Rachael suffered sexual abuse as a child, from two male perpetrators. One was a church leader, the other was Dr Larry Nassar who is now in jail for abusing multiple girls in his role as doctor for high level gymnasts. Rachael’s husband, Jacob, is not a survivor of sexual abuse.
Rachael and Jacob describe how in their relationship they have walked through the difficulties of Rachael having been traumatized by these perpetrators of abuse.
Many readers of this blog have never experienced having a spouse who is kind and humble and willing to learn, like Jacob is. Watching this video may bring up grief for you. You may feel sad that you have never experienced such kindness from a spouse.
Some of our readers are supporting other survivors of abuse. Some of you are married to survivors of abuse. If either of those conditions apply to you, I think you will find Jacob’s testimony very interesting and helpful.
The video lasts for 1 hr and 10 mins. First Rachael and Jacob tell their story, then they answer questions from the audience.
Jacob and Rachael gave this talk at the Valued Conference in April 2019.
The Jewish divorce certificate gave women the right to remarry, but some men used it rule over women
For centuries Jewish religious leaders have insisted that in order for a divorce to be legal, the husband must write a certificate of divorce.
The essential words in the certificate were “You are free to marry any man”.
Jews call this divorce certificate a ‘get’ – it is a Hebrew word unrelated to our English word ‘get’. The husband wrote the get and gave it to his wife. If he was not very literate he might have got a scribe to write it and then he would sign it. But a court didn’t have to be involved.
Jesus told us that the Jewish religious leaders invented many laws in addition to Moses’ Law (see Mark 7:7-13) The Jewish leaders made laws which were their interpretation of what Moses had written. They pridefully thought they always had the right understanding of what Moses said.
The Jewish religious leaders invented their own traditions and one of those traditions was the insistence that a divorce was only legal if a get was issued by the husband to the wife.
I encourage you, dear victim of spousal abuse, to not worry about that tradition. Even if your abusive husband is a conservative or orthodox Jew, you can divorce him by getting a civil divorce. He can bluster as much as he likes that ‘you are still married to him in the eyes of God’ but he will be wrong. You can ignore him and all the conservative rabbis who tell you that you are not really divorced and that you are tied to him financially for ever and you can’t remarry. You can ignore their bluster because all they are relying on is the Jewish religious leaders legalistic and misogynist interpretation of Deuteronomy 24.
You have to abide by the laws of the country in which you live. Your country’s law says that a divorce certificate is essential to make a divorce legal, and that the certificate has to be issued by the court system run by your state or nation. But Mosaic Law did not require either of those things. Moses simply mentioned the get because it appears to have been a custom among men in ancient Israel.
My previous post in this series (Part 3) explained that Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood. In Deuteronomy 24, Moses did not say that hardness of heart is grounds for divorce, he only set limitations on the future conduct of men who chose to divorce their wives.
When the Pharisees questioned/ confronted Jesus on the topic of divorce, they were trying to entangle him in a complex debate between different schools of thought in Judaism. The school of Shammai said one thing, the school of Hillel said another thing. Shammaites versus Hillelites.
Jesus did NOT affirm the notion held by the Hillelites that so long as he wrote out a bill of divorce and gave it into her hand, Deuteronomy 24:1 authorised a husband to divorce his wife if he found her objectionable for any reason.
Nor did Jesus confirm the notion held by both Shammaites and Hillelites that a get can only be issued by the husband and a get is essential for a divorce to be legal.
The Jewish use of the get was a custom. But a custom is not the same thing as Divine Law.
Let me emphasise this: A custom is not the same thing as Divine Law.
Assuming that a custom is a divine law causes much confusion and erroneous interpretation of Scripture.
All the Jewish religious leaders insisted that Deuteronomy 24:1 lays down a law – a law which says the husband MUST write a get to make a divorce legal. But they were wrong. They were wrong, and they still are wrong. And I’m not the only one who says that. The very conservative Jay Adams had the same view as I do on this.
As I noted in Part 3, Jay Adams said:
in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, there is no command to divorce, no criteria for determining what is a valid or invalid divorce, nor even a requirement to give a bill of divorce. …
Deuteronomy 24 merely recognizes divorce as an existing, legal process that it regulates.
– “Marriage Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible,” Jay E. Adams, 62.
What can we learn from ancient documents?
Dr David Instone-Brewer has this to say about the Jewish divorce certificate in Old Testament times:
…the right of a woman to a divorce certificate is equivalent of the right of a woman to remarry. In fact, the purpose of the divorce certificate was to help the woman remarry.
The reference in Deuteronomy 24:1 to a divorce certificate is unique in ancient Near Eastern sources. Nowhere outside Judaism is there any reference to a divorce certificate or any other document that would be taken away by every divorced woman.¹
The wording on the divorce certificate is not stated in the Pentateuch but there are good reasons to conclude that it was similar to the wording of standard rabbinic divorce certificates: “You are allowed to marry any man you wish.” This wording can be traced through Jewish divorce certificates and marriage certificates that have survived from as far back as the fifth century BC. … The document would be needed by women, but not by men, because men could marry more than one woman in any case. It would have been a most valuable document for a woman to possess because it gave her the right to remarry. Without it she would be under the constant threat of her former husband, who could claim at a later date that she was still married to him and thus charge her with adultery [if she had married another man].
¹ It is likely that some financial receipt would have been handed over at the time of the divorce, but this would have been needed by the man, not the woman. The dowry, in part or whole, usually had to be repaid to the divorced woman, and presumably some kind of written or witnessed oral receipt had to the man to testify that his debt had been paid. This document or witness testimony would have been very important to the man to prevent his ex-wife from claiming that he had not repaid the dowry.
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: the Social and Literary Context (Eerdmans Publishing, 2002) affiliate link*, 28-29
Unfortunately because of the way the law of the divorce certificate was interpreted, it actually became a way to stop women from getting divorced.
Side note from Barb: I do not agree with calling it ‘the law of the divorce certificate’. I challenged the idea that verse 1 is a stand-alone law in Part 3 of this series. Back to Instone-Brewer…
The law was interpreted to mean that one could not get divorced without a divorce certificate. This meant that divorce became the prerogative of the husband because he wrote out the divorce certificate. Therefore, a provision that was meant to empower the divorced woman resulted in the enslavement of women who wished to get divorced.
As will be seen in later chapters, there were ways in which a rabbinic court could force a man to write out a divorce certificate when the woman had good grounds for a divorce. However, there was, and still is, one group of [Jewish] women who could not get a divorce. These are those whose husbands are missing, either through misadventure during war or during travel abroad, or deliberately. These women [according to Judaism] cannot remarry unless some proof is found that their husbands are dead. As long as there is a possibility that their husbands are alive, they cannot be divorced without a certificate signed by their husbands. The Jewish world is still struggling with this conundrum.
(ibid p 31, emphasis added, paragraph breaks added for readability)
These Jewish women are called agunah, which literally means anchored or chained. I feel for them in their plight. Agunah Jewish women are separated but still ‘legally married’ by the twisted interpretation of Moses’ words which Jewish religious leaders have hung onto for thousands of years. These women are suffering spiritual abuse because they are trying to comply with what their Jewish religious leaders say about divorce. Agunah women are chained to husbands who refuse to write the divorce certificate.
Most if not all of those husbands are what we would call anti-husbands: they are vindictive men who refuse to write the divorce certificate because they want to punish their wives and make them suffer. Dog in the manger. Greed. Juvenile nastiness. Evil.
In 2018, Hayley Gleeson, an Australian journalist, did a report on Chained Women: The Jewish wives being held hostage in abusive marriages. It was part of the series on Religion and Domestic Abuse by Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson.
There are other passages in Mosaic Law where no divorce certificate is mentioned. The Jewish religious leaders all recognised Exodus 21:10-11 as being about divorce, even though no certificate was mentioned. They also recognised Deuteronomy 21:10-14 as being applicable to divorce. David Instone-Brewer documents this, in his book that I referred to above.
*Amazon Affiliate link:– this blog gets a small percentage of the purchase price if you purchase the book via that link. To see what we do with that money, click here.
Other parts in this series
Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce
Part 2 The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.
Part 3 Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.
Our FAQ page What about divorce?
We have expressions and sayings in our language that contain rare wisdom otherwise known as Common Sense. “Too many chiefs and not enough indians”, in explanation of why the project fell apart (assuming it ever got started) is one. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is another – it expresses the failure of a project that, indeed, reached completion but was a waste of time and resources.
One is a case of too many people doing the thinking and planning. The other is a case of too many people doing the doing, as it were.
Our culture recognises that to bring a joint enterprise to successful completion requires different skills and abilities.
Teachers and leaders in particular, require skills that are above the average by quite a margin. They require character development and intellectual development. Intellectual development suitable for leadership requires an IQ in the top 20% of the population. Required is an ability to employ logic to situations as well as an ability to hold multiple variables in mind to arrive at creative solutions to problems.
Leaders and teachers below this intellectual level tend to compensate or hide these inadequacies by reducing complex problems to a single variable and indulging in character flaws such as bullying and deceit of various kinds. This essay will pursue these crucial issues.
We, as a species, were designed by God to live best as groups which were big enough to encompass a range of abilities and groups that were yet small enough whereby we knew everyone and their abilities. This allows everyone to know who is good or even best at what tasks. People worked together making the best of their individual abilities.
It is also why we automatically trust those around us. Exploiters do not survive well in these lifelong groups where everyone’s history is known to all. Everyone realises that their individual and group survival depends on everyone else. So, trust is a very efficient way to survive as a group and is part of the way Jesus designed us (to live in tribes).
In Hawaiian culture, for instance, the master canoe maker, the master masseur/healer and the master warrior-general are all known as Kahunas. Competence was the qualification and people chose whom they would go to for what. People voted with their feet, as it were. You don’t want a canoe that floats most of the time or steers only on a good day. Similarly, the canoe builder does not want to lose his relatives in something that he built. So, he is given authority and he accepts the responsibility. These two things – authority and responsibility – must always be equal.
If you watch a group of children organising themselves, such as boys organising for a game of cricket (OK, I’m a bloke AND I’m from Australia so I’m using my own experience!), you will see this ancient dynamic playing out. The boys will quickly nominate a captain and he will organise the players from there. The captain will invariably be the best player (usually) as well as the best strategist i.e. the smartest (usually) in their terms. This is natural. The captain will be the boys ‘Kahuna’ (while playing cricket).
The captain cannot operate successfully as the Kahuna unless he has the willing support of the team. He has to have the players enthusiastically follow his directions without coercion. So in effect, it is much more true to see the captain as the servant of the team. Now we have something like Jesus said in terms of leaders – leaders, be ye first servants.
Authority and Responsibility need to be freely given and taken because coercion kills enthusiasm and enthusiasm is needed to win, to succeed in the joint enterprise. This applies to ALL relationships.
Our civilisations where millions of people are dependent on each other forsake this natural ‘election’ and we get people whom we don’t know directing our nation – engaging in diplomacy with other nations, setting defence force budgets, etc. Then they start directing our daily lives which we are quite capable of directing for ourselves, thank you! This attitude of entitlement and coercion instead of service then seeps down into and through the behaviour of state governments, municipal governments and also into churches.
Instead of a position of authority (freely given) following a history of competence, we have a history of competence assumed from the appointment to authority (imposed). It is this sort of authority or power that corrupts (when a high level of competence is lacking – and it usually is) because it is not earned and not freely given by those under that authority. So our leaders these days see themselves as having power over those ‘below’ them. We are so used to this situation of dominance that Jesus’ words to the would-be leaders, telling them to be servants, sound quite strange.
Now how does this long introduction relate to logic and variables? Well, the boys will nominate the one amongst them that will (i) best serve them as a model to emulate for their individual performances and (ii) best do what they can’t – see the overall picture and shape a game strategy so that they all can win, i.e. he will best serve their purpose of winning the game. To achieve a winning strategy, the captain will need to be able to juggle a large number of variables. As just one instance, he has to match the best qualities of his bowlers and fielders to the weaknesses he perceives in his opposition team. He has to be the smartest, from amongst them, at the game overall. He has to be able to constantly react to new information.
