Part III: MDR: Jesus, the Law, and Divorce

Editor’s Note

Robert’s original response is blockquoted, discourse markers are italicized, and Ethan’s responses are marked with ELDV. I have not modified Robert’s remarks for content, but have endeavored to fix many punctuation markers, italicized texts, and/or other such marks that did not translate over the e-mails.

MDR: Jesus and the Law (Ethan R. Longhenry)

[Editor’s note: In order to be less redundant I have posted here only my responses to Robert, since the vast majority of the material Robert presented is cited throughout the post.]

I see that you still are functionally fixated on one tree and still miss the entire forest. We will see that you hold to at least two completely untenable positions which place your doctrines in opposition to God.

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Who ever said that I was saying that Jesus was teaching contrary to the Law? Again, everything Jesus taught could easily have been practiced by Jew and would never fall under condemnation of the Law.

[Robert:] Ethan, I really do not need to go further than this (dealing with this paragraph) because you have denied a point that is fundamental in our discussion. If I can show that your statement above is not in harmony with your teaching and practice (and I can) then your position will be seen as error.

ELDV: We shall see, perhaps.

Robert continued:

First, I agree with your statement above and I appreciate that several list members also agree with it. However, you apparently believe that Jesus taught that a divorced person cannot marry (based on what you have said) and I’m going to proceed based upon that assumption.

ELDV: Jesus taught that persons who were put away cannot remarry. Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 are as clear as day about such things. Confusion has only entered thanks to the work of those who diligently desire to revise God’s teachings on marriage.

Robert continued:

Let us say that Jesus told the Pharisees: You who have divorced your wives and married another are now living in adultery. That is what I understand you to be teaching that Jesus said, as it is recorded, though you say He was only “pointing to” the time when it would be included into the N.T. But, Ethan, Jesus said it to the Pharisees. That cannot be denied. And, to not apply it to those to whom it was spoken is to ignore or deny a fundamental hermetical rule for Bible study. He said it to the Pharisees and they were guilty of apoluo their wives and marrying another, which Jesus said was adultery and which you agree was adultery. There was no need for God to have included such teachings in the record if it did not apply to them. The apostles could have dealt with the MDR issue later, and of course Paul did. But who is willing to look there without first having their mind made up on MDR?

ELDV: Deuteronomy 18:15-19:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen– just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I
command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Let’s take this passage and apply Robert’s new hermeneutical principle to it.

Who is Moses speaking to? Deuteronomy 1:1-3:

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them.

Okay, we see that Moses is speaking to the Israelites beyond the Jordan just before they enter Canaan.

Of whom is Moses speaking in Deuteronomy 18:15-19? The only prophet who could be said to be like Moses in every respect would be Jesus the Christ, and I would assuredly hope that Robert will agree with me on this; if he does not, I fear we have far less of a common basis than I was hoping.

Now, if all this is true, then according to Robert’s new hermeneutical rule, Moses lied. God did not raise up a prophet for THEM– those Israelites beyond the Jordan around 1400-1300 BCE– He raised up the prophet 1400-1300 years later! How can this be?

Well, we either have a Biblical contradiction or a severely flawed rule of hermeneutic, and my vote is for the latter. The Bible is chock
full of examples of statements made to persons that had no direct relevance to the persons at hand according to the guidelines established at hand– I’ve used this one because it’s fairly obvious. Moses’ statement is true– God would raise up a prophet from among the Israelites– but the statement was not directly relevant to those to whom Moses was speaking. Jesus’ statement is true– that God’s intention for marriage is one man one woman for life, and that divorce is only allowable if for sexual immorality, and those who remarry without a proper divorce commit adultery– but this does not necessitate that such rule was being bound at that moment upon the Jews or the Pharisees, especially when we read in Matthew 4 that Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and that Kingdom was only established on Pentecost.

Secondly, and most importantly, we see that Robert is still reading into his Bible as opposed to reading his Bible. He writes, “He said it
to the Pharisees and they were guilty of apoluo their wives and marrying another;” and I would ask again: Robert, where does the text say this? Where does the text even remotely insinuate this?

Again, Matthew 19:3a:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking,

Robert, I know that it’s detrimental to your doctrine, but you really need to let Scripture interpret Scripture. The Pharisees were testing Jesus. The Matthew 19 situation is no different in that respect from the Sabbath situation of Matthew 12, the coin situation in Matthew 22, and also the wife situation in Matthew 22. Robert, to infer that the Pharisees were asking Jesus about divorce because of their own marital situations is just as likely as the Sadducees asking Jesus about marriage in Heaven because they had sisters who had all married seven brothers in a row. You’ve added it to the text. There’s no indication that there was any personal application going on, and the Pharisees and the Sadducees were merely testing Jesus to attempt to prove that He could not have been the Christ. Get out from your doctrinal glasses and read what the text says!

Robert continued:

Here is the kicker: You say regarding not only Mt19 but also all of Jesus’ teachings, that what he taught, “…Could easily have been practiced by Jew and would never fall under condemnation of the Law.”
But such is either error or your interpretation of Mat19 is error, because the Law forbade treachery and adultery (Ezra 9,10; Lev20:10).

ELDV: The Law did forbid treachery and adultery, as does the covenant under Christ; that is why adultery is wrong and divorce is sinful except when it is received because of the sexual immorality of one’s spouse, since her treachery and her adultery has caused the covenant she (or he) has made to be invalidated if the offended party consents. How is it treachery to properly divorce one’s spouse after they have committed treachery/adultery/covenant-breaking?

Robert continued:

There can be no doubt that your interpretation of Jesus teaching is error because it has him transgressing by teaching contrary to the Law. Jesus did not teach contrary to the Law, and your subtle way of trying to avoid being seen as saying something that implicates Jesus as a Law violator is exposed. Asserting that what Jesus said to sinners under the Law was not applicable to them, that it did not apply to them and that they could practice what he condemned is not only a dodge or quibble, it implies that Jesus spoke without authority and that He did not tell the truth.

ELDV: I would like to first point out the complete lack of Scriptural justification of any of these charges, which is fairly significant; and I would again point to the multitude of passages throughout the Bible written to persons who would not benefit directly from the message: did Moses teach without authority about the later coming of a prophet since it was not fulfilled in the lifetime of the hearers? Is Isaiah a disappointment because the suffering savior did not redeem Israel from the Babylonians but came later to redeem all Israel and the world from their sins? And would you charge God as being the ultimate Indian giver for what He says regarding all of the great champions of faith from Enoch to Daniel and beyond in Hebrews 11:39-40?

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Robert, the Bible is full of promises fulfilled long after the death of the ones who received it and guidelines spoken of not established fully until after they were spoken.Let’s use another great example: baptism.

John 4:1-2

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)…

How about it, Robert? Where in the Law was immersion in water for repentance of sins commanded? Does this mean that baptism is not for New Testament Christians since it was done by Jesus and John? If baptism was not a command under the Law, why were John and the disciples of Jesus baptizing people? Into what were they baptized? It was pointing to the baptism for remission of sin that was to come, and Jesus needed to be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness,” to be an example to whom? The Jews? Or to us?

1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Why would we not want to imitate Christ by preaching His truths about baptism– and about marriage, divorce, and remarriage?

The weight of the Biblical evidence is against you, Robert, and all you can provide is your think-so.

Robert continued:

To do what YOU say Jesus taught, they would have had to violate the Law by stopping being faithful to their wives IMMEDIATELY. And, even if Jesus’ words did not have to be obeyed by them there is no evidence that the people who were taught on the day of Pentecost, or thereafter, were told that their legal marriages were adulterous. The only examples we have are where the marriage was not legal, and that is in perfect harmony with what Jesus actually taught.

ELDV: There’s no evidence about the faithfulness or lack thereof of the specific Jews who converted on Pentecost at all. I can sit here and say that there is no evidence that any of them had more than one wife, and there’s no evidence to prove that they didn’t divorce women with whom they had no right to dwell when they repented of their sins and turned from them. So now where are we?

Robert, let’s deal with what the texts say and not with what they don’t say.

And as another note about “treachery,” as you say it is when women are divorced and cast off: find me anything in the Law of Moses– the Torah as seen in Genesis through Deuteronomy– where God expressly prohibits any and all intermarriage between the Israelites and the other nations. It was never considered a good idea– neither was divorce– but where was it commanded? Moses himself married a Cushite woman. Yet in Ezra 10 the Jews come together and decide to cast off their foreign wives and the children they had with them. How is that not treachery?  And if we can agree that God had considered this matter to be good for the Israelites, then your case about treachery is completely groundless and we can both therefore agree that divorces made by Jews to get sin out of one’s life is not treachery at all.

Robert continued:

Though I agree with Ethan on the matter of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, and can appreciate his stand in
showing Howard’s error regarding Deut24:1-4, I disagree with Ethan’s assessment of what Moses allowed. Ethan says Moses allowed (suffered) the Israelites to divorce their wives and to marry with the connotation that it was perfectly ok.

ELDV: Connotations are inferred, not written, and I believe we need to remember that. The Law permitted divorce; it did not command it nor did it even encourage it.

Robert continued:

Ethan, the command is in Deut24:

[American Standard Version]

When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

If “he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it into her hand” is not a command then how do define the word command?

ELDV: A command is a command, Robert. It is a statement affirming or rejecting a given action in a given circumstance.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is not as hard or as relative as you would perhaps like it, Robert. We do the same thing in our law codes today. For instance, the school zone on a given street. Say that the standard speed limit is 30 mph. You pass a school and you see a sign: “School Zone: 20 mph on school days when children are present.” In legal terms, this is the law:

“If you are driving on this road during a school day and children are present, then you shall go 20 mph.”

Now, if it is Saturday or Sunday, or if it is a school day and no children are present, do you need to go 20mph? No; the conditions of the law no longer apply.Deuteronomy 24 is the same way.

The “if” clause is in verses 1-3:

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife…”

IF all of these conditions are met, then the command is verse 4:

then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The command in the text is verse 4. The situation in which the command will be utilized is in verses 1-3. Very simple. Therefore, the teaching in Deuteronomy 24:1-3 is circumstantial, and we infer from the fact that since (a) such marriages and divorces are mentioned without explicit condemnation and (b) the only command about the woman is relative to her first husband, and, most importantly, (c) Jesus says that such was allowed, that the Israelites were permitted to divorce their wives.

Robert continued:

We also had a little disagreement regarding God’s idea of the reason for divorce. You say Deut 24 was given because of the “hardness of heart” and that it was not commanded. I say you are not considering what was apparently being done that the command was to men who were going to do it anyway. The command (the giving of the divorce papers) was not a license for treachery, it was a command to those who would not be faithful and it was for the protection of the woman. Ethan, back off and take a look at the “big picture.”

ELDV: I have no problems with the “big picture;” the problem is that you’re still not actually reading the text.

Here it is again: Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an

Where on earth, Robert, do we find anything of what you say in this passage itself? Where is there any discussion of the “protection” of
the woman? You’re doing nothing more than what the Jews have been doing for over 2,000 years, focusing so much more on what commentators have said about the text than what the text itself says!

It may be a reality that the purpose of the certificate of divorce was the protection of the rights of the divorced woman, but that is completely immaterial to the text at hand. The point of the legislation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was legislation regarding the relationship between a man and his ex-wife who had been the wife of another. That is the stated explicit purpose of this passage.

Now, in Matthew 19, the concession of Moses to the Israelites– the ability for them to put away their wives with a piece of paper– is under discussion. Jesus first makes it abundantly clear that Moses is not commanding the Israelites to divorce their wives but that Moses suffered them to divorce their wives, and then explains that from the beginning it has not been so. The message is unmistakable: this conversation should not even exist between myself and Robert. The concession and command in Deuteronomy 24 was in result of a hard-hearted people and never accurately reflected God’s intention for marriage. Jesus re-establishes in His Kingdom the guidelines set from the beginning. Perfectly clear and simple.

Robert continued:

Ethan, I have shown already that your interpretation of Jesus’ teaching is not in harmony with Moses. That it is not in harmony with such clear passages as 1Tim 4:1-4 and 1Cor 7:2;8,9;27,28 is also clear. My position allows for them to all harmonize perfectly. To accept your position one would have to misunderstand Moses and twist what Paul wrote to confirm to your misunderstanding of what Jesus taught.

ELDV: And we have here your first doctrine which places you in opposition to God. While Moses, Jesus, and Paul are all in harmony with their personal beliefs regarding God’s purpose for marriage, that which Moses legislated is not in harmony with Jesus. Matthew 19:8 is a contrastive verse from Matthew 19:7, and the legislation of Moses is not in harmony with the Gospel message of Jesus.

You turn Jesus against Paul, Robert, and there is no denying it. Jesus explicitly demonstrates that those who would divorce improperly and those who are divorced have no right of remarriage, and yet you would say that Paul would allow them this privilege? More reading into the text than actually reading the text.

Robert continued:

I must admit I did not read your article close enough and that you do not make the exact same arguments that Galloway has made. Barnes explained the objections that were made by Galloway – you seem to want to be seen as saying Jesus did not contradict the Law, and I appreciate that. Nevertheless, I have already shown the weakness of your position in your efforts to harmonize your idea of what Jesus said with Moses.

ELDV: Why should this not surprise me? You obviously don’t even really read your Bible; of course you would not actually read my post!

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Nice “what if.” Where is the evidence that any such condition existed? Where do we see anyone “putting away” his wife without “divorcing” her in the Law or any example from the OT? It appears that you are merely attempting to separate the divorce custom of the Israelites to make some misguided argument that still holds no water according to Jesus’ instructions.

[Robert:] The evidence is in the text itself. You can charge that I made it up, or that I have no ability to interpret scripture, but are you willing to say the same of Mike Willis? Surely you saw what he wrote.

ELDV: You have not demonstrated that the evidence is in the text itself beyond the fact that you’ve surely read that evidence into it. Where is it, Robert? I don’t care if Mike Willis makes the same kinds of arguments; Mike Willis is not God, either, and I have significant
disagreements with him regarding divorce and perhaps other issues. But that is neither here nor there: the fact of the matter is that you’ve still not actually provided any evidence for any of this.

Regarding the person who divorced his wife for “burning his toast,” I said and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Would he be condemned for violating the Law of Moses in this regard? Under what provision if so?

[Robert:] The Law was not violated by giving the “bill of divorcement.” That part was obeyed. He would be condemned for the treachery against his wife. Your position condemns not only the guilty party in a divorce but the innocent one as well. God’s legislation protects the innocent. Man’s legislation puts a yoke on the innocent that they often cannot bear.

ELDV: Funny. I don’t remember mentioning anything about the man not giving his wife the piece of paper. That’s probably because I see no evidence that compels me to believe that the two procedures were ever separated and am still fully convinced that the divorce done by the agency of the bill of divorcement was Israelite divorce custom.

The fact of the matter remains: if a man divorces his wife (and for Robert’s sake we’ll even add the statement about the piece of paper) for burning his toast, he has justification per Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and no provision against it.

And here’s another very direct question:

If a Jew who had divorced his wife for burning his toast and then married another woman heard Jesus in Matthew 19, recognized that he acted improperly and divorced his second wife and gave her a bill of divorcement, has he violated either Jesus’ preaching of the Gospel or the Law of Moses? If so, how so?

Regarding God and His changing mind, I wrote and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Hm. God must have this kind of complex, because He allows for eating pig flesh in Noah’s day, denies it to the Jews, and allows it again under Jesus. For that matter, Noah was never circumcised, circumcision was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Israelites, and is no longer under the covenant with Christ? Or shall we do what you ostensibly want us to do and become slaves to the Law and be circumcised because of your desire to argue like a sabbatarian?

Jesus re-establishes God’s intentions for marriage under His covenant. It’s one of many things we have in common with Noah, for instance, and not with Moses. And to say otherwise would either make you an unbeliever or a sabbatarian.

[Robert:] I have shown that you misunderstand God’s teachings to Moses. As to the reasons why God changed on the things you mentioned above I would have to study at a later time. There was a reason. God did not make the changes you assert regarding marriage.

ELDV: What a copout. “I don’t know about the truth of the matter but I’m sure that you’re wrong?” I hope you do study this, Robert. I hope that you see that there is just as much evidence for the changes listed above as there is for the change of the guidelines regarding marriage.

After all, Robert, did not Jesus declare all things clean?

Mark 7:15-19:

“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)

So, here’s a question for you: is Mark’s parenthesis correct? Did Jesus declare all foods clean? For whom were they clean: Jews of the
Law or Christians of the New Covenant? The latter, of course, and yet that covenant is not in force yet. How can this be? It is because
Jesus is pointing to what is to come without violating that which already exists.

Regarding Matthew 19:3, I wrote, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] If you are as much of a fan of letting Scripture interpret Scripture as you say you are, accept what Matthew says in Matthew 19:3!

[Robert:] Ethan, what you want is for me to accept what YOU THINK it says regardless of the obvious problems with your interpretation. You have God punishing innocent people with celibacy, which is something he says another cannot impose on someone one who has no marriage. For you to show me your position is correct you must first show me, not your twist of a scripture, how a divorced person has a marriage. Persons who have no marriage are the ones who are to be allowed a marriage, according to Paul.

ELDV: Humorous. You cannot answer the truth that you have completely missed the boat about Matthew 19. I charge you with misinterpreting the text because of the obvious comment in Matthew 19:3 about the motives of the Pharisees– as I did above also– and this is how you respond? With rhetoric? Robert, it is obvious to me and anyone following this conversation that you’ve been caught. You cannot provide any justification for your imaginary Jews who had divorced their wives without giving them certificates of divorce in Matthew 19. The text interprets itself in these matters, and you are forced to resist the obvious. This much is obvious. Answer the criticism regarding Matthew 19:3: admit that you were wrong and that the only thing we know is going on in Matthew 19 is that the Pharisees are testing Jesus or provide compelling evidence that these imaginary Jews of yours exist here. If you will not provide an answer to this very direct (and very simple) criticism, then our conversation is over. I will not waste my time with
someone who will not even read either the Biblical texts under discussion or the posts written about it.

Robert answered this about Matthew 19:10:

See this page:

ELDV: Funny, I haven’t yet run to a website. I explain what I mean and my position and perhaps reference a website for more information. State the material or why don’t we just have a link throwing contest?

I quoted and Robert responded:

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

[Robert:] It would be better not to marry “his wife” or the one he married, if such was the case, i.e., they had no right to marry because of outside the race, incest, etc.

ELDV: More fiction! Where is there any indication in the text whatsoever about “they had no right to marry because of outside the
race, incest, etc.?” The only indication the TEXT provides is:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

And according to all sound rules of exegesis, the conclusion is that the disciples believe that if the only reason that a divorce would be legitimate if she committed sexual immorality, it would be better not to marry at all! I can also see the interpretation that the disciples focus on what would have been the “second marriage,” that it would be better for a man to not be married than to commit adultery. (duh). Where on earth do you get this, Robert? It’s not from the text, that I do know!

Robert continued:

God’s word teaches against treachery. Please do not insinuate that I think otherwise. But what you teach furthers one’s
ability to deal treacherously with his wife. Why, according to you, if she was a devout Christian, he could make her have to remain celibate by divorcing her, while he goes off and marries another. You would continue to claim that she was still married to him, which is absurd!

ELDV: You have obviously not read much of what I have written previously to the list [I had written many posts to Mars-List about two and a half months earlier regarding the marital status of divorced persons– ed.] . First of all, the husband in the situation in question is guilty of sin. Secondly, where have I claimed that she was still married to him? God recognizes that a divorce has occurred– He has not validated the divorce, but nevertheless it is obvious that God knows that man has separated what He joined together. With such a violation of covenant, there are only two options for the two parties: remain unmarried or reconciliation (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Neither are still married, and neither have the right to marry another. This whole “married in God’s eyes” concept is mere mental divorce and is just as wrong as your doctrine.

Robert continued:

You talk about the issue being “improperly divorcing” and imply that such is a problem with what I teach. What Jesus dealt with was not divorcing at all, but just putting away. If that is the understanding, and it evidently is, then the exception clause makes sense, and it also makes sense that when one who has been guilty of what he said, marries another, he commits adultery. The reason is he simply was still married.

ELDV: The way that you assume your proof is absolutely astounding. You still have yet to provide any form of evidence that
“putting away” and the piece of paper were ever documented as separated, and that any Israelite was ever condemned for “putting away” his wife without the piece of paper.

Let’s read what Jesus said again.

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

According to Robert, the verse should read:

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except if he gives her the proper paperwork, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Difference: Jesus speaks of an action that would precipitate a divorce–sexual immorality.

Robert speaks of a technicality in the divorce procedure– piece of paper.

Robert attempts to say that since the technicality was not accepted that the person was still married. This interpretation to me is
completely bizarre and still does not actually answer my criticism. My question is about the EXCEPTION CLAUSE about the PURPOSE of the divorce. Jesus establishes that if the PURPOSE of the divorce is sexual immorality, the one receiving the divorce will not commit adultery if he marries again.

Simply put, what Robert says and what the text says do not make any sense together. Robert attempts to reason why the second marriage is considered adultery and then attempts to figure out the divorce as opposed to going in proper order. According to Jesus, Robert, if a man divorces his wife for burning his toast– even if he gives her the proper piece of paper– and marries another, he commits adultery. Whatever divorce procedure is used has NO bearing on the PURPOSE that leads to the divorce in the first place. The purpose exists BEFORE the divorce, and the exception clause about divorce is governed by the PURPOSE, not any procedural action or any such thing. If the purpose for the divorce is wrong, no faithfulness in divorce procedure will mitigate that sin. Again, Robert, read what the text actually SAYS, as opposed to what you force upon it by inference.

Robert continued:

All the above is based upon the false assumption that God approved of treachery. He did not, He never has and he does not now approve of such treatment of a spouse.

ELDV: What treachery? Your piece of paper? The piece of paper is immaterial to the discussion of Matthew 19! Jesus talks about God’s original intent for marriage as expressed in the Garden, He makes sweeping statements like “what God joins let not man separate” and lays down a law about divorce and you keep talking about a technicality?!?

God does not appreciate treachery, but God hates divorce. And God hates adultery. And God has established that any divorce save for the purpose of sexual immorality is sin and any subsequent attempt of remarriage is adultery. Even if your piece of paper is important to the divorce procedure, the end reality is NO DIFFERENT– God still hates divorce and anyone who remarries after a divorce done for any reason but sexual immorality is committing adultery and liable to hellfire.

Robert continued:

That the N.T. is better than the O.T. is supported by scripture. But your statement that Jesus’ message does not harmonize with Moses is wrong. The teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul harmonize with the teaching of Moses. To see them as harmonizing one has to use proper hermeneutical rules, which you have to ignore to hold to your doctrine. The entire Bible is in complete harmony with itself. It is really sad when brethren teach some they refuse to give up and resort to arguments that chip away at the inspiration of the scriptures in effort to defend it.

ELDV: Then I expect to see you circumcised, abstaining from pig’s flesh, foregoing cheeseburgers, coming together with Jews on the
Sabbath, and that you sport a nice long beard. Oh, yes, and sacrificing goats for your sins in the Temple in Jerusalem. Almost forgot that last one.

The Israelites had a covenant with God that was governed by legislation given to Moses. The supercession of that legislation by
Jesus Christ is absolutely evident from Ephesians 2:11-18, Colossians 2:14-16, and Hebrews 7:12-14, 8, 9:15ff. If you refuse to recognize this basic and heavily important truth of God’s Word our discussion will have to cease, because I do not waste my time on flagrant hypocrites.

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:]God hates the treachery and God hates the separation. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

[Robert:] The passage was in Mal where God said he hates “putting away,” which Ethan thinks means divorce. Your quote “let not” does not prove that man CANNOT put asunder. It is nothing more than a proof-text. It does not justify your practice of forbidding marriage for those who have been divorced.

ELDV: God hates divorce. You still haven’t provided an iota of evidence for your separation of the divorce and its piece of paper, nor
have you provided any evidence that any Jew was condemned for this specifically. If this distinction is so important– and the Law of
Moses is very particular– you would expect a law about it. None exists. Commentary abounds, but no actual legislation exists.

And who is asserting that man cannot put asunder? Not me. You can’t stop inferring what isn’t there, can you, Robert? The Bible, my posts– why not letting texts speak for themselves for once?

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Your position would perhaps be correct if Jesus had said, “but anyone who divorces his wife without giving her a certificate of divorce.”

[Robert:] Ethan, you show that you do not understand my position nor do you understand what they text says. First, Jesus was talking about apoluo, which primarily means to put away, and is so translated– though some have translated it divorce. Thus, let us insert “puts away” where you have “divorce.” “But anyone who puts away his wife without giving her a certificate of divorce” (and marries another) commits adultery. By your own reasoning my position is grammatically correct and scriptural.

ELDV: You can quibble all you want about apoluo but it does not change the reality of the situation. As I have shown before, you
have confused (terribly also, I may add) the PURPOSE with the PROCEDURE.  Jesus’ legislation about divorce was motivated by purpose and not procedure: sexual immorality is the only legitimate purpose for divorce. You, Robert, would say that a man who divorces his wife for burning his toast but makes sure to give her the piece of paper could remarry without sin, and yet the text will have none of it. He has divorced his wife and has married another and he has committed adultery. As I said before– and you did not deny– a man who does “apoluo + apostasion” and the man who only does “apoluo” have both committed apoluo. Your position is not correct because the technicality you wish to read into it is not stated. Jesus does NOT mention procedure, He mentions purpose, and the purpose ALWAYS comes before the procedure. Jesus is interested in purpose, not procedure, and while you have your
imagination supporting you I actually have the text in support of this teaching.

Robert continued:

With your first statement I agree. If one merely puts his wife out of the house it is an IMPROPER DIVORCE. It is no divorce at all– though many use the terms synonymously. He commits adultery if he marries. Then, you say “improper divorce” has nothing to do with the means of divorce. The “means” of the divorce is something associated with your erring doctrine. A divorce is a divorce and God recognizes it regardless of the means. You are hung up on the “reason for the divorce.” You misunderstand and misapply the exception clause and the result is that you are forced to reject people as candidates for Christianity who have been divorced and say they will marry, or have remarried and will not divorce. That is not an acceptable problem for you position. It alone, is enough to cause one to see it is error and
look for another explanation of Jesus teaching– one that is just and will allow the Bible to harmonize with itself.

ELDV: My hangup– the reason for the divorce– is at least something the text states, and not some fiction imposed upon it.

And you keep up your fiction consistently, but again, Jesus does not actually address any such technicality. To assert that the technicality is what Jesus is asserting runs afoul of the text in two significant ways:

  1. In Matthew 19:6, after discussing how God made man and woman, brought them together, and made them one flesh, Jesus says, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Separate– chorizo— is a word which would certainly include apoluo within it. According to Robert’s doctrine, Jesus contradicts Himself three verses later when He approves of all divorces as long as the requisite paperwork is filed.
  2. In Matthew 19:8, after the Pharisees asked Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
    (and note that the Pharisees use Robert’s apostasion in this verse), Jesus responds with “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce [apolusai] your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
    Despite the use of apostasion in the verse preceding, Jesus says that Moses permitted the Israelites to apoluo their wives! Yet Robert would say– and has said– that a man who simply divorced his wife in such a way would be condemned!

Matthew 19:8 demonstrates perfectly that Jesus does not have this hangup with apoluo vs. apoluo + apostasion; it appears that Robert Waters, and Robert Waters alone, has this hangup. The New Testament is more than ready to accept apoluo as meaning “divorce,” for this is exactly how Jesus used the term. Jesus uses apoluo to refer to the entire divorce procedure in Deuteronomy 24:2 and does not bother with the technical piece of paper. Robert needs to heed this.

Robert continued, I said, and Robert responded:

[Robert:] I cited 1Cor 7:2, which is a plain passage that condemns disallowing unmarried persons from having a spouse. Ethan’s answer is to misuse verses 10 &11.

[Ethan:] And to your 1 Corinthians 7:2 I would add 7:10-11:…

[Robert:] My article at the following URL explain the passage:

ELDV: Again, speak the information here or we can begin a link toss game if you’d like.

Robert continued:

The apostle Paul’s teachings did not exclude the divorce when he talked about letting every man and every woman have a spouse, and he did not exclude the divorced when he was speaking of the “unmarried–” to let them marry. It is the doctrine of men that excludes the divorced, who are unmarried. They do not have a marriage and they have a right to a marriage. The apostle Paul talks about who has a right to marry, but he said nothing that even hints at having been divorced. It had to do with AGE. It is in the text. But the traditional restrictions are NOT THERE.

ELDV: Paul told the woman in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 to remain unmarried. Paul in fact spends the entire passage actually attempting to persuade Christians to not marry:

1 Corinthians 7:6-8

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:38-40

So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Everything Paul asserts about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 is to him a concession to the weakness of the flesh, and you have still provided no indication that Paul would give any improperly divorced person the right of remarriage in this passage.

I commented, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] First, speaking about Israel and the LORD is a blatant misapplication of teaching. It is no different from premillennialism in its attempt to literalize the metaphor.

[Robert:] That was not a very good answer in reply to my argument. In fact, you are probably virtually on your own with that comment.

ELDV: It obviously was good enough that you could not provide a demonstration of its error. You’ll be looking far and wide for any
indication that the metaphor you’ve literalized should be so literalized from the text itself.

Robert continued:

I agree that illegitimate bonds are to be dissolved, but I do not call it divorce. Furthermore, I contend that there is no need for a divorce. All they need to do is “put them away” i.e., end the relationship and the fornication. That is what they did in Ezra 9, 10 and it is what Jesus meant in the exception clause. God hates “putting away” of one’s spouse, but he does not hate divorcing and unfaithful spouse, because He did it himself.

ELDV: Again, Jesus has not made such a distinction, so why should you? Jesus well recognizes that apoluo = divorce. Where is the evidence that there were no pieces of paper issued in Ezra 10? And Jesus still calls the second relationships marriages. The dissolution of that bond is a form of divorce.

Robert continued:

Was God not married to Israel, as he said? Marriage is a covenant: He had a covenant with Israel. Israel refused to obey the terms of the covenant. God divorced Israel. This was a fact. There was no physical sex involved in that marriage, but it was a marriage and is one that we can compare to the covenant we are considering in this discussion. Ethan, you gave a very bad answer and you topped it off by saying my sound argument was “reprehensible.”

ELDV: A marriage is similar to one’s relationship with God in the fact that it is a covenant, yes, but this does not mean that the
literalizing of the metaphor God provided to Israel regarding their conduct is justified. You can call the argument whatever you want, but you still haven’t justified your literalizing of the metaphor.

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Marriages only fail when people fail to attempt to preserve them, Robert, and no marriage fails without sin on both sides.

[Robert:] That is an assertion that will certainly cause you to loose [sic] “points” with even the ones who have stood behind you. Marriages fail every day that are caused by one person looking for “greener pastures,” while the other was doing everything possible to keep it together. Maybe that explains why you don’t have a problem with punishing the innocent one who has been divorced– you don’t think anyone can be innocent. That is WRONG, absolutely WRONG.

ELDV: So you see sin and attempt to justify it? You attempt to excuse covenant breaking and attempt to facilitate greater sins?
That’s wrong, Robert, not the recognition that dissolution of marriage is sin.

Robert continued:

No, God allowed divorce in the O.T. and there is no condemnation for it in the N.T. Your idea that a remarriage is adultery, unless the one marrying divorces for fornication, is based upon a misapplication of Jesus’ teachings.

ELDV: “What God joined together, let not man separate.”

This is far more than a suggestion. And you’ve just stated exactly what the Gospel says and yet call it a misapplication because it is not seen through the eyes of your fiction. That’s exactly why the Jews rejected Jesus: they could not see the truth of His message because they saw Him only through the eyes of their fiction.

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] Divorce = sinful situations.

[Robert:] The above is obviously false. Think about it.

ELDV: I’ve thought about it. Yep, it’s true. God hates divorce– the same divorce that Jesus says Moses permitted– and God’s intention for marriage is one man one woman for life (Matthew 19:4-6). Robert, why haven’t you learned to hate what God hates? Isn’t that a part of the Christian’s responsibility in the Gospel?

Robert continued:

If you teach someone that Jesus says you must remain celibate the rest of your life you are, in essence, “forcing celibacy.” Now, you can say, Well, I just show them what Jesus said. Well, such is comparable to a Baptist preacher showing someone John 3:16 when they asked what to do to be saved. Show them 1Cor 7:2;8,9 and let them decide. And if you try to help them in their decision by saying what you think Jesus said, and they object, are you going to show them 1Tim 4:1-4. No, you don’t want them to see that for sure. It is too hard to explain, as are so many other Scriptures.

ELDV: There is no problem with looking at the Bible and seeing what it says. 1 Corinthians 7 demonstrates clearly that first marriages are under discussion; Paul even speaks to the condition of the wrongfully separated in verses 10 and 11. 1 Timothy 4:1-4 are in effect assuredly, since it is wrong to forbid marriage to those who have the right to enjoy it. But Robert– when you teach your doctrines, to what Bible verse will you turn to prove your fiction? You cannot; for it is not in the Bible, but in the commentaries of men.

Robert continued:

There is no “lust” in marriage, and one who has no marriage can marry and follow God, even if you tell them they can’t. I don’t believe you. I believe Paul.

ELDV: Man has lust– and lust can be more than sex– and man desires to remarry when he screwed up the first time. God has made no provision for making a new covenant when the person proved faithless to the first. Such a relationship is adulterous.

If you believe Paul, you should never be married. You believe only in Paul’s concession– and concession to what? Lust.

Robert continued:

If your understanding of Jesus’ teaching is wrong and I’m right then allowing marriage for a divorced person does not “give free license for adultery.” That is only true if YOU are correct. But your position is contrary to Paul’s, therefore you are wrong.

ELDV: This game is fun! Your position is contrary to Jesus and to God’s original intention for marriage, therefore, you are wrong! You encourage immorality– that’s the definition of a false teacher in 1Peter 2! Let’s play throw some mud! Wheeeeeeeeeee….. [Note the heavy sarcasm– ed.]

Or we could get back to what God’s purpose is for us regarding marriage?

Robert continued:

True, but the same God knows men make mistakes and that covenants end. Those who have no marriage covenant need a marriage to avoid fornication (1Cor 7:2).

ELDV: God knows these things, eh? So God tolerates sin? What God has called sin and adultery He will somehow justify through Paul?

No, those who prove faithless to a marriage covenant have no right to make a new covenant. This is true if the faithlessness is sexual
immorality as well as an improper divorce. Since you enjoy tying marital relationships to spiritual relationships, and Paul already has done as much in Ephesians 5, we can say that our covenant with God is the same: we have one covenant that we can make with God, and if we act faithlessly in the covenant, we are condemned. If we attempt to reconcile through repentance, we will be brought back in the fold of God; if we “marry” other gods, we are condemned for spiritual adultery. God does not approve of ending covenants in this way, Robert, and all the evidence of the New Testament is strongly against you regarding this thing.

Robert continued:

I’m not doing what you charge. But what I see you doing is teaching something that causes division, drives people from Jesus and breaks up homes; all to justify a misinterpretation of a passage. Why can’t you see and give up that practice?

ELDV: Matthew 10:34:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

The truth of God’s word will cause some to go back into the world and will cause some friction in homes. Sin will be exposed and it won’t be pretty. But we’re not supposed to accept sin, now, are we? We are to challenge it and we are to expose it for what it is.

Ear-tickling has always been popular, and it doesn’t hurt. But it’s also dead wrong, gives the appearance of righteousness without the fruit thereof, and is condemned. Where do you stand?

Robert continued:

I basically agree with the above, but your statement doesnot address those whose spouse unjustly divorced them. You can’t justify forcing (requiring) celibacy on these. Efforts to do so encourage the race to the courthouse– which encourages divorce that might otherwise be prevented.

ELDV: Jesus speaks plainly: they have no right to marry another. The covenant was not properly broken. There is no right to make a new covenant. You can appeal to emotion and you can appeal to whatever you like and that will not change this eternal fact in Matthew 5:32.

Robert continued:

Ethan, I have as much problem with people breaking covenants as you do. But your problem is that when one breaks the terms of the covenant and provides the legal papers showing that the covenant does not exist, you fail to release the other party. You want to hold them to it. That is absurd!

ELDV: What is absurd is that you keep talking about this technicality regarding paperwork– never mentioned in the New Testament and one that Jesus demonstrably cares not about– and have missed the clear commandment of Jesus Christ.

Robert continued:

I agree that there is no contradiction– not even close, IF one holds the position I do. But with your position Paul obviously contradicts Jesus. Thus, your position is wrong.

ELDV: You keep speaking yet without proof. My position by no means causes friction between Paul and Jesus– both affirm the right of marriage to the unmarried, both teach by example that it is better to not need to marry, and both demonstrate that those who have been divorced improperly have no right of remarriage. The problem is that the text of Matthew does not fit in with your preconceived notions about 1 Corinthians 7 and that’s where we have the hang-up. The text is fine. Your lack of reading it and understanding it is not.

I said, and Robert responded:

[Ethan:] I have seen your arguments, Robert, and they lack substance and basis in reality.

[Robert:] Yep, in your mind, because my whole theory contradicts tradition and it is unacceptable for you to consider that what you were taught could be error. The reader will decide whether my arguments lack substance or not.

ELDV: I care not about tradition and everything you have read is based upon my own conclusions when reading very plain and simple texts. The reader can certainly decide about your arguments, and the reader will find them lacking in Biblical evidence and substance and that they demonstrate a complete lack of comprehension of the text itself.

Robert continued:

Excuse me? I did not make the charge that Jesus transgressed the Law. I made the charge that, though you have a
different twist than most, your teachings cannot be true unless Jesus transgressed the law. Your statement indicates that you look at your position as a basis for authority and cannot consider anything else.

ELDV: You have made the charge without evidence. You have not yet proven transgression, and my statements still stand.

Robert continued:

Good point! But the Pharisees, when told of their adulterous marriages, were transgressing the law THEN and needed to stop it THEN– not after the next law went into effect. Jesus dealt with the problem at hand and he did it in accordance with the present Law. The people who heard were enlightened as to the teachings of the Law and those who were guilty of sin needed to repent then. Jesus said, “I tell you, but except you repent you shall all likewise perish.”

ELDV: Again, where is the evidence that the Pharisees came to Jesus in adulterous marriages? Your fundamental error keeps cropping up, Robert, and they lead you to your false premises: you keep inferring what simply is not there. The Pharisees have as many adulterous marriages in Matthew 19 as the Sadducees of Matthew 22 have sisters who have married seven brothers in a row. The entire Old Testament is full of statements and promises that were made to a group of people who would never see such statements come to fruition. The Pharisees assuredly needed to repent, but to repent for their marriages is something the text simply does not say!

Robert continued:

Ethan would have the reader to believe that they did not need to repent when they heard the truths Jesus taught. Are you willing to accept such teachings?

ELDV: More fiction! You’ve made a flawed conclusion based on your flawed, unsubstantiated position! You first prove to me that any
Pharisee that spoke to Jesus in Matthew 19 had such a marriage, and then we’ll talk!

Robert continued:

He silenced them because they were shown to be guilty of adultery because they had married when they had not first gotten legally divorced from their spouse. The same would be true today should anyone attempt to do it. It is what is condemned in Rom 7:1-4). What I have said in explaining the passage does not even hint at the idea that I (as
has been false charged) believe it ok for one to divorce his faithful spouse, if he does so legally. The charge has been made against me repeatedly by one brother and made by others as well. It is not true of what I believe and it is something that follows from what I teach.


  1. Jesus explains Deuteronomy 24:1-2 for you: apoluo = what Moses permitted = divorce.
  2. Your inference is far from stable; in fact, it has no evidencenor can it have evidence. You don’t even know from Adam which Phariseescame up to Jesus in Matthew 19, and therefore you have no ability to prove that they themselves were in adulterous marriages.

Robert concluded:

I admit that to be faithful to ones spouse you cannot divorce him/her. But, I can justify it in cases where one’s spouse has refused to honor the covenant, is unfaithful and shows no indication of ever repenting.

ELDV: And you have loosed where God has not loosed. That is the transgression of the law.

The truth of God’s word still stands. God’s original intention for marriage is still valid: one man one woman for life. The Israelites and
their hardness of heart compelled God to permit them to divorce– apoluo— their wives, but Jesus has demonstrated to us clearly that from the beginning this simply has not been so. The only legitimate means of breaking the marriage covenant is either divorce for sexual immorality or death of a spouse: no other concession has been made to anyone else.

As Jesus Himself has said,

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

And then…

As of November 13, 2003, Robert Waters has not yet responded to this material. You can be assured that if he does at any point you will see his response and my rebuttal on another page. Until then, please click here to return to the main page of this discussion.

Appendix: in Winter 2004/2005, Robert Waters and I re-engaged in conversation regarding these issues on the Bible Matters e-mail list. Not surprisingly, no new ground was tread, and Robert Waters was again unable to provide sufficient answers to defend his doctrines. It is unfortunate that Mr. Waters continues to deny the reality of Jesus teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom– even when it went contrary to the Law of Moses– while on earth.

Part III: MDR: Jesus, the Law, and Divorce

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