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

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Al Maxey Responds
To Ron's Recent Comments
And Examines Moicheia

I will make just a few comments pertaining to Ron's latest post, and then I will move forward to the next critical aspect of our proposition which bears closer scrutiny. I think it would be very easy for us to allow this debate to deteriorate to a "did too" ... "did not" ... "did too" ... "did not" ... exchange between the participants. And I don't think this is in the best interests of any of the parties involved. Thus, when it is clear that we have each stated our convictions about a matter, and when it is equally clear that neither of us is going to sway the other from that conviction, it is probably best to acknowledge that fact and move forward as best we can to other aspects of the proposition under consideration. Few debates ever end with one side "winning over" the other to their own point of view. Rather, most debates conclude with both sides having presented their best arguments for their positions (with some degree of mutual challenging of those positions), and then letting the reading/listening public make a determination as to which side is nearer the Truth. I believe that will be the outcome here, and I imagine Ron would agree with that assessment.

Let me begin by simply clarifying something Ron said. Brother Thomas stated: "Al said he would part company with me because I view...." He then quoted me as saying, "However, where I would have to part company with Ron's perspective is in the view that...." I think it is important, for the sake of our unity as brethren in Christ, to note that it is with Ron's perspective or view that I "part company," and not with Ron himself, as his previous statement could perhaps be interpreted by some. Ron and I differ in our understandings of what Jesus sought to convey in His teaching on MDR, however I regard Ron as a faithful servant of the Lord and a precious brother in Christ. I have no desire to part company with him, but only his divorce & remarriage theology. At a time when there is so much dissension and division associated with theological debate, I felt it was important to note this distinction. I have no doubt my brother will agree with me on this.

Another point which needs to be clarified: Ron wrote, "Al suggested that the passages I referred to speak nothing at all on the concept of mutilation." Actually, that is not what I stated. Here is what I actually wrote (and Ron quotes me): "A careful reading of all of these passages, however, will clearly reveal that they have nothing whatsoever to do with castration, or making oneself a eunuch." I said they had nothing to do with castration or making oneself a eunuch. Yes, these are forms of mutilation, but self-mutilation may assume many forms, and be performed for many purposes. The ones specifically mentioned in the passages proffered by Ron, however, are limited in scope to the pagan practices associated with great distress and mourning, and were largely linked to attempts to gain the attention, or solicit the favorable action, of the gods. The particular passages Ron mentions have no reference to castration whatsoever. Making oneself into a eunuch is a form of self-mutilation NOT in view anywhere in the context of those passages; not even remotely. I have yet to see a commentary which even suggests it (though with the countless commentaries on the market I don't doubt one could eventually be found).

Ron seems to want to develop the argument that since the word "cut" is used in the passages in question, and since castration would require a "cutting," then the latter must be part of the prohibition of the former. However, by such reasoning one could also argue for the exclusion of circumcision, which also requires a "cutting" of the physical body, and indeed a "mutilation" of it (to some people's way of thinking). As Ron emphasized in an earlier discussion, context is critical to a proper interpretation of any passage, and the context of the passages he listed is totally unrelated to "cuts" in the genital area (whether it be circumcision or castration). Such "cutting," for whatever purpose, is simply not in view. Thus, Ron can't point to these passages as justification for his view that making oneself a eunuch is in opposition to the Law of Moses. He will have to look elsewhere for such "evidence," if such exists.

Ron, naturally, disagrees with me, and so states emphatically: "I strongly deny the accuracy of this statement. Being a eunuch (or self-mutilation) was very much opposed by God in the Law of Moses." I would simply ask Ron to provide the statement in the Law of Moses where God has condemned one for being a self-made eunuch, or even where He has condemned the practice itself. I am not aware of any such passage, but will reserve judgment until such time as Ron produces that specific passage where being a eunuch, or making oneself a eunuch, is specifically opposed by God in the Law of Moses.

Moving along. Ron wrote: "Al, let me ask you to deal with material from my first post. I offered, for your consideration, 14 different translations of Matthew 19:9. Are any of these wrongly translated? If so, where has the translation failed? Further, I gave you authoritative definitions of the word fornication and adultery. Are these definitions incorrect?"

With respect to your latter question, I would not declare your "authoritative definitions" incorrect, but rather incomplete. A simple rule of biblical hermeneutics, when considering words in Scripture, is that the "full semantic range" of those words must be given consideration before arriving at an interpretation. You provided a single meaning and application of these words in your post, but you failed to provide the full semantic range. Thus, your "authoritative definitions" were indeed correct, just not complete. In dealing with these words and concepts, I have sought, and will continue to seek, to provide the more complete picture of the meaning and usage.

In my first post I wrote: "We also, for the sake of clarity in our discussion, need to examine in some depth the meaning of porneia (fornication) and moicheia (adultery). What do these words convey to us? What did they convey to the original readers of the biblical documents? Are our applications today consistent with biblical meaning and usage? These are critical areas, and must not be lightly dismissed. Ron, in his affirmation of the proposition, has given a brief definition of each of these terms, but they both require a much more thorough analysis. I will attempt to provide that in subsequent discussions with my brother in Christ." Beginning in my second post, I attempted to present that fuller analysis of porneia, and beginning in this post I will present a fuller analysis of moicheia.

With respect to Ron's first question, I did indeed address it in my first post in this debate. I wrote: "In his post, Ron listed thirteen separate translations of Matthew 19:9, the primary passage from which our proposition is drawn. He then asks, 'Al, are any of these versions incorrect in their translating of Matthew 19:9?' Although each version and translation is worded somewhat differently, I would not go so far as to declare any of them 'fatally flawed.' Each has done the best job they could, limited as they were by their purpose, philosophy of translation, and production guidelines, to provide a readable rendering of this statement by Jesus Christ." As you can see, Ron, I did indeed address both of these matters from your first post. As far as problems in translation, I would point out that the Matt. 5:32 passage does have some problems associated with it, and I will be pointing those out at the appropriate time in our debate.

In his previous post, Ron wrote: "Adultery occurs, in the context of Matthew 5 and 19, when a married person engages in sexual activity (intercourse) with someone other than their spouse. When a person enters into a second marriage (e.g., the 'guilty' party of the divorce marries another) that person is in an adulterous relationship because there is the consummation of the marriage and a continuation of sexual activity. The 'marriage ceremony' is not the adultery (it is simply putting one into a relationship); it is when the sexual activity occurs that adultery takes place."

This truly brings us to the heart of our differences with regard to this topic. For Ron, and indeed for most who hold to the "traditional teaching" on MDR, adultery is exclusively a sex act. I will present the fuller semantic range of this word later in this post, but let me just state here that I firmly believe limiting this term to a sex act ONLY is an error, and it is going to lead to some twisted theology with regard to MDR, and indeed has done so. More about that later.

But, assuming (simply for the sake of argument) the validity of the "adultery = sex only" theory, let's examine Ron's above premise. When a married person engages in sexual activity with someone other than their spouse, then they have committed adultery. (By the way, for the record, let me state that I agree with that statement!) If a man and woman are married, and one of them engages in sexual activity with one other than their spouse, that indeed IS "adultery."

Ron continues his illustration --- When a person has been unfaithful to their spouse, and they eventually divorce that spouse, and then later marry another person, Ron says that when that person engages in sexual activity with that new mate they are actually "committing adultery." Ron, with whom are they committing adultery?! The man's first wife is no longer his wife; he divorced her .... and you have already acknowledged in this debate that divorce does terminate the union; that a "divorce" is really a "divorce." So, he's not committing anything sexual with her; she's gone. And the woman he is now with is his wife; a marriage has taken place. Thus, he is not committing adultery with her, because you can't commit adultery WITH one's own spouse, but only AGAINST one's spouse WITH another person. So, again Ron, with whom is he committing adultery? And how?!

The traditional argument here, and it is an incredibly weak and lame one, is that the man is not truly divorced at all from the first wife. Thus, he continues to be married to the first woman since "God actually recognizes NO divorce" (or so goes the theory). I am assuming, Ron, that you do not embrace this aspect of the traditional argument since you have previously asserted that divorce IS divorce, and is recognized as such. Therefore, you must assume, as do I, that the man and woman in question truly have experienced a termination of the covenant of marriage.

If the man in the illustration cheated on his wife (sexually), and then divorced her (which most traditionalists would consider the "one just cause" for the woman to be legally freed, loosed, unbound from this man), doesn't she now, as the innocent party, have the right to remarry? My guess is that Ron would claim that she is indeed free, and that she does have the right to remarry (as would most in the traditional camp). This is an acknowledgement that she is no longer married to him. She is free.

Now, let's reason this through carefully, Ron!! If SHE is free of this marriage, then so also is HE!! Right?! If SHE is no longer married to HIM, then it only stands to reason that HE is no longer married to HER!! BOTH are single!! The woman has no husband, and the man has NO WIFE. If this man now engages in sexual activity with someone else it will technically be porneia, not moicheia. After all, "adultery," according to Ron, is sexual activity with one other than one's spouse .... but his man has NO spouse!!! However, if this man at some point in the future gets married, he once again has a spouse. If he then has sex with his SPOUSE, how is he committing "adultery" if adultery by definition is sex with one OTHER than one's own SPOUSE?!!! This woman to whom he is married IS his spouse. One can't commit adultery with one's own wife, according to your definition, Ron. Thus, with whom is he committing adultery? And how?

Ron's definition of "adultery" just doesn't fit his scenario (which declares moicheia to be sex with the second wife) .... not when you apply logic and rational thought to the scenario. It will fall apart even more dramatically when we examine it in light of the passive voice which is used in Matthew 5:32 with respect to the put away woman!! This will be examined in more depth after I present my analysis of the word translated "adultery." I think one will quickly begin to perceive that limiting this word to "sexual activity only" is going to pose some overwhelming obstacles for the traditional point of view. More about this later.


At this point we need to turn our attention to the meaning and usage of the word translated "adultery" in both Scripture and the culture of biblical times. For now I will simply present a lengthy excerpt from Chapter Six of my book Down, But Not Out in which I present a discussion of this term. Perhaps it will open the door to further discussion between us with regard to this concept.

Here is the excerpt:

I will let this suffice for the present, although in subsequent posts I will illustrate in greater detail how this meaning and application fits nicely and naturally with the teaching of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage .... a far better "fit" than the traditional teaching on this matter.

I look forward to your response, Ron, and wish you a safe journey to and from the lectureships at FHU. I pray that you will find them spiritually refreshing and uplifting.

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