The following considerations are given on behalf of a friend who is currently in the midst of a violent and miserable marriage and has been as many of us are, the victim of a failed Church and State, pursuant unto the Jesuit Counter-Reformation agenda. My friend has been told for years now that she is bound in a state of marriage with a person who has physically abused her and consistently denies her fundamental marital duties.

Martin Bucer was a 16th Century Protestant Reformer in Strasbourg, a contemporary and friend of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. He wrote voluminously on the issues that concern the application of Christian theology to society. The following will be based on his Of the Kingdom of Christ quoted in The Prose Works of John Milton, Volume 1. In this treatise we must first keep in mind the way the relationship between two covenanted parties  is understood. Just as in the Divine Right of Kings debate in Rutherford’s Lex Rex, we are going to find that the Protestant idea of a conditional covenant, as opposed to a mystical, superstitious and therefore tyrannical sacramental relationship, is key in escaping the conscience searing effects of Anchorism. Just as in the Anchoretic superstitions regarding ceremonies, candles, incense, robes, vestments, altars, relics, prayers to dead saints, and homage paid to rotting corpses “It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” (Prov 20:25). Marriage is not a sacrament. It is a conditional covenant that only the civil authorities can ultimately dissolve as this issue pertains to the sphere of secular authority; a category that Rome adamantly despises because this is just another attempt by the Anchoretic Churches to completely control the state and all of human life. An over solemn attitude towards marriage is based on a typical Roman Catholic view of arbitrary authority. But that is the point isn’t it? As Protestants we believe in a real distinction between the secular and the sacred. We believe in a real distinction between Church and State. Rome wants the Church above the State. The Anglicans want the State above the Church, but we Protestants have the view that has been the bread and butter of human progress for the last 500 years: distinct spheres of authority and function for Church and State.

Marriage is not a sacrament therefore it may be dissolved if the terms of the covenant are not met, just like we saw in the Scottish Reformation, where if the King does not meet the terms of the covenant between the people and himself he may be resisted and overthrown with violence if necessary.  Covenants have terms and obligations, they are not unconditional.

I am going to quote the primary passages of scripture that deal with these issues of divorce and remarriage and immediately give necessary commentary and consideration, all in defense of the idea that physical adultery is not the only grounds for the right to divorce and remarry and the desertion spoken of by Paul in 1 Cor 7 can be extended to other sins or impotencies giving full right to the innocent spouse to divorce and remarry after all attempts to correct the abuse through Church and State fail.

Isa 50:1 Thus says the Lord, “Where is the certificate of divorce By which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away

I wanted to begin this little discourse by reminding us that God himself divorced Israel for their sins and so we should not think of Divorce as something evil in itself. If that was so, God is evil for divorcing Israel.

Deut 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

Mat 5: 31 “It was said, ‘ Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32  but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mat 19: 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Rom 7:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

The first axiom that we must accept is that Jesus’ teaching does not contradict Moses’ teaching (See my Tables of Human Hearts, I. Thirty Two Theses in Defense of the Moral Law. xxvi-xvii).  Second, considering Deut 24, John Gill points out, “This word “uncleanness” does not signify adultery, or any of the uncleannesses forbidden in ( Leviticus 18:6-19 ) ; because that was punishable with death”. So I want to be clear that this passage was not given by Moses to appease the emotional turmoil of a person who has been betrayed through their spouse’s sexual unfaithfulness or desertion. That is not what Christ means by hardness of heart.   The Jews were putting away wives THAT MET ALL QUALIFICATIONS FOR A LAWFUL SPOUSE. This sinful attitude was tolerated (not morally sanctioned) to maintain the commonwealth of Israel at that time. So let it be clear that when the Lord Jesus Christ addresses this issue, it is in the context of a wife who meets the necessary qualifications and obligations for a lawful spouse, JUST LIKE IN DEUT 24 (See Bucer pg. 280; That is why Christ does not mention desertion as a grounds for divorce but Paul does)! This is not the same thing as a person who physically abuses their spouse and refuses to meet necessary marital obligations. In Fisher’s Catechism, Q.72, he says,

“Q. 20. Why then does our Lord tell the Pharisees, Matt. 19:8, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives?”

A. The meaning is, Moses, because of the wicked and malicious disposition of the Jews, and in order to prevent a greater evil, namely, the ill usage, or even killing of their hated wives, (if they could not be separated from them) permitted processes of divorce to be legally commenced.”

Do people not have hard hearts anymore? Does the greater evil of remaining bound in a miserable and wretched marriage which can only lead to adultery not exist anymore? This is preposterous, of course it does and I find it fascinating that Fisher does not say a word about the meaning and extents of the desertion spoken of in 1 Cor 7! Bucer speaks in detail on the great extents of the evils produced by the Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to grant divorces and the multiplied evils that were produced by it. It is the same sinfulness today as in the days of Moses, and we have the same greater evil to avoid stemming from the same rights and obligations of men as in the time of Moses.  So how could someone make the argument that Deut 24:1 no longer applies to Christian societies? This is the attitude of the Romanists: a person being beaten and refused marital benefits (When they do not have the gift of celibacy-Mat 19:11) which leads to adultery is better than divorce and remarriage. I wonder why a Romanist would say something like that? Maybe they want their people to live under despair and moral depravity pursuant  unto an ecclesiastical and civil agenda. Maybe those sins are used by the Church to keep their societies morally depraved so that they will never investigate what is going on behind closed doors in their Churches. Hmm…………(See Bucer on page 267 where he attributes a denial of divorce and remarriage as a popish antichristian doctrine)

Ezra 9:1 Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites.2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.”…10: 3 So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

I have failed to find a single OT commentator give this verse much detailed explanation with regard to its relationship to 1 Cor 7. Some erroneously allege that Paul’s 1 Cor 7 passage overrides this passage in Ezra. Such talk is Gnostic and quite frankly stupid. In 1 Cor 7 Paul is speaking to people who married as unbelievers and then subsequently one of them became a believer. In that situation divorce was not to be immediately pursued but only pursued if the unbelieving spouse deserted. This law is required because the Covenant of Grace is now extending to nations historically alien to God. That was not the case with Ezra 9 and 10. You had a believing people taking unbelieving spouses. That was directly forbidden in Deut 7:3.  The marriage was null and void because it was an unlawful vow. It is the same teaching for OT saints as NT saints. Same law. Same religion! Paul clearly forbids marrying unbelievers just like Moses did in the OT (1 Cor 7:39, 2 Cor 6:14), and no vow is binding that is unlawful! This is the exact issue that the first Reformers had to deal with when their vows of celibacy were revoked as unlawful and Luther for instance having acknowledged the unlawfulness of that vow took a wife.

Mal 2:14 Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 [But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And [what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit,  that you do not deal treacherously.

Kiel & Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Malachi 2:13-16 may be referenced to introduce you to the flow of thought, and the use of these terms through Malachi’s prophecy which all agrees with John Calvin’s commentary on Deut 24 when he states,

“Still, God chose to make a provision for women who were cruelly oppressed, and for whom it was better that they should at once be set free, than that they should groan beneath a cruel tyranny during their whole lives. Thus, in Malachi, divorce is preferred to polygamy, since it would be a more tolerable condition to be divorced than to bear with a harlot and a rival. (Malachi 2:14.)”

1 Cor 7: 1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.5  Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife[Already at the time of conversion-DS]  who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

This passage truly is an all out indictment against miserable marriage. Theodosius I, a great Christian Emperor from the 4th Century, extended 1 Cor 7:15 to many areas of sin as was pointed out in the Encyclopaedia Americana, Volume 4  by Gamaliel and Vethake that divorce was lawful if your spouse was a witch, a murderer a slave trader, sacrilegious, a thief, a robber, overly flirtatious, refusal to regular cohabitation, a frequenter of illicit plays, or a traitor.  On page 277 of Bucer, he says that  offenses that by the civil laws of God or man require death or long term imprisonment constitute an abandonment or an infamy and therefore are grounds for divorce and remarriage. He adds on page 274 that a refusal to provide conjugal duty is grounds for divorce (Better to marry than to burn is no less true of the deserted or divorced person) as is physical abuse as Bucer shows on page 275. Wouldn’t such teaching also condemn such contemporary sins such as a refusal to work and support the family, refusal to bear or care for children, unrepentant addiction to pornography, alcoholism or drug abuse as grounds for divorce?

Objections:

  1. If you have a situation where there is abuse a separation is required not divorce!

Ans. First there is no difference between a desertion and a separation. Second, if the abused mother separates how is she going to provide for the children? If she appeals to the state she will have to first divorce the man for the state to grant her child support privileges.

2. Well, ok you can divorce but you can’t remarry, that would be adultery!

Ans. The right to divorce is the same as the right to remarry (Bucer, pg. 280). The whole point of 1 Cor 7:15 is that if you are deserted you are not bound to misery as a single person. You have a right to divorce, which means you have a right to remarry.

3. Divorce defiles the person (Deut 24:1-3) and is even on your own terms simply a deterrent to a greater evil! Is that not sin?

Ans. In the sense that God’s law allows it, it is not a sin. However, in a societal sense there is a social reproach that comes with divorce and remarriage. Lev 21:7 does not allow a man who married a divorced woman to be a priest. Picking up off of this passage, a Roman Bishop named Leo only removed a man from the priesthood for marrying a divorced woman, he did not dissolve the marriage or excommunicate him (Bucer, pg. 270- Leo, Ep. 85, to the African Bishops of Mauritania Caesariensis). Therefore, the  male spouse of a couple where one person has been divorced should not hold positions of Church leadership (The female spouse of course is not eligible for Church office).

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Addendum

Jewish Encyclopedia, on Divorce states,

“In the Mishnaic period the theory of the law that the husband could divorce his wife at will was challenged by the school of Shammai. It interpreted the text of Deut. xxiv. 1 in such a manner as to reach the conclusion that the husband could not divorce his wife except for cause, and that the cause must be sexual immorality (Git. ix. 10; Yer. Soṭah i. 1, 16b). The school of Hillel, however, held that the husband need not assign any reason whatever; that any act on her part which displeased him entitled him to give her a bill of divorce (Giṭ. ib.). The opinion of the school of Hillel prevailed. Philo of Alexandria (“Of Special Laws Relating to Adultery,” etc., ch. v.; English ed., ii. 310, 311) and Josephus (“Ant.” iv. 8) held this opinion. Jesus seems to have held the view of the school of Shammai (Matt. xix. 3-9).”

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5238-divorce