There are many who read Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 (verses which appear to be clearly prohibiting divorce and remarriage for anything) and they would like to believe that viewpoint because in their conscience that seems how it should be. I am one such person. I believe that marriage is sacred and can only be broken by the death of one of the parties involved.
It is said that apologetics is a patient work. In defense of this view that "til death do us part" is in fact an accurate reflection of what the NT teaches, I ask your patience while you read this document. It will be a source of strength and Biblical confirmation to those who believe as I do and it may be a cause for reconsideration for those who believe that the NT does in fact allow divorce.
I am the author of the attached article. I invite those who desire to do so, to copy and distribute for discussion and consideration. The following is about one half of the document.
Jesus Does Not Allow Divorce (Part One)
When asked about divorce, Jesus based his prohibition of divorce on what is written in Genesis chapter two. Jesus used what was said with regard to Adam and Eve's marriage as the grounds to why divorce is not allowed. Their being "one flesh" in marriage had special meaning since Eve was literally one flesh with Adam, having been made from his own rib. But Jesus made the same pronouncement of "one flesh" on all subsequent marriages! This places all lawful marriages on equal footing with that first one. Though wives today are not made from their husbands' ribs, married couples possess the same status as if they were. As it was impossible for Adam to change the fact that he and Eve were one flesh, so it is equally impossible for any lawfully married husband or wife to change the fact that they also are "one flesh". The Apostle Paul understood this very well as we can see in Ephesians 5:28,29. He refers to the husband and wife being one flesh as a great mystery" whereby the wife is part of the man's own body. Also in1 Corinthians 7:39 and Romans 7:2,3, he very clearly states that only after the death of the husband may the wife marry again. The truth of this subject is accurately reflected in the old solemn phrase, "Till death do us part".
But did not Jesus allow divorce for the single reason of adultery? The following is an exploration of that assumption. Matthew chapter 5:
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 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.
Most people would agree that verse 32 is not very clear. It seems to be somewhat of a run-on sentence. And after looking at it for a while, one might say that its exception clause ("saving for the cause of fornication") causes it to appear somewhat self-contradictory. However, its context offers substantial help: In six places in Matthew chapter 5, verses 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43, Jesus says "It hath been said" or "it was said", as we see in verse 31 above. And to each of these he makes an answer like: "But I say unto you... ". Many have not discerned the spirit in which Jesus is speaking in this chapter and have stumbled on his words in verse 32. They have interpreted them legalistically by supposing that Jesus meant 'adultery' when he said 'fornication'.
One of the explanations of being legalistic is when someone takes the particular words that are used and reckons them to mean something other than what the spirit and context is truly saying. As the Jews did not correctly understand God because they stumbled on "the letter" of the Old Testament, so likewise, many Christians today have accepted a major heresy on the subject of divorce and remarriage because they have stumbled on the wording of Jesus' exception clause.
Unregenerated human nature is also a factor to consider in understanding how the scriptures are incorrectly interpreted. In Luke 16:14-19 (17,18) Jesus' rebuke to the Pharisees for their covetousness is tied in with a denouncement of their allowing divorce. Pride and discontent are often at the root of both of these sins.
If the assumption that Jesus meant adultery when he said fornication is indeed true, then Matthew 5 verses 31 and 32 would be the only one of the six topics in that chapter where Jesus lets a partial allowance remain. In reality however, the context indicates that his wording in verse 34; "But I say unto you ... not at all" nicely sums up the answer to the question of whether or not any of those six deeds are allowed. In verses 21 and 22 where Jesus addresses killing, we find that we are not even to be angry with our brother without a cause. In verses 27 and 28, on adultery, we find that we are not even to let it be in our heart. In verses 33 and 34, on forswearing and oaths, we are to "swear not at all". In verses 38 and 39, on "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", we are not to do that at all. In verses 43 and 44, on hating our enemies, we are to rather love them.
Now in going back to verses 31and 32, on divorce; are we being told that if our wife commits adultery we may divorce her if we so choose? If that were indeed true, then verses 31 and 32 would also be the only one of the six where we are being given a choice! All the others are spoken straightforwardly in a graceful form of commandment, as Jesus the great reformer, ministers the New Testament. See Matt. 5:19 and Heb. 9:10 (Rom.14:17 Col. 2:8 John 16:8)
This assumed choice given to the man to divorce his wife for adultery, not only violates Jesus' mode of speech and consistent train of thought, but also amounts to nothing less than allowing the man to harden his heart and not forgive. Consider these scriptures: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Eph. 4:31,32. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matt. 6:14,15. See also Matt. 18:21-35, (32,33). If Jesus' exception of fornication is indeed a liberty to divorce a married wife for adultery, then an exception must be made for these and all other similar references concerning forgiveness when applied to the sin of adultery. (A little leaven leavens the whole lump).
The divorce-for-adultery pro-choice advocates are in effect making the statement that such references about forgiveness are deceptive to the common reader. They apparently believe that those scriptures are not necessarily applicable to the sin of adultery. It would seem they would have us believe we are in need of their assumed superior knowledge. To us, Jesus' teaching on forgiveness appears by every indication to pertain to all trespassers, including wives who have committed adultery. Is this not strangely reminiscent of the misguided professing Christians of the 14-1500's who felt that without their learned guidance, the common man or woman would be misled by reading the scriptures?
By the above references, and especially in Eph.4:31,32, it is sound to conclude that tenderness of heart goes along with the act of forgiving, in the same way that hardness of heart goes along with unforgiveness. In Matt. 19:8 and Mark 10:4,5, Jesus states that the precept written by Moses allowing a man to divorce his married wife (Deut. 24:1-4) was written for the hardness of their hearts. Is divorce a product of hardness of heart as Jesus said, or is it not? In Matt. 5:31,32, Jesus is referring to that same precept given by Moses: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you... ".
How could the New Testament teach such things that we have read on forgiveness and also that Moses' allowance for divorce was written solely because of the hardness of their hearts; and at the same time allow divorce? Would God emphatically state that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and then command his Son to make divorce a personal preferential thing of choice? The New Testament never allows what God hates. If the exception of fornication means allowing divorce on the grounds of adultery, then Jesus by his own admission is allowing hardness of heart and unforgiveness towards the wife if she commits adultery.
Furthermore, since by the New Testament, his laws of truth are written in the hearts of the believers (Heb. 8:10 Rom. 8:4 John 1:17), if divorce for adultery is legal, then hardness of heart and unforgiveness has also been written in our hearts in regard to adulterous wives.
There are worse trespasses than adultery that a wife may commit. If Jesus' exception of fornication is assumed to pertain to the married wife, then fornication is defined to mean adultery. It would then seem reasonable to conclude that if she were to commit an offence other than adultery, her husband couldn't put her away for that because it is not the specified offence. But what if that other offence is worse than adultery? Wouldn't that cause Jesus to appear unfair and unreasonable? This kind of argument could be levelled at Jesus if he had allowed divorce in the married state for adultery or for any other specific sin because there will always be a sin which is at least as severe as the one which has been specified. Divorce would thereby be allowed for one sin but not for another, which may be even worse.
Someone will now say that if she were to commit something worse than adultery, it should be understood that the husband has the right to divorce her for that also. But if this were true, Jesus then appears not to have said what he meant and not to have meant what he said. However, these valid arguments, which reveal that Jesus would have been unreasonable and inconsistent if he had allowed divorce for any specific sin, cannot be used against him because his exception clause does not at all pertain to the married state as will presently be shown.
Though many have stumbled on Matt. 5:32 by assuming that the phrase, "saving for the cause of fornication" means that adultery is a legal grounds for divorce, there have also been many who have discerned the spirit in which Jesus spoke in Matthew 5 and have concluded that it does not seem that Jesus could have been allowing divorce. After all, he gave no partial allowance to any of the other five subjects that he addressed in that chapter. As for the exception, they honestly say they don't understand it. They find consolation in Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18, where Jesus gives no indication whatsoever that an exception to the married state exists. In fact, those verses seem to be unquestionably against the slightest notion of divorce.
With the apparent prohibition on divorce (Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18) set alongside the exception of fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) it is understandable how the exception of fornication could appear at first, and perhaps for a long time afterward to be a thoroughly confounding problem. The question may be asked: "Is there an exception or is there not?" However, a more appropriate question, which at first seems unworthy even to consider, holds the key to the understanding of this issue. It is as follows:
Is it possible that the apparently more easily understood teachings in Mark and Luke are to be accepted at face value without adding anything, and at the same time, some form of exception happens to exist which does not conflict with those straightforward prohibitive statements in Mark and Luke? In other words, could Jesus' apparent outright prohibition on divorcing the married wife stand unmovable while at the same time some form of exception happens to exist, which does not oppose that outright prohibition? Could there be found some largely unnoticed Biblical evidence that would shed some light on the subject so that we could see that an exception does exist but at the same time there is "no exception"? You can see now what I mean when I say it is a question that seems unworthy even to consider. Unfortunately for those who have not asked themselves that question and thereby have not discovered its potential, but have assumed and taught that Jesus meant adultery when he said fornication, the answer to that question happens to be a very loud and provable 'yes'.
Let me illustrate with a hypothetical situation. You are working, unloading large bags of grain by hand. A notice on the wall states, Whosoever Tears a Bag Must Pay the Cost of Contents. Suppose that as you bring a bag to your shoulder, it slips, and in an attempt to grab it, a large section of the bag rips off before it hits the floor. It would not seem possible that this could happen without your being found guilty. But there is a way, by virtue of a previously unknown factor whereby you would be judged as not violating the true intent of the notice. How could this be? The answer is very simple. You would not be found guilty if the bags were all double-walled and after tearing and hitting the floor, the grain was still very well contained within the remaining layer. The phrase "tears a bag" was expected to be understood to mean that if a bag tore, the contents would spill on the floor.
Let us say also that after tearing only the outer layer and hitting the floor, (the grain being yet very well contained), some of your fellow labourers are uncertain on whether or not you should still pay, since technically you did tear a bag. Therefore, the man in charge, in order to avoid such a misunderstanding, changes the notice so that it reads;
Whosoever tears a bag, unless it is only the outer layer, must pay the cost of contents.
This hypothetical scenario does not pretend to cover all the aspects to be discussed about Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. There are hypothetical statements that could be brought out which are grammatically similar in construction to Matt. 5:32 and 19:9. These show in a straightforward manner the effect of an exception clause inserted within such statements. They also show how certain kinds of exception clauses (such as those we find inserted in Matt. 5:32: 19:9) may apply to a closely associated aspect of the subject and not to that aspect which is being directly addressed. However, in this present scenario, the main purpose is to show how separate true statements made about a particular situation may seem to be totally contradictory and unquestionably irreconcilable, simply because an unknown duality exists pertaining to the situation.
The bags being double-layered was the unknown duality which in effect made it possible to tear a bag without tearing a bag. It was torn, but not after the intended meaning of the notice. The unknown duality concerning Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 lies in the fact that there were two kinds of wives; 1) the betrothed or espoused wife, and 2) the completely married wife. Therefore also, there were two kinds of divorce. While Jesus upheld the liberty practised by the Jews to divorce their unmarried betrothed wives for their fornication (in which case the husband would divorce "his wife" before he married her), he prohibited the divorce of the completely married wife for whatever reason. We can see by this how it is possible to divorce without divorcing.
About the closest comparison with this to modern culture would be the scenario of a man breaking off the marriage plans after discovering that his engaged wife-to-be has fornicated. In old time, this would have been regarded as a divorce on the grounds of fornication. (For Biblical proof that the words "husband" and "wife" and "put away" applied to both the married and unmarried couple, see Deut. 22:23,24 "virgin" "betrothed" "husband" "wife". Deut. 20:7 "taken". Matthew 1:18-24; verses 19 "put her away" and 20 "take... Mary thy wife" and 23 "virgin").
Another point this scenario serves to highlight is in regard to the question of why Jesus mentioned the exception at all since it doesn't pertain to the married state anyway. In answering this we should again consider how an exception clause may apply to a closely associated aspect of a subject and not to that aspect which is being directly addressed. Though Jesus was directly addressing the married state (which is proven by Matthew 5:31) the closely related state of betrothal warranted the insertion of the exception clause. Since there were two kinds of wives that could be divorced, Jesus clarified himself by including the exception clause. In the above scenario, not just any tear required payment. It had to be a complete tear. So likewise, not just any divorce constitutes a transgression of God's law. What God hates, is the divorcing of the completely married wife.
By the context of Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10 6-9, it is easy to understand that the husband and wife to whom God says "Let not man put asunder" are those couples who have been pronounced by God to be one flesh by virtue of lawful marriage. That pronouncement was not intended for the betrothed unmarried husband and wife. Though the exception clause, which allows "divorce" is found in the context of the married state, it does not pertain to the married state. Since betrothal was so closely associated with marriage itself, inasmuch that in betrothal the man and woman were regarded as husband and wife, it seems that Jesus' strong words concerning divorce could have been wrongly perceived to also prohibit the customary divorce of the betrothed wife for fornication. The exception clause would have prevented that misunderstanding.