MDR: A Very Interesting Question

I’ve been corresponding with reader Dan Knight regarding Dan’s intriguing theory for how to read the “divorce” passages in the Gospels. I’ve read extensively on the subject, and I’ve never run into his theory before — and it just might be right. I’m writing to ask the readers whether any one can offer any additional evidence in support of it.

Let me explain. The word translated “put away” in the KJV and “divorce” in some more modern translations is apoluo. Suppose that it doesn’t mean divorce but means to send away or put away — that is, to put out of the house without a certificate of divorce? Now imagine that it was in fact a common practice for Jewish men to put away their wives without a certificate of divorce in order to, for example, avoid having to repay the wife’s dowery?

If that’s true, then Jesus could be read this way —

(Mat 5:31-32 ESV)  31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever [puts away] his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  32 But I say to you that everyone who [puts away] his wife [without a certificate of divorce], except on the ground of [pre-marital] sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a [put away] woman commits adultery.

(Mat 19:3-10 ESV)  3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to [put away] one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to [put away] your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  9 And I say to you: whoever [puts away] his wife [without a certificate of divorce], except for [premarital] sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

Now I need to explain that under the Law of Moses, if a man took a wife and found her to not be a virgin, he could annul the marriage — because of fornication.

(Deu 22:20-21 ESV) 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman,  21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

She’d have been stoned before the Romans banned capital punishment without Roman approval, but the result was an annulment during the time of Jesus.

There are challenges with this approach, but there is some support for it. For example, the use of apoluo to refer to a putting away distinct from a formal divorce appears consistent with —

(Isa 50:1 ESV) Thus says the LORD: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away [but not divorced].

(Mat 1:19 ESV)  19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to [put her away without a divorce] quietly.

Now, the argument for apoluo to mean “divorce” is heavily based on the Jewish Talmud, but this reflects Jewish attitudes from centuries later — where the giving of the certificate was considered so essential that the Talmud insists that Abraham gave Hagar a certificate of divorce even though the Bible says no such thing.

Dan also argues that this is consistent with the reading of some of the early church fathers — which is quite interesting.

So it’s a very intriguing theory. But to make a truly convincing case, it would be helpful to know whether there is any evidence in the literature that Jews had a problem with men sending wives away without a certificate. It’s entirely possible, as Roman law provided for no certificate and a Jew could rationalize that he was just obeying the law of the Empire — while keeping the dowery. But did it happen often enough that Jesus would have felt obliged to address the question?

Does anyone have any help to offer?

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32 Responses

  1. Say, Jay, does that really make sense?

    specific words or a concept?

    Especially in Mt 19 in the discussion between the pharisees and the Lord – according to Dan – leaves the impression that both were talking about entirely different things.

    But it’s the pharisees who even point to the letter of divorce – so they (as firmly adhering to th Law) – pointed to this law for the allowance for divorce! Their only question was: Can I divorce my wife for any reason? Why should our Lord answer them speaking not about divorce, but of an “inofficial, uncertified” puttig away? Would you do that in a conversation, Jay? At least not on purpose.

    In 1 Cor 7, where Paul discusses the issue, he uses several words synonymously:

    V 10: to depart, seperate, divorce (chorizo)
    V 11-13: to put away (aphiemi)
    V 15: to depart, seperate, divorce (chorizo)
    V 27: to loose, divorce (lysis, lyo)

    Interesting also V 39 (together with Rom 7:2-3): The wife is bound (deo) by the law to her husband as long as he lives, then death makes her free (katargeo – see Rom 7:2) from this “chain”.

    Paul does not use apolyo in his discourse, though, but he is referring to the Lord’s command (V 11). So the whole issue does not turn on one specific word. It is about a concept, that has to be understood and can be expressed in different wording.

    LXX:
    in Deu 24 the word axapostello = to send away
    Bliblion apostasion = letter of divorce (letter of abandonment)
    Exapostello is never used in the context of divorce in the NT; which might indicate
    a) that the meaning of the word and its use slightly changed from 200 BC to the time of Christ
    b) The whole issue does not turn on a specific word, but on the concept.

    Now, when our Lord quotes (or refers) to Deu 24 he uses apolyo instead of exapostello. The way Dan now deals with Mt 5 is really unheard of:

    First our Lord uses apolyo in connection with the letter of divorce. In the second entece (immediately following, Christ does not repeat “letter of divorce” but only the (same) verb; and Dan makes Him speak of a different kind of divorce. That’s – sorry – unthinkable. Language and communication don’t work that way:

    A normal reader/listener would understand Him to speak on the same matter: A divorce according to the Law. Can you imagine that He would interrupt our thinking by saying: “Hy, friend, you did not listen carefully: See, I did not use the word “letter of divorce” in the second statement. I changed the subject! Didn’t you notice that?” That’s not credible.

