Re: Matt 19:9

Date: Sun Oct 03 1999 - 02:16:41 EDT

In a message dated 10/2/99 10:51:32 AM, writes:

<< MH by itself (no accompanying particle, like EI or EAN) occurs over
500 times in the GNT. Nowhere else is it translated, "except." Only
it is accompanied by EI or EAN is it rendered so.

Since neither particle exists in MT 19:9, in order to get the exception
idea some have posited an ellipsis of either EI or EAN.

If we assume an ellipsis, however, we still make a huge leap of
blind faith if we conclude the negation, that is, if a man divorces
his wife and she committed PORNEIA, and he subsequently
remarries, then he does not commit adultery himself in so doing.

No one, to my knowledge, has ever shown that such a construction
as found in Mt 19:9 calls for this kind of conclusion. We are better
off going with the conclusion of the early church fathers (e.g.,
and see this as simply a preterition where the case of the wife
who committed PORNEIA is being excluded from discussion at
the point. Why so, one might ask. If for no other reason than the
fact the Christ has just discussed this case in the immediately preceding

I might as well put my two denarii in here too.

Zerwick, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples, §442 has some helpful
"Can MH mean «except»? The question has a certain importance in connection
with the «divorce clauses»; for it is obviously likely that the two
expressions (Mt 5.32 and 19.9) have the same meaning i. e. that MH EPI
PORNEIAi means the same thing as the previous PAREKTOS LOGOU PORNEIAS. The
meaning would of course be the same if MH could mean «except», but this is
with good reason denied by many scholars. In this passage, however, MH not
only may but should mean «except», not that MH = «except» is of itself
admissible, but because MH is here dependent upon the introductory hOS AN
which is equivalent to EAN TIS («whoever = if anyone dismiss his wifeMH EPI
PORNEIAi∑») and thus we have (EAN) MH= «unless», i. e. «except». Both
expressions therefore, lay down the same true exception∑"

This raises the question of the syntax of MH EPI PORNEIAi. If MH EPI PORNEIAi
then what is the apodosis. There are four possibilities: (1) the apodosis is
THN GUNAIKA AUTOU KAI GAMHSHi ALLHN; (3) MOICATAI is the apodosis; and (4)
the entire indefinite relative clause through MOICATAI is the apodosis. The
overarching rule for complex noncoordinating protases is that the
protasis-apodosis construction must make sense and form a complete thought
independently of other protases, apodoses, or modifiers. With respect to
option (1), the understanding would: "if anyone does not divorce his wife
because of immorality, he divorces his wife." This does not make sense. It is
an incomplete thought. The same is true of option (2): "if anyone does not
divorce his wife because of immorality, he divorces his wife and remarries
another." Option (3) would see MH EPI PORNEIAi in an equal adversative
relation with APOLUSHi and GAMHSHi ALLHN with an asyndeton of the conjunction
and the ellipsis of a second APOLUSHi. The three conditions are individually
necessary and jointly sufficient, although one is adversative to the other
two. The sense would be: "if anyone divorces his wife, although/but/and he
does not divorce her for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.
The implication of this option is that all three protases must be present in
order for the apodosis to be true. If any of the protases are not fulfilled,
then adultery does not occur. This is possible and is similar, in sense to
option (4). The reasoning behind option (4) is thatMH EPI PORNEIAi stands
closest to APOLUSHi because EAN TIS APOLUSHi THN GUNAIKA AUTOU are all
implied in the clause. The other verbs of the protasis and the apodosis are
not implied. A man divorces because of immorality, he does not remarry
because of it. A rearrangement of the clauses might make the syntax clearer
and retain the same sense: if anyone (whoever) divorces his wife and marries
another, he commits adultery, if he does not divorce her because of
immorality. With this arrangement, the syntax is clearer; the exception
clause modifies the entire statement. If this is the sense of the syntax,
then it seems that it does invite the inference "if he divorces because of
immorality, and marries another, he does not commit adultery. There seems to
be no reason for Matthew to add the exception clause unless he wanted to
invite this inference. Also, the logical equivalent would seem to be: if he
does not commit adultery, then he divorced his wife because of immorality, if
he divorced his wife and married another. A choice between the (3) AND (4) is
difficult. The syntax of both is a bit awkward, but they yield good sense,
unlike options (1) and (2). Option (3) should probably be slightly favored,
although there is little difference in sense from option (4).

Any comments on Zerwick's suggestion would be most appreciated.

Charles Powell

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