Grammar, Logic, Mt 19:9

From: Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church (
Date: Sat Jun 07 1997 - 20:59:20 EDT

Carl, Jim, Eric, et al:

We are trying to direct the logic discussion specifically to the Greek
grammar. The question is: what relationship, if any, is there between
Greek grammar and logic or logical analysis?

I would like to show one specific example (see two more in my paper
"Negative Inference Fallacies: Mt 19:9, Acts 2:38 and 1 Cor 11:5"
[]) where both logic and grammar have
been abused.

I refer to the supposed exception clause in Mt 19:9, MH EPI PORNEIA. This
has traditionally been translated, "except for immorality," or something
like that with "except" being the key word. The English "except" usually
suggests the negation idea, that is, if a man divorces his wife because of
adultery and remarries, then he does not commit adultery. This is what is
normally assumed.

If "except" suggests the negation, then it is a most unfortunate
translation. This would be the only place in the Greek NT where MH with
no other particle (like EI or EAN) is translated such. Some recognize
this (see my paper) and argue for an ellipsis of either particle. This is
the strength of the "except" translation: no precedent, and a supposed

If we take MH as it normally is taken, simply as "not" giving "not for
immorality," then the idea is simply that the case of the immoral wife is
not being considered in v. 9.

How does logic have any bearing here? What is normally inferred here is
the negation. In logic notation we have this being affirmed:

        If A and B, then C (If a man remarries after divorcing his wife
and his wife was not immoral, then he commits adultery). This is v. 9.

        If A and not B, then not C (If a man remarries after divorcing
his wife and his wife was immoral, then he does not commit adultery).

The last statement is an invalid inference from the first, v. 9. The
verse neither says the second statement, nor does it imply it.


Paul S. Dixon, Pastor
Ladd Hill Bible Church "Negative Inference Fallacies" /nif.htm
Wilsonville, Oregon "Evangelism of Christ ..." /evangelism.htm
                        "Evil Restraint in 2 Thess 2:6" /restrainer.htm

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