Matthew 19:1-12

by Jeff Smelser

corrected edition, October 8, 1996

[This document contains Greek words and phrases. Netscape 3.0 and Explorer 3.0 will properly display the Greek if you install SGreek, a font available from Silver Mountain Software.]


    Matthew began this pericope noting the "great multitudes" that had followed Jesus into the borders of Judea. As on other occasions, Jesus' increasing influence with the people was the reason his enemies desired to discredit him. On this particular occasion, the means was to set Jesus' teaching against that of Moses. Jesus had publicly proclaimed his opposition to divorce (Matthew 5:32). Whether or not he had recently reiterated this teaching is not entirely clear.1 It was, however, the teaching in which the Pharisees saw an opportunity to discredit Jesus on the basis of Moses' law.

    Were it not for a brief description in the Talmud of a first (or possibly, early second) century Rabbinical dispute concerning Deuteronomy 24:1, the foregoing would surely be seen as the most natural understanding of what lay behind the Pharisees' question. However, almost invariably,2 commentators discuss this passage in terms of the respective views of the schools of Hillel and Shammai. The mishnah in which these views are described is found in Gittin 9,10, and reads as follows:

Beth Shammai say: a man should not divorce his wife unless he has found her guilty of some unseemly conduct, as it says, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her. Beth Hillel, however say [that he may divorce her] even if she has merely spoilt his food, since it says, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her. R. Akiba says [he may divorce her] even if he finds another woman more beautiful than she is, as it says, it cometh to pass, if she find no favour in his eyes.3

    With this controversy in mind, many commentators suppose the Pharisees intended to put Jesus "in the dilemma of either having to choose the unpopular side of the school of Shammai...or exposing Himself to a charge of laxity by siding with the school of Hillel."4 The phrase, "for every cause," seems particularly related to the debate between the two Rabbinical houses, or schools. However, as will be seen later, "for every cause" was as much a reflection of the common perception of Deuteronomy 24:1 as it might have been of the Hillelite view.

    In view of the consistency with which commentators turn to the Rabbinical controversy to explain the Pharisees' motives, it is with great timidity that I venture to suggest that the emphasis upon this controversy has been disproportionate. And yet, in view of certain exegetical errors and harmonistic problems that result from this emphasis, it seems appropriate to set forth those facts which make any reference to the Rabbinical controversy unlikely.

What Did the Pharisees Hope to Accomplish?

    The Pharisees were not offering a two- horned dilemma, ambivalent as to which horn Jesus grasped. Had Jesus taken the Hillelite approach to the question, which was almost universally accepted, he would have offended virtually no one.

    Broadus suggested that the Pharisees "probably hoped to drive him to take the Shammai view."5 Jesus' earlier teaching would have provided sufficient basis for such hope.6 But the presumed difficulty for Jesus would not have inhered in being identified with Shammai,7 nor in opposing Hillel. With respect to the multitudes, the more important consideration was the long-standing perception that Moses permitted divorce for every cause. If Jesus responded to the Pharisees' question in a manner consistent with this previous teaching, he could be accused of contradicting what was generally understood to be, not merely Hillel's view, but, the teaching of Moses. Thus Broadus' earlier estimate of the Pharisees' question as an attempt to represent Jesus' teaching as "wanting in fidelity to the law of Moses"8 is more to the point.

Jesus' Reply Argues Against a Hillelite vs. Shammaite Setting

    The assumed Hillelite/Shammaite setting of the Pharisees' question is difficult to reconcile with Jesus' response. The problem is that if the question in 19:3 pertained to the Rabbinical dispute, Jesus' response in 19:4-7 would rightly have been understood to set aside not only the Hillelite view but also the Shammaite view, allowing divorce under no circumstances. However, in verse 9, Jesus allowed divorce for fornication, thus concurring with the Shammaites. Why then would Jesus have initially responded in such a way as to suggest he was at variance with the Shammaite teaching?9

    One may gloss over the apparent equivocation in verses 4-6 by saying that Jesus' teaching really did differ from that of the Shammaites in that his teaching was based on what was from the beginning while theirs was based on a misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. However, had the Pharisees been intent on causing Jesus to offend the followers of Hillel, it is doubtful that they would have seen such a distinction as being very meaningful. No matter what the reason, Jesus was contradicting Hillel. For all practical purposes, his view was that of the Shammaites. The Pharisees could have claimed victory.

    That the Rabbinical controversy even existed during Jesus' earthly ministry is merely an assumption. Certainly, Hillel and Shammai were contemporaries of Jesus. The Encyclopaedia Judaica places the period of Hillel's activity at the end of Herod's reign, from about 10 B.C. to about A.D. 10.10 Shammai is thought to have died about A.D. 30.11 However, although reference materials sometimes cite the divorce controversy as if it involved Hillel and Shammai themselves, this cannot be proven. "Only three controversies between Hillel and Shammai themselves have been preserved," and this particular controversy is not among them. On the other hand, more than 350 controversies between the Hillelites and the Shammaites are described in the Talmud.12 The disagreements between the two schools persisted for 110 years.13 During this protracted rivalry, the specific views of the two schools did not necessarily reflect the views of their respective founders. There are, in fact, cases specifically cited where Shammai's view is distinguished from that of the school bearing his name.14 Hence, it is not known that there was a disagreement between Hillel and Shammai concerning Deuteronomy 24:1, and the disagreement that existed between the two schools concerning Deuteronomy 24:1 could have arisen at almost any time during the first century.

Supposed Evidence for a Hillel/Shammai Controversy

    While there is no compelling reason to assume the controversy existed during Jesus' earthly ministry, at least two of Jesus' expressions are sometimes thought to make tacit reference to the Rabbinical controversy. Such references would of course be prima facie evidence that the Rabbinical dispute was contemporaneous with Jesus.

    One of these phrases is the exception clause as it is found in Matthew 5:32. Several writers have seen a connection between this clause and the manner in which the Shammaites quoted Deuteronomy 24:1. Whereas Deuteronomy 24:1 has erwat dabar (shameful thing), according to Gittin 9,10, the Shammaites transposed the words so as to have dabar erwah (thing of shame). It is alleged that lo/gou pornei/aj (Matthew 5:32) is a Greek rendering of this Shammaite transposition.15 However, this theory has Jesus affirming a Rabbinical interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 (and a questionable one at best) in a context where his point was that the righteousness of the Pharisees must be exceeded. In Matthew 19:9, where it is supposed that Jesus did have reason to refer to the Rabbinical dispute, lo/gou pornei/aj is a variant reading, but is generally conceded to be a corruption.

    Another phrase thought to be a reference to the Rabbinical dispute is the "for every cause" (kata\ pa=san a)iti/an) of Matthew 19:3.16 However, as noted earlier, this phrase could as easily be explained as a reference to what was and had been the common understanding of Deuteronomy 24:1. Josephus, who was himself twice divorced and remarried, understood the law to say:

He who desires to be divorced from the wife who is living with him for whatsoever cause [kaq' a)sdhpotou=n ai)ti/aj] - and with mortals many such may arise - must certify in writing that he will have no further intercourse with her; for thus will the woman obtain the right to consort with another....17

Of his second divorce, Josephus wrote, "I divorced my not pleased with her behavior."18 Philo's understanding of the unseemly thing in Deuteronomy 24:1 was similar:

Another commandment is that if a woman after parting from her husband for any cause whatever [kaq' h)\n a)\n tu/xh pro/fasin] marries another and then again becomes a widow, whether this second husband is alive or dead, she must not return to her first husband but ally herself with any other than him....19

There is also the instruction concerning an uncooperative wife in Sirach 25:26: "If she does not go as you direct, separate her from yourself."

