Matt 19

Larry Hurtado writes:
>"Whoever puts away his wife not for porneia and marries another commits
>adultery".  That is, if the divorce is not on the grounds of porneia, but
>for the convenience of the man, the subsequent marriage is in fact
I know this is the normal understanding of this text, but I wonder if it is
not better to understand moiXatai here as describing both phrases:
"divorces his wife" and "marries another."  In other words, "adultery" here
does not simply describe the remarriage, but the whole effort to find
grounds for divorce for the purpose of remarriage.  It is all (says Jesus)
a breach of God's creation covenant in Gen 1-2.  In this (Matthean)
context, the Pharisees used Deut. 24 to justify their right even *to look*
for grounds for divorce, of course, with a view to remarriage.  Jesus
rebuffed them for it in terms of creation.  In effect, in Matt 19 Jesus
appears to accuse the Pharisees of *assisting* people in adultery by
helping them to find "grounds" for divorce!
Ironically, in our own contexts, people often use *Matthew 19* to do the
same thing the (Matthean) Pharisees did with Deut 24!  That is to say, some
Christian communities say "Divorce may be undesirable (if tolerable), but
remarriage is worse:  it is adultery!"  Matthew seems rather to say, anyone
who approaches the marriage covenant with the idea that the law of God can
be used to find ways out of that covenant, is guilty of rejecting the
covenant activity of God towards humankind from the beginning.
>Now the real question in Matt 19:9 is what
>was the original sense of porneia?  The term is translated variously as
>"fornication" or "adultery" but is cognate with the term porne
>(prostitute).  But J. A. Fitzmyer (in an article a couple of decades ago
>in Theol. Studies)  argued that behind the term here is the Hebrew term
>zenuth, which covers marriages within forbidden degrees of blood
>relationship (see e.g. Lev 18), and that the porneia here refers to
>Gentile marriages with near relatives that would be unacceptable to
>Jewish Christians.  So, Matt 19:9 is an adaptation (on this view) of a
>dominical saying to make it fit a special situation in an early mixed
>Jewish-Gentile Christian congregtion. ...
The article on porneia to which Larry refers is Joseph Fitzmyer, "The
Matthean Divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence," _Theological
Studies_ 37 (1976):197-226.  I, too, am inclined towards Fitzmyer's
arguments, and would not disagree with Larry's comments.
But looking at our attempts to relate these texts to current divorce and
remarriage practices (not to mention live-in relationships, etc.), we would
do better not to haggle over definitions of the terms "moiXatai " and
"porneia" (as often happens).  I know of seven major interpretations of
moiXatai, and five of porneia.  But none of these affect the central
argument of Matt 19 (and Mk 10), viz:  Marriage is a creation-covenant from
God, and divorce is a direct violation of it.  The point of the two texts
is:  don't have a part (even as a Pharisee assisting others!) in violating
God's creation covenant.
Gary D. Collier
University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology
gcollier@diana.cair.du.edu     (Internet)