Go to Introduction


This bible study uses a Unicode Greek font the Hebrew Unicode font "David" which comes with later versions of Windows, and is printable.

Divorce and Remarriage Index || Search this website || Bible Studies Index

Introduction 7

This section has been added because of questions and objections, which have been raised since this study was first begun. This bible study has answered a lot of common objections to the the bible teaching against divorce and remarriage. Sometimes scriptures have been quoted to prove a point contrary to this study, and where reasonably possible they have been included and answered.


10 And the man who commits adultery with another man's wife, even he who commits adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Note: Why should we consider a woman's position to be any different to that of a man when we look at divorce and remarriage? Some people have looked at the above scripture (Leviticus 20:10), and considered that because both the adulterer and the adulteress receive the same punishment of death, that God treats men and women as equal as far as divorce and remarriage is concerned. The conclusion may be right, but the reasoning is false, as other scriptures show:

(1) If a man lay with a beast, both man and beast were to be put to death:

(Leviticus 20:15) "And if a man lies with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and you shall slay the beast."
Should we assume from this, with the same reasoning, that God treats men and beasts as equal? Obviously not!

(2) Also if a woman lay with a beast, both the woman and the beast were put to death:

(Leviticus 20:16) "And if a woman approaches to any beast, and lies down with it, you shall kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Should we assume from this, with the same reasoning, that God treats men and beasts as equal, or women and beasts as equal? Obviously not! The punishment here was the same for both, but not because God did otherwise regard the offenders as equal. So the fact that the adulterer and the adulteress were both put to death, in no way proves their equality as far as divorce and remarriage is concerned. However, we have come to the position in this study that for a lawful marriage relationship, neither partner can divorce the other, and for an unlawful one, either partner can divorce, so in this sense they are treated as equal.


15 But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you:
30 You shall betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, and you shall not dwell in it: you shall plant a vineyard, and shall not gather the its grapes.

JEREMIAH 6:10-12
10 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hear: behold, the word of the LORD is to them a reproach; they have no delight in it.
11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in; I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him who is full of days.
12 And their houses shall be turned to others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, says the LORD.

9 The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?
10 Therefore will I give their wives to others, and their fields to those who shall inherit them: for every one from the least even to the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even to the priest every one deals falsely.

HOSEA 4:12-13
12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declares to them: for the spirit of whoredom hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because its shadow is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

Note: The argument that some put forward to justify divorce and remarriage, is that when one partner commits adultery, the other partner, who is innocent in their view, should have the right to divorce and remarry. The scripture shows us that we should not judge according to appearance (Isaiah 11:3; John 7:24), that is natural judgment, but we should judge righteous judgment (Leviticus 19:15; 19:35; Pro 31:9; John 7:24). In order to do this we have to judge according to the word of God:

(Psalm 119:7) "your righteous judgments."
(Psalm 119:62) "your righteous judgments."
(Psalm 119:106) "your righteous judgments."
(Psalm 119:144) "The righteousness of your testimonies is everlasting."
(Psalm 119:172) "all your commandments are righteousness."
(Pro 8:8) "All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverse in them."

If we judge then according to the word of God, we find no such thing as an innocent party. An adulterous wife can be the result of disobeying God's commandments (Deuteronomy 28:15, 30), taking no delight in God's word (Jeremiah 6:10-12), rejecting his word (Jeremiah 8:9-10), or committing idolatry (Hosea 4:12-13). So even though a man may look innocent in the sight of the world, according to God's judgment he is guilty. God has given us assurances in his word, that if we obey him, no such evil will happen to us (Psalm 91:9-10; 121:7; Pro 12:21; 19:23; 26:2; Ecclesiastes 8:5; Isaiah 54:14; 1 John 5:18), and he cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). God has shown here that when our partner is unfaithful to us, it is a reflection of our unfaithfulness to him, and is according to the law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-8). Thus any argument that one partner may be innocent, and therefore entitled to special treatment, is rejected by the word of God. Jesus defined a man's adultery as lusting after a woman in his heart (Matthew 5:28), so what man can now put away his wife for adultery and say that he himself is not also guilty before God?


1 CORINTHIANS 7:20-24 (Paul)
20 Let every man abide in the same calling in which he was called.
21 Are you called being a servant? care not for it: but if you may be made free, use it rather.
22 For he who is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he who is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
23 You are bought with a price; do not you be the servants of men.
24 Brethren, let every man, in which he is called, in it abide with God.

1 CORINTHIANS 7:27 (Paul)
27 Are you bound to a wife? do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed1 from a wife? do not seek a wife.

Note 1: This question arises from people who were divorced before they became Christians, and who now wish to remarry as a Christian. The first thing we need to note is that our human relationship status does not change when we become Christians. The above scripture (1 Corinthians 7:20-24) tells us to stay in the same state in which we were called; a servant is still a servant, but becomes Christ's freeman, and a free man is still free, but becomes Christ's servant. Obviously, this does not mean, "Stay in sin", so if we are living in adultery or fornication when we are called, then those relationships should be terminated. However, if we were married before we believed, we are still married after. If we were single before we believed, we are still single after. If we were parents before we believed, we are still parents after. If we were someone's children before we believed, we are still their children after. So it follows, if we were divorced before we believed, we are still divorced after. Therefore, the scriptures that apply to a divorced person apply to us, before and after we become believers:

(Matthew 19:9) "Whoever shall put away his wife, Except it is for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery."
(Mark 10:11-12) "Whoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery."
(Luke 16:18) "Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away from her husband commits adultery."

Note 2: In the second scripture (1 Corinthians 7:27) the word translated Are you loosed1 (Gr. λέλυσαι, Gtr. lelusai) is the second person, singular, perfect, passive, indicative, of the verb "luo", "I loose". There are various arguments concerning the meaning of this verse, which it will be profitable to examine:

(1) Some advocate, that "Are you loosed from a wife?" (v27) refers to divorce, and as Paul goes on to say, "But and if you marry, you have not sinned" (v28), then Paul is allowing remarriage for divorced people. This verb can be taken to be "A Perfect of Completed Action" (HPVN p70), or an "Intensive Perfect" (RAY p127), which refers to an action completed in past time, that brings about a new state of affairs, the result of which continues to the present time. This can describe divorce (past action) and living without a wife (new state). The verb "lelusai" can be taken to be "middle voice" instead of "passive", and could therefore be interpreted, "Have you loosed yourself", meaning "have you divorced". Grammatically speaking, these arguments could persuade some, but there are sound arguments against it.

   (a) First, let it be clear that this cannot refer to separated people, because if Paul meant "separated" he would have almost certainly used the verb "choridzo", as elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9;  1 Corinthians 7:10, 7:11, 7:15). He would also be contradicting what he had already said (1 Corinthians 7:10-13), and advocating bigamy.

   (b) Secondly, if Paul meant "divorced" he should have used the verb "apoluo", as Jesus did (Matthew 5:31; 5:32(2), 19:3, 19:7, 19:8, 19:9(2); Mark 10:2, 10:4, 10:11, 10:12; Luke 16:18(2)), or at least one of the verbs used in the Sepuagint; "exapostello" (Deuteronomy 22:19; 22:29; 24:1(or 3); 24:3(or 5); 24:4(or 6); Isaiah 50:1(2); Jeremiah 3:1; 3:8), or "ekballo" (Leviticus 21:7; 21:14; 22:13; Numbers 30:9; Ezekiel 44:22). The verb "luo" is never used in the New Testament or in the Sepuagint to mean divorce, so we may conclude that Paul did not mean "divorced" in this scripture. Otherwise his next statement, "But and if you marry, you have not sinned" (v28), would be a total contradiction of Jesus, who said that they would be committing adultery if they remarried (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).

   (c) Thirdly, the argument that "lelusai" could be taken to be "middle voice", and therefore refer to a divorced man, is not sound. Nowhere in the New Testament, or in the Sepuagint, where it refers to a man putting away his wife (See refs. in (b)) does it use the middle voice: everywhere it is active! On the other hand, when it refers to a woman who has been put away, it is passive. The evidence is therefore overwhelming that "lelusai" cannot refer to a divorced man, and thus this scripture (1 Corinthians 1:27-28) is no basis for divorce and remarriage.

