Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians:
Notes from this Message:
Questions from last week:
The Betrothal theory of Matthew chapter 19 has many notable strengths
It has been adopted over the years by a number of very able students of the Word of God: John Heading in his commentary on Matthews Gospel, and Jack Hunter
It answers or rises above the 9 objections we gave last week to the exception clause theory of Matthew 19:9
It has the added strength of having some background in Matthews Gospel in the events of Mary and Joseph, wishing to put Mary away privately due to her conception during the Betrothal period.
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Mat 1:19)
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,” (Mat 1:24)
The theory has to my mind 2 weaknesses however:
The context of Matthew chp 19 is that of marriage, it is a question and answer session over marriage, therefore to answer the Pharisee questions about marriage with an answer about Betrothal seems to be a bit off subject. In response to this it is generally asserted with great confidence that Jewish Betrothal went way beyond our Western ideas of engagement and that a betrothed couple had the leak rights of a married couple.
This takes us to the second problem as to the exact character of Betrothal. Despite the confidence of the advocates of this idea that betrothal was so close to marriage that the terms could be used interchangeably, there is really a paucity of biblical evidence for this. We do know that in Deuteronomy 22 When it came to rape that the rights of a betrothed woman were the same as the rights of a married woman rather than being the same as the rights of a single woman. The AV versions also refers to Mary as Joseph’s wife in Matthew chapter 1; although the fact that the Greek words for Man and husband, woman and wife are the same can lead us to overly read into the terminology here. Luke will refer to Mary as Joseph’s espoused wife. We also know that Joseph sought to put Mary away privately during the betrothal period, something, which so far as I can see would have been impossible under marriage.
In the AV Joseph and Mary are referred to as husband and wife during the betrothal period. This seems on the surface fairly strong evidence for marriage and betrothal being synonymous, however consider:
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mat 1:20)
ie Mary is not yet his wife!
However in Luke we have a distinction:
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luk 2:5)
Considering the history which we have from the OT scriptures on pre marital practices we really are left somewhat in the dark regarding the precise nature of betrothal in a biblical context:
Abraham and Sarah – we know very little
Isaac and Rebecca seem to have nothing in the way of betrothal per se, marriage being arranged by a 3rd party followed by what seems like a more or less immediate marriage
Jacob and Rachel and Leah – any betrothal here seems to have been pretty perfunctory in so far as Laban felt free to substitute Leah for Rachel.
David obtained Michal as a reward for services rendered and Abigail as a consequence of the death of her husband and Bathsheba by a circuitous route
So little authoritative biblical help here.
Our knowledge of what betrothal meant to the Jews therefore appears to rely on extra biblical sources and I personally would hesitate to be dogmatic about that.
Encylopaedia Judiaca: “Shiddukhin as such has no immediate effect on the personal status of the parties – it being only a promise to create a different personal status in the future (Resp. Rosh 34:1; Beit Yosef EH 55). Nor does the promise give either party the right to claim specific performance from the other – since a marriage celebrated in pursuance of a judgment requiring the defendant to marry the plaintiff is repugnant to the basic principle that a marriage requires the free will and consent of both the parties thereto.”
Alfred Edersheim: “ From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach ot it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce.” (p106)
2. Marital Violence
Having considered what you have said about the absence of any exception clauses in Matthew chapter 19 and 1 Corinthians chapter 7, what about the case of marital violence. Is a woman (or man) expected then to stay in an abusive relationship? The simple answer here is of course no. The important issue though is surely, is there any indication in scripture that the Lord does not expect us to stay in those kind of relationships?
If I could highlight however 1 Co 7:10-11 which whilst instructing us not to leave our spouse, Paul then in an uncharacteristic fashion proceeds to tell us what to do if we do leave our spouse; “but and if she depart” (7:11), in other words 1 Corinthians chp 7 combines the biblical and creatorial ideal of marriage; that it is not to be broken with a down to earth realism and appreciation of the true nature of fallen man – that it will not always be possible to stay in a relationship and for a variety of reasons unspecified in the text we may be forced to leave.
Our commitment is to marriage and to the Lord, not to being perpetually abused.
Importantly however, just as the laws of men cannot break the marriage bond neither can the lawlessness of men, we have the liberty to leave but no liberty to try again for someone a bit better than the last one (7:11).
3. Is the believer under Deuteronomy 22?
In Matthew 19:9 you interpret it in the light of Deuteronomy chapter 22 and see that under OT law marriage was effectively annulled by pre marital fornication. Does that mean that you are saying that believers are now under the law of Deuteronomy chp 22?
There are 2 ways you could take this:
a) Either as a NT endorsement of an OT text presenting it’s abiding relevance to all believers at all times, in the same sense as we have the re-echoe of the 10 commandments in 1 Co 6:9-10., not so much as a legal exception clause but as the abiding standard expected by God of those entering into marriage.
We can certainly be assured that as with the law Gods standards have not changed.
(b) It becomes clear however from subsequent texts (Rom 6:14; Gal 2:21; 5:4) that the believer is no longer under law and so whilst the Lord highlights to the Pharisee the only legitimate basis for the annulment of a marriage in the OT we cannot claim this today as a legal right; as a Divine standard, certainly but not as a legal right, because under Grace we no longer have legal rights. I would judge then that whilst Deuteronomy chp 22 continues to reflect the Divine standard of Righteousness, as with all law the NT believer is not under it and would not claim it as a legal right. I would judge that this lies at the root of its omission from Mark and Luke.
