A Follow Up Question About Divorce & Remarriage

divorce5I get emails (heavily edited to be anonymous) —

My wife and I read your post but our case is different. We were raised to be Christians, and I was baptized before my first marriage. I was guilty of adultery and my first marriage failed. I’ve since remarried over 20 years ago, have great children, and my second wife and I have a great relationship. Is your answer different for us because we weren’t divorced and remarried before our baptisms?

It’s not. I find it easier to persuade people in the case of pre-conversion divorces. It’s an easier case to argue, especially in a denomination with a long history of very strict views on the subject.

But grace is in fact exactly the opposite. That is, the forgiveness available to the saved is greater than the grace available to those who will be saved only when they are later converted. We tend to think that baptism is special, magical sacrament that cleanses our record better and more completely than ever, but the truth is quite the opposite. Believe it or not, your baptism is the least powerful forgiveness a Christian ever receives.

Really? You doubt me? Ask Paul —

(Rom. 5:6-8 ESV)  6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die —  8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before we were saved, we were “ungodly” (v. 6), sinners (v. 8), and even “enemies” of God (v. 10; see below). This is who we were when Christ died for us — and this is who we were as we went down into the baptismal waters.

Paul’s point, of course, is that it’s astonishing that Jesus would die for the likes of us. Few would die even for a righteous person, but Jesus died for us when we were most definitely not righteous. And yet God loved us so much, Jesus gave his life for us — while we were enemies of God.

(Rom. 5:9-11 ESV)  9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 

In v. 9, Paul says one of the most remarkable things in all of scripture. Having been justified (declared innocent or righteous) by the sacrifice of Jesus, we’ll now be “much more” saved. Indeed, if we were reconciled while God’s enemies, we’ll be “much more” reconciled now that we’re God’s children.

In baptism, we were saved by the death of Jesus. As reconciled children of God, we’re now saved through the life of Jesus.

Twice Paul says we are “much more” saved now that we’re saved than when we were first saved.

Think of salvation as like adoption, as Paul does. Imagine the love a couple feels as they visit an orphanage and one certain baby seems a little special. They take to the baby and the baby seems to take to them. They adopt her, and they love her with an indescribable love — even euphoric as the adoption goes through.

Now, five years later, she’s their daughter and they’re her mom and dad. They’ve changed a lot of diapers, read a lot of bedtime stories, and dealt with lots of nightmares. Tantrums and spankings, kisses and hugs. And they love her even more.

When they first adopted her, they couldn’t imagine being any happier, and now it’s different. Better. Deeper. She’s part of who they are. She’s formed them as people, and they’ve formed her as a person. They love her far more.

Why would God feel any less toward us? Why would he not love us more now that we’re adopted as sons and daughters, shared hours of prayers, cried and celebrated together, messed up and done well together? Of course, he loves us more.

But Paul’s point is not just about love. It’s about salvation. We’re much more saved. I mean, walking into the orphanage, would you take a bullet for a child you never met? Five years later, would you take a bullet for your daughter? The second question is just a whole lot easier than the first. Well, Jesus would die for us even as his enemies — but how much more would he die for us as his brothers and sisters?

The death of the Messiah on our behalf, when we were weak, helpless sinners (verses 6 and 8), demonstrates how much God loves us; and if he loves us that much, he can be trusted to rescue us from the coming day of judgment (verse 9). After all, God did the unthinkable thing in sending his son to die for us while there was nothing whatever to commend us to him, and indeed everything to make him revolted by us—when, in other words, we were his enemies (verse 10). Now that we are his friends, reconciled to him in the manner described in verses 1 and 2, God is not about to abandon us after all.

Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 87–88.

St. Chrysostom put it thus, “If God gave a great gift to enemies, will he give anything less to his friends?”

James R. Edwards, Romans, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 142.

So whatever grace we might receive at baptism, we receive much more times two every day afterwards. That may not be what your preacher preaches, but it’s what Paul teaches.

Now, some will consider this a dreadful outcome, because God’s children should be held to a higher standard. We Christians have access to God’s revealed will. We know more about what he wants of us — making us more accountable. Which is true — and a point Paul makes a few verses later. But then he says,

(Rom. 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s solution to the greater sin that comes from greater knowledge of God’s will that produces greater accountability is … greater grace. Grace abounding! The Greek for “abounding” can be read as “having too much” or “super-abounding.” English doesn’t really have a word strong enough. Think: “overwhelmingly abundant grace.”

And yet we have preachers who dare sneer at their members and pound them with fear and damnation, as though God loves them less than his enemies and strangers. No! We are his children, and he is our Abba! And it matters.

There is, of course, a limit. A father can become so exasperated with his son that he disowns him. I do a little estate planning, and I’ve counseled parents who’ve disowned a child they dearly loved because he persistently rebelled and refused to honor his parents. But it only happened after years of tears and prayers and second and third chances. It happens. About 1 in a thousand times. It’s rare.

But disobedience by children is quite common. It’s a standard  part of the package. It’s part of the learning process. It’s not okay. It’s not without consequences. And good parents who love their children discipline their children — so the children suffer a short punishment rather than a permanent disowning.

Just so, when we mess up and sin — and breaking a marriage covenant is sin — it hurts God, it’s wrong, and we pay the earthly consequences of emotional pain, difficult relationships, legal fees, alimony and child support — you know the high price of divorce even when it’s unavoidable.

But grace remains available — more grace for a Christian than a non-Christian — because we have God with us, filling us with his Spirit, and walking with us through the shame, and the pain, and misery. Even when he’s disappointed in us.

Leave a Reply

  1. I appreciate your attention to this subject, despite its controversial nature. Divorce and remarriage affect so many, so a serious and open study is needed.

    I have long struggled with the subject myself, and I continue to do so. I want to focus on God’s mercy and His forgiveness. I want to think that Christians can faithfully live in second (or third or fourth) marriages, for their sake as well as for any children involved. I want to think that a person whose marriage fails, for infidelity or any other reason, is not condemned to live alone and celibate for the rest of his or her life. I find marriage to be one of the greatest gifts God has given us, and I would love for everyone to enjoy it.

    However, I can’t completely dismiss those nagging questions in the back of my mind. How do we deal with Ezra 9-10, where God’s people took wives in violation of His law? Did Ezra not instruct them to make a covenant with God and put away those wives?

    In Matthew 19, Jesus seems to be teaching that remarriage, absent fornication, is adultery. Is adultery a “one-time” sin that is committed on the day of the marriage ceremony, or is it an ongoing sin? Surely we would teach that individuals in homosexual or polygamous relationships would have to end those relationships in order to be faithful. We wouldn’t teach that baptism would forgive past sin AND sanctify the continuation of a sinful relationship. Yet is that not what we do when it comes to adultery?

    It seems that we want to define the permissible grounds for divorce as broadly as possible. In the event that some people are still left uncovered, we teach that anything that happen’s “pre-conversion” is forgiven by baptism and anything that happens “post-conversion” is easily forgiven as well. What does repentance look like? I don’t know … saying, “I’m sorry”?

    Again, I don’t mean to be difficult. I grew up in a conservative congregation and accepted many things without a whole lot of thought. Now, as an adult, I’m re-examining those teachings. Needless to say, the process isn’t always easy. I have many questions.

  2. How great is God’s LOVE! We who love Him can depend on His forgiveness when we sin if we indeed seek forgiveness. He continues to love us! Jay says so well. Jay is right.

  3. I believe Jay, and Ray should give more attention to what Nathan is saying. The woman who sinned before baptism, no doubt was forgiven. but I believe the Hebrew writer gives a different conclusion for those who ask forgiveness, and continue to intentionally do the very thing they asked God to forgive them for. I believe that is the dog going back to the vomit , and getting sick again. Christians are called to be better than non Christians. No doubt you can be forgiven for your sins, unless you continue in your sins. evidently that is not repentance .

  4. Nathan asks (Part 1),

    How do we deal with Ezra 9-10, where God’s people took wives in violation of His law? Did Ezra not instruct them to make a covenant with God and put away those wives?

    Two key points.

    First, the marriages were not allowed at all. Jews could not marry Gentiles — and doing so would lead to the end of Israel as a distinct nation. The marriages were more properly considered annulled as contrary to the Law. The same result happens when one attempts an incestuous marriage. No marriage takes place because the union is forbidden by the Law.

    Now, we assume that Jesus said that when someone remarries after a divorce that the remarriage is void. But the text is to the contrary.

    (Matt. 5:32 ESV) 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.

    “Marries a divorced woman” means the divorced woman is married. Jesus does not say that the marriage is null. Moreover, he doesn’t say that sex in that marriage is adultery because she’s still married. In fact, he plainly says that she is divorced and remarried — meaning she’s remarried.

    The Greek verbs are aorist or take that time action from adjacent aorist verbs, meaning that “commits adultery” and “makes her commit adultery” speak not of ongoing sexual relations but a single, point in time event — the remarriage. He’s saying that the remarriage is adultery, that is, a violation of the marriage covenant — just as a married man looking at a woman not his wife with lust is adultery — a breach of the marriage covenant. It’s sin. But not void.

    Why is it sin? Well, in context, it’s sin because it’s a consequence of the lustful looking. If a man looks lustfully at a woman not his wife and then divorces his wife to marry the new women, it’s adultery — even though he took the trouble to divorce his first wife before having sex with the second wife. He shouldn’t even be looking! He must be faithful to his present wife — with all that he is and has.

    What about the man marrying the put-away wife? Jesus is interpreting Deu 24 which prohibits a man from putting away a wife, her remarrying a second man, and the after being put away a second time, marrying the first man — her original husband. Jesus says that he’s interpreting Torah — and so we should read in light of Torah.

    The man who marries the put away woman makes it impossible for the wife to remarry her first husband under Deu 24. He thereby destroys any chance of reconciliation and restoration of the marriage God blessed. That doesn’t make the marriage void (that’s a Catholic interpretation from the Council of Trent). It’s marriage, but it’s in violation of the first marriage covenant.

    Now, the verb “commits adultery” is passive, and there is no English equivalent. The closest I can come is “cheat on.” The passive form would be “be cheated on” or “be cheated.” Hence, the wife is made to be cheated on by the first putting away (true enough — her marital covenant is violated by being put away wrongly) and her second husband is “cheated on” in the sense that he has to live with the consequences of the first divorce and the possible accusation that he caused the first divorce.

    Passive voice means that the first husband is the sinner. Aorist time action means the sin occurs due to the divorce or the remarriage, not due to having sex with a second wife.

    Say what you will, some facts are clear —

    1. Jesus says the divorce is a divorce. He never says there is no divorce.

    2. Jesus says the remarriage is a marriage. He never says it’s void.

    3. The tense of the verbs are plainly point in time, making the theory that the sin is sex with second wife plainly wrong. The action that is sinful is the divorce (quite clearly) and perhaps the second marriage (much less clear since the adultery is passive).

    4. “Divorce” refers to breaking the marriage, not filing papers in court, since in the First Century, courts were not involved in the divorce process.

  5. Nathan asks (Part 2),

    Is adultery a “one-time” sin that is committed on the day of the marriage ceremony, or is it an ongoing sin? Surely we would teach that individuals in homosexual or polygamous relationships would have to end those relationships in order to be faithful. We wouldn’t teach that baptism would forgive past sin AND sanctify the continuation of a sinful relationship. Yet is that not what we do when it comes to adultery?

    Apples and oranges.

    The passages dealing with homosexuality aren’t speaking of gay marriage but the actual sex act — which is sinful per se.

    Sex between a man and woman married to each other is not sinful. And in both Matt 5 and Matt 19, Jesus never says that the second marriage is void. Rather, he refers to it as “marriage.” Hence, it’s marriage.

    He is concerned that in some circumstances marriage can be a violation of a prior marriage covenant. Paul tells us that if we divorce, we should try to reconcile (1 Cor 7:10ff). If you remarry, you can’t reconcile. If you remarry, you can’t honor the original marriage covenant — ever. Deu 24 forbids it.

    Now, the pattern of the SOTM in Matt 5 is for Jesus to point out an abuse of the Torah and then to show the real heart of the Torah. The abuse of the Torah was to seek out a second wife while still married to the first. (This presumes monogamy, by the way. In a polygamous society, the husband would be well within his rights to lust after a single woman not his wife.) But Jesus, based on Gen 2, is expecting monogamy. And monogamy means not even looking at the second woman lustfully.

    Divorces occur for multiple reasons, but one common reason is lustful looking and a desire to “trade up.” And this is to objectivize one’s spouse (a recurring theme of the SOTM) and to be unfaithful to her. Divorcing a wife to gain a new wife is adultery against the first wife as a breach of the marital covenant. It’s point in time sin. And it’s sin.

    But sin doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The marriage is quite real as is the divorce — even where both are sinful. Being sinful and being void are two very different things. Sin is about our relationship with God. Voidness is a question of law. SOTM is about moving from law to right relationship. It’s not legislation; it’s examples of how to correctly read Torah in light of the nature of Jesus. And faithfulness to one’s covenants is at the heart of the nature of Jesus. Therefore, violating the marriage covenant is sinful, and the fact that divorce is permitted by Moses does not mean that divorce is always consistent with one’s obligations of faithfulness.

    The entirety of the Prophets and the Torah can be told as a marriage story of God marrying Israel, and Israel being an unfaithful wife. As we strive to become like God (Matt 5:44-48), we must learn faithfulness to our spouses.

    So unfaithfulness is a sin, and breaking a marriage is a sin. But the marriage is still broken.

    To read this as a text about marriages that aren’t marriages and divorces that aren’t divorces is to read like a lawyer (which I am one) and not a very good one. We’re looking for laws at time when we’re being freed from law (Paul still says what Paul says).

    So homosexual acts are forbidden, and marriage and baptism do not change the fact that a homosexual act is a homosexual act. Incest is forbidden, and marriage and baptism do not change the fact that she’s your sister.

    For second marriages, the baptism doesn’t cure the void remarriage. Rather, it forgives the sin that the remarriage might have been. Sex in a heterosexual marriage is not sin, and so there’s nothing about sex with your wife to forgive. But the making of the marriage may well have been sin, and that sin needs to be forgiven.

    Just so, if the sinful remarriage occurs after baptism, forgiveness is available — but only for those who repent. And you repent of being unfaithful to your spouse by being faithful to your spouse. But your spouse is the person you’re married to, not the person you used to be married to.

  6. Laymond wrote,

    I believe the Hebrew writer gives a different conclusion for those who ask forgiveness, and continue to intentionally do the very thing they asked God to forgive them for.

    I agree. Those who sin in reliance on grace are likely to find none. Grace is for those who repent and not a loophole to allow intentional sin. The key, as noted in my recent comments, is to understand what the “sin” is.

    The questions posed to me were regarding people long ago divorced and remarried who now see the error of their former ways and now wish to be faithful to their present spouses. God smiles on anyone who wishes to clean up his act and move forward.

    We sometimes so contort the scriptures that we make divorce less forgivable than murder. A youth minister once said to me, “Better to kill your wife than to divorce her. At least you can be forgiven of murder.” Breaking the covenant of marriage is sin — but like all sin other than blasphemy against the Spirit, it can be forgiven. And it doesn’t require that we put away a wife of 20 years and leave children victims of a broken marriage. The goal is to go from chaos to shalom, not from shalom to chaos.

  7. I personally struggled with this issue. I got married and divorced 3 years later. I had the old conservative teachings at that time. My ex committed Adultery and it was still overwhelming to me personally and individually. Angry caused me not to consider if the child that she had was mine. Consequences are so difficult even after 25 years have passed and you can do nothing but wander and pray that if he is your son that God will cause your history the pleaser of passing so that you can see York child.

