A Closer Look at the use of

 By Fred Seavers 

As we examine the above mentioned words found in brother Osborne's first negative from the Sheridan/ Osborne debate, one can begin to see a distinct message being conveyed.  His message is clear:  First, there is no obligation to recognize a civil (court granted) divorce which is not for fornication.  It is as if it never happened.  Second, it doesn't matter WHO does the first putting away.  If you will read the first and second negatives in the Sheridan/Osborne debate, you will find this to be true.  

Please keep in the forefront of your minds, the teaching which will end up being the inevitable outcome of our brother's defense during the debate.  Brother Osborne may say that he does not personally hold such, but he is defending through the avenue of "application," those who teach:  One may be divorced not for fornication - then when the one who filed for divorce hooks up with some "cute little thing" - the now alleged innocent party who earlier protested the initial divorce not for fornication - may now put away (mentally or otherwise) that person for fornication and lawfully remarry.  Let us now take a look at the scriptures.

Examining the Verses and Words:
Apoluo (630) - Choridzo (5563) - Aphiemi (863)

The general rule, whether one has a marginal, excellent, or no Greek language background at all; is that a good translation of the Bible is plenty to give you the proper understanding of the message Jesus and others sought to convey.  Even when there might be a question as to the exact meaning, tense, etc. of a word; the corresponding texts and proper cross references usually serve to help one recognize the truth on any given subject.  After all, this was the message Jesus and the apostles gave.  It was a simple, yet precise language which could easily be understood by those in the first century as well as ours.  We can see from the messages given to lost mankind in the first century, that the primary desire of those preaching the Gospel was the same as brother Marshall Keeble once suggested, "If you put it down where the calves can get it, the cows can get it too."  The Bible is the Word of God.  It contains a message of salvation and worship that the least educated, as well as the intellectual can understand alike; whether they have ever studied Greek or not.  The same is true of the passages on divorce and remarriage.  The Lord's teaching on this subject was said plainly enough for all who desired to do so, to understand. It was understandable then, and it is understandable now. 

Brother Osborne gives us some verses of scripture to examine, and along with them gives us over - and over - and over in his first negative, the idea that in their context, they cannot refer to any sort of specified civil procedure.  Notice what he says of this word: "If the word apoluo necessarily implies the initiating of a specified civil procedure, and receiving a civil judgment, where is such found in these texts?......When we examine the use of apoluo in the entire New Testament, it is clear that the word does not imply a specified civil procedure, much less require such......It is most commonly used of releasing prisoners, even without legal action (Acts 4:21-23)......If apoluo requires taking civil actions according to specified procedure determined by civil law and receiving the judgment of the civil authorities, where do we find such in these texts?"

Now let us examine the texts he gives us in which the word "APOLUO" is used.  Then we will go on to test his theory of "the word does not imply a specified civil procedure, much less require one."

First section:

Apoluo - You may notice how our brother sets the tone of his argument with the most distant and abstract contexts in which this word is used.  He presents us first with its being used in the book of Matthew.  He states, "There the Greek word apoluo is used 11 times outside the texts [emp. fs] related to sundering of a marriage....If the word apoluo necessarily implies the initiating of a specified civil procedure and receiving a civil judgment, where is such found in these texts? [emp. fs]"   Remember friends, there is a big difference in our submitting to civil government where it necessitates our breaking a law of God; and our simply complying with such laws within the realm of that which God considers as lawful and necessary compliance (Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-14). 

He begins with the idea of a simple sending away.  He will then proceed to its use in one's forgiving, or releasing another from a debt owed.  Then he will finish up in Matthew with a prisoner release.  

Matthew 14:15-22; 15:23 - His disciples came to Him (a designated leader and lawgiver) v.19 "And He commanded the multitude to sit down..."  He constrained (told) the disciples to get into the ship....He sent the multitudes awayIn 15:23 "disciples came and besought Him saying Send her away..." *It goes without doubt, that Jesus was the publicly accepted (with the listeners then present at each occasion) and recognized leader and lawgiver who was making the decisions for the people there in that place at that time.  He was not only that great healer, but their supposed newly found KING. 

Matthew 18:27 - Our brother did not mention v.25 which states "...his lord (a KING) commanded him to be sold..." He had the civil authority to sell him, and also had the civil authority to release him.  The last time I looked, a King had the right to impose civil procedure, and cast a civil judgment.  Don't you agree folks?  Why in the world would our brother use this verse, asking us where we find specified civil procedure and civil judgment in these verses? 

