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

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Al Maxey Responds
To Ron's Recent Comments

Ron has covered several areas of concern which have arisen during the course of our discussion, and I will address a few of these before making some observations concerning his view of the nature, meaning and application of "adultery."


Going back to Ron's thoughts on dismemberment and self-mutilation (of which castration, or making oneself a eunuch, would be one form), he referred us all to Deuteronomy 14:1-2. Ron then says, "Al told us that passage (and others) speaks about 'pagan practices associated with great distress and mourning.' Really? Look at the passage in Deuteronomy 14:1-2; does the context say anything about pagan practices?" Before answering that, let's notice the wording of this passage:

If you examine the entirety of the previous chapter (which provides a bit of the context) you will see that the concern is that God's people be unique among the nations, and that they not worship their gods nor participate in their pagan practices. An example of that would be the pagan rituals associated with distress and mourning, especially for the dead. Indeed, the New American Bible captions this passage: "Pagan Mourning Rites." The Expositor's Bible Commentary makes this observation here: "...they were to destroy the religious paraphernalia of the Canaanites. Now, on the basis of this relationship (that they were holy to the Lord and were His treasured possession), they were commanded not to follow the ways of mourning for the dead that the nations of Canaan practiced" (Vol. 3, p. 100).

Ron stated, "All that it (the above passage from Deuteronomy) says is that a cutting is not allowed because the Israelites are holy." Actually, that is not quite true. The passage clearly declares this to be a cutting "for the sake of the dead." This places the practice into the realm of rituals not of the Jews but rather of their neighboring nations (specifically, the Canaanites). I would challenge Ron to find even one example of an Israelite who castrated himself, or made himself a eunuch, because a loved one had died. I'm unaware of castration being part of the grieving process "for the sake of the dead." And yet Ron boldly asserts "the passages I referred to have as much reference to castration as they do to dismemberment." Well, he's right there --- they don't refer to dismemberment either!!! Rather, these were gashes made to the body (superficial cuts most often to the chest, arms and legs) as a sign of great distress and grief "for the dead." This was a pagan practice of some of the neighboring nations, and the holy, set-apart people of God were to abstain from such cuttings "for the dead."

The people of God did not always follow this command, and repeatedly sought to incorporate the customs and practices of the pagan nations about them. God warned them again, through Jeremiah, that "Both great men and small will die in this land; they will not be buried, they will not be lamented, nor will anyone gash himself or shave his head for them" (Jeremiah 16:6). Nevertheless, we see that some chose to practice this pagan custom (and they were punished for doing so) --- After the killing of Gedaliah, "eighty men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria with their beards shaved off and their clothes torn and their bodies gashed" (Jeremiah 41:4-5). When they came into the city they were slaughtered and cast into the cistern.

Once again, Ron, these passages to which you refer have absolutely nothing to do with circumcision, or castration, or making oneself into a eunuch, or dismemberment. Such acts are not in view. Rather, these were commands against embracing the pagan mourning rites of the peoples about them, and in so doing forfeiting their uniqueness as the special, set-apart possession of God. To attempt to press these passages into duty as injunctions against castration or making oneself into a eunuch (or even making these passages refer to any and all types of physical cutting of the body, regardless of the purpose) is to completely miss the point of this teaching. It had nothing whatsoever to do with these other cuttings and severings, no matter how beneficial to Ron's theology it might be to impose this meaning upon the texts in question. The context of this portion of Moses' teaching in Deuteronomy was to "prepare the people for the situation in Canaan, where they would be in a head-on clash with pagan culture ..... In Deuteronomic messages Moses emphasized over and over again the unique relationship of Israel as holy to the Lord. This is the basis for even ritualistic stipulations" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 101).

I found Ron's following comments interesting. He asked "does the context say anything about pagan practices?" Then, just a few sentences later, he notes: "For the record, I think Al is correct that the context of the statement has in view pagan practices, but I cannot limit it to that." In other words, Ron agrees with me that the passages he quoted to prove his point about making oneself a eunuch are contextually injunctions against pagan markings and cuttings of the body "FOR THE DEAD" (which is exactly what the Deuteronomy passage states). However, Ron then admits he is unwilling to LIMIT the meaning and application of this passage to its clear contextual intent. In other words, Ron is imposing additional meanings and applications upon this passage, ones other than contextually intended, and declaring them to be valid. And then he dares to berate me for even suggesting that there might be additional meaning and application to some of the terms used by Christ in the Matthew passages. I wonder if Ron remembers what he wrote on January 16th? --- "Al, with all due respect, I don't think it is safe at all to apply meanings when the context makes clear that a single meaning is that which is warranted. .... The context sets forth the parameters." Ron felt I was imposing "double-talk" upon Jesus when I suggested that I was unwilling to limit the meaning and application of certain terms to only one of several legitimate possibilities. And yet, with regard to this passage in Deuteronomy, Ron says, "I cannot limit it to that" (i.e., the meaning that the cutting applies to pagan rites associated with the dead), even though the text clearly states it is cutting performed "for the dead," and Ron acknowledges, "for the record," that "Al is correct that the context of the statement has in view pagan practices." Yet, he cannot limit it to that. This is highly inconsistent, Ron, and smacks of a double standard. You are allowed to extend a certain meaning and application to a passage, even though you admit the context suggests another meaning and application entirely than the one you personally prefer. However, when I suggest that perhaps we should keep open the possibility that certain words should be considered in their FULL semantic range, which certainly is NOT imposing some foreign meaning and application upon a text, you insist this is unwarranted and unsafe hermeneutics. You can't have it both ways, brother!

The only reason I bring this matter up in such depth here is to demonstrate to the readers the inconsistency in reasoning and application of my opponent in this debate. He can ignore context and impose foreign meanings and applications upon a passage in order to prove a point, but if I suggest we simply consider the wider, and fully legitimate, semantic range of a term in a passage, then that is deemed by Ron to be completely unacceptable. I will leave it to the readers to decide if this is valid and consistent hermeneutical practice when seeking to accurately interpret authorial intent in a specific passage of Scripture.

Just one more observation with regard to this, and I shall lay the matter to rest as far as this debate is concerned. Ron wrote: "The Lord required circumcision, but did not allow any other kind of 'cutting.'" Again, I don't believe it takes too much consideration of this statement to see that it cannot possibly be accurate, as stated. If no other "cutting" is truly allowed to the people of God, except for circumcision, then by what process was the umbilical cord severed at birth? This too would be a "cutting." Various surgical procedures, though primitive, were also not unknown at that time. Were these medical "cuttings of the body" also banned? I'm sure other examples could be given, but I won't belabor this issue as I'm sure, once he thinks about it, Ron will agree with my assessment of his statement. He stated an opinion as an absolute, and that can at times come back to haunt one!!


On a different subject, Ron wrote: "Al said that none of the 14 translations I offered for his consideration are 'fatally flawed.' Al, are these translations 'flawed' in any respect? Can one understand God's word, accurately, when one of these translations is read and studied by a person?"

This present debate, of course, is not over the various strengths and weaknesses of the many versions and translations on the market today. Thus, there is no way to fully respond to this question in the context of this debate. I would merely point out at this juncture that ALL versions and translations are less than perfect. EACH of them has weaknesses and flaws associated with them, some more serious than others. And in some cases these do indeed have a bearing on the accurateness of one's interpretation and subsequent practice .... which we will note very shortly. However, having said that, I believe one can nevertheless come to an understanding of God's saving message of grace from just about any version. There may be particulars of practice and precept which are less than clear in some versions, but nothing relevant to our very salvation is so obscured by the translations themselves that this knowledge can't be obtained from any of them. For a more in-depth study of the versions and translations of the Bible, and their individual strengths and weaknesses, I would refer Ron and the readers of this debate to my extensive study of the same at the following URL:


Ron remarked: "Merely because a divorce is recognized does not mean God approves of the termination." I would agree with this 100%. There is no question that God "hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16). I don't believe God "approves" of ANY divorce. ANY "breaking of covenant" is a failure to achieve God's IDEAL for marriage. It is sin. However, lack of approval does not signify lack of recognition of, nor does it imply the impossibility of, divorce. Divorce happens! That is reality, and the language of Scripture demonstrates God recognizes this reality of life. Covenants have been terminated. Does God approve? Of course not! He hates it. But marriages have ended just the same, and He recognizes the reality of these destroyed marital covenants.

