27 November 2008

Poll - November 2008

Does the Bible allow Christians to divorce and re-marry?

  • Yes 33 (28%)
  • No 76 (64%)
  • Don't know 8 (6%)
Total votes: 117. Poll closed.

Most – but definitely not all Protestants – hold that Christ permitted divorce in the case of adultery. Evidence for this is sought from Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-12. The argument hangs on the meaning of the Gk word ‘porneia’ – usually translated fornication.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “Except for fornication?” Did he mean “Except for adultery”? That view is certainly not the only possible interpretation. He could simply be referring to unlawful marriage (on account of consanguinity, for instance) or to the breach of the marriage contract during the engagement (Joseph wanted to divorce Mary when he found out that she was pregnant). The idea of divorce on account of adultery was developed by Erasmus in the 16th century and it was accepted in some Protestant traditions. The early patristic testimony is almost unanimous that re-marriage is not permitted after divorce.

Humanly speaking, I wish that God allowed divorce and remarriage, for the sake of those who are suffering after their marriage failed. But I can’t convince myself that the Bible permits re-marriage after divorce. When I study the following passages, God’s ideal is absolutely clear to me.

The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:2-12).

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16: 18).

For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Romans 7:2, 3).

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” (I Corinthians 7:10, 11).