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Divorce And Remarriage In The ChurchDivorce and remarriage re-examined

There are countless books on this topic, but this one brings genuinely new insights from the author's study of the Bible's background. It is Divorce & Remarriage in the Church by David Instone-Brewer (Paternoster, 2003, ISBN 1-84227-180-6). This is a simpler re-working of his more academic volume on the same subject and, as such, is very readable as well as highly practical.

He concludes that while God remains opposed to divorce, the Bible does permit it on four grounds (one in Deut 24 and three in Exodus 21)—and that biblical divorce assumes the right to remarry. He shows how Jesus and Paul's teaching, understood in context, harmonise fully with the OT position. Here are a few snippets to give the flavour.

God is a divorcee - and he 'hates' it as much as any victim of divorce… But…the Bible does not regard the victim as the sinner. It is the person who is guilty of causing the marriage to break up whom Jesus addressed when he said: 'Those whom God has joined, no-one should separate.' In other words, his warning is not to the person who finally tidies up the legal mess after the marriage has broken down, but to those who would violate their marriage vows and, in so doing, cause the marriage to break up. (p8)

The Old Testament recognises four grounds for divorce. The first three are neglect of food, clothing and conjugal love (by either husband or wife) and the fourth is committing adultery. (p25)

It is ironic that the NT, which emphasises God's grace and forgiveness, is usually regarded as much harsher [than the OT] with regard to victims of marital abuse. The traditional interpretation assumes that Jesus introduced a new and stricter policy which overturned the OT principle that a victim has the right to bring their suffering to an end. But if we examine Jesus' attitude to the OT we find that he had a very high regard for it, so we would not expect him to overturn one of its important moral principles. (p37)

This book may be read in full online at the author's website - or read my own summary of its key points.


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