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  • What does the Bible really say
    about divorce & remarriage?

    ARTICLE INDEX     



    Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

    God is the same yesterday, today and forever. - Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8. I am sure most of you have heard this phrase, however, have you fully realized its meaning? I believe a lot of the confusion with Jesus' teaching today is because many people do not correlate Jesus' teaching with God's original commands in the Old Testament.

    While doing research for this topic, I noticed that many online articles defend their viewpoints on the divorce by citing some early church father, or make the mistake of only using the New Testament, in conjunction with English dictionaries to prove their point. However, such methods are dangerous and can easily lead to error, because: 1. The Bible was not written in English. 2. The Old Testament is required to clarify what the New Testament is saying. 3. Teachers, even in the Early Church, were not all in agreement regarding the divorce topic. So, rather than pulling out an English dictionary and declaring what a word means or citing your favorite teacher, you should be looking at the Old Testament and the original manuscripts for clarification. Otherwise, you could be leading yourself and others astray. So, the goal is to have your viewpoint harmonious with every scripture(OT and NT) in the Bible (in the original languages).

    First, maybe you think it is wrong for me to say that the fathers were not in agreement. Maybe you heard they all were against divorce and remarriage? Here is a short summation of the various viewpoints from the early fathers to John Wesley:

    1. Tertullian (160-230) - Jesus changed OT Law on divorce. You can not even remarry after husband has died.
    2. Origen (185-255) - Jesus did not change OT Law on divorce. Has the same opinion I espouse in this article (which allows divorce and remarriage in certain cases). More as a permissive thing that is allowed or tolerated. In the case of God being married to Israel, he states that God divorced her and had a second marriage to the church. And said, on account of fornication (Israel cheating on God), God is allowed to remarry. So, we can conclude the same is the case for people, if God is allowed to divorce and remarry.
    3. Council of Elvira (300) - All women who remarry are to be excommunicated from church.
    4. Council of Arles (314) - Women should not remarry, but they are not to be excommunicated if they did so.
    5. Jerome (347–420) - You can divorce, but not remarry as long as the (ex-)spouse lives.
    6. Augustine (354-420) - Divorce is permissible, but no remarriage (even after death). Marriage is a sacrament.
    7. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) - Marriage is a sacrament. You can divorce in case of adultery, but no remarriage, ever. It was believed that if one remarries even after death it was "spiritual adultery". St. Thomas set forth the Catholic dogma on marriage (that is why they do not have divorce, but rather annulment). Annulment is where you say it was no official marriage in the first place. This allows a "legitimate" marriage to occur (which is essentially a divorce and remarriage, but they get by it by saying the first marriage was no marriage to begin with).
    8. Thomas More (1478-1535) - Christian humanist who attempted to bring church doctrine back to the fundamentals of scripture. Suggested marriage is for the pleasure of the male and female. He stressed marriage bond, but permitted divorce if two could not live together. The divorced should be allowed to remarry.
    9. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) - Held the same views as Thomas More. Criticized church for having a narrow view on Christ's viewpoint on marriage. And pointed out the hypocritical nature of interpreting the rest of the Sermon on the Mount more freely, while the marriage section was very narrow and restricted. He allowed for divorce in cases of cruelty and hatred (on top of adultery).
    10. Council of Trent (1563) - In reaction to the Reformation and the return back to scripture, set forth to make offical the Roman Catholic view on divorce and remarriage (along with many other doctrines). Standing by Thomas Aquinas' interpretation (see above) and in contrast to Thomas More and his contemporaries who were more liberal in their interpretation.
    11. Martin Luther (1483-1546) - Decried the Roman Catholic hierarchy's methods of luring people into celibacy. Believed that Jesus was not dispising divorce, but speaking against capricious use of divorce laws (divorce for any reason). Luther was flexible on what "just cause" for divorce entailed. Continual conflict, hatred, etc were also grounds for divorce. Yet, remarriage is acceptable, if one's ex-spouse did not change.
    12. John Calvin (1509-1564) - Held a high view of marriage, as did Luther. He did not believe it was a sacrament. By sacrament, the Catholic church saw marriage as indissolvable and considered those who remarried even after death of spouse as "committing spiritual adultery". He pointed out the error of the Catholic church in using Ephesians 5:32 as a basis of stating marriage is a sacrament, by translating the term "mystery" as "sacrament" in the Latin Vulgate (which does not exist in the original greek). John Calvin appears to agree with me on the topic of divorce. In the case its two believers, they can not remarry. In the case of one being a non-believer, the other is not bound and can remarry. Calvin taught that since magistrates do not exist today (to punish adultery) a man has to put away his unfaithful wife. This echos what the Shepard of Hermas (c. 140) says, which was considered as almost scriptural by the Early Church. Luther and Calvin seem to agree with the Shepard of Hermas in many points. Yet Luther and Calvin (and I) disagree with the Shepard of Hermas on the factor of remarriage. The Shepard of Hermas, seems to have sort of a sharper stance, which is more narrow to the interpretation of Jesus' words on the Sermon of the Mount.
    13. William Tyndale (1536) - Seem to take on more of Luther's viewpoint on divorce and remarriage. For Tyndale, only in the case of adultery, was divorce permitted. He viewed the adulteress as being someone under death penalty in Mosaic Law, therefore the first is not bound to her anymore and is able to remarry.
    14. John Wesley (1703-1791) - The father of Methodism, broke from the Reformers and decided to go with Anglican teaching, from which he came. He believed that polygamy was forbidden in scripture. He also believed that no divorced person could remarry so long as the former spouse was alive. He also did not allow divorce on the grounds of cruelty. He allowed remarriage for the innocent party that was cheated on (innocent victim remarriage). It should be noted, that his brother, Charles Wesley (the famous hymn writer), had a son who was a polygamist. Perhaps some internal struggle within the family on the topic of polygamy, as John Wesley was against polygamy.

    Personally, I agree with Origen, Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther and John Calvin on the topic of divorce and remarriage. And my goal in this article is to show the correct interpretation of Christ's words, in light of Mosaic Law regarding divorce and remarriage.

    Jesus confirms that God changes not, when he said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." - Matthew 5:17. Consider, Jesus said this right before going through the interpretation of various parts of the Law from the Old Testament. We should take his words literally. What was Jesus refering to when he said that he came to fulfill the Law and the prophets? He is refering to the type and shadows from the Ordinances of the Mosaic Law, particularly sacrifing bulls and lambs, yearly sabbaths and more. This is made clear in Colossians 2:14 - "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;". And, Hebrews 10:1 - "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."

    So, seeing Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:17, that he did not come to destroy the law, and then he discusses the law, should we not then assume he is interpreting the Old Testament and correcting false interpretations and misconceptions of his day? So, this alludes to Jesus also using the Old Testament understanding of divorce in the very same chapter, Matthew 5:31-32 - "5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 5:32 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."

    At one time, I used to believe that divorce was sin in basically all situations. I previously believed that only in the case of the spouse cheating in betrothal(engagement) can you obtain a divorce. Since then, I have learned that this was just an interpretation, rather than what Christ actually taught.

    So, what did Christ teach? Well, as I mentioned above, I don't believe Jesus taught anything new on common morality (such as the 10 Commandments). In other words, I do not believe Jesus changed anything regarding marriage covenant moral structure from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And, my goal is to prove this point here.

    So, in this verse above, where Jesus is discussing divorce, what passages from the Old Testament is he illuding to?

    He is directly refering to Deuteronomy 24:1 - 4, as he even quoted it partially: "bill of divorcement", by quoting what people in his time were commonly saying, but notice, that they were saying it incorrectly by leaving out the requirement of "uncleaness" as the condition to get a divorce.
    kjvdeu24.htm

    "24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour 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. 24:2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's [wife]. "

    Now, lets compare Jesus' words with this Old Testament law:
    kjvmat5.htm#31

    "5:32 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."

    Both have a "condition" for a person to be permitted to get a divorce. In Deuteronomy 24:1, it says "uncleaness" is the condition. In Matthew 5:32, it says "fornication" is the condition. Could fornication and uncleaness be the same word, or did Jesus teach something new?

