The bank I used for my everyday banking closed my account. They did this without my permission and without giving me any warning. They did this while I was overseas visiting my daughter.
My utility and internet bills were all paid by direct debits from that account. Because the bank closed my account, I was not receiving the regular income I get from my book sales and my retirement/superannuation fund. Any money credited to my account was bouncing back to whoever sent it.
I have spent countless hours trying to hold the bank’s feet to the fire. The bank eventually returned my money to me. But I’m still battling to get them to adequately compensate me for the anxiety, inconvenience and fear they caused me.
I have complained about the bank to the Financial Services Ombudsman in Australia.
In the midst of this nightmare with my bank, I have published a twitter thread about Billy Graham.
I know that some readers of this site think Billy Graham was wonderful. I know many professing Christians think Billy Graham was a very godly man and a wonderful evangelist.
It can be disturbing to have your idols toppled.
If you feel led to do so by the Holy Spirit, you may like to read my thread about Billy Graham. I published it at Twitter. You do not have to have a Twitter account to read someone else’s tweets on Twitter.
It will take you a while to read the thread. I have presented evidence for you to consider and I have cited my sources. You don’t have to agree with me. But I hope, if you feel led to do so, you will examine the evidence I have presented.
I am still here. I am reading all the comments that come in at this blog.
My ‘spiritual blindness’ post will (I hope) be published next week.
“If thou hatest her, put her away, and give her a clothing for the scorn” – Malachi 2:16 in the Matthew Bible
If thou hatest her, put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel, and give her a clothing for the scorn, saith the Lord of hosts. Look well then to your spirit, and despise her not.
— Malachi 2:16 in the Matthew Bible, published in 1537.
Compare that with the 1599 Geneva Bible:
If thou hatest her¹ put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel, yet he covereth² the injury under his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore keep yourselves in your spirit, and transgress not.
¹ Not that he alloweth divorcement, but of two faults, he showeth, which is the less.
² He thinketh it sufficient to keep his wife still, albeit he take others, and so as it were covereth his fault.
When Ruth Magnusson Davis shared this comparison at Facebook a couple of days ago, she commented on the Geneva Bible’s rendering:
Haha – how Islamic. Take another wife and cover your fault. Probably a rabbinic interpretation. (My guess – you might want to check Calvin’s commentaries on this. He often followed rabbinic interpretations.)
Give her a clothing for the scorn
Let us look again at the Matthew Bible’s rendering of this verse. It is astounding.
If thou hatest her, put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel, and give her a clothing for the scorn, saith the Lord of hosts. Look well then to your spirit, and despise her not.
It tells the husband that if he hates his wife he must put her away—divorce her. And what’s more, when he divorces her he must ‘give her a clothing for the scorn’. What does that mean? The man must compensate the woman for the stigma she will suffer from being divorced, rejected, cast off. A clothing for the scorn. Clothing covers. Clothing covers shame and vulnerable parts. It shields. It protects.
I can only ponder this and marvel at the wonderful wisdom, mercy and justice of God.
The Geneva Bible and later English translations stripped this verse of mercy, wisdom and justice for the woman. They turned it into a heavy sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of every Christian woman who is abused by her husband. Most translations twisted it into an unrelenting and rigid teaching: “God Hates Divorce”.
For over a decade I’ve been denouncing the “God hates divorce” saying as a mis-translation. But only now have I seen the Matthew Bible’s translation which gives Malachi 2:16 such a beautiful tone of mercy and justice for a wife whose husband hates her.
The Geneva Bible is the English translation published in Geneva in the second half of the 1500s. Geneva is where John Calvin and his followers had much power and influence during the Protestant Reformation.
Ruth is doing amazing work studying and comparing how the Matthew Bible and the Geneva Bible differ. She will publish her findings in her forthcoming book The Story Of the Matthew Bible, Part Two. She has already published The Story of the Matthew Bible .
Ruth knows the Matthew Bible better than anyone else alive today.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Find Ruth on Facebook: www.facebook.com/WriterRuth
The New Matthew Bible – New Testament — version information and to purchase.
Online version of the New Matthew Bible – New Testament. The online version does NOT have the notes that are in the hard copy publication.
Online version of the 1537 Matthew Bible in original spelling
Online version of the 1599 Geneva Bible in original spelling
Other posts on this site which mention Ruth Magnusson Davis:
Does Scripture indicate that MEN are more prone to sexual sin than WOMEN? The sexual sins of both sexes are recounted in the Bible. Is God pointing the finger at one sex in particular?
