Home > Divorce/Remarriage, Mallinak > The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 4 (The Rebuttal)

The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 4 (The Rebuttal)

May 28, 2007

As the month has progressed, the lines on both sides have been clearly drawn, and for the most part the debate has centered on Scripture and the meaning of the appropriate passages, rather than mere arguments.  That is something I appreciate about this debate.  Both sides want to take up their stand on Scriptural ground, and both care deeply about what Scripture says.

There are very few areas where I differ with Kent, and when I find myself on the other side of an issue, I don’t take it lightly.  Kent and I share a great respect for God’s Word and for each other, and I for one count it an honor to be considered his friend.

When we started this debate (which was Kent’s idea), I did not have any allusions about changing Kent’s mind, or Thomas’ mind, or anyone else’s mind who already took the “no divorce” position.  To be honest, I prefer to not change your mind about it.  I prefer that position to all others (including mine).  I wish I could find it in the Bible.  I wish that I could agree with the position.  But that doesn’t mean there is no agreement between us on this issue.  Do they want divorce to end?  So do I.  Do they want couples to make reconciliation the first option?  I do too.  Do they hate divorce?  So do I.  But I cannot agree that the Bible never allows it under any circumstance.

The only way one can hold the “no divorce ever” position is either by re-defining or greatly restricting the meaning of “fornication.”  If fornication means “sexual uncleanness” in general, than all bets are off.  If “fornication” can be restricted to mean something else, then we can still hold firmly to the “no divorce” position despite what Jesus said (or perhaps in accordance with what Jesus said).  The interpretation of the two passages in Matthew then must be key to our understanding of this issue.  And, our interpretation of these two passages will influence how we read every other passage on divorce, particularly the 1 Corinthians 7 passage, which begins with a summary of Christ’s teaching.  Consequently, if we are to accept Kent’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 we must first accept his interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.  But if fornication means “general sexual uncleanness,” then his whole argument falls apart.

Kent argues the definition this way:

Early in Matthew (1:19), Joseph resolves to “put away” (the same word for divorce as Matt. 5:32 and 19:9) Mary, thinking that she had committed fornication. Joseph and Mary are clearly not married, but betrothed, even though engagement was much more serious back then than it is in this culture. In John 8:41, Jewish leaders indirectly accuse Jesus of being born of porneia; in other words, since they didn’t accept the virgin birth, they assumed that Mary had committed fornication and Jesus was the result of that act. So then why were the exception clauses included in the Matthew account (and not Mark and Luke)? Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience familiar with the betrothal issue. As Matthew was penning his gospel, he found himself in chapter five and then later in chapter nineteen needing to prohibit all remarriage after divorce (as taught by Jesus) and yet to allow for a divorce like the one Joseph envisioned with his future wife, whom he thought guilty of fornication (porneia). As a result, Matthew includes the exception clause in particular to acquit Joseph, but also in general to show that the kind of divorce that one might pursue in a betrothal period on account of fornication is not included in Jesus’ absolute prohibition.

From this, we can conclude that Kent believes “fornication” in Matthew to be “pre-marital sex” rather than “general sexual uncleanness.”  Before we examine the definition of “fornication,” we should first examine Kent’s reasoning as quoted above.  When the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being born of porneia, they were not accusing Joseph of fornication.  They were accusing Mary.  In fact, the book of Matthew has already demonstrated that Joseph was minded to put Mary away privately.  As such, Joseph needed no defending.  Matthew had already demonstrated that Joseph was not the fornicator.  It is a stretch to say that Matthew 19:9 or Matthew 5:32 were written to acquit Joseph.  In fact, it isn’t even demonstrable.  This is what Kent so fondly refers to as “reading into the text.”  There is no substantiated connection between the accusation that Christ was born of fornication and the statement that “divorce, except it be for fornication, is adultery.”

Not only that, but Kent in an earlier comment said that divorce during the betrothal period was never adultery.  It was never wrong!

I don’t ever say that someone who divorces in a betrothal period and marries another is committing adultery (but I think you know that and have some point coming), because people in a betrothal period are not married. The Bible never says that betrothal is marriage.

So why would Christ need to clarify that divorce, except for divorces that occurred during the betrothal period because of fornication, is adultery?  Why would Christ need to say that it was okay to divorce during the betrothal period if it was because of fornication?  Divorce during the betrothal period was never adultery.  No matter what the reason.  Divorce during the betrothal period was always permitted, no matter the reason.  So Christ did not need to say “except it be for fornication.”  Again, it may just be my lack of Greek skills, but I can’t get my seatbelt to click around this one.

It is an interesting argument.  Christ said,

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

And somehow, when he said “except it be for fornication,” he suddenly shifted from talking about actual marriages to talking about proposed marriages.  In context, the word wife meant “wife,” but in the little clause, wife meant “betrothed.”  And how do we know that this is what is meant?  We don’t.  There simply is no warrant for concluding that in this passage, Christ all of a sudden threw in that divorcing your betrothed because of fornication was not to be considered adultery.

Kent added,

That is why the exception clause falls after “put away his wife,” instead of somewhere else in the sentence. The exception clause is about the “putting away.”

As I understand it then, Kent is arguing that since the exception clause follows the phrase “put away his wife,” that Christ is referring to all kinds of “putting away” (including for betrothal).  And that certainly is possible.  But in context, the discussion was not about betrothal, it was about marriage.  And there never was a question about whether Joseph could re-marry if he put away Mary, so there needn’t be an explanation for it.  In fact, the Bible never mentioned that Joseph was considering re-marriage to someone else.  The verse says “put away his wife” not his betrothed.

So, Kent’s explanation for the particular purpose of Matthew’s exception clause isn’t floating.  Joseph needed no acquittal.  Nobody accused him of considering adultery when he considered divorce. In the betrothal period, he could have put her away for any reason.

Far from defining porneia by the context, this definition is forced on the context.  From beginning to end, Matthew 19:9 is a discussion about divorce amongst married people.  The Pharisee’s question to Christ was whether it were lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause.  As has been pointed out by Kent, it was lawful for a man to put away his betrothed for every cause.  So, if Christ was saying “no” to the Pharisees, then he couldn’t have been referring to betrothal.  Christ did deny that it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause.  As Kent said, when Christ said “have ye not read,” he was taking a stand against the Pharisees.  Christ referred to the marriage ordinance as the standard for marriage.  And when the Pharisees asked why Moses “commanded” that a man give her a writing of divorcement and put her away, Christ responded by saying that Moses “suffered” (as opposed to “commanded”) them to put away their wives, but from the beginning, it was not so.

Again, nothing in here about betrothal (which was Jewish custom at the time of Christ).  Christ says that it is not lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Now, if we substitute Kent’s definition for porneia into the passage, then we run into problems.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for pre-marital sex, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

If “pre-marital sex” is the definition, we still can’t insist that the putting away is also pre-marital.  In order to come up with that interpretation, we have to read it into the text.  We have to say that the text is actually saying (tucked neatly away between the Greek letters) “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except he put her away before they were married for pre-marital sex, committeth adultery…”  I’m thinking that we won’t find that reading in there, not even in the Greek.

So, given the context, the definition doesn’t work.  Though I can understand the insistence that we accept that particular definition.  To be honest, Kent is the first person I’ve read who held the “no divorce ever” position who didn’t try to ignore Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, or try to tell us that those verses don’t hold equal authority with say Mark 10:11-12.  Kent, as he always does, takes up his position on defensible ground.  But it should also be noted that his position only works if fornication means “pre-marital sex.”  And while fornication certainly includes pre-marital sex, that is not the limit of its meaning.

True, fornication and adultery are distinct terms.  But fornication is to adultery what a rectangle is to a square.  Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.  Similarly, adultery is always fornication, although not all fornication is adultery.  Fornication is general sexual uncleanness.  It includes adultery, but is a much broader term than adultery.   Fornication encompasses every kind of ludeness, including pornography (a word we get from the Greek for porneia) while adultery is sexual uncleanness in violation of a marriage bond.  These terms are used this way consistently throughout the New Testament, and there is no requirement that we accept the “wooden” (i.e. overly restrictive) definition that has been demanded.  Divorce, as Christ said, is adultery, saving for the cause of fornication.  In those cases, the fornication is the adultery.

Having attempted to flesh out the natural meaning of each passage pertaining to divorce, and understanding that there is more than enough disagreement to keep us debating for the rest of our lives, let me say that I wish there were no divorce.  I am against divorce.  I do not want to persuade anyone to get a divorce.

Divorce is never pretty, never good, never desirable.  Whenever there is divorce, there is always sin.  I wish that every husband was against divorce.  I wish that every wife was convinced that divorce should never be an option.  I wish that every divorce court in the nation would close up for lack of business.  I wish that we would all cut the word “divorce” out of our dictionaries.  Or better yet, I wish that we would need to look the word “divorce” up in a dictionary because we’ve forgotten what it means.  I wish that the word were not a part of our vocabulary.  I wish that every marriage had a conviction that divorce was never allowed.

A few years ago, I encountered a man who adamantly opposed divorce in any case.  He absolutely rejected it for any reason ever.  He forbid his wife to even mention the subject.  He was convinced that the Bible never allowed divorce.  He told his wife that she was never allowed to divorce him.  Showed her from the Bible that divorce was forbidden.  She had to stay married to him no matter what.  It did not matter that he was leaving work early to go sleep with his neighbor’s wife, she was never to divorce him.  It did not matter that he would wake up around three in the morning to rendezvous with his neighbor’s wife in the back of his Mini-van.  He told her all about the affair, told her that he was going to leave her for a while to spend the next five nights at a motel with his honey, and then told her that she was never to divorce him.  “Don’t even think about it,” he said.  He rented an apartment in town, and moved in with his new babe, drained the family bank account, defaulted on the mortgage, failed to pay the utilities, made his wife go on food stamps so she could feed their children.  But he insisted that she was never to divorce him.  “I expect you to be right here whenever I come home,”  he said.  And she was.

He came home on Thursday night of the first week, and she was there.  He stayed a few hours, boxed up some food, took what he wanted from the refrigerator, slept with his wife, packed up some more clothes, and then left again.  Oh yes, and he reminded her that divorce was always wrong.  The next week he came home on Tuesday, but this time only for about thirty minutes.  He didn’t need any food, he was just bored with his other chick.  He needed a little “variety.”  The next week it was Friday night before he came home, again for about thirty minutes.  The next week it was Monday.  Each time, he was careful to remind her that he was against divorce.  You might call it family devotions he was having with his wife.  Always reminding her that she couldn’t do anything about it.

As an opponent of divorce, as one who is convinced absolutely that divorce is always wrong, I must say that I wish his wife would have done the right thing.  He had divorced her.  He had put her away.  He had broken the marriage covenant.  Why didn’t she recognize that? Why didn’t she seek justice from the civil government?

Perhaps one of our difficulties on this issue comes from attempting to show marriage to be metaphysical rather than covenantal.  We speak as if, at the point of marriage (assuming that it is a legitimate marriage), there is some sort of metaphysical bond that cannot possibly be broken.  But if that were the case, then the man who divorced his wife and married another is a polygamist.  If that were the case, then said man, should he convert, must put away the second wife (after all, polygamist marriages are illegitimate, so they are shacking up).  If that were the case, then the first wife isn’t really divorced anyway, because man cannot break asunder what God has put together.

But man can break it.  And men do.  If it is possible for men to break the marriage covenant, then we must recognize that marriages are contracted unions, not mystical unions.  A contract can be breached.  A covenant can be broken.  And when the covenant has been broken, the contract is over.  Sometimes, we need the magistrate’s help to give justice to the injured party.  That seems to be Christ’s point.

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  1. May 28, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    I’m Sorry Pastor Mallinak but the of the example you gave was a poor example. The Bible does teach that divorce is wrong, but it also teaches adultery is to, and this man obviously didn’t believe the Bible, he was just holding it over his wife’s head.

    Now same token, if my husband ever done that to me, there would be no second time, he knows that, and if that wife allowed this, well, I have no sympathy for her. She choose to allow herself to remain a victim. But that is my two cents, and probably not very popular with many.

  2. May 28, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Pastor Mallinak writes: “Not only that, but Kent in an earlier comment said that divorce during the betrothal period was never adultery. It was never wrong!”

    I would like to assume that everyone here knows that I never said that “It was never wrong!” That would make this section of Pastor Mallinak’s “arguing a strawman,” because he is arguing against something I never said and do not believe. I believe it was wrong to divorce during the betrothal period, just not adultery. I think we can assume from Matthew 1 that it would be unjust if there was no legitimate cause. There was a cause for “putting away” during betrothal, and it was “fornication,” which is premarital.

    Pastor Mallinak then writes: “So why would Christ need to clarify that divorce, except for divorces that occurred during the betrothal period because of fornication, is adultery?”

    This is his strongest argument, and so he pounds on it. I’ve already answered it. What ruins his argument is something that is obvious. People that “put away” in betrothal are not married. Their putting away is not adultery because they are and were not married. Betrothal isn’t marriage, so betrothed people cannot commit adultery. They can commit fornication (the word used in Mt. 5 & 19), but not adultery.

    Under what circumstances could a man put away a wife, without putting asunder a marriage that was consummated before God? This was only possible in the Jewish custom of betrothal. When it was arranged for a Jewish couple to become husband and wife, partial vows were said. They were only betrothed or espoused, but they were officially referred to as husband and wife. This was the relationship between Joseph and Mary when she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. They were only espoused (Mat. 1:18), but Joseph is specifically called, “her husband” (Mat. 1:19) and Mary is called, “thy wife,” (v. 20). Joseph thought he had discovered fornication on Mary’s part, and was minded to put her away privily. That would have required literally a putting away, or a type of divorce, because partial vows had already been said. It would not have been a putting asunder because they weren’t married. The Lord intervened to show Joseph his misunderstanding, but the situation that Joseph thought existed is the type of situation that the Lord described when He said, “except it be for the cause of fornication.” Such a putting away could only take place during betrothal. Those who participated in such a putting away would be free to marry another without fear of causing or committing adultery because they weren’t yet married.

    Obviously, everything on his side rests on these exception clauses in Matthew, which is, of course, why he isn’t going to look much at Mark or even comment on anything I say from Mark or from Luke. It is obvious these exceptions aren’t found in Mark or Luke, and this should result in someone asking, “Why?” But he doesn’t have that curiosity or at least share it. To believe his position, Pastor Mallinak must:
    1) Ignore a word study on porneia on Matthew and then in the entire NT.
    2) Ignore plain teaching in Mark and Luke.
    3) Ignore the clear statements in several texts, “What God has put together, let no man put asunder.”

    Much of this post moves into a horrible marriage situation, where a husband commits adultery repeatedly. Emotional arguments are very effective to many, especially in the day in which we live. We live in day where love is dumbed down to sentimentalism. In this equation, no one should have to suffer through a bad marriage, and so divorce is the honorable thing, at least to the world, in those situations. Of course, God calls all Christians to suffer, including from husbands who obey not in word (1 Peter 2:21, 3:1,2). I wish the husband would not subject his wife to such suffering. Of course, he is “her own husband” (Eph. 5:22ff), so she married him.

    When Jesus refers back to Gen. 1:27 and 2:24, He is saying that marriage is one of the deepest realities in the world, deeper than any of us knows. What God joins together He joins deeply together—deeper than feelings, deeper than promises, deeper than physical relations, deeper than friendship. “One flesh” is a deep, deep mystery, which is exactly what Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32. The union of husband and wife in marriage is like the union of God and His people—it is an ocean of deep, deep unseen wonders; yet, many people today treat it like a backyard swimming pool for lounging around as long as we feel like it. God joined this, and the ending of it is very serious, breaking God’s commandment. To walk away from marriage for another relationship is not just about marriage, but about Christ, and about God.

  3. May 29, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Brothers Kent & Dave,

    What a great debate among friends and brethren!

    The bottom line with me is the same as Brother Mallinak mentioned:
    “To be honest, I prefer to not change your mind about it. I prefer that position to all others (including mine). I wish I could find it in the Bible. I wish that I could agree with the position.”

    I really believe that 1 Cor. 7:15 allows for re-marriage under that specific circumstance. Even adultery may be grounds for divorce, but I believe Scripture teaches that the “innocent party” should not facilitate the divorce. I am assuming he or she is Christian.

    I personally will not perform the marriage ceremony for someone who has been married and divorced. This is partially because I don’t believe it is my mandate from God to “marry” anyone who wants to get married, and partially to “err” on the side of caution.

    I appreciate the manly, godly, uncompromising, and loving way you two have done this.

    God bless

  4. May 29, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Thanks, Art!

  5. May 29, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    I realize that it is rhetorically effective to pick out the arguments that I didn’t deal with and claim that I ignored them because I couldn’t answer them. However, nothing would be further from the truth. I didn’t ignore Mark and Luke (see my first post). I didn’t ignore your word study of porneia. I denied it. I have not ignored the clear statement that “what God hath put together, let not man put asunder.”

    Nor was I making a straw man on your statement that betrothal was never wrong. I thought that was what you said.

    So, a gnat made it through my strainer.

  6. May 29, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Pastor Mallinak,

    If you are going to deny a word study, observing actual uses of the word, you should at least show study that disproves it. Of course, you can just deny it, and the fact that you say it is wrong might persuade those who think very highly of your opinion, but then that would be ‘thus saith Pastor Mallinak.’

    Saying that something isn’t adultery does not equal saying that it isn’t wrong. Are you sure your strainer isn’t a sieve?

  7. May 30, 2007 at 7:51 am

    I gave a pretty detailed argument for why fornication was not limited to pre-marital sex. I gave it in my post. Did I need to re-give it in my comment? Your definition does not work in the context. The word has a broad meaning, which fits in the tenor of its NT usage.

    Maybe you should just say, “I like my definition better.” But of course, it is more effective to pretend that it is inspired.

    What the reader should understand is that in order to maintain his case, Kent absolutely cannot entertain the notion that there could be a broader definition. He must keep his definition restricted, or he loses his entire case.

  8. May 30, 2007 at 9:17 am

    So Pastor Brandenburg,

    In the situation Pastor Mallinak mentioned, you don’t think the wife should’ve left? She was obeying the Bible by staying married to this adulterer? I think this is more than just emotional feeling on the issue, this type of stuff does happen. What’s the best way to deal with it then?

  9. May 30, 2007 at 10:35 am

    OK, here is your “detailed argument.” But I didn’t ask for a detailed argument. It’s obvious you have an argument. I was asking for a “study.” Make your argument from a “study.” For the reader, here is Pastor Mallinak’s “argument,” cut and pasted from his above post:

    True, fornication and adultery are distinct terms. But fornication is to adultery what a rectangle is to a square. Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square. Similarly, adultery is always fornication, although not all fornication is adultery. Fornication is general sexual uncleanness. It includes adultery, but is a much broader term than adultery. Fornication encompasses every kind of ludeness, including pornography (a word we get from the Greek for porneia) while adultery is sexual uncleanness in violation of a marriage bond. These terms are used this way consistently throughout the New Testament, and there is no requirement that we accept the “wooden” (i.e. overly restrictive) definition that has been demanded. Divorce, as Christ said, is adultery, saving for the cause of fornication. In those cases, the fornication is the adultery.”