    Well, interestingly, if you look at the hebrew definition of "uncleaness" you find it means:

    Orig: from 6168; nudity, literally (especially the pudenda) or figuratively (disgrace, blemish):--nakedness, shame, unclean(-ness). H6168

    Grk Strong: G152 G602 G808 G809 G2487

      1) nakedness, nudity, shame, pudenda
      1a) pudenda (implying shameful exposure)
      1b) nakedness of a thing, indecency, improper behaviour
      1c) exposed, undefended (fig.)

    Now, lets compare this to the greek term "fornication" found in Matthew 5:32:

    Orig: from 4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively, idolatry:--sexual immorality. G4203

    Heb Strong: H2183 H8457

      1) illicit(unlawful) sexual intercourse
      1a) adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, intercourse with animals etc.
      1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
      1c) sexual intercourse with an unlawfully divorced man or woman; Mr 10:11,12
      2) metaph. the worship of idols
      2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols
      2b) any form of idolatry

    Many Christians do not fully understand what the word "fornication" actually means. They often simply think it means sex before marriage, however, that is not what it means. It actually means "harlotry", "unlawful sexual conduct" and "idolatry" according to the original greek.

    Now, you may have ideas on what is "unlawful sexual conduct", however, you can actually look at these passages here to know exactly what God considers as unlawful sexual conduct: Leviticus 18:5-23. This is what I was refering to at the beginning of this article. To know a definition of a word like "fornication" in the English New Testament, do not consult a regular dictionary. Rather, consult the Old Testament and the original manuscripts. Otherwise, you could have error and be leading others into error on various doctrines, ideas, etc. Also, consider the fact anyone can construe the word to mean anything, using the dictionary route.

    Again, look at both definitions above and notice the similarities. Did you notice how the hebrew defintion mentions "nakedness" or "exposed", which seems to relate to "sexual misconduct" of the greek definition? So, when it says "nakedness" in the Hebrew definition, it is refering to "uncovering nakedness", such as a man uncovering his brother's wife's nakedness, as to sleep with her, which is the same as the greek term. Therefore, one component of this condition for a divorce would be sexual misconduct, such as being caught with another person. Not mere accusations, but something more concrete, actual evidence of misconduct.

    If you study closely the original Hebrew in Leviticus 18:5-23, you discover God's complete thoughts on sexual immorality. Going down the list, you will notice where God draws the line in the sand on each situation. With your relatives, the line is drawn at "nakedness", meaning, you are not to undress your relatives (sexually speaking). With regards to men with men, it says never to lie sexually with a man as with a woman. So the line is drawn at sex (meaning a man seeing another man nude is not a sin). When it comes to your neighbor's wife, it draws the line at not copulating with her (no direct sexual intercourse), and the reason given is because of the potential of mixing seed and having unclean offspring (in the original languages and can be seen in Young's Literal Translation). For women towards men, it is not illustrated as men is head of the family (and polygamy is permissible). When it comes to woman with woman, no line is drawn (in the text). And when it comes to animals it says not to sexually interact with them. So, just going through the verses line by line and closely studying the Hebrew, you can see God's mind on sexuality. AND, we can see, that the most restrictive comes in the form of sexually viewing nakedness of your relatives. So, we see now, how the hebrew term for "uncleanness/nakedness/shame" in divorce relates to sexual sin. As nakedness is the root of where the rule is most strictly applied.

    Back to the topic of divorce, notice that this condition for divorce does not seem limited to just sexual misconduct. With the Hebrew definition, you see "uncleaness" as part of the definition, which can be a lot more than just sexual misconduct. The term "uncleaness" and "improper behaviour" can mean any type of uncleaness or evil behaviour. In the Old Testament, any sinful activity can make you unclean (for instance, worshipping an idol). Notice also, there is one definition on the greek term that seems a little out of place, namely, "idolatry". How in the world would "idolatry" ever be construed as a reason for divorce?

    A question for you: Is a non-Christian an idolater? Now, that seems like an odd question, yes? Well, interestingly, Paul mentions one condition when a believer can get a divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:15 - "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace.". So, it seems here, if you look at the verse in context of the chapter, that Paul is saying to all believers, if you are married to a non-believer, and that person departs from you, you are not "under bondage" (not bound or bonded in marriage) to that person anymore. How can this be? Did not Jesus say, "except for the cause of fornication"? Well, as I just mentioned, all non-believers are "idolaters" which is a form of "fornication", according to the definition. An example of the word "fornication" being used in scripture to represent idolatry, see: 1, 2, 3, 4. Further, this concurs with the hebrew definition of "uncleaness" as a non-believer is also unclean, as you can see Paul declaring in this verse here: 1 Corinthians 7:14.

    Isn't that the strangest coincidence in the world? Paul is calling unbelievers "unclean" in 1 Corinthians 7:14. And in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, one of the conditions for getting a divorce is "uncleaness". Further, one of the definitions of "fornication" in Jesus' mirror passage of Matthew 5:31, is "idolatry" and anyone who does not worship the true God is an "idolater". Showing, how Jesus did not change the moral law on divorce and further, showing Paul did not either.

    The act of committing fornication is equivalent to commiting "idolatry" or "adultery" or any "sexual sin" in general. I believe this is equivelant to the term "uncleanness" in the Old Testament passage and is acceptable grounds for divorce. However, to curb the misuse of this rule, God also said that if you divorce your spouse, you can not get back together with that person ever again (assuming they got into another marriage and came back around to you). This was to make the decision for divorce as serious as your decision to first marry. In other words, it isn't to be some flippant decision.

    So what do you think? Is idolatry just worshipping an idol? Or is it more than that?

    Colossians 3:5 says this about idolatry:

    kjvcol3.htm#5

    "3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: "

    IN other words, your spouse cheating on you is not the only grounds for divorce, but rather is more broad as the Old Testament says "some uncleaness". So, the term porneia (except for the cause of fornication) includes also having various evil desires, such as wanting to hurt your spouse, a desire to treat them in an evil manner, etc. So men and women who are emotionally, verbally, physically abused are not required to stay with their abusive spouse, as their spouse has and acts on their evil desires, which is a form of idolatry according to Colossians 3:5. Of course, it could be your spouse has other evil desires which are manifested and intolerable. These also can be grounds for divorce. Keep in mind, though, it is to be a very important decision and not something you do flippantly or for the wrong reasons. If the marriage can be salvaged, it should be done, as God's ideal is for those who God has joined, let not man put asunder.

    However, you may wonder to yourself, "What about Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7? Do not both of these chapters directly speak against divorce and remarriage?" Well, let us look at these two chapters, to see what they say:

    "Rom 7:1 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? 7:2 For the woman which hath an 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. 7:3 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. 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. " - Romans 7:1-4

    This one can be a tricky one, as even some of the early church fathers misunderstood this one (not all though). Let us go through this logically, and break it down. First, it appears to be saying that a woman is bound unto her husband unto death, yes? However, let me point out something to you. The Apostle Paul here is talking about the Law. The Law, being the Law of God, given to the Israelites, as discussed in the first five books of Moses (The Pentateuch). Now, what does the Law say? The law says in Deuteronomy 24 that there is an exemption to being bound unto death, in that if the man finds uncleanness in her and divorces her, he and she can remarry. So, Paul is discussing the Law, and knows the Law says this. From this, we look at Romans 7 and realize he is just using marriage as an example of "law having dominion over a man as long as he lives". So, he was just giving an example of how law has dominion over a man his whole life. He is not saying that the Law has been changed to not allow divorce, as that is not the intention of his passage. So, his example is to just make a point (not related to marriage), regarding to how the Law has dominion over you your whole life. And that you have been redeemed from the Law and have been set free by Christ, through his death on the cross for your sins. Therefore, this passage is not intended for explaining marriage and divorce, but rather just demonstrating how the Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives.

    I do understand that many early church fathers took this to mean that after divorce, a person can not remarry. However, as you can see, their error is in ignoring the context and ignoring what the Law of Moses actually states. In that, the Law of Moses states a man can divorce and remarry in Deuteronomy 24. So, it is just an exegesis error on the part of many of these early church fathers. It should be noted that Theophilus Of Antioch (180 AD) saw divorce and remarriage permissible (by deduction I conclude this, see below), assuming one is truly divorced. Unfortunately, like the greek of the New Testament, words can be also translated badly as well in the case of other writings. In this passage here, I believe Theophilus is actually saying that a woman unjustly divorced and remarries, she is committing adultery:

    "And concerning chastity, the holy word teaches us not only not to sin in act, but not even in thought, not even in the heart to think of any evil, nor look on another man’s wife with our eyes to lust after her. Solomon, accordingly, who was a king and a prophet, said: “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee: make straight paths for your feet.” - Prov. iv. 25.

    And the voice of the Gospel teaches still more urgently concerning chastity, saying: “Whosoever looketh on a woman who is not his own wife, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” - Matt. v. 28.

    “And he that marrieth,” says [the Gospel], “her that is divorced from her husband, committeth adultery; and whosoever putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.” - Matt. v. 32.

    Because Solomon says: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to a married woman shall not be innocent.” Prov. vi. 27–29. " - Theophilus to Autolycus, B III, Ch 3, on Chastity

    Ok, again, lets do some textual analysis, as this was written in greek originally. He cites Solomon regarding "lust of the eyes". Is it just me, or would that be a terrible example of a person to cite, if he was implying you can not lust after any woman? Solomon had 1000 wives. To say he never lusted after any woman other than one of his wives is quite a rediculous statement. It is like implying Hitler was a good Christian. So, it is clear, within this logic, that he is refering to the sin of King David, of seeing a married woman and then desiring to take her (not women in general). Second, notice how his quote of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28 was translated into English differently than how we read in our Bible. The translator adds this additional wording, "woman who is not his own wife". Well, I just checked the greek version of this passage of Theophilus to Autolycus, Book III, Chapter 3, and it appears that Theophilus did indeed word it slightly different than Jesus' words. However, I think I will have to disagree with the transcribers translation, as I just did a bit of study on these greek words here and it should actually read this way, "Whosoever looketh on a woman who belongs to another, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

    Here is the quote from Matthew 5:28 in greek, and the quote from Theophilus to Autolycus, Book III, Chapter 3, quoting Jesus, in greek:

    "5:28 εγω δε λεγω υμιν οτι πας ο βλεπων γυναικα προς το επιθυμησαι αυτης ηδη εμοιχευσεν αυτην εν τη καρδια αυτου " - Matthew 5:27-28

    ἡ δὲ εὐαγγέλιος φωνὴ ἐπιτατικώτερον διδάσκει περὶ ἁγνείας λέγουσα· “Πᾶς ὁ ἰδὼν γυναῖκα ἀλλοτρίαν πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ. καὶ ὁ γαμῶν” - Theophilus to Autolycus, B III, Ch 3, quoting Mt 5:28

    The term, "ἀλλοτρίαν" means, "belongeth to another", not "who is not yours". You can see I am correct here: G245, thus proving that one of the earliest Christian apologists agrees with me on the interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28, as I discuss in this article here.

    Third, on the last line, we see Theophilus quoting Proverbs, where it discusses a married woman playing the whore, while her husband is away (that is assuming Theopilus read the rest of what Proverbs 6 says). So, we can conclude from that he is potentially infering that a woman who is not "correctly divorced" and then remarrys as being equivelant to a married woman cheating on her husband while he is away (as seen in Proverbs 6). So, we can theorize that he was not against remarriage in all circumstances, as he would have made it quite obvious like some of the other early fathers. Rather, he seems to only condemn those who are taking another man's wife (as Proverbs 6 and Matthew 5:27-28 are cited and those directly are discussing taking another man's wife). And this viewpoint, would be in full agreement with the one I am presenting in my article here. Also, it appears, I am not the only one who deduces this regarding Theophilus passage cited here.

    "1 Cor 7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 7:10 And unto the married I command, [yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband: 7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife. 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace. 7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife? 7:17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. " - 1 Corinthians 7:1-4

    With this passage, people often get hung up on verse 11, as it says, "7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife." Let me break this entire chapter down, logically, to show you what is occuring. Paul starts off talking about believers in marriage in verses 1 through 11. So, both of the people in the marriage are Christians all the way up to verse 11. What this means is, if two Christians are married and get a divorce, neither should remarry, but at a later time attempt to reconcile the marriage. As both are Christians, and neither are unclean in that instance, so as there is no legal means for divorce (full divorce, where you can remarry). So, in a sense, it is like separation.

    However, on verse 12, he starts to discuss a Christian married to a non-Christian. In this instance, the Apostle Paul says in verse 15, "7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace." So he implies here that there is "legitimate uncleanness" as is required in Deuteronomy 24:1 and as Jesus said in Matthew 5:32. So, in this case, the believer is "not bound" in marriage anymore, and could remarry. And as Paul instructed, believers are to marry believers, so if a believer is divorced from an unbeliever, they could then remain single or potentially marry a believer later down the road.

    So the question is, who is a Christian? Is it in name only or one that truly loves God and is faithful to Jesus? Is it mental ascent, believing Christ died for your sins? Or is it a living faith that not only saves you, but regenerates you? So, if a man claims to be a Christian and abuses his wife, or a woman claims to be a Christian and does vile things to her husband, they are not Christians. And a Christian would not be under bondage to remain unmarried, but rather could remarry another person. Of course, they could choose to wait on the Lord, hoping and believing the other will repent of their hypocrisy and come to Christ, so as to reunite with them again later.

    Again, some of you maybe thinking to yourself, "Do not all the early church fathers unanimously agree that remarriage is a sin?" Well, if you read many of these Anabaptist, Orthodox or Catholic websites, you would assume such a thing. However, as I mentioned above, many of the early church fathers (Hermas, Athenagoras, probably Clement Of Alexandria) misunderstood Matthew 5:32 "... whosoever shall marry a woman that is divorced committeh adultery" to mean atleast a woman can not remarry after a divorce. However, it is refering to an "unproperly" divorced woman, who was just "sent away" (the word "divorce" in the greek). That is why you have some early fathers saying a man could remarry, but a woman could not. While others would say neither a man or woman could remarry. And yet a small few thought, similar to what I am saying here, namely a Christian married to a Christian can not remarry, but a Christian married to a non-believer and was divorced could (Theophilus Of Antioch [ca. A.D. 180], Ambrosiaster [ca. 366-383] and maybe Justin Martyr). Even within these three stances, you had variations, so there was not a real consensus overall.

    Luther also seemed to have a similar approach as I do to scripture on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Take note of this quote below from Christianity Today:

    "A strong advocate of faithfulness as a chief Christian virtue, Luther was not always sure that the Catholics were wrong about indissolubility, and he once said half seriously that bigamy might be preferable to divorce. He came to see divorce, however, as a permissible last resort in cases of infidelity, impotency, refusal of marital relations, and desertion. He strongly supported remarriage for the offended party. Melanchthon, Luther's colleague, limited the grounds to two, infidelity and desertion, on the basis of the "Matthean exception" and "Pauline privilege."

    You see, the problem with many of the early church fathers on this topic (many, not all), was one very simple but large mistake in understanding God's Word. The error is assuming Jesus changed God's Law on Marriage. However, as I pointed out in the beginning of this article, Jesus clearly states at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." - Matthew 5:17. Since Jesus directly says in this passage he was not changing the Law and then discusses divorce and marriage, we know, Jesus is in agreement with the Old Testament regarding divorce and remarriage. And to recap, the Old Testament clearly permitted divorce and remarriage if there was found "uncleanness".

    Now, this article here would not be complete, if I did not discuss Mark 10:2-12, as it is the favorite verse of those who do not believe you can get a divorce. OK, lets break this down bit by bit to see what it really says:

    First, the Pharisees tempted him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to put away [his] wife?"

    Now, the question we have to ask is, "Why is this tempting?" Well, it is a trick question. It is lawful ONLY if there is uncleaness. Yet, the pharisees delibrately left it out, so they could catch him in an error. Because if he said "Yes", they would have said, not true, because "uncleaness is required". And if he said "No", they would have said untrue, because it says it is permitted in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. See their silly little trick? Kind of petty and immature, would you not say?

    So, he answers with a question, forcing them answer their own question. But, they do not actually answer the question correctly, as they conviently leave out the "condition" of "uncleaness". See verses 3 and 4.

    Now, on verse 5, this is where many make the mistake in interpretation. Jesus says it was for "hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept". "He", being Moses, in the passage. Now, who instructed Moses to write the Law? Did not God instruct Moses to write the law? When it says "hardness of hearts" what was Jesus refering to? Is he not refering to "sinful nature" and people refusing to live right? Does this mean the person getting the divorce is "hard of heart" or perhaps, the person who has "uncleaness" is "hard of heart".

    And here is another passage that hangs up many people. Verses 6-9: "10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 10:7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 10:8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

    Now, I will show you something you probably have not seen before. First, what is Jesus quoting here? He is quoting Genesis 2:24. NOW, this is something I just realized not even 5 days ago and have never heard anyone mention. What is Genesis chapter 3? The fall - Adam and Eve's first sin. So, Jesus said "from the beginning" it was not so. From the beginning means, "before the fall". So, God's original design for marriage was before man's sin came into the picture. After man's sin came into the picture, divorce had to be permitted in some cases, as some people were "unclean" and the one who is clean can not be in line with someone unclean. Paul eludes to it in this passage here: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" - 2 Corinthians 6:14. So, we can see here, that Jesus was saying, that from the beginning, God's design was for two to get married and never have a divorce. But, after the fall, God permitted divorce in certain cases.

    Last, but not least, Mark 10:11-12 it says, "10:11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 10:12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." Now, surely, this seems to contradict this "conditional divorce" idea, right? Well, actually, wrong. When the term "put away" is used, it is a term that can mean either "illegal" or "legal" divorce. To make you see it for yourself, just look at the definition of "put away" in the greek and you will see it says to literally "send away". A question for you: If I said to you, "I sent away my wife" would you assume I properly divorced her? So, to "send away (gk630)" does not equal the word "divorce". So, here, Jesus is saying, just putting away a woman without a legitimate reason (such as "uncleaness"), would cause the woman to commit adultery, if she remarried. As this passage here, is a mirror of Matthew 5:32 (same instance in time). You can see it more clearly, if you put all of Mark chapter 10 in context. IN Mark 10:11-12, the disciples are asking about what was discussed with the pharisees. Jesus did not say "Moses was wrong". Rather, he said it was permitted or "suffered" because of "hardness of hearts", which then led to his next statement about God's original design before the Fall. So, Jesus never contradicts Moses. And, later, the disciples are asking about the discussion and he says, yes, if you divorce (without real cause), it is causing a violation. As remember, the pharisees, tempted him to answer their trick question of getting a divorce for ANY reason. And Jesus was clarifying to the disciples that you can not divorce for any reason.

    With all these divorce scriptures both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, it uses terms such as "putting away" or "sending away", as can also be seen in Malachi 2:16 - "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously." You can even see here, God is saying he "hates putting away" and shows how the people were dealing "treacherously" with their wives, by leaving them without righteous cause(uncleaness), because they lusted after foreign wives (according to historical background studies). So, this passage here is not saying "God hates divorce", but rather "God hates unjust divorce". This shows the harmony between the Old and New Testament regarding divorce being valid only in the case of uncleanness.

    Lets revisit Matthew 5:32 again and analyze the end part of the verse.

    "5:32 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."

    Now some attempt to say that "saving for the cause of fornication" is refering to cheating in betrothal (the first year of engagement, where preperation is made for the new marriage/family) and then go on to say that it is not refering to cheating within marriage and ultimately concluding that you can never get a divorce in the actual marriage. Five reasons just flashed into my mind as to why this is not a correct viewpoint. Here they are:

    • First, engagement is considered equivelant to marriage within Old Testament Law, as can be seen in the capital punishment of a betrothed woman lying with another man, as both are stoned according to Deuteronomy 22:20-27, which is the exact same punishment as a married woman lying with another man other than her husband, as seen in Leviticus 18:20. This means, that in God's mind a commitment to marriage and being married are one in the same.
    • Second, it says within the scripture above, "wife", not "betrothed woman".
    • Third, this common viewpoint works off the commonly misunderstood definition of "fornication" (greek word porneia) by assuming the word is directly refering to "sex before marriage". But, as I have clearly demonstrated above, this is not the correct definition. Further, even if you assumed that was the definition, you would have an exegesis problem with the fact that God treats "a betrothed woman" the same as "a wife" and it is impossible for a wife or betrothed woman to have "sex before marriage", as she is already married.
    • Fourth, the termonology "put away his wife" directly refers to the foundation of divorce law found in Deuteronomy 24:1 and "bill of divorcement" is obviously a quote from Deuteronomy 24 as well, showing that even the Jews had their foundation of divorce law in Deuteronomy 24, or they would not use the term "send away" as refering to divorce, as the operation of getting a divorce includes 3 steps according to Deuteronomy 24:
      1. You find "uncleanness"
      2. You "write a bill of divorcement".
      3. You "send her out of his house".
      This alone makes it very clear that Jesus and the Pharisees and the whole of Judaism put their divorce law on these passages, for even the term divorce, means "send away" and it is clear, there are three steps, so to just "send away" alone without finding "uncleanness" would obviously be a violation of the law set forth. Further, not writing a "bill of divorcement" would also mean the person is still married in God's sight as well.
    • Fifth, this viewpoint directly contradicts what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:15 - "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace.", showing that this viewpoint can not even harmonize with the New Testament, much less the Old Testament.
    • If we can not rely on the Old Testament Law, how does the New Testament have any credence? The New Testament is built on the Old Testament. You can not take terms and laws defined in the Old Testament and change their meaning in the New Testament. I understand it may fit some person's doctrine better or perhaps furthers a denominational viewpoint, but that does not make it right or God's doctrine.

    When it says "whosoever shall marry a woman that is divorced committeh adultery", it is refering to a woman who went through a divorce, where the marriage was not legitimately ended. Again, look at the greek word for "divorce " here. Again, it is not the word "divorce", but the word "to send away (grk630)". And, they are not one in the same, as I can send away a woman without being properly divorced. For instance, lets say two are married and there is no uncleanness found and they just go their separate ways. IN this instance, they are still married in God's sight and for them to remarry, they would be committing adultery. Ironically, once they have committed the sex act with their new spouse, this will officially end the first marriage in God's sight, because now, there is uncleanness and legitimate reason for the first divorce. However, obviously, this is not a good pattern and the idea is to stay married to the one you are with and be serious about the relationship. Don't keep making the same mistakes over and over like the woman at the well.

    For those who would think that Matthew 5:32 is saying, yes you can get a divorce, but no you can not marry, let me show you your error in understanding. If Jesus says, you can get a divorce, if there is "fornication", it means, the marriage is over. It does not exist anymore. Hence, to remarry, you would not commit adultery, as adultery's definition is "to cheat on your marriage contract" or "unlawful intercourse with a married woman". Hence, obviously, if the first marriage is correctly ended, the woman's status changes from "married" to "single" and there is no possibility of "adultery". This shows Jesus would be logically contradicting himself, if he actually meant "you can get a divorce, but not remarry".

    I believe that many of Jesus' commands, particularly those mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, are literally just quotes or explanations or rewordings of Old Testament morals and commandments. Many people believe he "changed" various moral doctrines or they just do not consider what the Old Testament says and try to deduce what Jesus meant. As Isaiah 28:10 says, "28:10 For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little".

    For a more elaborate explanation of divorce that harmonizes all scripture on the topic, click here.





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