Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (2)

By Mike Willis

Last week we made some preliminary observations regarding our need for studying the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. We showed -that in many respects the society in which one lives determines the moral standard which he preaches. Of course, the scriptures demand that this not occur with reference to Christianity. Following that, we introduced the statement of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 19 and in Mark 10 to show what Jesus taught on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. In the first article, we presented the Jewish background from which this question was asked to make the observation that in many respects it was very similar to the way of life accepted in the twentieth century. Hence, the answer to the question which Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”, is one which should be determinative for what we should teach as on marriage, divorce and remarriage in today’s society.

In Jesus’ answer, last week we noticed that he referred the Jews to the original record of creation in Genesis 2. The fact that God made one man for one woman shows His divine approval of the marriage relationship and His intention that they live together for life. Hence, Jesus’ answer was that it was not lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause. When this reply was understood to give that answer, the Jews then asked Jesus regarding Moses’ allowance of divorce. Hence, let us turn to notice Jesus’ reply to the question asked about Moses allowing divorce.

The Commandment of Moses

When the Jews heard Jesus say what He had said, they immediately questioned Him regarding the commandment of Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-3. They asked Him why Moses allowed a divorce to be given if this was God’s original intention. Let us look at the Deuteronomy 24 passage and consider it in light of what Jesus said. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 reads as follows:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor 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. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another’s man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

A reading of this passage demonstrates that Moses was trying to legislate in such a way as to aid the woman because of the manner in which man was abusing her. According to what I can understand was happening in the days of Moses, a man would put away his wife without any concern for her future. She would not be free to go out and marry another man and yet she could not live with her husband. This left her in destitute circumstances quite frequently. Hence, what Moses was trying to legislate was something that would aid women who had been put away by their husbands.

The Mosaical legislation said that if a man was going to put away his wife, he had to give her a bill of divorcement that showed that she was free from him and had the opportunity to remarry. Hence, it was designed to protect the women from the harsh treatment husbands were giving to them. You can therefore understand why Jesus said, “Moses because of the hardness of your heart suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). Moses gave this legislation because of the hardness of heart which the Jews had and the manner in which they were treating their women. What Jesus was doing was reaffirming God’s original pattern of one man married to one woman for life.

Jesus’ Law

The law of Jesus is recorded in both Matthew and Mark.

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 which is put away doth commit adultery (Matt. 19:9).

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery (Mark 10:11-12).

The law which Jesus gave seems to be abundantly clear, although several have clouded the issue by their unwillingness to accept the plain statements of scripture. Let us notice that law at this time.

1. “Whosoever shall put away his wife . . . and marry another committeth adultery. ” I have purposely left out the exception clause in order that we might get the general statement of Jesus. Jesus’ law is that marriage is to last for a lifetime. This is in perfect harmony with the rest of the teaching of scripture on this subject. Compare the following verses.

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man (Rom. 7:1-3).

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

This passage teaches that the man who divorces and marries again commits adultery.

Adultery needs to be properly defined in order to be understood. The word is translated from the Greek word moicheuo. Moicheuo means “to commit adultery, have unlawful intercourse with another’s wife” (Thayer, p. 417). One needs to be sure that he has totally grasped the definition of adultery. I say this because some are redefining adultery to fit their preconceived ideas regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. Adultery is to have sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s wife. It is not the breaking of the marriage covenant. Some people have tried to imply that adultery is simply the breaking of the first marriage. Hence, what Jesus is condemning according to this view, is the act of divorcing. Although the act of divorcing might or might not be sinful (that is a totally different subject than what we are discussing), what Jesus means when He says “commits adultery” is “to have a sexual relationship with someone other than one’s divinely authorized mate.” Hence, what Jesus says is this: whenever one divorces his wife and marries another, every time that he has a sexual relationship with that person, he has committed the act of adultery! 2. “Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. ” This is the second part of Jesus’ law. The marriage relationship is so holy in God’s sight and so permanent that men and women separating for reasons unauthorized of God are not freed from those vows; consequently, any subsequent marriage is not recognized by God as being legitimate. Hence, both parties in a divorce that occurs for some reason other than the one exception which Jesus allowed are bound to their original marriage covenant. Either one of them who remarries is guilty of adultery in that relationship. Hence, if the husband put away the wife because she burnt the toast, neither the wife nor the husband can marry again without committing adultery. They are bound to each other in the sight of God and are obligated to remain separate or be reconciled with their mate (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

3. Jesus allowed one exception to this law. He said, “Except it be for fornication.” In cases in which one party commits fornication against the other party, the innocent party has the God-given right to put away his mate and marry again.

There are some who treat these words as if they were not there. They teach that it is always sinful for a remarriage to occur even in the event that fornication is the cause of the divorce. If that were so, there would have been no reason for Jesus to have said “except it be for fornication.” By these very words, Jesus granted the right of the innocent to put away his fornicating mate in order to marry again.

Analyzing The Verse

Because there has been a good bit of controversy over Matthew 19:9, let us give rather extensive analysis of the relationship of the parts of this verse. The reading of the text in English and in Greek are put side by side.

lego de humin hoti hos an And I say unto you,

apoluse ten gunaika autou me Whosoever shall put away his

epi porneia kai gamese allen wife, except it be for fornication,

moichatai (kai ho and marry another, committeth

apolelumenen gamesas adultery; and whoso

moichatai). marrieth her which is put away

doth commit adultery (Matt. 19:9).

You will notice from the very outset that the last phrase of the text (kai ho apolelumenen gamesas moichatai) is in parenthesis indicating that there is some question about whether it belongs in the text or not. Before analyzing the relationship of the parts of the sentence, we ought to, first of all, set aside the question of whether or not it actually belongs in the text. The text used by the United Bible Society is in favor of deleting this, although it gives it a “C” rating on a scale of “A” through “D,” with “A” representing the best text. I am unable to understand exactly just why this reading is given. However, the texts which favor omitting this phrase are as follows:

1. Aleph. This is a fourth century text.

2. C. This fifth century uncial text has been corrected by at least three different subsequent readers. The third corrector of this text marked that this should be deleted as well. Hence, this fifth century text has been cited in favor of the omission, although we do not know the date of the corrector who marked that it should be omitted.

3. D. This fifth to sixth century text also omits this reading.

4. L. This is an eighth century text.

The only other texts to delete this important phrase are 1241 (a twelfth century minuscule text) and 1546 (a thirteenth century minuscule text).

In contrast to those which omit this phrase, the following texts have the phrase in one form or the other. (I mean by that, that there are some variant readings among the texts that do support including the phrase although they agree in the fact that the text should be included.) They are as follows:

1. P25. This is a fourth century papyrus manuscript.

2. B. Codex Vaticanus is a fourth-century uncial text of high respect.

3. C. The original writer of Codex C includes the phrase as well.

The list of less important uncial and minuscule texts which include this reading are as follows: K, W, Delta, Theta, Pi, 28, 700, 892, 1071, 1242, 1344, 1365, 1646, 2148, 2174, 078, 33, 565, 1009, 1010, 1079, 1195, 1230, 1253, 1216. Any one can see that the evidence in favor of this text is considerably greater than that which opposes it.

I think the quotation of the famed German commentator, Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer needs to be inserted at this point. Meyer said that these words “are deleted by Tischendorf 8 following C, D, L, S, Aleph, . . . . But there is preponderating evidence in favor of the words and the homoeoteleuton might readily enough be the occasion of their omission. Moreover, there is no parallel passage verbally identical with this.” Hence, Meyer’s comment is that the preponderant evidence is in favor of including the phrase in question in the text. In light of the evidence cited in the United Bible Society text and in opposition to their suggested reading, I conclude that the text should read as presented in the Authorized Version.

All of this discussion about whether or not kai ho apolelumenen gamesas moichatai is part of the original text is rather academic when all is said and done. If these words do not belong in Matthew 19:9, they are nevertheless still contained in Matthew 5:32. As a matter of fact, the primary reason that the phrase is considered an interpolation by textual critics is the supposition that the scribes copying the verse inserted it from the parallel statement in Matthew 5:32. Hence, whether the phrase should be accepted because it appears in Matthew 5:32 or because it appears in Matthew 19:9, is immaterial. If it appears in the Bible in any place, men are obligated to accept it and obey it.

Frankly, I am convinced that the whole matter of criticizing the text has been injected in this study as a smoke screen to leave the impression that there is no evidence that the innocent party in an unscriptural divorce is obligated to live a celibate life or be reconciled to her husband. I realize that this is a judgmental statement, but I am convinced that it is true.

Having the text before us, let us now analyze it.

1. “And I say unto you (lego de humin).” The conjunction de contrasts the statement which Jesus uttered in the following words with one which is the Mosaical legislation. Hence, the contrast is between Moses’ legislation and what Jesus has to say. The word humin is a dative construction which is equivalent to the English indirect object.

2. Hoti. This is a rather general way of introducing a direct quotation. On this occasion it introduces two clauses which are direct objects of the verb lego (I say). The two clauses may be broken down as follows: (1) Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another one, except for fornication, commits adultery and (2) Whoso has married a woman who has been put away, commits adultery.

3. Hos an. This is the word that is translated whosoever. It is a relative pronoun which has its antecedent given in the following inserted descriptions.

4. Apoluse. To divorce. This is a subjunctive of the verb apoluo. It is modified by the exception phrase me epi porneia. Hence, the phrase “except for fornication” only modifies the verb apoluse; it does not modify the following verb gamese (to marry). The word gunaika (wife) is a direct object of the verb apoluse; it is modified by the definite article ten (the) and the pronoun autou (of him). Kai is the conjunction which ties apoluse and gamese together.

5. Kai gamese alrn (and shall marry another) must be considered with the preceding verb. These two words together are identically related to hos an (whosoever). It is “whosoever shall put away . . . and shall marry another.”

6. Moichatai. The verb moichatai is a present tense verb, the force of which is continuous action. The one in this relationship who has put away his wife for some reason other than fornication and has married another continuously commits adultery. It is the verb of the subject hos an (“whoever . . . commits adultery”).

7. The last phrase, the one which is called in question, is kai ho apolelumenen gamesas moichatai. The phrase ho apolelumenen is a perfect passive substantive particle which is translated “the having-been-put-away woman.” Hence, the force of this is as follows: The one married to the put away woman commits adultery. The verb moichatai is also in the present tense with the idea of continuous action. The man who is married to a having-beenput-away woman keeps on committing adultery.

The conclusion drawn from this rather detailed examination of Matthew 19:9 is not all that dramatic; it rather formally establishes what brethren have been preaching for years. It shows the following:

(1) That whoever divorces his wife for any reason other than fornication and marries another is guilty of adultery.

(2) That whosoever has been put away and marries again is guilty of adultery. (Note: Some brethren believe that the innocent party in a divorce involving fornication must file the legal documents of divorce before he has the right to remarry. I am not fully convinced.)

(3) That the one who divorces his mate for fornication has the scriptural right to remarry.

There is nothing in this text that would in any way intimate that the guilty party in a divorce for fornication has the right to remarry. The guilty party has not “divorced his mate for fornication”; hence, he cannot meet the requirements of the exception clause. Consequently, he does not fit the exception which Jesus allowed; hence, any subsequent relationship into which he might enter is adulterous.

Parallel Statements

The statement of Jesus’ law, including the exception, occurs also in Matthew 5:32. We reproduce it here:

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.

The other account of Jesus’ comments regarding this new marriage law is given in Luke 16:18 and reads as follows:

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

Both of these scriptures simply reinforce what we have already stated as the divine law.

Truth Magazine XXIV: 14, pp. 227-230
April 3, 1980