Mark 10: 11, 12 and the Put Away Innocent Mate
By Don Martin
Some are seeing the surfacing differences among brethren regarding the innocent party as hair splitting and inconsequential wrangling over nothing. “Just as long as one says that only the innocent mate may put away and marry another, there should be no challenge extended,” some are saying. I hasten to say that I do believe that there are areas regarding nuance in which brethren can and should be expected to not totally agree. However, there are fundamentals regarding which we must agree. To teach that the put away innocent mate may later put away and marry another even in cases of post divorce fornication is aberrant teaching, I submit.
What do I consider fundamental? Jesus said that only the innocent mate has the right to divorce his/her mate for the cause of their adultery and marry another. All other situations involve sin and adultery when there is a marriage to another. Those in sin are (making application):
1). The one who divorces for some reason other than adultery.
2). The one who divorces for some reason other than adultery and remarries is in adultery.
3). The person whom he remarries in such a circumstance is in fornication.
4). The wife whom he unscripturally divorced is in adultery when she remarries.
5). The man whom the “wife” remarries is in fornication.
6). The put away mate who is guilty of adultery is in sin when she/he remarries.
7). The man whom she/he marries is in fornication.
Some one says, “Brother Martin, you and others are saying essentially the same thing, why make a fuss?” Yes, ostensibly we agree on much of the above. However, ambiguous terms and concepts are being used by some. In some cases, it involves absolute deceit on their part. Hence, the disagreement is more serious than it is appearing at first glance.
In the first place, some are referring to two different acts of putting away, one they call unscriptural and one they say is scriptural. The catch is they are forcing a scriptural to result from and after an unscriptural. The first, the unscriptural, they do not count; hence, they speak in terms of only one. Here is a typical scenario:
Joe puts away Jane because he simply does not love her anymore. All agree that this divorce not only does not allow either Joe or Jane to marry another or do we? What if Joe had Sue in mind and later commits adultery with Sue? Now, we start seeing serious differences because some are saying that when Joe commits adultery with Sue, Jane can now scripturally put away Joe and marry another. This is called divorcement based on post adultery. What is wrong with this view?
We need to revisit Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9. Jesus said:
“32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery....(Matt. 5, dm)...9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19).
Notice some of the following necessary applicational deductions based on Jesus’ teaching:
1). Divorcement not based on fornication is sinful and not allowed.
2). One can cause another whom he unscripturally puts away to commit adultery and thus share in the guilt.
3). The unscripturally putting away mate is in sin when they marry another.
4). The one who marries either an unscripturally or scripturally put away person commits sin (exception phrase consideration).
5). One may scripturally put away a mate guilty of fornication and marry another.
6). The unscripturally put away mate who marries another AFTER the putting away marries is in sin.
Consider a couple scenarios relevant to the current issues regarding the MDR controversy over the innocent put away.
How about the mate who unscipturally puts away a mate and then says after that mate commits adultery, “I am now putting you away in view of your adultery, the first divorce did not count!” Most brethren will say, “this circumstance is not right because what happened was after the fact.” In this, they are correct. I say this because while Jesus does not approve of an unscriptural divorce, he does recognize the fact and reality of such (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
How about Jane, returning to our original example, can she not now put away and have the right to marry another? Remember that Jane was a victim and Joe has married another. Out of emotion and in view of what they call “the right of the innocent,” some are saying, “Yes, Jane may put away for the cause of fornication and be able to marry another.”
What, though, is the real difference between the two above circumstances? It is said in the immediately above example that the putting away while wrong, does count. That is correct (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). What makes it right, then, to contend that in example two, the putting away does not count? The answer is emotionalism and an exaggerated view of the “rights of the innocent.”
The innocent certainly do have rights, to them Jesus granted the right to put away because of their mate’s adultery and marry another. However, please listen carefully, Jesus also said that the innocent can be put away and forfeit the right to put away and marry another. Herein, many are seriously at odds.
To simply state the truth, the innocent mate can be put away. What ever constitutes biblical putting away results in the innocent mate being put away. Following the putting away of the innocent, there is no “second” or “real,” or “actual” divorce taught. The innocent is put away!
Is all this controversy relative to the put away innocent mate simply hair splitting, then? No. Jesus says it involves adultery or fornication and adultery is a serious matter. Adultery and fornication involve people in damnable sin, such affects children, and the fellowship in the local church. Let us now turn our attention to what some are saying is definitive proof that the innocent put away may put away and marry another, even in cases of post fornication. I am referring to Mark 10: 11, 12.
In view of the “new” doctrine regarding the put away if not put away based on their fornication is not really put away and can later put away and marry another, we are being told that Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10: 11, 12 allows the innocent to put away after the fact and be able to marry another. Consider Jesus’ teaching:
“11: And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12: And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark, KJV).
First, I suggest that when all the relevant teaching on marriage, putting away, and marriage to another is amassed and considered, there are no contradictions, only augmentation and application to various scenarios. We have seen in Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9 that the put away, whether innocent or guilty, may not put away and marry another. We have seen that even AFTER the mate who unscripturally put away marries, the put away is not allowed marriage to another (Matt. 19: 9). Yet, we are being told Mark 10: 11, 12 proves that the innocent put away may put away and marry another.
As soon as I was baptized as a teenager, I immediately began to learn Greek, logic, and dialectics to increase my skill as an exegete of scripture. For the life of me, though, I cannot see how Mark 10: 11, 12 contradicts such verses as Matthew 19: 9. I think I have read and considered all the arguments pro and con, involving the simple textual considerations based on English translation and the more advanced Greek grammar and syntax matters.
One key expression of focus in the innocent put away mate being able to subsequently put away, even in cases of post divorce fornication position is “against her” (epi auten) in Mark 10: 11. What ever “against her” means, the exegete is not allowed to attach a meaning to it that is in diametric opposition to the clear teaching of Matthew 19: 9. I concede that the preposition epi with the accusative case poses an interesting study (I am trying to keep this material simple). Consider a couple of thoughts:
William Hendriksen suggests that epi auten (against her) refers to a consequence the man effects toward his wife whom he unscripturally put away, the same thought as Matthew 5: 32, he makes her commit adultery when she marries another (New Testament Commentary, Mark 10: 11). Notice that if this is the meaning of epi auten, the man has unscripturally put away his wife and has married another to whom he had no scriptural claim; yet, when the innocent put away marries, she commits adultery. This view, then, of Mark 10: 11 certainly is not definitive proof that the innocent mate may put away and marry another, even in cases of post putting away adultery.
Another view of epi auten is that the meaning of the preposition epi with the accusative is simply “with her.” The proposition epi when used in association with the accusative case has the potential for a number of renderings. Thayer, for instance, mentions in general the idea of “in reference to” and “towards” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 235, 236). Marshall thus renders Mark 10: 11, “And he says to them: Whoever dismisses the wife of him and marries another, commits adultery with her (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).” The immediate antecedent of “her” would be the woman whom he marries, the woman to whom he has no right. This is plainly the idea of verse 12 regarding the woman who does what the man does in verse 11. We are being told, though, that this exegesis is not allowed because the “she” (aute) of verse 12 (based on the Westcott/Hort text) would then have to look to the woman whom he married after he put away his wife, the woman of verse 11 already in adultery (either the “another,” allen or the “her,” auten) as the antecedent. Such is not necessarily grammatically required. All of these objections rest on matters of grammar that are not absolute; whereas, Matthew 19: 9 is absolute. We are also being told that the mentioned “adultery” (moichatai) of verse 11 forces the “against her” to be his lawful wife, the first wife. However, again, moichatai does not necessarily require this to be the case.
After all the rhetoric abates, the bottom line is that since “adultery” is mentioned in the various verses, this is proof that a bond continues in place (I agree with this). They proceed to argue that if this is true, then the innocent put away mate who remains bound (the other mate is also bound) continues to have the right to severe the marriage bond based on the post adultery act of the mate who put them away and then they may marry another if they desire.
Let us use this same logic applied to a little different scenario and see where it takes us. Again, I return to the earlier mentioned example of Jesus in Matthew 5: 32. One unscipturally puts away his mate and since when she marries another, she commits adultery; thus proving the bond remains, he may now elect to biblically severe the bond and be able to scripturally marry another. If not, why not? Any deduction or logic that contradicts Jesus’ plain teaching is untenable, it matters not how emotionally palatable it may be, I say this regarding the emotionalism that is often attendant relative to the innocent put away.
The conclusion remains that the innocent may put away and marry another. However, the innocent may also be put away and not able to put away (there is not a scintilla of evidence that the scriptures know anything about a “second, real putting away”) and marry another. The teaching that the innocent retains his right to put away at any time and in all circumstances just as long as there is fornication, even post divorce fornication and marry another is patently false (Matt. 19: 9). Over the past several years, I have debated this “new” divorce and marriage to another twist over and over. Once the proponent of the put away innocent may put away and marry another feels trapped, they flip over to the “What constitutions biblical putting away?” Both what constitutes biblical putting away and the rights of the innocent can be established.
Again, to the innocent Jesus provided the option to put away and be able to marry another. Jesus also taught, though, that the innocent can be put away and thus forfeit his right to put away and marry another. Those who are advocating that the “first putting away” does not count since it is unscriptural and that what they call the “second putting away” does count, are ignoring Jesus’ plain teaching. Jesus said that the innocent put away cannot put away and marry another, even after the putting away marries, this must be the end of the matter (Matt. 19: 9). It is evident that one reason Jesus presented this teaching is to preclude all scenarios involving the waiting game doctrine. If the putting away is not for fornication, then all that follows is wrong. Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10: 11, 12 offers no alternative doctrine or recourse.
What is the current plight of the “new” divorce and marriage to another doctrine that allows the innocent put away the right to put away and marry another when there is fornication? It is my understanding that some of us upset the apple cart when we begin to expose these brethren and their teaching. It appears that they were not ready to come completely out and certainly not ready to debate the post divorce fornication matter. It is my impression that there is presently chaos among them and, again, the order is “silence” and “biding their time.”
The perceived leader of the group was pressured into answering a question in a magazine that opened the can of worms. Even though he said that he would not debate the issue and that he apparently wanted the matter to cool off, attention has been placed on his and other’s teaching. Then one who was braver and not so caught up with the “we must do as brother....says” came out and took their doctrine to its next level: matters of post divorce fornication. I appreciate the honesty of this particular preacher who is even willing to debate the matter, but I believe this man has fallen out of grace with the group.
“The timing is not right,” “let’s wait until...” all has the stench of clique mentality. Yet, this is how some work. They especially recruit young preachers and offer them some clique security and recognition. I know this because I have some young men contact me and tell me of their workings and modus operandi. When they are set and have their numbers positioned, they spring. As long as I have breath, the mental acumen, and the opportunity, I shall be there to upset their timing. I have offered many times to debate their leader, but he is not ready. There is talk of me debating another, but I want the leader. I want others to see how vulnerable his teaching is and that it is totally untenable and only leads progressively to “greater” error. Their leader has the reputation of being doctrinally aggressive and willing to debate, but he certainly lacks this doctrinal aggression and willingness to debate in this, his latest agenda.
Every false doctrine has its initial, inceptional stage and then its progressive, developmental stage. I have said from the onset that this teaching that allows the innocent put away the right to put away and marry another when fornication is present will result in the return of the full fledge waiting game doctrine. Mark my words, we will again be battling all the waiting game doctrines that we dealt with back in the sixties and seventies. All of this will result because a man recognized by many as one of the most conservative of the conservatives has been guilty of accepting, fostering, and “surreptitiously” promoting a basic principle of the old waiting game positions (“the second putting away is what counts”).