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

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Ron Thomas Responds
To Al's Recent Comments

Thoughts On Romans 7

Al Maxey wrote: "With regard to the teaching of Paul in the early part of Romans 7, Ron takes exception to my use of the word 'association' when referring to the relationship of the woman in that passage with one other than her spouse. Ron wrote: '"Adultery" is "associating" with one "other than her spouse"? "Adultery" is "associating" "whether sex is actually taking place or not"? And you've said to me, I have manipulated the meaning of the word?' The apostle Paul was very familiar with the usual Greek word which conveyed the concept 'to marry' --- gameo. Paul has used it repeatedly. In fact, 41% of the time this word is used in the NT writings, it is used by the apostle Paul. However, Paul does NOT use it here. In this entire passage in Romans 7, Paul never utilizes the common words signifying a covenant of marriage. But, back to verse 3. The word employed by Paul in the phrase under question is ginomai, which means 'to become.' It seems to convey, when used in connection with relationships, the idea of becoming attached to or being with someone in a close personal association."

Though Paul never utilized the common word, it does not follow that he did not have marriage in mind. Al, is the word ginomai used to convey anything marital at all? Thayer's says (p. 116) that with the dative it means to become a man's wife. Though "marry" is not the English word in the text, certainly it is clearly understood. J.B. Lightfoot, commenting on Romans 7:4 said there is a reference to marriage (Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, "Epistle to the Romans," p. 301). Bauer's lexicon (p. 160) says the word means to "belong to someone." Belong to someone? How can this be unless a marriage is in view? Even though the word may be different the concept is not. Without quoting the passage even Moulton & Milligan (p. 126) indicate it can have reference to marriage.

Your analysis is less than adequate. In 7:1 is the man, in the illustration, "married" (as suggested by context)? Is the "law" in verse 2 being used in a similar fashion as in verse 1? It certainly is. In this verse (7:2) we are told that there is a "law of the husband" (ASV). A wife is bound to that law. Now, if the husband is alive (verse 3), and she is MARRIED to another she shall be called an adulteress (the ASV uses the words "she be joined to another man," but it is evident from the context and the lexicons that marriage is in view. Al, you again deny what scholarship says). It cannot get much clearer than that.

In part of a footnote on page 293 Gareth Reese (Commentary on New Testament Epistles: Romans) said (on the words "joined to another," 7:4), "The Greek reads, literally, 'that we should become (ginomai) to another.' The same expression was used of the wife's relation to her husband in the LXX at Leviticus 22:12-13; Ruth 1:12; and Ezekiel 23:4."

Al wrote: "Paul is not viewing a second marriage occurring here. The woman is still considered in this passage to be married to her first husband. No divorce is even discussed. The woman, instead, is viewed as 'associating with' or 'consorting with' another man while still married to her husband."

Well, this has been shown to be inaccurate. Paul does indeed have a second marriage in view. Divorce may not have been discussed, but adultery certainly occurs while married to this second person. Further, there exists the verb chrematisei (she shall be called) in the indicative mood, future tense. It is no wonder Al has to get this passage out of the way by reinterpreting it in a way that is not recognized. For if he concedes it, then his position is defeated. Godet said, with respect to this word, that it "strictly signifies to do business, and hence: to bear the name of the profession to which one is devoted" (Commentary on Romans, p. 265).

Al wrote: "There is absolutely nothing in the context of this passage in Romans 7 which 'demands' that a sexual 'association' with this other man is exclusively in view. It certainly might be, but it could just as easily not be .... Ron will undoubtedly view this as being ONLY a sexual relationship with this other man, however neither the text nor the context demands such an interpretation. Rather, it is strictly an assumption."

Give me one commentator, Al, that even remotely suggests what you have said here. (I suppose Olan Hicks or John Edwards might be cited, but that would be expected since they accept similar views as yourself.) When Paul makes use of this illustration of marriage you think a metaphorical application of adultery is in view? This is incredible!!

Al wrote: "Again, there is much more being taught by this passage in Romans 7:1-6. It is NOT a New Testament doctrinal statement on marriage, divorce and remarriage. In fact, it really has nothing to do with this subject. I would encourage the readers to carefully read my full analysis of this passage in the above referenced chapter of my book."

Paul's intent may not have been to establish doctrine with his reference to marriage and adultery here, but he, nevertheless, speaks the truth when he talks about it and we would do well to take this into consideration in our study of the New Testament on the topic. Further, Al, I have read your analysis of Romans 7 and did not find it to be as much as you think it to be. Lest we get sidetracked -- I will not deal with any of that material unless you bring it up in this present discussion.

Legitimate, Approved, Accepted, Recognized

Al wrote: "Divorce happens, and God has provided laws to deal with the many aspects of this tragic circumstance. Thus, they become allowed and even governed by laws and customs of man, and of God."

Where do the Scriptures speak on this matter? I seem not to recall where God authorized man to establish laws and customs that regulate marriage especially in contrast to His own revealed law. Romans 13 certainly does not apply; God already said what He demanded in Matthew 19:4-6.

Al wrote: "By 'legitimate' I merely sought to convey the reality of both divorce and remarriage. They actually occur, and they are recognized as real. A marriage has actually ended (divorce) and another has actually begun (remarriage). They are less than the IDEAL, but they are nonetheless REAL. Thus, they are legitimate in that sense."

I accept how you are using the word in this context. Divorce is real and remarriage is real; you have already said that God does not necessarily approve of these REAL divorces and remarriages. Nevertheless, these REAL unions, you argue, are going to be accepted by God.

Al wrote: "All 'missing of the mark' grieves our God, but these sins are still very real. Sin, however, can be repented of, and the sinner can be forgiven. Further, they can continue their journey in life in a restored relationship with their God. Divorce is NOT the 'unforgivable sin.'"

No, divorce is not an unforgivable sin, and yes it has to be repented of.

Al wrote: "And remarriage itself, to my knowledge, is never called a sin in the Bible!! In fact, Paul makes it very clear that it is NOT a sin (1 Corinthians 7:28)!!"

So, remarriage is an absolute privilege for all, right?

Al wrote: "Thus, God does not have to approve of a marriage to be a witness to it."

This is correct.

Al wrote: "I know lots of parents who did not approve of the person their son or daughter married, but they attended the wedding and witnessed the union. They recognized the marriage as a REAL one, even though they may have been less than thrilled with it. I'm sure God must feel the same with many marriages. He is present, He witnesses them, He recognizes them as real, but He is less than thrilled by the whole mess. The same with divorce."

If you are trying to make a parallel --- your parallel will fail.

Al wrote: "It was God's plan that a man and woman leave their parents and join themselves to one another in a covenant of marriage. Thus, every time this happens it is in keeping with this decree of God, and in that sense He is the one joining them."

It is also God's decree that man stop separating what God has joined together. But, man spits in the face of God (with his continuation of separating when God might have joined them together) and God is expected to accept it? Believe it who can. Will God join two people together when it is contrary to His will?

Al wrote: "Ron wrote: 'Al, since God did not approve of the marriage (between Herod and Herodias), was the marriage "legitimized" by God? With respect to that which God does not "approve" --- is it sin?' Was the marriage of Herod and Herodias REAL? Yes, it was. It was a real marriage. Mark 6:17 clearly declares that 'he had married' this woman. God was displeased with this marriage."

You have God being displeased with it, but accepting it. It may have been a REAL marriage, but it was not accepted by God. John called it UNLAWFUL (Mark 6:18).

Al wrote: "It was less than the IDEAL, for one thing. And it was also a transgression of His command not to take the wife of one's brother. A man is said to MARRY this woman who was his brother's wife. This obviously does not please God. God does not 'approve' of this behavior. However, God does recognize that it happens. A man can indeed MARRY one who was the wife of his brother. And yes, it is a real marriage. What is the consequence of this? Was the man told in the Law to break up this marriage? Was he told to cast this woman off? The consequence is declared to be this: the couple in this marriage would be childless!!! They were not told to break the covenant of marriage, they were merely informed that they had committed a sin!! NOT that they were continuing in sin by staying in the marriage, and certainly not with each individual sexual act experienced between them. The SIN was in marrying the brother's wife. That was a sin committed at a point in time, and only one time; it occurred when he lured this wife away and took her from his brother. The penalty imposed was they would be childless (a grave consequence to the Jewish way of thinking); the penalty was NOT that they had to divorce. That is never suggested. Did John ever once tell Herod to divorce Herodias? Go check the text!! If he did there is no record of it. He said it was not 'lawful' for Herod to have taken his brother's wife away from him .... and it wasn't!!"

Well, I did check the text and this is the conclusion of the matter: You have God accepting (though disapproving) Herod's marriage to Herodias and, also, Herodias' marriage to Philip. Mark said (guided by the Holy Spirit) that Herodias was Philip's wife. Did Herodias have two husbands at the same time? It appears so, if you are right. History says that Herodias divorced Philip, but the Holy Spirit did not recognize it (Josephus, Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 5, Section 4, page 485).

What is interesting to me is Al's comment: "They were not told to break the covenant of marriage, they were merely informed that they had committed a sin!!" They were merely informed of their one time sin. Tell me, Al, what recognized commentator (or scholar) ever said as much? Interesting interpretation you have offered. So, John was killed because he said Herod and Herodias sinned one time in their marriage one to another? Interesting.

Al wrote: "But, the sin was in this dishonorable theft, NOT in each sex act performed in the subsequent marriage."

I'm sure you didn't intend to say this. Dishonorable theft?

Al wrote: "John was telling Herod that he had sinned against his brother (and against God) by his act of taking away his brother's wife."

John told Herod no such thing. He said it was unlawful to have her.

Al wrote: "It seems like God would have said something in the Law about divorcing this woman, if that had truly been the 'fix' for the sin. But, God decreed no such thing. Neither did John. Neither did Jesus. Herod had sinned, and he needed to acknowledge that sin, rather than considering his actions as being of no real consequence to anyone. The penalty imposed by the Law of God was that this couple would be childless, NOT that they would be forced to divorce!!"

It was alright for Herod to keep his spouse, but not those of Ezra 10? Both were unlawful.

Al wrote: "Ron wrote: 'Merely because divorces are real, and merely because remarriages are real, does not mean that God accepts them.' Yes, divorces and remarriages are REAL. And YES, God accepts the reality of them. He does not always approve of such, but He does accept the reality of such! I think you have trouble in confusing accepting something as real with the concept of approving something as right. There IS a difference, Ron."

I know what the difference is, Al, but I'm having a hard time understanding why you would talk of a subsequent remarriage as being REAL before God, but not approved of, and then accepted by God as far as eternity is concerned. This not approved of by God remarriage, though real, is going to allow one into glories of heaven (if everything else is as it should be)? So, God will not approve of a marital situation (because it is against His will), but observe the "passover" with respect to His revealed will so that those who are guilty of this compromise can enter into heaven?

Deponent Verbs

Al wrote: "Ron wrote: '...the verb moichatai (Matthew 19:9) is middle or passive deponent ...' Believe it or not, Ron, I had a missionary in Romania tell me the very same thing recently (but it was with respect to that word's usage in Matthew 5:32). He was just as wrong as you are in this assumption!!! Ron has declared that moichatai is a 'deponent' verb. Does that word exist ONLY in the middle or passive verb forms? The answer, of course, is NO!! This word most definitely HAS an active verb form, and that form IS used in Scripture. Moicheuo is the active form, and interestingly enough it appears (as an Aorist ACTIVE Indicative) just four verses earlier (Matt. 5:28). Thus, the form utilized in Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 is NOT deponent. The missionary in Europe to whom I presented this evidence acknowledged his error. I'm curious to see if YOU will."

Nice try, Al. Do you think I would make such a comment without having considered what you might say? You evidently did. In the Analytical Greek New Testament the word moichatai is identified, grammatically, as a middle or passive deponent. Further, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (by Perschbacher) also identifies it as middle or passive deponent. Check it out, Al. Likewise with the 2nd occurrence of the word in Matthew 5:32.

Al, you might want to read Wallace again (particularly pp. 428-429; take a look at his list (p. 430) and what he offers in the way of exceptions). A "deponent," as Dana & Mantey said, is an anomalous variation of voice (p. 164). I would encourage you to compare, also, Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach (pp. 135-136). The Abbott-Smith Lexicon says that moichao in the NT is always middle (p. 295).

Further, what is your point in challenging this? Being a deponent or not does nothing for your position. I suppose if you want to challenge this, then you will. My intention is not to debate over the grammatical analysis of the word. All I did was repeat what was stated in the two references above.

The Present Indicative in Matthew 19:9

Al wrote: "I think you ARE overlooking the distinctions which occur when this PRESENT TENSE is used with the INDICATIVE MOOD. This was really the whole point Dr. Osburn was seeking to convey. He was not denying the force of the present TENSE, but rather emphasizing the significance in Greek of this tense when used with the indicative MOOD. I think you and Deaver BOTH have failed to perceive this!!"

Al, is it understood that the present tense conveys its normal function unless there are compelling reasons otherwise? What does the indicative mood do to change this? The indicative mood is nothing more than a mood of certainty. Dana & Mantey state that .... "the indicate mood is the mood which denotes the verbal idea as actual" (p. 166).

William D. Mounce said, in his grammar, on the characteristics of the present active indicative that "the present tense indicates either a continuous or undefined action ... More often than not the present tense describes a continuous action" (p. 129). On the following page, in a summary fashion, he said, "The present active indicative describes an action that normally occurs in the present time. By default choose a continuous translation, and if it does not fit the context choose an undefined aspect" (emphasis added, RT). In other words, Al, at most, the present indicative is UNDEFINED, not "point action." The only way to determine what the undefined aspect of the present indicative verb is is by the context. And, on the basis of the normal use of the present active indicative --- there must be compelling reasons to do so. Al, what are they?

Al wrote: "I would disagree with Roy Deaver completely. Indeed, his statement shows a glaring lack of understanding on his part of the impact of mood upon a Greek tense. At least to his credit he DID see that Dr. Osburn was pointing out that it was the indicative mood that impacted the present tense. I think it is unfortunate, however, that Deaver was incapable of understanding the significant impact mood has on tense .... especially the indicative mood. As a 'Greek scholar' (your assessment, not mine), he should know this!!"

Tell us, Al, what does the indicative mood do to alter the normal function of the present tense?

Al wrote: "Dr. Ernest De Witt Burton, in his Moods and Tenses of New Testament Greek, points out that the 'Present Indicative is used of action in progress in present time.' Dr. Burton points out this is very much distinct from action in progress in past time (the Greek imperfect) and action in the future (the Greek future)."

Your reference to Dr. Burton is not at all what you intend for it to be. Dr. Burton said (p. 7), "The most constant characteristic of the Present Indicative is that it denotes action in progress." In the same paragraph, a few lines down, he said, "...the Present Indicative is chiefly used to express action in progress in present time" (emphasis added, RT). Again from Dr. Burton, "Hence in deciding upon the significance of any given instance of the Present Indicative in the New Testament as well as in classical Greek, the interpreter may consider that there is, at least in the majority of words, a certain presumption in favor of the Progressive Present rather than any other uses mentioned below" (Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek, pp. 7-8, emphasis added, RT).

Al wrote: "The emphasis of the indicative mood on the present tense is to convey the reality of the action in the NOW, not in the past or future."

This is correct, but not at the exclusion of the others.

Al wrote: "Ron, however, in his 'continuing in adultery' theory would potentially transport the impact of the present indicative ('commits adultery') decades into the future in some circumstances. He has already stated that the 'commits adultery' doesn't occur until the remarriage takes place .... and if the man or woman doesn't remarry for 20 years, then 'commits adultery' (which is action in the NOW) doesn't actually occur, in his theory, for 20 years!!!"

Is this supposed to mean something? If you were hoping to communicate a thought to me --- I missed it. I'm wondering if you are grasping for something that does not exist.

Al wrote: "Thus, according to Ron, it is progressive action in the FUTURE as each FUTURE sex act with this new wife takes place. Thus, for Ron, the progressive action in the NOW is actually transposed to progressive action in the FUTURE."

Read Dr. Burton above, or, better yet, get his book and read it. You'll see that Al's hope is rapidly vanishing (frankly, it has never existed!).

Al wrote: "However, progressive action in the NOW is not as 'open ended' as Ron might like to think (and indeed MUST think for this theory to work). True, it is an event viewed more as a line (---) than as a point (x), but this is still progressive action in the NOW, not necessarily something which extends forever throughout eternity just so a theory can be accommodated."

You are admitting linear action? This is pretty significant. Linear action "in the NOW" does extend further than the NOW. If not why not? Maybe, I should ask what you mean by the NOW?

I don't seem to recall making use of the word "eternity" as you suggest.

Al wrote: "Dr. Osburn simply sought to convey the truth that those who embrace the 'continuing in adultery' theory are stretching this progression in the NOW a lot further than it was designed to stretch!!!"

The truth? Dr. Osburn hardly expressed anything of the sort. The very last statement by Dr. Osburn, in his article, is that continuity may or may not be involved. If it may or may not be involved, Al, on what basis do you assert that it is not involved? As one reads the references from the grammars they will be able to conclude who is doing any stretching or who is grasping for air because their position fails under scrutiny.

Al wrote: "Indeed, in some cases they are forgoing the NOW altogether in favor of FUTURE continuing action; even declaring that the progressive action in the NOW does not even begin for decades!!! That is ludicrous."

Al, if you are going to assert something about the position that I subscribe to, at least do so with words that I have used. What's this supposed to mean? I don't seem to recall saying anything about "decades."

Al wrote: "It's as bad as defining 'adultery' as 'sex with one OTHER than one's wife,' and then declaring boldly that 'commits adultery' is sex with one's WIFE in this remarriage!!!"

So, now, you are standing in judgment of the remainder of the reference works that define adultery? You stood in judgment of one specifically, now this sweeping comment of yours grabs them all. Simply because you don't like the definition that scholarship recognizes as existing is not something I can help. This is why I assert, and have demonstrated, that proponents of your view have to redefine or manipulate the word. I've done this by simply repeating what is already in print about an accurate definition of the word.

Al wrote: "Ron wrote: 'I have already shown, by the writings of Dr. Roy Deaver (Greek scholar), that Dr. Osburn's article is to be seriously questioned.' It is my studied opinion, Ron, that you have done no such thing! And I hardly consider Deaver to be a 'Greek scholar.' I realize you seem to have some kind of relationship with this man, so I will not declare what I really think of Roy Deaver, but let's just say I wouldn't form any biblical doctrines based on anything this man said or wrote. And I especially wouldn't take seriously anything that appeared in the publication Spiritual Sword. Whenever I come across one of those journals it goes in my 'round file' right along with Contending For The Faith and other such writings of the ultra-conservative faction of the churches of Christ. I'm sorry, Ron, but I have seen the effects of such efforts by such journals (and their editors and writers) over the years, and frankly they have done more, in my opinion, to divide the ONE BODY than just about anything else."

This is nothing more than ad hominem. It really has no bearing on the discussion. Your view of the person is not going to defeat the critical analysis of Dr. Osburn. I did not resort to this tactic because I know it to be dishonorable. Dr. Osburn's position on the present active indicative is to be defeated on the merits and not on his particular view about other things.

Al wrote: "This is all I will say with regard to such individuals and their 'scholarship,' except to point out it does not surprise me in the least that Dr. Osburn has not wasted his time responding to Deaver. I wouldn't either, if I were Dr. Osburn."

I dare say that Dr. Osburn did not respond because he anticipated a severe critical response to the position he holds on the present active indicative. Unfortunately, I have seen his article referenced elsewhere. But, I know of another scholar, Dr. William Woodson, that will soon deal with what Dr. Osburn has said (he told me he has material that is about an inch thick in research and this does not include all the books available to him).

Al wrote: "Ron, I would simply point out that I believe you are still failing to perceive the significance of the impact of MOOD upon TENSE. You are arguing for your view primarily from the perspective that 'commits adultery' is in the present tense. Dr. Osburn, and other reputable Greek scholars, would simply like you to be aware that this phrase also occurs in the indicative mood. And it does make a difference. I repeat my previous statement: 'Ron has based his theory largely upon a misguided interpretation of the force and focus of the Present Indicative in Greek.' I stand by that statement."

Al, can you give me other "reputable" Greek scholars that say as Dr. Osburn? What does the indicative mood do to alter the tense used in a particular context? Is it the mood that will affect anything, Al, or is it the context that makes our understanding clear? You think it is the former, I insist it is the latter.

Al wrote: "Thus, according to Ron's theory, if the man does not remarry for 20 ... 30 ... 40 years, then 'commits adultery' (progressive action in the NOW) doesn't even BEGIN for decades into the FUTURE. This is stretching the force of the present indicative far beyond anything the Greeks (or Jesus) ever had in mind."

This is pitiful. The very definition of the word adultery by ALL Greek reference works that I have (something, I know, you don't accept) plays a major role in what is to be understood.

Al wrote: "Ron wrote: 'This is as false as it can be! The "casting off" is NOT adulterous.' Well, Ron, all I will say in response to that is: This is as false as it can be!! I suppose we'll have to leave it at that, and let the common sense of our readers prevail here!!"

Give me a reputable dictionary (lexicon) definition, Al, that agrees with you. Your "casting off" definition (application) is as false as it can be.

Al wrote: "Our reader is referring to Matthew 13:44 --- 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field' (KJV)."

Al, I will comment on this passage as soon as you comment on the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:5 I referred you to in the last posting.

Al wrote: "In my previous post I wrote: 'I believe my findings are completely consistent with the WHOLE of God's Word on the matter. And if the numerous positive comments of those who have read my book is any indication, a great many people are coming to a new awareness of biblical Truth in this matter, and are rejecting the harsh doctrines of traditionalism.'"

Al, your position has not been sustained by the grammar of the Greek; your position has not been sustained by word definitions. You may believe that your position is accurate based upon the feelings of others, but it will not and does not hold up under scrutiny. I know you won't go down on this matter, but if I can demonstrate to others that the grammar (and word definitions) will not hold up in your theory, then I will do as I had hoped.

Al wrote: "To this Ron replied: 'Anyone can have "itching" ears.' That is true, Ron .... just as it is equally true that many have turned DEAF ears to Truth, being more enamored with their traditional teaching."


Al wrote: "May God bless us all with open ears and open minds so that we might be receptive to God's Truth on this matter. And may we be honest and courageous enough to embrace change if our personal preferences & perceptions, and our traditional tenets, are incompatible with that revealed Truth."

I concur with this. Revealed truth defeats your view. You have referred to the "traditional" position to which I subscribe. What makes this the "traditional" position? Can you tell me when and where it got its start outside the Bible? Now, if you are using the word in the biblical sense, then I will concur it is traditional.

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