Updated Part Three

Regarding Part Three of my recent study, (see http://www.redmoonrising.com/JesusandtheLaw3.htm) I have rewritten the section on divorce and remarriage based on what I have learned from David Instone-Brewer in his book, “Divorce and Remarriage in the Church.” See his site at http://www.divorce-remarriage.com/

I still have lingering questions about this issue, but Instone-Brewer helped to settle a lot of things for me. It does seem to me now that the views of Roger Hertzler (see http://www.watchmangospelsigns.com/resources/Dear_Pastor.pdf) are unnecessarily harsh, even as we recognize the high standard that Jesus set for us in the New Covenant.

In any case, the main point I want to leave my readers with is that we need to strive to have a pure heart in 2014.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!


One thought on “Updated Part Three

  1. It does seem to me now that the views of Roger Hertzler are unnecessarily harsh, even as we recognize the high standard that Jesus set for us in the New Covenant.

    I haven’t read the views of Roger Hertzler (and don’t have the time to slog through his ninety-page book), but Jesus’ teachings on sex and marriage are indeed viewed as harsh in today’s climate of near-universal premarital sex and easy divorce. On reading the Gospels, it’s impossible not to conclude that His teachings on sex, marriage and divorce are hard (even the disciples point this out for us, saying that if Jesus’ teaching is right then it’s better for a man not to marry at all — and note that Jesus didn’t deny this).

    The only grounds given by Jesus whereby a man may legitimately divorce his wife are found in Matthew 5:32, and repeated in Matthew 19:9 — and those grounds are not simply those of adultery (i.e. the wife’s having sex with another man during her marriage). The term in the original Koine is not μοιχααω (‘moichaō’), the term for adultery, but rather πορνεια (‘porneia’), the term usually translated ‘fornication’ (sometimes ‘sexual immorality’). That is, Jesus permits a man to divorce his wife if it turns out that she has fornicated (i.e. had sex before the marriage with another man) — cf. the law given in Deuteronomy 22, and the action Joseph took with regard to Mary in Matthew 1:19.

    Some argue that the term πορνεια here may have a wider definition, including both premarital sex and adultery, given that in the rest of the sentence it says that divorcing her for any reason other than πορνεια would cause her to commit adultery (and if she were divorced for committing adultery, then this would presumably not cause her to commit adultery since she’s already guilty of that). However in this case, πορνεια is clearly is not only adultery, otherwise the word for adultery (i.e. μοιχαιω), found just a few words later in the verse, would have been used instead — and besides, the term πορνεια has a well-established meaning of sex between unmarried persons; e.g. a man and a single woman or a man and a prostitute. Either way, it is abundantly obvious that if the woman has had premarital sex with another man before the marriage, her husband, on discovering this, may divorce her.

    Naturally, the idea of Jesus saying it’s perfectly permissible for a man to divorce his young wife on the grounds that she is not a virgin goes vehemently against today’s increasingly lax moral climate, and most women (and also many men) in the church will positively hate this teaching, but it’s there in black and white, despite the attempts of theologians to turn it a more palatable shade of grey. One can hear cries of “where’s the grace in that?” but Jesus made the grounds for divorce quite plain.

    Jesus also says very bluntly (both in Matthew 5 and in Luke 16) that anyone who marries a divorced woman is guilty of adultery: the church seems to be very embarrassed about this today (particularly in the minority of cases where the woman is not the initiator of the divorce, or in cases where the woman has left a bad man), but the desire of Christ is clearly that either the woman be reconciled to her husband and the marriage restored or, if that is not an option, she remain single.

    However, it’s also worth knowing that in Jesus’ time, the divorce landscape was the reverse of what it is today: whereas nowadays divorces are initiated predominantly by women, in Jesus’ day it was the men — see what God says to the men in Malachi, for example. Men were guilty of frivolous divorce on an epic scale. Consequently there arose a big debate about divorce, principally between the Rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai. Hillel argued that a man could divorce his wife for something totally trivial and non-sexual (burning the dinner, for example), whereas Shammai’s position was far more restrictive, and much closer to Jesus’ own teaching. The lot of women in Biblical times was nothing like that of women in the 21st century West, and they were often dealt with very unfairly (it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the woman at the well in John 4 had been ‘frivorced’ by her five previous husbands, and did not even enjoy the rights of a wife with the man she was currently with).

    These days only hardline feminists (and maybe divorce lawyers!) would attempt to deny that divorce is stacked in favour of women, and men are becoming increasingly shy of marriage, since they can find themselves served out of the blue with a divorce, taken to the cleaners, and forced to pay for their children in spite of never being allowed to see them: whereas in Biblical Palestine, women had a raw deal from divorce, feminists have wrought their revenge, with disastrous results for men, children — and ultimately women, too. Sadly I fear that the backlash will be similarly overdone…

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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