Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible copyrighted 1946,1952, 1971, 1973. Used by permission.
I. Divorce and Remarriage in the Old Testament
A. The Institution of Marriage
1. The Creation of Marriage 2. MarriageB. Divorce and Remarriage
II. The Teaching of Jesus
A. Jesus and Old Testament Teaching B. Jesus' Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage
III. The Teaching of Paul (1 Cor. 7:10-16)
Excursus I: Remarriage of Persons Divorced for Unscriptural Reasons
Excursus II: Clergy Divorce
Although God intended marriage to be a lifelong relationship, the tragic fact is that divorce has become commonplace in our society.  Sadly, the dramatic rise in divorce rates in recent years has also affected the Christian community. Pastors and others providing counsel have become increasingly burdened with problems of divorce and remarriage, even among those regarded as active members of their congregations. Complicating the task of pastoral care and the exercise of Christian discipline in this area is not only the case with which divorce can be obtained and remarriage arranged within this highly mobile society of ours; there are also among Christians conflicting views as to precisely what are the Biblical principles which should guide Christians regarding divorce and remarriage.
In response to a request for a Scriptural study of divorce and remarriage, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations placed this matter on its agenda. In its 1981 report on "Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective" the Commission discussed the problem of divorce and remarriage in a preliminary way, indicating that it intended to present a more detailed study of the pertinent Scriptural passages in an upcoming report on divorce and remarriage. The Commission has now completed this study and offers it to the members of the Synod for study and guidance as they deal with problems in this area in their ministry of spiritual care.
In carrying out this assignment, the Commission has not understood its task to be the preparation of specific guidelines for Christian counseling, but rather the delineation of Scriptural principles which determine the kind of guidance that should be given regarding God's intention for marriage. In formulating these principles, the Commission is aware of the dangers which reside in interpreting the Biblical texts as a legalistic code that may encourage a casuistry that has as its primary aim the determination of "innocent" and "guilty" parties. It is also cognizant of the opposite hazard whereby the pertinent texts are not regarded as providing specific ethical guidance according to the third use of the law, but are viewed only as a vehicle for pronouncing judgment on all involved in marriage failure, even those whose marriage may have been destroyed at the initiative of another.
In the delicate administration of Law and Gospel to those experiencing marriage crises, the church must be ever mindful of the reality that the will to obey God's commandments is born not of the law but of the Gospel of forgiveness. The Christ who stands in judgment over the evil of divorce is the same Christ who died for all sins, including those which lead to the broken marriage. He is also the Christ who gives specific directions to those who wish to order their lives in accordance with the will of the Creator for this estate.
Before proceeding with a study of this report the reader should note the method being employed in the treatment of the pertinent Biblical texts. An attempt is made to deal with each of the texts in its particular context and to discuss their unique contribution to the composite picture of what the Scriptures have to say on the subject of divorce and remarriage. That composite picture is then presented in a series of summary statements. Moreover, the reader should remember that the focus of this report is on divorce and remarriage, and that the texts dealing with marriage in general are discussed chiefly from this perspective.
The Christian response to the problem of divorce and remarriage must begin where Christ Himself began, with the institution of marriage. The weight of Jesus' response to contemporary questions concerning divorce and remarriage rested not on what may or may not be justifiable reasons for dissolving the marital union, but on the origin of marriage in creation. The principle "What God has joined together let not man put asunder" holds true according to the Scriptures "from the beginning," when the Creator "made them male and female" (Gen. 1:27) and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). At a time when divorce was commonplace and legitimized even on Biblical grounds (Deuteronomy 24), Jesus taught "but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). Christians, therefore, look first to God's original intent for the estate of marriage and seek to know why it is that God wills this union to remain permanently inviolate.
A. The Institution of Marriage
1. The Creation of Male and Female. The creation of mankind (Luther's "Menschen," Gen. 1:2-27) as male and female, and more particularly the manner in which the creation took place (Gen. 2:18-22), not only explains why people become married but also lays the foundation for the moral requirements that surround marriage. This is evident from the way in which the author of Genesis by divine revelation speaks of the institution of marriage in Gen. 2:2-24. Gen. 2:22 reports that "the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made (literally, "built") into a woman and brought her to the man."  In words "expressive of joyous astonishment" the man responds by saying, "This is at last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man" (Gen. 2:23). It is only at this point that the inspired writer proceeds to establish the implications of what God has said and done, and is doing: "Therefore ('al ken), a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh
a. A Helper Fit for Him. Because it was not good that man should be alone, God created from man a woman, a "helper fit for him." This expression denotes two aspects of the relationship between the man and the woman: helpfulness and correspondence. The Hebrew word ezer means support or help. The man was created by God as one who needs a partner, not only for the propagation of offspring, but to fulfill the need for mutual support. What is true of the human community in general is true especially of the most intimate of human relationships: "For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up" (Eccl. 4:10). But the helper whom God made for man is "fit for him," that is, "corresponds to" or "is the counterpart to" him. Woman is "a partner over against man, turned in his direction and fit for him to encounter." 
It is particularly this latter point which Adam immediately recognizes when the living God brings to him the gift that He had made from the rib of Adam. He first declares that the companion or partner God created is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," and that "she was taken out of man ('ish)." For this reason Adam calls her woman ('ishshah).
Thus, when we speak of "companionship" as a purpose for marriage, more is designated than a partnership of mutual assistance and support to the spouse. As the Commission stated in its 1981 report on "Human Sexuality" with reference to the relational purpose of marriage, "rather, the woman is 'a helping being, in which, as soon as he sees it, he may recognize himself.' She is the mirror in which the man will come to know himself as man. The man and woman have been created toward fellowship and neither can come to know the self rightly apart from the other. The woman is given to the man in order that neither of them may be alone, that together they may know themselves in relation to one who is other than self."  Divorce, therefore, must be viewed as the refusal to accept in thanksgiving and honor the gift which God has given as the answer to the "aloneness" of man and woman.
b. Flesh of My Flesh. Man's affirmation that woman is "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh," while appearing to be a mere biological statement describing a blood relationship, is an assertion about the original unity of man and woman as whole persons. The term "flesh" here has reference to the entire human being,  requiring that marriage be regarded as the union of two individuals in both their physical and psychological dimensions. It is therefore not something in man or something in the woman that is united; the man himself and the woman herself become one. Hence man's exclamation about the gift which God brings to him describes the coming together of male and female into a profoundly personal union: "that which was basar 'echadh (one flesh) before the creation of the 'ishshah, 'woman' (Gen. 2:21f.), is again united into basar 'echadh through the consummation of marriage (Gen. 2:24) and the basar 'echadh attested thereby bears undeniable witness to its complete unity." 
Jesus deduces from the creation of man as male and female, whose original unity is manifested and restored when they come together in the one flesh union of marriage, that the Creator made no provision for divorce in the beginning. What was complete is also indissoluble. "The creation of sex, and the high doctrine as to the cohesion it produces between man and woman, laid down in Genesis, interdict separation." 
2. Marriage. In a simple, straightforward manner the writer of Genesis  speaks of the nature of the marital union designed by God in the creation of male and female: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). When two people marry they enter into an estate whose structure God Himself has established. The structure of marriage is unlike other human associations which for solidarity and permanence depend merely on the mutual agreements of the partners, associations which are entered into by mutual consent and may be dissolved by mutual consent. In marriage we have a "divine joining together" which requires obedience to God and His will that the union remain lifelong.
a. Mutual Commitment. When a man and a woman desire to come together in the one flesh union of marriage, they must be fully cognizant of the permanence and undivided loyalty which constitute the mutual commitment required of them by God. They must be prepared to consent, freely and without constraint, to live with one another in a lasting community of life. This is evident from the terminology employed by the inspired writer in Gen. 2:24.
The man (and by implication the woman) is to leave ('azav) his father and his mother and cleave (davaq) to his wife.  Several observations must be made regarding especially the term davaq in this passage. The term means to cling, cleave, or keep close." In a literal sense it can refer to physical things sticking together. For example, Job speaks of his bone cleaving to his skin (19:20; cf. Ps. 102:5) or of the tongue cleaving to the roof of the mouth (Job 29:10). But davaq also refers to the clinging of someone to another with affection and faithfulness (Ruth 1:14; 2 Sam. 20:2; Gen. 34:3; 1 Kings 11:2). Significantly, the word is a covenant term in the Old Testament, denoting the affection and loyalty with which the Israelites are to cleave to the Lord (Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20; Josh. 22:5; 23:8). It signifies an exclusive relationship, shutting out all other partners and entailing the jealousy of the covenant partner. Joshua summons Israel to "cleave (davaq) to the Lord your God as you have done to this day" (Josh. 23:8) and to "Take heed ... to love the Lord your God" (v. 11). Just as permanence and undivided loyalty are essential elements in the covenant relation-ship between God and His people, so must the covenant of marriage be entered only by those ready to pledge their permanent fidelity to one another.' Foreign to, and even in conflict with, the Biblical understanding of marriage as a covenantal relationship is the current emphasis in modern culture on compatibility as the all-important constitutive element of the marital union. When compatibility supplants fidelity, and the interests and needs of the individual are made to count for more than commitment to the welfare of another, the likelihood of divorce and its attendant tragedies is greatly increased.
b. One Flesh. Of the union of man and woman in marriage Jesus said: "So that they are no longer two but one flesh."  In the coming together of man and woman a new entity is created: "It signifies the coming into being of a unitary existence, a complete partnership of man and woman which cannot be broken up without damage to the partner in it."  Whenever a couple unites in the act of intercourse something happens that reaches down to the very core of their being. The union brings into existence a oneness which ex-tends beyond the physical to include the whole man and the whole woman. Subsequent acts of intercourse are expressions of this new reality created by God.
That this is the significance of the one flesh union in marriage is shown by Paul's discussion in 1 Cor. 6:12-20, as well as in Eph. 5:21-43. In 1 Corinthians 6 the apostle, arguing against those who regard sexual intercourse as merely a physical encounter, concludes: "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, the two will become one flesh'" (6:16).  A merely physical or bodily, and therefore transient, relationship is an impossibility. Only man himself as total self can be joined with another, not man as a partial being (i.e., as one who functions sexually). Accordingly, "he who loves his own wife, loves himself" (Eph. 5:28). This is because the one flesh relationship makes husband and wife, despite their sexual differentiation, one-as indeed also Christ and the church are one (Eph. 5:31-43). Thus, by its very nature the one flesh union cannot tolerate the intrusion of a third party. In ways that we will probably never fully understand, casual sexual relationships are destructive of the human being, and more critically, are completely incompatible with one's relationship to the Lord. Thus, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is something from which the Christian must flee. (1 Cor. 6:18)
B. Divorce and Remarriage
The creation of marriage as a permanent union of husband and wife in the one flesh relationship remains the normative principle in the Old Testament.  Although the breaking of marriage through divorce is assumed as a present reality of the fallen world, never is divorce and subsequent remarriage sanctioned nor the inviolability of the marriage relationship compromised. Both in the legal code given to Israel for the ordering of its communal and religious life, as well as in later prophetic pronouncements, divorce is judged to be contrary to the will of God.
Deuteronomic law at first glance appears to approve of the practice of divorce, and subsequent remarriage. In Deut. 24:14, the text to which Jesus' opponents appealed (Matthew 19 and Mark 10), Moses wrote: When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt upon the land which the Lord God gives you for an inheritance. " However, as has often been noted, the structure of this lengthy sentence in Hebrew is crucial. If a divorce should occur, Moses prescribes, then the woman cannot return to her first husband should her second husband divorce her or die. Moses does not here institute divorce and the right of subsequent remarriage, but tolerates the behavior because of the refusal of people to conform to the original pattern in creation ("for the hardness of your heart," Matt. 19:8). The union of the divorced woman brings moral defilement and is equal to adultery (Lev. 18-20; Num. 5:14, 20). Nevertheless, Moses does not prohibit the remarriage of a divorced woman. He legislates to mitigate the social evils that accompany this practice by limiting divorce and precluding its abuse.  Here, as elsewhere,  the Biblical intention is to control, not to sanction. This is precisely the point of Jesus' response to those who argued that Moses "commanded" divorce: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wife, but from the beginning it was not so." What is "legal" is not necessarily morally right in God's sight. 
Indeed, Deuteronomic law attests that the sanctity of the marriage must be carefully guarded. The severity of the law regarding adultery (as well as the vigorous protests against it by the prophets e.g., Jer. 7:9; 23:10; Ex. 16:32; 18:6, 11, 15; 22:11; 33:26) is a poignant reminder of the disfavor with which the Lord looks upon intrusion into the sacred union of husband and wife. The prohibition against adultery in the sixth commandment (Deut. 5:18) is written into civil legislation that to the modern ear sounds unreasonably severe, if not cruel.  The penalty for one caught in the act of adultery was death (Deut. 22:22-24; cf. Lev. 20:10). There is little evidence to show that this provision was ever actually enforced to any degree. However, it stands as a reminder of the gravity of marital unfaithfulness, and more importantly for those who have learned to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the enormity of God's grace that He should pardon those who come to him with penitent hearts (John 8).
Prophetic commentary on the sacredness of the divinely established covenant of marriage takes the form of a call for a return to marital faithfulness. In the context of Israel's own unfaithfulness to God and her profanation of the covenant, the prophets of God denounce the practice of divorce (Mal. 2:13-16; cf. Hos. 2-4; Ezekiel 16 and 23; Jer. 3:1; Is. 50:1). Malachi, for instance, who reminded the husband in Judah that his wife is his "companion and ... wife by covenant," prophesies: "For I hate divorce, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless." (Mal. 2:16)
What are we to conclude from the Old Testament's treatment of the subject of divorce and remarriage? In keeping with the principle that the union of husband and wife brings into existence some-thing not present prior to the union, viz., oneness, divorce is regarded as something fundamentally aberrant. Though Deuteronomic civil law assumes the practice and attempts to control it, there are no declensions from the primal will of God given in Genesis 1 and 2 that marriage remain a permanent union of one man and one woman. Important for the New Testament's evaluation is the nature of the union established when man and woman enter marriage. The union is described as a oneness of two persons (a biunity), created not by individual human choice but by divine institution. This is true of all marriages according to God's created order, entered by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Christian partners in marriage, we would have reason to hope, will especially recognize that they are not bound merely in a horizontal relationship with one another by their pledge of faithfulness, but by their mutual pledge to God to remain faithful. Moreover, they will recognize that no legal restraint, no matter how stringently applied, can guarantee their fidelity to one another. Only reverence for the Creator and love for His good ordinance can assure permanence of marriage. The Christian's fidelity in marriage derives from and rests in a faithful relationship with God in both His law and His promises.
A. Jesus and Old Testament Teaching
Jesus' instruction concerning divorce and remarriage was occasioned by a discussion about what the Old Testament Scriptures permitted in this realm. Jesus' contemporaries had shifted the discussion on marriage and its dissolution from an exposition of Genesis 1 and 2, where the primal will of the Creator is given, to a debate about external legalities aimed at interpreting Deuteronomy 24. In response to the prevailing laxity that ensued, our Lord took issue with His interlocutors and instructed His disciples at two levels: 1) the meaning of the sixth commandment; and 2) the implications of the divine institution of marriage. All three of the synoptic Gospels provide us with information which constitutes the Creator's own commentary (cf. Col. 1:16) on His will for the marriage relationship: Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12; and Luke 16:18
1. The Sixth Commandment. Jesus' treatment of divorce in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:31-32) follows immediately upon His explication of the meaning of the Old Testament prohibition "You shall not commit adultery" (Matt. 5:27-30). What are we to conclude from this? Our Lord is making the point that the sanctity of marriage requires not only external acts of faithfulness to one's spouse, but faithfulness also within the heart (cf. 1 Thess. 4:3-6). "In Jesus," Martin Franzmann stated, "God's original creation intent breaks through into the fallen world." He continued:
He makes the bond between man and woman absolute, established in the heart and kept or broken there. Man is called on to renounce all that impedes his assent to the will of God for his marriage: the eye that looks and lusts must be plucked out, the hand that reaches for what the evil heart desires must be cut off. Jesus is not, of course, suggesting self-mutilation .... (But this is) a drastic expression of the imperative to quell the evil will which becomes incarnate in the look of the eye and the reach of the hand. 
This revelation of the divine will stands in sharp contrast to every attempt to solve marital problems by changing the law to accommodate sinful human behavior. In Jesus' day the application of the sixth commandment to the question of divorce and remarriage had given rise to a large body of legislation that distorted God's original intention for marriage. Despite an occasional lament,  scribal interpretations sought to legitimize, and thereby sanction, an evil for which no provision was made in the beginning. Modern divorce law has accomplished the same effect and the impression is wrongly gained, even in the Christian community, that what has legal justification in the civil sphere also has divine approval.
But Jesus taught that what takes place in the sphere of a person's thought and will not just overt behavior is subject to the limitations of God's will for marriage. The sixth commandment, as well as the tenth which forbids coveting the wife of one's neighbor, is broken not only when adultery takes place in the act of unfaithfulness to one's spouse, but also when it takes place in the heart ("the center of the inner life of man"). (Matt. 15:19) 
2. Genesis 1 and 2 and the Institution of Marriage. The Lord's response to current attitudes toward divorce and remarriage was grounded not only in the commandment "You shall not commit adultery," but also in the will of the Creator that those who are joined in the one flesh union of marriage must not separate what God has joined together. His appeal to the divine institution of marriage takes place within the context of an interchange with the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3-9 (also Mark 10:2-9), who were interested in putting Jesus to the test.