He has to be a thinker and an astute observer. The higher the intelligence, the higher the number of variables that can be handled. He has to be able to think logically to arrange all the variables into something without contradictions and that will work and win. Thinking logically is all about eliminating all contradictions. If there are contradictions present, the plan, the game, the program, the bridge, the empire, the relationship, whatever it is, will crash.
The team give their ‘Kahuna’ all the authority to direct them during the game and he bears all the responsibility to serve them in terms of organising the game (and hopefully the win!)
Is your pastor a ‘Kahuna’? You doubtless did not appoint him but has he filled the shoes that the office requires? Has he served the congregation? Has he counselled and comforted the afflicted using not only his heart but his head? Can he think and act logically? Can he think and act without contradiction?
Logic is the art of identifying and removing contradictions. There are no contradictions in reality. If you are faced with a contradiction, know that there are only two reasons for this. Either you have false information or you have missing information (or both).
Logic is what we use to establish what is reality; what is the truth. In a Court of Law, logic and evidence is what (should be) used to establish what really happened – reality. The evidence is the facts, and the logic is how they are arranged in a non-contradictory manner. The jury then uses this to arrive at a conclusion which follows from the logic and should therefore reflect what the reality (truth) is and was.
Logic was essential for survival in tribal days in a hostile environment. Humans had to deal with reality otherwise reality would certainly deal with them. Instead of having lunch, you would become lunch!
Logic is just as essential to survive our present environment: this ‘World’ that has the Prince of Darkness presiding over it; this ‘World’ that constantly seeks to creep into our churches.
Church-going Christians look to their pastors and priests to be their captains but if a captain is not skilled in the use of logic, then error, bluff and wishful thinking will replace reality and a good number of his flock are in for a world of hurt and confusion.
If you do not have a good grasp of logic, you cannot identify or use first principles. An example of a first principle is the existence of free will in each of us. By “free will” I mean the sole responsibility for our actions and therefore sole the authority over ourselves to take those actions. From this flows all our ‘God-given rights’. We have the right to choose God or not. No one can choose for us.
Equally, we are responsible for our choices. If some law or policy (such as a teaching on marriage) seeks to take away our ability to choose for ourselves through coercion (physical or psychological) to hold to a contract that has been well and truly broken by the other party, it will be a teaching that goes against God’s will for us and it will eventually fail. We are equal in the sight of God. Each person has their own individual agency. And their own conscience.
If you think God teaches us to take away a gift (freedom and responsibility to choose) he designed into every being, you have a contradiction right there. Either you have wrong information (perhaps wrong interpretation) or there is missing information. Failing marriages caused by abuse are direct evidence of this.
Empires fail because of contradictions particularly surrounding free will which leads to freedom of action and movement. Sometimes they fail within a short span of decades (Soviet empire) or centuries (Chinese, Egyptian empires). Nations are collapsing today. Many churches lurch from one crisis to the next due to contradictions where the teachings are confused or the actions do not follow the words. The sexual abuse of children is the most glaring example.
An ability to think logically can be measured. This is largely what IQ testing measures. The tests look for what psychologists call ‘G’. The G stands for General Intelligence which is ‘generally’ present across the range of mental abilities. A person described as, “Oh, she can do anything”, will be a person with very high ‘G’ intelligence; high IQ, in other words. The level at which logic kicks in and is used across all abilities starts around 115 IQ points.
Below this point (bearing in mind these are averages and not particular individuals), logic can be taught and grasped in most fields of study or employment but often won’t translate across one area of life to another. For instance, some engineers can be very good at their jobs but cannot become business managers with its larger number of variables to deal with, while others can and may choose to do so. Some teachers are able to teach in their specialised field, but are not good at the administration skills required to lead a whole department or school. Some chefs are brilliant at running a commercial kitchen, but when they own their own restaurant and have to oversee not only the kitchen but the front of house, the wine list and the accounts for the whole business, they do not do so well.
So if a person seeks to lead others, particularly in spiritual matters such as a pastor or teacher through guiding people or writing books dealing with spiritual matters, it is best for themselves and others if they have an IQ at or higher than 115. They should be able to demonstrate a proficiency in using and applying logic. Their words and behaviour should not contain contradictions.
To lead a church or to presume to teach spirituality, you need a love for God and for people. That is what Jesus commanded us to do. But just as a love for people is not enough fix someone’s car, it is not enough to lead others successfully. You, first of all, need to be able to perceive the reality of a complex problem and that takes an ability to use logic.
How can you tell if a teacher or leader can or cannot think logically?
Contradictions – it is worth repeating! Look for contradictions in any teaching or explanation. Contradictions are solid evidence of bad or missing logic. You can’t have logic and a contradiction together at the same time – that is a contradiction!
Reality is all that God made. God is consistent. Therefore Reality is consistent. Teachings and explanations that are not consistent, are not reality. If you follow something that is not real, it will bring harm. It is no different to trying to cross a minefield with a faulty map.
A minefield is no place for wishful thinking, good intentions or saying you know something when you are actually guessing. This fallen world is a minefield…and anyone who has lived any time at all at the sharp end of it, knows that. Churches are part of the world.
Contradictions will bring confusion but not all confusion is the result of contradictions. Confusion can be the result of the ‘listener’ failing to understand the concept or story being related. BUT, a sufficiently intelligent leader or teacher should be able to discern the difficulty and find other ways to convey the understanding. Unfortunately, too many teachers and leaders are not sufficiently intelligent to do this and leave the enquirer in their mental fog. Or, worse, blame the listener/enquirer for their non-understanding.
Mind you, sometimes people do not want to understand because they fear the consequences that will flow from the new understanding. This can apply to teachers, as well!
Now if you approach a teacher for an explanation of something that you do not understand or to point out a contradiction, you might then be subjected to a personal attack. When this happens, you can be reasonably sure that the teacher you are talking to cannot or will not think logically.
If a pastor or teacher oversimplifies a problem that you bring to them by dismissing an aspect that you feel is crucial to a solution, you are probably dealing with a person who cannot handle multiple variables. As such, they have risen past their level of competence. All is not lost though if the pastor, for instance, recognises that the problem is beyond their knowledge or competence and says to you, “I don’t know but I will find out for you and come back to you”. But this response, though music to my ears, is rare in my experience.
If the teacher or leader chooses to attack you, it is out of punishment for raising what they can’t or don’t want to talk about. This indicates that they are well aware of the contradiction or their own limitations and are unable to deal with it. It may involve corruption but more likely it is simply that they cannot address it logically because they don’t have the skills.
A personal attack is known as an Ad Hominem (Latin for ‘against the man’) attack and is a logical fallacy. An effective way to deal with this sort of personal attack is to name it up. For instance, “I notice that you dodged my question and choose to attack me instead. Is that because you don’t have an answer?” – and then say nothing and watch. If the reply is a question to you in return, do not answer it and simply repeat your question. If still the answer is another question, walk away; you have your answer!
If a teacher doesn’t know his or her stuff and/or doesn’t know how to convey it to others, they have no business presuming to teach others. They inevitably cause harm because they are teaching for their own ego’s sake. These teachers are serving themselves and not serving others. THIS is why James (James 3:1) cautioned against others being teachers because they will be doubly judged by God. With increased authority comes an equally increased responsibility.
Jesus taught us that when we do something “for the least of mine, you did it for me”. Those with power that comes from position, are usually the first to forget that. This is a common example of how power corrupts.
Those with high IQ and the desire to teach had best take this responsibility to serve Jesus to heart and do the best they can with humility.
Those that do not have sufficiently high IQ had best find another way to serve – and there will be other ways.
Those that don’t have the ability to serve in this way, or do not take the responsibility to serve seriously, end up not following their own words and become hypocrites. Jesus was scathing of hypocrites. Not only do hypocrites cause harm directly but they stifle the teachers and leaders who could bring peace and harmony to the community. They play ‘dog-in-the-manger’ criticising, belittling and ostracising those who could serve far better than they.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemakers are problem solvers. To solve problems, you need to be able to juggle a large number of variables to find a solution that suits all those of goodwill. You need high intelligence. Is your teacher or leader a creative problem solver?
In summary, if your teacher or leader is not able to talk and act without contradiction and is not able to bring about peaceful solutions to knotty problems, your teacher or leader is in the wrong position and would be better off seeking some other way to serve.
Of course, pastors and others need to have a heart for God but that is not enough to lead…and it is hard to know peoples’ hearts. We can discern much, though, from listening closely to their words and closely observing their behaviour. And seeing if their behaviour matches with their words.
Look, on the one hand, for respect, compassion; for peacemaking, creative problem solving, and for humility. And on the other hand, for simplistic answers; for contradictions, hypocritical behaviour and personal attacks.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
This post is written by James, one of our readers. He began commenting on this blog recently and his comments have been insightful and helpful. If you want to review his comments go to these links:
one, two, three, four,
five — here James talks about Dr Hervey Cleckley’s book The Mask Of Sanity
seven — here James talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect
eight — how people of high IQ can doubt themselves, and how this relates to the Dunning-Kruger Effect
nine — James explains a technique for looking steadfastly, without speaking a word, at a person who you don’t trust, when that person is trying to tangle you into saying something you will later regret saying.
Proverbs 8:1-21 talks about common sense and how we need to develop shrewdness. Click the link to read it in the CSB version.
Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.
Jesus didn’t say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. In Deuteronomy 24, Moses didn’t say that hardness of heart is grounds for divorce, he only set limitations on the future conduct of men who chose to divorce their wives. That is the take-home message of this post.
In this series I am doing my best to help you untangle the knotty problem of how to understand what the Bible says about divorce. Part 1 presents the knotty problem. Part 2 dispels the mistaken idea that the meaning of particular words in scripture is the key to untying the knot.
In the series, some of the ideas I am elaborating on are ideas I presented in my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion (2008). I am hoping that this series will make some of the finer points in my book easier to understand.
Okay, let’s proceed…
A mother says to her child: “If you play out in the street in your best clothes and damage your clothes, or run in the puddles and come back with muddy shoes, or if you come home later than 5pm, then you will not be allowed to go to the party next weekend.”
She did not tell her child “You have to play in the street in your best clothes”. Nor did she say “I allow you to play in the street in your best clothes, and get your shoes muddy.” She mentioned the possible actions of the child, but did not actively condone or endorse them.
What the mother said to her child was an example of a conditional sentence. Here is another conditional sentence:
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (NKJ, bold emphasis mine)
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
2when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,
3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,
4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
The word “then” in verse 4 is the hinge to understanding this passage. Then and only then: only if the events in verses 1-3 have transpired does the law in verse 4 apply.
Verse 1 mentions a husband writing a certificate of divorce, giving it to his wife and putting her out of the house. But verse 1 does not actively condone or give leave to husbands to behave that way.
The first three verses of Deuteronomy 24 give the conditions under which the fourth verse applies. Verse 1 is part of the case-study narrative which sets out the circumstances under which the law in verse 4 applies.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 has been greatly misunderstood
Many professing Christians have the idea that Deuteronomy 24 is where Moses allowed divorce for hardness of heart. We’ve heard so many teachers and pastors assert this idea that we can easily accept it without questioning it. Teachers articulate this idea in many ways. Here are some of the ways you may have heard it articulated:
- “Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart.”
- “Moses allowed divorce, but Jesus tightened the rules. Jesus said divorce is not allowed except for sexual unfaithfulness.”
- “Jesus annulled the Mosaic concession about divorce.”
- “Mosaic Law said that when a husband found ‘some uncleanness’ in his wife, he could divorce her.”
One reason why this idea is so embedded in people’s minds is that they have read the words “Moses commanded/ permitted divorce” in Matthew 19/ Mark 10.
Now dear reader, please pay attention. Who said that in the New Testament? It was the Pharisees!
Matthew 19:3-7 (NKJ)
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
Mark 10:1-4 (NKJ)
The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.
And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”
If you look at the two passages I just cited, you will see that in the Gospel of Matthew the Pharisees say Moses commanded (Gk entellō) to give a certificate of divorce. And in the Gospel of Mark, the Pharisees say Moses permitted (Gk epitrepō) divorce.
Should we just go along with the Pharisees, assuming they were right?
Jesus was enemies with the Pharisees. He tore strips off them for their hypocrisy and twisting of scripture. Surely we should be wary of assuming the Pharisees had got this right? — especially since they claimed two fairly different things: that God commanded divorce, and God permitted divorce. Hmm. Weasel words much? That is typical of Pharisees.
People assume that the Pharisees were right in claiming that Moses commanded/permitted to give a certificate of divorce, because they have misunderstood how Jesus rebutted the Pharisees.
Please look closely at how Jesus rebutted the Pharisees:
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. (KJV)
He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (NKJ)
Jesus said Moses suffered/permitted divorce. That word is epitrepō. It has a range of meaning: suffered, tolerated, permitted, gave leave. It never means commanded.
What did Jesus mean when he said Moses suffered/permitted divorce?
I suffered my daughter exploring the large storm-water drains under the town we lived in (Ballarat) when she was a child. She told me she and her friends were exploring the drains. I knew if I forbade her to explore the drains, she would just disobey and lie to me. (Hey, it’s fun to explore storm water drains when you are 10 or 11 years old and can stand up in drains which adults would have to bend over to walk inside.)
I responded to my daughter like this. I did not say, “I permit you to explore the drains.” Rather, I warned her to never do it alone. I told her that if she and her friends explored the drains, they must always make sure to stick close together. And I told her to never do it if it had recently rained, or looked like it might rain soon. I took the approach of risk management and harm minimisation. Thankfully, she and her friends soon lost interest in that adventure. (!)
In a similar way, Moses suffered men divorcing their wives. Like the mother who said to her child “If you behave in such and such a way, you will not be allowed to go to the party next weekend,” Moses said to men “If you behave in such and such a way, and these events take place, you will not be allowed to do xyz.”
How do we know for sure that Jesus was not saying “Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart”? Because Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses gave the precept in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 because of MEN’s hardness of heart. In my book and this blog post I explain that Jesus specifically implicates hardhearted husbands.
Mark 10:5 gives us vital insight into what Jesus meant
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” (NKJ)
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. (KJV)
And Jesus answered and said to them, For the hardness of your hearts he wrote this precept for you. (NMB)
The word ‘precept’ used there is entolē. It means injunction, i.e. an authoritative prescription:—commandment, precept. The KJV translates it as commandmen’ 69 times, and as precept twice.(link) I think that is pretty strong evidence that Jesus was referring to the LAW which Moses laid down in Deuteronomy verse 4, not the bit of pre-law narrative in verse 1.
Therefore, when Jesus told the Pharisees Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept, he was telling them that the reason Moses had to write Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was because some Israelite men (including these Pharisees) were treating their wives as objects they could discard and later pick up and reuse.
In Deuteronomy 24, Moses did not specify grounds for divorce. God, using Moses as his servant messenger, took the harm minimisation approach:– Some men will hardheartedly divorce their wives, but these men MUST NOT remarry the woman they had divorced if she had married another man and that marriage had ended.
Mosaic law had other provisions that were designed to protect women from domestic abuse. One is found in Deuteronomy 21:10-14; I go into that in chapter 6 of my book. Another is in Exodus 21:7-11 and you can read about that here.
Jewish religious leaders have always seen the passage in Exodus 21 as giving grounds for divorce when a husband was abusing his wife. I argue in my book (following David Instone-Brewer) that both Deut 21 and Ex 21 mean God approves of divorce in cases of spouse abuse.
Analogies from scripture
God tolerates the actions of fallen men, but that does not mean he approves of those actions.
Before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, God had given Adam and Eve tremendous liberty and ease. The garden had an abundance of fruit bearing trees. Adam and Eve could pick and eat fruit without having to labour hard for their sustenance, so long as they refrained from eating the fruit of one particular tree in the garden. Because they had never sinned and did not at that stage have any bias towards sin, it would have been easy for them to obey that simple commandment.
After they fell, God did not destroy them immediately as punishment for their offense. God showed mercy on their now-fallen nature. In His compassion and longsuffering, God imposed certain penalties and restrictions on them. One of the penalties He imposed on Adam was alienation from the ground, the earth from which Adam was made and from which he previously drew sustenance without having to labour hard.
In a similar way, God tolerated Cain’s evil attitude while Cain was nursing resentment against his brother Abel. God could have caused the earth to instantly swallow up Cain for that evil attitude, but instead He compassionately gave Cain counsel on how to avoid temptation. After Cain had willfully ignored God’s counsel and killed Abel, God allowed Cain to continue living, albeit with restrictions and penalties. One of the penalties was that Cain would be a wanderer, alienated from the earth, and the ground would no longer yield to him its strength (Gen 4:12).
In a similar way, the Mosaic Law shows that God tolerates a man divorcing his wife, but God imposes a restriction when a man divorces his wife. He cannot remarry her after she’d been married to another man and that marriage of hers had terminated. Deuteronomy 24:4 spells out the restriction God imposed on such men: her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife…for that is an abomination before the LORD.
Deuteronomy 24:4 also spells out the penalty if men disobey this law: such conduct will bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance. The land will be cursed by this sin. The sin of these self-serving men will affect the whole nation and its people.
I hope this explanation of mine has helped you understand in what sense Moses permitted divorce in Deuteronomy 24. He tolerated men divorcing their wives; but he did not give them leave to do so. Moses did not specify legitimate grounds for divorce in Deuteronomy 24.
Additional reasons why Deuteronomy 24:1-4 been so misunderstood
The King James Version (1611) gave the impression that Deuteronomy 24 verse 1 lays down a law. Here is how the KJV rendered Deuteronomy 24:1-2.
1 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.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
By using the words “then let him” in verse 1, it makes verse 1 sound like a law. It gave the sense of authorising the husband to give his wife a certificate of divorce and end the marriage if he found her repugnant. This made verse 2 sound like a second law: once the woman was given a divorce certificate she was allowed to marry another man if she so wished.
Rather than following suit with the KJV, many modern translations have correctly given the impression that verse 1 and 2 are only part of the pre-law narrative to the law in verse 4. The NKJ example which I quoted earlier does this correctly. As does the Good News version:
1 Suppose a man marries a woman and later decides that he doesn’t want her, because he finds something about her that he doesn’t like. So he writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home.
2 Then suppose she marries another man, 3 and he also decides that he doesn’t want her, so he also writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home. Or suppose her second husband dies.
4 In either case, her first husband is not to marry her again; he is to consider her defiled. If he married her again, it would be offensive to the Lord. You are not to commit such a terrible sin in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
For other examples of modern translations that correctly give the sense that verses 1-3 are the conditions for the law in verse 4, check out the passage in the NASB, ESV, NIV, GW, NCV, NIRV, NRSV, RSV, ISR, JPS, NABRE.
While there is much I don’t like about Jay Adams the founder of Nouthetic Counseling (he lacked understanding of trauma and interpersonal abuse), he did affirm that verse 1 is not a law in and of itself. He cited the Berkeley translation of the passage:
When a man has married a wife and comes to dislike her, having found something improper in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and putting it into her hand, sends her from his house, and she goes off and becomes the wife of another, and her second husband, likewise comes to hate her and also gives her a bill of divorce and sends her away, or if the second husband dies, in such case, the man who first divorced her must not take her again, for she has been defiled; such practice is abhorrent to the LORD, and you must not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you for your heritage.
— quoted in “Marriage Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible,” Jay E. Adams, (Zondervan 1980), 61. (Bold emphasis mine).
Adams emphasised that Deut 24:1-3 sets out the circumstances in which God forbids a man remarrying a woman he has divorced.
Fortunately, all commentators agree on this change. Argumentation for it can be found in most standard commentaries.
Note: in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, there is no command to divorce, no criteria for determining what is a valid or invalid divorce, nor even a requirement to give a bill of divorce. (Moses mentioned the proper legal process with its three steps not to institute the process, or even to insist upon it, but rather to make clear that what he is speaking about is a genuine divorce proceeding.)
- Deuteronomy 24 merely recognises divorce as a existing legal process that it regulates.
- Deuteronomy 24 does not institute or even allow divorce for a cause other than fornication.
- Deuteronomy 24 does not encourage easy divorce; indeed the whole point of the four verses in question is to forestall hasty action by making it impossible to rectify the situation when divorce and remarriage to another has taken place. [i.e., making it impossible for the first husband to take his wife back]
– “Marriage Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible,” Jay E. Adams, 62 (bold emphasis mine)
In 1980, Jay Adams was able to say that “all commentators agree” that the KJV was wrong in conveying the idea that verse 1 is a law condoning men divorcing their wives when they found them objectionable.
Perhaps Adams didn’t appreciate how hard it is to dislodge the idea that verse 1 is a stand-alone law.
The idea that God laid down a law in verse 1 is VERY hard to dislodge.
Sadly, people still tend to think that Deut 24:1 was a law which positively permitted and condoned divorce.
The King James Version had a massive impact because it was the dominant English translation for centuries. The mistaken idea that verse 1 is a law has been passed on from teacher to teacher and scholar to scholar so often that very few people think to question it.
It is disappointing that some modern Bible translations and commentators continue to follow the KJV in giving the sense that verse 1 is a law which positively authorised a husband divorcing his wife when he was displeased with her (perceiving her as odious or obnoxious).
One modern translation which does this is CSB. Here is how the CSB renders verse 1:
If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. [emphasis added]
‘He may’ can convey that it might happen: the husband might decide to divorce his wife just like he might decide to go fishing this weekend, or stay at home and watch his favourite team’s game. But ‘he may’ can also convey that God says it’s okay for the man to divorce his wife if he finds her objectionable. So which is it? The CSB translation is not helpful because the English word ‘may’ can mean so many things.
Walter Callison, whose book I do NOT recommend, says verses 1-2 are a law (Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love, 2002, Kindle location 137). Callison is very muddled and confused about lots of things. He is one of the authors who claims that word meanings are the key to untangling the knotty passages about divorce – a mistaken idea which I challenged in Part 2 of this series. Callison’s book is being recommended by domestic abuse advocates, which saddens me.
This is part 3 of 4-part series. Other parts of this series:
Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce.
Part 2 The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.
Part 4 The Jewish divorce certificate gave women the right to remarry, but some men used it rule over women.
What about Divorce? — an FAQ page on this website. It lists our most significant posts about divorce.
From the taste of blood in her mouth to feeling powerless and unable to talk, sexual assault survivor Juliet dreaded annual visits to the dentist.
Everything brought back the trauma of the sexual abuse she’d endured from a male relative from the age of three to 14. She would “white knuckle” the dental chair, scared she would die.
New research and treatment, thought to be a world first, by Melbourne dentist Sharonne Zaks finds many victims of severe trauma – from those who have survived the Holocaust to sexual assault – avoid the dentist.
This is a mainstream news article by Julie Power from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Read the full article here https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/from-tasting-blood-to-feeling-powerless-dental-visits-revive-old-trauma-20190426-p51hl8.html
The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.
Some people say we must pay close attention to the different words the Bible uses for divorce because the words mean different things. These folks say that words like depart/ leave/ put away/ separate do not refer to legal divorce because no divorce certificate was issued, whereas other words refer to a certificate of divorce and only those words refer to real divorce. They say this is the KEY to untangling all the knotty texts about divorce.
This idea is not true. Authors and bloggers who make this argument are promoting an idea that is false. It comes from ignorance and lack of study. Call me blunt if you like, but please listen to what I have to say. For years I have bitten my tongue, trying to be tolerant and patient with folks who promulgate this mistaken idea. But the time has come for me to debunk it fair and square because rather than fading away (as false ideas would, if there were enough good teachers in the church) it is being promoted more widely.
I have to assume that folks who promote this mistaken idea have not read David Instone-Brewer’s work in depth. Most of these advocates are passing on uneducated ideas they have picked up from other uneducated authors.
Dr Instone-Brewer is a Tyndale scholar from Cambridge England. He is a research scholar with linguistic expertise way above most of us. As part of his scholarly career he has studied not only the biblical texts in their original languages but the extra-biblical literature about marriage and divorce from the period in which the Bible was written. He knows far more about the subject of how words were used than most authors and advocates who are writing about domestic abuse these days.
1 Corinthians 7
One of the passages where people focus on the different words is 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. Two different words for divorce are used in that passage: chōrízō (used four times, verses 10, 11a and twice in 15) and aphiēmi (used three times, verses 11b, 12 and 13).
Instone-Brewer says there is NO difference in meaning between the words chōrízō and aphiēmi. Both words meant “divorce” in Greek documents that were written over several centuries around the time of Christ. The words were used interchangeably. They both meant a fully legal divorce.
I expect that the advocates and authors I’m wanting to challenge probably won’t read this post of mine because they’ve already made their minds up. I have the sense that they don’t like me much. Or they can’t be bothered reading my work. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that they are content with their views because they sell their books and get plenty of readers by promulgating their ideas – so they see no need to rethink.
Why do I bother? I am concerned about the promulgation of this false notion because it propels victims of abuse down paths that lead nowhere. Paths that give more confusion to those who are true disciples of our Lord. Paths that go into labyrinthine convolutions that are way too difficult for most victims of abuse to study when they are trying to work out how to get through the minefield.
Victims of spousal abuse are facing multiple dangerous minefields. They are trying to protect themselves and their kids (if they have kids) from the abuser and the abuser-enabling systems of society and church.
For example, would you have the time for complicated word study in Greek and Hebrew when the court is ordering you to give your abuser access to your kids, and you have good reason to believe your ex is abusing your kids? I certainly didn’t, when I was in that situation. And even if I had had the time, I would not have had the emotional energy because I was so traumatised and exhausted.
Part 1 of this series introduced the tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce. It’s like a knot in which you have to disentangle many different cords before you can get all the passages to line up and harmonise.
The false notion that I’m trying to correct here is the idea that we should pay attention to how the Bible uses different words for divorce because the different words meant different things — that the Bible talks about dismissal/ abandonment/ separation without a divorce certificate which is not really the legal ending of the marriage; and the Bible talks about divorce in which a certificate was issued so it was a legal divorce.
When this false notion is applied to the misbelief that Malachi 2:16 says “God hates divorce,” we get even more confusion. (How many times do I have to keep repeating that the Hebrew in Malachi 2:16 refers to the husband who hates his wife? Click here for explanation of the translation issue in Malachi 2:16.)
And when this false notion is applied to the confrontation between the Pharisees and Jesus (Matthew 19 & Mark 10) where the Pharisees tried to entangle Jesus into saying something self-incriminating about divorce, the confusion intensifies. It doubles down and tangles with the misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
Side note: I dealt with the misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24, Matthew 19 and Mark 10 in my book Not Under Bondage, but I know of people who have read my book who still don’t seem to understand what I wrote about those three passages in the Bible. Sigh. Didn’t I articulate my ideas clearly enough? I would truly like feedback on this, as I’m mystified why some advocates who have read my book don’t seem to have grasped the arguments I made in it. They have commended my book, but they keep repeating ideas I debunked in my book. And no; I am not going to name those advocates in this post, but I have no problem if commenters on this post want to name those advocates. I’m rather tired of being shunned as the advocate who is unsafe because she is always calling out other advocates. Someone else can put their head above the parapet for a change! Sorry. Vent over. End of side note.
So… some advocates and book authors are recycling and spreading this notion that “word meanings are the key” into the minds of the multitudes of victims of domestic abuse who are desperately trying to understand what the Bible says about divorce.
I believe that authors and bloggers have grabbed onto this false idea because it seems to fit. They’ve found an idea they can live with, so they stop there. They can live with it because it seems to release many of the chains that bind victims of abuse. It seems to set victims of abuse free from feeling guilty about divorcing their abusers.
But just because a notion seems to fit is not enough.
Just because a notion seems to give liberty and the ethical tick of approval to abuse victims divorcing their abusers, that does not mean the notion is true. For a notion to be true, it needs to fit with reality. And that includes the reality of history. How words were used at the time the author wrote them. It is not enough that a notion fits with one’s gut feeling about justice. It is not enough for a notion to fit with a gut feeling (and let me affirm it is a right gut feeling) that God in His compassion and justice must surely allow victims of abuse to divorce their abusers.
Even though I pretty much despair of influencing the advocates who are promoting this false notion, I will share with you, dear reader, the following quotes from Dr David Instone-Brewer’s scholarly book Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: the Social and Literary Context (Eerdmans Publishing, 2002). (affiliate link*)
In his book, David Instone-Brewer translated 1 Corinthians 7:10-15 this way:–
10 And to the married I command (not I, but the Lord): A wife ought not to separate herself [chorizo] from her husband 11 (and even if she separates herself [chorizo], she ought to remain unmarried, or she ought to be reconciled to her husband); and a husband ought not dismiss [afiemi] his wife.
12 But concerning other matters I say, not the Lord: If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, he ought not dismiss [afiemi] her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he is content to live with her, she ought not dismiss [afiemi] her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: otherwise your children would be unclean; but as it is they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever separates themself [chorizo], let them separate themself [chorizo]: the brother or sister is not bound in such cases: for God has called us in peace.
