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Amen!(the moral of the story)

May your tribe increase!

Thanks Bill for your always careful and competent exegesis and analysis. This is indeed a difficult passage to apply to life's often complex circumstances. I especially appreciated your saying what has seemed to me to be obvious, yet often denied and argued around: "God intended marriage to be permanent. However, sexual infidelity does break the marriage bonds, and the person sinned against is free to remarry." That sexual infidelity breaks the covenantal bonds of marriage is not to say that the previously married couple could not re-covenant, but infidelity according to Jesus has broken, and therefore nullified, the original marriage, and the partner sinned against by that act is not obligated to seek "reconciliation."
Keep up the good work, in Christ and for His kingdom.

I don't agree with your interpretation. I don't believe this verse is giving a valid excuse for divorce.
The verse is addressing adultery and it is saying that if you divorce your wife you are causing her to commit adultery, unless she has already been unfaithful in which case you would not be the cause.
This does NOT qualify as a reason for divorce because the verse isn't addressing that issue.

"... if someone claims that the Greek says something that none of the translations say, dismiss their idea and walk away."

Best. Quote. Ever. :D

Mr. Mounce,

While I appreciate your concern for adhering to the language, I devalue your conclusion to give a divorcee the freedom to remarry.

Based on 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, "to the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife," it seems that if a woman divorces her husband she is to remain unmarried.

In the situation stated above, the woman is leaving her husband, not the other way around.

In Matthew 19:9, "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery,(and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery NKJV)" Jesus is not giving the freedom to remarry, but is saying that if a man marries another woman, said man commits adultery.

Adding the NKJV introduces another realm of thought; this woman that you are suggesting divorce her husband and remarry is feeding adultery to her future husband.

There doesn't seem to be much ground Biblically to support divorcing. Jesus said it was because of the hardness of a person's heart that it was allowed in the first place. But it was never best.

God chases us down even though we play the harlot, and if His love for us is to be demonstrated in the marriages He gives us, then we should always be fighting to maintain that which He has brought together.

The truth is, we have undermined the holiness of God by making sin very small. Adultery is a big deal, but so are the little sins that we gloss over. The fact that His love is substatial enough to forgive us at all, should make the love flowing from the forgiven heart all the more ready to forgive even the most heinous sin someone commits against us.

It would be hard for me to call a man/woman brother/sister if they were willing to walk in the disobedience of divorce.

Thank you for your input, but dear brother tread lightly when offering suggestions that boil the blood of God (Mal. 2:16).


What about the case for pornography being associated with adultery. Is it the same "type" that allows for divorce, or is it different? When counseling an increasing number of (particularly) men in our church, the issue has now surfaced as a wife divorcing her husband over this confessed-to failure and struggle. Thanks.

So how did her elders respond to the correction?

Dr. Mounce,

I would like to offer you a challenge. I agree that the text does not say, "even in cases of adultery", so we're on the same page there. However, I find it interesting that your blog post is titled, "except in cases of ADULTERY" and yet when you quote the text in your post you give a more accurate translation, "except in cases of "sexual immorality" (pornea).

It seems to me that we all make a huge mistake when we suppose that pornea means adultery. Certainly it includes adultery, but the scope of the word contains much more than 'just' adultery.

So here's the challenge. Are you willing to give a list of things that pornea includes beside adultery, or do you maintain that pornea can ONLY mean adultery?

I think you see the problem. If you choose A. (that Pornea includes sins other than adultery), then you open the floodgates of divorce for a myriad of reasons (such as looking at pornography and other such sexual sins)

If on the other hand you choose option B, (that Pornea means only adultery), you have to show why it has a much smaller scope of meaning than every other known usage of the word and also you'd have to explain why Jesus didn't use the word adultery (moicheia), and instead used pornea.

Do you accept the challenge? Will you give us a blog post on the scope of pornea and it's implications for divorce?

As a non greek speaker (: I find it helpful to use bible gateway for difficult verses. I figure that by reading different translations of the same bible passage I can get as close to the original meaning as my uni-lingual brain can.

Robbie, the text you quote from Matthew includes "except for porneia", which clearly gives the exception of in the case of adultery. It does not contradict I Corinthians 7:10-11; this passage merely does not mention the exception. Even with the exception "what God joined together let no man separate", applies, but not the way you're applying it. Even in cases of adultery, reconciliation, if possible, should be attempted. However, there are some cases where it is not possible. And right after the passage you quoted, it does say that the believer is not bound if an unbelieving spouse leaves, which clearly allows for remarriage. If a spouse is a serial adulterer and will not repent, both the "except for adultery" and the "not bound" passage apply (though the Matt. 18 steps should also be taken first if the adulterer called themselves a Christian). Remarriage is not always advisable and is not easy in these situations, but I Cor. 7:10-11, in light of the other passages, is not completely forbidding remarriage by a longshot.

