Thread: Matt 5:31-32 Interpretation
April 10th 2012, 04:39 AM #1
Matt 5:31-32 Interpretation
I did a quick analysis of Matt 5:31-32.
The topic of Matt 5:31-32 and the possible hyberole of 'adultery' came up on another discussion and it didn't seem that the essence of the text was coming out properly. And it wasn't obvious what Jesus was addressing.
The link for my analysis is:
The analysis of these verse requires much detail since we are having to learn the context from the discussion itself. The original audience would have understood the implications more directly.
Does my approach seem to have merit? Are there any glaring problems with it?
April 10th 2012, 10:16 AM #2
Re: Matt 5:31-32 Interpretation
Your link doesn't work; You have to remove the word "slash".
You speculate a lot about men sending their wives away without that piece of paper, but don’t really explain what that has to do with Jesus’ words. When you say that Christ’s concern was the improper nature of divorces, was he just saying that they were not crossing all their T’s and dotting all their I’s? I think you need to be a little clearer and more succinct in exactly Jesus says and means. But in general, I think you bring up some interesting ideas, but not quite on target.
My own take: Any divorce, other than for adultery, was permitted only because of the hardness of their hearts. It may have been legal, but it was not moral. Throughout the sermon on the Mount, Jesus is saying that the true heart of the law is perfect love, perfect morality, perfect obedience not just to the letter but to the spirit.
So his first point was, indeed, that all divorce absent adultery, was sin.
So why did he focus on the consequences for the woman instead of the man who divorced her? Because, although it was not God’s original design for marriage, it was legal for a man to have two wives. A woman could not have two husbands.
So the writ of divorce was not permitted for the husband’s benefit, so he could marry someone else. It was permitted for the wife’s benefit, so that if she was sent away, she could marry again and have someone to support her.
People were hard-hearted. If they no longer loved their wives they were going to kick them out, divorce or no divorce. If Moses had not permitted writs of divorce, then husbands would still do it, they would go ahead, marry again, do whatever they wanted. And if asked, they’d say I’m still married to that first wife; I just don’t live with her. And the wife would be in a desperate situation.
But people got the wrong idea that permitting a writ meant Moses was endorsing divorce.
As in the case with Korban, Jesus says you can’t just nullify a vow, either by calling something Korban or by writing something on a piece of paper. Legally, you can get away with it. You can write a writ of divorce. As a legal, civil, earthly institution, the marriage no longer exists. And legally both of you can marry again. But that doesn’t change the fact that you made a vow.
Legally they are divorced. But an absolutely full adherence to the spirit of the law would say that they are both still obligated to live up to their vow. If the wife marries again, she has broken the vow. She has committed adultery. It’s a sin the law permitted. It’s a violation of God’s righteousness. But it’s one the husband forced upon her. And the guilt is his, not hers.
The whole interpretation centers around the Greek word that means to commit adultery, but it’s used in the passive. The woman “was adulterized.” It’s hard to interpret or translate. Some have interpreted it to mean she was made an adulteress, or caused to commit adultery, or just stigmatized as if she was an adulteress. Some have surmised that the problem is that other people will assume that it was adultery that broke up the first marriage, and that the guy she now marries is the one she had been having an affair with. They’ll be labeled adulterers. I think it’s saying a sin is committed, but she is the victim. Her first husband is the perpetrator who forced her into it.
What about her second husband? “Whoever marries her commits adultery.” The Greek form there could actually be either Middle or Passive. So he, too, may be the passive victim of the sin. But it’s more ambiguous. As a middle verb form (a form that means you do something to or for yourself), he may bear some guilt. He has a choice. He’s not a helpless pawn, like she may be. He chose to marry someone who was divorced. Christ’s words leave open the question whether he is guilty or victim.
But the bottom line is clear. The letter of the law of Moses may set forth a low legal standard of righteousness, but the true righteousness of God is a much higher standard. Jewish society was living up to Moses, but not up to God.
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