SWM 069 – Is it okay to remarry after being divorced?

Is it okay to remarry after being divorced?  What does the Bible say?

A friend of mine recently asked if the Bible allows you to remarry after you’ve been divorced.  Her husband had divorced her, years ago, and while she had no specific candidates in mind, she didn’t want to even entertain the idea of a relationship that might lead to something romantic.  I mean, who wants to be stuck choosing between God and someone you want to marry?  If only more people had that foresight in other situations …

Her impression from reading the Bible was that if you were divorced and remarried, not only would you be committing adultery in God’s eyes, but so too would be your future spouse.  So, how can she entertain the idea of remarriage if it means she’s committing adultery, and causing this potential spouse to also commit adultery?

Knowing that I like to tackle difficult questions, that I like to find answers, and that I work with couples, she asked me – is it okay to remarry after being divorced?

Right away, my impression was that it doesn’t seem right for someone whose spouse divorced them, to be relegated to a life of singleness.  That doesn’t mean they are owed another spouse, by any means, but if the opportunity presents itself – why not?

But, as Christians, we shouldn’t be guided by our feelings, contrary to what many Christians seem to believe these days, but rather by the word of God. So, I opened up my Bible, and I quickly saw why she had formed the opinion she had when I read this verse:

But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32 NKJV

Well, that’s pretty clear-cut, isn’t it?  At least it appears to be.  However, the more I dug into it, the less clear it seemed.  After all, how can the husband make his wife an adulterer by his actions?  The Bible is quite clear that we are responsible for our own actions, our own sins.  Ezekiel 18 shows the principle clearly when talking about the righteous man and the unrighteous son.  

So, let’s look at what some other translations did with this verse.

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32 NIV

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her. And he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Berean Matthew 5:32 Bible Study

But I can guarantee that any man who divorces his wife for any reason other than unfaithfulness makes her look as though she has committed adultery. Whoever marries a woman divorced in this way makes himself look as though he has committed adultery.

Matthew 5:32 God’s Word Translation

Now, the God’s Word translation I think is taking some liberties there, but all in all, I think the proper meaning is conveyed.  Reading scholar’s opinions of the Greek shows that the “causes her to” show that the object of the sentence, the wife, is the passive one in this sentence.  It’s the husband who is doing the divorcing and acting upon her. 

We have a similar thing happen in 1 John:

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:10 NKJV

Now, can I cause God to be a liar?  Can any action I do make Him not be truthful?  No, of course not.  By the same token, can I do anything to make my wife an adulteress?  No, of course not.  

But in English, we don’t really have good words to represent this.  In Greek the active and passive forms of the word are clearer, but not in English.  We don’t have an “adulter-ed” word.  

Lastly, I decided to check out one of the translations done from a Hebrew version of Matthew, which some believe comes from a version that pre-dates the Greek versions of Matthew, which would make it more accurate.  Here’s what it comes out like:

And I say to you that everyone who leaves his wife is to give her a bill of divorce. But concerning adultery, he is the one who commits adultery and he who takes her commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32 (Translated by George Howard from the Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew)

Interestingly, it seems to agree that the husband (in this case) is the actor and that the fault, responsibility, sin and label of adulterer falls upon him.  She has been adulter-ed against.  She is the violated one, not the one doing the violation. And one of my readers pointed out Malachi 2:6, which is often quoted as saying “God hates divorce”. However, looking at other translations, you get messages like this:

The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Malachi 2:16 NIV

That leaves us with a message that’s consistent through the Bible and also makes logical sense – those are the interpretations I favor, because I believe in a God who brings order to chaos, not the other way around.

So, then what do we do with the second part of the verse?

and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32b NKJV

This is problematic because we also have this verse in the Bible:

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.

1 Corinthians 7:15

This seems to contradict a plain-text reading of Matthew 5:32b. Is it because he’s an unbeliever? That doesn’t seem to make much sense. I mean, why would it be okay for an unbeliever to leave, but not a believer? This, again, seems to need more study.