   (d) Fourthly, even if this did refer to divorce, verse 27 could be part of an "Anacoluthon", a sentence or construction that lacks proper grammatical sequence. This is when a writer or speaker begins one train of thought, and then without finishing it, he breaks off into another train of thought, which may or may not be related, but which he thinks is important to insert at that time. He may then either try to pick up his first train of thought again, and continue with it, or not go back to it at all. When he does go back to continue his original thought where he left off, it can read to make perfect sense even with the side-tracked thinking missed out. When the translators recognised this in the scripture, they usually put the "side-tracked thinking" in parenthesis (in brackets). This is not uncommon in Paul's writings in the New Testament. Look at some examples:

(Galatians 2:6-9) "But of these who seemed to be somewhat ... in conference added nothing to me:
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me, as the gospel of the circumcision was to Peter; ...
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go to the heathen, and they to the circumcision."

In this example Paul's original train of thought continues from verse 5 into verse 6. He then side-tracks for a short while and picks up with his original thought again just before the end of the verse. He then continues through verse 7, but side-tracks again in verse 8, and begins verse 9 where he left off verse 7; back with the original train of thought. The translators of the KJV recognised most of this, and put part of verse 6, and all of verse 8 in parenthesis.

(Ephesians 4:8-11) "Therefore he says, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. ... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors; and some, teachers."

In this example verse 8 is part of Paul's original thought. He then side-tracks his thinking to add some useful information (vv9-10), and then continues with his original thought again. The translators again recognised this, and put verses 9 and 10 in parenthesis.

(2 Timothy 2:19-21) "Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows those who are his. And, Let every one who names the name of Christ depart from lawlessness. ... If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified and fit for the master's use, and prepared to every good work."

In this example, Paul's original line of thinking is interrupted at the end of verse 19, and is taken up again at the start of verse 21. Verse 20 is related information, but not part of this thought line, and could have been put in parenthesis, but the translators did not seem to recognize this one.
How does this affect what Paul said to the Corinthians? The context (1 Corinthians 27:25-28) concerns male and female virgins, not married people, and so we could consider verse 27 to be an Anacoluthon, not directly related to the other verses, and so not applicable to virgins. The original thought would then be this:

(1 Corinthians 7:25-28) "Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that it is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. ... But and if you marry you have not sinned ..."

This shows that the statement about marrying without sinning was only said to male virgins in this context. This being so, there is absolutely no grounds for divorce and remarriage here, and the instruction to a divorced person would simply be, "Do not seek a wife." (1 Corinthians 7:27).

   (2) Others may consider that because Paul cannot contradict what he has already said (See #3.7 Death), this could refer to being loosed from a wife by her death, so that the man becomes a widower. In which case his instruction is, "do not seek a wife", but if he marries it is not a sin (v28). This would be in agreement with the fact that the verb is in the "passive voice", which is how analytical books list it (HKM p250; RR p408; WJP p256). The man would then have been loosed by God, and one of the uses of the passive is when God is the obvious agent (DBW p437). This would not contradict anything that Jesus or Paul had said elsewhere, or the conclusion of this study.

   (3) If we consider the whole context of the passage (vv25-28), it seems to be concerning virgins (v25), in which case, "Are you bound unto a wife?" (v27) would refer to a betrothed man, and "Are you loosed from a wife?" (v27) would be equivalent to saying, "Are you not bound to a wife?", or "Are you single?" The very next verse, where it says, "But and if you marry, you have not sinned" (v28), would then only be applicable to male virgins in this context, and therefore gives no grounds whatever for divorce and remarriage. The Greek perfect includes what may be called a "A Perfect of Present State", where the context, or verbal idea, conveys a present state without any reference to a previous action to bring it about (DBW p579-580; HPVN p71; NT p81-85). This is a common usage of the perfect tense. Look at some examples:

(Matthew 27:43) "He trusted in God."
Jesus was trusting in his father at that time, as he had always done. Was there a time when he didn't? or a past action to bring it about?
(John 8:55) "Yet you have not known him: but I know him."

