Gospel, marriage and divorce (13 pages)


2015-08-25 ( work in progress) in light of Jesus’ words questions 7, 8 to 12; 16-19; 20-22; and 23-39

Agathe Dupont *

Summary: A study of evangelical Greek texts can show that the precepts of Jesus, well translated, yield solid doctrinal support for Mercy Pastoral proposed to Family Synod Vote.


« The Church feels the need to say a word of truth and hope »[1] for the Family. It is for this purpose that a synod was convened by our Pope who wants more mercy on some issues, in the spirit of the Gospel: « The Church must accompany in a caring way its sons more fragile, marked by an injured or lost love « to » [telling] the truth in love « in the joyful prospect merciful love, like the one Jesus lived, » as it attracts and unites, transforms and elevates. »[2]The Synod will have to make proposals based on the word of Christ, Source of the practice of the Church: « The Church is called to turn towards Christ, to renew in Him »[3] and apply His Word to the life of the world, the Christian message containing always the reality and the dynamics of mercy and truth, which converge on Christ.

Now if all this was consensus, a few paragraphs in particular concerning present or future positions of the Church about  marriage (from its preparation to eventual divorce through injuries that can affect it, their various causes, consequences and remedies) could not be validated by members of the Synod, because they seemed to contradict their tradition, the doctrine of the Church and the Gospel.

All the Synod this time then asked the people of God to speak, with a questionnaire and in the form of contributions, in hope and trust in the Spirit to open up possibilities[4]. He hoped to release fears and encourage the speech of all, recalling the need it is based on Christ: « Every time we go back to the source of the Christian experience, new roads and unimaginable possibilities open »[5]. So, these terms encourage everyone to bring with simplicity his pieces of responses to the questions asked or addressed in this framework[6].

My text is a result of this appeal to all and with a view to implement this commitment of the Church to move towards more Light, Life and Truth, converging with the message of Christ : I share these comments on some of the paragraphs that have not been the subject of a consensus and it wishes to contribute to the discernment and allow the changing light of the Church

  • about the circumstances of the breaches or the « breakdown » itself of the marriage commitment, being concerned about those who live

  • about the « status » and the place, even within the Church, of people vulnerabled by divorce or separation.

For if Jesus, by his own attitude itself  and the overall content of his message is a living example, it appears that a return to his own words in the Gospel texts, can have the capability to provide the sought answers to the Synod the Pastoral so that it gets a better explicit agreement with the Doctrine.

The linguistic study of texts (and specifically the translation of the Greek porneia and of a verse translated upside-sown) conducted here makes it possible to illuminate precisely this way of life and to justify the proposed guidelines, so that Mercy is finally consolidated, not only on the love of Christ and Charity, but on the truth of the divine word received by all.

Thus, a careful reading of the word of Christ, our tradition and root source of truth and love, actually makes possible, although almost unexpected yet recently, this renewal in fidelity, and can open these « new roads » and the « unimaginable possibilities » through findings from three additional starting points:

  • clarification of the meaning of the Greek word porneia
  • demonstration of a grammatical error in a verse translation
  • the seven words of Jesus about marriage and its breakdown, and coherent/consistent meaning

The contribution is intended as possible brief and accessible, even if the author is aware contexts and works on these issues. A more comprehensive document can be requested.

1 : Clarification of the meaning and significance of the Greek word porneia

In the time of Jesus, Jewish law permitted divorce followed by remarriage of both spouses. The woman had theoretically the same right for repudiating her husband, but did not use of it. A text of Deuteronomy, going back to Moses, seemed to allow the husband to do it for even a vague or trivial reason, provided you had written a booklet divorce (sometimes also were given a sum of money). That was enough for some to think they were just and faithful to God’s plan for marriage, but other Jewish schools were going to ban it completely. Matthew 5.31 and 19.7 and 10.4 Marc talks about the divorce booklet which Jesus will deny any value (see below). On the other hand, He recognizes a case where a spouse may repudiate the other: if porneia (Matthew 5.32 and 19.9).

-In Greek, this term belongs to a family of words that evokes the transport, trade, financial transactions, contracts, and this negatively, prostitution and perjury …

-In The Old Testament translated into Greek (as in the Epistles) porneia refers generally a breach of contract: Israel breaches the law of God and his covenant, and for human, failures of any kind to law or alliance, which are equivalent, for the believers, in the end, to breaches God.

