Divorce and Adultery

Many years ago a Christian friend of mine came to me in deep sorrow sharing that his wife was thinking about divorcing him. Over a period of time and after many counseling sessions she did divorce him. Prior to and during this time he held a very strict view on marriage. He held … More


Jesus says that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another , commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (v.  9). The traditional and most popular interpretation of the exception clause is that Jesus is making an allowance for divorce in the case of a marriage where adultery has been committed. If this is the case Jesus would be siding with the school of Shammai which allowed divorce only in the case of adultery. While this interpretation has been accepted by many Christians I have the following problems with it:

1. This view contradicts the teaching of Jesus in (Mark 10:1-12) and (Luke 16:18) which teaches that divorce and remarriage results in adultery; without exception.

2. It contradicts the teaching of Jesus where He makes the clear prohibition, “They are no longer two people but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Jesus will not contradict Himself.

3. The third problem of this view of the exception clause is that it contradicts the teaching of Paul in (I Cor. 7:10-11). He like Jesus in Mark and Luke forbids divorce absolutely.

4. According to Greek scholars the word porneia used here refers to unlawful sexual behavior and not just adultery which is moicheia. Had Jesus intended to permit divorce He probably would have used moicheia the more explicit term. Some think this refers to {Lev. 18:6-18).


God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), and Jesus commanded that it be stopped (Matt. 19:6; Mark 19:9), and Paul four times declared there are no legitimate grounds for divorce. This is good enough for me.

Matthew 19:9-15 (English Standard Version)

"And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it." Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away.

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »