Re: Matt 19:9 & the Present Tense

Date: Mon Oct 11 1999 - 18:58:02 EDT

In a message dated 10/11/99 5:14:00 PM, writes:

<< The question does not pertain to linear action, as the possibilities
I have posited denote such. The question, rather, pertains to the
particular nuance of that linear action. You cannot argue that your
position is correct because it denotes linear action and mine are
not because they do not denote such action. They do.

The only argument you might raise would pertain to probabilities
at this point. Is it more probable that MOICATAI is habitual than
any other nuance? If so, why?

By the way, the fact that the translations do not typically render it
like you suggest (like they do in 1 Jn 3:9, for example) might caution
us to opt for a less interpretive translation. I personally feel the
modern translations do a fine job of communicating the somewhat
uncertain nuance of the present tense.

If I am coming across as antagonistic to your view, please keep
in mind I am speaking as a pastor. I have seen far too many times
people unfairly bruised and put on guilt trips, especially in this

I am not suggesting that such remarriage does not constitute on-
going adultery. All I am saying here is that we may be going beyond
the text if we affirm it is saying so. It may just as easily be saying
something else, like the man who divorces his wife, not for fornication,
and remarries commits adultery. He certainly is committing (progressive)
adultery in so doing. The gnomic truth is also true. But, are we
justified in going beyond and saying the present tense denotes
habitual and characteristic activity here? If so, why? Just because
it is a present tense? Of course not.

One of the issues of resolving the use of the present tense here is how it
would affect other divorce texts. If the use of the present text was habitual
or progressive, the solution to ceasing adulterous actions would be to
divorce one's current wife/husband, and in the case of the wife, return to
her former husband, if possible. However, this is expressly what Deut 24:1-4

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no
favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes
her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from
his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s
wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a
certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his
house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her
former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his
wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD,
and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as
an inheritance.

This suggests that it is not the habitual use Jesus has in mind, but the
gnomic use of the present.

Charles Powell

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