Jesus never said ANYTHING about X!

Ethics Theology / Biblical Studies

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Christians shouldn’t oppose X, because Jesus never said anything about X! Right?

With same-sex marriage being the topic of the day for a lot of “progressive Christians,” this is an argument I’ve seen lately. Since Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage, Christians shouldn’t oppose it either. When I last saw it, I queried whether it was even true, but the same line was repeated back to me each time: Jesus said NOTHING about same-sex marriage (the capitals were used in the reply).

Red letter fundamentalism

Nobody thinks this is a good way of thinking: Jesus didn’t speak against it, so we shouldn’t either. We don’t think that’s right. Not really. If you’re not sure about that, it won’t be hard to convince you. Here are a few counter-examples:

  • Christians shouldn’t oppose kidnapping, because Jesus said NOTHING about kidnapping!
  • Christians shouldn’t oppose slavery, because Jesus said NOTHING about slavery!
  • Christians shouldn’t oppose using hard drugs, because Jesus said NOTHING about using hard drugs! (And he even said that it’s not what goes into the body that makes a person unclean.)
  • Christians shouldn’t oppose tax cuts, because Jesus said NOTHING about tax cuts!
  • Christians shouldn’t oppose the death penalty, because Jesus said NOTHING about the death penalty (or at least, nothing opposed to it)!
  • Christians shouldn’t oppose child sacrifice, because Jesus said NOTHING about child sacrifice!

And so on. Christians who pride themselves on being more progressive than what’s mainstream would probably balk at these arguments. Not only is the outcome more than a little disagreeable to them, but we would all, I hope, see right away what a terrible sort of argument this is.

This strangely fundamentalist way of reading the four Gospels – “red letter fundamentalism,” I call it, is no way to handle them responsibly. For one, it’s not true that we can say “Jesus said nothing about X” just because the Gospels record Jesus saying nothing about X. As the closing of the Gospel of John notes, Jesus did plenty of things that are not recorded in the Gospel. Who can say how many issues he commented on when asked?

There is no warrant for the assumption that Jesus wanted everyone to forget everything – absolutely everything – they knew and build up their inventory of moral beliefs based solely on the specific examples he verbally spoon-fed them.

But more importantly, this way of using the sayings of Jesus seriously misunderstands what Jesus wanted to do. There is no warrant for the assumption that Jesus wanted everyone to forget everything – absolutely everything – they knew and build up their inventory of moral beliefs based solely on the specific examples he verbally spoon-fed them. Jesus came to First Century Jews, a people who already had a significant amount of revelation about God, about humanity, and about right and wrong in God’s eyes. In his discussions with them, it is quite clear that Jesus took this revelation for granted, rather than supposing that it was all null and void. Every time Jesus spoke about the Scripture, it was either to appeal to it as a source of truth that should guide God’s people, to correct the way that people had been understanding or using some examples, to call people to account for failing to follow its precepts, or talking about the way the Scripture was fulfilled in him (if I’ve missed any other of Jesus’ use of Scripture, I have at least captured the main ones).

I am aware of some ways of offering a revisionist reading of the Jewish Scripture so that homosexual conduct in general is not addressed. These efforts are a remarkable failure, but this is not the time to address that. My point is just that it is obviously wrong to assume that whatever the Hebrew Scripture says about sexuality, Jesus wanted people to forget it all and rely solely on what he told them (or didn’t tell them). On its own, this means that the argument that “Jesus never said anything about X, so Christians shouldn’t oppose X” is simply wrong.

Is it even true?

The truth is that Jesus did talk about marriage and its nature. The fact that it wasn’t same-sex marriage can hardly be taken to mean that Jesus had no problem with that possibility.

What’s more, the fact that Jesus didn’t say anything about same-sex marriage may simply have reflected the fact that Jesus believed in no such thing as same-sex marriage. Notice that he also didn’t say anything about unicorns. The truth is that Jesus did talk about marriage and its nature. The fact that it wasn’t same-sex marriage can hardly be taken to mean that Jesus had no problem with that possibility. It’s a mistake to assume that the Bible, or the message of Jesus, is a list of don’ts. Don’t do this, don’t do that, and if you want to know what God is against, you need to find the don’t in the Gospel. What we should be more concerned about is what Jesus is in favour of. Once we know that, it will become clear that some things are incompatible with what he calls us to. When people came to Jesus for his opinion on divorce, he didn’t go looking for an explicit prohibition against divorce in the Scripture. There isn’t one. What he did, however, was to draw attention to the book of Genesis, where marriage is first introduced, in order to show that what marriage is is something incompatible with the view in which divorce is fine. The passage itself mentioned nothing about divorce, it simply portrayed marriage.

And what is marriage, according to the model Jesus drew on? How does early Genesis portray it? After reading that everything God made is good, we encounter a case of “it is not good.” It is not good for man to be alone. Without woman, man lacks a counterpart. So God creates the animals, but they are not suitable as companions for men. So God creates a woman, and the man is overjoyed:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This is the part that Jesus quotes in Matthew 19. This is the model of marriage that he appeals to in order to show that divorce is not good. A woman (the companion for a man) and a man come together and form a union here called “one flesh.” While it is true that Jesus here doesn’t say anything explicitly about same-sex marriage, it is only because same-sex marriage is not within the scope of Jesus’ view of marriage. In fact, Jesus underscores the basic structure of marriage here, prefacing his quote with this: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?”

You might try to get out of this by saying that you don’t believe the early Genesis narrative is literal history. Not so fast. You can’t wash your hands of this without taking seriously the question: “OK, so if it’s not literal history, what does it mean?” If you’re going to say that its model of marriage is wrong because it’s not literal history, then you’ve just undermined Jesus’ teaching about divorce. Why is he appealing to a story that’s not literal history? The fact is, if it’s not literal history then you have to ask why it was written the way it was. If it was simply recorded history, then it was written that way because that’s the way events unfolded. But if it’s not literal history, that’s not why it was written this way. Rather, it was written this way for didactic (teaching) purposes. This passage about marriage is here (if this is not literal history) in part to teach us what marriage is like. Indeed, this is exactly how Jesus uses the material in Genesis here.

So if you’re using the argument that Jesus didn’t condemn something, therefore Christians should be fine with it, you really need to brush up your method of interpreting Scripture (or else you should consider supporting slavery and kidnapping, as well as abolishing minimum wages). And if you’re going to use that argument in the case of same-sex marriage, you should probably take a closer look at what Jesus actually taught. For these two independent reasons, this is no respectable way to defend same-sex marriage from a Christian perspective.

Glenn Peoples

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

{ 72 comments… add one }
  • Chris Bowers August 10, 2015, 4:57 pm

    I would agree here that your argumentation is sound.

    The idea that Jesus doesn’t say anything against something (or for something) gives it license is not a valid reasoning. The Bible doesn’t mention cannibalism much, and neither does Jesus, but that doesn’t make it okay.

    However, I think there are passages which bring Jesus into dialogue with and in conversation about same sex marriage.

    In any case, I don’t believe that the passage in Genesis points to the idea of marriage that we have today. Nor do I believe Jesus had the same idea of marriage as his contemporaries. Jesus’ contemporaries viewed the male as the active and deciding member in a sexual union. If the man wanted more wives, he could have them. If the man wanted to divorce his wife for any reason he could do so, and marry as many wives sequentially (this was called “serial monogamy”) as he wanted to.

    Jesus was opposed to the practice of serial monogamy because it left vulnerable children and wives behind with no means of support: all because a man wanted a shiny new sexual partner. This is why Jesus advocates for the indisolubility of marriage.

    Jesus then argues with the Pharisees:

    9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
    11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

    This, right here touches on other “lifestyles” than what the pharisees were used to. The normal Jewish life was, turn 13, get married and move out, and have sex. Divorce the wife when you want and repeat.

    Jesus claims that this is immoral, and that there are other “lifestyles” that people can adopt. One is lifelong celibacy. Celibacy was seen as a sin (and often still is) in Jewish circles. Jesus, contrarily has no problem with it. Next we come to Eunuchs who were made so by men, which is a reference to castration. We know that castrated Eunuchs dressed as women, became transgender (this was a result of the horomone reduction when you remove a man’s testicles), and that these castrated men also engaged in sex with other males as the receptive partner.

    Jesus lastly mentions “eunuchs who were so born”, which is a reference to homosexuals. This idea of “born eunuchs” is also mentioned in the Jewish Talmud.

    While Jesus doesn’t SAY that homosexual acts are permitted, he does acknowledge these different “lifestyles” exist, and that those people shouldn’t marry (or rather aren’t destined to marry).

    Jesus also has an encounter with what is very likely a homosexual, and heals the man’s partner. This occurs in Matt 8 and Luke 7. While no homosexual relationship between the two are overtly mentioned, this is a relationship (Of soldier and trainee) that often had homosexual content, if Roman vases are any guide! These homosexual relationships were also the result of a law that prohibited Roman soldiers from ever marrying. Jesus would have known that he was quite possibly healing a gay man, and everyone of that time would have thought that these men were gay (or at least…

  • David Hillary August 10, 2015, 6:00 pm

    Agree with your points Glenn, however, Jesus did cover a lot of topics including marriage and others you list him as, probably allegedly, not saying anything about.

    Jesus said he came to set us free and to give his life a ransom — isn’t this the same as condemning and providing himself and his example as a solution to kidnapping and slavery?

    Jesus didn’t say anything about hard drugs but he did accept something that might fit that description on the cross.

    Jesus did teach about his light yoke and easy burden, and the yoke is a traditional symbol of taxation and slavery and oppression. You could take that as a ‘low tax’ teaching, except when you look into the topic of taxation you see that Jesus teaching was more about the abolition of taxation than its reduction.

