Divorce and adultry

I’m a little confused. You write that, “Now in the Gospel of Matthew. The Greek original text uses a particular word ** as a possible cause that a marriage can be ended**, πορνειας or ‘Porneia’.” You say that porneia should not be translated as “adultery” in this passage. Fair enough.

My question for you is this: If porneia is not adultery, then what is the “possible cause that a marriage can be ended” in Matthew 5?

Yes, Matthew 5:32 is the text that Protestants would point to as indication that there are limited grounds for divorce and remarriage for Christians. Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, discusses Matthew 5:32 and other relevant Scripture in the Christianity Today article “Directions: You’re Divorced—Can You Remarry?”

Many today have misread this particular passage to make two statements: (1) One cannot divorce his wife unless she has been unfaithful; (2) Whoever remarries commits adultery. But this is not the meaning. The active verb here is “commits adultery,” and the entire sentence must be held together. It should be read, “Whoever does the following commits adultery: divorces his wife (except for immorality) and remarries another.” Judgment is being placed not on someone remarrying but on someone remarrying after pursuing an illegitimate divorce. If the divorce is invalid, so is the remarriage. But the reverse is also true: if the divorce is valid, then re marriage must be acceptable, just as it was in commonplace Jewish custom.

"Not bound" to the marriage
A third important passage is found in 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul discusses Christian marriage. He echoes the teaching of Jesus, saying that husbands and wives are not permitted to leave each other but should work toward reconciliation. Then Paul addresses a subject that was foreign to Jesus and the Gospels. What if a Christian man or woman had a pagan spouse? Could there be spiritual union between two people when one worshiped idols? Paul affirms that Christians should not initiate a divorce because of the spouse’s spiritual deficiencies: “If any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her” (v. 12). The presence of a Christian in the marriage, Paul is saying, brings hope of salvation to the children and the family.

But then Paul makes one exception to Jesus’ rule on divorce: If the unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage, the innocent spouse must work on reconciliation (vv. 10–11), but in the end “is not bound.” This final phrase in verse 15 is crucial. The innocent party is not bound to the marriage, and this includes women or men equally. This language echoes words directly from Jewish divorce law: “not bound” means that the innocent person is free to remarry.

And who so ever marries a divorced woman…Doesn’t matter the reason of divorce, divorced is divorced. So even though the couple are divorced the marital bond still exists.

How some view it, is that if you repent of the divorce, it is ok to remarry. And some feel like that this is outdated and kind of over look it. I know a baptist preacher that will not marry them if one is divorced and will not marry them if one or both aren’t baptized.

“Marrying them” seems like the wrong phrase…I guess preside over/be the officiant is more accurate.

Thank you this is what I wanted. Although I am quite confused about the misunderstanding of the scripture.

Whoever does the following commits adultery: divorces his wife (except for immorality) and remarries another." Judgment is being placed not on someone remarrying but on someone remarrying after pursuing an illegitimate divorce

I do not understand how they reach the conclusion that judgment is on an illegitimate divorce. :confused:

I am sorry that the entire article is only available through a subscription. I would have liked to have read all of it.

It depends on the church. Some non-catholic churches are really strict where you can never remarry for any reason. If you do get divorced, that is it. So if you want to remain active in the church you can not remarry ever. Annulment is not an option in many non-catholic churches. Some churches are a bit more liberal, where if you divorce for a serious reason eg. spousal abuse, infidelity etc. you may be allowed to remarry if the pastor gives the go ahead. Some churches are even so liberal that there are no restrictions.

I know personally of one case where a couple was married (both at 21 and still in college). The husband left her after a year for another guy (he could not overcome his SSA). They have separated but the divorce is not yet finalized, because they have to be separated/living apart for at least one year before they can file (country’s law). She belongs to a strict Pentecostal Church that does not allow for remarriage for any reason. This case I honestly have a problem with because this was not her sin. But she has accepted her church’s view and plans to never remarry.

Thank you for your insight. I didn’t realize that there were other Churches that held this belief.

Yep. My grandfather (non-believer) left my grandmother (Baptist) for another woman. She never remarried because she is convinced if she did that she would go to hell for committing adultery. I grew up thinking it was unfair, he remarried and has a companion in old age while she doesn’t. Not fair at all but she doesn’t see it that way.

I’m confused too. Is a condition given in Matthew or not? If so, then how is the condition fulfilled?

Because Mark mentions no possible cause for divorce we have to infer what could Matthew allude to justify the separation of a married couple when he used the word Porneia.

We know it is not adultery, the word for adultery is a different one (μοιχεια) can be found in Jeremiah 13:27, Hosea 2:2 and 4:2 in the OT and in Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21, John 8:3 and Galatians 5:19

The word Matthew used is (πορνεια) porneia which is translated as “fornication” however it has several meanings in the original Greek.
So of all the possible meanings of the word porneia one stands out (incest).

A marriage that should NOT have been taken place in the first place. That would make this “marriage” INVALID. What is required for a marriage to be valid?
For starters the 2 persons cannot be siblings. Back in antiquity you can read of people marrying sisters, and even mothers. Indeed that would qualify as an “unlawful” marriage.

St John the Baptist was decapitated because he adamantly condemned Herod for having married his brother’s wife. This was considered also an unlawful marriage and he, John so told Herod.

They will interpret whatever their previous spouse did that ended the marriage as “except for the cause of pornea [meaning, *he never picked his socks up off the floor]” that they see in Jesus’ statement.