  • Regarding the spouses, especially in the time of Jesus, porneia seeks firstly to describe a serious breach spouse spouses together to God or his laws (idolatry, incest, sexual practices …), the other to designate the serious failure of a spouse to the promises made to the other during the marriage (debauchery of any kind in the sexual sense, religious, psychological, sexual relationship outside marriage, lifestyle or relationship pushing the other to separation, violence, hardship imposed divorce etc.). In many cases, this term appears beside and on top of the word that specifically means « adultery » (moichos or terms thereof) of which it is distinguished. Porneia therefore is usually wider than adultery and may include it; it is then ( after) that the meaning of the term has gradually slipped almost exclusively to « adultery ».

In the absence of the exact synonym in French ( or in English ? ) , the better for the rest of this reasoning is to keep the Greek term porneia.

To report the precepts of Christ about divorce, Matthew uses this term twice:

  • (19.9 Mt) μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ = (preposition + dative), if it is due to / due except for porneia.

  • (Mt 5,32) παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας = (+ genitive preposition) outside a porneia pattern, except in cases of porneia.

It is important to note that in these sentences is not the word adultery that was used, but a broader term, and that the only specific reference to adultery (through a verb) exists in the same precepts.

These two expressions ( called the incises in French : incised in English ?) have been the subject of much controversy, but can not be set aside because, canonically, nothing should be subtracted from the Good News. They are sometimes implied, but the Good News can only be a coherent whole and the incises, even implied, will have to be put in perspective with each of the precepts and whole. It will prove that they are not inconsistent/incoherent with any of the precepts of Jesus, which could have disqualified them or disqualified the message of Jesus, but at the opposite, validates them in fact. Better, the presence of this distinction reported by Matthew is necessary to understand in all its consistency the message of Jesus concerning wounds of couples and families, demonstrating their importance. This criterion is also the one hand, the one that will converge the meaning of all the other precepts of repudiation (see below), and secondly, it is consistent with being, lived and the words of Jesus as they are reported.

2 : Demonstration of a grammatical error in a verse translation

The different trends used to argue about the Divorce (see above): Some easily allowed it, others totally prohibited it. Pharisees, seeing an opportunity to tend to trap Jesus, asked him whether everybody could divorce his wife (Mark 10: 2) or have « for any reason » (Matthew 19.9 ) and Jesus clearly answered. Sometimes the Gospel recounts Jesus’ words without explicit interlocutor. This is the case of Matthew 5:32 where Jesus says, « it was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a divorce ticket …” before He opposes it, saying:

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι

« I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for reasons of porneia … »: this is the result of this sentence which is problematic.

Indeed, the usual meaning of the French translations is that the husband who divorces his wife (even if she did not miss him), « shoots her to adultery / makes her to commit adultery / makes her to commit one day adultery. » Jesus, to support the ban on the husband to divorce his innocent wife, would base on the fact that in His time and in His country, a woman could not be alone; every woman returned would be obliged to marry or have an affair and, by stating that it would perform well adultery, He wanted to show that her sin then fall on the husband who had unjustly fired her. This view is in line with the first Latin translation which was made by St. Jerome, the Vulgate, where the final verb is a verb deponent, meaning active,  infinitive present (moechari). All translations in the vernacular then followed this translation and / or interpretation.

This was assumed that even if the spouse « innocent » had suffered a divorce, Jesus forbade her to marry again, what the Church deduced that marriage was indissoluble wanted by Jesus, which amounted to de facto ban every Christian remarriage until the death of the other spouse, unless the first marriage nullity recognition, and it followed that all divorced who lived again in a relationship with someone, was in such grave sin he could not be absolved, which prevented him from Communion.

But the original Greek text has a different meaning.

  • The main verb, ποιεῖ (poïeï pronunciation), is the active, present, indicative, 3rd person singular, and the subject ( grammatically) is the husband who divorces a woman specified innocent here.

  • The verb of completive following is at the infinitive form  and has the pronoun αὐτὴν (auten pronunciation) as its  subject (grammatically) in the accusative form, and it means the wife, and it is clarified that it is innocent of porneia.

  • But in his infinitive sentence, Matthew used μοιχευθῆναι (moïkheuthènai pronunciation), a Aorist. This time marks in all its jobs a specific and brief action, unlike the Imperfect (which lasted) or Perfect (which lasted, and still lasts). It also marks, in the Indicative, the past, but this aspect is lacking in other modes where it may be translated sometimes even by a Present : this is the case here, since it is an infinitive. The Evangelist used the general truth of presence in the main, and has used in the completive neither a Present, nor a Future (more mundane forms yet), but properly built aorist passive infinitive, more rare, which shows that he wanted to mark the verb of the infinitive concerns what happened during the action of repudiating : it must be translated ( French) to the Past simple or composite, and if we can translate in a pinch at this point simultaneous with the act of repudiation (without concept of duration), there is certainly no reason to translate or understand the Future. On the other hand, Matthew has put this verb, neither with the Active, nor the Middle[7] with has common forms with the Passive, but with arguably Passive. Note that the Active works especially for men: commit adultery, cheat on his wife, Middle[8] having the same meaning, seduce, but the Passive is almost always used with a female subject and has two employments : 1) the most common way by far is, when the woman is guilty,  to be seduced, be pushed to commit adultery; 2) a rare sense when the woman is innocent: to be a deceived victim of adultery by his husband. ( N.B. This last sense is rare because it was a revolution in the androcentric society of this time, but we can find it also for instance in Porphyrios ; this rarity explains probably why this signification is not written in dictionaries which reflect only texts which have reached us.) As Matthew took care to point out before that the woman is innocent, only the second meaning of the Passive is appropriate: the innocent woman is divorced shows that she was deceived by her husband who is actually “adulterous” ( in his mind and heart) against her. Translation closest to the Greek is: whoever divorces his wife except in the case of porneia, makes it have been the victim of adultery.

« The wife will be/is adulterous » is pretty much the opposite of « the wife was deceived by her husband. »

Saying this, Jesus responds so much that in this case (innocent woman), the ticket granted by Moses does not change the fact that there is a fault and the victim. Although he did not physically cheated his wife, this husband actually broke his covenant promises, this means that he is adulterous, term which shows him in his sinfulness, with the consequences set out Jewish law.

Certainly the use by Matthew of a Passive verb for a victim of adultery is extremely rare in this environment where many are not even considering that a woman can be perceived as being betrayed by her husband, but Marc 10.11 (see below) transposes the same to the Active and Present : repudiating her and marrying again with another, « her husband commits adultery against her. » Jesus preaches there as everywhere else, equal rights in marriage. The mistranslation is based itself on a social situation that Jesus refused to keep his Kingdom – and that lasted, fault rectification.

Some authors, aware of the meaning of this passive Aorist, tried to justify compliance with the translation of Jerome and Tradition after it[9]. As the translation with an Anticipation or General truth Present or with a Future (both erroneous in fact), without any qualification or exception, concerns a block of innocent category and condemn all them in advance, whatever their actual deeds, – that which is contrary to the Gospel and common sense – some argue that it is intended to measure the responsibility that husband: in that case, can we argue,  who had the right to take his words at the foot of the letter to draw conclusions further aggravating the plight of the victims? Jesus opposes that the sins of one fall on the other or explain the misfortunes suffered by innocent, and He defines instead the responsibilities.

In the case considered here, the Aorist passive, translated correctly, justly distinguishes the status of both spouses: the clause (incises) explaining the only case where divorce is allowed (in the case of porneia), better protects those who are almost obliged to be imposed with an unwanted divorce or a marriage too hard; and judgment (it is a fact in adultery ! ) prevents the guilty temptations while allowing the return to life of the « victims ».

It is necessary more than ever to return to Jesus in whom the letter (and Word) and the mind (and the Spirit) are one, and were operational in their time as they are still ours.

3 : The seven precepts of Jesus about marriage and its possible ruptures, and consistency/coherence

Matthew, Mark and Luke, evoke very consistently, in five verses, three types of situations and extreme cases where they report that Jesus gave seven precepts. They are grouped here, although they are from the controversy with the Pharisees (Matthew and Mark 19.9, 10.11), a discourse of Jesus against their hypocrisy (Luke 16,18) or from a set of precepts gathered in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21). Jesus does not evoke the sociology of his country and of his time, of which he accepts the Act, except where he is challenging it because it has deviated, but He speaks to those who follow Him and follow the Gospel of the Kingdom; to them, He speaks with authority by returning to the original truth of the Act in the plan of God to tell them to act differently from those who justify themselves before humans, but God knows their hearts (Luke, 16, 15).

  1. a) A spouse returns innocent spouse, thereby committing a serious error (falsely justified repudiation)

One only sentence concerns this situation: it is the one that had an error (see above).

First precept   Matthew 5.32: ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except in the case of porneia, makes her have suffered adultery

The correct translation of the verb in passive aorist infinitive has the same meaning as in Mark 10.11 (3rd precept, below) who turned his sentence in Active and with a direct object.

Jesus condemns this failure to marital commitment as a sin as serious as an adultery and effective repudiation, and denounces abuses mosaic ticket allowed to conceal.

The accusation vis-à-vis the husband is clear: he bears full responsibility for the breakdown of the alliance with his wife. Jesus shows how much he makes his wife to suffer, having broken unilaterally their alliance. But the Jewish laws was allowing to each in a divorces couple, to remarry and Jesus does not say here that the guilty cannot remarry, although he has sinned.

Apparently, in the case of porneia of his wife, he would not have done onto her adultery in repudiating her.  So Jesus seem to understand that in this case the husband divorces.

The precept also indicates that an innocent woman, divorced for a false cause, is a victim who has not to be entitled to carry any weight of the breaking of the covenant: in this evoked case, as in Jewish law that Jesus challenged not about that, she is freed of its commitment : she can indeed remarry.

  1. b) A man returns an innocent woman and remarries, thereby committing a serious error (falsely justified repudiation followed by a new marital commitment while he is yet almost as married)

Four precepts concern this situation:

Second  precept   Matthew 19.9: λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται[10].

I say to you that whoever returns his wife without cause of her porneia, and marries another, commits adultery.

Remarriage of a husband who returned an innocent woman is a real adultery on his part in respect to her.

The 1st and 2nd precepts show that porneia is the criterion for Jesus to distinguish the situations of the two spouses; this is the only reason why a husband can divorce his wife legitimately, without making her a victim, (1st commandment)

He allows an innocent ex-spouse to remarry (2nd commandment), but seem to forbide the re-marriage to a man having wrongly repudiated his wife.

3rd precept  Marc 10,11: καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς · ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην, μοιχᾶται ἐπ αὐτήν ·

And He said to them, “one that returns (unfairly) his wife and marries another commits adultery against her”.

4th  precept : Marc 10,11: καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς γαμήσῃ ἄλλον μοιχᾶται.

And if the latter ( wife) having returned (unjustly) her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.

Marc (3rd and 4th precepts) intentionally repeats twice the same gesture, but in one case a man divorces his wife, and in the other, the woman returns her husband  : equal rights and duties.

5th  precept : Luke 16,18: Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει,

Whoever divorces his wife (unjustly) and marries another, commits adultery.

Matthew and Mark and Luke relate almost identically this precept of Christ: an alliance is made with two contracts, and unilateral break with an innocent spouse does not relieve the wrongdoer of his sin vis-à-vis his wife and God, and makes him to be adulterous if he remarries.

  1. c) A man marries a woman repudiated

Two precepts concern the man who marries a repudiated woman ( and do not concern this woman) and they are the end of the paragraph which is necessary, as often, to  give them the context of the whole argumentation.

6th precept (following the 5th): Luke 16,18: καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει. He who marries a woman repudiated by/from her husband, is adultery.

7th precept (continued 1st): Matthew 5.32: καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ μοιχᾶται. He who marries a woman repudiated commits adultery.

We shall study Matthew because the context is more useful and rich, Luke’s being quite similar. Both being very concise, they are difficult to understand, but we must always remember that they must agree with Jesus’life and the whole Gospel, who like justice, and for instance  never condamn together innocent and guilty people, and never make one’s fault to fall on an innocent victim. These two precepts must also agree with the five others. The precepts are about the new husband: and no matter if the man who marries her is a single man, a married man who legitimately repudiated his offending woman or a married man who wrongfully repudiated his wife innocent of porneia. The problem is expressed because this man married a « repudiated » ( See that it is a feminine one, the word « woman » being not expressed) : why Jesus says this adjective, he who never stigmatizes/condemns people in group[11] ?

There are two ways to understand these sentences, the second being much better than the first.

1°) First way : if we  do not look at the context of these two  precepts, we must find all the logical signification inside this short precept : the fact that Jesus says that the man is adultery can only be the consequence of the fact he marries her although he knew he was making a bad choice, aware that she has been repudiated because she was guilty. If the woman had done the mistake of porneia vis-à-vis his spouse, she has been rightly repudiated, legally with the booklet of divorce, but Jesus has said in other precepts that this repudiation of course did not untie the morally or religiously sin in which she is located (breaches of promises of his marital commitment).

We could read then for the both precepts: καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην γαμῶν μοιχεύει. He who marries a woman (legitimately) repudiated, commits adultery (towards the former husband of his wife). It could seem rather logical to think that she could be said adulterous towards her first husband if she remarries in this situation of sin, so that Jesus would say that God could not unite the new couple. We immediately notice that the fact that her fault, if she remarries, would reflect on her new spouse, would be in fact a very important addition opposing to the jewish law, although  not explicated : strange.

More over, what happens if we remember that these  6th and 7 th precepts must be coherent and logical with all Jesus’example, spirit and words and cannot allude to a reason which would be illogical and incoherent with the whole Gospel ?

If we pay attention, this interpretation is not very much convenient. In this case, first, what, if the new sponse was not aware of the previous porneia of his wife towards the husband who repudiated her? Would Jesus tell that he then commits adultery when he marries her, even not aware, his wife’s adultery contaminating him ? No, because it would not fit with the fact that Jesus is always opposed to the fact that the fault of one falls on the other ( innocent).  Only after he is aware, then ? May be. But then, why this sentence is not clear enough about the two conditions ( woman legitimately  repudiated, man aware of this fact) ? Second, what about  the Jewish law, in Jesus’time, which obliged to kill the adultery persons ( Leviticus)  : since Jesus  did not oppose to,  would he have really ordered or accepted these new spouses to be killed according this law?  or would he rather and more evangelically have thought, – leaving aside in this precept the question of the legitimately repudiated person- , that  the man marrying a legitimately repudiated  wife would have then to be forgiven for being adultery towards the first repudiating husband, victim of her porneia ? But why then didn’t he tell it accurately? There are also others questions and objections we have not room enough for, and above all, we have a much better explanation.

2°) Second  way ( which looks exact ) : as one has to insert the phrase in its context, we see that Matthew’s belongs to the Speech on the Mountain, against hypocrisy and minimalization of Law by referring only to the Letter ( and Luke’s context is quite similar). In the head of this chapter (Matthew 5, 27-28) which deals about of the great commandments of the Decalogue, Jesus shows that a man who seems not adulterous can be adulterous in reality. Jesus says  « You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery » But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman with lust for her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart « , since she is not his wife grace to an alliance with him ; and he explains ( 29-30) the importance of this sin, men committing then in fact adultery in their heart and mind : they seem pure, and they are not. He does not say that they must be killed, as in Leviticus, but he says that they ought to cut their own hand, eye and so on, rather than to suffer for ever.

Immediately after, he goes on with  the question about divorce and divorce-booklet ( 31) and answers (32) about a man who commits adultery when he marries a repudiated woman How can it happen he is adulterous ? Jesus precises that he marries a repudiated person, but how can he be then adultery since, according Jewish laws, all the legally divorced persons could marry legally, grace to a divorce-booklet ? A woman without this booklet could not remarry. We notice first that none of both these sentences specify if the repudiated woman herself was guilty or innocent: sure, it is not the matter. It is the new husband, alone, who commits himself adultery.  In fact, Jesus goals not only the man who, like in 28, has sexually desired this woman although she was married or has committed really adultery with her in secret, but specifically there, the man who used legal ways to succeed to marry her, waiting her ( and perhaps acting for that)  until she is repudiated and granted by the booklet of divorce so that he has the legal right to marry her: Jesus attacks one more time the divorce booklet that allowed hypocritically to abusively repudiate the woman, but he attacks, not the man who repudiates, but the machiavellian one, fully responsible for his own acts,  who uses it to marry, and who does wrong by marrying. He tells that legality is not legitimity, and that the marriage of this man[12] is in reality based on adulterous source. This adultery of the man does not at all depend on the fact she was innocent or not.

Both these sentences, put back in all their near and far contexts, are then understandable and coherent. The principles are always the same, but Jesus uses the case of the repudiation with the divorce-booklet, to condemn legal processes that made it easier for men to disobey, in different unsuspected ways, God’s law he gives all its fullness :

6th precept (following the 5th): Luke 16,18: καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει. The one who marries (in a guilty way or by guilty means) a woman expulsed far from his man’s house ( = repudiated by her husband), is adulterous, (in his heart, towards God and human laws , and even if she was legally repudiated with a divorce-booklet).

7th precept (continued 1st): Matthew 5.32: καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ μοιχᾶται. The one who marries (in a guilty way or by guilty means) a woman repudiated commits adultery ( against her and against God)( even if she was legally repudiated with a divorce-booklet).

Moreover, then, the meaning becomes consistent with the rest of other words, fitting in perfectly with all the others,  including the first precept which defined the innocent divorced woman as a victim, free to remarry, and her possible husband’s sin will neither “contaminate” her if she was innocent, nor increase her sin if she was guilty.

Jesus attacks here, first of all, the divorce-booklet advocated by the Pharisees, which empties hypocritically the law of its meaning, secondly, some men who make unfair use of this booklet to abusively repudiate often innocent women, third, some others who hope on this booklet to have a legal permission to satisfy their adulterous desires about another’s wife, after her repudiation with the legal booklet.

Moreover, testing if these both sentences are consistent  with Jesus’life, example and Gospel, we can think that if Jesus uses a singular “ he who…”  and not “ all” or “every ”  mean that it is  an individual question of each conscious person : from outside, it is the legal marriage of a man to a legally repudiated woman, but inside, he is sinning or he is not.

Jesus’ logical and revolutionary attacks against this divorce-booklet and against unjust social  decrees and situations,  explain why they disappeared very quickly in early Christian church, even though divorce because of porneia existed ( see down).

Synthesis of this set of seven precepts

In Matthew and Mark, the Pharisees, after Jesus’answers, keep quiet, well aware now that the mosaic ticket is not enough and that all is labeled good sense, psychological and human, but Marc and especially Matthew emphasize (not without humor or humility) questioning or very dissatisfied reactions of Jesus’disciples marked with their time, men whom Jesus has much diminished the rights from the common practice at the time ( divorce authorized  only because of porneia of the other[13]).

In the Synoptics – John does not evoke this – all these precepts show that Jesus was analyzing the hearts beyond appearances and treated men and women equally. These texts and their context are a solid set, complete and acceptable by everybody, about marriage. In in these few extreme cases, he distinguishes the victim, from the porneia committed by the other spouse:

  • Jesus indicates that the serious breach of promises releases spouse who suffered the constraints of his alliance and thus allows this victim spouse to divorce without sinning.

  • Jesus explicitly states the sin of one who divorces (the other spouse being innocent) as adulterous, which forbids  the sinner to contract a new alliance, as being in a state of sin.

  • Jesus explicitly gives the non-offending divorced person the victim status, and his silence indicates that a remarriage would not put this person in the act of adultery.

He  demonstrates once again the realism and justice of God’s Laws by explaining that there is there, in those cases of unlawful repudiation, a one responsible and a one who suffers. He struggles against a hypocritical legalism and shows that the Mosaic concession was in fact a practice that contravenes and plan of God and the innocent spouse, and leaves the faulty person in a spiritual state of adultery, as if he were still married. Bringing these precepts together shows that he is taking concrete principles with a law founded on symmetry value and rights between men and women, all together about love, human common sense, truth and justice. They are about neatly sliced ​​cases, but illuminate many more situations.

4 : Extensions

This paper is not intended to change an understanding nor a subjective interpretation of the Gospel, in the light of passenger contexts: it proposes to rediscover the « courage of faith and humble and honest acceptance of the truth in the charity « (Conclusion paragraph 62) the eternal meaning of the exact words (but distorted time) of Christ and his attitude about marriage and divorced.

Jesus clarified by placing it in God’s plan the wedding and help He proposed to manage the failures of couples He had a perfect knowledge. Following a mistranslation and misunderstanding, doctrinal interpretation that did not conform to his Gospel and was faced with many contradictions, could not meet the distinctions that He was doing or some of its precepts. To compensate for the hardly acceptable hardness text (faulty) and its applications, pastoral care of the family today is trying to guide the Church on Mercy channels for divorced and remarried couples suffering. In fact, we see that the words of Christ reveal the absolute legitimacy of the desired development by the Pope, which actually amounts to conform finally to His word, original and eternal word, which is more than ever « path of truth and mercy for all « (cf. Conclusion paragraph 62).

Vis-à-vis families and the world, the Church declares that it has to be honest and courageous in its relations with others (Introduction to the Third part: « In light of the need for family and, same time, multiple and complex challenges present in our world, the Synod has stressed the importance of a strong and renewed proclamation, frank and meaningful, of Gospel to the family « ). This franchise is inseparable from truth and honesty which it must use when it is concerned itself, to be heard and thus allow everyone to move in the divine light. Frankly recognize that human error of translation and of semantic gives back to the Word of Jesus timeless value: renewal is done here as requested, for a coming (back?) to the Source (Question 7: Looking to Christ opens new possibilities « . In fact, every time we go back to the source of the Christian experience, new roads and unimaginable possibilities open « (No. 12).

These pragmatic principles, reported by the evangelists, are indeed sufficient despite their brevity, to illuminate in conscience a variety of situations and solve many problems.

As to the victim, the unimaginable is to recognize that the victim requires true compassion, but not (theoretically) Mercy: the Law and Justice free the victim from its alliance and restore its rights in a renewal of life and with the loving support of the Church.

As to the cause of the responsible (guilty) of the divorce, is his sinfulness unpardonable? It is impossible not to see that on one hand the Church has found ways to take action with respect even to sacraments in some cases (Marriage, Order),  that, on the other hand, priests have always been s’ rely on the words of Jesus to his apostles to untie faults, in conscience, of the smallest as the greatest sinner, and last but not least, that the Gospel does not say that Jesus made this exception when giving his apostles the power to absolve sins. Does not entire evangelical coherence demonstrate also that there is always the possibility, new in fact, of a merciful forgiveness path for that sin too?

As for so many situations « intermediate » (various degrees of injury or marriage breakdown, sometimes by mutual consent to separation), Jesus is deliberately silent. However, these principles, vision and wisdom, his refusal of binary, his knowledge of man, his example, his recommendations for attention to small, his mercy toward sinners, his calls for pardon, illuminate understanding to be made to concrete situations: with Him any wrongful could be forgiven by Mercy, like any other sinner. Given the Jewish Law and the rest of the Gospel, the (rightly) repudiated should certainly have to make a way in order to leave this state, which sanctions and certainly verbalize what has been done, but to better enable to get out; the brutal spouse or unfair repudiating too are called to apologize to their victim as to God and others; those who have separated by mutual agreement and with more or less regret the couple that God had united, they may, in their new covenant, decide  not to sin etc. Jesus tips but for the sole purpose of echoing the Good News of forgiveness and life.

People injured themselves somewhere, are also always called to continue their Christian life and to a free pardon if they are able, in the example of Christ, whether married, separated or divorced, that these would have spent a new life with another or wish to remain single, possibly in a spirit of loyalty which may reflect certain values, ​​but which Jesus would have never thought to make it compulsory.

Whatever the situation, Jesus does not invite to justify oneself or prove by casuistry that one is better than the other, but to pay attention to other and love best.

« Christ is » the everlasting Gospel « (Rev. 14.6), and He is » the same yesterday and today and forever « (Heb 13: 8), » He is constant source of novelty « (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

Unexpectedly here, specifically, His word and His face are « restored » in their truth and are even more worthy of being loved and accepted by all. The Word of Christ (Introduction to question 7) with its permanent and inexhaustible truth is always more humanly consistent/coherent  and logical, just and merciful, illuminating each family and the Pastors of the Church.

True, about marriage and his injuries, the Synod could not and cannot follow, all caution, anything else than a pastoral orientation based textually and theologically. By becoming aware of the unintentional mistranslation and the consequences it has had, we better understand the exact content of the Good News He came to bring and the Doctrine to be drawn from. The proposed direction turns then justified by the precepts made by Jesus Himself from the plan of God and his law. If everyone also remembers incentive words of Jesus addressed to his time deciders, some people would feel they are called to change openly believes in conscience and in peace, understanding that it is in even greater fidelity that they will take this direction that will lead changes diagnosed as necessary.

The franchise of the Church[14] whose Mercy can then build even more trust on Christ, Letter and Spirit, help a brave and faithful ministry, bear fruit and advance in all the Kingdom of God.

* The author is a practicing Catholic, qualified in the study of ancient Greek texts by profession (Professor of Classics) and subsequent studies (PhD in History of Religions of antiquity and religious anthropology).            

Agathe Dupont
mail  :  agathe-d (at) outlook.fr

You will find other papers more detailed  about these different questions and ponts on this web site.

[1] Relatio Synodi of the Third Extraordinary General Meeting, paragraph 11.

[2] Relatio Synodi id. Paragraph No. 28.

[3] Introduction to Question 7.

[4] Question 7: Looking to Christ opens new possibilities. « Indeed, every time we go back to the source of the Christian experience, new roads and unimaginable possibilities open » (No. 12) .How is used teaching of Scripture in action pastoral care to families? To what extent this look feeds a courageous and faithful ministry? Questions 8-12; 16-19; 20 to 22).