    The tractate Gittin (i.e., Divorce) itself is evidence of the prevalence of divorce for a wide variety of reasons. Mishnah 9,10, being the very end of the tractate, is hardly more than a postscript to a casuistic discussion of the means by which divorce could be executed. Throughout the tractate, the right to divorce for a variety of reasons has been presupposed. Only at the very end is the Shammaite reservation mentioned.

    The point of all this is that the view that came to be espoused by the school of Hillel already was, in practice, the view of Jewish society. According to Moore, the Hillelite view was "unquestionably in accordance with the older interpretation" of Dt. 24:1.20

    That a loose attitude toward divorce had prevailed should not be surprising. Divorce at the husband's discretion had at least been acknowledged, if not sanctioned, by Moses.21 While the unseemly thing of Deuteronomy 24:1 is probably not to be so broadly interpreted as it was by the school of Hillel, it clearly referred to shortcomings less serious than adultery, for death was the penalty for adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).22

    Therefore, when Jesus taught that, contrary to what almost everyone thought, dismissing a wife, apart from fornication, is not God's will, and a writing of divorcement does not pave the way to remarriage, he seemed an easy target. Quite apart from any Rabbinical dispute, Jesus' teaching would readily have been seen by his detractors as contradicting Moses. Perhaps because the Pharisees were aware that Jesus had allowed one cause for divorce, they posed their question in such a way as to clearly distinguish between his teaching and the commonly accepted interpretation of Moses' words: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"

Mark's Account:

Evidence Against a Rabbinical Controversy Setting

    Mark's account has the Pharisees asking simply, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" After Jesus asked what Moses had said, they answered defensively, "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement and to put her away." However, both Rabbinical schools conceded that much. Had the Pharisees been concerned with a dispute between the Hillelites and the Shammaites, the fact that Moses suffered the writing of a bill of divorcement was irrelevant. The question central to this Rabbinical dispute was for what cause(s) could one divorce. On the other hand, the Pharisees' response as it stands in Mark 10:4 is exactly what one would expect if their intent had been to depict Jesus as rejecting Moses.

    While it is possible that the Rabbinical dispute of Gittin 9,10 existed during Jesus' earthly walk, the foregoing comments serve to show that said dispute was not the focus of the Pharisees' question. Their aim was to counter Jesus' increasing influence with the multitudes by contrasting his teaching with that of Moses. They were asking, "are husbands free to divorce their wives as they please, or not?"



    Jesus responded by referring to what was "from the beginning" as the basis of his teaching, thus neutralizing the Pharisees' strategy. He appealed to the words of the Creator, whom Moses served. Jesus established that marriage was the work of God. It was the Creator who made male and female; it was He who said, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." Therefore the joining together was His work. Consequently, it is not within the scope of man's prerogative to "put asunder."

    It is perhaps significant that xwri/zw (put asunder), which is found in numerous divorce decrees and had "almost become a technical term in connection with divorce,"23 is used here. If so, the point to be made is that, while whatever is prohibited is presumed to be possible, what is here prohibited and therefore possible is a dissolution of the marriage only in the eyes of human authority. That the real bond persists is confirmed by verse nine.

    Once Jesus stated his position, the Pharisees challenged Jesus to explain the discrepancy between Moses' teaching and his own: "Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put here away?" Jesus explained that divorce was "suffered"24 by Moses due to the hardness of heart of the people, but that from the beginning , this had not been God's intention. Reinstating God's original plan, Jesus then declared that, in reality, the man who puts away his wife and marries another is committing adultery. In other words, a legal decree of divorce in no way changes the reality that the two separating parties are still one. Thus the function of Jesus' remarks concerning remarriage was to underscore his teaching that divorce is wrong.

    It is important to emphasize what is the primary lesson of Matthew 19:1-12 before entering into a discussion of verse 9 and the exception clause. Discussions about who has the right to remarry often have the effect of distracting attention from the point of the passage. The point of the passage is that divorce (not merely remarriage after divorce) is wrong. The primary purpose of mentioning remarriage was not to explain who may remarry (although Jesus' words certainly do that). Rather, the primary purpose of mentioning remarriage was to demonstrate the inefficacy of the writing of divorcement specifically, and of human legislation in this matter generally. Notwithstanding a legal divorce decree, the original marriage bond persists and marriage to another is actually adultery.


    It seems that the statement recorded in Matthew 19:9 was made to the Pharisees, and then the gist of it was reiterated in the private conversation with the disciples (Mark 10:11). Matthew's account does not explicitly say that the discussion between Jesus and the disciples continued in private. This is to be inferred, however, from the nature of the discussion recorded in Matthew 19:10-12. "Not all men can receive this saying, but they to whom it is given," is in keeping with another explanation made to the disciples privately, but not declared publicly, viz., Mark 4:10-12. (Cf. the parallel passage, Matthew 13:11. Notice that here again, Mark is more explicit in saying this explanation was made while Jesus was alone with his disciples.)


    Although the meaning of the phrase, "except for fornication" (mh\ e)pi\ pornei/#),25 has been much debated and has been the subject of dozens of articles in scholarly journals, no interpretation is as completely satisfying as that which any literate adolescent would discern: A man who puts away his wife and marries another is actually committing adultery, unless he puts his wife away for fornication. In that case, he may remarry.

    Should one, however, have occasion to read some of what has been written on the subject (e.g. Jesus and Divorce, by evangelicals William Heth and Gordon Wenham), he could easily be disheartened by the array of interpretations encountered. The scholarly arguments brought to bear in behalf of at least one or two are, at first glance, formidable. And the arguments made for most of the others are esoterical enough to leave one wondering if there is something he doesn't understand.

    But what is perhaps not at first apparent is that all these views (excepting that which admits the meaning of the phrase but denies its authenticity) have either originated with, or at the least, been given some measure of respectability by, the scholarly efforts of Roman Catholic clerics endeavoring to find a solution to what they see as a difficult passage. And understandably do they so see it, because their doctrine will not allow the most natural meaning of the passage. Nonetheless, the persuasiveness of scholarship has lured increasing numbers of non-Catholic exegetes to adopt one or another of these complex interpretations.

    Ironically, some of the most effective refutations of these complex interpretations have been written by the Catholic clerics themselves, who have debated among themselves the various interpretations. Indeed, the objections weighed against each of these interpretations prove to be compelling, and one is left with the knowledge that the issue need not have been so complex. The obvious interpretation, dismissed out of hand by Catholic scholars, has no worthy alternative among those which rely (unsuccessfully) on scholarship. These alternatives would never occur to the reader who takes the passage at face value.

