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Divorce and Remarriage
An Exegetical Study

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
November 1987

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Part II

Summary Statements

1. When God instituted marriage at creation He intended that it be the lifelong union of one men and one woman. By its very nature the one flesh union of husband and wife will not permit the intrusion of a third party; therefore, what God has joined together let no man put asunder.

The marital union is described in the Scriptures as a oneness of two persons, created not merely by individual human choice but by divine institution. Therefore, those who enter marriage are bound together not only in a horizontal relationship with each other by their pledge of faithfulness, but also by a mutual pledge to God the Creator to remain faithful. Analogous to God's covenant with Israel, the union of husband and wife is an exclusive partnership, demanding complete loyalty and permanent commitment. Only reverence for the Creator and love for His good ordinance, not the bare restraints of the law, can assure such lifelong loyalty and commitment.

2. Divorce, destructive of what God has joined together, is always contrary to God's intention for marriage.

In the beginning God made no provision for the dissolution of the marriage bond. The fall into sin, however, brought with it the forces which destroy human relationships, including marriage. The refusal of people to accept God's will for marriage, the "hardness of heart" resultant upon man's sin, necessitated legal provisions permitting divorce even among God's people. But "from the beginning it was not so." Throughout the Scriptures the call to remain faithful to God's original intent is made and marriage as a lifelong monogamous relationship consistently affirmed.

3. A person who divorces his/her spouse for any other cause than sexual unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery. Anyone who marries a person so discarding his or her spouse commits adultery.

The act of putting away one's spouse through legal divorce, as well as subsequent remarriage, is a violation of God's will. The New Testament passages setting forth this principle are intended as an expression of God's will for the protection of the sanctity of marriage. Viewed within their original context, these texts stress not the legitimacy of divorce for sexual unfaithfulness, but the illegitimacy of divorce for any other reason. Their uncompromising character is further seen by the fact that a third party is also drawn into the sin of adultery by marrying one who has divorced a spouse for "any other reason."

4. When a spouse commits fornication (i.e., is guilty of sexual unfaithfulness), which breaks the unity of the marriage, the offended party who endures such unfaithfulness has the right, though not the command, to obtain a legal divorce and remarry.

The Lord Himself addresses one situation in which the securing of a legal divorce would not be a violation of the divine principle that marriage is to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman in a relationship not to be broken, viz., sexual unfaithfulness on the part of one's spouse. While no marriage partner can avoid committing sins which threaten to harm the marriage relationship, only sexual unfaithfulness is regarded as a legitimate ground for divorce in God's sight. However, reconciliation must remain the goal even of those who suffer this form of abandonment on the part of the spouse. Love covers a multitude of sins, and mindful of Christ's forgiveness, Christian spouses will seek the healing of a broken marriage through the power of forgiveness. If such efforts fail, the spouse suffering such wrong may without burden of conscience obtain a divorce and remarry.

5. A spouse who has been willfully and definitively abandoned by his or her partner who refuses to be reconciled and is unwilling to fulfill the obligations of the marriage covenant despite persistent persuasion may seek a legal divorce, which in such a case constitutes a public recognition of a marriage already broken, and remarry.

This principle was formulated by St. Paul originally in references to mixed marriages in which one partner was not a Christian. Its application to the modern situation in which divorce is commonplace between Christian parties, and on grounds to include every form of alleged abuse, is difficult. In offering pastoral counsel and in carrying out disciplinary measures, pastors and others responsible for spiritual care may find the following considerations helpful.

Excursus 1:

Remarriage of Persons Divorced for Unscriptural Reasons

Perhaps no area of congregational life has left pastors and parishioners alike with such an uneasy conscience as the marriage in their midst of persons who, as far as it is possible to determine, are divorced for reasons not permitted by God's Word. The Scriptures teach that one who puts away his/her spouse for any other reason than marital unfaithfulness or unchastity, and one who marries such a person so discarding his/her spouse, commits adultery. But what response is to be given to those who after an unscriptural divorce desire to remarry, declaring that they are unable to restore a previously broken marriage and expressing their intention to amend their sinful lives? The issue forces itself, and inevitably so, on pastors when such persons seek to have their new union sanctified by the Word of God and prayer in the wedding service, a public act commonly understood as placing the church's sanction and blessing on their marriage.

Obviously, no answer can be given which will cover the circumstances of each individual case, but some general observations may be helpful. It is important to remember that the Scriptures do not speak specifically to the question of remarriage of those who have been divorced for reasons which they do not permit. This is understandable, for such contravening of the divine will ought not to occur among those who wish to call themselves Christians.

Divorce for unscriptural reasons, and remarriage involving such persons, are plainly contrary to God's will. The Christian pastor, for the sake of the spiritual welfare of those whom he serves, must confront persons involved in such situations with the gravity of their sin. Moreover, he may deem it necessary to warn such individuals of what may be called "planned repentance." What the Commission stated in its 1981 report on "Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective" concerning those seeking a divorce is also applicable to situations in which individuals who have already obtained a divorce for unscriptural reasons desire to be remarried. The Commission stated in its report:

Indeed, to proceed premeditatively in doing that which one knows to be contrary to God's will, with the intention of becoming contrite later, is really no repentance at all.