  8. Jay, there are many Christians who truly appreciate your compassionate answer. The struggles that many still have show just how toxic the legalistic teaching of the CoC has been, and how much it is lagging behind in the love and forgiveness of God. It is still, to a large degree, a fellowship of holding the “correct conclusions”, which, when clashing with real life, cause paralyzing guilt and bitterness from which many never find healing. The Jesus of the gospels is still feared by church members who believe it is dangerous to love and forgive others that much, while claiming the grace and mercy of God for their own private thoughts and actions….because they hold the “correct conclusions”.

  9. Jay,

    I was under the impression that moichatai (translated “commits adultery”) in Matthew 5:32 is in the third person, singular, present tense, and indicative mood and indicates continuous action.

    Secondly, do you counsel parents to permanently disown children, even if there is a later change of heart in a rebellious child?

  10. One can have many children, but only one spouse at a time. Christopher, the situations are not parallel. If a child repents and comes home, there is room for him at the table without displacing another child. And, asking Jay this particular question suggests that you have not read his posts very well, or your question is actually a statement.

    As to grammar, when the Greek present indicative is said to indicate “continuous action”, that is only in comparison to a singular event. It indicates simply that something is going on at the present time. To compare it in English, one may “find a dollar”, while one may also “find himself lost”. The second is “continuous action”, but nothing in the grammar suggests indefinitely prolonged action. That would be a contextual assessment.

    Beyond this, one cannot generally draw spiritual conclusions of such magnitude from such linguistic nuance. Such is the province of lawyers and those who would argue over what the meaning of “is” is. IMO, God does not hide his will from believers, to reveal it only to linguists. The broader picture, in scripture, in reason, and in our experience with God are crucial

    Jay points out the broader picture quite ably and I won’t recap it. I will say that those who try to interpret Jesus’ words outside the context of his grace and forgiveness and the power of the gospel to redeem have lost their way, unable to see the forest for the trees.

  11. You inferred a connection between my question and my statement, Charles, where none was implied. Re-read Jay’s column and find that while he starts off talking about adultery, he winds up with an aside on parents being exasperated beyond their limits. Hence the question, directed not to you, but Jay. So please refrain from judging my comprehension skills or motives.

    As to drawing spiritual conclusions of great magnitude from grammar, I refer you to Jesus’ refutation of the Sadduces’ belief that there is no resurrection and Paul’s discussion of Abraham’s seed (I expect you know where to find these two passages). I would ask you would address things like these rather than (for a second time) impugn my motives or my spiritual standing.

    For a man championing grace and forgiveness, you seem a tad judgemental.

  12. Christopher,

    Secondly, do you counsel parents to permanently disown children, even if there is a later change of heart in a rebellious child?

    I don’t counsel parents to disown children. They sometimes come to me for revised wills after having already done so.

    I can’t imagine any parent failing to accept a child back if the child truly repents. I’ve never known a child to repent who was so rebellious as to be disowned. It may happen, but it hasn’t happened in my limited experience.

  13. Jay,

    I have only dabbled a little in Greek – just enough to make me dangerous. But, having an M.A. in English, I think I do understand grammar better than the average person. And my reading comprehension skills are not poor.

    Here is the problem I have with your interpretation of both Matthew 5:31-32 and 19 – the extended context of the latter passage seems to clearly indicate that:

    1) Man should not separate what God has joined together (in marriage)

    2) God permitted divorce, in opposition to God’s desire and plan for marriage, because the Israelites’ hearts were hard

    3) Moses’ allowance is not part of Jesus’ plan going forward, but that anyone who divorces his wife – except for unfaithfulness – and remarries commits adultery (for which one could be stoned to death under Mosaic law), a very serious sin

    4) Jesus’ disciples were so astonished by the seriousness of this teaching that they replied if that is the way it is, it’s better not to get married in the first place

    5) Jesus did not disabuse them of that idea, only that not everyone could accept being unmarried

    Now, if adultery here is tied to remarriage and a wedding ceremony or license are not, in and of themselves sexual behavior, why do you think adultery in the new marriage is a one time event? Does not adultery consist of sexual activity, which would occur repeatedly? Why is the opposite of what you argue not the plain sense reading of the passage?

    If you concede that it seems to be, but your conception of God and the Greek grammar suggest otherwise, it’s seems that there is considerable confusion over the aorist tense:

    https://faculty.gordon.edu › smith-aorist-gtj

    With respect to counseling, I guess I misunderstood this statement:

    “I’ve counseled parents who’ve disowned a child they dearly loved because he persistently rebelled and refused to honor his parents.”

  14. Another thought: I think the point of Jesus’ teaching on marriage is that if God is willing to stick with us through thick and thin, He expects us to do the same – perhaps like His teaching on mercy.

  15. Christopher wrote,

    1) Man should not separate what God has joined together (in marriage)

    Agreed. But the traditional view is that man CANNOT separate what God has joined together — a marriage cannot dissolved, except for fornication. You are bound by the marriage until you or your spouse dies or commits fornication. Jesus in fact clearly assumes that marriage can be dissolved — but he says it is sin to do so.

    2) God permitted divorce, in opposition to God’s desire and plan for marriage, because the Israelites’ hearts were hard

    Agreed. We infer that the result is now different, but Jesus doesn’t actually say so. The hearts of the unredeemed are just as hard if not harder than the hearts of the Israelites. Many of the redeemed are married to the hard-hearted and have no control over the unredeemed putting them away. And even among the redeemed, while we should be better — and statistically are better than the unredeemed — hard-heartedness still persists.

    We assume Jesus is implying, “But now it’s different …” This comes from our dispensational perspective that Jesus came to repeal the Law of Moses and enact a new body of law — which is demonstrably false. Rather, Jesus came to tell us that God’s people had badly misunderstood the Law. The SOTM would be an excellent example of Jesus teaching, not that the Law is bad and needs to be repealed, but that the Jews have misinterpreted and misapplied it in countless ways.

    What did the Jews misunderstand about divorce? That it’s possible? Jesus says it’s possible. That divorce is okay and we may lightly dissolve marriage because there’s a mechanism to do so? Yes, I think he rejects exactly that thinking (the school of Hillel). The contrast is not “You may no longer have divorces” but “Any breaking of the marriage covenant is sin and Deu 24 does not justify being unfaithful to your wife — even looking lustfully at another woman.”

    3) Moses’ allowance is not part of Jesus’ plan going forward, but that anyone who divorces his wife – except for unfaithfulness – and remarries commits adultery (for which one could be stoned to death under Mosaic law), a very serious sin

    To read that Moses’ allowance is no longer permitted contradicts —

    (Matt. 5:17-20 ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    as well as Paul’s several statements that the Law is good and holy. Therefore, as previously explained, we must not read into the text something Jesus did not actually say, based on a bad dispensational theology. Jesus did not come to correct Moses’ errors. The Law is from God, holy, and good.

    (Rom. 3:31 ESV) 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    4) Jesus’ disciples were so astonished by the seriousness of this teaching that they replied if that is the way it is, it’s better not to get married in the first place

    True — but to a good Jew (or Christian), the fact that something is sin is quite enough to make us want to avoid it. Grace does not cover knowing rebellion against God’s will.

    5) Jesus did not disabuse them of that idea, only that not everyone could accept being unmarried

    Agreed. Jesus approves singleness — contrary to the rabbis but consistent with the deep things of God (more to come in 10 days or so on that question). And he says only those willing to make a lifetime commitment to a spouse should marry. But he does not say divorce is the unforgivable sin or that God doesn’t recognize a divorce that is sinful. That is to impute a legalism to Jesus’ ministry that just isn’t there.

    Jesus did not come to make law, much less civil law. Rather, he came to reveal God and his true nature. Thus, Jesus’ re-interprets the Law in ways that were often unexpected. But he doesn’t legislate.

