Re: Matt 19:9 & the Present Tense

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Mon Oct 11 1999 - 19:22:45 EDT

To: Paul Dixon,

<< 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. >>

I've seen no real justification for considering it "somewhat uncertain."
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I suspect that the idiom "living in sin," from
which I patterned the translation "living in adultery" was not common in
the 17th century when the Authorized translation was made, and modern
translators have been afraid to use such a colloquial translation, in part
because such an ethic is so distasteful to many people.

<< 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 area. >>

You seem to dislike my translation based on your personal reasons, which
have little to do with a historical assessment of the text! By this, I
don't mean to suggest that I don't have any sympathy for your situation. My
pastor (ELCA) claims that every time he preaches on this text that no
matter how strongly he states that (from his theological POV) Christians
are not bound by such archaic rules that nonetheless someone usually leaves
in a huff thinking that he has condemned them personally. But is the fact
that many people do not like such an ethic a justification for obfuscating
a text?

<< 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. >>

I don't think we are going beyond the text. Of course, every translation is
in part an interpretation. One could just as well ask, what right do you
have to obfuscate a text which is clear enough in the original Greek?

I guess we could go back and forth like this forever. You've made your
point, your pastoral concerns take precedent over accepting the most
probable translation.

-Steven Craig Miller (

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