Mt 19:9 and the exception clause

Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church (
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 00:22:08 -0700 (PDT)

English translations almost always render the Greek MN in Matt 19:9 as
"except," in spite of the fact it is never translated like that anywhere
else in the NT, except when it is accompanied by other particles, such as
EI or EAN. In over 500 occurrences of the negative MN without either
particle (as in Mt 19:9) the rendering is "not".

Some scholars, apparently aware of this problem, have suggested an
ellipsis of either particle in order to get the desired "except"
(Witherington, NTS 31 (1985):576). Perhaps this also explains the TR
insertion of EI.

This translation may be especially unfortunate if it suggests that an
exception to what Christ is saying is to be found in the case where the
man's wife is immoral. This, of course, tends to be interpretive and to
the English only reader reduces his options.

There is no good reason why MN in MN EPI PORNEIA should not be translated
by its normal "not." Literally, the translation would be something like,
"not for immorality," or "setting aside the matter of porneia, the idea
being to exclude porneia or immorality from consideration at this point,
but certainly not to suggest the negation, i.e., if a man's wife commits
immorality and he remarries, then he does not commit adultery. This is
the preteritive view and was first suggested by Augustine (De conjugiis
adulterinis I; 9ff.:PL 40, 456ff). It was also essentially the view of
the early church which taught until the 16th century that the immorality
of the wife did not dissolve the marriage bonds, and so that even though
separation was expected, remarriage was forbidden (according to William
Heth's book on the marriage and divorce matter).

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