He then says:
Both the verbs chorizo and afiemi have the sense of “to divorce” although they have been translated here by “to separate” and “to dismiss,” respectively. Differences between these words should not be exaggerated. There may be no significance in their use other than stylistic variation. In English one might use both “divorce” and “dissolution” in the same paragraph without intending any difference in meaning. There were more than fifty words used for “divorce” in Greek marriage and divorce contracts, and it was common to use several in a single document. It is certainly not possible to say that afiemi is a legal divorce and chorizo is just a separation. In Greco-Roman society, separation was a legal divorce, and chorizo is the most common of the words used for divorce. (198-9, bold emphasis added)
Paul was writing to the Corinthian congregation. Corinth was a Roman colony and was therefore under Greco-Roman law. The believers who lived in Corinth would have understood and been subject to Greco-Roman law. As an educated man who possessed Roman citizenship, Paul would certainly have understood Greco-Roman law.
Instone-Brewer says this about the Greco-Roman law in ancient times:
…if separation has taken place the couple have already completed the divorce procedure, according to Greco-Roman law. Even if the dowry was not returned they were still considered legally divorced, and the wife would have to take her ex-husband to court for the return of the dowry. No rite or document was needed to complete the divorce, so there was nothing more that they needed to do to complete a divorce other than separate. (202, emphasis added)
Let’s review what we’ve learned so far
- In Greek documents that dealt with divorce, chorizo is the most common of the words used for divorce.
- It wrong to say that afiemi is a legal divorce and chorizo is just a separation.
- In Greco-Roman law, separation = divorce. If one party separated with intent to end the marriage, that was a legal divorce. No document was needed to complete the divorce.
Instone-Brewer quotes an intriguing document where a Jewish woman was petitioning a Jewish court to get her dowry returned. She wanted redress for the financial, emotional and physical abuse her husband had done to her. Her husband was called Serapion –
Serapion, having squandered my dowry as he pleased, continually ill-treated me and insulted me, using violence towards me, and depriving me of the necessaries of life. I therefore beg you to order him to be brought before you in order that he may be compelled perforce to pay back my dowry increased by half its amount. (202)
If you go back and look at David Instone-Brewer’s translation of 1 Corinthians 7 which I showed above, you will see that gender has nothing with how afiemi and chorizo are used. The text does not use afiemi only for the man, and chorizo only for the woman.
So this has nothing to do with the traditional Jewish notion that the divorce certificate could only be written by the husband. That notion was and still is prevalent in Judaism, but it came from a legalistic interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. The Jewish priests and scribes had long insisted that the certificate was THE essential item for a divorce to be legal. And they followed suit with all Ancient Near East societies in saying that only the husband could write the certificate. But that’s just tradition, it is not part of of God’s law. Moses only mentioned the husband writing the certificate in his pre-law-narrative which set the scene for the law in Deuteronomy 24:4. (Later in this series I will be doing a post that goes into this in more detail. In that post I will be amplifying some of what I’ve already said in my book.)
Let’s get back to what Instone-Brewer says.
From the breadth and depth of his scholarship, Dr Instone-Brewer rightly states that Paul would not have been using chorizo to mean “separation but not divorce” as against afiemi to mean “divorce with a certificate”. He says there would have been no point in Paul making that distinction to his Corinthian readers. Let me explain this part of his argument by paraphrasing some of his words from p 202 and elsewhere in his book.
- If a Christian wife divorced her non-Christian Jewish husband because he was ill-treating her, she would be free to remarry under Greco-Roman law.
- No divorce certificate was required.
- The only stipulation Paul put on remarriage was that she should marry a Christian.
- Jewish religious leaders (scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees) all taught that a divorce certificate was essential to make a divorce legal, and the certificate could only be written by the husband.
- So the only people who said there must be a divorce certificate would have been non-Christian Jews who thought they fully understood Mosaic Law and were insisting on adhering to their interpretation of Mosaic Law.
- But here’s the point: A divorced Christian woman in Corinth wouldn’t need to seek a divorce certificate through a Jewish court. Her having no divorce certificate had no bearing on her right to remarry, because she would not be choosing a non-Christian Jew as her second husband.
- And if a divorced Christian woman chose as her second husband an ethnically Jewish man who had converted to Christianity, that man would not require her to possess a divorce certificate from her former husband.
- She would not be stigmatized by the congregation of believers, and she would not be stigmatized by the general community of Corinth.
- The only ones who might stigmatize her for remarrying without a divorce certificate were the die-hard Jews who were clearly resisting the gospel and were enemies of Christ. (Sound familiar?)
May this post help you if you are a victim of domestic abuse struggling to find your way through the thorny tangled hedges of competing teachings and ideas.
Those who say that we need to pay attention to the words the Bible uses for divorce are barking up the wrong tree.
Update naming two authors who claim that word meaning are the key to untangling the scriptures about divorce. – added 2 May 2019
Walter Callison is an author who claims that word meanings are the key to untangling the knotty passages about divorce. Callison’s book Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love (2002) is being recommended by at least one domestic abuse advocate, which saddens me.
I do not recommend his book. I believe Callison is muddled and confused about lots of things. Callison’s book shows no evidence that he has read the extant ancient Jewish and ancient Near East documents which mention divorce. So he is nowhere near the scholarly competence and in-depth knowledge of David Instone-Brewer.
Stephen Gola is another author who claims that word meanings are the key to disentangling the knotty divorce passages. I do not recommend his book Divorce: Gods’ Will? (Divorce Hope 2003). Even though his book argues that abuse is grounds for divorce, he makes many logical and exegetical errors in his argumentation to arrive at that conclusion.
His views on intercultural marriages are very strange, almost racist. And his charismatic approach to ‘soul ties’ lacks understanding of the way the abuser manipulates the victim to brainwash her. He recommends people I would never recommend: Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Focus on the Family.
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*Amazon Affiliate link:– this blog gets a small percentage of the purchase price if you purchase the book via that link. To see what we do with that money, click here.
This is part 2 of a 4-part series. Other posts in this series.
Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce
Part 3 Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.
Part 4 The Jewish divorce certificate gave women the right to remarry, but some men use it to rule over women
For further reading