    After the resurrection, the apostles and the rest of the church were put to the task of interpreting Torah in light of Jesus. They never once say, “Torah is repealed, so we need not bother with it.” If that were the rule, then the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 was sure a waste of time. Rather, they re-read Torah in light of the Jesus event, especially God’s invitation of the Gentiles into the Kingdom as Gentiles — not Gentiles who become Jews as proselytes. This — and Jesus’ atonement and the destruction of the Temple — all change our reading of Torah radically. But it’s not repealed. It’s fulfilled — which is only meaningful in light of the foregoing.

    I don’t have to sort through every nuance to know that Jesus does not come in saying that Moses was wrong and I need to fix his mistake. Rather, Moses was quite right in allowing divorce — but only if you first realize that any breaking of the marriage covenant is sin. Therefore, the ending of marriage and allowing remarriage through the issuance of a get (certificate of divorce) is a compassionate way to cope with the inevitable failings of fallen people — not an excuse to be unfaithful. The Jews were using Deu 24 — which requires a certificate of divorce that specifically permits remarriage (we have copies of gets older than the NT) — to abuse women and the system. Divorce is not a tool to dispose of an old wife so you can trade her in for a new one. Rather, recognizing the marriage as ended is part of how we try to restore shalom to a difficult, broken situation. But if you use the get system as a means of being unfaithful, you are guilty of a very serious sin. God hates putting away.

    Hence, Paul said what he said in 1 Cor 7:26-28 — not being a dispensationalist and therefore understanding Jesus better than we tend to do.

  16. Jay,

    The link is broken because it points to a twenty-something page PDF document. If you enter the entire link in Google, you will see a workable link in the results.

    As regards Matthew 5:17-20, let me make a couple of counterpoints:

    1) The ESV rendering of this passage mistranslates kataluo in verse 17. It should read “I did not come to destroy…” (instead of abolish). There is a world of difference between kataluo (destroy) and katargeo (abolish), from what I have read. And we find Paul using the second term in relation to the Mosaic law in verses like Romans 4:14 and 7:2-6.

    2) Jesus seems not to be saying that the law will never pass away, but that it will not do so until it is completely fulfilled – which He indicates He has come to do.

    Given this, I have always believed as a Christian that the Mosaic law has been rendered inoperable, supplanted by Christ’s teachings. These teachings are a kind of law if you consider what Jesus says about them in the gospels and in his addresses to the seven churches in Revelations. But unlike the Mosaic law, which must be exactly obeyed, Jesus’ teachings must be obeyed as best we are honestly able to. And that is what you would say about his teaching on divorce.

    Yet one cannot choose to deny others mercy and expect to receive it. How is it we expect to not extend mercy, longsuffering, patience and seven times seventy-seven forgiveness to our spouse and be warmly received by God? I think in marriage, God is now asking us to be like Him – to stick with someone as long as he or she is alive. Else why does Paul write that a woman must not divorce her husband, but if she does, she must not remarry? What are we doing by divorcing our spouse and remarrying (rather than merely separating until one or both parties repent) if not forgiving him or her?

    I will digest what you have written, but I am obviously not convinced of its truth. There is a reason Jesus associates remarriage after an improper divorce with adultery. It seems to me He is indicating that it is a violation of the first marriage worthy of death (what Jew would not have recognized the penalty for adultery?). It is not a trivial matter. Just nodding assent to this proposition and saying we shouldn’t do it doesn’t seem to respect the seriousness of this teaching – like Saul claiming to Samuel he did obey God. I see where one poster repeated a quip that it’s better to murder a spouse than divorce one (since then there would be forgiveness). But murder is truly a one time event (albeit with permanent consequences). Living with another person other than the one you pledged faithfulness is a daily, repeated event.

  17. I think it’s a bit funny that Charles will argue that one doesn’t have to be a linguist in order to know God’s will. However, in order to escape the seemingly plain import of Jesus’ teaching, we must have recourse to the original Greek and a debate about verb tenses.

    Responding to the situation in Ezra 10, Jay says: “First, the marriages were not allowed at all. Jews could not marry Gentiles — and doing so would lead to the end of Israel as a distinct nation. The marriages were more properly considered annulled as contrary to the Law. The same result happens when one attempts an incestuous marriage. No marriage takes place because the union is forbidden by the Law.”

    I take this to be an effort to distinguish the situation discussed in Matthew 19. Jay says, “Jesus says the remarriage is a marriage. He never says it’s void.”

    Correct. He says that it is adultery. In Ezra 10, the Israelites were married in violation of the Law. To paraphrase Jay: “To read this as a text about non-marriages that are marriages is to read this text as a lawyer (I’m one, too) and not a very good one.” They were marriages because how else would they have “taken wives”? The marriages shouldn’t have happened, and Ezra called them to correct the situation by severing the relationships. Is this harsh? Certainly.

    Though I don’t like the implications, Matthew 19 seems to be saying that a marriage following a divorce for a reason other than fornication is adulterous. As a result, it seems to be very much like the situation in Ezra 10: a marriage that shouldn’t have happened.

    Call me a heartless legalist or condescend to me as if I’m a moron. It’s annoying, but I can take it. I’m not certain that I’m right. In fact, I hope I’m not. However, I remain unconvinced by the alternative presented so far. It seems a well-intended yet tortuous effort to soften God’s expectations so that we can live more comfortably in this sinful world.

  18. I realized after posting that my language probably sounded rude. I apologize. I would gladly edit my post, but there is no option to do so.

    I appreciate this forum for the opportunities it provides to carry on important conversations. I hope to treat others here with respect. Obviously, I desire the same in return.

  19. Nathan,

    There’s a difference between saying, “You may not make this marriage” and saying “This marriage is a sin.” In the world of moral law, perhaps there’s no difference at all. Both are sin. Both are immoral. But as a matter of civil law, there’s a difference long recognized. An incestuous marriage is void as no marriage at all. In all modern states, a “marriage” by someone below the age of consent is no marriage at all. It may not be wrong. It may be a great marriage. But it’s still void.

    On the other hand, if I marry someone as part of a plot to steal her family fortune, the marriage is clearly immoral and sinful, but it’s not void. She can easily get a divorce (in modern law) but it’s not void — just easily dissolved. The law doesn’t forbid the marriage itself, we’re both of age, we’re not cousins, and so it’s a marriage — no matter how wicked my intent. Besides, I may marry her with wicked intent, change my mind, and live with her happily ever after. In that case, the marriage is recognized.

    Just so, the rabbis correctly considered marriages to Gentiles and incestuous marriages void. There simply was no marriage. But not all marriages made in sin were void.

    Now, this argument, to some extent, hangs on how one reads the passages, the verb tenses, and the overall theme of Matthew and the NT in terms of whether Jesus came to repeal Deu 24 or just to fulfill it — and what they mean.

    One last point here — Jesus was speaking before his death and resurrection — and yet he said what he was saying was presently true — which strongly implies a truer interpretation of Matt 19 and Gen 2, not a repeal and enactment of new law. The new covenant was not yet in effect.

    I mean, the people Jesus was speaking to did not recognize him as divine and would have had no reason to accept a new law from his lips. They were debating how best to read the Torah at that time and place — and the fact that Matthew reports the conversations tells us that these interpretations still matter.

  20. Christopher,

    Most English translations say “abolish,” but that’s beside the point. Ray Vander Laan studied under the orthodox rabbis at Yeshiva University. He explains,

    Fulfilling the Torah was the task of a first century rabbi. The technical term for interpreting the Scripture so it would be obeyed correctly was “fulfill.” To interpret Scripture incorrectly so it would not be obeyed as God intended was to “destroy” the Torah. Jesus uses these terms to describe his task as well (Matt. 5:17-19). Contrary to what some think Jesus did not come to do away with God’s Torah or Old Testament. He came to complete it and to show how to correctly keep it. One of the ways Jesus interpreted the Torah was to stress the importance of the right attitude of heart as well as the right action (Matt. 5:27-28).

    https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim

    The earliest Christians were quickly forced into thinking through the question of continuity and discontinuity. The early controversy about the admission of non-Jews into God’s people (did they need to be circumcised? did they need to obey the Jewish food laws and sabbath regulations?) precipitated a detailed argument, articulated by Paul in Galatians 2 and 3, about the way in which, precisely because God was fulfilling the covenant promises to Abraham by creating a single multi-ethnic family, those regulations in the Mosaic law which explicitly marked out Jews from their non-Jewish neighbours were now to be set aside, not because they were not good, or not given by God, but because they had been given for a temporary purpose which was now complete. The same pattern is repeated in many other cases. The inauguration of the new covenant in Jesus and by the Spirit meant that the Christians had to work out in what sense this was the renewal of the same covenant, and in what sense it was ‘new’ in the sense of ‘different’. Paul himself sums up the hermeneutical tension which covenant renewal has set up: God’s righteousness is revealed ‘apart from the Law’, although ‘the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it’ (Romans 3:21).

    This provides a model which helps us to track the continuity and discontinuity which the early Christians saw between their own time and that of Israel BC. Continuity is seen, for example, in the early Christian insistence on the world as God’s good creation; on God’s sovereign duty and promise to deal with evil; on the covenant with Abraham as the framework by which God would achieve this universal aim; and on the call to holiness, to genuine and renewed humanness, over against the dehumanized world of pagan idolatry and immorality (though of course many in the first century saw that ‘holiness’ as requiring adherence to the Jewish law, at which point it would tip over into the next category). …

    The early Christian use of the Old Testament reflects exactly this double-edged position. Precisely because of the emphasis on the unique accomplishment of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament could not continue to have exactly the same role within the Christian community as it had had before. Christianity does not repeat the earlier stages of the story, any more than it repeats the unique achievement of Jesus; it celebrates and builds upon them. From the start, in the ministry of Jesus and the work of Paul, we find constant reference to the fact that with the fulfilment comes a new moment in the story, a new act in the play (see pages 88–92). Heavy-handed schemes such as those of Marcion (the God of the Old Testament is a different God to that of the New) and the theologically cognate ones of some Reformers (a strict antithesis between law and gospel pressed into meaning that, as Luther once said despite his general awareness that things were not quite so simple, ‘Moses knows nothing of Christ’) do no justice to the sophisticated early Christian sense of continuing to live under the whole scripture albeit in this multi-layered manner. Nor, for that matter, do the pragmatic, rule-of-thumb conclusions of some other writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who saw the ‘civil and ceremonial’ laws being abolished while the ‘moral’ ones remained, ignoring the fact that most ancient Jews would not have recognized such a distinction.

    N. T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2005), 39–41.

    Matthew twice negates the view that Jesus came to annul the Law or the Prophets before he offers the alternative. ‘Fulfil’ must be taken in a manner that allows it to be an appropriate counterpart to ‘annul’. The chosen sense must also illuminate what is coming in 5:21–48: it is clear that Matthew is not simply reaffirming the status quo. Jesus is functioning in the role of teacher throughout this sermon (see 5:2 and the form of the material content of the sermon); so ‘to fulfil’ must focus primarily on what Jesus offers as a teacher. If this framework of constraints has been rightly constructed, then many of the proposed senses of ‘fulfil’ can be dismissed: to add to the Law; to replace the old Law with a new one which transcends it; to replace the Law with the spirit of love; to confirm the validity of the Law; to live out (perfectly) the requirements of the Law; to empower others to live out the Law’s demands; to fulfil the prophetic content of the Law and the Prophets.

    [T]he interest at 5:17 is clearly with the practical implementation of the directives of the Law (and the Prophets). The fulfilment language represents a claim that Jesus’ programmatic commitment, far from undercutting the role of the Law and the Prophets, is to enable God’s people to live out the Law more effectively. In and of itself the language lacks precision of content since in the first instance it has the function of emphatic denial. The sense in which the positive counterpart is to be understood gains in clarity only through the analysis of the antitheses to come. To anticipate, it would appear that Matthew holds that Jesus offered, in part by drawing on the insight of the Prophets, a new depth of insight into what the Law requires over against what he (Matthew) considered to be a general superficiality, a foreshortened perspective, in the reading of the Law.

    Nolland John, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NICGT, 2005, 218–219.

    So it’s more complex than most acknowledge. I did a series on this question beginning at http://oneinjesus.info/2015/06/how-to-study-the-bible-dispensations-covenants-and-god/. It’s a good series and will change your perspective on these questions pretty radically.

    That is, the framing story — the overall narrative of scripture — has to inform how we read a book like Matthew, which plainly tells us that Jesus came to “fulfill” the Law and not to repeal it — and yet also includes his announcement of the “new covenant” of Jer 31:31 ff at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The crucifixion, the resurrection, and the outpouring of the Spirit changed things. They didn’t repeal the Law but they forced the Law to be read in entirely new categories in entirely new ways.

    Thus, as I suggested in my comment to Nathan, Jesus was interpreting Torah, not making new law. And while some fulfillment of the Torah declares elements obsolete (the food laws, circumcision), other elements have to be re-read in light of God’s eternal purposes revealed in Jesus.

    But in the SOTM and Mat 19, Jesus isn’t reasoning from the Spirit and from the resurrection, etc. He is saying, “This is what these passages have always meant. You’ve misunderstood God, and so you’ve misunderstood these passages.” But Matthew includes these lessons in this Gospel because the essential truths remain vital for the church. Gen 2 hasn’t been repealed. People will still have hard hearts. Divorce may not be used as a clever legal dodge to ditch an old wife for a new one. Men must be monogamous (like women), and so may not shop for their next wife while still married to the first wife.

    On the other hand, Jesus was not saying that wives must remain married to abusive husbands. He is pointing us toward the Eschaton — the Second Coming — not hell on earth. Women don’t have to take beatings from their husbands, and if their husband puts them away by violating the marriage covenant, they may remarry — regardless of who files the papers.

    Even when the husband sins and dumps the first wife to remarry, even though he has sinned by breaking faith his first wife and by marrying the second wife — making it impossible to remarry his first wife — he is not outside of the realm of forgiveness. It’s not the unforgivable sin. It’s sin — and a particularly vile sin — but no worse than the sins David was forgiven of. But David genuinely repented. He understood the wrongness of his actions and was truly remorseful. And so he was forgiven.

    And his second child by Bathsheba was a kid named Solomon. God legitimated the marriage even though it was made in very black, ugly sin. Because David was genuinely remorseful.

    And the people who asked me the questions they asked were in the same category. They freely admitted their earlier sin. They wanted to know if God would forgive them of sin. The answer is found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son among many other places – especially the prophets. Remember how many times God forgave Israel of her sin.

  21. I’m not really interested in the civil law on this issue. I’m interested in understanding God’s will. A sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse is adultery. I don’t see the situation improving just because civil law permits you to get married.

    If I understand correctly, you’re saying that the marriages in Ezra 10 were void as a matter of law. Therefore, Ezra was correct in telling them to put away their spouses.

    An adulterous marriage is sin, but it not void as a matter of civil law. Therefore, there is no need to put away one’s spouse.

    Thus, you say that this marriage is fundamentally different than a homosexual union. Sexual intimacy between homosexuals is per se sinful (even if married under civil law[?]), whereas sexual intimacy between married heterosexuals is not (even if they have both been divorced multiple times and for a variety of reasons).

    I don’t mean to misrepresent. I think we may be speaking past one another.

  22. Nathan asked,

    Thus, you say that this marriage is fundamentally different than a homosexual union. Sexual intimacy between homosexuals is per se sinful (even if married under civil law[?]), whereas sexual intimacy between married heterosexuals is not (even if they have both been divorced multiple times and for a variety of reasons).

    US civil law is entirely irrelevant to the discussion. Jesus was discussing the law of Israel. Literally. Israel was a theocracy. The Law of Moses taught moral truths but it also had civil law — such as how to conduct trials. That is, the decision by the US Supreme Court tells us nothing about Torah or Christ and so says nothing about the rightness of a marriage. We must obey God rather than man.

    But Jesus lived in a world where politics, civil law, and moral law blended in a way that they do not today. It’s hard to fit our minds into the First Century Jewish thought categories and worldview.

    So homosexual marriage, under the Torah, would have been void — and made very void by prompt stoning until the Romans took over and prevented Jews from exercising capital punishment without Roman approval — not likely to happen for homosexual conduct — which the Romans either approved or tolerated.

    Nonetheless, clearly, in God’s eyes, a homosexual marriage in a nullity.

    But not all marriages made in sin are null. As just mentioned, God treated David’s marriage to Bathsheba as legitimate — so much so that their second child, Solomon, became king. Only legitimate heirs could take the throne. The marriage was sinful by any standard, but not void.

    Now the traditional view of MDR declares certain marriages void — without any scripture that so says. This is a CIVIL LAW CONCLUSION — which is contrary to Jewish civil law. Therefore, they are arguing that Jesus changed CIVIL LAW – meaning he repealed some of the Torah and legislated new Torah — exactly what he said he was NOT doing. But the old Scofield dispensational theory says Jesus repealed Torah, and so to a dispensationalist, this makes sense. But it’s dead wrong.

    Jesus did not repeal Torah and he didn’t come to make new law. I read old Church of Christ commentaries and tracts, and they speak of Jesus “legislating” — which is sheer presumption and ignores Jesus’ own words. They are working within the wrong narrative, the wrong framing story, the wrong understanding of the relationship of Jesus to the Torah and Prophets.

    Unfortunately, the correct understanding is a whole lot more complicated, but it’s enough to know that Jesus was plainly interpreting, not amending, the Torah. And that limits the range of possible results and his likely meaning in his choices of terms.

    And then we see that he speaks in point-in-time language, meaning that the sin he condemns is the divorce and perhaps the second marriage — not the sex that occurs in the second marriage. And he calls the marriage a “marriage” not a “false marriage” or a “void marriage.” And if Jesus says they’re divorced, they’re divorced, and if he says they’re married, they’re married.

    If he says not to put apart those things God has put together, then it’s possible to put them apart. HE’S NOT SPEAKING IN CIVIL LAW TERMS. He speaking in terms of what is right and what is wrong. And so he’s not creating legal fictions.

    If two people can’t stand each other, live three states apart, and have separate lives, they are not married — not in the Gen 2 sense (which is also the Jesus sense). There are no “legal separations” in Jewish or Roman law. And none in moral law. They are morally not married. Hence, one put the other away already. The court papers will declare as true in civil law what was already true in moral fact.

    And that putting away certainly involved sin by one party or the other. Someone sinned. Badly. And they may not put away spouse X in order to marry spouse Y. Deu 24 was not written to allow men to dump their wives to avoid charges of adultery. They commit adultery (break faith) when they put the first wife away. It’s sin — and a particularly pernicious kind.

    But it’s not unforgivable. Neither is it a loophole. Just as God’s forgiveness of David doesn’t make murder okay.

  23. (Part one)
    I see that the gross misunderstanding that has been very prevalent while reading Matthew 5:32 has not been addressed in these discussions. I see men claiming educational degrees M. A. in English which proves even they obviously read the text without properly diagramming the sentences. Some of the following translations have placed a different ending point into the first sentence which helps to keep the context together. But, the major problem here is not carefully reading the text.
    I’ll state this conclusion if mine so you ‘all can discuss and decipher it to be factual or not.
    When a man divorces (or puts away) his wife, in that action he causes (makes) her to commit adultery. The scripture does not accuse the wife of anything. The wife has not committed the adultery; the husband who divorced her made her an adulterer. She is an adulterer even though she does not have any contact with another man. If she lived the rest of her life without remarrying she is still an adulterer. The husband who put her away (divorced) her does not cause her to have sex with or cause her to marry another man. Marrying another man causes him to become an adulterer because of her status. Jesus modified what was in The Law. Notice (Part Two).

    Matthew 5:32

    (ABP+) But IG1473 G1161 sayG3004 to youG1473 that,G3754 WhoG3739 everG302 should dismissG630 G3588 his wife,G1135 G1473 except forG3924 the matterG3056 of harlotry,G4202 makesG4160 herG1473 to commit adultery.G3429 AndG2532 whoG3739 everG1437 [2a woman being divorcedG630 1should marry]G1060 commits adultery.G3429
    (ASV) but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.
    (BBE) But I say to you that everyone who puts away his wife for any other cause but the loss of her virtue, makes her false to her husband; and whoever takes her as his wife after she is put away, is no true husband to her.
    (CEV) But I tell you not to divorce your wife unless she has committed some terrible sexual sin. If you divorce her, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man’s wife.
    (DRB) But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.
    (ERV) But I tell you that any man who divorces his wife, except for the problem of sexual sin, is causing his wife to be guilty of adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman is guilty of adultery.
    (ESV) 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.
    (GNB) But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also.
    (GW) But I can guarantee that any man who divorces his wife for any reason other than unfaithfulness makes her look as though she has committed adultery. Whoever marries a woman divorced in this way makes himself look as though he has committed adultery.
    (ISV) But I say to you, any man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
    (KJV) But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
    (KJV+) ButG1161 IG1473 sayG3004 unto you,G5213 ThatG3754 whosoeverG3739 G302 shall put awayG630 hisG848 wife,G1135 saving forG3924 the causeG3056 of fornication,G4202 causethG4160 herG846 to commit adultery:G3429 andG2532 whosoeverG3739 G1437 shall marryG1060 her that is divorcedG630 committeth adultery.G3429
    (LEB) But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for a matter of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    (LITV) But I say to you, Whoever puts away his wife, apart from a matter of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry the one put away commits adultery.
    (MKJV) But I say to you that whoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who is put away commits adultery.
    (RV) but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.
    (YLT) but I–I say to you, that whoever may put away his wife, save for the matter of whoredom, doth make her to commit adultery; and whoever may marry her who hath been put away doth commit adultery.

    I believe that there is a misunderstanding about the definition of adultery which we normally apply to this passage. I do not know of another passage in scripture which applies the identity of adulterer (for the balance of her life) to any woman who has been divorced by her husband. I also do not know of a passage of scripture which would identify how the woman could ever be separated from that identity. This is something which was done to her by her husband.