    Traditionally, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have, at least in theory, rejected any grounds for dissolution of a legitimate marriage bond. In this century, Anglican scholars have generally recognized the true implication of the exception clause as it stands, but, in order to sustain their creed, they have denied that the words were actually spoken by Jesus. Catholic exegetes in the past understood the exception clause to allow only separation from bed and board, not true divorce nor subsequent remarriage. That this is manifestly contrary to the natural reading of the verse even to Catholic exegetes is seen in their many attempts to find an alternative interpretation. However, their doctrinal predisposition to reject any grounds for true divorce,26 compounded by the assumption that the context of the Pharisees' question was the Rabbinical controversy,27 and abetted by the conclusions of liberal criticism,28 has prevented them from the most natural interpretation, namely, that in the event of the wife's adultery, the husband may put her away and marry another.

The So-Called Rabbinic Interpretation

    Of the explanations that have been proposed for the exception clause, among Catholic scholars the so-called Rabbinic view has garnered the most support. Despite the misleading name, this view did not originate as a Rabbinical interpretation of Jesus' words. Apparently first proposed by an Anglican, this view sees in pornei/a a technical term for an incestuous relationship, and thus understands Matthew 19:9 to say, "If anyone divorces his wife, he may not marry again, except when his marriage was not a real one at all, but had only the appearance of one."29 Most advocates of this view grant that Jesus would not likely have mentioned such an "exception" in the context of the discussion with the Pharisees. They prefer to think that Matthew, or "the Matthean redactor," added the clause. As far as we are concerned, this alone is enough to discredit the interpretation. However, because this particular view has found increasing support among Catholics, as well as evangelicals, who believe the clause is attributable to Jesus himself, it warrants more thorough treatment.

    In 1927, Anglican W. K. Lowther Clarke suggested that in the exception clauses of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, pornei/a be understood to mean "marriage within the prohibited Levitical degrees." He appealed to 1 Corinthians 5:1 where pornei/a is used of the illicit relationship between a man and his father's wife, and to Acts 15:29 which he viewed as a "compromise" allowing Jewish and Gentile Christians to share a common social life:

...The Jews were not to demand circumcision or the ceremonial law; the Gentiles were to abstain from meat sold at the butcher's which had played its part at a sacrifice, from meat at the killing of which the blood had not been properly drained, from "black puddings" and other repellent ways of using the blood, and from "fornication" (pornei/a)....Since the first three articles of the compromise are concerned with practices which were abhorrent to the Jews but seemed innocent enough to the Gentiles, the fourth must be of a similar nature. The passage in 1 Corinthians gives us the clue. pornei/a here means marriage within the prohibited Levitical degrees.30

    In February of 1928, Clarke drew support from F. Gavin, who wrote "In Acts xv. 20, 29 pornei/a seems only to mean incest," and quoted Strack-Billerbeck:

Here it may not mean "fornication" or "unchastity" in general, since pornei/a in this meaning would surely be forbidden to everyone, hence it could not be taken as a special prohibition incumbent upon Gentile converts to Christianity. It must, however, be taken to mean "marriage within the degrees forbidden" by Lev. xviii. 6-18.31

We shall return to the underlying assumption that the stipulations of the Jerusalem letter were merely advisory and not divine prohibitions applicable to all.

    Efforts to promote this interpretation have been made by numerous Catholic scholars.32 According to Bruce Vawter, it was Roman Catholic J. Bonsirven who turned to Rabbinic literature to show that "marriages held to be invalid because of the impeding laws of Lv 18,7-18 or otherwise, were called in rabbinic Hebrew zenut = porneia,"33 (hence the designation, Rabbinic interpretation). Among evangelicals, Charles Ryrie34 and F.F. Bruce35 have expressed preference for this interpretation.

    The Rabbinic interpretation is beset with such overwhelming problems as to make it astonishing not only that many have embraced it, but that anyone has. In the first place, it cannot be said that pornei/a was used as a technical term for incest. This is equally true of its Hebrew counterpart, zenut.36 It is not enough for the advocates of the Rabbinic view to show that incest can be classed as pornei/a. No one denies that. Rather, they must prove that pornei/a was such a technical term for incest that in a passage such as Matthew 19, where there is no contextual indication that incest is meant, the word itself would have been understood to mean specifically this.

    Fitzmyer turned to codex Damascus of the Qumran literature for support in establishing incest as a "specific understanding of zenut."37 The same document is cited by Bruce.38 The relevant passage portrays either Jewish society in general, or specifically the priesthood, as being entrapped in three nets of Belial. One of these nets is zenut, and, according to Fitzmyer's interpretation of the document, two examples of zenut are given. The first is taking more than one wife, (whether this means polygamy, remarriage after divorce, remarriage after a wife's death, or a combination of these is debated, and is of no concern to us) and the second is, "they take each one the daughter of his brother and the daughter of his sister."39

    Fitzmyer's reading of codex Damascus is open to question. Philip R. Davies translates this section of codex Damascus differently so as to have plural marriages as the only example given for the net of zenut, and incest as falling under the category of the third net, namely defilement of the sanctuary.40 If Davies is right in his translation, incest is not specifically included as a form of zenut in codex Damascus.

    Even if Fitzmyer is correct in his reading of codex Damascus, he still has not demonstrated incest to be a technical meaning of zenut, let alone pornei/a. Zenut cannot be said to be a technical term for incest if it also includes plural marriages. It can no more be said to be a technical term for incest than it can be said to be technical term for polygamy. Rather than being understood in its own right to mean incest, zenut in CD 4:17 is dependent upon the explanation, "they take each one the daughter of his brother and the daughter of his sister," and upon the subsequent reference to Leviticus 18.41

    Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 5:1, pornei/a is certainly not a technical term for incest. Incest is indicated only by the subsequent explanation, "and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father's wife."

    Justification for taking pornei/a in Acts 15 to mean incest is thought to be found in correlating each of the four stipulations of the Jerusalem letter with the requirements of Leviticus 17-18. Fitzmyer correlates these as follows:

...the meat offered to idols (Lv 17:8-9 [cf. vs. 7, JS]), the eating of blood (Lv 17:10-12), the eating of strangled, i.e., not properly butchered, animals (Lv 17:15; cf. Ex. 22:31), and intercourse with close kin (Lv 18:6-8).42

The correlation seems valid, and is especially appropriate in that James cited the ubiquity of Moses' law as the reason such stipulations were needed. In a letter to Gentile Christians, the point of which was to confirm that Gentiles are not required to keep the law of Moses, it would be important to observe that there were some aspects of the law which, apart from the law, were binding upon all men. Specifically, Leviticus 17-18 stood out as dealing with universally applicable ordinances, as is evidenced by Leviticus 18:24-25.

    However, incest is not the only sexual sin mentioned in Leviticus 18. Also mentioned are intercourse with a woman "during her menstrual impurity," adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. Pornei/a, used "of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse,"43 was the very term one would expect to be used in summarizing such a wide ranging list of sexual sins as found in Leviticus 18. It is hardly reasonable to single out incest as the meaning in Acts 15, and thus attempt to establish a technical meaning whereby Matthew 19:9 is to be interpreted.

