Re: Matthew 19:9, mng of PORNEIA

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (
Date: Sat Oct 16 1999 - 01:14:41 EDT

Steven Craig Miller wrote:

> To: Jeffrey B. Gibson,
> << The problem here, as I see it, is that, as Matt. 5:27 shows, Matthew was
> not only quite aware of another word for adultery which was less ambiguous
> than PORNEIA, but that he uses this other word when he wants to signify
> "adultery". Furthermore, against the Deuteronomic background in which the
> challenge to Jesus in Matt 19 is set, and as the roughly contemporary
> Rabbinic discussion of the Deuteronomic material shows, the meaning of
> PORNEIA can hardly be limited to "adultery", even if it does include that
> signification. It is "something unseemly" which, most likely was sexual
> deviance, but not necessarily so. See M. Git. 9.10 (b. Git 90a). >>
> I would concur with you, that is why I think the primary referent for
> PORNEIA at Mt 19:9 should be seen to be prostitution, and it is being used
> as such by the Matthean Jesus as an abusive metaphor. Thus I've suggested
> the following translation:
> "I say to you: whoever divorces his woman (except for divorcing whores) and
> marries another lives in adultery."
> This translation leaves it unclear what a wife might have done to justify
> being called a "whore."

But the problem here is that "prostitution" is not what the Deuteronomic
and/or the
more contemporary Rabbinic discussion (which seems to inform the debate
behind Matt
19) envisages, nor does it seem a common enough situation (a man's wife
engaging in
"prostitution") in 1st cent CE Palestine to be the issue at stake. If it
were, we
could have, I think, seem it asserted in the Rabbinic discussion as an
example --
indeed a paramount example-- of the "unseemly thing" which PORNEIA
represents in that

I am still inclined to see that what Jesus is saying here is that even
the reason
that ordinarily, and according to the Mosaic Law, was recognized as
grounds for
divorce, is not to be considered so, i.e., that there is no cause for
which a man may
divorce his wife PORNEIA included.

After all, the issue at stake here, as the use of PEIRAZW here shows, is
not the
determination of which side of the Shammai Hillel debate on what the
unseemly thing
in a wife is that might justify divorce (even her being "uglier than
another woman or
her burning the soup was considered legitimate grounds). Those who
question Jesus are
not seeking advice from him or appealing to him as one who might solve a
problem. They are his enemies and they are trying to do him in. And
their question is
a test of his faithfulness not his knowledge of Torah.



Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626

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