The Pharisees came to Jesus with the question, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" Most commentators agree that the Pharisees were here trying to draw Jesus into taking sides in a Rabbinic dispute. The phrase "for any cause"  in Matt. 19:3 gives us reason to suspect that their test had something to do with the well-known debate between the Rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai on the question of divorce.  At the time of Jesus the right of divorce was presupposed as self-evident, since according to Deuteronomy, it was said, Moses had arranged for the letter of divorce. The only uncertainty concerning this matter was the ground which entitled the man to the dissolution of the marriage.  The debate hinged on the meaning of the expression "some indecency" in Deut. 24:1. Those who followed Hillel's teaching extended the grounds for justifiable divorce beyond marital unfaithfulness to include a number of trivial causes which gave the husband the right to put away his wife and hand her a "bill of divorce,"  which conferred on her the freedom to marry again.  Rabbi Akiba (ca. 50-135 AD), for instance, considered divorce justified in the case where the inclination of the man turns toward a woman who pleases him more than his present wife.  The followers of Shammai, on the other hand, adhered to a more conservative position; only sexual immorality or adultery was regarded as a ground for divorced.
Lifting "the whole issue to the high region of the strong claims of the kingdom of God on each person's life,"  Jesus opposed this distortion of what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 24 by affirming on the basis of Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 the primal will of the Creator that a man and a woman who have become one flesh in marriage are not to be "put asunder" . "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).  The Pharisees counter by asking, "Why did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?" Their point seems to have been this: the original will of the Creator has been superseded by a later provision allowing that the dissolution of marriage for sufficient cause was also contemplated in the beginning. Jesus corrected their misreading of the Scriptures. Man's hardness of heart,  his rebellious will in conflict with the divine intent for marriage, made it necessary for Moses, not to approve of, but to regulate divorce to avoid other and comparatively greater evils.  It was made necessary by their refusal to live within the restraints of God's high and holy will. Also implied in Jesus' words is "a rebuke of those who, rather than lamenting the state of the human heart which sometimes made it necessary to allow divorce to take place, welcomed such a permissive rule." 
Within the framework of Law and Gospel, Jesus' radical call for a return to the original norm according to which husband and wife cling to each other all the days of their life in mutual commitment and faithfulness functions to reveal the sinfulness of divorce and to condemn every attempt to justify wrongdoing before God. Any tendency to view the teaching of Jesus as just another casuistic system in which obedience to a set of rules is understood to earn favor before God must, of course, be judged as a form of legalism. Repentance is the truly God-pleasing response. To those seeking pardon, Christ stands ready to forgive and to remedy the brokenness of human life that stands in the way of the devotion God envisions for those who enter the holy estate of marriage.
At the same time, Jesus' instruction provides moral guidance for those who desire in faith to be His followers. In this connection, the tendency to reject the specific words of Jesus on divorce and remarriage as providing moral direction must be regarded as a form of antinomianism. The discussion to follow presupposes that the One through whom "all things were created" (Col. 1:16) in-tended to provide counsel that must always be regarded by the church as having prescriptive force that may not be set aside.
B. Jesus' Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage
The passages which contain Jesus' specific instruction on divorce and remarriage in the Gospels vary somewhat in precise detail. However, we proceed in this report on the assumption that as God's Word the Gospels do not present contradictory views of what Jesus taught. Rather, the pertinent texts complement one another and provide us with a complete picture of where Jesus stood on this issue. After examining the distinctive elements of Jesus' teaching contained in each of the passages below, we wish to draw together the principles which He has given His church.
1. Matthew 5:31-32. "It was also said, 'whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
In Matt. 5:31-32 Jesus formulates His directives concerning divorce in such a way as to emphasize that the act of divorce itself, apart from the question of remarriage, is contrary to God's will, especially as it affects in this case the wife.  Jesus here condemns all self-seeking on the part of those who put away their wives, while at the same time refusing to offer divine sanction for the spouse who has violated the one flesh union itself, thereby breaking the unity of the marriage. 
In this text Jesus puts the responsibility squarely on the husband who initiates and executes the divorce of his wife. The term divorce used in this passage (also in Matt. 19:3, 7, 8, 9; Mark 10:2, 4, 11, 12; Luke 16:18) refers to the act of dismissing or "putting away" one's spouse, which in the New Testament period involved placing into her hand a "bill of divorce" and "sending her away' from one's house.  The text underlines the husband's responsibility for the act. He causes her to be and makes her an adulteress. At variance with prescriptions that guarded the husband's general immunity from guilt (except in those cases where he violated an-other man's wife or betrothed [Deut. 22:22ff.; Lev. 20:10], he was allowed to divorce his wife at will for the least of provocations, e.g., burned food), Jesus declares that the act of putting away victimizes her. The verb translated "makes her an adulteress" in dictates that the stigma which she bears and the position into which she is placed have been imposed on her by the sin of another.  The moral tragedy here is that she is implicated in a wrong which she did not commit, even if she does not remarry. (Jesus says nothing explicitly about remarriage on her part.)
