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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Matthew 19:9: Espoused or Married Wife Part 2

In recent discussions with various friends on the subject of divorce and remarriage the issue of Matthew 19:9 came up. As I am aware there are only two ways to view this verse: 1. The wife of Matthew 19:9 is the espoused wife (Deuteronomy 22:23, Matthew 1:18-20). 2. The wife of Matthew 19:9 is not an espoused/betrothed wife, rather she is a married wife (Deuteronomy 24)1. Let me state here, in case you have not read my other blogs on this issue, I hold to the second view.

Two things should be noted about the first view: Why they conclude that Matthew 19:9 is the espoused/betrothed wife and not the married wife. The way they arrive at that conclusion. The why and the way are important to understand. The way they arrive at their conclusion is baseless. The why is equally unwarranted.

Firstly the why. The reason why they conclude that the wife of Matthew 19:9 is the espoused wife, and not the married wife, is to avoid the obvious implication that infidelity on part of a married person is grounds for the innocent party to divorce and remarry. However, this is the necessary implication of this text if a married wife is under consideration as I contend.

Secondly the way. The way they attempt to prove that the wife of Matthew 19:9 is the espoused wife, and therefore hold to a no divorce and remarriage for any reason view, is by appealing to Matthew's use of the word fornication. Among those who reject that the exception clause of Matthew 19:9 applies to married persons there are two arguments made about the word fornication: 1. Married people cannot commit fornication; therefore the term fornication demands that the Matthew 19:9 wife is an espoused wife. 2. The word fornication, if used alone, can include adultery; however, when both fornication and adultery are used in the same context they are being contrasted and cannot refer to the same thing. I have responded both of these arguments in other blogs. 2, 3

When you look at the context of Matthew 19 you readily understand that the married wife is the kind of wife that is under consideration:
  1. With the wife under consideration they had been "joined together" by God, and they had become "one flesh," an obvious euphemism describing sexual union (1 Corinthians 6:16).
  2. The wife they were discussing had to be given a bill of divorcement as prescribed by Moses. The only possible law they could be appealing to is Deuteronomy 24:1. The wife of Deuteronomy 24:1 was the married wife; when she was given the bill of divorcement by her husband he "sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house." Surely no one would suggest that this describes the espousal period, as cohabitation would not have been permitted by the law.
These facts demand that the married wife be under consideration in Matthew 19. To consider otherwise is, in my opinion, not being honest with the context.

This finally brings me to the purpose that I am writing this particular blog. In response to my argument, based on Deuteronomy 24, that the wife of Matthew 19 is the married wife and not the espoused wife, a friend of mine argued that "uncleanness" in Deuteronomy 24 cannot be sexual in nature. I want to try to honestly set forth his argument and then give a response.

My friend's argument is: uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1 cannot be sexual because the punishment for uncleanness is she is put out of her husband's house; however, the punishment for sexual sin demanded she be put to death (Deuteronomy 22). If the sin of uncleanness was sexual, she would be put to death, not merely put out of her husband's house. His argument is that death was mandatory for sexual sins, therefore "uncleanness" could not be sexual.

If I can demonstrate a single case which shows this premise to be false, then his argument fails. One of the cases that carried the death penalty was the unfaithfulness of a betrothed woman.
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 ESV
23 "If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her,
24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
This describes a situation where a betrothed virgin willingly lies with a man other than her intended, and her penalty was that she was to be put to death. Is death the only option for the betrayed husband? No. If the betrayed husband finds out about the unfaithfulness of his betrothed must he have her put to death? No. Is there ever case where the betrothed betrays and is spared death? Yes.
Matthew 1:18-20 ESV
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
20 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.
It must be pointed out that when Joseph realized that his betrothed was with child, the only logical answer in his mind was betrayal. He was unaware that a miracle had taken place. It was only later that he was visited by the angel and became aware of this fact. He decided, while fully convinced that she had been unfaithful, to "divorce her quietly." You mean there was an option other than death that was available to him? Yes.

So, it is entirely possible, as we have an example, that a wife could commit an act punishable by death and merely be "put away (KJV)," and not "put to death." Therefore, uncleanness could include something of a sexual nature. The same would also have to be true of the other cases in Deuteronomy 22. I will examine this in more depth in a later post.

Secondly, it would not matter if uncleanness did not include a sexual sin. Let's say that it does not. Jesus contrasted what He taught with what Moses taught and narrowed the parameters. The original question in Matthew 19 was, "can a man put away his wife for ever cause?" Jesus said they could not, "except for fornication." Therefore, even if uncleanness was term used to apply to nonsexual things, Jesus restricts the bill of divorcement to fornication alone and not other causes.

What this does serve to prove, and that the no divorce and remarriage view cannot handle, is that the discussion in Matthew 19 was concerning the married wife of Deuteronomy 24, and consequently proves the wife of Matthew 19:9 is the married wife. This without question allows for divorce and remarriage for fornication.

I just finished this at 1:11am. It probably makes no sense. Please feel free to ask questions for clarification.

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