    Although the textual pedigree is dubious, there is a story of Jesus teaching that throwing stones to execute someone was a sin. At the time Jesus lived, the Jews de facto abolished the death penalty (including for murder), and Jesus used this as a rhetorical premise to argue for relief from litigation for and coercive means or enforcing liability for defamation in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:21-26). This rhetorical strategy does not work if Jesus wants them to practice the death penalty for murder. The capital punishment of Jesus is used as a dramatic irony also: Jesus was not executed for murder, as per the law of Moses, but for insult, his body being in danger of the fire of gehenna, the burning rubbish dump outside the city gate, yet being rescued by Joseph of Arimathea. Peter takes Jesus’ death as a falsification of the propaganda that Tiberius sent Pilate to commend the good and punish those who do wrong in 1 Peter 2 — at least an implicit teaching against the practice of the death penalty. The wrongful execution of Jesus is not an aberrant exception to the ‘proper’ administration of justice but rather an object lesson in how it works: those who insult the powerful or challenge their state ideology get killed under colour of law, while those who murder and loot go unpunished most of the time and use the colour of law to murder their opponents. Jesus taught the rejection of coercion as a means of producing order or justice or of righting wrongs, and he taught another way of dealing with injustice and oppression and injuries: forgiveness and love and appeal to honour and shunning. Jesus provided, in Mat 18:15-20, an alternative procedure to state-court litigation and criminal prosecution of ‘offenders’ that has no ‘dragging to court’ (cf. James 2:6) and throwing in debtors’ prison (Luke 12:54-59; Mat 18:30), selling into debt-slavery (Mat 18:25), seizure of property (Mark 12:40). The greatest remedy it provides is to shun the offender.

    Jesus did give teaching and himself as an example of child sacrifice, being the son and heir who was given by his father as a sacrifice.

  • Glenn August 10, 2015, 10:04 pm

    “In any case, I don’t believe that the passage in Genesis points to the idea of marriage that we have today.”

    Well Christopher, it’s true that – if today we have an idea of marriage that includes same-sex unions – this passage in Genesis doesn’t point to our idea of marriage. My concern was just to look at what Jesus is doing – taking a passage and applying it to marriage, in a way that doesn’t include same-sex unions.

    You’re correct that in the examples you point to, there is no homosexual union mentioned or approved of, and I won’t pursue those at all.

    David, that’s partly the point, I guess. I don’t mean to deny that we can draw good inferences about Jesus’ view on those subjects, and the truth is, we don’t need an overt statement in order to do that.

  • Faith Actually August 11, 2015, 1:16 am

    Jesus actually DID say something about homosexuality through the Pauline Epistles. The entire Bible is His Word. Not just what is recorded as His speech during His earthly ministry in the Gospels. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). And His Word is consistently expressed through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

  • Giles August 11, 2015, 10:18 am

    I think you have hit on Liberal Christianity’s embarrassing secret. It’s a form of Marcionism. The God of the Tanakh is cut out of the picture and the New Testament is heavily edited. Dig beneath the surface and there is a deep vein of unconscious anti semitism underlying Christian Liberalism. Paul however has been rehabilitated. He used to be blamed for all the bits liberals don’t like but almost all the sayings that can be cited to support universalism come from his letters so he is back in fashion (except with respect to Romans 1 etc).

  • Giles August 11, 2015, 10:23 am

    Though of course Marcion majored on (some of) Paul’s letters so that just supports the analogy.

  • Michael Brosnan August 11, 2015, 12:46 pm

    Arguments from silence are always tricky.
    I would tend to agree with you BUT JESUS NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT GLENN PEOPLES. …..sorry

  • MatthewFlannagan August 11, 2015, 2:25 pm

    “Jesus was opposed to the practice of serial monogamy because it left vulnerable children and wives behind with no means of support: all because a man wanted a shiny new sexual partner. This is why Jesus advocates for the indisolubility of marriage.”

    That’s false, if you look at the actual text, he opposes serial monogamy because in his view Genesis taught that God had ordained marriage as the union of one man and one women for life and the practise of serial monogamy was an attempt by human law to contradict what God had ordained. That is the reason he gives, not the ones you claim he held.

    “This, right here touches on other “lifestyles” than what the pharisees were used to. The normal Jewish life was, turn 13, get married and move out, and have sex. Divorce the wife when you want and repeat.”

    Actually in the passage you cite he was talking to the disciples not the Pharisees and your description of Jewish practice is false. Judaism was divided on divorce. The Hillel liberal school supported no fault divorce, the more conservative shammai school didn’t, neither did the essenes. Jesus in fact is simply siding with the shammai school in the debate on this issue.

    “Jesus claims that this is immoral, and that there are other “lifestyles” that people can adopt. One is lifelong celibacy. Celibacy was seen as a sin (and often still is) in Jewish circles. Jesus, contrarily has no problem with it. Next we come to Eunuchs who were made so by men, which is a reference to castration. We know that castrated Eunuchs dressed as women, became transgender (this was a result of the horomone reduction when you remove a man’s testicles), and that these castrated men also engaged in sex with other males as the receptive partner.”

    No actually if you look at the text, Jesus was actually addressing the disciples question which that “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” In otherwords the question was about wether its permissible or morally good to “not marry” his response is that this is permissible only for enuchs that is people who are castrated, and so therefore incapable of having sex. He then distinguishes different kinds of enuchs. Those who have renounced sex for the kingdom of heaven and those who have either been born incapable of sex or who have been rendered that way by humans. These three groups are the only groups who are permitted to “not marry”
    I am sure somewhere somehow some people believe that Jesus saying that Enuchs made by men are exempt from the requirement to not marry, means in fact he was saying that homosexuals should marry. Unfortunately it’s not remotely plausible.

    What Jesus did say was that God created marriage as a union of one man and one women for life and that everyone who is capable of sexual relations is required to get married so defined unless they renounce sex altogether.

  • Christopher Bowers August 11, 2015, 3:27 pm

    >Well Christopher, it’s true that – if today we have an idea of marriage that includes >same-sex unions – this passage in Genesis doesn’t point to our idea of marriage. My >concern was just to look at what Jesus is doing – taking a passage and applying it to >marriage, in a way that doesn’t include same-sex unions.

    My point is that Jesus’ reference to Genesis doesn’t match with Traditionalist Christianity’s current idea of marriage. Genesis approves of polygamy. Do TCs? No. You pay a dowry price. Do we do that now? No. Arranged marriage? No. Marry at 13? No. No fault divorces?

    My point is while Genesis doesn’t point to homosexual unions, neither does it point to the type of marriages TC’s have in Christian culture currently.

    >You’re correct that in the examples you point to, there is no homosexual union >mentioned or approved of, and I won’t pursue those at all.

    There is literal wording and there is context. In context, everyone knows that Centurion soldiers were often lovers with their servants. Everyone in the historical context knew that “born eunuchs” was a reference to homosexuals and that castrated eunuchs were transgendered.

    While Jesus doesn’t explicitly say that these unions were approved of, he DOES say that these alternative lifestyles were as legitimate as marriage, and that these people are not called to marriage.

    This is very different than

    A. The Jewish belief among certain pharisees at the time that every man should be married.

    B. The current traditionalist (in some circles) idea that homosexuals need to be straight and get married via conversion therapy.

    By contrast Jesus states that homosexuals are not “called” to marriage. While not explicitly approving of gay unions or of gay sex, that is a decidedly progressive standpoint on homosexuals for his time.

  • Christopher Bowers August 11, 2015, 3:42 pm

    >That’s false, if you look at the actual text, he opposes serial monogamy because in his view >Genesis taught that God had ordained marriage as the union of one man and one women >for life and the practise of serial monogamy was an attempt by human law to contradict >what God had ordained. That is the reason he gives, not the ones you claim he held.

    This part “as the union of one man and one women >for life”, and specifically this part
    “one man and one woman” is false.

    The SAME book Jesus quotes, Genesis, had writers that clearly, clearly, CLEARLY approved of polygamy. Just a few chapters later in Genesis we have the book talking about polygamous marriage in Genesis 4:19.

    Not only that, but polygamous marriage was MANDATED by God in levitate marriage. It is not credible that Genesis meant only “one woman” when it clearly approved of polygamy. You can’t use Genesis, a book riddled with polygamy, to justify monogamy.

    Jesus argues not for exclusivity in marriage, but the non-dissolving of marriage. In other words, marry as many people as you want, but don’t divorce any of them.

    >Judaism was divided on divorce….

    I agree. But there is a difference between what two different authorities say and what actually happened. Women did not have the rights now that they had then. Serial monogamy was a serious concern.

    >his response is that this is permissible only for enuchs that is people who are castrated, >and so therefore incapable of having sex. He then distinguishes different kinds of >enuchs. Those who have renounced sex for the kingdom of heaven and those who have >either been born incapable of sex or who have been rendered that way by humans.

    Wishful thinking and whitewashing. Eunuchs who were castrated engaged in cross dressing and transgenderism as well as homosexual sex. Castrated Eunuchs are not incapable of homosexual sex, they can be the receptive partner and often were. This is a reaction to the reduction of testosterone in the body because of the removal of the testes.

    “Eunuchs born so” isn’t a reference to “those incapable of sex” it’s been directly linked to homosexuality with references to this phrase in the Talmud, as well as references to it by early church fathers. If you would like references I can provide them.

    No, I’m sorry, eunuchs (both castrated and born so) are references to homosexuals, homosexual behavior, and transgenderism.

  • David Hillary August 11, 2015, 4:53 pm

    Matt suggests Jesus sided with the shammai school against no-fault divorce. This is only partly true and misses the principle and theme of Jesus teaching. Let’s look at the shammai school’s position: marriage is to be honoured, however a serious breach of the marriage obligations such as adultery, can provide grounds for the dissolution of marriage and the innocent (and the guilty) spouse taking someone else. So their position is very familiar to us today and most people accept it without question: one can take action against someone else and do things that would otherwise be prohibited provided the one they are acting against (taking property from etc.) is afforded due protection such as due process of law and the wrong they have done is sufficiently serious and that the action’s extent is limited to the extent of the wrong they have done.

