Friday, August 02, 2013

Wow! A Totally Different Read of Jesus on Divorce

All my life, I've thought that Jesus condemned divorce in Matthew 19:1ff. Here's an example of that passage from the Holman Christian Standard Bible:
When Jesus had finished this instruction, He departed from Galilee and went to the region of Judea across the Jordan. Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there. Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”
“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” and He also said:
For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
“Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”
He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
 But I just read a viewpoint by Robert Waters who claims that the word for "divorce" in this passage, apoluó (ἀπολύω), doesn't mean "divorce", but means "put away, set free, release", as rendered in the King James:
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. [emphasis added]
Waters contends that Jesus and the Pharisees are distinguishing between a separation and a full legal divorce, and that Jesus is essentially saying that if you separate and marry another person, you're committing adultery, and that if you separate, and someone marries your separated-but-not-legally-divorced ex, that person commits adultery.

And I don't think any one of us would object to that claim.

However, even as I write this, I realize that Jesus claims that Moses allowed a man to put away his wife, but that in so doing, Moses demanded a certificate of divorce. This means that Moses' and Jesus' definition of "put away" is equivalent to legal divorce, not a mere separation.

As interesting as Waters' view is, it seems to fail on this point. But I'll keep this view in mind as possibly true.

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