The presence of the so-called "exceptive clause" ("except on the ground of unchastity"RSV; "except for marital unfaithfulness"NIV) in Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 introduces a new element into Jesus' teaching, which has caused endless debate among exegetes.  The discussion of this much disputed clause has generally centered on three questions: the meaning of the words grammatically; the authenticity of the clause as the words of Jesus; and the meaning of "unchastity" (porneia in Greek"fornication").
Grammatically, there is little doubt that the two exceptive clauses in Matthew (parektos logou porneias Matt. 5:32; me epi porneia Matt. 19:9) comprise a genuine exception enunciated by Jesus.  Even among scholars who deny the genuineness of these words on the lips of Jesus (ipsissima verba) there is widespread agreement that taken in their obvious sense they denote an actual exception to Jesus' prohibition of divorce. With respect to the authenticity of these words as Jesus' own, the most widely held view is that they represent an interpretive gloss inserted at a later time by the early church through the pen of Matthew or another editor of the Gospel,  and therefore constitute a historically conditioned adaptation having questionable abiding normative force for the church.  (Also significant is the fact that those scholars who deny that Jesus spoke these words hold that they are nevertheless a genuine part of Matthew's gospel. ) As we have noted, the conclusion often drawn from this supposition is that Christ Himself, to whose authority we must ultimately bow, allows no exceptions and brands all divorce as contrary to the will of God.  The absolute form of Jesus' prohibition in Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and Paul's exhortation in 1 Cor. 7:10-11, it is alleged, supports this conclusion. However, such a view cannot be sustained on the basis of the text itself. On the one hand, since the manuscript support for Matthew's exceptive clauses is firm, there is no reason to doubt their trustworthiness as a genuine element in Christ's teaching.  Moreover, we must reject the notion that God's Word presents us with conflicting views of what Jesus taught. William F. Arndt has correctly stated in his commentary on Luke 16:18, "Jesus here in Luke, as well as in Mark 10:11f., states the general principle and makes no exceptions. In the passage found in Matthew's Gospel the presentation is somewhat more complete and the exception which God allows is included." 
Finally, we must ask, what is the meaning of porneia in Matt. 5:32 (as in Matt. 19:9)? The Biblical writers employ this term to refer in general to "unlawful sexual intercourse," whether involving a violation of the marriage of another or not. Porneia is often distinguished from moicheia ("adultery") which denotes sexual intercourse as an act whereby the marriage of another is violated  (cf. Matt. 15:19). Porneia, however, is the broader term; it refers to sexual intercourse in general outside of marriage (Rom. 7:2). Some argue that Jesus had in mind something as specific as marriage in the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (Lev. 18), that is, incest (cf. Acts 15:20).  But there is no way of establishing this with certainty. New Testament usage taken as a whole suggests that sexual intercourse apart from the lawful union of husband and wife in marriage is meant.
In light of the above considerations, the force of the exceptive clause is this: The spouse who divorces his/her partner on the grounds of porneia does not by that act cause the partner to become adulterous; the partner has already committed an adulterous act and sundered at the deepest level what God has joined together. In view of what porneia does to the one flesh union itself, the spouse who suffers this form of abandonment may (though certainly not must) put away the partner guilty of porneia without forcing such a one into adultery.
Thus, as marriage may be destroyed by the procurement of divorce, so may unchastity on the part of a spouse lead to the severance of the marital union. In either case, Jesus "could not and did not champion and protect those who defiled God's pure gift and defied God's will." 
The status of the abandoned spouse who is not responsible for the final breakdown of marriage caused by divorce for reasons other than fornication, or by unchastity on the part of the offending spouse, is not expressly mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 5:32. Neither is there any direct prohibition of the remarriage of one who has not destroyed the union through divorce and unchastity. That Jesus refrains from charging with adultery the one who has been put away as victim of the sinful act of another suggests that we, too, ought to exercise considerable caution regarding judgments in such cases, lest we "bind heavy burdens, hard to bear." 
A rather technical grammatical point may have some bearing on the above observation, though it is not possible to decide with absolute certainty its ultimate import. The second half of verse 32 reads, "... and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." At first glance these words appear to prohibit categorically the remarriage of any divorced woman, even one put away illegitimately at the initiative of the husband. However, it should not be overlooked that the text (cf. parallel in Luke 16:18) reads literally, "... whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." The participle here does not have an article and therefore is indefinite.  If the text read, "whoever marries the divorced woman" it would be clear that the reference is to the woman just mentioned, that is, the one wrongly put away. The indefinite use of the participle, however, entails the possibility that Jesus had in mind a woman who herself was responsible for obtaining a divorce for reasons other than porneia. 
2. Matthew 19:9. "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." The Lord succinctly enjoins that whoever divorces his wife for any other reason than illicit sexual intercourse and marries another, commits adultery. If we compare what Jesus teaches in this passage with what He says in Matt. 5:32 we are able to add the following to the whole of what He teaches. Not only is the act of divorce itself sinful, apart from remarriage, but the act of remarriage after an illegitimate divorce is judged contrary to the will of God. Moreover, Jesus focuses on what the husband's act means for him: he becomes an adulterer.
Once again the exceptive clause occurs, indicating that porneia (in this case on the part of the wife, and by inference on the part of the husband, as the case may be) introduces the possibility that a divorce may be secured and a second marriage entered without the commission of adultery. Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz concludes in this connection, "Therefore because Christ says: 'Whoever divorces his wife, except for the cause of fornication, and marries another commits adultery,' therefore, from the contrary sense, whoever divorces his wife for the cause of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery."  The divinely given exception to the original pattern of creation cannot be understood, however, as a recommendation that a divorce should be sought. Nor does this exception function as the main emphasis of Jesus' command in this passage. John Murray's comment is appropriate:
What is of paramount importance is that however significant is the exceptive clause as guarding the innocence of the husband in dismissing for sexual infidelity, it is not the exceptive clause that bears the emphasis in the text. It is rather that the husband may not put away for any other cause. It is the one exception that gives prominence to the illegitimacy of any other reason. Preoccupation with the one exception should never be permitted to obscure the force of the negation of all others. 
3. Mark 10:12. "And He said to them [the disciples], 'whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
Following an interchange between the Pharisees and Jesus similar  to that which is reported in Matthew 19, Jesus' disciples ask Him about His instruction privately. In His response Jesus elevates the whole issue to a level higher than even the disciples were accustomed to think about this subject (Matt. 19:10). They themselves may not have fully understood the distinction between God's primary intention for marriage revealed in creation and the later provisions given to mitigate the evil consequences of divorce. Once again they are reminded of how their contemporaries had left the commandment of God and held fast "the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8)
In a way not immediately obvious to the modern reader, Jesus corrects the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:3) at two critical points. First, according to Jewish law only a man could commit adultery against another man, but he does not commit adultery against his wife.  However, "whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her."  Husband and wife are placed on the same level.  The husband's immunity has ceased. Secondly, Jesus extends his prohibition against divorce to the wife: "... and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."  The principle is now set forth that the act of divorce and remarriage on the part of either spouse must be called adulterous. Jesus does not mention the exceptive clause here, perhaps because the Pharisees do not raise the issue of what grounds are lawful for divorce. (v.2)
In Mark's account, therefore, Jesus underscores the absolute nature of God's injunction that marriage remain permanently intact. Those who marry and those who provide counsel to those entering this holy estate are urged to dispel any notion that marriage may be looked on as a contractual arrangement which may be dissolved "if it does not work out," and are summoned to honor this "glorious institution and ... object of God's serious concern." (Luther's Large Catechism, I:208)
4. Lake 16:18. "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
In Luke's gospel our Lord's prohibition of divorce, an act which evidently had as its object the removal of the wife to make room for another one,  comes as a case in point to illustrate the principle that "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void" (16:17). G. B. Caird has summarized the situation well by observing that for the pedantically conservative scribes "it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for [them] to surrender that scrupulosity which could not see the Law for the letters."  It was this scrupulosity that jealously guarded every letter of the law that at the same time flagrantly violated the spirit of the Law. Within this context Jesus spoke the words of Luke 16:18.
Again, no exceptions are noted. The principle that to divorce one's spouse and remarry is to commit adultery is presented by the Lord. In the second half of the verse, we hear again (cf. Matt. 5:32) that for one to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery. We repeat here the grammatical point that the participle, without the definite article, cannot be pressed to refer with absolute certainty to every divorced woman.  Nor does the passage address in express words the case of the remarriage of the spouse put away unjustly at another's initiative. These qualifiers, however, in no way diminish the uncompromising character of the Lord's requirement: divorce and remarriage are not in accordance with God's will that marriage remain unbroken.
The spread of the Gospel to the Gentile world and the creation of new Christian congregations on Gentile soil gave rise to questions calling for pastoral care and judgment that were not specifically addressed by Jesus. The existence of mixed marriages, in which a Christian had a non-Christian spouse, was one of those questions. We are fortunate to have in hand a specific pastoral application of the Lord's principles on divorce and remarriage written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. While Paul addresses the topic of marriage elsewhere, it is principally to 1 Cor.7:10-16 that we must look to learn what the apostle taught regarding divorce and remarriage.