    However, Jesus actually rejects this teaching and takes a radically different position: that one must do no evil, even to enemies, even to the guilty, even when the guilt is proven to a civil or criminal standard of proof, even when all the legal formalities and paperwork is in order and even when limited by and to the extent of the guilt or harm caused by the other party. Granted, when you look at Matthew’s account, it looks like Jesus is agreeing with shammai school and allowing an exception for the grounds of fornication but he not.

    For example, see Mark 10:11-12:
    “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

    Jesus gives a class ruling on divorce and remarriage: The marriage of a new spouse after divorce is adultery. That is to say he rules that the original marriage is valid, and the new marriage is adultery. He does not rule that divorce itself (with or without cause) is adultery. It is not adultery, it is breach of the marriage obligation to live together etc. But when one takes another person and has sexual relations with them, he commits adultery, regardless of whether his divorce was with cause or without cause.

    Luke 16:18:
    “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

    Again no mention of cause because in Jesus teaching it does not matter. This ruling also includes that marrying a divorce woman is adultery against her real husband, i.e. the divorce is invalid and not adequate basis for having sexual relations with someone else — again regardless of the adequacy of the grounds for the divorce.

    In the Sermon on the Mount it is important to understand it as rhetoric. There is humour and the clever use of irony and contrasts to make vivid points. The divorce teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is this:
    “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    The meaning and purpose of the reference to the wife’s lack of sexual immorality is fairly obvious: here is an innocent woman, who is divorced by her husband and then remarries and only then does she commit the sexual immorality she was previously innocent of!

  • David Hillary August 11, 2015, 5:11 pm

    continued
    Mat 19:
    “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    This ruling means exactly what it says: the one who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another woman commits adultery. It never says anything in justification of divorce on grounds of sexual immorality, or that following a divorce on such grounds that one is free to take another spouse without being guilty of adultery.

    If you read the teaching of Jesus the theme is clear and the principle is stated explicitly: we cannot use the wrongs of others as a justification for doing evil against them. We must be perfect, never doing or permitting evil as a means of upholding good or right, regardless of due process of law and regardless of the guilt of the target and regardless of the safeguards afforded the accused and the guilty. Mat 5:38-39:
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.”
    This is an explicit reference to the legally regulated and legally limited process of obtaining financial compensation for injuries by the force of the law. It obviously does not refer to unregulated private revenge.

    The same principle applies and explains Jesus’s teachings on both divorcing an adulterous spouse and then using a divorce judgement to justify taking someone else, and taking legal action against a debtor and then using a court judgement against the judgement debtor to take his property by force or to put him in debtor’s prison.

    The standard of conduct he requires is perfection and absolute prohibition on doing evil. The guilt of others is no justification for doing evil to any extent whatsoever. The only remedies allowed are those what are not evil, such as appeals to honour, enlistment of social but non-coercive vindication, and shunning (Mat 15:15-20)

  • Giles August 11, 2015, 5:47 pm

    It’s significant Jesus uses porneia (sexual immorality) not moicheia (adultery) in the passage in Mathew. I believe he refers to the case of a woman who pretends to be a virgin on her wedding night. Mathew includes this clause because Joseph meant to divorce Mary prior to learning of the virginal conception. So it’s pre marital porneia not adultery that is in view, as I read it.

  • David Hillary August 11, 2015, 5:47 pm

    Another example, not from Jesus but Paul, shows the standard of conduct as perfection is Romans 13:8-10
    Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    The meaning is fairly clear: pay your debts, but when your debtor does not pay his debt to you, that cannot justify doing harm to him in order to force him to pay. The duty to do no harm to a neighbour is unconditional and absolute. Doing no harm to a neighbour is the sum of social obligation, in contrast to paying taxes or doing no harm to those whose debts to you are not overdue and unpaid.

  • David Hillary August 11, 2015, 8:36 pm

    Giles,

    The term used by Jesus concerning the fault of the wife being used as the ground for divorce refers to any form of sexual immorality. The term he uses to describe remarriage after divorce, however, is specifically adultery. Is there any reason to think anything specific is in mind here concerning the grounds for the divorce?

  • Glenn August 11, 2015, 9:16 pm

    “This part “as the union of one man and one women >for life”, and specifically this part
    “one man and one woman” is false.”

    No, that’s not the case, Christopher. Go to the passage that Jesus used as the model of marriage: One man, one woman, coming together and forming a permanent union. So the “one man, one woman” part is absolutely correct. Just as God allowed divorce – something Jesus stated, so he allowed polygamy, but, to use your choice of words, this passage that Jesus cites as the model of marriage “clearly clearly” is monogamous and heterosexual.

    “No, I’m sorry, eunuchs (both castrated and born so) are references to homosexuals, homosexual behavior, and transgenderism.”

    The evidence for that is wanting. You don’t have (as far as evidence goes) the right to say it. But in any event, that’s not the issue here and it will not become the issue. This blog post is about 1) The faulty methodology of assuming that since Jesus doesn’t explicitly condemn something then it’s acceptable, and 2) the dubious belief that this shoddy principle, even if accepted, would mean that Jesus never advocated a heterosexual model of marriage.

    Because of my past experience with you, I’m going to stipulate that if you’re going to continue commenting on this thread, you limit your comments to those subject areas. Alternatively, start a blog.

  • Matthew Flannagan August 11, 2015, 9:33 pm

    .
    “This part “as the union of one man and one women >for life”, and specifically this part“one man and one woman” is false.The SAME book Jesus quotes, Genesis, had writers that clearly, clearly, CLEARLY approved of polygamy. Just a few chapters later in Genesis we have the book talking about polygamous marriage in Genesis 4:19…. Jesus argues not for exclusivity in marriage, but the non-dissolving of marriage. In other words, marry as many people as you want, but don’t divorce any of them.”

    Sorry, but in fact your mistaken here this is what Matthew’s gospel actually says
    “ And He answered and said,“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

    Notice Jesus uses the words, “the two shall become one flesh” so he clearly refers to a man and a women, the words “two” are not in the Masoretic text. However, they were part of a common gloss on the torah which is found in, the syriatic pessa, spetuagint, Samaritan pentetech and several targums. So Jesus here cites an exegetical tradition that understands Genesis as teaching one man and one women. Moreover, the argument Jesus gives here, in the context of Rabbinical debate about marriage in fact was a common line of argument used to maintain marriage was monogamous. In fact the Quram community quoted the same passage “he created them male and female” as a ground for monogamy as opposed to polygamy. So all the evidence we have actually shows Jesus was appropriating an interpretative tradition which stressed the monogamy of the original union
    As to Genesis 4:19, it doesn’t actually say anything in favour of Polygamy what it says is
    “Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.”
    Here its simply ,”records” Lamech taking two wives it immediately goes on to state: “
    Lamech said to his wives,
    “Adah and Zillah,
    Listen to my voice,
    You wives of Lamech,
    Give heed to my speech,
    For I [n]have killed a man for wounding me;
    And a boy for striking me;
    24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
    Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

    So just after stating Lamech took two wives its states he, murdered a man copying the sin of his faither Cain and boasted about it.

    So to take Lamech’s recorded actions in this passage as an endorsement of polygamy, in context commits you to also claiming the passage supports murdering people for striking you and boasting about it.

  • Matthew Flannagan August 11, 2015, 9:35 pm

    “Eunuchs born so” isn’t a reference to “those incapable of sex” it’s been directly linked to homosexuality with references to this phrase in the Talmud, as well as references to it by early church fathers. If you would like references I can provide them. No, I’m sorry, eunuchs (both castrated and born so) are references to homosexuals, homosexual behavior, and transgenderism.”

    Sorry but that’s false as well, seeing you claimed that that the phrase “ being born a Enuch” is refers to homosexuals I’ll refer you to what the Talmud says:

    “WHAT IS TERMED A PEZU’A? Our Rabbis taught: What is termed a pezu’a dakkah? A man both of whose stones were wounded or even only one of them; even though they were only punctured, crushed, or simply defective. Said R. Ishmael son of R. Johanan b. Beroka: I heard from the mouth of the Sages at the Vineyard at Jabneh that one having only one stone is a natural born eunuch and is, therefore, a fit person. How could it be said that such a person is a natural born eunuch! — Say rather, he is like a natural born eunuch and is, therefore, fit.
    Is [a man whose stones are] punctured incapable of procreation? and a thorn pierced his stones, [his semen] issued like a thread of pus, and, [despite the accident], he begat children! — In that case, as a matter of fact, Samuel sent word to Rab, telling him, ‘Institute enquiries respecting the parentage of his children’.
    Rab Judah stated in the name of Samuel: A man whose stones have been injured by a supernatural agency is regarded as a fit person. Said Raba: This is the reason why the Scriptural text reads, Who is wounded and not ‘the wounded
    In a Baraitha it was taught: It was said in Scripture. He who is wounded … shall not enter3 and it was also said, A bastard shall not enter,’ as the latter is the result of human action, so is the former the result of human action”
    Note what is said, the text is dealing with the command in Deuteronomy 23“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 2“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD.”
    The Rabbis here are determining who and who does not fall under this prohibition. Moreover define what they are talking about, a person who has damaged gentialia, particular damage gentialia that might prevent them procreating. And are asking if a person who it states explicitly that its refering to a person who has both or one testicle wounded. The text refers to a natural born enuch as one whose gentailia has been born with such an injury. If you read on in the Talmud, you’ll see rather detailed discussions of various different injuries to ones gentalia discussed and wether that does or does not count, to fall under the law. So its pretty clear what the phrase refers to.

    Jesus in a debate with the Pharisees draws distinctions Pharisees drew about having damaged gentailia specifically damage that makes one incapable of procreation.
    Finally its worth reiterating my point that, in context, when Jesus refered to Enuchs is was in answer to the question wether it was good to *not* marry. He lists eunichs as the group who are exempt from the prohibition to marry, as one group who can accept the suggestion “its better not to marry”.

    So to suggest Jesus is actually saying homosexuals should marry is really stretching this passage.

  • bethyada August 11, 2015, 9:51 pm

    The SAME book Jesus quotes, Genesis, had writers that clearly, clearly, CLEARLY approved of polygamy. Just a few chapters later in Genesis we have the book talking about polygamous marriage in Genesis 4:19.

