Re: Matt. 5 - porneia

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Fri Oct 03 1997 - 21:55:29 EDT

On Thu 2 Oct 97 (14:10:45), wrote:
> I find this explanation difficult for three reasons:

> 1. How does one "commit" a word? One may speak a word, or utter it. But
> commit it?

> 2. The context of Deut. 24 shows that the "unseemly thing" that is spoken
> of is something (especially a quality) a *man* finds "in" a woman, not
> something a woman does, let alone anything she says.

> 3. the explanation makes nonsense of the rabinnical debates carried on
> between the Schools of Hillel and Shammai on how this "unseemly thing" is
> to be interpreted (cf Mishna Git. 9:10). There the debate is over whether
> a man may divorce his wife if he finds his wife a soup burner or
> spiller or another woman more comely than the one he has.

 Hullo Jeffrey!

 You are playing Hillel to my Shammai! 8-)

 (1) The Nudity Word is shorthand for the act of adultery. Some rabbis argued
 that Adultery was impossible as a ground for divorce, because that was a
 capital offence. My reply to that would be "Then Joseph her husband, being a
 just man, and not willing to make her a public example, purposed to put her
 away secretly" (Matthew 1:19). Here is DIVORCE, not DEATH, as a *just man's*
 response to perceived adultery in his wife. His perception was wrong, as the
 angel pointed out; but his reaction was "just".

 (2) The quality he finds in her is "unfaithfulness", expressed in the Nudity
 Thing. /DaBhaR/ can mean a thing or a matter, as well as a word. But /`eRWaH/
 is definitely an act involving Nudity. You don't need to have a dirty mind
 to imagine what. /ASCHMON PRAGMA/ has to be an indecent act. Tertullian called
 it /impudicum negotium/. And burning the stew is not ASCHMON, however

 /`eRWaTh DaBhaR/ is not a hAPAX; it occurs in Deut 23:14 (15 in BHS). The
 "camp" was to be kept holy. Latrines had to be kept apart (13, English text).
 Sex with "camp followers" was taboo, especially in time of war (14b). During
 "Desert Storm" in Kuwait/Iraq, an average of three American female GIs were
 flown home each fortnight because they were pregnant. Perhaps that was better
 than the "Miss Saigon" scenario of GI orphans left all over South Viet Nam.
 Uriah the Hittite set a powerful example in David's day (2 Samuel 11:11),
 whilst David "lay with" Uriah's wife (another euphemism; 2 Samuel 11:4). For
 other contexts of /`eRWaH/ see Isaiah 20:4 and 1 Samuel 20:30.

 (3) IMHO Jesus made nonsense of the rabbinical debates, especially those
 recorded in Mishnah Tratatus Gittin 9:10. Hillel's school interpret /`eRWaTh
 DaBhaR/ as if /`aBheYRaTh PiThNaM/, the "transgression of a thing" (with
 Onkelos); as in Matthew 19:3, KATA PASAN AITIAN. Shammai insists on keeping
 it literal: "rem impudicam, libidinem, lasciviam, impudicitiam". [Scholars
 always put the juicy bits into learned Latin]

 Jesus refused to side either with Hillel or Shammai. He went back to first
 principles, the institution of marriage in Eden. Moses only tolerated
 divorce as the lesser of two evils, as Jesus perceptibly said, "PROS THN
 SKLHROKARDIAN hUMWN" (Matthew 19:8); and a certificate of divorce must be
 given to protect the woman's interests: to allow her to re-marry. Remarriage
 without a bill of divorcement is adultery. Only one thing can break the
 marriage bond; and that is its deliberate breach EPI PORNEIAi (Matt 19:9).
 Some wish to disallow the "Matthaean exception" as a deliberate insertion by
 the early church; that Mark and Luke preserve Christ's true teaching. But
 the First Gospel *as we have it* allows Adultery as the only permitted ground
 for divorce; and this agrees with Deut 24:1-4.

 For a discussion on the above, see:
 A Edersheim, /The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah/, London, New York &
 Bombay, 1900, vol 2, pp 332-336;
 CF Keil & F Delitzsch, /The Pentateuch/, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, ND, vol 3,
 pp 416-419.


 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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