For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 5:33-37; Oaths (Bible Difficulties)

posted by Mike Nappa

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made…’”

In case you’re wondering, Jesus wasn’t quoting the Old Testament when he said that. At least not exactly.

Bible scholars think that this point in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount was instead a kind of colloquial summary of several Scriptures, lumped into a saying that Jesus’ hearers already recognized (i.e., “You have heard…”). The first part of his statement might have been a reference to the command of Leviticus 19:12, “Do not swear falsely by my name…” The second part is less obvious, but probably related to Psalm 50:14, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High.”

In light of this “creative paraphrasing” of Scripture, some question why Jesus opted to misquote the Old Testament here. Did he simply forget the exact phrasing? Was he unconcerned about textual accuracy, or implying that the original language was unreliable? Was he not quoting Scripture at all, but referencing some other source instead?

Given the context of his broader teaching here, that last option seems most likely. It’s very possible his phrasing quoted familiar rabbinical teachings rather than the Bible itself. That choice highlighted for listeners, at least subtly, how extra-biblical traditions had become so prevalent and revered they were often regarded on par with God’s Word—and used in place of the actual words of Scripture.

In essence, by quoting what his audience had been taught instead of what was accurate according to Old Testament texts, he may have been suggesting to his listeners, “What you’ve heard all your lives—and the way you’ve heard it—isn’t exactly what is true.”

Similar to religious leaders of ancient Israel, we modern Christians have had copious amounts of teaching between Jesus’ time and ours. One has to wonder where we too are susceptible to allowing our familiar, accepted traditions to overshadow God’s original truth.

Works Cited:

[BKB, 117]

 

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Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Symbolism)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ literal intolerance for the practice of divorce, as displayed in his Sermon on the Mount, takes on new meaning when viewed through a symbolic lens.

Consider:

Throughout the New Testament, Christ is presented figuratively as a bridegroom, and all his followers throughout the ages (the Church) are collectively seen as his bride (John 3:29, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:6-9). Or, as theologian John F. Walvoord describes it, “a bride not yet joined to her Husband.” In this spiritual relationship, Christ is the betrothed husband who has already paid the “dowry” through his death and resurrection (John 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20, Hebrews 13:12), and is now preparing a place for his bride (John 14:2)—and preparing his bride for an eternal “marriage” to him (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:6-9).

In this context, Jesus’ stringent teaching on divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 carries wonderful new significance. Jesus Christ, our eternal Bridegroom, hates divorce. He is therefore unequivocally, relentlessly committed to love and care for his Church (you and me) through any obstacle, in spite of any sin, and beyond the reaches of time itself.

Amen!

Works Cited:

[JCL, 250-253]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Bible Difficulties)

posted by Mike Nappa

It’s hard to overlook the uncomfortable truth that, according to Jesus, a divorced woman is considered an adulterer in God’s eyes—merely by the fact that her husband divorced her.

“Whoever divorces his wife,” Christ said, “for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32 NKJV).

It’s also difficult to overlook the fact that Jesus didn’t accuse the divorcing husband of committing adultery. After all, in that day and age, the husband was the one who would instigate a divorce; shouldn’t he be equally guilty of adultery in that situation?

Theologian, Craig S. Keener, suggests that the omission of the husband here was cultural in its application, not eternal in its view. “Under Jewish law,” he says, “’adultery’ referred only to the wife’s misbehavior, not the husband’s. Matthew does not agree with this view (5:28), but because his readers must obey the law of their communities, he deals only with the issues of the wife.”

Additionally, although he doesn’t state it plainly, it can be inferred that Jesus considered a divorced man to be guilty of perhaps a worse offense: Causing another person—his wife—to commit sin (see Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1, 1 Corinthians 8:12-13).

In that patriarchal society, it was very difficult for a woman to survive without a husband or father as a caretaker. That meant, in order to eat and gain shelter, a divorced woman would almost certainly have to remarry. The sexual requirements of that remarriage would, in an eternal sense, be acts of adultery that violated her original marriage vows. Thus by divorcing his wife without true justification, the divorced man became the catalyst that “cause[d] her to commit adultery.”

As Jesus would later say, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come” (Luke 17:1 NIV).

Works Cited:

[BBC, 59; IBC 1125]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

You may be surprised to discover that Old Testament Law did not codify the practice of divorce. In fact, biblical history indicates that divorce predated the time of Moses. As such, it was acknowledged by the Law (see Deuteronomy 24:1), but not created by it.

Divorce in Jewish society was generally frowned upon, but as far as men were concerned, “No-Fault Divorce” was already firmly in place—and had been for millennia. The accepted reasoning in ancient Israel was that a man could divorce his wife for being “displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). Of course, that left the definition of “something indecent” up for broad interpretation.

Rabbinical teaching by Jesus’ time offered wide-ranging justifications for a husband to divorce his wife. If she claimed to be a virgin before betrothal and marriage and was subsequently found to not be virginal (either during betrothal or after the wedding), that was cause for divorce. If a wife overcooked her husband’s food, that was cause for divorce. If a husband decided his wife was “less beautiful” than another woman, that was cause for divorce. Basically, as long as a man could point to any reason why his wife was “displeasing to him,” that was counted as “something indecent” and a legitimate cause for divorce. The wife, though, was not afforded any justification for divorcing her husband.

It was in the context of these lax social mores that Jesus made this radical statement: “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32 NKJV).

That opinion would have been shocking to most of Jesus’ audience—perhaps labeled extreme, intolerant, and unrealistic, as it is today. For some reason, though, Jesus was unconcerned about how people would react to this hard teaching of his.

Works Cited:

[HSJ, 56-57, 59]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Matthew 5:33-37; Oaths (Bible Difficulties)
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made…’” In case you’re wondering, Jesus wasn't quoting the Old Testament when he said that. At least not exactly. Bible scholars think that this point in Chri

posted 12:00:59pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Symbolism)
Jesus’ literal intolerance for the practice of divorce, as displayed in his Sermon on the Mount, takes on new meaning when viewed through a symbolic lens. Consider: Throughout the New Testament, Christ is presented figuratively as a bridegroom, and all his followers throughout the ages (the

posted 12:00:44pm Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Bible Difficulties)
It’s hard to overlook the uncomfortable truth that, according to Jesus, a divorced woman is considered an adulterer in God’s eyes—merely by the fact that her husband divorced her. “Whoever divorces his wife,” Christ said, “for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit

posted 4:41:43pm Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Historical Backgrounds)
You may be surprised to discover that Old Testament Law did not codify the practice of divorce. In fact, biblical history indicates that divorce predated the time of Moses. As such, it was acknowledged by the Law (see Deuteronomy 24:1), but not created by it. Divorce in Jewish society was general

posted 12:00:42pm Sep. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Historical Backgrounds)
The accusation of adultery in ancient Israel was no light thing, so it was significant that Jesus emphasized it in this portion of his Sermon on the Mount. In effect, Christ said to his audience, “I accuse you of adultery. Your inward sinfulness is criminally damning—regardless of your outward a

posted 12:00:49pm Sep. 05, 2014 | read full post »


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