A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Arguing From the Lesser to the Greater to Establish Biblical Divorce

Hebrews 2:1-3a ESV
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ……….

The epistle to the Hebrews uses the word “better” numbers of times.  It does so because it employs the “if the lesser is true….then the greater is true.”   If people were held accountable to the Old Covenant which was given through Moses, THEN surely we are even more accountable under the New Covenant, given through Christ.   You see how it works?  Lesser to the greater.  Here is another example –

Hebrews 7:7-10 ESV
It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Here, the Apostle is demonstrating that the priesthood of Melchizedek (Christ) is a greater priesthood than that of Levi, because Levi (existing in “seed” form in Abraham) paid tithes to Melchizedek.  If the lesser is true, then surely the greater is true.  Christ’s priesthood is greater.

What has all of this got to do with abuse and divorce and remarriage – our focus in this blog?  Simply this –

If Scripture allows for the abandoned party to be free (not under bondage) from the marriage covenant when the guilty party deserts them (1 Cor 7), then because this “lesser” evil is grounds for divorce, the greater evil must also be grounds for divorce.  And what is the greater evil?  It is the abuser continuing in the “marriage” and persisting in abusing his victim.  This greater evil surely gives the victim biblical grounds for divorce, because the lesser evil (literal abandonment) is biblical grounds for divorce.

Do you see it?  And how bizarre and unjust we are in the Christian church!  The thing smacks of the religion of the Pharisees who strain out a gnat and swallow the camel.  We are more prepared (though there are many who even refuse this) to grant as grounds for divorce – desertion – than we are for active, ongoing verbal, physical, emotional abuse!   But surely the latter is the greater evil.  God repeatedly uses the argument from the lesser to the greater in Scripture, and therefore we are justified in doing the same.  If we strain out a gnat, then let’s be sure to strain out the camel too!

4 Comments

  1. Don Johnson

    One can go directly to Ex 21:10-11 for justification for divorce for abuse. This is a seldom taught text that is crucial to understanding the reasons for Biblical divorce. See the works by David Instone-Brewer where he explains this thoroughly or the Karaite Jewish interpretation of these verses. (Karaite Jews does not accept the NT as Scripture, but can be helpful to see how to interpret OT texts in a Hebrew way.)

    • Thank you, Don. Can you please email me some more info on what the Karaite Jewish interpretation of Ex. 21:10-11 is?
      I agree with Instone-Brewer’s use of Ex 21 in relation to divorce. I owe him a debt of gratitude: his work helped me a lot as I was writing Not Under Bondage.

      And Jeff, thanks too. Great application of the technique of arguing from the lesser to the greater.

      • Don Johnson

        One thing to know about Karaites is that they are not monolithic, sort of like prots or MJs in that they do not have a central authority, like the Catholics do. Given that respected Karaite teachers say that Ex 21 gives reasons for a WOMAN’s divorce and Deu 24 gives reasons for a MAN’s divorce. I searched just today but could not find that paper by a karaite that reasoned things that way. I do recall reading it on the web, so it should still be there somewhere.

  2. Thanks Don. I’ll do some burrowing on the web.

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: