Archive for the ‘Adultery’ Category

Robert Gagnon on Divorce

November 28, 2012

I found it interesting to peruse Robert Gagnon’s article on divorce, “Divorce and Remarriage-After-Divorce in Jesus and Paul” (available here), which was a response to an article by David Instone-Brewer.  Among Gagnon’s comments:

Whether Jesus would have adopted an exception for adultery as Matthew thought, I do not know. I doubt that he would have permitted separation for anything less than adultery that was both persistent and unrepentant, given his teaching on forgiveness (Matt 6:14; 18:15-35) and the message of the six antitheses in Matt 5:21-48 (including the antitheses about not being angry, keeping one‟s vows, turning the other cheek, and loving one‟s enemy). He did not address the question of physical abuse but, consistent with the approach of later rabbis, I suspect that he would have regarded this as a criminal matter. One might reasonably guess that, as a safety precaution, he would have allowed separation if staying in the same domicile posed a substantial risk of serious physical harm. If he would have allowed remarriage for anything, undoubtedly it would have been for a divorce that occurred on the grounds of persistent and unrepentant adultery and extreme physical endangerment, and perhaps too for abandonment. Yet I think the evidence suggests that he would not have permitted remarriage for anything less than the death of one‟s spouse (and it wouldn‟t count if the spouse who did the divorcing was the killer). For anything else separation might be necessary but the remarriage remains intact. There can never be a real “divorce” apart from death of one of the spouses.

I don’t endorse his comments. For example, Gagnon’s acceptance of the idea of a primitive pre-gospel source document (Q) and specifically Gagnon’s suggestion that Matthew does not reflect the historical Jesus where Matthew departs from the purely speculative Q, is something I utterly anathematize.

More directly interesting to my discussion with Steve, Gagnon states:

Jesus could have said that he preferred a strict interpretation of the phrase ‘ervath davar in Deut 24:1 (“a nakedness of a thing,” “an indecency of some sort” understood as adultery—the Shammaite interpretation) over a loose interpretation (understood as anything that the husband might find objectionable about his wife—the Hillelite interpretation). In other words, he could have kept the debate within the law of Moses. But he didn‟t. Instead, even in Matthew‟s version (which Instone-Brewer favors over Mark‟s), Jesus contrasted what Moses permitted with what God implicitly disallowed in Gen 1:27 and 2:24: “Moses, with a view to your hardness of heart, permitted you to release [i.e. divorce] your wives; but from the beginning it has not happened in this way [or: it was not so]” (Matt 19:8). [Fn8] “So they [i.e., the man and woman joined in marriage in Gen 2:24] are no longer two but one flesh. What then God yoked together a human must not separate. . . . Whoever releases [i.e. divorces] his wife—not for sexual immorality [adds Matthew]—and marries another commits adultery” (Matt 19:6, 9; cf. Mark 10:8b-9, 11). For Jesus, God‟s will in creation trumped subsequent relaxations of that will, including deviations in Scripture found in the law of Moses.

While Gagnon obviously disagrees, Gagnon is highlighting the issue I raised. Jesus is correcting an overly broad liberal view of Deuteronomy 24:1 that permitted divorce for any reason, by explaining (in the Matthew account) that it was only for adultery. It might be interesting to explore the Shammaite vs. Hillelite distinction he mentions (and the documentary basis for it).

Gagnon’s conclusion is natural, given his rejection of the adultery exception as Jesuit (i.e. of Jesus), but given my acceptance of it, the opposite conclusion derives.

I would also agree, incidentally, with Gagnon’s observation that it is male hardness of heart (not female hardness of heart) that is mind in Jesus’ comment about the reason that divorce was permitted at all.

In any event, it made for some interesting reading. Thanks to my unnamed reader who pointed it out to me.


Why I’m Against the 150 Mile Fence Suggestion

May 31, 2012

The Scriptures tell us how various family relations crimes should be punished (all verse references are to Leviticus 20):

Cursing Mother or Father – Death (9)

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Adulterer and Adulteress – Death (10)

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Incest with Father’s Wife – Death (11)

And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Daughter in Law – Death (12)

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

Male Homosexuality – Death (13)

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Step-Daughter, Daughter, or Mother-in-Law – Death by Fire (14)

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Male or Female Bestiality – Death (15-16)

And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Sister or Half-Sister – God Will Punish (17)

And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

Sex During a Woman’s Period – God Will Punish (18)

And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

Incest with Aunt – God Will Punish (19-20)

And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity. And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife, he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.

Incest with Sister-in-Law – God Will Punish (21)

And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.


Yes, male homosexuality is set forth as being a capital crime, like a number of family relations crimes. In terms of the sentence given it, it is more heinous in God’s sight than certain kinds of incest and period violation. But for those of you who like to beat up on homosexuals, note that it is not the most heinous. The most heinous is taking both a woman and her mother. There, the punishment is not just death, but death by fire.

So, no. The appropriate Biblical teaching regarding how to deal with these family crimes is not internment in a prison camp.

On the other hand, if you want to rush to impose the Biblical sentence of death, keep in mind that for consistency you must be ready to hand out death sentences for bestiality, all adulterers, and most types of incest. You also can’t include lesbians in your plan. While Scripture certainly does teach that lesbianism is a sin, the code doesn’t provide for lesbianism to be punished.

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