The Divorce Myth (Answers to Questions About Divorce and Remarriage)

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Mayflower

Puritan Board Junior
Answers to Questions About Divorce and Remarriage
(from The Divorce Myth, Bethany House Publishers)

The History of the Issue

All the church fathers except one (Ambrosiaster) agreed that remarriage after divorce, whatever the cause, constitutes adultery. Even in the case of adultery, the faithful spouse did not have permission to remarry. This remained the standard in the church until the 16th century when Erasmus suggested that the "innocent" spouse not only had a right to divorce an unfaithful spouse, but could also contract a new marriage. This view was accepted by the Reformers and is the standard Protestant evangelical position on divorce and remarriage today.

The Crucial Exegetical Matters

1. Does the exception in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 allow for remarriage after divorce in the case of porneia? No. There are three possible places the exception clause could appear: at the beginning of Jesus' statement (making separation mandatory in the case of porneia), in the middle (allowing divorce only) and at the end (sanctioning both divorce and remarriage). If the exception clause in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 applies both to divorce and remarriage, these are the only two places in the New Testament where such an exception appears in the middle of the sentence and modifies both the preceding and following verbs.

2. What is the meaning of porneia in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9? Many evangelicals have mistakenly equated porneia with "adultery." But there is another word (moicheia) which Jesus would have used if He had intended to allow for divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery. It has been argued that porneia refers to (1) any kind of sexual misconduct, (2) unfaithfulness during betrothal, or (3) incestuous marriage as forbidden in Leviticus 18:6-18. Each of these views is possible. Which would best fit in a Jewish context in a Jewish gospel? Since porneia does refer to incest in the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:1; Acts 15:20, cf. Lev. 17:8-18:16), and was a serious problem in the lives of the Herods (Archelaus, Antipas and Agrippa II), it is quite possible that Jesus was arguing the permanence of marriage except in the case of an illicit or illegal (ie. incestuous) marriage. John the Baptist had recently lost his life due to his condemning the incestuous
marriage of Antipas to his brother's wife who was also his niece. The questioning of Jesus by the Pharisees was probably motivated by a desire to see Jesus get into similar trouble. See The Divorce Myth, pp. 71-78, for complete argumentation.

3. Why was no exception recorded in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18? In Jesus' teaching as recorded in the other Synoptic Gospels no exception to the permanence of marriage is given. There is no "exception" clause. Divorce and remarriage is said to constitute adultery in every circumstance. It has been suggested that Mark is a summary of the more complete record of what is found in Matthew, thus he leaves out the exception. But take a close look. Mark gives us details which are not found in Matthew. Mark's account is actually the fuller or more complete account. Because the laws of Leviticus 18:6-18 did not apply to Gentiles, Mark saw no need to include the exception in his gospel to Roman readers. The exception is not found in Mark or Luke because it had no application to Romans or Greek Gentiles.

4. How did Paul understand the teaching of Jesus regarding marriage and divorce? Paul definitely regarded marriage as permanent (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39). According to Paul, death and death alone could end a marriage. He has a word from Jesus that divorce is not allowed (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Paul, a first century theologian and Greek scholar, interprets the words of Jesus as not allowing for divorce or remarriage. Only two alternatives are presented those who have been divorced: (1) reconciliation to one's spouse, or (2) the single life. One who has been divorced should seek reconciliation or actively pursue the single life. A new marriage is simply not an option which Paul recognizes.

5. What is the meaning of Paul's words, “not under bondage" (1 Cor. 7:15)? While many have interpreted these words as allowing for remarriage in t he case of desertion, Paul doesn't mention remarriage in this verse at all. He knows of the concept of remarriage, but sees it as applying only to widows (1 Cor. 7:39). It is quite unlikely that Paul would prohibit divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and then allow it in 7:15. The words "not under bondage" mean "not enslaved." A deserted believer is not so bound to preserve the union that he or she must follow the deserter around like a slave seeking to maintain the marriage. Being enslaved is contrasted with being at peace. Rather than being a slave to an unwilling spouse, the believer can be at peace in the midst of a difficult situation.

6. What is the meaning of the words, "but if you marry, you have not sinned" (1 cor. 7:28). The key to any verse is its context. Paul is speaking about engaged virgins in 1 Corinthians 7:25-38. He has been arguing the advantages of the single life. Some people who had plans to marry were wondering if it was s sin to go ahead with the marriage. Paul is simply saying that those engaged virgins (parthenoi) who are in a state of marital freedom (lelusai, v. 27) commit no sin should they go ahead and marry.

Conclusion

Marriage was designed by God to be a permanent relationship (Gen. 2:24, "cleave" implies a permanent bonding). Divorce is a sin that God hates (Mal. 2:16). While divorce was regulated in the Old Testament (Deut. 24:1-4), it did not originate with God and never meets with His approval. Both Jesus and Paul forbade divorce ("What God has brought together let no man put asunder," [Matt. 19:6] and "But to the married I give instruction . . .that the wife should not leave her husband . . . and that the husband should not send his wife away" [1 Cor. 7:10-11]). Why should Christians evangelicals approve what Scripture disapproves? To approve divorce and remarriage may well in fact to encourage it for it allows people to anticipate a way out of an unhappy relationship. If there were no loop-holes most people would commit themselves to making their marriage work.

