Did Jesus Say Adultery Is Grounds for Divorce?

This morning I was walking with one of my best and oldest friends, which we do about three or four times a week. Our conversation wandered onto the topic of divorce. Since she is Protestant she mentioned that a friend of ours would be free to divorce and remarry because her husband would undoubtedly commit adultery soon if he hadn’t already. Our friend is separated. She quoted the verse, Matthew 19:9 “And I say to you: Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery”.

I said that the Catholic view was that adultery was not grounds for divorce because a person could just deprive their spouse of sex until they committed adultery and then think they could get a divorce and remarry. My friend said well there are differences of interpretation… and our conversation moved on. I knew there was a better way to explain it but could not remember it off the top of my head. So, looked it up and decided to post it. This was written by Jimmy Akin an apologist for Catholic Answers. I may edit it a little but you can see the whole article —>Catholic Answers

Did Jesus Say Adultery Is Grounds for Divorce?

By Jimmy Akin

In the first-century Mediterranean world, divorce and remarriage were common—except among the Jews. Jesus in particular used strong language in condemning the practice. In Matthew 5:31–32, he says,

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Similarly, in Matthew 19:9, he says,

“And I say to you: Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery” (emphases added).

Many Protestants seize on these so-called “exceptive clauses” as legitimizing divorce in cases where one of the spouses has committed adultery or engaged in some sort of sexual sin.

There are a number of problems with this. First among them is that the exceptive clauses do not appear in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke. In Mark 10:11–12, Jesus says only,

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Likewise, Luke 16:18 says,

“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

This is striking. How could Mark and Luke, writing for the Greco-Roman world, omit the one, glaring exception that allows remarriage after divorce? Adultery and sexual sins were rampant in the Roman culture. Mark and Luke would have realized that their audiences needed to know about the exception even more than the Jewish audience for which Matthew wrote.

The exceptive clauses also do not appear in Paul’s discussion of divorce and remarriage. In Romans 7:2–3, he writes that

“a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

And in 1 Corinthians 7:10–11, 39, he writes,

“To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife. . . . 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.”

Paul was dealing also with a Greco-Roman audience, and he also does not make an exception for unfaithfulness or sexual sin. (The only exception he does make is for the dissolution of a non-sacramental marriage when one spouse has converted to Christianity [1 Cor. 7:12, 15]—what we know today as the Pauline privilege—but that is a different matter.)

Because the exceptive clauses occur only in Matthew’s Gospel—one written for a Jewish audience—it suggests that they reflect some issue of particular concern to Jews. What might this be?

One possibility is that the exceptive clauses are there as an illustration of the precision demanded in rabbinic logic. In other words, the clauses indicate that if one divorces an adulterous wife, one isn’t making her into an adulteress because she already is one. That doesn’t mean that he’s free to remarry; it just means that he isn’t forcing her into an adulterous situation if you divorce her.

Another possibility is that the Greek term used for “unchastity”— porneia—is being used in a special sense. For example, some have taken it to refer to unchaste behavior before the marriage is consummated. At that point, it is possible to dissolve the marriage, for marriages become indissoluble only when they are consummated.

Today, with the tradition of the wedding night, it is highly unlikely a spouse could be unfaithful between the marriage ceremony and the consummation. However, in Jesus’ time it was customary for a couple to be legally married for about a year before the consummation. The bride continued to live with her family while the husband prepared their home. At the end of this time there was the “fetching of the bride” ceremony, where the groom took her back to his own home with family and friends accompanying them. Then, during the wedding party, the couple would retire and consummate their union. Clearly, within this long time frame unchastity was possible on the part of one of the spouses.

Others have interpreted the Greek term used for “unchastity”— porneia—as a reference to incest, the idea being that divorce and remarriage is permissible in the case of incestuous marriages, since the marriage was never valid to begin with. If this is correct, then we have the principle that underlies modern annulments: Those who are not validly married are free to contract it.

Advocates of this interpretation point out that porneia is not the usual Greek term for adultery. Indeed, in the passages cited above, Jesus uses the term for adultery (moicheia) and does not identify it with porneia. These advocates point out also that many peoples in the eastern-Mediterranean region had marriage practices that allowed unions forbidden by Leviticus 18. This caused problems when individuals wanted to convert to Judaism and Christianity. Did they have to leave their spouses? Matthew, writing in an eastern-Mediterranean context, would have had reason to insert a clarification to prevent such converts from using the unqualified statement as justification for staying with their current spouses.

The idea that porneia is being used in this narrow way is suggested by two other biblical passages.

In Acts 15:29, it is proposed that, to avoid offending Jewish believers, Gentile converts abstain from eating idol meat, blood, strangled animals, and from porneia.

Acts 15:29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

These objections are often regarded as being based directly on Leviticus 17–18, where the same things are prohibited in the same order.

Food sacrificed to idols:

Lev. 17:7 They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations…..

Blood, from the meat of strangled animals (strangled animals retain the blood in the meat)

10‘And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.

