[This is the last post. It’s long because only a few readers will find this of interest and so I don’t want to spread this over several days. But Edwards’ scholarship has been studied by so many, I figure some readers would profit from this.]
Edwards makes an elaborate argument based on the grammar of the sayings of Jesus. These arguments have been accepted by many, but rejected by at least some experts. I find the arguments fascinating, but I’m just that kind of guy.
Ultimately, I think I’m just not persuaded. I started off fully convinced but further study has led me to conclude that “adultery” is a metaphor for covenant breaking, which moots Edwards’ arguments altogether. Moreover, Collier’s counter-arguments seem right to me. But I’m no expert on the subtleties of Greek. I present both sides for your consideration.
A. Edwards’ argument re Matthew
Edwards’ argument notes that the translation of Matthew 5:31-32 has obvious problems, demonstrated by the fact that, as translated, Jesus says that the innocent wife who is put away by her husband is made an adulteress — whether or not she remarries. This really doesn’t make good sense.
In “I hit the ball,” “hit” is an active, transitive verb. The object is “ball.”
In “The ball was hit,” “hit” is a passive, transitive verb. The sentence doesn’t really have a subject-“the ball” is the object of “hit” and the true subject-the person doing the hitting-is unstated.
Thus, when Jesus is translated as saying, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery,” the wife and her second husband are not the ones committing adultery, they are the objects of the adultery-the ones against whom adultery is committed!
Now the problem is that “commit adultery” in English does not have a transitive form and thus does not have a passive form. We are at a loss to make a sound translation. I suggest a couple of approximations to consider.
First, in informal English, “cheat on” can mean to commit adultery against someone, and it is conveniently transitive. Thus, we can better translate Jesus as saying:
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to be cheated on, and anyone who marries the divorced woman is cheated on.
This makes sense! At last, we see that the sin is the divorce, not the marrying after the divorce. And the sinner is the one who wrongly puts away his wife, not the wife who is put away innocently. Indeed, why should the unfortunate wife who is sinned against not be allowed to remarry? Nothing in this passage would deny her a second marriage.
Thus what Jesus says is that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” includes not only the sexual sin, but any violation of the marriage covenant. The command is much broader than just sexual fidelity. It also deals with honoring the marriage covenant, and so failing to do so is sin.
Thus, another translation that is true to the Greek and that makes sense would be to replace “commit adultery” with “violate”:
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to be violated, and anyone who marries the divorced woman is violated.
Recall that we concluded earlier from the Bible’s use of “adultery” that adultery frequently refers to violation of a covenant, and so this translation makes sense. Jesus is saying the adultery is much more than wrongful sex. Wrongfully putting away your wife hurts her in violation of the unity you pledged to her-indeed, violates her and anyone she should marry-and so violates the Ten Commandments.
One might fairly ask why the second husband is violated or cheated on. A number of suggestions have been offered. For example, Jesus’ thought might be that the second husband will suffer the reputation of having perhaps broken up the first marriage, or perhaps he will suffer from the assumption that many will make that his wife was divorced for reason of fornication (that is, in First Century terms, that he is married to a sinner). I’m sure that those who have married a divorced man or woman can explain how their marriage is frequently burdened with problems related to the first marriage-whether its struggling with raising children of the first marriage, dealing with alimony, or dealing with the emotional scars from the first marriage. Plainly, the burden of a divorce affects not only the divorced couple, but also their future spouses.
Recall that Jesus is explaining that the Jews have misunderstood Deuteronomy 24, assuming that Moses’ provision of a certificate of divorce gave permission to divorce. Jesus says that, just as is true for lust, divorce violates the spirit of the command not to commit adultery, because it violates the marriage covenant and because it hurts people, not only the spouse put away, but also her future husband.
In Matthew 19, “commits adultery” is, once again, not active, but either passive or in the middle voice. Because the same Greek word is used for the passive or middle voice, the distinction must be found in the context.
