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Jesus and Divorce

divorce

Inevitably, I’m expecting people to misunderstand the following post. And, sadly, some might even do so intentionally.

I’m, in this post, not primarily presenting my own pastoral position in relation to divorce and remarriage in our contemporary context.

I want to, in this post, present fairly an exegesis of New Testament texts which interpret Jesus as not allowing marriage after divorce whilst the spouse is still alive – using the Bible as the sole authority – sola scriptura.

Both in Mark 10:11-12 and in Luke 16:18, Jesus is pretty straightforward about divorce:

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

This seems to fit in with the usual teaching style we have come to expect from Jesus, and with his (strong) contrasting with interpretations by the Pharisees (who, as we’ll see below, allowed divorce and remarriage).

Matthew 5:32, however, appears to add a (single – note that) exception:

I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity (πορνεία porneia), causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (μοιχάω moichaō).

And that “exception” is repeated in Matthew 19:9.

Let’s leave to someone on a higher pay grade the debate whether or not this “exception” comes from the mouth of the (radical) historical Jesus, and just treat the text as inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Clearly, then, the issue is – how to translate πορνεία (porneia) [not forgetting that the Gospel’s Greek text is itself a translation of what Jesus would have originally said]. Put simply, πορνεία means illicit sexual intercourse in general (Demosthenes, 403, 27; 433, 25): Acts 15:20, 29; Acts 21:25.

And here’s the crunch (again put as simply as I can):

Position A holds that Jesus is, in Matthew’s single “exception”, talking about the couple being in a πορνεία (porneia) relationship with each other. In other words, this couple consists of a brother and sister, or some other relationship that cannot be married. We see this use of the word πορνεία (porneia) in, for example, 1 Cor 5:1:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality (πορνεία porneia) among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.

This interpretation, Position A,

  • is consistent with Jesus’ teaching as presented elsewhere (and Paul’s “from the Lord“),
  • makes sense of why, in Matthew 19, the Pharisees are “putting Jesus to the test” (the followers of Hillel held that divorce could be for any reason; the followers of Shammai contended it could be only for adultery; seeing on which of these two sides Jesus stood is hardly putting him to the test!),
  • explains the disciples apparent shock in Matthew 19:10,
  • provides the context for Jesus talking about eunuchs,
  • and explains why πορνεία (porneia) rather than the ordinary word “adultery” (μοιχάω moichaō) is being used.

Position B holds that Jesus is referring to one of the partners in the marriage having intercourse with someone other than their spouse. There are two responses to Position B.

B1 would understand that Jesus then allows separation from bed and board (this is mentioned by St Paul, St Augustine, and St Jerome). It is not licence to marry another.

B2 would allow remarriage by the innocent partner. To suggest any other interpretation, that Jesus, in this text, would allow you to divorce if you commit adultery first, is patently absurd.

Some adherents of sola scriptura who want to allow remarriage after divorce stretch the least likely interpretation, B2, and stretch it to breaking point by suggesting that Jesus is here giving an example of an exception. Their logic is: Jesus made an exception therefore we can make more exceptions.

The Church of England bishops have recently been in the news for reinforcing the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. Until 2002, the Church of England held to that most stringently. But since 2002, exceptions have been provided to the “for life”. The question that is immediately apparent, then, is that: if there may be exceptions now to “for life”, why may there not be exceptions to it being a man and a woman? In practice, the exceptions to “for life” are already way higher than can be anticipated for exceptions to it being a man and a woman.

I have pointed out, in an open letter to our leadership, that NZ Anglicanism is in breach of our own teaching. Whilst our teaching is clear that marriage is “for life”, our practice (embodied in our canon 2.9 allowing remarriage after divorce) is that marriage is “intended to be life-long”. My letter (of May 2016) has been referred by our General Synod Standing Committee to the Chancellors and the Liturgical Commission, and we are still looking forward to a response.

In conclusion, then, those who adhere to sola scriptura (basing Christian teaching and practice on the Bible alone) cannot justify divorce and remarriage (other than, at a pinch, the single exception of the inculpable spouse where the other spouse has committed adultery).

