Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah (A Study of Matthew 19:9)

On a recent rerun of “Seventh Heaven” the theme was politics and voting. It was not particularly interesting to me (my mind wanders when people discuss politics), but the reason I kept watching was that it made me laugh. All through the show, when the parents talked, the kids’ eyes glazed over and the only thing they (and we) heard was “Blah blah blah blah blah.”

I got to thinking that obviously that is what many of us hear when we discuss Matthew 19:9. We surely cannot be listening to one another, as we all have our own distinct beliefs.

Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

It occurred to me the evening I watched the “Seventh Heaven” episode that, with all our varied opinions, we cannot agree on much of anything at all about this verse. Here is what I imagine is only a partial list of things we do not agree on:

1. Who the “you” is that Jesus is talking to—Jews of Jesus’ day or us or both.
2. When this was to go into effect or if it was already in effect and had been in effect for thousands of years.
3. What “put away” is.
4. Whether it matters who does the putting away.
5. Whether the fornication has to occur before the divorce (or putting away) takes place.
6. What fornication is.
7. What adultery is.
8. Whether the “except” distributes to the second part of the sentence.
9. Whether adultery is a one-time act or continuing.
10. What law is being referred to.
11. Whether “whosoever” in the second part refers even to the one who put the woman away.
12. Whether the death of the ex-spouse frees the put-away fornicator to marry again.
13. Whether an innocent put-away may later mentally put away an ex-spouse who has married again.
14. Whether the applicable civil laws are binding, per Romans 13:1.
15. Whether a never-married person who marries one “not eligible” for marriage may marry again once he gets out of his “adulterous” relationship.
16. Whether this is a fellowship issue.
17. Whether this is a congregational issue.
18. Whether remedial requirements for “living in adultery” demand divorce or just separate bedrooms.
19. Whether the two people Jesus is referring to are truly divorced or still married to each other.
20. Whether a woman may ever put away a man.
21. Whether the man could have taken the second wife if he had been willing to keep the first also.
22. Whether Matthew 19:9b actually exists.
23. Whether the put-away fornicator is “dead,” bound, or still married.

From a text containing only thirty-three words I have listed twenty-three items that we dispute among ourselves. And, as I said, I am guessing that if we tried harder we could come up with even more.

I am not a mathematician (and probably could not even play one on TV); but I wonder, if we got to mixing up all these twenty-three items, how many views we would have. As we know, two people might agree on ten of these but disagree on the other ten. Or two people might agree on four or eight or twelve or sixteen of the issues and disagree on however many are left. Two other people might agree on four, eight, twelve, or sixteen different issues than the first two people agree on. I reckon we could have millions, maybe trillions, of opinions on this one verse that is made up of thirty-three little words. It makes my poor little head hurt to think about it.

So I will stop thinking about it for a while. But before I hush I would like to say that, seeing as how good, honest, God-fearing people like us Christians cannot seem to get it together regarding our beliefs about divorce and remarriage, maybe it would behoove us to try not to be judgmental and condemning and act like our way is the way that is right and cannot be wrong. Think about it: considering the many views we have among us, do we really even know if our own spouse agrees with us on every divorce/remarriage situation? It may just be that when we open our mouths to espouse our doctrine, all our listeners are hearing is “Blah blah blah blah blah.”




The Polygamy Factor

Bible students have long pondered the practice of polygamy. Was the polygamy we read about in the Old Testament approved by God or was it morally wrong and simply tolerated by God? The Bible clearly answers this question.

Old Testament Polygamists

Abraham, father of the faithful, had more than one wife, as his wife Sarah gave to him her handmaiden, Hagar, “to be his wife” (Gen. 16:3). This fact alone does not answer our question. But in the matter of King David we have much more to consider. God Himself gave David his wives.

2 Samuel 12:8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

By saying this, God expressed that He accepted and condoned David’s marital situation.  We know that God counted David as a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22) and that David was faithful in everything God told him to do except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite, which had nothing to do with multiple wives. In fact, after Uriah died God allowed David to take Bathsheba to add her to all the other wives God had already given him (2 Sam. 12:24).

1 Kings 15:5  Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

As a polygamist, David was doing that which was right in God’s eyes. The Bible also gives us other examples of godly men who had more than one wife at a time, but these two suffice to show that God did not consider polygamy a sin and it was not just something he tolerated.

Polygamy under the Law of Moses

The Law of Moses regulated polygamy and at times may have required it.

Deuteronomy 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.

Note that nothing is said about whether the man already had a wife. Married or single, he was to take his dead brother’s wife.

Exodus 22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

Again, nothing is said about this man’s being single. He might already have been married; yet if he had sexual relations with a single woman, he was required to marry her if her father would allow it.

But notice:

Deuteronomy 22:22  If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

What is the difference? Whether the man was married or single did not matter. It is not even mentioned. A man could have more than one woman, and if the woman was single he was to marry her but if she was married he was to die. God never sanctioned polyandry (a woman’s having more than one husband), but He did sanction polygyny (a man’s having more than one wife).

Leviticus 18:18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

A man could not marry his wife’s sister while his wife was still alive. This is strong evidence that he could marry another woman while his wife was still alive; otherwise, this law would make no sense.