    Besides that: apolyo has a rather broad meaning
    to acquit from, to let go, to remove, to dismiss, to discharge from, to deliver or take away from, to return to (! – eis ti), to depart, to die, to be set free, to be delivered … and thus it can be used to describe a divorce according to the Law as well.

    No right to remarry without the letter of divorce!

    Or think about Mt 1:19: The certificate of divorce gave allowance to remarry. If Joseph put away her wife without that (she, being pregnant and no longer a virgin) no one would take her and marry her, because there is something “fishy” about her.

    Especially this makes me doubt this theory. The Jews were so quick to stone an adulteress (John 8), that a divorce without certificate would be very unlikely. A divorce certicate from that time states:

    Divorce certificate from 71 CE Masada:
    “… You are free to become the wife of
    any Jewish man you may wish”

    Just sending someone away would deny the person the right to remarry. More to ancient divorce certificates can be found there: http://www.tyndalearchive.com/Brewer/MarriagePapyri/index.html – The existence of so many papyry flatly contradicts Dan’s bold theory:

    Now imagine that it was in fact a common practice for Jewish men to put away their wives without a certificate of divorce in order to, for example, avoid having to repay the wife’s dowery?

    Abraham divorced Hagar?

    Abraham could not give Hagar a certificate of divorce for two reasons:
    a) Hagar was not married to him
    b) The Law came later

    That’s why I really don’t want to depend on the “insights” of Rabbis, who in their legalistic (in the true sense of the word) mindset tried to understand Scriptures as a book of specific and detailed rules and regulations which they – when unclear – even expanded by their own definitions (e.g. What precicely is work on a Sabbat?).

    So they are a valuable source to undestand why our Lord was at odds with them, but I would never ever recommend them as a source to understand the Word of God, in the sense of: “Ah, see, that’s how the rabbis understood this! That’s how it was meant!” And quite often – just my impression – such learned commentaries rule out plain statements of our Lord by quoting the Rabbis. But that’s just a side-remark …

    In the end: This idea can be rightfully dismissed, and we can use either word for this:
    exapostello, lyo, chorizo … as you please

    In Christ
    Alexander

  2. This is an interesting perspective, but it diverts us from the more fundamental question.

    Whether Dan’s theory is correct or not, the issue is does God condone the severing of the marriage relationship. I believe it’s clear he does not — regardless of whether the Law permitted it or not.

    Divorce is a tragedy. But it is a forgivable sin. And our goal should be to repent, forgive and love one another even in the face of a divorce.

  3. I also wonderd why someone might develop such a theory.
    But suppose Dan is right – what would be the result?

    Then Jesus never spoke agains divorce accoding to the Law, but only against “putting away” without a letter of divorce. This would allow divorces for any reason thinkable, and remarriage as well.

    I don’t know Dan. But if his motive was to allow divorce and remarriage by his unxpected “exegetical maneouvre”, then this guy is dangerous.

  4. Alexander, a very thoughtful response. Thank you for the excellent web link to ancient papyri. You obviously know much more Greek and more about how words are used in that language than I do, so that is probably why I can’t quite follow everything you wrote.

    One thing you mentioned that I would like to comment on; you said Jesus and the Pharisees seem to be speaking at cross purposes if this new angle Jay is presenting is correct and that wouldn’t make sense. My thought is that the Pharisees (and even the disciples) and Jesus often spoke on different levels. They would ask one thing but Jesus would answer on another level, thus challenging them to think more deeply. Even from the age of 12. “Your father and I were searching for you”, said Mary. “didn’t you know I had to be in my father’s house?”, Jesus said. She didn’t understand, but she kept thinking about it. A big part of the sermon on the mount was Jesus comparing what “you have heard… but I say unto you..”. After the disciples nets broke with a huge burden of fish, he challenged them to follow him to become fishers of men. Or the palsied man let through the roof whom his friends wanted healed but Jesus said, “your sins are forgiven”, thus causing a big commotion among those who heard him forgive sins. It does not seem incongruous that the Pharisees would ask one question but that Jesus would speak to them on a different level to challenge their consistency and get them to examine the true sin of divorce and if it must be done to at least be honest and open about it. ……. just a thought…….. I could be misunderstanding badly……….. Dan

  5. i don’t see how ‘putting away without a certificate of divorce’ violates Jesus’ counterpoint about not-putting-asunder-what-God-has-joined in a way that putt away *with* a certificate of divorce does not. Seems to me Jesus referral to Genesis must speak against divorce period, not just the special case of lacking the certificate.

    –Guy

  6. I think this points towards a group within First Century Palestine that was marginilized, just as tax-collectors, sinners, widows, the sick, and poor were. Women who had been ‘put away’ without restoration of their dowery would have been unable to provide for themselves and would likely have been found among the groups that Jesus was known to speak out for.

    Before this post, I’d never thought of this group of women as particularly vulnerable, but it makes since that our gentle savior would have stood up for the justice called for in the Talmud. Just like Jubilee justice for the poor, much of these extraordinarly progressive Jewish laws (like Jubilee and restoring a divorced woman’s dowery) were not being practiced under Roman rule, but really had never been fully practiced under any Jewish system.

    Jesus repeatedly pointed out the failings of Jewish justice under the law, but always pointed towards something even more holy. I think his talk about what God has joined, is just that. If you want to talk about what’s justice for a vulnerable divorced woman (a group that is still vulnerable today), first you must be concerned that you are just in protecting her during a divorce if there must be one…. then you should search your heart about if you truly cared for her, husband, how could you just send her away.

    I think Jesus’ comments on divorce speak for vulnerable women who have been mistreated by spouses who ‘put them away’ and I think he points towards an image of marriage that is appropriately full of self-sacrificial love. But I don’t think he was talking much about the modern situation when two people amicably decide to end a marriage, but I think his first point would still stand and push Christians who feel pushed towards divorce that they must take responsibility for the care of the other person through the process.

  7. Marriage is instituted by God for people’s well-being. It’s meant to be a safe place that serves ours need for intimacy and companionship, by providing a safe place for us to thrive. God’s command to not divorce comes from compassion, not condemnation.

    Matthew 5:32 “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

    Sexual immorality is adultery, homosexuality, to kiss, hug, or fondle another person in a sensual manner.

    1 Corinthians 7:12-15 “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.”

    A believer who’s spouse is not a believer that departs from their husband/wife, the believer is to use discernment, departure is not just a relocation, but someone who has distanced themselves from the other person, departure can be in the form of addiction to drugs or alcohol or abuse.

    There are many people who use a legalistic approach to the Bible, condemning others who are in situations that they would not bear.

    Luke 11:46 “And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

    God’s love for us is more valuable to Him than how perfect we keep the law.

    Matthew 12:1-8 “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

  8. Dear Dan

    Actually I am no Greek Scholar, and putting together my reply took me just about an hour or so. I used the Greek NT, Strong’s Concordance the Greek and English LXX by Brenton, two dictionaries … So, actually there is some chance, that I am wrong; but what I saw at this quick glance was quite different; that’s why I answered so quickly.

    (Well, and we as teachers’ team in our church just put together a statement and divorce and remarriage)

    What I saw is that in this field severel words are used synonymously and that the word used for “sent away” in the Law (according to the LXX, because we have to compare Greek with Greek) – exapostello – was substituted both by the Lord and the pharisees with apolyo. So you cannot really build a case on the use of this word.

    As for speaking on different levels, this is true, but it is also (normally) rather obvious when this happens. In the Sermon on the mount Christ iis not in a dialogue, and I think he would not speak on two different levels when he speaks alone.

    Are you this Dan, or is the name just a coincidence?

    in Christ
    Alexander

  9. This is a very interesting take on the whole MDR issue – i have seen it before though — i am still torn on what i believe concerning the MDR arguments- i totally do not agree with the conservative traditional view as i think it has Moses, Jesus and Paul all disagreeing w/ each so this can’t possibly be true – i lean towards what jay and al maxey teach (slight differences) ——————
    but one thing i can not reconcile in my mind even by the progressive teachings is the last part of matthew 19:9 and Luke 16:18 – why is someone considered an adulterer if they marry someone who was been divorced?? i hope we continue studying dan’s theory in depth as it does make some sense

  10. Alexander’s quick study sure sounds superior to the in-depth study Dan Knight’s been making on the subject. I don’t see that either understanding makes divorce any more palatable for Christians. It’s bad. Like those who heard what Jesus said and responded by thinking it might be best to not marry, I conclude that men and women should fall in love with someone they’ll want to live with as long as they both shall live. Hasty marriages after short engagements may not be the best way to go for most Christians. And, for Christians, divorce should be indeed a last resort if problems arise in the home. But we all already knew that, didn’t we?

  11. Ray,

    Some marriages with long engagements still end up being a bad decision. Some short term engagements last forever. Not sure length of engagement is the key factor. –especially considering countries where arranged marriages still take place and some couple don’t meet each other until only days before the ceremony or less.

    i’m not sure it’s about finding “the right person” (although i think that’s what we’re culturally inculcated with). i think rather it’s about realizing that saying ‘i do’ *makes* that person “the right person.”

    –Guy

  12. but one thing i can not reconcile in my mind even by the progressive teachings is the last part of matthew 19:9 and Luke 16:18 – why is someone considered an adulterer if they marry someone who was been divorced?

    As we came to understand it (Vienna CoC), a person is bound to his husband/wife as long as they live. This being bound is a very strong word: deo. (1Cor 7:39; Rom 7:2+3)

    In contrast, when the unbeliever wants to divorce a Christian (for any reason) the CHristian is not bound, but there a differernt word is used (douleuo). (1 Cor 7:15)

    “deo” means being bound lik being bound by chains, the Law or a covenant.
    “douleouo” means being bound like a slave.

    Some have concluded that someone who ahs been divorced by an unbveliever is not bound any longer and can remarry. But we point to the fact that according to the other passages as long as the Partner lives they are still bound in the sense of “deo”. Becoming free from douleuo only refers to the kind of freedom Paul recommends anyway: The freedom of being/staying unmarried, such as the slaves might rather be free.

    So, as long as the divorced partner lives, we are still bound to him by the covenant we made.

    We see only one exception to that rule: When a person divorces his partner because of “porneia” (any sexual sin, like adultery, pre-marital sex, pornography, …). But this must not be done hastily, because we are called to forgive those whoe earnestly repent. Only if it is an ongoing sin, we may divorce.

    Then the one who divorces his partner may remarry – not the other one who broke the marriage. But here we also recommend to wait, to give time for reconciliation.

    The reason for Deu 24:1-4 was – as our Lord stated – the hardened hearts of the people. We cannot take this excuse for us who have been born again, which means we got a new and soft heart through the Spirit. So there is no more conhtradiction between the divorce-Law of Moses and Christ than between the other laws Christ explained with His “But I say unto you” as going far beyond just the letter.

    There is a differernce in quality between the Old and the New Covenant. That’s why Christ did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it, to bring it to its fullness. He brought to light the true intentions of the law. Thus He goes beyond the letter to the Will of God, that has not been revealed in its fullness in the Law of Moses because ofthe hardened hearts. Or as Paul in Romans said: The Law was powerless becase of our flesh, but now – through the Spirit – we can do what law intended (Rom 8:1-4).

    In Christ
    Alexander

  13. Alexander,

    The view you’ve expounded is basically where i’ve been for years. i’ve read a good bit of progressives on this topic and haven’t read anything that has convinced me to change this view. i’ ve even hoped a couple times that i might be convinced otherwise just because other views seem “easier” to hold and they’re more prevalent among many of my peers. But i’ve yet to hear anything that even really caused me to start doubting.

    Seems most of them want to play with the word “adultery” right off the bat despite obvious plausible ambiguities in the very passages they’re hanging their case on. But oh well, another rant for another post perhaps.

    –Guy

  14. Alexander, thanks for the response. I think the writer Jay referred to is Dan Knight. I am Dan H. a regular reader of Jay’s blog…dan h.

  15. Not understand Greek or a lot of what ya’ll are posting, I as
    just an “ol contractor have always seen Adultery and Fornication in a different light and meaning other than just sex.

    Way back in AD history, and in all pictures of old buildings and cathedrals there was the great descovery shown called the Adulterated Arch being used. I think that come closer to being what is meant by adultery which would include sex, but not discount ALL other acts that adulterate as well. These two terms were well known in Jesus’s time and remember He was brought up a carpenter and would of been very familiar with these words and how they worked and meant.

    I believe we are too hung up on sex, in and out ifmarriage.

    What misery that thinking has caused those in the church of Christ in just my lifetime. You all know the twisted stories and messes it has caused to those married to divorced folks that didn’t even know about this and how they have been told to go back and find their first spouse that may be remmarried and start all over then come back and you can worship here, otherwise, hit the road we don’t want you here. What goofy advice is that.

    I’ve seen and probably you too, much worse done to members of the church of Christ than having sex with someone else.

  16. What goofy advice is that.

    What a scriptural response is that … I mean, are we to address sin and deal with it or are we just take the things as they are? I am not for easy and simple statements where things are really messed up, but I won’t accept sin as if we cannothing do about it. This would not only be goofy, but it would be destructive to souls. Really.

  17. Alexander

    I think that’s part of the problem, we concentrate on a past sin and not on saving a sinners soul. All sinners!
    .
    Oddly its only in this case and for this sexual sin as we teach it. How often do we hear about the sin of the fat people in church? Ever known of one being asked to leave and told we don’t want you? Gluttony is in the same passages. We pick and choose.

    I have seen unbelievers in their marriage(s) wanting to worship with us and be told we don’t want you. In every case it was because of a marriage situation that in our eyes could not be corrected. Unforgivable sin.

    Murder can be forgiven, child abuse, drunkenness, beating your wife everyday, you name it, and that can be forgiven by walking the aisle and being prayed for or baptizing.

    Where does it say adultery is sexual sin done by the married and fornication is sexual sin done by the unmarried?

    A married or single person can mix something strange in a relationship, marriage or not (adulterating) and any person can perform the Fornicated Arch activity (Fornicating) in business or any relationship, Marriage is not required.

    Adultering is done by mixing something else that does not belong in something. Marriage or wrong dough in a cookie mix. Only ONE cannot be forgiven?

    Oh, I know you can go to one partner, the unpopular one, and get them to sign that they had sex with another woman or man to allow remarriage. I’ve even know some to pay for that admission. What does doing that show? That the person(s) involved in doing the paying is trying to please the church where they attend and feel God understands and forgives but the church does not.

    Way too much read into the acts of adultery and fornication as only sex. On this, we are wrong brothers and sisters. 50% of our ppulation is divorced, What an opportunity to save souls we are rejecting.

  18. I think that’s part of the problem, we concentrate on a past sin and not on saving a sinners soul. All sinners!

    There are two things to consider:
    a) sin must be repented from, even if it is a past sin, we must confront it
    b) Living in an unlawful marriage is viewed by some as living in an undalterous relationship – which is a legitimate way to view it. So it is not only a past sin, if this view is right, but also a present and future sin, that leads to a very dark eternity.

    I’m not saying that b) is correct – but it is a valid view that forces us to deal with this matter very seriously.

    I don’t know if you are a teacher or shepherd in your church – these people are responsible for the souls the Lord has put into their care. So we have to expect that they will deal with such issues not lightheartedly.

    Oddly its only in this case and for this sexual sin as we teach it. How often do we hear about the sin of the fat people in church? Ever known of one being asked to leave and told we don’t want you? Gluttony is in the same passages. We pick and choose.

    I’m sure you are right, and we have to address gluttony as well and as seriously. But in the other hand, sexual sins are almost always on the top of all the lists. So they have a top priority to deal with and to address – also because of the harm they do. Gluttony is “only” bad for your health – sexual sins destroy relationships.

    I have seen unbelievers in their marriage(s) wanting to worship with us and be told we don’t want you. In every case it was because of a marriage situation that in our eyes could not be corrected. Unforgivable sin.

    I think the situations are a little more complex than your summary, but I don’t know them. But there are two or three things to consider:
    a) If the Christian part has not yet repented of a sin connected with this marriage, he or she should be under cvhurch discipline – so this has be dealt with according to the guidelines of Mt 15:15ff and 2Cor 1+2.
    b) It is not right to say that a wrong marriage situation could not be corrected. Esra and Nehemia did a lot to achieve exactly this – and I’m sure it was one of the hardest atsks they ever had to accomplish.
    c) I agree with you, that a church must never be harsh and cold, but must also help sinners to come alive again.

    Murder can be forgiven, child abuse, drunkenness, beating your wife everyday, you name it, and that can be forgiven by walking the aisle and being prayed for or baptizing.

    Any sin can be forgiven if you are willing to let go of it. The water itself does not produce that miracle, but true repentance and faith in the blood of Christ expressed in baptism.

    Illegitimate marriages are – as I said – a very difficult thing, and every church has to come to grips with this issue. We have to have standards, and we must not be afraid of applying them in the name of the Lord.

    So if the church you are in has very strict standrads, that’s what the leadership is responsible for. They may be praised for that by the Lord or they will be rebuked. Either way, they will be held accountable by the Lord for every soul entrusted to them.

    But complaining about the strictness and then somehow letting everybody pass and have it his or her way, is by no means a scriptural attitude.

    Where does it say adultery is sexual sin done by the married and fornication is sexual sin done by the unmarried?

    That’s what the word (sorry for the Greek) porneia means. From this word we derive our word (and one of the No 1 sins in society and even among Christians): Pornography. This means every kind of sexula sin.

    As for adultery (moichao) – this is more about breaking the marriage covenant through a sexual sin. This becomes clear by John 8 or all the texts in the Law about this.

    We don’t have to question the words and their meaning, they are very clear. But I am not sure if you really want to hear these definitions …

    A married or single person can mix something strange in a relationship, marriage or not (adulterating) and any person can perform the Fornicated Arch activity (Fornicating) in business or any relationship, Marriage is not required.

    Adultering is done by mixing something else that does not belong in something. Marriage or wrong dough in a cookie mix. Only ONE cannot be forgiven?

    Who says any of these sins can’t be forgiven? The can be forgiven, if we repent and let go of this sin. But because this is so hard in these situations does not mean it can’t be done. It must be done, and we must insist on a scriptural solution.

    Oh, I know you can go to one partner, the unpopular one, and get them to sign that they had sex with another woman or man to allow remarriage. I’ve even know some to pay for that admission. What does doing that show? That the person(s) involved in doing the paying is trying to please the church where they attend and feel God understands and forgives but the church does not.

    I see that you are mad at the church that does not act as you see fitting or right before God. Again: There are people who are being held responsible for that. Ask them, help them to see your point of view – pray for them. But don’t react this way.

    I would hate such a hipocrisy you just described: Stand up against it! But don’t question God’s standard on divorce and remarriage – that people find loopholes (ortry to) cannot be justified. But such examples are no excuse to somehow diminish the clearness of Christ’s teachings.

    Way too much read into the acts of adultery and fornication as only sex. On this, we are wrong brothers and sisters. 50% of our ppulation is divorced, What an opportunity to save souls we are rejecting.

    Yes 50% of the population is divorced, and the church has lowered its standards accordingly – having almost the same divorce rate as the world. That’s an abomination. Let’s talk about judgment first, and then about the lost souls.

    Alexander

  19. Alexander

    Enjoyed your post. Thank you.

    I have never seen anyone turned away from membership for anything other than marriage. A long list, but only one is ever chosen. Only one I know of that cannot be forgiven is blasphamy against the Holy Spirit. Many times these marriages have produced children. They can’t be done away with and so the result of that marriage can be forgiven, not made as if it never happened.

    Several other things to consider as well and I simply picked gluttony as one for an example.

    Have you ever known anyone withdrawn from or denied membership because of it? How about anything else but sex?

    I disagree with you that gluttony and others listed are not just as important as divorce and must be stopped, repented of, forgiven and lived accordingly. When these are mentioned, very seldom if at all, it usually brings some laughter or embarrassed squirming for a small amount of time and then forgotten.

    There is a big difference in porno watching and adultery and fornication so they are not the same.

    We will hobnobb with folks of many different religions but feel hardest toward those in the church of Christ we disagree with on mostly some simple difference like eating in the building, Lords Supper authorized on Sunday night as well as morning, etc. you know them as well as I. It’s wrong.

    How many times do we hear of a person working and doing well furthering the Lord’s Church in some far off place where baptist, methodist, and others are also working and its going well even with them there. Then someone from another church of Christ comes in and we all worry since chances are he will be teaching that what you have taught is in error and to obtain Heaven you must believe me and leave him.
    That is wrong.

    I’m Cherokee and its no wonder they don’t believe us anymore than they do on the reservations as we hurt our own credibility constantly.

    This is a plea for unity and stopping bashing one another.

  20. Abasnar,

    It’s unfair to question Dan’s motives on this one. In fact, the traditional interpretations in the Churches of Christ have led to some ludicrous results, such as insisting the remarried couples divorce and put their children through hell in order to be candidates for baptism. Seeking a better interpretation consistent with the texts is nothing but compassionate.

  21. Abasnar,

    I fail to see how being bound as a slave is a weaker bond than being bound by covenant. A covenant is often self-imposed, whereas slavery is enforced by the law of the Empire on penalty of crucifixion and is usually quite involuntary.

    I think we do better to assume Paul was an expert expositor of Jesus and that he was interpreting Jesus correctly in light of the new covenant.

