard hearts is terrible and no wonder the only way to put it back together took the blood of our Saviour. My intention is to promote the beautiful and avoid the mess, look into your own heart for an answer to the question what do your seminars promote.

        BTW I did NOT RIP any scripture from anywhere. Please, look at my initial contribution where total of four passages are referred to. I did not refer to one verse as you are claiming but to several. And the context within which it is given was simple – Jesus was asked a question about legality of divorce, He answered it with grace, letting them to ponder Genesis. When pressed He put them on the spot talking about reason for the Mosaic “letting them do it” – their hard hearts.

        If I say to a person “You shall not steal.” am I RIPPING anything out of context and misunderstand cultural context plus biblical consistency?

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 8, 2011

      • Pavel,

        The problem is that you *appear* to not understand Mat 19:3, that is, the original question of the interaction. If you did you would see that Jesus does not answer that question at first. The Gen ref. does not answer the question when seen in Hebrew context. Since you do not understand the question, you do not understand the answers by Jesus.

        The question is only answered in Mat 19:9 and he is saying he agrees with the Pharisee Shammai that Pharisee Hillel’s divorce for “Any Cause” is not correct.

        That is the question in Mat 19:3 asked whether Shammai or Hillel was correct in interpreting Deu 24:1. Shammai said there was ONE reason given there, adultery. Hillel said there were TWO reasons given there, adultery and “thing”, therefore “Any Thing” or “Any Cause”. It is a limited scope question.

        And Jesus’s answer says that FOR THIS SPECIFIC QUESTION of limited scope, the answer is that adultery is the reason given.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

      • Hey Don, you may have the winning lottery ticket. Can you provide a link to the sources you are discussing? Where is the “Any Cause” Klaus in Original Form?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 8, 2011

      • DIB discusses it at his website, instone-brewer.com in the part about his book which has free access, but I found worth buying. It should also be the playmobile summaries, but I am not 100% sure.

        The original is in the Mishnah, one of the many debates between Shammai and Hillel who lives a generation before Jesus.

        Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

  26. P.S. I think you are misunderstanding Paul also. Again, Paul would not violate Torah as he was a Torah-observant Jew. Jesus COULD NOT violate Torah as else he would not be Messiah.

    So the Torah of Moses, Jesus and Paul all agree, but not the way you understand it.

    Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • Dear Don,
      I read your reply with interest. However there are problems with the interpretation you give:
      – If you are right and Jesus allowed divorce of an adulterous wife on the basis of Deuteronomy 24:1 He would have been in conflict with Deuteronomy 22:22: “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.” It stipulates that she must die. Divorce would not have been allowed by this law.
      – Mark 10 gives another account of the same interaction where the second answer of Jesus is omitted; however another questioning of Jesus by His disciples is added. Jesus answers his disciples unequivocally by calling the separation and remarriage an adultery, in both the case where husband and the wife separate and remarry. This is CERTAINLY no reference to Deuteronomy 24:1 since in Deuteronomy the concept of a woman putting away her husband didn’t exist.
      P.S. 1Cor 7:10,11: “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.”
      What did I misunderstand?
      P.P.S. 1John 2:3,4: We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 9, 2011

    • Pavel,

      Jesus was not in conflict with Deu 22:22. That applies to a court case with at least 2 witnesses of the adultery.

      If a wife committed adultery without 2 witnesses, then it could not be proven in a court of law, and she would not be killed. This does not mean she is innocent, but the charge is unproven. However, this does not mean that the husband might not know she committed adultery and divorce her for that.

      One needs to put the Matthew and Mark teachings together. Once you understand Matthew in 1st century context, whatever Mark means CANNOT contradict it. Jesus was not a teacher that contradicted himself. Mark does not mention the exception clause of Matthew, that MUST BE because he simply assumed his readers knew it.

      In other words, when 2 teachings APPEAR to contradict, it is a puzzle. It makes sense to start with the gospel with the most on a subject, in this case Matthew and try to make that cohere with itself and then extend that coherence to the other gospels.

      This is another challenge to people that read the Bible as a Greek, as if it was composed of axioms like Euclid. The Hebrews can decline to mention something that they believe is obvious and implied by something else.

      Skeptics read the Bible and point our verses that might appear immoral, but that is because the whole counsel of Scripture is not considered.

      On 1 Cor 7:10, the translation you used fudged things a little. Paul is telling the reader at Corinth (Jew and gentile) what Jesus said, but it may not appear to be what Jesus said. However, it IS what Jesus said, just translated to a different culture.

      We know Jesus said NOT to divorce for Hillel’s “Any Cause” divorce. And this maps to what Paul is saying inside Greek culture. There was a “walk away” type of divorce, where one party just decided to not be married anymore. And there was a divorce for cause type of divorce, where one party violated marriage vows. What Paul is referring to is the “walk away” type of divorce, as I see it.

      So one thing to see is that separation (walk away) was a method of divorce in that culture. If one is separated then you are divorced and therefore unmarred, see 1 Cor 7:10-11.

      1 Cor 7:11a(but if she did, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband).

      Paul is referring to a specific situation at Corinth, but your translation does not show this. He was sent a letter from Corinth which apparently said that a specific woman was thinking of doing a “walk away” divorce from someone. Paul says not to do this, but if she DID (since she might have when the letter was in transit, he is not there), even tho she is divorced and unmarried, she should not consider herself free to marry (as the divorce was invalid according to God, as it did not involve a marriage covenant vow violation) she is to remain unmarried OR be reconciled to her (former) husband.

      On the 1 John ref. it becomes very important to see exactly what the commands of Jesus were and what they were not.

      Comment by Don | January 9, 2011

      • This is a well disguised deception:
        First of all “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15). The husband would still not have any power to use one witness (himself or anyone else) to put away his spouse.
        Secondly, you are assuming what the words of Mark MUST mean. However, only God knows why the gospels are written with overlaps and omissions between them, the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit, not you.
        Thirdly, you assert that the translation I used is “fudged” and that Paul addressed a single woman in 1Cor 7:10,11. See, I looked at three different translations into two languages done by three different groups of scholars and they all have plural there, isn’t it a bit cocky to call that “fudged”? The section is followed and preceded by two other exhortations to groups of people in various married states, how can you assert that Paul addresses, in between two groups of people, a specific couple? You are mainly funny when it comes to this – you make Paul look like an idiot.
        I probably won’t get through to you anyway – you worship a God I hate.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 10, 2011

      • On adultery, Joseph was going to (righteously) divorce Mary, as she was pregnant, this did not need 2 witnesses. Joseph knew he had not had sex with her, and it took an angel to convince him not to divorce her, see Matthew 1. As a practical matter, essentially all divorces were Hillel “Any Cause” divorces, except when contesting assets. And one might divorce for “Any Cause” (like a no fault divorce today) but know very well where fault lay.

        On reconciling Matthew and Mark, one should believe that Mark and Matthew said essentially the same thing in different ways. There are 2 ways to try to do this, minimize the meaning of the exception clause in Matthew to essentially nothing (some try to do this), or recognize that Mark did not see the need to put the exception clause in the text for some reason. Since the exception clause in Matthew is THE answer to the question asked at the start by the Pharisees, it cannot be minimized. So the only other option is the latter if one is to reconcile them. Skeptics of course say they are just different and cannot be reconciled, but I do not think a believer would make that claim.

        In 1 Cor 7:11 the verb is aorist in a conditional phrase, this means it is a snapshot in possible time past. My translation: (If she has left, she should either remain single or reconcile with her ex-husband.) Paul is not an idiot, he is responding to specific things in a letter sent to him from Corinth, but we need to do our best to deduce what was in that letter and every clue counts.

        Comment by Don | January 10, 2011

      • Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery. Luke 16:18a

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 12, 2011

      • Pavel: then what happens? Does one repent from the adultery by deliberately and willfully breaking the new marriage vows? When one does that, does not one calls down on oneself the invective Paul gave: that one has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel?
        Jesus (and Paul) didn’t add to the Law of God, but rather cursed those who added. And the Law and Prophets don’t utterly condemn divorce, but rather attempting to remarry after divorce followed by remarriage. (Many passages say that such an action profanes the land.)
        Don’t forget; although Malichi says that God hates divorce, this cannot be read as a flat condemnation of divorce itself: God says that He divorced Israel.

        Comment by wm tanksley | January 12, 2011

      • As the Bible is a progressive revelation, it needs to be read forward from the set of books of the original readers Gen-Numbers, then Deu, then the Prophets as found in the Tanakh in chrono order, then the Writings, then the Gospels and Acts, then the non-Pauline letters, then Paul in chrono order, then Hebrews, then Rev. And each later book will not contradict a former book.

        On Luke the immediate context is Antipas, who divored and remarried. In Hebrew, the connective usually translated as ‘and’ can mean “in order to”, this is not true in Greek. So if Jesus spoke Hebrew, and I think he did, what Luke records is a dig at what Antipas did, he is called him a double adulterer. This is what David Bivin thinks.

        If this is NOT the case, then Luke still needs to be reconciled with what Matthew says, they cannot MEAN contradictory things, altho they might appear to SAY contradictory things.

        Comment by Don | January 12, 2011

  27. Don, this laughable…this is really, really laughable.

    There is no mention of Shammai or Hillel (you are reading between the lines again).

    However, there are two references to Moses (have another careful look at the text), which you don’t acknowledge.

    You’ve added to the text and you’ve also taken away from the text. If I were you I’d be trembling right now.

    Nice try Don, I’ll give you credit for persistence, but you’ve only made me firmer in my convictions.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 8, 2011

    • No, it is not laughable, just limited in my ability in this forum to explain. I acknowledge all the refs to Moses in my all day teaching, where Jesus is correcting 7 errors of the Pharisees.

      I have neither added to the text nor subtracted from it, but I have tried in a limited way to provide the 1st century context of the text, which is critical to understand the text. I agree this forum is not a good way to do this. But study DIB and see what he says.

      Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

    • There are mentions of what Hillel and Shammai said, but you do not recognize them because you do not know what they said. But those in the 1st century would know these refs to what they said. It is your choice whether you want to pursue understanding the 1st century context or not.

      Comment by Don | January 8, 2011

  28. Point 1.
    Isn’t it interesting that concerning the absence of the exception clause in Mark and Luke, instead of explaining what Jesus said, Don prefers to try to explain why Jesus didn’t say something. It may not be obvious to him, but Jesus does not need anyone to explain or defend what he *didn’t* say.

    Point 2.
    Don thinks that Jesus could not have meant what the written/translated text actually says in its own right in Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. (In this case, it is a logical impossibility to prove a negative). Does Don think that Jesus was merely a man that he should have thought like one or spoken like one?

    Point 3.
    Jesus said many things, including on divorce and remarriage, that are easy to *understand* but hard to *believe*. But no-one should be surprised if Jesus *seems* to condemn divorce and remarriage. There appears to be no way out of a marriage apart from death or a fraudulent marriage in the first place. This is consistent with the whole counsel of Scripture – God’s original marriage law, God’s design for marriage, God’s marriage Law repeated twice by Paul, God’s standard of holiness, the death penalty under Covenantal Law for sexual crimes (until death do us part!), the doctrines of forgiveness and reconciliation, adultery is NOT the unforgivable sin, two statements by Jesus on divorce that don’t have the exception clause, two statements by Jesus where both spouses are consecutively charged with adultery due to remarriage. This is pretty close to the whole and complete counsel of Scripture on the subject of marriage.

    Point 4.
    Despite the overwhelming evidence as pointed out in point 3, Don would prefer us to be distracted by one exception clause in one verse, Mt 19:9. His ability to explain it leaves a lot to be desired. His biased and convenient assumption doesn’t appear to do full justice to the whole counsel of Scripture on marriage.

    Point 5.
    We are also at a loss to explain his emphasis on ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Greek’ thinking, which really are only carnal concepts compared to the surpassing wisdom of God. Don is obviously a learned man and ought to know better – that the WORD of GOD is QUICK and POWERFUL and SHARPER than a two edged sword. And yet he would have us believe that we *need* to think like a particular tribal group in order to experience HIS truth? Paul, once a Pharisee himself, understood the distinction between GOD’S thinking and man’s thinking – The FOOLISHNESS of GOD is WISER than men. Does Don really not appreciate this? I wonder whether Don believes that GOD thinks like a Hebrew?? Give the HOLY SPIRIT the benefit of the doubt, and consider the possibility that HE is able to teach people today through the WORD without intervention by others.

    Point 6.
    In all fairness to Don, culture does have its rightful place, to explain certain practices and idioms that may be unfamiliar to modern readers. But this is no excuse for mishandling the Word of Truth, and trying to convince us that what Jesus is saying is not what he appears to say. Yes, Jesus said a lot of hard things that may be hard to believe to some ears. But who said that there is something wrong with admitting that you don’t understand something, when you don’t? I would much rather take this approach than try to convince someone that the text doesn’t mean what it appears to say. That defeats the whole purpose of studying the text, and makes the translators look like amateurs.

    Point 7.
    If Don was honest with himself and straightforward with us, he will admit that his opposition to me is not about my attitude towards cultural context – it’s about the use and misuse of non-biblical sources to extract biblical truth. This is why he tells me to study Judaism and related issues. What does he really believe about the INSPIRATION of these sources compared with the INSPIRATION of the Scriptures? He should also understand that one can have a meaningful and constructive discussion about anything in the bible, but this is not going to happen if he wants to accuse people of ignorance and try to make others look inferior by claiming he thinks like a Hebrew and anyone who doesn’t know how to is more or less unenlightened. In Don’s own words to me, “you do not recognize them because you do not know what they said”.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 13, 2011

  29. 1. Jesus does not need to defend anything he said or did not say. Sometimes it is important to see what someone did not say. We need to do our best to put the pieces of the puzzling verses we are given in Scripture together into coherent teachings. When they APPEAR to contradict one another, we need to dig deeper.

    2. Jesus was/is both God and a male human. What I am claiming is that it is possible in some cases to too easily misunderstand Scripture because one is not aware of the cultural context. Or to put it another God, God in inspiring the text of Scripture used the words and their meanings in the time the words were said or written. Furthermore, God used the categories of thought that were in use then. Both the word meanings and categories of thought may be unfamiliar to us today. Words have their meaning inside the culture that used them.

    3. What you claim here violates Torah, but you may not realize that. Scripture is a progressive revelation to its original audiences at the time each section was written and each section builds on previous sections. There are some sections of Torah that you appear to not know about that are relevant to divorce. So in other words, you are missing some of the counsel of Scripture even while claiming you are not doing that. See Instone-Brewer but as a hint you appear to miss Ex 21, which is fundamental but seldom taught.

    4. Exception clauses are also found in Mat 5 as well as Mat 19. Whatever they mean, and I claim they mean a lot in cultural context, Matthew, Mark and Luke cannot contradict each other in what they MEAN, despite what they SAY. As I mentioned, one way is to suppress the meaning of the exception clause, this is the Greek way of trying to solve the challenge and is a mistake.

    5. When Jesus was speaking to Pharisees he used terms familiar to them, this is not very surprising when you reflect on it. The accounts we have are very short summaries of the interactions, condensed forms if you will. If the reader does not know the terms used by the Pharisees in the discussion, then they MAY misunderstand what is being said. This is what I claim you are doing in Matthew 19, you are misunderstanding what Jesus is saying when speaking to Pharisees using their terms.

    6. It is only what Jesus appears to say when not understood in cultural context. This is the potential flaw when we read text and the original audience was not us. We can bypass the original meaning and think that what it means to us in the 21st century is what it meant to the Pharisees in the 1st century. This is the way to make HUGE mistakes.

    Also, translators do their best but do not (normally) claim to be free from error. Translation is an art, always involves interpretation, and things are always lost in translation. Hence this website.

    7. The Bible is inspired by God and authoritative for faith and practise. This means we need to do our best to rightly divide the word of God. It is a form of disrespect to NOT understand the Bible as it was understood by the original readers.

    And the Bible can be seen to be embedded in the cultures in which it was produced in the sense that it used the normal language and concepts of those culture to express what God wanted. To NOT use all the information about those cultures in trying to understand the Bible is a way to disrespect the text and risks grossly misunderstanding it.

    For example, all of us know about English idioms and technical terms and how someone today from another land can EASILY misunderstand these. In terms of the Bible, we are from another land and time.

    Comment by Don | January 13, 2011

    • Luke doesn’t mention Antipas. Don claims knowledge outside of the Word of God.
      I took effort to find a single translation where the passage about staying single after separation would be translated in singular. What I found is that 10 teams of translators (who always work with the most acknowledged and available teachers of culture and language) from Russia, Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia and Croatia all translated 1 Corinthians 7:10 in plural. I am confident that what the original meant was a plural address to married people under Christ, no exception to me and you (if you are/were married). This is a serious matter, for the explanation Don gave is false in such light.
      The command not to break marriage comes first at the time of Adam and Eve. Moses gave bad Hebrews who were hard hearted a law to regulate their poor behaviour. See what Jesus said about the reason the law had been given. Apart from ‘porneia’ marriage is for life, just like Jesus paints it. Today’s Christians are not the first to find this hard to swallow – look at what His disciples said: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10b).

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 15, 2011

  30. Luke does not mention Herod Antipas, but he mentions John (the Baptist).

    Luk 3:19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,

    Mat 14:3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
    Mat 14:4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

    The question to ask is WHY did John say that Herod (Antipas) had violated Torah by marrying Herodias? It is because Antipas was a double adulterer. He divorced IN ORDER TO marry Herodias and had Herodias divorce his own brother IN ORDER TO marry him. This is not a valid Biblical (Torah) reason for divorce.

    You can read 1 Cor 7:10 and see it is singular at http://scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/1co7.pdf.

    Moses wrote the Pentateuch under the inspiration of God, at it claims itself. So when it says “Moses said” it means “God thru Moses said” to a Hebrew thinker. It is a Hebrew way to refer to the Pentateuch AKA Torah of Moses.

    Comment by Don | January 15, 2011

    • Don, there is also a specific prohibition against marrying one’s brother’s wife:

      Lev 18:16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.

      This becomes duty, though, if the brother dies:

      Deu 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.

      Once the brother is dead, one is not sharing the woman. Sharing a woman is what is meant by “adultery.”

      Only death frees a woman to remarry.

      There is no scriptural prohibition against a man having multiple women, though. In fact, it is celebrated (at least in the case of Solomon).

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 15, 2011

    • That is saying not to have sex with your brother’s wife. If your brother dies without having progeny, then you are to marry her so he can have some thru her, so the tribal inheritance system works.

      Death or divorce frees a woman to remarry according to Torah.

      Yes, there is polygamy in the Bible, but it is not God’s best.

      Comment by Don | January 15, 2011

      • >>>…Death or divorce frees a woman to remarry according to Torah…

        Does it specifically say that the divorced woman can remarry?

        Don, in your view, did either Jesus or Paul agree the idea that divorce frees a woman to remarry?

        And on what basis do you say that for a man to have more than one wife is not good?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 15, 2011

    • Don,
      The referred to website shows plural the same as all the other sources I have had a look at.

      Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 17, 2011

      • In I cor 7:11 the “if she separated” is singular, that is what I was referring to. Also, since it refers to a possible specific time in the past, I think it refers to a specific woman.

        Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  31. What the Torah says is that a priest is not to marry a divorced woman. When one thinks like a Hebrew, this means that she can marry any Jew that is not a priest. In other words, if God had wanted to prohibit remarriage, the text could have said that, but since it did not, the implication is clear. But some do not see it.

    But Jews see it, one way to see what Christians call the OT means to see what Jews think it says in their Tanakh. At least that is a possible way to read it.

    Jesus and Paul were both Torah observant and so would never have contradicted Torah, so yes, they would have agreed a divorced woman could remarry.

    On polygamy, the early chapters of Genesis shows the original intent, as Jesus said. This was one of the 7 corrections by Jesus of what some of the Pharisees taught, but many in the time of Jesus already agreed with this.

    Comment by Don | January 15, 2011

  32. >>>…Jesus and Paul were both Torah observant…

    I would say that neither were.

    >>>…and so would never have contradicted Torah, so yes, they would have agreed a divorced woman could remarry….

    But where do the scriptures say that a divorced woman is free to marry another man? You claim to “think like a Jew” because a Jew would presume that *only* a priest was not to marry a divorced woman, but that is a **huge** presumption.

    >>>On polygamy, the early chapters of Genesis shows the original intent, as Jesus said. This was one of the 7 corrections by Jesus of what some of the Pharisees taught, but many in the time of Jesus already agreed with this.

    I would say that the fact that in the Torah (ie: the writings of Moses) the patriarchs all have multiple wives and are never criticized for it, indicates that the scriptures condoned polygamy. In fact, Solomon is downright venerated for his great prowess with the ladies. The appeal in Matthew to that text of Genesis has to be seen as a post-Torah development. Moses clearly permitted polygamy, divorce (and slavery, slave-beating, stoning, aggression (ie: holy conquest)) but Jesus and Paul explicitly speak against remarriage of a woman while her husband lives.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 15, 2011

    • WoundedEgo, I’m not convinced adultery is associated with the concept of sharing. It’s to do with faithfulness. Don’t you see the symmetry in Mark 10:11-12?

      Polygamy should be fine in some cultures and societies where men are a scarcity, and the law of the land allows for it.

      A woman cannot have more than one husband because you can’t have 2 or more men trying to impregnate the same woman. Apart from the fact that they had no means to determine paternity, it’s just no on.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 16, 2011

  33. I agree that, according to Torah, remarriage was permitted after divorce. I can also understand that many would naturally extend this to the *church*. In many ways by human reasoning, it does make sense because there is so much brokenness in the world that reconciliation is often seen as beyond the horizon.

    It it were not for *my* perception (as Don would say) of NT teaching on this subject, I wouldn’t have an issue with Torah in this regard.

    Torah also permitted Israel to set a king over itself (with regulations of course just like divorce), but how did GOD react when it eventually came to pass?

    I’m sure Don also has an explanation for Rom 7:1-3 and 1 Cor 7:39, but I am inclined to read it as a ‘Greek’. My understanding cannot be prejudiced by somebody’s claim of a (hidden) cultural assumption that, for all I know, may actually be a misuse of non-biblical information in God’s eyes.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 16, 2011

    • Rom 7:1-3 is Paul explaining a seeming puzzle. Gentiles can come into the Kingdom and even Ephraimites (N. Israel) whom God has divorced, but what about Jews? They are married to God in the Mosaic covenants and God never gives them a Biblical reason for divorce. And the Bible says that God did NOT divorce them. So how can a Jew marry Jesus in the new covenant?

      Paul points out that a marriage covenant ends with the death of one party and as a believer dies in baptism, he is then free to marry Jesus. In other words, Paul cuts to the change and only uses the method of a marriage covenant ending of death. He does not discuss the other method of ending a covenant of divorce, so Rom 7 has no direct application to divorce.

      On 1 Cor 7:39, this is saying something similar” when divorced, the man is her former husband, but NOT her husband. As long as a man is her husband, she is bound to him and he to her in the marriage covenant. When the covenant ends, either by death or divorce, neither is bound.

      The problemm comes in with some(mis)read husband as being the term used for the man after divorce, which is not the term to use.
      After a divorce, the man is no longer her husband.

      Comment by Don | January 16, 2011

      • >>>…When the covenant ends, either by death or divorce, neither is bound…

        You get that from this?:

        Rom 7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

        And this?

        Luk 16:18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

        Don, am I correct that you are a professional speaker on the subject of Christian divorce?

        And that you have a great many speaking engagements in Christian Churches?

        As a person who dabbles in Sociology, I find this very fascinating.

        Personally I don’t find your ideas terribly convincing.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 16, 2011

      • This forum is certainly far from optimal in explaining these types of complex verses. Study David Instone-Brewer’s book, it is becoming required on the subject of divorce in many seminaries and Bible colleges.

        I am no professional speaker, I am just a believer. My 9 session class has blessed many.

        Rom 7 is not a comprehensive teaching by Paul on marriage, it is a targeted explanation on how a Jew can marry Jesus in the new covenant even tho a Jew is already married to God in the Mosaic covenant, the marriage information is used to show how it works according to Torah principles.

        Comment by Don | January 16, 2011

      • >>>…The problemm comes in with some(mis)read husband as being the term used for the man after divorce, which is not the term to use.
        After a divorce, the man is no longer her husband…

        That is *your* problem, not mine!

        I’m sorry, at the end of the day, this is a comedy of errors to me.

        Your interpretation will ever be popular, but not consistent with the text. Enjoy your fame!

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 16, 2011

      • As I wrote earlier, my concern is with those who abuse others via abuse of Scripture.

        Comment by Don | January 16, 2011

      • Save that for the ladies in the pews.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 16, 2011

  34. >>>…My understanding cannot be prejudiced by somebody’s claim of a (hidden) cultural assumption…

    Well stated.

    >>>I agree that, according to Torah, remarriage was permitted after divorce…

    But is it **explicitly** stated? Or is that not just an assumption?

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 16, 2011

    • Robert wrote “My understanding cannot be prejudiced by somebody’s claim of a (hidden) cultural assumption that, for all I know, may actually be a misuse of non-biblical information in God’s eyes.”

      What you have done is innoculated yourself so that any evidence of what some text meant to the original reader can be dismissed if you do not agree with it. In my eyes, that constitutes Scripture abuse.

      Comment by Don | January 16, 2011

    • Deut 24:2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

      Yeah, it is very explicit.

      If we mumble and grumble enough, we can often get what we want (to a degree). See Num 11 when the Israelites grumbled for meat because they resented the manna. “…the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague.”

      God didn’t need divorce proceedings to deal with adultery. They had the death penalty for it. If He wanted adulterers to be found out, then not a problem for Him.

      The only reason for sanctioning divorce, as confirmed by Jesus, was their hardness of heart. The significance of its legality was probably to keep the nation of Israel from descending into social disorder due to public opposition and rampant adultery.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 17, 2011

      • And of course there can still be hardness of heart. This is a Hebrew phrase for stubborn unrepentent sin.

        Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  35. Don said: “What you have done is innoculated yourself so that any evidence of what some text meant to the original reader can be dismissed if you do not agree with it. In my eyes, that constitutes Scripture abuse.”

    This could be said of *any* Scripture and at *any* point in time. You could equally say that for yourself as well, so by your argument, your conviction appears to be relatively unstable.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 17, 2011

    • Yes, it MIGHT be.

      One needs to act on the revelation one has, but being a disciple means being a learner. When one cuts off the possibility of learning more, that is the concern I raised.

      Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  36. 1 Cor 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.

    It is not “as long as a man is her husband” as Don alleges.

    It is “as long as her husband lives”.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 17, 2011

    • Again, a husband is no longer a husband once divorced. That is the key insight.

      Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

    • And one can figure this out from 1 Cor 7, IF the woman divorced, she is to remain UNMARRIED…

      That is, divorce means she is unmarried, no longer a wife. Everyone knew this in the 1st century, but it seems some do not know it in the 21th century.

      Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  37. Don,
    In 1 Cor 7:10 and 11 the group of people Paul addresses is all couples who are married. The use of singular form of the word ‘woman’ and ‘man’ doesn’t change the audience identified in the beginning of that section: “And unto the married I
    command…”. That is consistent with the use of singular ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in several other places throughout this chapter.

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 17, 2011

    • Paul says that Jesus said that no one is supposed to divorce for Hillel’s “Any Cause” and if the woman at Corinth did do so, then she singular is to remain unmarried (as she is no longer married and no longer a wife) or reconcile with her (former) husband, that is, work to undo the divorce, since it was not according to God’s Torah.

      Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  38. Don,
    In the explanation of following verses you need to use knowledge coming from sources beyond the Word of God:
    Luke 16:18 – You don’t mention your extra biblical source when you talk about Antipas as immediate context of Jesus’ teaching.
    Mark 10:2-10 – You claim to know what Mark assumed.
    1Cor 7:10,11 – You claim that the translation is wrong and that you know that Paul was addressing one and only one woman in reply to a letter received from Corinth (which you don’t have).
    These to me are unthinkable deceptions. And then you accuse me and Rob of disrespect to God’s word because we have not believed you and your assumptions and have little or no historical knowledge. Please, let me tell you something:
    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 17, 2011

  39. The Bible is simply marks on a page without knowledge of the meaning of the words, phrases and higher contructs. The Bible gets to define and refine the words it uses, but for all other cases, ONE MUST rely on sources outside the word of God to be able to understand it. The only choice is whether one does this well or badly.

    The Luke text mentions John the Baptist and Antipas killed him. Mentioning divorce in the context of John the Baptist is a connection to Antipas for those that see it.

    Whatever Jesus taught on divorce needs to be consistent and not contradict itself. If Matthew wrote something and Mark wrote something, it is simply not an option to say that they contradict each other, except to a skeptic. When one understanding Mat 19 in terms of Hillel’s “Any Cause” divorce, it is not possible to suppress the meaning of the exception clause, as that is the explicit answer to the question the Pharisees first asked. So Mark must be consistent with that.

    On 1 Cor 7, the Greek indicates a specific unnamed person, one that would have been known to the original recipients of the letter.

    Comment by Don | January 17, 2011

  40. I knew Don would have an explanation for 1 Cor 7:39, but he cannot even acknowledge the very words used by Paul: ‘lives, ‘dead’, both with reference to the husband. The only thing he can do now with these words is to make them metaphors, but I won’t be buying it.

    Any plain observer would see that Rom 7:2-3 is teaching the same as 1 Cor 7:39. Hence, Paul upheld the doctrine of permanency in marriage, as did Jesus.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 18, 2011

    • No, live and dead are not metaphors, Paul means what he says. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, and when he dies she is free to remarry. This is totally true.

      It is just not a comprehensive teaching.

      The mistake made is that a divorce means one is no longer a husband or a wife, so Paul’s sentence in Rom 7 no long applies.

      Even the state recognizes that divorced people are no longer husband and wife. And so do Scripture, except when misunderstood.

      On the idea of a “plain observer” this is a giant bogus and essentially meaningless concept when it is not tied in to the original reader. What it MEANT is critical, what it might be thought to mean to someone in the 21st century not knowing the context is useless, it is to be discarded as vain imaginings.

      Comment by Don | January 18, 2011

    • And the reason we can know that Jesus and Paul did not forbid divorce is that it would violate Torah. And they were both Torah observant.

      All of what the NT teaches needs to be understood in terms of what Torah teaches. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes made by many prots, they start with the NT, but it is like the 2nd story of a 2 story building and does not exist by itself.

      Comment by Don | January 18, 2011

  41. I am astounded by the way the previous writing misleads people. The truth is the opposite; we need to start with the New Testament, because it explains the Old one. Just like the law of divorce – Jesus explains that it is for bad people and He absolutely repeals them by His next statements.

    Don, a deceived person will “see” anything anywhere, I used to pursue myths. The mention of Herod appears in Luke, but not as immediate context of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 16. You are putting together what fits your preconceived assumptions, not what Jesus is actually saying.

    There was no contradiction in my explanation of the complementary nature of Matthew and Mark, it sounds to me as if you are trying to put yorm meaning into what I was saying. If one admits that marriage cannot be broken, apart from ‘porneia’, then all of Jesus’ teachings on divorce form a coherent set.

    I don’t believe that my English is so poor that I would be wrong on 1 Cor 7:10 and 11.

    I am open to new knowledge but in this case, if I accepted your points, I would be trying to distort the true and simple meanings of Jesus’ teaching.

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 18, 2011

    • Mark and Luke do not specify any exception clause, so they at least appear to contradict Matthew which does.

      Your fundamental error is that you think you can approach the word of God and just extract verses from it as truth statements, this is a Greek way of approaching Scripture, as if it were a geometry textbook, which it most certainly is not.

      If you wish to gain greater insight in this area, then study David Instone-Brewer’s works on this subject; if you wish to stay as you are, then don’t. I did not know I could have been so wrong in my understanding until I read his works.

      P.S. To just come to Christ, one can start with the NT, the gospel itself is simple, even a child can understand it. Not so with other parts of Scripture.

      Comment by Don | January 18, 2011

  42. When we began this discussion, I was open and mostly listened. But it seems very clear that neither Jesus nor Paul permit a woman to remarry anyone but her husband. If anyone says otherwise, please show where this is explicitly stated (such that even a Hebrew or Greek or American could not miss it). Thanks. Barring that, the matter is settled by the many other verses that clearly state that “what God has joined together” no man may put asunder.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 18, 2011

    • How does one “put asunder” a covenant? The answer is by breaking the vows of the covenant. Then the other party can choose to terminate the covenant, as the stipulations were not kept. This is basic to covenants of all sort.

      Comment by Don | January 18, 2011

  43. Don, please don’t insult your creator and assume that God didn’t know the eternal relevance of His Word. It has a message of spiritual truth for everyone, and hence everyone is a legitimate audience. And its message is just as *powerful* today as back then.

    Rom 7:2-3 and 1 Cor 7:39 are indeed comprehensive teachings. Paul merely repeated God’s perfect marriage Law, also upheld by Jesus in his teachings.

    All laws are to be taken to their logical conclusion. Anyone who says otherwise, they have distorted the Word and make it of no effect. Don makes God’s marriage Law of no effect by putting *his* constraint on it.

    Only God can terminate a marriage, and this happens when a spouse dies. Don would like to consider a adulterous wife as good as ‘dead’, but this is not his prerogative. Divorce is permitted according to Mt 19, but not remarriage. One must allow for forgiveness and reconciliation.

    Don makes a mockery of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation towards His children by essentially ignoring the doctrine of forgiveness in his teachings.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 19, 2011

    • God’s word is eternally relevant and written FOR us. However, it was not written TO us and that can make a big difference in some cases, like this one.

      You are reading the Bible as if it was composed of books written TO you, without taking into account the original meaning to the original audience. Once you abandon that original reader hermeneutic, the Bible can become like Play-Doh in your hands and the result is your attempt to condemn members of the body of Christ. This I resist.

      Comment by Don | January 19, 2011

  44. >>>…Rom 7:2-3 and 1 Cor 7:39 are indeed comprehensive teachings…

    Do these comprehensive passages (or any passages) indicate what is to be the fate of the children and property?

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 19, 2011

    • Not that I know of. They had judges and leaders to settle such issues.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 20, 2011

  45. Play-doh heh?
    The explanations you have given for some of the most understandable statements in Scripture are so convoluted they could be construed collectively as an ignorant effort to manipulate and dismantle the core meaning of the most simple teachings. And yet God is not the author of confusion.

    By the way, I don’t attempt to condemn anyone – would one be so ignorant as to assume the role of the Holy Spirit whose job it is to reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment?

    No, I’m just calling a spade a spade. As far as I’m concerned, the Holy Spirit tells me to put on the whole amour of God, and if anyone who calls themselves a believer finds this offensive then they ought to check what they’re wearing.

    You think we should study the works of an academic? If confused, one would do well to go back to first principles – and begin their search with matters of the heart, not the mind. And never allow your heart to overrule Scripture.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 20, 2011

    • Yes, you are treating the BIble like Play-Doh and do not even see you are doing that.

      These method are not convoluted, they just seem that way when a too simple method of exegesis is used like you are doing.

      One must ALWAYS seek to determine what the original text MEANT to the original hearers/readers. It is a 2 step process, original meaning and then application to us now.

      God is not the author of confusion, but you are not treating God’s word with respect, but are treating it too simplistically, as if it was written TO you, when it was not.

      You bypass this original meaning step and end up claiming things that would never have been thought of by the author. You are taking text out of context and ending up with a pretext.

      I wonder if you tell people to cut off their hands.

      Comment by Don | January 20, 2011

  46. Since you place so much emphasis on original audience, go and ponder how the disciples reacted in Mt 19:10 after His charge of adultery. This seems to be one context you don’t like to consider.

    How many cases do you know where your right hand or right eye causes one to sin? Jesus’ statement was obviously very colorful and therefore figurative, but some things are just plain and straightforward such as His position on marriage in more than just one place. To those who have ears to hear, these plain yet profound truths will never be anything but plain and profound.

    Don, if you wish, you will be forever entertaining cultural and ancient insights that have no relevance to spiritual truth.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 21, 2011

    • I absolutely consider how the disciples responded. When one considers 1st century cultural context, the disciples are trying to trump Jesus! (Because the command to be fruitful was seen as requiring marriage, as that was (rightly) seen as the only righteous way to have kids.)

      And Jesus overtrumps them with his response!!

      When one realizes that “hand” is a Hebrew euphemism for genitals, one will see the mapping that Jesus intended, but it was NOT to say to actually do the action of castration (which was the literal meaning), it was to recognize the severity of such sinful actions.

      You seem to have convinced yourself that you have no need to understand the text as the original reader would have, this will result in lots of interpretation mistakes.

      And the reason I am concerned is you will misclassify at times in what you say something that is not sin as sin. Woe be any that believe what you claim!

      Comment by Don | January 23, 2011

  47. >>>When one considers 1st century cultural context, the disciples are trying to trump Jesus!

    Don yet again prefers cultural context rather than the immediate context of Mt 19:11, which proves that Jesus actually affirmed the disciples’ reaction. In fact, their honest reaction reflects their appreciation of what Jesus said about marriage – apart from porneia there is no case for divorce, and in all other cases divorce followed by remarriage results in adultery.

    The proves yet again that the use of cultural context has resulted in the negation of Scripture.

    As to Don’s interpretation of ‘hand’, Scripture uses ‘right hand’ as it also refers to ‘right eye’. His euphemism claim is unsupported by considering the entirety of the text.

    One should also realize that I make no claims, but only believe the claims of Scripture, and the observation that the teachings of Jesus and Paul on the doctrine of marriage (as established in Genesis) are perfectly aligned. A careful and respectful handling of Scripture ( Mt 5:32, Mk 10:11-12, Lk 16:18, Rom 7:1-3 and 1 Cor 7:39) leads us to the shocking truth (to some) that the covenant of marriage remains in God’s eyes until the death of a spouse dissolves it.

    This is not to say though that God condones the sins of those who flout his moral requirements. Let us bear in mind the examples of Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament; two lives that were taken away suddenly and unexpectedly. Regardless of the absence of punishment for sexual crimes, God’s prerogative to deal with sin ultimately means that a man will still reap what he sows.

    1 Cor 6:9-10 (NASB) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    Anyone who wishes to commit adultery, please think again.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 24, 2011

    • You do make claims, you make the claim that one can interpret Scripture correctly while ignoring context, this is a false claim that can lead the unknowing into all sorts of errors.

      Persist in your errors as you will, I have given you enough info to allow you to study and show yourself approved if you want.

      To repeat, Jesus could NEVER have violated Torah as then he would have shown to all Jews that he was not Messiah. And yet you can seriously propose that Jesus did just that. This just shows how much you do not know about Torah and about Jesus.

      Comment by Don | January 24, 2011

      • And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

        Jesus promoted righteousness, not sin. He didn’t violate Torah. No adulterers will inherit the kingdom of heaven, not even the educated ones.

        If the word approved means that we confuse people into plain lies then you certainly have won the price.

        Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 25, 2011

  48. This is quite a comment thread.

    I must disagree with the following statement:

    “To repeat, Jesus could NEVER have violated Torah as then he would have shown to all Jews that he was not Messiah.”

    This is misleading, because on the one hand you condemn Robert Kan for his literal interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on marriage/divorce, while on the other hand, you yourself are too artificially rigid regarding Jesus & Torah.

    The Messiah doesn’t just come to earth to fulfill the Torah in the sense of simple obedience and ‘non-violation’.

    He comes with Revelation, and one key prophecy which indeed marks Jesus as the authentic Messiah is that

    “He will magnify the Torah and make it honorable” in unforseen and startling Spiritual ways.

    Any Jew could fulfill the Torah in your sense. Only Jesus could come and turn it inside out while preserving its Spirit, its heart, and its integrity.

    Only Jesus could come and reveal NEW truths about the Law and Israel and the Wisdom of the Spirit of God.

    That is why the mere “Jewish” interpretation of Torah is inadequate, and Jesus’ superior interpretations, rulings, and surprising new teaching is the true perfection of Torah.

    Next to Jesus, mere Rabbinicalism is crap. Even Hillel is crap.


    Comment by Nazaroo | January 25, 2011

    • It is true that Jesus came for a lot more than just obeying Torah. He came to offer salvation to everyone. But one needs to see that he DID obey Torah in all he did, or else one will end up misunderstanding what is going on.

      Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 29, 2011

      • Jesus was not a Jew, so why would he be compelled to obey Torah?

        Doesn’t he directly defy Moses/Deut in Matt 19?

        Doesn’t he claim to speak on his own authority in Matthew 5-7?

        Jesus was not beholden to Torah.

        Comment by Bible Shockers | October 29, 2011

  49. “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. (Mark 10:5)

    This single comment by Jesus would be more than enough to not consider the application of divorce law from the Old Testament to a life of a Christian. Yet some say Torah allowed/permitted divorce.

    Comment by Pavel Jancik | January 26, 2011

  50. May I ask if we have any consensus on a narrower aspects of this discussion?

    Is a divorced woman free to remarry?

    Is a married man free to remarry?

    I am of the opinion that these are the real issues that we can be very sure about:

    * a divorced woman must not remarry
    * a married man can marry freely, whether he is divorced or married

    That’s Jesus and possibly Moses in a nutshell.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 26, 2011

  51. This has is a very interesting discussion that I have a great interest in.

    To toss in my two cents, I would say it is very important to understand the background of the writer (most of Books of NT we don’t really know) and the audience. The audience of the books was not us. The Gospels we have were written many years after the events and were probably based on other sources. I am not sure which, if any were truly inspired.

    To truly argue over (discuss) the text of the books we need the originals. We currently have various translations with different text. They are based on various translations with various errors made by the scribes over time and probably intentional changes made by scribes.
    The books we used were decided by men. Based on my research, I don’t think I would have included some of the books of the NT in the Bible. They may be some not in that should be.

    It is interesting that no one has brought up that the Gospels as we have them in English contradict each other in various instances (although someone hinted at). See “Jesus, Interrupted” by Ehrman. This always makes it hard to really understand some key areas. If only someone had the originals laying around.

    This particular discussion is over if a person can remarry after a divorce without committing adultery. Some say yes. Some say no. Some say yes depending on circumstance of divorce. It is hard to know for sure because of the differences in the texts. Under OT, divorce is ok for at least some reasons as discussed to some extent already. Under NT, I currently understand it to be ok for specific reasons (adultery), although this is not found in all versions of the Bible. Some do not have “adultery” but instead have “illegal.” An understanding of Hebrew culture explains what is meant by illegal.

    I do not completely understand reading it the Hebrew way, but I understand the concept. Over the last year I have read the OT and the first 2 gospels. As I read I do some research online. By researching concepts and words that are in the text, I have learned that a lot of what appears to be easy to understand is not really what I thought. Context and background and history have helped to paint a whole new picture. This is what I think Don is alluding to.
    Having a full Jewish understanding would really be nice. For instance, some claim at least one of the Gospel writers has little knowledge of Hebrew custom of writing so he misunderstood his copy of the OT and therefore has Jesus riding a donkey and a colt in to Jerusalem to fulfill the misquoted prophecy(The Hebrew way of writing repeated the same idea twice so where the Hebrew meant one animal the Gospel Writer made it Two). The fact we uses the Greek “Jesus” seems odd to me.

    It is important for me to get this right, but I have yet to find a way to know for sure.

    Also, does anyone know of a good book on the day to day lives of Hebrews during the time of Jesus?

    Comment by fishpirate | January 27, 2011

  52. There are also two important points which I think have been overlooked in trying to resolve the question of whether Jesus was merely commenting on a point of Jewish law, or stating a universal rule or principle.

    That is what the main argument has been about it seems, in the comment thread here.

    Some think Jesus is here basically only talking to other educated Jews, with the legal background to understand a subtle point of law under debate by Jesus’ contemporaries. They feel that understanding Jesus is impossible without this Jewish Torah and Rabbinical debate background. They seem to feel that Jesus’ statements do not lay down general rules and cannot serve as a guide for marriage practice. They would suggest there is nothing radically ‘unJewish’ in Jesus’ teaching, and that on marriage, he was simply upholding one point of view among several in circulation among Jews. Thus Jesus was advocating embracing the Jewish view (or one Jewish view) on marriage and divorce.