Jesus was talking to the Jews here, who did not know God at that time, nor had ever known him. Obviously Jesus knew him at that time, and always had. One argument against it could be that this use of the perfect only applies to certain verbs, but even so, who is to say that "luo" is not one of them? This would mean then, that "lelusai" could refer to someone who had never been married, and it would therefore retain the context of speaking to virgins. Major Greek lexicons confirm that this interpretation is a real possibility (BAGD luw 2.b. p483; JHT λύω1. p384). The command to such a man is still the same, "do not seek a wife". In conclusion, the evidence is overwhelming against this scripture (1 Corinthians 7:27-28) allowing divorce and remarriage, and the responsibility is on anyone who teaches otherwise to disprove the arguments that have been put forward here.


EPHESIANS 1:7 (Paul)
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Note: This seems to be a common question that people raise. If a person has done a proper repentance and obtained forgiveness for his sin, does that mean that he can start a new life? In order to answer this question, let us look at a few examples:

   (1) As a result of an act of fornication, an unsaved woman has a baby while unmarried. She then becomes a believer, she repents of her sin of fornication, and God forgives her. Does she become a virgin again? Does the baby disappear? No, because even though the sin has been forgiven, the consequences of what she did before she became a believer are still with her. She is not a virgin any more, and she has the responsibility of bringing up her child for the next twenty years, or so.

   (2) An unsaved soldier in a war kills several people, and himself gets maimed so that he loses one of his legs. He later becomes a believer, and repents of all his violence and murder, and God forgives him. Does his leg suddenly return again? Do the people that he killed suddenly rise from the dead? No, because the consequences of what he did, before he became a believer, are still with him.
It seems obvious that when we are forgiven for a sin, a spiritual change takes place within us, but this does not necessarily alter our physical circumstances, and it certainly does not put the clock back to before we sinned. Yes, when we become believers we can start a new life, but the consequences of our past sins may remain with us, and we have to live with them. We start our new life from the same place that we left the old one. So what about the divorced person? He can be forgiven for all the errors that he has committed during his marriage, and through the divorce, but the fact remains, that when he becomes a Christian he is still divorced, and he has to live with it. This is in total agreement with the previous section (See #7.06).


Introduction 7.10: In order to justify divorce and remarriage from Jesus teaching (Matthew 5:32; 19:9), people have to prove that the term "fornication" (Gtr. porneia) includes "adultery" (Gtr. moicheia) in the context of divorce and remarriage. To do this, they often produce scriptures, out of the context of divorce and remarriage, where the meanings of the words "fornication" and "adultery" may overlap, to try to prove that they mean the same thing. They then try to enforce this interpretation when putting it back into the context of divorce and remarriage. To show the foolishness of this idea, let us examine the use of the Greek preposition ἐν (Gtr. en), which has a basic meaning of "in". The word is translated by many different English words in the New Testament (KJV) in different contexts, such as, "in" (1874x), "by" (141x), "with" (134x), "among" (117x), "at" (112x), "on" (46x), "through" (37x), etc. Does it mean all of these things in every context? Obviously not! Where it is translated " in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1), not many of these words would even remotely fit the meaning. Where it says, "Is any among you afflicted?" (James 5:13) could we use "by" or "through" instead of "among"? Where it is translated " on a Sabbath" (Matthew 24:20), could we use "by" or "among", instead of "on"? The answer is that the meaning of the word depends very much upon the context, and it is not right to try and force it to mean something that it doesn't in any particular place. Look at another example: the preposition πρὸς (Gtr.pros). It occurs 726 times in the New Testament, and is translated "unto" (340x), "to" (203x), "with" (43x), "for" (25x), "against" (24x), etc. It is translated "with" in the clause, "The word was with God" (John 1:1), but because it is translated "against" (Matthew 4:6; Mark 12:12; Luke 4:11; Acts 9:5) could we then try to force it to mean "against" elsewhere, and get, "The word was against God" (John 1:1)? Again, the meaning depends on the context and the syntax of the Greek, and so it is with the meaning of "porneia"; if the meaning was "an illicit act of sexual intercourse", or "marital unfaithfulness", then the word "moicheia", which means "adultery", would have been a much better word to use. Bearing this in mind, let us look at some examples:

STATEMENT 1: In 1 Corinthians 5:1 the word "fornication" (Gk. porneia) is used of a married woman, "father's wife."

