Divorce Part 8 (Actual Final)

This post is the actual final consolidation and simplified explanation of the Scriptures on divorce. Previous discussions include several conversations and much of the same material from On divorce and On divorce Part 2 and On divorce Part 3 and On divorce Part 4 and On divorce Part 5 and On divorce Part 6 and Divorce Part 7 Final.

What prompted this extra analysis is more information from a Mike Winger video (3 hrs). Upon analyzing some new information I hadn’t heard before, much of it seems to support this case rather than what he claims which is support for divorce for adultery, physical abuse, abandonment, and other situations.

Also related: polygyny and the Lysa divorce fiasco (which they are currently reconciling which is good).. and then now (2022) divorcing again under suspicious circumstances. This is one of the original research articles that got me started on analyzing the Scriptures on divorce and also evidence by Leslie McFall.

The “Betrothal position” has the most evidence to support it given the context from Matthew 1 (in the same book), the narrow scope use of porneia in certain circumstances John 8 (Pharisees call Jesus a “born of fornication (porneia),” as well as pointing toward the difference between putting away and divorce (putting away + writ of divorce). John Piper gives a good summary. That’s my official position on the topic after having done more research from the past post. Another paper on the The betrothal position of divorce and remarriage David W Jones and another David Janzen The Meaning of Porneia in Matthew 5.32 and 19.9 an approach: From the Study of Ancient Near Eastern Culture that I came across while looking at Winger’s material.

There’s also several other books and papers that do not support it gathering available evidence. Instone-Brewer’s book is one of the most quoted. Here’s a thesis paper that summarizes most of the pro-divorce arguments but has several critical errors in my opinion.

Additions since the last post:

  • Added more analysis in the OT sections.
  • Added a section on the debate on the word “porneia.” (Section 10)
  • Added analysis/refutation of common talking points of pro-porneia divorce in the NT passages.
  • Added section on the binding nature of vows (which no pro-divorce people have a counter argument for that I’ve seen).

Onward…


Table of contents

  1. Deuteronomy 24 — What is legal divorce according to the Scriptures?
  2. Deuteronomy 22 — What constitutes marital fraud?
  3. Jeremiah 3 and Isaiah 50 — The adulterous cases of Israel and Judah
  4. Malachi 2 — the background from the Old Testament to the New Testament
  5. Deuteronomy 24 and Matthew 5 and 19 — The synonymous terms of legal divorce in the OT and NT
  6. Matthew 19:3 — the Pharisees’ multi layered trap
  7. Matthew 19:4-6 — Jesus goes back to the creation
  8. Matthew 19:7 — The Pharisees’ confusion
  9. Matthew 19:8 — Jesus’ response on hardness of heart
  10. The hotly debated term of porneia
  11. Matthew 19:9 — The heavily misinterpreted passage of Scripture
  12. Matthew 19:10-12 — the disciples actually understand the gravity of marriage
  13. Matthew 1:18-19 — the case of Joseph and Mary and John 8:39-41
  14. Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:13-18 — the unification of Matthew with Mark and Luke
  15. Romans 7 — understanding the context of Jewish divorce
  16. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 — the Lord’s command to husbands and wives
  17. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 — Paul, not the Lord, says to live with unbelieving spouses
  18. The binding nature of vows
  19. Summary of all evidence
  20. Conclusion

1. Deuteronomy 24 — What is legal divorce according to the Scriptures?

Deuteronomy 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 (sêpher kerı̂ythûth), and give it in her hand, and send (shâlach) her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement (sêpher kerı̂ythûth), and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth (shâlach) her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Legal divorce is composed of two parts in Mosiac law. This will be important later.

  1. Sepher keriythth — Writing and giving the wife a bill of divorcement.
  2. Shalach — Sending her out of the house or away.

2. Deuteronomy 22 — What constitutes marital fraud?

Marital fraud is found in Deuteronomy 22.

Deuteronomy 22:13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:

15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away (shâlach) all his days.

20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: 21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

From a historical perspective, at the time of Jesus no women who were caught in marital fraud were stoned (due to the Romans not permitting the Jews to execute anyone, which is why the Pharisees had to take Jesus to Pontius Pilate to have Him executed). Women caught in marital fraud were simply put away without being legally divorced (put away + writ of divorce) as the couple was not considered legally married.

Distinguishing legal divorce from marital fraud is important because it shows how a woman could be put away (without being legally divorced).


3. Jeremiah 3 and Isaiah 50 — The adulterous cases of Israel and Judah

The Lord acquiesces to the laws He outlined in Deuteronomy 24 for legal divorce in the cases of Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 3:6 The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. 7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away (shâlach), and given her a bill of divorce (sêpher kerı̂ythûth); yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. 9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.

Israel was not brought back out of Assyrian captivity. By the NT, they were no longer “Jews” but “Samaritans” because they have been divorced by God and intermixed with the surrounding nations. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were no longer part of the God’s chosen people.

But the Lord still wants repentance in Jeremiah 3:14 even though He legally divorced Israel. Since they are part of the ‘Gentiles’ now, they can now be redeemed by Christ. See: Samaritan woman at the well in John 3.

On the other hand, the Lord speaking to Judah does not divorce her even though He puts her away.

Isaiah 50:1 Thus saith the Lord [to Judah], Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement (sêpher ‘êm kerı̂ythûth), whom I have put away (shâlach)? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away (shâlach). 2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

In the case of Judah, we know that Jesus comes from the lineage of Judah and David. The Lord allows Judah to be put away into captivity for their transgressions. Afterward, He redeems and delivers Judah out of captivity as read in Nehemiah and Ezra and upholds  His covenant with them through the rebuilding of His temple. Then He brings full redemption to them through sending His Son Jesus to die bring forth the New Covenant.


4. Malachi 2 — The background from the Old Testament to the New Testament

Malachi is the last prophet for 400 years before Jesus. Malachi points out Israelite backsliding due to assimilation of the surrounding cultures much like today.

Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away (shâlach): for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. 17 Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

The passage only talks about putting away and not legal divorce under the Law of Moses. “Divorce” in surrounding cultures was simply putting away (without a writ of divorce). Husbands sent their wives out of the house and that was a divorce. Husbands probably mimicked the surrounding culture because of two reasons:

  1. Selfish gain. If a wife was legally divorced — put away with a writ of divorce — she would receive back the dowry that the bride’s father paid. However, if she was put away without a writ of divorce she would not receive back the dowry.
  2. Marginalized wives. A legal divorce — put away with a writ of divorce — would allow the divorced wife to remarry. However, if a wife was put away she would still be legally married to her husband, which allowed her unable to remarry without committing adultery.

This is why putting away is termed treacherous by the Lord. This assimilation of the surrounding culture sets the stage for Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees in the New Testament.

Janzen covers the dowry issue more depth in his analysis of why the betrothal position is correct.


5. Deuteronomy 24 and Matthew 5 and 19 — The synonymous terms of legal divorce in the OT and NT

The OT was written in Hebrew and the NT was written primarily in Greek.  There are synonymous terms in the Hebrew and Greek.

Deuteronomy 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 (sêpher kerı̂ythûth), and give it in her hand, and send (shâlach) her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement (sêpher kerı̂ythûth), and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth (shâlach) her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

  1. Sepher keriythth — Writing and giving the wife a bill of divorcement.
  2. Shalach — Sending her out of the house or away.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away (apoluō) his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement (apostasion), and to put her away (apoluō autos)? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away (apoluō) your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia), and shall marry another,commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

G630 — ἀπολύω — apoluō — ap-ol-oo’-o
From G575 and G3089; to free fully, that is, (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon, or (specifically) divorce: – (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty.

G647 — ἀποστάσιον — apostasion — ap-os-tas’-ee-on
Neuter of a (presumed) adjective from a derivative of G868; properly something separative, that is, (specifically) divorce: – (writing of) divorcement.

  1. GREEK Apostasion and HEBREW Sepher keriythth — Writing and giving the wife a bill of divorcement.
  2. GREEK Apoluo and HEBREW Shalach — Sending her out of the house or away.

I crossed out the two instances of “divorce” within Strong’s definition of apoluo because apoluo does not denote a legal divorce according to the Law of Moses and according to Matthew because it is a gospel to the Jews. Jesus would not have used apoluo to mean “divorce” in Matthew because He does not abolish the law but fulfills the law.


6. Matthew 19:3 — the Pharisees’ multi layered trap

Line by line analysis, given our solid background:

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

Your spider senses should be tingling with the tricky wording of “lawful” with “putting away” (without writ of divorce) and “every cause.”

The main trap is the Pharisees are pitting Roman law versus a specific interpretation of Jewish law. In Roman law you could “divorce” your wife by “putting her away” (apoluo) much like the surrounding cultures in Malachi 2. However, Jewish law in Deuteronomy 24 you could divorce your wife by “putting her away” (apoluo or shalach) AND giving her a bill of divorcement (Apostasion or Sepher keriythth).

The secondary trap of the Pharisees, specifically the Hillelites, claimed you could legally divorce for “every cause” due to an interpretation of uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24 meaning any form of displeasure. (The article gets the conclusion wrong, but the background is important). Roman husbands could just send a wife away to divorce her whereas Jewish Law required broad or narrow cause.

The trap: If Jesus answers that you can “put away a wife without a bill of divorcement” the Pharisees can call Jesus a blasphemer as He is not following Jewish law. If Jesus says that you “need a bill of divorcement” or “a narrow range of causes” to put away then the Pharisees accuse Jesus to the Romans and say that He is subverting Roman law (like they eventually did before Pontius Pilate as they claimed Jesus was a ‘King’ which was antithetical to Roman rule).

The NET Bible translator notes echo similarly: “sn The question of the Pharisees was anything but sincere; they were asking it to test him. Jesus was now in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (i.e., Judea and beyond the Jordan) and it is likely that the Pharisees were hoping that he might answer the question of divorce in a way similar to John the Baptist and so suffer the same fate as John, i.e., death at the hands of Herod (cf.14:1-2). Jesus answered the question not on the basis of rabbinic custom and the debate over Deut 24:1, but rather from the account of creation and God’s original design.

Other similar Pharisee traps:

  • ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to God or Caesar’ (Matt 22, Mark 12) which would pit Jewish law against Roman law.
  • ‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?’ (John 8) with the woman caught in adultery. The Law required stoning, but Romans did not allow the Jews to execute anyone.

There is a pattern of Jewish vs Roman law interpretation.


7. Matthew 19:4-6 — Jesus goes back to the creation

Matthew 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Jesus knows that it’s a no-win question. He sidesteps the Pharisees’ trap by avoiding talking about Roman and Jewish law and causes. Instead, Jesus discusses the creation of man and what God intended. He would know because He was there in the beginning (see: John 1:1-4).

This is Jesus’ answer on divorce: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

No (man initiated) divorce.


8. Matthew 19:7 — The Pharisees’ confusion

Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement (apostasion), and to put her away (apoluō autos)?

The Pharisees see that Jesus has cleverly sidestepped their trap and are confused. If God did not intended for any divorce then why divorce in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 24?

The Pharisees acknowledgement that the Law of Moses declared that a divorce is composed of putting away AND bill of divorcement reveals their trap that we saw earlier. The Pharisees knew that a divorce was putting away and a bill of divorcement, but they only tested Jesus on putting away only.


9. Matthew 19:8 — Jesus’ response of hardness of heart

Matthew 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away (apoluō) your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Jesus responds that this part of the law was created by Moses because human hearts are hard. Jesus agrees with God: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Jesus is saying that any who thinks divorce is an option for them has hardness of heart.


10. Matthew 19:9 — The heavily misinterpreted passage of Scripture

Jesus answers the original question that the Pharisees posed: “what lawful instances can a man put away?” You can see the mirror of the verses which confirms this:

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

Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia), and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

Jesus is answering the Pharisees original question. Next, read the verse without the “exception clause” to understand why it makes sense.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia), and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

Simplified:

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, …, and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

In plain English:

If you put away your wife and marry another you commit adultery and whoever marries her commits adultery.

This is what is said in Mark 10 and Luke 16, and the meaning is obvious. If you put away your wife without legally divorcing her — give her a writ of divorcement before sending her away — you’re still married to her. If you’re still married to her, both you and her commit adultery if you marry another.

Similarly, if we interpret “putting away” to also mean divorce, then the passage reads the same: “If you divorce your wife and marry another you commit adultery and whoever marries her commits adultery.”

Either way you interpret putting away here, it’s the same thing especially in the context of Jesus mentioning that Moses inserted divorce into the Law for hardness of heart and that God’s will is “what God has put together let no man separate.”

Now to add in back the exception:

Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia), and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

What is the only case you can “put away” a “wife” without legal divorce? In the Law of Moses that would be Deuteronomy 22 where the marriage was invalid because of fraud. Since the marriage was invalid because of fraud, you can put her away without giving her a writ of divorce.

Porneia, in this case, refers specifically to invalid marriages because of marital fraud. I’ll cover why in the next section.

Therefore, Jesus makes two distinct statements in this entire passage:

On marriage and divorce:

Matthew 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

On putting away in regard to fraudulent marriages (referencing Deut 22):

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia) [illicit/fraudulent sexual deception which forms an invalid marriage], and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

In conclusion, Jesus says there is no divorce. You can only put away if there is marriage fraud.

