Monday, September 25, 2017

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament, Part XII: What Repentance May Look Like

This leads to a final post where I want to discuss what repentance may look like if one has already divorced and remarried another.

If one divorces, in defiance of the teaching of the New Testament that has been taught well by his or her church, then he or she should be rebuked and placed on church discipline.

Now, if one, in ignorance, due to poor teaching on the subject, has divorced recently, and he or she, or the other spouse, has not joined him or herself to another, then repentance looks like reconciliation and restoration of the marriage.

If one has divorced and remarried, or his or her spouse has remarried another, then the web cannot be untangled so easily. In this case, the remarried couple have two options: 1. Separate from one another and live unmarried (Augustine and his wife do this), or 2. remain married, but never justify that what you did as something permissible to you. Teach your children and grandchildren that you did not know better, or worse, you were in outright rebellion against God if you did know better, and should not have done what you did. Teach them to be faithful to one person while they are both living, and to never divorce. In other words, throw yourself under the bus, not God's Word.

Either way, justification of one's actions is not repentance from them. Upon repentance, however, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness, including the sins of the unforgiveness or divorce and the adultery of remarriage; but apart from true repentance, these sins will remain.

The reason why I do not say to divorce the current spouse and go back to the original one is because it is prohibited by God in the law to do so. It is seen as polluting the community, perhaps, because it throws everything into chaos. Instead, especially if children are involved, one of the two options above seems the best route for a repentant mind in such cases.

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament, Part XI: Divorce, Remarriage and the Unbeliever

It seems rather clear to the open mind that divorce and remarriage amongst believers is not permissible. A question that is often presented is whether it is permissible to divorce an unbeliever and remarry another. Since Jesus' teaching seems to concern the covenant community directly, Paul states that the Lord did not actually address this issue head on. Instead, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, will now address it.

In vv. 10-11, he first reaffirms the teaching of Christ by stating the following.

To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord – a wife is not to divorce her husband (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband is not divorce his wife.

Based on the principle of the one flesh union, Paul interprets Christ's teaching on earth as forbidding the divorce, and definitely the remarriage, of a believing wife and believing husband. He, then, applies the one flesh principle (i.e., that the couple are still one flesh even if divorced) to believers who are married to unbelievers.

To the rest I say – Inot the Lord – if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she consents to live with himhe is not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he consents to live with hershe is not to divorce himFor the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wifeand the unbelieving wife because of her husband. Otherwise your children are uncleanbut now they are holy. But if the unbeliever wants a divorcelet it take placeIn these circumstances the brother or sister is not obligated. God has called you in peaceFor how do you knowwifewhether you will bring your husband to salvation? Or how do you knowhusbandwhether you will bring your wife to salvation? 

Here, Paul gives the commands that a believer is never to be the one divorcing an unbeliever. The one who initiates the divorce must be the unbeliever. To divorce an unbeliever would be to disconnect a believing household, and even therefore, disconnect the children as well.

As said before, many have made the mistake of confusing deō (vv. 27, 39) and douloō (v. 15), and have then interpreted the douloō "not obligated" statement to mean that the divorced believer is not deō "bound" by the one flesh union, and therefore, the divorced person does not need to the remain unmarried. The context, however, indicates that the word is referencing that the believer is not obligated to make the unbeliever stay. Hence, Paul argues that the believer can let the divorce take place if the unbeliever does not consent to live with him or her because God has called us to peace. This does not open the door for remarriage, as Paul has just said that if someone is divorced, they must remain unmarried, again, due to the fact that the divorced person is still one flesh with the person who divorced him or her.

Paul ends the pericope in Chapter 7 by reaffirming the principle upon which he bases his commands.

A wife is bound as long as her husband is livingBut if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes (only someone in the Lord). (v. 39)

What this means is one of two things in dealing with an unbelieving spouse. 

First, it may be that the unbelieving spouse is treated like any other believer when he or she wrongs a believer. The unbeliever is tolerated. There is no basis for forgiveness, as they are not covered by the blood of Christ. Instead, since they are tolerated, there is no separation of relationship that needs to be restored anyway. As believers are told not to separate from unbelievers and judge them, but only believers who are in unrepentant sin, believers would not separate/divorce unbelievers to whom they are married. Forgiveness, then, does not really play a role in whether one keeps the marriage intact.

