Dissolving the Doctrine of Divorce

In this blog, I\’m going to explore the typical church doctrine of divorce and the Biblical view of divorce, showing what we\’ve been taught to believe and what the scriptures actually teach, are incompatible.

The Principle of First Mention

The Principle or Law of First Mention (see here) simply means this: when someone is first exposed to an idea, that exposure will color or influence every exposure to the same information thereafter. This principle is why most parents want to teach their children about sex before anyone else: they want to set a proper context and framework from which the subject will be understood henceforth. We can see this principle in the extreme when a child is sexually abused: the abuse colors their self-worth and understanding of intimacy for the rest of their lives.
In Scripture, the principle functions much the same way – although it must be handled carefully. In example, you can\’t look to Cain\’s offering and assume the Grain Offering (more here) that was instituted later, is unacceptable.
The Mosaic Law mentions divorce, and it specifically addresses key issues that must be considered as Jesus deals with the topic when questioned by the religious leaders of the time.  In this way divorce, as found in the Law, must be considered as \”first mention\” material.

The Fundamentalist\’s Viewpoint of Divorce

It is practically impossible to parse any Christian doctrine of divorce, listen to a sermon about divorce, or discuss divorce with a Fundamentalist without having at least these scriptures used as proof texts as to why divorce is sin and no one should ever get a divorce:

It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)

The problem I\’ve encountered (and have in the past been guilty of myself) is that while discussing some doctrines with some people, one will find they may not rely upon well-reasoned or well-formed exegesis to arrive at their conclusions. They instead point to consensus: how many Pastors teach the same thing, or how their denominational sect has maintained the doctrine for a very long time.  In the process, they cherry-pick their scriptures carefully to support their doctrine, or perhaps they may take a page from a certain Southern Baptist Preacher who first said in the mid-1980\’s, \”God said, I believe it, that settles it,\” – without any real reasonable scriptural foundation.

I would like to suggest that good doctrine is reasonable:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

The astute student will note that wisdom is different from knowledge: wisdom addresses how to do something whereas knowledge addresses what something is.  Thus wisdom, in view of the doctrine of divorce, is correct in this instance since the doctrine address how to do (or not do) divorce.

But suffice it to say, the Fundamentalist\’s viewpoint on divorce is simply this:
  1. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16)
  2. Jesus said one commits adultery by remarrying after divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)

Does God Really Hate Divorce?

If divorce is a sin, then yes: God hates divorce.  But first, let\’s understand hate. 
From a Biblical point of view, hate is not criticism, mean words, or an intense dislike, as it is typically defined throughout the blogosphere and various pulpits of today.   Hate is the opposite of love; it is not apathy as many have been taught.

Love is an action word and apathy is inaction, therefore, apathy cannot be the opposite of love.  Love builds up, it is constructive.  Hate tears down, it is destructive.  Therefore, hate is the opposite of love.  What Jesus did on the cross was hate poured out upon death:

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10)
The word abolished means to \”render entirely idle\”.  What Jesus did in the flesh was the manifest action of hatred towards sin and death.  So then, if God hates divorce, then He wants to abolish it.  That is actually a reasonable position, in my opinion.

Is divorce Sin?  

I will provide you the following scripture and let you be the judge:

And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also (NASB). (Jeremiah 3:8)

Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother\’s divorcement, whom I have put away? (KJV) (Isaiah 50:1)

In other words, God is divorced – and He initiated the divorce Himself.  I would also like to suggest that God in the process of reconciliation, but that is a topic for another time.

However, for our Fundamentalist friends, that bit of scripture should put them in a treacherous quandary, should they accept the Bible as written: for when one teaches that divorce is a sin, then one has the unfortunate and untenable position of defending such a theology in the light of Jeremiah 3:8.

Divorce vs. Sent Away

Notice also the two activities associated with divorce: He \”put her away,\” and secondly, He gave \”her a writ of divorce.\”  Those activities, while related, are not one in the same.  In other words, we can send someone away without being divorced (inside or outside of marriage), but we can\’t be divorced without sending someone away.  Thus, sending away can be likened to sending someone on an errand or being estranged prior to divorce, while being divorced consists of a decree and a separation.

The Hebrew word for divorce is kerı̂ythûth (Strong\’s H3748): a cutting (of the matrimonial bond), that is, divorce: – divorce (-ment).

It is used 4 times:

  • Deuteronomy 24:1 – \”then let him write her a bill of divorcement (kerı̂ythûth)\”
  • Deuteronomy 24:3 – \”write her a bill of divorcement (kerı̂ythûth)\”
  • Isaiah 50:1 – \”Where is the bill of your mother\’s divorcement (kerı̂ythûth)\”
  • Jeremiah 3:8 – \”I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce (kerı̂ythûth)\”
Now let\’s look at Malachi 2:16, and the word for \”putting away\”the proof text used by many to prove that God hates divorce).  The Hebrew word for putting away is shâlach (Strongs\’s H7971).  It is used 848 times in the KJB in 791 verses.

A primitive root; to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications): – X any wise, appoint, bring (on the way), cast (away, out), conduct, X earnestly, forsake, give (up), grow long, lay, leave, let depart (down, go, loose), push away, put (away, forth, in, out), reach forth, send (away, forth, out), set, shoot (forth, out), sow, spread, stretch forth (out).

In the scriptures used with divorce, we see it used as follows:
  • Deuteronomy 24:1 – \”give it in her hand, and send (shâlach) her out of his house\”
  • Deuteronomy 24:3 – \”giveth it in her hand, and sendeth  (shâlach) her out of his house\”
  • Isaiah 50:1 – \”whom I have put away  (shâlach)\”
  • Jeremiah 3:8 – \”I had put her away (shâlach)\”

Otherwise, it is translated in various other forms:
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22)
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. (Genesis 8:7)
When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; (Genesis 28:6)
And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 39:6)
Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads. (Ezekiel 44:20)
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)
In regards to a permanent separation (a cutting away, divorce), then we clearly understand that shâlach in Genesis 3:22 doesn\’t imply their hands would be separated from them, shâlach  in Genesis 8:7 doesn\’t suggest the raven never came back, and shâlach in Genesis 28:6 does not imply that Jacob never returned.

While it is clear that interpretation is a necessary function of translation, we cannot ignore that an alternative reading of Malachi 2:16 could be \”For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth growing long …\”  Albeit, that rendering is improper: it ignores the the context; but I provide it as a hyperbole, to help demonstrate the difference between \”putting away\” and \”divorce\” in the Old Testament.

Putting Away isn\’t Used for Divorce

I would like to suggest that in examining how shâlach is used elsewhere in the OT, we clearly find no support for it being inferred or translated as divorce.  When the OT wants to talk about divorce, it uses a very specific word for that idea.  When the OT wants to talk about a separation, it uses an entirely different word for that idea which has no inference with divorce, except when used tangentially in that context.  The closest example we find is Isaiah 50:1 when it is used to refer back to the original divorce:

Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother\’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Furthermore, in no circumstance would anyone understand the other examples of shâlach to mean divorce between a married couple.  But that is exactly what the Fundamentalist wants you to believe in regards to Malachi 2:16.  The question we must ask them is why: why do they want you to believe that put away means divorce in Malachi 2:16?

Perhaps the Teaching of Jesus

In Matthew 5:31-32, and in the companion verses in Mark 10, we see two words or ideas reflecting the OT idea of divorce and put away.

It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorce committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

The Greek word for put away is apoluó (Strongs\’ G630).  It is used 69 times in 63 verses in the KJB NT, but it\’s translated as divorce only once in Matthew 5:32 (shown above).  It is translated as released, depart and even as forgiven:

G630: ap-ol-oo\’-o (apoluó) – From G575 and G3089; to free fully, that is, (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon, or (specifically) divorce: – (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty.

The word indicates a separation between one thing and another, even as far to liberate one from a thing (as from a bond).  So divorce can clearly be within the implied scope of its meaning (Thayer\’s Greek Dictionary: G630).  But is that the primary usage of the word?  Perhaps not.

The Putting Away of Mary

In Matthew 1:18-19, we find Joseph and Mary are engaged, Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Joseph is planning to end the engagement.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away (apoluó) privily.

The Greek word for \”espoused\” is mnēsteúō. It means to court or woo one over for the purpose of being married, to give a souvenir (engagement present), that is, betroth.  In other words, Mary was not married to Joseph when she was found to be pregnant with Jesus.

The word for \”put her away\” is apoluó.  If we are to assume that apoluó always means divorce, as some do teach, then we must by necessity re-write the doctrine of the virgin birth.

There\’s a Word for Divorce in the NT Too

The Greek word for divorce is apostasion (Strong\’s G647).  It\’s used only 3 times across 3 verses in the NT, all being translated into a form of the word divorce. 

G647: ap-os-tas\’-ee-on (apostasion) – Neuter of a (presumed) adjective from a derivative of G868; properly something separative, that is, (specifically) divorce:- (writing of) divorcement.

  • Matthew 5:31 – \”It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement\”
  • Matthew 19:7 – \”They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?\”
  • Mark 10:4 – \”And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.\”
In all of the examples provided by Scripture (both OT and NT) regarding divorce, we find two words, and two ideas: one for put away and one for divorce. It is incongruent to suggest that put way should always be translated as divorce when Holy Spirit made a specific distinction between the two words in the original text.

In other words, scripture doesn\’t say, \”whosoever shall divorce his wife, let him give her a writing of putting away.\”  But that is exactly what the Fundamentalists are suggesting you believe.  Contrary to that doctrine, we find that a lawful divorce must be executed with a written decree and a separation: it\’s not just a separation, neither is just a decree.  To suggest it\’s only a separation is to twist its usage into something not supported by scripture.  And as we will see later, the implementation of divorce was exactly the problem being corrected.

What\’s Being Hidden

But what Pastor/Teachers don\’t disclose to you, in their eloquent sermons regarding divorce – either through ignorance or purposeful obfuscation – is this: Matthew 19:7, 5:31-32 and Mark 10:4 all describe the same two distinct actions that God performed in Jeremiah 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1 –  put away and divorce.
  • Jeremiah 3:8 – \”And I {God} saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.\” 
  • Isaiah 50:1 – \”Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother\’s divorcement, whom I have put away?\”
  • Matthew 5:31 – \”It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement\” 
  • Matthew 19:7 – \”They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?\” 
  • Mark 10:4 – \”And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.\”

Furthermore, they don\’t show you is this: in Matthew 5:31-32, divorce was substituted for put away by the translators at a very key place within the message.  Reverting divorce back to the original put away changes the message completely.

The Better View of Matthew 5:31-32

In Matthew 5:31-32, we find the Greek word for divorce (apostasion) only once.  To help you understand what the translators have done, I have added the Greek words where they appear, and reverted the final translation divorce, back to put away apoluó. 


It hath been said, whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (apostasion): But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced (apoluó) committeth adultery.


It hath been said, whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (apostasion): But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is put away (apoluó) committeth adultery.

The character of the scripture is entirely changed to provide a sense that someone can be put away  (estranged) without a divorce, and in that instance, marriage to a woman who has been put away causes her and the new husband to commit adultery.  Why?  Because she is not divorced.

What is being addressed are the needs of the woman who has little or no standing as an estranged, non-divorced woman.

The Two Step Divorce Process

When we accept that the scriptures reflect what everyone knows about divorce, that there are two actions – the decree and the separation – then the conversations between the Jews and Jesus come into better clarity. 
In Matthew 19, we find a conversation between the Pharisees and Jesus regarding divorce.  In this testing of Jesus, the Pharisees refer to the two-step process of divorce: give a writing of divorcement and to put her away.  The words of Jesus in red:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away (apoluóhis wife for every cause?  he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.  They say unto him, why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement (apostasion), and to put her away (apoluó)?  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away (apoluó) your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluóhis wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluódoth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:3-9)

While this may seem axiomatic – there\’s a divorce decree and a separation – it\’s possible to have a separation without a divorce.  In today\’s vernacular, we call it estrangement. The estranged person is a one who is not divorced but is living on their own, separated from their spouse. I knew a woman like this when I was a young man. Her husband was living with another woman, while the estranged wife had a home elsewhere.

Nevertheless, some might say that Matthew 19 does seem to make the case for putting away being tantamount to divorcing a wife.  The same might be said about Isaiah 50:1 (Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away), but that argument is much more difficult since the context is unequivocally divorce.  Event though the context is the same in Matthew 19, there might be those would argue putting away as equal to divorcement.  However, there are two problems: the Law of Moses, and the pesky bit about tempting Jesus.

Tempting Jesus

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?  

The phrase tempting him is described by Thayer\’s Greek dictionary as follows:

in a bad sense: to test one maliciously, craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgment, Matthew 16:1Matthew 19:3Matthew 22:18, 35Mark 8:11Mark 10:2Mark 12:15Luke 11:16Luke 20:23 (Thayer\’s Greek Lexicon: 3985)

In other words, the Pharisees were putting Jesus\’ view of the Law regarding divorce to the test.  They were using, in the context of a lawful divorcement, the word for estrangement but casting it into the culturally accepted context of divorce.  In other words, putting away a wife – the state of estrangement – was a culturally accepted form of divorce for Hebrews of Deuteronomy and the Israelites of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  This is why they were trying to entrap Him with the Law of Moses: that\’s what to test one maliciously means in this context.  

