Friday, October 26, 2012

The Second of the Thousand Responses to Steve Hays ...

We pick up with new arguments by my good friend Steve:
i) It’s odd that TFan also quotes the Markan and Lukan passages to establish adultery/fornication as the one legitimate ground of divorce, for those Synoptic variants lack the exceptive clauses in Matthew.
This isn't really an objection to my point. And, of course, the point of quoting the other synoptics is to exhaust the field of inquiry. To demonstrate to the reader that Jesus didn't offer other exceptions in other cases, just in case the reader is concerned that Jesus offered many exceptions. Instead, Jesus is generally reported just as stating the rule, but in the two accounts in Matthew, Jesus is dealing with a further issue: the one exception to the general rule.
ii) This also illustrates the weakness of TFan’s argument from silence. One the one hand, Mark and Luke give no grounds for divorce. On the other hand, Matthew only gives a single ground for divorce.
Steve is wrong in categorizing this part of the argument as an argument from silence. Jesus says, "saving for the cause of fornication." That's not silence, it's speech. The fact that Mark and Luke don't mention this exception is an example of silence, but - of course - I'm not arguing from their silence, beyond the fact that they only confirm the general rule.

Steve may be trying to argue from this silence to open season on exceptions, but such an argument would be an argument based on silence.
iii) Moreover, the exceptive clauses in Matthew are worded in terms that apparently exclude any other grounds for divorce. Yet TFan will later concede that 1 Cor 7:15 offers an additional ground for divorce–desertion.
a) Steve is not analyzing precisely here.
b) Yes, there are two exceptions to the general rule.
c) However, only adultery/fornication justifies committing divorce;
d) Whereas only desertion justifies permitting unjustified divorce.

Jesus is addressing the commission of divorce, as contrasted with the permission of divorce.  Paul is addressing the permission of divorce.
iv) It’s also unclear to me why TFan limits the exceptive clauses to “adultery/fornication.” As I pointed out before, porneia has a wider semantic range. It covers a range of sexual immorality, viz., adultery, fornication, incest, bestiality, and homosexuality.
I'm glad for this opportunity for clarification: I mean broadly to include any sexual offense punishable under Hebrew law (as distinct, for example, from lust in the heart). It's worth pointing out that polygamy was generally not punishable under Hebrew law.
Now, perhaps TFan would say that although the word has multiple meanings, the context of Matthew narrows the semantic scope.
In fact, yes, that's what I would say. But see my clarification immediately above.
Or he might say that although incest, bestiality, and homosexuality aren’t inherently adulterous, inasmuch as single men and women can commit these sins, yet they are adulterous if a married man or woman commits them.
I wasn't really going there, no. On the other hand, just because adultery is also incest doesn't make it cease to be adultery, for example.
But as it stands, his usage lacks due qualifications.
Clarification has been provided.
v) I’m also unclear on why he thinks fornication is grounds for divorce. In standard usage, fornication denotes premarital sex, in contrast to extramarital sex. Is he claiming that unless a man or woman is a virgin on their wedding night, that that’s grounds for divorce?
Yes, of course I am.
a) That's the primary case in mind the Deuteronomy 22 passage.
b) That's the reason Joseph was minded to quietly divorce Mary.
What about someone who was sexually active before he (or she) became a Christian? Is he debarred from marriage? Considering the fact that many 1C converts to Christianity were former pagans, it’s unrealistic to think most of them were celibate prior to marriage. For instance, Greek males typically deferred marriage until the age of 30. In the interim, they had recourse to prostitutes.
a) Steve is still assuming that women had the option of divorcing their husbands.
b) But, even assuming we were to grant that they did, it would be undisclosed lack of premarital sexual purity that is in mind.  The man thinks that the girl is a virgin, but discovers on their wedding night that she is not.
c) Further to (b), premarital sexual activity between the now-spouses would not be a legitimate ground of divorce.  In fact, it might be the reason for the marriage.
d) Likewise, divorced women, former prostitutes, and widows were generally permitted to marry/remarry.  These would all have been sexually active women, and the prostitutes impurely so.
e) The laws about divorce in the Torah that we are discussing were not unique to Hebrews as distinct from aliens.  (Contrast to the prostitution law we discussed early in this dialog, which only forbade Hebrews from being prostitutes.)
f) Even if we were to say that known premarital sexual activity was a potential ground of divorce, that does not "debar" or even "bar" anyone from marriage. Just because a ground exists doesn't mean that the party who has the ground must exercise it. A man can forgive his adulterous wife rather than divorcing her.  A man can forgive his non-virgin bride.
vi) For some strange reason, TFan seems to think Jesus is correcting the rabbinic interpretation of Deut 24:1-4. I don’t see where he finds that in the text. Rather, I see Jesus doing something more radical. Rather than correcting their misinterpretation of Deut 24:1-4, he corrects their misvaluation of Deut 24:1-4. He denies the normativity of Deut 24:1-4.
I find it in the text in "it hath been said ...but I say unto you ...."  That formula or one like it is something Jesus repeatedly uses in correcting rabbinic interpretations.  The broad rabbinic interpretation of "found some uncleanness in her" as meaning "for any reason" is corrected by Jesus.

Incidentally, this is why in Mark and Luke the exception is not discussed.  In those passages, Jesus is just stating the general rule, not discussing the one exception.  Moreover, in the Matthew 19 passage, Jesus treats the passage as normative, at least in the sense that it was a permission under civil law.
Jesus bypasses the appeal to Deut 24:1-4 by going back to Gen 1-2. He treats Gen 1-2 as the primary, normative passage, while he demotes Deut 24:1-4 to a pragmatic, ad hoc concession to the reality of sin.
It is true that Jesus goes back to Genesis to define marriage.  And it is true that Jesus treats Deuteronomy 24 as a concession to the reality of sinful humans.  Those are Jesus' statements in Matthew 19.  But Jesus is also addressing the issue of whether the law's concession is "for every cause" or not.  In some ways that is more clear from the Matthew 5 passage, which doesn't include the appeal to Genesis.
Put another way, he abrogates Deut 24:1-4 by sidestepping and sidelining Deut 24:1-4. Jessu opposes Gen 1-2 to Deut 24:1-4.
a) I'm not sure what Steve means by abrogation here.  But there is nothing in the text indicating abrogation, except for the rabbinic "heard it said" view of the passage.
b) Indeed, Jesus explicitly states that he did not come to set aside the law of Moses.
c) I don't know whether Steve agrees, but we Presbyterians hold that ceremonial law (as distinct from the civil law and the moral law) was abrogated.  We don't hold that the moral law or the civil law was abrogated.  If Steve disagrees with the tripartite division of the and/or the unique abrogation of the ceremonial law and/or the treatment of marriage and divorce as civil law, we can explore this in greater depth.
vii) It doesn’t make sense to think Deut 24:1-4 alludes to adultery as the ground for divorce. The Mosaic punishment for adultery isn’t divorce, but execution. There’s a different statute that deals with adultery (22:22).
a) Divorce wasn't a communal punishment of the wife.
b) Not every case of adultery was able to be successfully prosecuted under the laws of the Hebrews:
Deuteronomy 17:6-7
At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.
Deuteronomy 19:15One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
Since in divorce the man writes a bill of divorcement and sends the woman out, neither the death penalty or any other criminal provision is triggered. Thus, legally unprovable cases of adultery could still be covered (like when a husband walks in on his cheating wife, but only he sees the two in the act).

c) I suppose we should add also that just because one's wife commits adultery does not necessarily mean that he wants to see her dead.  I initially considered not including this item, because Jesus' explanation relates to the hardness of heart of the men - whereas this seems merciful (Joseph is praised for his initial response to his discovery of Mary's pregnancy).
Based on linguistic and contextual evidence, Bock and Walton think Deut 24:1 has in view a chronic menstrual irregularity which renders the wife ritually impure, thereby precluding conjugal relations (cf. Lev 12:2-815:14).
a) I'll happily place Jesus' interpretation over against Bock and Watson. He has the edge when it comes to authority.
b) While I agree that uncleanness in a woman can refer to her reproductive function (even her healthy function left her periodically unclean), a woman who was never pure enough to have relations would hardly qualify as the sort of woman being discussed in Deuteronomy 24, who goes and marries another man and then gets divorced from him and the original man wants to have her back.
c) And while "after that she is defiled" again could in the abstract refer to her menstrual bleeding, in context it more naturally refers to her having conjugal relations with a man other than her first husband.
d) Furthermore, the bill of divorcement is only of use to a marriageable woman, and a woman who cannot have conjugal relations is not (at least by OT Hebrew standards) marriageable. Such a woman would not benefit from a bill of divorcement. Therefore, it makes no cultural sense to treat the passage as referring to such a woman.
However, it’s unnecessary for us to identify the underlying condition. It’s sufficient to point out that adultery is contextually excluded.
As noted above, it isn't contextually excluded.
For a post entitled “Understanding Divorce from a Biblical Perspective,” I’m afraid don’t see the evidence that TFan has actually done his exegetical spadework. It seems to be more a matter of rote prooftexting to retroactively validate a foregone conclusion.
At last he's come to the title of the post, but only just in time to terminate his comments that we'll be addressing in this post. And I don't mind his judgment, since whether or not I've done the necessary spadework is neither here nor there. What matters is whether the points I've expressed are true and come from the text. If they do, I'll gladly be thought insufficiently trowelicious for Steve's taste. If they aren't true and don't come from the text, spending Bock-and-Watson-like amounts of time simply would make my hole deeper. The key is the truth of the matter, not the degree of effort spent.  It's not about me, it's about the truth.

- TurretinFan

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