Did God Authorize Divorce for Fornication or Adultery (Deuteronomy 22; Mt. 19:9; John 8)?

By Timothy Sparks

We do not read a dismissal penalty or divorce penalty for sexual unfaithfulness in Deuteronomy 22. Some would have Jesus approving divorce for sexual unfaithfulness in Mt. 19:9. However, Jesus clearly did not contradict his Father’s law while teaching on earth (Mt. 5:17-20). Under God’s law, Jesus could not teach divorce for fornication; the law was death. If Jesus had taught they could divorce rather than put to death, he would have been a false teacher.

Concerning the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:3-11), God’s penalty according to the law was stoning (Jn. 8:5). Jesus upheld his Father’s death penalty, as seen in the Greek imperative βαλέτω (baletō), “do throw” (Jn. 8:7). He did not offer divorce as an option because it would have been against God’s law. If the Pharisees had changed the penalty for adultery from death to divorce, then they would have been guilty of changing God’s law. It was not a lawful option to change the death penalty to a divorce punishment.

Just as God has the ability to pardon, like he did David (2 Sam. 12:13), so Jesus had “authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 2:10). Notice the similarity of the statements by Jesus and Pilate:
● “Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (Jn. 8:11).
● “Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?” (Jn. 19:10).
● A proverb of Roman law says, “Nobody who can condemn cannot acquit” (Nemo, qui condemnare potest, absolvere non potest. Justinian, Digest 50.17.37).

Philo supported the death penalty for adultery. Philo regarded a betrothed “wife” as a wife because she is his wife in all but deed. He says betrothal is the equivalent of marriage and therefore if she has intercourse with another man it “is a form of adultery.” “And therefore the law orders both to be stoned” (III.58, 72-73).

We read only about the death penalty for sexual unfaithfulness during both betrothal and marriage and nothing about divorce as an authorized punishment (Deut. 22:13ff):

13 “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, 14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ 15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. 17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; 19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

20 “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

25 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. 27 For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.

28 “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days” (NKJV).

While God is able to pardon abundantly on his terms (Is. 55:7), humans are to obey God’s law under which they live. If the Hebrews had failed to execute the death penalty as God commanded, deciding instead to be merciful and let the fornicator live, they would have been in direct disobedience to God’s law. Deuteronomy 22 granted favorable approval to execute fornicators and adulterers as specified.

See also: Hebrew Death Penalty (John 8; John 18:31) https://timothysparks.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/death-penalty-john-8-john-18.pdf

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Translations Refusing to Insert “Except” in Mt. 19:9

Compiled by Timothy Sparks


The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament

“But I say to you that who ever divorces his wife not for fornication and marries another commits adultery; and the man marrying a woman having been divorced (a divorcee) commits adultery.”

Darby Bible Translation

“But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, not for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and he who marries one put away commits adultery.”


Modern Literal Version

“But I am saying to you, Whoever divorces his wife not over fornication, and should marry another, is committing adultery, and he who has married her who has been divorced is committing adultery.”

2019 Update (May 15, 2019)


Disciples’ Literal New Testament

“And I say to you that whoever sends-away his wife not based on sexual-immorality, and marries another, is committing-adultery.”


“And I say to you, that who ever should dismiss his wife, not for harlotry, and should marry another, commits adultery; and the one being dismissed marrying, commits adultery.”


“And I say to you, that whoever may divorce his wife, not for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery. And he who married her who has been divorced commits adultery.”


W. B. GODBEY (1902) 

“But I say unto you, That whosoever may send away his wife, not for fornication, and may marry another, commits adultery.”



The New Testament: newly translated from the text of Tregelles (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1872).

“I say to you, moreover, Whosoever may divorce his wife—not on [the ground of] fornication, and may marry another, is committing adultery; and he who married a divorced woman is committing adultery.” [NOTE: Rotherham translates Tregelles’ Gk text which omitted Erasmus’  addition of ei before mh.]

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Jeffrey Dahmer Talks about Evolution and Jesus Christ

Jeffrey Dahmer was immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. He says that evolution is a complete lie and that evolution cheapens life. For Jeffrey, he previously felt he had no accountability because “if a person doesn’t believe there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?”


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New Additions to Audio Section


Money Illustrations in the Bible (Matthew 17, 18, 20); Unlimited Forgiveness: Forgive or Forfeit Forgiveness (Mt. 18:21-35)

In Christ #1

In Christ #2

In Christ #3

In Christ #4

In Christ #5

In Christ #6

In Christ #7

In Christ #8

In Christ #9

In Christ #10

In Christ #11

In Christ #12

In Him #1

In Him #2

In the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39) #1

In the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39) #2

In the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39) #3

In the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39) #4

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In the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39) Audio #1

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Hebrew Death Penalty (John 8; John 18:31)

Hebrew Death Penalty (John 8; John 18:31)


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January 25, 2019 · 5:22 pm

Joseph & Mary: Supposed Fornication and the Betrothal Dilemma (Mt. 1:18-25)

By Timothy Sparks


If we allow ourselves to indulge in speculating as some do about what might have been if God had not stopped Joseph from the course of action he was thinking about, and if God had favorably allowed Joseph to dismiss Mary for her supposed fornication, the following scenario may have likely transpired if we reverse the actual course of events detailed in Scripture. Please remember that we are merely indulging ourselves in what might have been in the following scenario since not a few have based some of their beliefs on their assumption that Joseph would have remained righteous if he had dismissed Mary for her supposed fornication. Here is a picture of what might have been. . . .

Joseph dismisses Mary for her fornication. Joseph does so because he refuses to take headship responsibility for her. In doing so, the headship responsibility of Mary remains under her father. Her father is now left with the dilemma of God’s commanded death penalty because Mary has played the harlot in her father’s house (Deut 22:21).

Back to reality, we understand that what Joseph was thinking about doing was the opposite of a public divorce. Joseph was not thinking about publicly shaming Mary. He was considering a private dismissal, which is what the text states of Joseph’s intentions. God does not judge/condemn a person for thinking about a course of action that may seem right but is nevertheless wrong. Some would view what Joseph was thinking about as a temptation/trial. Joseph did not yield to the temptation.

In fact, we do not know for sure what Joseph would have done if God had not intervened. We do know that Joseph obeyed God’s command, diverting him from any further thoughts of following through with dismissing Mary. Joseph remained righteous. God was not going to give Joseph favorable approval to dismiss Mary, and God did not. God’s will for Joseph was to become Mary’s husband.

Mary did not commit fornication. Joseph could not put her to death. Additionally, if Mary had committed fornication, then her death would not have been Joseph’s responsibility but her father’s as she was then still in her father’s house.

To clarify, in Joseph’s case there was no consideration of divorce of a God-joined union as they were not yet united by God. Joseph was simply considering dismissing her, not taking headship responsibility for her and leaving her in the hands of her father. It would have been her father’s responsibility to see the death penalty carried out upon her (Deut. 22:20-21).

Joseph became her husband before they had a sexual relationship (Mt. 1:24-25). While the Jews may not have recognized such a nonsexual union to be a God-joined union, God recognized it, just as he did when Adam received Eve as his wife and they were one flesh before they had a sexual relationship.

It is clear that if Joseph had followed through with what he was thinking about, he would not have remained righteous. Joseph did not divorce her publicly nor dismiss her privately. There is a lot of speculation among some, going so far as to infuse betrothal into a clear discussion of a God-joined union, as is the context of Matthew 19.

God’s Hebrew law stated the death penalty, not the divorce penalty for betrothal fornication (Deut. 22:20-21). So any teaching (such as the betrothal interpretation of Mt. 19:9) that requires God’s death penalty (which then existed under God’s Hebrew law) to be changed is not a correct interpretation. Jesus did not change his Father’s law while he was on the earth teaching it (Jn. 7:16-19; Heb. 9:16-17). He upheld it not just to the smallest letter (the yod), but even to the smallest part of a letter (Mt. 5:17-19).

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Marriage Conference (1 Corinthians 6 and 7); Speaker: Timothy Sparks

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Marriage Conference (1 Corinthians 7); Speaker: Timothy Sparks

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Marriage Conference (Matthew 5 and Matthew 19); Speaker: Timothy Sparks

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