ANSWER 1: In 1 Corinthians 5:1 the word "fornication" is used of the man: "he who hath done this deed" (v2). The man was turned over to Satan, not the woman, so it may have been that the woman was not even a Christian. There is no mention of whether the man was previously married or not, but if he had been, this would have been one case where adultery and fornication would occur at the same time. If he was not married, this would still be fornication, because a single man would be having a sexual relationship out of wedlock. The correct interpretation however, is the one which requires no speculation, and is that this is a case of fornication because it involves a forbidden incestuous relationship: a man with his father's wife (#5.2), and therefore both partners were in fornication. There was no need for Paul to enquire about any extenuating circumstances here, he judged this in his absence according to the scripture (Leviticus 18:8; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20), showing us what he understood the fornication to be, "that one should have his father's wife" (v1). If this had been a case of common adultery, he would never have said, "such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles" (v1), because adultery was probably common everywhere. Therefore, to use this scripture (1 Corinthians 5:1) to prove that fornication and adultery are synonymous terms is erroneous.

STATEMENT 2: The Hebrew word for fornication is "zānāh", and is used "of a married woman to commit adultery." (Jeremiah 3:1).

ANSWER 2: Firstly, the Hebrew word זָנִית (Htr. Zānît) in this verse is translated "have played the harlot", and refers to Israel's unfaithfulness to God. It is referring to spiritual fornication involving idolatry (Jeremiah 2:20, 2:27), and may well include cult prostitution, which was common with these practices. Remember that God's relationship to Israel is one of a betrothed marriage (See #1.25 Note), and not a consummated one, and it would therefore be wrong to use this scripture to prove divorce for adultery in a consummated marriage. Secondly, look at the last part of the verse: "yet return again to me, says the LORD.". The very scripture that people are trying to use to justify divorce teaches exactly the opposite, and shows us by example what our attitude should be in a similar situation. God was prepared to forgive them and take them back. Jesus said, "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48). Therefore, to use this scripture (Jeremiah 3:1), to prove that fornication and adultery are synonymous terms, is erroneous.

STATEMENT 3: In Amos 7:17 a married woman is a "fornicatress".

ANSWER 3: This scripture (Amos 7:17) refers to a man of Israel who will be taken into captivity, and "die in a polluted land". His children will be killed, and his "wife shall be an harlot in the city." In any case, she is a fornicatress because she becomes a prostitute, not because she commits adultery. The Greek word for fornication "porneia", and the word for harlot or prostitute "pornē", both come from the same root word "pernēmi", which means "to sell", and is therefore the correct word to use for prostitution. This certainly appears to happen after they are separated, perhaps even after the husband is dead. It cannot be proven that the wife became a harlot before the death of her husband, so it cannot even be proven to be adultery. Therefore, to use this scripture (Amos 7:17), to prove that fornication and adultery are synonymous terms, is erroneous.

STATEMENT 4: Apply both a spiritual and a logical mind to the following scriptures, and you will concede that the two words (fornication and adultery) are used synonymously:
Exodus 34:16; Numbers 25:1-2; 2 Kings 9:22; Hosea 2:5;  1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 10:8; Jude 7; Revelation 2:14; 17:1-2; 19:2).

ANSWER 4: Exodus 34:16 is concerned with people who "go a whoring" after false Gods. This is therefore spiritual fornication (or spiritual prostitution) and mentions nothing to do with physical adultery by people.

Numbers 25:1-2 is another case of "whoredom", with no mention of married or unmarried, but also bowing before false gods. The words "whoredom" or "go a whoring" seem to be synonymous with idol worship (Exodus 34:14-16; Leviticus 17:7; 20:5; Deuteronomy 31:16). Spiritual and physical fornication may be applicable here, not only because cult prostitution may have been involved, but because Moabites were one of the nations which Israelites were forbidden to marry (1 Kings 11:1-2), and Moabites could not be accepted into the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3; Nehemiah 13:1). No proof here of any physical adultery per se. Paul recalls this event (1 Corinthians 10:8) where he calls it "fornication" (Gtr. porneia) and says that 23,000 died in one day as a result of this. Some would say that these were not all unmarried men, so adultery must have been involved, but the 23,000 refers to those who were killed by the plague, not those who committed fornication. In the case of Achan's sin (Joshua 7:1-26), 36 innocent men died (v5), and in the case of David's in of numbering Israel 70,000 died (1 Chronicles 21:14). So even if only a few sinned in this case, it could still result in a large number of deaths. There is no proof of "fornication" and "adultery" being synonymous terms here.

2 Kings 9:22 refers to "the whoredoms" of Jezebel, queen of Israel. It seems impossible to prove that this refers to physical prostitution or adultery, but relatively easy to see that this refers to spiritual fornication with idols (1 Kings 16:31; 18:4, 18:13, 18:19; 19:1-2; 21:23, 25; 2 Kings 9:7, 9:10, 9:22, 9:30, 9:36-37). Even if it were physical prostitution or adultery, Ahab her husband never divorced her for it, so it hardly proves divorce or remarriage.

Hosea 2:5 speaks of Hosea's wife and children: "their mother hath played the harlot."
This was certainly adultery, but it doesn't prove divorce and remarriage: Hosea took her back and forgave her (Hosea 3:1-3), just as God was prepared to take Israel back (Hosea 2:19).

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 deals with a forbidden incestuous relationship (ANSWER 1). If this man had been married to his father's ex-wife, without being married before, this would be one case where he could divorce her, because of the fornication they were living in, and go and find himself another wife. This would be exactly one of the instances that Jesus referred to, when he said, "Except it is for fornication" (Matthew 19:9), as an exception to divorce and remarriage.

1 Corinthians 10:8 refers to the same event as Numbers 25:1-2 and is covered there.

Jude 7 refers specifically to "going after strange flesh", which is homosexuality and bestiality. There is no proof here that fornication and adultery are the same.

Revelation 2:14 again refers back to the events of Numbers 25:1-2, and proves nothing as far as fornication and adultery being the same.

Revelation 17:1-2 is concerned with spiritual fornication, the great whore being a prostitute church of the last days. After examining all of these scriptures, it seems obvious that those who take the meaning of the word "fornication", out of the context of divorce and remarriage, to try to prove that it means "adultery" in the context of divorce and remarriage, are wresting the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). In fact in the whole bible, there is not even one case of divorce and remarriage for adultery. Not one! Such a teaching is based solely on the misinterpretation of the Greek word "porneia", and not on the rightly divided word of God.


STATEMENT 1: If divorce does not dissolve the first marriage, then in the Old Testament God approved of adultery in the second marriage, and the illegitimacy of children born in that marriage.

ANSWER 1: There are several answers to this question:

   (1) In one case in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24:1), divorce was permitted by Moses, but this was to allow repentance for a wrong marriage (See #2.17 Note 3-5). In this case there was no adultery in the second marriage, and so God was not approving of adultery.

   (2) There were other cases where divorces took place (Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 24:3; 21:10-14), which may seem to us not for a good reason, but God did not necessarily approve of them, nor do any of them mention approval of remarriage. In those days some things were overlooked by God, because the full revelation of the truth did not come before Jesus (John 1:17; 14:6), but now he has commanded all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30; See #2.17 Note 2).

   (3) God did not approve of divorce in the Old Testament, because he instituted monogamous marriages in the beginning, and that is his plan for godly Christians now. How then could he approve of something that came about because of sin, and that breaks a covenant made before him (Malachi 2:14)? How could he approve of something that separates a one flesh relationship that he has joined together, and commanded men not to put apart (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8-9)? How could he approve of something that he has said he hates (Malachi 2:16)? If God does not approve of divorce, there is no way that he can approve of a remarriage that results from it.

   (4) Jesus said that remarriage after divorce resulted in adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18), but if divorce dissolves the marriage, so that it no longer exists, there can be no adultery against a marriage partner. It is absurd to think that, divorce dissolves the marriage for one partner and not for the other, even if one partner has committed adultery and the other has not. How can one divorced partner be counted as still married and the other divorced partner be counted as not married? Either they both commit adultery if they remarry, as with a divorce for any other reason than "porneia", or neither of them does. God allows men to commit many sins in this world, including idolatry, theft, murder, adultery, even Satan worship, but it does not mean that he approves of them. So it is with divorce and remarriage.

STATEMENT 2: If Jesus did not allow divorce for adultery, then his statement, "whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery" (Matthew 5:32), would mean that an innocent man would be the cause of a debauched wife committing adultery, if he divorced her.

ANSWER 2: If the wife has committed adultery many times while being lawfully married to her husband, and she has done it of her own free choice, then she is responsible for her decisions. If the husband divorces her, so that she no longer has the option of having a lawful sexual relationship with him, then because he has taken away her free choice, he could now become the cause of her future adultery. Consider also what happens in the case where such a husband remarries, and the former wife becomes a Christian, who repents of her wicked ways, and wishes to make up with her offended husband. He has not only cut her off from repentance, but has left her in a position where she now has no lawful sexual outlet that would not constitute adultery. In this case, where she would be willing to be faithful to her husband, if given the opportunity, he becomes the direct cause of every adulterous act that she commits, just as Jesus said (Matthew 5:32).


It has been argued that only the remarriage ceremony, and the first sexual union of that marriage, is what Jesus referred to as adultery (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18), and that after that, neither the marriage relationship, nor any further acts of sexual union are adulterous. This gives an easy escape for pastors when they face the problems of divorced and remarried people in the church, who have become believers in Jesus after their second marriage, and also for all those involved in such relationships. It also gives a way out for divorced Christians who want to remarry, because they can do so, and repent of the adultery involved afterward, and then supposedly live happily together in a lawful marriage relationship with God's approval. However, there are sound counter arguments that show this type of reasoning is deceitful:

(1) The couple who determine to remarry, and repent of the adultery afterwards, are surely reasoning that sinning against God can be profitable to them. Such people are taking God for a fool, and God would surely not allow them to get away with that.

(2) I do not know of any sin that is only a sin the first time it is committed, and not a sin afterwards. If the remarriage ceremony is adulterous, then surely the relationship that follows will be, because a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (Matthew 7:18). If the first sexual union of that marriage is an act of adultery, then surely every other one will be also.

(3) The word translated "commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32; 19:9 (2x); Mark 10:11; 10:12) (Gr. μοιχᾶται Gtr. moichātai) is the third person, singular, present, middle/passive, deponent, indicative, of the verb "moichāomai", "I commit adultery". This is the present continuous tense of the verb, which would be better translated, "is committing adultery", and therefore refutes the argument that the continuing relationship, and acts of sexual union in the second marriage are not adulterous. The word translated "commits adultery" (Luke 16:18 (2x)) (Gr. moixeuei, Gtr. moicheuei) is the third person, singular, present, active, indicative of the verb "moicheuo", which also means "I commit adultery". This also being the present continuous tense, it would be better translated "is committing adultery", and again brands the second marriage, and its acts of sexual union as adulterous.


STATEMENT 1: Fornication cannot refer to forbidden marriage relationships, because otherwise Moses would be living in fornication, having married a Midianite (Exodus 2:21), and later an Ethiopian (Numbers 12:1).

ANSWER 1: There are several answers to this problem:

   (1) When Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:21), Israel was still in Egypt. No command had been given at that time against such marriages, so it would not have been a sin. By way of examples, Abraham married his half sister (Genesis 20:12), and Jacob married two sisters (Genesis 29:20-28), but both of these relationships were later forbidden under the law (Leviticus 18:9; 18:18). However, God would not count this against them, because "sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4), and "where no law is, there is no transgression." (Romans 4:15).

   (2) It may be that Zipporah was the Ethiopian woman, just as "a woman of Cannaan" (Matthew 15:22), happened also to be "a Greek, a Syrophenician by birth" (Mark 7:26), and just as Paul the apostle was not only a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), but also a free born Roman citizen (Acts 22:24-28). As there is no commandment against marrying an Ethiopian, it was only against the people of the land that they were about to conquer (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Joshua 11:12-13), we can at least rule out his marriage to the Ethiopian woman as wrong. When Aaron and Miriam spoke against this marriage, God certainly came down to defend Moses (Numbers 12:1-15).

   (3) The purpose of forbidding the Israelites to marry the people of the promised land was to avoid learning their ways falling into idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 12:29-30; 1 Kings 11:4-8; Malachi 2:11). Therefore, exceptions were made in the cases of Rahab the harlot, who believed in the God of Israel (Joshua 2:9; 2:11), and Ruth the Moabitess who also chose the God of Israel (Ruth 1:16), and both of these women are seen in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). This being so, even after the law was given, Moses' wife would have been acceptable if she believed in the one true God. We have no evidence for this either way, but certainly her father became a believer (Exodus 18:5-12).