Deuteronomy 21:15  If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

Why did God regulate polygamous marriages? If polygamy was sinful, why did He not say so? God has never been shy about condemning sin. He gave specific instructions about sexual relations during menstruation, so we cannot think that He not only allowed immoral behavior but also sanctioned it by giving David his wives. We need to be careful about the charges we make against our Creator. Since God authorized polygamy, and in some cases even commanded it, we know that polygamy was not sinful (Dt. 25:5, 2 Sam. 12:8, I Kings 15:5).

Exodus 21:10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

Again, as long as a man continued to provide for his first wife, he could take a new wife. Note also:

Exodus 21:11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

A slave who had become a man’s wife was to go out free if her husband took a new wife and diminished her food, her clothing, or her duty of marriage. Polygamy was approved and regulated by God in the Old Testament; and Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, mentioned that the “ancient practice among us to have many wives at the same time” continued in his day. (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, 1, § 2; if link does not work see:

As we can see, polygamy was practiced and regulated as well as approved under the law of Moses. It was also still being engaged in when Jesus and the apostles lived.

The New Testament on Polygamy

The New Testament neither specifically sanctions nor condemns polygamy.  We do, however, need to consider a couple of scriptures.

I Timothy 3:2

We know from this passage that elders and deacons must be the “husband of one wife,” but that does not necessitate that all men must be thus. It in fact necessitates that men who are not elders and deacons may be the husbands of something other than one wife; otherwise, the special qualification for elders and deacons means nothing at all. Consider the following requirement for a priest of God:

Leviticus 21:14  A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

Priests could not marry divorced women but were required to marry virgins. Unless that necessarily implies that other men could marry divorced women and non-virgins, the restriction on priests means absolutely nothing. The same is true of the qualification for elders and deacons.

Some will say that this simply means that elders and deacons have to be married and we know that is not required of all men. But the passage does not say they have to be married; it says they have to be the husband of one wife. We need to remember that polygamy was a fact when the New Testament was written and consider that context when we look at this qualification. We cannot assume that the requirement to have one wife has to do with morality as it could possibly be due to a man’s having no time for the duties of an elder or deacon if he has several wives.

This passage does not condemn polygamy. If it does anything at all, it leads us to believe polygamy is approved because it gives a specific qualification about an elder’s having one wife, which would lead us to believe that other men may have more than one–otherwise, why make the requirement at all? Paul knew how to say a man must be married if that is what he meant; he did not do so.

Some might say that if this language (“husband of one wife”) allows men who are not elders or deacons to have multiple wives, then it also allows women to have multiple husbands–because a “widow indeed” was to have been the “wife of one man” (I Tim. 5:9). I am using this scripture about elders and deacons not to prove that other men may have multiple wives but simply to show that the scripture itself does not condemn polygamy.

But what of polyandry? We know that it was never sanctioned by God. Also, we have New Testament passages telling us that women may not have more than one husband.

Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

1 Corinthians 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

We recognize from these scriptures that a woman may have only one husband. Unless her husband dies or she is divorced from him, she will be committing adultery if she takes another husband. We do not have passages such as these regarding men; and we know that God allowed, approved of, and even sometimes commanded men to have more than one wife.

I Corinthians 7:2

Someone might insist that polygamy is forbidden because according to this scripture every man is to have his own wife and every woman is to have her own husband. It is interesting to note, however, that the words Paul uses for “own” in this verse are not necessarily exclusive.

1 Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Two different but synonymous words are used for the word “own” in this scripture.


The first “own” is heautou and means “himself, herself, itself, themselves.” (If link does not work, see: We will not discuss this word extensively, as most people agree that a man’s wife is his exclusively. However, I want to make it clear that this word, just like the word idios, which we will discuss later, can refer to both exclusive and non-exclusive nouns. No distinction, as far as I know, can be made based on the use of one word or the other. I simply have no reason to discuss this word because, as I said, we all accept that a woman may have only one husband, based on the scriptures I listed above that condemn the practice of polyandry. So I will move on to the other word for “own.”


When Paul talks about the woman having her own husband, he uses another word, idios (if link does not work, see:, which means “pertaining to one’s self, one’s own, belonging to one’s self.” Please understand that something can belong to two or more people at the same time. I may have my own house but it also belongs to my husband—and maybe even the bank. And this word expresses this very thing. The word does not necessarily mean that a woman’s husband belongs only to her.

I have four children who all call me their own mother. If a friend invited one of my children to go to his house on Mother’s Day, my child might say, “No, thanks, I have to go visit my own mother.” I am his “own” mother but I am also the mother of three other children.

Another example of this is an employer’s relationship to his employees. He may have many employees but he is the boss of all of them and they would all call him their own boss. A master in the New Testament might have hundreds of slaves, but each slave would refer to him as his “own” master, although a slave could not claim the master as exclusively his.

We certainly understand this with regard to our relationship to God. He is my Lord and Master but He is not only mine. God has many servants and none of us can claim Him as our own in the sense that He is only ours.

Romans 14:4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own (idios) master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

We know that this servant has his own Master (God), but he is not the only servant God has. This is the only New Testament passage that even seems to imply that polygamy is not approved of God, and we need to recognize that this word does not necessarily refer to an exclusive relationship. No matter how we feel about polygamy or what our culture will accept, we need to look at scripture with an open mind and a willingness to accept what we read.

Some other scriptures where the word idios is used are:

Matthew 9:1And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. (A city belongs to more than one person.)

Matthew 22:5  But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: (The man probably had a wife to whom the farm also belonged.)

John 1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (I have five sisters who are my own sisters, but each sister also belongs to the others.)

Every single time the Bible mentions wives having their own husbands, the word idios is used. (I mention this not to make a distinction between heautou and idios, as no such distinction can be made. I mention it only in case we might think that, at some other time when this English terminology is used, a different and perhaps definitely exclusive word is used. It is not.) Note especially:

1 Peter 3:5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own (idios) husbands:

In this passage we know that some of these holy women did not have their own exclusive husband. This alone proves that Paul’s saying a woman is to have her own (idios) husband does not necessarily mean that he could not also be the husband of other women.

Does the word idios ever appear in a passage in which the relationship is exclusive? Yes, it does. I am not saying that this verse absolutely demands polygamy in the New Testament. I am saying that we cannot use the verse to condemn polygamy because the terminology does not necessitate an exclusive relationship. I repeat: I discuss this passage for one reason only, and that is to show that it does not condemn polygamy–not to try to say that it promotes it.

Most of us do not think that polygamy is God’s ideal, and in our society it is illegal. However, these considerations do not make polygamy immoral or sinful. Very few people advocate polygamy as a superior model to monogamy, but we can find no evidence in the Word of God to show that polygamy is sinful. We must remember that we have only three words to describe polygamy: marriage, fornication, or adultery. Those who think God simply allowed polygamy, even though it was sinful and not true marriage, are accusing God of allowing fornication or adultery and turning His head the other way. Who can believe it?

The Polygamy Factor in Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Now if polygamy is not sinful or immoral, that raises the question as to why a man who puts away his wife (not for fornication) and marries another commits adultery (Mt. 19:9). The scriptures contain many cases of men’s having multiple wives and it is never called adultery. David was never rebuked for his multiple wives. As I have shown, God said He gave these wives to David. However, David was rebuked when he took Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, for himself. Look again at this verse:

1 Kings 15:5  Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

In view of the fact that having multiple wives is never condemned and certainly is never called adultery, why does the man who puts away his wife (without the cause of fornication) and marries another commit adultery? Let us consider this question.

What Is It That God Condemns?

What was it that God condemned about divorce in the first place? When we look to the Old Testament the concern over divorce was the mistreatment of the wife that was put away.

Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.

13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Since polygamy was sanctioned, we know that it is not the marriage to the second wife that God condemned or hated but it was instead the treacherous treatment of the first wife.


1. Employer/Employee:

An employer has a right to hire me and he has a right to hire others in addition to me. He may hire as many people as he needs to do a job. He also has a right to let me go and to let all his employees go. But if he decides to let me go when I have done nothing wrong and am fulfilling my duties to him and then he hires someone right behind me to fill the same position, I am going to be outraged. He will have insulted and humiliated me.

2. Mother/Child:

A woman has a right to have as many children as she desires. The first child cannot be angry because she has or takes a second or a third child. She also might, under certain circumstances, be justified in letting a child go. Perhaps the mother is mentally handicapped and was impregnated through rape. Or maybe she is twelve years old. It might be that she is dying of cancer. A mother may, for some good reasons, choose to give up her child. But what a mother should and would never do is give her own child away and then go seek a new child to take its place. We would be outraged if a woman did such a thing.

Likewise, putting away a wife without the cause of fornication for the sole purpose of taking another wife is wrong. It is insulting and degrading to the first wife, and the man has ceased to perform the duties of a husband to her. He has not simply taken a second wife. He has broken his vows and is now performing those vows for another while refusing to perform them for his first wife. He has broken wedlock. He has been unfaithful to his vows.

Adultery with the Second Wife?

Many believe that the adultery Jesus describes is with the second wife.  But Mark 10:11 indicates that it is against the first wife.

Mark 10:11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

While it is possible for men to commit adultery with married women, that is not what this word means in this instance and it is not how it is translated. Scholarship is almost unanimous that “against her” is referring to the first wife.

And why should this be adultery with the second wife? Since polygamy is not a sin, she is indeed the man’s wife. He has every right to a second wife. What he does not have a right to do is put away the first in order to obtain the second. Had the man in question continued to take care of the first wife, providing her with undiminished food, clothing, and marital relations, Jesus would have had nothing bad to say to him because he would have been complying with the Law of Moses, under which he lived—and under which Jesus lived and taught. Therefore, we can conclude that the sin that Jesus speaks of is the same sin that God condemned in Malachi, and that is the treachery against, and abandonment of, the first wife.

Ending Second Marriages

What is a man to do if he has divorced his first wife without just cause and married another woman? Some say he must divorce the second and go back to the first. If he does this is he not showing himself to be faithless again? Is he not breaking yet another covenant and failing to perform marital duties to yet another wife?

Preachers who go about the countryside insisting that men who have divorced and remarried must put away their second wives and go back to their first are telling them to do exactly what  Jesus condemned—put away an innocent wife and marry another. Two wrongs do not make a right, and it is just as wrong for the man to divorce a second or third wife as it is for him to divorce the first one. Also, Moses said that if a man put away his wife and she went and became another man’s wife, it was  an abomination before the Lord if the first husband took her back again (Dt. 24:4). How could something that was an abomination suddenly become a righteous act?


Jesus said that a man who looks at a woman to lust after her is committing adultery in his heart (Mt. 5:28). We know this is not having actual sexual relations of any kind, and yet it is still called adultery and is a clear failure to achieve the ideal in marriage.  Thus, we can recognize that many men have failed in their marriages in some capacity even if they have not committed fornication or divorced and remarried.

I know that polygamy is contrary to our culture; but when we factor in polygamy in considering marriage, divorce, and remarriage, it can shed great light. Also, if we remember the high standard that Jesus calls upon men to have in their marriages (not even to look upon a woman to lust after her), perhaps we can realize the need for grace and forgiveness to be extended to those who fail in a more overt way and experience divorce.

God wants a man to take a woman for life, and men and women pay a high price when divorce occurs. But God is able to forgive and forget all sin through Jesus Christ.




What’s Fair for the Goose (Fractured Fairytale Regarding Divorce and Remarriage)

Those who hold the traditional view on divorce and remarriage infer and assume many things about the scriptures. One thing that they assume is that what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander. While they would not think of allowing Mt. 5:32a to modify Mt. 5:32b, they nevertheless let Mt. 5:32a modify I Cor. 7:39 and Mark 10:12.

Traditionalists (for lack of a better word–sorry) say that Mt. 5:32b stands alone, separate and apart from Mt. 5:32a. But then when it comes to Mark 10:12 they assume that the exception of Mt. 5:32a applies because they know it applies to a husband.

Think about that for a minute. A husband and wife are married and the husband gets freed, unbound, and unmarried because he divorces his wife for fornication. But the wife remains bound or married, or whatever we want to call it. We turn a marriage between a husband and wife into some freaky thing that nobody ever heard of–where a woman is married to a man who is not married to her. And we are okay with that because we absolutely, positively cannot allow Mt. 5:32a to modify Mt. 5:32b, no matter how ridiculous the ramifications may be.

But if a man in general has a right or a privilege, we automatically assume a woman has the same right or privilege–even though we know that not all privileges and rights given to men by God are also given to women. And what is our reasoning? Well, it is an emotional one, of course–it is just not fair otherwise. (Of course, if a non-traditionalist tried to make an argument based on fairness, he would be told that God’s ways are not man’s ways and we cannot base our doctrine on our emotions.)

Let’s look at what the above-mentioned verses say (King James Version) and then look at how we interpret them (Church of Christ Version).

Matthew 5:32 (KJV)  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 5:32 (COCV) But (I’m changing the Law of Moses here–pay attention) I (new authority–my time has come; forget everything the Law says, even though I just told you not to break the Law thirteen verses back) say unto you (not really you because you are under the Law of Moses, but people coming after you), That whosoever (man or woman) shall put away his wife (or husband; and, well, not truly put away, just whoever attempts to put him or her away), saving for the cause of fornication (whatever that is), causeth her (or him) to commit adultery (when he or she remarries, which he or she will–well, okay, fake remarries): and whosoever (except her ex-husband or his ex-wife who tried to put her or him away, or someone who is put away but countersues to become both the putter away and the put away) shall marry (not truly marry) her (or him; any her or him, not the her I was just talking about; this part of the sentence cannot be modified by the first part–later when I talk it can, and it can modify Paul’s words even though he doesn’t repeat it, but this part of the sentence must stand alone) that is divorced (truly divorced and fake divorced, again unless he or she counter-sued because of fornication, whatever that is) committeth adultery (forever and ever, amen).

Mark 10:12 (KJV) And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Mark 10: 12 (COCV) And if a woman (cannot be a man this time) shall put away (not truly put away, just fake put away) her husband, and be married (not truly married, just fake married) to another, she committeth adultery (forever and ever amen; and remember that modification of Mt. 5:32a that I wouldn’t let you use in Mt. 5:32b? well, it must be thrown in here because what’s fair or the goose is fair for the gander).

1 Corinthians 7:39 (KJV) The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:39 (COCV) The wife (or husband; not really the wife or husband but a woman or man who is divorced from her husband or his wife and is somehow still married, bound, or maybe he or she is “dead”–not sure) is bound (some mystical thing nobody really understands but it’s definitely not marriage–I don’t think) by the law (umm, you can argue about what that means) as long as her husband (or wife; you know, the man or woman who divorced her or him and married somebody else twenty-five years ago) liveth (oh! throw in Mt. 5:32b here–I guess it’s as good a place to put it as any); but if her husband (or wife; same man or woman as above who has a new life with five children from his or her second marriage) be dead (really dead or “dead,” as in divorced for fornication–you know, Mt. 5:32a), she (or he) is at liberty to be married (truly married) to whom she (or he) will (except someone who is a put-away unless he was also a putter-way); only in the Lord (mercy, let’s not even get started on what that means).

Traditionalists infer, assume, use emotional arguments, and move scriptures around at their pleasure, proclaiming themselves to be the defenders and guardians of the truth and condemning anyone else who might infer or assume anything at all. And usually when they are in a discussion with a non-traditionalist they talk about how they soundly defeated his arguments many years earlier—by their inferences, assumptions, emotional arguments, and manipulation of scriptures, of course. What is worse, they cast people out of the church, malign their own brothers and sisters, judge another man’s servant, and make themselves and their own opinions on par with God and His Word, all while saying their only motive is love for the brethren and concern for the souls of all men.

I do not mean to judge or belittle anyone’s beliefs. I do understand that we can all come to the same scripture and put in our own thoughts and background beliefs and teachings of men, deciding from all that what we understand God to be saying to us. But we need to accept that our understanding is not necessarily the understanding of every honest student of the Bible, and our understanding is also not necessarily the understanding of God. We should present our arguments as best we can and allow others to do the same, recognizing that good and faithful men and women of God have differing views on many Biblical topics. God is able to make His servant stand, and He is the final judge of all men.



Thou Hast Had Five Husbands

John 4:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

The above scripture is used as proof that people “live in adultery” while married to a second, third, or, as in the case of this Samaritan woman Jesus met at Jacob’s well, sixth husband. The doctrine assumes that while the Law of Moses did not condemn this woman in her sixth marriage, nonetheless Jesus did.

However, those who promote this idea fail to notice that Jesus never told this woman anything she did not already know. When He asked her to call her husband she said, “I have no husband.” She was well aware that the man with whom she was living was not her husband.

When I first wrote about this woman’s prior knowledge of her lack of a husband, I received a private e-mail saying, in effect: “Maybe she didn’t want to go back home and get her husband so she just said she didn’t have one.” I can believe that about as easily as I can believe that Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water because Philip had dropped his pocket watch into the water and was fishing for it.

I cannot imagine how this Samaritan woman would have come to recognize her “adulterous marriage,” if indeed Jesus was considering it that. She certainly would have read Deuteronomy 24 and known about divorce. She should have rightly determined that if her husband(s) had divorced her then she was free to be married to another man.

Some argue that this woman, considering herself a daughter of Jacob, would have known that in the beginning God created man male and female and that we are not to put asunder what God joined together. Therefore, she would have accepted that, Deuteronomy 24 notwithstanding, not only was her sixth marriage adulterous but also her second through fifth marriages.

The problem with this thought is that even the disciples of Jesus were shocked at His teaching in Matthew 19. They had such a lack of understanding that they questioned Him about it again later. Not only that, but we today struggle with the issue of divorce and remarriage and have not been able to agree on the subject at any time in history.

Yet we are expected to believe that this Samaritan woman, who obviously spent her time doing something other than studying the scriptures, had a perfect understanding of the will of God on the subject of divorce–and even before Jesus spoke a word to her. She supposedly knew that in the beginning God did not speak of divorce at all and therefore she was living in adultery in her sixth marriage. We are told that since the provision for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 was given only for the hardness of hearts, it was not God’s true will for the Jews and this Samaritan woman knew it, even though Jesus’ disciples and the teachers of the Law did not.

Aside from the fact that we would have to believe this woman knew more than the teachers of the Law, we are presented with the dilemma of Jesus’ calling the first five men husbands. The only one He did not call a husband was the sixth. Therefore, we would have to believe that five husbands died, since they were all called husbands. Otherwise, Jesus would have said, “Thou hast had one husband and the last five were not thy husbands.” He acknowledged the first five husbands equally, giving no special distinction to the first, whom we might safely assume was a true husband. If indeed five husbands had died, then the woman would have been free to marry the sixth and Jesus would not have told her he was not her husband. So this cannot be the meaning of this scripture.

To sum up, we cannot in all good conscience believe that Jesus came preaching a new doctrine, different from the Law of Moses, and a Samaritan woman knew about it even before Jesus told her. She would have had to realize that under the Law her marriage was good but now (even before the cross) her marriage was suddenly no good because of Jesus’ new doctrine.

We also cannot believe that this woman thought the Law of Moses was not God’s will for Israel or for her. Of course, we all know that in the beginning God had no law at all regarding divorce. But to believe that this woman would look past Moses and back to the beginning is totally unreasonable. The Law of Moses was in effect in her lifetime and she knew it.

Finally, we definitely cannot believe that the woman was living in adultery but was not aware of it until Jesus told her and she was just too lazy, tired, or obstinate to go home to get her husband. (One man even suggested that maybe she said she did not have a husband because she was hoping to make Jesus her seventh.) If ever anyone was reaching down into a bag of tricks for an answer to a thorny problem, this is it.

We have to accept that Jesus simply called the first five men husbands because the woman was married to them and that He agreed with the woman that the sixth was not her husband because she was not married to him. That is the only logical and sensible explanation for this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. After all, He did say as much, did He not? “… thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband….”



Matthew 19:9 versus 1 Corinthians 7

When we talk about divorce in a spiritual context the first place we usually turn is Matthew 19:9. That is fine as long as we keep looking at other scriptures on the subject; but, unfortunately we tend to stop there and do not go any further. Anything else the Bible has to say is pushed aside as we turn Matthew 19:9 inside, outside, and upside down.

I believe that anytime we cling to one verse and keep rallying around it, failing to deal with many other verses and principles found in the Bible, we are treading on dangerous ground. People do that with Ephesians 2:8. They say we are saved by grace through faith and that is the end of the story. And no matter how many verses or principles we show them they keep going back to Ephesians 2:8 and saying they know we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, so therefore baptism is not necessary for salvation.

I fear that this is what we do that with Matthew 19:9. Our minds are so clouded by that one verse that we cannot allow ourselves to entertain the idea that we might learn something from other verses that might help us better understand Matthew 19:9. Instead of learning from other verses, we try to warp the other verses and twist them around Matthew 19:9, even though, as I pointed out in my article “Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah,” we cannot agree on at least 21 issues regarding the verse. That verse might be, and is, interpreted many different ways by us. But I see no way to misinterpret Paul’s language in I Cor. 7.

I Cor. 7:2 …to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Here we see that everybody has a right to a spouse. Everybody, no exceptions. This is a good place to start, as the principle is clear.

I Cor. 7: 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

In these verses we read that not all people have the gift of celibacy. We understand what a gift is when we are referring to an ability to sing, play the piano, create beautiful quilts, or make compelling speeches. We recognize that these are gifts from God and we cannot pick and choose our talents. Sometimes we can foster a talent or attempt to perform, but without natural talent we will never be a Beethoven or a William Jennings Bryan. We need to learn to view the gift of celibacy in the same way. Some of us were not born with it and we will never develop it. If we do not have the gift, Paul says we may marry.

Later in I Cor. 7 we read: 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

In this verse God is letting us know that sometimes, maybe even through no fault of our own, we may be left without a spouse. When that happens we are not under bondage. Some say this does not give us a right to be married again, but I tend to think that not having that right would be bondage and certainly we could find no peace in the situation.

I Cor. 7:17 ¶But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

It is interesting to me that Paul uses circumcision to explain this verse. Circumcision is something that has been done and cannot be undone. We have a hard time comprehending the grace of God. We cannot cope with the idea that God can forgive us and set us free. We think we have to undo our sins. The blood of Christ simply does not seem enough. Maybe, we think, if we can go back and fix everything we have done, maybe, just maybe, we will slip into heaven by the skin of our teeth when God’s back is turned. It is somewhat arrogant to think that our restitution will make us better when God has already cleansed us with Christ’s blood, but still we keep trying to gain heaven through our own works. We are indeed created for good works, but all the good works in the world will not cleanse us of our past sins.

I Cor. 7: 20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

There it is again. Paul figures he should say it twice to get it through our thick skulls, I guess.

And yet again: 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Ah, a man after my mother’s own heart. She always said that if she wanted me to understand anything she had to stand me up against the wall and tell me three times. Maybe I am not the only one who needs this.

In case we still cannot see what Paul is saying, he continues: I Cor. 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned….

Yes, I know, we think Paul is wrapping this around Matthew 19:9—which, of course, we cannot agree on—and therefore “loosed” means “if you got a divorce for fornication.” However, Paul made no stipulations or exceptions here. Had he wanted to, this would have been his perfect opportunity, but he did not.

Aside from I Corinthians 7 we know that it is not good for man to be alone. It is not good, meaning it is bad. I know some say people squander their one right to a husband or wife, but sometimes it is not even the person’s fault. It is difficult for me to believe that my God could say, “Not everyone has the gift of celibacy, but if you marry and your wife runs off when you are twenty-one, you had better figure out fast how to get the gift somehow.”

Imagine a young man, twenty-one years old, whose wife leaves him with two little girls. One is six months old and the other is eighteen months old. His parents are dead and the parents of the girl are on drugs. We tell him that not only is he supposed to raise these little girls by himself but he is also supposed to do it without the comfort of a wife. No, I am not trying to play on your emotions. I am trying to get to your sense of reality. This boy is not going to do what we tell him to do. He is not because he cannot. And furthermore, God knows he cannot. Some of us may not know it, but God, in His Word, has let us know that He knows it.

Celibacy is a gift, and not everyone has it. If we could get that one concept through our heads maybe we could understand some other very important words of God.

Below is a list of a few divine principles that the traditional view on divorce and remarriage denies.

1. It denies the right of some to marry, which is a doctrine of devils. (More and more I am understanding why this is so. The devils must rejoice when we take away the rights of a person to marry, as they know they can go ahead and throw that person in their sack—no more hope for him.)

2. It denies the right to marry in order to avoid fornication, leaving most people with no means of avoiding fornication. (I have asked for another means but, unfortunately, nobody has offered me one.)

3. It denies Paul’s teaching that those who are loosed from a spouse may marry.

4. It denies the efficacy of the blood of Jesus because His blood will not cover the sin without penance on the part of the sinner. Even the person sinned against incurs punishment from God in that he too must do penance. So the blood of Christ is not enough for this sin.

5. It denies the words of both Jesus and Paul, who said some cannot remain celibate. (And, yes, this is what they both said. We can say, “No, Jesus was just saying they will not, not that they cannot.” But if that were so, He would not have mentioned eunuchs. He said some cannot–eunuchs can, of course. If He was saying we all could but some will not, why bring up eunuchs? What He is saying is that eunuchs can be celibate, not that they will. (Of course they will!) He is recognizing what Paul also recognizes–some cannot contain. They are not eunuchs–either by birth, wound, or choice they have the ability to make.)

6. It denies God’s statement that it is not good for man to be alone.

7. It denies that marriage is to be had in honor among all.

8. It elevates the law of sin and death (Law of Moses) over the gospel of grace (law of Christ) in that Moses freed the woman to marry again while Christ leaves her like a dog chained in the back yard with
no master to feed her and no hope of finding one. The Law also freed her from further abuse by the husband who divorced her in that he could not take her back, while the gospel supposedly gives her only one option–to return to the husband who caused her to be defiled, which is an abomination to God.

9. It denies that every man may have his own wife.

10. It denies that God forgives and forgets our sins and that a sin forgiven is remembered no more. (If God does not remember our sin, then how does He know to make us do penance by not marrying again?)

