In MDR7 we started to undress the myth that marriage had a lifetime warranty, and we looked into 4 places in the Bible who seem to support this view; Mat.19: 6, Mat. 19: 9, Mat. 19: 5-6 and Eph. 5:32. I also said that there are two (2) passages that seem to support that only death can end marriage. These is what we are going to deal with in this post, which is slightly shorter than previous one we’ve been through in the past (a relief for some :))
This two text that seem to speak about that only death could end marriage, is taken from the Rom. 7 and 1. Cor. 7. This texts actually does not mention divorce at all, but they talk about it anyway. ??? How is it possible to talk about something that is not mentioned?
We call this for ‘silent arguments’. Both texts seem to say that only death can end the marriage. What we must ask ourselves is whether the ‘silence’ of divorce is surprising and significant – eg. the absence of divorce in these texts, suggests that marriage can not end through divorce. Let’s start with Rom. 7: 1-4.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:1-4)
It is not surprising that divorce is not mentioned here. The silence of divorce is present and it is not surprising. Why is this not unexpected? Because the context of this text is not about to end a marriage through divorce. The context shows no violation of matrimonial conditions that can dictate a divorce can or will happen.
Let’s summarize the verse as follows:
“Men are linked to the law of Moses until they die, just as a wife is bound to her husband unto death. If she went with another man, it would be infidelity, well, not if the man was dead of course. Therefore, God let you die with Christ to set you free to marry Christ.”
Paul compares Jews (v.1: “I am speaking to those who know the law”) relation to the law with a woman’s relationship to her husband. Perhaps we must be Jew to understand this better, but a Jewish believer is like one who are married to the law. The law is a very demanding perfectionist, who can never be satisfied. The Jewish believing woman meets Christ and falls in love with him, but she can not marry him, because if she did she would commit adultery. All she can do is to wait until her marriage ends through death. But her husband – the law – is eternal, so her waiting, is in other words, totally hopeless and futile. The wondrous hope Paul here gives is that Christ died for her and she has died with Christ, therefore her marriage with her husband (the law) ended through death – her death – and now she is free to marry Christ.
This is a wonderful picture of Christ’s love and death, a paragraph that tells us about the glorious salvation, and it would therefore not be expected to teach us about divorce and remarriage, just like the parable of the sower is not expected to teach us about agriculture.
The woman in this story is thinking that her marriage can only end through death, which could imply that marriage can not end through divorce or abandonment. For how could her marriage to the law end in ways that violations of giving care and love? The law would never leave her or break any of their marriage vows in any way that would have led to divorce, because, by being the law itself he would followed the law to the last letter. The whole concept of divorce or being abandoned is completely out of the picture in this scripture. No one who reads this would expect that Paul would mention divorce, or be astonished by its (divorce) absence. This whole illustration would collapse to absolutely nothing if divorce or abandonment was mentioned here.
The other text is taken from 1 Corinthians. 7:39
A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Cor 7:39).
As in the previous verse, there is again no allusions to any violation of marriage vows, and therefore the marriage will last until you die, but let’s look at the context. Since Paul here refers to people who already had their marriages ended because of their partner’s death (not violations of the conditions for marriage), we should all not be surprised if Paul did not mention divorce here either. He did not need to. But it is also wrong to believe that the text suggests that marriage always lasts until death, just because divorce is not mentioned in the context.
The reason Paul said this to the widows, was to free them from the Old Testament Levitical Law on Marriage (Deut. 25: 5-10), which many Jews still forcing on the widows.
“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7 But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me. ’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house. ’ 10 In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed. (Deut. 25:5-10)
Far as I know, Paul was the first Jew to clearly say that this law should no longer be used. He told all widows that she is: “… free to marry whomever she wants. (1 Cor. 7:39).
And finally, I would say that Jesus, in his other teachings, assume that marriage is soluble. Not that He allows divorce, but in some of His other teachings, He contradict this (false) notion that marriage is indissoluble, i.e. in God’s eyes, one remains married with its original (first) spouse whatsoever.
Let me take a small example at the end. He (Jesus) does not say to the woman at the well – “For you were married once, and has lived with five men ever since,” – but he said: – “For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have only lives with you (unmarried). So, she had five legitimated marriage, but is only a “roommate” now.
“for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” (John 4:18)
Some may be disappointed, but we have not found any evidence that God gives a life guarantee for every marriage. God has not changed his mind between the Old and New Testament regarding divorces, and in both Testaments, He is in tune with the victim of adultery.
– MDR stands for Marriage – Divorce – Remarriage. A shortcut I choose to use on this series where I deal with some christian problems in the questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage.
– Bible Verses are from NASB, unless otherwise noted.
Agree? Or what do you think?