August 18, 2017

Is the Text Ambiguous?

By Connie W Adams

We are being told by men of considerable knowledge and influence that the text of Matthew 19:9 is too ambiguous for any of us to be dogmatic about it. Others have reminded us that men of scholarship have taken at least five different positions on the passage. What that is sup-posed to prove escapes me. Men reputed as scholars have taken different views on baptism, music in worship, the nature, work and organization of the church, and a host of other things.

Scholars have been known to grind personal axes. Commentators have been known to do a pretty good job with many passages only to lose their objectivity when some passage militates against one of their theological sacred cows. Then watch out!

The church at Corinth was instructed to "deliver unto Satan" the fornicator in its midst. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:1-13). Before they could do that they had to be able to deter-mine what a fornicator actually is. In verse one Paul said this man "had his father's wife." He had a woman he had no right to have. That made him a fornicator. Paul knew what to do about it and taught them the same thing. We do not know if the woman's husband was churlish or genteel. Was he much older than she and not able to gratify her sexual appetites? Had she and her husband's son established a "meaningful relationship"? Could they both repent of the sin, then have the woman get a divorce so they could marry and live happily ever after while the brother then enjoyed the fellowship of the church at Corinth? Have I missed something here? Was the matter ambiguous to Paul? When he got through writing them what is found in chapter 5, was it ambiguous to them? The evidence from the second letter is that they clearly understood what he wrote and attended to the matter so completely that Paul then wrote them urging them to accept his repentance.

The family is generally considered the foundation of all orderly society. It was designed by God for the blessedness of mankind. Upon the basis of stable, godly families the fate of nations hangs, to say nothing of the welfare of the church. The general rule is that if a woman marries another man while her husband lives, she "shall be called an adulteress" but if he is dead she "shall not be called an adulteress" even though "married to another man" (Rom. 7:1-4). I believe I understand that. Do you?

Now, Matthew 19:9 says, "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery." Now whence come the ambiguity? Well, maybe it is the word "whosoever" for surely that does not include an alien sinner. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). Does that include the alien? Well, yes, but you see ... Yes, I see all right. Someone has an axe to grind on Matthew 19:9 but not on Revevelation 22:17.

"Shall put away his wife." Is that the cause of the uncertainty?

"Except it be for fornication." Here is the exception to the general rule stated in Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18 and Romans 7:1-4. Jesus said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John. 3:3). If that "except" is ambiguous then none of us can be assured of entering the kingdom.

"And shall marry another." Is that the area of ambiguity? Here is a man who puts away his wife and marries another. Do you get that? I think I do.

"Committeth adultery." If I did not know better I would surely think the Lord was telling us that a man who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery! "Except it (the putting away) be for fornication."

"Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." Any man who puts away his wife (except for fornication) and marries another commits adultery and whoever marries one who is put away commits adultery.

Pray tell, where is the ambiguity? You know it sounds just like the Lord said, "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." Now, brethren, you just can't make Romans 14 elastic enough to justify either the one who puts away his wife (except for fornication) or the one who marries the one who is put away.

Since the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, then whose fault is it if something as serious as adultery and the stability of the marriage union is in doubt because of ambiguity? If one or ten thousand scholars take other views than what the Holy Spirit guided Matthew to write, then we would do well to ignore them and stick with what the text says.

Too ambiguous for any of us to be dogmatic! What next?

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 20, p. 3-4
October 17, 1996

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