The "exception" clauses


I believe that God (who hates divorce) divorcing Israel for her continued adultery (see Jer. 3) is the same thing as the Matthew exception clauses.

If your spouse is living in adultery and doesn't repent, then I think it is wrong not to divorce them (if you are a man) or separate from them (if you are a woman). From what I understand the first 300 years of the early church agree with this viewpoint (John Coblentz discusses this). If a person's spouse continues in adultery then there is an obligation to divorce or separate, but I would recommend they remain single so restoration is possible. During that time they would be Eunuchs for the kingdom's sake.

I think this is equivalent to excommunicating a straying church member in the hope that they repent and return (1 Cor 5). But we hope the straying church member will repent and return and we would not want to make it impossible for them to do so. Likewise I think a believer should divorce or separate from their spouse only to not condone their unrepentant adultery, with the hope that they will repent and return. Remarriage by the believing spouse after such a (forced) divorce would prevent a restoration that otherwise would be possible.

Some people claim that once adultery occurs that the marriage can never be completely restored. I don't agree. Hosea took back Gomer, God took back Israel, and according to Deut. 24 and Jer. 3 the divorced woman could return to her former husband unless she remarried. Even if she played the harlot she could still be taken back upon repentance if her husband wanted her. If there is repentance then why can't the FULL marriage be restored?


Here is the text from an Internet forum message that argues against the espousal view:

It is an essential element of biblical interpretation to let scripture interpret scripture. Furthermore, it is essential that we not begin with a pretext and then force the Bible to fit into the the pretext.

That being said, in Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus said: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosover shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

Where was it said "Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement?" The answer is found in Deut. 24:1-2. There it says:

"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleaness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife."

This is obvious a case where a man divorces a woman he was *married* to. Why? The text says so. He hath taken a "wife", he wrote out a bill of divorcement, and she left his "house." I do not believe that betrothed persons were cohabitating at the time of Moses. Therefore, this text cannot be speaking in any way about two people who are engaged or betrothed.

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus refers back to this text in Deuteronomy 24 when he gives his teaching regarding divorce in Matthew 5. "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement." In the next phrase, Christ modifies the Mosaic law concerning divorce laid out in Deuteronomy 24 with these words: "but I say unto you." This links what was said before (concerning the divorcement of two people who were married clearly referred to in Deut. 24) with what follows.

Thus, it is not necessary to guess what class of individuals Christ was referring to in Matthew 5:31. Christ fixed the context squarely in the Mosaic law concerning the divorce of two married people. Having thus fixed the context (people who were married to one another and sharing a home, it would not make any sense for Christ to make a prescription that only applied to those who were engaged or betrothed. Christ did not modify the context. Therefore, we are not allowed to do so. Unless you can present textual proof to the contrary, the only possible conclusion is that Christ was referring to two married people.

As a result, we must read Matthew 5 in that light and go back to the text in question. In Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus said: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosover shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

The question is next raised, how can married people commit fornication? Again, I ask that you must deal with the meaning of the word porneia. In ----'s previous posts, she clearly articulated that the word denotes any kind of sexual immorality. This would include types of immorality that would not fall under the heading of adultery. Thus, porneia would encompass adultery but is certainly not limited by it. It would include the sin of incest, bestiality, homosexual behavior, and other forms of deviate behavior.

Since Christ clearly placed his teaching in Matthew 5:31 in the context of addressing Deuteronomy 24 and the Greek word porneia can clearly denote any type of sexual immorality, the import of the text is clear. "It hath been said, (where: Deuteronomy 24:1-2) Whosoever shall put away his wife (someone to whom he is actually married, see Deut. 24), let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you (context placed in Deut. 24, contrast to be made), That whosoever shall put away his wife (someone to whom he is actually married to,see Deut. 24) saving for the cause of fornication (porneia,any kind of sexual immorality), causeth her to commit adultery..."

To permit the reading of the text that you propose ---- you must overcome three exegetical barriers. First, you must separate the text in Matthew 5 with its Old Testament context found in Deuteronomy. However, Christ is the one who established that context. Second, you must show that Christ in the next breath repudiated that contextual setting and modified or limited his comments so that they would apply only to the engaged. But Christ, after setting the context, never repudiated or modified that context. Third, you must show that the word porneia cannot mean any kind of sexual immorality. In other words you must show that the word can only refer to premarital intercourse. That you cannot do.

This post is provided to show that your teaching on the divorce/remarriage issue, particularly Matthew 5:31, is erroneous. However, please believe me when I say that it is not offered out of anger.


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