An evangelical friend of mine challenged my assertion the other day that divorce is against the will of God, period. I pointed to five different places in the New Testament alone that support this. The first of these, though, Matthew 5:32, caused me a little consternation. Of the five, only Matthew’s two passages actually have a caveat, or exception, to the rule. In my NAB translation, the 5:32 verse reads thusly:
“But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
My understanding of “unlawful” was to refer to things like incest, etc. That is fine, and the rule against divorce seems pretty clear.
However, if you look at a bunch of other translations, you get something quite different:
“But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.”
“ego autem dico vobis quia omnis qui dimiserit uxorem suam excepta fornicationis causa facit eam moechari et qui dimissam duxerit adulterat”
Revised Standard Version:
“But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
You get the idea. Fornication, or adultery, to me is quite different
than an “unlawful” marriage. So where does this difference come from?