    Others, who take a traditional Christian view of Jesus’ teaching, find this not only wrong-headed, but repellent. They would hold that Jesus’ teaching on marriage is complete enough to be quite clear, and that not interpreting Jesus’ words on their face is a violation of truth and common sense. These would say that Jesus meant what he said, and that his view of marriage was simple, and strict, but fair, and consistent with both OT law as it was originally intended and in harmony with NT teaching elsewhere such as in Paul. They would view the “Jewish” interpretation of Jesus as trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, and see it as a failure to understand the radical difference between Jesus and Judaism.

    How can we resolve this dispute?

    One way is to attempt to apply other factors to assist us. Lets begin however by bringing both parties a little closer together with the following observations:

    (1) Those advocating the Jewish background must be given a certain due. At the very least, we must acknowledge that all this Jewish learning and scholarship certainly does do one thing: It clarifies how many Jews would have heard and interpreted Jesus’ various teachings. Both parties ought to agree to that much. Indeed, this fact alone may account for much of the controversy and failure of Jews to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, right or wrong, Jews may have perceived Jesus a certain way and rejected Him on those grounds. This seems to have strong historical plausibility.

    (2) On the other hand, those emphasizing the Jewish background may be overextending their case. There are many other statements and teachings about Jesus in the NT which clearly indicate that Jesus goes well beyond ordinary and accepted understanding of Jewish Law and tradition. If Jesus had really been an ordinary Jewish Rabbi, it hardly makes sense that He would have had such violent clashes with Judaean authorities and religious experts. As one poster pointed out, Jesus didn’t agree with Moses’ allowance of divorce, he *excused* it, as one with superior understanding and authority might dismiss a servant or employee. And there are many other such “seams” peeking out from under the rug of the NT, which cannot be dismissed as “secondary” or exaggerated or invented traditions about Jesus. His driving out of money-changers, His provocative teaching on the Sabbath, His acceptance of ‘unclean’ and marginalized “sinners”, His radical self-claims. All of these fly in the face of “Jesus as status quo Jewish Rabbi”. Even His own disciples were occasionally shocked by Jesus’ statements, such as those about it being near-impossible for rich people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Most of the distinctive teachings of Jesus set Him radically apart from mainstream Judaism, and at the very least, closer to the extremism of the Essenes, hard-core Pharisees (as Paul aligned himself with), or even Zealots (whom Jesus embraced as followers).

    Now that both parties are a bit closer together, it may be possible to acknowledge the value of both viewpoints for solving various questions as to what Jesus may have meant in this case or that.

    Back to the start of this post, my two points are these:

    (1) Jesus himself taught that His teaching was not for the rich, the elites, the well-educated, or the wise, but for the great masses of unwashed, uneducated, and simple people of the land. This has implications, in that at least some of Jesus’ teaching was meant to be understood by farmers and fishermen, and *not* understood by lawyers and rabbis.

    (2) Jesus repeatedly claimed that religious experts and authorities were idiots and did not understand their own scriptures and traditions, and were also corrupt and unhelpful. It is hard to reconcile this loud statement with Jesus as mere Rabbi advocating a normative Judaism.

    (3) The religious authorities also felt they were at odds with Jesus in a major way over many doctrinal issues. This also does not fit with Jesus as a mere “school of Judaism” among many acceptable differences of opinion, and there must be some heavy substance to Jesus’ teaching as opposed to common opinions disputed between rabbinical schools.

    (4) Jesus was crucified as a political criminal and religious blasphemer / anti-Jew. All of these factors suggest that (a) Jesus’ radical teaching had a historical basis in fact. (b) Jesus cannot be interpreted merely as a misunderstood Rabbi with a misfortunate life-story.

    (5) NT tradition also repeatedly insists that Jesus saw Himself as a special figure (Son of Man, etc.), with a special destiny (voluntary self-sacrifice). This, while at first on the surface appearing strange, and even alien to Judaism, is deeply rooted in recent history (the Maccabees) and prophetic expectations (the Messiah). This is another reason why not only is it very likely that Jesus held radical beliefs and expounded radical teachings, but it all hangs together as a surprisingly unified picture of a very exceptional person with an agenda.

    Jesus just can’t be force-fit into the small box labeled misunderstood “Jewish Rabbi”.


    Comment by Nazaroo | January 27, 2011

  53. Nazaroo, why did the Jews bother to hear Jesus in the first place? You seem to omit one important fact, and two corollaries.

    1. In the context of the Holy Spirit conception, virgin birth and its preceding prophecy, we ought to note that Jesus wasn’t merely a man, let alone an ordinary Jew who would only do and speak ordinary things.

    2. The healing/miracle works of Jesus – surely this played a central role in His teaching ministry and cannot be divorced from it. [Mat 9:5-6 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”]

    3. The boy Jesus, 12 years of age, was in the Temple amongst the teachers, ‘and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers’. ‘And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ And notice the reaction after His sermon on the mount: the crowds were *amazed* at His teaching for He was teaching them as one having *authority*, and not as their scribes. Not bad for a carpenter.

    Jesus didn’t merely distinguish His teachings from that of the scribes and teachers of the Law. There was always an overwhelming sense that this ‘son of Joseph’ was in a class of His own – demonstrated by His works and the way He came across in Spirit, Soul and Mind. And the irony of it all is found in His declaration, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

    So much for those who advocate Hebrew and Pharisaical thinking.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 27, 2011

  54. how about . . .

    I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife … causes her TO BE ADULTERATED and whoever marries a divorced woman IS COMMITTING ADULTERY.

    Comment by nobody | May 23, 2011

  55. Joel, just returning to some of your observations in this post:

    >>>For instance, John 8:4 describes a woman who “was caught in the act of [committing] adultery.” But the Greek verb there is passive. Does John 8:4 really mean “a woman caught in the act of having adultery committed against her”?

    Maybe not. Maybe moicheuo is similar to the English “widow” and “widower.” In that modern case, a man whose spouse had died is a “widower” (having done something), while a woman whose spouse has died is a “widow” (having had something done to her).

    In other words, the passive/active distinction in the Greek of Matthew 5:32 may, like John 8:4, reflect the purely grammatical matter that moicheuo means for a “man to commit adultery against a woman,” just like “to widow” means for a “man to leave a woman spouseless.”<<<

    My curiosities are:

    (1) Is the "widow" and "widower" analogy really accurate/relevant in this discussion, since they are nouns not verbs? And in English, wouldn't we use the verb form "to be widowed" to apply equally to both genders actively and passively?

    (2) Whilst you have already said in this case that it probably isn't a mere grammatical fact, are there any examples in modern linguistics where an active/passive distinction is a mere grammatical fact?

    (3) If the answer is 'yes', is this phenomenon analogous to the irrational existence of masculine/feminine nouns in (some?) languages?

    My observation from the original Greek in Mark 10:12 (if I'm right) is that it is possible for a woman to actively commit adultery. But I don't immediately see any examples of where a man can passively commit adultery. This would lend support for making a distinction between the roles of an adulterous man or woman in different situational contexts.

    Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2011

    • The Greek “passive” is usually explained in terms of “active” versus “passive” but it is often better to understand it to reflect “how much does it concern this one or that one.” Carl Conrad explained this once on B-Greek. So, as I read it, she was not caught in the act of “doing adultery” so much as caught “being shared.” Remember, the crime is being “shared”.

      Comment by bibleshockers | October 29, 2011

      • On what basis does Conrad make his argument? Is he a linguist? His theory seems a bit fanciful to me.

        If your ‘sharing’ argument is true, how would you understand Mark 10:12, since the verb there is different from that of Mat 5:32?

        In fact, the passage in Mark 10:11-12 portrays the man and woman to be both ‘doing’ the same thing, as I see it.

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2011

      • Conrad’s observations are highly respected because of his long experience teaching Greek classics. Ask around.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 3, 2011

      • When I read the bible, I don’t see any evidence that a woman was responsible for sharing her husband, however the husband had to love both of his wives equally, otherwise the one who was loved most would have her womb closed. In other words, he had to *share* his affections equally or else God would notify him in no unclear terms.

        Adultery is much more closely connected with ‘cheating’ and ‘deceiving’, and polygamy is just a different marital arrangement/agreement.

        Therefore, it seems to me that adultery can be understood apart from any polygamous violation, and so the the concept of sharing is an invalid one in this case.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 3, 2011

      • You are quite corrrect, Robert, that the scriptures do not indicate any disapproval for a man having multiple wives, so there is no “sharing violation” related to the man.

        But the scriptures do forbid sharing a woman. So you have to adjust your thinking away from the principle of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” That is not the scriptural view. In the scriptures, it is a man’s world.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 4, 2011

      • According to Mark’s gospel, a person who divorces and marries another commits a crime, *regardless* of whether his/her previous spouse also remarries. It doesn’t appear that sharing one’s spouse is the designated crime, simply because there is no mention of what happens to the other party.

        According to the Bible, love is a choice, and marriage is a commitment to that choice. Adultery is a violation of that commitment, described in terms of ‘divorce’, ‘putting-away’ or ‘sending-away’.

        In polygamy, there appears to be a loop-hole whereby a man could theoretically continue to satisfy himself without legally ‘putting-away’, because he could choose to withhold affection from one and give his attention to another. The woman who is not loved may find this offensive, yet the husband may still be getting everything he wants out of marriage. God may still find this offensive, even though the unloved wife is still legally the exclusive property of her first husband.

        Associating adultery with the notions of deception and unfaithfulness identifies all the cases where a spouse (including a wife in a polygamous marriage) may feel neglected or cheated.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 4, 2011

    • The Pharisees taught that the only way to commit adultery was for a man to have sex with a woman that was another man’s wife, they thought they reverse was not adultery, but Jesus did and he corrects them in his teaching, this is one of the 7 corrections he makes once you understand the 1st century cultural context.

      Since the woman was brought to Jesus as an adulteress, it must have met THEIR (wrong) definition; that is, the woman was married and she had sex with a man who was not her husband. Both the Pharisees and Jesus would consider her an adulteress.

      On John’s adulteress pericope, the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus, they thought Torah taught that she was to be stoned, so if he said to stone her, he would violate Roman law against capital punishment and if he said not to stone her, they thought he would violate Torah and show himself to not be Messiah. What the Torah actually teaches is that if it happens in a city, both the man and woman are to be stoned and if it happens in the country, just the man is to be stoned. Since the Pharisees did not bring the man, they themselves were violating Torah and in sin. Jesus pointed this out to them and they left, as the older figured it out sooner than the younger. Also, it would take 2 or 3 witnesses to prove something according to Torah, but when everyone left, there were no witnesses. So Jesus followed Torah but showed mercy, something the Pharisees did not think was possible.

      Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 29, 2011

      • So, you would conclude then that Jesus was lucky that they didn’t bring the man as well, in which case they both would have been stoned, hence Jesus could have potentially violated Roman law?

        And perhaps if the Pharisees were ‘smarter’, Jesus would not have been able to show her (and the man) mercy?

        How does this view do justice to Jesus’ right to exercise mercy on his terms and conditions? In fact, it belittles what John claims in the beginning because, whilst the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus.

        Please consider the full implications of what you are claiming.

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2011

      • In practice, the Pharisees when in court found a lot of reasons to avoid stoning someone. In this case it was not a legal court either, mob rule was not legal in Jewish law. So my working assumption is that Jesus would be similar; however this is not stated, we have the text we have.

        The thing to see is that the Pharisees were continually trying to find a way to show that Jesus violated Torah, as then he could not possibly be Messiah. What Jesus or his disciples did do is violate the so-called Oral Torah of the Pharisees, time and again, but never the Written Torah or Tanakh, what we call the OT. The Pharisees mixed up the Written Torah with their Oral Torah or traditions of the elders, but Jesus did not and so was always correcting them on their misinterpretations of Tanakh.

        This is why I think it is essential to know what the so-called Oral Torah actually said in order to understand the NT text in 1st century Jewish cultural context. Fortunately, it was written down in the Mishnah around 200 AD, but it includes the debates between Hillel and Shammai and others before and near the time of Jesus. For example, there is a story in the gospels about hand washing before eating and sure enough the Mishnah discusses exactly how this was done and reasons for it. But this happens a lot so some texts are easy to misunderstand if you do not know what the Mishnah said.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 29, 2011

      • On the whole, the Pharisees and religious leaders never considered Jesus to be Messiah anyway.

        As far as they were concerned, Jesus violated their Torah and provoked their reaction. Even with his corrections, it didn’t change them. In *their* eyes, Jesus was utterly contemptible.

        Jesus spoke often about their traditions, so we can easily see that he was at odds with them. Call it Oral Torah, traditions of men or anything you wish, regardless of what terms we use, in *their* eyes Jesus violated Torah.

        If we were to agree with the Pharisees on how they thought about him, we would not arrive at the conclusion that he was Messiah either.

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2011

      • Some Pharisees did come to believe in Jesus and Gamaliel a leader was neutral. Paul, of course, said he “Is” a Jew and a Pharisee even after believing in Jesus. Of the various groups, the Pharisees were the closest to Jesus in theology as they also believed in the Resurrection and other things.

        There are many refs to the so-called Oral Torah in the NT and knowing what it contains gives insight into the meaning of many NT passages, which can be discerned from the written Mishnah. As an example, Jesus corrected 7 misinterpretations of the Pharisees on marriage and divorce in Matt 19, but if you do not understand what they said, you will not even understand the question, let alone the responses.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 30, 2011

      • ■Some Pharisees did come to believe in Jesus and Gamaliel a leader was neutral. Paul, of course, said he “Is” a Jew and a Pharisee even after believing in Jesus.

        Um, Don, Paul said a good many things, but one has to carefully identify the context to not take them as prooftexts out of context. For example, he claims that he is a Jew, and from Tarsus, to clarify that he was not an Egyptian:

        Act 21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
        Act 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

        He refers to himself as a Jew to show that Jews are not exempt from the Gospel:

        Rom_11:1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

        He says he is also a Jew, in terms of birth lineage, in order to defuse the boast of those who claim someting by it…

        Php_3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

        But don’t confuse this with the idea that he persists in Judaism, because that he does not. He has renounced it. He despises it:

        Php 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
        Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
        Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
        Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
        Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
        Php 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
        Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

        He fully counts those things as loss and refuse. The law is the one he was formerly married to, but has died to and married another.

        If you miss that, you miss the NT.

        Comment by bibleshockers | October 30, 2011

      • Don,

        Paul was an exception to the rule (albeit after the resurrection). Exceptions do not disprove the rule. It is bad logic (and bad theology) to throw out a general statement because of a specific case that doesn’t appear to fit.

        In this discussion, the general statement is this: In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus was not Torah compliant.

        Torah witnesses to the fact that God allowed polygamy and, even by your own admission, polygamy was not God’s original plan. And yet Torah accepts it. (Oh yes it does.)

        Torah also witnesses to the fact that God permitted Israel to set a king over itself, just like the rest of the nations around them, and God reacted with wrath after it happened. And yet Torah accepts it. (Oh yes it certainly does.)

        And of course it is important to understand why Torah permits a man to write his wife a certificate of divorce, and send her away so that she may be ‘shared’.

        But I’m not sure that Joel would appreciate this discussion to go beyond the point that it already has.

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 30, 2011

      • God works with people and with people groups to bring them into the Kingdom step by step. God identified God’s best in Gen 1-2, but later polygamy entered the picture. God regulated polygamy in the Torah in order to mitigate the worst problems, but did not prohibit it initially. The same with slavery.

        A divorce certificate is an example of God’s blessing, where a woman can marry another in that culture and stay married. In that culture before Torah, there was no such assuances.

        The Torah and all Scripture always needs to be read and understood in the cultural context of the original readers/hearers. This is basic to have any chance of a valid interpretation.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 31, 2011

      • >>>…A divorce certificate is an example of God’s blessing…

        Preach THAT on Sunday at First Baptist and see how it floats!!

        Comment by bibleshockers | October 31, 2011

      • If the cultural outcomes of Judaism were the basis of our faith, we would not arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was Messiah.

        Cultural influences gave rise to oral Torah and traditions, which was an expression of their understanding of written Torah, which in turn gave rise to debates and heresies.

        Cultural groups do not validate any view of Torah any more than the creeds, canons and doctrines today validate the Christian faith.

        If the religious and legal experts of the 1st century clashed with the Son of God, why should we be consulting them for advice?

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 31, 2011

      • We need to understand the culture that Jesus spoke into, or else we can misunderstand what he taught. Same is true for Paul, Peter, Moses, all the authors of the Bible.

        Right now I am teaching my marriage and divorce class in a Baptist church sunday school setting. I have already gone over that the divorce cert. was an example of God’s blessing.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | October 31, 2011

      • The translators today are the experts of those ancient languages.

        As far as I know, they agree on how Jesus should be translated, because I read more or less the same in all versions.

        In Mat 5, Jesus made the same connection with lust and adultery, as he did with divorce and adultery (except for one case).

        Even Joel agrees, as he says in this post: “It’s true that marrying a divorcee is moicheuo-ing, that is, committing adultery.”

        Your issue seems to be with the translators and, specifically, Joel and his post.

        Comment by Robert Kan | October 31, 2011

      • Did the Pharisees _really_ teach that women cannot commit adultery? I’d like to see the primary-source documentary evidence (preferably from a Pharisee source) that they taught this.

        Comment by Kate Gladstone | October 31, 2011

      • Kate,
        According to the Pharisees as recorded in the Mishnah, either gender could commit adultery. However, it was always a man involved with a married woman who was someone else’s wife. A married man involved with a unmarried woman was a sin, but was not adultery and did not broke no vow of a marriage covenant as a husband did not need to vow to be faithful, due to polygamy. This is the way they understood Torah.

        Jesus corrected them and said if either spouse is involved with another, it is adultery. He made the interpretation symmetrical, instead of in the man’s supposed favor.

        Yes, I disagree with the way Joel understands this and disagree with most translations on this. See David Instone-Brewer’s book, who is a 2nd temple scholar, if you want to be a Berean on this.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 1, 2011

      • No one has denied your right to offer an alternative translation, if you are willing to give one.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 1, 2011

      • Here is Matt 19:3 when understood in 1st century Jewish cultural context.

        Expanded question: Is it in the Torah [Deu 24:1] to divorce for ‘Any Matter’ [(Hillel) or just for ‘Indecency’ (Shammai)]?

        The added words in brackets are what is provided by knowing the cultural context.

        This specific question is not answered until Mat 19:9, before that Jesus is correcting OTHER misinterpretations of the Pharisees.

        Expanded Mat 19:9 [In the context of whether Deu 24:1 allows ‘Any Matter’ divorces] I tell you anyone who divorces his wife, except for indecency, [has an invalid divorce] and [therefore if he] marries another [he] commits adultery [against her: Mark 10:11] [as marriage is monogamous].

        The other verses on divorce and remarriage need to be interpreted in light of this “invalid divorce by ‘Any Matter'” interpretation. That is, the gospel authors extracted sayings of Jesus from a coherent teaching of his that did not contradict itself. So in particular Mar 10:11 and Luk 16:18a are all referring to the same part of the teaching as Matt 19:9, just in a truncated form, which is allowed by a Hebrew thinker. This “invalid divorce” concept then propagates to all the other divorce and remarriage verses via symmetry, Mar 10:12 gets it from Mar 10:11, Luk 16:18b gets it from Luk 16:18a, Mat 5:32b gets it from Luk 16:18b and Mat 5:32a gets it from Mat 5:32b.

        That is Jesus could not violate Torah by redefining what adultery was, but he could claim that various results from using the invalid Hillel “Any Matter” reason to divorce would all result in sin. I agree this takes some thinking about, it takes about 2 hours to teach these aspects in a class setting.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 1, 2011

      • What constitutes an ‘indecency’?

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 1, 2011

      • The phrase in Deu 24:1 is ” ‘ervah dabar”. Shammai said it meant “dabar ‘ervah” as in a matter of sexual indecency, which was anything having to do with sexual sin. Hillel said it meant 2 things “‘ervah” (sexual indecency) and dabar “matter” therefore “Any Matter”. Jesus denied that Torah said this latter interpretation of Hillel.

        The closest word in Greek is porneia, so that is what is recorded in the Greek gospel of Matthew. So it again means sexual indecency of any sort, not just adultery.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 1, 2011

      • On what basis does Shammai make its claim?
        Moses had other provisions for handling cases of adultery?

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 1, 2011

      • ‘ervah is sometimes translated nakedness as a euphemism. Adultery was punished by stoning, but this took 2 or 3 witnesses to prove in a law court, not by mob rule. So this did not happen much.

        For example, in the Joseph and Mary story, Joseph while engaged knows he did not have sex with Mary, yet she is pregnant. It takes an angel to convince him to go thru the marriage ceremony. He was planning to do a Hillel “any matter” divorce from the betrothal berith/contract/covenant, as it is quiet so as not to make a stir. The way Jesus was born, the way he died and that he never married were 3 big shames in Jewish culture.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 1, 2011

      • You should consider the proposition that Shammai was wrong.
        Numbers 5 documents a procedure for handling cases of sexual sin when witnesses were not available – the law of jealousy.
        If she was found out, she would be cursed.
        “But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive children.”

        Duet 24 has nothing to do with sexual sin, since the woman was able to remarry. If she was cursed, who would want her?

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 1, 2011

      • >>>”…The Pharisees taught that the only way to commit adultery was for a man to have sex with a woman that was another man’s wife, they thought they reverse was not adultery, but Jesus did and he corrects them in his teaching, this is one of the 7 corrections he makes once you understand the 1st century cultural context…”

        Do we have any direct historical evidence (a document) showing what Pharisees actually taught? Or is this just your impression from the “gospels”?

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 5, 2011

      • The book that explains how the Pharisees thought is called the Mishnah, it is in Hebrew but has English translations. See David Instone-Brewer’s book, which you can look at for free online on the specific section of the Mishnah that discusses this.

        Numbers 5 describes the rite of Bitter Water. This was to deal with the possibility of adultery when there were no witnesses. A woman would claim she was not an adulter and would curse her own womb if she was lying, so it worked like a lie detector in some ways. But there are lots of things that are porneia that are not adultery.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 5, 2011

      • I think that Christians believe that they understand Jews because of Christian literature, which is often misleading. For example, you say:

        “…So Jesus followed Torah but showed mercy, something the Pharisees did not think was possible…”

        I mean, is that faithful to the historical reality? Or is that just an NT characterization?

        Personally, I think it is just a political cartoon, a political characterization, and has little bearing on Jewish thought or practice.

        Can you cite the Mishnah where it indicates that the Jews considered mercy to be incompatible with Torah?

        If not, then maybe we are as wrong to propagate NT slurs against Jews as Muslims are to propagate Islams hate literature against Jews?



        Comment by WoundedEgo | November 5, 2011

      • Don,

        On the one hand, you cite Deut 24 to permit and authorize marriage to a put-away wife but, by your own acknowledgment, the divorced woman in context was put-away due to an ‘indecency’ of her own nature.

        On the other hand, if Duet 24 actually refers to sexual indecency as you say, then an unfaithful wife was potentially defiled and would become a curse.

        Firstly, if a wife wasn’t defiled, on what basis would her husband be justified in putting her away?

        Secondly, if a wife was sexually defiled, and her husband no longer wanted her, how could one possibly use Deut 24 to support and endorse marriage to a put-away wife under such circumstances?

        Thirdly, you failed to give an answer to my original question: why would you want to marry a defiled woman?

        Fourthly, do you really believe that Torah was so inadequate that there was no prohibition against carnal sins other than adultery (because you don’t give the adultery/unfaithfulness test the credit it deserves)?

        To me, your position obviously seems untenable.


        Comment by Robert Kan | November 6, 2011

      • The Pharisees did not think mercy was incompatible with Torah, they often extended mercy by finding ways to meet the requirements but then missing something, such as failing to find enough witnesses. There was a legal structure and they could be “picky” when seeking to avoid imposing a drastic penalty.

        Some parts of the NT can be misinterpreted to castigate Jews as a people, for example John. But one should realize that John was a Jew, as were all the other NT authors except perhaps Luke. So whatever was written, it was a squabble among Jews of different sects, it simply could not be anti-Jewish in the larger sense. For example, John sometimes says “Jews” when he means “Jewish leaders” which can be seen when comparing his text about something with the other gospels discussion about that same thing.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 6, 2011

      • Rob,

        What you really need to do is read David Instone-Brewer’s book, he covers all this stuff in detail.


        online at (but worth buying)

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 6, 2011

      • Most New Testament scholars agree that Greek ‘porneia is a general term for sexual sin, as seen in the New Testament itself. It is used for visiting a prostitute (1 Cor.6:13-15, 18), incest (1 Cor.5:1), general sexual sin by a married person (1 Cor.7:2), use of cultic prostitutes (Rev.2:20-21) and the sin of the ‘whore of Babylon’ (Rev.17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2) although the most common meaning is ‘sexual sin in general’ (Acts 15:20, Eph.5:3, Col.3:5).

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 6, 2011

      • Don, really, they were straightforward questions. You have avoided one of those questions twice now.

        When you are slippery like this, it says more about your openness and transparency than what your actual understanding is on these matters.

        In any debate, it’s always patronizing to refer someone elsewhere as a line of defense, and to tell them what you think they really need. As a matter of principles, I won’t give you the same treatment.

        I’ve said enough here to expose the potential flaws in your claims about Deut 24, and about why I disagree with Instone-Brewer. Besides, it’s not one’s responsibility to read an opposing view, when one doesn’t have an internal conflict with what he/she believes.

        In any case, I didn’t think you would answer those questions. If you could, I might be persuaded to buy the book. If anyone else wants to try, please, don’t hesitate.


        Comment by Robert Kan | November 7, 2011

  56. How about:
    “A man who divorces his wife submits her to adultery”?

    Comment by kategladstone | October 31, 2011

    • Kate, I think you have the basic idea.

      Comment by bibleshockers | November 2, 2011

  57. A problem with calling adultery “sharing” is that most of us (in the USA, anyway) are inculcated, from an early age, with a presupposition that sharing is always good and that it is evidence of good character in the person who does/proposes the sharing. For instance, if one child grabs another’s book or toy or snack, the nearest adult will command the victim to “share” with the thief — sharing is culturally considered so crucial that it is thought to trump at least one of the Ten Commandments, so calling adultery “sharing” may come off as an endorsement.

    Comment by Kate Gladstone | October 31, 2011

    • Point taken. Specifically, then, “adultery” refers to “sharing one’s woman”. “Sharing” is good! But “sharing your women” is BAD!

      Comment by bibleshockers | November 1, 2011

  58. Robert Kan asked me the following questions.

    1. On the one hand, you cite Deut 24 to permit and authorize marriage to a put-away wife but, by your own acknowledgment, the divorced woman in context was put-away due to an ‘indecency’ of her own nature.

    Don: No, I did not say that. A divorce cert allows remarriage, that is its purpose.
    In the specific example of Deu 24:1 case law, the reason for the first divorce was sexual indecency.

    2. On the other hand, if Duet 24 actually refers to sexual indecency as you say, then an unfaithful wife was potentially defiled and would become a curse.

    Don: No, I never said she was defiled.

    3. Firstly, if a wife wasn’t defiled, on what basis would her husband be justified in putting her away?

    Don: I do not use the word defiled. A man could divorce his wife for reasons of persistent abuse or neglect or unfailfulness/adultery.

    4. Secondly, if a wife was sexually defiled, and her husband no longer wanted her, how could one possibly use Deut 24 to support and endorse marriage to a put-away wife under such circumstances?

    Don: The divorce cert. allowed the wife to remarry. The supposition of the case law in Deu 24:1-4 is that she did remarry.

    5. Thirdly, you failed to give an answer to my original question: why would you want to marry a defiled woman?

    Don: I do not use the word defiled. One reason to marry is for love, I think this is the best reason.

    6. Fourthly, do you really believe that Torah was so inadequate that there was no prohibition against carnal sins other than adultery (because you don’t give the adultery/unfaithfulness test the credit it deserves)?

    Don: I have no idea what you mean. The rite of Bitter Water does not seem to have been used much, if that is what you are referring to. I do not think the Torah is inadequate, but since it can be misunderstood, it takes some work to understand it. For that I recommend David Instone-Brewer who is a 2nd temple scholar.

    Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 7, 2011

    • In your eyes, Instone-Brewer seems to be a teacher who is beyond reproach. But the fact is, he is as far removed from the culture of Moses and Jesus as you and I are today. I mean, if there were so many divisions and people like Shammai and Hillel were at loggerheads amongst themselves and others, what right does he have to claim to have access to the TRUTH on the basis of culture and social life? None I would say.

      Cultural knowledge is never a determinant of truth. On the contrary, Jesus spoke into a culture that was sinful, corrupt and desperately in need of the ‘breath’ of God. When he spoke about adultery and divorce in Mat 5, he spoke on his own terms and declared the widespread cultural acceptance, “It was said, ‘Whoever sends away his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ but I say…” That was the cultural context of the original hearers in relation to the divorce certificate. Jesus was not responding to any questions from the religious elite.

      Instone-Brewer may be a scholar of sorts, but no one has a right to validate any view of scripture on the basis of cultural acceptance. This is most misleading. In endorsing him, you are implying that the views of the majority must be those that are correct. But what did Jesus actually say?

      “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are MANY who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are FEW who find it (capitals my emphasis).” And, yes, he was speaking to his own.

      Comment by Robert Kan | November 8, 2011

      • This was well spoken. Ad Hominem is a logical fallacy.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 8, 2011

    • Instone-Brewer has a job at Tyndale House as a 2nd temple scholar. How many people have a job like that?

      On his website he has collected images of ALL the known surviving marriage and divorce papyrii near in time to the 1st century. How many people do you know who have done that?

      In other words, he is very credible. He was on the revision committee to the NIV 2011.

      Any text, including Bible text, is embedded in the times and culture in which it was produced. We know this is true as otherwise the original readers would not be able to understand it. The way one knows what the words and terms mean is from that culture. There are a few ways to take text out of context, but by far the most common is taking it out of its cultural context, this is what you are doing, perhaps unknowingly, but you are doing it. And you could learn how to avoid doing that, but it is your choice.

      Jesus in Mat 5 did not contradict himself in Matt 19, however the gospel authors could choose to abbreviate, almost 2000 years later it is the responsibility of the exegete to un-abbreviate the text so that it is not misunderstood.

      Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 8, 2011

      • Donald, the CIA has tons of the brightest and best working on getting facts right, but they caused a long war and the destabilization of a region, the collapse of our economy because they announced “WMD”…

        No one is reliable about 2nd Temple Judaism.

        I wonder if Brewer considers the culture of the NT writers to be the illiterate Aramaic culture of fishermen, or the learned Greek scholars and their LXX?

        Does he think the Hebrew scriptures describe practices at time more reliably than Enoch, Tobit or the Talmud?

        I find appeals to experts almost laughable, personally. Every word of scripture, if not ever letter, is subject to debate by learned people.

        Ad Hominem is a logical fallacy akin to other dogmas.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 8, 2011

      • I have no doubt that Instone-Brewer is credible – historically and personally. I am not casting apersions on his character.

        But why would someone want to write a book about what was culturally and socially acceptable during that time, and use that as a foundation for building a doctrine?

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 8, 2011

      • I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Instone-Brewer shows.

        There are specialized phrases (idiomatic phrases) in the accounts that have specific meanings and if you do not know those meanings, then you will almost certainly misread the text. Furthermore, the authors used Hebrew conventions for putting infomation into the text that included abbreviation and remez/hint methods and if you use Greek or Modern conventions for extracting info from the text, you will almost certainly misread the text.

        The reason I care about these particular texts is that misreading them harms members in the body of Christ though interpretations that result in legalistic bondage.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 8, 2011

      • The presumption of a Hebrew original is, I think, a profoundly significant assumption, and, given the fact that no such text is extant, hard to prove…

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 8, 2011

      • I totally agree that the gospel accounts are abbreviated. But I don’t believe this necessarily produces a theologically flawed reading, even 2000 years later. No one has a right to claim that a doctrine is potentially misunderstood because of deficiencies in Scripture. That is not an objective conclusion from an unbiased treatment of the text.

        Scholarship is only as good as the translation it produces from being true to the text. Anything else is just textual abuse. People can potentially make the text say and mean anything they want by simply qualifying it.

        What other doctrines would you claim I totally distort because of textual issues? This I ask because I don’t believe in singularities.

        I have no problem with my understanding of the phrases and terms used in Mat 5. I mean, didn’t Jesus openly challenge the cultural perspectives of his day in so many ways, including that of relationships, attitudes, pious practices and finances? (And somehow, you believe that the spiritual environment back then was so different from today, because you accuse me of not knowing the context.) Didn’t Jesus address the masses for giving spiritual insight? Didn’t he make a simple connection between lust and adultery? Have you ever considered the possibility that, even for readers today, lust and desire for an alternate partner is often a strong social precursor for a divorce certificate? Or do you think it was a mere coincidence that the issue of lust was a prelude to the issue of divorce?

        Nor do I see any contradiction between Mat 5 & 19. My exegesis reconciles the two passages without qualifying the text.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 9, 2011

      • >>>…Didn’t he make a simple connection between lust and adultery? Have you ever considered the possibility that, even for readers today, lust and desire for an alternate partner is often a strong social precursor for a divorce certifica te? Ordo you think it was a mere coincidence that the issue of lust was a prelude to the issue of divorce?…

        Robert, the passage translated “whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her” is mistranslated, giving rise to a misunderstanding of both this passage and also Matt 19… The problem is that in Greek, there is no separate word for “woman” and “wife” but what is clearly in view in Matt 5 is a “wife” (somebody’s woman). He is merely restating Moses, who said that one must not “covet your neighbor’s wife, his ass or his wife’s ass!”:

        Exo 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

        Strongly desiring a woman is not a crime in scripture, but desiring anything at all that belongs to one’s neighbor (and a wife, in scripture, is one’s property), is.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 9, 2011

      • One should exegete from the most detailed text to the least and that means starting with Matt 19. From there one sees how to interpret Matt 5.

        Consistency is needed but that is not sufficient. If one does not know the cultural context of a passage, one can very easily misunderstand it; the solution is to learn more of the cultural context.

        There is a fundamental false impression that one can just pick up any translation and understand what the Bible means on something. This is simply not true, it is true for salvation as the original reformers claimed, but they never thought that the whole Bible was clear and easy to read; they admitted that some parts were hard. Even Peter in the 1st century said that was true for Paul.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 9, 2011

      • Bill, I would beg to differ. Jesus didn’t merely restate Moses here, anyone could have done that. He raised the bar; he tightened the bolts, for those whose thinking was anything less. The charge here is not that of “coveting”. Rather, it is a charge of adultery on a new level.

        I would say that strongly desiring a woman (single or married) is a crime if it also forms part of entertaining thoughts of infidelity. That is the expanded context of adultery, a crime of the heart. Jesus confirms this fullest sense in Mat 15 by claiming it originates out of the ‘heart’, hence potentially prohibiting the mental act of fantasizing.

        Therefore, notwithstanding the validity of your polygamy/property observations, I still think ‘woman’ is the correct translation. So if I were to be disillusioned with the woman I made a life-long covenant with, and allow myself the pleasure of fantasizing about another single lady (say in church), l would, surely enough, be guilty of the crime of adultery.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 10, 2011

      • In that culture, though, if she were not someone else’s woman, you might be being drawn to your next acquisition, and there would be nothing wrong with it.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

      • Your cultural assumption though, is it not, is that they always had the fininancial means of maininting more than one wife? But consider that they didn’t.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 10, 2011

      • ISTM that in the scriptures, such matters were considered a matter for divine provision:

        Pro_18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

        A good wife was considered a key to prosperity, not a financial drain:

        Pro 31:10 Who can find a woman of worth? for her price is far above rubies.
        Pro 31:11 The heart of her husband confideth in her, and he shall have no lack of spoil.
        Pro 31:12 She doeth him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
        Pro 31:13 She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
        Pro 31:14 She is like the merchants’ ships: she bringeth her food from afar;
        Pro 31:15 And she riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and the day’s work to her maidens.
        Pro 31:16 She considereth a field, and acquireth it; of the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
        Pro 31:17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and maketh strong her arms.
        Pro 31:18 She perceiveth that her earning is good; her lamp goeth not out by night.
        Pro 31:19 She putteth her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
        Pro 31:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the afflicted, and she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
        Pro 31:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
        Pro 31:22 She maketh herself coverlets; her clothing is byssus and purple.
        Pro 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
        Pro 31:24 She maketh body linen and selleth it, and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
        Pro 31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laugheth at the coming day.
        Pro 31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and upon her tongue is the law of kindness.
        Pro 31:27 She surveyeth the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
        Pro 31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also , and he praiseth her:
        Pro 31:29 Many daughters have done worthily, but thou excellest them all.
        Pro 31:30 Gracefulness is deceitful and beauty is vain; a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised.
        Pro 31:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

      • The argument applies to “a wife”, not to “another wife”.
        Divine provision is not a license to extrapolate.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 10, 2011

      • Robert, are you of the opinion that there was a Jewish prohibition, or even reservation about a man having more than one woman? If so, on what basis? Thanks.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

      • I can’t answer questions relating to Jewish customs. This was always a discussion about the text. There is no promise of divine prosperity beyond having more than one wife, which is what I thought you were suggesting.

        (A consequence of that line of reasoning would have given a Jewish male a lot of incentive to get as many wives as possible. I don’t think that’s what Solomon intended. His own progression to catastrophic failure doesn’t add to that argument either.)

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 10, 2011

      • >>>I can’t answer questions relating to Jewish customs. This was always discussion about the text. There is no promise of divine prosperity beyond having more than one wife, which is what I thought you were suggesting.

        I see nothing in the text that limits God’s promise of provision or the blessings of a virtuous woman to one woman.

        >>>…A consequence of that line of reasoning would have given a Jewish male a lot of incentive to get as many wives as possible.

        Solomon is celebrated in the paean for his ability to leave thousands of girls weak and giggling.

        >>>I don’t think that’s what Solomon intended…

        Solomon didn’t pen those words:

        Pro 31:1 ***The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.***

        Note that he advises against the *wrong type* of woman, not against

        Pro 31:2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
        Pro 31:3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
        … he then describes a *capable* woman, which he highly recommends.

        >>>His own progression to catastrophic failure doesn’t add to that argument either…

        Solomon was not criticized in scripture for having many wives. For this he was admired and celebrated. Instead, he was said to fall because he had **foreign** wives, with foreing gods. Notice that even though David had many wives, he is praised as having a perfect heart. His only downfall was that he coveted *another man’s* woman.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

      • >>>I see nothing in the text that limits God’s promise of provision or the blessings of a virtuous woman to one woman.

        I see nothing in the text to extend it to more than one woman. Are you suggesting that it is not at all possible for one to be so presumptuous by over-extending their case?

        >>>Solomon is celebrated in the paean for his ability to leave thousands of girls weak and giggling.

        A specific example is not a valid argument for establishing a universal truth.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 10, 2011

      • >>>I see nothing in the text to extend it to more than one woman. Are you suggesting that it is not at all possible for one to be so presumptuous by over-extending their case?

        No, that would be what we call in the biz a “straw man”. I’m suggesting that we have Abraham, Isaac and Jakob, David, Solomon, etc, set forth as forever being criticized and punished for this and that, but never for having more than one woman, and ever being prospered.

        >>>A specific example is not a valid argument for establishing a universal truth.

        Again, a straw man. I’m not setting forth “a universal truth”, just a societal and scriptural norm. So in the absence of a specific textual limitation, any presumed limitation is eisegesis.

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

  59. I just wanted to say that I loved the original post, focusing on and calling attention to the nuance of the underlying text, without insisting on a particular interpretation of that nuance, as well as the generally respectful and astute tone of the comments. Exploration and discovery as it was meant to be…

    Comment by bibleshockers | November 10, 2011

  60. Don,

    Whilst we may disagree about principles of marriage and divorce, I think we ought to make plain what we do agree on.

    1. My brand of Christianity is scriptures only.
    2. Your brand of Christianity is scriptures + cultural practices/norms of the original hearers of those scriptures.
    3. No one should condemn or cast judgment on another because of one’s personal beliefs, because everyone is a work in progress.
    4. No one should impose their beliefs onto others.
    5. Every Christian has the right to practice what they believe to be right (subject to the laws of the land).
    6. Disagreements about biblical understanding should never be taken personally.
    7. Patronizing comments do not bring people to our side.
    8. If there is offense taken or misunderstanding, patience and open communication is always the best way to resolve things.


    Comment by Robert Kan | November 11, 2011

    • I agree with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. I do oppose interpretations of the Bible that result in harm to the body of Christ. That is, everyone is free to interpret as they see fit, but they are not free to harm the body of Christ with their interpretation. So I do not see all interpretations as equal in terms of potential harm, many do not matter much in practice, but some do.

      On 1 and 2, there is really no such thing as item 1. Item 1 is a myth, altho a very common one.

      Item 1 is not what the original Reformers meant by sola scriptura, they meant that is opposition to the Catholic claim that the church (that is, the Catholic church) was required for a correct interpretation of Scripture. The original Reformers denied this on the question of salvation, while admitting that others areas of the Bible were difficult.

      Also, ANY text, including Bible text is embedded INSIDE a culture. We know this is true as otherwise the text is composed of marks on a page with no meaning. The only question when reading ANY text, including Bible text is whether one will use the correct original culture in which the text was written or will use a wrong culture, often a modern one. If you use the wrong culture, then mistakes are to be expected and so one should avoid doing this as much as possible. I claim this mistake of using the wrong cultural context is by far the most common mistake made by Bible readers, even sincere ones that have studied the Bible all their lives. That is, a person today reads text X and thinks it means Y, because if they had written X, they would have meant Y; this is a mistake, what they need to ask is what did it mean in the original culture in which it was written, but this is a much more challenging question and takes work.

      Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 15, 2011

  61. I’ve looked into what DIB says about all this on his site http://www.divorce-remarriage.com. The slide shows in the Playmobible presentations are actually quite interesting. He presents his case by looking, firstly, at the 4 biblical causes of divorce and, secondly, Roman divorce. The presentations are simple, straightforward and quite entertaining. He certainly knows his history. There are many discoveries and observations about marriage regulations and how the Jews understood their scriptures. A couple of these discoveries really stuck out at me.

    1. “A Roman citizen who did not get married within 18 months of a divorce could be prosecuted under the law passed by Emperor Augustus. So remarriage was expected in secular culture.”

    2. “Jews also expected divorcees to remarry. They all knew they could remarry because the right was written into their Jewish divorce certificates. The divorce certificate was a requirement stipulated by God that husbands had to fill out.”

    This was all very interesting, from an historical point of view. While I could appreciate the general sentiment of what DIB said, from a moral viewpoint, I was however absolutely dumbfounded by how he rationalized the following verse to fit his views.

    1 Cor 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.

    DIB claims that “Paul is specifically addressing widows” here. He offers no real justification for this claim, but explains it like this: “Paul was not saying anything that contradicts the laws of divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1, or in Exodus 21:10-11, or in Christ’s words in Matthew 19:9. Why? This is because Paul is specifically addressing widows.”

    Now, this is not standard logic, is it? How did he arrive at the conclusion that the statement is a reference to widows only? Even if you **could** show that Paul was addressing widows, the statement still comes across as the universal law of marriage (instituted by God after creation).

    I don’t deny the facts of history. The facts are a given, whether we personally like them or not. But I can’t reconcile the cultural norm with my plain reading of the biblical text. History indicates that people were remarrying left, right and center. Do I manipulate scripture to fit the cultural paradigm? Well, I could only do so by my removing my insistence on a plain/literal reading of the text. That would require a huge paradigm shift in my approach to scripture. Not impossible, but not likely to happen. My textual and theological biases greatly outweigh any arguments based on history.

    Comment by Robert Kan | November 12, 2011

    • Joh 4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

      After a divorce the former spouse is no longer a spouse. This is how Jesus can say correctly that she has had 5 husbands, not 1 husband and others in adultery.

      The thing to see is that either death or divorce ends a marriage covenant, this is fundamental. Some misread other Scripture to think this is not true, but either of these end a marriage and means one is in a state of unmarried. In 1 Cor 7:39 Paul is discussing the situation of a widow, because it posits the husband is dead.

      Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 15, 2011

      • >>>After a divorce the former spouse is no longer a spouse. This is how Jesus can say correctly that she has had 5 husbands, not 1 husband and others in adultery.

        On the one hand, in John 4:18, you are disposed to using ‘Greek’ thinking to exegete the words of Jesus, because this works in your favor.

        On the other hand, this exact same approach in every other passage about marriage works against you.

        Needless to say, this comes across as you picking and choosing your exegetical method as you personally see fit.

        Instone-Brewer does the same. He uses ‘Greek’ logic to biblically argue the case for monogamous marriages only, but uses ‘ancient customs’ where a plain reading of Jesus (and Paul) works against his prejudices.

        One needs to see that, unless our exegetical rules are consistent and uniform, we lose our credibility and integrity on scriptural matters. One cannot just simply pick and choose as they see fit.

        (Your particular interpretation of John 4:18 obviously suits you, but if you examine the situational context, you may see that Jesus wasn’t confirming to the Samaritan woman whether she was in sin or not. That was irrelevant. Rather, he was confirming to her that he was a prophet, and not just any prophet but the Christ who was to come.)

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 17, 2011

      • No, I am using Hebrew thinking as spoken by Jesus. Jesus was a Jew and was Torah observant. He corrects some other Jews when they misinterpret Scripture, but Jesus always always always correctly interprets Scripture.

        I do try to have a consistent hermeneutic, that of the original reader as best I can, AKA the historical-grammatical-literary method.

        The basic problem with so-called “plain” reading is that there is no confidence that what one derives will agree with another doing supposedly “plain” reading and this is because there is no confidence that the correct culture and worldview will be used by either of them. So “plain” reading is another myth that would be best to avoid.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 17, 2011

      • Plain reading is not a myth, because the Bible is unlike any other text. It is much (much) more than just another historical document, and ought not to be put on a par with just any other historical evidence. Throughout its history, the Bible has been widely regarded as a holy book. How many other historical documents do you know that are like that?

        Treating the Bible from a textual point of view means that there is a lesser likelihood of making background assumptions about the events described or the authors who related them. Such assumptions may in fact wrongly prejudice our interpretation.

        Yes, all text is embedded inside a culture, as you say. But, from the Bible’s viewpoint, by and large, that culture is of the heart and spirit first and foremost.

        This is why Jesus said, of his own words, in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the WORDS that I have spoken to you are SPIRIT and are LIFE (capitals my emphasis).

        Cultural truths should always serve to complement the text in bringing understanding. And Jesus provided such truths in no uncertain terms, by describing the spiritual culture of his day in so many aspects of life. He had nothing good to say about the religious leaders, neither about the cultural norms, standards and practices of his time.

        In fact, the only people that Jesus esteemed were the likes of children, old widows and sinful women. On this basis, one would have no obligation to uphold any views of any cultural or moral nature, other than those of Jesus.

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 18, 2011

      • I agree that the Bible is the word of God, and so is the most special collection of books possible. But for that very reason it is critical to not hack it, which is what the so-called plain reading does way too many times. It is even obvious that plain reading is a false idea, since 2 people claiming to do it can come up with very different ideas about what is meant, what is plain to you is not plain to me and vice versa. The point is there is no way to evaluate a claim to plain reading and therefore all is up for grabs.

        We can and must do better. And it is quite possible to do better than to hack the Bible, which is a form of disrespecting the text and therefore disrespecting God who inspired the text. And that is be doing our best to understand the context of the text, including the cultural context.

        Jesus did say some good things about some religious leaders and some of their practices, claiming he did not is just showing you do not know the gospels as well as you think you do. (To be fair, lots of other prots think the same thing.) Yes, Jesus also did commend some people who were thought to be less than, and many of the people who thought they were more than were scandalized by this.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 18, 2011

      • Attaining to *spiritual* truth is not hacking the Bible. There is a *spiritual* component of understanding, which you totally ignore. In fact, I don’t think you have mentioned the spirit once.

        There are many views in this world, of which yours is one, and mine is another. People will always disagree, and to different extents, regardless of whether they ascribe to “scholarly” opinion or not. It’s not a black and white world, so forget this whole ideal of one methodology and one approach to bring everyone together in total agreement. That’s the mentality of the Catholic Church.

        Your claim is that if we all listen to, and believe DIB, we will all be on the same page. To you, DIB is the final word, he’s the solution to all of our disagreements. Jesus had something to say about that.

        Jn 12:47-50, “If anyone hears My SAYINGS and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My SAYINGS, has one who judges him; the WORD I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not SPEAK on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to SAY and what to SPEAK. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I SPEAK, I SPEAK just as the Father has told Me (capitals my emphasis).”

        Because I believe that Jesus is the WORD, and the final WORD, I take him at face value. (And others do too.)

        Comment by Robert Kan | November 18, 2011

      • If only we knew what Jesus actually said we would know exactly what the rules are. Unfortunately we do not know exactly what He said. Even if we knew exactly what He said we still would have to understand what He meant.

        If I say in English “It is raining cats and dogs,” and someone translates that into another language and writes it down and then someone else translates that into another language and gives that to someone that is not well versed enough in US phrases to know I meant it was raining hard they will be very confused. That is what we have here and what I think is trying to be pointed out. Without a cultural context the words can easily be misunderstood. We are dealing with what Jesus said 2000 years ago and was written down years later by someone who heard from someone else. We don’t even have the original of that. It has been through several translations and edits. Don’t forget that the different Gospels don’t even match up with each other.

        I do not see how you can hope to get to the truth by just reading the words of one translation of the Bible. As I learn more and more about the context and history of the times and places of the Bible it makes much more sense.

        I appreciate the input from all sides and hope the discussion continues.

        Comment by chris | November 18, 2011

      • Hi Chris,

        Yes, I agree with your “cats and dogs” comment. That is exactly what happens sometimes in commentaries, they will point out that both cats and dogs are plural and so imply more than one of each and totally miss the idiom.

        Comment by Don Johnson | November 20, 2011

      • I find it humorous what has come of the phrase “salt of the earth”. It has been completely misconstrued by *everybody* as something good! Everybody except the Rolling Stones, and Guns n Roses, that is…

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 20, 2011

      • The term “spirit” has not been mentioned before this by anyone. My assumption is that all believers have the Spirit, it is the unbelievers that do not, to them the word of God is foolishness and makes no sense.

        The methodology that scholarly protestants try to use is some form of the HGL method. Perhaps it will be improved someday. Perhaps someone may find a way to improve on DIB’s books on divorce. It is similar to Newton replacing Ptolemy in astronomy, perhaps there will be an Einstein to replace Newton.

        The words of Jesus are precious, which is why we need to do our utmost to understand them in context, doing less is a form of disrepect to His words and therefore disrespect of Jesus.

        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 19, 2011

      • >>>…to them the word of God is foolishness and makes no sense…

        Do you mean the “message” of God?

        Comment by bibleshockers | November 19, 2011

    • >>>…to them the word of God is foolishness and makes no sense…

      As I understand Paul’s point in that passage, what he says offends is not that the message is incomprehensible, but rather that it is “simplistic” and “unsophisticated.” And again, Paul did not have or espouse any concept of a “Bible”. His use of the term “word” referred to his own message. To apply the term to “The Bible” (as if such a thing even exists) is anachronistic and uncontextual.

      Comment by bibleshockers | November 20, 2011

      • The Jews did have Scriptures, in the form of the Tanakh, which has the same books as the OT (without any apocrypha) but in a different order.

        Luk 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

        Jesus is making a ref. to the Tanakh in the above verse, which has 3 main parts, the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings, of which Psalms is the largest and first book in the collection of books called the Writings.


        Comment by Donald Byron Johnson | November 20, 2011

    • So are you suggesting that when Paul wrote that the message of God was over-simplistic, he was referring to the TNK?

      And are you suggesting that “the Jews” did not consider “the Apocrypha” and other extant text, such as the collection known today as “Enoch” as “writings”?

      Are you of the opinion that references to “the scriptures” refer to your “The Bible”?

      I bring this up because few people are aware of the assumptions that color their “plain reading” of ancient texts.

      Comment by bibleshockers | November 20, 2011

  62. If, by “plain reading” we mean “what is obvious to me” then of course, it is a meaningless notion, but if it means “reading inductively” from what it *asserts* (rather than what it might imply) then I think it an excellent concept.

    Comment by bibleshockers | November 19, 2011

  63. If you cause a theft to be committed against me, you make me a victim of theft, at least in English. While “victim of” can also have other meanings, such as being incapable of action or response, it can also simply mean that someone had a wrong action committed against them. “He was the victim of a crime” does not necessarily say anything beyond the fact hat a crime was committed and “he” was the object of it.

    I find many discussions of translation into English suffer from the unstated assumption that a good translation is one from which one can only get the right meaning, even when those ‘getting” the meaning are examining the translation in an unusually detailed way. Martin Luther wrote that a translator needs to go out into the street and look into the mouths of women and children. So, to find out what “victim of adultery” means, it is insufficient for experts or critics to bring their personal opinion.

    Comment by Foibled | January 4, 2012

  64. […] 1, “Heart” How to Love the Lord Your God — Part 3, “Heart and Soul” Adultery in Matthew 5:32 Who Says Homosexuality is a Sin? Q&A: What color is the “blue” of the Bible? […]

    Pingback by The Year in Review (2012) « God Didn't Say That | January 2, 2013

  65. This is a very interesting topic. I have long felt that we’ve read much more into the teaching on divorce and remarriage then what is there. Just like in other instances in Matt 19 the Pharisees are trying to catch Jesus in something he says in reply to a question that is designed to be a trap. They ask him if it is ok to get divorced “for every cause.” They aren’t just asking if it is ok to get divorced. There were times such as with the book of Nehemiah where God commanded divorce, and by implication would have been ok with remarriage. Jesus as in other situations went beyond the question to address the true motive of their heart and what the real issue was. He talked about how God viewed marriage as a committed life-long relationship that should not be taken lightly. He places the emphasis on the importance of marriage rather than what the reasons were for divorce. It is my experience that those who truly have good reasons for divorce are usually the ones who try to avoid it the most. On the other hand those who are looking for a reason to get divorced are usually ones with the least cause.

    There is no doubt that Matthew 19 does give a valid exception where someone can be divorced and remarried. It would wrong to limit this just to adultery, but it would include other kinds of sexual immorality as well such as molestation, homosexuality, etc.

    The question becomes is this the only exception. Instone Brewer seems to make a good case in my opinion that abuse and neglect as well as abandonment are also valid exceptions. If you believe the only valid case for remarriage is adultery then what do you do with abandonment? If you allow remarriage for abandonment then you’ve agreed that there can be more than one exception. If you don’t allow for abandonment then you’re taking the position that no matter what the situation or how long the abandonment that the one abandoned must remain unmarried.

    I do believe there is merit to the argument that reference to living husbands in 1 Cor. 7 and Romans 7 is making the simple and plain point that if you have sex with someone while you are married to a living husband then you commit adultery. I think that is all it is saying. I believe the Bible in other places makes clear that once you are divorced they are no longer your husband or wife.

    Here’s an interesting set of verses:

    1 Corinthians 7:27-28 NKJV
    27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
    28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.

    Is it possible that verse 28 is built off verse 27? If so then could it be saying that if someone is loosed from a wife that they can marry? I understand that the traditional reading of these verses is that verse 28 picks up on the earlier topic of those who haven’t been married the first time, but the sentence and thought order does leave open some questions that maybe the thought in verse 27 is extended in verse 28.

    My personal view on divorce is that it should be avoided at all costs. Everything possible should be done to keep a marriage together. But when the obstinance and sin of one person makes this impossible, and in particular where children are put in harms way then divorce is not just acceptable but should be recommended. Remarriage is definitely ok in this circumstance. However I’d also say that remarriage should not be rushed into. A period of years should go by to see if reconciliation and repentance can take place with the other spouse, and this time should be used for healing on the part of the spouse that had no choice but to get the divorce. I would be very stringent and tough on what I’d consider acceptable situations for divorce, but I do believe they are there. It was interesting to me that I read R.C. Sproul’s take on divorce and remarriage, and his view was that the offended spouse definitely had the right to remarry, and even the offender could eventually remarry if they had truly repented and reconciliation with the original spouse was no longer possible.

    I believe that what both Jesus and Paul both were teaching was how vitally important marriage is and how it should be guarded. I believe in that time marriage was being treated frivolously, and this is what prompted the pharisees to ask the question they did. They wanted Jesus to either validate their frivolous treatment of marriage or be seen as going against Moses. He did neither. But to read in a set of rules that I don’t believe were ever intended has done much harm to those who were the victims of a very bad marriage and had no choice but to get out. To tell them they can never remarry unless they can prove they were cheated on regardless of a host of other terrible things that happened is not right, and I don’t believe consistent with all of what Scripture teaches. Both Jesus and Paul are addressing very specific situations. Jesus is addressing a specific question and Paul is also addressing questions that came from Corinth. I don’t agree that you have to understand everything about the background and culture of a particular verse to interpret it, but where the text itself identifies itself as being within a certain context then that context must be taken into consideration before trying to make too broad of a point.

    Comment by waltercan | January 20, 2013

  66. A lot of words by both author, and commenters, yet all seemingly missing a very salient point. Why can’t this statement mean EXACTLY how it reads? Could it be, that all ya’ll are ignorant of the fact, that when two people marry – they become “one flesh” and what one does makes the other legally culpable under the law?

    I fear that the contemporary Christian community has lost the true meaning of marriage, by totally dismissing the fact that marriage is a ‘type and shadow’ of our relationship with God, and not realizing that He takes marriage a WHOLE lot more seriously, than even most pastors are willing to admit. When the statement is made during a wedding, that ‘marriage is not to be entered into lightly’, I wonder just how many people even give it a second thought, before saying ‘I do’? Obviously, at least 50% don’t!

    I literally fear for those who dismiss Jesus’ comment about adulterers not being able to enter the Kingdom of God. Please allow me to say, I realize that there is only one ‘unforgivable sin’, and that is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, YET the repeated sin of adultery, at some point makes one an adulterer, and is no less ‘trampling the blood of Christ than any other unrepentant sin.

    Comment by supersteve1 | January 20, 2013

    • @supersteve1, you ask:

      “…Why can’t this statement mean EXACTLY how it reads?…”

      And how, exactly, does it read? Are you referring to the KJV? Or the new NIV?

      There are subtleties in the Greek that create thorny issues for translators, and other difficulties that complicate interpretation.

      “For every complex problem there is always a simple answer – which is wrong!”

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 21, 2013

  67. Getting back to the original post, I certainly see that the NIV2011 is very vague by simply identifying the woman as the “victim” of adultery. If the NIV2011 were to be correct, then Matthew 5:32 is basically saying nothing different than that a man who divorces his wife commits adultery. “Committing adultery” (by a husband) is equivalent to “makes her (his wife) the victim of adultery”, for the simple reason that adultery is an offense against one’s spouse.

    I do like Peter Kirk’s observation (#2) that the man (woman’s illicit partner) potentially is the more active participant in the sin.

    I also wonder about WoundedEgo’s concept of “sharing”, but this is seems to be a very “enlightened” reading of what seems to be an obscure grammatical technicality. His theology, at least, pertains to the broader perspective.

    Personally, I would like to see a few more examples of how Greek verbs operate in the passive to see what is actually going on. And what we see in this scenario are three parties, and it is implicit that no one was vindicated. What a most intriguing piece you have written here Joel.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 22, 2013

  68. As I said I believe you need to understand the question that the Pharisees are asking in Matthew 19 to understand the answer. And I believe you can understand this without having to have a detailed cultural understanding of the time. In other places we see the Pharisees trying to lay a trap for Jesus through a question, and yet he goes beyond their question to answer the true motive of their heart. I believe the Pharisees are trying to get Jesus to condone their practice of allowing divorce for any and every cause. As I understand it a man could get tired of his wife one day and put her away, or he could run into someone he wanted to have sex with that night and have his wife divorced and his bride all within the day and blessed by a priest. Jesus responded with emphasizing the sacredness of marriage, and its original intention.

    As I’ve said I strongly believe in the sacredness of marriage, and that everything possible should be done to keep a marriage together. But in some ways I think we’ve made marriage the modern day equivalent of the Sabbath in Jesus time. I wonder if Jesus would say to us today, “Marriage was made for man (and woman) and not man for marriage.”

    Comment by waltercan | January 23, 2013

  69. Here’s a couple of other quick thoughts. if you believe that God would not sanction a remarriage, and that he sees the original husband and wife as husband and wife until they die, then why is there a prohibition on reconciling original husbands and wives if one got married to someone else beforehand? I mean if they were both seen as still husband and wife in God’s eyes then the marriage that took place with someone else should only be seen as an adulterous relationship, and we know from Hosea that God does not prohibit taking a wife back just because she’s been an adulterous?

    And another question, Let’s say someone gets divorced because of abandonment, neglect, or abuse issues, and their spouse goes out and has sex with someone after this. Even if there wasn’t unfaithfulness in the relationship before the divorce, there certainly is after it, so would that meet the qualification for the exception in Matthew 19? If you don’t believe it does then why not?

    Comment by waltercan | January 23, 2013

  70. Just to clarify my comment in the first paragraph I’m speaking of the prohibition in the law that if a couple was divorced, and then one of them remarried; then it was seen as wrong for the original husband and wife to get back together. Why wouldn’t you celebrate the desire to reconcile the original husband and wife?

    Comment by waltercan | January 23, 2013

    • For what it’s worth, Googlr the following:
      Jewish wedding ceremony in Jesus’s time …
      Many fascinating links!

      Comment by kategladstone | January 23, 2013

  71. In Deuteronomy 24, if a man sends his wife away and she becomes the wife of another man, and if the second husband dies or sends her away too, she has already been DEFILED. So of course the first husband cannot take her back. That is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Her first husband contributed to her defilement in the first place by sending her away, and then one could suggest that he take her back after her second husband dies or sends her away too? Are you out of your mind?

    You can throw mud at God’s face the first time around, but I tell you he won’t tolerate it another time. To take back one’s wife under these circumstances and to treat the covenant as something little more than a matter of expediency is highly repulsive to the one who ordained the institution. He won’t put up with such flippancy. Yes, if one wants, he can go ahead and harden his heart, but make no mistake that even the hard-hearted must know what the boundaries are. They must live with the consequences.

    You neither believe in the sanctity of marriage nor do you appreciate its permanency.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 23, 2013

    • But you’re not being consistent in your arguments. If you and others believe that marriage is something that cannot be terminated in the eyes of God, and two people who are originally married are still considered to be married until one dies, then your argument is not consistent. The book of Hosea shows that no matter how defiled the prophet’s wife was God kept telling him to take her back.

      This is where I think you’re missing it. The reason a husband could not take back a wife after she had been married to someone else was not that she was defiled, but that she was no longer his wife when she married someone else.

      You’re also trying to make a point that the 2nd marriage defiled her more if the 2nd husband put her away, but then you try to equate him dying as defiling her in the same way. That doesn’t wash.

      I understand that this discussion gets highly emotional. There seems to be a belief that if you allow any exceptions for divorce and remarriage that you’ll make it easier for those who are looking to get out when they should be working harder on their marriage. I’m sympathetic to that, and I certainly agree that way too many people are looking for the exit doors when they need to be recommitting themselves to making their marriage work. But at the same time I think we’ve pigeon-holed ourselves into a set of regulations and understandings that don’t fit within the entire teaching of what the Bible says. If you hold that Jesus was teaching in Matthew 19 that there was only one exception where someone could be divorced and remarry then you are at odds with 1 Corinthians 7 were Paul teaches (at least this is what I strongly believe) that divorce and remarriage is ok when an unbeliever abandons a believer. Now you can say that this is a very narrow exception, but you can’t hold that Matthew 19 gives the one and only exception and then explain how you make allowances for another exception.

      I’ll say again, Marriage was made for man, and not man for marriage. Go and read Jesus teachings on the Sabbath to understand what I mean.

      Comment by waltercan | January 23, 2013

      • @waltercan, you wrote: “…I’ll say again, Marriage was made for man, and not man for marriage…”

        I would say, marriage is a biologic reality. You can divorce your wife but you can’t divorce your children. No judge can do that. Death is the only separator. Eve was “flesh of Adam’s flesh” because she came out of her. In the same way, when a man and woman have a child together they are both one flesh through the child they produce together.

        As to “adultery”, I’m sticking with the idea of a “shared woman” is “no-no”.

        Moses said that (assuming they hadn’t produced a baby) the man could just give her a certificate and the whole thing would be over. Jesus would say “if God has joined them together (by conception) then they cannot be separated by any civil proceeding.”

        Paul adds, that if a woman has been faithful to a man through the years of “viability” (39, in our society) then he’d better not be a louse and dump her now.

        The view from here….

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 23, 2013

  72. Robert Kan makes some serious errors in his understanding of marriage as he fails to understand that basics of covenant, namely that a covenant can be terminated, including a marriage covenant and he also fails to understand that Jesus could not negate this teaching of Torah or he would not be Messiah. The result is a serious lack of compassion and large heaps of condemnation on the hurting, all contrary to God being love.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 23, 2013

    • Yes, I think it is a common misreading of Romans 7 and parts of 1 Corinthians 7 that gives rise to the idea that the person you were first married to continues to be seen as your husband and wife until they die no matter what the circumstances are. Those Scriptures merely point out that if you are married, and your spouse is alive; then to be in a sexual relationship with someone else is adulterous. But if you do take those Scriptures to mean that marriage perpetuates until death no matter what then you’ve contradicted Jesus in Matthew 19 where he gives the exception.

      Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 were not meant to cover all situations of all marriages, but they were mean to teach principles which clarified further what had been taught in the Old Testament. There are reasons for divorce and remarriage, but they should not be frivolous of the “no fault” kind. We should never enter marriage with Divorce being a Plan B in case things don’t work out. Everything possible should be done to save a marriage even when the parties don’t feel like they have any love left. God can redeem even the toughest situations. But…there are times when one party is determined to pursue a path that is harmful and destructive (sometimes to the spouse and other times toward the spouse and children) where not only is divorce permissable, but should be recommended. No one should live in a situation that is harmful and unsafe. Children should never be put through a nightmare of physical and/or sexual abuse. In these cases, and some others that would rise to the same level; I believe remarriage is permissable as long as sufficient time has occurred to bring healing, and that they wait on the Lord to bring the person to them.

      Comment by waltercan | January 23, 2013

  73. Back to the part of the original article dealing with the NIV 2011’s translation that makes the wife the victim of the adultery, I think this could have some merit. I am not a fan of the NIV 2011 due to the Gender Inclusive language, but in this one passage I’d like to do some more research. It would certainly make more sense that if a husband is the one committing adultery then the wife would be the recipient of the action and not a co-violator. I’m still mastering the basics of Greek, but if the verb is passive it would indicate something like “causes adultery to be committed against her” would be a good translation. But I also know sometimes there’s more to it then just the basic grammar suggests so I’ll need to look into it.

    Comment by waltercan | January 24, 2013

  74. WoundedEgo, those are very cogent observations. Your children are always your children, even after they leave the nest. And Scripture requires that we honor our parents, whether we feel like or not (provided they are still alive). A resentful daughter, for example, could cite a lot of reasons for not honoring her parents – emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse even. But if such sins are repented of, she is required to forgive and reconcile. And if she withholds forgiveness, she demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of God’s relationship to his children. So is the case with marriage, which was designed to endure well after the “biological” children have families of their own.

    God gives mankind two views of marriage. For those whose hearts are obstinate, marriage is not permanent. God gives them what they want. He surely won’t impose his highest requirements on them, for he does not give what is holy to dogs. (And what is more sacred in this life than the marriage covenant he first ordained?) So God gives them a conditional covenant, on their terms and conditions. Hence, the regulations of Deuteronomy 24 can never be reconciled with the concept of permanency. It wasn’t meant to. It is impossible to derive a concept of permanency from something that is inherently not so.

    We human beings are a “funny” lot. We get sad and disappointed with God when our happy relationships come to a “premature” end. But if our relationships are miserable, we have no concerns about them potentially dying. In fact, we secretly desire it. It’s much more admirable to say that I will remarry because I am widowed, rather than I will remarry because I am divorced.

    Abandonment is very unfortunate, I guess, depending on one’s perspective. For the wife whose husband can’t reign in his sexual urges or the husband whose wife can’t control her spending, abandonment for them could be a blessing in disguise.

    Don’t get distracted by the “fornication” clause of Matthew 19 – that was to protect a spouse from honoring an illegitimate contract, especially when she is found out to have defiled herself before marriage. He has every right to expect a virgin if that was the impression. And one cannot honor a contract that was based on false or misleading information. Once the contract is sealed, they have a lifetime to work out their differences. It’s not easy. Few people go into marriage knowing that when you marry someone, you also marry all their faults and sinful tendencies. No marriage is beyond restoration. If God gave up on us like we give up on our spouses, what a terrifying God he would be. If Jesus wanted to prohibit a man from marrying a divorcee, he couldn’t have been more explicit. And if Paul wanted to declare that the marriage union is permanent until death, he couldn’t have been more explicit. And that’s what the original post is about – what the Bible says, not what one imagines it to say.

    Joel, I think this post is an excellent scholarly analysis of Matthew 5:32.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 24, 2013

    • The only problem with all of your theory is something called the Bible. It’s not intellectually honest to say that Matt 19 only applies to a betrothal situation and not a marriage. And in 1 Cor. 7 it says that if an unbeliever departs then the other party “is not bound.” In context that would mean not bound as far as prohibiting them for remarriage. So we already have two clear examples from Scripture that the marriage contract can be broken, and broken to a point where remarriage is ok. I think David I. Brewer makes a good case for the other reasons that are laid out in the Old Testament as well.

      Then in the case of the book of Nehemiah we see a case where God is commanding divorce. You can say that is an extreme case where His covenant people are mingling with those outside the covenant, or some other rationalization, but you still come back to the reality that divorce was sanctioned by God Himself in some extreme circumstances. I can tell you there are situations that I know of where staying together with a particular spouse would have done at least as much harm as staying with the spouse in the situation of Nehemiah, and in some case it might have been even worse due to danger to children.

      We’ve built marriage into this perfect ideal that will always work no matter what the condition of someone’s heart. That’s not reality. In particular there are situations where someone marries someone they thought to be a Christian, and they turn out not to be (as evident by persistent actions over time), and they’re determined to cause as much problems as possible. I’ve even known situations where this kind of a spouse took advantage of the Christian spouse’s belief on divorce to tell them that they don’t have a choice but to live with whatever they are doing because divorce is a sin.

      I believe what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 is above all that if you are married you should not be looking to get divorced. In my experience most who truly have grounds for divorce don’t want one and go above and beyond to try and find some way to make it work. But I’ve seen in some cases that the person is just not willing, and is causing damage (in some cases physical, in other cases emotional, and sometimes both) to both the spouse and children. They sometimes hide behind the church’s teaching on divorce and try to hold the other spouse hostage knowing they can always play the religion card if they try to divorce them.

      I am concerned that the church, in it’s attempt to uphold an ideal, has sacrificed reality. I wish everyone always did the right thing in the end, but that’s not the way it is, and there’s no promise of that in Scripture. I’ve had different kinds of relationships (work, civic, church, etc.) where things happen that are beyond your control. You can beat yourself up thinking about what you could do differently, but you have to accept that each person is responsible for their own actions, and you can’t change people. God can change people, but he doesn’t change everyone; and there’s no promise anywhere that he does just because you’re in a marriage. 1 Peter 3 does seem to indicate that women can exert a great deal of influence on an unbelieving husband due to their conduct, but I don’t believe you should infer from that they a woman should keep trying no matter how severe the behavior is of the husband.

      I have long believed that we need to put a lot more focus on why Christians make such bad choices to get into these marriages in the first place rather than condemning people to stay in these really bad situations. Not only have we turned marriage into the modern day equivalent of the Sabbath, but we treat it as if it is a prison sentence more than a loving covenant. I’ve heard people say, “Hey you made the choice so now you have to live with it no matter how bad it is.”

      Comment by waltercan | January 24, 2013

      • Re:
        “where someone marries someone they thought to be a Christian, and they turn out not to be”

        Do you mean that the person (who turned out not to be Christian) had been claiming to believe that Jesus was more than just a person, but had really disbelieved that all along? Or do you mean something else by “being thought to be a Christian, and then turning out not to be one”?

        As an unChristian (with no Christian ancestors or relatives), I’d like clarity on this point.

        Comment by kategladstone | January 24, 2013

  75. Robert Kan’s errors in Bible interpretation result in a fatally flawed understanding of marriage. A covenant is created by making vows, including a marriage covenant. A covenant is broken when a vow is broken. When a vow is broken, the other party can decide to end the covenant. This is shown to be true by God when God divorces Israel as stated in Jer 3:8.

    Yes, it is true that God intends a marriage covenant to be lifelong, one is not to get married with the intention of ending it or it being a temporary thing. And it is also true that one spouse is not required to end the covenat when the other spouse breaks a marriage vow.

    Jesus uses the phrase “Moses said” as a Hebraism shorthad for “God said thru Moses”. When Jesus says Moses said something, it means God said it thru Moses, so it was God that gave the ability for a spouse to divorce when the other party breaks the covenant. This is another example of Robert Kan misunderstanding Scripture by taking it out of context as the original reader would understand it. P.S. Moses claims to be writing what God told him to write in Torah.

    Jesus in order to fulfill prophecy was a Torah-observant Jew in order to be the Jewish messiah, as such he could not change Torah, altho he could correctly interpret it. When one thinks that Jesus changed the meaning of Torah, this means that one is either misunderstanding Torah, misunderstanding Jesus or both.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 24, 2013

  76. If you really want to push the point, then yes, divorce is permissible where God does not approve of the covenant, he never had, and the covenant was unlawful in his eyes to begin with. That’s what we see in the book of Ezra. But this truth works against your bias because it would also apply to adulterous relationships. In fact, second and subsequent marriages would be regarded as adulterous in God’s eyes if in fact he does not recognize them as valid unions. Those who argue that a second divorce would be worse still need to determine the point at which an immoral relationship should be declared a moral one. In other words, at what point does a morally unlawful marriage become a lawful marriage? Well, you’ll need God’s help on this one. But understand that a dichotomy between the law of the land and God’s law is manifestly clear in Scripture. While modern society may indeed decriminalize pornography, prostitution or same-sex marriage, this trend certainly does not legitimize these practices in God’s eyes. The same argument applies to remarriage following divorce.

    God’s divorcing of Israel was a literary device. Did he not plead with her to return in repentance and humility? Get the bigger picture.

    “God thru Moses” permitted divorce. “God thru Moses” provided the Israelites with quail that ultimately brought forth God’s wrath (see Numbers 11). Both provisions were a concession to society’s stubbornness.

    Okay, so that pretty much covers the OT. Let’s have a look at 1 Corinthians 7.

    1 Cor 7:15 “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

    But 1 Cor 7:39 “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”

    The Greek word for bondage in verse 15 is “douloo” whereas the Greek word for bound in verse 39 is “deo”. Rom 7:2 also uses the same Greek word as in 1 Cor 7:39, “deo”, to affirm that a woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband. The distinction between the two words is this:

    Bondage (“douloo”) carries the idea of slavery, that is, to enslave or make servile.
    Bound (“deo”) carries the idea of binding, that is, to bind or tie together.

    The point of 1 Cor 7:15 is that when an unbeliever departs, the believing partner is no longer enslaved by his or her previous relationship, and can now freely serve the Lord without hindrance. Hence, one is given the proper conclusion that “God hath called us to peace”. He/she is now a servant of Christ. There are no implications here for remarriage. That was not Paul’s concern for writing verse 12 through to 16.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 25, 2013

  77. Robert Kan, you totally misinterpret Scripture and do it so badly that it results in condemnation of believers, which should be a warning that you are wrong, but you persist.

    God is NEVER said to do anything in Scripture that violates Torah, rather God is seen as an example of following Torah. So, yes, God divorcing Israel is a literary device, but it ONLY works as a literary device because divorce is allowed in Torah. God ENDED the Sinai covenant with Israel because of their many adulteries and other acts that Torah allows for divorce. It is the principle that a covenant can end that is critical to see and accept, otherwise one ends up with the condemnation of believers that you teach. It is true that in the new covenant, divorced Israel can return to God/Jesus, but that does not mean that the divorce did not happen.

    Yes, God’s allowance of divorce is a concession to human stubborness in the sin area. One spouse is not required to continue to go thru a living hell in order to avoid divorce, rather the abused spouse can declare that the covenant is over and terminated due to violation of the covenant vows. This is an example of God’s love in action when sin is present and should be embraced by all believers, but some continue to misinterpret the verses.

    Yes, a woman is “enslaved/bound” to her husband for the simple reason that when she gets a divorce, he is no longer her husband, he is her “former” husband. I wish you would stop teaching bondage. The point in 1 Cor 7 is that when an unbeliever departs, the believing spouse is to accept it as a divorce, for that is what it was in those times. The divorcing spouse is then free to remarry as they are no longer bound. That is, Jesus clarifies that a divorce for no good reason is invalid, but Paul adds to that clarification that when an unbeliever does such a thing, the believer should accept it as being an accomplished divorce, for the sake of peace. The use of the strong term “enslaved” is also a hint back to Ex 21:10-11 where a slave marriage is discussed and which give the reasons of abuse or neglect for divorce.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 25, 2013

    • Mr. Johnson, I don’t think I’ve heard you address reconciliation. Paul did in 1 Cor 7:10-11, and more widely in the NT. If a wife is going thru a living hell she can get out. She can report him to the appropriate authorities (church or state) and let them deal with him as they see fit. I never denied that abuse or neglect were legitimate covenantal concerns. And if no one deals with him, be assured that God will. However, he is also longsuffering and is not willing that any should perish. Earthly marriage mirrors marriage between God and Israel then, and God and Church now. God may cut the Church off due to sin, but where does it say that she cannot be grafted back in? He may allow for a temporary or indefinite period of separation, but God does not ultimately give up on his bride. There is no NT warrant for regarding anyone as though “good as dead”. Your position leads to condemnation of the offending spouse in a broken or unhappy marriage. That is most unfortunate.

      Because God wooed Israel back after divorcing her, he made a mockery of the literal divorce certificate where a husband could not take his wife back after he sent her away and the second husband did the same.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 25, 2013

  78. I am all for the possibility of reconciliation. We should rejoice when there is repentence that leads to reconciliation, but both spouses should be aware of the potentially serious consequences when a marriage vow is broken. In other words, if you want less divorces among believers, teach the truth that each spouse is to keep their marriage vows, if both did this, then there would be no valid (Biblical) reasons for a divorce.

    What happens in too many cases is that the spouse that has a valid reason to divorce is pressured to not divorce, without seeing any change in their partner, and this is the road to crazytown. They are often not told that what happened is a valid reason to declare the covenant over and that if they divorce they are sinning. Such should never be. The vow-breaking spouse needs to understand they need to repent and show the fruit of repentance so that the other spouse MAY have a reason for hope and not go thru with the divorce.

    Just as there are some that (falsely) teach that a marriage can only end in death, there are some that teach “once saved, always saved” but this is a false doctrine. The truth is that God lets people walk away due to continuing sin, no one else can take them out of God’s hands, but they themselves can do it.

    P.S. God never mocks a teaching in Torah or Scripture for that matter.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 26, 2013

    • Mr. Johnson, I certainly agree that you don’t think that the covenant can only end in death. I have to choose either to believe you or to believe Paul. Since he used the word “dead” three times in relation to the covenant (twice in Rom 7:2-3, once in 1 Cor 7:39), I’m going with Paul. While you are not happy with this, I’m sure you can understand it. I take him at his word.

      Comment by Robert Kan | January 27, 2013

      • Robert,

        I believe Paul, I just decline to take Paul out of context and misinterpret his words in this area like you do.

        What context you might ask? The context of the teaching of all Scripture. Rom 7 and 1 Cor 7 are not exhaustive teachings on marriage, rather, Paul takes a small slice of the entire teaching on marriage which is spread out thru Scripture to make some specific points in both of those letters and for THOSE purposes, he points out that a marriage covenant ends with death, which is true. It would be not relevant to his argument for him to also point out that a marriage covenant ends with divorce. How am I 100% sure this is true. Jesus.

        Joh 4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
        Joh 4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

        Notice that Jesus told the woman that she has had 5 husbands, not 1 husband and 4 adulteries.

        The point is that neither Paul nor Jesus could teach something contrary to the Torah of Moses, in which God in his permissive will allows for divorce in case of adultery, abuse or neglect.

        Comment by Don Johnson | January 27, 2013

      • I wish translations didn’t use the word “husband”. The better translation is “man”. The word “husband” has too much modern baggage.

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 27, 2013

  79. Well, I won’t be changing my position just because I’m accused of “misinterpreting”. That is just an emotional outburst – one’s subjective point of view. What should be clarified is whether we take an author at his word or not. We ought to bear in mind that we don’t do any justice to the text if we don’t look past our emotional biases.

    Paul’s statement makes a very heavy charge. He not only points out that a marriage covenant ends with death. That is a half truth. And that’s the problem with Mr. Johnsons’ teaching. He declines to take a statement to its completion. And so he effectively perpetuates a lie, for that is what half truths are. What Paul ALSO says is that the wife will be called an adulteress if, while her former husband is still alive, she be married to another man. This is parallel to his teaching in 1 Cor 7, where he only gives two options to married couples – stay single or be reconciled. If she remarries she will be called an adulteress, which means she will be in sin. For that is what remarriage after divorce is, it is adultery. That is Paul’s definition of adultery. It is also how Jesus explains adultery.

    As for the Samaritan woman in John 4, of course Jesus would tell her that she had five husbands. Jesus always relates to people according to their level of understanding before he brings great conviction and revelation. He confirmed to her what she already knew in her heart, and what she thought he didn’t know. That was indeed a powerful word that caused her to leave her water-pot and to go into town to testify of everything that she heard.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 27, 2013

    • Paul says that if the man abandons his woman then she has zero options unless he takes her back. Does that also apply to a man? I mean, there is never any constraint on a man how many women he has, only on a woman to belong exclusively to one man and never be shared. A man has always been allowed to have as many women as he can afford and nothing in the NT changes that. So Paul writes exclusively about the woman and how either sending her away or keeping her affects his children:

      1Co 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
      1Co 7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
      1Co 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
      1Co 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
      1Co 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
      1Co 7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

      It is a mistake to think that the goose has equal privilege with the gander. In the scriptures, the male God has arranged it so it is a man’s world – even the woman is his.

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 27, 2013

      • Yes, Paul in I Cor 7:11 exhorts the man not to send his wife away, not to abandon her.

        I can’t dispute you on the goose/gander inbalance – a husband may have had multiple women, and if one left, he was probably financially better off with no loss of emotional intimacy.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 27, 2013

    • Of couse I am making an emotional outburst, this is exactly because what you teach puts believers into bondage similar to slavery. JUST AS what the slave owners taught needed to be rebuked with emotion because it put people into bondage, so does what you teach.

      If you do not believe Jesus, perhaps you believer Torah. Once a husband divorces his wife, he is called her FORMER husband, not her huband.

      Deu 24:4 then her FORMER husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that

      What Robert is doing is a classic case of taking verses out of context, in this case, their Jewish Hebraic context and making a hash out of them, in effect, treating them as play-doh.. As to be expected, the result is legalism of the worst sort.

      In Rom 7 Paul is making a teaching about how a Jew in the Mosaic covenant can “marry” Jesus in the new covenant. This is a challenge as God does not give anyone a valid reason for divorce. This is exactly the reason that Paul points out that a believer “dies” in baptism, since death ends a covenant. Roman 7 is not a comprehensive teaching on marriage and no one should think it is, contra Robert’s mistakes.

      What I would hope is that these exchanges would prompt Robert to study this area more, in particular the books of David Instone-Brewer with does give the Jewish Hebraic context so needed to be able to understand these verses.

      Comment by Don Johnson | January 29, 2013

      • As I’ve stated, I’ve chosen to believe Paul, not you. Sure, Rom 7 doesn’t talk about reconciliation, so in that sense it’s not a comprehensive teaching on marriage. Does that make Paul’s point any less valid? Of course not. And what is that point, one might ask? The point is, the woman will be called an adulteress if, while her husband is still alive, she be joined to another man. He makes one valid point to demonstrate another point. Looking further on, the same judgment of permanency in marriage is also made in 1 Cor 7:39.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 29, 2013

  80. You choose to believe your own gross misinterpretation of Paul, which is a lot different that believing Paul.

    I believe what Paul wrote, just that he did not write a comprehensive teaching. You on the other hand believe some strange and distorted (actually perverted) version of Scripture, where a divorced woman still has a husband, instead of the situation being that she had a former husband. This is because of your failure to see that a covenant can be ended when a covenant vow is broken, which is the teaching of Scripture.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 29, 2013

    • The reason for this is Paul did not have the authority to change the way a marriage covenant works, otherwise he would simply be a false teacher, according to Torah. Scripture is a progressive revelation and the foundation is Torah, which many Christians sadly know little about.

      Comment by Don Johnson | January 29, 2013

      • In other words, Torah teaches that when a husband divorces, he is a former husband. If someone thinks Paul is making some teaching that contradicts that, then that means one is misunderstanding Paul (as in your case as Paul was a Torah scholar) or misunderstanding Torah or both.

        Comment by Don Johnson | January 29, 2013

      • No, I believe Paul in his entirety. He used the word “adulteress”, a word you most certainly decline to utter.

        Comment by Robert Kan | January 29, 2013

      • Isn’t that an English noun and not a Koine passive verb?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 29, 2013

  81. Wounded, look at Rom 7:2-3.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 29, 2013

    • Okay, still, this is a Koine noun. I’m of the opinion that the fundamental idea is that she is a “shared woman”. Now, the English word “adulteress” would apply to an unmarried woman who sleeps with a married man as well as a married woman who sleeps with or marries a man other than her husband. I think a clear line ought to separate the two concepts and studiously avoid confusing the terms.

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 29, 2013

  82. Rom 7:2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
    Rom 7:3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive.

    I can use the word adulteress, but Robert declines to use the word “husband” as the Bible defines it, resulting in bad teaching that ends up in bondage for those that listen to him and believe what he teaches, but he is a false teacher in this area, rejecting what the Bible teaches.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 29, 2013

    • Husband? There is no such word or concept in scripture – just “man”.

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 29, 2013

  83. Mr. Johnson, in view of the interpretations of Paul, the concept of “husband” you hold from Torah is to be dismissed as a preconceived idea. His interpretations of Moses are far superior to yours, as the interpretations of Jesus at the time were far superior to those of the Pharisees. I don’t submit to you for my knowledge of Moses. I submit to Jesus and Paul. For me, their teachings take unqualified precedence. Why, you might ask? Because in principle “when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” And so Paul says that a woman shall be called an “adulteress” if, while her “husband” is “living”, she be joined to another. And we know what “living” means in this context because he contrasted it with “dies”. In Paul’s parallel teaching in 1 Cor 7:39, “lives” is contrasted with “fall asleep”. Therefore when it says that the man “lives”, it means that he has not “fallen asleep”. Again, I clarify to you that from a New Testament perspective I choose to believe Paul’s interpretations of Torah, as opposed to yours, and what he says about the “husband”.

    Comment by Robert Kan | January 30, 2013

    • And so Robert’s initial misinterpretation turn into a cascade of misinterpretations, shpwing by his own words that Robert has no idea what he is talking about and should be ignored in these areas where he speaks.

      Yes, it is true that the Torah (God’s teaching) has been extended with the books in the New Testament. But this is far from meaning that the definition of what it means to be a husband has changed. If Robert cannot get such a simple concept as husband correct, how can he be trusted with any other aspect of Scripture? The simple answer is: he cannot.

      That is, Jesus took the Pharisees back to Torah to correct their misinterpretations, why would Jesus do this except that Jesus saw Torah as authoritative in its teaching, including its teaching the very definition of a husband. Paul was a Torah scholar, constantly referring back to the Tanakh as authoritative in order to prove his points in his letters. Yes, somehow according to Robert’s reality distortion field, both of these Torah teachers change the definition of something as straightforward as the meaning of husband in Torah. How preposterous!

      Comment by Don Johnson | January 30, 2013

      • Don, I don’t think anyone has this all sorted out correctly as there is much to consider. I think there is some danger there that this will devolve into name calling etc. I think many concepts have been raised that require careful consideration….

        * the import of the passive in 5:32 (the original post)
        * marry
        * one flesh
        * husband
        * wife
        * adulteress
        * adulterer

        Also, I think that Jesus seems to be going beyond the precepts of the Sinai covenant all the way back to the original paradigm of the formation of the first family.

        I think your suggestion is that the tension between the unfairness of a woman being replaced, let’s say, by a younger woman, being bound to her man and unable to remarry… and the needs of the woman… are resolved by the divorce provisions. “Death” in the context of Romans 7, I believe you would say, refers to the death of the marriage by divorce?

        Assuming I’m understanding you correctly, I have to say that I don’t agree with your view. Is that what you are saying?

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 30, 2013

  84. Wounded Ego,

    Jesus uses all of the Tanakh as Scripture, including Genesis. Divorce ends a marriage covenant, as well as death of one of the spouses, such is taught in Torah including Ex 21:10-11 and Deu 24:1-4 when understood in a Hebraic cultural context. We can know this is the case from the teachings in the Jewish Mishnah as well as other Jewish literature not in the Bible, as these explain how these verses were understood, as explained in David Instone-Brewer’s books on the subject. The divorce certificate was required by the Jewish courts to explicitly state that she was now free to marry another Jew. This mean that her first husband had no further claim on her, contrary to the surrounding ANE cultures; it is important to compare and contrast the teaching of Torah with the surrounding cultures to see how Torah was better than those other cultures.

    Romans 7:1-4 means what it says, that a woman will be an adulteress if she marries another when her husband is still alive, but after he is dead she can remarry and will NOT be an adulteress. This is simple because death ends the covenant of marriage, it is one of the 2 ways to end it, the other being divorce. But divorce does not apply in the situation Paul is discussing because God gives Israel no reasons for divorce, God is a covenant keeper, not a covenant breaker.

    However, it is important to see that the word husband only applies when one is married, when one is divorced, one is no longer marriage and the man is no longer a husband, rather he is a FORMER husband. This trips up Robert and many others, they think Paul is saying something he would never say, as Paul is a Torah scholar, Paul would never ever contradict Torah, he uses Torah all the time to prove the points in his arguments.

    So Rom 7:1-4 is a small slice of the total teaching of the Bible on marriage and divorce and remarriage. Paul takes a small part of the total teaching in order to make a point about how Jews who are already married to God in the Sinai covenant can marry Jesus in the new covenant, since they cannot get a (valid) divorce, as God is faithful. Rom 7:1-4 simply says nothing about divorce as it was not needed as a concept by Paul for the purposes of his argument.

    The total teaching of the Bible on marriage and divorce is spread across many books in the Bible. Each part is like a jigsaw puzzle piece and all of them need to be fit together to provide a coherent and comprehensive teaching. Unfortunately, some people put the pieces together in wrong ways and arrive at a teaching that is wrong because it takes verses out of context. Taking any text out of context is a great way to misunderstand them. In the case of marriage, since it involves a binding between 2 people, to get this area wrong is to actually teach bondage, that somehow a divorced woman is somehow still bound to her (former) husband. But Jesus came to set the captives free. Since what Robert teaches puts believers into bondage literally, I get emotional about this; if we differ about what something about the end times means, it may not mean much in this life, but the teaching of marriage and divorce has a real impact on how believers are to live their lives.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 30, 2013

    • Okay, Don, as I understand your position:

      * it is “adultery” for a woman who has NOT been divorced to “marry” another – I think that is uncontested by anyone here, though I might be wrong
      * a husband-initiatiated divorce is scriptural and effectual and dissolves a marriage completely, whether or not there are children involved, provided to accommodate the hardness of people’s hearts
      * a woman-initiated, in the case of her husband being “unfaithful” is legit and ends the union
      * a “married” woman who has become “unmarried” by divorce and marries another is not “an adulteress”

      Is that your view?

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 30, 2013

      • WoundedEgo,

        For your first point, recall that there was polygamy in Israel and some who were declared righteous were polygamous. So the Jews thought that adultery was having sex with a married woman, having sex with a married man was not considered adultery. Jesus in Matt 19 and Mark 10 clarifies that a non-spouse having sex with either spouse is adultery, that is he explained that the prohibition was symmetrical and equal. This may seem obvious to us today, but was not so back then, which is another reason we need to read the text in original cultural context.

        For your second, a husband getting a divorce should use a valid reason found in the Bible. But another thing to see is that Torah is a unity, that is, all of it depends on all the rest of it. Same for a wife. In particular, Hillel’s divorce for “Any Matter” (that is, for no reason at all) is not a valid reason, altho it may be the best way to obtain a divorce, see Mat 1:19 where this is what Joseph plans to do.

        For your third point, at the least, a woman or a man can initiate a divorce for adultery, neglect or abuse, including physical or emotional abuse. The goal should always be reconciliation, but sometimes that is not possible. Divorce is never required, but it is allowed in these cases.

        For your fourth point, a married woman or man who divorced for a valid reason is no longer married and has the status of being unmarried. Further, a believer married to an unbeliever that leaves should considered themselves divorced. (In US society, she can (righteously) pursue getting a divorce even tho her husband had no valid reason for divorce.) An unmarried woman who marries is not an adulteress.

        The challenge is that both Jesus and Paul say things that are VERY easy to take out of context and misunderstand. What they say/write needs to be understood inside the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures in which they were written, which were very different from the culture today. Another way of saying this is that there is a LOT of context that is simply assumed by the gospel authors and Paul that everyone knew at the time these books were written, but takes work to figure out today. David Instone-Brewer is a 2nd temple scholar that has done a huge amount of work to make it easier for use to understand those cultures better and how to read those verses in context.

        Comment by Don Johnson | January 30, 2013

      • @Don, you wrote: “… Jesus in Matt 19 and Mark 10 clarifies that a non-spouse having sex with either spouse is adultery, that is he explained that the prohibition was symmetrical and equal. …”

        I don’t agree. A man can be shared among many women but a woman cannot be shared at all. That was clarified in the original post.

        As to Joseph, he had not laid [with] her yet so they were not one flesh yet and “one flesh” matters don’t apply.

        On what scriptural grounds does a woman have the right to “put away” her man?

        As to the fourth point, are you saying that a US court can put asunder what God has joined together?

        I don’t think you make your case(s).

        Comment by WoundedEgo | January 30, 2013

  85. WoundedEgo,

    Your chosen alias gives me some pause, as your decline to use your real name and your chosen one leaves some unanswered questions, plus your posts make me wonder if you simply want to deconstruct faith. But on the chance that that is not the case, I will respond.

    When I teach a class on this, it takes a half day of classes going thru the OT passages and how they were interpreted by the Pharisees, all this in preparation for how to understand the NT passages, which I cover in another half day of classes. Starting in the middle, that is, with NT verses, makes things a lot more challenging. These posts are not intended to convince anyone, except perhaps that they need to study this area more.

    Yes, there was polygamy in the Bible, but Jesus clarifies that God’s best is monogamy. This is the verse that explains that a man can commit adultery. Mar 10:11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,

    The “against her” is the clarification by Jesus on interpreting Torah that Pharisees did not teach, that is, that a man could commit adultery.

    Of course, it also looks like Jesus is saying something that he could not be teaching, as it goes against Torah when read as an atomic truth statement, but that is a bad way to read it, it always needs to be read in context. Again, see David Instone-Brewer for more info, I know this will not be convincing as I stated it.

    As to Joseph, he was in a betrothal covenant with Mary, so if they were going to not marry, he needed to get a divorce and give her a divorce cert. This is another of those things that is culturally different than today. But the reasons for a divorce from a betrothal covenant are the same as from a marriage covenant. In Joseph’s case, since Mary was pregnant, except for the intervention of an angel, he would have divorced her for adultery, but done it using the Hillel “Any Matter” divorce as no reason needed to be stated, it was “quiet” and avoided explicit shame on Mary.

    The Scriptural grounds for divorce for abuse and neglect are found in Ex 21:10-11, this was interpreted symmetrically to apply to both genders by both schools of Pharisees, as can be found in the Mishnah. The Scriptural grounds for divorce for adultery are found in Deu 24:1, but this was interpreted by the Pharisees as applying only to a husband, not symmetrically, as a man could be polygamous. The reason what the Pharisees thought mattered is that they were the judges in the Jewish court system at the local level. In a divorce, one selected 3 judges to hear the matter, ensure the divorce cert. was valid and division of maritial assets just, and issue fines to ensure compliance and even physical punishment if the man refused to write the divorce cert.

    The US gov’t and court system is separate from Scripture. A believer is to strive to follow the laws of the country in which they reside, but God’s commands trump, as revealed in Scripture. So God explains in the Bible under what conditions a divorce is valid for a believer; but a believer is also to try to conform to gov’t rules on divorce.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 30, 2013

    • @Don, my name is Bill Ross. Pleased to meet you:


      If, as you assert, Mark 10:11 adds a new rule, then I guess that trumps all. I’m wondering if the middle voice with “EP” might allow a reading more consistent with the rest of the scriptures?

      I don’t know anything about a “betrothal covenant”. Can you point to where that is in scripture? ISTM that “one flesh” occurs during conception.

      Ex 21:10-11 is about a bond-servant, not “one flesh”.

      I have a wife and six sons. How, if not in a court, can I become “not one flesh” with my wife?

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 30, 2013

  86. A woman not being betrothed is discussed in Ex 22:16 and for being betrothed in Deu 22:23, one can see that the penalties in the latter case are more severe. A betrothal covenant is one of those things that the authors of the Bible just ASSUMED as part of the background info that everyone knows when they wrote the text, but that one will not know today because the culture is so different. Notice in Matt 1:19 even tho they are (only) betrothed, Joseph is called her husband and this is correct in the culture of the time, but is different today.

    Of course Ex 21:10-11 is about a slave wife, I am not sure what you mean by “one flesh”, but the slave wife was his wife in this example of case law in Torah. Case law uses an extreme case and then one can build on that, if this is true for a slave wife, then also it is true for a free wife; if this is true for a wife, it is also true for a husband and this is exactly the way the Pharisees reasoned and since they were the local judges, their understanding what what counted in second temple times. Since these verses deal with slaves and polygamy some may think that they do not apply today, but the principles behind the verses apply.

    You have a wife and 6 sons. I have no idea of your personal circumstances, but if your wife did something that was a valid reason for divorce as found in the Bible, then assuming you are a believer you could decide to divorce her. This divorce would be processed thru the government. Of you could decide to not divorce her, it would be up to you, but there is never a requirement for a divorce. If you are not a believer then what the Bible teaches is not relevant to any decision you might make.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 30, 2013

    • @Don, forgive me for saying this but you would make a terrible attorney. I mean, you make wild and reckless assertions loosely based on law. You can’t take a precept about relations with someone betrothed and extrapolate out other notions about formal divorce, etc. You say the the authors “ASSUMED” this covenant but that is not at all apparent. What is apparent is the treachery of sleeping with the Best Man the night before the wedding (or the Best Man sleeping with the bride to be).

      I disagree. My wife and I are one flesh by virtue of our sons and no proceedings can undo those scrambled eggs.

      You are free to speak for yourself but nothing you are saying makes a lick of sense scripturally to me.

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 30, 2013

  87. WoundedEgo,

    As far as I can tell, you do not seek coherence in the Bible’s teachings and so NOTHING in Scripture will make a lick of sense to you, let alone any interpretation. You seek to deconstruct the basis for faith. To a non-believer, the Bible is foolishness.

    Comment by Don Johnson | January 31, 2013

    • Whatever…

      Comment by WoundedEgo | January 31, 2013

  88. WoundedEgo, I believe you and I are closely agreed as to the words of Jesus, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” That was his conclusion to the matter of “one flesh”, and his superior interpretation of Torah with regard to the marital bond. The act of joining together is of God’s doing, pronounced and sealed in his books. And us humans can only say that we have participated in this ceremony. I think you made your position clear on this when you said that death is the only separator. I am also very much of the conviction that Jesus did not merely state what married couples should ideally be aspiring towards. I don’t think Jesus was merely saying, “This is God’s gift to you, therefore don’t abuse it.”

    Joel, my sentiments above are the reason that I am biased towards a most literal translation, but not at the expense of readability. Do you have any thoughts about this particular paraphrasing as might be proposed by some?

    WoundedEgo, I think the declaration that “God has joined” is the most groundbreaking teaching that Jesus delivered concerning the doctrine of marriage. If this is an act of God between a man and woman, which I believe it is taken at face value, then only he can undo it, and this happens when he allows either or both spouses to die. Rom 7:3 says in this case that a widow is free to be joined to another man. Of course, taking the matter into one’s own hands and killing your spouse is another way to break the bond. But then he puts himself under judgment through shedding innocent blood.

    Comment by Robert Kan | February 1, 2013

    • I concur. However, for me it is all about the biology… That is, two people can get married and find out a week later that they made a mistake and unmarry (in my view) but conversely, a “John” could casually sleep with a prostitute and if they conceive then the eggs are irreversibly scrambled.This is, to me, the only meaningful import of “what God has joined together”. The other stuff is in the domain of the courts.

      Comment by WoundedEgo | February 1, 2013

  89. Mat 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    A married couple becomes “one flesh” but one needs to understand this as a 1st century Hebrew/Jewish person would have. The “one flesh” union is referring to the sex act, but also to the idea they the married couple is now “one family”.

    “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” has 2 phrases. One should ask, “How do we know when God has joined 2 people together?” And “How can someone separate the joining WHEN we see that God has done this joining?” since that is what one is NOT to do. Notice that Jesus did not say it is impossible to separate, contra Robert’s reading, he says one should not do this separating.

    Torah in Scripture defines what kinds of joinings are approved by God. If one does a joining outside of these approved joinings, then such a joining is NOT approved by God and one cannot say that “God has joined them together”. One sees an example of this where the returning Israelites married foreign women in Ezra.

    Ezr 10:2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.
    Ezr 10:3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.

    The Israelites had married outside of a God approved joining. Therefore the proper response was to terminate the marriage. Notice that some of these wives had even had children by these unapproved marriages, this did not make a difference, the marriages were to be terminated. So it is obvious that not every joining in a marriage is approved by God.

    But assuming one does a marriage joining that is approved by God according to Scripture. What is one to NOT do? One is not to do anything that separates such a joining. And what might those things be? Breaking a marriage covenant vow. That is, as the marriage vows FORM the covenant bond, so breaking a covenant vow breaks (separates) a covenant bond. So spouses should not break any marriage vows, then there is no valid reason for a divorce or termination of the covenant.

    Comment by Don Johnson | February 1, 2013

    • Mr. Johnson, I think at this point of the discussion we should just agree to disagree. I mean, throwing personal remarks around and playing the blame game is not going to achieve anything for either side, right? What good is it for me to call you the antichrist, or for you to call me a false teacher? Let’s agree to that much.

      I concede that for those who think that marriage is conditional, then for them it is conditional. And for those who think it is not, then for them it is not. It certainly would be best if both marrying parties, before exchanging vows, understand each others ideas about the permanency of marriage in worst case scenarios (e.g. unfaithfulness, loss of affection, chronic disease etc). This approach leaves no room for disillusionment in such cases.

      I do tend to think that the thrust of the NT is to encourage the mindset that marriage ought to be as permanent as one can possibly conceive. That is best for family life and society as a whole. Nobody likes to see single parent families, not least of all the children. I think we would agree in general that if things should go pear-shaped, it is a noble thing that a door be left open for reconciliation. And sometimes there is no other option but to get out of a relationship which is harmful to either party, and especially the children.

      Comment by Robert Kan | February 4, 2013

      • Robert, it is not that simple, no matter how appealing that simplicity may seem to you.

        I USED to believe what I had been taught by those teachers I respected, that there were only 2 reasons for divorce, adultery and being abandoned by an unbeliever, the latter not applying when 2 believers married. This is the most generic form of the so-called “evangelical consensus” on what the puzzling verses on divorce by Jesus and Paul mean. This was my understanding and the understanding of the circle of believers I attended church with and the teachers at that church and the little I had seen outside that church seemed to align with this also; so I accepted it whole hog and thought it was obviously what was taught in Scripture. So just believing something is true when one gets married does not mean it actually IS true.

        Loss of affection, per se, is not a valid reason for divorce, nor is one’s spouse having a chronic disease.

        The basic valid reasons discussed in Scripture for divorce are unfaithfulness, abuse, or neglect, but none of these require divorce, they merely allow it. And the reason to get a divorce (that is, declare the marriage covenant terminated) is so one can get on with one’s life and this may mean getting married to someone else. Of course, it is sometimes possible for there to be a reconciliation with a previous spouse and a re-marriage to them in some cases, but this is an exception and far from an expectation. Anyone getting a divorce should understand that the expectation is that both parties will now be free to marry another.

        Of course, there are considerations about what might be best for the children, if any, but there should be a recognition that some times the best thing for all parties will be a divorce. Raising kids in an atmosphere of abusive behavior (for example) by one spouse to another is a way to teach that such is normal, which is a horrible lesson for kids to learn. The point is that there are some things that are worse (some being much worse) than divorce and in those cases, divorce is a God-given option.

        I believe that such should be taught to people on the front end when getting married, so they thoroughly understand the seriousness of breaking marriage vows. That is, if a pastor wants to see less divorces, teach spouses to NOT break their marriage vows.

        Comment by Don Johnson | February 4, 2013

  90. I know of at least one woman for whom loss of intimacy/affection was the reason for her to get a divorce. For her, that was a valid reason for divorce due to emotional neglect. No one could argue with her. And I know of a man whose constant desire for sex was a cause for his wife to abandon him. Prevention is better than cure, and such things should be agreed upon and resolved before taking the plunge. That is the best way to avoid disillusionment further down the track and ensure longevity of the union. I believe that’s where pre-marriage counselling can have a beneficial impact. Treat potential problems before they arise.

    Comment by Robert Kan | February 4, 2013

  91. Emotional neglect is a valid reason for divorce in the BIble, but it is an area for wisdom, whether it is deliberate and sustained or not, etc. It might be able to be corrected with counseling, for example, but I think this would be less likely if one of the parties does not see it as the serious concern it is.

    And of course there can be concerns is the other direction, if one spouse has a high libido and the other does not it might be seen as emotional abuse by the lower libido spouse.

    I think expectations in this area should be discussed before marriage, if one party has lower libido it only makes sense to marry someone with a similar libido and the same for higher libido. It is important to want to satisfy the other in this area, per 1 Cor 7, and “eyes wide open” seems the best way to move forward.

    Comment by Don Johnson | February 5, 2013

  92. The only constant we have is commitment not to give up on the relationship when things don’t go our way. It is very easy to call emotional neglect a valid reason for divorce. It is also easy to cite irreconcilable differences in this manner too. There could even be stresses arising from differences in libido, but even libido is a variable depending on one’s stage in life or circumstances.

    People who have never been married ought to be sure of where they stand, and where their future spouse stands, in relation to permanency and commitment in marriage. Couples should have matching underlying core values and principles in order to hold up under all the hardships of marriage that life throws at it. They need to discuss what commitment means in the context of a challenging, emotionally draining or emotionally indifferent relationship. Divorce, too often these days, is a cop out. Of course, if you see marriage as a means to make you happy then your likelihood for disappointment is magnified many times over.

    Relationships are so volatile, and it is important to have more than just a superficial agreement about expectations of one’s spouse. So many emotional concerns are subject to change during a married couple’s lifetime. Our emotional state changes with life’s ups and downs. We might lose interest in our spouse, or we might even lose respect for them, let alone lose desire for intimacy. People also suffer depression, mood swings and other changes brought on by their kids or pressures at work or in the home. There are a multitude of reasons, not necessarily bad in themselves, as to why a relationship might be under a lot of stress. It’s all part of the imperfect world that we live in. How do we view the permanency of the marriage union in the context of such everyday fluctuations that impact affection and intimacy in the relationship? It takes a certain level of maturity to understand that emotions do not validate our vows, nor do they nullify them.

    Comment by Robert Kan | February 9, 2013

  93. As the song goes, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” If someone is just trying to find an excuse, they will find it, but God will be their judge even if no one else can be.

    The basic idea is there is a difference that makes a difference between (1) trying in faith to fulfill one’s marriage vows and perhaps failing and repenting and (2) not trying and not caring enough to try; the latter is deadly to a marriage, whether it survives in some form or not. Each spouse has a responsibility to their partner and one’s partner should be able to see that you are trying to meet your vows with the ability one has, in other words, do not presume on your spouse’s good graces by you having a pattern of failing to meet your responsibilities.

    Comment by Don Johnson | February 9, 2013

  94. Mat 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

    Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Paul used the same word as Jesus did for “separate”. It’s amazing how Paul’s teaching resonates so well (I might say perfectly) with the heart, spirit and mind of Christ. As God joins two people in holy matrimony, this is nothing less than a God-ordained bond just as God promises that nothing can separate us from his love. NT is perfectly aligned and affirms again that only God is sovereign, and no one, I mean no one, has the right to sit in judgment by declaring that what God has joined man can undo. What God has joined nothing can undo. Wounded, you said it right; death by God’s decree is the only separator. And only the fool would dare to play God.

    Comment by Robert Kan | March 23, 2013

    • Robert,

      You continue to choose to misread Scripture and the result is condemnation for members of the body of Christ.

      Jesus did not say it was NOT POSSIBLE to separate, Jesus said a person SHOULD NOT separate. And one can figure out from other Scripture that the way to do this separation of the marriage bond is to break the marriage vows, so Jesus is saying that one should keep their marriage vows. If everyone did this, then there would be no Scriptural grounds for divorce and no one would divorce. However, this is not the case and in God’s mercy God allows people to divorce and declare the marriage covenant over when a marriage vow has been broken. That is what God did in Jer 3:8 when God divorced Israel and it would behoove you to study the reasons for him doing so in the prophets.

      Comment by Don Johnson | March 24, 2013

      • Separation from a God-ordained covenantal relationship is God’s call, not ours.

        Comment by Robert Kan | March 24, 2013

      • Given that all those statements are true, Abraham is in the Hebrews Hall of Faith and is even used by Paul as an explicit example for us as believers.

        Comment by Don Johnson | March 30, 2013

      • We are not to act to separate the marriage bond, that is true, but when one spouse does, the other can declare it terminated via God’s merciful provision of divorce.

