Divorce and Remarriage: The Search for An Evangelical Hermeneutic -- By: William A. Heth

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 16:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Divorce and Remarriage: The Search for An Evangelical Hermeneutic
Author: William A. Heth

Divorce and Remarriage:
The Search for An Evangelical Hermeneutic1

William A. Heth *

I. Introduction

In 1990, Trinity Journal published three articles on the subject of divorce and remarriage to sharpen historical and exegetical thinking about this critical pastoral concern. One author surveyed the understanding of the early fathers up through John Wesley, another provided an exposition of Matt 19:3–12, and I contributed a rather focused piece on the history of a Protestant exegetical tradition.2 Since then significant studies have provided new insights from exegetical, historical-cultural, sociological, theological, literary, ethical, and pastoral paradigms that clarify the intent of Jesus’ divorce sayings.

In line with the historic position of the Christian church up to the Reformation, two recent monographs3 affirm the exegesis of the NT divorce texts which Gordon Wenham and I offered in Jesus and Divorce back in 1984.4 We would agree with most others that there

* W. A. Heth is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University, Upland, IN. This article is a revised version of a paper read at the Forty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 17–19, 1994, Chicago, IL.

are innocent victims of divorce. We believe that the Matthean (5:32; 19:9) and the Pauline (1 Cor 7:15) exceptions are directed at those innocent parties and function to relieve them of the responsibility for the breakup of the marriage. Yet whereas marital separation and legal divorce may be allowed in some situations, and advisable in others, we do not think that Jesus explicitly sanctioned remarriage after divorce for sexual unfaithfulness. Andrew Cornes agrees that at the heart of Jesus’ teaching about the life-long permanence of marriage stands the Gen 2:24 concept that husband and wife become “one flesh.”5

In line with the views of Erasmus and the Protestant Reformers, Craig Keener’s thoroughly researched monograph and the relevant articles in IVP’s dictionaries conclude that Matthew and Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, authoritatively interpret Jesus’ prophetic pronouncements against divorce and remarriage fo...

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