Later on in Matthew 19, we see Jesus tackle the subject again.  In that chapter, we see the Pharisees coming to Jesus with a question, as they often did.  They quote Deuteronomy 24 and ask if it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife.  After responding that God never intended for divorce, the disciples asked Jesus the same question basically, wanting to know the legalistic answer rather than the principle Jesus was trying to teach – that marriage is serious.

Here’s what Jesus says:

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9

In Mark we get the same story, where He says this:

So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Mark 10:11-12

Oddly enough, no mention of remarriage counting as adultery.  Also what’s interesting is that in Deuteronomy 24, the only mention of remarriage that appears to be abhorrent is if you divorce your wife, she marries another man, then he divorces her, or dies, and you remarry your wife again.  I wonder if this was a way to stop husbands from trying to “legally” wife-swap.  

And that would make the verse in Matthew 5:32 make sense – if you meet another man, you each are attracted to the other’s wife, but are bored with your own, if you each agree to divorce your wife and marry the other, “legally” it would be okay, but really, you’re just conspiring to commit adultery.

As well, all of this is within a larger talk in Matthew 5 of Jesus trying to teach people, my guess is the Pharisees most of all, that the principles behind the laws are the important part.  Stop looking for legal loopholes, stop being legalistic.  “Not murdering” isn’t enough – you have to love even your enemy.  Divorcing “for lawful reasons” isn’t enough – you have to love your spouse, even when it’s hard or when you don’t want to.  

The entire point is that a marriage should be a living example of the love God has for us. It’s not a joke, and it’s not to be taken lightly.  We see this when we look at other verses on the same topic:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 NKJV

If you’re going to leave a marriage for frivolous reasons (like “we fell out of love” or “it was too hard” or “I was unhappy”) – well, you better stay unmarried.  Marriage isn’t for you.  Frankly, you don’t have the character it requires.  If you can’t take it seriously, don’t get into another one.  If you can convince your spouse to take you back and try again, fine, but don’t make someone else miserable because you’re the problem, not the marriage – again if you’re divorcing for frivolous reasons (not adultery, real abuse, etc).

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.

1 Corinthians 7:15 NKJV

What does this “enslaved” mean?  Well, I also found this verse:

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:39 NKJV

The word “bound” and “enslaved” share the same root in Greek.  It’s being subject to the law, the law that binds you together.  

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 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 7:2-3 NKJV

So, there are ways that binding can be broken.  If your spouse dies, you aren’t bound.  Likewise, seemingly, if they divorce you, you aren’t bound.  That’s what a certificate of divorce was for – it was a legal document saying you are no longer bound by the law.  If your spouse leaves you for frivolous reasons, then it’s not your fault! – you haven’t done anything wrong, and you aren’t bound by the law.  You are free from it.

What I read from all of this is that marriage is really important.  So important that choosing to enter, or leave it is a serious thing – far more serious than our society seems to take it.  I think more seriously than many Christians take it, to be honest.  

I’m amazed at some of the emails I get asking if it’s okay to leave your spouse just because things have gotten difficult.  And by difficult, I mean “first-world problems” difficult, if you know what I mean, not really serious issues.

I was recently asked, "Is it okay to remarry after being divorced?"  Here's what I found in the Bible.

So, how do I read this verse now?

But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32 NKJV

My understanding of this is that if you choose to leave the marriage for a frivolous issue, then you aren’t fit to be married. You aren’t giving it the weight it deserves. 

The corollary to this is the opposite case: if you marry someone whose spouse divorced them for a serious issue (like adultery) – well, that’s probably not wise either. What makes you think they won’t do the same wrong behaviour in your marriage as well?  

In fact, I just read a recent study (One a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Serial Infidelity Across Subsequent Relationships) which found that someone who has cheated in a relationship is 3.4 times more likely to engage in infidelity in a subsequent relationship, compared to someone who never has cheated.  Another way to put it is that 44% of subjects who engaged in infidelity did so again in their next relationship.  That’s nearly 50/50.  Sort of rolling the dice there.

So, can you get married again if you’re divorced?  As far as I can tell, if you didn’t instigate the divorce or cause the divorce through sexual immorality, then I don’t see why not.

Alternatively, if you did instigate the divorce, repent, and convince your spouse to take you back, then you can marry them again.

That’s how I see it anyways.  If you disagree, I’d love to hear your reasons and verses to back them up in the comments below.

21 thoughts on “SWM 069 – Is it okay to remarry after being divorced?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Amazing how the passages in the bible are twisted to fit one’s desire.. that’s why I stay pragmatic & Stoicism based. Matt 5.32 is pretty straight forward statement till one tweaks it to fit their needs.. same as “is masturbation wrong”? No it’s not.. it’s not mentioned, yet bible readers tweak the words to fit their needs say it is.. never ending confusing chit chat… never going to answer sex based questions with the bible. Written by people, written abstractly, written in a way that till the end of time can be tweaked, and challenged to fit ones desires. If Matt 5.32 isn’t clear enough Than what is??
    If the bible said “stop at red lights, go at green lights” we’d be discussing what that means….

    1. Jay Dee says:

      that’s why I stay pragmatic & Stoicism based

      I think you have a different definition of pragmatic and Stoicism than I do … How can you claim to be practical (pragmatic) while only focusing on a single verse and using it to build a doctrine while ignoring the other verses, and also claim to be guided by reason (Stoicism), yet not give a single rational rebuttal to your stance, just an emotional refusal to engage with the topic?

      If the Bible said “stop at red lights, go at green lights” and another verse said “never stop at red lights”, yeah, we’d definitely be discussing it. But then, you also didn’t bother to leave an email address, so you won’t see my comment in response, which means you aren’t really interested in dialogue or having your ideas challenged either. Not very pragmatic, nor following the philosophy of Stoicism…

      1. G says:

        My mistake, ill add email next time.
        I’ll make it easier and leave out the “other” philosophies.
        Tell me why it took so many “other” scripture “translations” to work around a clear cut scripture matt 5:32? Its was included for a reason, or was it intentionally placed to make the bible complicated.
        It said it clearly as it “clearly” doesn’t say “no” masturbation. Again, tweaking of readings till they fit ones desired outcomes.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Welcome back. Still didn’t add an email…

          Anyways, which translation are you considering clear-cut? Because they conflict with each other.
          Is it the English translation of the Latin translation of the Greek translation of the Hebrew?
          Or the English translation of the Greek translation of the Hebrew?
          Or the English translation of the Hebrew?

          Which one are you considering the primary translation, and which are the “other”? Why do you get to pick which one is the primary? Because it agrees with what you were taught?

          And why that verse over the others which teach differently? Why is Matthew 5:32 sacrosanct, but the rest of the Bible is secondary?

          The masturbation argument can be had here or here if you want to argue it. Let’s try to stay on topic.

          1. Lucius says:

            Hi Jay, first time leaving a message at your great website.
            The only thing I will agree on with “Mr. Stoic without an e-mail address” is that it may indeed be unnecessary to go through all the English translations to make the case; simply setting Matt 5, Mark 10 and Deut 24 side by side will probably do. Read the Bible in its entirety and all that. And then add what you said below about evenly applying the biblical principle of divorce as the icing on the cake.

            If one wants to make the case for the “non-fault party’s” right to remarry even more watertight, consider where Matt 5 is. It is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and the important thing about this discourse is that almost nothing can be properly understood without bearing in mind what Jesus said in Matt 5:20: if you want to enter heaven by obeying the law, then here’s what the law *really* requires you to do, and these things include the two verses immediately preceding Matt 5:31-32:

            > gouging out your eyes (Matt 5:29)
            > cutting off your hands (Matt 5:30)
            > and NEVER have the slightest negative opinion about others in your heart, or you are a murderer and will taste hell fire (Matt 5:21-22).