Setting Aside the Law

Hebrews 10:28 tells us, \”anyone who has set aside (atheteō) the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.\”

The word for \”set aside\” is Strong\’s G114; it means \”\’to act toward anything as though it were annulled\’; hence, to deprive a law of force by opinions or acts opposed to it, to transgress itMark 7:9Hebrews 10:28 (Ezekiel 22:26)\” (Thayer\’s Greek Lexicon: 114).

If Jesus had taught anything different than what the Law commanded regarding divorce – having annulled it – then the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees would have been able to catch Him at His words (Mark 12:13-34): they would have had reason to charge Jesus with a crime.  Since they needed \”two or three witnesses,\” then we also understand why a group of Pharisees came to Him, rather than just one.

This is an important consideration for us as Christians.  The entirety of the life and ministry of Jesus rests upon Him being the spotless, sinless Lamb of God.  In other words, to contradict the Law – to annul it, to teach or do something other than what the Law instructed – was considered as sin and certainly would have been used against Him at His trial.  Hence, this is why they were trying to trap Him: to find some cause to have him arrested and killed (Matthew 12:14, 26:4).

Lack of Evidence at His Trial

But eventually, they had their fill reasoning with Him regarding the law, so much that \”no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.\”  It is also safe to assume that at His trial, the Chief Priests and Council would have recalled that Jesus said, \”till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled\” (Matthew 5:18).  Certainly, they knew that \”whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all\” (James 2:10).

This is why they did their best to procure false witnesses against Him in order to levy charges against Him.  It was only when Jesus confessed to being the Son of God did they find an excuse to accuse Him of blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-66).

Therefore, it is axiomatic that Jesus\’ doctrine regarding divorce is in perfect alignment with the Law of Moses based both upon what He said (not \”one jot or tittle shall … pass\”) and the fact that the Council were required to manufacture false accusations against Him, and finally, at one point in His ministry, they ceased bringing arguments to Him at all.

What Saith the Law

So then, in summary we have the OT using divorce but a few times, the NT using divorce but a few times, and finally, the NT using put away seemingly as a synonym for divorce in at least one case when the religious leaders were trying to trap Him in a logical quandary against the Law.

But the real question is what does the Law say regarding divorce, the Law that Jesus fulfilled in word and deed?  Because if the Mosaic Law says anything contrary to what we are told to believe regarding what Jesus taught about divorce, then Jesus would have at least offended at one point and consequently been guilty of all.  If on the other hand, the Law of Moses does indeed contradict the Fundamentalist\’s doctrine of divorce, then perhaps their doctrine is more suited as the traditions of men, rather than truth. As Jesus said,

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9

Essentially the Law of Moses teaches the following regarding divorce and re-marriage:
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.  And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man\’s wife.  (Deuteronomy 24:1-3)
  1. Write a bill of divorce
  2. Put it in her hand
  3. Send her out
  4. Then she may re-marry
Since putting away (sending out) is not writing a bill of divorce, then we cannot infer putting away to be on equal standing with a divorce.  In other words, the process of writing a decree and then physically separating is the way divorce actually works – both scripturally and in our courts.  

Jesus Didn\’t Set Aside the Law

If Jesus had taught that putting away a wife (without the written decree) was the same as writing a bill of divorce (as suggested by the translators in Matthew 5:31-32), and remarriage after a divorce caused adultery, then Jesus would have \”set aside\” this very point in the Law of Moses: 

And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man\’s wife.
In other words, writing a bill of divorce and giving it to her must occur before sending her out, after which time she may remarry – alas, without committing adultery – otherwise, the Mosaic Law regarding divorce contradicts both the Ten Commandments and Leviticus 20:10:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man\’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour\’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Failing to Catch Him at His Words

But \”to catch him in His words\” was a goal of the Pharisees.  However, Scripture is clear that in failing to do any such thing, they eventually left Him alone.  So, either the Pharisees didn\’t notice that Jesus was contradicting the Law when reasoning with Him about divorce, or they understood that according to the Law of Moses, putting away a wife (estrangement) was different from legally divorcing a wife.

Or perhaps they were expecting Him to lift the scripture, \”when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man\’s wife,\” out of context.  I believe this is exactly how and where they were trying to trap him: they knew that a divorce executed as a written document, placed in her hand, followed by putting her out of the house.  But if they could confuse Him on this point, then they would have trapped Him in setting aside the Law.

Understanding that the exchange in Mark was for the express purpose of tricking Jesus into stumbling regarding the Law, and knowing that the same structure is used in Isaiah 50:1, then it is reasonable to see Jesus using their language (put away) while discussing their cultural interpretation of divorce.

Did Putting Away Ever Happen?

So then, the final question to resolve is this: did Jewish men put away their wives without divorcing them, and if they did, why? There are at least two sources we can draw upon to answer this question.

The first is Micha 2:9

The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.

The word for \”women\” is \”neshei\” it occurs 10 times in the OT, and in each instance, except this one, it is translated as wives.  This verse seems to indicate that not only were the wives being evicted from their home, their husbands retained the children.

According to Robert Waters, this eviction, or putting away, was exactly the problem:

The wife that was put out of the house may well have been innocent of any wrongdoing, yet she could not marry another without a certificate of divorcement that proved her marriage was legally dissolved.  Thus, husbands who refused to give a bill of divorcement to those whom they had put away were disobeying God.  It is interesting that the same evil practice among the Jews is still going on to this day.

During the Mosaic age, a husband would often send (put) his wife away (Heb. shalach, Gk. apoluo) without a certificate of divorce. In God\’s sight, though, the husband committed adultery against her. Furthermore, his wife would find herself homeless and destitute and unable to remarry; to do so would be to commit adultery, and any man who married her would commit adultery (see Mark 10:11; Matt. 5:31-32), a crime that was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10). 

However, God laid down a procedure to prevent such evils and protect wives from such treachery. This procedure consisted of three actions: writing her a bill of divorcement, placing it in her hand, and sending her away (Deut 24:1-2).

But what was the advantage to the man, why would he put a woman on the street without a writ of divorce?  Waters goes on to explain thusly:

Previous to this {Deut. 24:1-2}, men were simply putting away or sending their wives out of the house (women did not have the same rights). At that time, men were permitted to have more than one wife and received a dowry also. But if a man divorced his wife then the dowry had to be returned. The dowry, however, did not have to be returned in a case where there was no formal divorce. We can see, then, that simply sending his wife out of the house was a way of avoiding any financial loss. However, the consequences were very serious for the wife: without a formal divorce, she was left without a home and a means of support; and, being still married, it was not lawful for her to remarry.


  • Jesus did not set aside, annul, or otherwise amend the Law of Moses regarding divorce.
  • Jesus  did not add consequences (adultery) to the act of divorce.
  • The religious leaders were unable to trap Jesus in His words.  He did not contradict the Law in his treatment of divorce – (Deuteronomy 24:1-3)
  • Jesus never used the word for divorced when speaking of committing adultery: He used the word for estranged and eviction.
  • There is scriptural evidence that wives were being evicted from their homes without a written divorce decree (Micah 2:9)
  • There is clear Mosaic support for divorce only being valid with a written decree, transference of the decree to the woman, and a putting out of the house
  • There is clear Mosaic support for remarriage after a proper divorce that does not result in adultery.  
  • God Himself initiated a divorce from Israel and is divorced.  If divorce is sin, you have an impossible theological problem to solve.

The bottom line is the NT (and in some instances, the OT: Micah 2:9) has been translated with an interpretation in line with the tradition of men: with bias and without consideration of appropriate cohesion God\’s stated relationship with Israel (divorced) and with the Law of Moses.

The traditional, Fundamental interpretation of divorce causes us to put on blinders and make excuses for Jesus and/or scripture by ignoring the connection between the Mosaic Law and Jesus towards His fulfillment thereof.  It causes us to hold scripture in cognitive dissonance. 

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)

Jesus fulfilled the Law so perfectly that He could not be found guilty of any infraction by the Chief Priests and Council on any point – including divorce and grounds for adultery – even in the presence of false witnesses and the testimony of the Mosaic Law.

When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. (Luke 11:53-54)

The Fundamentalist\’s doctrine of divorce relies upon tradition, the power of the Institutional Church, it\’s Pastor and the Congregants for its enforcement and avoidance thereof, and in the process, it removes the personal protection provided by God for those in real danger.
The better interpretation, the understanding that putting away without divorce is an estrangement and an eviction, that divorce consists of a decree and a separation, coalesces with reason and scripture by adding cohesion between both Testaments, while at the same time demonstrating that Jesus kept and fulfilled the Law even under intense scrutiny from the scribe and Pharisees who were trying to find a way to catch Him in something contrary to the Law.

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