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

Thursday, January 4, 2001

Comments by Ron Thomas
In Affirmation of the Proposition

I maintain the Scriptures to teach on the subject of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (MDR) the following (below). I will answer the following question: "Can one be divorced and remarried with the Lord's approval?" To break this down further: "Can one be divorced (because that person committed fornication against his/her spouse; i.e., this person is the 'guilty' party) and be remarried with the Lord's approval?" I maintain the Lord will not allow one to be remarried if such is the case (because they would be continuing in an adulteress action). My interest is not to affirm a negative. I will set forth a positive argument from the Bible on the topic.

What the Scriptures Teach:

  1. Marriage is a covenant between two people and God. That marriage is not to be broken by man unless God approves the breaking of it (Matt. 19:7).

  2. God allows the breaking of one's marriage because of fornication (while the two are living) or death (because one of the two has passed away --- Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). Apart from these reasons there is no other (i.e., with a subsequent approved remarriage).

  3. Jesus said that if one were to put away his wife for some reason, other than fornication, and marry another --- that person (the person who married a 2nd time) would be committing adultery (Matt. 19:9).

  4. Any person that marries a "put away" person is also guilty of committing adultery (and continues in that state while being remarried).


  1. Marriage is a union of two people (male and female). These two people become one flesh. From the beginning of time God sanctioned it this way.

  2. This union is not to be broken by any man.

  3. However, as an interruption to the original plan, God did allow the breaking of it. This is recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. God's original plan was reinstituted by Jesus with the "exceptive" clause as offered in Matthew.

    • With respect to Deuteronomy:

      • Jesus said this was done because of the hardness of the heart.

      • It was God who authorized it in certain circumstances.

      • It was not man's prerogative to authorize anything he wanted.

    • With respect to Matthew 19:

      • Man is not to break the marriage.

      • If fornication is involved one of the two parties (of the marriage), maybe both, has broken their commitment/trust toward the other.

      • God has allowed a breaking of the marriage (putting away -- divorce) and a subsequent remarriage to the person who has not committed fornication.

  4. Though God did allow the breaking of it, Jesus said that it was never God's intention for this to occur.

  5. Jesus established His Law on the matter (implicitly going back to Genesis 2).

    • "Whosoever shall put away his wife." The idea is clearly referring to divorce.

    • "Except for fornication." Fornication, as defined by Vines, is illicit sexual intercourse.

    • "And shall marry another." No need to explain.

    • "Committeth adultery." No need to explain.

Put in Logical Form:

Argument #1

  1. God does not approve of marriages that are not in accordance with His teachings. Axiomatic.

  2. Adulteress marriages are not in accordance with His teachings. This is proved from I Corinthians 6:9.

  3. Therefore, God does not approve adulteress marriages.

Argument #2

  1. Adulteress marriages are remarriages (or a new marriage) that have been made without God giving the approval for this marriage. This is shown to be the case as recorded by the Holy Spirit in Mark 10:11-12; I Corinthians 6:9.

  2. God approves of a divorce and remarriage for the one doing the "putting away" when the reason for the divorce is because the spouse that was put away committed fornication against the one who did the putting away. This is shown to be the case from Matthew 5:32a and 19:9a.

  3. Therefore, the one who did the putting away and subsequently remarried has done so with God's approval because God authorized the divorce from the first spouse.

Some Analysis and Particular Points:


Al, are any of these versions incorrect in their translating of Matthew 19:9? Each one of these translations has a so-called "exceptive" clause. As one reads each version can the person reading this understand what they have read or are they needing another to "reinterpret?" What would you conclude from the reading of these translations? Do you believe there is a better translation to be offered?

The Meaning of Fornication and Adultery:


  1. Vine's says it is used of illicit sexual intercourse and it includes adultery. Matthew 5 and 19 are to be understood in its literal sense. Metaphorically it is to be understood as idolatry as in Hebrews 12:16 (where it could be understood either literally or metaphorically).

  2. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary says the word means unlawful sexual intercourse of an unwed person.

  3. The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, pp. 182-183 reads: "The Latin verb fornicare, which is the source of English fornicate and fornication, is derived from the noun fornix, 'arch, vault, arched basement.' Because brothels were sometimes established in the Roman vaults, fornix itself took on the sense 'brothel' and the derived verb fornicare was used with much the same meaning as modern English fornicate. The noun fornication appears in English at the beginning of the fourteenth century, some two hundred and fifty years before the verb fornicate. In 1303 Robert Mannying of Brunne in his penitential manual Handlying Synne did his best to define the noun with the utmost discretion, and though his fastidiousness resulted in some vagueness it is dispelled in part by the context: 'Fornycacyoun, whan two vnweddyde haue mysdoun' ("Fornication is when two unmarried people have done wrong")."

  4. The Greek word means prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse. It is used literally in Matthew 5 and 19 (BAGD, p. 693).

  5. Porneia which is rare in classical Greek originally meant "prostitution," "fornication," but came to be applied to unlawful sexual intercourse generally (Moulton & Milligan, p. 529).


  1. Vine's defines adultery as one who has unlawful sexual intercourse with the spouse of another.

  2. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary defines adultery as sexual intercourse, usually, of a man, married or unmarried, always with the wife of another.

  3. The word is defined as a violation of the marriage bed (Webster's Unabridged, p. 27).

  4. On page 526 of BAGD Lexicon the word is to be understood literally, and Matt. 5:32; 19:9 are used as references.

I'll attempt to exegete the passage below. If my exegesis is correct your comment from a previous discussion --- "one simply cannot deduce a prohibition of remarriage; not even for the guilty party" --- will be shown to be inaccurate.

Matthew 19 Broken Down Further:

The Teaching of Matthew 19:9:

Matthew 19:9 teaches that if one were to put away his wife and marry another, the person who put away his wife would be committing adultery while married to the second woman. If, on the other hand, he put his wife away because she was a fornicator (or guilty of committing fornication) and he married another woman, then he would not be committing adultery. However, the put away woman would be committing adultery if she remarried.

That which I offered in exegesis is wrong where?

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