Re: EI EXESTIN (was: porneia)

Date: Sun Oct 17 1999 - 19:25:33 EDT

On Sun, 17 Oct 1999 09:40:56 -0500 "Jeffrey B. Gibson"
<> writes:
> 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".

Furthermore, you add:

> Most commentators ... think that the term bears a juridical sense in Mk
> and take it to mean `commanded or forbidden by the Torah'/2/.

The question of the meaning of EI EXESTIN may be decided by the
immediate context of Mt 19 (I'll work out of this passage, if you don't

In response to their initial question Jesus gives the original and
universal commandment of God regading divorce, ANQRWPOS

In response to this, the Pharisees rebut, why then did Moses command
(ENETEILATO) to give a bill of divorcement and APOLUSAI her?

In response to this Jesus corrected them. Moses did not command;
he permitted, tolerated, suffered (EPETREYEN) it, v. 8.

The point is the Pharisees apparently were using EI EXESTIN in the
judicial sense of command. They thought they had Christ here. Had
Moses indeed commanded divorce in Deut 24, then they would have
found the law contradictory. Christ's response foils their attempt
to entrap Him and by implication to cast aspersions upon the law.

There is a difference between the commandments of the law and
what the law allowed because of the hardness of the heart of man.
The lesson to be learned by this dialogue is that if the law appears
to be contradictory, it is not because of the law. It is because of the
evil heart of man (v. 8).

Paul Dixon


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