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:
- 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).
- 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
- 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).
- Any person that marries a "put away" person is also guilty of committing adultery (and continues in that state
while being remarried).
- 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.
- This union is not to be broken by any man.
- 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.
- Though God did allow the breaking of it, Jesus said that it was never God's intention for this to occur.
- 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:
- God does not approve of marriages that are not in accordance with His teachings. Axiomatic.
- Adulteress marriages are not in accordance with His teachings. This is proved from I Corinthians 6:9.
- Therefore, God does not approve adulteress marriages.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The KJV --- And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry
another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
- The ASV --- And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another,
committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.
- The RSV --- And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits
- The Simple English --- I am telling you, unless sexual sin is the reason, if a man divorces his wife and marries
another woman, he is committing adultery.
- The NASV --- And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman
- The New Jerusalem --- Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife, I am not speaking of an illicit marriage,
and marries another, is guilty of adultery.
- The NRSV --- And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits
- Other ancient authorities read: "except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery." Others add
at the end of the verse: "and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
- The NKJV --- And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another,
commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
- The NIV --- I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another,
commits adultery. And he who marries the one put away commits adultery.
- Young's Literal Translation --- And I say to you, that, whoever may put away his wife, if not for whoredom, and may
marry another, doth commit adultery; and he who did marry her that hath been put away, doth commit adultery.
- George Lamsa's Translation --- But I say to you, whoever leaves his wife without a charge of adultery and marries
another commits adultery; and he who marries a woman thus separated commits adultery.
- A Translation of the Four Gospels by James A. Kleist --- And I declare to you: whoever divorces his wife, except
on the score of lewdness, and marries another is an adulterer; and he who marries a divorced woman is an adulterer.
- Charles Williams Translation --- I tell you, whoever divorces his wife for any other cause than her unfaithfulness,
and marries another woman, commits adultery.
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:
- 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).
- The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary says the word means unlawful sexual intercourse of an unwed person.
- 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")."
- 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).
- 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).
- Vine's defines adultery as one who has unlawful sexual intercourse with the spouse of another.
- The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary defines adultery as sexual intercourse, usually, of a man,
married or unmarried, always with the wife of another.
- The word is defined as a violation of the marriage bed (Webster's Unabridged, p. 27).
- On page 526 of BAGD Lexicon the word is to be understood literally, and Matt. 5:32; 19:9 are used as
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:
- "And I say unto you" --- This goes without explanation.
- "Whosoever" --- Jesus does not restrict this just to His Jewish audience.
- "shall put away his wife" --- The verb is only what I'll consider. The verb phrase "shall put away" speaks of one
who has divorced his wife. "Put away" is an aorist subjunctive verb. The subjunctive nature of the verb
suggests merely the possibility of such an occurrence: "The subjunctive expresses action or a state of being which is
objectively possible" (Syntax of New Testament Greek, by Carlton L. Winbery and James A. Brooks, p. 118).
The aorist part of the verb is not point action, but action that is indefinite (context sets the parameters to the
"indefiniteness"). Verbs, of course, express action. The Greek word, which gives us our English phrase, is apoluse,
and it means "to set free, to let go."
- "except for fornication" --- Fornication has already been defined above. The word "except" is an adverb, which
means, in this context, to exclude. So, Jesus is saying, "Whosoever shall put away his wife (I'm not talking of the woman
who committed fornication) and marry another is committing adultery."
- "and shall marry another" --- The verbs "shall marry" come from the Greek word gamese. The word
is an aorist subjunctive verb.
- "committeth adultery" --- This English phrase comes from a Greek word moichatai, which is a
present indicative verb.
- Since the present tense is normally understood to be a continuation of action, there must be a good
reason, in the context, for it to not be understood that way here. I suggest there is not.
- Winbery (p. 83) says that the present tense expresses linear action almost always in the subjunctive,
optative, and imperative moods. He says, further, it is usually true in the indicative mood.
- He comments on the aoristic present, "What is here called the aoristic present (he did not refer to any
particular passage) and what some grammarians call the specific or effective present involves a simple expression of
undefined action in the present time without any of the more developed implications of the gnomic,
historical, or futuristic presents. The aoristic present presents the action as a simple event or as
a present fact without any reference to its progress" (p. 89).
- "and he that marrieth her when she is put away" --- The man that has married a "put away" (divorced) woman (for
- "committeth adultery" --- Is guilty of committing (a present participle verb) adultery.
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?