Vol.XVIII No.I Pg.7
March 1981

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Please give us your exegesis of Matt. 19:9 and 5:32. C.T.


WHOSOEVER shall do two things: (1) put away his wife, and (2) marry another (wife); that "WHOSO" committeth adultery — EXCEPT (or, unless) he do these two things because he found his first wife to be a fornicator; i.e., unfaithful sexually, to the marriage vows — failing to keep herself only to him. Stated in reverse: he does NOT commit adultery if he (1) puts away a sexually unfaithful wife, and (2) marries another (wife).

Then, a second WHOSO (KJ: "he that" in A.S.) must be considered. WHOSO does but one thing: (1) marries the put away woman. That whoso "committeth adultery." The put away" one in this passage is the woman guilty of fornication. I say this because the innocent man in the first instance was, via the "except," free to marry again; and I find nothing to indicate one sex was treated differently, respecting morality, than the other. It seems she is an adulteress, and can not remarry without involving the one who marries her in adultery. He has no right to marry a known adulteress. That is my understanding of Matt. 19.

Textual critics will have to work out the likeness or difference in the wording of Matt. 19:9 and 5:32, but I can only deal with them as found now. Matt. 5:32 says WHOSOEVER ("every one" A.S.) who does ONE thing: (1) putteth away his wife; that WHOSO causeth something. ("maketh" AS) a result. He is not here represented as an adulterer himself, but he has a responsibility toward his wife. "Maketh her" assumes her forced celibate condition pressures her into remarriage. The separation does not free her to marry again (1 Cor. 7:11), hence, her new relation is adulterous. The above is true EXCEPT ("saving for the cause") she was put away because she had been sexually unfaithful to her husband. In such a case, the man is not responsible for her adultery — she was an adulterer when he put her away. AND, WHOSOEVER shall marry such a woman is likewise guilty of adultery.

In writing the above I did not consult a single commentary, I did not look at any debate charts, and perhaps, most important on the negative side, I did not take any "situation" into consideration, kinfolk or otherwise. I simply read the two passages through many times, in King James and American Standard versions; and then I tried to write what I felt the two passages taught. There may be "what ifs" galore, that could get me all confused; and I am certain that there are many, many cases that may make me wish it was some other way — just for their sake. But that is looking at the scriptures subjectively. I tried to look at them objectively.

In closing, I think it should be noted that Jesus is not "making divorce laws." He is restating the high ethics and ideals of God's marriage principle, and calling upon man to strive to live up to that standard. Man's weakness does not dilute God's standard nor excuse sin. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (Matt. 19:12b).