EI EZESTIN (was: porneia)

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (jgibson000@mailhost.chi.ameritech.net)
Date: Sun Oct 17 1999 - 10:40:56 EDT

dixonps@juno.com wrote:

> On Sat, 16 Oct 1999 21:15:58 -0700 "Michael Abernathy"
> <mabernat@cub.kcnet.org> writes:
> > Paul Dixon said porneia "cannot be adultery or prostitution, since
> > the lawful punishment for such is death by stoning." You might want
> > to reconsider this argument. There is substantial evidence that
> > during the New Testament period divorce, not stoning, was the usual
> > consequence of adultery (See. Markus Bockmuehl's article "Matthew
> > 5.32; 19.9 in the Light of Pre-Rabinnic Halakhah" New Testament
> > Studies vol. 35, 1989, pp. 291-295). Also consider Joseph's planned
> > divorce of Mary upon finding that she was pregnant.
> It may be the case that divorce, not stoning, was the usual consequence
> of adultery during the NT period, but that is irrelevant. The question
> raised
> by the Pharisees was, is it lawful (EI EZESTIN, Mt 19:3)? NT practice
> has no bearing upon it.

Are you absolutely sure that what the Pharisees were asking was a question of the
Law? Certainly, in some instances of it's usage, EI EZESTIN does indeed mean "is it
allowed by Moses/Torah?" (a modern equivalent would be "is it constitutional"). But
as David Catchpole has shown ("The Synoptic Divorce Material as a Traditio-Historical
Problem" BJRL 57 [1974] 92-127) and as I have argued in my book on the "temptations"
of Jesus, the phrase was also used to mean "Is it **in your opinion** seemly".

That this latter sense ("Is is seemly?") must be what EI EZESTIN means in Matt (and
in its parallel in GMark) seems clear from the fact that IF the Pharisees' question
was about whether the Law permitted divorce for any cause, not only is the question
moot, but they have the answer as soon as Deut. is quoted, and there is no reason
for the story to move ahead as it does. It is also clear from the fact, implied in
Matthew's designating the question as something that subjects Jesus to PEIRASMOS,
that they are not trying to get Jesus to answer a legal question the answer to which
they did not know, but .to say something against the validity of the Law itself.



Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626
e-mail jgibson000@ameritech.net

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