I personally like John Piper's position on this verse. There is a reason that the word pornea is used in this verse and not the actual Greek word for adultery "moichea." Pornea is used because he isn't talking about adultery; he is talking about sexual immorality. Piper believes that he is referencing a situation like Joseph and Mary had. They were betrothed which took a greater commitment than today's engagements. To break that commitment was considered a "divorce." That type of divorce was allowed in the case of "pornea." If Mary had actually been unfaithful, her sin would have been "pornea" and not "moichea" because they were not actually married.

While a separation may be necessary in certain marriages I don't think a remarriage is ever correct according to the Bible. God designed marriage as a picture of the union between Christ and the Church and that should not be broken lightly.

In response to the comment from Louis about me using the word "adultery," you are right. I chose the word inexactly. I think that the covenant bond is broken by a wide variety of sexual behavior outside of the bonds of marriage, including adultery, fornication, pedastry, bestiality, and I would argue habitual pornography. It starts getting a little grayer in my thinking in non-sexual issues like abuse, where separation is surely permissible, but part of the question here is what is marriage? What constitutes marriage? If it is the covenant agreement, then positions like David Instone-Brewer's become more acceptable where anything that breaks the covenantal vows is grounds for divorce. After all, this is what is going on behind the scenes in 1 Cor 7. Roman divorce was by abandonment, and Paul accepts that (according to David).

My wife left me over 4 years ago. She then divorced me. She claims to be a Christian, not an unbeliever. I did not want the divorce and tried to reconcile. She refused. No pornea occurred. I am 47. I do not want to spend the rest of my life alone. I also want to obey God. Because of my wife's sin, I am relegated to loneliness the rest of my life? I want a spouse, but I will obey God to the best of my ability. I don't really know what the answer is in my situation.

On the subject of "When all the translations agree", I've noticed that not all greek scholars agree. For example, Acts 2:38, Wallace offers the translation: "at the name of Jesus". All the translations I've read: "in the name of Jesus". Is there a difference between in and at? Consider Rev 2:1. Is the greek dative translated "To (the) Angel", really a dative of indirect object? Is John being told to write to an angel, or is John simply the angel (messenger) being spoken to and recieving the message, like a dative of recipient? Commentaries suggest several ideals as to who the angel is, but maybe the angel is simply John who is being told to write.

Sometimes we should look closer when the translations all agree. That being said, I know of no reason to disagree with Dr Mounce concerning this article about adultery and remarriage. However, each individual should pray and recieve wisdom from above and prove what is the will of God. Each individual case has its own details.

Dr. Mounce, sharing your story was moving and shows the complexity of life and why we seek God. Prayers for your wisdom. It really is in the daily that we make choices and He faithfully guides like BandB said.

To share the complexity aloud: After ten years still healing. A husband who had thrown his pornography over a bridge a year before I met him and I and the pastor knew him to be honest at the time. But his addiction was still deep in his heart. A Christian. Since our divorce God has shown be that he will show mercy to whom he'll show mercy and my job is to keep my eyes on Him.

My husband admits that one: he never loved me, two, he married me to "solve his problem" because it is better to marry than to burn and that three, it was "my fault" we were to divorce because I would not fulfill his desires according to the pornography he had come to see as exciting.

He told me he was warned one day by the Spirit to: (and these are the words of my then husband) stop what he was doing or he'd lose me. I didn't know this until he was moving out. (this was about self-gratification). He said he told the Spirit, he would...eventually, and as the story goes, he did not.

After he admitted to me his problem (six years into our eight year marriage) I fasted, prayed, grew to respect him as one made in God's image regardless of his behavior and it still ended with him thoroughly attached to self-gratification and incredible belief that unless I met his "standard" that I was defrauding him and this break was all my fault. (Note the mental abuse as an aside.)

In other words, he was happy to go on being married as long as he could live his own life, in our near celibate marriage, could rely on fantasies of me and use self-gratification to meet his needs.

This is pornea. This is sexual immorality. This is a repeated non-repentant heart. This is the complexity that God helped me navigate. He never told me to get a divorce, as it were. He told me to stay on the path, Psalm 23. My husband went off the path. I never moved.

God gets a divorce from Israel.And Malachi says he Hates divorce particularly for the cruelty it imposed upon the divorcee. A hard but godly truth expressing the heart of God - not a scripture taken out of context.

For an explanation of both (and by many pastors see: http://taberstruths.com/does-god-say-about-divorce/

I Cor, as quoted by that one brother was actually about staying with the spouse once they have become a believer. So that is a misapplication though sobering enough to make one stop and think.

Again, we each live to God and seek his word for direction in this very complex story. God help us. God forgive us. See if there be any wicked way in us, Glorious Father.

Healing and living in the light of His love, Colossians and Ephesians, Your anonymous Sister (anon to protect my exhusband and my son).

p.s. Would love to see the Challenge by DocB accomplished: a good challenge.

My apologies Eric D. I Cor 7 was speaking to new believers later so I stand corrected, yet the reference you gave still speaks to abandonment and does not prohibit remarriage as eluded to by Laura. See writings by David Instone-Brewer as suggested.

My big question would be why are we so hung up on individual verses that we are missing the desires and heart of God? I had misused the Bible for years before I asked God to show me it according to his Heart's intentions. The Holy-Spirit working as I read.

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