A key into the present is the question: is what Jesus accepted and taught (within his context) binding in all places for all time? [The sola scriptura position would hold that what the Bible accepted and taught is binding in all places for all time]. Or might we, once we have with honesty established what Jesus thought and taught, apply his fundamental principles differently in our very different contemporary context (which includes different understanding)?

As I said at the start, this post is bound to be misunderstood, so (as one who does not hold to the limitations of sola scriptura) in an attempt to ameliorate that, I restate what I have said before:

My own position is to see God wherever I find love and caring, and to point to and facilitate ways that this might flourish. I believe that the structures we create should demonstrate understanding of the complexity of the human condition we find ourselves in and respond with justice and compassion. I am disturbed that our church makes the celebration of committed same-sex couples such an all-consuming controversy while comparatively scant energy has been expended on the parallel points for opposite-sex couples. I wonder about the dynamics at work underneath the debates, that we as a church seem to have issues with a small minority (who often appear objectified as “them”) while we appear not to have really paused to equally apply the same arguments to the majority (“us”). I wonder why this issue, rather than other pressing issues in our contemporary world, occupies so much of our church’s energy.

Anglicanism certainly looks like it says one thing and practices another – and does this solely for the majority heterosexuals. There is a word for that.

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27 Responses to Jesus and Divorce

  1. Sorry, this isn’t adequate.
    1. You have failed entirely to engage with David Instone Brewer’s magisterial work. He’s a scholar of rabbinics and knows all the first century stuff. You set up a straw man instead of actually entering the first century world and its debates. Read Instone Brewer.
    2. To jump from divorce and remarriage to the modern invention of ‘same sex marriage’ is a category error of the first magnitude.
    3. If you want to argue that churches should not solemnise second marriages, say so. A lot of people would agree.

    • Thanks, Tony.

      Yes, it’s a blog post – don’t confuse it with a doctoral thesis. But please model adequacy for this genre by doing more than posting assertions without substantiation. If you have actually read David Instone Brewer’s work (I have), you will have noticed my summary of two schools of first-century debate. Finally, your point 3, in fact, appears to contradict your point 1 – can you please identify, Tony, your own position: that of David Instone Brewer or that of those who disagree with solemnising second marriages? Blessings.

      • Hello, Bosco.
        1. Yes, I have read Instone-Brewer (and met him on numerous occasions in Cambridge). His exegesis is much more careful than other things I have read, and he discusses divorce for abandonment, abuse, neglect and denial or marital duties, connecting Exod 21.10-11 with 1 Cor 7 (in other words, hardness of heart that violates the covenant), as well as divorce over sexual sin – dimensions you didn’t mention. For a simple summary of his book and some responses readers can consult: http://www.instonebrewer.com/divorceremarriage/
        Further, Instone-Brewer understands Jesus to be rejecting the ‘no-fault (or trivial fault) divorce’ idea of his day. Jesus is not declaring that divorce is ontologically impossible (the RC position which the Orthodox Church has never accepted) but rather that divorce always arises from sinful covenant breaking (on one side or both) and yes, some second marriages are simply adultery observing the niceties.
        2. Reading Matt 5 and 19 with 1 Cor 7, I concur that a second marriage after divorce is certainly possible for Christians and need not be sinful (contra RC, with Orthodox). t all depends on the circumstances.
        3. As a matter of pastoral prudence second marriages in church can be problematic, particularly because few people ‘on the outside’ may know what the first marriage was like and why it failed, and scandal could arise. Better to say no. Personally I would prefer all marriages to be civil (!) as they are in much of Europe, with the option of believers having a religious ceremony.
        4. Your category confusion remains, conflating marriage after divorce (very common in the first century) with the modern invention of ‘same-sex marriage’ – something gravely sinful that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever ountenanced.

        • Thanks for the elucidation of your perspectives, Tony, and for engaging in the discussion.

          1) Within the sola scriptura stable, there are plenty of people who disagree with Instone-Brewer (John Piper springs to mind if people are looking for a response within that methodology, and you yourself have said a lot of people hold that churches should not solemnise second marriages).

          The introduction of concepts such as “ontology” may muddy the waters. Better to stay with defining marriage to be “for life” or “intended for life, with exceptions allowing another marriage for such that have broken down”. Introducing the Eastern Orthodox approach into this discussion will only further confuse. Firstly, they certainly do not hold to sola scriptura – so are you seeking to abandon that methodology (the framework of this post)? It is certainly showing its inadequacy in our conversation (or in the conversation between Instone-Brewer and Piper).

          Secondly, the Eastern Orthodox approach is notoriously misunderstood by our western presuppositions (all the way, most famously, to the pope). Eastern Orthodox by words and by ceremony clearly distinguish between someone’s first (and “sacramental”) marriage and a second (“penitential”/”economic”) marriage. They clearly do not see them as being the same.

          2) Please could you show from 1 Cor 7 (rather than merely stating that you “concur”) that “a second marriage after divorce is certainly possible”. There is no mention of a second marriage there (and, as far as I can see, no mention of divorce).

          3) You appear to be sidestepping the issue – the church blessing civil marriages still requires the discussion: would churches bless the marriage of someone whose previous marriage was blessed and their spouse is still alive? You have still not clarified whether you are for allowing such a (second) blessing or not.

          4) There may only be a “category confusion” if you are wearing lenses that see marriage as defined “intended for life, with exceptions allowing another marriage for such that have broken down”. That is not how the post framed the issue. The post framed the issue as presented “marriage is between one man and one woman for life”. That the “for life” part was debated in the first century does not preclude us from debating the “between one man and one woman” now. You yourself have highlighted that plenty of people (including the RC position) would hold that divorce and remarriage is “something gravely sinful that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever countenanced”. It is these very assertions that this post is questioning. [As an aside, it is interesting that the CofE bishops’ text, which, as well as this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading, encouraged the production of this post, never once uses the word “sin”.]

          Blessings.

          • Thank you for responding. Only a brief response is possible here.
            1. I know Piper disagrees with Instone-Brewer. I probably disagree with Piper on a few things too. But so what? Christian theology has always had disagreements even among people who agree in principle on their sources of authority. Look at Luther and Calvin.
            2. You may not wish to engage the question of ontology – but you won’t understand Catholic thinking on marriage if you don’t. I don’t agree with RCs here but I understand the scholastic principle involved: that marriage creates a bond as real as that with a sibling and one that can be broken only by death.
            3. My Orthodox friends say they are interpreting Scripture correctly – in the living tradition of the Spirit-filled Church. For the Orthodox a second (or even third!) marriage is just as much a marriage as the first (whether they call it ‘penitential’ or whatever and impose rules on what you may wear etc); it isn’t adultery in their eyes but a real marriage. But I mention the Orthodox primarily to point out that the claim that remarriage after divorce was always and absolutely forbidden by the Church simply isn’t true. However, since Anglicanism evolved out of western Catholicism, it was only natural that it developed its ethical thinking in that matrix first.
            4. With Frank Thielman and many others, I take 1 Cor 7.15 to mean that one party’s abandonment of the marriage leaves the other ‘not bound; i.e. free to marry again. This accords with Instone-Brewer’s use of Exod 21.10-11 in NT contexts.
            5. No sidestepping by me – I have problems with church ‘blessings’ of second marriages for the prudential reasons mentioned above. I find them problematic, to say the least.
            6. The category confusion in your piece is your injecting discussion of same-sex relationships into discussion of Christian marriage, which has only ever been between one man and one woman, following the words of Christ. ALL NT commentators I have consulted, whether liberal or conservative, agree that the NT rejects same-sex relationships as sinful (the liberals, like L. T. Johnson and Dan Via, just say that the NT is wrong here). Divorce per se is not evil or sinful: as Instone-Brewer points out, God Himself is depicted (in Jeremiah) as a divorcee who cast off sinful Israel! Divorce rather is the recognition that grave covenant-breaking sin has occurred without penitence. As for your sentence ‘marriage is between one man and one woman for life’, this is of little use unless you explain what it means: is it descriptive (the RC claim that divorce is impossible in the eyes of God) or prescriptive (that marriage is a promise intended to be lifelong and does not lapse simply by the passage of time, like a fixed-term contract, but sustaining that covenant means keeping your promises)? Clearly I take the second view. If you want to debate what you call ‘the between one man and one woman’ part, which you now think is debatable (why, I’m not sure), then the subject matter is polygamy, not same-sex relations. At least polygamy had some warrant under the old covenant. Why not now?

          • Thanks, Tony.

            1) If whether divorce and remarriage is allowed (Instone-Brewer) or not (Piper) is at the level of “so what?” then you are devaluing your own disagreement with me (without actually having made very clear what your own position is – though you appear to think that you have).

            2) It is not the case that I do “not wish to engage the question of ontology” – on this post and thread, I do not want to drift away from the framework of staying within what the Bible alone provides us.

            3) I would prefer people to write from their own perspective. If an Orthodox person would like to join the conversation, great. I have already indicated that I am very wary of people speaking in terms of what they think their Orthodox friends hold. In any case (I’m repeating this repeatedly), we are trying, in this post and thread, to stay within what the Bible alone provides us – this is not an examination of divorce in Christian history. Furthermore, your argument that “the claim that remarriage after divorce was always and absolutely forbidden by the Church simply isn’t true” is irrelevant. It is not a claim being made here.

            4) δεδούλωται (dedoulōtai) “is under bondage” is in the perfect tense form. The deserted brother or sister (ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ) was not under bondage before the χωρίζεται separation (note: no mention of divorce). The separation (χωρίζεται) has not altered the bondage status of the one deserted from the bondage status that was already there prior to the desertion. The onus is on you to demonstrate that the bondage status is changed by the separation because that is clearly not the way that the Greek reads. Paul is not saying the deserted spouse may now go and marry someone else. The whole wider context of Paul’s writing here is crystal clear: stay the way you find yourself. You are not under bondage to retain bed and board at any cost with the deserting unbeliever.

            5) You now seem to be siding with my exegesis rather than Instone-Brewer’s.

            6) Your assertion that “divorce per se is not evil or sinful” has had a fascinating rejoinder in this thread already in relation to the texts we are examining.

            As to your contention that all scholars agree that the NT rejects all same-sex relationships as sinful: have you read Vines, Gushee, Haller, Helminiak, Nissinen, Myers, Scanzoni, Rogers, Alison?

            Your division of “marriage is between one man and one woman for life” into descriptive or prescriptive, as if by doing so we solve the discussion, is an oversimplification. Even if it is prescriptive (as you hold), this does not mean we can, after that acknowledgement, ignore it.

            Your point that we might question the use of “one” in “marriage is between one man and one woman for life” is a helpful addition to the discussion, reinforcing my point rather than yours. There are exceptions made to “one”. In Africa (and elsewhere), if a polygamist becomes Christian, many would say that he does not get rid of all his wives except his first. So, yes, just as the church makes exceptions to “for life”, just as the church makes exceptions to “one”, so we might make exceptions to “man and woman”.

            Blessings.

  2. My own perspective starts with the position that marriage is a covenant which ought to mirror the covenant between Christ and his Church and which ought, therefore, be inviolable. However, if a particular marriage comes to the place where the covenant has been savagely violated – whether by porneia or spousal abuse or desertion or other extreme offence – and the innocent party wishes release, the courts of the church can and should hear the evidence and, if appropriate, declare in the name of God (Ps. 82:6) that this covenant is annulled and the innocent party is as a single person and free to remarry.

    And, given that the previous covenant no longer exists, if the other party later comes to repentance, he/she would also be free to remarry with the God’s blessing in the church.

    In the gospel passages, a man autonomously divorces his wife without appeal to the courts of God, putting asunder what God has put together. In my scenario, it is God who in his mercy does the putting asunder. The holiness of marriage is affirmed, but so, too, is the great mercy of God.

    • Thanks, Tevor. In a way you are presenting a pastoral response to the texts (possibly bringing to it the Jesus’ sharing of the power to “bind and loose”). The second point is: is there a church following the process you suggest? Certainly not our church. Blessings.

      • I think that the Synod of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand may have considered something along those lines in about 1986. I don’t know what the outcome was. I’ll see if I can find out

        • We await any update, Trevor. You may, in the process need to expand for our (wide) readership what the Reformed Churches of NZ refers to. Blessings.