English doesn’t have a middle voice. The Greek middle voice is used where the subject and object are the same. Sometimes the middle voice is best translated with a stated object-“he hit himself,” for example. Other times, the best English translation is with an intransitive verb, that is, a verb with no object-“he hit.”
Clearly, the verb is not passive, as there is no candidate in context to be the object of the verb other than the husband. This makes the verb middle-so that the verb “commits adultery” refers to the husband.
And so the question becomes whether we best translate into English with an intransitive construction: “commits adultery,” as in the NIV and KJV, or with an active English verb, “commits adultery against himself” or “violates himself” or “cheats on himself.” None of the active constructions is very appealing, while the traditional translation-as an intransitive verb-makes perfect sense.
Zodhiates gives 1 Corinthians 13:12 as an example of how to translate the middle voice: “now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” “Shall I know” is in the middle voice, and yet is translated with an intransitive (no object) English phrase. Zodhiates also gives Luke 8:13 as an example of the present indicative middle: “and in time of temptation fall away.” “Fall away” is present indicative middle and is translated as an intransitive verb. Examples could be multiplied.
In Luke 16:18, “commits adultery” is in the active voice, so that the foregoing arguments cannot be applied here. The key distinction here is found in the context —
16:13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Jesus then concludes with the familiar parable of Lazarus in heaven.
As concluded by Lenski,
This is not an exposition on marriage and divorce; this is a charge which Jesus hurls at the Pharisees who are before him. That is why that statement is brief and summary. They were making mean remarks about Jesus (15:2) for having anything to do with open sinners like harlots. Were these Pharisees any better than harlots? No; they lived in the same open violation of the Sixth Commandment. Jesus now confronts them with that fact. What he tells them is this: You Pharisees also disregard and violate God’s law of marriage by changing from one wife to another at pleasure, by marrying a discarded wife as if her having been discarded in such a way meant nothing whatever to God’s law. Jesus is not expounding what is commonly called divorce but is scoring [condemning] the dissolution of marriage; APOLUEIN, “to release,” “to dismiss,” and thus to dissolve the marriage, this being the standard term.
B. Gary Collier’s rebuttal
Gary D. Collier, of the University of Denver’s Iliff School of Theology and author of The Forgotten Treasure, on hermeneutics, has published an article criticizing John Edwards’ interpretation of Mark 5:31-32-
The form MOIXEUTHENAI (forces her into adultery) is an aorist passive infinitive (only here in the NT). … Unfortunately, Zodhiates gives grossly inaccurate information about the occurrences of the passive forms of MOICHEUO in the NT, and Lenski’s charge is at least outdated (i.e., perhaps he based his study on lexicons that did not list extra-biblical sources). BAGD, 526, notes numerous instances in which the passive form is common in reference to the adulteress, the one “with whom” adultery is committed. Among other examples see Sirach 23:23; Philo, Decalogue 124; and Josephus, Antiquities 7:131. In addition to these, see Lev. 20:10 and Jn. 8:4. As to the last reference, how would one understand the phrase, “this woman has been caught in the very act of being adulterated”? Surely, the problem has been stated correctly by Davies/Allison, Matthew, 5:28-29: “The unstated assumption is that the woman will remarry.” This point is very important, inasmuch as (1) the husband is blamed for putting his wife in that situation; (2) a life of “remaining single” after divorce was not under consideration-at least not in this text; and (3) the point is not “divorce is allowed but remarriage is adultery”; the point is that divorce in the first place results in adultery.
This article was preceded by a series of e-mail exchanges from 1994 to 1995 between Collier and Edwards on the RM-Bible discussion group hosted by Abilene Christian University. In this exchange Collier challenged some of Edwards’ Greek word studies, emphasizing his disagreement with Edwards’ conclusion that “commits adultery” in Mark 5:31-32 should be translated in the passive voice.
C. Comparing the two views
It is really difficult for most people — myself included-to resolve disagreements among Greek scholars regarding the meaning of a Greek verb which appears in this particular form only in Matthew 5. And I surely don’t have the resources to check Collier’s work. However, Collier mounts a significant body of evidence that the verb should not be translated in the passive. And certainly Collier has nearly all the translations on his side.
On the other hand, as Edwards points out, Jesus uses the active form of the verb in Matthew 5:27-28. Why would Jesus change to the passive form in verses 31-32 unless he intended a different meaning?
Also, Edwards’ interpretation is supported by David Moore, who commented in the discussion group-
There is a possibility for the interpretation of POIEI AUTHN MOICEUQHNAI [makes her commit adultery] that I have not seen mentioned in the literature available to me. It depends on assuming that Jesus’ teaching (and possibly the original written form of this pericope) was in Aramaic. Since Jesus’ having taught in Aramaic is just about universally accepted, it seems safe to assume Aramaic grammatical forms at some point behind the Greek text here.
If POIEI AUTHN MOICEUQHNAI is an example of the Semitic hiphil (i.e. causative-active) form of the verb in question, the meaning of the phrase should be, “causes her to commit adultery.” The active part of the causative-active verb form would be expressed in the active sense of the Greek POIEI; and MOICEUQHNAI would be in the passive case to indicate that the woman, in such an instance, would be forced into an adulterous relationship (assuming she would remarry) of which she would not be the active cause. Understanding the clause in this way focuses on the person who has caused the divorce as the one really guilty as the cause of the adultery.
Now I know even less about Aramaic than about Greek. But I do know that many scholars believe that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, and there is significant historical evidence in support of that view. Thus, this is a strong argument in favor of the passive voice translation.
D. Edwards’ argument re Luke
Edwards argues that the Lucan passage should be retranslated so that “divorces” is in the middle voice. This possibility was suggested by Oliver Howard at the Pepperdine Lectureships in 1986. Recall that “divorces” translates a word with a much broader meaning, more precisely translated in the King James Version as “put away.” It can be translated either in the passive voice or in the middle voice, depending on context. The NIV paraphrases “divorce” as in the active. But in the middle voice, the translation becomes-
Everyone dismissing his wife and marrying another commits adultery (active) and the woman dismissing herself (middle) from her husband and marries another man commits adultery (active).
Notice how the subject in the second clause changes from “the man” to “the woman” when the voice changes. The reason for this is that “the man” isn’t in the Greek and must be implied from the verb form. If it’s middle, the object (the woman) is also the subject, and under this translation, the verse makes perfect sense.
E. Collier’s rebuttal
This interpretation has been challenged by Gary D. Collier, of the University of Denver’s Iliff School of Theology-
And the problem is NOT the middle or passive voice of a)polelume/nhn. Even if you grant the middle force of this participle, you still can’t make the woman the subject of the participle “marrying.” In every textual reading offered by NA27, “the woman” is accusative feminine singular (thus, the object of the action of the participle), and “the one who marries” is nominative singular masculine. So, you could translate either of the following ways: “…and the man who marries a woman who has been divorced from her husband is guilty of adultery” “…and the man who marries a woman who has divorced herself from her husband is guilty of adultery.” In either case, it is the man who is said to be guilty of adultery. The Greek sentence cannot be correctly read if the woman is the subject.
Rob McRay responds, however,
If the participle apolelumenhn is read as middle it allows for the text to be read in such a way that Jesus is commenting specifically on the use of divorce to “get around” the adultery prohibition. If man wants a woman other than his wife, he cannot avoid adultery by divorcing her and marrying the other: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” Neither can he avoid adultery with another man’s wife if she will just secure a divorce from her husband first: “And one who marries a woman who has divorced herself from her husband commits adultery.”
I believe Oliver’s point is that Jesus is not necessarily commenting on all divorce or on all remarriage, but specifically on the manipulation of the law (re: divorce) in order to get around the law (re: adultery). Oliver is not trying to justify divorce in other circumstances; I think he also agrees with you that Jesus does not really approve of ANY divorce. He is (as I recall) saying that Jesus is not condemning all remarriage.
So how do we deal with this? Do we have to have post-doctoral knowledge of Greek and Aramaic to understand the Bible’s teachings on divorce and remarriage? Woe to us if that were true! No, while I find Edwards’ position very sensible and appealing — the ultimate conclusions we draw don’t depend on whether “commits adultery” is best translated as passive or active, for these reasons:
1. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 still says what it says. In the Christian dispensation, Paul, plainly aware of Jesus’ teachings (1 Cor. 7:10), teaches that it is not sin for a divorced person to remarry. This makes the interpretation of Matthew 5:31-32 a very interesting question but not the key to knowing what the rule is today.
2. In Matthew 5:32, Jesus specifically declares that the husband “causes” his wife to commit adultery. This very plainly puts the blame on the husband, not the wife.
Part of the difficulty historically has been the fact that the KJV wrongly adds at the end of Matthew 19:9 “and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery,” borrowed by some later scribe from Matthew 5:31-32. In Matthew 5, however, the force of this is greatly reduced by the “causeth” clause, which plainly places the blame on the husband. But as wrongly translated by the KJV, Matthew 19 suggests that the put-away wife is at fault, thus giving many a reader the wrong impression.
Not surprisingly, for these very reasons, Edwards and Collier ultimately reach the identical conclusions about how the Church is to interpret these passages, although by different paths. Indeed, Collier concludes —
Jesus is not saying the divorced woman did anything wrong, she is simply thrown into the whole mess of adultery-which in Matt 5 and 19 is a breaking of God’s “creation covenant” for man and woman. I have tried to be consistent (can’t guarantee that I have been!) in translating moixeuthenai as “guilty of adultery” rather than “committed adultery”, since the latter indicates an “action”. A person thrown into a mud-hole may be guilty of being muddy without being guilty of jumping in the mud. 
The moment we wish to require perfection in adherence to Matt 5:31-32 is the moment we should begin to see gouged-out eyes and severed limbs among those requiring it. Those who are willing to cut out the hearts of others by casuistic [rule-based] approaches to the Gospel divorce texts, should be willing to cut off their own hands by the same approaches. Otherwise, we should learn the way of Jesus. Matt 18:28, 35: But that same servant, as he went out, met one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred days wages. So, he grabbed him by the throat and said, “Pay me what you owe me!” . . . This is how my Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Collier agrees with Edwards and myself (i) that “adultery” in the Mark and Matthews passages is used in the prophetic sense of covenant breaking, (ii) that the sin being addressed is the divorce and, where the divorce was made in order to remarry, the remarriage, (iii) that men and women can end a marriage even when to do so is wrong, and (iv) that 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 plainly permits a divorced person to remarry, and that doing so is not sin. Moreover, Collier agrees that the consequences of a wrongful divorce are to be found elsewhere. Thus, despite this disagreement over Greek verb tenses, the result is much the same. Collier concludes —
We do, of course, want some practical answers about those who do not live up to the ideal. What do we do in real-life situations? Two answers. First, none of these Gospel accounts on divorce deals with that question. This is a very important point because we have traditionally approached these texts as if they gave instructions on what to do when people sin. They do not. Second, if we want to know how to deal with people who do not live up to the ideal-who sin, in other words-we should turn to the multitude of other places in Scripture which teach us how to deal with sinners, keeping in mind the difference between sin and sinners. We must preach perfection, as Jesus did, but we cannot require it any more than he did. …
In the final analysis, the issue for Jesus was not whether it was divorce or remarriage that caused adultery, nor even whether authorizations could be found for divorce; it was, rather, what creation reveals about God’s desires and intentions for us as males and females. It is here that we will be able to offer hopeful solutions to the plethora of problems that divorce still presents.