First, lacking the Holy Tradition, they have no way of knowing that Jesus was referring to conditions existing at the time of the marriage, and not the behaviour of the spouse at any time during the marriage.

Second, the original Hebrew is vague, so the Catholic interpretation (again coming out of the Holy Tradition) that the word used is referring to impediments to marriage existing at the time of the wedding, will be considered “one possible idea” while maintaining that the behaviour of the spouse during the marriage is also an equally valid interpretation, and feel free to divorce and remarry many times based on what they personally have interpreted the word to mean.

“until death ye do part” is considered a nice ideal, but realistically, unattainable - and God will forgive. After all, that’s His job. :rolleyes:

Okay, so then would you advocate that translations now say “Except for incest.”

It seems like in every example the word for porneias becomes fornication or sexual immorality.

Therefore, according to Jesus if one is fornicating or taking part in sexual immorality it is lawful to divorce ones spouse.

I remember the first time I heard this teaching read in my Protestant church. It seemed pretty straightforward to me. As for how some people justify it as others say they consider adultery to be an exception. And for those who allow divorce for any reason I think they have a very deficient view of the calling of Christ.

I think that is a bit uncharitable. And the problem is not limited to Protestants.

As I recall the context happens within a dispute of two Jewish schools of thought. One allowed divorce for any reason. The other allowed it only for adultery. The key being both allowed for divorce and remarriage. After Jesus spoke the disciples said if this is so then why marry at all. The teaching was too hard, like the Bread of Life discourse. If divorce and remarriage was an option because of adultery the disciples would not have so reacted. The teaching was a change in so far as disallowing divorce for adultery.

What I find most interesting is how the eastern churches have interpreted this as well.

I could almost have written this post, except for the annulment part. When I divorced my first husband I was agnostic; further, I was so miserable (close to suicidal) that it probably would not have mattered to me had I known I was doing something sinful.

My husband is a cradle Catholic, which unfortunately means that what he really knew about his faith could be contained in a thimble. :frowning: When I became interested in Catholicism, after our marriage, he was stunned when I told him that according to the Church we are committing adultery. (We lived together for 10 years, & only finally got married because we believed it was “the right thing to do”…!) :blush:

Like Convert1, we are doing our best to live Christ-centered lives, & can only hope & pray at this stage that the Lord will have mercy on our ignorance.

It was free when I linked to it. I don’t have a subscription to Christianity Today. They must alternate which articles are free and which ones you need to pay for. :shrug:

What Burge is saying is that there are valid grounds for a divorce. If a man/woman divorces his/her spouse for a valid reason (i.e. sexual immorality), then they are no longer bound to their former spouse and are free to marry someone else without condemnation.

But if a man/woman divorces his/her spouse without legitimate reason (i.e. without the offense of sexual immorality) and this divorcee marries someone else then he/she has committed adultery because he/she is not freed from the first marriage. They are still married.

Burge means that someone who remarries after legitimately divorcing their spouse for sexual immorality is not under judgment according to this Scripture.

The only person who would be under judgment is that person who divorced his/her spouse for a reason other than sexual immorality and then remarried. That person was never actually divorced, and therefore is committing adultery.

OK. I understand. I’m not entirely convinced that porneia should be translated in that limited manner, but New Testament translation is not my area of expertise.

It seems that Catholics read Matthew in light of Mark, and so Matthew becomes more restrictive.

I think (most???) Protestants will read Mark in light of Matthew, seeing Mark as a summary of Matthew’s longer statement, which is more comprehensive.

The point that he is making is that the original Greek word was not the commonly used word for “adultery”. I believe a better literal translation is “fornication”. If we view the Greek in light of the OT, which is important because at this time Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees - porneia was typically only used in the context of an illegitimate marriage - incest being one example - which of course would result in fornication since the two individuals were not truly married… Jesus is referring to this when he is speaking and this is clear when we consider the context of the verses surrounding it and the historical usage of the Greek. Also, if this exception was meant to mean adultery, it would be out of commune with other verses in the NT (Not just the Gospels).

My mistake @adrift. I re-read your original post and you are correct. I don’t know how to answer your question as I have not been divorced and remarried.

You make an interesting point. I wonder how you consider the following argument:

Why would Matthew have used porneia if he meant immoral sexual acts where one party is married - adultery, which was commonly referred to as moixaw?

If we refer to Matthew 5:32 “except for the cause of fornication (porneia), makes her commit adultery (moixaw)”. Porneia in the NT seems to be used to include fornication of two individuals that are not married (pre martial sex rather than adultery which exclusively means immorality where one party is married). Consider 1 Cor 7:1-2 "it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities (porneia), let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Clearly Paul is teaching that it is better to marry than “burn with passion” so to speak.

Thus, I believe that fornication is not a perfect term for the original Greek, because fornication can mean both married or unmarried parties. At best then, I believe that Matthew alone is not clear whether Jesus meant extra marriage sex or pre martial sex. We then though can appeal to the remainder of scripture to discern the true context which seems to be clear - a valid marriage cannot be broken for any reason.

Of course if Matthew meant immorality where neither party is married, then we cannot conclude that divorce for adultery is inherently acceptable (although this would be strong evidence of a lack of commitment, thus no marriage occurring). If this meaning is true, then the only logical conclusion is that Matthew meant a situation in which marriage did not truly exist for some illegitimate reason meaning that these individuals were not committing adultery, but rather pre martial sex.

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