This is only a partial list. I have seen a list of maybe fifty Biblical principles that the traditional view on divorce and remarriage–which requires celibacy on the part of some–denies. We cannot accept a view taken from a misunderstanding of one verse and fail to listen to other scriptures that show that our interpretation of that one verse must be wrong. When we deny Biblical principles and plain scriptures so that we can teach a doctrine we have concocted from one verse, we need to reevaluate our understanding of that verse and take all the Bible says on the subject. Otherwise, we are like those who say we are saved by grace and ignore commands in the Bible as to how we are to live our lives. And we all know that is a dangerous way to interpret the Word of God.



The Law Shall Go Forth of Zion

Micah 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

When I was a young girl my Bible class teachers drilled into my head on a regular basis that the law of Christ was to go forth from Jerusalem. Our class turned in our Bibles to Acts 2 and read Peter’s sermon to the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem for the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. “Who preached the first gospel sermon?” we were asked. And we responded with “Peter.” “And where did he preach it?” “Jerusalem.”

I did not understand the significance of that knowledge, although I thought later that we had been taught it so we would know that we could not be saved the same way the thief on the cross was saved. We could say to those who taught otherwise: “Oh no, the thief lived and died under the Law of Moses. The word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem, and at that point everything changed.” And we did say that.

Somehow, though, it does not work quite the same way when it comes our own doctrines. We choose very little from the gospels that we want to apply to us, but we do take some (just not the thief on the cross!). We easily discard Jesus’ commands to those He healed to go show themselves to the priest, and we ignore His command to the rich young ruler to obey the Law of Moses. I think the only doctrines that we want to latch onto from the gospels are divorce and remarriage, Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, and church discipline.

I have not figured out how the church discipline applies to us, as Jesus plainly says: “Let him be unto thee as a heathen and a publican.” Nobody ever told me that I am to treat a heathen or a publican any special way, and I am positive that applied to those to whom Jesus was speaking. As for Nicodemus, Jesus chided him after discussing the new birth with him by saying, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10).

It took much study but I finally came to realize that we have condemned others for reaching back under the Law to the thief for their own redemption while we have reached back even further for ours. Yes, with our mouths we have always proclaimed that the doctrine for the church began with the sermon preached by Peter in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but some of our beliefs tell a different story. When I got to thinking about all this, a light bulb suddenly came on in my head and I was stunned when I realized how ignorant I had been. We cannot go back to the thief on the cross and we cannot go back to the Sermon on the Mount. The word of the Lord (the new law that was prophesied) went forth from Jerusalem!

My reason for talking about this is to discuss the subject of divorce and remarriage. We have traditionally believed that Jesus taught new doctrine regarding this topic in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19. We have preached that this was His new law and, for all intents and purposes, the final word on the subject. However, if His word was prophesied to go forth from Jerusalem, then how can this be? If a child had been born, even of a virgin, in the city of Nazareth, would we accept him as the Messiah? No, of course not, because the Messiah was to be born in the city of Bethlehem. For the same reason, we cannot accept that a doctrine that supposedly began in Galilee is the beginning of the word of the Lord for the church.

The Jews came to Jesus asking Him a question about the Law. They were not interested in any new doctrine He might have the apostles teach three years later to those who would be Christians. They did not consider Him to have any authority to contradict the Law of Moses. And indeed He could not have done that for in Matthew 5, just before His first discourse on divorce, He stated: 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus stated very emphatically that anyone who broke the least commandment would be called least in the kingdom, for not one jot or tittle would pass from the Law until all was fulfilled. Yet we teach that just thirteen verses later He was contradicting the Law and pushing a radically different divorce doctrine on these same people. It makes me wonder how these people might have responded had they viewed this as new doctrine the way we have done. I am guessing that, to say the least, they would have been shocked and would have reminded Him of His previous words.

These Jews were living under the Law and they were interested only in the Law. They saw Jesus as a teacher of the Law but certainly not as the coming Messiah. They would not have allowed Him to break the Law and still continued to listen to Him. They would have viewed Him as a rebel and a heretic. In the discourse on divorce in Matthew 19 Jesus’ listeners asked a question regarding the Law. Either Jesus refused to answer their question and instead taught His new doctrine (which could not have applied to them at that time), or He did answer their question, in which case He was discussing the Law of Moses and not a new and contradictory law. Some of these people probably did not survive until the cross. They may have died under the Law of Moses. And whether they lived or died, at that point in time they wanted to know about their own law. Furthermore, Jesus told them that what He was saying applied right then and there. He did not say, “When my new law comes….”

It is obvious in Matthew 5 that Jesus was speaking of the Law when He talked about bringing gifts to the altar. On what day of the week are we as Christians supposed to do that? It is equally as obvious that Jesus was not quoting the Law and then changing it when He said they had heard that they were to hate their enemies. Nowhere in the Law were they told to hate their enemies. In fact, they were told to love their enemies. Proverbs 25:21: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.” Jesus did not even use the language He would have used had He been quoting from the Law. He used expressions like: “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time.” Some were saying these things and Jesus was simply correcting the understanding of the principles taught in the Law of Moses. If Jesus was quoting the Law, why did He not say, “Moses said, but I say…”?

It is impossible to believe in all good conscience that Jesus came changing the Law of Moses regarding divorce and remarriage. He condemned doing such a thing, the Jews would not have allowed it, His own language confirms that He was not doing it, and His law had been prophesied to go forth from Jerusalem. It is one thing for Jesus as well as John to come baptizing and telling people to repent, but it is quite another for Jesus to come contradicting and changing the Law of Moses. He could not and would not. His law went forth out of Zion and His word from Jerusalem.



It Is Not Good for Man to Be Alone

In a discussion of celibacy I think we often forget two important issues. One is that a sexual relationship is a need, not a want. The other is that a sexual relationship is legitimate in the eyes of God.

We have few real needs, and we are so used to thinking of some wants (a bathroom inside our house, for instance) as needs that it is easy to become confused. Jesus said having food and raiment we should be content, but we know that we need more than that. We need a roof over our heads or we will die in some climates. Some of us need medicine or we will die–either immediately or before our time. While I do not think we will die from a lack of sex, we may, however, be dysfunctional.

We need to be able to prosper physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Being deprived of a need in one of these areas will cause major problems for us. Studies have shown that babies die if they are not touched. Older people that are not touched die in some ways too. They have deviate behavior if they are not given what they need in every realm. Celibacy is not simply abstaining from sex; it is “life without marriage” by definition. And being married is not just about sex. That is only a part of it, as we should not separate love and sex. They go together and what we are really seeking when we marry is to have a companion, a person with whom to share life’s joys and sorrows, a mate to be sure, but mainly someone who can keep us from being alone. We want to be whole. And we need that. It is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). When he is lonely he often seeks oneness in unauthorized and sometimes bizarre ways.

I may provoke an argument about whether or not sex is a need, but I do not think anyone will argue that God has not provided a legitimate means to fulfill the desire for sex with which He has gifted us. To avoid fornication every man is to have his own wife. But who is “every man”? Every man who has not sinned once? Do we truly think God placed this strong desire in us and then, when we sin just once, He said, “Oops, you sinned. No more soup for you! Sorry ’bout that–guess the way of the transgressor is hard, huh?” (If you do not get the soup reference you have not watched enough “Seinfeld.”)

If a man fails to work and provide for himself one time, is he never allowed to have another job? To avoid fornication a man is to have his own wife (I Cor. 7:2). To avoid starvation a man is to have his own job (II Thess. 3:10). Both of these are legitimate and good. Both are necessary for a fruitful life. To tell a man who has sinned sexually that he can no longer have a wife to fulfill his need for sex is parallel to telling a man who got lazy once and would not work that now he no longer has a right to work to fulfill his need for food. In some backward countries they cut off a man’s hand when he steals. That might make it harder for him to steal, but it also keeps him from working to provide what he was stealing. And he continues to need food so now it is even harder for him to keep from stealing. The same applies with regard to sex. If we cut off a man’s God-given means of fulfilling his sex drive, what can he do but seek sex in unlawful ways? The only way he can be happy then is to castrate himself and take away his need. Who would recommend or advocate such a procedure? Nobody would, and yet for all intents and purposes we have already attempted to castrate him if we demand celibacy of him.

We cannot take away God’s means to avoid sin. We say a man can go back to his wife if he needs a woman. But not every man can do that. If his wife has divorced him and married someone else, how does he fulfill his needs? What is the answer we give him? The way of the transgressor is hard? We pretend this forced celibacy is not penance or a punishment, but what else can it be? The divorced fornicator’s wife is free; therefore, the marriage is over. When Jesus spoke with a woman taken in the very act of adultery He showed compassion and did not condemn her but simply told her to go and sin no more. We, on the other hand, are more like the disciples of Jesus and would prefer to cry, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”

We pick a man who has proven his weakness in this area and we tell him that, since he was not able to control his urges completely while married, now he is going to have to control them for the rest of his life with no legitimate outlet. I once asked on a Bible discussion list for anyone without sexual sin to speak up and tell us about it. Nobody spoke up and claimed to be free of sexual sin. If we who have spouses or have a hope of obtaining a spouse cannot testify that we have been perfect in this one area, then how can we expect someone who obviously has an inclination to sexual sin to go the rest of his life without a spouse and without sin?

I know the answer I will hear. I will hear that, yes, we all sin–and not just in this area but in many areas of our lives–but that means we just have to repent and try to do better. The problem with that reasoning is that this man we are condemning to celibacy has no outlet for a legitimate need. He is compelled to continue to sin. He has no other option. We can debate for years about whether Jesus and Paul said some cannot be eunuchs or remain celibate, but we all know in our own hearts that it is not a possibility for some people.

Yes, we commit other sins. But they are sins in and of themselves and God gave no lawful way to perform them—nor should He have. Corrupt communication is a sin, but we are allowed to talk. Stealing money to provide for our needs is a sin, but we are allowed to have money. Driving without a license is a sin but we are allowed to drive. And sex outside of marriage is a sin, but, thank God, we are allowed to be married. Corrupt communication is of the devil. Stealing is of the devil. Breaking civil laws is of the devil. Sex is of God. And God has provided a way to have it in a good and wholesome manner.

It is God who gave us our sex drive. It is God who provided a means to fulfill that drive. When we sin He does not take away the drive nor does He take away the means to fulfill the drive. God will not tempt us above what we are able to bear but with every temptation will provide a way of escape. We should be very careful that we not be found taking away a man’s right to God’s means of avoiding sin. We do not want to be found destroying God’s way of escape. “It is not good that the man should be alone.” That is from God. I am thinking we should not be caught messing with it.