Matthew 19:9
And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away does commit adultery.
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(9) Whosoever shall put away his wife.—The questions to which the law thus proclaimed gives rise have been discussed in the Note on Matthew 5:32. One serious difference has, however, to be noticed. Where in the earlier form of the precept we read, “cuseth her (the woman put away for any cause but adultery) to commit adultery,” we have here, more emphatically as bearing on the position of the husband in such a case, the statement that he by contracting another marriage “commits adultery.” The utmost that the law of Christ allows in such a case is a divorce, a mensâ et thoro, not a vinculo. The legislation which permits the complete divorce on other grounds, such as cruelty or desertion on either side, is justified, so far as it is justifiable at all, on the ground of the “hardness of heart” which makes such a concession necessary. It is interesting to compare St. Paul’s treatment of cases which the letter of this command did not cover, in 1Corinthians 7:10-15.

19:3-12 The Pharisees were desirous of drawing something from Jesus which they might represent as contrary to the law of Moses. Cases about marriage have been numerous, and sometimes perplexed; made so, not by the law of God, but by the lusts and follies of men; and often people fix what they will do, before they ask for advice. Jesus replied by asking whether they had not read the account of the creation, and the first example of marriage; thus pointing out that every departure therefrom was wrong. That condition is best for us, and to be chosen and kept to accordingly, which is best for our souls, and tends most to prepare us for, and preserve us to, the kingdom of heaven. When the gospel is really embraced, it makes men kind relatives and faithful friends; it teaches them to bear the burdens, and to bear with the infirmities of those with whom they are connected, to consider their peace and happiness more than their own. As to ungodly persons, it is proper that they should be restrained by laws, from breaking the peace of society. And we learn that the married state should be entered upon with great seriousness and earnest prayer.And I say unto you - Emphasis should be laid here on the word "I." This was the opinion of Jesus - this he proclaimed to be the law of his kingdom this the command of God ever afterward. Indulgence had been given by the laws of Moses; but that indulgence was to cease, and the marriage relation to be brought back to its original intention. Only one offence was to make divorce lawful. This is the law of God; and by the same law, all marriages which take place after divorce, where adultery is not the cause of divorce, are adulterous. Legislatures have no right to say that people may put away their wives for any other cause; and where they do, and where there is marriage afterward, by the law of God such marriages are adulterous! 9. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except, &c.—See on [1328]Mt 5:32. We met with the like determination of our Lord’s upon this question Matthew 5:32, only there it was (instead of committeth adultery) causeth her to commit adultery, that is, in case she married again. Here our Lord saith the like of the husband: we have the same, Mark 10:11 Luke 16:18. The reason is this: Because nothing but adultery dissolves the knot and band of marriage, though they be thus illegally separated, yet according to the law of God, they are still man and wife. Some have upon these words made a question whether it be lawful for the husband or the wife separated for adultery to marry again while each other liveth. As to the party offending, it may be a question; but as to the innocent person offended, it is no question, for the adultery of the person offending hath dissolved the knot of marriage by the Divine law. It is true that the knot cannot be dissolved without the freedom of both persons each from another, but yet it seemeth against reason that both persons should have the like liberty to a second marriage. For,

1. The adulteress is by God’s law a dead woman, and so in no capacity to a second marriage.

2. It is unreasonable that she should make an advantage of her own sin and error.

3. This might be the occasion of adultery, to give a wicked person a legal liberty to satisfy an extravagant lust.

But for the innocent person, it is as unreasonable that he or she should be punished for the sin of another. But what our Saviour saith here, and in the other parallel texts, is undoubtedly to be understood of husbands and wives put away not for adultery, but for other light and trivial causes, for which by the law of God no divorce is allowed. And I say unto you,.... To his disciples, when they were with him alone in the house, and asked him more particularly about the subject, concerning which he had been discoursing with the Pharisees, as Mark observes, Mark 10:10 when he said to them much the same things, he had delivered before in Matthew 5:32

whosoever shall put away in his wife; separate her from his person, house and bed, and dismiss her as his wife, no more to be considered in that relation to him,

except it be for fornication; or whoredom, for defiling his bed: for this is not to be understood of fornication committed before, but of uncleanness after marriage, which destroys their being one flesh:

and shall marry another woman, committeth adultery; Marks adds, "against her"; which may be understood either of the woman he marries, which not being lawfully done, she lives in adultery with the husband of another woman; or of his former wife, and who is still his wife, and to whose injury he has married another; and he not only commits adultery himself, but, as in Matthew 5:32 "causeth her to commit adultery also", by being the occasion of marrying another man, when she is still his lawful wife:

and whoso marrieth her which is put away, for any other cause than adultery,

doth commit adultery also; since he cohabits with the wife of another man; see Gill on Matthew 5:32

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be {h} for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

(h) Therefore in these days the laws that were made against adulterers were not regarded: for they would have no need of divorce, if the marriage had been severed by punishment of death.

