Christianity -- Christian Living/Divorce
In the Torah, divorce is not a sin and easily acquired. Yet, Jesus states that divorce is a sin unless adultery is the reason for the divorce. How do Christians explain this contradiction?
Hi Charles, I love questions like this one! It brings back all the joy of the pop quiz and reminds me how much I love to study. There is great reward and satisfaction in seeing the fruit in questions like yours. So thank you! :)
The passages in Torah that you're referring to are likely the ones from Deut 24:1-4
Deuteronomy 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
There was great debate among the schools of Shammai and Hillel over how to interpret that passage. Moses did permit the issuing of a certificate of divorce, the main question was regarding the grounds and what "indecent" meant.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus addresses this very issue (Mt 19:3-12). What Jesus does is point back to God's original intent: marriage. God doesn't give the gift of marriage and make a man and a woman "one flesh" in a mystical spiritual way so that we can have a pathway for divorce. If that one flesh has already been broken by marital unfaithfulness (what the school of Shammai taught) then divorce has already occurred spiritually and the certificate is just the visible evidence of what has already happened in the spiritual realm.
By pointing back to Genesis and the creation of Adam and Eve and God joining them as husband and wife, Jesus does the very thing that He did a lot. He pointed back to original intent and clarifies the higher standard to which God calls us. He often says, "You have heard it said"...."But I say to you." The Law (Torah) sets up outward guide posts to tell us the boundaries of sin so we won't transgress them. Jesus--in His teaching ministry--lays the groundwork for a world after His death when this Scripture is fulfilled:
Jeremiah 31:31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
The point of this passage is that the covenant was to create a holy people for God...a chosen people to display His Name for the nations. The Law--as good as it is--can only go so far in helping people to live out the Law. Jesus fulfills it by first, dying for human sin so forgiveness is possible and God's account of our sins has been washed away. But then Jesus fulfills it after His death because it paved the way for the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Christian's heart and inspires obedience and love for God from the inside out. The law is in our minds and on our hearts. The Holy Spirit was spoken about by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32).
So from God's point of view, God gave marriage, but man is sinful. Therefore, Moses granted a certificate of divorce to place limits on the breakup of marriage that God gave us. We still sinned and looked for ways to divorce instead of ways to stay married, therefore God sent Jesus to forgive us, give us the Holy Spirit so we might enjoy marriage as God intended. But where sin happens, forgiveness is available. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. Even if God hates divorce.
(Malachi 2:14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.)
So God's admonition is identical in the Tanakh and teachings of Torah...versus the Christian Gospels. God wants us to guard ourselves in the spiritual sense and not to break faith with Him. But the good news...and why the Gospel is such good news...is that where we fall short, Jesus stands with open arms ready to forgive the repentant sinner. Jesus gives us better than a legal certificate of divorce. He forgives.
Isn't that beautiful? :'-)
I hope this helps to show that what looks like a contradiction is just two different dimensions of God's original intent (marriage and Law) and how God sought to resolve sin in the days before Christ and still desires our repentance in the days after His coming before His return in judgment.
If you'd like clarification on anything, please feel free to ask a follow-up. I enjoy opportunities like this.
Blessings, Barbara <><