Preface: On Divorce -- Comments on the Language and Meaning.  There is substantial religious language on divorce.  This essay attempts to address a small portion of the meaning and intent of the source statements that this language is built on.

Divorce & Christ: What Christ Said On Divorce

"Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."  Luke 16:18, King James Version.

This quote has given many people serious concerns.

There are several reasons why some of these concerns are incorrect, which are addressed in this essay.

  1. As a noted Evangelical Scholar has pointed out, the King James version has some flaws in translation (discussed below).
  2. As the Bible notes, there are several justifications for divorce, which Paul discusses.
  3. Still, divorce is not a light thing.

1.  The King James translation has some flaws in rendition.

To quote Paul Young:

"In Luke both the verbs "divorce" and "marry" are in the present tense.  The parallel in Mark 10:11 puts them in the subjunctive mood.  In Hebrew the force of the expression would have linked the two actions together in continuous motion:  kol hasholeach et eshto venose acheret noef ...

Perhaps in English one could better capture the meaning of the saying by translating it, "Everyone who divorces his wife [in order] to marry another commits adultery." ([] in origional) From Divorce and Adultery in Light of the Words of Jesus, Paul Young in Jesus (Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN 1-56563-060-2.  Also visit

Note how Mark 10:11 reads:

"...Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.  And if a woman shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

Reading the verses in Luke, using proper parallelism, the rendition is more likely proper as:

"Everyone who divorces his wife in order to marry another commits adultery, he that marries the new wife commits adultery, the same is true if the woman putteth away her husband in order to marry another."

But, to quote Paul Young (at page 116) "No one should attempt to lesson the force of a powerful saying of Jesus.  When a man abuses the law and divorces his wife in order to marry someone new -- it is the same as adultery."

2. As the Bible notes, there are several justifications for divorce, which Paul discusses.

There was concern at the time of Paul as to what Jesus meant and so the people turned to the Apostles for advice.  Paul addressed this, both in passing, and directly, in several passages when he wrote and gave advice to the early saints, allowing for divorce in some situations in addition to adultery.  e.g. 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 7:15, etc.

Note that Paul also stated (which is important in cases of abuse) that those who did not care for their own had denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8).

3. Divorce is not a light thing.

As the Atlantic Monthly put it "Dan Quayle Was Right."  Children prefer to have their parents stay together and absent abuse, do better if the parents do not divorce in order to find "happiness." Divorce is not a light thing.

On the other hand, it is my personal belief, by citation to authorities that most of the readers of this essay would not recognize, that while divorce is a bad thing, it is an evil thing to stay where there is abuse.  While I believe that "for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, for better or for worse" for "as long as you both shall live" -- and beyond, I believe that abuse vitiates.

So, I oppose divorce, but oppose abuse even more.

4. The language issues cause problems.

The problems addressed by the above essay are good examples of problems caused by language issues -- how the translated text is read and how it impacts normal people who read it -- and problems that are much easier to avoid with better language than with a good explanation of what the text means (vs. what it appears to say).  This sample is an excellent example of where Dr. Elgin's comments about religious language are proven to be clearly right.

All errors and opinions on this page are the responsibility of (Copyright 1998) Stephen R. Marsh.
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