Saturday, December 09, 2006

Divorce and Remarriage in the Gospel of Matthew

Tradition has the Gospel of Matthew addressing the Jews. In reading Matthew's account of Jesus' reponses to Pharisees' questions regarding divorce it does become apparent that this is so. Matthew 19:9 (KJV)

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (modern translations lack this clause 12/11/06).

Here it again the husband 'puts away' the wife and marries another woman thus committing adultery. This is similar to Mark 10:11. In the second clause the innocent divorced wife is a causal agent for sin if a man were to marry her.

Note that the 'wife divorces husband' situation is not addressed here. Why? This is not allowed in Jewish law and tradition. So Matthew does not consider this scenario as it is not possible among the Jews. See

Matthew 5:32 is taken from Jesus' sermon on the mount:

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.

In the second clause it becomes apparent again that the innocent divorced wife is a causal agent for sin for any man that marries her. In this verse Jesus states an exception for the 'huband divorces wife' case. That exception is for fornication. Note again that the 'wife divorces husband' scenario is not addressed. That Jewish flavor of Matthew's Gospel comes into play.

Why does Jesus mention the exception for fornication for the 'husband divorces wife' case here and not in Mark or Luke? It is perhaps Matthew was speaking to a mostly Jewish audience.

Two things:

1) The state of sin and the possibility for remarriage without sin for the innocent husband in the 'wife divorces husband' situation is not addressed here. Perhaps because this is a Gospel addressed to the Jews.

2) Now if you are an innocent wife left behind in a divorce it seems you are out of luck here in terms of the ability to remarry without sin. Consider that it does not say you can get remarried even if your cad of an ex-husband remarries. I will consider this more in a upcoming post. I'll just leave you with the thought that we should consider all the Bible passages in the Gospels, in Paul's letters and in the OT.


More Christ Like said...

Leslie McFall has an interesting way to deal with the so-called exception clause in Matthew 19:9 that appears to allow for divorce and remarriage for marriage unfaithfulness.
He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

Frank said...

I'm travelling for the next 2 weeks or so. I'll read your post more closely, but to summarize you'd have to read most of my other posts on divorce and remarriage:

especially ones by the author, David Instone-Brewer:

Mt 19 was Jesus' insertion into a debate between two schools of Pharisees. This debate is mentioned in historical references, i.e Talmud, Philo and Josephus and was centered on the meaning of Dt 24. So Mt 19 did not cover the instances of abandonment. Paul's 1 Co 7 covers this.