Re: Matthew 19:9

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Fri Oct 15 1999 - 13:40:50 EDT

<x-flowed>To: Steve Puluka,

<< The Jerusalem Bible renders this verse: "Now I say this to you: the man
who divorces his wife-- I am not speaking of fornication -- and marries
another, is guilty of adultery." >>

The NJB reads: "Now I say this to you: any one who divorces his wife -- I
am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of
adultery" (Mt 19:9 NJB).

In a footnote it is suggested that here PORNEIAi refers to incestuous
marriages. The NJB writes:

<< Such unions contracted legally between gentiles or tolerated by the Jews
themselves between proselytes must have made difficulties in legalistic
Judaeo-Christian circles like that of Mt, when people were converted; hence
the instruction to break off such irregular unions which were no true
marriages. >>

Indeed, even today, the Roman Catholic Church does not allow divorce and
remarriage, rather to remarry one needs to have one's previous marriage

<< Perhaps if those with differing points of view on the issue could offer
their own or their preferred translation of the verse I could see the
distinction better? >>

Davies and Allison (3:16) suggest that "MH EPI PORNEIAi is the equivalent
of PAREKTOS LOGOU PORNEIAS" of Mt 5:32. At Mt 5:32 Davies and Allison
suggest that "PORNEIA has generally been understood to have one of three
meanings -- 'fornication,' 'incest,' 'adultery'" (1:529). They hold that
'fornication' is "the least likely to be correct,'" and that the last two
are almost a toss up, although they hold that the last is the most probable.

The basic meaning of PORNEIA is "prostitution." It seems to be used here
(and elsewhere in the NT) as an abusive metaphor, somewhat similar to
referring to a woman as a "whore."

Perhaps one might translate Matthew 19:9 as follows:

"I say to you: whoever divorces his woman (except for divorcing whores) and
marries another lives in adultery."

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)

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