The question remains, however, whether the pastor may announce God's forgiveness where genuine repentance appears to be in evidence. To deny such persons the assurance of God's pardon would be to limit the atoning work of Jesus Christ, in whom there is forgiveness for all sins. No matter how heinously a person has sinned, Jesus atoned for all sin, also for the sin of adultery (1 Cor. 6:9-11). He received many gross sinners in His day, also adulterers. He was always willing to receive any and every repentant sinner. It is difficult to imagine our Lord turning away one broken by the accusations of the law and desirous of God's mercy and help. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20). The words of Jesus to the adulterous woman in John 8 "neither do I condemn you," reveals that the grace of God covers also this sin. Jesus then proceeds to tell the woman, "Go, and do not sin again," that is, she is now to give evidence of her repentance.

It is within the context of these words of Jesus, which are typical of His approach to matters of this kind, that the request of divorced persons desiring remarriage must be evaluated and a response given that is in harmony with what the Scriptures teach regarding repentance and the forgiveness of sins. In cases of the remarriage of persons divorced for reasons not Biblically sanctioned, true repentance would presuppose a genuine desire to reconcile with one's estranged spouse. It is difficult to imagine, for example, how genuine contrition can exist or how absolution can be announced when there is present a refusal to seek healing. Where the refusal to reconcile and to seek healing is judged to be absent insofar as such a judgment is possible the pastor will be constrained to deny a request for remarriage.

There are circumstances, however, where there are reasons to believe that true repentance is indeed present but where reconciliation and restoration of a broken marriage simply are not possible, either because the former spouse has remarried or is unwilling to be reconciled. In such cases, remarriage becomes a possibility. Considerable caution must be exercised by pastors, however, lest what may be considered possible under exceptional circumstances come to be interpreted as license to disregard God's will in this regard. By no means may encouragement be given to go on sinning "that grace may abound." (Rom. 6:1-2) What has been said above about the remarriage of persons divorced for unscriptural reasons may also be applied to the acquiring and holding of membership in the Christian congregation. Christian discipline in the congregation must be exercised in a firm, loving, and consistent manner, lest the offense of unrepented sin cause others to stumble.

Excursus II:

Clergy Divorce [87]

The Christian pastor is summoned by the Scriptures to a pattern of life that is exemplary of the Gospel at work, and worthy of emulation. (1 Peter 5:3). This is not because the pastoral office has some special "character" within the priesthood of all believers, but because the pastor stands under the special apostolic injunction that the office which he holds requires one who is "above reproach" (1 Tim. 3:2). [88] Moral failure in the life of the pastor, therefore, is never merely a matter of private offense which can be treated in isolation from the public office which he holds and the accountability which it requires. The credibility of the Gospel itself is always necessarily at stake, and for this reason especially those who aspire to or hold this high office are to possess a solemn regard for the integrity of its proclamation. Of St. Paul's concern in 2 Cor. 6:3 that ' Eve put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry," the Interpreter's Bible rightly concludes: "This is important because if anyone takes offense at anything the apostle does, he will not only blame the minister, but also be led to reject the Gospel the apostle preaches." [89]

The apostolic principle that those who serve in the office of the public ministry conduct themselves in a manner worthy of imitation (cf. 1 Cor. 4:14-16; 11:1; 1 Thess. 1:6) does not, of course, lead to the perfectionist claim that the pastor must lead a sinless life in order to qualify for or a stay in his office. The pastor must also, like Paul, be willing to confess, "I am the foremost of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15) and, he will need to model also a life of daily repentance for his many sins (Rom. 7:21-25). But the exhortation to be "examples (literally, "patterns") to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3) implies a level of behavior that is higher than those who are served. And why, we may ask, is the Public behavior of the pastor of such critical importance? It is so, writes Helmut Thielicke, for this reason: "he (the pastor) is in a position where the facts as they are now known to the public (as in the case of divorce) are at the mercy of whatever interpretation the public may put upon them and he has no possibility of controlling the judgments people make before or after the fact, and preventing them from casting doubt upon the credibility of his office and his message." [90]

It is assumed that the pastor will conform his life to what the Scriptures teach concerning divorce and remarriage as this teaching is presented in the pertinent texts discussed in this report. Fidelity to one's spouse in marriage is of particular importance in the life and conduct of the Christian pastor. This is clear from the fact that foremost in the list of requirements (dei 1 Tim. 3:2) for what it means for the pastor to be "above reproach" is that he be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). The precise meaning of this phrase has been the subject of extended discussion among New Testament exegetes. Several explanations have been given. Walter Lock's commentary in the International Critical Commentary series lists five: 1) The bishop must be a married man; 2) not a polygamist; 3) "a faithful husband," married to one woman and loyal to her, having no mistress or concubine; 4) not divorcing one wife and marrying another; and 5) not marrying a second time after his wife's death. [91] The first of these explanations may be ruled out simply because it does not do justice to the "one" of "husband of one wife." The fifth choice is unlikely for reasons such as those given by Albrecht Oepke in Kittel's Theological Dictionary: a) the common use of the expression in Paul's day for faithful wives as a protest against successive polygamy, that is, against those who are divorced, or even repeatedly divorced; b) the right of remarriage in the case of one whose spouse has died was taken for granted in the New Testament; and c) the pastorals favor marriage, assuming a married clergy (1 Tim. 3:2, 12) and recommending younger widows to marry again (1 Tim. 514). [92] Perhaps a combination of remaining explanations is in keeping with the apostle's intent. St. Paul is here establishing the general principle that any transgression of God's will for marriage as a monogamous union is ruled out, whether it should take the form of concubinage or polygamy or marital unfaithfulness, including the "virtual polygamy of illicit divorce." [93]