Second, it could mean, instead, based upon Paul's statements that the unbeliever is holy, that they are to be treated as a believer while in the household, that he or she, by virtue of being connected to the believing household, is considered a saint, i.e., holy one, and therefore, should be forgiven, as any professed believer in the covenant community, when repentant for a wrong. Hence, the marriage should be kept intact. 

Either way, whether due to tolerance or the kind of restoration given to another believer in the visible church, the believer is never to divorce the unbeliever, as Paul commands, and if a divorce takes place, the believer is to remain unmarried.

This means that one cannot use the excuse that a marriage is invalid because his or her spouse is an unbeliever, or that he or she was an unbeliever when the marriage took place. The one flesh union isn't based on faith in Christ, but in the creation of human beings, whether believer or unbeliever. 


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament, Part X: Christ and His Bride

One of the many reasons people give when they wish to divorce a spouse is that God divorced His people, so it must be acceptable for us to do it as well. Leaving aside the fact that God also kills His people, starves them, has their children dashed against rocks, etc., and the fact that what God may do both literally and metaphorically has no bearing on what His people are to do, we'll press on to another question, which is, "Does God, in fact, ever divorce His people?"

Some might say, "Yes," to this question, and cite the times that God actually says that He gave a certificate of divorce to Israel (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:6-13). The problem with this understanding is that God's "divorce" of His people actually isn't a permanent divorce. It functions instead more like a rebuke in order to get Israel to return to Him. If you look at each passage, God continually calls Israel back to Him, along with giving numerous promises of restoration when they return. This is more of a temporary separation than a divorce.

For instance, in Isaiah 50, the passage implies that when the transgressions against YHWH cease, the divorce certificate, which apparently is nowhere to be found, will be invalidated. In Jeremiah, God continually states that His people are to return to Him, even after the divorce.

So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, “Improve your ways and your deeds, I then will allow you to dwell in this place. Do not rely on false words, saying, ‘The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord are they.’ If you improve your ways and your deeds, if you perform judgment between one man and his fellow man, you do not oppress the stranger, an orphan, or a widow, and you do not shed innocent blood in this place, and you do not follow other gods for your detriment. I will then allow you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave your forefathers from days of yore to eternity. . . So says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings upon your sacrifices and eat flesh; for neither did I speak with your forefathers nor did I command them on the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning a burnt offering or a sacrifice. This thing did I command them saying, ‘Listen to Me so that I am your God and you are My people, you walk in all the ways that I command you…'” (Jeremiah 7:3-7, 21-23)
It's clear, however, that this is not to be understood as a blueprint for God's people in their marriages. In Jeremiah 3:1, God states clearly that this analogy is only an analogy, not something comparable to a real divorce.
They say, “If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, may he return to her again?” Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; “Yet return to Me,” says the Lord.
Likewise, one must note that this is covenant language applied to marriage, but upon repentance, there is an acceptance back into the covenant. God waits for His people, calls them to reenter the covenant, and then receives them back into the covenant. If there was any analogy between an individual's divorce, it would be that he or she should wait patiently, call his or her partner back to the covenant of marriage, and receive his or her spouse back again, as God does.
But very few people follow this because they only want the analogy to work superficially, and only one way in favor of divorce. 
Another consideration is that God actually never divorces His people. He divorces the nation, but those who belong to Him always belong to Him. Anyone who is "divorced" ironically was never really "married" to Him in the first place. When individuals worship other gods and shed innocent blood, they break the suzerain agreement made between God and His people, thus declaring by their actions that they do not wish to be in covenant with God, and hence, never really were. Hence, God keeps His remnant, and all Israel, all true Israel, will be saved (Rom 11:1-8).
So I askGod has not rejected his peoplehas he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelitea descendant of Abrahamfrom the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijahhow he pleads with God against Israel? Lordthey have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altarsalone am left and they are seeking my life! But what was the divine response to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.” (vv. 1-4)
The so-called "divorce" is always an act of discipline and a weeding out false Israel. True Israel, the remnant, His actual people, are never abandoned.
Hence, God corrects this thinking by stating:
The defenders of the city will go out and fight with the Babylonians. But they will only fill those houses and buildings with the dead bodies of the people that I will kill in my anger and my wrath. That will happen because I have decided to turn my back on this city on account of the wicked things they have done. But I will most surely heal the wounds of this city and restore it and its people to health. I will show them abundant peace and security. I will restore Judah and Israel and will rebuild them as they were in days of old. I will purify them from all the sin that they committed against me. I will forgive all their sins which they committed in rebelling against me. All the nations will hear about all the good things which I will do to them. This city will bring me famehonorand praise before them for the joy that I bring it. The nations will tremble in awe at all the peace and prosperity that I will provide for it.’ . . . (You have surely noticed what these people are saying, haven’t you? They are saying, The Lord has rejected the two families of Israel and Judah that he chose.’ So they have little regard that my people will ever again be a nation. But Ithe Lord, make the following promise: I have made a covenant governing the coming of day and nightI have established the fixed laws governing heaven and earth. Just as surely as I have done this, so surely will I never reject the descendants of Jacob. Nor will I ever refuse to choose one of my servant David’s descendants to rule over the descendants of AbrahamIsaac, and Jacob. Indeed, I will restore them and show mercy to them.” (33:5-9, 24-26)
Complete restoration is promised. Ergo, this is a temporary disciplinary measure, not a permanent abandonment. It functions more like separation with the full intent and vow to reunite. 
The Gentiles have even been grafted into the tree of Israel, so that they, who are circumcised of heart, make up Israel. Hence, as Paul says, "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:26).
This brings us to the analogy that the Church, the Israel of God, is the Bride of Christ in the covenant of an individual believer's marriage. The man is a picture of Christ and the woman is a picture of the church. Should Christ ever abandon His Church? Should the Church of Christ, His own body, abandon its head? What a warped and blasphemous picture divorcing a spouse and marrying another presents. It is a false Christ that abandons His Bride. It is a false bride, a whore, the apostate church, that abandons her husband for another. Divorce and remarriage spits in the face of Christ and His beautiful work. It claims Christ with the lips but with their actions they deny Him.
Hence, the only real analogy that one would have to make with the "God divorces Israel" mantra is that full restoration needs to be sought with the absolute promise that the marriage will be restored upon repentance. Otherwise, one must simply stop using this metaphorically language as though it was God's blueprint for marriage and divorce, which of course, it isn't.
"I will never leave you or forsake you." (Heb 13:5)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament, Part IX: The Contrary Nature of Divorce to Forgiveness

It is no mere coincidence that Matthew places Christ's teaching about divorce in Chapter 19 immediately after His teaching concerning forgiveness/restoration in Chapter 18. Of course, the chapter divisions are not originally there, so the one flows even more smoothly into the other. This likely means that he wants to place the subject of divorce and remarriage in the light of Christ's teaching concerning living out the law of love and forgiveness.

Some understanding of the nature of forgiveness is necessary to understand its contrary nature to divorce and the marrying of another.

The forgiveness to which Christians are called is to mimic the forgiveness they have received from God. This is why Christ links their forgiving one another to God's forgiveness of them.

There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to forgiveness in our culture, but the essential idea in Matthew, as well as the rest of the New Testament, is that the offense is mercifully removed so that there is no penalty in one's relationship with another. If there is a penalty that remains, especially the breaking of the relationship, then forgiveness, as God forgives, has not been granted.

Forgiveness itself, then, is a restoration of the relationship that was broken by the offense. As God forgives us, He does not break the relationship and still argue that He forgives us. These are contrary to one another, as the offense that causes one to penalize the offender by breaking the relationship would remain.

As one can see, this has little to do with how the two parties feel about one another, and everything to do with their actions toward one another in terms of their relationship. Breaking the relationship because of an offense, but then saying that one has no hard feelings on the matter, is to remain in a state of unforgiveness, and to be guilty of the same crime of which the unforgiving servant is guilty in the parable that illustrates Christ's teaching on the subject.

God forgives and forgets. God does not hold any sins against us by turning away or breaking His relationship with us. God restores us to our relationship with Him as though the offense was never committed. This is because the offense has been fully rectified by Jesus Christ, our federal head, upon the cross. The sin has been paid for. Hence, forgiveness/restoration is possible, as justice has been served.

But the one who will not reconcile refuses to forgive, regardless of the vocabulary they choose to employ. If the exact relationship is not restored, then the offender has not been forgiven, as he or she is paying for the crime by suffering the loss of the relationship. If one is paying for the offense, then the one offended, requiring payment be made, is rejecting the sufficiency of Christ's payment, and even ignoring it. To not restore a believer to the same relationship one had with him or her before the offense is to deny the gospel and reject the sacrifice of Christ as a full payment for the sins of all believers.

