Another Look At The Erasmian View Of Divorce And Remarriage -- By: William A. Heth

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:3 (Sep 1982)
Article: Another Look At The Erasmian View Of Divorce And Remarriage
Author: William A. Heth

Another Look At The Erasmian View Of Divorce And Remarriage

William A. Heth*

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery”1 (Matt 19:9).

NT scholars have long debated the content and form of Jesus’ multiple and apparently contradictory pronouncements on divorce and remarriage.2 Within evangelical Protestant circles, however, the harmonization of the divorce texts appears to be settled with the interpretation that was first set forth by Erasmus, that was then taken up by the reformers, and that subsequently found its way into the confession of faith drawn up at Westminster in 1648.3 Certainly this is the predominant view among contemporary evangelical authors.4 On the other hand, the evangelical or Erasmian interpretation of Jesus’ divorce logia is not even counted a viable option by the vast majority of nonevangelical scholars.

I. Overview Of The Problem

The tension involved in the harmonization of Jesus’ divorce sayings recorded by the NT writers should become apparent in the following summary of the NT teaching.

*William Heth is a doctoral candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary.

It is God’s intention that marriage be an indissoluble union. “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate” (Mark 10:2–9 = Matt 19:3–8).

For a man to divorce a woman is not only for him to sin but to force her to commit the sin of adultery (Matt 5:32a).

For a single or formerly married man to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery (Matt 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18b).

For a man to divorce his wife and to remarry is to commit adultery (Mark 10:11; Matt 19:9; Luke 16:18).

For a woman to divorce her husband and to remarry is to commit adultery (Mark 10:12).

If a divorce does take place, whatever the circumstances, both husband and wife must remain unmarried or else be reconciled (

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