Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Many people believe that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 gives permission to divorce if a partner has committed adultery. However, I do not believe that is what Jesus said at all. If you are just joining this discussion, I encourage you to start at the beginning:

Context of Matthew 5
Context of Parallel Passages
Did Matthew Add Words to Jesus?
The Exception Isn't About Adultery.
Why our discipleship for someone considering divorce and someone already divorced must be different.

In Greek Class, you are introduced to The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (affectionately called “Kittel”). My first impression was that it was a quick way to lose tons of money. Then, after having received a set from my father-in-law, I realized it is a wonderful tool toward exploring the original languages.

Two critical words to investigate are “moicheuo” and “porneia.” You can see a Strong’s definition of “moicheuo” here. Notice that the literal meaning carries a high connotation of marriage. Adultery is committed when a married person violates or is violated of their marital vows. Kittel then offers these nuggets as well:
    Adultery is the violation of the marriage of another. It is not the same as non-marital intercourse.
    Regarding Jesus’ words: The right of a man to sexual freedom (as understood in Roman and Greek cultures…the woman could not have more than one husband, but it was acceptable for a man to have more than one wife) is denied.
    The OT prohibition of adultery is not confined to the negative avoidance of the sinful act. It finds true fulfillment only in the love of spouses who are joined together by God. Impulsive and uncontrolled desire is sinful even in the lustful glance.

Of course, moicheuo is also used in a figurative sense (in both the LXX and the New Testament). But consider again the spiritual ramifications. God accuses His people of adultery when they seek after other gods and abandon Him. You do not see this charge for the people’s that are not His. God does not accuse Canaanites of committing adultery, but only the Israelites. Therefore, adultery is only committed inside the context of covenantal love relationship.

Jesus said that even lust for another woman is a violation of your marital vows. Jesus takes marriage so seriously that He says to divorce your wife and marry another is actually to commit adultery. However, in the "exception" that so many love to claim gives their marriage an out, He does not state "moicheuo." Any sexual act (whether thought or activity) toward someone other than your spouse is considered adultery, yet the "exception" does not use "moicheuo," but rather "porneia" (which we'll look at tomorrow). We have to ask ourselves why Matthew chose to use a word outside of a marital covenant to express the exception.


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