Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" He said to them, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." His disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."
Indissolubility of Marriage
esus ministry in Galilee is over and he is nearing Jerusalem when a Pharisee pops the question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" A question debated in the Rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai. The formulation of the question suggests there are some situations when a man may divorce his wife. There is no mention of the woman’s rights!
The school of Shammai demanded infidelity on the part of the wife to declare a divorce. The school of Hillel appealing to Deuteronomy 24 suggests that divorce may take place “because he finds something objectionable in her.” This was used to justify divorce for as trivial a reason as a poorly prepared meal, or snoring!
Jesus reply is incisive. “…what God has joined together, let no one separate." This occasions a further question: "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" Jesus’ reply is that it was because of their hard-heartedness. He then bluntly declares: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another committs adultery." He defends the rights of women in saying that a husband who divorces his wife for another is committing adultery. The disciples are shocked, declaring that if this is the case it is better not to get married which in turn, leads Jesus to reflect on the choice of a celibate life.Matthew has a phrase not found in Mark: “whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity. What does this mean? John Meier suggests. Unchasity, (porneia) “refers to incestuous unions contracted by Christians before baptism”. Matthew is saying that Jesus prohibition of divorce cannot be appealed to as a justification for the continuance of incestuous unions.
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries