God said, “whoever dismisses his wife should give her a bill of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who dismisses his wife for any reason except whoring, makes her sexually unfaithful, and anyone who marries a divorced woman participates in sexual infidelity.

A divorced woman in Jesus’ society might well be dismissed with no resources. Probably she would seek refuge in her parental home, where she might not receive an enthusiastic welcome. To restore her status she might look to be married again.

It is clear that Jesus’ teaching favours wives. They are not disposable chattels, in his view. If Mark”s account of Jesus’ view on this issue is accurate, he forbad dismissing wives and made no exception such as Matthew reports here. Perhaps Matthew is reporting how Jesus’ teaching on this matter was used in his faith community. Even with this exception the teaching is severe, while still oriented to male privilege- there is no mention of male infidelity.

What does it mean to say that the divorce makes the woman unfaithful? Does it help anyone to burden a dismissed wife with this negative description? In trying to eradicate the cause of divorce, namely male hardness of heart, does Jesus make life harder for the victims of it?

Of course he doesn’t want any woman to be dismissed and divorced, but rather that the couple should remain together. His teaching that marriage is a life-long sexual partnership is profound, demanding, and the source of much good in communities influenced by it. Same- sex couples recognised its value when they campaigned for the right to be married.

In the context of the God said ….but I say teachings, this one is almost a denial of the Law, rather than a perfecting of it. Most denominations of the Church, have, in effect, rejected the literal meaning of Jesus’ words.

One comment

  1. Yep, the Orthodox Church has certainly denied the literal words of Jesus, despite our constant claims of faithfulness and constancy. A bullshit claim, by the way. We are constant only in things that demean people, such as excommunicating people who marry outside the church. Yes, no problem if you’re divorced. Just make sure your next marriage is in a church, if you want to remain a member in good standing with the church. Country club mentality.

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