Re: Matt. 5 - porneia

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Thu Oct 16 1997 - 07:32:58 EDT

At 00:01 97/10/11 -0400, David Moore wrote:
>Ward Powers <> wrote:


> 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.

David, you may well be right in your comment here, and your examples do
back you up. Our problem, though, is that we have to deal with what we
actually find in the text, rather than alternative ways in which something
could perhaps have been expressed. That is where we have to come to terms
with the significance of the use of the passive MOIXEUQHNAI here. What I
cannot get away from is that the passive shows that the intended meaning is
something being done to the woman. Now the common explanation (you will
even find it in BAGD on this verb, and this verse) is that "he causes her
to commit adultery (by contracting a subsequent marriage)". But the
evidence shows this understanding to be wrong. Firstly, the text says the
repudiated wife is put in this situation (whatever it is) by her husband
through his action in divorcing her, not by any subsequent action of hers,
whether forced upon her or not. So we cannot find in this text that it is A
SUBSEQUENT REMARRIAGE which makes her to become an adulteress, but the
action of her repudiating husband. It is my contention that this can only
mean that he is causing her to be viewed as, to have the stigma of being
regarded as, an adulteress.

Secondly, if remarriage after divorce were to be regarded as adultery, this
would mean that in some sense the first marriage was taken to be still in
existence (in God's eyes, perhaps), the divorce notwithstanding; but in a
previous post I showed that this idea was not part of the beliefs and
teaching of Moses, or of Jesus, or of Paul. (Remarriage after divorce was
not regarded under the Mosaic law as adultery, but was expressly accepted
in Deut 24:1-4.)

Thirdly, please note the crucial point which David cites again [below] from
my previous post.


> 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.

I agree absolutely. But there is grace in forgiveness available from Christ
which can remove this guilt.

[David citing my previous post:]

>>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

David, the whole point of my previous paragraph which you have cited above
is that it is not in fact the case that "divorcing a woman regularly and
logically led to her remarriage". Please recheck what I have previously
said, above. The point made there is that "a range of other options was
also open to her", and remarriage after divorce was not always possible and
certainly not always inevitable. Yet Jesus said that his comment applied to
every woman put into this situation by a repudiating husband. So remarriage
is not required for such a woman to be put into the situation of being an
adulteress. I submit that my interpretation does justice to what the
wording of Matthew 5:32 actually says.


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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