For example, in the case of fraud, a wife that lies about her past sexual history can be put away because it’s a fraudulent marriage. Interestingly, though we often negatively critique him, Mark Driscoll experienced this. You can see the devastation, which is why God makes an exception for this.


11. The hotly debated term of porneia

The interpretation of porneia is the probably the most contested term in the passage because the meaning around it can change the whole meaning of the passage. This section is going to be long because there are several considerations.

Most who believe that you can divorce for adultery point out that “porneia” is a supposed to be a catch all term including fornication, adultery, incest, bestiality, and other manners of sexual impropriety. According to them, this means the Matthew 5 exception clauses allow for divorce for any of these instances.

Let’s look at this logically.

Matthew 5:18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery (moichao), sexual immorality (porneia), theft, false testimony, and slander.

In Matthew 15, we have a passage that distinguishes that porneia is not necessarily synonymous with adultery. Galatians 5 also similarly separates them in comparison of fruit of the flesh versus fruit of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality (porneia) among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

In this passage, porneia refers to “incest.” Thus, this also means that porneia can have a narrower scope than as just a catch all term. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 as well as Colossians 3 and 1 Thess 4 appear to refer to fornication as “pre-marital sex.”

Another point is that that no translation of porneia (aside from the supposedly contested usage in Matthew 5 and 19) in the NT refers to it to include adultery or translated exclusively adultery. When adultery is referred to the term moichaeo is used.

John 8:37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. 39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41 Ye do the deeds of your father.

Then said they (Pharisees) to him (Jesus), We be not born of fornication (porneia); we have one Father, even God.

The vast majority if not all commentaries assert that this is a Pharisaical jab at the fact that it was known that Mary was pregnant before her marriage to Joseph. Hence, “born of fornication” in this case specifically refers to Mary’s supposed pre-marital sex during the betrothal period. Therefore, we can establish that fornication can actually even refer to the narrow scope of “pre-marital sex” in the betrothal period.

Jeremiah 3:2 “Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution/adulteries (zanah – porneia) and wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. 4 Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, 5 will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.”

6 During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery (zanah – porneia) there.

7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries (zanah – moicheao). Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery (zanah – porneia). 9 Because Israel’s immorality (zanah – porneia) mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery (naaph – moicheao) with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.

H2181 – zânâh – zaw-naw’
A primitive root (highly fed and therefore wanton); to commit adultery (usually of the female, and less often of simple forniciation, rarely of involuntary ravishment); figuratively to commit idolatry (the Jewish people being regarded as the spouse of Jehovah): – (cause to) commit fornication, X continually, X great, (be an, play the) harlot, (cause to be, play the) whore, (commit, fall to) whoredom, (cause to) go a-whoring, whorish. Total KJV occurrences: 93

H5003 nâ’aph naw-af’
A primitive root; to commit adultery; figuratively to apostatize: – adulterer (-ess), commit (-ing) adultery, woman that breaketh wedlock. Total KJV occurrences:

Mike Winger in his video (linked at the top & here) notes that porneia is translated as adultery in the Greek Septuagint in several difference cases. For instance, Jeremiah 3:2,6, Eze 16:23, Hos 2:3,5, Amos 7:17. I’m not sure if this was an exhaustive list on his part, but this is the Hebrew terms for this passage compared to the Greek terms above.

The first thing to note is the Septuagint is generally imprecise with the terms as well with zanah being translated as both porneia and moicheao though naaph is only translated as adultery.This is similar to some instances in English translations of the Bible being imprecise with several terms like Matthew 5 ‘lust after a woman is committing adultery in your heart’ versus translating the same word as ‘covet’ in Romans 7. That’s how you get almost ascetic-like things where ‘lusting after any woman is a sin’ instead of understanding it to be Jesus’ extension of ‘don’t covet your neighbor’s wife’ raised to the level of don’t even think about coveting her in your thoughts otherwise your heart is going the wrong way. 

Generally the term for actual adultery is Naaph which is also the same word used in the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, Leviticus 20, and Deuteronomy 5. zanah and it’s variants (H2181 through H2184) generally refer to prostitution — to idolatry, literal prostitution e.g. Lev 19:29 whoring out your daughter, or in the case of Rahab and Tamar Gen 38, Josh 2,6.

Given the imprecise nature of the Septuagint translation and the general Hebrew terms, it seems to me that this doesn’t help us determine much of anything. At least the NT is more consistent with the translations and general meanings.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a (taken) woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who puts away his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In Matthew 5, Jesus is telling us that God’s standards are actually above the standards of the law. For example, instead of what the Law says which is “don’t commit adultery” (10 commandments) the standards of God are higher than that which means don’t even covet your neighbor in your mind. Don’t make any vows but let your yes be yes and no be no. Don’t try to get revenge but rather be kind to change others hearts.

Winger and other commenters note that it’s likely the Pharisees would have heard Jesus preaching on this and asked him about it later in Matthew 19. However, Jesus being a Jew who knew the Law more thoroughly than any other would have known about the Hillel (any cause) versus the Shammaite (only adultery/sexual impropriety) divorce debate.

This presents many big holes in their logic.

  • Jesus agrees with Pharisees? – If Jesus permits divorce for adultery then he would agree with the Shammaite Pharisees in saying that you could divorce for adultery like in Deut 24. The pattern throughout the gospels is Jesus does not agree with the Pharisees.
  • No reason to ask Jesus again as He already took a side — If Jesus is agreeing with the Shammaite Pharisees in Matthew 5 (before they asked Him in Matthew 19), then there would have been no reason to ask Him again in in Matthew 19!
  • Jesus calls His own heart hard and contradicts God’s plan? — Jesus would be calling His own heart hard to permit divorce like Moses did as He states earlier in the passage, and it would be contradictory to “what God has put together let no man separate.”
  • Jesus agrees with the Law and doesn’t raise the standard? — Jesus’ standards like in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) are always raising the bar from the Law to a higher standard. For instance, in Matt 5 Jesus also says “27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully/covetously (epithumeo) has already committed adultery with her in his heart. … 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If Jesus is permitting divorce for adultery not only is he agreeing with the Shammaite Pharisees but He is also agreeing with divorce Law in Deut 24.
  • Disciple reaction would not be extreme if he was agreeing with a sect of the Pharisees and the Law – Disciples reaction saying it’s “better not to marry.” That would not be the case if he was agreeing with a sect of the Pharisees and with the Law in Deut 24, but it would be the case if He was raising the bar very high like in the rest of His teaching. – This is covered in the next section as well.

There is additional evidence why porneia does not refer to adultery here.

  • If Jesus was talking specifically about a legitimate divorce for adultery specifically, according to the Law of Moses, He would have said

He would have said in reference to Deut 24:“Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) with a writ of divorce (apostasion) his wife, “except it be for adultery (moichiao),

Instead, He says in reference to Deut 22:“Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, “except it be for fornication (porneia),

The Greek wording is important because it tells us what passages Jesus is referencing in Mosaic Law. The answer is Deuteronomy 22 and illegitimate marriages as opposed to Deuteronomy 24 and rules on divorce.

  • This also explains exactly happening in Malachi 2 and Roman times. Husbands were defaulting to the culture and putting away their wives without a writ of divorce contrary to the Law of Moses. The wives could not marry again because they were still married to their original husbands. If they did they were committing adultery. Possibly stealing dowrys as well.
  • Also, Jesus continues to avoid the Pharisees’ trap. Remember, “putting away” in Roman culture is synonymous for divorce. Jesus references the only part of the Law where “putting away” is valid, which would not conflict with Roman divorce laws.
  • Sacraments/covenants like marriage cannot be formed if there is deception by any party. They require that the full Truth is disclosed. This is similar to contract law and why there are annulments for invalid marriages.

Overall, it appears a preponderance of logical evidence backs the “exception clause” referring directly to the Deuteronomy 22 and/or betrothal period sex. The husband could put the wife away (without a writ of divorce) because the marriage was a sham. Thus,

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, except it be for fornication (porneia) (illicit/fraudulent sexual deception which forms an invalid marriage), and shall marry another, commit adultery (moichaō): and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluō) doth committeth adultery (moichaō).

Let’s look at some more passages.


12. Matthew 19:10-12 — the disciples actually understand the gravity of marriage

Matthew 19:10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

The disciples, despite how they are often mocked at not understanding things, readily understand that Jesus is saying that there is no divorce. The only exception is that you can put away a wife if she fraudulently married by deception. Obviously, lots of these were covered in the previous section.

  • If Jesus was saying you could divorce for adultery (like in Deut 24) and agreeing with the Shammaite Pharisees, the disciples would not have responded like this. It was already acknowledged that you could do this, which would not be surprising to the disciples.
  • If Jesus was saying you could divorce for adultery (like in Deut 24), He would have been calling His own heart hard since He had earlier stated “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
  • When Jesus fulfills the Law, it is always to a much higher standard than the former Law. For example, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22) is transformed to “a new command I give to you: that you love one another, just as I have loved you, that you love one another” (John 13, John 15). Now, Jesus is the standard.
  • In the case of divorce, Jesus instead goes back to Creation which was Perfect: “What God has put together let no man separate.”

The standards for Christians in the New Testament always supersede that of the Old Testament.

No divorce period except for fraudulent marriages is a hard word. A really hard word.

The pro-divorce proponents contest this point saying that the Jewish people at the time say you had to divorce for adultery and that Jesus was claiming that you only may divorce for adultery. This doesn’t make any logical sense either as it would contradict Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5 raising the bar for Christian standards, and God’s patience with backsliding Israel and Judah and the ultimate plan to reconcile them to Himself.

Additionally, as has been stated before, this would make Jesus agree with the Shammaite school of thinking where you can divorce for sexual immorality (Deut 24) which would make Jesus agree with them. Whereas in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and other places Jesus raises the standards for Christians. Why would the disciples say it’s better not to marry if He was agreeing with one of the Jewish sects on divorce and remarriage?


13. Matthew 1:18-19 — the case of Joseph and Mary and John 8:39-41

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away (apoluō autos) privily.

Joseph engagement and marriage with Mary would have been fraudulent because he was supposed to be marrying a virgin. To him Mary was not a virgin because she was with child. It took an angel of God to convince him otherwise.

John 8:37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. 39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41 Ye do the deeds of your father.

Then said they (Pharisees) to him (Jesus), We be not born of fornication (porneia); we have one Father, even God.

As we covered earlier, the Pharisees even accused Jesus of being “born of fornication.”

This is probably the reason why Matthew includes the “except for fornication” clause in Matthew 5 and 19. He was defending Jesus’ birth. The Pharisees and others accused Jesus of being illegitimate in the Scriptures (Mark 6, John 8).

The pro-divorce proponents have no answer for this as they can only say “porneia” is supposedly more broad than this while the main gospel uses of porneia actually support that it’s referring to the betrothal.


14. Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:13-18 — the unification of Matthew with Mark and Luke

 In Mark 10:

Mark 10:2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away (apoluō) his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement (apostasion), and to put her away (apoluō autos). 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away (apoluō) his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery (moichaō) against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away (apoluō) her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery (moichaō).

And also in Luke 16:

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

18 Whosoever putteth away (apoluō) his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery (moichaō): and whosoever marrieth her that is put away (apoluō) from her husband committeth adultery (moichaō).

First, there is no “exception clause” in both Mark and Luke. This would conflict with the passages in Matthew passages if it referred to adultery. As we now know, Mark and Luke do not conflict with Matthew because the “exception clause” refers to fraudulent marriages and not divorce for adultery.

Second, the background behind these passages is that Mark and Luke were mainly written to the Gentiles while Matthew was written to the Hebrews. The reason for this is that “putting away” was “divorce” for the Gentiles. The instruction is that they should not do that at all. As they were not under the Law of Moses, this goes back to Jesus statement of original intention: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” There is no divorce for Gentile believers.

Third, the Mark passage is particular instructive. The disciples asked him in the house later about Jesus’ true thoughts in private: no divorce (which goes along with “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”). If Jesus had said this out in public, the Pharisees could have had him stoned as divorce was lawful for Romans.

The pro-divorce proponents assert that this “no divorce” is the rule, but there are exceptions to the rule such as Matthew 5 and 19. They point out that several times Jesus seems to contradict Himself in Scriptures sometimes. Thus, we should mainly be considering the Spirit of the Law rather than the Letter of the Law.

Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool (moros)!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You (Pharisees) blind men (moros)! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

I agree that we should be interpreting by the Spirit of the Law. The Spirit of the Law in the case of marriage is: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Why are we making excuses and exceptions to lower than standard when Jesus pretty clearly laid out the standard?

One could argue that it would be compassionate to allow the “innocent party” in hard marriage situations (e.g. adultery) to divorce and remarry. God is quite compassionate in the Bible to innocent parties (e.g. widows and orphans), but it’s also true that this line of thinking may suffer from the slippery slope. The liberals also say that it’s being compassionate to affirm the positions of LGBT+ and that you can call yourself whatever pronouns you want. However, this position while it could possibly be true seems to be at odds with most of the other textual and contextual arguments.


15. Romans 7 — understanding the context of Jewish divorce

Romans 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? 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. 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.

In Romans 7, Paul is speaking that the covenant of marriage is unbound by death only.

Winger argues this by saying that this is an analogy, and the meaning of the analogy (continued on) is actually that we died to the law so that Christ lives through us. Hence, this is not necessarily accurate to what is prescribed for Christians on how to live since analogies aren’t meant to hyper-acurate to the underlying statement’s point.

While I agree with that analysis, he errs in applying his analysis to God’s plan for Christians. If we take the full analogy into context which is ‘being dead to the law and sin and alive in Christ to serve the Spirit’ then rather than supporting the divorce point it would support the no divorce point: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

This is the way it was from the beginning. As Christians with new life in the Spirit we are to return to marriage as it was before the fall (perfect) through being new Creations in Christ. This would mean we are not to revert to the exception Moses put into the Law in Deut 24 which Jesus calls hardness of heart. That would be obeying the Law rather than dying to the Law to live in the Spirit.


16. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 — the Lord’s command to husbands and wives

The Lord speaks through Paul:

1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart (chōrizō) from her husband: 11 But and if she depart (chōrizō), let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away (aphiēmi) his wife.

G5563 — χωρίζω — chōrizō — kho-rid’-zo
From G5561; to place room between, that is, part; reflexively to go away: – depart, put asunder, separate.

G863 — ἀφίημι — aphiēmi — af-ee’-ay-mee
From G575 and ἵημι hiēmi (to send; an intensive form of εἶμι eimi (to go)); to send forth, in various applications: – cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up.

G630 — ἀπολύω — apoluō — ap-ol-oo’-o
From G575 and G3089; to free fully, that is, (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon, or (specifically) divorce: – (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty.

The Lord speaks through Paul that any type of separation (legal divorce or not) that those in the marriage are to stay single or reconcile. In other words, do not divorce. If you separate, you must stay single or reconcile. There is no remarriage.

This agrees with Jesus’ original statements on divorce: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Jesus and the Father are one, and they are in agreement.


17. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 — Paul, not the Lord, says to live with unbelieving spouses

1 Corinthians 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 away (aphiēmi autos). 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 (aphiēmi autos). 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. 15 But if the unbelieving depart (chōrizō), let him depart (chōrizō). A brother or a sister is not under bondage (douloo) in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 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?

This passage is also used as a so-called exception clause for remarriage. “If I’m not under bondage anymore because my unbelieving wife or husband left me then I can remarry.” This interpretation is incorrect.

If you examine the wording closely, the passage only says that if they depart then you’re not under the bondage (douloo) anymore. Greek douloo is from doulos which means servant/slave and is the verb form of slave which means enslavement. This is bondage is our duty to God for the marital roles and responsibilities.

Paul references this authority-slave/servant relationship earlier in the passage on the spouses owing sex to each other.

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

This verse must also be taken in context with the other verses in the Bible and passage. As Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 show, the Christian must stay single or reconcile and that the marriage covenant is only broken by death.

1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart (chōrizō) from her husband: 11 But and if she depart (chōrizō), let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away (aphiēmi) his wife.

Notice the same wording of an unbeliever departing (chorizo) and a wife departing (chorizo). They are still under the marriage covenant and must stay single or reconcile.

Likewise, the end of the 1 Corinthians affirms this too:

1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound (deo) as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.

G1210 — deō — deh’-o — A primary verb; to bind (in various applications, literally or figuratively): – bind, be in bonds, knit, tie, wind. See also G1163, G1189.

This is affirmed again at the end of 1 Corinthians 7. Notice the difference in the Greek word deo versus douloo used in the other verse. Deo means to bind. This is the same language that is used for the marital covenant as oneness/binding and is only broken by death.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave (dâbaq) unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh

H1692 — dâbaq — daw-bak’ — A primitive root; properly to impinge, that is, cling or adhere; figuratively to catch by pursuit: – abide, fast, cleave (fast together), follow close (hard, after), be joined (together), keep (fast), overtake, pursue hard, stick, take.

The covenant bond is one of permanent clinging together.

There is no divorce or remarriage for Christians with unbelieving spouses either.

Winger contests this by asserting that “deo” for the bond in marriage is a less extreme form of “douloo” which is typically translated to servant/slave in the Scriptures. This is a good point, but he errs in analysis by stating that since an unbelieving spouse leaving means that being in a marriage with them would be “enslavement” rather than the bond “deo” of marriage. In other words, it’s a worse situation not of “deo” but of “douloo.”

On the surface this seems true, but there are two strong points that counteract this.

  • 1 Peter 3 discusses wives of unbelieving husbands and shows that the proper role is to respect and submit and control their behavior so as to set a good example and possibly win their husbands to Christ (agreeing with 1 Cor 7 on unbelieving spouses that consent to live with the believer). Along with Romans discussing the context of our salvation (e.g. Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us) the actual onus is on the Christian to live in a Christ-like manner despite any circumstances. This would more align with the stay single and reconcile point as it’s not anymore “enslavement” than to be with an unbeliever as with a believer as your conduct should still be godly.
  • “Douloo” is often used by Paul to refer to Himself at the beginning of his epistle letters (Slave to Christ) and also in the various epistles to refer to us as Christians as “slaves to righteousness.” Rather than being a bad thing, this is actually a good thing.

This is why that the “enslavement” likely refers to the roles and responsibilities of the marriage. After all, it would be tough to hold to the roles and responsibilities of marriage if the unbeliever leaves. Additionally, if it referred to breaking the marriage bond it would contradict the theme and Spirit of all of the rest of the NT Scriptures.


18. The binding nature of vows

This is one of the points that I’ve never seen the pro-divorce for adultery (or “porneia”) address because they have no good argument against it.

Probably all Christian marriages (and even secular marriages ) took vows when they married, which God takes very seriously.

The only time in the entire Bible where vows can be nullfied is in Numbers 30 where a husband can nullify them if he hears his wife made them when he wasn’t around. Even then if he doesn’t then after a certain time passes they become binding.

Yeah, the secular non-Christians don’t care they broke their wedding vows and divorced, but Christians are held to a higher standard. Vows are not null and void because someone else did something wrong.


19. Summary of all available evidence against divorce and remarriage

  1. Jesus notes the standard is “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
  2. Divorce from the Law of Moses is for those hard of heart.
  3. Putting away is not divorce according to the Law of Moses, which both Jesus and the Pharisees knew.
  4. Jesus was answering the original question the Pharisees were asking about “putting away.”
  5. Textual analysis points to “except for porneia” pointing to Deuteronomy 22 instead of Deuteronomy 24, especially in context of Matthew 1 Joseph and Mary and the trap the Pharisees were trying to trick Him.
  6. Moichao = act of adultery specifically. Jesus doesn’t use that word in the “exception”
  7. Disciples response (“it is better not to marry”) indicates that it does not refer to Deuteronomy 24 where you can already divorce for adultery.
  8. Why would Jesus repeat and agree to with the Pharisees that you can divorce for adultery. Hint: He wouldn’t.
  9. Precedent of Joseph and Mary where “putting away” is the righteous option for marital fraud (not killing her according to Deut 22).
  10. Agreement of Mark and Luke with no exceptions. If Jesus made an exception Matthew, then Mark and Luke would not agree with Matthew and the Bible would contradict itself. It is not an ‘addition’ to Jesus’ statements in Mark and Luke.
  11. In Mark, the disciples ask Jesus again privately, and He clarifies any putting away = adultery. If he had done this publicly, the Pharisees could have had him stoned as Roman Law said you could put away to divorce which would make Jesus deny Roman Law.
  12. Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7 showing that death breaks marital covenants with no other exceptions.
  13. 1 Corinthians 7, the Lord says that a wife and husband should not separate, but if they do, they should stay single or reconcile. This agrees with “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” and does not agree with an ‘exception’ for divorce.
  14. The whole book of Hosea is about God commanding Hosea to marry a prostitute and how that symbolizes God and His people who are adulterous. God still wants them to come back to Him. We are to emulate God.
  15. The seriousness of vows you took in the sight of God and according to God. Vows are not null and void because someone else did something wrong.
  16. In the same way with vows, all the Biblical marital roles and responsibilities are unconditional (Eph 5, Col 3, Titus 3, 1 Peter 3, 1 Corinthians 7). You don’t get a “get out of marriage free” card or “I can act mean to my wife if she treats me poorly” card if the other person is sinning. The Bible still commands husbands to love their wives and treat them with honor and calls wives to submit and respect their husbands…. no matter how bad the other spouse acts.
  17. Our ministry as Christians is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) which also includes marriages that have had crazy sins happen in them.
  18. This other paper I found analyzes the Ancient Near East (ANE) customs (which is the context of when Matthew was written) and comes to the conclusion porneia referse to the betrothal position and marriage with a man other than the husband. I covered some of the evidence int his post, but there’s more if you want to read more.

Other evidence:

  • A husband who runs off with another woman is still married to his former wife, and he will be held accountable for judgment to God for that.
  • The early Church fathers held the view of no divorce and remarriage. It’s funny that Christians now think they know more about it from their own Biblical interpretation than those who were passed down the Standard directly from Jesus Himself.

Piper has some additional points based on hypothetical scenarios that support the no divorce position.

Overall, I can’t think that much evidence in combination with looking at both the Old and New Testament that indicates one can divorce for adultery. The only circumstantial evidence that those who support divorce for adultery keep trying to stand on is that “porneia” can refer to adultery in some instances according to Strong’s. Unfortunately, it is never used to refer to adultery in the NT, especially when there is a more suitable word which is moichao.

There are also no Christian traditions that support divorce for adultery. The only exception is in the past century or so with the rise of feminism.


20. Conclusions

Jesus talks about marriage, divorce, and putting away. Understanding which passages Jesus refers to is critical to unifying all of Scripture on the topic of divorce.

  1. Putting away is NOT divorce in the context of Mosaic Law and in the gospel of Matthew. It is a two part process of putting away and a bill of divorcement. – Deut 22, 24; Mal 2; Jer 3; Isa 50; Matt 5, 19
  2. Putting away is synonymous with divorce for the Gentiles. — Mark 10; Luke 16; 1 Corinthians 7
  3. God and Jesus’ plan for marriage is that “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” – Gen 2, Matt 19; Mark 10
  4. There is no get-out-of-marriage adultery clause. Who you are married to you should stay married to regardless of any sins they commit. This is a hard word as even the disciples said it was better not to marry. Separation seems to be an option if you can’t live with them. Reconciliation is ideal. – Matt; 19, Mark 10, Luke 16, 1 Cor 7
  5. Under the Law of Moses and according to Jesus, a marriage is illegitimate if your wife committed sexual fraud prior to marriage. Example: Claiming she was a virgin when she was not (Deut 22). Hence, you can put her away without divorcing her since it was a sham. – Deut 22, Matthew 5, 19; Mark 10; Luke 16,
  6. If a spouse leaves stay single or be reconciled. – 1 Cor 7, Romans 7, Mark 10, Luke 16
  7. If an unbelieving spouse leaves you are not under bondage of marital roles and responsibilities. You are still under the marriage covenant, and you cannot remarry. – 1 Cor 7
  8. Those already remarried in their second and third marriages are NOT to divorce and reconcile with their first spouse if they come to Christ (See: Note 1 for more details). The heretical interpretation is perpetual adultery with the new spouse. In this line of thought, divorce and reconcile and remarry with the first spouse. This view goes against what Deuteronomy 24 says in that if a first husband divorces a wife and another marries her even if she is divorced or her husband dies then she is not to remarry him again otherwise is it an abomination. – Deut 24, Matthew 19

Note 1: Divorce, remarriage, and perpetual adultery:

1. There is perpetual adultery if the participants are made completely aware of the roles and responsibilities and the everlasting nature of marriage. In other words, “sacramental marriage” affirmed by the Church. If you know you are held accountable to a greater standard, just as Christians are held to a greater standard than non-Christians.

2. However, those who were not made aware sinned in their ignorance. Those that don’t undergo the rites of the Church in the marriage ceremonies in both (?) Catholic and Orthodox tradition means that the marriage formed is potentially invalid. Hence, since the marriage wasn’t valid they are free to marry another. A marriage can be affirmed sacramental in which case divorce and remarriage is a sin.

3. This would also go along with the position that those in their 2nd or 3rd marriages and then come to Christ would not have to divorce and go back to their first spouse. They can get their current marriage affirmed by the Church with all of the details of the Covenant.


Final Conclusion, according to Scriptures, for Christians

  1. No divorce period. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
  2. Stay single or reconcile. No remarriage. This includes marriage to unbelievers who leave.
  3. Your recourse is separation if you absolutely can’t live with them or actual scenarios where physical harm can be present (though not ideal).
  4. Fraudulent marriages are not marriages. Covenants require truth from all parties to be established.
  5. If you have a “Christian marriage” (or sacramental marriage) — both of you know that marriage is forever on earth and the accompanying roles and responsibilities — then any divorce and remarriage is perpetual adultery.
  6. 2nd or 3rd marriages that come to Christ can be affirmed as Christian marriages. They would not have to go back to their first spouse and are not in perpetual adultery. Prior marriages are effectively “annulled” as you did not understand Christian marriage.

This is why I believe (as a Protestant) that the Catholic method of sacramental marriage is probably the best method to deal with marriage and divorce in a broken world. Orthodox I can see the reasoning on, but it is not as strictly faithful. Protestant views on marriage are trash, and it is no surprise that they have the highest divorce rates of any denomination of Christianity and divorce rates almost as high as secular culture.

Since this is my own opinion, I don’t force it on others. Don’t bother claiming me as some authoritative figure.

Read the Scriptures and study them in depth for yourself. If you come to a different position then hopefully you do it in good conscience before God. All I would say is don’t be like the feminists and other heretical people who go into reading the Scriptures to twist and distort them because you want a particular outcome.

This is the only position I have found to be in good conscience before God that goes with the theme of the God and Jesus’ example for us in the NT.

Regarding replies again: Probably won’t reply to much. I’ll only respond to actual comments discussing quality of evidence supporting a point including Bible verses and analysis of why you think it’s that way. If you’re just claiming something I’m not going to bother.

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23 Responses to Divorce Part 8 (Actual Final)

  1. Pingback: » Divorce Part 8 (Actual Final)

  2. cameron232 says:

    Excellent analysis. Very detailed.

    One of the main reasons I’m Catholic. Not just the correctness of the teaching itself but the improbability of the average believer arriving at your conclusion. And the lack of moral certitude from individual analysis.

    I can’t see how one deals with this last issue other than to say that marriage and divorce details are incidentals to a Christian. That seems questionable to me.

    I’m saving this excellent piece of work to share with Catholic apologists. First rate, sir.

  3. cameron232 says:

    And I am very happy and unashamed to share this website with others as you’ve proven time and again you’re a very sincere Christian.

  4. thedeti says:

    Lysa and Art TerKeurst are reconciling… again?

  5. @ deti

    Lysa and Art TerKeurst are reconciling… again?

    No, that was from the last post in 2018. The one you made me aware of in 2022 is the latest which is they are breaking up again

  6. @ cameron

    One of the main reasons I’m Catholic. Not just the correctness of the teaching itself but the improbability of the average believer arriving at your conclusion. And the lack of moral certitude from individual analysis.

    I can’t see how one deals with this last issue other than to say that marriage and divorce details are incidentals to a Christian. That seems questionable to me.

    Yeah, I honestly just don’t see how people arrive at the “divorce for porniea” conclusion when most of the textual evidence supports that Jesus was not advocating for the Shammaite position rather than raising the standard for Christians as He said earlier in the passage (e.g. divorce was in Mosaic law for hardness of heart and that the ideal is ‘what God has put together let no man separate’). Not to mention He’d be calling his own heart hard to allow divorce and the lack of unity between all of the passages. Then you have the textual evidence in the gospels of Matthew 1 (Joseph and Mary), John 8 (Jesus is called ‘born of fornication (porneia)’), Deut 22, and the fact that Matthew is written as a Jewish gospel for Jews who had an intimate understanding of the betrothal system — explaining why it was there in Matthew and not Mark and Luke which were written to the Gentiles. Indeed, Mark and Luke as Gentile gospels would give the Gentile believers the impression of “no divorce period” too.

    I mean some of it is probably the ‘skin the game’ position where they or many people they know are divorced and remarried and that would create huge issues. Sorta like the pastors who cater to wives and bash husbands because it brings in the money.

    Though I think the sacramental marriage position is slightly flawed, it’s probably the best we have in a messy world to affirm that both the husband and wife know God’s standards, the gravity of marriage, its roles and responsibilities, and that it’s permanent. Any subsequent divorce since you know God’s standard would be adultery.

  7. Sharkly says:

    Your post seems pretty complete, with the possible exception that you seem to have not really addressed the significance of God’s polygyny with Israel, Judah, and the bride of Christ, and the polygyny of most all of the patriarchs of the faith. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has clearly chosen to associate Himself quite closely with polygynists.

    Also, Protestants are a pretty diverse group, and Catholics traditionally get annulments instead of divorces. There are, no doubt, some well disciplined Protestant sects with better permanence-of-marriage statistics than their local Catholic Diocese, especially if you include the annulment statistics.

    Speaking of annulments and marital fraud, how much sexual history has to have been kept from a husband, before his marriage can be considered to have been entered into as a result of fraud?

  8. whiteguy1 says:

    This seems to be pretty complete in defining the problem and the biblical answer…now it’s time for us (as a collective) to come up with a solution to men who have had their wealth, health and children taken from them.
    So a believing man marries a ‘believing woman’ as we are called to do. Kids are brought in the world. She not ‘happpppy’ blows up the marriage, takes the kids and more than half of your wealth.
    Most will say ‘welp’ you married her, you should have picked better. No remarriage for you. Sucks to be you…”Paul tells us to be married if we burn with passion” so what now?
    I’ll echo what Sharkly said, what constitutes marital fraud?
    Is it previous sexual history that wasn’t disclosed to you? – So you know she’s not a virgin…but ya still married her…What if she didn’t disclose sex work, known infertility, a common law marriage, , etc, I mean this list can go on and on. (I learned about the last one during the divorce, she disclosed that she was engaged once before prior to marriage, what she didn’t reveal to me that she had lived with him a number of years and bought a house together)
    Lets be blunt, if she claims that she was a believer in Jesus Christ, saved by grace and yet still chooses to nuke the marriage from orbit, I will call that the ultimate marital fraud. That is not the action of a believer in Christ. I will say that is more damning that faking virginity in my accounting.
    It’s one thing for a foolish Christian man (or woman) to marry an unbeliever, if it ends in divorce, well you were warned. HOWEVER, if someone proclaims Christ and you marry based on that proclamation, have we not been defrauded? If there was marital fraud, does this allow the brother or sister to (re)marry in earnest? Prots don’t have annulments (though they should), if the first “marriage” was based on fraud wouldn’t that still allow the brother to serve as deacon or elder because in the Lord’s eyes he’s either never been married or (re)married?

    This is a really good discussion but we need to find a path out (ya know, hope) for the men, and women, who have been through the western world’s divorce meat grinder as a innocent party.

  9. info says:

    “There are also no Christian traditions that support divorce for adultery. The only exception is in the past century or so with the rise of feminism.”

    This is also why husband murder rates have gone down since divorce started getting allowed:
    https://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-are-so-many-wives-killing-their.html

    When Divorce laws are more strict. More women were murdering their Husbands to get out of their marriages.

  10. @ Sharkly

    Your post seems pretty complete, with the possible exception that you seem to have not really addressed the significance of God’s polygyny with Israel, Judah, and the bride of Christ, and the polygyny of most all of the patriarchs of the faith. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has clearly chosen to associate Himself quite closely with polygynists.

    Not sure how much instructive lesson we can take from God’s relationship with Israel and Judah given that Israel and Judah split without God’s permission (making one wife into two). That’s not even really possible for humans to do. I guess that can be likened to a wife wanting her husband to marry another woman?

    Polygyny was covered in another post:

    https://deepstrength.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/polygyny/

    Generally, permissible but almost always ended up badly. Sarah and Hagar conflict, Leah and Rachel conflict, David with his wives and marital conflict, Solomon being drawn away from God, etc.

    Also, given that Jesus asserts God’s intention is one man and one woman I would assume generally not permissible for Christians.

    Also, Protestants are a pretty diverse group, and Catholics traditionally get annulments instead of divorces. There are, no doubt, some well disciplined Protestant sects with better permanence-of-marriage statistics than their local Catholic Diocese, especially if you include the annulment statistics.

    Agreed on some Protestant sects. Amish are probably one?

    Catholics in the USA are generally doing terrible… like 50% of the worldwide annulments with only like 5-10% of the worldwide population.

    Speaking of annulments and marital fraud, how much sexual history has to have been kept from a husband, before his marriage can be considered to have been entered into as a result of fraud?

    Another good question. This would have to be sussed out. We can see the destruction it seemed to cause in Driscoll’s marriage. Claiming virginity and not being a virgin is pretty obvious violation. But what if someone has claimed to sleep with only a few but it’s like 7-10 or even more than that? How much do numbers matter?

    I assume in contract law (which was based on the concept of covenants) that some degree of deception would invalidate it. How much I don’t know.

  11. Sharkly says:

    “There are also no Christian traditions that support divorce for adultery.”

    Because adultery has always been a capital crime against God’s law. If a person was guilty of adultery they were to be put to death. The marriage vow is: “’til death do us part”. You didn’t need to divorce the deceased cheater.

  12. @ whiteguy1

    Is it previous sexual history that wasn’t disclosed to you? – So you know she’s not a virgin…but ya still married her…What if she didn’t disclose sex work, known infertility, a common law marriage, , etc, I mean this list can go on and on. (I learned about the last one during the divorce, she disclosed that she was engaged once before prior to marriage, what she didn’t reveal to me that she had lived with him a number of years and bought a house together)

    Yeah, this is where I think it’s important to be able to read body language not just with IOIs. Test for congruence. Talk with her friends.

    You should ask her the questions, but it is possible that she can lie. Hence, don’t marry too fast like many Christian men do because they’re thirsty. Then evaluate if her beliefs go with her actions and see if she lies. Internet sleuthing can also show stuff too.

    In most cases, I think most men don’t even ask the hard questions and then even if they do they aren’t following it up with analyzing their body language or asking her friends about her past and such. These things are important to ensure she is who she says she is and you can evaluate if she’s telling the truth or not or hiding stuff.

    If you look closely stuff almost always comes out if it’s there. Many men are just blinded because a woman is with them or likes them. That’s usually when the big issues arise and they don’t do their due vetting and testing.

  13. Sharkly says:

    Polygyny being acceptable, would have a direct bearing on whether a man could morally take another wife. God took on another wife figuratively in order to make his first figurative wife jealous enough to return to her husband.
    Romans 11:11 So I ask: When the Jews fell, did that fall destroy them? No! But their failure brought salvation to those who are not Jews, in order to make the Jews jealous.

    So believing gentiles will become the bride of Christ after the Messiah came unto His own and was not initially received by them. But ultimately the Jews will be reconciled to Christ their husband. Are we being asked to somehow be more righteous than our Redeemer, who will, at least figuratively, marry multiple wives?
    1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they do not have [sufficient] self-control, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

    Is it now better that we burn than marry, for those of us who find ourselves in this situation through “No-Fault” of our own? Should we not try the same remedy that God Himself tried in order to make His first wife jealous to get her to return to Him? Are we not to try to image Him in that? I personally did not put away my wife.(though she certainly deserved that) She did it to me, and for “No-Fault”.

  14. Sharkly says:

    Under Biblical law my wife would never have been allowed to divorce me, and I could have legally disciplined and corrected her defiant and unfaithful behaviors, quickly correcting her evil. Yada, yada, yada. Biblically speaking, I’m in a completely unnatural position artificially created by a satanic system of unjust laws aimed against husband’s headship and against the integrity of God-established families.

    Do you see what you’re doing to men like me, by subjecting me to two completely opposing sets of laws? The set of laws that might not let me remarry, would have let me discipline my wife, take sex by force, and would never have let her unilaterally divorce me. The Kansas laws that let my wife zero me out for “No-Fault”, also allow me to remarry as soon as her divorce is final. In effect you’re saying that men like I are only allowed to receive the brunt from two opposing legal systems. That while Kansas law allows me to be zeroed out for “No-Fault”, I am then to be restricted to only using the nonexistent remedies approved in a system of law that would never have allowed any of that to ever happen to me in the first place.

  15. @ Sharkly

    Do you see what you’re doing to men like me, by subjecting me to two completely opposing sets of laws? The set of laws that might not let me remarry, would have let me discipline my wife, take sex by force, and would never have let her unilaterally divorce me. The Kansas laws that let my wife zero me out for “No-Fault”, also allow me to remarry as soon as her divorce is final. In effect you’re saying that men like I are only allowed to receive the brunt from two opposing legal systems. That while Kansas law allows me to be zeroed out for “No-Fault”, I am then to be restricted to only using the nonexistent remedies approved in a system of law that would never have allowed any of that to ever happen to me in the first place.

    Brother, I am not doing anything to you or anyone else.

    This is why I included this statement at the end of my post:

    Since this is my own opinion, I don’t force it on others. Don’t bother claiming me as some authoritative figure.

    Read the Scriptures and study them in depth for yourself. If you come to a different position then hopefully you do it in good conscience before God. All I would say is don’t be like the feminists and other heretical people who go into reading the Scriptures to twist and distort them because you want a particular outcome.

    This is the only position I have found to be in good conscience before God that goes with the theme of the God and Jesus’ example for us in the NT.

    If you believe differently and came to it in good conscience then you do you. That’s between you and God.

    Polygyny being acceptable, would have a direct bearing on whether a man could morally take another wife. God took on another wife figuratively in order to make his first figurative wife jealous enough to return to her husband.

    Catholic position is what I think God intends.

    However, that’s also why I think the Orthodox position might be acceptable as it makes some allowances for a messy world and might be a lesser sin (burning in sin vs remarried).

    Orthodox also limits remarriage so that one cannot continually make the same “mistake” if the pattern of divorce is with you.

    The Prots free for all is ugly in most cases.

  16. cameron232 says:

    Catholic declaration of nullity is a legal opinion that a sacramental marriage never existed. This could happen for reasons such as a woman remarrying after presuming her husband dead after many years of being lost overseas and then showing up. Also things like coerced consent.

    The American Catholic divorce mill is a sham although Zippy said many Catholics probably aren’t sacramentally married due to a deformed understanding of what marriage is. You have to consent to God’s definition in order to have a sacramental marriage.

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