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

Monday, January 29, 2001

Ron Thomas Responds
To Al's Recent Comments

Well, I appreciate Al's response. Al failed, I believe, to sustain his position on the meaning of the words "eunuch" and "porneia," and the "exceptive" clause.

Let me comment on the words of Al with respect to the word "eunuch." Al said that I was willing to overrule the context of Matthew 19:12 in order to accommodate a personal perspective regarding the authorial intent. No, I'm not! Merely because a word has a literal and/or metaphorical understanding (or application) does not mean that both applications of the word is to be used in a single instance. I am insisting that porneia (of Matthew 5:32; 19:9) has only one application in the passages under discussion. Al, attempting to show that I'm wrong, tried to illustrate his point with the word eunuch of Matthew 19:12. I believe he failed here also. Now, I am not saying there is not a passage that will illustrate Al's point (Hebrews 12:16 might be closer), but Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 do not do it.

Al calls Origen one of the greatest scholars and prolific authors of the early church as if to somehow suggest that his (Al's) application is warranted. No disrespect intended, but Origen means nothing to me. Origen may have interpreted a number of passages correctly or incorrectly, but what he did or did not do means nothing to this discussion.

Al said he would part company with me because I view the metaphorical as the exclusive application of "eunuch" in its 4th and 5th occurrence of Matthew 19:12. He said it this way: "However, where I would have to part company with Ron's perspective is in the view that the literal is not a possible interpretation here in any way at all. I think it possibly could be." It may be that someone might interpret the word literally in this passage, but I suggest (strongly) that the person who has so done has misinterpreted! Is Jesus speaking literally or metaphorically in Matthew 5:29-30 and 18:8-9?

Al further suggested that the passages (Deuteronomy 14:1-2; Leviticus 19:28; 21:5; Jeremiah 47:5; Hosea 7:14) I referred to speak nothing at all on the concept of mutilation. He said it this way: "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." The word "cut" (ASV) in Deuteronomy 14:1 is defined by Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies (p. 106) as, "to cut and hew; to cut in, to make incision in the flesh." Al, for one to be a eunuch (literally) is there a "cutting" of the flesh required? In the context of Deuteronomy 14 there is nothing stated about a eunuch or non-eunuchs, but there is something said about "cutting" into the flesh. J.A. Thompson says (p. 177), in his commentary (discussing Deuteronomy 14:1 and mutilation), "Such practices were forbidden in Israel, both because they hinted at some conformity to pagan practices and also because Israel had respect for the body as God's creation which was not to be disfigured or misused (cf. Lev. 19:27-28)" (Tyndale Commentary Series).

Your reference to JFB and The Expositor's Bible Commentary come from where? I looked in a couple of places, but I was unable to locate your quote (since you did not identify from where you received your quote, i.e., volume and page number). Your reference (quote) to Keener (I don't have this book) does not suggest anything to me that would indicate I'm wrong.

Al wrote: "In short, Ron, both the literal and figurative meanings and uses of the term 'eunuch' would have been offensive and abhorrent to the Jewish people of Jesus' day (and even to the Romans), but neither were specifically forbidden by the Mosaic Law." 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.

Al wrote: "Thus, either is a legitimate interpretation and application of the teaching of Jesus in Matt. 19:12. I emphasize this simply to point out, Ron, that one must not be overly anxious to render an exclusive interpretation of a passage when there is any possibility at all that other applications may be valid as well." Al, it is not a matter of being "overly anxious" to exclude anything. If the passage will allow for both applications of the word to work, then fine. But Al, your point about a figurative and literal meaning applying to a word at the same time does not fit in either Matthew 19:9 or 19:12 with the words "fornication" and "eunuch."


Al thinks I came very close to agreeing with him on the idea that there is no exception to God's ideal. What he failed to do was include the statement I made in its total context. God does indeed have an ideal in regards to marriage. God does not want His ideal altered and He does not want an exception to occur to His ideal. However, God did give man an exception to maintaining a marriage when trust is broken because a spouse slept with another person. That is the context in which I made my statement. If this was not conveyed in my previous post, then I failed to adequately communicate what I intended.

Moreover, Al thinks I contradicted myself when I said that one would not read the passages of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 as Al reads them. He attempted to point out that he thought my contradiction was in stating that God did grant an exception and then later saying that He didn't grant an exception. There is no contradiction in my words when they are read in their context. If Al wants to pull one sentence from its context and make it contradict another, then he'll be able to do so easily.

Al begins to give his analysis of what the "exceptive clause" of Matthew 5 and 19 is based upon (though, ultimately, he never really tells us). He first begins by saying that proponents of the "traditional" position have their (as he views the "traditional" position) "exceptive clause" based upon an incorrect premise. That incorrect premise is stated this way by Al, "The traditional point of view is that the only exception to the IDEAL is when a spouse commits porneia. Marriage is permanent and no divorce is ever allowed, EXCEPT if one of the spouses engages in porneia. THEN, and ONLY THEN, an 'exception' to the IDEAL is allowed, and a divorce is permitted and recognized by God. Otherwise, forget it .... you're stuck for life!!!" Al uses "hard" language to evoke an emotion that is negative in quality, but, other than that, he really does not say what the premise is that the "traditional" position (as he views it) is incorrectly based upon. He merely asserts that it is.

Al then begins to summarize what he thinks I believe. "Ron firmly believes that the committing of adultery occurs 'in a subsequent remarriage.' In other words, if a man divorces a spouse who was NOT guilty of porneia, then his subsequent remarriage is adulterous. Not only that, but Ron believes that every sexual act engaged in by this new couple is a continuing act of adultery. Thus, their remarriage is a 'living in adultery.' Ron says, 'If he remarries he is guilty of committing adultery.'"

Let me offer some clarification to what Al has stated. 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. When Jesus said a person marries a "put away" spouse He is assuming (by the very definition of the word) the marriage will be consummated. So, Ron is not equating adultery to remarriage and neither has he done so in any of his posts.

I commented in my previous post, "Al, you won't read in any of my posts where I said the only reason for a divorce is because fornication was committed. What you will read is that the only reason for a divorce AND remarriage is because of fornication being committed against a spouse." In no way can a person correctly deduce or infer that I said or implied what Al attributes to me. Al said this about my comment, "In other words, Ron seems to acknowledge that there may well be more than a single cause for rightfully issuing a certificate of divorce against a spouse, and thus having that divorce acknowledged by God." All that can be concluded from the comment in my previous post is what I said, not what I did not say. My point was not what justifiable cause (singular) there may be for divorce or what justifiable causes (plural) there may be for divorce. My point, in this, is to make clear what I did say, "....the only reason for a divorce AND remarriage is because of fornication being committed against a spouse." Note the emphasis: "divorce AND remarriage." Jesus said there is justification for a divorce and remarriage when the innocent spouse (having put away the "guilty" spouse because of the fornication) marries another person. A marriage may be destroyed for any number of reasons as evidenced by the actions of man. But, our discussion is how one is to read Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. If there is to be any justification for divorce and a subsequent remarriage it is to come from the Lord.

Now, 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?

Al, I look forward to your response. If I'm late getting back to you it may be because of scheduling. This time next week (Monday) I'll be at the FHU Lectures (God willing).

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