Do biblical literalists think divorce and remarriage is a sin?

This topic was raised in a pit thread currently active, but I wished to get away from the occasional air of hostility which that discussion was being conducted under. I really am interested to hear what the biblical literalists think of divorce and remarriage. It seems to me it is quite explicitly stated in the Bible that it’s a big no-no. Yet there seem to be some fundamentalist churches who do not condemn the remarriage as an act of adultery or ongoing sin. Is that true? What is their reasoning on the subject? Can anyone enlighten me about this? Any relevant old threads?

And I would like to avoid bringing invective and character asassination into this please. Which is why I’m not linking to the above-mentioned pit thread.

The gospel of Matthew allows divorce in the case of adultery, but divorce for any other cause followed by remarriage by either party is also adultery:

The gospels of Mark and Luke omit even the escape clause for adultery:

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, Paul says that a Christian should not divorce a non-Christian if the non-Christian spouse is willing to stay in the marriage, but if the non-Christian wants out, the Christian should let him or her go. It’s not clear if Christians in that circumstance are free to re-marry. In general, Paul is not really enthusiastic about marriage, regarding it as a “concession” to the temptations of the flesh, not (evidently) as a Good Thing in and of itself.

Also, keep in mind that divorce is only a problem for those who place authority in the NT. The Jewish Bible, while discouraging divorce, does allow for it.

Zev Steinhardt

Well, you know, sometimes it doesn’t work out. I love how people will sacrifice their own happiness and enjoyment for life to please a book.

The pastor of my church was married and divorced and I hold no judgement against him. His x-wife is the one who decided to leave him so what was he suppossed to do? He has since remarried and I don’t believe he has sinned in doing so.

Qad: It’s really simple. The Biblical Literalists think that the rules in the Bible ALL apply to OTHER people, but not to them. Thus there’s the issue in the pit thread, along with the issue of those same literalists judging and condemning the rest of us.

Hey, dreamer-long time no see!!!


Yeah, I finally returned from the circus only to come back to another one :smiley: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Who cares about what the bible says or about what the Jews think? They obviously never understood their own scriptures, since they didn’t get that pork’d chops were tasty, hence god couldn’t have forbidden people to eat them (presumably he briefly erred before realizing how silly it was and changing his mind).
Similarily, when a Jewish rabbi (supposedly) said that not even a dot/accent mark/letter of the Law would be dropped till the end of times, he was actually thinking about moral laws, not about ritual laws. He just forgot to point it out, but it’s just obvious for any sensible person.
And then, there are these early christians stupid enough to think that the Jewish Law still applied, and who utterly rejected Paul’s teachings and considered him a liar and a fake. They actually thought that the bible, Jesus and Jesus’ disciples (in particular Peter) were more authoritative than a self-appointed interpreter of the above mentionned teachings. How silly! Anybody with some common sense would understand that dropping the inconvenient parts of the Law was the way to go. I mean, who wants to have his willy chopped off?
Actually, even Paul erred sometimes. But fortunately, it’s easy to tell apart what is correct in his teachings and what he wrote while drunk or sleep deprived. You just have to apply common sense. He couldn’t have actually thought that women are inferior to men and should behave accordingly.

No, seriously, the bible, the Jews, the gospels, the early christians, Paul…These are just irrelevant. The will of god is clear. There are only three commandments to follow :

1)Thou shalt do what you like to do, are accustomed to do, personnally approve, or find convenient (eating oysters, working on friday, divorcing, keeping what you own, killing ennemies/criminals…)

2)Thou shalt condemn in clear words what you don’t like to do, aren’t accustomed to, personnally dissaprove or find unconvenient (sleeping with people of the same sex, enslaving people, being communist, using contraception, covering one’s head…)

3)Thou shalt read and quote the parts of the scriptures which are in agreement with 1) and 2) and ignore the parts which are conflicting.
And people who don’t respect these commandments (who do things you don’t like or don’t approve), can optionnally be doomed to hell [depending on whether you like/are accustomed to the concept of hell or not, still following the commandments 1) and 2) ]

MEBuckner, thanks much for providing a pithy summary of the relevant new testament quotes. I’m still hoping to learn how the literalists who do allow divorce and re-marriage manage to evade what seems to be a clear-cut directive from the big J himself to not re-marry.

soul reminder, Monty and dreamer, you summarize my feelings on the issue.

zev, I had always believed that was the case. Thanks for confirming it.

Clairobscur, your view of how religion is practiced and your 3 commandments strike a sympathetic chord with me, but that’s not really the topic I was looking to explore here.

See this

Thanks, IzzyR. Interesting, but unfortunately there is little discussion of remarriage. I’ll have to explore further some of those links.

A bit tongue-in-cheek, but here goes:

The only justification for divorce is marital unfaithfulness. I assume this means having sex with someone else.

Jesus said “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt. 5 v28.

