Maxey - Thomas Debate
An Examination of a Proposition
Relating to Divorce and Remarriage

Friday, March 16, 2001

Al Maxey Responds
To Various Comments by Ron

Reflecting On Romans 7

Ron states that he has read my analysis of Romans 7 and found it to be lacking in substance. Therefore, he resolves: "I will not deal with any of that material unless you bring it up in this present discussion." In light of some of Ron's confused conclusions with regard to Romans 7:1-6, I think it is imperative that we take some time to examine this passage in greater detail, and that I challenge some of the inaccuracies in Ron's last post. I believe the readers will soon perceive that there is much of substance in the teaching I have provided on this vital text from Paul's epistle to the Romans.

I mentioned the fact that in this passage of Scripture the common words denoting a marriage were lacking, thus suggesting that Paul is emphasizing something here far more spiritually significant than mere teaching on MDR. Although marriage is being alluded to, it is not the primary emphasis or focus of the teaching in these verses. Rather, it is some specific aspect of marriage that is more prominently in view here. Ron has seemingly assumed from this that I am somehow denying the reality of this man's & woman's state of marriage in the apostle Paul's illustration. He wrote: "Though Paul never utilized the common word, it does not follow that he did not have marriage in mind." Ron then pointedly asked: " the man, in the illustration, 'married' (as suggested by the context)?"

Yes, the man and the woman are depicted by Paul as being in a covenant of marriage. Paul writes, "For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living" (vs. 2a). He is her husband, and they are married. There is no argument here. Paul is not suggesting there is no covenant of marriage in force; indeed, just the opposite. It is very much in force. However, by employing the specific and unique terms that he does, Paul emphasizes a particular characteristic of marriage which was prevalent among the Jews of his day; one which was less than consistent with God's IDEAL for marriage.

Paul was speaking to people who were not unfamiliar with the various nuances of law --- "for I am speaking to those who know the law" (Romans 7:1). The law (any law) was binding upon an individual only for as long as that person was alive. This fact was clearly displayed in the various Jewish laws governing marriage, in which a woman was bound to her husband for as long as he lived. The death of the husband, however, brought a release; freedom from his authority over her was finally secured. It should be additionally observed that the Jewish concept of marriage, and this was also reflected in their laws and customs, included the full and unquestioned authority of the husband over the wife; a control and dominion which was absolute! A significant part of this "legal lordship" of a man over his wife was the prerogative of the man to initiate a divorce. The woman, however, was not granted that same privilege by Jewish law and custom.

There were only two legal avenues of release from a covenant of marriage open to a woman: her husband could issue her a certificate of divorce, or he could die. Aside from these two, there was simply no socially acceptable recourse for the woman; she was bound to her husband for life .... whether she liked it or not! The simple reality of Jewish law and custom at that time was that if a woman, for whatever reason, desired to be released from her covenant of marriage, and her husband refused to grant such a release, she had no legal or socially acceptable option available to her other than to remain his wife until she was released from the covenant by his death.

At the moment he died, however, the wife was at that point "released from the law of marriage" (Romans 7:2, NIV). The NASB reads: "...released from the law concerning the husband." More literally, the Greek text states: "...from the law of the man/husband." Again, one detects the nature of the absolute authority and lordship the man was given over the woman by Jewish law and custom. It was law favoring the man rather than the woman. An example of this absolute dominion is clearly perceived in Numbers 30:8 where a husband was even entitled by law to nullify his wife's vows to God if in his judgment they were inappropriate. The Jewish "law of the man/husband" allowed this authority and lordship in all areas of the marital relationship.

In Romans 7:2 the apostle Paul simply states a well-known point of law: The wife was regarded as being under the legal lordship of her husband for life; a dominion from which she was legally and socially helpless to extricate herself. Any woman who left her husband without either of the two legal provisions being met (her husband's death or a certificate of divorce) was considered guilty of breaking covenant. This was not a right to which she was entitled, and to then associate or consort with a man other than her husband, lacking one or both of those legal and socially acceptable provisions, was to be marked and labeled by all as an adulteress.

In Paul's illustration he was emphasizing this characteristic of "legal lordship" of the husband over the wife. Yes, this was a marriage, but Paul's focus was much narrower --- he was dealing with the prevailing Jewish perspective here: The woman was under the "law of the husband" .... she was bound to him, and could not of her own doing secure a legal or socially acceptable release. If her husband was unwilling to release her, then her only recourse was to await his death (or speed it along, if she could get away with it).

This is further illustrated by examining the word translated "married" in the first part of 7:2 --- "For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living." As I pointed out to Ron, this is not the common word denoting marriage, rather it is the Greek word hupandros, which means "under a man." This was legal terminology signifying one was under the authority and power and control of another. This further emphasizes the fact that Paul was not so much seeking to depict a normal, IDEAL marital relationship, as he was stressing the concept of the "law of the man/husband," which was viewed as the right of legal dominion of the man over the wife. It was this idea of lordship over, and domination of, another, and the complete lack of power of the party in subjection to extricate themselves from that authoritative control, that Paul spoke of in the early verses of Romans 7.

In such a situation a woman did not have the legal right to have any kind of relationship with, much less a marriage to, another man. She was bound for life, and only death could release her (if the husband was unwilling to release her through divorce). Paul uses this well-known aspect of Jewish marriages at that time to illustrate a vital spiritual truth to these disciples in Rome (and we'll examine that in a moment).

In the Romans 7 passage it is obvious that the woman is bound to her husband by this "law of the husband." It is obvious, therefore, that they are married. It is also a fact that there is no mention of a divorce being issued to this woman. There is not even the faintest hint of divorce in this passage. Indeed, for this woman to have been legally put away via a certificate of divorce would undermine and negate the entire application Paul sought to draw from this illustration. For Paul's spiritual application to hold up, the woman must be viewed as still bound by covenant to her husband. She is thus not free to be bound to another in any kind of extra-marital relationship (sexual or otherwise). Paul's focus is on death as the agency of release which opens the door for a new, legitimate union with another.

Ron, however, does not seem to agree with this analysis (and he thereby destroys Paul's entire spiritual application, as we shall soon see!). I pointed out that in verse 3, when Paul speaks of this woman being "joined to another man," that the Greek word in question is ginomai, which means "to become." This implies an association of some nature, but not necessarily a marriage. The context of the passage, and the application made by Paul, demand that we understand this woman to still be legally married to her husband; no divorce has been given. Thus, she is not free to marry another. Any relationship she might have with another man would thus not be a marriage, but some kind of illegitimate association. Many translations say she "consorts with" this other man. Ron, nevertheless, insists: "Though 'marry' is not the English word in the text, certainly it is clearly understood."

On the contrary, Ron. It is a long way from being "clearly understood." In fact, just the opposite. Ron further states: " is evident from the context and the lexicons that marriage is in view. It cannot get much clearer than that. Paul does indeed have a second marriage in view." Ron, this is absolutely FALSE!! The only possible "context" which would allow such an interpretation, is to read the passage "in the context of" your own personal predetermined traditional theology. Only then could one be blinded to the true nature of the context and authorial intent.

Ron is so absorbed with his view that adultery = remarriage that he cannot see that by forcing this interpretation upon the text he has destroyed the very spiritual application and lesson which Paul sought to impress upon the Roman disciples!!! As is clearly perceived in vs. 4-6 of the passage, Paul is using this illustration of the wife inextricably bound to her husband to proclaim the glorious gospel truth that we, who were also inextricably bound, have now been released by a death .... and we are thus free at last to be acceptably joined to another. We were bound by law to that old covenant, and there was absolutely nothing we of ourselves could do to extricate ourselves from that legal bondage. Either God would have to release us from that law, or a DEATH must occur which would effectively free us from that which bound us. Otherwise, we're bound for life. Yes, we can willfully abandon that covenant (without legal release) and "consort with" the world, but this makes us an "adulterous generation," and hardly suits us for a pure relationship with that divine Bridegroom.

Paul tells us here that it is by DEATH that the previous covenant is rendered no longer binding upon us, and that we are now freed by that death to be joined to another. Ron, however, would remove death from the equation altogether and replace it with divorce, which effectively destroys Paul's entire analogy. "But now we have been released from the Law, having DIED to that by which we were bound" (vs. 6). "Therefore, my brethren, YOU ALSO were made to DIE to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead" (vs. 4).

Ron, the ONLY "release" which will make Paul's spiritual application and lesson valid here is for that release to be by virtue of a DEATH. A divorce destroys the analogy completely. The context, therefore, demands that death, not divorce, be the focal point of the passage. The covenant of marriage, in the illustration, is still very much in force; the woman is NOT free from her husband, and it is for this reason Paul does not use the common words for marriage when speaking of a possible extra-marital association with another man. No remarriage on the part of this woman is in view. IF (note that word in the text) the woman becomes desperate and consorts with or associates with another man while still married to her husband, she shall be called adulterous (this is what Israel did when she "consorted with" the nations while still bound by covenant to God). The woman in Paul's illustration shall only be free to marry another if her husband dies. Paul's whole point in this illustration is that a DEATH must occur before a new covenant can be established (and he then draws a parallel between this illustration and the spiritual application he seeks to make .... an application which breaks down and becomes contrary to biblical Truth if one imposes divorce & remarriage upon the illustration, as Ron has sought to do!!!).

Your interpretation of this passage, Ron, undermines Paul's teaching about DEATH to the Law, and RELEASE BY DEATH to be bound in a new relationship to Christ Jesus. By imposing divorce and remarriage upon the passage you have corrupted and perverted the illustration Paul sought to use to convey this beautiful spiritual Truth. You need to seriously rethink your interpretation, brother, as it does great harm to one of Paul's vital teachings about our transition from one state to another, and from one covenant to another.

Ron says, with regard to my analysis of this passage: "Well, this has been shown to be inaccurate." Oh, I think not!! What IS inaccurate is your imposition of your personal theology upon this text, which results in the distortion and perversion of one of Paul's great gospel illustrations!

Ron further observes: "When Paul makes use of this illustration of marriage you think a metaphorical application of adultery is in view? This is incredible!" I do not discount the distinct possibility, and even probability, of a literal application of adultery at all, Ron. If the married woman "consorts with" this other man sexually, while still in a covenant of marriage with her husband, this would certainly be "adultery" in its literal, physical sense. However, one must not discount the distinct possibility that this "joining to" another man may be more platonic. Such non-sexual, but emotionally nurturing, associations are not uncommon among women unhappy with their marriages. These women may not be seeking out SEX at all (that can get complicated very fast), but just a close, intimate companionship with a man .... something they aren't finding in their spouse. Such "associations" were highly frowned upon, however, and would cause such a woman "to be called" an adulteress. Given the laws and customs of the Jews at that time, developing a close, intimate relationship with a man other than her spouse, was a violation of the covenant ..... and that also is adulterous when this term is viewed in light of its wider semantic range!! There is nothing in the context itself which would demand one view over the other be adopted absolutely, thus either view (sexual or platonic) must be allowed as a distinct possibility.

Ron wrote: "Belong to someone? How can this be unless a marriage is in view?" Haven't you ever heard a love-sick young man declare, "She's MY girl! She belongs to me"? These two young lovers share a close, intimate relationship with one another; they are emotionally attached; she has joined herself to him; they are bound at the heart in loving association. And they are NOT MARRIED. They may not even have had sex!! But each believes deeply that they belong to the other. Yes, one can give herself to another, and one can belong to another, without marriage .... and even without sex!!

It was this kind of deep bond which the woman in the illustration is portrayed as having formed with a man other than her spouse, and that posed a significant threat to her covenant of marriage to which she was still bound. Others, who knew that she was "consorting with" this individual, would characterize her as adulterous. And yes, Ron, this would be an accurate and valid characterization whether sex had ever occurred between them or not. In the wording of Ezekiel 16:38 (KJV) these are "women that BREAK WEDLOCK" (which was the way these ancient translators understood and rendered the word "adulterous"). Breaking wedlock, destroying a covenant of marriage, can be done any number of ways .... not just sexually.

What is truly "incredible" to me, Ron (to use your description of my analysis), is your subversion and perversion of this text (which I hope and pray is done solely in ignorance, and is not willful) by imposing your view that adultery = remarriage upon this dramatic illustration employed by the apostle Paul to present a glorious gospel Truth. You need to do some serious reflection upon your position. It is untenable, and indefensible ...... or, to quote you: It is as false as it can be!! Peter warned that destruction awaits those who distort the Scriptures to their own purposes (2 Peter 3:16).

Some Additional Reflections

In my previous post I wrote: "And remarriage itself, to my knowledge, is never called a sin in the Bible!! In fact, Paul makes it very clear that it is NOT a sin (1 Corinthians 7:28)!!" To this Ron responded: "So, remarriage is an absolute privilege for all, right?"

I do not find any evidence in Scripture, Ron, which suggests remarriage is to be withheld from anyone. I know that several religious leaders (like yourself) assume remarriage to be sinful for some people, but I have yet to see this specifically declared by our God in the inspired Word. I don't consider the assumptions, deductions and inferences of flawed, fallible, finite men to be authoritative. Sorry, Ron .... you'll have to show me exactly where in Scripture The Lord Himself declared such to be sinful.

What I DO find in Scripture is this: "Let EACH man have his own wife, and let EACH woman have her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2). I don't see any restrictions imposed there, do you? It doesn't say, "Let each man have his own wife, EXCEPT for those who are divorced because of some reason other than porneia." Maybe your Bible has an "exception clause" here, Ron, but mine doesn't!! It says EACH man and woman. I think that is a rather all-inclusive statement.

Later in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul tells us that those who are "released/loosed from a wife" have "NOT sinned" if they should choose to marry (vs. 27-28). Again, I don't detect any restrictions placed upon these who are "loosed from a wife." Paul told Timothy "everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected" (1 Timothy 4:4); this is stated in the context of a discussion pertaining, in part, to marriage and some who were forbidding it. This forbidding of marriage to some people is a teaching which Paul characterized as a "doctrine of demons" promoted by "deceitful spirits" (vs. 1). Marriage is a blessed estate designed by God to be enjoyed by EACH man and woman, and is designed, in part, to help them avoid immorality (1 Cor. 7:2). However, I guess the divorced don't need to worry about avoiding immorality, since they are all lost anyway!! Or, so say some!

Let me hasten to clarify at this point, lest anyone misunderstand, that "marriage," as ordained by God in the inspired Scriptures, is a covenant union between a man and woman. This is an important point to make, as there are an increasing number of people today advocating "marriage" between those of the same sex. Some have even sought to marry animals and infants. One man recently made the news when he petitioned the courts to allow him to "marry" his TV set. Such antics and aberrations make a mockery of God's original design for this covenant between a man and a woman. Thus, with this obvious divine provision or restriction in mind, I would say that remarriage IS an absolute privilege for ALL. Past failures do not necessarily make us unfit for future blessings. If so, then we're all in a heap of trouble!!