Matthew 19:9. See note on Matthew 5:32.

μὴ ἐπὶ πορν.] not on account of fornication, i.e. adultery. The deleting of those words (Hug, de conjug. vinculo indissolub. p. 4 f.; Maier’s note on 1 Corinthians 7:11; but also Keim, who sees in them the correction of a subsequent age) is justified neither by critical evidence, which Keim himself admits, nor by the following ὁ ἀπολελ. γαμ. μοιχᾶται, which is in no way inconsistent with the exception under consideration, seeing that, as a matter of course, the ἀπολελ. refers to a woman who has been divorced arbitrarily, μὴ ἐπὶ πορν. (see note on Matthew 5:32); nor by Matthew 19:10, where the question of the disciples can be sufficiently accounted for; nor by 1 Corinthians 7:11 (see note on this passage). We are therefore as little warranted in regarding the words as an interpolation on the part of the evangelist in accordance with a later tradition (Gratz, Weisse, Volkmar, Schenkel). The exception which they contain to the law against divorce is the unica et adaequata exceptio, because adultery destroys what, according to its original institution by God, constitutes the very essence of marriage, the unitas carnis; while, on this account also, it furnishes a reason not merely for separation a toro et mensa (Catholic expositors), but for separation quoad vinculum. To say, as Keim insists (according to Mark), that Jesus breaks with Moses, is unwarranted, not only by Matthew’s narrative, but also by Mark’s; and any indication of such a breach would betray the influence of a later age.

μοιχᾶται] commits adultery, because, in fact, his marriage with the woman whom he has arbitrarily dismissed has not yet been disannulled. The second μοιχᾶται is justified: because this ἀπολελυμένη is still the lawful wife of him who has, in an arbitrary manner, put her away.Matthew 19:9, ide notes on Matthew 5:31-32.9. See ch. Matthew 5:32.

and shall marry another] Omitted in the Sinaitic MS.

The reading “causeth her to commit adultery,” instead of “committeth adultery,” has high MS. authority. The Sinaitic MS. also omits and whoso … adultery.Matthew 19:9. Μὴ, not[860]) The word occurs with the same force in 1 John 5:16.—καὶ γαμήση, and shall marry) The criminality of the divorce is especially aggravated by a second marriage.

[860] Lachm. rends παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας with BD Orig. 3,647c, 648ac, 649b; “exceptâ causâ fornicationis” in c. CZ read μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ, and so Tischend. Rec. Text reads the same, prefixing εἰ. Vulg. “nisi ob fornicationem,” which favours Rec. Text. “Nisi ob causam fornicationis” in ab seems a blending of the two readings, εἰ μὴ and λόγου.—ED.

Bengel reads ὃς ἄν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ, whosoever shall put away his wife NOT for fornication; E. M. has εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνωίᾳ, IF NOT (i e. except) for fornication. The meaning is the same. In his Apparatus Bengel writes, in loc—

μὴ) Comp. et al. edd. Aug. 1, 4, Bas. 1, Byz. Cypr. Gehl. Med. Mosc. Steph. omn. Wo. 2, et sedecim et viginti alii: nec obstat Cant. Colb. 8, L. Par. 6, Arab. Syr. εἱ μὴ. Er et al. edd. cum pauculis MSS.”—(I. B.)Verse 9. - And I say unto you. Our Lord here enunciates the law which was to obtain in his kingdom, which, indeed, was simply the reintroduction and enforcement of the primitive and natural ordinance. Except it be for fornication; εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ: nisi ob fornicationem (Vulgate). This is the received reading. Tregelles, Tischendort; Westcott and Hort omit εἰ. The parallel passage in St. Mark (where Christ is stated to have made the remark to his disciples "in the house") omits the clause altogether. Lachmann, following some few manuscripts, has introduced παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας, "saving for the cause of fornication," from Matthew 5:32. The interpretation of this verse has given occasion to acute controversy. There are some questions that have to be considered in expounding this matter.

(1) What is here meant by πορνεία? Does it bear its usual meaning, or is it equivalent to μοιχεία, "adultery"? These who affirm that the sin of married persons is never expressed by the word porneia, hold that it here signifies ante-nuptial unchastity, which would make the marriage void ab initio; post-nuptial transgression would be punished by death, not by divorce. In this view, our Lord would say that no divorce is allowable except where the wife is proved to have been unchaste before marriage. In such a case, the union being void from the first, the man is free to marry again. But there are difficulties in this interpretation. Why, at the end of the verse, is it called adultery to marry the divorced woman, if she was never really and lawfully married? Again, it is not correct to say that porneia denotes solely the sin of unmarried people. All illicit connection is described by this term, and it cannot be limited to one particular kind of transgression. In Ecclus. 23:23 it is used expressly of the sin of an adulteress. We may also remark that metaphorically idolatry is often called by this name, whereas, since Israel is supposed to be married to the Lord, the breaking of this bend by the worship of false gods might more strictly be named adultery. And yet again, there is no proof that the discovery of previous immorality in a wife did ipso facto vitiate the marriage (see Hosea 1:2, etc.). The passages that are thought to bear on this matter are Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In the former there is no question of divorce, - the offender is to be stoned; in the second passage the ground of divorce is "some uncleanness," or some unseemly thing, whether immorality or personal defect is meant cannot be decided, the rival schools taking different sides. But it is quite certain that adultery is not intended, and ante-nuptial unchastity is not even hinted. The interpretation, therefore, given above cannot be maintained.

(2) Omitting for the moment the limiting clause, may we say that the general teaching of Christ makes for the indissolubility of the marriage bond? The majority of the Fathers from Hermas and Justin Martyr downwards affirm this. Those who admit that divorce is permissible in the case of the wife's adultery are unanimous in asserting that, by Christ's ordinance, remarriage is prohibited to the husband during the culprit's life; so that, practically, if divorce a mensa et toro is allowed, divorce a vinculo is refused. All Christ's utterances on the subject, saving the apparently restrictive clause (Matthew 5:32) and here, absolutely and plainly forbid divorce, on the ground of law and nature. The words in Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18 are given without any limitation whatever. St. Paul draws from such his conclusion of the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as may be seen in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11, 39; Romans 7:2, 3. There could never have been a doubt about this subject had it not been for the difficulty in interpreting the parenthetical clause.

(3) Are we, then, to suppose that Christ, by those words, modifies his general statement, and allows absolute divorce in the case of a wife's misconduct? Such is the view taken by many theologians, and practically endorsed by the civil law of many countries. Neither the Roman nor the Anglican Churches support this laxity. Ecclesiastical and civil laws are here antagonistic. It is said that Christ allows the wronged party to marry again. If so, if the oneness of the parties is wholly destroyed by the sin of the woman, why is it not permitted to a man to marry a divorced woman? This cannot be called adultery unless she is still one flesh with her husband, although separated. We must argue from this that divorce in such a case does not destroy the vinculum matrimonii, the marriage bond. and if not under this circumstance, surely under no other; for any other ground must be always less serious than adultery. If the clause in question enunciated an exception to the absolute rule elsewhere given, Christ would seem to stultify himself, to give two opposite decisions, and to introduce uncertainty in a most important verdict. The principle on which he based his dictum would be overthrown, and his hearers might have accused him of inconsistency. The solution offered for this difficulty is this - that Christ is contemplating merely what we call judicial separation; he considers that no trivial cause justifies this, in fact, nothing but fornication, and that this modified divorce does not free the man so that he may marry again; he is bound by the Law as long as his wife lives. Our Lord seems to have introduced the exceptional clause in order to answer what were virtually two questions of the Pharisees, viz. whether it was lawful to "put away a wife for every cause," and whether, when a man had legally divorced his wife, he might marry again. To the former Christ replies that separation was allowable only in the case of fornication; in response to the second, he rules that even in that case remarriage was wholly barred. And whosoever marrieth her which is put away (ἀπολελυμένην, without the article); her, when she is put away (Revised Version); or, a divorced woman. The clause is wholly omitted by א and some other manuscripts, and some modern editors, as Westcott and Hort. But it has very high authority in its favour. Alford renders, "her, when divorced," and restricts the application to a woman unlawfully divorced, not extending it to one separated for porneia. But the language is too indefinite to admit of this interpretation as certain (see Luke 16:18, and the note on Matthew 5:32, where the popular view is expressed). The clause, pondered without regard to foregone conclusions, surely contains an argument for the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as we have said above. Marriage with a divorced wife can be rightly termed adultery only in consideration of the continuance of the vinculum. Doth commit adultery. The binding nature of marriage does not depend on the will or the acts of the persons, but on its primal character and institution. By the repeal of the Mosaic relaxation and the restoration of marriage to its original principle, Christ not only enforces the high dignity of this ordinance, but obviates many opportunities of wickedness, such, for instance, as collusion between husband and wife with a view to obtain freedom for marriage with others. Except for fornication (μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ)

Lit., not on account of fornication.

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