For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

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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Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

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 appearances of obedience.”

Given the seriousness of the crime of adultery in that time, that message must have been sobering for many. Consider:

• Adultery, according to Jewish law, was punishable by death, usually stoning (a grisly way to die).

• The husband whose wife had been unfaithful could legally demand the execution of both his wife and her lover.

• If the offended husband were merciful, he could have only his wife killed and accept a ransom payment from the wife’s lover in exchange for that man’s life.

• The offended husband, if he were even more merciful, might also opt simply to divorce his unfaithful wife instead of killing her—although that also meant cutting her off economically, socially, and religiously from her community. The result for women in this situation was often oppressive, unrelenting poverty.

• Even the accusation of adultery carried legal and personal consequences in that time. A wife accused of adultery was often given a trial by ordeal where she’d be forced to drink a mysterious, disgusting “potion.” If she got sick from drinking that potion, she would be declared guilty…and stoned to death.

Works Cited:

[BKW, 213; JHT, 92]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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

Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ New Testament teachings on the topic of adultery could be considered by his hearers as rabbinical commentary on Old Testament law—specifically on the seventh commandment found in Exodus 20:14.

As such, at this point in his Sermon on the Mount, Christ helped his audience to understand an important truth: The visible act of sin (adultery) and the invisible origin of sin (adulterous thoughts) are equal to each other. That was a bit of a departure from some other popular opinions in his time. For instance, Jewish historian Josephus said, “The purposing to do a thing, without actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment.”

Additionally, Christ’s commentary on the seventh commandment expanded the definition of adultery that was generally accepted at that time. Noted Bible scholar, F.F. Bruce indicates that, “In the cultural context of the original Decalogue, this commandment forbade a man to have sexual relations with someone else’s wife.” The seventh commandment, however, didn’t address a man having extramarital or premarital sex with an unmarried woman.

Jesus, though, expanded the cultural understanding of sexual sin by citing “a woman” in general (“anyone who looks at a woman lustfully” – as in “any woman”) rather than limiting adultery only to sex with another man’s wife. That was an important distinction at that time, and one which continues to be important today.

Works Cited:

[PC15, 162; HSJ, 52]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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

Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery,” Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount.

Some have interpreted this statement to mean that, outside of marriage, any acknowledgment of feminine beauty by a man is adultery— the assumption being that noticing a woman’s attractiveness automatically coincides with sexual desire. As a result, they often demand that women are responsible to prevent men from being tempted to sin over their bodies, perhaps by covering themselves physically from neck to foot (and sometimes veiling faces), by refusing to wear make-up, by avoiding modern clothing styles deemed “revealing,” and so on.

Though popular in some circles, that perspective seems to be a mistake in thinking of Pharisaical proportions.

The Greek word translated as “lustfully” in the NIV is a variation on the term, epithymia, which means “strong desire.” In this context it clearly refers to a thought-life that goes well beyond simple appreciation or acknowledgment of God-given beauty in a feminine form.

Epithymia here refers to a strong desire to consume God’s beautiful creation through intentional, inappropriate action at the expense of that creation. Or, as theologian Larry Richards explains it, “A sexual desire stimulated by the sin nature—a desire that seeks to possess and use persons who are not rightly objects of desire.”

In other words, if your imagination is using a woman as a pornographic tool for mental sexual stimulation, that’s “looking at a woman lustfully”—and is adultery. Acknowledging and appreciating God-given beauty in a woman, however, is not.

Works Cited:

[EDB, 423]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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

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