Matthew 27:15-26 - In Luke 18:23 we find that Jesus was in Herod's "Jurisdiction."  In John 18:39 Pilate (the man in civil power) said, "but ye have a custom, that I should release..."  If this is not civil authority (Herod), and the enforcement of "a specified civil procedure" taking place, what is? 

This was the first section presented.  Now let me ask the same question brother Osborne asked. "If the word apoluo necessarily implies the initiating of a specified civil procedure and receiving a civil judgment, where is such found in these scriptures?" To ask is to answer. 

Second section:

Once again, our brother begins with the idea of apoluo's meaning "sending people away (Luke 8:38; 9:12; Acts 19:41)."  He then goes to the releasing of prisoners, but tells us this is done "even without legal action (Acts 4:21-23)."  He also included in this same prisoner release group, Acts 17:9.  Then he heads over to the idea of its meaning forgiveness, Luke 6:37; and of one's being healed Luke 13:12.  His last grouping in this section deals with the texts which teach, "Paul was 'sent' by the church at Antioch...Acts 13:3; 15:22-23."  Remember that our brother stated, "If apoluo requires taking civil actions according to specified procedure determined by civil law and receiving the judgment of the civil authorities, where do we find such in these texts?"  Let's notice his verses.

Luke 8:38; 9:12 - "Jesus sent him away."  Verse 39 shows that he obeyed Jesus' command.  Jesus made the decision to send him away; gave him an order, and he kept it.  The procedure consisted simply of Jesus' telling him to leave.  Remember, this was the judgment of the "recognized authority" in the place and time where this man was.  There was a socially recognized leader, and a follower to follow his procedure. 

Acts 19:41 - Let's begin by including in this reference, the rest of the story.  Begin at verse 34 and go from there.  Verse 35"...and when the TOWN CLERK..." Verse 38 "Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is [courts are, ASV] open, and there are deputies [proconsuls]: let them implead one another."  Verse 39 "...it shall be determined in a lawful assembly." Verse 41 "...he [The Town Clerk] dismissed the assembly."  If this is not civil authority operating in the realm of civil procedure, I don't know what is.

Acts 4:21-23 - This is the one where our brother stated, "It is most commonly used of releasing prisoners, even without legal action [emp. his] (Acts 4:21-23)."  Notice which part he emphasized.  

Here again, look at the whole context.  Verse 6 - Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, et. al. (people in civil power).  Verse 8 - "...ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel."  Verse 18 - they commanded them.  Verse 21 - Couldn't find anything according to the law with which to punish them.  

Who let them go?  The high priest, and elders along with others in charge did. Here again, civil law, and civil procedure.

Acts 17:9 - Once again, let us notice the whole context on this one.  We are told this is an account of "those released from seizure by a mob..."  However, notice verse 6 - "...they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city..." - (Proper civil procedure).  Verse 9 - "And when they had taken security (a large sum of money, cf. same word and similar idea Matt. 28:12) of Jason...they let them go.  They were released according to civil "procedure" by those in authority - the rulers of the city.  Have you seen the suggested absence of civil authority so far?

Luke 6:37 - The word in this text speaks of forgiving, or releasing another.  According to Luke 17:3-4, there is a process involved here.  The offender must repent, ask forgiveness, then you must forgive.  If there is not a specific procedure, or at least obligations which must be met as prescribed by the One in authority (in this text, God), then must one even follow such?  Is there risk of penalty according to the one in authority?  This procedure is given from the greatest court of all – that of our Heavenly Father. 

Luke 13:12 - Jesus told her she was loosed from her infirmity.  He laid hands on her, and she was healed.  The one with the authority and power to release one from physical infirmity – laid His hands on her (His chosen procedure), and she was healed.

Acts 13:3; 15:22-23 - Notice 13:2 - "...the Holy Spirit said, Separate me ...the work whereunto I have called them.  Now verse 3 - "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." Here is authority and procedure.  In fact 15:22ff confirms this was established procedure - "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send..." the Holy Spirit was even involved, verse 28.  There my friends, is once again a recognized authority, and specified (commonly accepted) procedure. 

Remember, the argument is, "If apoluo requires taking civil actions according to specified procedure determined by civil law and receiving the judgment of the civil authorities, where do we find such in these texts?" 

The question is, where don't we find such in many of these texts? Even when the word is translated as forgiveness, it can carry the background idea of a civil or legal release of debt.  Compare comments concerning its synonym APHIEMI #2 - Matthew 6:12 Arndt and Gingrich. 