            Straightforward, isn’t it? Not much room for “tweaking the Word to fit one’s needs”, isn’t it? How come the men and women cheated on by their spouses have to stay single forever, while you, Mr. Stoic, get to spare your eyes and hands?
            Speaking of eyes and hands, you obviously still get them, right? Otherwise, how did you read this article, and then typed out your response?

  2. Immanuel Heims says:

    Shalom and thank you so very much for your sharing your insights on this complex subject. I just read an excellent book by David Pawson “Remarriage is Adultery Unless …” which I can absolutely recommend as it is truly scripture-based. May God bless you all! Greetings from Germany

  3. Sam says:

    All that I make of the verses is, God wants the marriage relationship to be open until death separates husband and wife.

    Today, the law courts allow divorce but leaves behind it unresolved problems. Deep heart red among the once happy couple, children going wayward and all that.

    We need to take the Word of God at it simple face value and live by it. We shall have peace of mind.
    It simple, get married , live together with your spouse for life , for better for worst. If anyone separate or divorce, let them remain single while the other partner is alive or be reconciled with their spouse.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      So, let’s say you get married young, at 20, and your wife decides a year in that she’s made a mistake and has an affair with another guy, divorces you and marries him. She’s already remarried, so according to the Bible you can’t take her back even if you both wants to. So, you should remain single for the rest of your life as a result. Do I have that right? Not arguing, just making sure I am applying your viewpoint properly.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Correct, thats what he’s saying. Translation mania and it gets crazy… we all just have read it, apply what makes sense, live good.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Ok, so, girl marries him, then gets divorced. Then she marries another guy and they have sex. Doesn’t that constitute divorce against the first husband? Is he not allowed to biblically divorce her then to biblically ratify the legal divorce? In that case, is he not allowed to remarry? Because then it’s due to sexual immorality, right? I mean, if you’re going to cherry-pick the one verse, then you have to evenly apply it.

  4. Cav B says:

    The scriptures you have provided along with you analysis have great value. I did find myself wondering about connections to Malachi 2:16, and also Ephesians 5:31-33, but I suspect there may be future opportunities, and you may have already written about them!

    Practically, divorce is a sin, and the church should be both gracious to broken people and obedient to God. Love wins. Protect people from the deathly consequences of their sin, and then call them to the abundant life that Jesus teaches, as He modeled with the woman caught in adultery.

    My view is that we can treat people who are divorced the same as people who gossip or slander, which I think is pretty much “nothing”. For example, churches can accept offerings from and share communion with all of these. However, I don’t think a serial gossiper or slanderer should be an elder, as per 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1, and that might be good practice for divorcees as well. Elders need to be held to a higher standard. Polygamists were part of the early church, but they were disqualified from the elder office. It’s probably not the most comfortable conclusion for any of us, but one that reflects our fidelity to a mysterious God.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yeah, the Malachi 2:16 one is great – I missed that in my research somehow. Thanks for bringing it up! I think I’m going to re-write part of this to include that. That’s definitely a powerful point.

      And yeah, some Jewish converts were polygamists in the early church. The Romans didn’t tolerate that in their citizens.

  5. TruthSeeker says:

    Hi Jay,

    I’m a 23-year-old single man, learning and preparing myself for my future marriage. Your site is one of several resources that are helping me grow and refine a biblical view of marriage and sex.

    I appreciate how you try to present things in a humble and reasonable way, and try to seek truth over opinion. That’s something we sorely need more of in discussions of important issues these days!

    I do have my disagreements on some things though, including part of this article. (If I misrepresent your case, please correct me or clarify. My goal isn’t to win a debate, but to mutually pursue truth.)