In applying the Biblical principles regarding divorce and remarriage to crisis situations in the marriages of pastors, the church obviously needs to provide the necessary means to assist pastors and their wives in the prevention of divorce. But most difficult is the disciplinary question as to whether or not the divorced pastor should remain in the office of the public ministry. In light of what has been said here about the integrity of the Gospel proclamation, the Commission wishes to repeat here the statement that it has made in its report on "Human Sexuality":

We add here that in the case where a pastor is divorced due to the unchastity or desertion of his wife, serious consideration ought to be given to offense which, though beyond his control, his situation is causing. The offense given in the case of clergy divorce is rarely confined to the congregation which he serves, but spreads, and unfortunately so, to others at the circuit, district, and perhaps even national levels (to say nothing of other Christian congregations in the community). At the very least, therefore, it likely will be necessary under the guidance of those given supervisory responsibilities, to make special arrangements to evaluate his ministry in that place with a view perhaps to moving to another parish. Underlying all of these concerns ought to be the Biblical caution that "the ministry be not blamed."

To the above counsel the response is sometimes given, "Why cannot the pastor who has divorced his wife for unscriptural reasons, but who is repentant, remain in the office of pastor, since before God there is forgiveness also for the sin of divorce?" Before God, who will not despise the broken heart (Ps. 51:17) and freely forgives those who confess their transgressions to Him (Ps. 32:5), there is indeed full pardon for the sin of divorce and the offense caused by it. That there is forgiveness before God does not mean, however, that the divinely established requirements for those who occupy the office of the public ministry have been set aside. No conditions may be attached to the grace of God, but certain conditions are indeed attached by God to holding and remaining in the office of oversight in the Christian congregation. That this office is a public office (meaning pastors serve the Lord in behalf of the congregation) implies that both the pastor and the congregation must uphold the divinely given qualifications for this office.

[1] Recent statistics from the Bureau of the Census, US Department of Commerce, indicate that the divorce rate (divorces per 1000 total population) in the US population has risen dramatically within the past two decades. Between 1962 and 1981 the annual number of divorces tripled, reaching a historic high of 1,213,000 in 1981. Although the rate declined somewhat between 1981 to 1984, in 1985 the number of couples divorcing increased by 32,000 over the 1984 number, to reach 1,187,000. The divorce ratio (number currently divorced persons per 1000 currently married living with spouses) increased from 47 in 1970 to 128 in 1985. Pollster Louis Harris recently has disputed these figures, claiming they represent a misreading of the data. By dividing the Census Bureau figures on divorced people with the number of persons who are married, Harris concluded that one out of eight remarriages end in divorce (Tinge, July 13, 1987, p. 21).

[2] Luther observed, "Adam does not snatch Eve of His own will after she has been created, but he waits for God to bring her to him. So Christ also says (Matt. 19:6): 'What God has joined let no man part.' For the lawful joining of a man and a woman is a divine ordinance and institution." Luther's Works, American Edition, 1:134.

[3] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), p. 487.

[4] E. Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965), p. 17.

[5] "Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective," A Report of the CTCR, 1981, p. 14. What is said here in no way suggests that the single state falls short of God's design for male-female relationships. As the Commission stated in its 1981 report, "Not every human being need enter the order of marriage." Thus, "the church must also assure those who do not enter the order of marriage that they also please God" (p. 7; see pp. 6-9 for a more extended discussion of this subject)

[6] The Expositor's Greek Testament, 1:246, states: "But flesh in Hebrew thought represents the entire man, and the ideal unity of marriage covers the whole nature. It is a unity of soul as well as of body: of sympathy, interest, purpose."

[7] G. Johannes Botterweck, and Helmer Ringgren, eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 2:328.

[8] Expositor's Greek Testament, 1:246.

[9] Commentators generally agree that the words of Gen. 2:24 are not the words of Adam but of the author of Genesis.

[10] In marriage the partners terminate one loyalty and embrace a new one. This implies that parental consent and blessing should be sought. Although a valid marriage may exist without parental consent, the Biblical paradigm according to which parents were directly involved in the arrangement of the marriages of their children (e.g., Gen. 24:4- 29:23, 28: 34:8- see 0. J. Baab, "Marriage" in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible [New York: Abingdon Press, 1962], 3:283) suggests that the custom of parents' "giving away" their daughters be preceded by parental counsel and affirmation on the part of both sets of parents for their children. After marriage, "leaving' does not imply abandonment of commitment to care and concern for the needs of parents and others within one's family.