In 1 Cor. 7:10-16 the apostle states:
To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife how do you know whether you will save your husband ? Husband how do you know whether you will save your wife?
In 1 Cor. 7:1 Paul makes known his intention to respond to a number of specific questions addressed to him by the Corinthians in a letter.  While we can only conjecture regarding the situation in Corinth that prompted these inquiries, one gets the impression in this chapter that an ascetic tendency may have deprecated marriage as belonging to a lower spiritual estate and urged freedom from the obligations of marriage, especially to the pagan spouses.  In any case, the apostle addresses those in Christian marriage (10-11) and in mixed marriages (in which one spouse has evidently been converted subsequent to the marriage) (12-16) regarding the permanence of the marital bond. With the authority of an apostle,  St. Paul presents to Christian spouses an express word from the Lord prohibiting divorce, and to Christians in mixed marriages his own application of the Scriptural principle that marriage was created to be a lifelong union.
"To the married" Christian spouses, the Lord says through the apostle: "that the wife  should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife"(10-11). In keeping with the dominical principle that there should be no divorce among those who want to be Christians, the apostle charges that neither the wife nor the husbands is to take action to dissolve their marriage, whether that be some form of separation or actual divorce.  If due to their fallen condition they have parted, or in the event such a case should arisen the Lord teaches that they should either remain unmarried or reconcile.  The apostle discusses neither the matter of fornication nor spousal abandonment in these verses, for among Christians such conduct should not be found. (Eph. 5:3)
"To the rest," Christians in mixed marriages who had been reached by the gospel preached to the Gentiles, the apostle offers counsel not specifically treated by the Lord (vv. 12-16). Consistent with the principle that God wills marriage to be an indissoluble union for life, Paul does not advise Christians to initiate divorce in those cases where a non-Christian Spouse  is willing  to maintain the marriage.  To someone who would argue that a believer cannot continue to cohabit with an unbeliever without in some way incurring contamination and thus consenting to a union less than sacred, the apostle responds that the mixed marriage is in itself God-pleasing. If this were not true, how does one explain the fact that the unbelieving spouse and children of the union are brought into the sphere of holiness by virtue of their relationship to the believer (though, of course, by virtue of their relationship to the Lord). 
What should the believer do, however, if the unbeliever refuses to continue the marriage and departs? The apostle's answer: "But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace." The crux of interpretation in this verse is this: In cases of definitive abandonment, is the believer free to secure a legal divorce and subsequently to remarry? Textually, the question is posed, what does Paul mean by "is not bound?"
Commentators usually proceed in two directions in their interpretation of this expression. Some hold that the apostle frees the abandoned believer from the bond of marriage, and thus for remarriages.  Others argue that he allows no more than freedom from the obligation to seek restoration of the broken relationship. 
We note, first of all, that the apostle has in mind the dissolution of the marriage and liberty to remarry another in the expression he uses in Rom. 7:2 and 1 Cor. 7:27, 39. The wife is bound (dedetai) in marriage to the husband while he lives, but death brings freedom (eleuthera) to marry again. In 1 Cor. 7:15 the apostle uses the verb which he uses elsewhere to denote a state of slavery, not the weaker verb deo, which is not his word to express what it means to be under the ownership of someone else. The stronger expression "is not bound" suggests that the believing spouse is no longer tied to the obligation to preserve the marriage, since the unbelieving party has already withdrawn consent to maintain the union.
Admittedly, Paul does not expressly state that the Christian may remarry. However, neither does he expressly forbid remarriage as he did explicitly in verse 11 of the Christian spouse who departs. The apostle recognizes that when one who does not submit to Christ's teaching (particularly His teaching regarding marriage) departs, the union is terminated.  The believer is under no constraint of conscience to preserve a union that has suffered dissolution by one who does not recognize the authority of Christ's Word. "God has called us to peace"  not to fight for a marriage that has already been broken by one who has no desire or intention of returning. The prospect of converting one's spouse is not certain,  although of course Paul does desire this. If, therefore, the Christian spouse is no longer bound, such a one is free to secure a civil divorce and remarry. 
The pastoral question as to what may realistically be regarded as a definitive or final break and who may be the deserter has given rise to extended discussions of casuistry. While maintaining the principle that genuine cases of desertion can and do occur also today (see considerations on pages 28 and 29), and that the apostle's counsel applies, caution should be exercised in pastoral care and in the exercise of church discipline that the apostle's instruction not be interpreted by believers as a license to put away their spouses for any and every cause. 1 Cor. 7:15 must indeed not be summoned to do service for those who wish to be free of their spouse for reasons the Scriptures never sanction. 
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