    Here’s a summary of my case. I still think remarriage is acceptable only after the death (or possibly adultery) of a spouse. The case for remarriage after abandonment based on 1 Cor. 7:15 isn’t strong enough in my opinion. That verse calls the abandoned spouse to peace, but unlike other divorce-related passages, does not mention remarriage. At best, it IMPLIES freedom to remarry, and I think that case is refuted by the fact that other verses like 1 Cor. 7:39 and Romans 7:2-3 indicate remarriage can only happen after the death of a spouse.

    With that said, here are my thoughts in detail.

    I understand your case about how in Matthew 5:32, the spouse initiating the divorce is the one committing the wrong. That makes perfect sense to me, logically, morally and textually.

    It’s where you get into 1 Cor. 7:15, 1 Cor. 7:39 and Romans 7:2-3 that I have my main issues. You say “So, there are ways that binding can be broken.” Agreed. “If your spouse dies, you aren’t bound.” Agreed. “Likewise, seemingly, if they divorce you, you aren’t bound.” Here I don’t entirely agree.

    Here’s your case as I understand it: because the verses refer to the same kind of marriage bond or law, the two different situations (death and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse) may be handled with the same response (remarriage). I see how the words “enslaved” from 1 Cor 7:15 and “bound” from 1 Cor. 7:39 are related. But respectfully, I think it’s a weak case for claiming remarriage is allowed here.

    Here’s my perspective. There are two parts to this situation: the breaking of the bond, and the freedom to remarry. They’re separate things, but they go together at the death of a spouse. However, from a scientific or logical approach, we can’t assume that they still go together in abandonment as they do in death, nor can we even assume that the bond is broken in the same way. The abandonment case must be demonstrated separately from the death case. But 1 Cor. 7:15 doesn’t clearly indicate any freedom to remarry in this situation.

    Spouses in the abandonment situation aren’t specifically prohibited from remarrying, but they aren’t included in the very limited list of exceptions where remarriage is explicitly allowed. I think Paul’s silence on freedom to remarry in this situation is telling. He acknowledges the freedom to remarry after the death of a spouse (Romans 7:2-3), but nowhere else. Here in 1 Cor. 7:15, he only says “let it be so” and “God has called you to peace” (ESV), which seems much more like consolation or encouragement than license to remarry.

    I think this view also clears up the apparent contradiction you saw between Matt. 5:32b and 1 Cor. 7:15. If an unbelieving spouse divorces you, you can leave and be at peace (1 Cor. 7:15), but still can’t remarry (Matt. 5:32b).

    Just from what you cited, we have 6 passages making very clear that divorce is against God’s design, and establishes a general rule that remarriage constitutes adultery, with 1-2 very specific and limited exceptions.

    – Matthew 5:32
    – Matthew 19:9
    – Mark 10:11-12
    – 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
    – 1 Corinthians 7:39
    – Romans 7:2-3

    On the other hand, we have just 1 verse (1 Cor. 7:15) that may imply an exception to this principle. If it was explicitly clear about the exception you think it is making, it wouldn’t be in direct conflict with any of the other verses, and I would accept it readily. But it’s not clear to me that it actually makes that case. It deals with a similar topic, it speaks of similar principles, it uses similar words, and it mentions the situation (divorce), but it is silent on the conclusion we are to draw about remarriage. I take that to mean we are to infer the conclusion from the previous teachings of Jesus and Paul: remarriage after divorce is not an option.

    That being the case, I am unconvinced that 1 unclear implication overrides or creates an exception to a principle established by 6 very clear, very explicit passages.

    Sorry for the length, I hope it makes sense and wasn’t too troublesome to read! 🙂

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yep, makes sense. This is a standard “New Testament” Christian approach in which you basically have to ignore the context of the rest of the Bible in order to support and pull verses out of context to uphold.

      So, the part about bonds, binding, enslaved, etc. is legal speak. These are words about contracts, agreements, etc.. If one person breaks the contract, the relationship is no longer valid. If one person severs a relationship – you have no relationship. You can’t uphold a relationship from one end, it doesn’t work like that. So, if you get divorced, or are abandoned, or one of you dies, you aren’t bound, because – well, how could you be? The other end of the relationship is no longer tethered.

