Comments/Questions from Readers

Question #33: If "adultery" has to "involve a married woman and a man other than her husband", then how is the man committing "adultery" by putting away his wife and marrying another? I do understand the principal, just not the reasoning behind your statement.

I probably should have rephrased that statement slightly. While adultery DOES involve a married woman and a man other than her husband, that is not the DEFINITION of adultery. The best definition of the Biblical word "na'aph" is "woman that breaketh wedlock" and literally refers to the violation of a marriage covenant. The wife who lays with a man other than her husband has committed adultery (she is an adulteress) but the man she lays with has ALSO committed adultery (he is an adulterer). This other man was not a party to the original marriage covenant and he has broken no vows of his own, yet he is called an adulterer in Scripture and the death penalty was identical under the Mosaic law for both the adulteress and the adulterer. They were both guilty of adultery, because they were both guilty of causing the "woman to break wedlock". The man she laid with is not a "woman breaking wedlock", but his actions directly resulted in the "woman breaking wedlock", which is why he is called an adulterer in Scripture and why his fate was the same as hers. This is VITAL to understand, because to be entirely accurate, although adultery involves a married woman and a man other than her husband, it may ALSO involve her husband as well (being a willing third party to the adultery). The Scripture reference in question is in Matthew 19.

Matthew 19:3-10: "And the Pharisees came to Him, trying Him, and saying to Him, "Is it right for a man to put away his wife for every reason?" And He answering, said to them, "Did you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what Elohim has joined together, let man not separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Mosheh command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts, Mosheh allowed you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever puts away his wife, except on the ground of whoring, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who has been put away commits adultery." His taught ones said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is good not to marry."

It is important to read the entire passage in context, as well as the significant verse 9:

"And I say to you, whoever puts away his wife, except on the ground of whoring, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who has been put away commits adultery."

As you know, for any adultery to occur, there must be at least two parties, a man and a woman. Adultery cannot occur with only one person involved. Scripture is clear that the woman MUST be married for adultery to occur, but the man MAY or MAY NOT be married as well. His marital status is irrelevant as it pertains to whether he commits adultery with a woman. It is solely the marital status of the woman that determines whether adultery occurs. That being said, look carefully at Jesus' words in Matt. 19:9.

Whoever (a) PUTS AWAY WIFE and (b) WITHOUT WHORING ISSUE and (c) MARRIES ANOTHER, he adulterates. In addition, whoever (d) MARRIES THE PUT AWAY WIFE also adulterates.

Verse 9 makes it clear that the put away wife in (a) and (d) is the exact same woman. The entire statement is framed in the sense that this woman has certainly remarried. The passage doesn't say, "IF anyone marries her...", as if this was but one possibility. Rather, it says "AND whoever marries her...", providing the contextual evidence that her remarrige is a direct result of having been put away. Jesus does not seperate the effect from the cause. Her husband unlawfully put her away, and the man who then marries her adulterates. Once we see that the wife remarries as a result of being put away, we see that the husband who put her away is responsible for her adultery through his own actions. He has essentially exchanged one wife for another, and by replacing her, he has forced his first wife into the undesirable position of becoming an adulteress through his own deceitful actions.

We can see why this fact is important in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:32: "But I say to you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the matter of whoring, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery."

Here's the second half of Matthew 5:32, translated literally word-for-word from the original Greek text:

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and who ever put away marrying adulterates

Here's the second half of Matthew 19:9, again translated literally word-for-word from the original Greek text:

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and the one   put away marrying adulterates

We can see in Matthew 5:32 that the husband who unlawfully puts away his wife makes her commit adultery. Once again, the second half of the verse rests on the fact that she remarries. This is the adultery that results from the unlawful separation, and the first half of the verse makes it clear that Jesus lays the blame for the adultery on the husband who put her away. This is how and why the original husband commits adultery. His actions are the direct cause of the resultant adultery by forcing his "woman to break wedlock". She makes an oath to remain his exclusively and he forces her to break her vow by putting her away without cause and without recourse. He is just as guilty of adultery as the man she lays with. Both men are guilty of causing this "woman to break wedlock".

Although the verse doesn't explicitly say so, I believe that the reason for the guilt laying with the original husband is because, in taking a replacement wife, he has essentially written off his first wife. It would be unheard of for a husband to put away one wife and take another, only to later decide to take his first wife back. Any man who was committed enough to send her away in the first place would likely never consider allowing her back once a substitute wife was taken.

Remember, both Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 make the assumption that the husband and wife marry others, and that adultery ensues as a result. In numerous Scriptures, the wife of a living husband is explicitly told that she cannot remarry without committing adultery, and any passages in Scripture that make explicit allowances for her remarriage are only in the context of reconciliation with her husband.




"...In essentials we maintain unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love..."

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