Re: PAREKTOS clause

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Wed Dec 02 1998 - 07:34:50 EST

At 23:05 98/11/30 +0000, John M. Tait wrote:
>In reply to my query about Mt 5:32, Ward wrote:
>>John, in this connection you may find it of interest to check out the
>>commentary of Lenski on this passage.
>>And then to share with us what you think of his approach, in relation to
>>the questions you ask.
>Thanks, Ward. I don't have Lenski, but I'll try to beg or borrow him. I've
>also downloaded everything relevant I could find from the B-Greek archives,
>although I haven't got round to reading through them yet.
>Although I'm not familiar with Lenski, I have consulted various other
>people's comments on this passage


>Would Lenski have
>an approach fundamentally different from any of these various approaches?

Without rechecking the comments of all the people you mention as having
consulted, I am not able to answer your question. All I can say is that
when researching this subject myself I had read quite a few others before I
got to Lenski, and I found his approach refreshing and (after examining the
Greek, upon which his explanation hinges) quite convincing. Hence my
suggestion that you may find it worthwhile tracking him down. Or my book
("Marriage and Divorce", Family Life Movement of Australia, 1987) in which
I adopt his position, with acknowledgement (pages 169-170). By the way,
Lenski, a Lutheran, has written a series of commentaries covering the
entire NT, and I have gained great profit from reading them, and have cited
him in other writings of mine also.

>However, as I say, it's just one specific point I'm interested in - is
>there any reason _per se_ why the Greek here should not be taken as a
>logical consequence of the emphasis which the Matthean account is making,
>which would then explain its inclusion by Matthew?

It would seem to me (if I am reading your posts correctly) that you have
linked the PAREKTOS clause in Mt 5 with the fact that Matthew says the
husband through his action in sloughing off his wife is making her an
adulteress - that is, HE is responsible for this outcome, unless first of
all SHE has brought it upon herself, through sexual misbehaviour on her
part. I would completely concur. However the extra bit of relevant context
is that Jesus is saying all this in response to the Jews' oral tradition
deriving from Deut 24:1 (which Jesus cites), but which, very noticeably,
omits the reference to grounds, "some sexual misbehaviour" on the part of
the wife. Jesus says that, except if the wife is in fact guilty of 'ervath
dabhar (as in Deut 24:1; of which PORNEIA is a Greek equivalent in
meaning), then the action of the husband is wrongly and cruelly causing her
to be regarded as such.

>Taking the Lucan account
>as the one which has most in common with this passage (as opposed to the
>similarity between Mt 19 and the Markan account - would this be another
>controversial issue?) we have the following parallels:
>Lk 16 PAS hO APOLUWN THN GUNAIKA AUTOU -----------------------
>Mt 5 ----------------- POIEI AUTHN MOICEUQHNAI
>KAI GAMWN hETERAN would obviously not have made sense in the context of the
>Matthean emphasis - the husband marrying another wife would have no
>relevance to his causing the first one to commit adultery - which would
>explain why it isn't included here, although the phrase or its equivalent
>KAI GAMHSHi ALLHN is present in all three other versions.

I would draw attention to the similarity of situation of Lk 16 with Mt 19
and Mk 10, which is, that after shedding his wife the husband remarries.
That is what is under discussion in these three passages. To the contrary,
in Mt 5 what is under discussion is the situation in which the husband has
placed his WIFE. A great difference in the point being made.

>Similarly, is it
>not likely that the phrase PAREKTOS LOGOU PORNEIAS is included here because
>the statement that a man, in divorcing his wife, causes her to commit
>adultery would not make sense if she had already done so

Exactly. But in terms of Deut 24:1, which is the background of the issue
Jesus raises for discussion.

> - a consideration
>which is not relevant in Mark and Luke because of their different emphasis?

Exactly. Well, not so much difference of emphasis, but they are discussing
a different topic, which is the situation of the HUSBAND. (Mt 5 is
discussing the situation in which the WIFE is placed.)

>I'm aware that the presence of MH EPI PORNEIA in Mt 19 creates a certain
>amount of difficulty with this explanation, unless it were regarded as
>"spilling over" from Mt 5 - though I'vefound a thread initiated by Paul
>Dixon in the B-Greek archives on "negative inference fallacies" which I
>haven't absorbed yet.

When looking at MH EPI PORNEIA, note that it is a standard "not" clause -
"NOT on account of PORNEIA". It is NOT an exceptive clause: MH does not
translate as "except". (There is no other place in the more than one
thousand occurrences of MH in the GNT where it is translated "except". Such
a translation of MH here is without justification in the Greek; it is a
translators' interpretation when it occurs. Though some translators may
have been influenced by the PAREKTOS clause from Mt 5 - but MH is not

>I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself - I'm just trying to make clear exactly
>what I am, and what I'm not, asking. I'm inclined to think that if there
>were not some strong contra-indication to this way of looking at it I would
>already have come across it - but this may not necessarily be the case. The
>NEB/REB translates the passage in a way which suggests this reading - "If a
>man divorces his wife for any cause other than unchastity he involves her
>in adultery".

That's not too bad a translation. But it does not quite capture the fact
that the Greek of Mt 5 uses the passive MOICEUQHNAI: this is not something
that the WOMAN does, but something that is done to her by the husband, whom
Jesus is slamming for his behaviour in acting thus. This has to be a major
element in any interpretation. Again, I commend for consideration the
insight which Lenski offers on this verse.



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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