The implications this has for the divorce and remarriage question, specifically here for two believers, is that if one or both spouses refuse to reconcile, they are denying the gospel and are rejecting Christ. This is why Christ continually warns in Matthew, and again at the end of the parable: "And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to youif each of you does not forgive your  brother  from your heart.” This echoes the previous statement that Matthew alone highlights after the Lord's Prayer in Chapter 6, For if you forgive others their sinsyour heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive othersyour Father will not forgive you your sins." (vv. 14-15).

The reason for this is due to the fact that if one rejects the sufficiency of Christ's payment for the sins of another, he or she is rejecting Christ's sufficiency for payment for his or her own sin. It is a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and only the gospel can restore one to God--a gospel that has now been rejected when dealing with others.


Hence, whether a Christian restores his or her relationship with another Christian is not an option. If he or she does not, he or she is rejecting the gospel and must be rebuked and placed under discipline for such a serious blasphemy against Christ and His work.

To know that Christ has paid for the offense of a spouse, regardless of what that offense might be, and that Christ has fully paid for that offense, and yet, still want a pound of flesh by breaking the relationship with him or her is to spit on Christ upon the cross. Such things should never been done, especially by a Christian claiming to love Christ.

What this means is that Matthew would not be arguing that it is ever acceptable for two Christians to divorce and marry another. It is completely contrary to the Christian message concerning the gospel itself. Those who preach and teach that it is acceptable are preaching and teaching against the gospel of Christ. Those confessions that allow for it are confessions of antichrist in that they reject Christ and His work as applied to this issue.

Hence, a divorce and/or remarriage only ever takes place when one or both of the parties is in the sin of apostasy. The fact that the modern church has tolerated such a thing, and even allowed for it is a testimony to its treason against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The Christian restores totally, especially his or her relationship with his or her spouse, because Christ has restored him or her totally. 

If one is asking the question as to whether it is ever acceptable for two Christians to divorce, one can find the answer in the New Testament's teaching concerning forgiveness before anyone ever gets to the divorce passages, and that answer is unequivocally, "No."

The one who does not take care of his family financially is said to be worse than an unbeliever. How much more one who completely abandons them because he rejects Christ's work on the cross as a full payment for crimes committed by his spouse?

However, this Matthew only deals with two believers here, as Christ's sacrifice does not cover unbelievers, so their sins are still on them. How one should deal with unbelieving spouses is not addressed specifically by the Lord, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7, which is why Paul addresses it there. We'll discuss that in another post, but next time I wish to pursue this further by looking at the Pauline teaching that Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament, Part VIII: Divorce/Abandonment and the One Flesh Union

When Jesus gives the basis for His argument to the Pharisees in the Synoptics, He states that the man and the woman have become one flesh, and in fact, have been joined together into one flesh by God Himself. This one flesh union is what constitutes marriage. This union is not to be separated in the eyes of men, referring to divorce.

What one must believe, however, is that either abandonment in marriage, or certainly a divorce/abandonment ending the marriage, would actually break the one flesh union, so that the parties are now free to marry other people.

If the one flesh union is still intact after abandonment during marriage or in the act of getting a divorce (the words for divorce and abandonment/leaving, etc. are the same words), then to marry another person is to commit adultery, whether one has secured a divorce from men or not.

The texts actually help us in determining whether the one flesh union is broken by abandonment/divorce. In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus states:

Ἐρρέθη δέ· ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, δότω αὐτῇ ἀποστάσιον. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι, καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ, μοιχᾶται.

You have heard, "Whoever would divorce his wife, let him give her a notice of abandonment." But I say to you that anyone who abandons his wife, except in the case of an illegitimate union, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries an abandoned woman commits adultery.

Notice two things here. Abandonment precedes the marriage to another. Yet, this did not break the one flesh union, and therefore, the woman is viewed as committing adultery. Likewise, a man who marries a woman who has been abandoned commits adultery. If the one flesh union is broken by abandonment/divorce, neither party would be guilty of adultery, as they would be no longer tied to their previous spouse. However, Jesus says that they are guilty of it, indicating that the one flesh union is still in force.

Likewise, in Matthew 19:3-9, the same logic plays out due to the one flesh union that God has created between the couple.