   (4) It seems that the exception of allowing believers in God to become part of Israel was also extended to young virgins. God commanded the Israelites to avenge themselves on the Midianites (Numbers 31:1-2), because they had led them into idolatry (Numbers 25:1-18). This was the same land that Moses got his wife from. After they had defeated the Midianites, Moses ordered the death of the women captives which were not virgins, because these had led Israel into sin, but allowed them to keep the virgin girls alive for themselves (Numbers 31:13-18). This again shows that even after the law was given, Moses' wife may not have been a problem.

   (5) The last point to make is that Moses' Midianite wife may not have stayed with him anyway. He had sent her away when he went to Egypt (Exodus 18:2), and she was brought back to him in the wilderness by his father-in-law (Exodus 18:5-6). When his father in law left (Exodus 18:27), we are not told whether his wife went back with him or not.
There is plenty of evidence here to show that Moses was not living in fornication.


Polygamy is the practice of having more than one wife. As far as the Old Testament is concerned, it was never God's ideal plan for mankind. When he created Adam and Eve, they were one man and one woman. There were no spare wives for Adam, because God did not ordain it so. However, after the fall of man, when the knowledge of good and evil was in the world, polygamy did begin to happen. The first recorded event was Lamech:

(Genesis 4:19) "And Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah."

Lamech was an evil man, a self confessed murderer (Genesis 4:23), so he was no example to follow, but from then on polygamy began to be quite common. Even godly men like Abraham, Jacob, David, and many others had more than one wife at the same time, and God did not speak out against it, except for kings having too many:

(Deuteronomy 17:17) "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart does not turn away."
The problems caused by having more than one wife are shown in God's word:

(1) Abraham took Hagar, Sarah's servant, as his second wife at Sarah's own suggestion (Genesis 16:1-3), but when Hagar conceived and had a son, it caused such bad contention between Sarah and Hagar that Hagar had to flee (Genesis 16:4-6).

(2) Jacob took two sisters, Leah and Rachel, for wives (Genesis 29:21-30), but when Leah bore children and Rachel didn't, it caused envy and contention between them (Genesis 30:1-24).

(3) Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Penninah (1 Samuel 1:1-2), and because Hannah had no children this caused great upset and strife between the two wives (1 Samuel 1:6-7). The scripture declares that envy and strife between people is not good:

(James 3:14-16) "But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not glory, and do not lie against the truth.
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."

These were all godly men, and if having more than one wife brought envy and strife to their house, and allowed the works of the devil in, then it must be a bad idea.

(4) Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and they turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:3). If the wisest man who ever lived (up to that time) was turned away from God by having too many wives, then there is a lesson for us to learn here also. If having more than one wife had been God's idea, it would never have yielded such bad fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).
When we come to the New Testament we need to examine the words of Jesus:

(Matthew 19:9) "Whoever shall put away his wife, except it is for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery:"
(Mark 10:11)
"Whoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her."
(Luke 16:18) "Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery:"

If remarrying after putting away a wife is adultery, then surely remarrying without putting one away must be also. The only way that a second marriage could be considered adultery by Jesus, would be if putting her away did not break the marriage bond in God's view. This makes it adultery whether she is put away or not. The same is true for a woman:

(Romans 7:2-3) "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband is dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
So then if, while her husband lives, she is married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband is dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she is married to another man."
(1 Corinthians 7:39) "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."

Therefore, when it comes to qualifications for bishops and deacons in the New Testament church, this is what we see:

(1 Timothy 3:2) "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife."
(1 Timothy 3:12) "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife."

Remember, when Jesus came he brought the full revelation of what God expects from man. There were some things before that, such as polygamy, which because of Man's ignorance, God overlooked:

(Acts 17:30) "And the times of this ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men every where to repent."

Since Jesus came, God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, and polygamy is no longer acceptable.

If you have benefited from reading this study, then please tell your friends about this website.
If you have a website of your own, then please consider linking to this website. See the Website Links page.
Please copy and paste this link into Facebook and Twitter to all your friends who are interested questions and answers on Divorce and Remarriage.

Arrow pointing left  Remarriage for adultery? || Bible Studies Index || When can I remarry? Arrow pointing right