Thoughts about the NT, PR, & PC: Matthew 19.1-12, Prohibitions, Permissions, and Divorce

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Thoughts about the New Testament, Personal Relationship, and Private Contract:
Matthew 19.1-12, Prohibitions, Permissions, and Divorce

 
In the previous section: Thoughts about the New Testament, Personal Relationship and Private Contract: Matthew 19.6b – Let Not Man Put Asunder, I discussed how the refusal to issue a “bill/certificate of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24.1) affects the man and woman’s personal relationship, and if the man refused to give her a “bill/certificate of divorce” it affected her ability to have a potential future personal relationship with another man.

For this section, with regard to the Israelite ‘scecs’, historically, what is important to see is that it is believed that the “bill/certificate of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24.1) gave rise to the Israelite custom (Israelite ‘scecs’ practices) of the document called the get.

Therefore, contextually, at the minimum, Matthew 19.1-12 involves the “bill/certificate of divorce”, but Matthew 19.1-12 could possibly involve an early version of the get.

Either way, the “bill/certificate of divorce” or the get was a formal document serving the needs of the personal relationship.

A man would use that document to write a legal declaration making a formal and legal disassociation from his woman, which terminated their personal relationship, and granted her the legal, moral, ethical, and formal means of entering into a personal relationship with another man.

For some, the difficulty arises in that nowhere in the Law of Moses can one find permission to give a “bill/certificate of divorce” or the get.

Because the Law of Moses (or the entirety of the Bible itself) does not provide a statement directly permitting certain actions (e.g. the termination of a personal relationship), some will therefore teach the concept: that which is not specifically permitted is prohibited.

Then that concept is used to postulate: since the Law of Moses (or Bible) does not directly permit the “bill/certificate of divorce” or the get, then the termination of the personal relationship by divorce is actually prohibited.

However, that concept does not keep contextually with the understanding of the unfolding of the Biblical narrative or Israelite life, because the Law of Moses recognizes that some personal relationships will end through a “bill/certificate of divorce”.

That means that the narrative of the Law of Moses unfolds in a manner that the Law of Moses recognizes that the termination of a personal relationship occurred, and would occur.

Stated differently, theologically the manner in which the Law of Moses presents its concepts for the personal relationship is not one of strictest prohibition.

That can be understood, but it opens the discussion of the interpretation of the Law of Moses in ways that makes some people uncomfortable.

Why?

It was quite the practical and spiritual normative for Israel to participate and/or practice things that were not specifically permitted.

For example, one man having a personal relationship with multiple women.

The Law of Moses does not directly permit that type of personal relationship.

Yet, the Law of Moses does recognize that those types of personal relationships occurred, because the Law of Moses specifically prohibits three types of personal relationships when the man might have multiple women in a personal relationship.

The Law of Moses prohibits a man in the land of Israel from being in the following personal relationships: with a mother and her daughter (Leviticus 18.17a), with a grandmother and her granddaughter (Leviticus 18.17b), with women who are sisters (Leviticus 18.18).

Therefore, the following is known.

The Law of Moses does not directly permit a man to have a personal relationship with multiple women.

The Law of Moses directly prohibits a man from having a personal relationship with multiple women only under specific circumstances (e.g. Leviticus 18.17-18).

Therefore, the Law of Moses indirectly permits a man to have a personal relationship with multiple women, as long as that man does not have a personal relationship with women in those specifically prohibited circumstances.

Applying that principle to the terminating of the personal relationship, the following is known.

The Law of Moses does not directly permit divorce.

The Law of Moses directly prohibits a man from having a personal relationship with a divorced woman only under specific circumstances (e.g. Leviticus 21.14).

Therefore, the Law of Moses indirectly permits a man to have a personal relationship with a divorced woman, as long as that man does not have a personal relationship with a “divorced” woman in those specifically prohibited circumstances.

Therefore, a personal relationship could end with a “bill/certificate of divorce” or the get, and a woman who had been given a “bill/certificate of divorce” could enter into a personal relationship with another man.

In other words, terminating a personal relationship before natural death was a reality of some personal relationships.

Therefore, divorce occurred.

Interestingly, through the Law of Moses God makes no judgment for/or against divorce.

However, many turn to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19.1-12 and interpret Jesus as prohibiting divorce.

In Matthew 19.1-12, Jesus’ teaching does not prohibit divorce.

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19.1-12 should be understood in the context of what is permitted by the Law of Moses.

As I have shown, the Law of Moses permits divorce.

Therefore, the question asked of Jesus (Matthew 19.3) was: Is it lawful (according to the Law of Moses) for a man to divorce his woman for any reason?

To understand Matthew 19.1-12, one must intentionally set aside how so many in the church use Jesus’ reference to Genesis 2.24 in order to excluded the remainder of the Biblical and Israelite contexts in order to prohibit divorce.

Why?

Because the context of Matthew 19.1-12 makes it clear that Jesus answered the question given to him, and Jesus knew his Law of Moses and Jesus knew his Israelite cultural ‘scecs’.

In other words, Jesus answered their question: No, it is not lawful (according to the Law of Moses) for a man to divorce his woman for any reason.

Truly, Jesus answered the question.

Yet, the discussion, debates, and disagreements seem to go on endlessly.

Some want to take Jesus’ teaching and permit divorce for any reason.

Some want to take Jesus’ teaching and prohibit divorce no matter the reason.

Jesus’ teaching sets somewhere between those two extremes.

From my studies, Jesus emphasizes God’s ideal: the personal relationship should remain together (Matthew 19.4-6).

Yet, Jesus also emphasizes that not maintaining the ideal does represent a type of failure to fidelity of the personal relationship (Matthew 19.8-9).

But Jesus also recognizes that not all personal relationships can obtain the ideal, and some personal relationships will not represent the ideal (Matthew 19.11). In other words, Jesus recognized that some personal relationships will end via divorce.

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