4. What about divorced and remarried people?
We have spent a considerable amount of time looking at why marriage is indissoluble and at the absence of any credible exception clauses, so what about when divorce and remarriage is a fait a compli? What is the status of people who have previously been divorced and remarried? Can they be accepted into fellowship or as some have indicated is divorce and remarriage effectively the unforgiveable sin?
Pragmatically I do believe that whilst divorce and remarriage is wrong it is no less the recipient of Divine Grace and restoration than any other sin. I believe that there is very good evidence in the NT that amongst Gods people there were those who had been divorced and remarried:
i. John 4 – The Samaritan woman at the well became the first missionary to the Samaritan, and yet married 5 times! Is it feasible that she would have been excluded from the church which which resulted from her evangelism?
ii. 1 Timothy chp 3 – the elder was to be the husband of 1 wife
iii. In 1 Corinthians chp 7 almost all possible permutations of marriage which the Corinthians would have encountered, are addressed by the apostle Paul, except one; that of those who were previously divorced and remarried! Were such conditions acceptable to the Corinthians; undoubtedly they were (1 Co 5:1ff). A believer coming then to 1 Co 7 who had previously been divorced and remarried would have only 1 section applicable to them (1 Co7:17-24).
3 scenarios presented in this section:
1. Unmarried (v8-9)
2. Married (v10-11)
3. Mixed Married (v12-16)
v12 – There is nothing said in Matthew / Mark / Luke or John about this scenario; “but to the rest speak I, not the Lord.”
Some were obviously entertaining the idea that if they were married to an unbeliever they ought to put that unbeliever away (v12) or leave him (v13).
Why would they have though like this?
For a commendable reason: v14 – Sanctification and holiness
Paul has already taught the defiling nature of relationships with prostitutes in 1Co 6:15-17 and will give teaching on unequal yolk in 2 Co 6:14ff.
Consider through the Word of God the damage done and dangers encountered with an unbelieving spouse:
Solomon and pagan wives
David and Michal – discouraged him
Job and his wife; ‘curse God and die.’
Moses and Zipporah (Ex 4)
Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1:3ff) – a heart break if thre ever was one
Samson and the Philistine woman and Delilah
What is interesting is the argument which Paul will use to to assure them that it is alright to stay together (v14)
If we are saying that union with an unbelieving partner is defiling then to be consistent we would need to affirm that the fruit of that union is also defiled, that is the child and if we are compelled to put away our spouse we would also be compelled to put away our child, to be consistent; since that is unthinkable, then it must be legitimate to maintain both our relationship with our child and with our spouse.
V15 – The 3rd NT text sited as evidence for freedom to remarry after divorce
‘let him depart’ – permission to depart
‘bondage’ : 1402: ‘douloo’ : to make a slave or servant – never used of the marriage bond
Does this imply the right to remarry?
Problems with seeing a Pauline Privilege in 7:15:
1. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:10-11: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”
2. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:39; “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” (1Co 7:39)
3. The problem of missing scenarios. What about an unbeliever putting away his wife? Why is this not spoken of in verse 15? Technically remarriage would seem only explicitly permitted where the unbeliever leaves? If it is desertion which justifies the remarriage then why is it only desertion by an unbeliever? Why should a believer abandoned by an unbeliever be able to remarry and yet a believer abandoned by a professing believer is not (7:10-11)? What about a woman ‘forced to leave.’ She is not technically abandoned, she has left and yet it may be under threat of violence or her life. If anyone deserves to marry it is surely her. Yet this scenario is not dealt with!
4. The problem of legality again. We fall into the same problems as before with exception clauses. Where we have exception clauses we have exceptions to what? Exceptions are to rules and regulations; this is the language of legality or legalism! We often link legalism with a strict and austere form of Christianity; one with many do nots and thou shalt nots. That can certainly be true. Remember however that the masters of legality themselves; the Pharisees, often used it as a tool for liberalism and immorality where it suited them (cf. Matt 19:3; Mark 7:11); not to impose regulations but to find ways around them!
So who left who? Not as straightforward as you might think! Bear in mind that property and often the children belonged to the husband in Roman law! The husband could ‘leave’ with everything and thus put the woman out – so she physically left the home! Who left who?
When Samson left his Philistine wife; who in reality left who? Samson got up and left certainly and yet was that not as a consequence of his wife in heart leaving him first? Did she not betray his trust and her loyalty to his enemies the Philistines? I’m sure a good lawyer would have a field day with that one. That is sadly what we become when we start to acknowledge exception clauses; lawyers!
You may well say that is just splitting hairs, actually its defining rules and laws and exceptions; for if we have exception clauses that is where we are – under laws and rules!
What about a man / woman leaving the unbeliever?
5. ‘bondage’ : ‘douloo’ : 1402 : to be a slave; this is never used of the mariage bond. It is used of:
Slavery in Egypt (Acts 7:6)
Slavery to Righteousness (Rom 6:18)
Slavery to God (Rom 6:22)
Slavery to man (1 Co 9:19)
Slavery to the world (Gal 4:3)
Slavery to alcohol (Titus 2:3)
Slavery to corruption (2 Peter 2:19)
V15 does not set out to give permission to remarry at all and in fact there is no mention of remarriage, v15 gives permission to the believer to; ‘let them depart’ (v15); permission to acquiesce to the demands of an unbelieving partner who wishes to leave; this is different from permission to divorce and remarry.
Verse 15 is not permission to remarry, it is permission to let them go.
Permission to let them go is only relevant if they are going and thus this is the only scenario dealt with.
Verse 15 is written to diffuse an intolerable tension between a believer trying their very best to be obedient to the ministry of 1 Co7:10; 20-24 and an unbelieving partner who is pulling in the opposite direction.