Sexual immorality –>Pornea ( not the Greek  word for adultery)

Lev. 18: 6 None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD.7You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness.8‘ You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.9 The nakedness of your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover.10‘The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours.11‘The nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, born to your father, she is your sister, you shall not uncover her nakedness.12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s blood relative.13‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s blood relative.14‘ You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother; you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt.15You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood relatives. It is lewdness.18‘You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.

The second passage is 1 Corinthians 5:1, where Paul applies the word porneia to the case of a man who has married his stepmother—a case forbidden by Leviticus 18:8. These considerations make it reasonable to assume that porneia is being used in the exceptive clauses to refer to incestuous unions.

Whichever above arguments you find convincing, it is clearly false that Jesus meant to allow divorce and remarriage when one party has committed adultery. Matthew 19:9 has often been read against the context of the Hillel-Shammai debate and interpreted to mean that Jesus was simply siding with Shammai in permitting divorce only for adultery. But this does not square with two key points in the text.

First, 19:3 specifically says that the Pharisees were trying to test Jesus, and it uses a Greek word—peirazo—that the synoptic Gospels use to indicate an act of malice. Even John P. Meier, a biblical liberal, notes, “If the Pharisees are simply asking Jesus if he favors the opinion of Hillel or Shammi, how does this constitute a malicious attempt to force him into a dilemma whereby one choice or either choice would involve a damaging statement? After all, both rabbinic opinions were perfectly respectable” (The Vision of Matthew, 252).

Second, Jesus’ answer is so amazing that in 19:10 the disciples declare that it would be better not to marry if what Jesus has said is true. Meier again: “This is not a reaction to the well-known position of Shammai, which would hardly lead a Jew or anyone else to such a conclusion. Matthew has the disciples react all too humanly to Jesus’ total prohibition of divorce” (ibid., 253).

Finally, “if Matthew were espousing adultery as grounds for divorce, he would soon run up against grave practical difficulties. In this hypothesis, Matthew would allow divorce and remarriage for a husband and wife who had committed adultery. But a husband and wife who remained faithful to each other would not be allowed to divorce; indeed their attempt at divorce would be considered adultery. Obviously, the only thing to do for a faithful Christian couple who wanted a divorce would be to commit adultery, after which a dissolution of the marriage would be allowed. What we wind up with is divorce on demand, with a technical proviso of committing adultery. This all constitutes a strange church discipline, one in which adultery seems encouraged and fidelity discouraged” (ibid.).

The situation Meier describes is actually found in many Protestant churches. Any experienced Evangelical counselor can attest that many Evangelicals who find themselves in difficult marital situations do commit such sins specifically for purposes of being able to divorce and remarry. They may say to themselves, “Jesus will forgive me afterwards” or “I have already been forgiven for all my sins—future ones included.” Through this loophole Evangelicalism has absorbed the secular world’s divorce and remarriage ethic, just as it has absorbed the secular world’s contraceptive mentality.

Fortunately, in recent years all the interpretive options mentioned above have found advocates in conservative Protestant circles. Time will tell whether this new recognition of the seriousness of Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage will bear significant fruit.

32 Responses

  1. I’d like to clear the confusion when it comes to divorce and remarriage issue answered by Jesus. Jesus didn’t say if either one of the married persons commit adultery, the innocent mate can divorce and remarry. That is incorrect. He specifically said: : Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.”

  2. This topic frustrates me to no end. The debate always centers around a person who divorces his or her spouse. It never addresses a husband who was married and then his wife commits adultery and the wife divorces the husband against his choice. What then? Obviously it is the same for the woman. What if she is married, her husband commits adultry, leaves the wife, divorces her beyond her control. Then what? Everyone states that it is wrong for a person to “Divorce another.” Well what about people who spouse divorces them, beyond their control? Divorce in these passages are a verb in which one of the spouses carry out the divorce. It prohibits one person from divorcing another. It seems clear that the passages condemn the one who initiates the divorce, not the innocent spouse that never wanted a divorce in the first place. If my spouse commits adultry and I am willing to forgive her and stay married but she continues to commit adultry, and continues on and on with the same thing, and then divorces me where I have no choice, then am I condemned to a chaste unmarried life forever?

    • I can see what your saying.. I had a similar situation. My wife committed Adultery, and i practically waited for her to return to me for about seven years. She had a child with the man she’s now with, and i still was willing to reconcile but she refused. She had another child with this same man and then i decided to divorce her. I was so distrought that the pain and anger led me to harden my heart, and for me to backslide.. I don’t think we are obligated to be with someone who does’nt want to be with us..

      • Wow,
        your forgiveness will be rewarded in HEAVEN.

      • UMM,
        I was wondering did you ever cheat on her??

      • You are not obliged to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you. You can be separated/ even divorced in our culture b/c it is often legally necessary. But, one may not marry unless the first marriage is declared to be null.

      • ” But, one may not marry unless the first marriage is declared to be null.”
        Corban. Plain, simple and undiluted.

        Rather than second guessing circumstances years ago, why not deal with the present non-existence of the marriage?

        “If this is correct, then we have the principle that underlies modern annulments: Those who are not validly married are free to contract it.”

