Instructions on Marriage and Divorce

Instruction Concerning Marriage and Divorce (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12). Moses permitted
divorce in the Law (Deut 24:1-4). There were rabbinical two schools of interpretation of this law. The
school of Shammai interpreted the law very strictly and the school of Hillel interpreted it very liberally.
The Pharisees attempted to embroil Christ in this controversy. The right to divorce was highly prized by
the Jews. It was considered by the Jews to be a gift from God to them, a gift which He denied the
Gentiles. If Christ denied the Jews the right to divorce as the Pharisees suspected He might do, He would
alienate Himself from Israel. Christ refused to approve either of the Pharisaic schools concerning their
interpretation of the law of divorce. Rather, He appealed to God’s original law of marriage laid down in
Genesis 2:24 by the Creator at the time of the institution of marriage.

The Exception Clause. Translation of the Greek to mean “except” in Matthew 19:9 began around the
time of the Reformation. Neither Matthew nor any other Greek writer, in secular or biblical writings,
uses the phrase “ei mh epi” to say “except.” The KJV translates this phrase “notwithstanding” in Acts
24:4. In addition, this phrase was understood by the early church to mean “notwithstanding.” In other
words, Jesus is not commenting on what Moses said in the law—it is irrelevant to the issue—divorce does
not separate a married man and women in God’s eyes. Only physical death ends a marriage (Romans
7:1-3).

Mark writing to Romans, who are not involved directly in the interpretation of Moses’ law of divorce,
does not mention it. Neither does Luke 16:18, which was written to Greeks. Hence, the so-called
exception clause is not an exception, but a “no comment clause.” Otherwise, Christ contradicts Himself
and the Holy Spirit, who inspired Scripture, holds Gentiles to a higher standard of marriage than Jews to
whom Matthew writes.

Thus, Jesus says in Matthew 19:9, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, notwithstanding
[regardless of], and marries another woman commits adultery [moicaw moichao].” porneia (porneia) is
an “uncleanness” of some sort, but it is not adultery—for this word appears in the text as the result of
remarriage after divorce.

The disciples’ reaction makes clear what Jesus taught. The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation
between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus affirms their conclusion, “Not everyone can
accept this word (abstaining from marriage), but only those to whom it has been given. For some are
eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced
marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who
divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her
husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” The disciples were looking an explanation
other than the one they understood when they got in private. But this time they had understood correctly.

Beginning with marriage, Chapter 10 of Mark, records a series of five paradoxes taught by Jesus:

1. Two shall be one, Mark 10:1-12
2. Adults shall be as children, 10:13-16
3. The first shall be last, 10:17-31
4. Servants shall be rulers, 10:32-45
5. The poor shall be rich, 10:46-52


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