Now, before we leave apoluo and go on to its "synonyms," let's take a quick look at some of the passages we were not given, and see if, "When we examine the use of apoluo in the ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT [emp. mine], it is clear that the word does not imply a specified legal procedure, much less require such."

Matthew 1:19 - putting away under the Old Law - required a civil procedure.

Matthew 5:31-32 - putting away required civil intervention and prescribed procedure.

Matthew 19:3, 7-9 - dealt with their putting away their spouses.  They wanted to know about the lawfulness of such.  The time period under which these questions were asked, demanded a particular written procedure.  If their recognized civil law (at that time the word of God) had demanded the eating of an otter, that is what it would have taken to have a recognized divorce.

Matthew 27:15-26 - The Governor was there - would release (our word) a prisoner.  This is civil procedure with specified civil action.


Mark 10:2-12 - again used of civil action requiring legal notification.

Mark 15:6-15 - Here again, speaking of the civil right of Pilate to "release" Jesus.  The procedure was that the people were to choose a prisoner for release.


Luke 16:18 - will be noticed under Active and Passive section.

Luke 22:66-71 - This is a term, "let me go" that refers to the ability of Pilate to release Jesus according to civil procedure.

Luke 23:11-16, 17-25 - used 6 times here - Pilate was going to "release" him.  Each time it is used in these verses it deals with a specified civil procedure, and civil judgment.


John 18:39 - Here again, the releasing of the prisoner was their accepted custom or law.

John 19:10-12 - It is said that Pilate had power (authority) to release Jesus.


Acts 3:13 – This is another account of the fact that Pilate could have let Jesus go.

Acts 4:15-23 - "Let them go" - spoke of "council" - chief priests and elders v.23. - had civil authority to keep or release them.

Acts 5:40 - They had been in prison (civil) - were brought before the council - were beaten, and "let go." Civil authority and procedure, friends!

Acts 15:30 - They were "dismissed" by the elders of the church, etc. to go preach to the Gentiles. Here is authority plus recognized protocol.

Acts 16:35-36 - Magistrates wanted to "let those men (apostles in prison) go." Do you see any civil procedure and judgment here?  If you don't, go back to the top, and begin reading again.

Acts 23:22 - The Chief Captain (civil authority) let the young man "depart."  He "charged" him to tell nobody about the situation.

Acts 26:32 - Since Paul appealed to Caesar, he could not be "set at liberty" by Agrippa and Festus.  Civil procedure would not allow them to let him go.

Acts 28:17-18 - Same as above.  They had the civil power to let him go, but Paul's own desires nullified, through recognized civil procedure, his opportunity for such release.

Surely all can see that the word apoluo is used many times in the New Testament as implying "a specified civil procedure." 


APHIEMI - Though aphiemi was mentioned as the last synonym, it is much shorter than the section on choridzo.  Therefore, we will notice it first.  Our brother states "Not one use in over 140 New Testament uses of aphiemi infers a civil procedure of divorce." All I can say is get down your lexicon and check this one out for yourself.  See what it means when you and your favorite lexicographer do not have a doctrine to prove. On Page 125 of the 1979 edition of Arndt and Gingrich, under the word Aphiemi, it states concerning 1Corinthians 7:11-- "in a legal sense divorce."  

We can also notice this same word's use in Matthew 22:25 and Mark 12:19.  Here are passages which speak of one being married - becoming unbound from the mate by reason of his death - then remarrying another.  Unless I am mistaken, is this not that about which we are speaking?  Why then were we told, "Given the above facts, we must conclude that the word "put away" (apoluo)...cannot be used as 'synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one's respective society' since the synonyms given by inspiration do not refer to a civil procedure," and "Not one use in over 140 New Testament uses of aphiemi infers a civil procedure of divorce."  The civil law in force for the Jews at the time of the above verses was the law of Moses. Notice the following concerning these texts, "...Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first...LEFT (our word aphiemi- released) his wife unto his brother...unto the seventh...Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her." This was lawfully, civilly, and socially accepted and required action involving one's leaving or sending (aphiemi) his wife unto another after the bond had been broken through death - Ruth 4:5-10; Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  Again, it is the word aphiemi, and it is used in a text on marriage - divorce (the marriage, and the bond being broken, Romans 7:1-4) and remarriage.  On top of this, we have seen the many times “apoluo,” the synonym of “aphiemi,” has been used to refer to civil authority and procedure.  If one is to use an argument on synonyms such as this, he must accept that they are all equal to the other.

