From: Ward Powers (
Date: Thu Oct 16 1997 - 06:45:49 EDT

At 22:36 97/10/12 -0400, Tom Bivins wrote:

>>From Ward Powers' reply, I saw that I didn't do a good job in asking my
>question. With some help from a friend and relative, I would like to try
>again and ask the following question about Matt 19:1-9:
>1. Can APOLUO in verse 9 be considered a synonym of BIBLION APOSTASIOU of
>the earlier verses?
>Are the two terms (a) synonymous, (b) separate steps of one legal process,
>(c) two different divorce procedures?
>2. If they represent two different procedures (1c), could Jesus be making
>some kind of distinction allowing for a legal divorce? Are the two terms for
>effecting a divorce linked so tightly that it is not
>necessary for Jesus to repeat both of them, as it is understood that they
>to the same process? Or in failing to repeat the command DIDONAI BIBLION
>APOSTASIOU is Jesus in effect leaving a loophole for divorce legalized by the
>right paper?
>Tom Bivins
>Orlando, Florida

Divorce was accepted on the basis that the husband had found some "ervath
davar" (as discussed previously) on the part of his wife. The divorce
procedure as set out in Deut 24:1-4 consisted of three steps: (a) the
husband wrote out a certificate of divorcement for her; (b) he gave it into
her hands; (c) he sent her away out of his house.

In practice not every Israelite could write, and it would often be
necessary for the husband to hire the services of a scribe to write the
certificate for him.

The formality involved in this procedure couild allow a breathing space for
tempers to cool and for reflection on this step of divorce, before it was
finally taken. Up till her marriage, a woman in Israel was within the
jurisdiction of her father. After her marriage, she was within the
jurisdiction of her husband. If she were divorced, then she was her own
woman, and was free to decide whether (a) to return to her original
husband, (b) to remain unmarried, or (c) to marry another man. If she
exercised option (c), then she was precluded from ever returning to her
previous husband.

The comment by the Pharisees (Mt 19:9) obviously has reference to Deut
24:1-4, but it omits all reference to the basis of "ervath davar", and it
compresses all three stages into "to give [her] a certificate of divorce,
and to divorce [her]".

APOLUSAI [AUTHN]. It will be noted that APOLUSAI (or any other form of
APOLUW) does not occur in the LXX.

BIBLION APOSTASIOU is a document (not a procedure). To write such a
document and hand it to the wife are two steps in the procedure of "to
divorce", as set out in Deut 24:1-4.

What was required, under Deut 24:1-4, for divorce in Israel was (a) that
the wife be guilty of "ervath davar", and (b) that the husband decide to
divorce her, and then follows the three-step procedure laid down. Note that
the husband was not obliged to divorce his wife if "ervath davar" occurred:
the passage sets up a POSSIBLE course of action for him: "If a man marries
a woman ... and he writes a certificate of divorce ..." But he could choose
to forgive her and continue the relationship [case in point, Hosea (3:1)].

The Pharisees truncated all of this down to "give her a certificate of
divorce and divorce her".

With his reference to 'not for "porneia"' (= "ervath davar"), Jesus drew
their attention to the fault on the part of the wife, which they had
omitted. When he says, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives" and
"anyone who divorces his wife ...", Jesus is referring to the whole
procedure required for divorce under the Mosaic provision (i.e., Deut
24:1-4, as I have set it out above). ANY divorce, he says, is a consequence
of human hardheartedness, and divorce has no place in the purpose of God
from the beginning, in making them male and female, to be united into one

Jesus is not "making some kind of distinction allowing for legal divorce"
or "in effect leaving a loophole for divorce". Jesus is stating in this
whole passage God's will for mankind in this matter. "What God has joined
together, let no person split asunder"; any divorce was the outcome of
hardheartedness along the way. There is no way in which (through a suitable
loophole) what is clearly taught to be a bad thing, and a sin against the
will and purpose of God, can become transmogrified into a good thing. A
broken marriage is always fraught with, and the consequence of, sin.

BUT, as I have emphasized in a previous post: a broken marriage is not the
unforgivable sin, and the parties can through repentance find complete
cleansing and forgiveness. AND: there is never any condemnation in
Scripture of remarriage after divorce per se. The participaton of Christian
ministers in such remarriage in appropriate ways is, in my judgement, an
opportunity to be welcomed.


So BIBLION APOSTASIOU is a document (not a procedure)
Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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