Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Wednesday, July 19, 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.
What is "moicheuo?"
Why our discipleship for someone considering divorce and someone already divorced must be different.

When Matthew records Jesus’ “exception” for divorce, he chooses to use the word "porneia”. To understand fully what Matthew means in the “exception,” we must closely evaluate his word choice.

Strong’s defines “porneia” as illicit sexual intercourse. Kittel goes on to make the following observations:
    moicheuo is narrower than porneia
    In the LXX, it is used to describe a husband with a wife outside the tribe (forbidden relation).
    In Jewish writings, “porneia” included things like harlotry, incest, unnatural vice and sodomy.
    If the illegitimacy comes to light only in the course of the marriage relationship, all previous intercourse is regarded as “porneia.”
In John 8:41, the Jews respond to Jesus, “We were not born of fornication (porneia); we have one Father; God.” The Jews to use the word “porneia” to convey that they are not illegitimate children.

It may seem that “moicheuo” and “porneia” can mean the same thing, and certainly they are both words related to sexual sin. However, the distinction is articulated by juxtaposition. When the two are listed in the same verse, we have to see the distinction between the two.

Consider the following. I could call a shirt red. In reality, it may be red, cranberry or even pink, but it is accurate to fit it into the grouping of red. However, if I state that a shirt is red and cranberry, the reader would not assume at this point that I am restating an identical color for emphasis. Instead, the reader would see both “red” and “cranberry” each as more restrictive in description, and their differences would be highlighted.

Therefore, once we have plunged the depths of “porneia” and “moichueo,” we have to look for the differences. When adultery and fornication are placed beside each other, the distinction seems to be marriage. “Moicheuo” is any sexual sin (since Jesus stated within the context that it starts with lust) within a marriage. “Porneia” appears to be sexual sin outside of the bounds of marriage.

But how can we be talking about the right to divorce if we’re talking about sin outside of marriage? Doesn’t that mean that Matthew must mean “porneia” as a sin within marriage. For if you aren’t married, how can you divorce? We’ll look at that tomorrow.


  • At 8:44 AM, Anonymous peppo said…


    Dude said "articulated by juxtaposition."

  • At 8:53 AM, Anonymous peppo said…

    Speakers of semitic languages frequently use multiple synonyms to express the same, not different, concepts. It's a fairly well-recognized biblical literary technique (synonymous parallelism).

  • At 9:29 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    yes brad, parellelism is a beautiful technique...and the texts usually gives clues that is is happening.

    those clues are mysteriously abscent in these two texts.

  • At 1:46 PM, Anonymous peppo said…

    The fact that several words appear in a list is, even in English, a fairly weak indication that the speaker means to define completely distinct concepts. My point is that in Aramaic traslated into Greek, this indication would be even weaker.

  • At 2:42 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    on the contrary, (and i guess we just totally disagree on this) Matthew 15:19 seems to give zero evidence that Matthew is using parallelism.

    evil thoughts are not the same as murder, which is not the same as theft which is not the same as adultery which is not the same as slander.

    therefore, you make Matthew jump between parellelism and then back out of it to make your list work. instead, it seems much more consistent gramatically to argue that Matthew is distinguishing a difference between adultery and fornication and a difference between false witness and blasphemy.

    the fact that matthew is translating from aramaic to greek would make the indication stronger. matthew would have had the ability to add hatred, killing, and robbery to the list to make it consistent parellelism.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home