One almost gets the impression that Ron is suggesting that because God does not approve of divorce, that maybe in some cases He does not recognize a divorce as truly occurring, and that the man and woman are still united in marriage, even though divorced. This is definitely the traditional teaching on the matter (the extreme wing of that traditional teaching), and there are times when it almost appears Ron has embraced this doctrine to some degree (even though he has stated otherwise previously in this debate). My opponent quotes The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (with regard to Matt. 5:32) as saying, "A divorced woman who remarries causes her new husband to violate the first marriage, which was viewed as still in existence...." Ron then asked, "Al, did the authors of this recognized Greek work get this wrong?" My answer is: YES!! They got it wrong! Their writings are not inspired; these writings are simply the views of mere men (educated though they may be) who bring their personal biases and religious baggage to their work (oftentimes unintentionally) just like anyone else. Most scholars do a fairly good job of objective presentation of facts, and they are pretty reliable, but now and then one can detect the imposition of their theology upon their writings and teachings. I believe this is one such case.

With regard to the marriage of Herod and Herodias (Mark 6:17-18), Ron wrote: "It's a marriage according to the human perspective and even the Holy Spirit recognized it (accommodatively), but it was not accepted by God." It may not have been approved by God, but there is nothing in the text which suggests it was not recognized by God as a marriage. Indeed, as you point out, the Holy Spirit led Mark to record that Herod had "married" Herodias. If Jesus had wanted to make the point about such a union being a case of "living in continual adultery," and not a real marriage at all, then this was the perfect opportunity to proclaim such a doctrine. However, He did not, and His inspired writer did not. Indeed, the expression oft used by the traditionalists -- "living in adultery" -- NEVER appears anywhere in the Bible, not even once!!

Did God approve of Herod's marriage to Herodias? No, He did not. Did God approve of David's murder of Uriah the Hittite (II Samuel 11-12)? No, He did not .... but this did not change the fact that Uriah was still DEAD. Lack of approval does not negate the reality! David and Bathsheba were still married, and recognized by God as such, and through that union the Messiah would ultimately come. Disapproving of something does not declare the impossibility of it. Herod and Herodias were married. That was a fact, and it was recognized by both God and man. It was not an honorable marriage, because it was contrary to God's IDEAL for marriage, and also violated some of His specific laws. "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless" (Leviticus 20:21; see also Lev. 18:16). John pointed out the lack of honor and godliness of their marriage, and it cost him his life.

Thus, again, it is important to make the point that lack of approval does NOT negate the reality of a marriage. This is a vital point that many who hold to the traditional teaching fail to perceive, and thus they refuse to recognize or acknowledge the reality of a remarriage. This is a fatal flaw in their theology, and has led them down a false trail.

Ron stated: "In Matthew 19:9 Jesus recognized a divorce occurring (potentially), but He still said adultery was occurring when a second marriage occurred." Again, I disagree with Ron that adultery refers to remarriage. I will display the fallacy of this view later in this post. I am also puzzled as to what Ron meant by saying Jesus recognized a divorce occurring "potentially." Ron, could you clarify the use of "potentially" with respect to divorce in Matthew 19:9? Thanks!

In his first post, Ron defined "adultery" as "unlawful sexual intercourse with the spouse of another" (in the wording of W.E. Vine). He also quoted the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary as saying that adultery was "always with the wife of another." I believe Ron has tried to stay true to this definition throughout his posts. He can set us straight, however, if he does not now agree with the definition he gave in his first post.

Thus, Ron's view is that adultery is illicit sex with one other than one's spouse. This would be the literal meaning of the term, and since Ron denies the possibility of any figurative or expanded meaning and application of the term in the passages regarding divorce and remarriage, then we must assume that he holds to this literal physical definition exclusively in those passages. This has led Ron to the traditional teaching that adultery ONLY occurs with a remarriage (and specifically, when sex occurs in that remarriage). Will Ron's view of adultery hold up as the teaching of Jesus is more thoroughly examined? I don't believe it will.

As one examines the first passage (19:9), it is almost possible to see how (without the benefit of immediate and extended context) one could perhaps be led to impose Ron's definition of adultery upon that text. My belief is that the "adultery" here refers more to the breaking of covenant with the first spouse (which may indeed have been caused by illicit sexual activity), with the remarriage just being the ultimate act of closing the door upon any possibility of reconciliation. The actual "adultery," however, was committed against the first spouse, not the second. Ron would disagree with this and say the adultery was committed WITH the second spouse. However, by his own restricted definition of the word, "adultery" can only be committed with one OTHER than one's spouse. Thus, Ron must deny that this second marriage is really a marriage, and he must deny that the divorce was really a divorce. He must assert that the man in the passage is really still married to the woman he divorced, and that he is having illicit sex with one OTHER than his wife with this second woman whom he has married. It doesn't take too much perceptive ability to see that this is a denial of virtually every aspect of the passage simply to promote his restricted view of the meaning of adultery.

Ron acknowledges that my reasoning is sound here. He stated, "Your next to last paragraph ... has you reasoning very well from a human perspective ..... From a human perspective a divorce sets one free (and, consequently, the other free as well)." Thus, Ron admits that it is only logical and reasonable that if a divorce has occurred, and if the "innocent" spouse is free to remarry without sin (as Ron seems to believe), then it is only reasonable that the "guilty" spouse is equally free of the bonds of matrimony. If the covenant is over for one spouse, it obviously is over for the other as well. That is not only sound logic, it is just plain old common sense!! Ron agrees this makes sense.

However, Ron then states: "The one main difficulty is that Jesus does not concur with your conclusion. It appears reasonable that if the innocent spouse is free of the first marriage, then the 'put away' spouse would be also. But Jesus says the 'put away' spouse commits adultery in the second marriage and continues to do so while in that second marriage." Actually, Ron, Jesus does NOT say this. You have ASSUMED this. All Jesus says is that this spouse "commits adultery." Your entire statement (" the second marriage and continues to do so while in that second marriage") never flowed from the lips of Jesus. These are words you placed in His mouth. This is your interpretation of what you think Jesus meant, but what if you are wrong here? What if your interpretation is false? I believe it is, and I believe such can be demonstrated.

Ron, let's take this step by step. First, you state that in Matthew 19:9 the man who casts off his innocent spouse (divorces her), and marries another woman, is committing adultery. Let's analyze this. A divorce has occurred; that word is used in the text .... divorce. You have acknowledged that this is indeed a severing of the union. So much so, that you agree (correct me if I'm wrong) the innocent spouse is free to marry again without sin. If she is completely unbound from the man by this divorce, then is the man completely unbound as well? If she is free, then is he free too? You indicate this is good reasoning. And yet, you say Jesus disagrees with this logic. Thus, you must conclude, I gather, that divorce does NOT mean divorce here. At least not for the man; but it DOES for the woman .... because she is free to marry again, so she must not be married still. But, Ron, to whom is this MAN married? He has divorced his wife and she is free. So, to whom is HE married?

In order for your definition of "adultery" to hold up ("sex with one OTHER than one's spouse"), the second union in Matt. 19:9 must be viewed as something OTHER than a marriage (even though Jesus says he "marries" the woman), and the woman he "marries" must be something OTHER than his wife, because you can't commit adultery WITH your spouse (according to your definition of the word). Ron, to validate your theory here you are going to have to differ with Jesus. You are going to have to redefine both divorce and marriage in order to make "adultery" work here. You are also going to have to revise your view of the "innocent" woman's status. If the man is still bound to her, then she is still bound to him; and thus she also is unable to marry again. So, divorce doesn't mean divorce, and marriage doesn't mean marriage in this passage! And the man is cheating on his wife (whom he divorced, but not really) with a woman other than his spouse (whom he married, though not really). And the poor cast off woman (who is guilty of nothing) is doomed to a life of loneliness, misery and celibacy because of HIS sin. That's like kicking the cat to spite the dog!! And if this innocent, cast off woman, should ever find a decent man to love and care for her at some point in the future, then God will send her to hell for seeking out that comfort. This is the "logical conclusion" of your interpretation here, Ron. Is this really what Jesus is teaching? God forbid!!!

Ron stated: "According to your approach, however, because the first spouse was divorced, i.e., she was no longer married, it is not possible for adultery to occur (except when one redefines the word in the context). But Jesus said it is; I'll stand with Jesus." Ron, I believe you have misunderstood what Jesus said. I too will stand with Jesus here. You stated that adultery must be redefined. On the contrary. One must simply recognize the broader semantic range of the word; no redefinition is required at all .... just awareness of one of the broader legitimate meanings and applications of the term. What does have to be redefined, however, to accept your view, is a redefinition of both divorce and marriage. These terms must be made to mean the exact opposite in this passage of their normal usage. It seems like that ought to violate a hermeneutical rule or two!!

You will probably say I am "appealing to emotion" here, Ron. But, frankly, I'm appealing to logic, common sense, and rational thought. Yes, this is an emotional issue .... and emotions can run high. But, these are sound and reasonable conclusions drawn from your own position. You may not like it, but this is where your theology leads you. Which is exactly why many of the hard-liners of the traditional view will insist to their dying breath that there is NO such thing as divorce, and that both parties (innocent and guilty) must remain single and celibate for life (or they will go to hell if they don't), and that any remarriage is NOT really a marriage at all, but rather is continual acts of adulterous sex for as long as they are together. This has led these religious leaders to demand that those in these "adulterous marriages" break up these "marriages" (even when children are involved). Thus, lives have been torn apart, marriages destroyed, and children left without a parent in the home, all to appease those who embrace this rigid, heartless, merciless theology. To be very blunt, I believe this teaching to be an abomination from hell, and those who demand such of others will have much to answer for one day!!

Let's move on, though, and test your interpretation on the next passage: Matthew 5:32. Jesus phrases this passage somewhat differently, and the distinction is vital to an understanding of the teaching of our Lord. I believe you have missed this, Ron. And this is one of those areas where our translations, by and large, have failed us. Notice again this passage:

This is very similar to the 19:9 passage, but there are some significant differences. Nothing is mentioned, for example, about the man remarrying. It merely says he divorces her. It could be he wanted another woman; it could be he wanted NO woman in his life. The reason is not given. It merely says he divorces her. Again, the so-called "exception clause" appears (the only other place in the Bible where it does so). This assigns culpability. If the man casts off the woman, and she has done nothing to deserve such an action, HE is the one responsible for the breakdown of this covenant of marriage. The exception to this, however, is if the woman breaks her covenant with him through acts of porneia, then the responsibility for the breakdown lies with HER, even though the husband initiated the divorce proceedings. Thus, any characterization of "adulteress" would be upon her own head, and not his doing. SHE is thus the "guilty party" to the marital breakdown; SHE is culpable, and not him.

However, if the man divorces this woman, and she has done nothing to invite such an action against her, then Jesus says this man "makes her commit adultery." This is phrased, in English, in the active voice, which signifies that the woman is the one engaged in committing the adultery. My question to you, Ron, is this: based on your definition of "adultery" (sex with one other than one's own spouse), in what way was this woman MADE to "commit adultery" by the action of her husband against her? Note, it doesn't say she WILL BE made to commit adultery, as though it were some point in the future; it says she IS (present tense) made to commit adultery.

The "explanation" of this passage by the traditionalists (keeping in mind that they view "adultery" as exclusively a sex act) is that at some point in the future this poor, pathetic, sex starved, abandoned, helpless little creature will go hunting for a man, and when she finds one she will either marry him or just have sex with him .... and when she does so, THEN she will have "committed adultery." If she doesn't find a man for 25 years, then the "adultery" doesn't occur for a quarter of a century!!! This traditional "explanation" is based upon some HUGE assumptions, however. It is assumed, for example, that no woman (or man either) could possibly live in a celibate state. This woman .... indeed, ALL women .... WILL seek out and secure SEX with some man at some point. NO woman could possibly live without out it! Impossible!!! It is also apparently assumed that the divorce was not really a divorce at all, since she commits adultery and we all know that adultery is, by their definition, sex with one other than one's spouse. Thus, the assumption is made that the man who divorced her is STILL her spouse, because the divorce was not a divorce; and it is assumed that any man she marries is not really her husband, because marriage is not really marriage. Whew!!! It almost makes one dizzy the number of assumptions one must make in order to force this twisted theology to fit the words of our Lord.

What if ..... for the sake of argument ..... what if this woman does NOT seek out a relationship with another man?!! Believe it or not, this does happen. In fact, it happens all the time!! How then, given these circumstances and given Ron's definition of this word, is she "made to commit adultery?" In what possible way is she adulterous if she remains celibate?! I would love to hear an answer to that!!! Jesus didn't put a qualifier on this statement, Ron. He simply said that if a man puts away his wife, except for porneia, he makes her commit adultery. Period!! You will have to put words in Jesus' mouth to make your theory fit. You will have to force Jesus to say, "...he makes her commit adultery, UNLESS, of course, she stays single and never, ever has sex, in which case she will NOT be made to commit adultery." This statement is absolutely required for your theory to work, Ron. But your problem is a major one --- Jesus never said it!!!! Indeed, such a thing is not even hinted at.

But, Ron, you have an additional problem here. And a very, very serious one!! The phrase "commit adultery," in Matthew 5:32 (within the statement "makes her commit adultery"), is NOT in the active voice in the Greek text (although it is rendered as such in the English text). Rather, it is in the passive voice in the Greek text. Voice refers to that quality of verbs which indicates the nature of the relationship of the subject to the action. The active voice indicates the subject is doing the acting; the passive voice indicates the subject is being acted upon by someone or something else. In other words, Jesus is stating, by using the passive voice, that this woman is NOT actually "committing" adultery (that would be the active voice), but rather "adultery" is being committed against her. Thus, she is the victim of adultery, not the perpetrator of it. She's not committing anything. And this is exactly what Mark 10:11 says in the parallel passage to Matthew 5:32 --- "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her." The traditional interpretation here is that the adultery in this passage is committed against the second wife (by having sex with her). This again falls victim to the same numerous assumptions which must be made. However, by comparing this passage with the one in Matthew 5:32 (where the passive voice is used), we see Jesus is actually saying the same thing in both places --- the put away wife, if innocent, is having adultery committed AGAINST her.

Writing almost 300 years ago, Matthew Henry commented, "It is adultery against the wife he puts away, it is a wrong to her, and a breach of his contract with her." R.C.H. Lenski observes that what the "passive voice states is that this woman has been forced into a position that appears to men as though she, too, had violated the commandment not to commit adultery. She is an unfortunate woman whose marriage has been disrupted without guilt on her part. Her wicked husband has fastened this stigma upon her" (An Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 234).

Some translations are even beginning to realize that this passage in Matthew 5:32 has been mistranslated as an active, and they are returning to the correct passive. Brother Hugo McCord, for example, in McCord's New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel, renders this passage correctly --- "I assure you that any man who divorces his wife except for fornication makes her to have suffered adultery." She has "suffered" adultery (passive voice) by the action of the husband against her, she had not "committed" it! A vast difference!!

Ron, in what way has this woman suffered adultery? In what way was adultery committed against her? Could you explain this in light of your restricted meaning of adultery? Ron, your definition of adultery is unworkable here!!! Indeed, there is no evidence of ANY sexual activity at all in this passage, and no hint that there ever would be. Neither the man nor the woman is said to marry again, in the specific statement under consideration. It is even likely some of them never did. Jesus simply says, "Any man who divorces his wife except for fornication makes her to have suffered adultery." You can't make SEX work here, Ron. For "adultery" to have been committed here, it is going to have to be something other than "sex with one other than one's spouse." If you want to rewrite the biblical text, and add all manner of conditions and assumptions to the teaching of Jesus, then I suppose I can't stop you. However, when you examine what Jesus actually said here, you are going to have to realize that "adultery" simply can NOT carry the meaning in this passage of "SEX with one other than one's spouse." It will not work, Ron.

As I have tried to point out, when one considers the wider semantic range of this term, one will quickly realize that a common thread runs through the concept (both literal and figurative), and that is: faithlessness to a covenant. Thus, adultery can signify the breaking of covenant. When this man wrongfully divorced this woman, he broke covenant with her. He committed "adultery" (breaking covenant), and she had "adultery" (breaking of covenant) committed AGAINST her!!

This concept is certainly nothing new, and has been known for many hundreds of years among English translators of the Bible. Wycliffe and Tyndale, as well as others, knew that "adultery" could be used to signify the breaking of covenant. Tyndale translated the word moicheia in his translation as "breaketh wedlock," for example. Thus, a man who divorces his wife and marries another "breaketh wedlock." Some have suggested that our word "adultery" (which is only about 500 years old) may have come from the old English word "advowtry," which signifies a setting aside of, or a breaking of, a vow. Even the KJV translators understood the word this way, and in Ezekiel 16:38 translated the word "adulteress" this way --- "And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged."

Ron seems to think, apparently, that understanding moicheia to signify a breaking of covenant is an erroneous imposition of meaning upon the text. That simply is not true. It is indeed one of the viable, legitimate meanings and applications of this word, and such has been recognized and utilized for centuries. Ron believes context is critical in determining how a word or concept is to be interpreted. I agree! And I think it is obvious that in this case an interpretation of moicheia as "SEX with one other than one's spouse" is simply an unworkable definition. We must thus appeal to the legitimate wider semantic range of the word to discover the appropriate meaning and application for this context. I believe "breaking covenant" (breaking wedlock) is that appropriate meaning and application, and one which fits the context nicely.

With this understanding, the teaching of Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage and adultery now makes perfect sense, and harmonizes with the remainder of the Word. It also allows divorce to truly mean divorce, and marriage to truly mean marriage. And the sin our Lord condemns is not marriage, but the destruction of marriage!!! However, by making "adultery" into a sex crime, the teaching of Jesus is twisted and distorted out of shape, and horrendous afflictions are then imposed upon those with broken covenants in order to appease the rigid tenets of this misguided interpretation.

When I pointed out that the word moicheia does indeed have the meaning "breach of covenant; breaking wedlock," Ron observed: "Your comment above is true, but not in the text of Matthew 5 or 19; the word 'adultery' has a primary definition and its primary definition is to be applied unless the context demands otherwise." In his summary, Ron added: "The word is to have its primary meaning when the context demands it (and it does in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9)."

Ron, I believe I have raised enough serious challenges to your position that it should be obvious to even the most casual student of the Word that the context does NOT in any way DEMAND what you suggest. Indeed, just the opposite. Your definition of "adultery" is completely unworkable, and leads to such unbelievable conflict of teaching, distortion of doctrine, and redefinition of terms, that it must be rejected.

In his summary, Ron wrote: "Al has argued that the Greek word that gives us our English word 'adultery' is to be understood in a broader way than merely the sexual - physical act the word is usually understood as meaning. He cited Greek authorities in an attempt to bolster his case."

In my previous posts, Ron, I simply sought to point out the fact that this word does indeed have a wider semantic range of meaning and application than the single definition you have chosen to use exclusively. All I had previously asked of you was that this wider range NOT be excluded out of hand in our efforts to interpret a passage. In other words, why redefine terms and impose unnecessary conditions and assumptions upon a text simply to make one's predetermined theology "fit," when a different and legitimate meaning and application of the term might make more sense in the overall context of God's teaching on this subject? I cited Greek authorities simply to demonstrate that the word DOES have such a wide semantic range, something they all acknowledge, by the way. Something even YOU acknowledge, Ron!!

Again, your limited, restrictive definition of "adultery" raises a host of questions and generates numerous problems, and I'm interested in hearing you address them in your response. I think the readers are going to discover, however, that to make your limited definition fit your theology, you are going to have to redefine terms, manipulate the texts in question and impose huge assumptions back into them. This is simply not proper hermeneutical practice, as you well know. And yet I understand WHY many take these extraordinary steps. It is because if they acknowledge that my reasoning just might be valid, and that we must appeal to another meaning and application of moicheia than the physical/sexual one, then their entire cherished theology crumbles before their eyes. I am hopeful and prayerful, however, that you will be more perceptive than that, and that you will see the serious problems associated with your teaching, and that you will turn from your tradition and embrace Truth!!

Home Index