 As noted in Lenski’s commentary on this passage. Of course, I’ve argued before that her adultery is in being forced to break the marriage covenant as well as the duty to seek reconciliation.
 None of the major translations take this meaning. This is not surprising since English doesn’t have a passive form for “commit adultery.” Nonetheless, two of the 20th Century’s foremost Greek scholars have reached this conclusion. Lenski, in his commentary on Matthew, argues the case from the Greek in some detail, pointing out that “commit adultery” is in active voice in verses 27 and 28, and it should be obvious that the voice is different in verse 32. Zodhiates makes the argument in much more detail and reaches the same conclusion. Most other commentators don’t even address the issue, although Lenski’s commentary is a standard work available since 1943 and is often cited by other commentators on other issues. Note that Gary D. Collier vigorously contests the translation of this verb as passive, although he admits the form is passive. This argument is discussed later in “Gary Collier’s rebuttal.”
 Some English verbs are intransitive and so can’t be passive. For example, “sigh.” I can sigh. I can’t be sighed.
 Lenski translates the word “ruin marriage.” This is surely an excellent translation of the thought, but is unfortunately intransitive and thus can’t be phrased in the passive voice.
 Zodhiates proposes the translation “and whosoever marries a dismissed wife, stigmatizes himself and her as adulterous.” Lenski reaches the same conclusion. Many commentators, including Instone-Brewer, disagree.
 Zodhiates concludes that the verb is present indicative middle.
 The present indicative middle occurs in Matthew about 91 times, according to Zodhiates. Of these, 72 are translated by the KJV as intransitive verbs. Most of the rest are translated into English with passive constructions.
It would be entirely fair to ask why the same verb is translated “commits adultery” in chapter 19 but must be taken as passive in chapter 5. The answer is the context. To make the distinction, we note in chapter 5 that the person acting is clearly the husband who is putting away his wife. Moreover, Jesus has deliberately changed from the active form of the verb in verses 27 and 28, and the change in voice must have a meaning. Meanwhile, in chapter 19, the verb must refer to the husband, as no one else is mentioned.
The great difficulty here derives from the absence of the middle voice in English as well as the lack of a true transitive equivalent of “commit adultery.”
Finally, the conclusion is well justified by the fact that Paul has reached the same conclusion that we reach. Otherwise, 1 Cor. 7 would have to have addressed the exception for fornication and should have dealt with the question of adultery, and 7:28 could not have been written by Paul.
 Zodhiates says present indicative active.
 Howard Publishing Co., Inc. (1993).
 The principles of how to study the Bible.
 Zodhiates deals with John 8:4, part of the account of the woman taken in adultery, by interpreting the passive voice both here and in Matt. 5 as “being considered an adulteress.” He notes with regard to Matt. 5:32, “She must bear upon herself the presumed and assumed guilt of an adulteress because of the action of her husband.”
 “Rethinking Jesus on Divorce,” 37 Restoration Quarterly No. 2 (1999), http://www.rq.acu.edu/Volume_037/rq03702collier.htm.
 These e-mails are available at ftp://moses.acu.edu/RM-Bible. Downloading these e-mails requires Netscape or, better yet, a dedicated ftp client (Internet Explorer won’t work) — and a lot of patience. These are very long and the server is very slow.
 David Moore at http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/archives/greek-3/msg00439.html (Oct. 19, 1994).
 The native language of Jews living in Palestine during the First Century. There is also evidence that Jesus spoke, at least some of the time, in Greek, which was the international language of the day. For example, some of Jesus’ quotations from the Old Testament follow the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament rather than the Hebrew original.
 Quoted by Edwards, pp. 152-154.
 Collier, footnote 44 (italics in original).
 Collier points out that Jesus assumes that any divorce made is to remarry. Jesus does not address the question of divorce without remarriage because he is commenting on Deut. 24, which deals only with divorce to remarry.