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Answering The Atheist
May 28, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 22

Is divorce ever permissible? Different texts seem to say different things:

  • divorce is never permissible (Mk 10:11; Lk 16:18)
  • only when the wife is unfaithful (Mt 5:32; 19:9)
  • when the 'unbelieving' partner chooses to leave (1 Cor 7:15)
  • when the husband is displeased with his wife (Deut 24:1-2)
Is there a contradiction?

The last text listed above is from a different covenant than the other texts. If the Law of Moses says one thing, and the Gospel of Christ says another, there is no contradiction.

Next, let us address the text in 1 Corinthians 7. It reads, "...if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace." It is the questioner's assumption that this text is permitting a divorce. The unbeliever did not divorce the believer, neither did the believer divorce the unbeliever - they are separated, because the unbeliever left. It is not a text which speaks about divorce.

Jesus is not teaching something different in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each writer penned the words of the Lord in his own way, each emphasizing something different from His teaching. When we take them all together, we know the whole of the Lord's teaching on divorce.

From Luke's gospel, we learn the basic law of God regarding marriage and divorce. For a man to divorce his spouse and marry another, or for a man to marry a divorced woman, results in adultery. Mark's gospel reveals a bit more about the Lord's law on marriage and divorce. He repeats the first part of Luke's statement, but not the latter. Instead, he adds, "and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (v 12). This is not a one way law (ie. for men only), but is equal for both man and woman. Finally, in Matthew's gospel, we have presented the one exception to God's law on divorce. Sexual immorality is the only cause for which one may divorce a spouse and justly remarry before the Lord.

None of the texts presented contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible