The Great Divorce Debate: Redux-a-dux!

--Turkel Responds Again (and again, and again) and Mr. Krueger Answers—

Part 2

Submitted by Doug Krueger

Following is Part 2 of Mr. Krueger’s rebuttal to Turkel’s on-going rant over Mr. Krueger’s original divorce article. The format here is what Mr. Krueger used. I have not edited any of the material he sent to me. Recall that whenever Turkel quotes from critics that use his real name, he replaces it with his pseudonym, “Holding,” in brackets.




PART FOUR:  Jesus' audience would not have assumed that his views on divorce were mainstream.


Because Turkel has had a difficult time understanding the previous two issues, I have included in previous rebuttals an explanation about why Jesus' audiences in Mark 10 and Matthew 19 would NOT have assumed that his views on divorce were mainstream Jewish views that allowed divorce and remarriage, and thus, since this is the heart of Turkel's defense, his defense fails.  My previous rebuttal had nine points on this issue (a typo had it at seven, but I'd added two more later--Turkel apparently didn't notice).  Here are the nine points, A through I, and Turkel's weak or nonexistent rebuttals.


  1. Jesus expressly prohibits divorce in Mark 10, and since this is not a mainstream view, no assumptions would be made that Jesus' other views are mainstream.  So no "background" assumptions, of the sort crucial to Turkel's defense, would be present.


Mark 10:5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.  9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


Turkel has argued at length that allowing divorce and remarriage was mainstream in Jesus' day.  Since this view against divorce is not mainstream, no one would have assumed that Jesus' views on remarriage were mainstream after hearing him prohibit divorce!  Turkel has several weak responses to this.


Turkel writes:

Jesus' view differed only from that of Hillelite Pharisees, not Shammaite Pharisees, and his view was not "radical" or unusual.



Well, this is demonstrably false, and I cited the verse to prove it.  Jesus prohibited divorce, so his view differed from both the Hillel and Shammai schools.


Turkel's other response is that, read in context, Jesus does not prohibit divorce.  But Jesus was specifically asked whether divorce was permitted and he clearly said it was not.  He was not asked, nor did he state, under what conditions divorce is permitted.  He could not have been clearer in his absolute prohibition of divorce.  Turkel's protests about context, once again, cannot change the clear statements in the text.


(A1)  In this context I had also pointed out that Jesus sometimes used a formulaic way of introducing a new precept by stating "Moses said (or the law said, or "it has been said") that you should do x, but I tell you to do y," as in Matthew 5:33: "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all..."  Where Jesus departed from what Mosaic law dictated, he often pointed this out by reference to it, as he does in Mark 10 regarding divorce.  This is just an indicator of the fact that Jesus' departed from Moses in that Jesus prohibits divorce. 


Turkel responds by pretending that he doesn't know why I would point out that Jesus uses reference to Moses to emphasize a new rule.  Turkel writes:


"What this is intended to prove is far from clear and is not explained. Apparently Krueger in his miseducation believes that this establishes some sort of pattern whereby one may determine whether Jesus was giving a non-mainstream view."


Turkel then argues that some of the points Jesus highlights with reference to Moses are not new, and in doing so he has no qualms about misrepresenting the issue.  For example, regarding the departure from the oath-taking dictates of Moses, in example above, Turkel tries to make Jesus' view seem mainstream by saying that Jews already had the concern that oaths should not be taken carelessly.  "Matthew 5:33-7 reflects a mainstream Jewish (and pagan) concern that oaths not be taken carelessly," writes Turkel.  That's his rebuttal? 


Saying that one should not take oaths carelessly is not the same thing as prohibiting them altogether.  What an obvious distortion!  Turkel has no shame.  In any case, this does not detract from the fact that references to Moses were often used in the way I described, and in Mark 10 Jesus is clear that he departs from what Moses said about the permissibility of divorce, and that Jesus prohibits divorce in Mark 10.  Turkel's rebuttal fails.


(A2)  I gave examples of where Jesus was seen departing from mainstream Jewish beliefs by declaring all foods clean" (Mark 7:18-19) and not washing their hands before eating (Mark 7:1-5).


Mark 7:1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"


Mark 7:18"Are you so dull?" [Jesus] asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")


Each of these examples preceds Mark 10, so readers of Mark, and presumably Jesus' audience, would not have assumed that Jesus' views in other areas, such as divorce and remarriage, are mainstream because he is known to have radically different views in other areas.  In Mark, the Pharisees themselves saw him depart from tradition before asking him about divorce.  So NO ONE would have assumed that Jesus' views were mainstream.  This is solid evidence against Turkel's defense. 


Turkel's response?  He's so scared of this "smoking gun" NT evidence that he doesn't allow his website readers to see the material I cited, and he only refers to the chapters, not even to the specific verses.


Turkel responded:

Of all of Krueger's miseducated attempts to wrest Jesus from mainstream views, only a cluster he retrieves from Mark 7//Matt. 15 comes even close, and these are all issues of personal, ritual and moral purity and practice that are of an entirely different category than matters of human interaction such as divorce, and also relate to the broader conceptions of what constituted purity in the ancient world, a complex topic with a wide variety of expressions and modes. The average "Josephus" on the street in Jerusalem was ritually unclean for the Pharisees; few would have had the time or the concern to adhere to their miggling level of purity coding.



Well, the cited departures from tradition were not simply opportunities in which he presented more details about handwashing or unclean foods, but instances where he discards the tradition altogether.  This is radical, and Turkel's attempt to pass off Jesus' departure from some of the basic beliefs of Jewish tradition as mere pedantry that would not have interested most Jews

is clearly incorrect.  Whether some foods are unclean was of interest to all Jews, obviously, as it would be today. 


That Turkel is too frightened of this devastating evidence to even refer to it directly is why I refer to him as the "chicken" in the title of this rebuttal series.  And instead of calling this a roast, it makes more sense to call him "fried."  These examples alone destroy his defense, and he knows it.  That's why he didn't allow his readers to see them.


Turkel continues:

That Jesus offered a differing view on purity practice and regulations than the Pharisees does not magically poof into a less than mainstream view on divorce, any more than a differing view on environmentalism suggests a differing view on child-raising techniques. As usual, Krueger is simplistically and ethnocentrically viewing these complex topics through the lens of a simpleton's microscope.



More Turkel distortion.  I had never argued that since Jesus' views on clean and unclean practices were not mainstream, that this implies that his views on divorce are not mainstream.  As usual, Turkel constructs a straw man.  I argued that since Jesus' views on other matters were known by many people to depart radically from mainstream Jewish teachings, no one would have assumed that Jesus' views on other subjects were the mainstream Jewish views. 


So Turkel's defense fails, and he's done nothing with regard to this evidence so show otherwise.  If you attack a straw opponent, the real opponent is left standing.  A lesson Turkel should learn, but he doesn't want his readers to see him fight real opponents, does he?


Now, for the overkill.  More points to show that Turkel's defense fails.


B. For Mark's Jesus, the reason you cannot remarry is that you cannot get divorced in the first place.  Since this was not even close to the mainstream view of the average Jew at that time, listeners would not have assumed that Jesus' view on remarriage (which is part of the issue) was mainstream.


Turkel's response:

"Krueger gives no citation or explanation for this wacky idea, which is utterly false and at best is based on, and therefore a restatement of, the same low-context reading he continues to throw out anachronistically."


In my previous rebuttal I gave a detailed exposition of the relevant verses in Mark 10, which shows Jesus explicitly prohibiting divorce.  Turkel pleads ignorance, but this is no rebuttal.


C.    Jesus states that his view on divorce differs from that of Moses, who allowed divorce.  If his views differed from that of Moses, who allowed divorce, and which was the main influence for the mainstream view at the time, listeners would not have assumed that Jesus' view was mainstream.


Turkel's earlier response was to insist that "there was not much that mattered in terms of how one viewed the Mosaic law on this subject, since it could not be enforced anyway."  I showed how this was absurd, since Jesus refers to Moses many times precisely because Mosaic law was important.


Turkel realizes that I am correct on this rebuttal.  Now he merely states: "Jesus says no such thing; there is no disagreement at all expressed with Moses, again, other than by arbitrarily and anachronistically imposing a low-context reading. Krueger is merely restating his original argument in another form, oblivious to the answer which still defeats him."


Again, I gave a detailed exposition of the Mark 10 material, which shows Jesus prohibiting divorce, and I have even shown that interpreting this as an absolute prohibition on divorce is the standard scholarly interpretation found in biblical reference works.  And Jesus disagrees with Moses on many occasions, as he himself states and as many of his readers up on their bible

will know.  Turkel's defense fails.


(Turkel also makes the absurd claim that the bible is not antiwoman, but that claim is both too stupid to merit a response here and irrelevant to the issue--I'm trying to keep this response short-- so I won't address this obvious canard.  Only the most dense of his readership would believe it.)


D.    In prohibiting divorce, Jesus in Mark differs from the Pharisees, who allowed it.  If his views differed from that of the Pharisees, who agreed with the mainstream view, listeners would not have assumed that Jesus' view was mainstream.


Turkel's response: "This is yet again, yet again, Krueger reading the texts in a low context and merely restating his original argument."


Jesus prohibits divorce absolutely in Mark 10, all NT scholars know it, and this differs from the views of the Pharisees which Turkel has taken such pains to insist allow divorce and remarriage.  The Pharisees also saw that Jesus differed with them on other matters.  Turkel's hollow protest about context is no rebuttal.  We can see from the bible itself that Jesus was not a mainstream Jew.


E.    The Pharisees were specifically asking Jesus about his views on the permissibility of divorce.  Because his doctrine on divorce was the explicit subject at hand, he should not omit an important bit of information that is essential to his listeners' understanding of his views on divorce.  An exception clause is essential to his view on divorce, there is no such clause in Mark 10, so the Mark audience would not have assumed that Jesus had such a clause because omitted it when asked to explain this very view.


Turkel responds:

This is still, still, still, Krueger ignoring the difference between high and low context and re-re-re-re-repeating the same old defeated argument that demands that the text inform his presumptive, low-context ignorance. He shows his anachronistic bigotry in the very statement, "Upon hearing a universal prohibition on divorce (and remarriage), no one would assume that Jesus had a mainstream clause allowing remarriage for some kinds of divorce...." This is completely false as shown by the parallels drawn to ANE marriage contracts and the rabbinic and Greco-Roman rulings, as well as the general attitude towards law described by Hillers, which clearly require a reader to assume a great deal in spite of seemingly "universal" prohibitions, and which Krueger cannot answer.



But upon just having heard a universal prohibition on divorce, no one would assume that Jesus had a mainstream clause allowing remarriage for some kinds of divorce.  Turkel's cries of "context" work against him.  BECAUSE Jesus was known to depart from the mainstream in this and other areas, when asked about divorce, if he omits something to which others agree, no one would assume that he has unspoken mainstream views.  Turkel argues at length that the mainstream Jewish views were well-known.  So everyone would have known that Jesus was not mainstream, and no one would have made any assumptions about exception clauses.  Turkel fails again.


F.    Since the Pharisees asked Jesus whether divorce is allowed at all, the Pharisees were clearly making no assumptions about Jesus' views or they would not have asked a question so basic.  If the Pharisees ask Jesus whether divorce is legal, and he answers that old laws permitted it but now it should not be allowed, it is the height of absurdity to claim, as Turkel does, that everyone would assume that Jesus endorsed divorce and remarriage under some conditions.


Turkel responds:

This is still the same argument restated yet another way, and it cannot be compared, as Krueger does it, to modern legal atomizing and immigration law. As usual Krueger is too enthnocentric to comprehend the vast differences between a pre-literate/high-context and a literate/low-context society, and how they would each approach explanations of the law.



This is no rebuttal.  Since the Pharisees themselves know that Jesus' views are radical in some areas, they ask WHETHER divorce is permitted, not WHEN it is permitted.  They are making no assumptions about his views on divorce, and this explains why they ask such a basic question.  If the Pharisees had assumed that Jesus allowed divorce, then the reverse would have been the case: they would have asked WHEN divorce is permitted, not WHETHER it is.  At one point Turkel insists that the reverse is the case, which is patent nonsense.  Turkel's response leaves their question inexplicable where my view explains it.  The Pharisees would not have asked a question more basic than what they already (allegedly) assumed to be the case.  So Turkel fails to rebut my point.