    As I read and reread that paragraph, the “study” is: “These terms are used this way consistently throughout the New Testament.” That’s Pastor Mallinak’s “study” of porneia (“fornication”) as it relates to moicheia (“adultery”).  It is an opinion, his opinion.  It isn’t a study, therefore, it isn’t an argument. His view rests upon an understanding of porneia (“fornication”). He should be able to show this “rectangle to a square” thing in actual texts of Scripture. I’m saying, however, that when you look at how Matthew uses the word, he doesn’t present this “rectangle to square” view. Read Matthew 15:19:

    For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

    When you look at Scriptural usage, it does make it “inspired,” doesn’t it? I didn’t have to “pretend.” Do you see how that Matthew differentiates adulteries and fornications as two different activities? Lists like that in 15:19 don’t read like sets and subsets, but different sets.  And this is in Matthew.

    He says the meaning doesn’t fit the context. It does fit Matthew’s usage of the word, with Matthew’s Jewish audience, and with Matthew’s presentation of Joseph’s just desire to “put away” Mary in the betrothal period because of perceived porneia (see John 8:41). The exception clause is exclusively Matthew.

  10. May 30, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Pastor Conrad,

    It is an emotional argument. You can make an argument from a hypothetical or real situation, but it doesn’t prove anything. Scripture is our authority, not experience. I can give you emotional stories that relate to almost anything in the Bible. Some situations in the Bible also are rather emotional, like when Elimelech’s family is going through a terrible famine in the land and it looks like they’ll starve if they don’t go to Moab. It was emotional to the disciples when they heard Jesus would die, but it was still God’s will. Understand?

    As far as this type of thing happening–I live in the SF Bay Area, not exactly the Bible belt, and have pastored for 20 years, so I know what happens. Obey the Bible. Sometimes you suffer. Men mistreat their wives. I think couples should stay together. That is not an advocacy for mistreating wives or women.  Pastor Mallinak’s story will get sympathy, which could help an “argument,” but it shouldn’t. It is more likely to in the age in which we live.

    What would I do? I would do my best to deal with the man to affect change. We would emotionally support the wife; show her love and sympathy.  I can teach my young people better so they don’t turn out like him. I can help parents to train children better.  I can help the church be less lustful by teaching Scriptural standards.  I can preach against adultery. I can teach my families the Scriptural way to obtain a life’s partner. I believe the dating method is major cause for wrong marriages. I would try to make the man’s life Scripturally as miserable as possible.  Get the picture?

  11. May 30, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    It is impossible to restrict the meaning of porneia based on John 8:41 and Matthew 1:19. This use of fornication (as pre-marital sex) certainly identifies one sense in which the term is used, but it by no means restricts the term to mean only that.

    As far as the “different sets” argument, Pastor B again fails to recognize that terms frequently overlap. There is no Scriptural warrant in Matthew 15:19 for requiring that this be a “genus and species” hierarchy. Even if it were, it can be demonstrated that fornication and adultery are in this passage referring to sexual sins in general and sexual sins that violate a marriage covenant. Both are sexual sins, so there is some overlap regardless. But again, Kent has to insist on his definition because it is the nail that holds up his pillar.

    Pastor B will badger me on this until I go through each of the 25 verses that use the word porneia. So…

    Mt 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

    In this verse, it is impossible to restrict the meaning to “pre-marital only.” Certainly, the fornication in this passage could be pre-marital. A man could put away his wife because of undisclosed pre-marital sex (which would be a fraud on the marriage covenant). But by and large, this passage is saying that a married man puts away his wife for sexual uncleanness of any kind while they are married.

    Mt 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

    Ditto to this.

    Joh 8:41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

    Here, we have a verse that is clearly referring to pre-marital sex. These men accused Mary of having sex before she was married. Although this verse does not claim to be the defining verse for what is fornication.

    Ac 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

    In this verse and in the following two verses from Acts, the porneia certainly could be “pre-marital sex only.” But since the apostles were exhorting the gentiles to spiritual cleanness in these passages, we could also argue that they were not limiting the restriction to “pre-marital sex only.” In other words, since sexual uncleanness was common amongst the Gentiles, it is likely that the Apostles were not restricting their exhortation only to pre-marital sex. They probably wanted the married people to keep themselves from sexual uncleanness as well. So, most likely porneia means sexual uncleanness in general here.

    Ac 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

    See above.

    Ac 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

    See above. (not trying to be lazy here — just for the sake of time and space.)

    Ro 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    I would point out once again that the Bible is not saying that these are filled with pre-marital sex to the exclusion of post-marital sex. Again, the context shows that they are filled with sexual uncleanness. Certainly that includes pre-marital sex, but it equally includes post-marital infidelity.

    1Co 5:1 ¶ It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

    In this case, the fornication is incestuous. So, fornication includes in its meaning sexual uncleanness of an incestuous kind. The uncleanness is not restrictively pre-marital as opposed to post-marital. Those categories do not necessarily apply in this case.

    1Co 6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 1Co 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

    I’ll consider the entire passage of I Cor 6:9-20 as a whole here. In context, we can see that various sins which often overlapare listed in this passage. For instance, verse 10 lists both thieves and extortioners (extortion being a particular type of theft). So, in listing both fornication and adultery, it is not required that we say these are non-overlapping and distinct sins. Rather, the passage (esp. vv. 13-20) is clearly forbidding sexual sins of any kind. Flee fornication. This was not a message for young singles only. It applies to every believer. Certainly, the passage is warning us to flee pre-marital sex. But just as clearly, that is not all that the passage is saying. The passage is telling us to flee sexual uncleanness of any kind. We would not argue that the passage is only saying “flee pre-marital sex.”

    1Co 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

    Now, if any use of porneia gives credence to Kent’s definition, this one does. The passage is saying, “to avoid pre-marital sex, get married.” That is clear.

    I would point out that this is not inconsistent with the definition I have given, however. The definition “general sexual uncleanness” works here as well. In fact, when we consider this verse with the context of vv. 1-6, I believe that we can conclude that marriage helps us defeat fornication. We wouldn’t argue that at the moment we marry, we have henceforth defeated fornication forever. We would not say that after the wedding, we can mark “fornication” off our list of possible sins forever. We would not say that “once a person marries, fornication is no longer possible for him.” The flesh will always stuggle with fornication, which is part of why the Bible is telling us that there must be a mutual submission between husband and wife in sexual things. That is the one way God has given us to defeat fornication.

    1Co 10:8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

    It certainly could be argued that the fornication mentioned in this passage was pre-marital sex. I’ll not deny that. Again, I do not deny that fornication includes pre-marital sex. Clearly it does. I am arguing that fornication is not limited to pre-marital sex.

    2Co 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

    In this verse, we have three different species of sexual uncleanness mentioned, all of them general. It could be argued (though some might disagree) that this is for rhetorical effect and emphasis, the effect of Paul saying “men, brethren, and fathers.” In this case, the verse does not argue for either definition. Nor does it undo either definition.

    Ga 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

    The Trump Card! (some would say). Certainly, the verse (and verses) naming the works of the flesh which are manifest names several different sexual sins. Surely, Kent might say, the Bible purposely named both because they are two separate, non-overlapping sins. And that could be.

    In context, it should be noted that the works of the flesh are divided into several different broad categories, such as works that violate the sixth commandment. Of these works, all of them overlap to some degree — hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,. They give a different angle, and acheive copiousness in their scope. The same is true of the works of the flesh that violate the seventh commandment. Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, all violate the seventh commandment. All are sexual in nature. All give a different perspective of sexual sins.

    So, the fornication here is pre-marital, but we cannot say that the fornication could not possibly be general as well.

    Eph 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

    This verse is similar to those references in Acts. Certainly the porneia mentioned in this passage refers to pre-marital sex. But that is not the limit. The passage is forbidding sins of a very general kind, and one of those sins is sexual sins. Since only fornication is named here, we could argue that the word is being used in a very general way to include all sexual sins and uncleannesses.

    Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

    Ditto that. Although in this case, more unique terms are used for general sexual uncleanness than in the Ephesians reference. But since adultery is not named, and since it is no doubt included, we can infer that fornication includes adultery.

    1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

    The cat is waiting to pounce. I’ll go ahead and stick my neck out for him on this one. Kent will say that this one is clearly speaking of pre-marital sex only, because it is speaking of the obtaining of a life’s partner (based on the next verse, which says, “that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel…” For the sake of argument, we will assume that the word vessel is referring to a life’s partner, not to the one’s own self. And further, we will assume that the word “possess” means “obtain.”

    If both of those assumptions are true, then Kent is right to assert that fornication in this passage is referring to pre-marital sex only. I’ll not argue against that.

    I would only point out that this text, like others before it, by no means restricts the word to mean “only” pre-marital. Fornication includes pre-marital sex. It is the will of God that we should abstain from fornication. One type of fornication that we must abstain from is pre-marital sex, and in the obtaining of a life’s partner, fornication is a special temptation.

    Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    I’m not skipping over this passage, but I’m also avoiding an in-depth look at it because it would bring up an entirely different and unrelated controversy. I don’t think it makes the case for either one of us, but maybe Kent does.

    Re 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

    I don’t think that Balaam taught Israel to commit pre-marital sex. Maybe I’m wrong here. I think the issue was deeper than that. I think that the problem was that they were joining the Midianites in their abominable worship, that included cavorting with prostitutes. I think (here I go thinkin’ again — admittedly my opinion) that the Israelites were worshipping Midianite gods, which included prostitution. I don’t think that the sin was limited to the unmarried men. I think that the fornication in this passage included adultery.

    Re 2:20-21 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

    Again, I don’t think that this passage limits the sin to the single men.

    Re 9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

    Once again, we see fornication listed alone. Not to the exclusion of adultery, but because adultery is included as a form of fornication.

    Re 14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

    I hate repeating myself…

    Re 17:2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

    Sure, this is figurative language. But I don’t think that the kings of the earth are only single men. Certainly it is possible that fornication is only pre-marital in this text too, but I’m thinking that there is a possibility that there are some married kings committing fornication.

    Re 17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

    Re 18:3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

    Re 18:9 ¶ And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,

    Re 19:2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

    And there we have it. With apologies for not commenting on every single use, we see that we have no warrant for restricting porneia to pre-marital only. If we assume pre-marital ahead of time, we can make it fit in most cases. Most times that the word is used, we can see that pre-marital is included. But there are many times when fornication is listed and adultery is not. And in these cases, the reason is that fornication is the general word for sexual uncleanness.

    Without further ado, I’ll let Kent take me apart for awhile.

  12. May 30, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I’m absolutely serious when I say that I am glad that Pastor Mallinak put every porneia reference up for people to see. It will for sure make it easier for you to look at them, so go ahead and do that. Here is what you will see, and you can tell me if I’m wrong.

    None of the references are post-marital. They could be, might be, but the context does not let us know that any of them includes anything post-marital. We do know that some of them for sure are pre-marital. We know that, and Pastor Mallinak honestly let us know those, for which I commend him. Adultery and uncleanness are differentiated from fornication in some of the texts. That would tend toward them definitely being pre-marital. Since none of them show anything post-marital then we would be taking a position from silence. That does not bode well for any position.

    As well, it is important to look at the passages in Matthew. We have three. The one other passage in Matthew, 15:19, we have already shown to contrast with adultery in the verse. Matthew lets us in on his thinking on the word with that list.

    Porneia is clearly pre-marital and it is only a guess as to whether it could be anything more than that. I believe we should go with what we know and can see. This is interpreting the obscure in the light of the clear.

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