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Divorce in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): The Mosaic Law, which historical Christianity believes was handed

by God to Moses, assigned a very low status to women. They were generally viewed as inferior to men, as sexual predators, and deceitful and untrustworthy. They were an item of property: A girl was considered to be owned by her father. At marriage, her ownership was transferred to her new husband. Fathers could sell their daughters into slavery. Men could divorce their wives for various reasons. There was no reciprocal arrangement by which women could divorce their husbands. Some passages relating to divorce from the King James version (KJV) of the Bible: Genesis 2:24: Becoming one flesh: The Bible discusses a man "cleaving unto his wife." "Cleave" is a translation of the Hebrew word "dabaq" which means to make a permanent alliance with (Joshua 23:12, Ruth 1:14, 2 Samuel 20:2). In its noun form, the word refers to soldering two pieces of metal together. Some theologians have suggested that this term refers to permanent actions -- those that cannot be undone. Thus, the passage implies that divorce is impossible. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Exodus 21:7-11: Fate of a woman sold into slavery: If a father decides to sell his daughter as a slave, she is not automatically released after 6 years service; she is a slave for life. (The term "maidservant" in the KJV has become a mistranslation in modern English; it really means female slave ). If she does not satisfy her owner, then her father (or a close kinsman) may buy her back. If the woman's new owner takes her as a wife or concubine, then she is no longer considered his slave. If her owner gives her to his son as a wife or concubine, then she becomes a daughter of the original owner, not his slave. If she becomes a wife and her husband marries another woman, then he must maintain her standard of living and level of sexual activity. Otherwise, she can simply leave her husband at no charge, and become, in essence, a divorced woman. "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money." Deuteronomy 21:10-14: Divorce of a female prisoner of war: A soldier could kidnap any enemy woman that appealed to him, keep her in his house for a month, and then engage in sexual intercourse (whether it be consensual sex or forced rape). If he becomes dissatisfied with her, then he can, in essence, divorce her. But he was not allowed to sell her as a slave. "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall...bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will;

but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." Deuteronomy 24:1-4: Divorce of a woman and prohibition of remarriage to her original husband: A man could force his wife to divorce him, if he found that she had committed an indecent act. She could remarry. But if her second husband died or divorced her, she could not return to her first husband. There was no similar procedure for a husband who is guilty of indecency. The act referred to is probably not adultery, because it would have been punished by death. It was probably behaving immodestly or excessively friendly towards other men. "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." Ezra 10:1-16: Forced divorce of foreign wives: In the 5 to 7 decades that the Jews had remained in Babylonian captivity, many had taken foreign wives. This opened up the possibility of introducing Pagan beliefs and practices into Israel society. The people confess their sinful behavior and decide to abandon their foreign wives and any children that had been born. The fate of the women whose marriages were terminated, and of her children, is unknown. "Shechaniah...answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law." Nehemiah 13:23-30: Forced divorce of foreign wives: This is similar to the passage in Ezra. However, this time, the Prophet reacts with violence towards the Jewish men who had married foreign wives. Once again, the men divorced their wives: "In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab...And I [Nehemiah] contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves." Esther 1:10-19: A Pagan divorce based on wifely disobedience: The Persian king Ahasuerus ordered that one of his wives, Vashti, be brought into the presence of himself and his guests, wearing her crown. She refused for some unknown reason. Early rabbinic interpreters speculated that perhaps she was expected to wear only the crown, and no other clothing. She is seen to have insulted the King, the Princes and all of the other people in the empire. He divorces her, and leaves her penniless.

"On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded...the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him... Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus...let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she." Jeremiah 3:1: God accepting Israel back: This passage expands on Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which prohibited a woman, who has been divorced and remarried, from returning to her first husband and remarrying him. The author drew a parallel between the remarriage of a divorcee, and God forgiving Israel. God was "willing to do the unthinkable. He was willing to take back" Israel, even though they had backslid many times: 2 "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD." Malachi 2:14-16: Marital separation (or perhaps divorce) is detestable: Theologian C.M. Laymon writes: "Marriage is a solemn agreement before God; hence those who divorce their wives are guilty not merely of covenant breaking but of blasphemy."3 "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant...Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away...therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously." There is a difference between the original Hebrew text, and most English translations of the Bible, The Hebrew says that God hates "putting away" or kicking the wife into the streets. This is equivalent to a forced marital separation in contemporary society. This meaning is followed by at least two Bible translations. However, most Bible versions change the Hebrew word for "putting away" into the word for issuing a bill of divorcement. Two other biblical translations indicate that God hates both marital separation and divorce. We suspect that the translators' abhorrence of divorce colored their translation of this verse. More info.

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Divorce in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament): Matthew 5:31-32: Adultery the only valid grounds for divorce: By the first century CE, the law of divorce based on Deuteronomy 24:1 was being interpreted in many ways: the Shammai school taught that a man could only divorce his wife if she committed adultery; the

Hillel school taught that the man could divorce her if he found anything disagreeable in her. Jesus here is making his views known; he agrees with the Shammai interpretation. He says that a wife's adultery is the only valid grounds for divorce. If a man divorces his wife for any other reason, then: He is forcing her to commit adultery with another man, presumably because she would have to seek the protection of another man. If she marries another man, he is committing adultery. Jesus does not consider here whether an innocent party in a divorce is allowed to remarry. "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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." Matthew 19:3-9: Adultery the only valid grounds for divorce: Jesus returns to the question of grounds for divorce and confirms his stance in Matthew 5. He says that God intended men and women to marry permanently; divorce is not in God's plan. But Moses realized that, in their fallen state, the ancient Israelites needed a temporary civil law which permitted divorce on grounds of adultery. Liberal theologians speculate that Jesus originally taught that marriage was permanent, and divorce not permitted for any reason. By the time that Matthew was written, the early church had found this standard untenable and had added adultery as the only grounds for divorce. The author of Matthew then put this message into Jesus' words. "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 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." Mark 10:2-12: There are no valid grounds for divorce: Jesus here implies that all marriages are permanent; divorce is not allowed for any reason. He also implies that either the husband or the wife can initiate a divorce. This does not agree with the historical record; in 1st century CE Palestine, only a husband could end a marriage. Liberal theologians speculate that the gospel was written by a member of a Gentile Christian church outside of Palestine in the Greco-Roman world where a woman did have the right to divorce her husband. So, the author wrote from his own experience in Pagan territory and had Jesus reflect Pagan customs. When Matthew later extracted this story from Mark, he modified the text to bring it into accordance with Jewish practice. "And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him...And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and

be married to another, she committeth adultery." Luke 16:18: Remarriage is not permitted: Jesus here condemns remarriage of both husband and wife. Both the wife's former and new husband are committing adultery. This passage might be interpreted as allowing divorce as long as neither couple remarries; i.e. it would allow marital separation. "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." 1 Corinthians 7:10-17: Remarriage is permitted, in some circumstances: Paul apparently wrote this passage in response to some Christians who were married to other Christians and were considering separating from their spouses and leading a celibate life. Paul personally recommends that couples stay together. If they separate, the woman should remain unmarried. Paul makes no ruling on whether the husband should be allowed to remarry after a marital separation. Paul then deals with inter-faith marriages, in which a Christian is married to a Pagan. The Christian spouse should not initiate a separation or divorce; however they should allow their non-Christian spouse to separate if they they wish. and if the Christian is left, he or she is no longer "under bondage." They are apparently free to remarry. "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."