Καὶ προσῆλθον αὐτῷ Φαρισαῖοι πειράζοντες αὐτὸν καὶ λέγοντες· εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνθρώπῳ ἀπολῦσαι τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ κατὰ πᾶσαν αἰτίαν;
ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε ὅτι ὁ κτίσας ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς;
καὶ εἶπεν· ἕνεκα τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ κολληθήσεται τῇ γυναικὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν.
ὥστε οὐκέτι εἰσὶν δύο ἀλλὰ σὰρξ μία. ὃ οὖν ὁ θεὸς συνέζευξεν ἄνθρωπος μὴ χωριζέτω.
Λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· τί οὖν Μωϋσῆς ἐνετείλατο δοῦναι βιβλίον ἀποστασίου καὶ ἀπολῦσαι [αὐτήν];
λέγει αὐτοῖς ὅτι Μωϋσῆς πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν ἐπέτρεψεν ὑμῖν ἀπολῦσαι τὰς γυναῖκας ὑμῶν, ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς δὲ οὐ γέγονεν οὕτως.
λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται.

And the Pharisees came to Him, testing Him and saying whether it is permitted for a man to divorce/abandon his wife for any reason. But answering, He said, "Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female? And He said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife; and the two will become one flesh'." Therefore, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, that which God has joined together no human is to separate/grant a divorce. 
They said to Him, "Why, then, did Moses command to give a certificate of abandonment and to divorce [her]?"
He said to them, "Because Moses, in the face of your rebellion, permitted you to abandon your wives, but from the beginning, it was not meant to be like this. Now, I say to you that whoever abandons his wife, not concerning an illegitimate union, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Mark, from whom Matthew is drawing, is even clearer.

Καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι, πειράζοντες αὐτόν.
ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τί ὑμῖν ἐνετείλατο Μωϋσῆς;
οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· ἐπέτρεψεν Μωϋσῆς βιβλίον ἀποστασίου γράψαι καὶ ἀπολῦσαι.
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν ἔγραψεν ὑμῖν τὴν ἐντολὴν ταύτην.
ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς·
ἕνεκεν τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα [καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ],
καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν· ὥστε οὐκέτι εἰσὶν δύο ἀλλὰ μία σάρξ.
ὃ οὖν ὁ θεὸς συνέζευξεν ἄνθρωπος μὴ χωριζέτω.
Καὶ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν πάλιν οἱ μαθηταὶ περὶ τούτου ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν.
καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται ἐπ᾽ αὐτήν·
καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς γαμήσῃ ἄλλον μοιχᾶται.

And the Pharisees were coming, asking Him whether it was acceptable for a husband to divorce/abandon a wife, testing Him.  
But answering, He said to them, "What did Moses command you?"
And they said, "Moses permitted a certificate of divorce to be written and to divorce/abandon."
And Jesus said, "In light of your rebellion he wrote this commandment to you; but from the beginning of creation He made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother [and cling to his wife] and the two will turn into one flesh. Hence, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together no human is to separate. 
And going up into the house, the disciples questioned Him concerning this. 
And He said to them, "Whoever divorces/abandons his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she divorces/abandons her husband [and] marries another man, she commits adultery.

Again, we see that abandonment/divorce precedes the adultery, and it is an adultery ἐπ᾽ αὐτήν "against her." Likewise, she commits adultery by divorcing and marrying another.

Luke 16:18 states:

 Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει, καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει.

Anyone who divorces/abandons his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the one who marries an abandoned/divorced woman commits adultery.

How exactly would a man be committing adultery by marrying a divorced woman if the one flesh union is broken by abandonment, especially an official abandonment in divorce? If she is no longer tied by that union to a husband, how is the third party committing adultery? The union should be broken, but Jesus says that it isn't.

Hence, this is why Paul states that if a woman is married to another man while her husband is living, she is an adulteress, and why she is free to marry if her husband dies.

Hence, the one flesh union that God has joined together, and commanded that no human is to separate, is in full force until one of the partners dies. This means that remarriage to another person is adultery if the previous spouse still lives, and that divorce/abandonment in no way breaks that union.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament Part VII: Why the Shammaites and Jesus Would Both Be Wrong for Taking the ‘ervat dābār in Deuteronomy 24 as Adultery

One of the major problems in seeing Jesus as siding with the school of Shammai is that the school of Shammai was clearly wrong about their interpretation of the ‘ervat dābār in Deuteronomy. 

