But If You Do Marry …

A book-length restudy of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

You may download the entire essay in .pdf format here: But If You Do Marry

Or you may download the essay chapter at a time here:

Preface and Table of Contents


The traditional view—doctrinal background

Marriage in Biblical times

Divorce in Biblical times

What is adultery?

The Old Testament’s teaching on divorce

1 Corinthians 7


Matthew 5

Matthew 19

Mark 10

Luke 16

The historical argument

The past tense argument

The earthly consequences argument

The repentance argument

Grace, Part II

Questions & answers



Appendix 1–Covenant marriage laws

Appendix 2–Pastoral implications

Appendix 3–The passive voice argument



9 Responses

  1. Brother Jay,

    I came to your site from a notice in gracemail. Praise the Lord. I preach in an instrumental Church of Christ and have struggled with the pardox of faith and works or grace and law; as I know many have. I am now presently reading your Born of Water. I want to commend you for the courage to undertake a study of this nature. Few are willing to risk their reputation in the body to do this. I have read and greatly respect Carl Ketcherside who many years ago did the same thing. I’ve read about everything he wrote starting in the late 50’s. I had the pleasure of meeting him one time before he went to his eternal reward. A man after God’s own heart. God bless you for seeking an honest understanding of Scripture. I will read with interest your other studies as well.

    Gary Flom

  2. Dear Jay,

    Thank you so much for your book, Do We Preach Another Gospel? I have believed what you wrote for over twenty years now, but it is so hard to get through the old mindset people have!

  3. Your work on “But if you do marry…,” has given the hopeless hope (including me). I don’t understand how something so simple is not taught in the Churches of Christ today. I find the traditional doctrine a stumbling block for so many.

  4. The divorce/remarriage issue is of abiding interest to my wife and me. There are many facets to this which we can discuss at some length. But I am trying to focus on when this “traditional view” was spawned in the Churches of Christ? I am told that the “traditional” doctrine was preached by Boles in the ’30s and ’40s but that before that it was not. If a religious discipline justifies itself by a broad claim that it is restoring the 1st century Church, isn’t it important to try to discover what the 1st century doctrine was at that time? Isn’t it revealing something if we find that from 1830 or so, when the restoration movement began, for 100 years, the “traditional view” was not espoused or preached? Can you shed any light on this?

    Thank you.

  5. The traditional doctrine goes back at least to the Council of Trent. Presumably, there’d been some controversy on the question among Catholics prior to the Council, or else why bring it up?

    A common criticism of the Catholic Church at the time was its leniency in granting divorces to the rich and powerful. Therefore, the adoption of the traditional view became part of the Counter-Reformation, in an effort to be more conservative and so win credibility.

    You may find this bit of history from the Catholic Encyclopedia interesting: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05054c.htm. It suggests that the rule as interpreted by the Church varied over the years but became settled by the Council of Trent.

    McGarvey (pre-Boles) appears to have taken the traditional view. http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/jwmcgarvey/tfg/TFG042D.HTM; and http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/jwmcgarvey/tfg/TFG098.HTM.

    I quote Campbell in the book taking a view that’s contrary to some elements of the traditional view (he considered the marriage to end when the relationship ended, not when the state declared it ended).
    But A. Campbell otherwise appears to have been a traditionalist, although he admits the so-called Pauline exception. http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/blsmith/mha/MHA21420.HTM.

    I don’t know the views of B. W. Stone.

  6. […] But If You Do Marry … […]

  7. Have you studied the works of David Instone-Brewer? He is a 2nd temple scholar and his work is pretty definitive on divorce and remarriage, IMO.


  8. When I started reading, I noticed you refer to him, sorry for the question. I tend to categorize divorce teachings as pre-DIB and post-DIB and the pre-DIB tend to miss many essential things.

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