        Then the clergy should take the bull by the horns and be breaking up these “invalid” marriages (how many annullments are handed out on charges of incest? Get real) rather then wait for them to divorce and petition and pay the marriage tribunal. Why let those poor couples live in sin thinkng that they are married? If it is important enough to lay aside you absolutist view of divorce, here expressed, then the presumption of validity is without foundation.

    • Steve,

      Just today I read an article that offers biblical perspective in the area you seek. It may shed some light on your predicament; link below. Best wishes, and God bless you.



      • Dear Steve,
        You link to a Protestant site, Biblegateway, which I use all the time for Bible quotes. They even have the Catholic Douay-Rhiems but you have to look for it.

        The author does a very good job. But, the Catholic Church does not insist on going back to the first husband, as some Protestant denominations do in an attempt to be obedient to Jesus, once they have remarried. If the first marriage is valid then one must stay married or separate and remain single. This is NOT a punishment, especially of the wronged spouse. Obedience to God takes the grace of great Faith. We must obey God and not men even when those men are sympathetic to an abused or wronged spouse and try to make the scriptures support divorce and remarriage for these people.

        Remarriage to another = adultery. We have several Saints who married each other but then separated to go into the convent & monastery. So, they didn’t divorce but agreed to this plan to serve God and of course did not remarry.

        The Catholic Church does not require say, an abused wife to stay with an abuser of her or children. She may separate and often civilly divorce in order to take care of the children with child support and alimony. However, this does not give her the freedom to remarry. She may ask the Church to investigate her marriage to see i,f due to impediments, a valid marriage did not take place. If her marriage is declared null, she is then free to marry. But the annulment is not based on the abuse or adultery but on defective promises at the time of the wedding.

    • God gives forgiveness threw Christ. We are still flesh and most who think understand this divorce thing don’t they create as they go. Its quite simple God didn’t make it hard. But, it is open only to who God choose to hear. Look at Matthew 19 . Not all will know the truth.

  3. Steve,
    You could seek a declaration of annulment. If that was granted then you could marry. Many marriages performed in our culture are invalid because we are all influenced by our culture and go into marriage with out the necessary commitments for a valid sacramental marriage.

    If a declaration of annulment was not granted then a faithful Catholic would obediently live a celibate life until perhaps the unfaithful mate died. Then you would be free to marry. The Catholic Christian life does not include a promise of a happy marriage. Marriage is a sacrament to enable us to live our vocation and accept in all docility suffering as a purifying fire in our lives.

    Living “a chaste unmarried life forever” is preparation for our unmarried state in Heaven. It is a sacrifice for sure but it is not a condemnation. It is an opportunity to live for God and not for self which we are all called to do. Most of us go through life thinking we are living for God until we bump into something like this where we actually have to make a concrete choice to live for God and take up our cross and follow Christ (Who never married) or turn from Him and seek our own pleasure and happiness.

    • “If a declaration of annulment was not granted then a faithful Catholic would obediently live a celibate life until perhaps the unfaithful mate died..”

      And what if the innocent spouse killed the guilty spouse. Or worse yet, the guilty spouse kill the innocent spouse.

      And you were worried about this:
      ” Obviously, the only thing to do for a faithful Christian couple who wanted a divorce would be to commit adultery, after which a dissolution of the marriage would be allowed. What we wind up with is divorce on demand, with a technical proviso of committing adultery. ”

      An annullment is nothing more than a technical proviso of hinsight. Corban.

  4. Marriage = A Covenant Between One Man And One Woman…Until Death

    Divorce + Remarriage = Adultery

    Marriage is for Life!



    • I can say I also believe marriage should be for life. But honestly unless you both try to manage to live GODLY lives your efforts are wasted.

      marriage for life+SIN= HELL

      • BGal,
        Not HELL but Purgatory where we can be purified if we use our suffering to increase our humility and join it to the cross. Unless, of course it is actually dangerous physically. One may certainly separate also without seeking remarriage, unless first obtaining a declaration of nullity. You don’t have to be Catholic to ask for this from the Church.

  5. I have not come back to this for several months but just decided to take a look. I am not a Catholic but I am desiring to be one. However I was once married to a “Christian” who committed adultery and eventually left me and divorced me beyond my will. A few years later I remarried a very good Christian woman. I have been told that it is very unlikely that I could get an annulment of my first marriage should I join the Catholic church. So if I joined the Catholic Church I would have to live with my current wife as brother and sister with no marital acts. She would be devastated. In addition I keep raising the issue of what the scripture states in the divorce passages. I am sorry for this long explanation. But this really bothers me and I have studied it for weeks. It is the one thing that keeps me from joining the Catholic church. In the scriptures where Jesus makes a prohibition he uses a verb which is “apolyo” which means more to “put someone a way” not divorce. Divorce in greek is “Apostasiou.”

    “In the Synoptics (13 of the occurrences there) apolyo is a (common) term for the dismissal of a woman from marriage by means of a letter of divorce (Apostasiou), so primarily in the phrase “send away one’s wife.” It occurs in Jesus’ prohibition of divorce (Mk 10:2,11; Matt. 19:3,8,9; Matt. 5:31,32; Luke 16:18)”
    Understanding what happened in Malachi 2:10-16 seems key to understanding Matthew 19:3-12 ( Matt 19 ).

    Malachi 2:16a reads, “For the Lord God of Israel says that HE HATES DIVORCE (putting away).” Why did God hate “putting away?” Why was His heart so stirred to anger over the “putting away” incidents?

    The Hebrew word shalach translated “putting away” (and sometimes “divorce”) means: a separation or to separate; it does NOT mean divorce nor has it ever meant divorce.

    “Putting Away” (from shalach and apoluo) NEVER Meant Divorce!

    For example, shalach is used 878 times in the Old Testament and only 13 times related to a marriage or intimate relationship, which means; 865 times it is used in other situations. To show you that shalach never meant divorce here are five random examples from the Old Testament. Shalach word in bold:
    1. Genesis 8:7: (Noah on the Ark) …of the ark which he had made. And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to…
    2. Genesis 24:7: (God giving Abraham the Promised Land) …Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee…
    3. Exodus 5:1: (Moses delivering Israel from Egypt) …the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto…
    4. Joshua 6:25: (Rahab hid the Spies) …day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
    5. 2 Kings 5:10: (Naaman healed) …of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and …

    Shalach’s New Testament equivalent: apoluo, though at times is translated divorce never meant divorce nor does it mean divorce but rather, a separation.

    For example, apoluo is used 94 times in the New Testament and only 18 times related to marriage or intimate relationships. Which means it is used 76 times in other situations. To show you that apoluo never meant divorce, here are five random examples form the New Testament. Apoluo word in bold:
    1. Matthew 14:15: (Jesus feeds the Five Thousand) …desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go …
    2. Luke 8:38: (Man with/ 2000 plus Demons) …that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine
    3. Luke 13:12: (Woman with the Issue of Blood) …her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid …
    4. Acts 4:23: (Lame man healed at the Gate Called Beautiful) …this miracle of healing was shewed. And being let go, they went to their own company, and…
    5. Acts 15:33: (Judas & Silas Leaving Antioch) …And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the…

    So when you read these passages they all seem to say that God Hates the “Putting Away” and not that he hates divorce in general. Also since apolyo is a verb, only one person can be doing that…the one who puts the other person away. Nowhere does it seem to suggest that the innocent party, the one who did not act or did not apolyo is condemed in any way.

    The one weakness of the Catholic Church I see is this issue. In the 1970 (according to EWTN) and that Father Tragileo (doubt I spelled that right) he stated on his program Web of Faith that the Catholic Church used to ex communicate everyone who got divorced. But now they changed and do not do that. So it is difficult to understand how just follow the Church as being a member would require. Going on…

    We can see that Jesus (God) who dealt with the Israelites in Malachi 2:16 regarding “putting away,” it was the same issue with the Pharisees in Matt 19 when He came to earth to redeem mankind. The “putting away” problem was still continuing.

    The Prophet Malachi and Ezra were contemporaries together in 430 B.C. — both of them were dealing with the “putting away” problem with the people of God. Here is a condensed version of Ezra 9,10 of that situation:

    God’s people “have taken [them] as wives …in this wicked act and direct violation [of God’s will]. And now, for a brief moment, GRACE HAS BEEN SHOWN US by the Lord our God…, who has left us a remnant TO ESCAPE… they solemnly vowed to PUT AWAY [separated from] their wives, …UNTIL THE FIERCE WRATH OF OUR GOD OVER THIS MATTER IS TURNED FROM US” (Ezra 9, 10).

    The same thing was happening in Malachi 2:14-16. The husbands were not divorcing but were just separating “putting away” their wives and remarrying other women without ever getting a divorce. This is what made God so angry. I believe the husbands knew that if they were not lawfully divorced (by giving their wife a Divorce Certificate) it gave them an excuse not to give back to the wife (or her father) the “dowry of the bride” that they paid for her when they were first married. This could of course have been a great price. However, the wives could not marry someone else without committing adultery unless they had a Certificate of Divorce that Moses COMMANDED their husbands to give when divorcing — which brings us to the book of Matthew 19:3.
    (Note: The Scriptures of Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 19:3-12, Matthew 5:31-32, Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:2-12 are all about the same issue—of being separated and getting married to someone else without first getting divorced. Therefore, this teaching will be sufficient without going over the other Scriptures because the Greek words for divorce and married are all the same in these passages in the New Testament.)

    “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘ Is it lawful for a man to separate [from] (put away) his wife [without divorcing her] for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then they are no longer two but one flesh.’”

    Jesus if you read the greek is is saying haven’t you read that if a married couple separates without an actual divorce, they are still “joined” as “one flesh”? And if they remarry in that condition they are in adultery? In the beginning the Lord never wanted the husband and wife to separate without a divorce. Otherwise, they could not become another man’s wife or another woman’s husband (See Deuteronomy 24:1,2).

    “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man SEPARATE.” (Jesus is talking about being SEPARATED and marrying another while still being married, NOT divorced and this seesm to be the way it is because two different words are being used) They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses COMMAND to give a Certificate of Divorce, AND to put her away (separate)?’

    These Pharisees still don’t seem to understand why they have to give a Certificate of Divorce when they separate from their wives!

    He said to them, “Moses, BECAUSE OF THE HARDNESS OF YOUR HEARTS, PERMITTED you to separate from (put away) your wives [without a Certificate of Divorce]. But from the beginning [being separated WITHOUT a Certificate of Divorce] was not so. And I say to you, whoever separates from (puts away) his wife [without a Certificate of Divorce], except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is separated (put away) [from her husband without a Certificate of Divorce] commits adultery.'”

    Romans 7:1-4 and The Law
    Therefore, how does Romans 7:1-4 fit into all this? It is simple. Let’s read through it: “ Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman WHO HAS a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives.”
    Notice that this is referring to a “woman WHO HAS a husband”! The husband and wife ARE husband and wife. If they were NOT husband and wife then they would not HAVE a husband or a wife. In other words, if you were divorced, widowed or single you would NOT have a husband or wife. This is ONLY applying to a “husband/wife” relationship. In the Law, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, it says when someone is divorced they have a FORMER (ex) husband or wife — which means, they are NO LONGER married to that person.
    As we continue through verse two I will underline every time it is referring to BEING “husband and wife” to emphasize that Paul is giving the analogy of a “husband/wife” relationship as to being “bound to the Law”:
    “But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. THEREFORE, MY BRETHREN, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, THAT YOU MAY BE MARRIED TO ANOTHER—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”
    The Apostle Paul is only giving an analogy by referencing the similarities of being “bound” to the Law to being “bound” to one another in a marriage. The book of Romans is about being dead to the Law in order for us to carry out the Law through a NEW relationship. That “new” relationship is in Christ. (See Romans 13:8-10.) Paul is NOT teaching about marriage, or divorce or even remarriage. In other words, the only way for us to break the “marriage” union with the Law is for us to die and then to rise from the dead so the Law will not have dominion over us. This is the whole subject of Romans — NOT about marriage, divorce or remarriage.

    There Are Two Things Required To Divorce:

    Matthew 19:7, “They say unto him, why did Moses then COMMAND to give a [1.] Writing (Certificate) of Divorcement, AND [2.] to put her away.” It takes two things to be correctly divorced:
    1. Writing of Divorcement (doing the legal thing).
    2. Put away (physically separate from each other).

    Notice in the next Scripture that God just separates (puts away) Israel without ever divorcing her. In other words, God is separating from His wife because of a bad situation but it does not yet merit a divorce: “Thus says the Lord: ‘ WHERE IS the CERTIFICATE OF YOUR MOTHER’S DIVORCE, Whom I have PUT AWAY?’” (Isaiah 50:1). God is “separated” but not yet divorced.

    However, at this point God is fed-up with Israel continually playing the harlot with other gods so He “separates” from her (puts her away) AND divorces her (gives her a Certificate of Divorcement): “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had PUT HER AWAY [SEPARATED FROM HER] AND given her a CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE…” (Jeremiah 3:8). God is currently divorced from Israel He will one day remarry her.

    As Jesus continued in Matthew 19:8-9, “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts SUFFERED (allowed) you to PUT AWAY your wives (without giving them a Certificate of Divorce: but from the beginning it was not so (to just separate and get remarried without being divorced).

    And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away (separates from) his wife (without giving a Certificate of Divorcement), except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away (only separates from their spouse) doth commit adultery.”

    Take notice that the “exception clause” was for a hard-hearted spouse who was not divorcing but rather a spouse who wanted to marry another person without ever getting divorced. Jesus allowed it for cases of fornication only. It has nothing to do with divorce. Therefore, the “exception clause” was always a myth — a doctrine we made because of wrong understanding of the Scriptures — we lost the truths through time.

    It Is Better NOT To Marry?

    Continuing in Matthew 9:10-12, “His disciples said to Him, ‘If such is the case of the man with his wife, IT IS BETTER NOT TO MARRY.’

    But He said to them, ‘All cannot accept THIS SAYING, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept IT (THIS SAYING OF THE DISCIPLES), let him accept it ” ( Matt 19:9-12 ).

    The disciples replied to Jesus that it is better that no man EVER be married. First off, the disciples made an absurd statement and Jesus knew it. If no males would marry females than there would be no one left upon the earth in so many years. Because Jesus knew what they said was absurd, He answered their specific question by stating first that “All cannot accept THIS SAYING — what the disciples said about no one ever getting married, NOT about what Jesus Himself said. Then, He went on to address that if no one ever got married then everyone would be a eunuch. And if everyone was a eunuch then there would not be any life on the earth in so many years. So Jesus told them about eunuchs in verse ten and why they are eunuchs. Then the Lord summed it up by saying that, “He who is ABLE TO ACCEPT IT (what the DISCIPLES SAID regarding being single), let him accept it. The Lord was responding to what the disciples said about never marrying at all because it was that far off course.

    To sum this teaching up, the Geneva Bible translated from the Textus Receptus in 1560 (about 50 years before the KJV) has a margin note concerning the term “ put away” (the use of the Hebrew word (shalach). It says that put away, “was not lawfully divorced.”

    So I have to say that I am really stuck. I divorced and remarried before thinking of becoming a Catholic and now this situation has me really in a difficult place. I want to live for Christ but can I as a matter of concious after the above study of the scripture really hurt my current spouse’s life hopes and dreams by stopping with marital relations with her? Especially in light of the scripture analysis, the Matthew exception clause and the fact that the Catholic Church itself has gone back on forth on parts of this issue?

  6. Dear Steve,
    You are not alone. The remarriage is the problem not the divorce or putting away in canon law. Divorce is not good but sometimes it is necessary to protect the wife, children, for financial stability etc.

    If you were divorced, but not remarried you could be received into the church as soon as you were ready. But, because you are remarried, your first marriage would need be declared null in order for you to enter the Church and resume marital relations with your present wife.

    Do not let anyone discourage you from seeking a Declaration of Nullity. Make the attempt. There is no guarantee but so few people these days marry sacramentally , even Catholics, that there is a worthwhile probability that it might be granted.

    You need to ask yourself if you are willing to abandon yourself to the will of God or not. ( Embodied in His Church)

    This is going to be very revealing of your heart of hearts.

    I will pray for the courage to follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

    To get a little perspective I hope you will click on todays reading in Maccabees —>Click Here

  7. Yes he diid, and no theological squirming and linguistic manipulation can or will change exactly what Jesus said and meant.
    Just because other Gospel writers didn’t quote him word for word is no surprise – many things Jesus did are related from different angles by the Gospel writers.
    If they were EXACTLY identical, it would look suspici -ously like plagiarism. However, each writer recorded his own personal account.
    Divorce is Scripturally allowed for one reason, and one reason only – when a marriage partner indulges in porneia or fornication (practices involving the sexual organs) with someone other than their spouse.
    Divorce in such a case is not obligatory, but is a loving provision by our Creator, to free an innocent victim from an adulterous and untrustworthy marriage mate, should they so wish.
    The God I serve does not compel anyone to live with such an immoral spouse.
    However, to deliberately commit adultery as a way of getting a “Scriptural” divorce, is basically thumbing your nose at God Almighty who sees exactly what your heart and mind really are.

  8. Hi

    My name is Larry Jones. I am looking for a particular document that was found on a website about 2004 titled, “the seriousness of marriage” with another called “the seriousness of remarriage”. They were then put together into one document called the seriousness of marriage/remarriage.

    They show divorce and remarriage from a lawful marriage to not be allowed for anything under the NT, explaining the exception clause by the cultural premarital divorce seen in Matthew 1.

    If you know of such documents can you please let me know, I have been looking for these for some time since they are valuable for my ministry. nwrfrmtn@yahoo.com
    Thank you

  9. “Divorce” is not the problem, the problem is, we let God into our marriage too late. We always seek God to get out of a marriage, when we should had sought him him BEFORE we entered into the marriage. That’s why THERE ARE so many divorces, God IS NOT in these marriage. He did not do the joining. For he said in the scripture, “What therefore God hath joined together….”. Marriage was the first Institution established by GOD, not by man. And God takes marriage serious. Seek God before you marry, and I’m not talking about being council, I’m talking about you going to God in prayer yourself. Asking God is this the person YOU approve of me marrying? My dear friends, he WILL answer you. If he or she is not, break off. It’ll be NEXT to death doing so, but it WILL be death if you go ahead.

    • yes, true. I sure wish that I had gone through counsel and preparation before my marriage. I was 18 and thought all the things I didn’t like (including he was not a christian) would go away after ward. If I had gone to God to guide and direct me I wouldn’t have gone through 21 painful years and a terrible divorce.

  10. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery and the man who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
    — Jesus Christ

    Step 1: Divorce Your Spouse
    Step 2: Remarry Another Person
    Step 3: Commit Adultery

    Notice AFTER the wedding they are committing adultery with each other.
    Notice AFTER the wedding the adultery starts.
    Are they husband and wife?

    Remember–it is impossible for a husband and his wife to commit adultery–WITH EACH OTHER.

    If they were really joined as a husband and wife at their remarriage–Jesus would never have called their sexual relationship AFTER this wedding–adultery.

    People go to the courthouse to get divorce papers to get them out of their marriage but the papers obviously don’t work because they are still committing adultery AFTER they’ve done that. Divorce does not make them single if the charge of adultery is still on them AFTER a divorce.

    “Look at the legalized adultery we call divorce. Men marry one wife after another and are still admitted into good society; and women do likewise. There are thousands of supposedly respectable men in American living with other men’s wives, and thousands of supposedly respectable women living with other women’s husbands.” — R. A. Torrey

    R.A. Torrey (1856-1928)
    Pastor and graduate of Yale University
    Superintendent of Moody Bible Institute for 19 years

    “A wife is married to her husband as long as he lives.”
    1 Corinthians 7:39


  11. Not so fast.

    You fail to remember the context of the times Jesus lived in and spoke of.

    1. Do not assume male/female interchangeability.
    2. Do not assume Israel was a free society.

    Women weren’t allowed to choose who they married. Jesus was speaking out against the man-made marriage laws which allowed men to be serial monogamists. He was not giving the universe guidance on how to properly marry or remarry under God’s law.

    Simply replace the word ‘wife’ with ‘slave’ in the above passages. Then it will make sense to you why Jesus would forbid marrying “slave after slave” much less marrying a divorced~ slave — who might not even want to marry.

    And yes, a wife’s unchastity is grounds for divorce, even when the wife was forced into marriage.

  12. At one time I was Muslim and my spouse was also, when I accepted Jesus Christ, my spouse moved out and moved in with another woman, who he has remained with ever since, that was seven years ago. I divorced him two years after he left and moved in with another woman. Must I remain single for the rest of my life.

  13. Dear Kim,
    When one spouse becomes a Christian and the non Christian leaves the marriage then the Pauline Privilege applies. The Information below was copied from Catholic Culture . It is a portion of a larger post regarding marriage.

    The Pauline Privilege

    Some have called the Pauline Privilege a “Catholic divorce.” It is not. A Pauline Privilege is the dissolution of a purely natural (not sacramental) marriage which had been contracted between two non-Christians, one of whom has since become a Christian. The Pauline Privilege is so-named because it is based upon the apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians. As you read further, you will see that the Pauline Privilege is no simple formula, and is certainly not a divorce. Neither Christ nor the Church accepts divorce, and as we have seen, marriage is truly sacred. Some marriages however, were not sacred from their beginning. In these marriages, neither party was a Christian or a Catholic. When at a later time, one partner converts and is baptized, questions about the marriage may arise. The Pauline Privilege differs from an annulment because it dissolves a real but natural marriage. An annulment is a declaration that there never was a valid marriage to begin with.

    “A marriage entered into by two non-baptized persons is dissolved by means of the Pauline Privilege in favor of the faith of the party who has received baptism by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by the same party, provided that the non-baptized party departs.”8

    The Pauline Privilege is based upon St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians,

    “To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him…But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case, the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.”9

    Valid Christian marriage performed without impediment as noted above cannot be dissolved or annulled. “The marriage bond has been established by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved.”10

    God does however, dissolve the marital relationship in certain circumstances. The simplest example would be the death of a spouse.

    Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning her husband. … But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.11

    We can see then, that the marriage relationship can be dissolved under certain circumstances and that God recognizes this dissolution. In the case of dissolution by the death of a spouse, He recognizes the right of the living spouse to remarry.

    The Pauline Privilege does not apply to the death of a spouse, but recognizes that certain marriages, while valid, were not sacramental (not “Christian”). A marriage between two unbaptized persons is not a sacramental marriage. St. Paul’s inspired words in I Corinthians tell us that when one of the married persons has been baptized into the Catholic faith and the other remains an unbeliever, unwilling to live in peace with the believer, then the believer is not bound by the marriage. While Paul does not say specifically that the marriage is dissolved, the Church takes it to mean so, or the believer would not be free to remarry and the words would not contain the full truth. We know that St. Paul was divinely inspired to write those words, and therefore they do contain the full truth. The Church has then determined exactly how and under what conditions the “Pauline Privilege” may be exercised. According to the Church’s interpretation, the dissolution of a marriage that was contracted before the conversion and baptism of one of the parties does not take place upon mere separation of the parties, but only when a new marriage was entered into by the believer invoking this privilege.

    Then only may the yoke of the matrimonial bond with an infidel be understood to be loosed when the convert spouse…proceeds to another marriage with a believer.12

    If the non-believing party agrees to live with the believer in peace, then they should remain married. However, if the non-believing party does not agree to live in peace, then the believing party can be released from the bond of the non-sacramental marriage and is free to remarry. Even if the non-believing spouse agrees, but then acts contrary to this by abusing the Christian religion, tempting the Christian to infidelity, prevents the children from being raised in Christian faith, or becomes votia temptation for the Christian to commit mortal sin, then the latter retains the right to proceed to a new marriage. 13

    Because of the serious and threatening conditions of a believer living with a non-believer, the Church determines in most circumstances to interpret the meaning of living in peace as whether the non-Christian is willing to accept the faith. In the case that the non-Christian refuses, then permission may be granted to the believing party to enter into a new marriage and thereby dissolve the previous one. This is what is meant when the Pauline Privilege is used in favor of the faith. The Church has then, the right to – in favor of the faith – dissolve a marriage that was contracted in infidelity (unbelief). Since according to I Cor. 7:12-15, these marriages are not absolutely indissoluble according to Divine right as stated by St. Paul, it then follows that the power to make this decision resides with the Church. This power was granted to the successor of St. Peter:

    I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.14

    The Pope has determined that the local bishops exercise this authority. The diocesan Tribunal reviews each case for final determination.

  14. …and all of this self righteousness from the “church” that covered up and allowed pedophile priests to rape children for centuries…. and stood by while innocent Jews went to the gas chambers. The same church that had Jews and others murdered in the Crusades and the Inquisition… The “church” lost its moral authority a long time ago. You don’t need to be a Catholic or follow their “laws” to be good with Jesus. Divorce is in the Bible, and I believe that in Matthew, Jesus made provisions for divorce in the case of adultery. Who got to choose which books were even included in the Bible? Was it God… Jesus? No, men. Councils of priests – primitive people by today’s standards. People who were no better than barbarians. All of this talk of “suffering” and catholics talking about needing to “suffer” for some higher reason, is merely morphing into some sick cult talk. It’s SICK.

    I was born and raised in that tradition, was an altar boy, went to all boy high school, and married. Wife cheated and left me, wanted divorce. Now you tell me I have to remain single for the rest of my life? Screw you. Screw the “church”. Jesus sent the Protestants to cleanse the immoral church centuries ago, and to right the wrongs by those writings and twistings that were done in HIS name.

    Please, some of you sound so “sick” talking about all of this suffering. God didn’t put us here to suffer. God wants us to be happy. When did Christianity become a cult of suffering? Now I see it where in my childhood I thought it was normal. ALL of those nuns who would poke the kids and get off on causing their own suffering. It’s a sick worldwide cult, catholicism is..

    Where is the loving forgiveness? Would Jesus negatively judge someone who was abandoned? Would He tell them they have to live as a monk if that was not ther calling? Of course not!!!!

    …and remember, it’s EASY to champion this stuff if you never had to have that bad stuff happen to YOU.

    If Jesus ever comes back, I think many of you will be very surprised at what He has to say and what He does.

  15. Tom,
    The Church did not cover up and allow pedophile priest to rape children for centuries.

    First of all, most of the recent cases, were from a time when it was believed that pedophiles could be cured by therapy. Now we know it cannot. So, because the Church is in the business of offering forgiveness to everyone who repents and confesses their sin these priests were absolved. But, that is no excuse for the cover-up and the pain and suffering this inflicted on those who were molested. Satan certainly had his day in the sun. 😦

    Protestants don’t win the day b/c there are sinners in the Catholic Church. Everyone knows that.

    Secondly, for the most part priests weren’t raping children. Technically, they were not adults but they were teenage boys and this was a homosexual crime committed by homosexual priests. And of course the mainstream media wanted to avoid any condemnation of homosexuality while it skewered the Catholic Church for what amounted to homosexual crime. It was still statutory rape but usually a bit different than the violence of rape in the plain sense. Still, Evil, Evil, Evil.

    Thirdly, the Catholic Church did not allow this any more than the Church allows anyone else to sin. God has given man free will and even He allows men to use their free will for evil. But this does not mean that He or the Church approve of EVIL and Sin.

    You have been fed a lot of anti-Catholic lies. The Church saved more Jews than anyone else during WWII. The Chief Rabbi of Rome became Catholic after WWII and took the Pope’s baptismal name as his own baptismal name in his honor, because he KNEW how much the Pope and the Church had done for his people. He experienced a true conversion. You can read about it –>Salvation is from the Jews.

    The Crusades were a response to the Muslims making war on Christians and their towns and nations. Sort of like the U.S. response to 9/11. Unfortunately people die in wars. But Christians died also and made great sacrifices for a noble goal. But as always, there are the sinners who sin egregiously. But, again, this was not approved of by the Church but rather lamented.

    The Church did not kill anyone during the Inquisition. The State sentenced and executed them. The state had the Church examine people to determine heresy or not and try to persuade them to recant their heresy. This was more just than the State making the determination. Unlike today, the government back then, did not grant freedom of religion and viewed heterodoxy as a precursor to disorder and rebellion. It was in the interest of the STATE that dissenters were executed. And no doubt egregious sinners could be found among some clergy involved. The St. Joan of Arc case, for instance.

    Tom, I am sorry about your wife and divorce. I am sorry you left the Church. I can see you are still very bitter and unhappy because of your suffering, (and you did suffer, are still suffering and everyone does suffer at some or many points in life), which has not brought peace but bitterness. Suffering is unavoidable. But, Protestants just bear it because it is. Their suffering is pointless. And sometimes it makes them bitter or they reject God because of it. But, the beauty of the Catholic teaching on suffering is that when we are faced with it we offer it to the Father in union with the suffering of His Son on the Cross and pray that through our suffering we might be sanctified.This turns the pain of suffering into hope of profit.

    I used to think it sounded sick too, before I was Catholic. But, now I realize it is a beautiful way to use our suffering to bring deep joy into our life in spite of sorrow and this brings us the Peace that passes all understanding. Please try offering up your suffering in union with Jesus. Kyrie Elieson.

  16. Just out of curiosity what would you say about The Church’s acceptance of annulment?

  17. “Annulment” is actually based on the “Exception Clause” in Matt 19:3-10. The Church is once again proven right and wise when she interprets the exception of “porneia” as meaning “illicit unions.” In the context of Jewish background and understanding of Matthew’s audience, it is quite clear that “porneia” refers to sexuial sins of a deeper nature than simple adultery. In reaction to this restrictive nature of Jesus’ teaching, some responded: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

    So, the Church did not just accept annulment. It’s the original teaching of Jesus Christ which she inherited through the original deposit of faith.

  18. what of deut where a wife was allowed to remarry. Also the old laws said it was not allowed for a man to remarry his wife after she was remarried

  19. Dear Angela,

    Where in Deuteronomy? Had her husband died? As for remarriage to a former spouse after marrying someone else in between….

    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 inheritance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: