Tag Archives: fornication

Explaining the Translation of Mt. 19:9 by Dr. Leslie McFall

Dr. McFall granted permission to make the following 11 pages available from his e-book:

APPENDIX B, abstracted from his e‑book (11 august, 2014): AN EXPLANATION FOR THE AUTHOR’S LITERAL TRANSLATION OF MATTHEW 19:9

 

This is the link for his entire free e-book:

The Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage (Dr. McFall)

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The “Except” List: Where It Is Necessary to Divorce and Remarry

By Timothy Sparks
tdsparks77@yahoo.com
http://www.timothysparks.com

 

Those who seek God’s favorable authorization for divorce and remarriage may point to passages where they see “except”:

  1. Mt. 5:32—exemption from blame, not permission to divorce and remarry (see also What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 5:32? and The Exemption Clause)
  2. Mt. 19:9—Many see Jesus saying, “Whoever divorces his wife for the exception of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery.”

Notice the following Scriptures where people must insert “except” to have God’s blessing for divorce and remarriage:

  1. The “one-flesh” law is permanent (Gen. 1:27; 2:23-24; Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8)except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
  2. A person must forgive his/her spouse of any and every sin an unlimited number of times (Mt. 18:21-22, 35), except the sin of adultery, which carries with it the consequence of divorce if the “innocent spouse” chooses to execute the divorce penalty upon his/her spouse
  3. “Therefore what God united, a human cannot divide” (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9)except when people think they have the ability to do so
  4. Jesus does not endorse being hard-hearted (Mt. 19:8; Mk. 10:5), except when people want to divorce
  5. In the context of Jesus’ time, God’s law was the death penalty for adultery, and Jesus did not change God’s law before his death (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; Jn. 8:3-7; Heb. 9:15-17), except when people decided to divorce for adultery
  6. God did not institute divorce in the beginning and Jesus did not institute divorce; so divorce neither came from God in the beginning nor existed within God’s will to Jesus’ present time [notice the force of the Greek perfect tense: “but from the beginning it has not existed this way” (Mt. 19:8)], except when people want Jesus to state exactly the opposite and would have Jesus instituting divorce for fornication in the very next verse (Mt. 19:9)
  7. Marriage to another person is adulterous (Mk. 10:11-12), except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
  8. Again, marriage to another person is adulterous (Lk. 16:18)except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
  9. God forbids taking a believer to court (1 Cor. 6:1-8),  except when a believer wants to divorce a believing spouse 
    • “Christians are banned from taking other Christians before the law courts of this world (1 Cor. 6:1), which belong to Satan. Yet the only way to obtain a divorce is to go to Satan to obtain it, which he will be only too ready to hand out” (McFall, p. 126).
  10. The believer is commanded not to separate or abandon the unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:10-13)except when the believer wants to divorce the unbelieving spouse
  11. When people are united by God in marriage, they are bound for life and released only by death (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39)except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
  12. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), except when people want to divorce

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*Unless otherwise stated, translations are mine.

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Reasons Mὴ Eπὶ (Mh Epi or Mē Epi) Should Not Be Translated “Except For” (Mt. 19:9)

By Timothy Sparks
tdsparks77@yahoo.com
http://www.timothysparks.com

 

This article details the problem with using the English word “except” to translate the Greek word μὴ in Mt. 19:9. Nowhere in either the Greek New Testament or the LXX is the word μὴ (mh or mē) or the words μὴ ἐπὶ (mh epi or mē epi; Mt. 19:9) to be translated as “except.”

There is no manuscript in existence that supports the Textus Receptus reading of εἰ (“if”) before μὴ (“not”) in Mt. 19:9. All the manuscript evidence supports the omission of εἰ. Based on overwhelming evidence, the correct reading is μὴ ἐπὶ (“not over”). The text is firmly μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ (“not over fornication”) and is the reading of the Majority Text (M-Text), the Greek New Testament (GNT) and all other texts that do not follow the Textus Receptus tradition.

In reading an English version of Mt. 19:9, many people seem to understand “except” as an exception. It is hard to get an exegesis correct if the translation is not correct or if the translation creates a misunderstanding.

Please consider the following reasons the Greek phrase μὴ ἐπὶ (mh epi or mē epi; Mt. 19:9) should not be translated “except for”:

1. Mὴ ἐπ (mh epi or mē epi; Mt. 19:9) should be translated “not over.” 

2. The only evidence in the Septuagint (LXX; the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) is that μὴ ἐπὶ means “not on/over/to/for.”

3. The only evidence in the New Testament is that μ ἐπ means “not on/over/to/for.”

4. Dr. Guenther states the following in “THE EXCEPTION PHRASES: EXCEPT πορνεία, INCLUDING πορνεία OR EXCLUDING πορνεία? (MATTHEW 5:32; 19:9)”  (https://legacy.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/Library/TynBull_2002_53_1_05_Guenther_ExceptionPhrases.pdf):

“Indeed, Basil, the 4th century (AD) bishop, who interprets the text of Matthew quotes both Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 (presumably from memory) and instinctively writes the ‘exception’ phrase in 19:9 as εἰ μὴ ἐπί (except for), in contrast with the simple μὴ ἐπί (excluding) of Matthew. This reinforces our argument that μὴ ἐπί without the conditional conjunction does not mean ‘except’” (p. 94; p. 12 of the pdf).
“In Matthew 19:9, then, the divorce saying reads, ‘whoever divorces his wife (apart from/excluding/not introducing [the factor of] πορνεία) and marries another commits adultery’. It does not mean ‘except’ as it has traditionally been interpreted. Had the Gospel writer wanted to introduce an exception, he would have used εἰ μὴ ἐπί or ἐὰν μὴ ἐπί” (p. 95; p. 13 of the pdf).

“Our conclusion regarding the meaning of the μὴ ἐπί phrase in Matthew 19:9 is that it must be understood as, ‘apart from πορνεία, ‘πορνεία aside’, or ‘excluding the subject of πορνεία’. It does not mean ‘except’ as it has traditionally been interpreted” (p. 96; p. 14 of the pdf).

5. Many people think the English preposition “except” means “unless.” The primary definition of the English preposition “except” is “excluding” (see definition of “except”). The definition of the English conjunction “unless” is “except if” (see definition of “unless”). “Except/Excluding” does not mean “unless/except if.”

The proper understanding of μὴ ἐπὶ is “not over/excluding.”  Mὴ ἐπὶ does not mean “except if for/unless for.” If μὴ ἐπὶ is rendered “except for” and if people misunderstand it to mean “unless,” that misunderstanding then might cause people to believe that Jesus taught in contradiction to God’s law.

  • The Jews could not under God’s law grant divorce over adultery or fornication (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22).
  • If Jesus had changed God’s law while he was on the earth, he would have violated it (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).
  • Jesus did not come to change God’s law but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17-19; Lk. 24:44).
  • Christ’s new covenant went into effect after his death (Heb. 9:16-17), not before his death.

6. Jesus calls us back to the way God instituted marriage, which did not include divorce (Mt. 19:4-8).

7. The evidence provided is sufficient to show that μὴ ἐπὶ should not be translated “except for.”

For a comprehensive discussion of translating Mt. 19:9, please see Explaining the Translation of Mt. 19:9 by Dr. Leslie McFall.

See also The “Except” List: Where It Is Necessary for Divorce and Remarriage to Be.

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What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 19:9?

By Timothy Sparks
tdsparks77@yahoo.com
http://www.timothysparks.com

“But I say to you that who, suppose, may have dismissed his wife not over fornication and may have married another commits adultery. And the one having married a dismissed wife commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9, translation mine).1

Central to the issue of Jesus’ teaching about marriage, Jesus goes back to “the beginning” (Mt. 19:4-8; Gen. 1:27; 2:24) when God instituted marriage. He appeals to a time before God tolerated putting away or divorce, when “it was not that way” (Mt. 19:8). Jesus teaches the truth that always has been and always will be concerning marriage. People will continue to divorce and remarry, but it does not change the truth of God’s Word “from the beginning.” It really is that simple. Do we want to know how God wants marriage? Jesus says to go back to “the beginning” (Mt. 19:4, 8).

The background of God’s law (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10) is crucial to understanding the context of Jesus’ statement “not over fornication” [MH EPI PORNEIA, Mt. 19:9–see also Reasons Mὴ Eπὶ (Mh Epi or Mē Epi) Should Not Be Translated “Except For” (Mt. 19:9)]. We now address whether Jesus gives permission to divide what God united (Mt. 19:6) in a situation of fornication.

Under the Old Covenant:
For adultery = Death penalty (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22)
For fornication during betrothal = Death penalty (Deut. 22:23-24)

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT = “FOR FORNICATION”

NON-CAPITAL PUNISHMENT = “NOT FOR FORNICATION”2

Theoretically, Jesus could have said:
“Whoever dismisses his wife OVER FORNICATION (EPI PORNEIA) and marries another does not commit adultery.”

This was not a lawful option. It would have been an act of disobedience to change the punishment for fornication from the death penalty to either putting away or divorce (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6). Rather, Jesus says, “Whoever may have dismissed his wife NOT OVER FORNICATION (MH EPI PORNEIA; thus, Jesus is addressing a nonsexual dismissal; the penalty of fornication was death) and may have married another commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).

Stated another way:

1. Under the Old Covenant fornication during betrothal and adultery in marriage was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-24).

2. It would have been a violation of God’s law to change the penalty for fornication from death to putting away or divorce (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).

3. Jesus came to fulfill the law, to bring it to completion (Mt. 5:17-19).

4. The Old Covenant was not changed until Christ’s death (Heb. 7:12; 8:4; 9:15-17).

Therefore, Christ did not change the Old Covenant under which he lived but gave corrective teaching, calling people back to God’s will from the beginning (Mt. 19:6-9; Mk. 10:5-12).

Conclusion:

1. Jesus gave clear and precise teaching to the crowds in the region of Judea beyond the Jordan (Mk. 10:1), giving permission for neither putting away nor divorce (please read Mk. 10:2-9).

2. After his definitive teaching, Jesus gave a conclusive summary to settle the matter: “And in the house his disciples asked him again about the same thing. And he said to them, ‘Who, suppose, may have dismissed his wife and may have married another commits adultery against her. And if a woman may have dismissed her husband and may have married another, she commits adultery'” (Mk. 10:10-12).

3. Similarly, Jesus revealed the strength of God’s law and then immediately stressed the result of remarriage after putting away: “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the law to fail. Anyone dismissing his wife and marrying another commits adultery; and anyone marrying a wife having been dismissed from a husband commits adultery” (Lk. 16:17-18).

Knowing the background of God’s law (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10) is essential to a well-informed discussion concerning whether or not Jesus endorsed divorce for fornication. When we know the background of God’s law under which Jesus lived, we then know that Jesus would have violated God’s law if he had given permission to divorce for fornication. Rather than endorsing divorce for any reason, Jesus focuses on God’s law of marriage “from the beginning” (Mt. 19:4, 8) and emphatically states, “Therefore what God united, a human cannot divide” (Mt. 19:6).

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         1Unless otherwise stated, translations are mine from the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Text Form. See also, Leslie McFall, APPENDIX B, abstracted from his e‑book on divorce (11 august, 2014): AN EXPLANATION FOR THE AUTHOR’S LITERAL TRANSLATION OF MATTHEW 19:9.
           2Leslie McFall, The Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage, rev. Aug. 2014: 159. https://lmf12.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/divorce_aug_2014.pdf.

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