For those who are stuck in the sinkhole of sexual immorality, I urge you to read to the bottom of this post where I give a link to a sermon by Ps Liam Goligher that may help you.
This post extends what I wrote in a comment at Relationship Abuse: The Short Story. I’ve added material about Lot’s daughters and the consequences of their sexual sins. And the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees brought before Jesus.
Passages that describe and even-handedly condemn men’s and women’s sexual sins
1 Cor 7:1-5 As for the things you wrote to me about: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his wife, and let every woman have her husband. Let the man give due affection to his wife; likewise also the wife to the man. The wife does not have right over her own body, but the husband, and likewise the husband does not have right over his own body, but the wife. Do not withdraw yourselves one from another, unless it be with consent for a time to give yourselves to fasting and prayer. And afterward, come again to the same thing, lest Satan tempt you through your lack of self control.
Romans 1:26-27 For this cause God gave them up to shameful lusts. For even their women turned from the natural way to the unnatural. And likewise also the men left the natural way with a woman, and burned in their lusts for one another. And man with man wrought uncleanness, and received in themselves the reward of their error accordingly.
Deut 22:22-23 If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. If there is a young woman who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and has sex with her, you must take the two of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death—the young woman because she did not cry out in the city and the man because he has violated his neighbor’s fiancée. You must purge the evil from you.
Some Christians who are victims of rape are disturbed by these ^ verses because they seem to be saying, “If you didn’t cry out when you were being raped, you are guilty!” Here is my post which addresses that perplexity. She did not cry out while being raped … so is she guilty?
It helps to realise that victims of abuse always resist the abuse. Victims resist abuse in prudent, determined and creative ways. One survivor told me she had a nightmare which encapsulated multiple simultaneous flashbacks of sexual abuse. She was shocked awake…screaming in her mind, not out loud. Screaming in your mind when it’s not safe to scream out loud is one way of resisting the abuse.
Lev 18:23 You are not to have sexual intercourse with any animal, defiling yourself with it; a woman is not to present herself to an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Lev 20:15-16 If a man has sexual intercourse with an animal, he must be put to death; you are also to kill the animal. If a woman comes near any animal and mates with it, you are to kill the woman and the animal. They must be put to death; their own blood is on them.
Passages which focus on women’s sexual sins
There are three passages in the Bible which particularly focus on women’s sexual sins.
1. Lot’s daughters intentionally committed incest with their father.
2. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, and when Joseph fled from her advances she got him sent to jail for ‘attempted rape’.
3. In the early days of Christianity, a woman named Jezebel seduced believers to practice sexual immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols.
Lot’s Daughters Gen 19:30-38 Lot departed from Zoar and lived in the mountains along with his two daughters, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. Instead, he and his two daughters lived in a cave. Then the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man in the land to sleep with us as is the custom of all the land. Come, let’s get our father to drink wine so that we can sleep with him and preserve our father’s line.” So they got their father to drink wine that night, and the firstborn came and slept with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up.
The next day the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I slept with my father last night. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight so you can go sleep with him and we can preserve our father’s line.” That night they again got their father to drink wine, and the younger went and slept with him; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up.
So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The firstborn gave birth to a son and named him Moab. He is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger also gave birth to a son, and she named him Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites of today.
Side note: The sexual immorality of Lot’s daughters caused big problems for the nation of Israel. Lot’s daughters gave birth to Moab and Ammon. Psalm 106 tells us that the Moabites and Ammonites practiced child sacrifice:
Ps 106:34-39 They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them but mingled with the nations and adopted their ways. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood – the blood of their sons and daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; so the land became polluted with blood. They defiled themselves by their actions and prostituted themselves by their deeds.
Potiphar’s wife Gen 19:6b-18 Now Joseph was well-built and handsome. After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.”
But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?”
Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her. Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants were there. She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment with her and had run outside, she called the household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “my husband brought a Hebrew man to make fools of us. He came to me so he could sleep with me, and I screamed as loud as I could. When he heard me screaming for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside.”
She put Joseph’s garment beside her until his master came home. Then she told him the same story: “The Hebrew slave you brought to us came to make a fool of me, but when I screamed for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside.”
Jezebel Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Side note: The “food sacrificed to idols” was flesh. Whether it was the flesh of animals or humans is not stated in Revelation chapter 2. But since Psalm 106 tells us that the Moabites and Ammonites practiced child sacrifice, we can’t rule out the possibility that Jezebel was encouraging believers to practice child sacrifice and eat the flesh of the murdered children.
Passages which focus on men’s sexual sins
1 Cor 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived. For neither fornicators, nor worshippers of images, nor whoremongers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with the male sex, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor cursed speakers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
Matt 5:27-28 You have heard how it was said to the people of the old time, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whosoever looks on a wife, lusting after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Lev 20:13 If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death; their blood is on their own hands.
1 Cor 5:1 There is a report abroad that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not once named among the Gentiles: that a man should have his father’s wife.
Numbers 25:1-5 While Israel was staying in the Acacia Grove, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. The women invited them to the sacrifices for their gods, and the people ate and bowed in worship to their gods. So Israel aligned itself with Baal of Peor, and the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord so that His burning anger may turn away from Israel.” So Moses told Israel’s judges, “Kill each of the men who aligned themselves with Baal of Peor.”
Deut 22:25-27 But if the man encounters an engaged woman in the open country, and he seizes and rapes her, only the man who raped her must die. Do nothing to the young woman, because she is not guilty of an offense deserving death. This case is just like one in which a man attacks his neighbor and murders him. When he found her in the field, the engaged woman cried out, but there was no one to rescue her.
John 8:1-11 And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery, and set her in the midst, and said to him, Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, even in the act. Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned. What therefore do you say?
And they said this to bait him, to have something to accuse him of.
Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. And while they continued asking him, he lifted himself up and said to them, Let him who is without sin among you, cast the first stone at her. And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
And as soon as they heard that, they went out one by one, the eldest first. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the centre. When Jesus lifted up himself again and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, Woman, where are they, your accusers? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.
I believe this story points to the sexual sins of men far more than the sexual sins of women. The Pharisees claimed they caught the woman in the very act of adultery, but they did not bring the adulterous man to Jesus along with her. Who knows: it could have been one of those very Pharisees who committed adultery with her! They could have schemed together to set her up. We know they wanted to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place so they could accuse him. To them, the woman was merely a pawn. Jesus’ calm, dignified and needle-sharp question to the men caused them all to slink away.
The big one. Chapter 18 in Leviticus spells out the forbidden degrees of kinship.
I encourage you to read this next passage of Scripture slowly, and as you do, think about your friends, relations and cyber friends. So much incest has been done by abusers. My heart goes out to all victims of incest.
Lev 18:6-19 This is a long passage so I’ve formatted the commands in bullet points.
- You are not to come near any close relative for sexual intercourse; I am Yahweh.
- You are not to shame your father by having sex with your mother. She is your mother; you must not have sexual intercourse with her.
- You are not to have sex with your father’s wife; it will shame your father.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s, whether born at home or born elsewhere. You are not to have sex with her.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, because it will shame your family.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife’s daughter, who is adopted by your father; she is your sister.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s close relative.
- You are not to shame your father’s brother by coming near his wife to have sexual intercourse; she is your aunt.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; you are not to have sex with her.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with your brother’s wife; it will shame your brother.
- You are not to have sexual intercourse with a woman and her daughter. [THIS FORBIDS FATHER-DAUGHTER INCEST]
- You are not to marry her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter and have sex with her. They are close relatives; it is depraved.
- You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister’s lifetime.
- You are not to come near a woman during her menstrual impurity to have sexual intercourse with her.
I think it’s significant that the warnings in Leviticus 18 are all written to men who might be tempted to have sex with their mother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, daughter, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter, etc.
God seems to have thought it was important to command men to not commit these kinds of sexual sins. To me, that indicates God was implying that men initiate those kinds of sins more than women do.
Christians have traditionally interpreted the forbidden degrees as applying to both sexes.
Both men and women can fall into the sinkhole of pornography
A Journey Through the Pornography Sinkhole – by a man (Wendell)
When victims don’t look like victims: women burdened with sins and led astray by various passions – by a woman who used porn and is now recovering. Here is an excerpt from her story:
I developed a habit of using pornography soon after I was born-again, which piled shame on top of shame. The older neighbor man who abused me as a child exposed me to pornography at the age of five. Much of my anger stemmed from the embarrassment and self-hatred that I was a woman struggling with a man’s sin. (I’ve since learned that women are the fastest growing demographic who are getting into habitual use of pornography.)
With Confidence, Draw Near is a sermon by Dr Liam Goligher which may be helpful for anyone who is trying to break an addiction or mortify a besetting sin.
OT quotes are from the HCSB. NT from the NMB.
biblegateway.com has the HCSB and NMB online
Australia is not the only place where children are being forced to have contact with abusers by the legal system. Caution: For some readers, some of the linked articles may be triggering.
What is the so-called evangelical church doing about any of this?
I answer that ^ question at the bottom of this post. I also give a safety reminder to readers who follow us on Facebook at the bottom of this post.
I’ve heard about family courts ordering children into unsafe situations from countless protective parents around the world. It’s happening in the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Japan, Africa, India, New Zealand. Dear readers, feel free to add other countries to my list in the comments thread. However, this post focuses on Australia because that’s where the following mainstream media articles come.
Australian children are being placed in harm’s way by the legal structure designed to determine their best interests — the family law system – by Emily Clark and Heidi Davoren, ABCNews, June 13, 2019.
This ^ in-depth report includes accounts from survivors, a man and a woman (not related). When they were kids, they were forced to be with their abusive parent by the family court.
Family Court report writer charged with sexually abusing three children – by Heidi Davoren and Josh Robertson, ABCNews, Aug 26, 2019. Excerpt:
The psychologist, who has since been charged with sexually abusing three children, was appointed by the Family Court to make custody recommendations in cases where one parent had accused the other of sexual abuse.
One of Australia’s foremost family law experts said it could open the way for custody rulings involving the expert to be overturned.
Psychologist facing child sex charges granted conditional bail – Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 31, 2019. Excerpt:
Dr Bob Montgomery was extradited to NSW from Queensland.
Montgomery, who was granted bail at Byron Bay Local Court on Thursday, has been charged with two counts of buggery and nine counts of indecent assault on a male.
We know that serial pedophiles love to work and volunteer in places where they have access to children. If you doubt this, read Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders by Anna Salter. She sets it out in great detail with lots of case studies.
Dr Bob Montgomery is not only a psychologist. He was a scoutmaster years ago. Ugh. Nothing new under the sun.
Former Sydney Scoutmaster in court over child sex assault charges – by Rachel Clun, Sydney Morning Herald, January 31, 2019.
Dr Bob Montgomery is not the only one.
Paul Wilson had an eminent career as a criminologist in Australia and overseas (see Wikipedia article). It stands to reason that he must have directly or through his academic teaching influenced what was going on in the Family Court. But all the time he’d been guilty of sexually abusing a young girl.
Criminologist Paul Wilson jailed over ‘brazen’ child sexual abuse – The Guardian, Australia, Nov 24, 2016.
Because some protective parents have found Family Court psychologists so appalling, and the Family Court so blind to the injustices that are going on, they have tried to hold Family Court psychologists accountable through the medical system. This next link explains.
Family Court expert referred to Medical Council after parents lodge complaints by Emily Clark and Heidi Davoren, ABCNews, Sept 4, 2018. Excerpt:
One parent advocate told the ABC challenging a family report, or “counteracting the gods of the court”, would be “the fight of your life”.
Fiona Barnett on August 27 2019 said:
Bond University Psychology professor BOB MONTGOMERY was charged with raping 3 boys and granted bail last February. He wrote numerous family court reports.
Bob Montgomery also received a rap over the knuckles from Queensland Psychology Board for having sex with a female patient.
Fiona did not cite her source for the information that Bob Montgomery received a rap over the knuckles from the Queensland Psychology Board. But I know she is an abuse survivor and an outspoken advocate for survivors, so she may perhaps have heard it directly from the female who Bob Montgomery sexually abused.
Can it get worse? Yes it can. In Australia, a man who has breached a domestic violence order against him can run a Children’s Contact Service where separated parents are court-ordered to go, to hand their children back and forth.
Father opens children’s contact service despite domestic violence order – Ashleigh Stevenson, ABCNews, April 24, 2019. Excerpt:
“I was absolutely shocked as to how someone with not only a domestic violence order against them, but also breaches as well, was able to be supervising other abusers,” Ms Penn said.
Australian Children’s Contact Services Association (ACCSA) spokesman Michael Cross said due to increasing demand there were lengthy wait lists to access these services, and privately run child contact services were flourishing.
Mr Cross estimated there were now between 85 and 100 private services across the country, outnumbering funded services.
He said unlike government-funded services, privately operated services were unregulated, and despite staff often having to deal with highly stressful, complex family disputes, they required no relevant qualifications or even blue card accreditation.
What is the so-called evangelical church doing about any of this?
A few evangelical groups are raising awareness about domestic abuse and putting pressure on denominations to deal with domestic abuse victims victims come forward and seek help from their churches.
But what are lobby groups like the Australian Christian Lobby, and micro political parties that purport to have Christian values, doing about the fiasco in the Family Court? In my observation, ZILCH. They focus on topics like abortion and same sex marriage. From long watching, long hearing from victims of domestic abuse, I can say that so-called Christian lobby groups have been infiltrated by domestic abusers and abuser-enablers.
Christian lobby groups are disseminating the typical rhetoric used by men who abuse their wives. “Divorce is always wrong. We must keep families together. All children need to have contact with their fathers. Feminism has wrecked the family, and the family unit is the foundation of society.”
FACEBOOK READERS: this is a reminder for your safety. If you are subject to family court orders or are in the process of litigation, please don’t write anything on Facebook (or here for that matter) that could identify you to your abuser or to the court. It could make your situation even more difficult.
If you want to comment here at the blog, we encourage you to do so, but we suggest you use a pseudonym and do not give any details that might identify you to others. Read our NEW USERS page for tips about how to dis-identify your comments.
All mainstream media articles have been archived at web.archive.org/ so if the links above are scrubbed you can search for them there. I’ve taken a screen shot of Fiona Barnett’s statement, in case her FB account gets taken down.
Why didn’t Jesus say abuse is grounds for divorce?
Why is there no explicit statement in the Bible that abuse is grounds for divorce and a victim of abuse may remarry after divorcing the abuser?
Why didn’t Mosaic Law have an explicit law against wife beating and other types of spousal abuse?
Why didn’t God make sure that the Ancient Israelites knew that wife beating was wrong? Other ancient near east cultures would have assumed that wife beating was okay. What was to prevent Israel from likewise assuming it was okay?
How can I know for sure that the five books of Moses—the original “Law”—allow divorce for abuse?
The New Testament indirectly condemns wife beating by telling husbands to love their wives as their own bodies and not be harsh with them. But without the OT Law providing wife beating as clear grounds of divorce, how can we confirm that the NT says wife beating is grounds for divorce?
If abuse is grounds for divorce, including emotional cruelty or just even basic treacherous and dishonest dealings that occur repeatedly and thus remarriage is permissible, why did Jesus not just SAY SO?
Surely He who is omniscient would be able to look forward in time and would know what a difficult issue the whole marriage divorce remarriage thing would be? Why didn’t He be much more clear about such a sensitive and serious issue? He would have spared many vulnerable people terrible agony of conscience.
Why wasn’t God more clear in His Word? I feel creepy saying this because it’s kind of like taking God to task for not writing the Bible properly…it makes me wonder about the whole inspired word of God thing sometimes.¹
Many Christians who have been abused by a marriage partner are in anguish over questions like these.
Quelling the anguish and setting the record straight
Why is there no explicit statement in the Bible that abuse is grounds for divorce? The Bible doesn’t give a law code like the legislation which governments pass today. It gives case studies and general precepts which we are called to interpret with wisdom. The Bible doesn’t use the word ‘abuse’ but it does use words like oppression, injustice, affliction.
The Mosaic Law simply assumes that divorces will occur. It doesn’t set out a list of explicit grounds for divorce. It forbids divorce in only two very unusual situations. I talk about the two Mosaic Laws that forbid divorce in Appendix 5 of my book Not Under Bondage. Here is a quick summary of those two Laws.
- When a man slanders his bride by accusing her of not being a virgin when he married her and his accusation is shown to be a false accusation, Mosaic Law says he is not allowed to divorce her. (Deut 22:13-19)
- When a man coerces or compels an un-betrothed virgin to have sex with him, Mosaic Law orders him to marry her and forbids him divorcing her as long as he lives (Deut 22:28-29).This doesn’t mean a woman was compelled to marry the man who raped her. Exodus 22:16-17 says the woman’s father could veto the marriage. The woman’s father could veto the marriage at his daughter’s request. If the marriage was vetoed, the rapist had to pay a hefty amount as compensation to the woman.
Jesus did NOT say adultery is the only ground for divorce. Instone-Brewer has convincingly argued that in Matthew 19 Jesus was only pushing back against male-privileged rabbinic interpretation of Deuteronomy 24. The Jews who heard Jesus talking to the Pharisees would have known that Jesus was only referring to their hairsplitting of Deuteronomy 24:1 in order to justify cavalier divorce for men.
All four times Jesus mentioned divorce, he was pushing back hard against the male-privileged interpretation of Deut 24 which was common in his day. He admonished Jewish men for twisting Deuteronomy 24 to advantage themselves.
That understanding got lost in the ensuing decades, as more and more gentiles came into the church, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and the church became hyperfocused on celibacy. For many hundreds of years Christians have misunderstood the debate between Jesus and the Pharisees. Like a limpet that clings to a rock, this misunderstanding is very hard to dislodge from Christendom. We need to cast it out.
Paul did not contradict Jesus, he confirmed what Jesus had said and amplified it. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul made it clear that a Christian is at liberty to end a marriage if the other spouse has abused, deserted or been sexually unfaithful.
For millennia, men² have interpreted Scripture through their own lens. By twisting small elements of Scripture and then magnifying those twists to advantage themselves, they have made virtually everyone think that their legalistic lens is the only lens to see through.
The Pharisees in Jesus day interpreted the OT through their male-biased lenses. Christian leaders, most of whom have been privileged men, have interpreted the divorce question through their own biased lenses. Nothing new under the sun.
The trick is to stop playing their game. Don’t ask why the Bible doesn’t list grounds for divorce, or doesn’t say abuse is grounds for divorce in so many words. Identify the contradictions in the biased interpretations, and blow them away.
The mistaken view that Jesus said ‘adultery was the ONLY ground for divorce’ fits very nicely with men’s priorities. The belief that men’s sexual needs get priority has been around ever since the Fall. The idea that the husband owns the wife, the double standard about women’s virginity while men can sow their wild oats, polygamy—all are expressions of that belief. The misunderstanding that Jesus said “adultery is the ONLY ground for divorce” has very much suited men.
Jesus appears to give the Pharisees one reason for divorce namely sexual unfaithfulness and leaves it at that after telling them that remarriage for any other reason constitutes adultery. …
I have always thought to myself something like “Okay, the wrong penis in the wrong vagina makes divorce and remarriage okay. But incest, or wife beating, or just being treated like dirt and dealt with dishonestly, or any other behaviour that constitutes a violation of trust and truth and love and respect in a marriage does not?”
It makes no sense that adultery is somehow considered more evil and more a violation of trust than these other things that are worse. (Kind of Anonymous)
God gave lots of balanced guidance in His Word, but most Christians ignored it
The Ten Commandments condemn false accusation, slander, theft, and sexual immorality. The commandments apply in all sorts of situations. Jesus gave us examples of how to apply the ten commandments. He said murder is not just killing someone, it is also hatred and verbal abuse (Matt 5:21-22). Since the Law against murder includes verbal abuse, how much more does it cover wife-beating? Furthermore, “you shall not kill” implies you ought not remain in a position where you might be killed or injured by another.
We can do the same thing with the commandment against theft. It’s wrong to steal someone’s chattels. It is much more wrong to brainwash them to erode their person-hood, so they end up being just a shell, an intimidated puppet under your control.
Adultery, desertion and abuse violate the heart of the marriage covenant. This fits with what Paul said in 1 Cor 7:12-15. Conduct that trashes the marriage covenant—the cleaving, and the one flesh—permits the innocent partner to divorce.
The blind have been leading the blind. Christians for centuries mistook Jesus’ words about divorce. Christian leaders, especially those with a pharisaic mindset, elevated their misinterpretation of Jesus’ words and made it THE RULE by which believers had to interpret everything else that Scripture says about divorce.
The liberty to divorce a covenant-breaking spouse, the liberty that Paul had enunciated, was downplayed and narrowed to extremis.
A small portion of Mosaic Law (Deut 24:1) was misinterpreted by saying it allowed divorce only for sexual immorality. Christians did this, thus replicating one of rabbinic misinterpretations of Deuteronomy 24.
Exodus 21 and Deut 22, passages which gave rights to women, were ignored by most Christians until Instone-Brewer spotlighted how they pertain to divorce. Instone-Brewer has convincingly argued that when Jesus was alive all Jews accepted that Ex 21 meant abuse was grounds for divorce. It’s fruitless to get hung up on the fact that we do not have first century AD documents which show Jewish courts using Ex 21 to enable women to divorce for abuse. Don’t get bogged down in the left-brain dominated thinking that says “we must be able to cite ancient documents that Jewish courts used Ex 21 to allow women to abusive husbands”. That kind of thinking gets tangled in its own shoelaces.
Traditionalist Christian leaders would like us to focus on their mistaken understanding of Jesus’ words about divorce. Their lens favours abusers and oppresses victims of abuse. We have to stop seeing things through their lens.
Malachi 2:16 was mistranslated way back in history. This meant that Christians all believed ‘God hates divorce’. That wrong translation welded the other misunderstandings to each other. The result was a cage from which no victim of abuse could escape without excruciating pangs of conscience. False guilt: pangs of conscience that came from false teaching.
Why did God allow this to happen?
The fault is not God’s. The fault is not Moses or Jesus or Paul’s.
Jesus as a man had to push back against the way men had interpreted scripture to suit themselves in his day and age. Since the NT was completed, men have twisted the divorce texts in different ways, but still in ways that suit themselves. The fault lies with fallen men who have interpreted scripture from their own biases. Men who’ve had insufficient insight or empathy with the plight of victims of abuse.
No one can plumb the depths of why God does not stop the powerful oppressing the vulnerable, or why God allows false teaching to be so widespread in the church. But we know God is not the author of all that sin.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Gen 15:12-16
“The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” — maybe that haunting phrase can help us tentatively guess why God has allowed there to be such distortion of his Word re divorce and remarriage.
The people of Israel would be afflicted for years but would eventually be led to the promised land. The folks who have interpreted Scripture to suit themselves and burdened the vulnerable with anguish and false guilt, are perhaps a bit like the Amorites. Their iniquity will be judged in the end, but maybe it is not yet full.
The Bible talks about “the mystery of iniquity” in 2 Thess 2:7. That iniquity has been going on for a very long time. I dare not try to interpret this with logic. I only offer it as something to ponder and meditate on:
2 Thessalonians 2
We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in that we shall assemble unto him, 2 not to be suddenly moved from your mind. And be not troubled, neither by spirit nor by words, nor yet by letter which seems to come from us, as though the day of Christ were at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means. For the Lord comes not unless there come a departing first and that sinful man be revealed – the son of perdition, 4 who is an adversary, and is exalted above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he shall sit as God in the temple of God and show himself as God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things? 6 And now you know what withholds, so that he may be manifest at his time. 7 For the mystery of that iniquity does he already work, which only locks until it is taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that wicked one be exposed, whom the Lord will consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and will destroy with the appearance of his coming – 9 namely him whose coming is by the working of Satan, with all lying power, signs, and wonders, 10 and in all the deceptiveness of unrighteousness among those who are perishing. They perish because they would not receive the love of the truth, so that they might have been saved. 11 And therefore God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe lies; 12 so that all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
¹ I compiled the questions that opened this post from comments by Clockwork Angel and Kind of Anonymous. Many thanks to them. I beg church leaders & academics—please read their comments to hear their anguish, and please comment here at this blog to say you’ve done so. Don’t leave us victims feeling like we are seldom heard by church leaders! Please come out of the shadows if you genuinely support us.
² I say ‘men’ because for millennia men have been able to dominate the discourse of Scriptural interpretation.
Men do not menstruate; men do not have wombs. Men have not had to suffer the pain and difficulty of blood coming from their genitals every month. Men have not had to suckle crying babies from their breasts in the middle of the night. Men have not died in childbirth
Until very recently in human history, men have been the chief bread winners. By the sweat of their brow men have worked to put food on the table for their families. Since the Fall, men have had advantages, and burdens, that women have not had. But no reasonable person could deny that men’s advantages have a led to men’s viewpoints dominating the interpretation of God’s Word for the last few millennia. Men have by and large held the megaphone re what Scripture says about divorce.
I will be incorporating some of this post into the revised edition of Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion, which I intend to publish this year if I possibly can. I’m working on the revised edition while trying to keep this blog going. It’s a lot of work. Please pray for me.
Further Reading: What Does The Bible Say About Divorce? – one of our FAQ pages.
“Blood is thicker than water” is often used to coerce victims of abuse to comply with the sinful beliefs and behaviour patterns within a family system. It is used to intimidate and extract loyalty from a member of the family whose conscience is more active and biblically guided than the rest of the family – to get the person to conform to the evil and sin being done by the controlling members of the family.
It is far better be redeemed by the blood of Christ than to have one’s conscience and actions bound and constrained by kinship ties (family bonds) in this fallen world.
To give you an example, I’ll speak personally. None of my family members are genuine Christians. When I was in my twenties I came to saving faith. I know Christ as my personal Saviour and Lord. My family don’t want me to talk about Christ: they are typical western-world unbelievers in that they’re resistant to the gospel. I try to show love and care for all my relatives. I do consider myself committed to their well-being for the rest of our lives. I value and prioritise my relationships with family in a different and more life-long way than I do with friends. That is where ‘blood is thicker than water’ has a grain of truth for me.
I try to show my family members love without condoning their un-Christian habits and beliefs. It’s a tough call; I know I get it wrong often. And I am fortunate: none of my blood relatives are so toxic that I’ve had to go no contact with them.
With my now-ex husbands, I had to go no contact. I’ve been married twice. In each case, when I stated the marriage was O.V.E.R., several of my family members put pressure on me to relent and reconcile or be softer on my husband in some way or other. Several relatives reprimanded me for ‘the way I ended the relationship’ or hinted that there was something wrong with me for getting myself abused. None of them actually said to me “blood is thicker than water” – but that platitude was implicit in what they were saying.
“You can always come home to your family.”
“You can always go home to your family.”
It sounds so comforting. So reassuring. A victim can be lured by the carrot-promise that he or she need not end up homeless and begging on the streets. But if your family has heinously and serially abused you, intermittently showing fake repentance to soften you up again, but demonstrating overall a pattern of serial unrepentance, “You can always go home to your family” is just a manipulative refrain in the evil chorus.
Many people quote “blood is thicker than water” in conjunction with the expectation/demand to blindly overlook family evil, abuse, unrepentant attitudes and behavior. And it’s more twisted and abusive when a family has ‘evangelicalism’ in the mix.
Finding Answers said:
I grew up hearing “blood is thicker than water”. I stopped believing the saying when I saw how it was used to manipulate people into keeping silent.
The “blood is thicker than water” sounded vaguely threatening, rather than loving and / or supportive.
If the family is a loving family, why would the saying be necessary? If a family is Christian, rather than professing ‘c’hristian, I doubt “blood is thicker than water” would be relevant.
As Jeff Crippen wrote in 2013: “The ‘water’ with which genuine Christians have been washed (as symbolized by the water of baptism) is thicker than the blood of all earthly relationships. And where it is not, we have every right to question whether the Lord Jesus is present at all.”
Jesus said emphatically that blood ties with family are less important than following Him
A great number of people went with Jesus, and he turned and said to them, “If a person comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, and moreover his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-26 NMB)
I’ve heard preachers say that the word ‘hate’ in that Luke 14:26 means ‘love less’. I don’t know whether they are right. I did some research to see how much evidence they have for that assertion. The Greek word is μισέω which means to hate, pursue with hatred, detest; in the passive form it means to be hated, detested. The only time it is used in the NT to mean (by extension) to love less is in Luke 14:26.
Matthew 10 conveys a similar idea to Luke 14, without using the word ‘hate’.
Whosoever therefore acknowledges me before men, him will I acknowledge also before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to send peace into the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves his father or mother more than me, is not meet for me. And he who loves his son or daughter more than me, is not meet for me. (Matt 10:32-37 NMB)
So we must wrestle with this notion that in following Christ wholeheartedly, a believer may have to ‘hate’ his or her family. Certainly a believer is called upon to love their family less than they love Christ. What does this mean in practice? For me it means that when I am torn between showing my family that I love them in ways they will recogise as love, and showing my family that I love them in ways that they will reject and hate because I’m exhorting them to repent from their sins and follow Christ, I must choose the latter.
I must be wise and brave in how I do this. Wise in not caving in to the ‘family norm’ when to do so would violate my conscience or betray Christ. Wise in not self-servingly or cavalierly saying things to them to prick their conscience. Wise in when I apologise; when I remain silent; when I assert or defend my views. Brave in being willing to face the bristles from my family when I say or do something that pricks their conscience.
The Bible urges us to pray that Christ will return quickly. I have often felt it hard to pray that prayer. I don’t want Christ to return while my daughter is an unbeliever. I don’t want my family members to end up in hell. But I increasingly see the darkness and evil rising and coming out into the open in this fallen world. And I want Christ to come quickly to wind it all up and punish the evildoers.
I’ve realised that I can put these two commandments of God’s together. He tells me to pray for Christ’s quick return. He tells me to hate my family—to love them less than I love Christ. I can pray “Lord, come quickly” more wholeheartedly because I am also commanded to hate my family. Understanding this, I am more wholeheartedly wanting to obey His Word and trusting Him that His timing will be perfect.
Whose blood? The blood tie of family? Or the blood of Christ who died for my sins?
An ACFJ reader emailed me saying:
I think of Jesus’ response to people who came to Him once when He was teaching the crowds, saying that His mother and brothers wanted to speak to Him. He replied that those who do the will of God are His mother, brothers, sisters.
I long for Heaven and to see Jesus personally. One major aspect of our new Home being perfect (sanctified, healed) fellowship, perfect relationships. There will be no hierarchy of any kind – only God Himself.
I imagine “relationships” there will be so different – better, purer, Holy Spirit empowered – that we can’t even conceptualize them. I’ve speculated on the ramifications of the fact that “there is no marriage in heaven; we will be like the angels.” Perhaps that means our earthly marriages and family members coming from/connected to those will be radically different than what we know of here. Perhaps instead of age and experience differences (i.e., grandparents, aunts and uncles, children) we will all be adults and of equal status. No “lonely, single, divorced, widowed or married with kids” status, at all. Just all the redeemed, together/mutually/on an even plain loving and worshipping God.
For Christians, Water Should be Thicker than Blood by Jeff Crippen