Thursday, November 03, 2005

Marriage Part 4

With the Minnesota Pastor's Conference coming up November 10th, I thought I'd post a few things on marriage. It's pretty relevant to my life as well, as I am getting married in 57!!! days. The following is taken from Logos Bible Software (I have the Scholar's Library).

a. In the Old Testament
In Mt. 19:8 Jesus says that Moses ‘allowed’ divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. This means that Moses did not command divorce, but regulated an existing practice, and the form of the law in Dt. 24:1–4 is best understood in this sense. AV and RV imply a command in the second half of v. 1, but the RSV follows Keil, Delitzsch, S. R. Driver and LXX, in making the ‘if of the protasis extend to the end of v. 3, so that v. 4 contains the actual regulation. On any translation we gather from this section that divorce was practised, that a form of contract was given to the wife, and that she was then free to remarry.

The grounds of divorce here are referred to in such general terms that no precise interpretation can be given. The husband finds ‘some uncleanness’ in his wife. The Heb. words, ‘erwaṯ dāḇār (literally, ‘nakedness of a thing’), occur elsewhere only as a phrase in Dt. 23:14. Shortly before the time of Christ the school of Shammai interpreted it of unfaithfulness only, while the school of Hillel extended it to anything unpleasing to the husband. We must remember that Moses is not here professing to state the grounds of divorce, but accepting it as an existing fact.

There are two situations in which divorce is forbidden: when a man has falsely accused his wife of pre-marital unfaithfulness (Dt. 22:13–19); and when a man has had relations with a girl, and her father has compelled him to marry her (Dt. 22:28–29; Ex. 22:16–17).

On two exceptional occasions divorce was insisted on. These were when the returned exiles had married pagan wives (Ezr. 9–10 and probably Ne. 13:23ff., although divorce is implied here, rather than stated). In Mal. 2:10–16 some had put away their Jewish wives so as to marry pagans.

b. In the New Testament
In comparing the words of Jesus in Mt. 5:32; 19:3–12; Mk. 10:2–12; Lk. 16:18, we find that he brands divorce and remarriage as adultery, but does not say that man cannot put asunder what God has joined together. In both passages in Matthew fornication (RSV ‘unchastity’) is given as the sole ground on which a man may put away his wife, whereas there is no such qualification in Mark and Luke. Fornication is commonly taken as here being equivalent to adultery; similarly, the conduct of the nation as Yahweh’s wife is branded both as adultery (Je. 3:8; Ezk. 23:45) and as fornication (Je. 3:2–3; Ezk. 23:43); in Ecclus. 23:23 an unfaithful wife is said to have committed adultery in fornication (cf. also 1 Cor. 7:2 where ‘immorality’ is Gk. ‘fornication’).
The reason for the omission of the exceptive clause in Mark and Luke could be that no Jew, Roman or Greek ever doubted that adultery constituted grounds for divorce, and the Evangelists took it for granted. Similarly, Paul in Rom. 7:1–3, referring to Jewish and Rom. law, ignores the possibility of divorce for adultery which both these laws provided.

Other theories have been held about the meaning of Christ’s words. Some refer fornication to pre-marital unfaithfulness, which the husband discovers after marriage. Others have suggested that the parties discover that they have married within the prohibited degrees of relationship, a thing which must have happened too rarely for it to be the subject of a special exception in Christ’s words. Roman Catholics hold that the words sanction separation, but not remarriage. It is difficult to exclude permission to remarry from Mt. 19:9; and among the Jews there was no such custom as separation without permission to remarry.

Some have doubted the authenticity of Mk. 10:12, since a Jewish wife could not normally divorce her husband. But a wife could appeal to the court against her husband’s treatment of her, and the court could compel the husband to divorce her. Moreover, Christ may have had Gk. and Rom. law in mind, and here the wife could divorce her husband, as Herodias had divorced her first husband.

There is a strong body of opinion both among Protestants and Roman Catholics that 1 Cor. 7:10–16 gives another ground for divorce. Here Paul repeats the teaching that the Lord had given when on earth, and then, under the guidance of the Spirit, gives teaching beyond what the Lord had given, since a new situation had arisen. When one party in a pagan marriage is converted to Christ he or she must not desert the other. But if the other insists on leaving the Christian ‘a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases’. This latter clause cannot simply mean that they are free to be deserted, but must mean that they are free to be remarried. This further ground, which on the face of it is of limited application, is known as the ‘Pauline Privilege’.

In the present modern tangle of marriage, divorce and remarriage the Christian church, in dealing with converts and repentant members, is often compelled to accept the situation as it is. A convert who previously has been divorced, on sufficient or insufficient grounds, and who has remarried, cannot return to the original partner, and the present marriage cannot be branded as adulterous (1 Cor. 6:9, 11).

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