[5] Relatio Synodi id. Paragraph 12; Paragraphs 46 to 54 in particular.

[6] Questions 7, 8 to 12; 16-19; 20-22, and 23-39.

[7] The Middle (Greek grammar) is a voice that expresses personal interest.

[8] There is a Future Middle and an Aorist  Middle  visible distinct from passive voice (see for example the subjunctive aorist Middle in Leviticus 20,10 saying that he who has committed adultery should be stoned, and a aorist infinitive Middle , eg in Methodus, Symposium sive Convivium Decem virginum, 8, 16).

[9]   It is argued that Matthew may have been mistaken in verbal form by writing, or that this form was influenced by a Semitic causative implied, or misunderstood,  or they cancel without detailed study, the values ​​of the Passive or of the Aorist, or tell that the passive sense « being a victim » does not exist etc. We can answer point by point there is no reason to accuse Matthew of having written incorrectly, that there was « maybe » a Semitic causative but why insinuate that he would have translated such a bad way too reckless in Greek? Add that this verb is not defective in the aorist Middle and that there is at least a written evidence of the meaning of « being cheated  » speaking of a woman etc. In fact, the Aorist Passive and preceded by the « incises » form a set of three interlocking elements, and above and more, conherent/consistent in/with  all the proclamation of Jesus and with/in the whole Gospel; no reasoning, and there are some others, can face them simultaneously, and /or otherwise in such a simple, reasoned and logical way.

[10]   NB μοιχάω-ῶ (moïkhao pronunciation) and μοιχεύω (moïkheuo pronunciation) mean at the Active Form, « seduce a married woman, » and in the Middle Voice , « commit adultery, cheat on his wife » (The Middle expressed personal interest). The meaning of these two verbs may be more general and especially when there are no additional object explicit, apply to being unfaithful to the law of God, which is understandable since adultery is a infidelity to the law of God just as idolatry or marriage to a pagan … In the Passive Voice, in the context of relations between men and women, they both relate mostly women.

[11]At first glance, if we cut the words out of context, one might think, because of the term « repudiated », that  Jesus says that remarriage with any divorced woman is forbidden because it would be an adultery to the first husband of woman: it is what is applied now, but this has been gradually applied  from the the IXth century till now, even if it seemed to many to be contrary to the Gospel, to convict only a single class, that of women and not of men, and amongst them that of repudiated, whether they are innocent or blameworthy (or guilty)…  Now, if we could want to assume in a way that may assume in a seemingly fairer manner, that this prohibition could apply only to a wrong-doing wife (divorced for her porneia), we could suppose Jesus meant : « and whoever marries a woman who left her husband’s home (although she had no serious complaints about him, i.e. it is a porneia,  or was repudiated because of porneia,   commits adultery (towards her ex-husband)” : this was applied  since some centuries after Christ till the IXth century.  At first glance, it would look like symmetrical to what happens to the man and woman repudiating unjustly in the preceding words above: the offending divorced woman would not be legally free to make alliance with a new husband.

But these two sentences in the Gospel does not goal the woman: they goal the man who is said to commit himself an adultery when marrying a repudiated woman, and, upon reflection,  the understandings mentioned above contain and cause many problems. They do not match with Jesus’want  to never condemn in one block a class of persons made of innocent and guilty, but to  always distinguish individual responsibility in front of each person’s consciousness.

[12] Nothing is said about the woman : though married now with a sinner, if she was innocent, she remains so, if she has married  innocent.

[13]   These « incises » have been much discussed. Some say the word porneia here means only prostitution, others illegitimate union, idolatry, incest and concubinage etc. One can object they would not put a trap for Jesus on a subject in the Act on which all agreed, nor on what was within the right direction, or on non-existent or unfounded weddings, on which nobody would have the slightest discussion, especially with Jesus; He never uses the plural « spouses » which excludes all cases of porneia made by the couple (incest, cohabitation etc.). Note that some of these translations would not go with the reactions of the disciples in Matthew 19.10: « So, it’s not worth the shot to get married! » As we do not see that the apostles would have liked to be incestuous for example, it is because they are losing too much, as men, they are disappointed to see him raise the bar pattern to porneia  : Jesus refers only to cases where a spouse hurts the other and lost its promises: the porneia and he limits remarriage, and says that  husband and wife have identical rights. Other proposed translations do not go with the answer that Jesus made to them, talking about chastity for the Kingdom.

[14] Introduction to the Third Party: a strong and renewed proclamation, frank and meaningful, the family Gospel.