The commitment of marriage, according to Lutheran theology, has significance beyond the union of husband and wife. It is a vital part of God's design for human life in general. The marriage partners commit themselves to the establishment of a home, a structure designed by the Creator to serve the common good of all in society. Where parents fulfill their duties and children live in honor and obedience toward them, the promise of long life is attached. And, "to have long life means not merely to grow old but to have everything that pertains to long life, health, wife and child, livelihood, peace, good government, etc., without which this life can neither be heartily enjoyed nor long endured. " (Large Catechism I, par. 134; Tappert, p. 383)

[11] Brown, Driver, Briggs, Lexicon, p. 179.

[12] Lutheran theologians have traditionally held that the mutual consent of the parties constitutes the essence of marriage. Some have regarded this understanding as deficient, if not wrong, and claim that it diminishes the importance of lifelong commitment. For this reason it needs to be emphasized that mutual consent, in the total Biblical perspective, is the agreement of the two partners to a common life of giving and receiving. Marriage is not a mere contractual arrangement with a series of contingency clauses.

If the permanent commitment of marriage is referred to as establishing an "indissoluble union," this should not be understood to mean that marriage cannot be dissolved. A covenant relationship can, through the unfaithfulness of either or both covenant partners, be broken. God's command is that it must not be broken. See Brian Byron, "1 Cor. 7:10-15: A Basis for Future Catholic Discipline on Marriage and Divorce?" Theological Studies 34 (September 1973), p. 436. Byron states: "Nor does he [Jesus] speak of indissolubility, which means literally 'impossibility of being dissolved.' Jesus does not say the union cannot be dissolved; He says "what God has joined together, let no man separate.' Indeed, the prohibition itself implies that it can be sundered."

[13] It is significant that Jesus quotes the Septuagint rendering when He states, "and the two shall become one flesh." The insertion of the word "two" accents the fact that something completely new is created by the sexual union.

[14] Colin Brown, general editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (DNTT) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 1:678.

[15] See J. Paul Sampley's thorough discussion of this phrase in 'And the Two Shall Become One Flesh:' A Study of the Traditions in Ephesians 5:21-33 (Cambridge: University Press, 1971).

[16] Polygamy apparently was a common practice in ancient Israel (Lamech and Cain Gen. 4:19- 26:34-35; Abraham Gen. 16:14; Jacob Gen. 29:26; 3.0:4, 9; Elkanah-1 Sam. 1:5; Gideon Judges 8:30; David 2 Sam. 5:13ff.; 20:3; Solomon 1 Kings 11:1, 3: Rehoboam 2 Chron. 11:21) and was assumed in the legal code (Ex. 21:10; Deut. 21:1-17). The desire for offspring seems to have been the principal motivation, though other factors undoubtedly contributed to its acceptance as well (see David Mace, Hebrew Marriage [London: Epworth Press, 1953], pp. 121-22). Although polygamy as such is not condemned by the Old Testament, neither is any attempt made to justify the practice or to give it divine sanction. In those passages which are fundamental for our understanding of marriage, monogamy is presupposed (Gen. 1:26ff.; 2:18-24). In light of Jesus' confirmation of the original institution of marriage, polygamy, like divorce, must be regarded as evidence of Israel's refusal to be bound by the constraints of God's will expressed in the pattern set down at creation.

[17] See S. R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906), p. 272. Driver points out that the law here provides three guarantees against rash or arbitrary divorce: a definite and substantial ground must be alleged; a proper legal instrument must be prepared; and the case (it is implied) must be brought before some public functionary, who would not only secure the due observance of the requisite legal formalities, but also take care that the grounds alleged were sufficient and consider any defense that might be offered. The deed must also be formally delivered to the wife. Moreover, the provision that a wife may not return to her husband following subsequent divorce or the death of her spouse, would serve as a deterrent to hasty divorce. See J. Duncan M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1970), p. 379.

[18] The right to divorce belonged to the husband, but this right was restricted: he could not divorce his wife he had accused her falsely of prenuptial uncleanness (Deut. 22:1- 19) or if he had ravished her before marriage (Deut. 22:2-29). A priest was forbidden to marry a divorced woman, for the priest is holy to his God." (Lev. 21:7, 14)

[19] Luther distinguished between two types of commandments, those which are "spiritual, teaching righteousness in the sight of God," and those which are "worldly," "drawn up for the sake of those who do not live up to the spiritual commandments, in order to place a limit upon their misbehavior and prevent them from doing worse and acting wholly on the basis of their own maliciousness." Deuteronomy 24 belongs to the latter category. "Accordingly," Luther continues, "He (God) commanded them, if they could not endure their wives, that they should not put them to death or harm them too severely, but rather dismiss them with a certificate of divorce. This law, therefore, does not apply to Christians, who are supposed to live in the spiritual government. In the case of some who live with their wives in an un-Christian fashion, however, it would still be a good thing to permit them to use this law, just so they are no longer regarded as Christians, which after all they really are not." American Edition, 45:31.

[20] This fact has led most commentators to conclude that the "indecency" (Greek aschemon pragma) of Deut. 24:1 is an offense of a lesser kind than adultery.

