About Jesus Steve Sweetman
5:31 – 32
- Divorce And Remarriage
context, divorce and remarriage as seen in Matthew 5:31 and 32 is part
of the Sermon On The Mount.
It's not an exhaustive teaching on the subject.
So again, what we learn here is not the end of the matter. It
is however, the crucial point when thinking about marriage after
divorce. Jesus said,
"It has been said, anyone who divorces his wife must give
her a certificate of divorce. But
I tell you that if anyone divorces his wife, except for marital
unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress and anyone who
marries the divorced woman commits adultery".
I wrote about the Jewish culture of men stigmatizing their divorced
wives as being adulteresses. I
also wrote about the passive voice in New Testament Greek.
In this passage Greek grammar and Jewish culture come together
with significant implications.
first thing we note is that Jesus confirmed Deuteronomy 24:1 – 4 by
saying a man must give his wife a certificate of divorce when he
Jesus confirmed the legalities of the divorce certificate, He got to the
heart of the matter. He
addressed the cultural accepted practice of legalized wife swapping,
that is, free and easy divorces for any and every reason.
We know this because of what is called the "exception
clause". Jesus said,
"anyone who divorces his wife 'except for marital unfaithfulness'
causes her to become an adulteress". The
clause "except for marital unfaithfulness" tells us that the
men Jesus was speaking about were those who divorced their wives for
reasons other than adultery. He
was not addressing those who lawfully divorced their wives on the
grounds of adultery.
might note that Luke 16:18 does not include this "exception
clause". We therefore
learn something from Matthew that we didn't learn from Luke, and that is
adultery is grounds for divorce. That's
no big revelation. Deuteronomy
24:1 – 4 already told us that.
you understand the clause "causes her to become an adulteress"
will form the basis of your thinking on marriage after divorce.
Again, without any grammatical and cultural knowledge concerning
these words, you'll misunderstand Jesus.
understanding based on New Testament Greek scholars is that the words
"causes her to become an adulteress" is in the passive
Greek voice. The passive
voice means that the subject of the sentence is having an action done to
it. It's not doing any
action. In this case, the
subject is the wife who has been divorced even though she didn't commit
adultery. She is not doing
any action. She is the
recipient of an action. Here's
where Jewish culture is important. When
a man divorced his wife, the general consensus in the male dominated
world was that she was an adulteress.
In other words, the action done to her by her husband was the
stigmatization of her being an adulteress.
She was seen as being an adulteress even if she wasn't.
Because this clause is in the passive voice, the wife is not
doing any action of committing adultery by remarrying.
English text says that the man who marries such a divorced woman commits
adultery. This too is the
passive voice. So, as the
divorced wife was stigmatized unfairly as an adulteress, the man who
marries her was stigmatized as being an adulterer, albeit in the male
dominated culture, that was no big deal.
of my favourite Bible commentators, R. C. Lenski, comments on the
passive voice in this matter by saying, "Jesus deals with the sin
that the man commits against his wife and against the man who may later
marry that wife". He
also says, "The subjects of the verbs are the persons injured by
the husband, namely, his wife and the man whom she may later
marry". (Lenski's commentary on Mark, pages 419 and 420)
now know that the clause "causes her to become an adulteress",
and, "the man who marries her commits adultery", is in the
passive voice. This tells us
that the man who divorces his innocent wife is acting sinfully against
her and the man who might later marry her.
His unlawful divorce and the subsequent stigmatization of two
innocent people makes him the guilty adulterer, not his wife or the man
who later marries his divorced wife.
So, if you've been divorced for any reason other than adultery,
you are free to remarry with no fear of committing adultery. Context,
grammar, and history, things sadly neglected in today's post modern
church, tell us this to be true.