One good thing has come out of all of this.  One can finally see the inconsistency in arguments such as these.  We are told, "A civil divorce must be obtained when a marriage is sundered and the two people depart one from another".  Then we are told, "Not one use in over 140 New Testament uses of aphiemi infers a civil procedure.  Does it, or does it not have to be obtained?  Must we, or must we not accept the time restriction placed upon one's trying to counter sue, or otherwise make known the true cause for the divorce BEFORE the initial divorce is finalized?  Various brethren say they personally believe such, but then they make room for accepting others who would teach differently.  Matthew 19:9 is not a difficult passage, friends.  There is only one divorce mentioned in these verses.  It is either an innocent party putting away a guilty party for fornication or it is not.  One can either remarry, or cannot.  How much more simple could the Lord have made it?  I truly believe minds need to be made up as to whether these verses don't "infer a civil procedure of divorce;" or if they do imply such.  One can't have it both ways.

Choridzo - Brother Osborne speaks of  Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9 and says of the word choridzo, "It is the word Jesus chose as a synonym of the word 'put away' in the Pharisee's question...The word does not denote civil action taken against another person, but action taken against a relationship. Paul uses the same word to reiterate what the Lord commanded (1 Cor. 7:10-11, 'depart').  However, there is a notable difference in the form of the word used in the Gospels and that used by Paul.  Jesus used choridzo in the active voice, while Paul summarized the same teaching of Jesus by using choridzo in the passive voice.  If Jesus in the Gospels was mandating who must take the civil action in a legal procedure, how could Paul legitimately use the passive voice as a parallel?  The conclusion is obvious – Jesus was not requiring a procedure regarding who must take the civil action of divorce."

Choridzo and "action against the relationship"

"The Greek word choridzo is translated "put asunder" in Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9.  It is the word Jesus chose as a synonym of the word "put away" in the Pharisees' question....The word does not denote civil action taken against another person, but action against the relationship."

These accounts in Matthew and Mark say, "...For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife:  and they twain shall be one flesh.  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.   What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."  Notice that "They = the man and woman" are no more twain (two) but one flesh..."  Let me ask friends, what was the WHAT that God hath "joined together?" It was the man and woman.  It was the WHAT that one is not to let man "put asunder."  What was it that was not supposed to be put asunder?  What God joined together.  What did he join together?  Was it two relationships that became one?  No, it was the man and woman.

Let's try this with Matthew 19:9 since he says we here find a synonym.  Being synonyms, the thoughts should be interchangeable.  Apoluo is just as much a synonym of Choridzo as Choridzo is of Apoluo.  So look where we end up when we apply the relationship argument -- "...whosoever shall put away his relationship, except it be for fornication, and marry another relationship, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth the relationship that is put away doth commit adultery."  Friends, you have to follow this closely.  Our brother wants you to accept the idea that it does not matter WHO does the putting away; but that it is the severing of the "relationship that matters." Unless I am mistaken, this would be the same idea being expressed by some as the "marriage bond" which only the innocent are alleged to be able to break -- even if it is after the first civil divorce is finalized.  I find nothing which shows that the two thoughts would differ. 

Choridzo does not denote civil action taken against another

To continue with the word Choridzo, our brother says, "The word does not denote civil action taken against another person, but action against the relationship."  However, notice this same word in Acts 18:2 - "...Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome..."  This was a Roman emperor telling people they had to leave.  That sounds pretty much like civil action taken against another.  Does it sound like Claudius was dissolving his relationship with the Jews?  No, he told the Jews themselves to leave.  He put or sent them away.  By the way, this word "depart" is passive. Did it matter who sent away whom in this text?  Of course it did.  That is why the Jews left, and Claudius stayed.


In a divorce, there is - for lack of a better way to put it - an active individual and a passive one.  There is the one doing the putting away, and the one being put away. The voices (active and passive) are different only when speaking of the one doing the putting away, and the one being put away.  I believe the book "Essentials of New Testament Greek" by Summers puts it about as plainly as one can.  He states on page 11 - Lesson three, "Voice is the quality of verbs which indicates the relationship of the subject to the action.  The active voice means that the subject is acting – 'he is loosing.'  The passive voice means that the subject is being acted upon – 'he is being loosed.'  These are the same in the English and Greek."   The word baptism is like this.  Sometimes it is used in the passive (Acts 2:38), and sometimes in the active (Matthew 28:19); according to who is the baptizer, and who is the baptized.  But, it doesn't change the message, and it does matter who baptizes whom. 