Therefore, long as you can show that your husband (or wife) has at some point in the past looked at another person lustfully, they are technically guilty of adultery (by Jesus’ terms). This should not be too hard to show, although definite proof might still be tricky. As long as one partner is prepared to admit to it, however, the conditions are satisfied.

As such, because one or both of the partners in the marriage has (in a spiritual sense) almost certainly already been unfaithful, there is in fact always legitimate grounds for divorce and thus remarriage.

N’est pas?

True, but I found the final argument interesting in this regard. Because if one were to interpret Verse 15 (“A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace”) as meaning that once someone’s spouse leaves the marriage is considered dissolved (“not bound”), this may be the “out”. It may be that the operative condition is the desertion - not the believing status of the spouse - just that a good believer would never be the deserter, so the example chosen was of the unbeliever deserting.

Of course, this does not imply that this is the actual belief of the groups in question.

That last was directed to Qadgop.

This quote is at the heart of it.

Why don’t you believe he has sinned, dreamer? Even if his wife left him, the words of Mark 10:10 are clear: if he remarries, he commits adultery.

So why is this not applicable?

  • Rick

possible interpretations-

that Jesus was not condemning the act of someone who divorces & then some time later finds another mate & then marries, but rather he was condemning the act of divorcing one’s spouse IN ORDER to marry another. Technically, that would have been permissable & non-adulterous according to the letter of the Mosaic Law but it totally violated the spirit. I think this is the most likely.

another one that I find less convincing but interesting- that Jesus was condemning spousal abandonment WITHOUT a written divorce (it being the practice in some neighboring cultures for a man to divorce his wife verbally) which would make any subsequent marriage by either party adulterous- actually now that I write that out, it does look more convincing than I had thought

Paul in I Corinthians 7 also seems to stretch Jesus’s adultery clause to include spousal abandonment or abuse (“if the unbelieving spouse departs or is unwilling to live with the believing spouse then the believing one is not bound”). Most Evangelical Christian teachers & preachers today recognize those exceptions

I doubt this one is correct. Normative Jewish law, as codified in the Talmud and practiced at Jesus’ time clearly makes this case. It was commonly known throughout the Jewish world at the time (both in Israel and in Babylonia) that a divorce requires a written document. I don’t think that this problem would have existed that Jesus would have needed to warn against it.

Zev Steinhardt

Yes, I erred. But nevertheless, I think it’s an essential point. religious people (litteralist or not) read in the scriptures what they want to read, not what is actually written. They don’t necessarily read what is the most convenient to them, but what they think should be written. When slavery is OK, they point at the parts of the scripture refering to it. When it’s not OK any more, they ignore these parts. If they think homosexuality is bad, they point at some verses refering to it as an abomination. If they are homosexuals and want to reconcile that with their beliefs, not only they ignore these references, but they interpret some obscures quotes in a way which make homosexuality OK. If there are references to some custom which would be considered weird in the society they live in, they ignore the references. If they think a christian shouldn’t kill, even an ennemy during the war, so says the bible. If they support the death penalty, so does the bible.

I’ve been too restrictive. It’s not necessarily what they think which is determinant, but often the interpretation they’re accustomed to.
In this thread, we’ve an excellent example of this at work. Posters are trying to make divorce/remarriage OK. Because they, or their congregation don’t think it’s a big deal, apparently. I must admit, though, that I’m surprised. I wouldn’t have suspected that litteralists could believe that the christian scriptures allow divorce in some instances (like adultery). It seemed to me to be such a basic and accepted fact that for a christian divorce+second marriage = adultery, that I assumed that no litteralist would try to find a way out.
I was wrong. I should have guessed that for these god and hell fearing people, living as unrepentant sinners would be way too uncomfortable. A non litteralist can say : “Well…god is merciful, surely he understands and will forgive. We’re all sinners, anyway, each in our own ways”. He can accept the fact that a second marriage after a divorce is condemned by the scriptures, and still go on with his life. Or he can believe that god actually doesn’t condemn a second marriage, and that such condemnations are the words of men put in the mouth of God in scriptures which are only imperfect reflections of God’s will since they’ve been written by faillible men.
But of course, litteralists don’t have such easy ways to avoid/ignore the contradiction. Sinning, of course is unavoidable. But living on a permanent basis in a sinful way would mean a certain damnation. So, they must necessarily believe that god doesn’t condemn their way of life. If such a condemnation is written in plain, direct language, they have to find some interpretation, some other quote, which allow them to believe that the text doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. Of course, some will just take it at face value and won’t remarry, but since divorce has become so common in our modern societies, it’s logical that more and more people will rather reinterpret the scriptures to make them agree with this common and generally accepted practice.
I also strongly suspect that some do indeed think that a second marriage is akin to adultery, but somehow consider that as a “less sinful” way of life than, say, an homosexual way of life. I assume they wouldn’t say that, not even clearly think it, but I’m pretty certain a number amongst them would still feel it. And our behavior is quite always much more dependant on what we feel than on what we think.

clair: A literalist interpretation does allow divorce on the grounds of the other party’s adultery.