Loose Language on Loosing

By Harry Osbourne

In his first article, brother Wilson affirmed that the word “loosed” in 1 Corinthians 7:27b means “divorced.” He put no qualifications on the statement and even cast doubt as to whether Matthew 5:32 restricted the issue. He then concluded that Paul specifically authorized both parties in a divorce to marry another spouse because he concludes neither is bound by God.

Though our brother’s second article has not clearly stated his conclusion nor shown how far the consequences will carry him, one of his views is obvious. He is trying to argue for the equal right of the “innocent party” and the put-away fornicator to marry another spouse following a divorce for the cause of fornication. However, brother Wilson does not answer how he resolves the resulting dilemma. Either he must accept that the put-away fornicator has a right to marry another while denying the same right to those divorced for a cause other than fornication, or he must accept the right of all divorced people to marry another regardless of the cause for their divorce (whether alien sinner or Christian). Whichever route he chooses, he has not proven his point in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. To prove his point, brother Wilson must show us three things from this text:

1. He must prove that those “loosed” in 1 Corinthians 7:27b were previously married. As shown in my first article, the overwhelming weight of the evidence suggests that it addressed those not previously married (Alford, H.A.W. Meyer, A. Barnes, F. Fisher, et. al.). However, if he proves this point beyond doubt, he is not through with his work.

2. He must prove that those “loosed” in 1 Corinthians 7:27b were divorced. He cannot simply say they may have been divorced. Proof of his position demands more than a possibility that it could have been the way he imagines it. For instance, he must exclude the possibility that the text is dealing with those free from the marital bond due to the death of their mate. Our brother gives several quotations from writers who devastate his point by affirming the ones under consideration were “loosed” by the death of their mate (e.g. C.F. Kling, A.T. Robertson, W. Robertson Nicoll, William F. Orr and James a. Walther).

3. He must prove that those “loosed” in 1 Corinthians 7:27b included put-away fornicators (and those divorced for a cause other than fornication if he carries his argument to its logical end). This will be especially difficult for our brother since put-away fornicators are not mentioned in the entire chapter much less this verse.

If brother Wilson would like to engage in further discussions to prove these points, I would be more than happy to participate in such a forum. If he cannot prove these three points from the text, he has found no authority for the guilty party to marry another and he will not allow open scrutiny of his position through further discussion. If he can prove these points, he will readily engage in discussion to show the right of put-away fornicators to marry another spouse. We will see which path he chooses.

Use of Scholarly Sources

All of us must be careful to avoid misrepresentation in our citations of scholarly sources. We should all learn to look at the writer’s statement in context and quote him in a way which fairly states his views. I am sure that brother Wilson meant to do this with his quotations, but an evaluation of his sources in context shows that a number were misused. For instance, our brother quoted Arndt and Gingrich commenting on luo as follows:

2. set free, loose, untie – a. lit. a person, animal or thing that is bound or tied: . . . b. fig. free, set free, release . . . are you free from a wife, i.e. not bound to a wife? 1 Cor. 7:27.

However, the sentence does not stop there as the period in brother Wilson’s citation suggests. The very next words used after the Scripture citation are “a previous state of being ‘bound’ need not be assumed.” The lexicon then goes on to refer to quotations in which the same word is used in literature of the same time to simply mean “free” or 6 ‘unrestrained” without reference to a state of previous bondage or restraint (Arndt & Gingrich 483). The part of the quotation omitted by brother Wilson makes a significant difference in our understanding of the writer’s point, He was directly refuting the view held by brother Wilson!

The quotation used from Frederic L. Godet is another example of the same incomplete use of the writer’s material. Our brother excerpts the sentence, “If one were to take the term lelusai, art thou loosed, in the strictness of the letter, it would apply only to widowers and those divorced.” However, brother Wilson fails to include the very next sentence where Godet adds, “But the context proves that, as Origen had already understood it, the word here signifies in general: If thou art free from bond, and that it refers also to celibates” (Commentary on First Corinthians 373). Though brother Wilson did not intend to misrepresent this source, the editing of the quotation would tend to leave a false impression regarding Godet’s position.

The quotation used from Mike Wilson’s chapter on 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 connected two sentences separated by four paragraphs omitting an extended section which detailed the use of luo in the perfect tense. As a matter of fact, Mike Wilson’s article was written to refute the very arguments made by brother Don Wilson. I believe a fair use of Mike Wilson’s material would include an acknowledgement of these facts.

Similar problems can be found in other citations used by our brother in his second article. I urge the reader to examine the other sources quoted. The only scholars cited which obviously support brother Wilson’s view are Colin Brown and Guy Duty. In their comments, they also clearly extend the right to marry another spouse to all divorced people regardless of the cause for their divorce. The overwhelming majority of respected scholarship supports the fact that lelusai, “loosed,” does not imply a previous marriage. That point is so obvious that brother Wilson did not even try to deny it. His view came from modern attempts to justify the practice of multiplied marriages in our society!

Brother Wilson’s use of James McKnight was especially interesting to me. McKnight has two columns in his commentary. At the beginning of each chapter, one is labeled “New Translation” and the other is labeled “Commentary.” Brother Wilson has quoted the column labeled “Commentary” and represented it as the literal translation of 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. McKnight admits that the idea of a “second wife” is his own addition to the original wording and has no basis from the Greek. It is no more a literal translation than is the Living Bible!

In a discussion of differences between brethren, it is helpful if both parties examine the points of the other. I have tried to meet my obligation in this regard. Brother Wilson has not attempted to answer the arguments made. Notice the following summary of the arguments made in my first article, but ignored by our brother:

1. The contradiction between brother Wilson and our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 5:32.

2. The use of lelusai by ancient Greeks in reference to “unbound things” without implying any previous bondage.

3. The context of 1 Corinthians 7 showing Paul’s advice was given to those never married.

4. The declaration by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 which shows two people may be divorced, but not have a right to marry another.

5. The establishment of a pattern regarding divorce and remarriage by considering the sum of truth declared in the Word of God which would include the conditions stated in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:3-10.

6. The use of the word “except” in Matthew 19:9 and other passages to express the essentiality of meeting the given condition which follows.

7. The divine authority for the innocent party to marry another found in the necessary inference of Matthew 19:9.

Why did our brother overlook these points? Does he not think it necessary to examine conflicting evidence? Does he not have confidence in the answers he might give?

I appreciate brother Wilson’s participation in this series. My prayer is that he will engage in a more complete discussion of the issues regarding divorce and remarriage in an effort to unite on God’s truth. May God bless all of us with hearts which are tender to the truth and open to discussions with one another.

Brethren, this issue can be resolved. The truth of God’s word on this issue can and must be understood (Eph. 5:17). Unity can be achieved if we will only let our thoughts and speech be limited to the revealed truth as we submit ourselves to God’s will in proper attitudes toward one another (Eph. 4:1-3). Let us pray that such a spirit may characterize each of us.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 468-469
August 1, 1991