Luke 16:18 - Here we have the active word “apoluson” (putteth away), and the passive word “apolelumenen” (put away) found in the same text.  One does not even have to run from one text to another using "synonyms" to try to get in an active/passive argument.  In fact, it is a great deal more revealing when trying to make his "it doesn't matter who does the putting away" argument fit, when it is in the same verse.  Here, the one doing the putting away (not for fornication necessarily inferred), and remarrying is in adultery. The one marrying the one put away (for or not for fornication) is committing adultery.  Here we see that it does matter who does the putting away, and for what cause.  We have the procedure consisting of the cause (fornication) – the desire to put away that individual for fornication – and the putting away, or recognized means of so doing.  This is a process in which we must participate if we are to divorce legally and scripturally, 1 Peter 2:13-14.  Unless it matters who does the putting away, the words, "whosoever shall put away..." and "except it be for fornication" in Matthew 19, etc., mean absolutely nothing.

Luke 6:37 - This is one of the apoluo references our brother gave us. We are told that the word for "put away" in one text is active, and in another, passive, so it does not matter (he says) who does the putting away.  Enter through the back door – a divorce after the divorce.  Our brother states, "Jesus was not requiring a procedure regarding WHO [emp. fs] must take the civil action of divorce."  I would simply mention here that in Luke 6:37 our word is the word forgive, as well as the word forgiven.  The first forgive is “apoluete” – ACTIVE.  The other is forgiven – “apoluthesesthe” - PASSIVE.  I would simply ask if when a passive and active are used together in reference to the same action taking place – does it matter who does the forgiving and who is forgiven?  All know that it does.

Have we not argued for years, as has been evidenced by the type of debates which at least one well known preacher has had, that, the one who is put away "for fornication" cannot remarry?  Then brethren, lest we drop this time-tested truth for the sake of "generic application," IT MATTERS WHO DOES THE PUTTING AWAY!  Yet we are told, "Jesus was not requiring a procedure regarding who must take the civil action of divorce."  Brothers and sisters, write that one down, and drop it in a file somewhere.  As this wrangling over words and procedures continues, you take it out about once a week, and ask yourself, "Did he really mean that?"  The answer of course is, "yes he meant it."

Don't let the word "civil" mislead you. The divorce must be recognized as an accepted divorce in whatever society one lives.  Many are confusing the race to the courthouse or the name of the filer on the legal document with the necessity of complying with the laws of the land in seeking for a legal divorce.  Once the divorce is finalized, no matter who was first to file, or what the courts award, that is it.  Any action taken by the innocent party in a divorce for fornication must be taken before the legally and/or socially recognized divorce is completed.  If one is put away, "not for fornication" then the scriptures are clear concerning the possibility of remarriage after the putting away is completed. There is none. Even considering the oddities of different legal systems, can anyone get anything else out of the simple wording of Matthew 19:9? All of the Greek arguments one may make cannot change this text. 

*Folks, mark it down.  If our brother is correct (which he is not), and it does not matter who does the putting away, and who is the put away in a civil divorce as he calls it; then:

1. It does not matter who commits the fornication in the first divorce.

2. It does not matter who puts away whom in the first divorce – whether it be for, or not for fornication.

3. It does not matter who marries the put away one, for either may put away the other.   

Hence, the marriage - divorce - 2nd divorce - remarriage doctrine.  Plus, if it does not matter who does the putting away in the first divorce, why would it matter who does the putting away of his mate in the 2nd (mental or otherwise) divorce?  That is the problem with error.  It is like a lie.  The more you add to it, the harder it gets to clear it up.

Last of all, in his first negative, our brother writes – "Brethren, let us not divide over unspecified procedures added to God's word.  Let us unite on principles plainly affirmed by Scripture and forebear with one another, allowing individual judgments regarding applications left generic in Scripture...."

Brethren, what of the member who teaches:  "If the first divorce is not for fornication (or even if the one doing the filing committed fornication) – Then after the first divorce is finalized, the alleged innocent party may in a second divorce (mentally or otherwise) put away the guilty party for fornication – and lawfully remarry." 

I plead with you to ask yourselves if you can accept as faithful, one who would teach the above mentioned scenario, or even accept and protect one who would do such.

This teaching, and the desire to somehow mask it with pseudo scriptural arguments is the crux of the present schism.  I for one, will say that those who teach such are false teachers, and if unrepentant of such teaching, should be withdrawn from by faithful Christians everywhere, Romans 16:17.  And, lest we forget another very important passage of scripture, let us remember 2 John 11, "for he that biddeth him godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds."  Brethren, I can leave you with no more solemn and serious warning than that said by the very apostle Paul to the Corinthians through the pen of inspiration, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM