Email your question or problem.

I love to get emails, especially if they are asking questions which aren’t already answered here, or if they are disagreeing with me politely and with Bible-based reasons. Please take a moment to look at previous emails before you write.

Pastoral support doesn't really work by email, so if you need this, I'd encourage you to find a local fellow Christian or minister. Their personal views on this subject don't matter too much if they are good at listening, both to you and to God.

I personally read and answer all emails, though sometimes the reply is brief . In order to save myself being overwhelmed with spam, my computer performs a quick check. It resends the message back to you and asks you to confirm it by simply clicking on "Reply" without adding anything to the message or subject line. This helps you to know that your message has arrived OK, and help me to know that it is not spam.

Click on "email me" below and your email will come to me without appearing on this page. If your question results in a reply which may be useful to others, I may create an anonymized version of your quesion and post it with a general version of the reply.

David Instone-Brewer (email me)

www.DivorceRemarriage.com

26 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Ok nice web page I did look at the playmobible, and I wish everything could be so easy to read.

I did want to add my comment that the early church fathers and the early church did not believe in remarriage after divorce.

Now the author of the article Instone Brewer claims some new scholarship in this area, but I wonder if this new scholarship could be any more authoritative than the early chuch fathers?, or the new testament for that matter.

Because what would people do who lived in an area that didn't have a book with the exception clause?

Also I believe there is no evidence in the new testament that teaches one can remarry after divorce.

One last comment on porneia. This is my opinion and others have expressed this opinion. Didn't the Phairasees deal a cold blooded insult to Jesus and the parents of Jesus when they told him we were not born of fornication. Why did they choose the word fornication which some believe means an illicit affair in the Jewish betrothel state? The could have chose the word adultery.

I really appreciate the authors articles as I believe this is one of the least discussed topics in the bible.

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Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

One of the best chapters on divorce and remarriage I've ever read was found in the book, "Boerewors to Baklava, Gentile to Jerusalem."
Written by Paul a.k.a the barefoot heretic........brilliant

www.thebarefootheretic.com

Anonymous said...

Some have argued that there is a real difference between someone that has been "put away" and someone that has been "divorced."

I'm curious to know if this is something you've already looked at, and if so what conclusions you came to and why.

Walter L. Callison proposes in his book, Divorce, the Law, and Jesus:
That ἀπολύω (apoluó, G630, put away) paralells שָׁלַח (shalach, H7971, to send away) as seen in Malachi 2:16 and NOT כְּרִיתוּת (kerithuth, H3748, a cutting of the marriage bond) as seen in Jeremiah 3:8. (Please forgive me if my Greek or Hebrew aren't what they should be) The first, maintaining a legal marital bond but failing to afford the spouse any of her marital benefits. The second, granting a legal dissolvement of the marriage by way of a divorce certificate, which afforded her the legal power to marry again.
The paper, he argues, makes a difference.

Do you believe a real difference between the two (i.e. "put away" and "divorced") may be proven?

The important possibility being of course, that in the Gospel passages dealing with a woman "put away," and someone new marrying her (Mat. 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18), the woman would still be legally married (i.e. without a divorce certificate), thus OBVIOUSLY making her an adulteress for marrying anyone new, while still being legally married to her husband, and likewise the man that marries her, as he would be committing adultery with her against her husband.

David IB said...

You are right that some people see a difference in this terminology.
In my study of how these Greek terms were used in actual legal documents of the time, I found that they were synonymous (see here.
The OT commanded that ANY woman you divorce should be given a divorce certificate (Deut.24.1). ALthough there may have been some women who were sent away without one (like the modern day agunot), no law-abiding Jew would do this.

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Anonymous said...

As a parent trying to give my children a bases for a strong Christian marriage I want biblical truths. When Jesus was asked He went back to the original intent. Old Testiment divorce was permitted because of the "hardness of their hearts" We loose God's design when we make allowances. Jesus did not leave room for a divorce person to remarry without committing adultery. My we never be guilty of a hardened heart.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

You may remember me from Tyndale. Finished my PhD in Aberdeen, now a Vicar in Bournemouth.

Been reading your D& R in the B.

Some Comments:

1. have you read Harper's article on porneia in the recent JBL? Seems convincing to me.

2. DSS. If it not possible that there are 2 views? One a strict one in CD and a looser one in 11Q.

3. Given that Mark & Luke were written to Gentiles, would the 1st readers have picked up the Rabbinic debate? Would they not have read these 2 gospels as very tight on divorce & remarriage?

4. While your work on the Rabbinic debate is very convincing, could there not be 2 views in the NT? Matthew & Paul on the looser side & Luke & Mark on the tighter side? If so, one could synthesize by stating that remarriage is never recommended but is condoned for the innocent partners of vlid divorces.

5. I fail to see why you believe that allowing only the innocent to remarry is "legalistic" given your whole argument is based on marriage as a legal contract, and valid divorce depends on legal grounds. The point about " guilt" & "innocence" in terms of remarriage are merely "legal" do not necessarily imply spiritual innocence. Further, on your view if a husband dislikes his wife & wants to remarry, that would be invalid but if he commits adultery then the divorce would be valid & he could remarry!

Would be good get your views on my points.


Best Wishes,

Ro

Ro Mody, Bournemouth

David IB said...

Mo, Good to hear from you.
I agree it is possible there were differing views in the Jewish world as you suggest. It is always difficult defining exactly who taught what when the data is so sparse.

I'm not so convinced when you find two different views in the NT - esp when Matt and Mark are clearly using the same material. If Mark taught a stricter view by omitting some of Jesus' words, or if Matthew taught a looser view by adding words to Jesus, then we can't trust them to convey Jesus' teaching. One of them should be thrown out of the NT for deliberately misleading their readers about what Jesus taught. In my analysis they are both saying the same thing, and both representing Jesus accurately.

I agree about your comments on legalism - that if a church wants to be legalistic, it has sufficient excuses. However, this does mean that some kind of church court has to decide who is the guilty party and who is innocent. A divorce is often like a fight between two toddlers - it is usually impossible to find out who started it, or to find anyone who is still 'innocent' at the end.

David IB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

Recently Robert Gagnon has published a critique of your views on his website http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/DivorceOUPEntrySexualityS.pdf

Have you interacted with his material in any public manner that is accessible. (Dr. Gagnon mentions that you and he interacted privately on these issues).

I want to add a thank you, as well, for your work. It has been helpful to me.

David IB said...

Richard, I did recently send him a response, at his request, but I don't think he has posted it yet. He made some good points in his post, but sometimes he was criticising a misunderstanding of what I'd said. But if we all understood each other clearly, life would be boring.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Instone-Brewer,
I just listened to your interview with the program "Christian Meets World". It was good to get some fresh insights, particularly on biblical submission. Thank you for your clarity. Thank you as well, for your mercy.
I fear that the muddy thinking and incomplete conclusions of the contemporary christian view of divorce and remarriage, is driving many many people to liberal theology, for support and sympathy. We do a disservice to the Kingdom when we misrepresent God in our interpretation of His views upon this issue that is breaking the hearts of so many both within and without the church.
It seems to me that the biggest issue is the legalistic application of "fault" and "no fault" in the Christian context. We cannot legislate loving marriages. We cannot "make" fidelity, responsibility, and godly character mandatory conditions of marriage. We must encourage and exhort each other as christians to be loving, faithful and responsible in all relationships, including marriage, through the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. To think that we can preserve a marriage by forcing a broken union to maintain the facade of unity is simply legalism. In my experience, it is easier for the church to require a woman to submit to an unkind man than it is to require a man to be a loving husband. So, submission is appealed to in order to preserve marriage. The partner with the more sensitive conscience, and the greater desire to honor God, that becomes the martyr not for God, but for the church. Over and over, God referred to the heart. It is the heart that matters. If the heart is right, the outward actions will become right.
In the last days men (and women) will be "lovers of themselves". To think that the sins of selfishness, greed and idol worship that permeate our culture will not also sadly permeate our marriages, is to be naive about the spiritual battle we face as a church.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jesus was fairly clear on this issue, not really leaving much room for doubt:

Luke 16:14-18

New American Standard Bible (NASB)


14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves [a]in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable [b]in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God [c]has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one [d]stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.

18 “Everyone who [e]divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is [f]divorced from a husband commits adultery.

Anonymous said...

I am very positive surprised about David’s courage to present biblically based (and otherwise rejected) truths. Thank you, David!

Looking over some posts here, I conclude that:
1. The Church of Christ needs solid theological-biblical teaching/understanding. Telling that one's deeper research on the subject is just “liberalism”, testifies clearly about the mentioned need. The problem is not such “liberalism”, but practising legalism, shallowness and ignorance. For some, “divorce” is the worse sin. But majority forget that the essence of Christianity and of course the nature of God is forgiveness.
2. To make statements basing only on one passage in the Bible is methodologically false. David doesn't do it, several commentators yes.
2. “Incubators” Christians should know that everyone, who divorced, wasn't (isn't) free of sufferings!

Additional notices:
1. Cor. 7:10-11 doesn't speak about divorce, but about separation.
Clear passage allowing remarriage is 1. Cor. 7:27-28.
By the way: remarriage is not sin; sin is divorce (but still it is not unforgivable).

Anonymous said...

I was in an increasingly abusive marriage for 26 years. All I was taught by the church was that if there was an argument the problem was with my lack of submission. I learnt to live according to his rules of don't touch this and don't go there yes even in my own home. I had it easy compared to some. I did not get slapped for putting the light on so I could see to go downstairs safely. The church could not be trusted to deal with that situation. It had to be left to the mental health team. There was no way out for either of us apart from praying for a miracle of healing for our husbands.

Eventually God organised a divorce for me. I did not have to do anything but I felt so guilty after all those years of it is wrong so you must not even think about it. I came to the conclusion that Matthew 19 only says man is not supposed to break up marriages but God can.

Strange as time has gone on I have gained a greater appreciation of just how bad my situation was. Now nearly 8 years after the divorce was finalised, I am finding that I had scriptural grounds for divorce for most of the time I was married due to his unrealistic expectations of me.

Sad thing is 10 years before he divorced me our daughter decided that she could not cope with living with her father. I had to make a choice my daughter or my husband. Part of the reason behind staying with him and not joining my daughter who had moved in with my parents was the importance of not breaking the marriage covenant. A covenant I now think that in God's eyes was already broken by the level of problems associated with his mental health issues.

I wish some of those who want to keep escape routes out of bad marriages firmly closed could understand the cost of their attitudes to some people.

I had to make a choice stay married or lose my daughter. I ended up with what I now suspect was post traumatic stress disorder. I also up lost touch with most of my family for 10 years. For what! To stay in a broken marriage because divorce was wrong.

Richard Klaus said...

I wrote this about a year ago.

Recently Robert Gagnon has published a critique of your views on his website http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/DivorceOUPEntrySexualityS.pdf

Have you interacted with his material in any public manner that is accessible. (Dr. Gagnon mentions that you and he interacted privately on these issues).

I want to add a thank you, as well, for your work. It has been helpful to me.

25 October 2012 17:07

Dr. Gagnon has not posted any of your response. Any response to Dr. Gagnon you can share?

David IB said...

Richard - Yes, Robert did ask me for a response, and I sent the following:

Dear Robert

Thank you very much for interacting with my views in this detailed and biblical way.

You identify three problems:
First you contrast Jesus with Paul. Jesus says that any woman who remarries after an invalid divorce is committing adultery – whether or not she was the guilty party. This contrasts with my interpretation that Paul allows someone who has been deserted (ie divorced against their will) to remarry.

In my Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible I point out that Jesus is speaking in a rhetorical way about adultery. Matthew recognises this when he says that remarriage and unlawful lust are both adulterous, just as anger is murderous. Matthew doesn’t say that these murderers should be executed, nor that these adulterers should be punished. Matthew’s context clearly shows that this adultery is not the same a judicial adultery – it is a rhetorical devise to show how serious it is to divorce someone without biblical grounds, or to lust after someone you are not married to.

The second ‘problem’ you identify isn’t a really a problem – it is just a disagreement. You say that Jesus overturned a ‘loophole’ created by Moses – that men can divorce women who commit adultery. I regard the whole of the Law of Moses as being equally inspired – I don’t see any reason to identify some laws as inferior ideas inserted by Moses. The question is whether this law of God was only for ancient Jews and not for Christians.

When Jesus said divorce was permitted “for your hardness of heart” I understand this as meaning: “for MY hardness of heart”. Jesus is speaking to me, and not just to the Pharisees. I don’t think ancient Jews suffered from stubborn sinfulness any more than I do. I am just as capable of persistent adultery as any ancient Jew, and I do not see any evidence that Jesus wanted less protection for my wife than for theirs.

The third problem is based on a misunderstanding. You point out that Paul tells the woman in 1Cor.10-11 to remain unmarried and attempt reconciliation with her husband, and you complain that I make a general case out of this. I certainly do not – I regard this as a specific case.

I point out in Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible that this case stands out in 1Cor.7 because all of Paul’s examples in that chapter give equal weight to men and women. This is even to the point of repetition, e.g. v.2-3 “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband; the husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” (see other examples in v.4, 12-13; 14, 15, 16, 27-28, 32-34). This is contrasted in v.10-11, where he refers to this woman without referring to an equivalent man. This woman separated from her husband (i.e. in Roman law she divorced him) and Paul points out that Jesus taught against such divorces. This has all the hallmarks of a specific case, so the Corinthians knew the individual circumstances, just like the man who was sleeping with his mother (1Cor.5.1).

[Max message size reached. Cont...]

David IB said...

[... cont. of previous message]

You have further problems with my interpretation of Paul’s statement that the one who has been deserted “is no longer enslaved” (1Cor.7.15). You think this means that they can give up trying to be reconciled to the spouse who has already divorced them against their will, but it doesn’t imply any freedom to remarry. You reject my point that Jewish and Greek divorce certificates use the language of emancipation from slavery: “You are now free to marry any man you wish”. As you point out, Paul approves of this phrase when he applies it to widows (v.39) but you think that Paul would not apply this until the former spouse had died. This assumption is, of course, a common and ancient one. I am merely pointing out that Paul could equally mean that they are free to remarry. And I argue that for a first century reader this is the more likely interpretation.

You conclude that Jesus did not allow divorce for anything, and you doubt that “Jesus would have adopted an exception for adultery as Matthew thought”. However, you guess that Jesus would have regarded dangerous abuse as a criminal offence because other rabbis did so, and that he would have allowed separation in these circumstances (though other rabbis would have allowed divorce from the abuser).

Both you and I agree with the general emphasis of Jesus’ teaching on marriage: it should be lifelong, and that when problems arise the first response should be forgiveness and attempted reconciliation. The role of the pastor is always to try and repair the marriage.

We disagree only about Jesus’ response to persistent breaking of marriage vows. I conclude from the biblical data that divorce is God’s solution for this kind of hardhearted sinfulness in both the Old and New Testaments, and that these victims can remarry.

However, I concede that this interpretation can be difficult to accept because it is based on ancient Jewish legal vocabulary which had been forgotten even by the second century, so that it undermines centuries of church teaching.

David Instone-Brewer

Anonymous said...

Hi David, Thanks for all the work you! Brilliant stuff.

My question is this, why is there such a strong teaching in evangelical circles that a covenant cannot be broken? I just recently heard my pastor preach that a marriage covenant is not a contract, where you only go halfway and if the other person doesn't fulfill his part of the contract, you can be done with it. No no, he asserts, God didn't design marriages to be that way or we would all be in trouble. He didn't back up his statement with a Scripture.

Where did this teaching originate from? And if I were to counter it in a casual conversation, how do I provide evidence that a Bibalical marriage covenant is simply a contract, albeit a serious one, with an emotional component to it?

David IB said...

Dear Anonymous - about marriage as a Covenant or a Contract

The OT uses the same word ('berit') for everything one might call a contract or covenant or treaty. God's agreement with Israel, Israel's agreement with invaders, trade agreement between individuals and marriages are all called a Berit. Most Bibles translate this word as "Covenant" though in modern legal terms it would be better translated as "Contract".

In modern legal language a Contract is an agreement which includes the exchange of something of value (eg money or an object, even as small as a peppercorn). Usually a contract has a list of obligations and a list of penalties (like ancient contracts in the Bible). A contract makes it possible to take someone to court if they don't fulfil their side of the agreement.

A Covenant is an agreement without any exchange of value. It is binding only with moral force, and it is very difficult to take someone to court. That's why, instead of lending your home to someone (which would be a Covenant), it is sensible to charge them a peppercorn rent (which turns this into a Contract). Then, if they trash the house, you can take them to court.

All covenants/contracts in the Bible can be broken except one: the New Covenant made by God, as announced by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. All other covenants, even with God, could be broken. The one at Sinai had a list of curses – ie penalties which came into force when it was broken – and most ancient covenant/contracts were published with a list of similar penalties. As soon as we say that all covenants are unbreakable, we take away the uniqueness of God's New Covenant.

The New Covenant is unique because God has decided that whatever sins we do, he will forgive them (though the death of his Son), so that whatever we do we can't break the covenant.

Is marriage a covenant or contract? Well, marriage has an exchange of value (a ring), obligations (faithfulness etc) and penalties (divorce with possible financial consequences). In Jewish law everyone had a marriage contract which listed these obligations and penalties clearly.

Calling marriage a "covenant" does not make it more binding – it becomes less binding in legal terms. So I'm not sure why people prefer the word "covenant". I suspect it is because it sounds less legal. Well, in that sense they are right, in that in modern legal terms, a Covenant is less legally binding than a Covenant. A Covenant is a voluntary agreement between two parties which either can end at any time without penalty.

In the Bible, marriage is for life. Both partners take vows before God which they must not break. The marriage cannot end unless someone breaks their marriage vows – an extremely serious act of treachery. It is only then that the marriage could end, and only if the victim decides not to forgive the broken vow and thereby re-establish the marriage.

As Jesus said: "Those whom God has joined together, let no-one separate". This word "let not" are translating an imperative, which can mean "should not" or "do not". An imperative does not mean "cannot". Unfortunately someone CAN break their marriage vows, and so marriages CAN end, but marriage SHOULD be a lifelong contract.

It isn't a Covenant which anyone can end at any time. And it certainly isn't like the unique New Covenant because this would mean that one partner could sin against the other as much as they liked, and make their lives hell, and the other person was obliged to keep forgiving and live in suffering. God has not condemned us to that and his New Covenant remains unique.

David IB said...

Dear Anonymous - about marriage as a Covenant or a Contract

The OT uses the same word ('berit') for everything one might call a contract or covenant or treaty. God's agreement with Israel, Israel's agreement with invaders, trade agreement between individuals and marriages are all called a Berit. Most Bibles translate this word as "Covenant" though in modern legal terms it would be better translated as "Contract".

In modern legal language a Contract is an agreement which includes the exchange of something of value (eg money or an object, even as small as a peppercorn). Usually a contract has a list of obligations and a list of penalties (like ancient contracts in the Bible). A contract makes it possible to take someone to court if they don't fulfil their side of the agreement.

A Covenant is an agreement without any exchange of value. It is binding only with moral force, and it is very difficult to take someone to court. That's why, instead of lending your home to someone (which would be a Covenant), it is sensible to charge them a peppercorn rent (which turns this into a Contract). Then, if they trash the house, you can take them to court.

All covenants/contracts in the Bible can be broken except one: the New Covenant made by God, as announced by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. All other covenants, even with God, could be broken. The one at Sinai had a list of curses – ie penalties which came into force when it was broken – and most ancient covenant/contracts were published with a list of similar penalties. As soon as we say that all covenants are unbreakable, we take away the uniqueness of God's New Covenant.

The New Covenant is unique because God has decided that whatever sins we do, he will forgive them (though the death of his Son), so that whatever we do we can't break the covenant.

Is marriage a covenant or contract? Well, marriage has an exchange of value (a ring), obligations (faithfulness etc) and penalties (divorce with possible financial consequences). In Jewish law everyone had a marriage contract which listed these obligations and penalties clearly.

Calling marriage a "covenant" does not make it more binding – it becomes less binding in legal terms. So I'm not sure why people prefer the word "covenant". I suspect it is because it sounds less legal. Well, in that sense they are right, in that in modern legal terms, a Covenant is less legally binding than a Covenant. A Covenant is a voluntary agreement between two parties which either can end at any time without penalty.

In the Bible, marriage is for life. Both partners take vows before God which they must not break. The marriage cannot end unless someone breaks their marriage vows – an extremely serious act of treachery. It is only then that the marriage could end, and only if the victim decides not to forgive the broken vow and thereby re-establish the marriage.

As Jesus said: "Those whom God has joined together, let no-one separate". This word "let not" are translating an imperative, which can mean "should not" or "do not". An imperative does not mean "cannot". Unfortunately someone CAN break their marriage vows, and so marriages CAN end, but marriage SHOULD be a lifelong contract.

It isn't a Covenant which anyone can end at any time. And it certainly isn't like the unique New Covenant because this would mean that one partner could sin against the other as much as they liked, and make their lives hell, and the other person was obliged to keep forgiving and live in suffering. God has not condemned us to that and his New Covenant remains unique.

Record your opinion:

In what circumstances do you believe a Christian may divorce their partner? (tick one or more)