Marriage is a picture of the believer's relationship with Christ (Eph. 5:31-33). Is our relationship with Christ temporary or permanent? Can a true believer ever be separated from Christ (Rom. 8:35-39; Jn. 10:28)? If marriage were a dissoluble relationship, it would be a less than accurate representation of the indissoluble relationship between Christ and His church.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Westminster Confession - Chapter 24: Of Marriage and Divorce by Westminster Assembly

I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.
II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred, nearer in blood then he may of his own: nor the woman of her husband's kindred, nearer in blood than of her own.

V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.






I am more and more appreciating the confessions for their guidance.
 

Honor

de-cool
what then if a christian is remarried? do they leave their spouse and go back to the first husband? and do you allow a wife to leave her husband if he abuses her?
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
Some thoughts:

If the exception clause in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 applies both to divorce and remarriage, these are the only two places in the New Testament where such an exception appears in the middle of the sentence and modifies both the preceding and following verbs.
.
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Why was no exception recorded in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18?

The fact that there are no exceptions recorded in Mark, Luke, Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7 does not mean much as any verse must be read in context of the rest of the bible. If God only mentioned the exception once, isn’t that enough? The verses that do not have the exception ought to be read in context of those that do. As an example, the Sabbath law as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy is phased in such a way that does not seem to admit any exceptions at all. But even the strictest sabbatarian allows for exceptions of mercy and necessity, as does the WCF. The “absolute” sounding verses in Exodus/Deut are to be read in context of the later verses that show the exceptions.

Saying that there is no exception in the gospels is particularly unhelpful because the context of those exchanges show that the Lord Jesus was not there intending to lay out a theology of divorce and remarriage – he was rebuking Pharisees.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

Mark 10:2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

Luke 16:14-18 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.


Matthew 19:3 shows the context of Jesus’ discussions with the Pharisees over D&R in the gospels. The Pharisees had a doctrine of allowing divorce for any cause. (This is (I believe) why the Lord addresses the topic in the Sermon on the Mount. There he is condemning ways people try to get around the seventh commandment. One is by lustful fantasies. The other was by divorcing for frivolous reasons to get at another spouse. )

The harsh condemnations of Jesus on divorce and remarriage are not meant to deliver a law that remarriage is never allowed despite the reason for the divorce, they are meant to condemn the Pharisee’s suggestion that divorce can be for any cause. Fornication is later mentioned as a serious, sober reason why a divorce may be considered, in contrast to the frivolous “for any cause” that the Pharisees were suggesting.

Mark 10 and Luke 16 are likewise understood to be in the same context, as Jesus is rebuking the tempting / deriding of the Pharisees.

4. How did Paul understand the teaching of Jesus regarding marriage and divorce? Paul definitely regarded marriage as permanent (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39). According to Paul, death and death alone could end a marriage. He has a word from Jesus that divorce is not allowed (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Paul, a first century theologian and Greek scholar, interprets the words of Jesus as not allowing for divorce or remarriage. Only two alternatives are presented those who have been divorced: (1) reconciliation to one's spouse, or (2) the single life. One who has been divorced should seek reconciliation or actively pursue the single life. A new marriage is simply not an option which Paul recognizes.

Rom 7:2-3 and 1 Cor 7:39 need to be interpreted in light of the exceptions Jesus had taught and which Paul teaches in the same passage (v15). This is no different from interpreting Ex 20:10 and other verses on the Sabbath in light of the exceptions taught in the NT (and understood in the OT) and recogised by the confessions.

1 Cor 7:10-11 is Paul’s first mention of divorce in the chapter. There is no reason to assume is he was overthrowing the exceptions Jesus plainly taught. Rather he is simply repeating the general rule and divorce is, in the normal course of life, forbidden.

5. What is the meaning of Paul's words, “not under bondage" (1 Cor. 7:15)? While many have interpreted these words as allowing for remarriage in the case of desertion, Paul doesn't mention remarriage in this verse at all. He knows of the concept of remarriage, but sees it as applying only to widows (1 Cor. 7:39). It is quite unlikely that Paul would prohibit divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and then allow it in 7:15. The words "not under bondage" mean "not enslaved." A deserted believer is not so bound to preserve the union that he or she must follow the deserter around like a slave seeking to maintain the marriage. Being enslaved is contrasted with being at peace. Rather than being a slave to an unwilling spouse, the believer can be at peace in the midst of a difficult situation.

This interpretation of “not under bondage” is just an assertion with no biblical backing. If we try to interpret scripture with scripture, we should look at v27-28.


1 Corinthians 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

In the way Paul uses language, the opposite of being “bound”, or in bondage is to be loosed (v27b). And what if you are loosed? Than if you marry you have not sinned (v28). Remarriage after divorce is not, I think, Paul’s main point in these two verses, but it does show us how to interpret the phrase “not under bondage” as it applies to an abandoned spouse in a biblical way.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
It is the Confessional position which will be promoted on this board.
 
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