Re: Matt. 5 - porneia

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Sat Oct 11 1997 - 00:01:13 EDT

Ward Powers <> wrote:

>At 00:00 97/10/09 -0400, David Moore wrote:
>>Ward Powers <> wrote:
>>>Rather, Jesus is here saying, "Everyone who divorces his wife when she is
>>>not guilty of committing porneia makes her (stigmatizes her as) an
>>>adulteress - that is, gives her the stigma of a person who has committed
>>>porneia, when she is not such a one." The case which Jesus excludes is when
>>>she HAS been guilty of porneia, when of course she brings upon herself the
>>>stigma of "adulteress".
>> Ward's estimation of whom Jesus is indicating as guilty in the case
>>of divorce in this passage does seem to be on target. Let me suggest,
>>however, a reason that might illustrate why this is so.
>> The Greek expression POIEI AUTHN MOIXEUQHNAI (Mt. 5:32) could
>>correspond to a Semitic hiphil (i.e. causative) form of the verb. This is
>>the most logical option if, as most assume, Jesus spoke and taught mainly in
>It is very possible that Mt 5:31-32 records in Greek something that Jesus
>said in Aramaic, so that what David suggests is indeed a possibility.
>>If it is this form, the emphasis would be on the action, not of
>>the divorced woman who remarried, but on the one who forced her into a
>>situation where she would be obligated to remarry.
>Again, I concur - except for the bit about the woman being "obligated to
>remarry". First of all, David, the introduction here of the idea of the
>woman remarrying suggests that you may be taking it that there is a
>connection between her being called an adulteress and a subsequent
>remarriage. May I point out that this is not so. Jesus says that the
>hardhearted husband, by the act of divorcing his wife, makes her into,
>constitutes her as, gives her the reputation of being, an adulteress. (This
>was discussed in an earlier post.) This is what he does to her, and where
>she has been placed, by the act and fact of her having been divorced,
>totally without reference to what she may or may not do subsequently.
>Although she is not guilty of porneia (for Jesus expressly excludes that
>situation), she is being given the status and reputation in her society of
>a person who has. That is what is so unfair to the woman, and what Jesus is

        What Ward says about the divorced woman having the reputation of
being an adulteress foisted upon her by being divorced by her husband is
probably true. Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand the Greek here
as saying that. MOIXEUQHNAI is a verb. To have the meaning Ward suggests,
one would expect a noun (perhaps MOIXALIS) rather than a verb.

        There are several instances of POIEW with a noun/pronoun plus noun
which express ascription of reputation contrary to fact. See, for instance,
1Jn. 1:10 where those who say they have no sin make God out as a liar, or Jn
10:33 where Jesus' enemies say that He, being a man, makes himself God. See
also Mat. 21:13 and parallels where the Temple is made a robbers' cave by
those who have set up commercial enterprises there. In all of these, the
final object of POIEW is a noun, and we don't find a similar meaning with a
verb in that position.

>Secondly, a person who had been divorced (man or woman) was free to marry
>again (see Deut 24:1-4, which lies behind this passage). The standard
>Jewish certificate of divorce included the words "So that thou art free,
>and in thine own power, to marry whomsoever shall please thee." Remarriage
>was not considered adultery. Indeed, the provisions of Deut 24:1 have as
>one of their express goals to distinguish an adulterous relationsip from a
>remarriage after a divorce which has ended the first marriage. The only
>basis for holding that remarriage itself was in God's eyes an adulterous
>relationship would be if the first marriage were to be in some way
>continuing in existence notwithstanding a divorce. We can see from Deut
>24:1-4 that Moses very clearly regarded divorce as totally terminating the
>first marriage. Jesus also taught that divorce terminated a marriage - see
>John 4:16-19, where Jesus tells the much-married Samaritan woman that she
>is quite accurate in saying that she now has no husband at all. Paul also
>taught that a marriage can end: he says (1 Corinthians 7:11) that the woman
>who has CWRIZW from her husband is now AGAMOS, "unmarried".

        The whole point of Jesus' teaching on divorce, not only here, but in
the other pertinent passages, is that it is not God's will that marriages be
broken and that obtaining a divorce does not discharge one who has broken a
marriage from guilt. But aren't we getting away from interpretation of this
passage into other areas.

>Thirdly, when the hardhearted husband has divorced his wife as described in
>Mt 5:32, she is not forced to remarry. She may well do so: she is permitted
>under the law to do so. But the opportunity of such second marriage may
>very well simply not be there for her. And certainly there is no reason to
>think that she was "obligated to" do so. A range of other options was also
>open to her. Why should such a woman not be capable of living
>independently? Why indeed should she be more constrained to remarry than a
>widow would be? (If she received back her dowry - usual unless divorced for
>adultery - she could be as well off as a widow.) And other possibilities
>would frequently be open: living in the household of a married brother;
>returning to her parents' home; and so on. Leviticus 22:13 expressly refers
>to a daughter who after divorce "returns to live in her father's house as
>in her youth".
>Perhaps some divorced women would be forced to seek an opportunity for
>remarriage, but the other options which were open make hardly justifiable
>the general statement applying to ALL such women. Suppose a divorced woman
>follows the lead of Leviticus 22:13 and returns to her father's house and
>never remarries: is SHE made an adulteress? According to the reasoning of
>the scholars who see the adultery as occurring in the remarriage, she is
>not. But Jesus says that she IS made an adulteress in the circumstances he
>describes - he expressly says that his comment applies to everyone who is
>divorced by her husband (PAS hO APOLUWN) in such circumstances.

        All these things may have some truth in them, but aren't we
discussing what the Greek is saying in Mt. 5:32. It seems to me that Jesus
is focusing on the guilt of the man - who alone had power of divorce in that
society - since divorcing a woman regularly and logically led to her remarriage.

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
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