  22. Alabama John,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Long-time readers know that I disagree with traditional thought re MDR. http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/but-if-you-do-marry/ is my ebook on the subject. I don’t have time to take on all the arguments presented here. I’ll just note that I’ve addressed them in the book and in the series on MDR — http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/theology-church-of-christ-issues/marriage-divorce-remarriage/

    I’ve not bought Dan Knight’s theory yet, but it is indeed intriguing — and it does present some of the problems noted here. The fact that it contradicts traditional thought only commends it, but doesn’t prove it by any means. But, to me, the biggest test would be whether the failure to issue a certificate of divorce was a serious enough issue to justify all these discussions by Jesus in the Gospels.

  23. I was told once that a man could be an elder if he murdered his wife, then repented, and remarried because HE WAS NEVER DIVORCED! That is just divorce by murder, But a man could not be an elder or minister if he had a previous marriage and was abandoned by his previous spouse and then remarried. It would have been better in the eyes of the COC he he had murdered his first wife, repented then remarried.
    That is evil thinking in my opinion.

  24. Jay,
    I believe that a consistent spousal refusal of sex is PORNEIA and certainly qualifies as sexual sin and abandonment.

  25. That’s the funny stuff you get when Adultery and Fornication are only about sex.

    Where is that singleness taught in the Word?

    The act of adultery or adulterating something applies to many things, marriage is only one. This act can be many things and also can fornication. Fornicating, moving or shifting from one position to another, and, we are assuming the move was detrimental to the marriage. Could of been a good thing, positive for a marriage!
    Again. does not have to be sex, bad or better for the change.

    We are hung up and don’t know how to get loose.

  26. I fail to see how being bound as a slave is a weaker bond than being bound by covenant.

    One thing is obvious:
    If you are a slave you can become free in your lifetime by the goodwill of your owner or by a ransom. If you are bound to your husband, this covenant end with the death of the husband or wife.

    The other thing:
    If the unbeliever wants to end marriage, he will do it on any reason he chooses. But the Lord said, the only legitimate reason for divorce is fornication. So a divorce by an unbeliever is not a valid divorce in the eyes of our Lord, so the divorced person cannot be “free” in the sense of “free to marry again”, because he is only not “douleuo”, but still “deo”. So this means, he may let the unbeliver go, in order to live an unmarried life, which Paul recommends as the better thing in the whole chapter. So as we shall seek freedom from slavery in order to not become slaves of men again.

    So there is no legitimate remarriage for a divorced person, only the one who puts away his partner because of fornication can remarry. That’s the result if we just take the Lord’s words word by word – without adding to it or taking away from it.

    It’ not that difficult to understand, if you look at it. It is our rebellious generation that has its problems with it, but they may debate this with the Judge.

    It’s unfair to question Dan’s motives on this one.

    Maybe. But I wonder why he makes such a claim – actually, as I tried to prove – it does not work if go a little deeper. Sorry, Jay, but I see only one reason why this theory might be interesting: To allow divorce and remarriage for basically any reason. Let me explain it again:

    If Jesus is only criticizing “putting away” without a letter of divorce, He states that “putting away” with a letter of divorce is perfectly all right – and the resitriction “only in case of fornication” is not meant for a divorce according to the Law, but only for “putting away” without this letter of divorce. At least that’s how I understand him. But then, this opens a door do divorce and remarry as we please. Maybe I am mistaken, but then – please – show me where I misunderstand the concept.

    In fact, the traditional interpretations in the Churches of Christ have led to some ludicrous results, such as insisting the remarried couples divorce and put their children through hell in order to be candidates for baptism.

    I see this as a valid way to understand and deal with the sin of adultery – many Anabaptist churches view it this way, too. I have some objections, but I think they are definetly on the safe side.

    I ask you:
    If marrying a divorced one is adultery, does our Lord Jesus only mean the act of marriage or living together in an illegitmate marriage?

    I mean, HE said it, and WE have to deal with it in a faithful way. I see separation of illegitimate marriages on a similar level as the spearation of marriages with Non-Jews done by Esra and Nehemia. You can imagine, that the children involved “went through hell” as well, but still it was approved by our Lord. It was necessary. After all, the sin happened before that, and the seperation with all its consequences were only the consequences of this sin.

    I tell you a story: A number of years ago, when I was in an Assembly of the Open Brethren, there was a woman who was divorced and lived with her friend. She was rebuked by the elders and eventually left the church. Some time later one of the deacons suggested, if she had married her friend while being outside the church-fellowship and then repented, of course we would take her back and she could live in her new marriage. I’d add: “Happiliy ever after”, because that’s ridiculous! That’s playing games with a Holy God!

    It is hard. Yes, it is very hard. But our hearts are even harder, Jay. We cannot bend God’s commands till they fit us; we mus be bent until we fit His standards.

    Now, if we allow illegitimate marriages to continue without at least demanding a straightforward confession that this was a grave sin – also hard for a couple to admit that – we in fact say: What Christ said is way beyond our capacities. His commands are a mere illussion, a suggestion, in no way really binding. Can’t we just cover these verses with tipp-ex then?

    As I said, I am reluctant to force separation on illegitimate marriages (based on a number of reasons I won’t put into this post), but I can’t just do as if everything was OK. Sin must be addressed and sin must be confessed. If a couple realizes that their marriage is sinful, their consience would maybe lead them to seperate, but then it comes from faith which I would very much encourage.

    In Christ
    Alexander

  27. Gary,

    I totally agree: any theology that makes murder more forgivable than divorce is seriously flawed.

  28. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.”

    If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.

    A believer can divorce an unbeliever, but if a believer wants to stay married to an unbeliever then let them not divorce.

    But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

    Departure is not just a relocation, but someone who has distanced themselves from the other person, departure can be in the form of addiction to drugs or alcohol or abuse. The believer is not under bondage and using good discernment can divorce the unbeliever.

  29. Dear Jay:

    I totally agree: any theology that makes murder more forgivable than divorce is seriously flawed.

    Sounds very right, but still there are some differences:
    When you have murdered someone, you cannot bring the victim back to life again.

    When you are divorced, Paul writes, we shall work on reconciliation. So we can at least try to do something about it.

    When your divorced and remarried, you live in sin and this has to be dealt with in a scriptural way.

    So what sounds right is actually wring, because it is not about forgivness, but about restoring what can be restored after sin, or about repenting and letting go of sin. These are two or three entirely different things.

    Alexander

  30. if a believer wants to stay married to an unbeliever then let them not divorce.

    That’s not what this verse says: When we are married is is not a question whether you “want to stay married” if you stay married, but a CHristian shall not divorce the unbeliever. Period.

    Departure is not just a relocation, but someone who has distanced themselves from the other person, departure can be in the form of addiction to drugs or alcohol or abuse. The believer is not under bondage and using good discernment can divorce the unbeliever.

    Again, that’s not hat is written there: It’s the unbeliever who “departs” (which is just a sysnonym for divorce). It is not about addictions or other things, but about staying/living together. (Context!) A Christian ha snot the option for divorce.

    Otherwise he could divorce for almost any reason and not because of fornication alone. So the whole teaching about MDR would become a total mess if we treat Scripture like that.

    Alexander

  31. The unbeliever can want to live with the believer, but it is the believer who chooses to stay married.

    Paul was answering questions that were written to him, 1 Corinthians 7:1 “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me.” Obviously some had questions about whether it is ok for believers to stay with unbelievers. Paul never said they had to stay with an unbeliever, but that there is nothing wrong with it. A believer can divorce an unbeliever, but if the unbeliever wants to live with them, and the believer who is not under bondage wants to stay, then let not the believer divorce them.

    Marriage is about a commitment between two people nurturing each other, but it takes more than one. A person who is drunk or high all the time or abuse their spouse all the time, they are not living in a marriage.

    Departure is not just a relocation or divorce, but someone who has distanced themselves from the other person, it can be in the form of addiction or abuse.

    A believer is not under bondage and can divorce an unbeliever. I never said believers should just go get a divorce if they are married to an unbeliever, but that they should use good discernment.

    I’m not going to get in a debate over opinions on this matter, non-essential issues should be discussed, but we shouldn’t be looking to argue over non-eseentials while there are so many lost people with a much greater need that we should be focusing on. Jesus reached out even to those low life adulterers.

    John 4:16-18 “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

    Jesus didn’t get into a long debate over the woman having five husbands, no Jesus Christ showed her His compassion.

  32. Showing compassion, indeed: But how would you feel if someone tells you, the person you live with is not married to you, and you already had five partners!

    It really depends. Some might cry ou: “How dare you! That’s non of of you business at all!”

    But I strongly disagree with you interpretatzion, that a Christian can use good discernment and then divorce. That’s absolutely not what the text says: The UNBEBELIEVER my divorce – ONLY the UNBELIEVER.

    A Christian has to be and stay faithful to marriage covenant, because God HATES divorce.

    Anonymous, I don’t want to write too much, because I feel that we won#t get along well with each other. Please – my final word – don’t you see that you are saying the direct opposite of what the text says? I shook my head in disbelief when I wrote your post …

    In Christ
    Alexander

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