Monday, November 19, 2007

Are All "Families" Created Equal? When it Comes to Child Abuse, No.

This article hit home for me, given that I have two cousins who were raped by stepfathers. I'm admittadly a bit biased, when I say that divorce and remarriage sucks. Funny today, how the divorce rate among "born again Christians" is the same as for the rest of society. Sometimes you wonder if Jesus and the early church had an opinion on that.

MB

19 comments:

Kevin said...

MB,

Lots of material in that little paragraph. :)

I'm sorry to hear about your cousins. The term "broken home" seems very apt in this context.

It makes sense that abuse would correlate with not wanting a child. The AP article also raises interesting questions of abuse prevention versus privacy and even political correctness and classification in statistic collection. At the very least, it seems that statistics gathered during the course of such criminal investigations could be standardized and it's good that they are moving in that direction.

They mention the obvious solution of better parenting skills, but also cite day care and jobs as making marriage more feasible. It seems that some cultural shift is fundamentally necessary.

Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative was somewhat new to me. It includes many facets and their mention of what it is not intended to do may be as telling as what it is intended to do:

"""The ACF Healthy Marriage Initiative is Not About:
- Coercing anyone to marry or remain in unhealthy relationships.
- Withdrawing supports from single parents, or diminishing, either directly or indirectly, the important work of single parents.
- Stigmatizing those who choose divorce.
- Limiting access to divorce.
- Promoting the initiative as a panacea for achieving positive outcomes for child and family well-being.
- Running a federal dating service.
- An immediate solution to lifting all families out of poverty.
"""

Stigmatization seems like it might be a natural result of promoting a healthy marriage as the ideal and divorce as a bad option, so it'll be interesting to see how our culture reacts.

The Barna study also raises a lot of issues. I found it interesting how they defined "born again" and used the definition instead of the term in making the classification. I wonder how and how many Christians did not meet that definition.

As an aside, maybe it's just me but, particularly when I see a study based upon telephone interviews, I wonder about the statistical demographics of those who choose not to participate. It probably works out okay, but it's curious.

"Is Divorce A Sin?" was a bit surprising, though agreeing or disagreeing with the statement that "when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin" includes a lot of vagueness about sin, remarriage, and the conditions of divorce (children, abuse, etc.). I'm not sure they addressed how well this question correlates with actual divorce or even marriage -- their earlier mention of those who avoid marriage altogether was also interesting.

The correlation with race in that question is also interesting: 49% black, 65% hispanic, 70% white thought it was not a sin. Presumably, this may be due to cultural and economic differences, though the latter of which could more readily be statistically normalized.

Without getting too caught up in strictly defining what a "sin" is, I think most people would agree that divorce is bad. What options are worse in any given scenario seems to be the debate. Abuse springs to mind, and maybe adultery is an extension of that.

IIRC, the Luke verse is notable for not including an adultery exception. Perhaps what is even more peculiar is that there are no other exceptions provided, such as for abuse. More broadly, perhaps this is indicative of the significant context and interpretation which seems to be required to make some of Jesus's statements consistent with the rest of the Bible.

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

Kevin,

Just a quick note. Jesus specifically mentions both divorce and remarriage. Barna focuses almost exclusively on divorce. Obviously, they are related topics, but I think it is a mistake to consider them as one and the same topic.

K: "Stigmatization seems like it might be a natural result of promoting a healthy marriage as the ideal and divorce as a bad option, so it'll be interesting to see how our culture reacts."

MB: I agree. That's like saying we as a culture are going to promote high graduation rates without stigmatizing being a dropout. Even if the people promoting high graduation rates don't do so explicitly, if the culture adopts the attitude that graduation is the best, there will be a natural stigmatization of those who drop out for reasons that strike others as lame.

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

I agree that divorce and remarriage are not the same. I think a writ of divorce essentially grants the right to remarry. Of course, just because a writ is given does not mean that it's right.

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

"I think a writ of divorce essentially grants the right to remarry. Of course, just because a writ is given does not mean that it's right."

Kevin,

I'm having a tough time reconciling the two sentences above. Would you mind explaining further. Are you referring to human error in the second sentence (imperfect application of Divine Law) or something else? Speaking for myself, when I read the Luke passage, I assume that the person who is committing adultery by remarrying has a writ of divorce in hand. How do you read it and what do you think about how that all can work out.

I'm very curious to see where you go with this and what your perspective is. It's a tough subject to get honest answers and opinions on. I hope it doesn't offend you if I don't respond. I assure you I will read and ponder what you write.

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

Sorry, I probably shouldn't have used the word "right" in two different senses there.

The bill of divorce represents the husband giving permission to his wife to remarry. I intended my second sentence to mean that even though a husband may give a bill of divorce to his wife, that doesn't mean that it is morally right for him to do so. IIRC, the writ of divorce was probably created to protect the woman from being in a quasi state of abandonment. Does that sound about right?

Luke 16:18 "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery."

I don't think I can make that work out with a plain reading. Alone, that sentence appears to negate divorce altogether since if remarriage amounts to adultery for both the husband and the wife, what is the reason for him to even provide a bill of divorce to his wife when throwing her out?

If we place it in a context where divorce is being abused, it makes more sense. Even so, it seems that the onus of divorce should lie more with the husband who disowns his wife than on the wife. Of course, if it is being abused on both sides to such an extent that it amounts to prostitution, then it makes perfect sense.

As I mentioned previously, it also seems reasonable to place it in a context with implicit exceptions, such as abuse.

The physical context of the verse is also peculiar. It seems that Jesus was being somewhat sarcastic in the previous parable. Verse 18 may be thematically related to his prior conclusion, but it stands out a bit to my eyes. What do you make of it?

I don't mind long delays in our discussions, though I do hope to get feedback eventually to keep me from straying too far. :)

Kevin

steviepinhead said...

Long delays in discussion?

Ahem...

I guess you won't be hearing any complaints about that from moi...

But I do read, and do my best to think, even if I don't always manage to generate a coherent response!

Those of you who are more apt in this respect, please give yourselves a little credit.

Kevin said...

I think we go in cycles and take turns. Oh, look! I think I see your cycle on the rise! :) j/k... I like the relaxed atmosphere and am adamantly against pressure here.

I'm glad you're still with us, Stevie. Thanks for chiming in. :)

steviepinhead said...

I've seen my cycle on the rise several times, unfortunately.

The most memorable happened in "downtown*" Danville, CA, in about 1970 or '71. (*Danville is still, as it was then, and despite the amazing growth all around it, and despite the Blackhawk development up in the foothills of Mt. Diablo, a rural community which has undergone some degree of suburbanization, so "downtown" should be read as "main thoroughfare with some stores"...) I was on my Honda motorcycle. I was stopped on the main drag, signalling a left turn. I was about as visible as a motorcyclist turning left CAN be, with the turn light on, with my left arm stuck out, and with my bright yellow helmet with the Captain America decal on it, and with the long blonde hair flowing out the back of it (long gone, alas)... It was a pleasant northern California day, sunny, with good visibility.

But even good people just don't see motorcycles at times. The gentleman coming up from behind me managed not to visualize me, and his gold Cadillac de Ville plowed into the rear tire of the Honda. The compression of the rear tire, and the overall forward momentum conveyed from the slowing-moving (thank goodness!) but very large Cadillac to the stopped, but much smaller, Honda launched the bike in a long arc through the air.

I came off just short of the apogee, and landed on my butt and my elbows. I don't recall smacking the back of my head on the asphalt (hitting the low back of one's head is not a good thing, as it's where the base functions are processed), but I do recall being very glad indeed that I was wearing the helmet.

And I also recall watching the cycle continue to magically perform airs above the pavement, then inevitably drop, then crash, still on both tires, still pointing forward, still signalling the left turn that was fated to never be execusted...

It bounced once, seeming to shrug off the event, like any healthy young Pegasus after a long leap. But then it tottered and crashed onto its left side, and started leaking gasoline from its sleek blue metalflake-painted gas tank.

My poor pony, lying wounded and bleeding in the road!

I was uninjured, but for a small circle of skin missing from the inside of (what memeory tells me was my left, but what inspection shows me was) my right elbow.

The Cadillac man--a local restaurant owner--was as solicitous and apologetic as he could be (and later helped me when I got into an argument with his insurance company). Of course, while I remember the nigh-magical moment of my motorcycle floating gracefully through the air, he had seen something scarier, a young man dropping out of the sky almost on top of his hood.

Anyway, that's what came to me when I read kevin's line about seeing "my cycle on the rise"!

[/off topic]

Kevin said...

Traumatic, but beautifully and vividly colored, Stevie. Cycles on the rise. I think that association is gonna stick with me.

MamasBoy said...

Kevin,

Regarding an OT writ of divorce giving permission to a former wife to remarry, I think it is more than that. It also officially released the man from any obligation to her, and the woman likewise. The man didn't have to provide for his wife and the woman didn't have to obey him. The were completely free of spousal obligations. In the OT, the woman was clearly disadvantaged in that if a man didn't like his wife, he could simply get another one (assuming he could support both of them). The wife, on the other hand, couldn't have two husbands.

"Alone, that sentence appears to negate divorce altogether since if remarriage amounts to adultery for both the husband and the wife, what is the reason for him to even provide a bill of divorce to his wife when throwing her out?"

I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Are you saying that Jesus is still OK with a man providing a bill of divorce to his wife?

As I read it, while the command may negate divorce, it doesn't negate separation. Paul clearly speaks of that in I Corinthians 7:11. I also find it interesting that Paul is speaking about a woman leaving her husband. That indicates to me that concerns about divorce extended beyond men abandoning women, though that may have been more common.
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV2&byte=5246227

"As I mentioned previously, it also seems reasonable to place it in a context with implicit exceptions, such as abuse."
While abuse is a good reason for the wife to leave (as Paul clearly allows in the passage above), I don't think it then follows that she is allowed to divorce and remarry. Because I see divorce and remarriage as essentially two separate topics, I'm much less inclined to give credence to implicit exceptions. Separation for a time is clearly supported by Scripture. One can't say the same of remarriage.

As I see it, Jesus is reimagining marriage as it was intended to be: one man and one women joining together to form a new family until death do they part. They may separate for various reasons, but even in their separation, and despite the decision of a civil court say there is a divorce, God still sees them as married. Otherwise, there could be no adultery between "married" partners.

One reason I am willing to say that Jesus is outlawing remarriage despite previous Jewish practices in that regard, is that he also is outlawing polygamy, despite previous Jewish practices in that regard. He also ties the two concepts of polygamy, divorce and remarriage together. Jesus is saying in Luke that marrying another woman while your wife is alive is polygamous, and that's not allowed anymore. It is now, under the new covenant, considered to be adultery. Jesus is reimagining marriage as God intended in Eden. He's rewriting the rules according the original script. In doing so, Jesus is clearly limiting the recourse spouses have if things don't work out as planned, and pointing them toward a patient seeking of reconciliation.

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

You wrote: "Regarding an OT writ of divorce giving permission to a former wife to remarry, I think it is more than that. It also officially released the man from any obligation to her, and the woman likewise."

Perhaps in a sense that is true, but I don't think the writ was originally the mutual pact you are implying. It was a document that a husband gave to his wife that essentially said, "I permit you to all men". It was her license to remarry. See Get (divorce document).

What was the purpose of requiring a man to provide such a document to his wife before putting her away? I think it was to protect the woman from being disowned (unsupported by her husband) and unable to remarry, lest it be adultery. Hence, "divorce" amounted to a woman's right and a man's obligation if he puts her away.

I wrote: "Alone, that sentence appears to negate divorce altogether since if remarriage amounts to adultery for both the husband and the wife, what is the reason for him to even provide a bill of divorce to his wife when throwing her out?"

You wrote: "I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Are you saying that Jesus is still OK with a man providing a bill of divorce to his wife?"

I am saying that if Jesus was eliminating the bill of divorce, he would be undoing the wife's protection if she were disowned. Overall, I was suggesting that Jesus might have been admonishing the Pharisees for encouraging divorce for arbitrary reasons which would be equivalent to adultery, perhaps akin to "temporary marriages" today.

You wrote: "As I read it, while the command may negate divorce, it doesn't negate separation. Paul clearly speaks of that in I Corinthians 7:11."

And then verses 26-28 go:

"26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you."

So, it seems that if someone who was released from a wife does marry, he has not sinned. Verse 26 also mentions some "present distress" which may indicate that there is some temporary context that is significant to Paul's statements.

It may also be notable that this chapter is the only place where the term "unmarried" (agamos) is used in the NT.

You wrote: "I also find it interesting that Paul is speaking about a woman leaving her husband."

That is interesting; the woman shouldn't leave and the man shouldn't put her away. In one sense, it seems to go along with Paul's theme of "whatever you are, don't change".

Also, I'm not sure if it's relevant but, IIRC, Greek and Roman wives could divorce (or "put away") their husbands.

You wrote: "Jesus is saying in Luke that marrying another woman while your wife is alive is polygamous, and that's not allowed anymore. It is now, under the new covenant, considered to be adultery."

How are you deriving that from Luke 16:18 "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery." ? Given that the precondition is divorce, I don't see how that addresses polygamy.

You wrote: "As I see it, Jesus is reimagining marriage as it was intended to be: one man and one women joining together to form a new family until death do they part."

That makes sense, and to paraphrase Jesus from my perspective, divorce was necessary due to the hardness of their hearts.

You wrote: "In doing so, Jesus is clearly limiting the recourse spouses have if things don't work out as planned, and pointing them toward a patient seeking of reconciliation."

"pointing them toward a patient seeking of reconciliation" sounds good to me, but, I'm not so sure he has limited their recourse -- by which you mean, "made remarriage a sin"?

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

Kevin,

There's a lot to respond to their. I'm going to limit my comments to one thought for now and try to address the rest later.

K wrote: "You (MB) wrote: "Jesus is saying in Luke that marrying another woman while your wife is alive is polygamous, and that's not allowed anymore. It is now, under the new covenant, considered to be adultery."

How are you deriving that from Luke 16:18 "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery." ? Given that the precondition is divorce, I don't see how that addresses polygamy."

First off, the precondition is also "marriage", so how can a man commit adultery with someone he has already married?

Jesus said that if a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery against her. In doing this, he was implicitly addressing the situation were a man does not divorce his wife and marries another woman. If it is adultery when one has already obtained a "divorce," then surely it would be adultery if he hadn't already obtained a divorce.

Adultery is defined by Webster as, "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband" The way I interpret this, if a man marries two women (polygamy), sex with them can't be considered adultery because they are each legally his spouse.

In other words, I interpret Jesus words in Luke as saying that in God's eyes the second marriage never took place because polygamy is no longer allowed (and God didn't recognize the earlier divorce). It is only if polygamy is no longer allowed that sex with the second "wife" is considered to be adultery. It is also only adultery if the second "marriage" was merely an attempted marriage and not a true Christian marriage.

Put another way, I think God distinguishes between Christian marriage and marriage as defined by the state.

To me, state recognition of a second marriage between a man and a woman when the first one is still in force according to NT teaching, is like the state recognizing the marriage of two ladies or the marriage of a man and his daughter or the marriage of a man and his sheep. In all of the above cases, there exists an impediment preventing the person from being truly married in the Christian sense of the word.

Honestly, if Jesus words in Luke didn't disallow polygamy, then I'm not sure where it is disallowed in Scripture and all the fuss over Mormon polygamy in many evangelical circles seems to be much ado about nothing.

---------
OK, two thoughts.
Regarding I Cor 7:26
"Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife."


I would interpret the situations above as A) a person who is married and B) a person who is either single or whose spouse has died.

http://studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=3089
The Greek words for released are different here. The second word Luo even encompasses single people, thus the RSV translates it "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage." In light of Jesus earlier words about a man remaining married to his wife until death do they part and sex within the confines of a second "marriage" being "adultery," I don't think that a civil divorce truly "releases" a man to remarry, thus I don't think v. 27 addresses the case of the divorced person seeking remarriage.

In my opinion, v. 27 is in many ways a recapitulation of v. 1-9, which are set aside as Paul's opinion regarding the appropriateness seeking to be married given the "present distress" and the anticipated soon return of Christ (vs. 26 and 29).

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

MB wrote: "If it is adultery when one has already obtained a "divorce," then surely it would be adultery if he hadn't already obtained a divorce."

I think you may be begging the question by appealing to an implication that may not have existed at that time.

Furthermore, logically speaking, since the antecedent of Jesus' statement is "divorce and remarriage", if either of those operands are false then the result is false and the consequent is not applicable.

Your interpretation seems to eliminate "divorce" and make "multiple marriage" the sole antecedent, in which case, why even mention "divorce"?

MB wrote: "Put another way, I think God distinguishes between Christian marriage and marriage as defined by the state."

That sounds reasonable in general but what was the definition by "the state" in the context of Luke 16:18? For the Jews, I'm not sure there was a law on this subject besides the Torah, though, granted, Rabbis could disagree (e.g. Hillel and Shammai).

MB wrote: "Honestly, if Jesus words in Luke didn't disallow polygamy, then I'm not sure where it is disallowed in Scripture and all the fuss over Mormon polygamy in many evangelical circles seems to be much ado about nothing."

Perhaps not as "disallowed" as the sin of adultery but verses like 1 Timothy 3:2 at least imply that it is not ideal or desirable.

But it seems like a stretch to apply Luke 16:18 to polygamy given that it is directed at a Jewish culture where a man marrying multiple unmarried (never married, divorced, or widowed) women was not a sin. This would seem to make it less likely that specifically restricting the "divorce" scenario would be interpreted to necessarily affect the other scenarios. e.g. levirate.

Moreover, I think an interesting argument (also here and more) can be made that the word apoluo, which Luke 16:18 uses, refers more to the "put away" aspect (i.e. separation) and that a completed divorce (with writ) is more aptly denoted by apostasion.

In that case, the focus is separation, which makes Jesus' statements more understandable in context as clarifying the Law rather than overturning it. Of course, if this is accurate, it makes my preceding arguments unnecessary.

MB wrote: ""Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife." I would interpret the situations above as A) a person who is married and B) a person who is either single or whose spouse has died."

But doesn't excluding divorce hobble the apparent complementary nature of the two question-answers (qa)? It even seems reasonable that the first qa sets the context for the second.

MB wrote: "The Greek words for released are different here. The second word Luo even encompasses single people, thus the RSV translates it "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage.""

Lusin and lelusai appear to be noun and verb forms of the common root "luo", meaning "to loosen", and seem to be used (almost?) exclusively relative to a prior binding. But even if, in some sense, lelusai encompasses "single people", my point was that it certainly encompasses the divorced, correct?

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

Kevin,

I Timothy is probably suggesting that polygamy is bad, but I don't think a case can be made for that verse alone outlawing the practice of polygamy for everyone, since it is clearly addressed to the leadership of the Church, also lists things like having one's children/household in order and being a good teacher, and has other interpretations outside of polygamy. If the teaching on monogamy doesn't come from Jesus word's on marriage, then there is no Biblical case against completely outlawing polygamy in Christian society... and some very Biblical reasons for accepting it.

-----
Luke 16:18
"Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."

Regarding Luke 16:18, I don't buy into your double antecedent claim because of the use of the word adultery. Divorcing your wife and marrying another women is clearly not adultery in God's eyes unless two things have occurred. 1) the new marriage just recognized by the state/rabbi/family really wasn't a marriage in God's eyes and 2)the divorce just recognized by the state/rabbi/family really didn't occur. If the man really was able to marry a second wife in God's eyes, then there is no way that having sex with her was sinful, especially in a polygamous society. Sex within marriage has never been considered to be adultery. It is by definition disallowed.

Why did Jesus not simply say that polygamy is no longer allowed? You are asking for a speculative answer here (similar to "Why did God give 10 commandments and not 15?"), but I will give one. I think it was because Jesus wanted to address the full spectrum of marriage when reimagining it according to the way God set it up for primorial man in Genesis. If Jesus simply said that polygamy is no longer allowed and never made it clear that in God's eyes a divorced man is still married, then men would simply say that when they divorced they became single again and were free to remarry. Thus forbidding polygamy wouldn't apply to them. When you think about it, it is what people do today. Jesus was being more broad, though in his laying down the new/ancient law for marriage. He wanted to make it clear that marriage was between one man and one woman until death do they part, no matter what the surrounding society believed or accepted. In order to reorder marriage and truly outlaw polygamy, Jesus had to first address when a man is truly free to marry... and it wasn't after divorce.


"But even if, in some sense, lelusai encompasses "single people", my point was that it certainly encompasses the divorced, correct?" It encompassed those who were free to marry. If divorce frees someone to marry, then you are correct. If it doesn't, then the more narrow definition would apply. Given that Paul seems to be telling people to remain in the state that they are, then I would think it would be addressed primarily to single people (even assuming you are correct that God allows divorce). In fact, after reading the chapter again, it seems that Paul himself addresses the question of what frees a woman remarry a couple verses later.
[39] A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
http://studylight.org/lex/grk/frequency.cgi?number=1210&book=1co&translation=str

-----------------------
I just read some of the articles on divorce meaning separation and not divorce. I think it is a really weak argument, (not least-wise because, looking back in history, Greek speakers like Justin Martyr have disagreed with that interpretation). Unfortunately, I don't have time to address it fully right now with references and such.

Honestly, the last post seemed to take multiple positions. How do you interpret Luke 16:18? Does it address the divorced or merely separated?

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

MB wrote: "If the teaching on monogamy doesn't come from Jesus word's on marriage, then there is no Biblical case against completely outlawing polygamy in Christian society... and some very Biblical reasons for accepting it."

I think you are probably right and, given the goal of consistency within the Bible, I'm inclined to conclude that polygamy was not "completely outlawed".

MB wrote: "Regarding Luke 16:18, I don't buy into your double antecedent claim because of the use of the word adultery. Divorcing your wife and marrying another women is clearly not adultery in God's eyes unless two things have occurred. 1) the new marriage just recognized by the state/rabbi/family really wasn't a marriage in God's eyes and 2) the divorce just recognized by the state/rabbi/family really didn't occur."

It took me a while to figure out what you are saying here, so please allow me to recapitulate it in my own words so you can verify that I am understanding you correctly.

(A) You are saying that a case of divorce and then marriage to another woman is only adultery if (1) the divorce was invalid, and (2) the second marriage was invalid.

(B) And your reasoning is:
  (1) If the divorce was somehow invalid, then the husband and wife1 are still married.
  (2) If the second marriage was somehow invalid, then (assuming consummation) the husband had sex with someone who was not his wife.

(C) Therefore, when Jesus proclaims that scenario to be adultery, he is implying that both the divorce and the second marriage was invalid.

Is the preceding an accurate representation of your argument? If not, please let me know.

If so then, in essence, you are using your understanding of the consequent (adultery) to determine that the antecedent is implicitly invalid. i.e. Jesus says "remarriage" but he must mean "invalid remarriage", etc.

But more than that, you are assuming that Jesus was not limiting his statement to cases of an invalid divorce and invalid remarriage as those familiar with Jewish Law might define and understand them, but instead that it was a roundabout way of saying that every case of divorce and every case of remarriage is invalid.

I see two other problems with this interpretation:

(1) It contradicts other scripture. Most obviously, it obliterates the Law regarding divorce and remarriage. Moreover, it contradicts Jesus' immediately preceding statement wherein he asserts that he is not overturning even a jot of the Law. Other scripture also includes an exception for immorality which would also somehow have to be integrated into your analysis.

(2) Ostensibly, you hold the definition of "adultery" to be the constant and invalidate/redefine "divorce" and "remarriage" to fit. However, it seems that B1 and B2 (a married man having sex with an unmarried woman) might technically not have been considered adultery at that time.

Now, Jesus may have been addressing this technical deficiency (which I argue later), but if so, then your interpretation actually requires the redefinition or invalidation of all of the terms in Jesus' statement, making it even more unlikely that his audience would interpret it that way.

MB wrote: "I think it was because Jesus wanted to address the full spectrum of marriage when reimagining it according to the way God set it up for primorial man in Genesis."

Perhaps elsewhere Jesus was reimagining marriage but Luke 16:18 just comes out of the blue in the context of not changing the Law.

Also, what do you make of the period during which divorce and polygamy (levirate?) was part of the Law? Was it a sin during that time? Have men's hearts grown less hard on this topic? Did the purpose for divorce disappear?

MB wrote: "If Jesus simply said that polygamy is no longer allowed and never made it clear that in God's eyes a divorced man is still married, then men would simply say that when they divorced they became single again and were free to remarry."

I agree that Jesus would have to address both, and could have easily done so along the lines of "all remarriage is a sin" or even the explicit combo "all divorce is invalid and you can only marry once", instead of using a conditional statement that requires a complex interpretation that ends up banning the antecedent.

MB wrote: "[39] A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."

The key seems to be the nature of the "bound" (dedetai -> deo) -- i.e. is it absolute or is it qualified? Note that the KJV from your "deo" link uses the phrase "bound by the law".

Interestingly, the Nestlé-Aland 26 manuscript does not explicitly include the word "nomo" (law) (note: the KJV links are messed up there), however both the 1894 Textus Receptus and the 1991 Byzantine do include "nomo" explicitly.

So, I think it is reasonable to conclude that Paul is describing the ideal and not overriding the Law.

MB wrote: "Honestly, the last post seemed to take multiple positions. How do you interpret Luke 16:18? Does it address the divorced or merely separated?"

In a sense, you are correct that I argued two positions regarding Luke 16:18, though I think they are confluent, namely:

(1) if apoluo means "divorced" then there are consistency issues with other scripture and with Jesus overturning the Law.

Even in this case, I lean toward tempering the term "divorce" in light of the likely social context of frivolous "divorce" which was probably adopted from the Greek/Roman culture who divorced very easily and for any reason by merely leaving or "putting away" the other (no writ), in contradiction to the (Jewish) Law.

(2) if apoluo means "put away" (which it does) AND does not necessarily imply a writ (and thus not a divorce) then Jesus is largely iterating the Law (which they needed to be reminded of) but with a notable focus on the man who would be committing adultery if he "put away" his wife and married another, and likewise if the man married a woman who had been merely "put away".

I think his focus is notable because, technically, Jewish law defined adultery as "Sexual intercourse of a married woman with any man other than her husband. The crime can be committed only by and with a married woman; for the unlawful intercourse of a married man with an unmarried woman is not technically Adultery in the Jewish law."

Also consider the context provided by the immediately preceding verse Luke 16:17: "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail".

Jesus following that statement with an emphasis on the letter of the Law makes more sense to me than him overturning a significant aspect of the Law by abolishing divorce and remarriage. Indeed, the latter would seem to directly contradict his previous statement.

So, for these reasons of scriptural and contextual consistency, I think explanation #2 has merit, and that it actually further supports a tempering of the "divorce" interpretation in #1.

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

Kevin,

Briefly and incompletely,

1) yes I think you are understanding the adultery claim meaning that a) the first marriage is still intact and b) the second marrriage is invalid.

Regarding the contradiction of other scripture part, I don't have a problem with Jesus appealing to a higher law, indeed an older law. Jesus himself stated that he was taking things back to the book of Genesis, "but from the beginning it was not so..." Also, people today don't seem to have a problem with Jesus doing away with laws about taking an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" which were stated quite clearly in Exodus.

Regarding your second objection that Jesus would be redefining adultery as applying to both men and women, I certainly don't have a problem with that and am not certain that the OT would definitively define it as such. It fits quite nicely with the idea that Jesus was outlawing polygamy, since it was a feature of polygamous societal laws to define adultery as applying only to the woman and to classify male marital infidelity differently. Indeed, anything short of "redefining" adultery to appply to both men and women wouldn't make sense of Jesus words, since he specifically speaks of men. To me this is part and parcel with the previous paragraph, since I believe that Jesus quite clearly wanted his followers to live up to a higher law than Moses had laid down.

Regarding the exception clause in Matthew, the Greek word porneia is very broad with many possible interpretations from adultery to incest. One can say that the meaning encompasses all the possible meanings or that it is narrow in scope and limited to only a subset of those meanings I think that Jesus intended the latter, and would interpret it as applying to those situations such as incest in which a Christian marriage was never actually formed, but only appeared to take place.

We could go around and around regarding potential meanings of Greek words, since they are often non-exclusive, and greatly affect how one interprets the passages. It is sufficient to me to know that they never contradict what I believe. For me, the strongest evidence comes not from divining which meaning among many Jesus meant from the possible meanings, especially since what we have are not his actual quotations, but paraphrases and remembrances given in a language He likely didn't speak. It is much stronger evidence to men to look at the writings of the earliest Christians and see how they interpret Jesus words (since they natively spoke Greek and would have been much closer to the source Himself). They exclusively interpreted Jesus words as 1) outlawing polygamy 2) defining marriage as binding men and women in an exclusive permanent union until death do they part. It was only as Roman culture began to invade the church that one sees any crack in this uniformity and that itself was quite irregular until more recent times. IMHO, this desire to broaden Jesus words to negate the permanence of the marriage bond is found primarily in cultures struggling with large scale adaptation of Christian practice to a culture in which His words are being patently ignored on a broad scale, no matter how one interprets them.

I leave off with a quote from the Shepherd of Hermas, which was itself considered Scripture by many Christians (such as Iranaeus and Tertullian) and was included in the Siniatic Codex. I offer this not as gospel proof, but as an indication of widespread and perhaps universal interpretation of Jesus words among the first Christians.

"I said to him, "Sir, permit me to ask you a few questions." "Say on," said he. And I said to him, "Sir, if any one has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detect her in adultery, does the man sin if he continue to live with her?" And he said to me, "As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. But if the husband know that his wife has gone astray, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery." And I said to him, "What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices?" And he said, "The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.""
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd.html

Kevin said...

MB,

MB wrote: "Regarding the contradiction of other scripture part, I don't have a problem with Jesus appealing to a higher law, indeed an older law. Jesus himself stated that he was taking things back to the book of Genesis, "but from the beginning it was not so...""

I think that is reasonable as an ideal. Of course, Luke 16:18 has a different context.

I think that the "law" had a specific meaning to the Jews (Jesus's audience) and while we can appeal to Genesis for the ideal which was God's intent, the law addressed the less than ideal situations (of which there were many) including mandating a writ of divorce before putting away one's wife, and I argue that it did so for good reason.

Thus, revoking that portion of the law would seem to require some explanation for why divorce was necessary then but is no longer necessary now, and what happened in the intervening time when it was actually sinful not to provide a writ of divorce which granted the right to remarry.

MB wrote: "Also, people today don't seem to have a problem with Jesus doing away with laws about taking an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" which were stated quite clearly in Exodus."

It depends upon what you mean. e.g. Matthew 5:38–39 (NRSV):

"You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

If this mandates a lack of punishment and compensation and, indeed, justice, (the principles behind an "eye for an eye") then, yes, I think people today do have a big problem with it. In other words, while we have changed from the literal interpretation, I think the principle has remained.

MB wrote: "Regarding your second objection that Jesus would be redefining adultery as applying to both men and women, I certainly don't have a problem with that and am not certain that the OT would definitively define it as such. It fits quite nicely with the idea that Jesus was outlawing polygamy, since it was a feature of polygamous societal laws to define adultery as applying only to the woman and to classify male marital infidelity differently. Indeed, anything short of "redefining" adultery to apply to both men and women wouldn't make sense of Jesus words, since he specifically speaks of men."

I think you are right. Assuming Jesus is implying a parity between men and women regarding adultery (as I described previously) then that should have some implications or at least raise some questions regarding polygamy. But it seems like a stretch to rely upon those subtle implications for an absolute ban given Jesus's limited statement and the holistic Biblical evidence.

I have no doubt that Jesus wanted his followers to never divorce and I think it's reasonable to assume that he also did not want them to engage in polygamy, but, presumably, we are discussing matters of degree and permitted recourses to already bad situations.

MB wrote: "Regarding the exception clause in Matthew, the Greek word porneia is very broad with many possible interpretations from adultery to incest. One can say that the meaning encompasses all the possible meanings or that it is narrow in scope and limited to only a subset of those meanings. I think that Jesus intended the latter, and would interpret it as applying to those situations such as incest in which a Christian marriage was never actually formed, but only appeared to take place."

I agree that "porneia" is a broad term like "fornication" or "sexual immorality", but it seems reasonable that it could be used to refer to a more specific subset established by the context. Of course, we could also then question, why not use a more specific word or phrase?

But I don't see where a subset is established in these contexts. Furthermore, if you limit it to cases where it is already understood that "marriage" was never actually formed (incest and what else? homosexuality?) then why include it as an exceptional case wherein divorce is permitted?

i.e. Jesus's audiece would not even consider divorce to be applicable in those cases, making it very bizarre that Jesus would ban divorce while also saying that you could now divorce in cases where marriage could not occur.

MB wrote: "We could go around and around regarding potential meanings of Greek words, since they are often non-exclusive, and greatly affect how one interprets the passages."

I admit to some variance but, in light of the context and holistic logical consistency, I hope it is not truly as variable or uncertain as you make it seem. Then again, I also admit to an incomplete understanding.

MB wrote: "It is sufficient to me to know that they never contradict what I believe."

Well, that's convenient. :)

MB wrote: "For me, the strongest evidence comes not from divining which meaning among many Jesus meant from the possible meanings, especially since what we have are not his actual quotations, but paraphrases and remembrances given in a language He likely didn't speak."

Good point. I've even read that the language of the NT manuscripts share syntactic and idiomatic similarities with Hebrew, making it unusual and somewhat poor Greek. I think this just underscores the importance of considering scripture from the Jewish perspective of the time.

MB wrote: "It is much stronger evidence to men to look at the writings of the earliest Christians and see how they interpret Jesus words (since they natively spoke Greek and would have been much closer to the source Himself). They exclusively interpreted Jesus words as 1) outlawing polygamy 2) defining marriage as binding men and women in an exclusive permanent union until death do they part. It was only as Roman culture began to invade the church that one sees any crack in this uniformity and that itself was quite irregular until more recent times."

As I mentioned in my previous post, it seems reasonable that Jesus was responding in part to how the Roman culture was already invading the Jewish culture. Even the Greek language itself was probably an imperfect match for the Jewish concepts Jesus was discussing, which would contribute to the amalgamation.

I guess I am implicitly arguing that some of those "early" Christians didn't quite get it right since your interpretation of the text seems like a stretch to me. I suppose things may have changed rather rapidly (relatively speaking) as Christianity branched from Judaism to encompass Gentile cultures, making uniform understanding of all aspects somewhat less likely until it was later explicitly forced to coalesce.

MB wrote: "IMHO, this desire to broaden Jesus words to negate the permanence of the marriage bond is found primarily in cultures struggling with large scale adaptation of Christian practice to a culture in which His words are being patently ignored on a broad scale, no matter how one interprets them."

I'm not entirely sure what you mean or how it applies to my interpretation, but I agree that culture can affect interpretation, as I also mentioned above. While I do rely upon my own sense of morality, my goal is to correctly interpret the Bible.

I think that we probably agree on the bulk of what is good regarding divorce and marriage. I think that divorce is not warranted except in extreme circumstances and that our culture as a whole has abused it. But perhaps you would substitute "annulment" in place of "divorce"?

Sorry if I've repeated myself a bit here. I appreciate the opportunity to analyze this topic with you.

Kevin

MamasBoy said...

K: "i.e. Jesus's audiece would not even consider divorce to be applicable in those cases, making it very bizarre that Jesus would ban divorce while also saying that you could now divorce in cases where marriage could not occur."

Actually, marriage could and did occur, even though it may have been contrary to Jewish law. Herod married his niece and brother's wife. This would have been even more common for Jews in the diaspora, where Jewish law was called into question by most of the surrounding society and not just the pagans.

I hope you don't take my opinions on societal trends in interpreting divorce as impugning your own personal interpretation.

Also, I don't understand what you mean by the "that is convenient" statement?

K: "I admit to some variance but, in light of the context and holistic logical consistency, I hope it is not truly as variable or uncertain as you make it seem. Then again, I also admit to an incomplete understanding."

What I meant is that I can't fault you in most of the interpretations of individual passages based on your exegesis of the Greek. It seems within the realm of plausibility. Of course, I think my own exegesis is more consistent and stronger, but doesn't everybody? In other words, if the discussion sticks to that, I think that it is impossible to prove a case either way in this discussion. This is especially true when I am uncertain as to what your positive case is, though I understand it in broad outline that seems inconsistent at some levels (separation or divorce, for instance).

this may get confusing with multiple quotes below, so be forewarned.
"MB wrote: "Regarding the contradiction of other scripture part, I don't have a problem with Jesus appealing to a higher law, indeed an older law. Jesus himself stated that he was taking things back to the book of Genesis, "but from the beginning it was not so...""

K: I think that is reasonable as an ideal. Of course, Luke 16:18 has a different context.

I think that the "law" had a specific meaning to the Jews (Jesus's audience) and while we can appeal to Genesis for the ideal which was God's intent, the law addressed the less than ideal situations (of which there were many) including mandating a writ of divorce before putting away one's wife, and I argue that it did so for good reason."

my response.
I read Like in light of Mark and Matthew which both mention Genesis specifically, therefore it seems perfectly appropriate to use the same appeal Jesus did when modifying the Mosaic law.

Also, I don't deny that there were good reasons for the divorce laws of the OT any more than there were good reasons for laws regarding taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. There were good reasons for both sets of Mosaic laws. It just seems to me that Jesus is very clearly negating them on many levels. The doing away with sexist rules that were common in polygamous societies and polygamy itself are some that we perhaps can agree on at some level, though you seem to think that polygamy is to be allowed in certain unnamed circumstances.

K: "I think that divorce is not warranted except in extreme circumstances and that our culture as a whole has abused it. But perhaps you would substitute "annulment" in place of "divorce"?"

Annulment and divorce are two very different concepts, so no I don't think they can be substituted. At the same time, as a Catholic, I must acknowledge the tremendous amount of annulments that occur in the US. It is clearly an abuse that the Holy See regularly condemneds (to no avail as far as I can see). That said, I do take some comfort in knowing that even if annulments are high in the US, it is infinitessimal compared to the divorce rate and even the divorce rate among Catholics is still way less than other religious groups that have abandoned historical Christian teaching in this area.

------------
I was looking over this and it appears that I have left off one of the strongest arguments in my case for the radical rewriting of the law. namely, the response of the 12. I will give you my paraphrase and then the RSV.

disciples response:
Whoa, dude. Hold on! If marriage is like that, then men shouldn't marry.
Jesus: Yes, some will figuratively have their weenies cut off and be forced into sexless existences for the rest of their lives in order to bring about the rule of God on earth.

Mt 19: 10-12
The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry."

But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 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. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."


Lastly (haven't I said that before), I do want to thank you for this discussion. Kevin, you have honestly explained some things better than I have ever heard a Protestant explain them. While I still don't understand your position fully and remain unconvinced, you've done a better job than anyone I've discussed this with before in laying out a plausible alternative. Thanks for taking the time to dialog. I'm certainly learning.

MB

Kevin said...

MB,

MB wrote: "Actually, marriage could and did occur, even though it may have been contrary to Jewish law. Herod married his niece and brother's wife. This would have been even more common for Jews in the diaspora, where Jewish law was called into question by most of the surrounding society and not just the pagans."

You're right, I overstepped a bit there. In that part, my underlying focus was to question whether Jesus's audience would make the same subset restriction that you have made. e.g. since adultery was certainly accepted as valid grounds for divorce at that time, it would make sense that porneia would implicitly encompass it.

I also thought that, by your interpretation, Herod's marriage would be invalid, therefore requiring an annulment rather than a divorce, making Jesus's call for divorce in those cases peculiar.

MB wrote: "I hope you don't take my opinions on societal trends in interpreting divorce as impugning your own personal interpretation."

Nah, I just wasn't sure how (or if) you meant it to apply to my interpretation.

From my perspective, you have been respectful, not only to me, but also to my interpretation (at which I expect some impugnation :)). I have not taken any offense, and I hope I haven't given any.

MB wrote: "We could go around and around regarding potential meanings of Greek words, since they are often non-exclusive, and greatly affect how one interprets the passages. It is sufficient to me to know that they never contradict what I believe."

Kevin wrote: "Well, that's convenient. :)"

MB wrote: "Also, I don't understand what you mean by the "that is convenient" statement?"

Sorry, I should have been more clear. It seemed like you were saying that the meaning of the Greek words "never contradict what [you] believe", as if to say that you are confident that your beliefs are correct regardless of the actual text of the Bible.

I'm doubtful that that is what you meant, but I wasn't quite sure how to better parse it. Hence, my (hopefully) cute response and the smiley face. :)

MB wrote: "What I meant is that I can't fault you in most of the interpretations of individual passages based on your exegesis of the Greek. It seems within the realm of plausibility. Of course, I think my own exegesis is more consistent and stronger, but doesn't everybody? In other words, if the discussion sticks to that, I think that it is impossible to prove a case either way in this discussion."

I guess so. I just thought I was doing pretty well on those grounds. :)

I think it is coming down to the fact that I place more emphasis on the Jewish concepts and context of the time, while you place more emphasis on the subsequent early Christians.

Your approach is reasonable and, ideally, they should both agree. Admittedly, my knowledge about the early Christians that you appeal to is a bit spotty and you are piquing my curiosity to learn more about its development relative to its Judaic foundation.

MB wrote: "This is especially true when I am uncertain as to what your positive case is, though I understand it in broad outline that seems inconsistent at some levels (separation or divorce, for instance)."

Feel free to ask specific questions and we'll find out if it is consistent. To briefly summarize my thoughts on separation vs. divorce in the Bible that Jesus was addressing:

I think "apoluo" ("to put away") is more akin to separation than divorce. However, it also seems that our modern notion of "separation" might not translate neatly onto that Jewish concept of the time.

If a husband "put away" his wife, the law required him to provide a writ of divorce. If he did not provide one, the wife could sue for it. As I understand it, the wife could not "put away" her husband, nor could she leave voluntarily and still obtain a writ.

A relevant debate during Jesus's time was between Shammai who taught that a husband should only divorce his wife if she commits adultery (though, IIRC, permitted polygamy), and Hillel who permitted divorce for any reason (but not polygamy).

MB wrote: "I read Luke in light of Mark and Matthew which both mention Genesis specifically, therefore it seems perfectly appropriate to use the same appeal Jesus did when modifying the Mosaic law."

That is reasonable as long as they are all describing the same event. But even so, the variations may also be notable (e.g. Mark 10:12). Of course, ideally, I think that they should make sense individually and also be mutually consistent.

MB wrote: "Also, I don't deny that there were good reasons for the divorce laws of the OT any more than there were good reasons for laws regarding taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. There were good reasons for both sets of Mosaic laws. It just seems to me that Jesus is very clearly negating them on many levels."

If Jesus is primarily negating the law more than maintaining its basic principles, then his claim that he is not abolishing the law but rather fullfilling it would ring rather hollow to me. Furthermore, the bigger the change, the more an explanation is required to understand why it changed.

MB wrote: "The doing away with sexist rules that were common in polygamous societies and polygamy itself are some that we perhaps can agree on at some level, though you seem to think that polygamy is to be allowed in certain unnamed circumstances."

Levirate was one I named, though I do wonder if it might also be met by support rather than absolutely mandating polygamy.

To be vague, the circumstances under which polygamy is allowed are those circumstances under which God permitted it and adapted to it rather than outlawing it.

But I honestly don't know God's specific rules for when polygamy should be allowed. I agree that it accompanies sexism. I do see that it is discouraged both in concept and in verse, but I don't see any direct mandate or rebuke.

Nevertheless, the implication is sufficient for me personally as I am convinced that polygamy is a bad idea.

MB wrote: "Annulment and divorce are two very different concepts, so no I don't think they can be substituted."

Granted, annulment is the invalidation of marriage (as if it never occurred -- would that make the consummation fornication?), but, by your interpretation, wasn't Jesus confusing the two by only allowing divorce in the case of invalid marriages?

MB wrote: "At the same time, as a Catholic, I must acknowledge the tremendous amount of annulments that occur in the US. It is clearly an abuse that the Holy See regularly condemneds (to no avail as far as I can see)."

I found the grounds for annulment to be interesting. Are they accurate? To a certain extent, I wonder if Catholicism hasn't shifted some of the basis for divorce over to annulment?

MB wrote: "That said, I do take some comfort in knowing that even if annulments are high in the US, it is infinitessimal compared to the divorce rate and even the divorce rate among Catholics is still way less than other religious groups that have abandoned historical Christian teaching in this area."

A culture of not tolerating divorce would seem likely to reduce it, which would certainly be a positive effect of your interpretation. The negative might lie in cases where one might persist in unhealthy relationships.

Another pitfall might be if divorce became primarily a semantic impediment. e.g. maybe annulments should be included in the "divorce" rate, and somehow normalize for unmarriage-like behavior, such as adultery or fornication?

MB wrote: "I was looking over this and it appears that I have left off one of the strongest arguments in my case for the radical rewriting of the law. namely, the response of the 12. I will give you my paraphrase and then the RSV."

I enjoyed your paraphrase. :) Perhaps the key is to consider the reasoning behind the disciple's conclusion and Jesus's response. Here's my interpretation of Matthew 19:9-12:

(9) Jesus states that a husband commits adultery against his wife if he puts her away and marries another. This is notable since a prevalent interpretation of the Law provided that it was not possible for a husband to commit adultery against his wife, at least with unmarried women.

(10) The disciples then respond that if a husband is so restricted, then a man is better off not marrying.

But why would it be better for a man not to marry? How does Jesus's statement suddenly make marriage worse than being single? What is their reasoning?

Consider the subtext of these verses: sex. If the only way to have sex is to marry, then why would they say that it is better to not marry? What would a man lose by marrying?

From this perspective, even using your interpretation, the disciples' statement appears to be a non sequitur. Unless they meant something more.

It seems to me that the disciples may be implicitly comparing adultery, which is a grave offense, to fornication (non-marital sex), which is a much lighter offense for a man, and on that basis concluding that a man is better off if he not marry.

(11,12) Jesus exposes their implication by associating not marrying with being a eunuch and never having sex. Maybe marriage doesn't look quite so bad in comparison to being a eunuch. :)

MB wrote: "Lastly (haven't I said that before), I do want to thank you for this discussion. Kevin, you have honestly explained some things better than I have ever heard a Protestant explain them. While I still don't understand your position fully and remain unconvinced, you've done a better job than anyone I've discussed this with before in laying out a plausible alternative. Thanks for taking the time to dialog. I'm certainly learning."

Thanks for the compliment, MB. I'm learning, too. It's good for me to be challenged to defend my beliefs (or what I've been taught) in such detail to see if they still make sense.

Kevin