[21] David Mace concludes that the Hebrew horror of adultery and the ruthlessness of the law concerning it was due to "the immensely important principle that a man must be sure that his children were his own." (Hebrew Marriage, p. 242) But this view is colored by Mace's sociological approach to the subject of marriage in the Old Testament. Theologically the norm of Genesis 1 and 2 is monogamous marriage, which is protected by the sixth commandment.

[22] Martin H. Franzmann, Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961), p. 46.

[23] A. Oepke (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT], s. v. gune, 1: 784) states: "Individual rabbis protested against divorce, but the evil was not tackled at the root. Commenting on Mal. 2:13f. R. Eleazar said: 'If a man divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears over him.' It is expressly stated, however, that this applies only to the first wife."

[24] TDNT, 3:611.

[25] "For any and every cause," in W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD), 2nd edition revised and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker from Walter Bauer's 5th edition, 1958 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 26; "on the ground of any cause," in C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, reprint edition, 1982), p. 59.

[26] The Mishna, Gittin 9, 10: "The School of Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written, 'Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.' And the School of Hillel say: (He may divorce her) even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, 'Because he has found in her indecency in anything.' R. Akiba says: Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, 'And it shall be if she find no favour in his eyes ...'" (The Mishna, ed. Herbert Danby [London: The Clarendon Press, 1933], p. 321). See David Amram, The Jewish Law of Divorce (London: David Nutt, 1897), pp. 32-40.

[27] Hauck, TDNT, 6:592, states "Whereas in the days of the prophets a husband might pardon his wife in the case of infidelity (cf. Hos. 3:1ff.), in the time of Jesus the Law was stricter and an adulterous wife was forbidden to have further intercourse with her husband or the adulterer- her husband had to divorce her." (Note 73: "Sota 5, 1: As she [the adulteress is forbidden ['swrh] to her husband, she is also forbidden to the adulterer. Test. R. 3:15, Blau, I, 37f.").

[28] The apostasion (Matt. 5:31) or Biblion apostasiou of Matt. 19:7-9 and Mark 10:4, and the LXX of Deut. 24:1-4 refer to the sefer keritut, "document of sundering. " This latter term also occurs in the sense of a divorce certificate in Is. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8. For the elaborate legislation surrounding the formulation and execution of this writ in Judaism see Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeek, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Mid-rash, vol. I: Das Evangelism Bach Matthaus Erlautert aus Talmud und Mwdrash (Munehen: C. H. Beek'sehe Verlagsbuehhandlung, 1926), pp. 303-21. Also, TDNT, 1:783. For background information on the legal significance of the document, see Philip C. Hammond, "A Divorce Document from the Cairo Geniza," The Jewish Quarterly Review 52 (October 1961), pp. 131-53. Hammond notes that it provided for the wife's release from her husband and thus guarded her against the charge of adultery should she remarry.

[29] David Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (London: The Athlone Press, 1956), pa 767ff.

[30] Str. -Bil. Mt. 5:32, p. 314. C Josephus, Ant. 4, 8, 23. Str. -Bil. note that "on the basis of the passages brought forth in Numbers 1-3, one must say that in the mishnaic period there was no marriage among the Jewish people which could not have been dissolved abruptly by the husband in a fully legal manner through the delivery of a letter of divorce."

[31] Str.-Bil., pp. 413ff.

[32] Martin H. Scharlemann, "The Pastoral Office and Divorce, Remarriage, Moral Deviation," Concordia Journal 6 (July 1980), p. 147.

[33] The Greek term for divorce is chorizo. The term occurs elsewhere in the New Testament at Mark 10:9 and at 1 Cor. 7:10, 11, 15 (2x), but never in the Septuagint (where ekballo and ekapostello occur). in the Rabbinic period this term, as well as the term aphienai, was rendered as a technical term for divorce, usually to designate the putting away of the wife, though instances of the wife divorcing the husband can be found. See David Daube's discussion of "terms of divorce" in The New Testament and Rabbinnic Judaism, pp. 362-72. Also among the Greeks of both the classical and Hellenistic periods chorizo was a technical term for divorce. Isaeus 8:36- Euripides, Fr. 1063:13; Polybius, Hist. 31, 26.6; cf. James H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources (M-M) (Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 1949), pp. 695-96 and Adolf Deissmann, Bible Studies (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1909), p. 247.

[34] Again we note that Jesus quotes from the Septuagint which adds the words "the two," thereby enabling him to make with greater force the point that God originally intended marriage to be a union of two into one flesh.

[35] The use of the word "command" here (cf. Mark 10:4) reflects the fact that for the Pharisees the Mosaic sanction had become a mandate.

[36] Heinrich Greeven, "Zu den Aussagen des neuen Testaments uber die Ehe," Zeitschrt fur evangelische Ethik I (1957), p. 114, contends that pros here means "against," in which case the Deuteronomy 24 provision would be all the more a form of judgment against Israel' obduracy (cf. William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974], p. 355.

Theodore Laetseh, "Divorce and Malicious Desertion," Concordia Theological Monthly 3 (December 1932), p. 924: "Because of their hardness of heart, in order to avoid still greater evil, murder, adultery, etc., he permitted the existing custom of obtaining a divorce for some uncleanness to continue, seeking, however, to discourage and curb this wicked, pernicious practice as much as possible under existing circumstances. Not Moses, but the hard-heartedness of the Jews was responsible for the existence and permission of divorce laws in Israel."

[37] William F. Arndt, Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to St. Luke (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), p. 362.

[38] Scharlemann, pp. 146-47.,

[39] Jesus' formulation here assumes the Jewish practice whereby the legal initiative for divorce was exclusively the prerogative of the husband.

[40] Adolf Schlatter, Der Evangelist Matthaus. (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1948), p. 180. Schlatter remarks, "Indeed, Jesus treats the bond created by marriage as indissoluble and traces it back to the divine reign, which puts an end to all of the self-seeking caprice of the husband. But what He has said for the protection of the wife, He has not said in defense of the sin."

[41] TDNT, 6: 591.

[42] The verb is translated by some in the middle voice, with an active meaning. In this case, the one who divorces his wife for a reason other than porneia causes her to commit adultery, i.e. by placing her into a position to remarry. Upon remarriage (which is assumed), even if the offended party, she commits adultery. Others take the verb in the passive. The meaning in this case is that one who divorces his wife for less than Biblical reasons causes her to be stigmatized as adulterous (Lenski). The emphasis then is on the fact that she (or, as the case may be, he) suffers the offense. See John Murray, Divorce (Philadelphia: Maurice Jacobs Inc., 1953), pp. 21-24.

[43] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Matthaean Divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence," Theological Studies 37 (June 1976), pp. 2-7.

[44] F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BLDF), a translation and revision of the ninth-tenth German edition incorporating notes of A. Debrunner by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 116, par. 216, 2; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research) Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), p. 646; Maximilian Zerwiek, Biblical Greek (Rome: Scripta Pontifieii Instituti Biblici, 1963), p. 43, note 8 and p. 148; C. F. D. Moule, Idiom, p. 86; cf. BAGD, p. 625; M-M, p. 492. See Bruce Vawter, "Divorce Clauses in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 16 (April 1954), pp. 155-67; E. Sehillebeeckx, Marriage, pp. 142-55; Pat E. Harrell, Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church (Austin: R. B. Sweet Company, Inc., 1967), pp. 101-29.

[45] The list of critical scholars who hold this view would be endless. See e.g., Willoughby C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew in The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1907), pp. 202-203. F. Hauck, TDNT, 4:73, note 33. Also, H. Greeven, "Zu den Aussagen des Neuen Testaments uber die Ehe," pp. 109-25.

[46] R. N. Soulen, "Marriage and Divorce- Problem in New Testament Interpretation," Interpretation 23 (October 1969), pp. 447, 449-50.

[47] Fitzmyer, for instance, says, "They may not have the authority of ipsissima verba Jesu, but they do have the authority of Scripture." (p. 224)

[48] It should be noted, however, that even among interpreters who accept the genuineness of the exceptive clause, the view is argued that Jesus nevertheless gave an absolute prohibition of divorce and remarriage. See William A. Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (Nashville, Camden, Kansas City: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), passim.

[49] F. Hauck, who himself rejects their authenticity, acknowledges: "Hence one has to reckon with at least the possibility that the Matthaean text is original; it is certainly not open to challenge on textual grounds." TDNT, 6:591.

[50] Arndt, Luke, p. 362.

[51] In the Greek Old Testament porneia and its verbal counterpart porneuo are commonly and consistently used to translate the Hebrew zanah and its derivatives. The term is employed by the Old Testament writers to refer in the general sense to sexual intercourse with another (chiefly of the woman), and often with reference to prostitution. Insofar as porneia violates the marriage of another it can refer to marital unfaithfulness and parallels moicheia in such contexts. Accordingly, it is applied in the extended sense to Israel's unfaithfulness to the Lord (e.g., Jeremiah 3; Hosea 4; Ezekiel 16, 23). In the New Testament the term refers to sexual intercourse with a prostitute (1 Cor. 6:13, 18), incestuous intercourse (1 Corinthians 5), and intercourse in general outside of marriage (Rom. 7:2). It is regularly listed in the catalog of those sins which are to have no place in the life of one in whom God's Spirit dwells (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; cf. Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Mt. 15:19 Mk. 7:21; 2 Cor. 12:21), whether married or unmarried (1 Cor 6:18; 1 Thess. 4:3; Rom. 7:2). In the Revelation of St. John the term, still having as its underlying idea illicit sexual intercourse, appears in the metaphorical sense (2:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3,19:2). While in the Old Testament there is a tendency in some respects to assimilate the terms porneia and moicheia (cf. M-M, p. 529), yet the Scriptures generally distinguish between these terms. Moicheia and its verbal counterparts translate naaf and its derivatives, and denote more specifically the sin of adultery, that is, the violation of the marriage of another (Lev. 20:10 cf. Gen. 39:10ff.), while porneia represents the broader term for illicit sexual intercourse, including, of course, that engaged in by one married. Theodore Laetseh concludes that moicheia is used in a narrow and a wide sense in the New Testament. In its narrower sense it means sexual intercourse between two people either or both of whom are married to another. In its wider sense the term refers to a moral general infraction of the sixth commandment. Of Matt. 5:32 Laetsch states: "Taking adultery in this wider sense, both the divorce and the remarriage are here stamped as adultery, an infraction of that commandment given by God to protect His own institution and here acknowledged by the Lord as binding for all times in His kingdom." (p. 927)

[52] See H. Baltensweiler, "Die Ehebruchsklausen bei Matthaus," Theologische Zeitschrift 15 (September-October, 1959), pp. 340-56. See M. J. Harris, "Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament," DNTT, 3:1195, for a summary of the various interpretations given to porneia.

[53] Franzmann, p. 46.

[54] The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope declares as unjust "the tradition which forbids an innocent person to marry after divorce." (par. 78, Tappert, p. 333)

[55] Lenski ignores this point and assumes the participle has the article. (Matthew, p. 234)

[56] See Otto E. Sohn, "What God Hath Joined Together: 'Until Death Us Do Part ' " The Lutheran Witness 76 (September 27, 1957), pp. 416-17; 426.

[57] Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent Part II, translated by Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), p. 748. This position is safest for consciences, Martin Chemnitz maintained, and does not militate against the divine decree "what God has joined together let not man put asunder." Chemnitz wrote: "Now the question which was proposed is whether it is lawful to divorce a wife for any and every cause. In answering this question Christ does not say that it is lawful for any and every cause; also He does not say that it is lawful for no cause whatsoever. But when He wants to explain for what causes it is lawful and for what causes it is not, He lists only the cause of fornication; for other causes, whatever they may be, He declares that the bond of marriage is not dissolved, but that if intercourse takes place with another person adultery is committed. This opinion is safest for consciences, for it is clear and certain from the words of Christ."(P. 742)

[58] John Murray, Divorce, p. 21.

[59] Note, for instance, that in Matthew the Pharisees state that Moses "commanded" the divorce procedure, while Jesus states Moses "permitted" divorce. Mark reports that Jesus asked "What did Moses command, and the Pharisees respond that Moses permitted the procedure. For a helpful discussion of this point see Murray, pages 43ff.

[60] See Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1966), p. 419. Of Salome divorcing her husband Costobarus by sending him a bill of divorce and dissolving the marriage, Josephus says, "... though this was not according to the Jewish laws, for with us it is lawful for a husband to do so; but a wife if she departs from her husband, cannot of herself be married to another, unless her former husband put her away" (Ant. XV. 7.10). C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (Cambridge: University Press, 1972), p. 321: "According to Rabbinic law a man could be said to commit adultery against another married man, and a wife could be said to commit adultery against her husband, but a husband could not be said to commit adultery against his wife. So Jesus goes beyond Rabbinic teaching by speaking of a husband committing adultery against his wife."

[61] "Against her" can possibly refer to the second wife, but the first wife seems the most likely choice in light of the point being made here by Jesus.

[62] See C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book, p. 49, for the force of epi ("against").

[63] Such a practice did occur with greater regularity, however, among the Greeks and Romans, who were likely represented in Mark's audience. Only in rare instances did Jewish women divorce their husbands. The cases of Herodias (Matt. 14:3f.) and Salome (Ant. 15.259f.) are often cited. Also frequently mentioned is the fact that for Jewish women living in the military colony at Elephantine in Egypt in the 5th century BC divorce was a possibility (see Fitzmyer, p. 205, and note 29). See also A. H. M'Neile, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (London: Macmillan and Co., LTD. 1961), p. 274.

[64] Arndt, Luke, p. 362.

[65] G. B. Caird, The Gospel of St. Luke (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1963), p. 190.

[66] J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971), p. 569. The perfect participle "points to a situation in which a woman finds herself after having been divorced from her husband," that is, she is "a divorced one." Nothing is presumed regarding the initiative in bringing about the divorce.

[67] See J. C. Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians (New York: Seabury Press, 1965).

[68] Martin H. Franzmann, Concordia Bible With Notes (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971), p. 291. James Moffatt, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1938), p. 78: "Some wives of an ultra-spiritual temper, may have gone or wished to go further than to suspend marital relations (vss. 3,4) The feminist party in the local church evidently claimed freedom to desert or divorce a husband."

[69] See Birger Gerhardsson, The Origins of Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), pp. 33ff., and Memory and Manuscript (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells 1961), pp. 262-63 for the significance of the way Paul speaks about his authority as one who passes on Christ's teaching as an apostle.

[70] Jean-Jacques Von Allmen, Pauline Teaching on Marriage, trans. from the French(London: The Faith Press, 1963), p. 55; e pp. 25-26. Von Allmen says this of the Corinthian situation: "There was too, among the married people, a strong tendency to deduce from the presence of the world of the resurrection the wholly contradictory thought that marriage had now had its day and should be broken off. It would even appear that it was the women more especially who had been in the van of this movement ... St. Paul knows that there are Christian women who have abandoned the conjugal heart (v. 11)." (p. 55)

[71] Paul speaks to the Greek, Roman setting, where wives could divorce their husbands.

[72] See note 33

[73] Some commentators (e.g., H. Baltensweiler, "Die Ehebruchsklausen bei Matthaus," pp. 340 56) hold that this is a Pauline insertion and compromises Christ's absolute demand. But the parenthesis does not qualify: it underlines the inviolate nature of marriage.

[74] Luther wrote, "To those who really want to be Christians, we would give this advice. The two partners should be admonished and urged to stay together. If the guilty party is humble and reformed, the innocent party should let himself be reconciled to him and forgive him in Christian love." (LW, 21, p. 96) Similarly, see Chemnitz, Examination II, p. 751.

[75] Luther commented on the application of 1 Cor. 7:15: "What St. Paul here says of the heathen applies also to false Christians." (Walsh, 2nd ed., 8:1062)

[76] One might translate suneudokeo with perfective force "is quite content." (cf. Luke 11:48; Acts 8:1, 22:20; Rom. 1:32) Actually, even when the non-Christian is not content to maintain the marriage Paul does not advise the Christian to initiate divorce.

[77] The expression the apostle uses for maintaining the marriage is that of cohabitation oikein met' autou. An element of desertion, therefore, is the refusal to live with the spouse under the same roof.

[78] Hagiastai does not imply salvation, as in verse 16. Str.-Bil. cite an interesting parallel in Judaism. The proselyte takes part in holiness (karasha), as soon as he converts to Judaism. Therefore it is said of his children, who are born to him while he is still in heathenism that they are not begotten or born in holiness. On the other hand, of those children who were conceived or born after their conversion to Judaism, it is said that they are begotten and born in holiness. (Str.-Bil. 1 Cor. 7:14, p. 374; see Otto Procksch, TDNT, 1:112; Archibald Robertson, and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians [Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1958], pp. 141-42; C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians [New York: Harper and Row, 1968] pp. 164-65- F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians [London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1971]pp. 69-70.)

[79] E.g., Hans Conzelmann, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, trans. James W. Leitch and ed. George W. MacRae (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975) p. 123, Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard DeWitt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 309; cf. F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), pp. 268ff.

[80] E.g., Robertson and Plummer, First Corinthians, p. 143- Barrett, First Corinthians, p. 166; Rudolf Schnakenburg, The Moral Teaching of the New Testament (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), p. 249.

[81] Byron, pp. 429-45. Byron concludes: "When Paul makes his decision in 1 Cor. 7:15 he is making a particular application of a more general principle. An unbeliever who separates from a Christian can realistically be regarded as making an unconditional and final break. The union may be regarded as in fact finished. The more general principle behind this is that, while neither party may make such a definitive break, if one does and abandons the other in a way that prudently and practically can be considered final, the deserted party in unbound and free to marry again." (439-40)

[82] The precise meaning of this phrase has been debated among New Testament scholars. Some hold that Paul by this expression summons believers to do their best to avoid divorce, while others think Paul here urges Christians not to hold on to marriages with unbelievers who desire to leave. The latter explanation seems most consistent with the meaning of "is not bound," though the more general interpretation given by Leon Morris is possible: "But God hath called us to peace probably refers to the whole of the treatment of mixed marriages, and not simply to the last clause. Paul's point is that the believer is called by God into a state when peace in the widest sense is his concern. In this whole matter of mixed marriages the line should be followed which conduces to peace. In some cases it will mean living with the heathen partner, in some cases it will mean accepting the heathen partner's decision that the marriage is at an end. But the underlying concern for peace is the same in both cases." The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958), p. 111.

[83] Jeremias translates the de in verse 15 in a strongly adversative sense: "Nevertheless, God has called us to peace." (cf. Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, p. 123, note 45.) De does nearly always imply some kind of contrast, but the context suggests that the contrast is of a general type and not as strong as alla would suggest. (BLDF, 447)

[84] Our Lutheran fathers have applied what Paul teaches in this passage to mean that there are cases where a marriage may suffer dissolution because of what may be termed "malicious desertion." Dr. C. F. W. Walther wrote in his Pastoral theologie (par. 26): "Although according to God's Word there is only one legitimate ground for obtaining a divorce, namely fornication (Matt. 19:9), yet there is according to the clear apostolic declaration in 1 Cor. i:15 'But if the unbeliever separates himself, then let him do so. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases' one other case, in which the innocent party does not actually carry out, but suffers the dissolution in his marriage." Walther adds that "malicious desertion" is to be defined as that situation in which a spouse abandons his/her partner with the proven intention of never returning, and refuses every effort at persuasion to return. In such a case, after a legal divorce has been obtained, the innocent party is not bound and is free to remarry. Desertion, apart from legal considerations, is itself divorce.

[85] Murray, p. 73.

[86] "Human Sexuality," p.28.

[87] In April 1987 the Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod adopted a policy statement on clergy divorce entitled "Guidelines For Dealing With Marital Crisis Involving Separation and Divorce of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Clergy. " The statement notes that "many of the basic principles that are set forth concerning the pastoral office also have application to other called professional church workers" (p. 2). The same may be said here concerning the Commission's excursus on clergy divorce.

[88] Helmut Thielicke, The Ethics of Sex, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 176.

[89] Floyd V. Filson, Interpreter's Bible, 10:346.

[90] Thielicke p. 177.

[91] Walter Lock, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1924), pp. 36-37.

[92] Albrecht Oepke, TDNT, 1: 788.

[93] Martin Franzmann, Concordia Study Bible, p. 1852.

[94] 1981 CTCR report on "Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective," pp. 28 29.


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