This is made clear because the laws that deal with discovering that one's wife is an adulteress, either on one's wedding night or thereafter, command, not that she be divorced, but that she be put to death for it (Deut 22:13-24). Notice that if he cannot prove her adultery, he must remain married to her and is explicitly prohibited from divorcing her. Hence, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 cannot be talking about adultery. 

This means that the Shammaitic school was wrong, and if Jesus joined them in their interpretation He would have also been wrong.

The Hillelite understanding of the ‘ervat dābār was likely closer to the original meaning, but not the original intent. The original meaning likely referred to the idea that the man did not find the woman attractive once he saw her naked. 

This law, as many of the laws in Deuteronomy is a case law. The case that is found in the protasis is not expressing the moral will of God, but a case of someone usually doing the opposite of God's will. It is the clause of the criminal or the oppressor. The apodosis is the clause of the victim. This is the moral will of God expressed as to what the law should do for a victim who has suffered some loss. The law was never meant to convey the idea that God's moral will permits divorce anymore than the laws describing cases of rape, the killing of one's sons, servants, or oxen somehow convey God's moral will that these are OK too.

In other words, they were asking the wrong question of the text. The text should not have been read in terms of what is technically permissible; but what is the good and loving thing to do for the victimized woman in a situation where a man has abandoned his wife.

Furthermore, because they read it this way, they were reading the clauses,  "and he draws up a divorce document, gives it to her, and evicts her from his house . . ." as part of the apodosis, describing what a man should do, rather than as part of the protasis that explains the injustice being done. It can be read either way, but the waw's are not disjunctive, and since they describe the actions of the man against the victim, they should likely be read as part of the protasis.

What this means is that the law is not commanding the man to give her a divorce if he doesn't like something about her. Instead, it is only implying that the only prohibition thus far in God's law for one who divorces his wife is that he is not allowed to remarry her once she is joined to someone else. 

This also means that Jesus is not contradicting this law, but adding that the injustice it describes in its protasis should not be done, and that Moses permitted/gave the commandment that he did, a commandment that did not prohibit divorce altogether, because of their stubbornness. However, Jesus, who is now filling up the law, calls His disciples to love more fully.

Marriage and Divorce in the New Testament Part VI: The Hillel/Shammai Debate and Its Implication for What Jesus Says

One of the important tasks of exegesis is to identify the ideas in conflict or continuity with which a text is interacting. A preliminary question can be asked of the Matthean texts such as, "What is Matthew wanting to convey by communicating the way that he does to people who may hold a particular idea that he either wants to support or reject?"

Since those asking Jesus this question are Pharisees who are wanting to test Him, as to what position He holds (19:3), we can ask the question, "To what debate about the issue are the Pharisees referring?"

Many scholars have noted the debate among the two major schools of thought on the subject of divorce and remarriage between Shammai and Hillel. The first was that of Hillel, who held that the ‘ervat dābār “an issue with [her] nakedness,” in Deuteronomy 24, for which one could divorce his wife, was any unpleasing thing about her, including the burning of one’s food. The other was the school of Shammai, which was a far more rigid school of thought that saw the “issue with [her] nakedness” through the lens of the prophets, like Jeremiah, where God is said to have divorced his people because of their adulteries. Hence, the school concluded that adultery was the only legal cause for divorce and remarriage.

It is important to understand that, despite the claims of some, the vast majority of Pharisees in Jesus’ day were of the school of Shammai, and the ones who are interacting with Jesus in order to trap Him are all likely of the Shammaitic school. This can be concluded for numerous reasons.

First, in the Book of Acts, Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, attempts to urge the more violent Shammaitic school that they should not harm the apostles. The Hillel tradition was a non-violent tradition that believed God would take care of their enemies and that, as long as they were allowed to study the Torah, no violent action should be taken against foes. Those of the school of Shammai, however, were much more given to the view that the Jews should take violent action against their enemies. This is seen in much of the violent response to Jesus throughout His ministry, as well as the response of the Pharisees to the apostles in the Book of Acts, including the actions of Saul of Tarsus before his conversion. Even with Gamaliel giving his advice to the majority and persuading them not to kill the disciples, they still beat them.

Second to this, even though Gamaliel is of the school of Hillel, and Paul studies under him, scholars have noted that Paul clearly holds to the school of Shammai before his conversion. As just mentioned, he violently goes on a crusade against the preaching of the apostles likely due to their claim that the high priest had betrayed and killed the Messiah (Acts 2-3). It is likely to suggest that the school of Shammai was so much more in the majority that Saul was persuaded by the larger school even though his teacher was a Hillelite.

Finally, those within the school of Hillel were open to Hellenism and working with the Romans. They were largely pacificists when it came to Rome; but the school of Shammai was not. We see the true influence of this school as the majority in the fact that it eventually led the Jews into a revolt sanctioned by the majority of the Pharisees. In fact, it was the devastation of Jerusalem that later led Jews to switch to the school of Hillel as the dominant school, simply because they blamed the overly strict views of the school of Shammai as leading to the destruction of the city and the massacre of many Jews.

Many scholars have mistakenly thought that because the Mishna and later Judaism has tendencies toward the Hillelite school of thought, or at least is more open to it as a viable option, that this means the Pharisees were more of that type of thinking. However, the Mishna and later Judaism is evidence of a switch that took place due to a disdain for the more rigid Shammaitic school of thought that brought Judaism into conflict with the Romans and brought the city to its ruin. Hence, the evidence is more clear that the Pharisees, before A.D. 70, largely held to the ideas of Shammaitic school. Josephus, a representative of the Pharsaic majority before A.D. 70, is also of the Shammaitic school (Finkelsten 1938).

Why is this important? First, it is important to note that if Jesus was saying what the majority opinion stated, there really should be no shock at all over His position. Second, the fact that both of these are positions are held by various rabbis in the culture with which both the Pharisees and likely the disciples would be familiar, there should also be no shock in what Jesus says.
However, the response of both the Pharisees and the disciples indicate that Jesus is not confirming one of their common opinions, but rather is stricter than both.

First of all, the Pharisees respond to Jesus, not by debating the nature of the ‘ervat dābār in Deuteronomy 24, as one would expect if Jesus was merely giving them an alternate cause for divorcing one’s legitimate spouse and marrying another. Instead, their response is not to debate the meaning of the passage, but to bring up the passage’s existence in the first place. They respond by stating that Moses permitted them to get a divorce, finding themselves now in the position of needing to give an apologetic for why divorce and remarriage is permissible at all.
Jesus responds that this command/permission was only due to their stubbornness, not because divorce is a morally legitimate action. If the existence of the command is due to rebellion, then one must conclude that there is no viable reason for the command for those who want to follow God’s ultimate will for marriage.

This can only mean that Jesus’ statement was implying that a divorce was never to take place, and if it did, and one marries another, the divorced person is actually committing adultery. Hence, His statement “that which God has joined together, no man is to separate” is an absolute claim that challenges the entire debate over reasons for divorce.

Second to this, the reaction of the disciples makes no sense if Jesus gives an out from a legitimate marriage. They state that if a couple is like this, i.e., inclined to get a divorce, it is better not to marry at all, since one can steer clear of the sin of adultery altogether by avoiding the institution in such situations.

Jesus’ further response is not to negate what the disciples conclude, but to affirm it by saying that not everyone can accept it, but that there are those who remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God.

None of these responses make sense if Jesus is simply saying that one can get a divorce in the case of adultery, since that is a commonly held view, and indeed, the most commonly held view by the people to whom Jesus is speaking. 

Instead, it is clear from their rebuttal that Jesus has prohibited any divorce and remarriage, and hence, the debate shifts from the meaning of the ‘ervat dābār clause in Deuteronomy 24 to the fact that Moses permitted/gave commandment that they could get a divorce. Jesus gives the command that no man is to separate what God has joined together, and states that the previous allowance was not in continuity with what God had said in Genesis, but rather a concession due to their stubborness. This all implies, therefore, that Matthew is not negating the earlier teaching of the New Testament, but is instead affirming it. Hence, the porneia exception clause cannot be talking about the dissolution of a legitimate marriage, since he would then just be presenting Jesus as agreeing with the Shammaitic Pharisees. Instead, he negates this idea, which is likely an idea popping up in the church among the antinomians, that divorce and remarriage is something that may characterize a true disciple of Jesus. The righteousness of the Pharisees, according to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, is not the righteousness Jesus' followers are to pursue. Instead, he calls them to a full understanding of the law as love toward God and one another, and abandoning one's partner, which is to leave a relationship broken rather than restored, is not a part of that picture.