Grammar and Mt 19:9

From: Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church (
Date: Sun Jun 08 1997 - 01:29:11 EDT

On Sun, 8 Jun 1997, Jeff Smelser wrote:


> Hello Paul- I'll offer the following comments, quoting from something I
> wrote on Mt 19:9 a few years ago, wherein I looked at the same logical issue
> you have laid out, but came to a different conclusion, taking into
> consideration additional factors, viz. the purpose of the communication. In
> the following excerpt, "H&W" is a reference to a book titled _Jesus and
> Divorce_ by William Heth and Gordon Wenham. "Kilgallen" is John J.
> Kilgallen, who wrote "To What Are the Mathean Exception-Texts (5,32 and
> 19,9) an Exception?" in _Biblica_ 61:102. This will perhaps stray a bit from
> discussion of the Greek Text, but I think I can justify this post as an
> attempt to help isolate what is necessitated by Grammar, as opposed to what
> is necessitated by logic, as opposed to what is necessitated by context.
> *********************
> H&W devote seven pages (113-119) to developing a grammatical
> argument to show that one "should not attempt to relate the
> exception clause to the entire statement." Rather one should
> "understand the function of the negated prepositional phrase in
> the protasis alone." Later, however, though they do not
> ultimately espouse them, H&W speak commendably of the betrothal
> and Rabbinic views, both of which relate the exception clause
> to the whole sentence, recognizing that marriage to another was
> permitted in the event of the "exception". H&W are willing to
> abandon their grammatical objections in the case of the Rabbinic
> and betrothal views, because in practice these do not allow for
> one who is legitimately married to put his wife away for
> fornication. This suggests a reason for H&W's conclusion other
> than strong conviction concerning a grammatical point.
> From a logical point of view, the sentence can be stated as
> an if/then proposition. It will then be clear that both
> conditions of the protasis must be fulfilled (he puts his wife
> away not for fornication and he remarries) in order to affirm the
> apodosis (he commits adultery) on the basis of this statement.
> If a man put his wife away not for fornication
> and he married another,
> then he commits adultery.
> In an if/then proposition with a compound protasis, it can
> be possible for the apodosis to be true when only one of the
> conditions is met, and the proposition as it stands to still be
> valid. For example, consider the following proposition:

Technically, Jeff, it is possible for the apodosis to be true, and the
whole conditional statement to be true, even if the protasis is false.
This is not only good logic, but it is also biblical. Compare 1 Cor


The conditional thought is: if the dead are not raised (F), then baptism
for the dead is in vain (T).
It is also possible that both the protasis and the apodosis are false, but
the whole conditional be true. Consider in the same chapter (1 Cor 15:17)
where Paul argues:

        If Christ has not been raised (F), your faith is worthless (F).

Jeff, thank you for the valued input. My main concern in Mt 19:9 still
stands. There is no lexical basis for translating MH in MH EPI PORNEIA as
"except." This is the only place in the NT where translators have
rendered MH with no particle (either EI or EAN) as "except."

Furthermore, if the negative goes only with the protasis, then it is
indeed a great assumption to see it in the apodosis. This is the great
assumption made by almost all interpretations. Is there any precedent for
doing so? Even one?

I find the parallel with Mk 10:11 interesting. In notation we have this
(A= a man divorces his wife and remarries; B= she was immoral; C=he
commits adultery):

        If A and B, then C. (Mt 19:9)
        If A, then C. (Mk 10:11)

Most want to resolve this apparent contradiction by appealing to the
contexts and saying simply Matthew's account is more definitive.
Logically, this doesn't cut it, as you well know.

We have many examples of similar goings-on. Compare the Acts 2:38, for
example, compared to Acts 16:31. He who believes shall be saved (Acts
16:31) versus He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.

The point is we can add any number of things to the protasis, for whatever
reason, and it changes nothing, if the original conditional is true.


Paul Dixon

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