A young lady, with two children, separates from her husband because of physical abuse. Next, because he refuses to provide child support divorces, but not for adultery. Is it Scriptural for the church to withdraw from her because she obtains a divorce for a cause other than adultery. She states that the courts will not force him to provide child support unless they are divorced.
While I sympathize with the situation, I believe that the problem is that we are separating the legal concept of divorce from the biblical concept of marriage. Regardless of the situation, legal considerations should not override biblical ones. Paul said in 1 Cor. 7:10, "But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband" (NASB). This is the Bible's command on the matter. The next verse is not implicit permission to leave as some suggest, but is the command for individuals who break this one. "(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife." This is not a concession for people to leave (i.e., you can leave/divorce, but you can't remarry). This is similar to John's statement in 1 Jn. 2:1. "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." John did not give permission to sin when he said, "if anyone sins" -- he was telling them what to do if they broke the commandment not to sin.
While it may be that divorce is the only way to receive child support, that does not justify breaking the commands of God.
My question is the extent to which the authorities are involved in the abuse. If there is physical abuse involved, then a crime has been committed. While some would argue that it he's a Christian, she shouldn't take him to court over the abuse (per 1 Cor. 6), I would counter that 1 Cor. 6 deals only with *civil* lawsuits. Criminal offenses are, in my opinion, a different matter.
Carl and Mike,
The case you have discussed is not a problem for which the church needs to take action. This will become evident to those who learn the truth on MDR. The problem you are discussing is, and always will be, a problem for those who hold the errant traditional position.
If there is abuse and separation and the woman divorces, she may or may not have been patient enough. That will be determined by God. Nevertheless, a divorce ends the marriage, which leaves one "unmarried." Paul says to let the “unmarried” marry and if you are “loosed,” which is what divorce always does, there is no sin in marrying (1Cor. 7,8; 27,28).
The fact that anyone, once these passages are pointed out, would want to continue the old traditional illogical exegesis of Jesus' teaching that has so many hermeneutical problems and creates so many real life problems, boggles my mind. Brethren, open your eyes to see. If you refuse to do so then at least leave these people who divorce alone. Drive them away from God with your unscriptural, unjust and unreasonable demands and and you will lose your own soul as well.
How much evidence or proof must an open-minded person hear before he will accept the truth? I suppose the answer varies with the individual and circumstances. But I am amazed at how little consideration some brethren are giving to evidence in their “study” of the MDR issue. I’m forced to wonder if some brethren, who often write on the MDR issue, are really studying at all. It appears that some have set out to defend what they have always believed and that they care nothing about evaluating other views and accepting what makes the most sense.
There are numerous serious problems with the traditional MDR position--problems that are undeniable--some with unacceptable consequences. They have been pointed out time and time again, and no reasonable answer is or can be given. The problems are there—thus, no prudent individual who has long held the traditional MDR view can be dogmatic in saying his view is right. Yet some are doing it, and in the past many have been so confident they have fired preachers who differed with them and divided the church when others would not go along with their teachings and actions.
But the “apoluo” view does not have ANY of the problems associated with the traditional view. The only problem it has at all is that it is against tradition and people are slow to accept it. Of course, some never will accept the truth. They have a different standard. No amount of evidence will cause them to reject their tradition. Some continually seek for the ONE PROBLEM with the “apoluo” view (and it does not matter how big the problem really is), which in their mind will destroy it and “prove” their position to be sound. There is a saying that goes something like this: “No one is more deceived then the man who has deceived himself.” Yet I'm encouraged at the number of brethren who have accepted the truth and the number of traditionl MDR preachers who seem to have curtailed their efforts to defend tradition.
When will brethren quit trying to defend their tradition and start seeking to learn what makes the most sense with a willingness to accept and practice it?
This is a review of Berry Kercheville’s article called Misapplying Deuteronomy 24. The title was appropriate because that is exactly what he did in his effort to defend the traditional teaching on divorce and remarriage.
It is obvious to most thinking brethren that Jesus could not have contradicted the Law that allowed the divorced woman to “go be another man’s wife.” If these “thinking brethren” happen to hold to the traditional position on divorce and remarriage, which indeed has Jesus teaching contrary to Moses, they see a serious problem with their position. Therefore, various efforts have been made to get around the problem. Solving problems is a good thing, but sometimes a problem cannot be solved and the project has to be scrapped.
Brother Kercheville evidently holds to some form of the traditional position on divorce and remarriage. Although he seems to have contradicted himself in his article he has taken a position that most have rejected. Nevertheless, it should be exposed the same as any teaching of error. His position, in a nutshell, is that Deut. 24 never did authorize anything, therefore Jesus did not contradict it—He just taught what was taught from the beginning. His approach is to show that Deut. 24:1-4 does not teach that the woman was free to marry. Of course, this idea is contrary to the best scholarship the world has had to offer, and there are other problems with the theory, which we will discuss in the course of this study.
My position is contrary to tradition, yet it is simple and it makes sense. The Law did clearly teach that a divorced woman could marry another but Jesus acknowledged the fact and dealt with the Jews misunderstanding and abuse of it rather than contradict it by saying a divorced woman would commit adultery by marrying another. He actually said a “put away” (“apoluo”) woman would sin if she married another. Thus, Jesus did not fall for the trap laid by the Jews by taking sides nor did He take the opportunity to contradict the Law of Moses (God’s Law) that was in effect at the time. He dealt with their original question that was in regard to putting away, which means to “send out, repudiate, dismiss.” We must acknowledge that people do separate but fail to actually get a divorce even though for all practical purposes the marriage is over. With the Jewish men this was no major concern because they could have more than one wife. But it was a major concern for the women because when they were put away, without the bill of divorce, they were still married and therefore would be in serious trouble if found with another man. (See http://www.totalhealth.bz/divorce-and-remarriage-willis-exegesis.htm ).
I believe Deut. 24:1-4 is important to the divorce and remarriage issue because it was the Law in effect at the time that Jesus endeavored to help the Jews understand and obey Moses.
Brother Kercheville’s article is reproduced in full below. My comments (within the article) are preceded by my initials.
“In the past forty years beliefs about divorce and remarriage have seemed to go through fads. The fad in the 50s was that an unbeliever was a sinner because of violation of civil law, but was not amenable to the law of Christ. In the 60s, I remember many men publicly teaching that when a spouse committed adultery, the marriage had been immediately dissolved thus freeing both parties to be married again. That view was soon discarded in the 70s in favor of believing the marriage was dissolved at the time of the putting away for fornication. This could even be a ‘mental’ putting away years after the civil divorce was final. Again, everyone was free to marry or stay married.”
rw: If brethren continue to seek the truth, as they have in the past, giving up positions that are not scripturally supported, we will soon look back and see that even the position held dear by most in our time was really no different than the other “fads.” The simple truth is, Jesus did not change the Law that allowed a divorced woman to marry another man and when Paul, inspired of God, said to allow the “unmarried” to marry—saying they do not sin—that is exactly what he meant (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9; 27, 28) and it is the truth we should let guide us in our teaching and practices.
“The latest fad centers on an argument made from Deut. 24. Many are teaching that we need to think more like the Jews were thinking when Jesus spoke to them on this subject. Therefore, in Mt.19:9 it is taught that Jesus was expressing His answer to the Pharisees' question regarding lawful grounds for divorce per Deut. 24. This being so, Deut. 24 would be teaching the same thing as Jesus is teaching in Mt. 19:9. With this as a foundation, various conclusions are drawn:”
rw: The original question asked by the Pharisees was, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Rather than endeavor to “think like the Jews” to understand what Jesus really said, we must use all the rules of hermeneutics. The most applicable rule that we must apply is “consider the circumstances.” The Pharisees were seeking to get Jesus to say something that they could use against Him in their effort to kill Him. Are we willing to accept that they succeeded—that Jesus was outsmarted just this once? Some evidently are willing to accept such a conclusion, but what evidence is there that the Jews accomplished what they were seeking to accomplish? They did not make a charge against Jesus that He contradicted Moses. Of course, brother Kercheville is aware of all this, which is probably why he has taken the position he has taken—it is supposed to explain it. But we shall see that his view creates more problems for his position than it solves.
“(1) All the rules of Deut. 24 are still in effect today including the restriction of returning to a previous mate.”
rw: If it was a sin under the Law for a man to take back a wife that had become the wife of another why would it not be a sin today? Yet it is commonly taught that some cannot have a marriage unless they take back, or get back, their spouse who may have married another. This doctrine is based upon what Jesus supposedly taught in the context of Deut. 24:1-4.
“(2) The uncleanness of Deut. 24:1 refers to sexual immorality only.”
rw: I’m convinced that there is no way of knowing exactly what the “uncleanness” was and that God never intended us to know. The “uncleanness” or “unseemly thing” was determined by the man and it was not questioned. Thus, when he issued the “writ of divorce” she could use it for the purpose intended—to become another man’s wife. Albert Barnes, who seemed not to have taken a sound or consistent position on divorce and remarriage but who did make some helpful scholarly observations, wrote the following in his comments at Matt. 5:32 about Deut. 24:1-2: “The husband was directed, if he put his wife away, to give her a bill of divorce, that is a certificate of the fact she had been his wife, and that he had dissolved the marriage. There was considerable difference of opinion among the Jews for what causes the husband was permitted to do this. One of their famous schools maintained that it might be done for any cause, however trivial. The other maintained that adultery only could justify it. The truth was, however, that the husband exercised this right at pleasure; that he was judge in the case, and dismissed his wife when and for what cause he chose.”
“(3) Having been given a certificate of divorce for fornication, the one put away can marry another without committing adultery.”
rw: The text under study does not say the divorce must be for fornication and neither did Jesus teach that idea. Jesus did say that if a man merely puts away his wife (without the certificate) he commits “adultery against her” unless the action is taken because of fornication, or an “illegal marriage,” as translated by some versions.
“(4) If a person divorces his mate for ‘just any reason’ and marries another, adultery has been committed (a one-time nonsexual act of covenant breaking), but since the covenant/bond has been broken, everyone is free to marry or stay married.”
rw: The above speaks of “divorce” instead of “put away” as if it is understood to be the same thing. If a man “put away” his wife she would commit adultery by marrying another. However, if he actually divorced her it required a bill of divorce, which would indeed set her free to marry another. The position to which Kercheville alludes is that held by Hicks.
“(Many other arguments are given to justify this last point that are not within the scope of this article.)
“There is a variation to the above view but with a similar conclusion. Some are teaching that the uncleanness of Deut. 24 is not fornication and therefore they will admit that the man sinned when he divorced his wife and that his wife sinned by marrying another man. But since she was forbidden to go back to her first husband, God was authorizing this second marriage. With this as a foundation, conclusion #4 above is again affirmed. Unscriptural remarriages are therefore not to be severed even though begun on the basis of sin.”
rw: What exactly is an unscriptural marriage? Isn’t it one that is “unlawful,” as was the case with the marriage of Herod and Herodias? Remember, Herod married his brother’s wife while he was alive, which was contrary to the Law (Leviticus 20:21). We also have the case of the man who had his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). To my knowledge, the New Testament contains no other examples of “unscriptural marriages.” The idea of a marriage being unscriptural because a divorce was not for fornication is an assumption based upon faulty reasoning and improper use of hermeneutics. Many contend that Jesus was teaching new doctrine for the New Testament era and therefore they force Paul’s teachings to harmonize with their assumption.