G. That the Pharisees ask Jesus whether divorce is legal suggests that they either suspect (correctly!) that he does not allow it because they have heard news about his views, or they have heard of other wandering preachers who do have such a prohibition and are concerned that Jesus may have such a view.  In either case, the fact that they seem to suspect that Jesus' views are not mainstream suggests that they would not have made assumptions contrary to their suspicions.  And they, and the audience, would not assume that his views on divorce are mainstream.


Turkel's response:

It suggests no such thing; they are, as we have shown and which Krueger fails to answer other than by bald and simple re-assertion of the same arguments restated 5,837,847 different ways, determining where he stands in the Hillel-Shammai debate.



Nonsense.  If they wanted to see when Jesus allowed divorce, as if to see which side of the Pharisee debate he was on, they would not have asked whether divorce is allowed, but when it is allowed.  The question they ask is evidence that Turkel is wrong (see previous point).  Turkel can't see that, and so his point fails.


Turkel also adds:

It is telling that Krueger must insert fictitious "wandering preachers" with otherwise unattested views on divorce into the mix to give this argument a semblance of sensibility.



Wandering preachers such as John the Baptist and some of the Essenes?  Those are not fictions, and it is well-known that their views differed significantly from those of the NT Pharisees.  Later wandering preachers such as Paul oppose getting married in the first place, so it was common for wandering preachers to differ from mainstream views.  Jesus was a wandering preacher already known to differ from the mainstream in other areas, so it would be absurd to think that Jesus' lay audience in Mark, or the Pharisees, or his disciples, would have simply assumed that his views on divorce were mainstream.  Turkel is showing his ignorance about wandering preachers in Jesus' day.  And this is the guy constantly crying about high context!


H.    The fact that, after Jesus has apparently explained his view on divorce to the Pharisees, his own disciples ask for further clarification shows that Jesus' views on this issue were unknown even in his closest circle.  If the disciples, according to Turkel, knew enough about Jesus' view to assume an exception to a rule, it is foolish for them to be asking Jesus to give them the rule to which it is an exception.  Yet this rule is precisely what they asked to have clarified. 


Mark 10:10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.


Jesus had a chance to explain any hidden assumptions, and he did not.  Now he has been asked twice to explain his views on divorce, and each time he gives his views (in Mark) with no mention of an adultery clause.  If he had such a clause, when would he mention it, if not to his closest friends or to his enemies, each of which are asking him for a clear explanation on the same occasion?


Turkel had previously attempted a response to this.


Turkel writes:

Jesus only tells the Pharisees of his view in terms of creation; the disciples ask again and get a precise accounting -- this is perfectly in accord with the ancient teaching paradigm in which insiders were given more detailed information that outsiders. Krueger is confused because Matthew and Luke order their material differently; Luke uses the "adultery" saying in a different contextual setting, and Matthew does not report the differentiation between the "insider" and "outsider" teaching in order to make a cohesive teaching unit, in line with his arrangement principles. There is nothing here to suggest that the issues lack in clarity or foster dispute.


Doug had replied, in the previous roast:

Turkel's own reply shows that he doesn't understand the problem.  Even if it is the case that the prohibition on divorce is explained in "terms of creation," Turkel admits that "the disciples ask again and get a precise accounting."  The "precise accounting" turns out to be a set of statements about whether one can remarry after divorce.  Now, first, if the disciples have to "ask again," this is because they don't already know Jesus' position, and if they don't know it, then they are not making assumptions they do know, contrary to Turkel's defense.  If Jesus' view was so mainstream that even the Pharisees know it, his disciples would know it too, but they don't.  So it is obviously not mainstream.  Turkel's point here contradicts the main line of his defense.  Secondly, as noted above, if the disciples need to be told the rule, they obviously don't know enough about Jesus' views to assume exceptions to the rule.  A third relevant rebuttal is that if Jesus addresses the disciples to give "a precise accounting" and he leaves out a crucial exception clause, then they did not get a precise explanation, did they?  Turkel's rebuttal fails.


Turkel now responds:

Krueger bellows back that this explanation "shows that [Holding] doesn't understand the problem," but I do understand the "problem" and it is a problem of Krueger's own creation and a product of his own ignorance and crass fundaliteralism. As a reader outside of a programmatic teacher-disciple relationship in the ancient world, Krueger has no conception of the difference between Jesus' answers to the Pharisees as an "outgroup" to whom Jesus gave a public and less clear response, and the disciples as an "ingroup" who got and deserved a more explicit answer, that was neverthless no different in terms of meaning than the answer given to the Pharisees -- and that answer, again, can only be understood in terms of the difference between the high and low context settings which Krueger either refuses to grasp or, more likely, is unable to grasp, as he continues to think that the explanation to the disciples was not "precise" enough because it fails to meet his own low-context expectations and because it uses "explicitly universal terms" (which as we have shown in the context of ancient law codes and legal practice, is a meaningless point)! He demands "further information" and he has it -- he simply refuses to recognize it because it collapses his case into bigoted anachronism.



The ingroup/outgroup distinction only makes Turkel's case worse!  When allegedly giving this "precise accounting" to his own "ingroup" (in Mark 10), from which Jesus would have no reason to hide any of his views, he still does not include the crucial exception clause in his exposition, a clause which Turkel says Jesus allowed.  So even when asked by his own "ingroup" to be

more explicit about his views on divorce, Jesus still does not include any clause for adultery.  So Jesus' own disciples did not assume that they knew his views (since he departed from the mainstream, as we've seen), and when asked for more details, the exposition about the subject of divorce and remarriage still lacks that clause--and so it still contradicts the Matthew verses.  Jesus in Mark had the opportunity to allow divorce and remarriage for some reasons in his "precise accounting" and did not.  The contradiction stands.


Turkel also writes:

(He [Doug Krueger] also seems to be under the impression that it is somehow meaningful that the Pharisees and disciples did not apparently know Jesus' views on this before! This is ridiculous for obviously Jesus had to explain his views to these persons for the first time at some point!)



Again, Turkel's own point works against him.  If Jesus had not explained his views before the episode in Mark 10, and he is asked about this specific subject, about whether one can divorce, since he is known to depart from tradition in other ways (known by his disciples and the Pharisees), then no one would have assumed anything mainstream in his views that would "go

without saying."  The information is given for the first time from a man that has a reputation for dismissing tradition in some areas, and so no assumptions are made by his audience, even his disciples.  That's why the disciples ask for clarification.  Turkel fails again.


I.    Jesus' wording of the prohibition on divorce and remarriage use explicitly universal terms (see Mark 10 above), undermining thoughts of possible exceptions.  Prima facie, there are no exceptions.  Given this, exceptions would have to be shown and should not be assumed until further information is obtained.


Turkel does not address this point specifically, but his general insistence on context and his remarks that ancient laws did not always include their exceptions when stated, are presumably intended to serve as a rebuttal.  Typical would be his statement that "because the 'adultery exception' was a firm and universal background, no one needed to say, 'except for adultery' for the exception to be known."


However, as we have seen, because Jesus' views were not mainstream, the Mark audience would not make any such background assumptions, and so his prima facie prohibition on divorce and remarriage in all cases should be taken as face value--which contradicts Matthew's statements.  His assertions that ancient laws were not always described with their exceptions, which were left implied, don't apply here because of the CLEAR case against making assumptions about implied exceptions.


Everyone in Jesus' audience knew that his views were not mainstream.  So no one would have assumed that he had mainstream exceptions implied in any of his universal rules.  Period.  Turkel's defense fails.



As I mentioned last time, I had included verses from Paul and Deuteronomy to bolster the case that the bible contradicts itself on whether one can divorce and remarry, but since Turkel's responses to these were so absurd, and because his defense fails so miserably even on the main lines of the gospel writings, I won't whip the dead chicken. 


The "Assumption" defense just doesn't work.


POSTSCRIPT:  Silly scenario.


Turkel included in one of his rebuttals an imaginary report of a woman who is under the impression that I have proven that "kindness is bad."  I rebutted Turkel's silly scenario in my previous rebuttal, but Turkel included the same failed points again in his most recent rebuttal and did not address any of my rebuttal.  Since he included nothing new, readers can refer to the end of my previous rebuttal for details. 


Oddly, Turkel concludes his foolish scenario with "Krueger could not be reached for further comment."  I did comment, and Turkel did not let his readers see it. 




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