    It is objected that the usual meaning of pornei/a is impossible in Acts 15. This is because it is thought that the word is there used for one of four practices from which Gentiles were asked to abstain merely for the sake of Jewish sensibilities. It is supposed that the stipulations of the Jerusalem letter were not divine prohibitions. F. F. Bruce characterized the intent of the letter as follows:

If Gentile Christians found that their practices in food matters raised difficulties for the weaker consciences of Jewish Christians, then let them abstain from these practices, not indeed under compulsion but by their free choice, as a gesture of Christian charity.44

This notion that the stipulations were merely advisory is based largely on the use of ei)dwlo/quta (Acts 15:29) which is thought to describe meat sold in the market place after having been dedicated to an idol, and on the supposition that in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul allowed the eating of such meat as a Christian liberty, except where one might be caused to stumble. So Bruce reasons,45 as did Clarke, who wrote, "In Corinth St. Paul felt at liberty to urge [the Jerusalem letter's] food regulations on the ground of charity only (1 Cor. viii)."46

    The letter sent out in Acts 15 denounced those "who went out from us ... subverting your souls" by requiring Gentiles to be circumcised and "to keep the law of Moses." It purported, in contrast to those Judaizers, "to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things...." Does it not seem strange, even hypocritical, for that same letter then to ask for Gentile adherence to Jewish laws which, as far as God was concerned, were not binding upon Gentiles? Perhaps such hypocrisy can at times be attributed to the best of men, but the message of this letter "seemed good to the Holy Spirit." In truth, and in striking contrast to F. F. Bruce's previously quoted words, the stipulations of the letter were e)pa/nagkej, i.e., "by compulsion".47 They were obligations commanded for all men by the Holy Spirit.

    As far as the prohibition against ei)dwlo/quta is concerned, there is no contradiction with 1 Corinthians 8 if, as Gordon Fee has persuasively argued, ei)dwlo/quta refers not to meat sold in the marketplace, but to that which is eaten in an idol temple as a sacred meal.48 Fee shows that 1 Corinthians 8, like 10:14-22, deals, not with the former, but specifically with "sitting at meat in an idol's temple" (1 Cor. 8:10). Though claimed as a liberty by some at Corinth, this was taught by Paul to be wrong on two counts: It was a failure to love (1 Cor. 8), and it was communion with demons (10:14-22).

    It is also interesting that in every New Testament context where there is mention of ei)dwlo/quta, the Jerusalem letter (Acts 15:29, 21:25), 1 Corinthians 8-10, and the addresses to the angels of the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira (Rev. 2:14, 20), there is also mention of fornication. Indeed, as Fee observed, in two of these contexts (1 Cor. 10:8 and Rev. 2:14), there is an allusion to Numbers 25 where idolatry and fornication were combined.49 This and the fact that, among Gentiles, sexual immorality had often been associated with the goings on at idolatrous festivities make it absurd to suppose that the mention of fornication in close connection with the pollutions of idols in the letter to the Gentiles had reference only to incest.

    Having shown that there is no basis for understanding pornei/a to be limited to incest in Matthew 19:9, one further observation concerning this interpretation is in order. The advocates of the Rabbinic view suppose that marriage to a close relative was not in and of itself wrong, but was discouraged among Gentiles (and specifically, only those living in "predominantly Jewish-Christian communities"50) only to accommodate Jewish sensibilities. How is it then, as the advocates of this view say, that such a marriage was not really a marriage at all? Especially in a context emphasizing the marital bond as God's work, not to be put asunder by man, how is it that Jesus could have allowed a man to put away his wife on such grounds? If one responds that Jesus was speaking to those under Moses' law for whom such marriages were prohibited, let it be noted that Jesus' "but I say unto you" introduces his new teaching as opposed to what had been under Moses' law. It is no wonder that most who advocate this view believe that the exception clauses were not spoken by Jesus, but were added by Matthew, or by "the Matthean redactor"!

The Divorce = Adultery Interpretation

    Basing his interpretation of Matthew 19:9 on a faulty analysis of Matthew 5:32, Roman Catholic John J. Kilgallen defines adultery as divorce itself and says the exception clauses in both passages "refer only to the fact that in some cases divorce is not adulterous."51 However, even in those cases, "it still is not right for man to sunder what God has joined together."52 By calling attention to the "also" of Matthew 5:31, and to "the fact that the introductory phrasing of verse 31 is truncated," Kilgallen concludes "that verses 31-32 are not a new subject matter, but rather associated with the previous verses." Kilgallen says the central concern of 5:27-32 is "Jesus' interpretation of the law against adultery," and Kilgallen understands looking on a woman to lust and divorce to be "two examples" of "acts of adultery."53

    Thus, in Matthew 19, Kilgallen argues that there are two reasons given as to why divorce is wrong. One is "that God has joined man and wife together," and the second is given in verse 9: "divorce is, in most cases, adulterous."54 Kilgallen concludes,

if there is a meaning to the exception, it is that not every divorce is necessarily adulterous; Jesus therefore, does not offer the possibility of exceptions to His law against divorce, but only to the general rule that divorce is adulterous.55

    It is one thing to recognize a relationship between Matthew 5:27-28 and 5:31-32. In both cases, the sin pertains to the sexual. Very likely this is the reason for the "also" in verse 31, and perhaps for the "truncated" introduction to the divorce saying as well.

    It is quite another thing to say, "Jesus specifically and explicitly includes divorce in His 'definition' of adultery."56 In 5:28, Jesus did not define adultery to include looking to lust. In verses 21f, was Jesus defining killing so as to include being angry? The man who looks on a woman to lust after her cannot be said to have actually committed adultery any more than the man who is angry with his brother (5:22) can be accused of having actually killed someone. In 5:27f as in 5:21f, Jesus was teaching the necessity of inward righteousness, not reinterpreting the Ten Commandments.

    If Kilgallen's premise that divorce is adultery is assumed, one should wonder why Jesus said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife...and shall marry another, committeth adultery." Why not simply: "Whosoever shall put away his wife committeth adultery"? One should also wonder why divorce in the case of a spouse's infidelity is not adultery.

    Finally, a grammatical point is worth noting here. Discussing the syntactical difference between the present and aorist subjunctive in relative clauses, Nigel Turner wrote, "In the papyri...the aor. indicates a relatively past time" (i.e. relative to the main clause). Then in regard to Matthew's use of the aorist subjunctive in relative clauses, Turner observed, "the relative action is always antecedent to the main action." Apparently having in mind the Received Text (o)\j a)\n a)polu/s$), Turner cited Matthew 5:32: "he makes his wife an adulteress who divorces (i.e. has already divorced) her."57 In other words, the man first divorces her, and then at some subsequent time he makes her an adulteress. While the aorist subjunctive is to be rejected in Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9 does have the aorist subjunctive in the relative clause. If Turner's analysis of the significance of the aorist subjunctive is correct, the implication for Kilgallen's interpretation is devastating. The adultery does not coincide with the divorce, but follows it.58

    Several other views have been advanced in the scholarly journals over the past few decades, but none has gained support from such diverse quarters as has the so-called Rabbinic view. Descriptions and refutations of the preteritive interpretation, the inclusive interpretation, the Christian/unbeliever interpretation, and the interpretive interpretation can be found in a supplement to this article. With the exception of the betrothal view, each of these represents the tortuous efforts of some Roman Catholic theologian to escape the obvious implication of the exception clause.

The Heth & Wenham Approach

    The energy that has been exerted by Roman Catholic scholars in seeking an alternative to the traditional Catholic interpretation and the absurdity of the positions which they have been willing to embrace are indicative of the untenability of the traditional Catholic interpretation.59 Had it any reasonable claim to viability, such contortions as those inhering in the various interpretations mentioned above would never have been deemed necessary. And yet, in addition to Catholic scholars who have returned to it,60 a recent book by evangelicals William Heth and Gordon Wenham (hereafter, H&W) now defends the traditional Catholic interpretation, or, as they call it, "the early church view."61

    Although H&W give prominent credit to Jacques Dupont and Quentin Quesnell, their conclusion is very dependent upon the work of John J. Kilgallen, more so than they admit. In summarizing their interpretation, H&W paraphrase verse 9 as follows:

It is always wrong to divorce what God has joined together: what is more, divorce, except for unchastity, is adulterous; and remarriage after divorce is always so.62

    The problems with the so-called early church view as advocated by H&W are the following:

    (1)     It is wrongly assumed that divorce itself, whether followed by remarriage or not, is "adulterous," or "tantamount to committing adultery." See the discussion of Kilgallen's view above.

    (2)     Those to whom Jesus spoke had no knowledge of a right to put away a wife that did not also include the right to remarry. Therefore, even if Jesus' statement could be construed as ambiguous, allowing the possibility of interpreting it so as to permit only putting away but not remarriage in the case of fornication, his hearers would certainly not have interpreted it that way. Lest it be argued that Jesus did not always speak so as to be understood by all, Jesus was not here speaking in a parable. He was speaking so as to be understood. Remember that the words in verse nine were specifically intended as an explanation removing all doubt about the sinfulness of divorce. To suppose that Jesus could have spoken as he did, and intended for his hearers to conclude that remarriage is adultery even after putting a wife away for fornication is to suppose Jesus to have been a very poor communicator.

    (3)    The most natural interpretation of Jesus' words is that, in the event of pornei/a, divorce may be followed by remarriage. It is for this reason that numerous Catholic expositors have sought to explain pornei/a as referring to a relationship that is not really a marriage. In so doing, they can admit that the words imply the permissibility of subsequent marriage, for then such would not in reality be remarriage. It would be the first legitimate marriage.

    H&W devote seven pages (113-119) to developing a grammatical argument to show that one "should not attempt to relate the exception clause to the entire statement." Rather one should "understand the function of the negated prepositional phrase in the protasis alone." Later, however, though they do not ultimately espouse them, H&W speak commendably of the betrothal and Rabbinic views,63 both of which relate the exception clause to the whole sentence, recognizing that marriage to another was permitted in the event of the "exception". H&W are willing to abandon their grammatical objections in the case of the Rabbinic and betrothal views, because in practice these do not allow for one who is legitimately married to put his wife away for fornication. This suggests a reason for H&W's conclusion other than strong conviction concerning a grammatical point.

    From a logical point of view, the sentence can be stated as an if/then proposition. It will then be clear that both conditions of the protasis must be fulfilled (he puts his wife away not for fornication and he remarries) in order to affirm the apodosis (he commits adultery) on the basis of this statement.

If a man put his wife away not for fornication and he married another,

then he commits adultery.

    In an if/then proposition with a compound protasis, it can be possible for the apodosis to be true when only one of the conditions is met, and the proposition as it stands to still be valid. For example, consider the following proposition:

If a man does not breathe and he is 30 years old,

then he will die.

The proposition is valid. However, a man who does not breathe will die even if he is 28. But this is not a truth deducible from the proposition itself. It is a truth known by other means. Furthermore, because we know this truth, we would say the framer of this proposition is guilty of confusing the issue with impertinent information. Are we ready to say the same of Jesus?

    Moreover, while the sentence, "If a man does not breathe, he will die," makes sense, the sentence, "If a man puts his wife away not for fornication, he commits adultery," is nonsense. He is guilty of sin, but putting away in and of itself does not constitute the particular sin of adultery. One can see why H&W found Kilgallen's definition of divorce as including adultery attractive.


    It is quite petty to argue that "commits adultery" cannot be referring to the relationship between the man and the second woman because Jesus said the man "marries" her. This, however, has been the claim of some who wish to liberalize Matthew 19:9. In the protasis, Jesus has described the scenario as it is thought to be: The man puts his wife away, that is, he dismisses her with a writing of divorce (vs. 7), and marries another. Then in the apodosis, Jesus states the reality: This new relationship is adultery.

    Some who wish to conclude that a subsequent marriage, once formed, is a legitimate marriage and should not be renounced, have argued that it is the action of divorce alone that constitutes adultery. (Ironically, this is the same argument Kilgallen made to disallow any remarriage!). They have made much of the fact that a present indicative verb does not necessarily imply durative Aktionsart. A point mentioned earlier in connection with Kilgallen's interpretation will be helpful here. In regard to Matthew's use of the aorist subjunctive in relative clauses, Nigel Turner observed, "the relative action is always antecedent to the main action."64 Turner catalogued some 31 instances (including the present verse) of this construction in Matthew finding only one exception (viz., 14:7, on which Turner commented, "she had not asked anything yet, but would have done so before he was able to make the gift") to the rule. The point is that "puts away" (a)polu/s$) is an aorist subjunctive in a relative clause, and therefore, (if Turner's analysis is correct) precedes the action of the main clause, viz. the committing adultery. Hence the putting away cannot be the adultery. Notice that "marry" (gamh/s$) is also an aorist subjunctive in the relative clause. Therefore it too would be understood as preceding the action of the main clause. If one objects that a present subjunctive would have been undesirable, that the aorist was necessary to convey the punctiliar Aktionsart of "puts away" and "marry", hear Turner again commenting on this particular construction as illustrated in the papyri: "The use of pres. or aor. subj. bears little or no relation to the Aktionsart."65 If Turner's analysis is correct and the aorist subjunctive in the relative clause indicates that the putting away and the marrying are antecedent to the committing adultery, there is nothing left for the adultery to be other than the continuing sexual relationship with the second woman.

VERSES 10-12

    From Mark's account we learn that this subject continued to be discussed by Jesus and the disciples after they were "in the house". There, according to Mark 10:11, Jesus again stated, in essence, what he had said publicly to the Pharisees (recorded in Matthew 19:9).

    To Jesus' teaching the disciples respond, "If the case of the man with the woman is thus, it is not profitable [for him] to marry." A common assumption is that the disciples meant it is better to never marry in the first place. However, it seems more likely that they spoke of remarriage. As early as c. A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria understood the passage this way.66

    Possibly, "the woman" they spoke of was the man's (original) wife. They say, "if the case of the man with his wife is thus (ou(/twj e)sti/n)," i.e., as has been described by Jesus: He has put her away not for (mh\ e)pi/) fornication. The attractive feature of this interpretation is that ai)ti/a can be understood in verse 10 just as it was used in verse 3, with its basic meaning, "cause", or "reason". One might object that our understanding of the text has Jesus and the disciples going into the house between verse nine and verse 10, that the words spoken by Jesus in the house (recorded In Mark 10:11) make no mention of the exception, and therefore ou(/twj e)sti/n h( ai)ti/a cannot refer specifically to the case mh\ e)pi\ pornei/#. However, Mark's account of Jesus' words in the house may be abbreviated, stating correctly the rule and omitting what is, in truth, only an exception.

    Then again, once in the house, Jesus may have stated only the rule, seeing no need to reiterate the uncontroversial exception. Then the disciples' ou(/twj e)sti/n h( ai)ti/a would refer to the circumstance that the man has put his wife away. In accordance with the general rule, they would be stating correctly that it is profitable for a man who has divorced his wife to remain unmarried. A)iti/a would be understood as a Latinism meaning "relationship", or "case."67 The sense of their words would be, "If the case of man with his wife is thus, i.e., that he has put her away, it is not profitable for him to marry again."

    )Ei with the indicative generally suggests reality as opposed to potentiality, and therefore, one might have expected e)a\n with the subjunctive. However, Zerwick describes uses of ei) with the indicative which could well account for its use here.68

    On the other hand, when the disciples spoke of "the woman", they may have had in mind the woman with whom the man might form a new relationship. If so, ou(/twj refers to the fact that this new relationship is adultery. This perhaps more easily accounts for ei( with the indicative. The sense of the disciples' words would be, "If the case of the man with the (second) woman is thus, i.e., it is adultery even though he 'marries' her, it is not profitable to marry."

    In any event, ou) sumfe/rei gamh=sai means it is not profitable for him to contract a second relationship. Theirs is not a banal observation that it would be undesirable to commit adultery. They are saying there is something to be gained in not marrying. One who finds himself in this situation, having divorced his wife (not for fornication) gains eternal life in not marrying. (Cf. the use of sumfe/rei in Matthew 5:29-30, John 16:9, and especially the principle in Matthew 16:26.)

    Most commentators assume the disciples' remarks are against any marriage, not just remarriage. One then has the problem of determining what the saying is to which Jesus refers in verse eleven. If it is the disciples' saying to which he refers, Jesus then appears not only to commend, but to command celibacy. On the other hand, if Jesus referred to his own saying (verse 9, Mark 10:11), then the disciples' words (verse 10) are left uncorrected. Understanding the disciples' words as we have, the whole question is academic.

    "But they to whom it is given" calls to mind Jesus' words in Matthew 13:11-12, "Unto you it is given . . . but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given." The parallel is even more striking if xwrou=sin (receive) is translated "understand" or "comprehend."69 In Matthew 13:11-12, he to whom it is given is "he that hath ears" (13:9), and is in fact, the individual with the "honest and good heart" (Lk. 8:15), who "heareth the word and understandeth it" (Mt. 13:23). So it is also in 19:11. In Matthew 13:9, "He that hath ears, let him hear" is a command which does not excuse the man who does not have ears. So also in 19:12, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" is clearly a command which does not excuse the man not "able to receive, i.e., comprehend it." That some are able to receive it, or comprehend it, is impressed upon the disciples by means of two worldly circumstances in which men give up, or have taken from them all potential and right to marry. "For (ga/r, here merely explanatory rather than illative70) there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men." With these Jesus compares and contrasts those who can be figuratively spoken of as eunuchs: "And there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." These are those who have no right or potential to marry, having put away a wife (not for fornication).

    It is assumed by the disciples that any remarriage would be to another woman, that reconciliation with the wife who has been put away is out of the question, as it usually is. Jesus considers the case as the disciples have assumed it. Certainly the man could be rejoined to his original wife if she is willing (1 Cor. 7:11). And, in fact, in so doing he would not be marrying, for the marriage bond between these two would never have been broken.


The Appeal to Patristics

    In their introduction, H&W allege that that which we consider to be the most natural interpretation originated with Erasmus. If this is indeed the case, it is a marvel that Pollentius, who lived a millennium earlier, was able to get it from him.

     H&W then proceed to argue that the so-called church fathers were opposed to remarriage even after putting a spouse away for fornication. Say H&W, "for the first five centuries there was virtual unanimity on this issue from one end of the Roman empire to the other."71 In this they somewhat overstate their case. Of the eight "church fathers" discussed in detail by H&W, Justin Martyr's words on the subject are ambiguous, Theophilus of Antioch appears simply not to have addressed the exception (although H&W cite him in support of their view), and Irenaeus and Origen72 said nothing indicating what their views on the question were.

    Of the remaining four discussed by H&W, Athenagoras termed the remarriage of a widower "covert adultery", and Clement and Tertullian thought such was less than ideal. Clement said that a widower who remarries "does not commit any sin according to the Old Testament...but he does not fulfill the heightened perfection of the gospel ethic." In later life, as a Montanist, Tertullian moved from discouraging the remarriage of widows to condemning such. Hermas opposed remarriage after putting away an adulterous spouse, but this was because he believed that if such a spouse ever repented, the one who put away would be required to take the penitent spouse back, which could not be done if a remarriage had occurred.

    It may be said of the so-called church fathers that, where their views on the subject are known, there is a consensus that remarriage in the case of an adulterous spouse is wrong. However, this appears to be due to their general tendency toward asceticism more than anything else. Consequently, their views on remarriage after divorce for adultery are of no more value than their views on the remarriage of widows.


Textual Questions in Matthew 19:9

    Among the manuscripts, the exception clause is found in different forms. The greater number of manuscripts, and with them, the Received Text, Westcott and Hort, Nestle, and the Standard Text,73 agree in the reading mh\ e)pi\ pornei/# (the Received Text has ei) mh\ e)pi\ pornei/#). Families 1, 13, the 9th century miniscule number 33, codex Bezae (D) and most notably, codex Vaticanus (B), all have parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj as in Matthew 5:32.

    In Vaticanus (and on the basis of the critical apparatus in the UBS text, 3rd ed., apparently also those manuscripts comprising family 1), Matthew 19:9 from th\n gunai=ka on is simply a repetition of Matthew 5:32. The text in B reads: le/gw de\ u(mi=n o(\j a)\n a)polu=s$, th\n gunai=ka au)tou= parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj poiei= au)th\n moixeuqh=nai kai\ o( a)polelume/nhn gamh/saj (gamw=n in family 1) moixa=tai - And I say to you whosoever puts away his wife apart from a matter of fornication makes her be adulterated, and he who has married the one who has been put away commits adultery.74 Notice that there is no mention of the husband's remarriage.

    The lack of reference to the remarriage of the husband is understandable in Matthew 5:32. There Jesus was showing the degree to which the self-satisfied righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees fell short of true righteousness (see 5:20). Their ethic was, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. As expressed by Josephus, the idea was that the husband "must certify in writing that he will have no further intercourse with her; for thus will the woman obtain the right to consort with another."75 In other words, the husband is to act in his wife's interest by giving her a writing of divorcement so that she may remarry. jesus declared that ethic insufficient. He said, in effect, in order to act in the wife's interest, don't divorce her. The writing of divorcement is not in her interest, for it is of no effect. A divorced woman and he who marries her commit adultery, notwithstanding the writing of divorcement.

    On the other hand, in Matthew 19, where the focus is on what is lawful to the husband, reference to the case of the wife's remarriage but not the husband's, is unnatural. Although the inefficacy of the writing of divorcement is again in view, the point is not whether or not the man has acted in the wife's best interest, but simply what e)/cestin a)nqrw/p% (is lawful for a man).

    The weight of the manuscript evidence for mh\ e)pi\ pornei/# as opposed to parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj is compelling.76 The testimony of B and family 1 is mitigated by the obvious harmonization with Matthew 5:32 evidenced in these manuscripts. Of the other manuscripts supporting parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj, it may be said that family 13 is comprised of a dozen manuscripts dating from the eleventh century and later, apparently descended from one archetype, and miniscule 33 dates from the ninth century. Although D is a relatively early manuscript (c. 5th cent.), it is infamous for its spurious readings. Bruce Metzger wrote, "No known manuscript has so many and such remarkable variations from what is usually taken to be the normal New Testament text."77

    Such observations aside, the problem of accounting for the variant points to mh\ e)pi\ pornei/# as the original reading inasmuch as parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj could easily have entered the text later on the basis of Matthew 5:32. If, however, parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj were the original, no explanation for the substitution and subsequent predominance of mh\ e)pi\ pornei/# is apparent.

    A somewhat more difficult problem arises in the latter part of the verse where a majority of manuscripts include the statement, as translated in the ASV, "and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery." It has already been observed that the inclusion of this clause without the reference to the husband's remarriage is contextually unnatural in 19:9. But should the clause be included at all? Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) omits it, as do a ninth century corrector of codex Ephraemi (C3), D, the eighth century codex Regius (L), and miniscules 1241 and 1546. Among those that include it, some have o( . . . gamh/saj (he who has married) and some have o( . . . gamw=n (he who marries).

    Assuming that Matthew 19:9 originally included this statement, its omission in Aleph, C, etc., could possibly be due to homoeoteleuton, that is different lines having like endings. In the case at hand, an exemplar would have had two lines ending with moixa=tai. After the scribe copied the first of two such lines, his eye could easily return to the like ending of the lower line, where he would resume copying. Thus the intervening material would be inadvertently omitted. To this not uncommon phenomenon, Henry Alford attributed the clause's omission, and reckoned it to be authentic.78

    On the other and, commenting on the reason for the editing committee's omission of the phrase from the UBS Greek New Testament (3rd ed.), Bruce Metzger writes:

Although it might be argued that homoeoteleuton (moixa=tai . . . moixa=tai) accounts for its accidental omission from Aleph D L 1241 al, the fact that B C* f1 al read moixa=tai only once (at the conclusion of the combined clauses) makes it more probable that the text was expanded by copyists who accommodated the saying to the prevailing text of 5.32.79

It is not clear why the committee did not entertain the possibility that in B C* f1 al 19:9 has been accommodated to 5:32, while the omission of the clause in Aleph D L C3 al is due to homoeoteleuton.

    If the phrase is to be retained, and if the aorist participle gamh/saj (as reads the Received Text) is the authentic reading, the idea that the adultery is not perpetuated as long as the second union persists is further proven to be false. The clause would read, "And he who has married her that has been put away commits adultery."

    Aside from the implications of the aorist participle, the authenticity of the clause is immaterial. Should the clause be rejected, its truth is confirmed by Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18. On the other hand, the clause could easily be reconciled with the flow of the context in Matthew 19:9.

    Among modern translations, the NIV omits the clause, while the NASB and RSV relegate it to a footnote. The NKJB, which slavishly follows the Received Text, and the ASV retain it.


1   On the possibility that Luke 16:18 represents Jesus' slightly earlier teaching in the same region, see A. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, reprint ed., 2 vols. in 1 (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Co., n.d.), II:331-332; J. Broadus, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1887), 396; and J. W. McGarvey and P. Y. Pendleton, The Fourfold Gospel, reprint ed. (Marion, IN: Cogdill Foundations Publications, n.d.), 499- 510.

2   J. A. Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, trans. C.T. Lewis and M. R. Vincent (Philadelphia: Perkinpine and Higgins, 1862), 232, and McGarvey were two exceptions. In his Commentary on Matthew and Mark, reprint ed. (Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Co. n.d.), pp. 163-164, McGarvey said they were "testing him as to his fealty to the law of Moses and as to his own consistency. They thought that they could compel him to contradict either his own former teaching on the subject of divorce (v. 32), or the law of Moses." Also see McGarvey's comments in the The Fourfold Gospel, 538.

3   Tractate Gittin, mishnah 9,10.

4   Alexander Balman Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositior's Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976 Reprint), I:245.

5   Broadus, 397.

6   This is not to say that Jesus would have concurred with the Shammaite interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1, but that in practice their teaching was apparently the same as his. On the meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1, see notes 21 and 22 below.

7   The school of Shammai was enjoying increasing popularity during Jesus' time. This was due to the tendency of the school of Shammai to more readily identify with the nationalistic element which actively opposed any extension of Roman domination and influence. S. Mendelsohn, "Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai," The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, Co., 1902). L. A. Rosenthal, "Beth Hillel and Beht Shammai," Isaac Landman, ed., The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Inc., 1940), II:251.

8   Broadus, 396.

9   It is assumed that the usual interpretation of the Shammaite position is accurate, taking "unseemly conduct" to mean sexual immorality. The problem of reconciling Jesus' response with the supposed Hillelite/Shammaite setting is even more difficult in Mark 10. There, not only would Jesus' initial response have been misleading, no subsequent clarification is made.

10   "Hillel,&qu ot ; Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: The MacMillan Co., 1971), VIII:482.

11   Moshe David Herr, "Shammai," Encyclopaedia Judaica, XIV:1291.

12   Shmuel Safrai,"Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai," Encyclopaedia Judaica, IV:738.

13   Rosenthal, II:251

14   Tractate Eduyoth, mishnah 1, 7-10. In these, Shammai's views are similar to, but nonetheless distinguished from those fo the school of Shammai.

15   William A. Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), 128, 236 (note 47). Cf. George Foot Moore, Judaism, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), II:124 (note 4); Aidian Mahoney, CBQ 30:31; Vawter, CBQ 39:534-535 (note 12). Against these, Abel Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple, trans. Neil Tomkinson (Copenhagen: C. W. K. Lund, 1965), 90-91.

16   Evald Lovestam, "Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament," Jewish Law Annual 4:48. Gerhard Friedrich and Gerhard Kittel, gen. eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964-76), VI:591 (note 71). Vawter, CBQ 16 (April 1954):165. Etc.

17   Josephus, Antiquities 4.253.

18   Josephus, The Life (76) 426.

19   Philo, Special Laws 3.

20   Moore, II:124.

21   As in the NASB, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 should be read as one sentence, with verses 1-3 stating the various conditions which make up the protasis, and verse 4 being the apodosis. Neither the writing of a bill of divorce, or acceptable grounds, nor divorce itself, are therein legislated. All are treated merely as what is assumed to occur. Verse 4 is Moses' legislation. See C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. I (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.), III:417, and Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek, trans. Joseph Smith (Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963), par. 458.

22   For an excellent discussion of this point, see John Murray, Divorce (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1961), 9-12.

23   James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1930), 696.

24   Perhaps too much has been made of Jesus' use of the word e)pitre/pw (permit, or allow). That he was correcting the Pharisees' e(netei/lato is not so certain in view of the fact that in Mark's account, it is the Pharisees who say Moses e(pe/trepsen while Jesus is said to have asked what Moses e(netei/lato and subsequently said Moses wrote "this e(ntolh/n."

25   Regarding the variant reading, parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj, the evidence is decisive in favor of mh\ e)pi\ pornei/#. See Appendix B for a discussion of the textual problems in verse 9.

26   On the part of at least some Catholics, this doctrinal predisposition is perhaps better described as a predisposition to affirm the validity of the church's teaching, for while they adamantly deny the natural meaning of the exception clause, thus justifying the church's historical stance, they at the same time say they would like the Roman church, by virture of its power as a "Spirit-guided institutional Church," to make possible divorce and remarriage at its discretion. Fitzmyer, TS 37 (June 1976):224; Vawter, CBQ (October 1977):538-541.

27   H. J. Richards, "Christ on Divorce," Scripture 11 (January 1959):27-28. Also see Heth and Wenham, pp. 50-51, where Roman Catholic Jacques Dupont is cited. Also see Anglican E. G. Selwyn, "Christ on Marriage and Divorce: A Reply to Dr. Charles," Theology 15 (August 1927):94- 95.

28   Roman Catholic Joseph Fitzmyer writes, "Judged form-critically, the N.T. divorce texts yield as the most primitive form of the prohibition one that is absolute or unqualified." TS 37 (June 1976):224.

29   Richards, 30.

30   W. K. Lowther Clarke, "The Excepting Clause in St. Matthew," Theology 15 (September 1927):162.

31   Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, vol. 2: Das Evangelium nach Markus, Lukas und Johannes und die Apostelgeschichte (Munich: C. H. Bechsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1924), 729, quoted in F. Gavin, "A Further Note on PORNEIA," Theology 16 (February 1928):104.

32   These include, among others, Bernard Leeming and R. A. Dyson, "Except it be for Fornication?" Scripture 8 (July 1956):75-82; H. J. Richards, "Christ on Divorce," Scripture 11(January 1959):22-32; Maximillian Zerwick, "De matrimonio et divortio in Evangelio," Verbum Domini 38 (1960):193-212; Jospeh A. Fitzmyer, "The Matthean Divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence," Theological Studies 37 (June 1976):197-226.

33   Vawter, "The Divorce Clauses in Mt 5,32 and 19,9," CBQ 16 (April 1954):162-163.

34   Charles C. Ryrie, "Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage," Grace Theological Journal 3 (1982):177-192.

35   F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,1971), 287-288 (note 16).

36   Evald Lovestam, "Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament," JLA 4:56.

37   Fitzmyer, 221.

38   Bruce, New Testament History, 287-288 (note 16).

39   As translated by Fitzmyer, 218.

40   Philip R. Davies, The Damascus Covenant, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, No. 25 (Sheffield, 1983), 114-116, 224- 245.

41   CD 5:8,9. Cf. Lovestam, 56 (note 50), and Heth and Wenham, 167.

42   Fitzmyer, 209. Cf. Hauck and Schulz, 593, and Richards, 30.

43   Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958), 693.

44   Bruce, New Testament History, 289.

45   Ibid., note 18.

46   Clarke, 162.

47   Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, 282. Bruce acknowledged the significance of e)pa/nagkej, saying, "To be sure, the reference to 'these necessary things' in the decree suggests that the Jerusalem leaders had in mind something more than a voluntary gesture of charity on the part of Gentile Christians, and this may have been a cause of subsequent misunderstanding." New Testament History, 289. Such a statement demonstrates disbelief of the words, "... it seemed good to the Holy Spirit...."

48   Gordon Fee, Biblica 61 (1980):172-197.

49   Ibid., 186. That actual sexual immorality,and not only spiritual fornication, is meant in Revelation 2:14 seems most likely on account of the reference to Balaam's counsel which led to the corruption of Israel through fornication (Numbers 31:15-16; 25:1ff). In establishing the connection between fornication and idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:7 (Exodus 32:6) should be noted.

50   Fitzmyer, 209.

51   John J. Kilgallen, "To what are the Matthean Exception - Texts (5,32 and 19,9) an Exception? Biblica 61 (1980): 102.

52   Ibid., 105.

53   Ibid., 103.

54   Ibid., 104.

55   Ibid., 105.

56   Ibid., 103.

57   James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark), vol. 3: Syntax, (1963) by Nigel Turner, p. 107.

58   Heth and Wenham, in defending the view that divorce is adultery, apparently concede Turner's point in general but counter, saying, "the context of Matt. 5:32a, the causative action (poiei) and the passive infinitive (moicheuthenai) seem to warrant our understanding." (p. 223f, note 76). However, let it suffice to say there is no causative action nor passive infinitive in 19:9.

59   Although a few Anglicans have attempted to find an interpretation of 5:32 and 19:9 more reasonable than the traditional Catholic interpretation, without conceding an exception allowing divorce in the event of fornication, most Anglicans have simply concluded that the exception clauses are interpolations.

60   Included among these are Bruce Vawter, who abandoned his preteritive interpretation, Jacques Dupont, and Quentin Quesnell.

61   For a discussion of their basis for calling this the early church view, see Apendix A.

62   Heth and Wenham, 71. Cf. p. 120.

63   Heth and Wenham, 160, 168, 178.

64   Turner, 107.

65   Ibid.

66   Stromata.

67   Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 26; F. Blass And A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 5f, 5,3,b.

68   Zerwick, Biblical Greek, paragraphs 306-312.

69   Cf. Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 890, 3,b,beta

70   A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934), 1190.

71   For Pollentius' view, see Augustine, "To Pollentius on Adulterous Marriage" 1,6; 1,9; and 1,11-12. H&W are aware of Pollentius' view, for later in their book they mention it (p. 41), and in their inital mention of Erasmus, they say only that Ersmus was the first "in the Western church" to propound this itnerpretation (p. 13). However, therafter they refer to this interpretation as the "Erasmian interpretation" and speak of this view as "originating in the 16th century" (p. 16) and speak of advocates of theis view as "Erasmians."

72   While admitting it is an argument from silence and therefore "doubtful," H&W say that, "it seems likely" that Origen opposed the remarriage of "innocent divorced spouses."

73   "Standard Text" refers to that text found in the United Bible Society's Greek Text (3rd edition) and in the Nestle-Aland text (26th edition). It is so designated by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), pp. v, 20-47.

74   No great care has been taken here in translating the passive infinitive moixeuqh=nai and the middle/passive indicative moixa=tai. As to what significance, if any, the passive(s) have here, see Murray, pp. 21-24, note 2; Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, 2 vols. (Rome; Biblical Institute Press, 1974), 1:13, s.v. vs. 32.

75   Josephus, Antiquities, 4.253

76   On the relatively uncertain "C" evaluation in the UBS Greek New Testament, perhaps the following sheds some light: "The only question is whether the editors [of the UBSGNT, one of whom was Kurt Aland] have not been too cautious in applying the classifications, so that a B should often be replaced by an A, a C by a B, and a D by a C (a thorough reexamination is planned for a revision of these in the fourth edition of GNT)." Aland and Aland, 45.

   [Between the original publication of this work, and the present hypertext revision, the fourth edition of the UBS Greek Text has been published, and the "C" evaluation has indeed been upgraded to a "B".]

77   Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 2nd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 61.

78   Henry Alford, Alford's Greek Testament, 4 vols., revised edition (London: Rivingtons, 1871-1877; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), I:194, critical apparatus.

79   Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, corrected edition, 1975), 48.

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