  24. (Part Two)
    Deu 24:1-2 ASV When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (2) And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
    Deu 24:1-2 BBE If a man takes a wife, and after they are married she is unpleasing to him because of some bad quality in her, let him give her a statement in writing and send her away from his house. (2) And when she has gone away from him, she may become another man’s wife.
    Deu 24:3-4 Brenton And if any one should take a wife, and should dwell with her, then it shall come to pass if she should not have found favour before him, because he has found some unbecoming thing in her, that he shall write for her a bill of divorcement, and give it into her hands, and he shall send her away out of his house. (4) And if she should go away and be married to another man;
    Deu 24:1-2 CEV Suppose a woman was divorced by her first husband because he found something disgraceful about her. He wrote out divorce papers, gave them to her, and sent her away. (2) Later she married another man,
    Deu 24:1-2 DRB If a man take a wife, and have her, and she find not favour in his eyes, for some uncleanness: he shall write a bill of divorce, and shall give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (2) And when she is departed, and marrieth another husband,
    Deu 24:1-2 ERV “A man might marry a woman, and then find some secret thing about her that he does not like. If that man is not pleased with her, he must write the divorce papers and give them to her. Then he must send her from his house. (2) When she has left his house, she may go and become another man’s wife.
    Deu 24:1-2 ESV “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, (2) and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife,
    Deu 24:1-2 GNB “Suppose a man marries a woman and later decides that he doesn’t want her, because he finds something about her that he doesn’t like. So he writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home. (2) Then suppose she marries another man,
    Deu 24:1-2 GW This is what you must do if a husband writes out a certificate of divorce, gives it to his wife, and makes her leave his house. (He divorced her because he found out something indecent about her and she no longer pleased him.) (2) She might marry another man after she leaves his house.
    Deu 24:1-2 ISV “If a man chooses to enter into marriage with a woman, but she finds herself displeasing to him because he has found something objectionable about her, he must draw up divorce papers, hand them to her, and then send her out of his house. (2) If she goes out from his house, becomes the wife of another man,
    Deu 24:1-2 JPS When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it cometh to pass, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he writeth her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house, (2) and she departeth out of his house, and goeth and becometh another man’s wife,
    Deu 24:1-2 KJV When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (2) And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
    Deu 24:1-2 LITV When a man has taken a wife and married her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found a thing of uncleanness in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; (2) and if she goes out from his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife,
    Deu 24:1-2 MKJV When a man has taken a wife and married her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her, then let him write her a bill of divorce and put it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (2) And when she has departed from his house, she goes and becomes another man’s;
    Deu 24:1-2 RV When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (2) And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
    Deu 24:1-2 YLT `When a man doth take a wife, and hath married her, and it hath been, if she doth not find grace in his eyes (for he hath found in her nakedness of anything), and he hath written for her a writing of divorce, and given it into her hand, and sent her out of his house, (2) and she hath gone out of his house, and hath gone and been another man’s,

    Any woman who was divorced in The Law of Moses was free to be married to another man. She was not labeled as an adulterer. Whoever married her was not identified as an adulterer. It is almost certain in my mind that this text of Deut. 24 was preparatory to establish that no man could remarry a divorced wife after she had married another man. Exactly, the opposite of what was being taught by men teaching what they called The Traditional MDR.
    Did Jesus change this concept in his statement in Matthew 5:32 or does it contain a different definition than is being applied?

  25. Now, for the story in Ezra. The scriptures plainly state that there were Jews who had married foreign wives. The Law did not allow for a Jew to marry them. Did the Law keep that from happening? Well the Law also forbids many other sins; murder, thievery, adultery and the list goes on. So are those also impossible to do because they were forbidden? Of course not, why would anyone believe than that the marriages were also not possible? I would have to guess than that God would have identified that they were just shacking up and producing children. Was that allowed in Israel? Folks these were true marriages and they were producing children and not only were they to put away their foreign wives they were also to send the children away. Divorce the complete family that was created. All were part of the desecration of Israel’s lineage. There cannot be a linkage of these instructions into MDR in the NT, there is nothing mentioned in NT to break up a marriage, instructions or examples, even including a polygamous marriage. Could you believe that there were no polygamous marriages in any parts of the world in which the Gospel was taught in the First Century?

  26. Larry Cheek writes:

    I see that the gross misunderstanding that has been very prevalent while reading Matthew 5:32 has not been addressed in these discussions. I see men claiming educational degrees M. A. in English which proves even they obviously read the text without properly diagramming the sentences. Some of the following translations have placed a different ending point into the first sentence which helps to keep the context together. But, the major problem here is not carefully reading the text.
    I’ll state this conclusion if mine so you ‘all can discuss and decipher it to be factual or not.
    When a man divorces (or puts away) his wife, in that action he causes (makes) her to commit adultery. The scripture does not accuse the wife of anything. The wife has not committed the adultery; the husband who divorced her made her an adulterer. She is an adulterer even though she does not have any contact with another man. If she lived the rest of her life without remarrying she is still an adulterer. The husband who put her away (divorced) her does not cause her to have sex with or cause her to marry another man. Marrying another man causes him to become an adulterer because of her status. Jesus modified what was in The Law.

    I suspect the gross misunderstanding is yours, Larry. Jesus said a number of things which, if taken literally, would make no sense. He called Peter Satan. Are we to suppose that Peter became Satan? He said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have not part in Him. So I guess you and I are out of luck (unless you found some mummified remains). In Matthew 19 Jesus says that if a man divorces his wife AND marries another woman, he commits adultery. So, if a woman merely divorces her husband, she commits adultery, but a man has to remarry for that to be so. Is Jesus confused or a sexist? The obvious resolution to this discrepancy is that, in that time, it was understood a woman would remarry once divorced. Why? Because, unlike Carly Fiorina, she could not have been a secretary, manager or CEO. Nor could she have gone to Stanford and MIT.

    I really shouldn’t have to explain this here…

  27. Jay writes:

    There is no reference to Matt 5:31-32 in the .pdf and I’m not going to read a 20-page article on the aorist tense to guess at your point. If you have an argument to make from that article, please make it. If your point is that the experts like to argue about the nuances of NT Greek, they like to argue about everything.orist tense to guess at your point. If you have an argument to make from that article, please make it.

    You made this assertion:

    The Greek verbs are aorist or take that time action from adjacent aorist verbs, meaning that “commits adultery” and “makes her commit adultery” speak not of ongoing sexual relations but a single, point in time event — the remarriage.

    As if aorist verb tenses all unquestionably denote punctiliar action. The article I linked to argues just the opposite, with a considerable amount of scriptural and lexicographical evidence. That was my point.

  28. Jay writes:

    Thus, as I suggested in my comment to Nathan, Jesus was interpreting Torah, not making new law. And while some fulfillment of the Torah declares elements obsolete (the food laws, circumcision), other elements have to be re-read in light of God’s eternal purposes revealed in Jesus.

    So I think I understand your viewpoint now. I agree with some of what you say, but not other things. I really am not sure how you square statements like the one above with these verses (to cite but a couple):

    “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. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

    “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

    Jesus issued commandments not found in the Torah or prophets. We are clearly expected to obey them. I am not sure if any linguistic gymnastics are going to get around these facts. It’s like you are asking me who I am going to believe – you or my lying eyes? 😉

  29. In an earlier response, Jay writes:

    But the traditional view is that man CANNOT separate what God has joined together — a marriage cannot dissolved, except for fornication. You are bound by the marriage until you or your spouse dies or commits fornication.

    I didn’t catch this earlier, but upon re-reading what you wrote above, I think this is wrong. The “traditional” view is not a married couple cannot separate, but that they cannot remarry. Isn’t that exactly (as I alluded to in a previous post) what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11?

    But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

    Now, I have always thought that this only applies to believers from the point of their conversion onward and not to previous marriages while unbelievers. Why? In part because of Jesus’ behavior toward the Samaritan woman in John 4, who had been married 5 times and was currently cohabiting with a man. In part because Paul says we are not to judge those outside the church, but those inside it.

  30. Nathan writes:

    Call me a heartless legalist or condescend to me as if I’m a moron. It’s annoying, but I can take it. I’m not certain that I’m right. In fact, I hope I’m not. However, I remain unconvinced by the alternative presented so far. It seems a well-intended yet tortuous effort to soften God’s expectations so that we can live more comfortably in this sinful world.

    I’m about where you are, my friend. The example from Ezra is instructive. Marriage, because it is an ongoing relationship, is not like a singular sin. It is a condition, from which sin may continually ensue. Paul says that believers should not be unevenly yoked, which is often applied to marriage. Solomon married foreign wives and wound up doing evil in the eyes of the Lord – hard to believe for the author of Ecclesiastes. If Paul finds parallels to what he teaches in the OT, why should anyone dismiss Ezra 10 out of hand with regard to marriage or Matthew 5 or 19?

  31. Christopher writes,

    I didn’t catch this earlier, but upon re-reading what you wrote above, I think this is wrong. The “traditional” view is not a married couple cannot separate, but that they cannot remarry. Isn’t that exactly (as I alluded to in a previous post) what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11?

    The traditional view is that the reason the divorced spouse cannot remarry is that she is STILL MARRIED to the first spouse, the original marriage being indissolvable.

    Some hold that the innocent spouse may remarry while others hold that neither may remarry.

    In the first instance, they hold that God binds the guilty spouse to the marriage but releases the innocent spouse from the marriage.

    Now, I have always thought that this only applies to believers from the point of their conversion onward and not to previous marriages while unbelievers. Why? In part because of Jesus’ behavior toward the Samaritan woman in John 4, who had been married 5 times and was currently cohabiting with a man. In part because Paul says we are not to judge those outside the church, but those inside it.

    But Jesus reasons from Genesis 2. How is Genesis 2 only binding on Christians? Aren’t we all descended from Adam and Eve? Gen 2 seems to be about God’s will for humans, not Christians — many years in the future.

    I like your conclusion and I like your rationales, but I don’t think you can get from the rationales to the conclusions. After all, once a couple converts, they are no longer outsiders and so they are subject to the church’s judgment under 1 Cor 5:12-13.

    Jesus’ statements to the Samaritan woman are just like Matt 19. He says that those put away are no longer married and when they marry someone else, they are married to that person.

  32. Christopher,

    “Love one another” is a kainos command, not a neos command. In Greek, esp. in the NT, neos means “brand new.” But for the new covenant, the new command, the new creation, and the new heavens and new earth, the NT writers use kainos, meaning renewed or refreshed. The new command is new in the same sense that I became a new creation when I was baptized. I wasn’t remade ex nihilo (from nothing). I was cleansed, renewed, restored, transformed, regenerated — but it’s still me.

    Just so, “Love one another” is a corollary of “Love your neighbor.” What makes it kainos is the standard — “as I have loved you.” Jesus makes the old command new by revealing what was always there (I’ll get there).

    Just so, notice —

    (Rom. 13:8-9 ESV) 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Notice how Paul equates “love each other” with “love your neighbor.”

    (Rom. 13:14 ESV) 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

    But, of course, we must love how we love when we put on Jesus.

    Now, we could profitably spend a LOT of time in the OT searching through the need to be like God and what that meant in Torah and the Prophets, but maybe this is enough to make the point: Jesus was interpreting the Torah, not enacting new (neos) laws. But, of course, Jesus was so close to God that his re-interpretation fulfilled, transformed, renewed, restored the Law in amazing, unexpected ways.

    See also —

    (2 Jn. 1:5 ESV) 5 And now I ask you, dear lady- – not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning — that we love one another.

    (In John’s writing, “beginning” takes us Gen 1 in some sense. He uses the same word. We can debate how he is looking back to Gen 1, but he borrows the word from the LXX Gen 1:1.)

    A new precept I give to you, that you keep loving each other just as I loved you, that you, too, keep loving each other. By ἐντολή Jesus means a precept, a behest, einen Auftrag, not a legal command after the order of Moses; see 14:15. It is “new,” καινή, as regards the old legal requirements, not νέα, as never having existed before. Many features of this newness have been pointed out, differentiating the precept of Jesus from the old law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” which reaches out to all men, even to our enemies. But it is best to abide by the newness which Jesus himself points out: that you keep loving each other “just as I loved you.” Jesus makes all things new. The newness Jesus has in mind is not strange and startling to the disciples, it has a familiar and a pleasant mien. Jesus has brought a new love into the world, a love that is not only faultless and perfect as love but one that is intelligently bent on salvation for the one loved. Only the disciples know from Jesus what this love is, only they have enjoyed the experience of his love; hence this precept is for them alone—it would be useless to give it to the world. So also this love is to be for “each other” in the circle of the disciples. It cannot be otherwise, because the tie that binds the disciples of Jesus is a thing apart and cannot include others. Just as Jesus loves his “little children,” and there is an intimate exchange of love between him and them, so it is with regard to the exchange of love between these “little children” themselves.

    R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 959–960.

    Lenski, as is so often the case, puts his finger on what most people miss: this not really a command. Jesus doesn’t love his disciples because he is commanded to do so. He loves them because he knows them so well. He loves them because he is like God. He loves them because it’s his nature to love. Therefore, his love is pure and unfeigned.

    If we love others solely because of a command, then we really “love” out of fear for ourselves — and we really just love ourselves. If I help the poor and give all that I possess and even give my body to the flames to earn a place in heaven, I just love me. But by the power of the Spirit, I can love the way Jesus loves. And this is in fulfillment of Deu 30:6 — which is part of the (are you ready for it?) Torah.

    So it’s the furthest thing from repealing a law and re-enacting a new law. It’s fulfillment of Torah. It’s other cool stuff, too. It also points us to the life we’ll life in the new heavens and new earth. Many things that all coalesce here.

  33. Even a lawyer of the Jews testified from the teaching of the Law.
    Luk 10:25-28 ESV And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (26) He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (27) And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (28) And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
    I don’t believe that it would possible to love your, “neighbor as yourself”, and not “love one another”. Who could define the dividing difference?

  34. Christopher,
    Should we conclude that if a statement from Jesus which we could not understand we can just ignore?
    This statement has not helped in any way to understand what Jesus was saying. “I suspect the gross misunderstanding is yours, Larry. Jesus said a number of things which, if taken literally, would make no sense.”
    I was really believing that this passage as it is written is so much a foreign concept from any of the like messages on the subject, including even some moral actions in a relationship of discrediting the character of a human human being. The action described would be similar to labeling a man or woman as a murderer who has never killed a human and is never tried for the crime, but is forever labeled by humanity. Something is very wrong with the statement. Are the translators wrong on their interpretation of the text, or are we applying a wrong definition to the word in this context? Is there another concept which should be applied even from the word adulterer?

  35. Larry,

    The scriptures are not written like a modern academic text, defining terms and attempting to remove any possible confusion in the reader. That is what makes it hard to interpret them today – we are not used to that. For instance, the gospels give us three different accounts of women going to Jesus’ tomb – one says three women went, one says two women went and the third says one woman went. We would not do that today. Since these accounts fo not say x number of women went and no more or less, these accounts are not logically inconsistent. But they sure make it difficult to understand at times.

    Yes, Jesus’ said in Matthew 5 that divorce is adultery. But he said remarriage is adultery in Matthew 19. Now that is an apparent logical contradiction. Either he is lying, confused or speaking figuratively. Jesus calling divorce adultery is, at least for a woman in those times who would almost certainly remarry, is an example of a synedoche – using a part to refer to the whole (like saying ABCs for the alphabet). That’s how I interpret it, anyway.

    I hope this helps. My apologies for reacting badly to what I read as something like a personal attack.

  36. Of course, a fourth possibility, Larry, is that Jesus is actually treating men and women differently by saying that the one is committing divorce upon remarriage and the other upon being divorced. You write:

    When a man divorces (or puts away) his wife, in that action he causes (makes) her to commit adultery. The scripture does not accuse the wife of anything. The wife has not committed the adultery; the husband who divorced her made her an adulterer. She is an adulterer even though she does not have any contact with another man. If she lived the rest of her life without remarrying she is still an adulterer. The husband who put her away (divorced) her does not cause her to have sex with or cause her to marry another man. Marrying another man causes him to become an adulterer because of her status. Jesus modified what was in The Law.

    Since the wife has not presumably had sexual relations upon being divorced, Jesus must be speaking metaphorically. I am not sure why you think Jesus might call her an adulterer when she has not committed adultery, even metaphorically. Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, which they literally were not. But they were, by their actions, dead men walking who appeared holy. So we understand why He used that metaphor. But I can’t see the sense in calling divorced women adulterers. If you can, let’s hear your explanation.

  37. Folks back then saw things differently between men and women as we do now.
    Reverse the actions to a woman committing adultery against her husband and see the outcome differently.

  38. You guys push the study of the Bible to such a higher level, so far and so deep, it is just awesome. Nothing like my Bible classes. Blessed to know this website. Thank you.