        Comment by Don Johnson | March 30, 2013

    • There is one thing that separates us from God – SIN! Only God’s grace and mercy allows us access to his gift and we have to believe and work in that belief for purity and righteousness.

      Comment by Dwight | April 23, 2013

  95. God recognizes that sometimes divorce is the best solution as there are worse things than divorce. God told Abraham to obey Sarah when God knew that Sarah would ask Abraham to divorce Hagar. Sadly, due to sin, there are some marriages that are not operating inside God’s will, either the dynamics need to change so that they are operating inside God’s will or they should be terminated.

    Comment by Don Johnson | March 24, 2013

    • Interesting point regarding Hagar. Consider Abram’s motive for marrying her. Consider Abram and Sarai’s lack of faith. Consider the challenges of polygamy. Most important of all, consider Abraham’s faithfulness and patience with his legitimate wife. But don’t get distracted by the collateral damage.

      Comment by Robert Kan | March 25, 2013

  96. Dr. Hoffman, I think you have highlighted something very subtle in your analysis – that is, we cannot jump to a conclusion about culpability from merely acknowledging an active/passive observation. You demonstrate this quite clearly from your instructive example, “causes her to deceive” vs. “causes her to be deceived.” The area of culpability is very interesting, if one really wants to delve into it – especially in distinguishing criminal intent from criminal negligence. Your example of deception is an excellent one for this illustrative purpose. However, we can draw a meaningful conclusion about culpability here just by considering the statement in its entirety. Your elucidation of the first part is that anyone who divorces his wife causes her to suffer a crime [adultery], while your elucidation of the second part is that a man who marries a divorced woman commits a crime [adultery]. Since in that society where the women of the day were largely uneducated or disadvantaged, this may partly explain why the woman’s culpability is represented passively. Both men, nevertheless, are heavily implicated in the same crime.

    Comment by Robert Kan | April 8, 2013

    • Robert,

      You continue to state nonsense that show ZERO knowledge of the cultural context of what Jesus said.

      Comment by Don Johnson | April 8, 2013

      • Robert is spot on. The Law influenced and dictated the culture of the Jews. IF a woman was divorced from her husband for any reason, besides fornication, they are still husband and wife, thus they both commit adultery if they marry another and anyone who marries them commits adultery, because they are still man and wife. Marriage is the sexual union of two people and people were man and wife before they got marrried (Mary and Joseph).

        Comment by Dwight | April 22, 2013

  97. Considering the grammar is not nonsense. Cultural context must submit to grammar, not the other way around. Ancient opinion must never be esteemed at the expense of what a statement conveys when understood grammatically. And what Mat 5:32 conveys as attested by ALL translations, including the author of this post, is that there is a comprehensive indictment of adultery against all parties in this divorce/remarriage scenario. Until one is able to appreciate the heart and spirit behind such a groundbreaking assertion, amongst other groundbreaking assertions, any attempt to reconcile this statement against another is a futile exercise.

    This post was created to discuss the implications of passive adultery as opposed to active adultery. No one does justice to a text by overlooking the grammar. Hence, the reason this blog exists.

    Even Dr. Hoffman confirms the semantics of Mat 5:32 – “…the man and woman do different things, even though they are both…culpable.” That is grammatically uncontested. There is no discussion to be had where the grammar is not agreed upon.

    Comment by Robert Kan | April 9, 2013

    • Matt.5 must be read in the light of the OT Law, which Jesus was not changing, but he was using to correct the Jew’s abuse of. If a woman was divorced not for the cause of fornication, she would commit adultery if she married (had sexual union) with another, because although divorced, she was still the wife of her husband. The divorce did not sever the state of man and wife. She has become the victim of an unscrupolous husband and she must remain unmarried. The divorce goes against God’s law, is a sin and is not binding, because they are still husband and wife. However if she was divorced for the cause of fornication, then he is not bound to her and she is not bound to her husband. and he and she are allowed to remarry. This was the OT law as seen in Deut.24.

      Comment by Dwight | April 22, 2013

      • Well, Dwight, that is an interesting take on Deut 24, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold. Fornication in OT times was to be punished by death, not by divorce. Refer Deut 22.

        That’s why Jesus had to enlighten us about Deut 24 – “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives…” He was referring to the husband’s “hardness of heart” towards his heart-broken wife.

        Yes, sin separates us from God, ultimately. That’s why Jesus taught us to ask for forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer.

        Comment by Robert Kan | April 24, 2013

      • Adultery and not “uncleanliness” was punishable by death, otherwise the divorce/putting away in Deut. is for any reason. Deut. says “uncleanliness”, which is what Jesus defined as fornication, which is how most of the Jews understood it to be, with the exception of a group of Rabbies who translated it as “unpleasent”, which gave them the “right” to divorce for not having cleaned the house. Jesus put this unclealiness as fornication, or sexual immorality. The NT fornication was more of a broad definition including all sexual sins, but the OT uncleanliness was more general in that it didn’t include homosexuality, incest, bestialtiy, etc. all of which death was perscribed. By the time of Jesus the death penalty on most things were not imposed as Rome had the ultimate authority of execution.

        Comment by Dwight | April 24, 2013

      • If Jesus comment on “the hardness of your hearts” refers to the husband who has a hard-heart towards his wife who is broken-hearted, than where does the fact that she would have had to commit uncleanliness to be divorced. God’s plan was for man and woman to be together, but man’s sin caused consequences. The Bible is pretty clear about putting away that which is unclean. Even God talked of having the right to put away Israel for fornication and writing a COD, this would have made God as having a hard heart. To tell you the truth I do not know exactly what Jesus is refferring to, but it makes more sense in that the hardness of the heart is of the one who sinned.

        Comment by Dwight | April 24, 2013

      • There was much contention about various matters amongst Rabbis. There were debates, religious factions and all manner of hypocrisy. Jesus rose above all of this, wowing the crowds and reinforcing a kingdom of spiritual principles to govern a new generation of followers.

        Yes, God can divorce. The Bible is also pretty clear that he can also later on reconcile to himself if he wants. It is also clear that he puts to death without legal proceedings or consulting human judges. It is also clear that he unleashes his wrath at any time of his own choosing. But one cannot make an appeal to God’s reactions in order to warrant the wrath in man.

        Yes, Jesus permitted divorce in Mat 19. As you observe, in the context of the day when Roman government was the dominant rule, rather than the Law of Moses, these issues were of no less concern than what they are in modern times.

        But that is not what the original post is about. I agree with Dr. Hoffman’s approach – the text must be read with fresh eyes.

        Comment by Robert Kan | April 24, 2013

      • My point is that when we look at something with fresh eyes it must be without prejudice, but that also usually means digging deeper into the scriptures and seeing things from a Biblical perspective. For years I have thought that you are married into man and wife, but after studying it became clear that you were man and wife before you were married (sexual union, marriage bed undefiled), which also changed my view on divorce/putting away, because you can be man and wife, yet married to another and committing adultery by doing this. i.e. John stated that Herodias was Phillip’s wife, even though married to Herod (but culturally she had divorced Phillip and was now living as Herod’s wife).
        From what I can tell Jesus permitted divorce in exactly the same way that God permitted divorce back in Deut.24 (for fornication), but it was the Jews that had changed the putting away for the cause of anything. God would rather not have us sin, but God commands a punishment for sin at His eternal discretion.
        You made a great point in that you said that the woman divorce and the man who divorces commits a crime and I believe that to be true, if the divorcement is done for any cause other than fornication. If the original law was for fornication, then to divorce for any other reason went against God’s command and this was pointed out by Jesus. The divorce, doesn’t separate thier state of man and wife, but does drive a wedge between them and forces them to make a chioce that is unlawful if they remarry. The wife almost had to remarry in this culture because she was dependent upon the man.

        Comment by Dwight | April 25, 2013

  98. Jesus gave the meaning of Deut 24 – originally it had nothing to do with fornication. Have another look at Mat 19:8 – the 2nd person genitive occurs twice. He is speaking to the Pharisees and makes known to them **your** hardness of heart against **your** wives. That’s why it’s translated accordingly.

    Moses demanded nothing less than capital punishment for fornication, amongst other crimes. The Jews couldn’t make sense of Deut 24, and who could blame them? They watered it down to permitting divorce in such cases. I might be wrong, but I would say that the death penalty for sexual sin fell into disuse long before the Roman empire (or any empire for that matter) started to exert influence.

    You are right to observe that women were dependent upon men, until recent times, which is why Mat 5:32 was so radically against the grain. But most stuff that Jesus taught went against the grain of contemporary Jewish opinion. If Deut 24 permitted divorce for sexual misconduct, why would another man want her after that she is defiled, if not for the breakdown of society as you say?

    Comment by Robert Kan | April 25, 2013

  99. Dr. Hoffman, I see your emphasis in getting the translation right and this being the most sacrosanct part of unlocking the Bible’s original meaning.

    No one was able to fully understand the divorce certificate until Jesus intersected with society and elucidated this legal code by revealing its true nature. The fact is that Moses already provided the Israelites with sufficient assurance that sexual defilement can be adequately dealt with. Divine judgment was made available through capital punishment. Failing that, judgment could be called upon by calling for the law of jealousies, putting the adulteress under a curse. Failing that, there were also cases where judgment was brought down through the word of prophecy. Failing that, finally, there was, always, judgment by God’s sovereign decree – divine vengeance executed in his perfect timing.

    Under Moses there were only two kinds of beneficiaries of the divorce certificate – those who were too weak to watch an immoral woman being stoned to death and those who were too self-indulgent and therefore used legal process via a loophole concession as a cover-up for selfishness and self-centeredness. If a wife were defiled by sexual immorality no other man in his right mind would choose to be with her. And if she wasn’t defiled then there were no grounds to put her away. The Bible contains no half-baked ideas about marital consequences – either a wife was sexually defiled or she wasn’t, and if she wasn’t then she was free and able to bear children.

    Comment by Robert Kan | May 4, 2013

  100. In OT times a woman could not be put to death for adultery unless there were two or three witnesses to the crime – so the argument was made that divorce was the only solution. So while there was rarely enough evidence to uphold the death penalty, there was always plentiful evidence to uphold divorce in cases of infidelity. Yeah – fooled you.

    A woman who played the harlot while still living under the roof of her father’s house could not be put to death, in the absence of witnesses, when she was found to have defiled herself in the case of a premarital deception – despite Deut 22:20-21. Yeah – fooled you again.

    A murderer could not be put to death except on account of two or three witnesses to the actual crime. Yep – fooled you again.

    “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Fool me thrice…

    Comment by Robert Kan | May 8, 2013

  101. We cannot go past that honorable law of civil retribution (or what I like to call the “Law of Returns!”).

    “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

    Unlike in marriage where a man who could put away his wife after she defiled herself, because of insufficient witnesses, unfortunately no such recourse existed in the absence of sufficient witnesses when someone suffered an intentional injury at the hands of his cranky neighbor (or his ox that was known to be aggressive).

    How unfortunate indeed. Fooled you.

    Lev 5:1 Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen OR otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt (NASB, capitals my emphasis).

    Comment by Robert Kan | May 11, 2013

  102. Is this not easily resolved by the notion that “sin” can be a failing rather than (always) an evil act? My (meager) understanding of both the old and new testaments is that they both differentiated between intentional and unintentional sin. My further (meager) understanding was that the old testament allowed atonement for sin that was not presumptuous; the new one for all sins.

    BTW, did (biblical) Jesus mean the woman is forced to live in sin by merely being divorced or did he mean she is forced to marry again in order to survive? Is the original at least clear on this?

    Comment by Didacticus | October 21, 2014

    • If a spouse committed an act that was worthy of capital punishment, do you think that such behavior constituted a mere “failing” or rather an act of “evil”?

      What about the case of Uzzah, when he reached out and took hold of the ark of God to prevent it from falling, and then got struck down? Was that act a mere “failing” or something “intentional”?

      The original Greek is clear on this: the put-away wife is depicted as the object of divorce as well as being the object of adultery. She suffers adultery and is therefore the victim. Jesus squarely points the finger at the first husband for causing her victimization. He also levels a charge of adultery against the second husband for marrying the put-away wife. There is no denying the double-charge of adultery, and there is no denying that both charges are leveled against the two husbands. What a shock to the system that was.

      Comment by Robert Kan | October 23, 2014

    • If you want to see how to understand the divorce and remarriage verses, I recommend studying David Instone-Brewer’s books on the subject, they are also available to read on the web. David is a second temple scholar and has many insights on how to avoid taking these verses out of context like I think Robert Kan does.

      Comment by Don Johnson | October 23, 2014

    • Mr. Instone-Brewer is an expert on the Mishna and Jewish history. But he’s not an expert on Jesus. In fact, Jesus warned us of such men: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”. The golden rule of contextual analysis is this: If an interpretation purporting to be based on context negates the text, then you know someone is leading you down the garden path. If you want to understand divorce from a NT perspective, avoid Instone-Brewer’s teaching like the plague. Or else you might find “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”.

      Comment by Robert Kan | October 24, 2014

  103. The first rule of interpretation is context is everything. It is true that Kan and Instone-Brewer have incompatible methods of Bible interpretation, so I suggest everyone should be a Berean and study both. Once you read Instone-Brewer you will be able to easily see how Kan rips text ouf of context and makes a hash of the text.

    Comment by Don Johnson | October 24, 2014

  104. The first rule of interpretation is get the translation right. What the text expresses in its own right ought to be held in the highest regard. Everything else is secondary. Hence we have Bible experts like Dr. Joel M. Hoffman to elucidate the nuances of the text. And what Dr. Hoffman confirms in this posted article is 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.” Those are the grammatical facts that will abide forever, since the Word abides forever. Dr. Hoffman, I’m not sure whether you have found the ensuing discussion enlightening, but your observations will never to be destroyed. In fact, no objective commentator has even dared to challenge your scholarly analysis.

    Comment by Robert Kan | October 24, 2014

    • The textt in this case is not that hard to translate, it is that the result does not APPEAR to cohere in a way that makes sense. This is what Dr. Hoffman realizes and he proposed a possible solution, but I see a much better one. One needs to put these verses into 1st century Jewish cultural context which David Instone-Brewer does best since he is a second temple scholar. To read them as Kan does is to bring condemnation on the body of Christ and should not be done by any believer.

      Comment by Don Johnson | October 26, 2014

  105. Dr. Hoffman, your linguistic analysis of Matthew 5:32 is the only bona fide assessment of this text I have ever come across. While there may be others out there, I can’t imagine them to be nearly as thorough as the arguments you present. What’s more, you were not even distracted by the exceptive-clause, for you did not attempt to address it. You put it aside because you understood its relative insignificance in the larger scheme of the passage. You plainly acknowledged the double-charge of adultery. You researched and observed that the same passive verb occurs in John 8:4, of which one can see implications for equal culpability as you pointed out. And that led you to challenge us to find a translation that might be consistent with your observation of culpability. Were you distracted by the other statements of divorce spoken by Jesus? Obviously not. Did you attempt to make Matthew 5:32 cohere and accord with those other passages? No you did not. What you have done is correctly used the context of John 8:4 to establish a case of culpability for the put-away wife. That is the correct use of context and represents an unbiased approach to discerning the meaning of the text. This article is the most groundbreaking contextual analysis of a biblical passage that I have ever seen. Objective. Rational. Scholarly.

    Can you (or anyone) give a link to the actual passive verb form in John 8:4?

    Comment by Robert Kan | October 26, 2014

    • Read and study David Instone-Brewer. Any analysis that does not take into account his scholarship is lacking. IMO.

      All of the text in the passage is critical to understand Jesus’ argument as well as the other relevant texts. Why would anyone want to disregard the exception clause? Why would ANYONE want to disregard the other relevant texts in the rest of the gospels and the rest of Scripture? Why would anyone not want to try to form a coherent and comprehensive teaching out of all the relevant texts?

      Comment by Don Johnson | October 26, 2014

  106. It’s pretty clear that Dr. Hoffman and Instone-Brewer have different approaches to reading the biblical text. These two approaches have given rise to opposing statements on divorce. These statements are both incompatible and irreconcilable. In discerning the meaning of Matthew 5:32, one might see from this post that only Dr. Hoffman has an agenda to doing justice to the underlying text. (This is, of course, a bona fide reflection of his language training and credentials.) He did not address every single detail of the immediate context, but that in no way invalidates the observations that he makes. That is, the absence of any discussion relating to the divorce-paper or the exceptive-clause does not detract from the underlying meaning of the text in question. What is the underlying meaning of the text? First, Dr. Hoffman lays bare the double-charge of adultery. Second, he brings to light how an original hearer might have grammatically understood this. He affirms that the wider biblical context will most likely reveal the moral implications of the passive for the put-away wife – this could build a case of equal culpability against her. Whether or not she is in fact just as culpable, this does not alter the underlying observation that the actions of both husbands (the first sends away his wife while the second marries the one sent away) have brought about the two charges of adultery, and hence their failure in God’s eyes.

    Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2014

  107. This particular post is not about “what the Bible says” but more narrowly about one verse. I believe that the way to figure out what the Bible says is to start with the text and work from there, so understanding this verse is part of understanding the Bible, but there’s more to what the Bible says about divorce than this one verse.

    I think it’s a (very common) mistake to jump from one verse to “what the Bible says.” I think it’s just as much of a mistake to use other verses to override the meaning of a potentially incompatible or otherwise disagreeable text.

    For instance: “Beat their swords into plowshares.” Isaiah says that. But my prophetic namesake Joel says the opposite: “Beat your plowshares into swords.” To quote only Isaiah is to misquote the full spectrum of the Bible. And to use Isaiah to assume that Joel got it backwards is similarly not helpful.

    Likewise, we want to understand Matthew 5:32 as a step toward understanding what the Bible says.

    Comment by Joel H. | October 29, 2014

    • Unless one acknowledges the observations you make in this post there is no chance of getting this step right.

      Comment by Robert Kan | October 29, 2014

  108. ESV Mat 5:31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
    Mat 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    These words were said in the context of 2nd temple Judaism about 30CE and written down in the text we have today in Matthew about 60CE. It is a question of what they MEAN because we do not live in that culture and many things were different, so it must be unpacked as things that were known back then are not known today.

    Per David Instone-Brewer, I think the unpacked meaning is “Husbands are divorcing their wives for no good reason using Hillel’s “Any Matter” divorce interpretation of Deu 24:1. Hillel is wrong, the only reason for divorce given in Deu 24:1 is sexual immorality.”

    Comment by Don Johnson | October 30, 2014

  109. Dr. Hoffman, while most people prefer to play down the double-charge of adultery in Matthew 5:32, your post actually goes in the opposite direction. By correctly using the context of John 8:4 to determine that the put-away wife was not merely a victim, you take the analysis of Matthew 5:32 to a whole new level. Your contextual analysis in this regard not only does justice to the text, it opens the eyes and ears of those who would seek to understand what the Bible says about the marriage. A most excellent post.

    Comment by Robert Kan | October 31, 2014

  110. What about the possibility of a mistranslation of the word divorce? I have stood for my marriage reconciliation for over 5 years now since she divorced me and I am still standing for it. In my study of all these verses regarding marriage and divorce, questions started coming to mind that led to much deeper inspection. Could it be that a Jewish bill of divorce ends a marriage? Thereby making this person no longer your husband. and then you are free to remarry… but if he does not give you a bill of divorcement then you are still married and bound till death. I also noticed in different versions NKJV NASB etc the word divorce was not always the same some say send away, put away… and where I got really interested is where it say divorce and send away or put away in the same sentence… well what if those are two different things instead of one in the same? So I looked at the Greek words and saw there was a difference…

    Those that were testing Jesus were asking about putting away… so Jesus response makes a lot more sense… if you put away your wife (not divorce) and you remarry you are committing adultery as you are still married. same as putting away your wife (not divorcing) causes her to commit to adultery when she remarries.

    Rather than get real deep into it, I found a very well laid out paper on this and if it is of interest to you, it can be found here: http://www.academia.edu/3622738/What_Jesus_Really_Said_Putting_Away_the_Mistranslations_about_Divorce

    Those seeking truth may want to read that whole thing… It was extremely enlightening and uses the scripture to prove itself, but relying on the original words rather than the possible translation errors or purposeful change to make the Bible say what the translator or committee wants it to say. We put a lot of faith into translators if you think about it. Seek the truth in Christ!

    Comment by Frank R | October 5, 2016

  111. Thanks for your article! It’s given me a lot to think about.

    But I’m still not wholly clear; are you saying that this passage is still implicating the woman in adultery? Where you started out seemed clear in saying that she has adultery committed against her, however, where you end in saying that they are both culpable in adultery, but just in different senses isn’t as clear.

    Thanks again!

    Comment by David | February 15, 2017

  112. I think Richard C. H. Lenski, the renowned Greek scholar in the early 1900s gives one of the best definitions. He states the Greek is extremely hard to decipher in this passage and can be best understood that the woman becomes “adultered,” and the man who marries her becomes “adultered.” I know that these are not proper English words. He says, so the best meaning is that the woman so divorced is “stigmatized as an adulterer,” and the man who marries her is “stigmatized as an adulterer.” Most men in that Jewish culture would assume the woman is at fault and even surmise that the second man who marries her was perhaps the cause of the divorce. And notice where Jesus places the blame, “He causes her…” He doesn’t put the blame on the woman, but on the man. Also in that society, if a woman so scorned didn’t have other family, she had two choices of survival, one was to marry, the other to prostitute herself.

    Comment by Lee | September 26, 2018

  113. You are quite correct that Jesus put the blame on the first husband who caused the divorce. If that was indeed all there was to the whole story, Jesus would not have implicated the second husband in adultery. Unfortunately, for many of us, he did, and we need to put aside our emotional prejudices.

    Luke 16:18 is the same teaching, except for the passive form of adultery. The text is easy to understand, but hard to believe. The one act of divorce (by the husband) led to two acts of remarriage, by which both husbands committed adultery. So, you are half correct. All four sides in the two remarriage scenarios were implicated in adultery.

    Comment by Robert Kan | August 24, 2020

  114. […] encontrado alguna información interesante sobre esto en un sitio con comentarios sobre las traducciones de la …pero no hay conclusiones sólidas. ¿Alguien aquí tiene alguna idea académica sobre esta […]

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