Ron asked: "Will God join two people together when it is contrary to His will?" Let me respond by asking a few questions (Jesus often did it, so I guess it is "Scriptural"): Were David and Bathsheba married? Did God recognize that marriage as real? Did He join them together? David committed adultery (in all senses and applications of the word) with this woman. He even had her husband murdered so he could have her. That's about as horrid a "courtship scenario" as one can imagine. And yet God blessed that union. He certainly didn't approve of it .... I don't believe any right thinking person would suggest He did. However, there is no question but what He accepted the union of these two sinners, and even brought forth great good from it. From these two sinful people, and their sinful behavior (later repented of), would come the Messiah!! Yes, David repented (read Psalm 51), and he suffered some harsh consequences (the child born to them died --- 2 Samuel 12:14), but he was NOT told to terminate his marriage to Bathsheba; divorce was never part of God's "fix" for his sin. Yes, Bathseba's husband (Uriah) was dead, so technically she was free to marry, but don't forget that she was "free" only because David had him murdered!! I would caution anyone who saw this as a divinely approved alternative to divorce!!

No, God was definitely not pleased with the behavior of David and Bathsheba. Their union was an act of adulterous, murderous self-will, and they suffered for their sin. But God did indeed accept their marriage, and He used it to further His plan for man's ultimate redemption. There is also little doubt but what God accepted David, and forgave him, and characterized him as a man after His own heart, all while David apparently continued living with Bathsheba. Just to reiterate: God did not approve, but God did accept; He recognized the union as a real one; and divorce was never mentioned as the "fruit of repentance" for David and Bathsheba.

With regard to another unsavory union (Herod and Herodias), Ron wrote: "You have God being displeased with it, but accepting it. It may have been a REAL marriage, but it was not accepted by God." Once again I believe you are greatly confused over the distinction between accepting something as real and approving something as right. God doesn't approve of murder, but He accepts the reality that the victim is truly dead. I know you will call this "apples and oranges," but it is a valid comparison when considering the concepts of "accepting" versus "approving." One actually CAN do the former without compromising the latter. Just because something isn't necessarily right, doesn't mean it can't be real.

I wrote in my previous post: "Did John ever once tell Herod to divorce Herodias? Go check the text!!" You responded: "Well, I did check the text and this is the conclusion of the matter: You have God accepting (though disapproving) Herod's marriage to Herodias." Very good, Ron!! That is exactly right. I also note, as do our readers, that you failed to find any mention of John demanding that Herod divorce Herodias!! It is not even hinted at within the text, as you well know .... but seem very reluctant to admit for some reason.

Ron wrote: "Mark said (guided by the Holy Spirit) that Herodias was Philip's wife. Did Herodias have two husbands at the same time? It appears so, if you are right. History says that Herodias divorced Philip, but the Holy Spirit did not recognize it."

Again, I think your interpretation is flawed and confused. Note the following from the writings of Josephus (to which you referred):

Herodias chose to be a rebel and break with the customs of her day; she took matters into her own hands and initiated the divorce against her husband. As Josephus pointed out (in words somewhat reminiscent of Romans 7:1-3) this was totally in conflict with the laws and customs of Jewish society. But, when you're as powerful as Herodias obviously was, not many are going to stand in your way!! She got away with it, as more and more women apparently began doing. Jesus even acknowledged this current trend in Mark 10:12.

Yes, Ron, Herodias did terminate her marriage covenant with Herod Philip, and she then married her husband's brother. You seem to be thrown by the fact that in Mark 6:17-18 Herodias is referred to as the "wife" of Herod's brother Philip. You might notice, by the way, that Josephus did the same thing when he wrote that she had married her husband's brother. And yet, as you correctly pointed out, it is obvious that Josephus regarded Philip and Herodias as truly divorced, and he even states she was subsequently "married" (his choice of words) to Herod Antipas. It seems that you somehow believe this to mean (in the passage from Mark) that the Holy Spirit did NOT recognize or accept the marriage of Herodias and Herod Antipas as being genuine, and that God instead recognized her former marriage to Philip as still being in force. Well, if the Spirit did, then I guess Josephus did too .... although you stated that Josephus did not. But they both used the same grammatical structure. Interesting! Well, like you said --- maybe she just had TWO husbands at the same time!!! Whew!! Makes your head spin, doesn't it?!!

Ron, to be honest, I think you are reading far more into the use of the word "wife" in that passage than is warranted by common sense and a knowledge of how people communicate via the idioms of language. It simply is not uncommon to use such idiomatic constructs and techniques to convey some concept or reality (past or present). For example, if I mentioned to you that I had lunch with President Carter today, would you go away thinking that somehow Jimmy Carter was still President of the United States? No, of course not. It is simply a construction which allows for a point of historical reference. Jimmy Carter is most noted for being one of our Presidents, thus when speaking of him we often maintain, as though current, that historical reference point. Josephus and Mark did no less with Herodias. She was probably best known to the people of that day as the wife of Philip, who was also the father of their daughter (Salome), and additionally noted for the scandal surrounding the termination of that union at her own initiation (in violation of Jewish law and custom). Whenever anyone thought of Herodias, they thought of Herodias and Philip. We today tend to think more in terms of Herodias and Herod Antipas (because of this story in our Bible), but to the Jews of Jesus' day Herodias would have been remembered as Philip's wife!! Thus, this is simply an historical point of reference, nothing more. It is a very common idiomatic construction, and people use it every day.

If you want to believe that Herodias was still the wife of Philip (or that Jimmy Carter is still President), I suppose you have that right, but it only displays a sad ignorance with respect to how people communicate. This is simply an idiomatic expression, something not unknown or uncommon in language. In fact, the dictionary defines this legitimate and accepted tool of language this way: "an accepted phrase, construction, or expression contrary to the usual patterns of the language or having a meaning different from the literal." As always, context is the key to determining authorial intent, and it is more than obvious from the context of both the Josephus and Mark passages that Herodias is not regarded by either author as still married to Philip, but rather to Herod Antipas. Your notion that this is NOT recognized by the Holy Spirit is completely false, and it cannot be substantiated by either sound textual analysis or basic common sense.

Ezra 10 Revisited

Ron pondered: "It was alright for Herod to keep his spouse, but not those of Ezra 10?"

I responded to this in a previous post (February 22, 2001 --- Maxey #8), but apparently not sufficiently. For those who wish to read a fuller analysis than I will offer here, please see my study of this historical event in Chapter Two of my book Down, But Not Out at:

In the year 458 BC, during the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes I (also known as Longimanus), Ezra secured permission to lead another group of Jews back to the holy city of Jerusalem. In the company of about 1500 of his countrymen, Ezra left the land of his people's captivity and set out for his beloved homeland (Ezra 7-8). Upon his arrival, this descendant of Aaron found the situation to be far worse than he had imagined. The Jews were displaying a total disregard for the Law of Moses in virtually every area of their lives. They were also divorcing their Jewish wives and entering into marriages with the pagan women of the area. Their compromise with the ungodly influences around them had so contaminated them that they faced the distinct possibility of extinction as a chosen, set-apart people. The situation was critical, and Ezra, who "was a teacher well-versed in the Law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6), soon determined that nothing less than a nation-wide reform of his people must be immediately initiated. Assisting him in this work of turning the people back to God was the prophet Malachi.

Ezra's first order of business on behalf of His God was to grapple with the complex problem of his countrymen's mixed marriages. The leaders in Jerusalem reported to Ezra the depth of this particular tragedy:

The Jews of Ezra's time were not keeping themselves separate from the pagan peoples about them, and as a result were in danger of not only losing their distinctiveness as a separate people, both racially and religiously, but also of losing their special relationship with their God. By intermarrying with foreign women, the people of God had broken a direct command of the Law. Moses charged the Israelites with these words: "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you" (Deut. 7:3-6). This was exactly what was happening, and this special people was about to be absorbed by the pagans racially, religiously and culturally. This could not be allowed by God as it would thwart His plan to bring the Messiah through a distinct group of people, as promised.

The only action that would suffice in this tragic and painful situation, and it was a radical one, was the complete severing of all intimate, interpersonal relationships with these pagans ..... the salvation of humanity literally demanded it. Shecaniah said, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children" (Ezra 10:2-3). Although some protested, most complied with this directive designed to preserve this covenant people from oblivion. Also arriving on the scene to help in this effort was Nehemiah. It was over this incident that we find our God declaring "I hate divorce!" (Malachi 2:16). God certainly did NOT want to do this, but to have allowed this merging of peoples, cultures and religions to continue unchecked would have obliterated the people of Israel, and would have potentially hindered the coming of the Messiah. God had to put a stop to it. The greater good of all mankind for all time demanded radical surgery!! As I noted in my book:

To somehow view this dark page in Jewish history as a source of "biblical justification" for the large-scale termination of future covenant relationships, and to suggest such coerced divorces have the "blessing of God," is to completely misunderstand this unique event in biblical history. This account has not been preserved as a convenient "proof text" for a horde of radical, ultra-conservative preachers to use in their unholy crusade to destroy the covenants of those they perceive to be "unscripturally remarried."

By the way, while our minds are focused on the historical records of the Jewish people, what about Esther? Here is a godly young woman, caught up in difficult circumstances, who became the wife/lover of the wicked Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) after he cast off his wife Vashti. According to Ron's theory, would this not have made Esther, the heroine of the Jewish people, an adulteress?! After all, doesn't Ron teach that if you marry someone who is "unscripturally divorced" then YOU commit adultery also?! So, I guess we have a book of the Bible named after one of the world's most famous "practitioners of adultery!!" Perhaps Ron will comment on how one can be a righteous adulteress!!

Deponent Verbs

When I pointed out that moichatai was NOT a deponent, and gave the reasons why, Ron wrote: "Nice try, Al." He points out that in his analytical Greek lexicon it identifies this verb as "a middle or passive deponent. Check it out, Al." Well, guess what, Ron?! In MY Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (George V. Wigram) it is NOT listed as a deponent. In fact, it is listed as the "middle of moichao" -- which is the ACTIVE form of the word. There is no purpose in a middle form assuming the force of the active voice when the active form is in existence and is in use!!!!

Ron points out that "The Abbott-Smith Lexicon says that moichao in the NT is always middle." That is probably true, Ron (and, by the way, did you notice that this lexicon also mentioned the existence of the active form?!!). The fact that a word may only appear in the middle form in the biblical documents does not in itself make that word a deponent. All it means is that this particular Greek verb is only used IN THE NT in the middle form. This fact alone does not suggest that the active form did not exist in the Greek language, and thus the middle form was compelled to assume the active force in its place. That is an exegetically dangerous assumption, as a quote from Wallace will point out in just a moment. Ron, what about those words which might only appear as plurals in the NT documents? Does this suggest to you that the singular form does not exist in the Greek language, and that the plural form actually carries the force of the singular? Of course not. That would be a very careless assumption. All it means is that it only appears in the NT writings as a plural .... or in the case of the word under examination here: as a middle. That's an interesting bit of trivia, something that would make a good "extra points" question on a Greek exam, but it proves absolutely nothing grammatically. Did you know that the word "cat" never appears in the Bible? Does that mean God hates cats and only loves dogs? Is it really true that all dogs go to heaven?!! Well, you get the point!! (I hope!)

Ron wrote: "Al, you might want to read Wallace again (particularly pp. 428-429; take a look at his list)." OK, I got out my copy of Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament and checked it out, as you suggested. First, I checked out the lists on page 430, as per your advice. The author gives a list of "true deponents" and then a list of "some verbs that look deponent but most likely are not." Our word (moichatai) is not on either list, which I guess you already knew. Anyway, I thought it was rather interesting that Wallace suggests some words have actually fooled some otherwise bright people because they "look deponent." Do you think you might be on that list, Ron?!

Wallace suggests, on page 429, that one thing which has fooled some people is when a word appears in the biblical text (and even as the main entry of a lexicon) in only one form (the middle, for example). This is true of moichatai, by the way. It has led some to the mistaken conclusion that it must be deponent, when in fact it is not. Wallace points out that these people have overlooked a basic truth: "in a wider context the active IS used." Just because the active does not appear in the biblical literature (and thus some lexicons do not list it), does NOT mean the active doesn't exist or never occurs in the literature of the day. If it does appear elsewhere as an active, if that form of the word does exist, then the word is not a true deponent. Wallace says, "this should tip the student off that all is not as it appears." Apparently you and a few others did not pick up on that "tip," Ron!

Wallace states (and this is extremely important): "When an exegetical decision depends in part on the voice of the verb, a more rigorous approach is required. In such cases, you should investigate the form of the word in Koine and classical Greek before you declare a verb deponent. Even then, you should not be able to see a middle force to the verb." What this simply means is: "It is not enough to note merely that a verb lacks an active form throughout its history; it must also be demonstrated that the middle force is absent" (Wallace).

Neither of these tests is passed by moichatai, Ron! This word DOES have the active form in use in the Greek language, and the middle form of this word DOES demonstrate the middle force in the text. Thus, it fails on both counts to qualify as a true deponent, and those lexical aids which so characterize it are simply in error. Frankly, I'd buy a better analytical Greek lexicon if I were you!!

Ron asked: "What is your point in challenging this? Being a deponent or not does nothing for your position."

My purpose was two-fold, Ron:

  1. If one is going to use Greek in a debate to try and validate his thesis, then one needs to demonstrate some degree of credibility and competency in that language. This mistake on your part may seem minor to you in the ultimate scheme of things, but it does leave a question mark in the minds of discerning readers as to your degree of competency. In other words, if you can't be trusted to get this detail correct, then why should we believe you on other matters pertaining to the interpretation of the Greek text?! And with each new error exposed to the light, credibility plummets.

  2. As to what difference this makes, and why I would even challenge it, I would refer you back to my earlier reference to a debate with a Romanian missionary. His point, with respect to moicheuthenai and moichatai, in Matthew 5:32, is that both are deponent. By declaring the former passive form, especially, to be deponent, rather than being a true passive form, he hoped to circumvent the teaching that this woman was guilty of nothing. Thus, he declared the verb "deponent," insisting it must be interpreted with the active force rather than the passive. Again, this was his way of trying to reconcile his traditional theology and a confused English translation with the Greek text.

However, this word is NOT a deponent, and thus it can NOT be understood as conveying the force of the active voice. It must be properly translated and interpreted in the passive voice, and that, frankly, posed a great problem for his theology. This missionary finally acknowledged he was mistaken (to his credit), and he stated that he planned to rethink his theology on this point. I thought that was a noble admission.

Darrell Broking, on the other hand (with whom I had a lengthy debate on MDR), when confronted with the fact that this word in Matt. 5:32 was indeed a passive, and not a deponent with active force, came up with this astounding insight: "The Greek idiom is based on the fact that the man is usually the more aggressive sexual partner. The passive simply denotes the fact that the male is usually the more active sexual partner." WOW!!!! This doesn't even deserve comment!!!! But, this just illustrates the ridiculous lengths some will go to in order to try and keep SEX in the phrase "commits adultery." Good Grief!!! The next thing you know someone is likely to suggest that the law forbidding the Jews to follow the pagan practice of slashing the body as a sign of grief for the dead was in reality a prohibition against making oneself a eunuch! Naaaawwwwwhhhhhh! Never happen!

By the way, in Broking's next post (just days after his above "insight" into the significance of the passive voice in Matthew 5:32) he completely withdrew from our debate. I can't say that I blame him, actually. He had totally embarrassed himself on that one. With such insights into the Greek as the above it was increasingly obvious to the readers that he didn't have a clue what the teaching of Jesus Christ truly was with regard to MDR. Your efforts to defend the traditional teaching are far more noble, Ron .... I'll give you that. But, in all honesty, I believe they are just as misguided and uninformed.

The Present Indicative and MDR

I think we have just about whipped this poor old dead horse beyond recognition, but I will make just a few more observations before putting it down for a much deserved and overdue rest!

Ron, after quoting from Mounce, wrote: "In other words, Al, at most, the present indicative is UNDEFINED, not 'point action.'" I don't believe I have ever declared the present tense to be the tense of "point action," Ron. That would fall more to the aorist tense, I would think. No, I fully accept the fact that the present tense primarily denotes linear action, not point action. This brought from you a note of surprise: "You are admitting linear action? This is pretty significant." I've "admitted linear action" in the present tense for a good many years, Ron. Nothing astounding about that. I even stopped believing the world was flat a few years back!!! I'm a forward thinking guy!!!

Seriously, though .... this is not about TENSE, Ron. That is what I just can't seem to get you to realize, and maybe it's because I'm doing a poor job of expressing myself (although others who read this seem to be getting the point). As I said, this is not about tense .... it is about MOOD --- and more specifically: the impact of a particular mood on a particular tense. The indicative mood is the mood of reality. It is the mood of what IS .... not what WAS (imperfect indicative, and even aorist indicative) or what WILL BE (future indicative), nor even what one WISHES would be (optative mood), or what MIGHT be if certain conditions are met (subjunctive mood). Rather, it is the mood of what IS; what is REAL. And when used with the present tense it depicts what is REALLY HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Not what MIGHT happen, not what WILL happen, not what DID happen, not what we WISH would happen, not what COULD happen if conditions were right, but what IS happening NOW!! It is present reality ..... actuality!

Look at Matthew 5:32, Ron. "Anyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of porneia, makes her commit adultery." This phrase, "commit adultery," is a present indicative. This means that when this man divorces this woman (and let's just assume the active voice here, as it is commonly, though mistakenly, translated into English) ..... when he divorces her, she IS thereby made to commit adultery. It is something REAL which is occurring, and it is happening IN THE PRESENT; right here, right now (as the pop song says!). It didn't happen in the past, it isn't something that might happen ten years from now, it is happening NOW, in present time.

My question to you, Ron, is this: WHAT exactly is happening in the text? Specify the reality!! What act of "adultery" is this woman in this specific text presently committing in the here and now by virtue of her husband divorcing her? Jesus doesn't declare that this is something she previously did, or something she will subsequently do at some point in the future. It is present reality; actuality.

Jesus doesn't say that she runs right to the bed of another man and has sex before the ink dries on her certificate of divorce. He doesn't even say the husband who divorces her gets remarried or has immediate sex with another. Neither spouse is said to have any kind of sex with anyone else at all in this passage. And yet we are told by Jesus that by virtue of this man's divorce of his wife, she IS made to commit adultery (present indicative) --- reality ... actuality in the here and now!!! What IS that REAL, present time event, Ron?

Here is where you get to become creative!! In order to make your theory of "adultery" work, you are going to have to ADD some things to God's Word here. Some "quick sex," for starters, will need to be sprinkled liberally into the text. Some other man needs to be added (or another woman for the husband .... or maybe both for good measure). You need to conjure up a remarriage in the text somewhere. I know, it's hard, but we can make it fit ..... we have to!! Whew!!! It's tiring rewriting the Bible, isn't it?!!

Ron, I know I'm being sarcastic, but it is for the purpose of making a VITAL point. I hope you will seriously consider how much the text has to be twisted, reshaped, and added to in order to make your theory fit. It would almost be comical, if it were not so serious. Consider this, Ron: What if the woman in the text (like a great many women in her situation) chooses NOT to ever get remarried? We both know it happens. What if she chooses to remain celibate? That happens also!! All the time. Ron, Jesus doesn't SAY she remarries. He doesn't even say the husband who put her away remarries. YOU may have to say it, to make your theory fit, but HE doesn't say it!!! Therefore, in what possible sense does such a woman as this "commit adultery?" Jesus doesn't say she WILL commit adultery at some point in the distant future when she gets remarried and has sex. Jesus doesn't say she MIGHT commit adultery IF she chooses to get remarried and have sex. He used the present indicative!!! He said she IS committing adultery. HOW, Ron?!! Enlighten us .... and if you could do it without ADDING to the text, that would certainly be appreciated!!

Well, as you know, the above is all moot anyway, as the word is actually a PASSIVE, not an active voice. Thus, it means that adultery is done TO her, or AGAINST her. It is not saying that she herself is actively engaged in doing something (committing adultery), but rather when the husband divorces her then he causes something (the committing of adultery) to be done TO her. She is the victim of adultery here, not actually the one committing it. THAT is the significance of the passive voice.

Let's ask the question again, Ron: HOW is adultery being committed against her? What specifically is happening to her RIGHT NOW, in reality, in actuality, in the here and now, in the present, that constitutes "adultery?" What is her actual real-time reality, Ron? We're not talking about what has been done to her in the past, or what will happen to her in the future, or what the husband wishes would happen, or what might happen if conditions are right. We are talking about what IS happening to her in the present. What exactly and specifically IS that, Ron?

Is it SEX that is happening to her in this "actual, real, present" situation? If so, who's having it? Is the husband having sex with someone? Who? Who is the put away wife having sex with? Where is any mention made of ANYONE having sex in this passage? Where is mention even made of anyone getting remarried? Where is there even a hint that either of them is even remotely interested in someone of the opposite sex at that point in their lives?

The text says that by virtue of this man divorcing this woman ADULTERY IS HAPPENING!!! It is REAL and it is in the PRESENT. It is ACTUAL. MY view slides neatly into place here, Ron. It is completely consistent with what is being said by Jesus Christ, and it is completely consistent with the grammatical construction. YOUR view, on the other hand, if it would "fit," must impose conditions, make huge assumptions, add both people and events, with liberal doses of SEX, to the biblical text, and then drag the whole contrived scenario into the future for the bulk of its fulfillment. Frankly, if our readers can't see this as a manipulation of the text to promote a cherished theory, then they are blind as bats .... and we know what happens to blind followers of blind leaders.

Ron, you quoted Dana & Mantey as saying, "...the indicative mood is the mood which denotes the verbal idea as ACTUAL." I agree. The verbal idea in Matthew 5:32a is "adultery." The present indicative means it is ACTUALLY HAPPENING in the text. So please tell us WHAT is actually happening, in the present, when adultery IS occurring in Matt. 5:32a? To promote your theory, Ron, you will be forced to immediately begin adding to the text of God's Word and making huge assumptions. I, on the other hand, don't need to do either!! My interpretation fits perfectly without having to reshape the text in the least to make it fit. I guess we'll have to let the readers decide which of us has chosen the more honest hermeneutical methodology, and which of our interpretations is the better "fit."

Ron believes that "commits adultery" doesn't occur until the remarriage. He has stated this time and again during the course of this debate. Thus, I observed in my last post: "If the man or woman doesn't remarry for 20 years, then 'commits adultery' (which is action in the NOW) doesn't actually occur, in his theory, for 20 years!!!" To this Ron asked: "Is this supposed to mean something? If you were hoping to communicate a thought to me -- I missed it."

You really don't get it, do you?!! I think you may actually be serious! Ron, don't you perceive where your premise ultimately leads you?!! The indicative mood working in conjunction with the present tense is simply depicting a PRESENT REALITY. It is something actually happening right now. It is an ACTUAL occurrence in PRESENT time. However, if "committing adultery" = remarriage, as you have maintained in this debate, then, for your theory to be true and consistent with itself here, "adultery" will not even BEGIN to be committed for TWENTY YEARS. You just destroyed the whole force of the present indicative, Ron. THAT is the point I have tried to get you to perceive. Unless the divorce and remarriage occur almost simultaneously (before the ink dries on the certificate), you are almost always going to have to project a remarriage into the future (perhaps months, years, decades), all of which takes the committing of adultery out of the realm of the ACTUAL and the NOW (present indicative) and moves it into the realm of the POTENTIAL and the FUTURE.

And how will you interpret "commits adultery" in the Matt. 5:32 passage if a remarriage NEVER occurs? Will you then turn this absolute statement into a conditional statement? Will you turn the indicative mood (the mood of actuality) into the subjunctive mood (the mood of condition, potentiality)? Will you argue that Jesus MEANT to say that IF she gets remarried THEN she "commits adultery?" Ron, If Jesus MEANT to say that, then why didn't He?!! And if He really did say it, but Matthew just wrote it down wrong, then why didn't the Holy Spirit correct him?!!

Let's face it, Ron .... your theory doesn't work in Matt. 5:32. In spite of all your impassioned protestations, and all your lengthy quotations of those who embrace your doctrine, it just doesn't fit! For your theory to work in this passage you must immediately begin making huge, unwarranted assumptions, adding people, events and sex to the text, and then projecting the whole revised scenario into the future. All to make a false teaching appear legitimate. How tragic!

Ron observed: "I'm wondering if you are grasping for something that does not exist." Brother, I think you are a bit confused here. Your statement describes your efforts at interpretation far better than mine!! Ron further observes: "As one reads the references from the grammars they will be able to conclude who is doing any stretching or who is grasping for air because their position fails under scrutiny." You are absolutely right about that, Ron! I don't think our readers are going to be fooled for a second by your textual and grammatical gymnastics. I'm just wondering when YOU are going to perceive that which many of THEM already have!!

Ron wrote: "Is it the mood that will affect anything, Al, or is it the context that makes our understanding clear? You think it is the former, I insist it is the latter." Actually, Ron, I believe it is BOTH working together. I have reconciled context and mood; you have added to the former and altered the latter. Again, I call upon the readers to employ their God-given common sense and reasoning ability and make a determination as to which is the better approach to biblical interpretation and the quest for Truth.

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