    Not only that, but polygamous marriage was MANDATED by God in levitate marriage. It is not credible that Genesis meant only “one woman” when it clearly approved of polygamy. You can’t use Genesis, a book riddled with polygamy, to justify monogamy.

    You make several illogical appeals. Jesus quotes Genesis because it contains the story of creation. That Genesis contains other stories is irrelevant to the issue. Jesus appeals to the creational intention. Though polygamy is mentioned in Genesis 4 there is no indication that it views it positively. Polygamy can be addressed in the same way divorce was: it is not God’s creational design. It may be neutral, or permissible, or even good in some situations, but it is not what God intended. Jesus’ appeal to creation answers all appeals to what marriage is.

    As to your other claims: Genesis doesn’t match with Traditionalist Christianity’s current idea of marriage. Genesis approves of polygamy. Do TCs? No. You pay a dowry price. Do we do that now? No. Arranged marriage? No. Marry at 13? No. No fault divorces?

    As a traditionalist. Polygamy is a post-Fall phenomenon. It is not the ideal. It may be permissible in some situations. It may be preferable occasionally depending on the context. The Levirate law was to provide for the widow not the brother—that is it was a mercy act.

    Dowries (for women) were good in the cultural context. They are unnecessary in a Western context but not a bad thing in themselves.

    Arranged marriages have a good track record compared to the Western version. They are a valid method even now. And the Bible knows of both arranged marriage and marriage for love (though this was arranged).

    I have no problems with girls marrying post puberty. I think Western culture is such that most young post-pubertal girls lack the appropriate maturity for marriage. But better marrying at 14 or 15 than being sexually active outside marriage from that age, especially if multiple partners are involved.

    The Bible doesn’t promote no fault divorce.

    Further, you claim that “eunuch” has various meanings. But even on your interpretation, what of it? Jesus doesn’t approve of eunuchs being made so by men just because he uses them as an example. So why would he approve if some cross-dressed. It is irrelevant what eunuchs-made-by-men did, all that matters is that they are eunuchs and thus can’t marry as they can’t have sex.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 12:43 am

    David, thanks. My reasoning (actually John Piper’s – I’m not a big fan but he’s right sometimes) is as follows. Mathew includes the story of Joseph nearly divorcing Mary but says Joseph was just. If he had not included the exceptive clause he would make it look ad though Joseph was condemned and contradict himself. Elsewhere he lists porneia and mocheia together indicating he uses porneia for fornication. Also both Mathew and Luke say (absent NIV mistranslation of Mathew) that anyone who marries a divorced woman (no exceptions) commits adultery, regardless of whether she has been abandoned for another woman. And reading porneia as fornication eliminates contradiction between Mathew and Luke. After all why would Luke’s readers assume that a blanket statement contained a concealed exception? It make sense to me. In John Jesus is accused of being born of porneia which also fits. And Paul (like Luke) says nothing of an exception for adultery though he allows separation from unbelievers if they wish it.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 12:58 am

    Incidentally I’m not so convinced as to criticise divorced people on this basis. Jesus deals with the Edenic ideal. We fall short all the time and it’s not clear to me that he meant second wives should be abandoned.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 1:27 am

    Should have said moicheia not mocheia.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 7:12 am

    Giles, the idea Matthew includes Joseph’s intentions and reasoning, and describes him as ‘just’ does have some merit. I take him to mean that Matthew portrays the remedy of divorce or breaking off the engagement as just either absolutely, or in comparison to an illegal honour killing, being the alternative in view.

    As I mentioned above, Jesus teaching little against divorce by itself, but always against the combination of divorce and remarriage, wither with or without cause.

    However, none of this shows that the specific scenario in mind addressed by Jesus was that of ‘the case of a woman who pretends to be a virgin on her wedding night.’ He may have made rulings or teaching that apply to that case, but the more natural way to understand the teaching is based on the actual words he is recorded as saying.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 7:41 am

    Fair enough. I’m not committed. But one then has to explain why Jesus uses porneia for the grounds of divorce and moicheia to describe remarriage. And why Luke and Paul don’t include the exceptive clause. The notion that their readers would have assumed one I find unpersuasive. But maybe we are wandering off topic. If so apologies to Glenn.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 7:57 am

    Also in Luke Jesus says its adultery if a man divorces his wife and remarries but immediately adds that anyone marrying a divorced woman commits adultery. But on your reading of Mathew it wouldn’t be adultery in the case of the divorced woman just referred to (16:18).

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 7:58 am

    Giles,

    Actually your explanation does seem possible as a way to explain why in Matthew there is reference to porneia while in Mark and Luke there is not.

    In both cases Matthew has reason to refer to perneia:
    In the Sermon on the Mount, it serves the rhetorical function of contrasting the woman’s innocence before her divorce and her guilt after remarrying. The man causes his wife to commit adultery, a species of porneia, while previously she was innocent of every kind of porneia.

    In Mat 19 Jesus says exactly the same thing: that the one who divorces his wife not on the grounds of sexual immorality and then marries another is responsible for ‘to cause to commit adultery.’ This word moichaō in the New Testament always means to cause to commit adultery, and it is always used for the act of taking another person after a divorce or causing one’s wife to so take another man by way of divorcing her. A slightly different form of the word seems to be used for adultery in general: moicheuō which is defined as ‘to commit adultery with.’ Porneia obviously has a wide and general coverage of all kinds of sexual immorality. Jesus refers to it for two reasons in Mat 19: the issue at hand was the grounds for divorce, so he teaches that divorce not on grounds of porneia is a cause of porneia — this addressed the real issue of concern for those against any matter divorce policy in a legal and rhetorical way. However he also introduced teaching that went beyond the shammai school position:
    1. Divorce itself was against God’s will: ‘what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ This applies regardless of cause, hence the follow up question/objection.
    2. Divorce was itself for hardness of heart, i.e. spiritual adultery against God’s will in rejecting marriage as union and permanent loyalty.
    3. Divorce without grounds of sexual immorality is to cause guilt of sexual immorality on taking another woman where previously she and he were innocent of sexual immorality.

    The invalidity of divorce applies regardless of cause: it is against God’s will and it is spiritual adultery. Divorce on grounds other than sexual immorality therefore is not only invalid, but a cause of sexual immorality when it leads to remarriage.

    There is a difference between separation and divorce also. In Mark the opponents of Jesus seem to take his position as against divorce entirely. The question of cause does not enter the discussion at all because it was not the only issue at stake. The issue at stake was whether divorce was lawful at all and so the answer that it was not, and that it was spiritual adultery, and that remarriage after divorce was actual adultery stands regardless of cause. But Jesus didn’t forbid separation, and neither did Paul.

    The question of whether breaking an engagement with cause would be the permitted and whether the person could marry someone else is not discussed. You could argue that the two were not yet made one and so they would be free to re-marry.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 8:18 am

    Giles, Luke 16:18 is not at all difficult. The man who divorces his wife and takes another woman commits adultery. It doesn’t say he causes adultery, it says he commits it. Adultery may have been caused by his former wife. But he commits it if he takes another. But if divorce is invalid his wife is still married to him, so anyone taking her commits adultery against him, even if he is not himself a divorcee.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 8:52 am

    Ah, I think I understand your position now. I went back over your comments. But I still have the problem that in Mathew 19 Jesus seems to say that remarriage isn’t adultery if the grounds for divorce is porneia. You seem to say it would be? Re betrothal it seems generally accepted that it was considered as binding as marriage.

  • Christopher Bowers August 12, 2015, 8:54 am

    Glenn, several people are attacking my argument on a wide array of points. I would like to address these objections as systematically and as tersely as I can, without turning this into a thesis or research project.

    >The evidence for that is wanting. You don’t have (as far as evidence goes) the right to say >it.

    There is extensive evidence that “born eunuchs” did not at all refer to people with deformities, but instead people who had homosexual proclivities. There is EXTENSIVE evidence that castrated Eunuchs in roman times engaged in homosexual sex as the receptive partner, were transgendered and adorned women’s clothing, and there is biological proof that there is a significant horomonal change when a male is castrated, such that they begin to act and feel as if they are female. (Testosterone, from a personality standpoint, is one of the main things that distinguishes a male and female mindset).

    For the castrated one acting in a homosexual manner, the evidence is rife.

    Instead of writing a lengthy description of the evidence I will direct you here:
    http://www.well.com/~aquarius/cardiff.htm

    Ulpian, Gaius and Paulus (all roman near-contemporaries of Jesus) explain that “born eunuchs” do not have any physical deformity.

    Clement, in Stromata III, I has this to say about the passage, and specifically about what “born Eunuchs” means.

    Stromata 3.1.1):

    “Some men by birth have a nature to turn away from women, and those who are subject to this natural constitution do well not to marry. These, they say, are the eunuchs by birth.”

    It’s clear from that, Clement was referring to homosexuals, not people who were some way genetically deformed. Clement is second generation (as in Jesus, apostles, Clement’s time), so I think what he believes about this slang phrase, being so close to Jesus’ time, is radically important.

    The Talmud states that “born eunuchs” can be “cured” while “crushed” eunuchs cannot be. If we go with Matt’s assertion that “born eunuch” means physical deformity, that contradicts with the Talmud, which mentions “born eunuchs” and rules out deformities.
    (you can’t cure a physical deformity of the genitals in 200AD!)

    As far as polygamy goes, Matt, you said “So Jesus here cites an exegetical tradition that understands Genesis as teaching one man and one women. ”

    Nope. Two become one flesh. Then another comes along and also becomes one flesh in polygamy.

    You can’t assert that YOUR culture of marriage is REALLY what the ancient Jews meant when they said “one flesh”. Judaism continued to practice polygamy for another thousand years! Polygamy was COMPULSORY in Jewish law in the case of Levirate marriage! All of the patriarchs and most holy men in the Old Testament were polygamous: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Israel’s greatest King, David. God even said specifically to David “If that amount of wives were not enough, I would have given you more!”

    The assertion that what Genesis REALLY means is to bolster YOUR sexual ideals rather than the Jewish ones (which were polygamous) is the height of cultural insult!

    Jews believed in and mandated polygamy. The writers of Genesis believed in Polygamy. Leviticus mandated polygamy. Many of the Jewish converts to Christianity were polygamous. All the kings of Israel were polygamous.

    You can’t just look at the phrase “one flesh” and say “SEE? THE BIBLE AGREED WITH MY CULTURE ALL ALONG!”

  • David hillary August 12, 2015, 8:59 am

    Giles Jesus never ruled divorce legal for any cause and never ruled remarriage after divorce legal. He did give one ruling on the case where the cause was not sexual immortality, but that doesn’t govern other cases

  • Christopher Bowers August 12, 2015, 9:17 am

    >As a traditionalist. Polygamy is a post-Fall phenomenon. It is not the ideal. It may be >permissible in some situations. It may be preferable occasionally depending on the >context. The Levirate law was to provide for the widow not the brother—that is it was a >mercy act.

    Irrelevant. Christianity (and Judaism) operate on objective morality.

    Either something is immoral or it isn’t.

    Giving five dollars to the poor isn’t ideal. The idea “to be perfect” is giving up all your worldly possessions and following Jesus. But keeping your posessions and being a carpenter is not a sin.

    Polygamy is not immoral according to the old testament or new testament. Saying “It isn’t the ideal” is not relevant in a discussion of right vs. wrong, it’s only a relevant comment in terms of moral perfection.

    The idea that Christians have is that polygamy is immoral and wrong and it isn’t. Sure polygamy is not ideal, neither is driving your car in the rain, or saying two prayers instead of 100.

    You’re just trying to dodge it because biblical sexuality doesn’t match up to your Christian, northern european/american sexuality. You would like to believe the Bible and your morality match exactly. They don’t. The Bible approves of polygamy and you don’t.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 9:28 am

    Thanks David. I can see the argument. Jesus says remarriage is adultery in cases where porneia is not in view but not that it isn’t in other cases. I just can’t get around that the “except for porneia” clause seems to me to imply, even if it does not state, an exception. I’d be happier with the claim that remarriage after divorce for porneia is not adultery but is nevertheless prohibited. But I think it’s a fine difference between us. Your general reading of how our moral obligations work I am inclined to agree with.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 9:44 am

    Veering back to the strict topic I think Christopher’s evidence as to the meaning of those born eunuchs is very persuasive.

  • Glenn August 12, 2015, 10:08 am

    Christopher, without warrant you introduced the claim (an unsubstantiated claim) about homosexuality and eunuchs. There was no good evidence for that claim, in spite of your assertion, and evidence has now been presented that shows you were wrong. Yes, people responded to you, and I told you not to derail this into a subject of your choosing. You don’t get to decide that because people have replied to you, you’ll do it anyway. No more. You shouldn’t have tried to derail this in the first place (especially into an area where you didn’t even know the source material to which you referred, as has now been shown). Don’t argue with me about it or I simply won’t allow you to comment here at all.

    Those who want to see you commenting, seemingly without end, on polygamy, can visit an old thread to see it. I think I was fairly generous to you then in giving you a platform, and there’s no need to simply reproduce that here. If, after commenting quite a few times, you’ve expressed yourself and not everybody agrees with you, live with it. (This is a pre-emptive warning not to return to your old form.)

    But back on subject, your interpretation of Jesus’ use of Genesis is not plausible. The two shall become one. If you say that another one comes along and becomes one with them so actually “the three shall become one flesh”, then you may do so, but you’re stepping outside of the model in Genesis that Jesus quotes, and I think you can see that. I am not interested in your pretend outrage at me imposing my “culture.” This is the appeal that Jesus made, and Jesus is not a product of my culture. Jesus said, using Genesis, that there is a male and a female, and the two become one.

    You might not like this model (I don’t know). You might for some reason think this isn’t the ideal. But that’s what is presented in the creation narrative, and that’s what Jesus appeals to. My culture is neither here nor there.

    When it comes to Levirate marriage – as I have pointed out to you before (time fades the memory), a prima facie obligation to marry somebody under a specific set of circumstances in the first place does not mean that you have to do it even if you’re already married, and in the second place is a less than ideal situation. The woman’s husband has died, after all, and in a covenant context where descent is very important, the brother steps in when things go wrong. So you haven’t shown (no matter how many times you repeat yourself) that polygamy was mandated here, and you also would not have shown – even if you did provide evidence (which you didn’t) that this situation was on par with monogamy as an ideal.

    So to reiterate: the Jewish creation story does indeed depict heterosexual monogamy as the model of marriage, and Jesus appeals to this model.

    Side note: Contemporary Jewish scholarship, reflecting on the Hebrew Scripture, likewise view polygamy as tolerated in Scripture but not lauded. See “Legal aspects” at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10949-monogamy

    Christopher Bowers’ personal culture might be better, in your view, than Jewish or Christian culture, and maybe everyone should prefer your interpretation of Scripture to Jewish and Christian interpretations. But I doubt it.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 10:15 am

    Glenn, I’d just like to apologise. I missed that you had ruled the subject of eunuchs off topic when I made my last comment.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 10:19 am

    Giles, the closer you look into the idea that Jesus is creating an exception the more it breaks down. Initially, when you look at it, it seems like the law of Moses gives grounds for divorce and permits remarriage after divorce. So if Jesus is going to change anything, his changes are to be expressed as such, so an exception on the basis of cause would seem to apply.

    The problem with that is that Jesus gives a number of rulings and/or his rulings are expressed in a number of different ways. There are essentially 2 rulings, one that divorce and remarriage is adultery, and the other than divorce without cause of sexual immorality followed by remarriage is adultery. These rulings therefore cover both cases unless the exception is implied but not stated in the first. The idea that an exception can be implied is not that implausible, for example, divorce, followed by death of one spouse and remarriage of the other following the death of his former spouse, is not adultery. We have to imply this is not applicable to the ruling because it does not expressly state such an exception. It is not so implausible to suggest that it could be taken for granted that the divorce he is ruling on is divorce without adequate cause.

    However, when you look into the teaching more carefully, you see other factors at work and a doctrinal basis for rejection of divorce and remarriage with or without adequate cause. There are two aspects: First the permanence of the union: its institution by God so that should not be overturned by human courts or husbands’ divorce certificates. Second, the teaching about responses to wrongdoing and what can be justified on the basis of the wrongdoing of others. This is where you see that the evil done by a spouse does not justify the other spouse taking someone else. For example, the woman divorced by her husband not for sexual immorality is innocent of sexual immorality, but becomes guilty of adultery if she remarries even though she was previously innocent. So, the innocent spouse has no right to remarry. It follows that divorce is not permitted on the grounds of the fault of the other spouse, hence the question whether divorce is lawful at all arises. Jesus never teaches that divorce is adultery. Divorce perhaps can be a wrong against an innocent spouse and a justified remedy against a guilty one. But the rulings of Jesus focus on the adultery of taking another person rather than the divorce itself.

    The use of the references for the grounds of divorce can be fully explained as rhetoric — explaining that divorce not on grounds of sexual immorality is the cause of sexual immorality on taking someone else by either party, and as a teaching on the position of the innocent spouse — the woman divorced not on grounds of sexual immorality is innocent, and is wronged by her spouse, yet it still is not lawful for her to take someone else.

    When you compare with the teaching of Jesus on litigation and debt enforcement you see exactly the same principle: the debt or wrong of the other party does not justify dragging him to court, handing him over to the officer, judging him, condemning him, seizing his property to pay the judgement debt, putting him in debtor’s prison or taking his life.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 10:40 am

    David, thanks for the full explanation. As I say I’d be happy with the stance that remarriage after porneia (like remarriage after the death of the spouse) is not adultery but that (unlike remarriage after the death of the spouse) it is still forbidden. I agree with your view of moral obligations and how they work from the perspective of Jesus teaching. So there’s only a hair’s breadth between us.
    My suggestion that divorce/putting aside for (concealed) premarital fornication was allowed was not necessarily intended to imply that a subsequent remarriage is permissible, just that it wouldn’t be adultery. Though it could be that the logic here is that the man who lay with the wife before her marriage is her true husband in which case a “second” marriage for the husband could be regarded as the first true marriage. But how we would apply that to a world in which even Christian brides are rarely virgins I don’t really know. Your position would avoid that dilemma.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 10:52 am

    On reflection, if my position is right I think the logic would be that the dissolved marriage was null due to being founded on fraud, the husband having paid a bride price for a virgin bride. This would dishonour the father who accepted the bride price also, hence the Mosaic emphasis on the bride having “played the whore” from her father’s house. This reading (that the marriage is nullified due to fraud) would avoid having to say that everyone is married to the first person they had sex with.
    But of course if you are right all this reasoning is void.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 11:01 am

    Giles, the approach you are looking at where remarriage would be prohibited but not adultery doesn’t seem to match the rhetorical and legal arguments made by Jesus. Jesus tackles the issue by identifying remarriage as adultery. What follows from this is that divorce is generally or absolutely prohibited but it is not adultery. If divorce is the means to remarriage, it is the cause of adultery, but it is not adultery itself. So the problem with divorce is that it can lead the innocent spouse to commit adultery on remarriage, and that it can lead to the spouse’s new lover to commit adultery, and it can be the means of a spouse committing adultery — Jesus covers all three of these in exactly this way, does he not?

    The question of pre-marital sexual relations is somewhat moot. If the spouses engaged in such before they were ‘legally’ married this could never be a grounds for breaking an engagement or a marriage. Having sexual relations with another partner before the marriage is very difficult to prove either the guilt or the loss. In the case of Joseph and Mary, the death penalty was legally impossible because the burden of proof for capital cases was impossible so the alternatives were an illegal honour killing or a divorce. In considering a quiet divorce, Joseph is described as just. Whether he had previously been married and had children or whether he would look to remarry we do not know.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 11:29 am

    You may be right. I think John Piper’s position and yours are both viable. Our difference would come into play only in the case of someone who has married on the false promise that our bride was a virgin and who wished to dissolve their marriage. A rare case in Western culture though perhaps less so in more traditional societies. I won’t argue further as I don’t know you are wrong and you make a good case. Best Wishes
    (note to Glenn, I accidentally put my email address in place of my name, if that breaches the rules I won’t complain if you delete it).

  • Matthew Flannagan August 12, 2015, 12:12 pm

    “The Talmud states that “born eunuchs” can be “cured” while “crushed” eunuchs cannot be. If we go with Matt’s assertion that “born eunuch” means physical deformity, that contradicts with the Talmud, which mentions “born eunuchs” and rules out deformities. (you can’t cure a physical deformity of the genitals in 200AD!)”

    Sorry Chris buts its possible for people to actually read the Talmud in fact I quoted directly from it, here is the relevant portion again.:

    “WHAT IS TERMED A PEZU’A? Our Rabbis taught: What is termed a pezu’a dakkah? A man both of whose stones were wounded or even only one of them; even though they were only punctured, crushed, or simply defective. Said R. Ishmael son of R. Johanan b. Beroka: I heard from the mouth of the Sages at the Vineyard at Jabneh that one having only one stone is a natural born eunuch and is, therefore, a fit person. How could it be said that such a person is a natural born eunuch! — Say rather, he is like a natural born eunuch and is, therefore, fit.
    Is [a man whose stones are] punctured incapable of procreation? and a thorn pierced his stones, [his semen] issued like a thread of pus, and, [despite the accident], he begat children! “

    Note what’s being said here, first we are told that one school of thought in Judaism held that a person who had one damaged testicle was a natural born enuch. This suggests the term was used this way in the first century.
    The Rabbis however object, to this claim, they argue that a person with one stone is not a natural born enuch, why not? Because a person with one stone can still reproduce he can produce semen In otherwords the text uses the phrase “natural born enuch” to refer to someone who was born with a of condition that prevents them reproducing i.e can produce natural semen.

  • Matthew Flannagan August 12, 2015, 12:17 pm

    Chris said

    The Talmud states that “born eunuchs” can be “cured” while “crushed” eunuchs cannot be. If we go with Matt’s assertion that “born eunuch” means physical deformity, that contradicts with the Talmud, which mentions “born eunuchs” and rules out deformities. (you can’t cure a physical deformity of the genitals in 200AD!)”

    Sorry, but again I will have to refer you to the text of the Talmud, because the section your quoting from actually supports what I said above. Here is the passage your refering to in context:

    “What are we to understand by A SARIS BY NATURE? — R. Isaac b. Joseph replied in the name of R. Johanan: Any man who has not experienced a moment [of life] in a state of fitness.1 How could this2 be ascertained? — Abaye replied: [By observing whether] when he urinates no arch is formed. What are the causes? — That the child’s mother baked at noon and drank strong beer.
    R. Joseph said: It must have been such a saris of whom I heard Ammi saying. ‘He who is afflicted from birth’, and I did not know [at the time] to whom he was referring. But should we not take into consideration the possibility that he might have recovered in the meantime! — Since he suffered from affliction in his early as well as in his later life, no [possible interval of recovery] need be taken into consideration. R. Mari raised an objection: R. Hanina b. Antigonos stated, ‘It is to be examined three times in eighty days’! — Precautions are to be taken in respect of one limb; in respect of the entire body no such precautions need be taken.

    Note what happens here, the Rabbis ask what a Saris (enuch) by nature is, and they answer the question who cannot produce fertile semen. They state one can tell if a person is a natural Enuch by examining there penis and seeing if it has irregular function. It is suggested this is caused by to the mother drinking while pregnant. This passage therefore defines a Enuch by birth and doesn’t define it as a homosexual. Its defined as a man whose penis doesn’t function to produce semen .i.e someone who cant reproduce.
    What happens is that in the next passage is that, R Joseph suggests that while a person may have had some kind of affliction like this at birth, in time they may recover from it so a method is proposed to examine a mans gentalia periodically to check if he is still infertile.

  • Matthew Flannagan August 12, 2015, 12:22 pm

    The second reference to natural Enuchs being healed comes immediately after this:

    R. Eliezer said. A congenital saris24 submits to halizah, and halizah is arranged for his wife, because cases of such a nature are cured in Alexandria in Egypt.25 “R. Eleazar said: As a matter of fact he did not change his view at all, but that statement was taught in respect [of the age of] punishment. It was stated: If a person between the age of twelve years and one day and that of eighteen years ate forbidden fat, and after the marks of a saris had appeared, he grew two hairs. Rab ruled that the person is deemed to be a saris retrospectively. But Samuel ruled [that the person is regarded as] having been a minor at that time. R. Joseph demurred against Rab: According to R. Meir, a woman who is incapable of procreation should be entitled to a fine! — Abaye replied: She passes from her minority [directly] into adolescence”

    Note what Rabbi Elezar says here, he says natural eunuchs can be cured, why? Well because in Alexandria they gave a natural enuch forbidden fat and after that his penis and testicles developed normally. Note the text goes on to discuss wether someone whose penis hasn’t developed to the point of normal puberty ( when a teenager becomes fertile) is to be considered a minor or adult, and the rabbis rule they are on the basis that a sterile women is not considered a minor so neither should a sterile man.
    So while its true that “The Talmud states that “born eunuchs” can be “cured” what you didn’t mention was it said this in a context where it states its refering to an affliction of the gentailia that causes impotence and then proposes a method of checking the gentailia to figure out if a person has recovered and specifies recovery in terms of normal development of the gentalia and draws an analogy with infertile women.
    Note also again that when Jesus spoke of “Enuchs” he was actually doing so to highlight people who were exempt from marrying. Not saying that such people should enter into same sex marriages.

  • bethyada August 12, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Christopher, you are mistaken about my ideas on polygamy, they are not Glenn’s ideas. If you re-read what i have written you may understand more but I am not going to defend my position further here as per Glenn’s wishes.

    Either something is immoral or it isn’t. Actually this is not always clearly the case. Examples are difficult without derailing the thread. But of more importance is my refutation of your other points.

    Giles After all why would Luke’s readers assume that a blanket statement contained a concealed exception? Because they live in a high context society.

    David none of this shows that the specific scenario in mind addressed by Jesus was that of ‘the case of a woman who pretends to be a virgin on her wedding night.’ Nor would it likely have been the case as this specific issue is already explicitly addressed in the law. This is a case of (sexual) fraud, the punishment of which was execution.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 1:35 pm

    Bethyada, thanks. I take your point about a high context society, but as I am sure you are aware the Jews were not entitled to execute without Roman permission. So divorce was the only option open to deal with such cases by the time of Jesus, unless they resorted to a lynching of the sort Jesus stumbled on with the woman taken in adultery. Also if you hold that Jesus did intend an exception you run up against Luke 16:18 where he condemns marrying a divorced woman even though he has just mentioned the case of a woman whose husband has divorced her and married another (thus committing adultery). David has an answer here, but it involves affirming that all remarriages contracted while the original spouse is alive constitute adultery, in which case the apparent exception in Mathew is just that, apparent not actual.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 1:40 pm

    I should have said “if you believe Jesus did intend an exception for adultery (as opposed to fornication.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Also, if the Mosaic punishments had been in force there would have been no need for an exception in the case of adultery. The punishment for adultery was also death.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 7:09 pm

    I have just had a thought on the polygamy issue. Apologies if someone has raised it but I couldn’t find it scrolling back along the thread. In saying remarriage after divorce is adultery doesn’t Jesus implicitly criticise polygamy? After all if you can have two wives then marrying a second wife after divorcing the first would no more be adultery than marrying her without divorcing the first.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 7:24 pm

    I know the “two become one” issue was raised already, but my point is slightly different, arising from the remarriage=adultery part.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 7:54 pm

    bethyada and Giles, the issue of imposing the death penalty on adulterers and others guilty of sexual immorality was not an issue at the time because the death penalty for all offences was a) de facto abolished by an impossible standard of evidence and b) taken from the Jews by the Romans (although at the time it was already irrelevant). Jesus had no problem with the Jewish move against the death penalty, what they did de facto, he did de jure.

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 9:38 pm

    The issue is complicated slightly by the case of Herod, who had the power to execute, delegated by the Romans. But as you say death for adultery had been abandoned in practice even prior to Roman rule. The case of the woman taken in adultery must have been a lynching.

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 9:49 pm

    I never heard that about Herod, interesting. The case of Mary, the woman caught in adultery, Stephen and Paul seem to be cases of illegal killings. Joseph rejected an illegal honour killing of Mary because he was a just man. The woman caught in adultery was set up and staged for an illegal honour killing to try to get Jesus in trouble. Stephen died at the hands of an angry crowd. Paul was stoned illegally but survived — perhaps harassed out of the city by throwing stones as an insult rather than a killing?

  • Giles August 12, 2015, 10:00 pm

    I think the case of Herod’s execution of the Baptist must have slipped your mind? Maybe there are scholars who challenge the story but no one disputes that his predecessor Herod the Great was an enthusiastic practicioner of capital punishment. I know you know this but we all get memory lapses!

  • David Hillary August 12, 2015, 10:15 pm

    Giles, actually I don’t know hardly anything about Herod, well not about his actual policies or approach to legal administration. Yes, I clean forgot about poor old John the Baptist! His demise was patently illegal and irregular, and if I remember John was the one holding Herod to the law of Moses rather than the other way around.

    I also omitted the case of Jesus — he suffered capital punishment at the instigation of the Jewish authorities but at the hands of the Romans.

  • Giles August 13, 2015, 12:40 am

    My understanding is that the Herods had power of life and death devolved to them so John’s execution wasn’t illegal from the Roman point of view, though as you say it had no basis in Mosaic law. By contrast the execution of James the brother of Jesus was illegal under Roman law and was enabled by an interregnum between procurators in territory under direct Roman rule where the Jewish authorities lacked the power to execute.
    But reading Mathew’s erudite comments on the Talmud makes me realise how much I still have to learn.

  • Kenneth Osuji August 13, 2015, 2:32 am

    Christopher
    How can Jesus’s reference to Eunuchs justify their lifestyle when it assumesthat they are not having sex? “Jesus compared “eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God” (= Christians who opt out of marriage and thus sexual relations to have more time and freedom to proclaim the gospel) with “eunuchs who have been born so from the womb” (= those who are such from birth, due to corporal malformation)4 and “eunuchs who were made eunuchs by people” (= men forcibly castrated).5 The analogy only works on the assumption that eunuchs do not have sexual relations”(gagnon). It is clear here that Jesus is using the word ” eunuch” as synonymous with celibacy. The context shows that the reason Jesus mentions these groups is that they are an exception to this teaching on marriage, why? Because they can’t marry!

  • Christopher Bowers August 13, 2015, 12:51 pm

    Glenn, if you don’t wish me to speak on polygamy, isn’t it fair that you also don’t speak about polygamy? I find it unfair for you to respond (at length) to my claims and then state that I shouldn’t respond to yours.

    Talking about “born Eunuchs” is precisely the subject at hand. The subject at hand is “Did Jesus talk about homosexuality” at all. I would contend that he did, because of his mention of eunuchs. That’s why this passage is so critical.

    Now: may I respond to the claims you made about polygamy, or may I not?

    May I respond to the claims Matt Flannagan made about “born eunuchs” or may I not?

    I would like to respond to both claims in a reasonable rational way, but I would like clear direction in this matter so I cannot be accused of “derailing” the conversation.

    The conversation is about if Jesus would have approved of other types of marriage than the traditional Christian ones. I believe polygamy (which is counter to traditional Christian marriage) and “born eunuchs” are pertinent to if he was open to other marriage models, or if he strictly adhered to European marriage norms.

    May I respond, or am I just silenced and you do not want to hear what I have to say?

    I would also note that another poster (David Hillary) used back to back posts of considerable length on this topic. Why am I not allowed to do the same?

    I have no wish to violate the blog policy so I will wait to see if you approve of me responding or not.

  • Giles August 13, 2015, 1:54 pm

    Its Glenn’s house so it’s his rules but I would certainly be interested in a reply to my point, that to equate remarriage with adultery makes sense only if Jesus rejected polygamy, since the case of a man who takes a second wife without divorcing his first seems alike to the case of one who takes a second wife after divorcing the first.

  • David Hillary August 13, 2015, 9:15 pm

    Does the taking of a second wife while still having the first constitute adultery in the teaching of Jesus? Interesting question. Jesus never said this was adultery, but he did say looking at a woman with lust was adultery in the heart — but this raises more questions: does it apply to any woman, even the man’s wife? Does ‘in the heart’ mean something less than in the law?

    The adultery teaching of Jesus (and elsewhere in the New Testament) is that it comes from the heart, is part of the law, and remarriage after divorce is adultery for:

    a) the woman who is divorced without the cause of her prior sexual immorality (against her husband) Mat 5:32 (the remarriage is implied, in my view, it surely isn’t stated explicitly)
    b) the man who marries a divorced woman (against her husband), regardless of cause Mat 5:32, Luke 16:18
    c) the man who divorces his wife without the cause of her prior sexual immorality (against his wife) Mat 19:9
    d) the man who divorces his wife (against his wife) Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18
    e) the woman who is divorced because she divorces her husband (against her husband) Mark 10:12
    f) if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive Romans 7:3 (although you can argue the passage is about death terminating marriage obligations rather than whether anything else can)

    The other teaching about adultery is its fault is that it harms another person, Romans 13:8-10.

    Concerning remarriage, Paul does not seem to allow it and seems to forbid it in 1 Cor 7, except when the spouse has died, but he does not defined remarriage as adultery.

    So, there is no teaching specifically covering taking a second wife while still married to the first, other than the case of the levirate marriage. This case is instructive because Gen 2:24 states that a man will leave his father and mother and become united to his wife and the two become one flesh. This becoming one flesh is further described in the responsibility of the woman in helping the man and in the woman being of his flesh and bones. So, in marriage, a new family obligation is created, the husband and wife become one family, and are obligated to help each other, and the bonds of the husband and the wife to their respective parents and families of birth are weakened. The new relationship take priority over the old. Thus, when a woman leaves her father and mother and becomes united to her husband, and becomes one family with him, she joins his family and clan. If her husband dies before he has any children, she is left without husband and without children and step-children and therefore in a weak position and in need of help. That help should come from her husband’s family, not her parents or brothers or sisters, hence the levirate marriage. But in taking his brother’s childless widow, the man is not breaking the family relationship and with widow’s marriage identity but keeping it. Any children produced will belong to the same family group and should one day support the widow too.

    When seen in its proper context, the levirate marriage is the exception that proves the rule. The rule is that the marriage identity and the the new family are the fundamental obligation of marriage. Divorce and remarriage threatens this, as does polygamy other than in the case of levirate marriage. But taking another husband or wife after the first is dead does not.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 3:44 am

    David, you say “divorce and remarriage threaten this” (the obligation of mutual support). It seems to me the support of the ex wife if a distinct issue. In principle one could say the husband should support the ex wife even after divorce or provide her with a pay off sufficient to support her rather than prohibiting remarriage. As you say yourself Jesus’ focus is on the case of remarriage after divorce, not divorce itself. True the obligation to a second wife might be incompatible with the maintenance of the first, but not in the case of a man with a large income. A prohibition on divorce or a requirement to support the ex wife would make more sense if support is the issue. The adultery issue seems to me to focus on the question of sexual relations. Otherwise the objection would be injustice not adultery. However in the case of levirate marriage, in the absence of a prohibition on polygamy the command would appear to stand even in the case of a man already married and thus to be mandatory as Christopher says. So I’m not sure how to reconcile these observations though I incline to agree with you that levirate marriage is the exception that proves the rule.
    As for lust in the heart I have always read it this way. It refers not to the case of a married man who looks on a woman and says “I would if I weren’t married” but the man who looks on the woman and says “I would if I could”. That is to say that he would have sex with her if he got the opportunity. In that case the only difference between adultery in practice and adultery in the heart is lack of opportunity, making them morally exact equivalents.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 4:27 am

    Thinking it over maybe the “one flesh” phrase doesn’t single out sexual relations. Children could be seem as “one flesh” with their parents. They then become “one flesh” with their spouses. The focus could be on mutual support, but the problem is the prohibition on remarriage doesn’t help the ex wife by itself. One could remain single without supporting one’s ex wife.

  • David Hillary August 14, 2015, 7:11 am

    Giles,

    Jesus clearly teaches against divorce in itself, what God has joined let not man separate. The Old Testament also teaches God hates divorce. This is the case whether or not a remarriage happens. However, the issue of cause is relevant here: divorce with adequate cause may be just, and without adequate cause must be unjust. In fact the early church said a man was required to divorce his wife if she is persistent in adultery. Is such a man required to provide ongoing financial support to his persistently adulterous wife who he has divorced? I would not think so, the point of the divorce is the withdrawal of support and relations for a particular end, that is to promote repentance and to try to stop the continuation of the sin. In fact this is the model of Christian response to serious and persistent sin generally: withdrawal of communion. This is a response to sin that is not itself an evil or the doing of harm to another. Paul taught about leaving and not being bound in such circumstances, so there must be a release from some obligations.

    But then there is another teaching that applies even to the one who divorces with adequate cause or who is divorced without adequate cause, that is to say the innocent party: no remarriage while the spouse is alive, for that is a the doing of a separate sin. For the guilty spouse, it is an additional sin, for the innocent spouse it is a separate sin. The nature of that sin is adultery, which, you are right, focuses on the sexual conduct, although it does have financial aspects and raises issues of creating new financial and family obligations that are in danger of not being met should the relationship with the original spouse be restored.

    The marriage Jesus wants to protect is the total relationship of becoming one flesh. Adultery is just one of the threats and sins against this. Desertion and cruelty are also threats and sins against this. The adultery aspect focuses on the sexual aspect of the obligations one flesh entails, with a focus on remarriage. Failure to provide financial support is not adultery in the teaching of Jesus but dishonour (Mark 7:10-12)

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 7:54 am

    This all makes sense, but if the focus is indeed on the sexual aspect then we do seem to have an implicit condemnation of polygamy (with a possible exception for Levirate marriage) arising from the condemnation of remarriage and distinct from any implications of “the two become one”. That phrase doesn’t persuade me by itself. It seems to reiterate the “one flesh” of Genesis which didn’t prevent Moses from acknowledging polygamy (eg Deut 21:15). But if remarriage is declared adultery on the grounds that you remain married to your first wife in the eyes of God it presumably follows that it is also adultery if you remain married to your first wife in legal as well as moral fact. Any exception for Levirate marriage would be an adaptation to the state of affairs arising from the fall and the entry of death into the world.
    I do wonder on what basis we assign Levirate marriage to the Old Covenant. It’s not a law about ritual after all but one founded in justice and familial obligation. Leaving aside the case of a man with a first wife, why isn’t an unmarried Christian obliged to marry his brothers childless widow?

  • David Hillary August 14, 2015, 8:18 am

    Giles, I guess you need to go back to the original understanding of adultery. It is the offence of a man against another man in having relations with his wife. It is also the offence of the woman against her husband by having relations with another man. Thus the victim of adultery is the husband. This narrow understanding makes sense in the social and legal context, for the law is the dealing with matters sufficiently serious to disturb the peace and create conflicts. The main conflict is the husband’s jealous rage against his wife and the one who had relations with her.

    Taking an unmarried woman as an additional wife does not create the conflict of this seriousness and so the law did not address it as adultery. Taking your brother’s widow is extremely remote from adultery in this sense.

    Jesus approach to the law is to extend it beyond the mere administration of external conflicts by way of resort to coercion. He does two things: he removes the resort to coercion. Conflicts must be avoided or dealt with by self-control as the principal motivation and appeal to honour as the back up, and by forgiveness of the one who has neither self-control nor honour. The second thing he does is to address the underlying causes of conflict rather than just when they cross into more serious threats to external peace. Hence he calls us back to a higher standard of conduct but not backed by coercion.

    The teaching of Jesus clearly is in favour of monogamy and defining taking an additional wife as adultery is probably correct even if not actually discussed in those terms.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 8:34 am

    I share your perspective. Any ideas why we aren’t bound (at least if single) by the command to marry our brothers childless widow, if in fact we aren’t so bound?

  • Chris Bowers August 14, 2015, 12:08 pm

    First I would like to apologize to Glenn if I’m in some way violating the blog policy. I will keep my responses as terse and short as possible and try not to be longwinded.

    1. Levirate marriage required you to marry your brother’s widow EVEN IF you were married. This was polygamy REQUIRED by God. Our idea that it wasn’t required if the male was married is ridiculous. Judaism had no problem with polygamy for another two thousand years. Ashkenazi Jews didn’t ban it until the year AD. 1000, and the Torah was complete around 1250 BC. Polygamy is still legal for Yemeni and Kararite Jews, by the way. The story of Onan also makes no sense unless Onan was already married. It details that Onan didn’t want to have children because they would be “his brother’s” this only makes sense if Onan was already married. Everyone needs to stop assuming that Jews in the Torah era had a problem with polygamy or thought it was “sinful” or “not ideal”.
    If you don’t believe me, will you listen to Jews?

    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/558598/jewish/Does-Jewish-Law-Forbid-Polygamy.htm

    2. Jesus had not problem with Levirate marriage or Polygamy. Polygamy was a resultant (required) state because of the obligations of Levirate marriage. Jesus had not problem with Levirate marriage because he upheld the tradition of Levirate marriage in Mark 12:18, Matt 22:23, and Luke 20:27. In these passages, attested to in ALL THREE Gospels, Jesus doesn’t revoke the requirement of Levirate Marriage, but instead upholds it, and teaches that after death the ressurection transfigures us into non-sexed angelic beings. The Sadducess expected him to deny the custom of Levirate marriage. He had no problem with it.

    Giles said:
    >“the two become one”. That phrase doesn’t persuade me by itself. It seems to reiterate >the “one flesh” of Genesis which didn’t prevent Moses from acknowledging polygamy (eg >Deut 21:15).

    This is the nail on the head. Just because two people become one doesn’t mean that they can only have a union with those two. It is a statment of permanency not one of singularity. The people who wrote “two flesh become one” also believed in polygamy. They could not possibly have disliked polygamy, the assertion that they did is anachronistic. Culture and sexual law in Torah time (1250 BC) does not match our culture and sexual laws today.
    David Hillary said:
    >The teaching of Jesus clearly is in favour of monogamy and defining taking an additional >wife as adultery is probably correct even if not actually discussed in those terms.

    This is your fundamental problem. You assume that a Jew in 1250 BC agrees with you that taking a second wife constitutes adultery. To them it didn’t. This is what is called “cultural appropriation”, you take another’s culture as if it is speaking for your own, it isn’t. Jews had their own culture and in that culture polygamy was not immoral. Adultery was having sex outside of a marriage bond to someone you aren’t married to. If you marry the second woman, that is not adultery. You are having sex with two people, both of which you are married to, no adultery is occuring.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 6:16 pm

    Christopher, I’m not qualified to comment on the Talmud. Your Clement case suffices to prove that “born eunuchs” could sometimes mean gay men. But as one who shares your position on homosexuality I don’t think reading Jesus that way helps our case as he is talking of those who shouldn’t marry. For me the story of David and Jonathan is decisive. I came to the passage certain that it taught they were just good friends. Then I read it. I’m not going to exegete but I will just say I see no way round the conclusion that, at a minimum, that I don’t believe the homoerotic overtones are solely in the mind of modern readers, that the author would have been aware that it could be so read, and since he took no care to guard against such a reading he wouldn’t have regarded a sexual relationship between David and Jonathan as violating the command not to lie with another man “as with a woman”. (That phrase can’t just mean sex is is view, as it isn’t used in the prohibition on lying with an animal. Thus it must qualify the prohibition.) I said “at a minimum”. Having read commentaries from both perspectives I cannot escape the conclusion that the author is quite deliberately presenting the story as a gay romance. In short the story leads me to conclude that Gay marriage, though instituted after straight marriage, was ordained by God and hallowed by scripture. Glenn will fall on me from a great height. All I ask is he accept my reading is as sincere as his and that “here I stand I can do no other” (unless persuaded otherwise by exegesis). FYI I am not gay, I have no axe to grind.
    But on the polygamy issue perhaps Christopher or another will explain how the case of a second marriage which is adulterous (in Jesus view) by virtue of the fact that the husband remains married to his first wife in the eyes of God, differs from a second marriage contracted while the husband is still married to the first wife in the eyes of the law. I can’t see a relevant difference that would pick out the first case as adultery but not the second.
    On the question of Levirate marriage I agree it was mandatory even when it was polygamous so that would be an exception to the rule. Christopher suggests Jesus intended his followers to observe the practice which I think must be true at least up to the institution of the New Covenant. But as I said I can’t see any valid argument why this rule lapses with the Old Covenant. Can anyone give me one?
    I may not be able to reply to any response till Monday, but I will if able.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 6:53 pm

    To flesh out my position on Gay marriage I think Paul’s comments on homosexuality (other than Romans 1) repeat the Old Testament prohibitions and thus are subject to the same qualification. He condemns laying with a man “as with a woman”.
    On Romans 1 I think the traditionalists miss the punch line due to the chapter divisions added later. Taken literally Paul teaches a widespread abandonment of heterosexual relations for homosexual ones on the part of pagans. Yet notwithstanding tolerance of certain kinds of bisexuality in the Greco-Roman world no such abandonment occurred. Almost all those who had homosexual relations also married and had children. The problem vanishes when we see that Paul is painting a deliberately hyperbolic portrait of pagan sexuality to lay a trap for self righteous and Judaising readers. That trap is sprung in Romans 2:1 “you then have no excuse…”. If Paul aims at inaccuracy (hyperbole) it’s no offence if he achieves it. No normative teaching can be hung on a hyperbolic flourish.
    I don’t hold to the view of some pro gay exegetes that the ancient world knew nothing of loving homosexual relations. They had the clear example of Alexander and Hephaistion, which paralleled that of David and Jonathan and thus did not (IMO) violate the biblical prohibitions. From a Christian retro-perspective David (and Alexander) might be criticised for polygamy but as their Gay relationships came first it would be their heterosexual marriages that would be open to criticism.
    I am aware all this puts me beyond the pale for many Christians, again I only ask (though with little hope of being heard) that traditionalists can accept the sincerity of my reading.

  • Glenn August 14, 2015, 8:35 pm

    Christopher – 1) is unsubstantiated. Your opinion of what’s ludicrous doesn’t matter. If you are right, you haven’t got a case to show it. But you and I discussed the Levirate marriage, as well as the specific point you’re now making assertions about, in the old thread that I linked to. So there’s nothing new to add here, other than to just note that you had no evidence then and none now.

    You have been linked already to Jewish sources on polygamy and shown that Christian and Jewish perspectives agree that polygamy was not the biblical model, even when it was tolerated as not ideal. This has been established beyond sensible doubt – your repetitions notwithstanding. You have just ignored the Jewish and Christian sources. Again, this was generously covered in the old thread.

    You have a tactic of making claims, then having them absolutely refuted with clear evidence, then waiting a long time and just repeating them again, hoping people will have forgotten, or maybe a new audience will see your claims. You did it in the old thread, and now after a long break you’re doing it again. I’m not going to entertain it here again. Thanks for your claim, noted, but it has been addressed before.

    Take care.

    (As you knew would happen, your further foray into eunuchs has been removed. I told you in advance that’s what would happen. The evidence, I think, was clearly offered, and if you want to write about it, start a blog.)

  • Glenn August 14, 2015, 8:43 pm

    Giles, Paul’s comments on homosexual practice don’t, I would think, offer guidance on Jesus’ claims about marriage.

    However, it would be wrong to think that Paul’s condemnation of same sex acts were really only condemnations where those acts occurred in an overtly pagan context. Yes, they do happen to refer to the acts of pagans in the sense that nonbelievers were pagans.

    But in context, Paul is showing just how depraved pagan folk were by listing the things that they did. I’ll say again because it matters: Paul is trying to show how terrible paganism is by listing the things that pagans do. Paganism corrupts people. And what are those things? Gossip. Disobedience, etc, all things that are sinful in themselves. And sexual acts between members of the same sex.

    Now, if these acts are only condemned because of their connection to pagan worship, then Paul’s argument collapses, because he hasn’t really shown what’s so harmful about paganism. Revisionists read this completely backwards, implying that homosexual conduct here is only wrong because it is pagan. Paul is saying the opposite: That we can see how terrible pagan worship is by looking at the horrendous things pagans do. (Although in 1 Corinthians 6, that’s not even his argument, he just condemns various sins, including homosexual acts as well as idolatry.)

    But to reiterate and forcibly drag this back on subject: That does not have any effect on Jesus’ teaching on marriage, and it does nothing to legitimise the inane argument that if Jesus didn’t directly condemn something, it must be OK.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 9:35 pm

    Thank you for your measured reply. I won’t respond because as you say we have wandered off topic and I agree with your post. Jesus failure to offer a specific condemnation is neither here nor there. It’s a bad argument for toleration like the argument that our sexual orientation is unalterably fixed (not always true and if true so what?). What I like about this blog is the rigour of the original posts and the exceptionally high standard of most of the comments. It rare to find a place these days where people realise insult is not a form of argument.

  • Giles August 14, 2015, 9:41 pm

    The blog design is superlative too. Love the stained glass heading.

Leave a Comment

Remember: All comments should conform to the blog policy and you must use your real name. Comments that do not conform may be removed in whole or in part. You can review the blog policy here.

 Characters remaining