  3. It’s interesting to see that NABRE gives the translation as, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

  4. I realise that most of this is all about remarriage after divorce, but the tiny bit about the limits on divorce itself at the start of Matthew 5:32 make I wonder what their idea of “adultery” was if the husband “causes her to commit adultery” by simply divorcing her before any question of remarriage is brought into it?

    The best contribution the Church might be able to make in all of this might be to get people thinking again of marriages in a church environment of support for this being a life’s commitment (i.e. it is not the beautiful church building that is important but the church community). We seem good at ugly public debates that are putting people off traditional marriage, and less skilled at encouraging people.

    • Thanks, Mark.

      Your first paragraph is fascinating! I cannot recall anyone highlighting this previously! And I would love someone to point to any reflection on this.

      I wholeheartedly agree with your second paragraph. I think there are some Christian traditions that have a very strong programme of teaching, support, and culture around marriage. We can learn from these.

      Blessings.

  5. The irony, of course, is that we are busy parsing Matthew 5:32 (and other verses) when really want to look at the whole cloth. Also found in Matthew 5 is the assertion that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” And “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” As well as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” And more.

    The context is one in which the Lord’s instruction CAN and CANNOT be taken literally. Jesus demands of us that we not approach justice in a legalistic fashion but with the heart. “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

  6. Very helpful as usual, Bosco.

    William Temple’s analysis of the question was interesting:

    “I see no reason whatever to suppose that, contrary to His practice in all other connections, our Lord intended to legislate for His Church in this matter of marriage. What is best to be done when the ideal is once made impossible, He did not say. He did not blame Moses for making a concession to the hardness of men’s hearts, and there is no reason to suppose that a like liberty is forbidden to us. But He did say that only because hearts were hard was any concession given.” (Thoughts On Some Problems of the Day, p. 45)

    That last sentence is a real twist in the tail! (Almost on a par with “render therefore unto Caesar…”) And it suggests the fundamental impossibility of liturgically “blessing” divorce, as some in the US and elsewhere would like to do.

    Temple elsewhere rules out Church weddings for any who have former spouses still living, including “innocent parties,” partly, he says, “because of the impossibility of truly assessing moral guilt in this matter.” (The Preacher’s Theme To-day, p. 69) In other words, he rejects both B1 and B2, while recognizing that, for some, A will for one reason or another be unattainable.

    He goes on to argue that the Church must permanently bear witness to the true principle taught by Christ, and at the same time show charity in its application to individuals who fall short. He considers the case of an “excommunicated” couple whose children are coming to Confirmation. Will their parents be allowed to communicate with them? Can the children be safely asked to become regular communicants when their parents cannot?

    “Hardness of heart” is not a safe state in which to remain, and certainly not a safe one for Holy Communion. But what would “softening” look like on a case-by-case basis?

    And I wonder if those who seek to change various aspects of our marriage discipline today would be content to be told that the changes were being permitted as concessions to their hardness of heart!

    • Thanks, Jesse. Very helpful for expanding reflections.
      You may or may not remember that NZ Anglicanism’s Liturgical Commission produced
      Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage
      as part of a cluster of rites:
      Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship
      Liturgy of Healing from Abuse for Women
      Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage
      A Liturgical Resource for Addressing Experiences of Abuse in the Church
      New Beginnings
      They can be used because of the flexibility in our province and the details here and here.
      Blessings.

      • Many thanks, Bosco. I hadn’t taken the time to look at these materials before, though I was aware of your crusade against the “Template”, a document that would be comical if it weren’t so serious in its consequences.

        Having now read the “Recognising the End of a Marriage” rite, I hardly know where to begin. Theologically, it seems to me roughly on a par with the funeral liturgies for pets that are being used in TEC (e.g. here: http://kingofpeace.org/resources/petfuneralliturgy.htm).

        By that comparison, I don’t mean to trivialize the end of a marriage. (Or, for that matter, the grief that many feel at the death of a pet.) It’s just that it all comes across as a fumbling attempt to say something vaguely relevant to people’s feelings, despite an absence of precedent or justification in scripture or tradition — and indeed rather in the face of what seem to me good reasons in scripture and tradition for *not* doing these things.

        Someone once shared with me the following sobering dialogue:

        “Mama, what does pastoral mean?”

        “It means, Child, that when your father and his new ‘wife’ go to church the priest has to pretend that I’m dead.”

        Why should one spouse ask for and receive the Church’s blessing as he or she “lets go” of a marriage while the other might not—either now or in the future—wish to do so? (I note that the rite is designed, in the first instance, for only one spouse.) And what power can the Church legitimately claim to offer such a blessing?

        (By contrast, as it happens, the Church already has ample authority to pronounce a curse — an anathema — on an unfaithful spouse, as in the old Prayer Book Commination: “Cursed are the … adulterers.”)

        Since I am a once-married husband of one wife, I suppose many would say that I ought to shut up and mind my own business, that I shouldn’t presume to judge a rite I hope never to need. But it’s hard not to feel that such rites are as much a theological assault on good marriages as they are pastoral generosity to bad ones. We all have skin in this game.

        Perhaps I am only revealing my ignorance of facts on the ground. Have you (or your readers) ever been called on to offer such a rite, Bosco? How did you respond?

        One of our instructors at Trinity College, the Rev. Paul Gibson, a principal framer of our Book of Alternative Services, advises our students that the gospel passages on divorce should never be read in church unless the priest is going to explain them in the homily, because so many of our people are personally affected by them and need to hear some positive guidance: “How do I appropriate this teaching now that I seem to fall under its condemnation?”

        • In answer to your question, Jesse, the rite is used at every level of our church.

          To expand on some of the “exceptions” approach:
          In New Zealand, although our church, as you know, keeps no statistics, my guestimate would be that a good third of marriages in Anglican churches would include a divorcee. I have no idea what proportion use the “Recognising the End of a Marriage” rite. It would be surprising for a priest or bishop taking a wedding to find the couple refraining from sex until marriage. As a couple living together after 2 years have pretty much the same rights and obligations as a married couple, not getting married is increasing. I am unaware of any Anglican church that makes this an issue – for example in relation to receiving communion. We have teachings on marriage, on the books, totally removed from practice – the energy is mostly expended on keeping our practice consonant with our teachings when it comes to gays.

          Blessings.

          • I thought you’d appreciate this bit of poetic justice, Bosco:

            Immediately following on my dismissive comparison here of the “liturgy for the end of a marriage” to pet funeral liturgies, my nine-year-old daughter’s beloved hamster “Oatmeal” died. 🙁

            One of her younger brothers (age 7) tearfully told me that he had prayed to Jesus that Oatmeal be raised from the dead. He also suggested that if only Elijah or Paul were here, Oatmeal could be brought back to life.

            I thought that was some pretty high power application of biblical knowledge for a young child! This led to a short conversation about the difference between resurrection and resuscitation, and God’s promise to give us Jesus’s new life when he makes all things new.

            Younger brother (age 5) asked if Oatmeal was on his way to heaven. I answered that I didn’t know if animals went to heaven or not, since we don’t know if they have souls like ours. Seven-year-old brother corrected me vehemently: “Of course he’s going to heaven. All living things have souls!” I seem to have an Aristotelian on my hands.

            (I resisted my desire to get out C. S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”, with its wonderful passage about redeemed humanity’s emergent power to draw lower creatures into the life of Christ.)

            So, once again, the ivory-tower seminary professor gets his real-world comeuppance from his children.

            I’ll let you know how we manage the burial…

          • Thanks, Jesse. In my experience, most people grossly underestimate the theological agility of young people (I’m not saying you do). I find many older people unable to distinguish resurrection from resuscitation. Blessings.

  7. I had an “Aha” moment in that I said, “Äha”, I probably have a book about Matthew” and I do. William Barclay’s Daily Study Vol 1, Matthew Ch 1-10, goes at some length into the context around the state of marriage at the time of Christ and it appears that marriage was a perilous thing for a woman in both Jewish and Greek culture. Women were treated pretty shabbily by our standards and it appears Jesus is addressing the reality of bad behaviour by men and the consequences for women. It seems that yet again some context is very helpful for enlightenment. I can expand from this commentary if anyone is interested but have home group shortly so need to press on.

    • Yes do tell us Barclay’s point, thanks, Terry – but I would preface that with: I would not rely upon Barclay unless you can find his idea verified by a reputable scholar. Blessings.

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