“Probably the worst mistake being made in this reasoning is using Moses in Deut. 24 to explain Jesus in Mt. 19 instead of using Jesus to explain Moses. There are many Old Testament passages that the Jews badly misinterpreted and are admittedly very difficult until explained in the New Testament. There is no doubt that Jesus and the Jews were discussing what was ‘lawful’ and thus what was taught in the Old Testament.”
rw: It is imprudent to suggest that Moses and Jesus were not in agreement. Jesus took issue with the false notions of the Jews. Barnes wrote: “The design, here, seems to be to reprove the Pharisees for not observing the law of Moses, notwithstanding their great pretensions to external righteousness, and to show them that they had “really” departed from the law” (Luke 16:18).
rw: Barnes hit the nail on the head. The Jews thought they were righteous in their treatment of their wives so long as they followed the procedure for divorce. However, even this was hypocritical because there evidently were a number who were “putting away” but not giving the bill of divorce, which was worse than an actual divorce. Jesus referred to it as “adultery against her” (Mark 10:11).
“But let us not conclude that they were only discussing Deut. 24. Gen. 2:24 is part of the ‘law’ as well and this is the part that Jesus made His appeal to.”
rw: Indeed. The divorce law given by Moses was for the benefit of the woman. The men were still accountable for their sins against their wives with whom they had covenanted.
1. Not only did the Jews recognize that Jesus' teaching was different from what Moses said in Deut. 24, Jesus expressly said that Deut. 24 was not what was taught from the beginning.
rw: Deut. 24 did not contradict any law previously given. When God said, “Let not man put asunder” He was saying man should not attempt to do it. But He gave a Law whereby He would do the putting asunder when a man did what He said to do to end a marriage.
“Jesus said, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.’ Therefore, what Jesus taught in Mt. 19 is not the same as Deut. 24. To further establish this point consider that if Deut. 24 is simply granting divorce for fornication, then why did Jesus say that Moses gave the precept for the hardness of their hearts? Jesus is not accusing a man of being hardhearted because he divorces an adulterous wife! If that is true, then Jesus’ statement in Mt. 19:9 is also written for the hardness of our hearts.”
rw: If the Jews had understood Jesus to have taught contrary to Deut. 24 they would certainly have used that against Him. They did not, and this should tell us something. Apparently they did not think Jesus taught contrary to Moses.
rw: Deut. 24 is not granting divorce for fornication. Fornication takes place when the marriage is not legal or legitimate. In such cases there is no need for a divorce. Examples: Sons of Priests (Ezra 10); the marriage of Herod and Herodias (Matt. 14:4); the man that had his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5); and homosexual marriages. These needed only to end the relationship because of the fornication. Such putting away (“apoluo”) would not result in adultery being committed by either party.
rw: In the Old Testament, adultery was never given as a reason for divorce. The penalty for adultery was death, and death ended the marriage (Leviticus 20:10).
“2. When Jesus says, ‘From the beginning it was not so,’ what was not so? Jesus states it clearly in Mt. 19:8. It was not so that men were ‘permitted to divorce their wives’ for just any reason. Therefore whatever it is that Moses was teaching, it was not to be considered as the law of God that had always been in effect. Notice that Jesus does not say ‘in’ the beginning it was not so, but ‘from’ the beginning it was not so. Some argue that after the sin in the garden, God changed His moral law on the matter of divorce. That is not what Jesus said. God never authorized a man to divorce his wife ‘for just any reason’ as Mal.2:13-16 confirms.”
rw: The above noted text (Mal 2:15) has nothing to do with whether the reason for the divorce was proper or not. Here is the text: “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” They were evidently still married because the man sent her away, which was a treacherous act with greater consequences than that of an actual divorce. When God divorced Israel He gave the bill of divorce and sent her away (Jeremiah 3:8).
rw: Jesus said “Moses suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was no so.” There is no implication here that Jesus contradicted Moses’ statement that the divorced woman “may go be another man’s wife.” He merely made an observation as to what was God’s ideal. God did not, and does not, want a man to send his wife away—He wants a couple to be faithful to their vows. Nevertheless, because of evil (“hardness of heart”) God saw a need for a law that would sever the relationship and free the woman to marry another. But divorce is not what Moses “suffered.” When a man determined to be rid of a woman, he was actually commanded to give her the writ of divorce. Some say Deut. 24:1-2 is not a command at all and they base their assertion upon how some of the new versions render the text. However, both Jesus and the Jews understood it to be a command (Matt. 19:7; Mark 10:3).
“3. Why would we use anything in Deut. 24 to explain Jesus in Mt. 19:9 when Jesus expressly said that Moses permitted something because of the hardness of your hearts? To describe this word ‘hardness’ Thayer uses terms such as ‘hard, harsh, rough, stiff, stern, offensive, intolerable.’ Will we not admit that a person so described by Jesus is acting sinfully?
rw: Yes, they were acting sinfully. This is why Jesus said they were committing adultery against their wives (Mark 10:11).
“These Jewish men were mistreating their wives and Moses wrote a precept that put some restraint on the situation and we want to take that precept and apply it today!”
rw: First, brother Kercheville mentioned that Moses wrote a “precept.” Yet, two paragraphs later he said, “…There is absolutely nothing in these verses that authorizes anything.” That is strange. Isn’t a precept (command) the most accepted means of establishing authority?
“So we are to believe that even though Deut. 24 was not the same as the law from the beginning, not the same as what Jesus taught, and written simply because of sinful hardhearted Jews, it applies to our situation in the New Testament perfectly! That is faulty reasoning.”
rw: Deut. 24 was not the same as God intended from the beginning—it came later; but this observation does not prove what came later is not the present law that men are to follow. In the above paragraph it is implied that Jesus taught contrary to Deut. 24 and that such was acceptable for Him to do because of the two reasons that were given. But look carefully at those reasons. One was just an observation of the fact that God intended for marriages to last, and the other notes why the divorce law given by Moses became necessary. Nothing Jesus said was contrary to the Law that was in place at the time.
“Carefully read Deut. 24:1-4 from the NKJV, NASB , or NRSV (these represent the Hebrew well). You will see that there is absolutely nothing in these verses that authorizes anything.”
rw: Brother Kercheville previously admitted that Moses gave a precept regarding marriage. We have shown that the Jews understood it and that Jesus also called it a command. Yet brother Kercheville tries to teach, using some new versions, that there really was no command at all. But that theory is absurd!
“The man is not authorized to divorce his wife for some uncleanness. The woman is not authorized to marry another man. The other man is not authorized to divorce his new wife.”
rw: If the man was not authorized to divorce his wife for some uncleanness then what was the purpose of the divorce? Our brother has admitted that God gave a law for the benefit of the women, yet based upon the above comment we are made to wonder what he thinks the divorce accomplished. How were the women helped if they were not “authorized” to marry another? Brother Kercheville tells us that Deut. 24 authorized nothing; therefore, according to him, the Old Testament did not authorize divorce. This leaves me fuzzy regarding what he believes. Does he believe Jesus was the first to authorize divorce or that nothing in the Old Testament or the teaching of Jesus authorizes it? If that is the case, and his position becomes widely accepted, then we will then be able to study Paul’s teaching without any preconceived notions as to what he means. What an accomplishment that would be!
“This passage is no different than passages such as Ex. 21:20-27 where a man must let his servant go free if he knocks out his eye or his tooth. Or if a man beats his servant but the servant ‘remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished.’ Well, I guess the Lord ‘authorized’ beating of servants! What about Deut. 22:28-29 where a man lays with a virgin who is not betrothed. He is to marry her, pay the father 50 shekels of silver and never divorce her. Well if he agrees to all of those consequences prior to the act, does that mean God authorized fornication? This passage did not forbid laying with the woman, God just said, ‘If a man...’ Contingency statements like these and Deut. 24 are not authorization to commit the act.”
rw: There are several problems with the reasoning above. First, the idea that Deut. 24:1-4 “authorized nothing” is based solely upon the rendering as presented in some new versions, without considering anything else, and the older more reliable and trustworthy versions like the ASV and KJV (see also Darby, AKJV, BBE, Douay-Eheims, ERV, WBT, WEB ) must be considered to be wrongly translated. Second, both the Jews and Jesus indicated that Moses gave a command (Mat. 19:7; Mark 10:3). The command they referred to was to give the woman a bill of divorcement before putting her away, as opposed to just putting her away. Third, if Deut. 24 did not authorize divorce then God really did nothing to protect the women that were abused and put out of the house. Fourth, God Himself followed the teaching of the Law that authorized divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).
“It is also noteworthy that Deut. 24 not only does not give authority for frivolous divorce and remarriage, the words used imply the opposite.”
rw: If the divorce was for the benefit of the women, as has been admitted, then the issue is not whether the man was justified in what he did, but whether or not the woman actually received benefit from the divorce. Nothing would stop an evil man from sending away a wife that he did not like. There was no punishment for it, thus Moses “suffered” it. Jesus made it clear that the false notions of the Jews, who thought they could treat their wives any way they wished, to include divorcing them for any reason, was not what God intended. But the above comment by brother Kercheville seems to imply that a divorce does not end the marriage or free both parties unless it is for a certain reason. Many brethren would be of the same mind as brother Kercheville. But even the Jews who spoke the language could never agree as to the true meaning of the “uncleanness” of Deut. 24.
“The word for the latter ‘husband’ (ish, a man as opposed to a woman, a husband as opposed to a wife) is different than the former ‘husband’ (baal, a husband as lord, master, owner). If the latter marriage was as authorized as the first, then why the difference in terms? Further, verse 4 states she cannot return to her former husband after she has been ‘defiled.’ She is not defiled as a result of the second divorce because her defilement remains even if her second husband dies. Leviticus 18:20-25 speaks of a similar defiling in regard to adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. In light of such defilement, one cannot speak of this second union as holy. God suffered or tolerated these divorces, but certainly did not authorize them as Mal. 2:14-16 proves.”
rw: I do not mean to be offensive, but the above is a reckless and irresponsible commentary on a difficult text. It is likely that her defilement (whatever this means) was limited to the man who divorced her. What it seems that God was forbidding was what would be tantamount to wife swapping.
rw: We have shown previously that Mal 2 does not prove what Kercheville asserts.
“Deut. 24 was written because of the hardness of Jewish hearts. Jesus did not appeal to it as authority, but in fact denied that it was a part of God's law from the beginning.”
rw: The above is very misleading. The divorce law was written for the benefit of the woman—not just because men wanted to divorce. The men could have as many wives as they wanted so there was no need for them to divorce if they wanted a new woman. In fact, even after the command in Deut. 24 was given, those not faithful to God would merely “put away” rather than obey Moses’ command. If they obeyed Moses and gave the bill of divorcement they were required to give the dowry back, which may have been a substantial sum of money or property. Even to this day, Jewish men are putting away their wives without giving them a bill of divorce.
rw: If Jesus denied that Deut. 24 was part of God’s law from the beginning, so what? The same could be said of any number of laws that were not given until the need arose.
“Therefore we must stop using Deut. 24 to justify continuing in a remarriage after a frivolous divorce.”
rw: So, based upon a couple of weak and unsound arguments we are asked to reject God’s command and example regarding divorce and endeavor to break up legal marriages if the previous divorce was frivolous.
rw: To understand what Jesus said it is necessary to understand the text that was at the center of controversy when He had a discussion with the Jews. According to the most trusted and reliable translations the text teaches that after the woman gets the certificate of divorce “she may go be another man’s wife.” The new versions that render the text inconsistent with other passages are not enough to support the doctrine that brother Kercheville endeavors to teach. The text was written to Jews and was Jewish Law. Paul writes to Christians regarding issues pertaining to divorce. He said regarding the “unmarried” (which includes all those who are divorced) “let them marry” (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9). The reason this is to be done is because all must be allowed to have a spouse so they can avoid fornication (1 Corinthians 7:1, 2). Paul said, “Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:27, 28). We have to wonder: if the legal procedure for divorce (presented in Deut. 24 and Jer.3:8) does not result in being “loosed,” what was Paul talking about? And when he says that the one loosed (divorced) does not sin in marrying another, that just knocks the props out from under the doctrine that Kercheville was apparently trying to defend.