      That’s one piece. Now, the other piece is whether or not they have the right to start a new relationship. My argument is that if you’ve proven to be unfit to handle such a serious relationship, then you should not enter into another one.

      As for your final point, you don’t have 6 “very clear, very explicit passages”.
      Mark 10 is clearly only holding the person who instigated the divorce accountable – that supports my view.
      1 Corinthians 7:10-11 also clearly is only speaking to those instigating divorce – again, supporting my view.
      1 Corinthians 7:39 doesn’t comment on divorce at all – in fact, it’s in a passage talking about how married people cannot completely devote their time to God, but have to also be concerned about their spouse – that’s the point of the passage. You’re using it out of context. So, not material to the discussion. I only used it to show the word in use carries the same meaning.
      Romans 7:2-3 said if she married another man while her husband lives. If they’re divorced, he is no longer her husband as per all of the Old Testament, which Paul, being a Rabbi, would have been basing his teaching on. But again, this passage isn’t about marriage. He’s using it as a metaphor for the law. So, again, not material to the discussion. Again, I only used it to show the word in use.

      So, you have the two passages in Matthew that seem to contradict the rest of scripture, both Old and New Testament, that divorce releases the bonds of marriage. Two that support my argument, and two that shouldn’t be used for this argument in the manner you chose to use them.

      As for the remaining two, there were two schools of thought in Jesus’ time that were in hot debate. One school believed you can divorce only because of sexual immorality, others believed you could divorce for any reason. Jesus clearly seems to be addressing this argument.

      In Matthew 19, it seems the Pharisees found out what He said and came to ask Him directly, and He again tells them that they had missed the point entirely, that marriage is supposed to be for life and it’s only because humans are sinful that God had to create a way to break marriages. And if you use it for frivolous reasons, you are basically committing adultery by being unfaithful to the relationship you entered. That was the thrust of the surrounding passages as well – stop being so legalistic and look at the principle – that love is a serious thing, not a set of rules. Committing adultery isn’t just cheating on your spouse, it’s about not being all-in on your marriage.

      So, then if your spouse divorces you, does that mean you weren’t “all-in” on your marriage? No, of course not. If someone else wants to divorce you, does that mean you didn’t give your all to that marriage, or that you wouldn’t to this one? Nope.

      But, if you divorce your spouse, does it mean you weren’t “all-in” (assuming they didn’t already break it?)? Yep. What’s the chance you’ll be all-in on the next one? Statistically not very likely.

      This isn’t a legalistic thing – it’s about being faithful.

  6. TruthSeeker says:

    I apologize for the confusion around my statement about the “very clear, very explicit” meaning of some of these verses. What I meant was that the verses are very clear in establishing the pattern that divorce and remarriage prohibited as a general rule. They were not as clear about the technical details, which you rightly point out.

    To acknowledge your points, I see how in Mark 10:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, the focus is on the initiator being the adulterer. No issues there.

    We seem to differ on a lot of peripheral points that are getting in the way, so here’s my core argument:

    Matthew 5:32 says whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Since the Bible seems to focus more on divorce being initiated by men (with exceptions later in the NT), the assumption would probably be that the woman wasn’t the initiator here. That would mean it’s still adultery to marry a non-initiator. If that’s so, it would also be wrong (and probably adultery) for that non-initiator to enter a new marriage and act as an accomplice in their new spouse’s adultery.

    As you mentioned, I see how 1 Corinthians 7:15 could be interpreted to provide an exception to this, and allow remarriage as the death exception does. However, that seems like an extremely stretched case, and doesn’t consider that the word “enslaved” has other plausible interpretations. I don’t deny that it could refer to the bond/law of marriage. But it could also refer to slavery to fear, worry or anxiety about the trauma or social ramifications of divorce, which could be addressed by the end of 7:15 (“you are called to peace”). Paul doesn’t specify, and doesn’t openly acknowledge an allowance for remarriage as he does in the case of a spouse’s death (Romans 7:3). This non-specificity leaves the question open, so to help draw the line, I defer to my conclusion from Matthew 5:32.

    Now to be clear, I’m totally willing to have my mind changed by a deeper original-language analysis as to how “enslaved” should be interpreted there. But 1 Corinthians 7:15 and 7:39 sharing a word with the same root is not nearly convincing enough for me. Words can share the same root, but have vastly different meanings and connotations.

    I won’t take up any more space, but I did want to at least acknowledge your point about frivolous divorces. It seems true and wise, but I think it’s hazardous to think that’s the only explanation or the driving point behind these teachings against divorce.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Let’s start here because the second part is far more interesting, and this feels anticlimactic afterwards.

      Now to be clear, I’m totally willing to have my mind changed by a deeper original-language analysis as to how “enslaved” should be interpreted there. But 1 Corinthians 7:15 and 7:39 sharing a word with the same root is not nearly convincing enough for me. Words can share the same root but have vastly different meanings and connotations.

      No argument there. So, digging deeper into it, the specific word used in 1 Corinthians 7:15 means “to be under bondage, held by constant of law or necessity, in some matter” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.
      The word used in 1 Corinthians 7:39 means “put under obligation, namely of law, duty, etc”. They seem to share more than simply a root word.

      Now, the rest of your comment caused me to do some more research, and I found an interesting nuance of Jewish law. A woman could sue for divorce if she was not provided food, shelter or sex. If the civil court agreed with her cause, technically she still did not divorce her husband. He was forced to divorce her. So, technically it is always the woman who is divorced. The husband never is. He is the one who does the divorcing. He divorces, she is divorced. Thus, the sentences are talking about divorce in general, not specific cases.

      Now, I think that clears up the verse nicely because now the phrases can make sense if you assume the “except sexual immorality” applies in both cases. That is: if the husband divorces his wife for any reason other than sexual immorality, then he causes her to commit adultery because the divorce is not moral. This case already existed in a form in the Old Testament. If you choose to divorce simply because you wanted a different woman, that was considered adultery. Likewise, if your wife committed adultery and you divorced her, then she was not permitted to remarry. But now the New Testament adds that if she sues for divorce and forces him to divorce her for any reason other than his sexual immorality, then she is committing adultery. This then falls closer in line with the Old Testament commands regarding divorce and remarriage. In the Old Testament, a woman was always assumed innocent (except for sexual immorality), because she was always divorced, never the one who divorces. However, by Roman law, either spouse merely had to consider themselves no longer married in order to be considered divorced. It was advisable to inform your ex, but not legally required. So, if you saw a “Romanizing” of the Jews, I think it’s more likely to assume that there were at least some Jews who took up this view of marriage, given that many Jewish had been similarly influenced by Roman culture in other areas (the tax-collectors being a prime example of Jews who were considered defectors to Roman culture while still being considered Jews).

      So, with the influence of Roman “no-fault” divorces, I wonder how many divorces were now being pushed through the courts by wives for frivolous reasons. This would necessitate a re-phrasing of the law to show that the one who instigated the frivolous divorcing (not just who legally did the divorcing, as that’s always the husband) ultimately bears the burden of the consequences.

      I think I might have to rewrite my post to reflect this new information.

  7. sean says:

    I’m divorced and remarried. questionably. i won’t go into every detail, but assuming i was wrong in doing so and have asked God for forgiveness and guidance, what do i do now? i believe my new wife to be a faithful Christian and together we are striving to do His will.

    I’ve studied this greatly, but I’m curious of your thoughts. any help is appreciated…

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Two wrongs don’t make a right – I don’t see how leaving this marriage would accomplish anything remotely good. I’d say you stay in it and build a marriage God would be proud of. We all have pasts where we didn’t do things the way we should, but you can’t go back. Learn from your mistakes, ask for forgiveness from those you’ve hurt, and turn towards God and do what’s right moving forward. I don’t see any other option.

  8. sean says:

    that has been my conclusion as well. i was curious as your article is very well handled and logical in light of scripture. i did divorce my wife. the challenge for me is that there was unfaithfulness. i caught her having an affair. sounds simple right?

    but it isn’t. i don’t know the extent of physicality they shared, but she was going to leave me for good to be with him secretly the day after i found out. i confronted her, and i tried for a year to make it work, and there were times she seemed to be improving in our relationship and times she lied and gave me doubts. ultimately i was struggling severely and then met someone. i divorced before engaging in any intimate relationship, but i had also let the whole situation pull me away from God.

    i have struggled for years, but i devoted my life to God again and my second wife came to God before we married. I’ve spent years studying and reading everything possible on the topic to try and make sure I’m right with God. it has been difficult, but I’m in a more loving marriage now going on 6 years. we both want to do God’s will above all, have a great church family here… my ex-wife denounced God already before our divorce and has been living with a new boyfriend for almost all those years getting drunk and not caring.

    i don’t meant to criticize her but it always seemed crazy for someone to say i should throw away what i have now considering these facts. i have repented and even apologized to my ex for all i had done. does God not give second chances? are all divorces clear cut? hardly. it is a very serious matter, but so is murder. david was forgiven. were his motives any less severe?

    I’ve always looked at it like serial bigamy of a sort, in that God expected you to stay married. even bathsheba is later still referred to as the wife of uriah when she was married to David at that point. interesting.

    anyhow, it’s late and I’m blabbing. always, always, seek God first. what matters is your relationship with Him. strive to understand His will and let Him transform your heart. don’t listen to men without investigating if what they say makes sense with scripture. read articles like this, but pray, meditate on things, and never give up. God doesn’t give up on you…

  9. Kevin says:

    I would suggest a great book to read is David Instone-Brewer’s book called divorce and remarriage in the church.

    I don’t agree with everything in the book, but he is Christian NT theologian, who has been studying rabbinic tradition in the first century, ie th background to the Jesus dialogue with Pharasies, and Paul’s to the Corinthians.

    One of my big take aways from the book, was it was the norm to remarried in Jewish culture and the law in Roman (I think I have that last bit right). I was not aware of the Jewish ‘any cause’ divorce (we would call it no fault) which was common in Jewish culture and was preferred by men and women as there was no danger in loosing your money if you were the guilty spouse. Joseph planned to use this any cause divorce to quietly divorce Mary, as he did not want to drag her through the court.

    There is also a three hour video by Pastor Mike Winger which is well researched too.

    God clearly wants Christians to stay married and honour our vows to each other and before him. There should be no divorce in the Christian church, however God regognises our sinful nature. So he permits divorce under certain circumstances, not all of which are specifically mentioned in the bible. For example abusive spouse, do we really believe God would not accept the victim spouse divorcing their spouse if their spouse’s heart was heard (ie they would not repent).

    At that point they are free to remarry, otherwise God would be punishing them for the rest of their life for being forced into a divorce by an unrepentant and abusive spouse.

    God also honours a marriage, even if entered into for the wrong reasons. If God only recognised one marriage for life, why would Jesus say to the Samaritan woman that she had been married five times and the person she is with now is not her husband. So clearly Jesus throught the previous marriages were over.

    If you were adulterous, divorced your spouse and remarried, I think God would still honour that second marriage. And would not want that one broken up as some Christians suggest. Clearly he would want repentance from that spouse, and God always forgives a repentant heart.

  10. sean says:

    I’m very familiar with all of those resources and have read that book. i agree with you. it’s interesting that so many people would have Jesus made out to seem uncaring for victims. i just pray anyone reading all this can do the right thing and not get into these situations in the first place if possible. it hurts me to think anyone might ever feel the pain and face the challenges I’ve had to face in trying to figure it all out. just save yourself the strain. do everything you can to love and follow God of you end up in such a situation, pray. a lot. sincerely. and seek the truth from God. love to all…

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