Re: PAREKTOS clause

From: John M. Tait (
Date: Thu Dec 03 1998 - 18:42:04 EST

Again, thanks to Ward for the info. re: the PAREKTOS clause. This has given
me plenty to think about and investigate.

>>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.

I see from references to him in other writers that Lenski does have a
different approach from any of the above, so I'll have to consult him and
see what it is in more detail.
>>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

Yes - that's it. It seems to me that, if it were not for other
considerations - such as the Hillel/Shammai debate - which predispose the
clause to be taken as exceptive, and therefore exemptive, this would be the
natural meaning of the sentence.

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.

Again, this seems to be exactly what I'm saying - that the PAREKTOS clause
here isn't saying that the husband is uniquely permitted to divorce his
wife in this one case - which is what almost everyone, whether from an
_ipsissima verba_ or redactory viewpoint, seems to take it to mean - but
that, in this case, the husband cannot logically be blamed for the
resultant adultery which accrues to the wife. This seems to me to hold
irrespective of whether MOICEUQHNAI is interpreted as the stigma of
adultery or as referring to remarriage. In other words, as usual, Jesus is
not talking about rules and exceptions, but about causes and effects.

I think, however, that a question could be asked as to whether 'erwath
dabhar is as (relatively) unambiguous as LOGOU PORNEIA. It does, after all,
occur in the previous chapter of Deuteronomy (23:14 - Hebrew 23:15) where
the examples given are of nocturnal emissions and unburied excrement.
Delitzch, in his Hebrew New Testament, translates the Greek unambiguously
as D:BhaR Z:NuTh, "matter of fornication", rather than use the Dt 24 phrase.
>>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.

Again, this seems to be in agreement with my viewpoint - the PAREKTOS
clause is explained by the point being different.
>>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.)

Good point - it's more than an emphasis. A different point is being made.
>>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

Again, this is a an interesting point - just because MH etc. and PAREKTOS
etc. both occur in Matthew in similar (though, as you point out, not
identical) contexts doesn't necessarily mean that they mean the same in
each case. Certainly MH EPI PORNEIA would seem odd with this meaning - your
statistics back this up. The general feeling I get (although I'm aware that
Sprachgefuehle is a poor basis for exegesis, especially when you only have
a "working" knowledge of the language involved) is that it is extremely
parenthetical - almost like an afterthought.

>>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.

I'll check him out. Again, thanks for the thoughts and info, which I shall


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