On Divorce and Remarriage?
Bassam Zawadi once again thinks that Paul contradicted Jesus, this time in regard to divorce and remarriage (here). He says:
Paul makes it clear that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive
For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress.
1 Corinthians 7:39
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord
However, Jesus said that there could be a condition in which a divorce could occur
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
So if the husband divorces the wife for sexual immorality then that means that the wife is divorced from him and no longer bound to him and therefore could go ahead and marry someone else. But this contradicts Pauls statement in which he said that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive. Paul does not realize that Jesus did put a condition in which it is permissible for a couple to divorce.
This is simply another example of Zawadi not reading and understanding texts carefully. Let us carefully analyze what Paul wrote by inspiration:
"Do you not know, brethren -- for I am speaking TO THOSE WHO KNOW THE LAW -- that the law is binding on a person only during his life? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while HER HUSBAND is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." Romans 7:1-3
The passage clearly says that Paul was addressing those who knew the Law. Now what Law did Paul had in view? The immediate context tells us:
"Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet. But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin." Romans 7:4-14
The Law to which Paul was referring is the Old Testament, specifically the Mosaic Law, the Torah. He even cites a command from it to illustrate his point:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." Exodus 20:17; cf. Deuteronomy 5:21
Interestingly, the above command from which Paul cited warns against coveting another mans wife, which is analogous to Pauls comments regarding a woman leaving her husband to be with another man.
Both Paul and the people whom he was writing to knew that the Law allowed for divorce and remarriage:
"When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring guilt upon the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance." Deuteronomy 24:1-4
Hence, this in itself should have cautioned Zawadi from making the erroneous inference that he did.
In light of the foregoing, Pauls statements are best understood to be referring to a woman who clings to another man while still married to her husband. In other words, Paul was not speaking of a woman who divorces her husband and then went to be with another man. Rather, he was referring to a married woman who goes to be with another man while still in union with her husband, which would be a clear act of adultery just as the OT Scriptures teach:
"You shall not commit adultery." Exodus 20:14; cf. Deuteronomy 5:18
"And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, and defile yourself with her." Leviticus 18:20
"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." Leviticus 20:10
"Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished." Proverbs 6:27-29
To reinforce this point, note Pauls wording again:
"Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while HER HUSBAND is alive. But if HER HUSBAND dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." Romans 7:3
Paul speaks of HER HUSBAND, meaning that the two are still married. Yet if Paul were speaking of a divorced woman marrying another man then the first spouse would no longer be called her husband since they would no longer be married.
This should show that Paul WAS NOT addressing the issue of divorce and remarriage, but of a woman who goes to be with another man while still married.
In point of fact, Paul here was not even addressing marriage and adultery, but was dealing with the validity of the law and only used marriage law as an illustration, a similitude to explain something else. The marriage laws were presupposed as known. He did not try to make any changes nor giving any commands in that regard, so he did not "address" it.
Thus, as it stands there is no contradiction between what Paul wrote and what the Lord Jesus taught.
As far as 1 Corinthians 7:39 is concerned, the same arguments apply for this text as well. Paul wasn't denying that there was a legitimate ground for divorce. In fact, Paul presupposes that there is one since earlier he appealed to the words of Jesus himself:
"To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
Paul refers to the Lord Jesus commanding married believers to remain together, or to stay unmarried if they have separated. Paul was essentially echoing the following commands of Jesus:
"And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’" Mark 10:10-12
"Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." Luke 16:18
What this basically demonstrates is that Paul was aware of Christs teaching on this issue, that believers could not divorce and remarry for just any reason. And when we consult all the words of Christ (cf. Matthew 5:32, 19:9), we see that there is only one legitimate basis for a person to divorce and marry once again, namely marital unfaithfulness.
Hence, interpreting Scripture in light of itself leads us to conclude that Paul wasnt contradicting the teachings of Christ regarding the issue of divorce and remarriage, but was aware of what the exalted Lord taught on this matter.
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