The purpose of this series of posts is to identify the biblical guidelines for divorce and remarriage. So you don’t have to wait until the last post to find my conclusion, here it is: I conclude that both the Old and New Testaments provide certain grounds for a valid divorce, which includes the option of remarriage. Divorce outside of these grounds is forbidden to Christians, and Christians are always encouraged to maintain the marriage. Read on for the details!
This is not an essay on marriage; it is on divorce and marriage after divorce. I won’t be focusing on marriage itself: its purpose, benefits, role in society, etc. This essay is not a sermon; I won’t be including exhortations to build strong marriages, or to remain faithful in marriage. These are valid and worthwhile topics, and should be addressed; it just won’t be done in these posts.
On the subject of divorce and remarriage, Christians read the same Bible verses and come to very different conclusions; this is no different than what I have discovered was true in the time of Jesus and before. It is refreshing and encouraging that all the writings I’ve read on the subject are from sincere believers, whether Jewish or Christian, who have a respect for God’s word and a desire to obey it. I hope to be counted in that group.
This is a controversial and difficult topic, and I encourage Christians to be charitable and tolerant of each other. Faithful, Bible-believing Christians hold to a diversity of views on this issue (as on many others). We should make room for different perspectives and not call into question the spirituality or faithfulness of those who disagree with us.
Readers of these posts should not conclude that I am in favor of divorce, or that I counsel couples to seek a divorce. The opposite is true: in every case where friends of mine are contemplating divorce, I have urged them to remain married, to devote themselves to their spouse, and to seek reconciliation. My study on this topic has led me to the conclusion that divorce (and subsequent remarriage) is a biblically sanctioned option in some cases, and yet I firmly believe that as Christians we do not need to exercise this option, and I will continue to counsel couples to stay married.
Where we find difficulty we may always expect that a discovery awaits us. – C.S. Lewis
If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way. – Mark Twain
Both of these quotes have rung true for me. In wrestling with the twin issues of marriage and divorce, I have learned things about God I could not have learned any other way. I have discovered a deeper appreciation for the Bible, its depth, and the wisdom in its pages.
Among Christians, many (most?) discussions of marriage and divorce start and end with the New Testament (example, example, example). The Old Testament is barely referenced, if at all. This is unfortunate, because it is in the context of the Old Testament laws and their interpretations that the New Testament teachings are framed; to remove the words of Jesus and Paul from their Old Testament moorings is to risk misunderstanding them.
With that in mind, I will first look at the Old Testament laws regarding divorce and remarriage, and their interpretations, and then move on to the New Testament with its teaching and subsequent interpretations. Whenever I make a claim, I’ll back it up with a link to a source. If you’re inclined to disagree with the claim, check out the source. For example, I contend that the Old Testament gives four valid reasons for a divorce, each with the option of remarriage. You may not like this, and you may think I’m wrong. Click the link and read the (often lengthy) articles I cite. Don’t just disagree; do the research. You’ll be rewarded!
Note: the nature of the internet means these sources I link to may disappear or change, so sometimes I may take a screen shot or PDF of the source and link to that, and also provide the address of the original.