The Great Divorce Debate (2)

--Turkel Responds and Mr. Krueger Answers--

Following is Mr. Krueger’s rebuttal to Turkel’s response to Mr. Krueger’s original divorce article. It will be formatted according to Errancy II standards which has each author’s material preceded by their identifying name. In this case, the Tekton material will be preceded by TURKEL and Mr. Krueger’s material will be preceded by DOUG.



The following passages are sometimes placed in opposition:

Mk. 10:11 "He answered, 'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.'"

Mt. 19:9 "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

A "problem" is alleged in that Matthew includes an additional phrase, "except for marital unfaithfulness", not found in Mark.


Unfortunately, Turkel does not inform his readers that the contradiction is evident in other verses, not just these two from Matthew 19 and Mark 10. Turkel is misrepresenting the position to make it easier to refute. This is the Straw Man fallacy. Perhaps Turkel is citing a bible skeptic who did not fully flesh out the scope of the contradiction, but even if this is so, Turkel, who passes himself off as a biblical authority of some sort, should be aware of the difficulty of this biblical problem. Turkel's website is not presenting the problem in a way that gives his readers an adequate appreciation of the severity of the problem. Now that Turkel has seen a better developed presentation of the problem, we should expect him to modify his own exposition of the contradiction in order to be fair to readers of his website and to avoid the Straw Man fallacy.

TURKEL (cont'd)

Some critics say that the phrase was added to reflect the needs of the early church; and maybe it was, but that by no means requires that Jesus never added that qualification on His own at some point, perhaps in a different context or teaching. Matthew could simply have conflated two of Jesus' separate teachings, which is no crime.

1. The latter comment commits the fallacy of non sequitur. The issue is not whether it is a crime to conflate teachings, but whether the teachings contradict each other. 2. Turkel commits the fallacy of non sequitur in another way also. Whether the "critics" are correct about their speculation regarding why the verses contradict each other is not relevant to the problem. It may be interesting to find out how biblical contradictions arise, but the issue at hand is that the contradiction is there, not why it is there.

TURKEL (cont'd)

But the most likely reason for the difference is that Matthew was spelling out what Luke and Mark leave implicit within the social context. The divorce debate in Jewish circles in Jesus' day pitted the followers of Hillel against those of his rival, Shammai. Hillel took a more liberal view, permitting divorce in a variety of circumstances (even if the wife spoiled a meal!); Shammai, only in the case of adultery.


Again, explaining why the verses contradict each other may help readers understand the background scenarios that led to the writing of the New Testament, but WHY the verses contradict each other does not remove the fact that they DO contradict each other. So far Turkel has done nothing to show that there is no contradiction.

TURKEL (cont'd)

In both Jewish and Greco-Roman society, Blomberg notes in his commentary on Matthew, "divorce and remarriage were universally permitted and often mandatory following adultery." [292] Hagner's commentary on Matthew [549] adds: "Rabbinic Judaism required a husband to divorce and unfaithful wife." (m. Sota 5:1, m. Yebam 2:8; also Qumran literature, 1QapGen 20:15; Marcus Bockmuehl notes these passages and ties it not to Hillel and Shammai, but to halakhah on Deut. 24:4; neverthless his point is the same: the exception was presupposed -- Marcus Bockmuehl, "Mt. 5:32, 19:9 in Light of Pre-Rabbinic Halahkah," NTS 35 (1989), 291-5)


More non sequitur from Turkel. What nonbiblical sources say about divorce and remarriage may be interesting, but it is irrelevant to whether there is a contradiction in verses in the bible. It has already been shown that there is.

TURKEL (cont'd)

In other words, both sides agreed on the exception which Matthew adds, and by the same token, Jesus could certainly have safely presupposed it without any fear of misunderstanding.


Well, we finally, in his last sentence, find out his alleged solution to the problem.

Turkel proposes that in the situation described in Mark 10, Jesus could have safely assumed that his listeners would know of the exception to the divorce-and-remarry rule, so he didn't have to mention it. The exception was well-known, so Jesus didn't bother to restate it because his listeners already knew it. It is not stated explicitly in Turkel's "solution" whether Jesus was talking to two groups on two separate occasions or whether he did so on one occasion, but it seems most likely that Turkel intends for us to understand that Jesus was addressing two groups on two separate occasions, and that in one case Jesus omitted the exception because his audience was aware of it. Otherwise, if this was only one occasion, then Jesus did not say what is stated in Mark 10, so that would be a biblical error. So there were two occasions, and in one case Jesus gave a short version of the rule, apparently.

This defense fails for several reasons.

1. First, whether Jesus or his listeners knew of an exception to the rule or not, to state a rule that has an exception as a universal, exceptionless rule is still an error. If the rule has an exception, then to state it without an exception is an error, plain and simple. If ~[(x)(Dx & Rx => Ax)], then you shouldn't state (x)(Dx & Rx => Ax). It's that simple.

An analogy might help.

Exodus 22:14-15 tells us (NIV):

”If a man borrows an animal from his neighbour and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss."

So to state the rule as "Anyone who borrows an animal and it dies, must pay restitution" is to commit an error. That isn't true. The rule is: "Anyone who borrows an animal and it dies, must pay restitution unless the owner was present or the animal was hired." Similarly, Exodus 21:28-29 says:

Ex. 21:28 If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death.

So to say that "Anyone whose bull gores a man or woman to death is not held responsible" is to say something false, since the rule is: ""Anyone whose bull gores a man or woman to death is not held responsible unless the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up."

Similarly, if the rule is: "Anyone who divorces a spouse and marries another person commits adultery, unless he or she divorces for the crime of fornication," then it is an error to state the rule as "Anyone who divorces a spouse and marries another person commits adultery."

2. Turkel's solution makes no sense because in each case that Turkel addresses, in both Mark 10 and in Matthew 19, Jesus is addressing the same audience, the Pharisees. If he can assume that they know the exception in one case, he can assume it in the other case too.

Mark 10:2-5, 9-12

And the *Pharisees* came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto *them,* What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto *them,* For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto *them,* Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:3, 4, 6-9

And the *Pharisees* also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto *them,*... What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. *They* say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto *them,* Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, _except it be for fornication_, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

So there is no reason for Jesus to mention the exception in one case but not in the other case because in each case he is speaking to the same group. In fact, if Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, he can assume that they know not only the exception, but also the rule. So why did he mention that? Turkel's solution makes no sense when the verses are seen in context.

3. Turkel's solution also makes no sense because the Pharisees were specifically asking Jesus about his views on marriage and divorce. They were inquiring about what he thought about divorce, so we should expect Jesus to answer with more detail than if the subject had just been brought up in passing. Because his doctrine on divorce was the explicit subject at hand, Jesus should not leave out any important details. An exception to an otherwise universal rule is certainly an important detail. In brief, the Pharisees asked Jesus, "What do you think of divorce?" and Jesus answered "No one can divorce and remarry." Since divorce was the issue, he should not omit an important bit of information that is essential to his listeners' understanding of his views on divorce. On Turkel's view, that is what Jesus did, and this makes no sense.

4. Turkel is only correct if Jesus lied. The Pharisees asked Jesus about his view on divorce. If Jesus believed that divorce and remarriage is sometimes allowed, then he lied in Mark 10 since he stated a rule in which it is not sometimes allowed. 5. Since Turkel does not take into account other verses that compound the problem, and which did not take place in the context of Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, Turkel's solution does not adequately address the issue. 6. Finally, Turkel's solution is only plausible when the verses are taken out of context. Perhaps this is why Turkel quotes so little of Matthew and Mark when he lays out the problem. When seen in context, it is obvious that the two descriptions are supposed to be of the same event. In each account, we have a long sequence of events described in similar words, and in many cases in identical words. Here are the events that the Mark and Matthew accounts have in common, and that are also in the same order in each of the two accounts.

1. Jesus goes into the region of Judea across the Jordan.

2. Large crowds followed him.

3. Pharisees come.

4. The Pharisees came to test him.

5. The Pharisees bring up one issue.

6. That issue is whether a man can divorce his wife.

7. Jesus asks the Pharisees if they recall the OT view.

8. Jesus cites Genesis 1:27.

9. Jesus cites Genesis 2:24.

10. Jesus states that what God has joined together, let man not separate.

11. Jesus explains the divorce-and-remarry rule.

12. People begin bringing little children to Jesus.

13. The disciples rebuke the people for doing this.

14. Jesus says that they should allow the children to approach.

15. Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these children.

16. A man approaches Jesus.

17. The man addresses Jesus as "good."

18. The man asks one question.

19. The mans' question is what he must do to inherit eternal life.

20. Jesus asks him why he called Jesus good.

21. Jesus states that there is only one who is good.

22. Jesus tells the man to follow the commandments.

23. The man asks which commandments he must follow.

24. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.

25. Jesus gives a short list of commandments.

26. The short list includes `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, and to honor your father and mother.'

27. The short list does not include any other of the ten commandments.

28. The man says that he has already been keeping these commandments.

29. It is stated that the man lacks one thing to gain life.

30. The one thing the man lacks is that he must sell everything he has and give to the poor.

31. If the man does this, he will have treasure in heaven, states Jesus.

32. The man hears this and goes away sad.

33. The reason the man is sad is that he has great wealth.

34. Jesus addresses the disciples.

35. Jesus tells them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god.

36. The disciples are then amazed.

37. The disciples ask "Who then can be saved?"

38. Jesus tells them that with man this is impossible, but with god all things are possible.

39. Peter says, “We have left everything to follow you!

40. Jesus tells them something that applies to everyone who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for him.

41. Jesus says that those who given up those things this will receive a hundred times as much in return.

42. Jesus says that those who have done this will also receive eternal life.

43. Jesus talks to his disciples on the way to Jerusalem. (In Matthew, this is now in chapter 20.)

44. Jesus takes the Twelve aside.

45. Jesus tells them what is going to happen to him.

46. Jesus says that what will happen to him is that the Son of Man will be betrayed.

47. Those to whom he will be betrayed are the chief priests and teachers of the law.

48. They will turn Jesus over to the Gentiles.

49. Jesus gives a short list of things that the Gentiles will do to him.

50. The list includes that the Gentiles will mock Jesus, flog him, and kill him.

51. Jesus says that three days later he will rise.

52. Jesus is approached about an issue regarding two sons of Zebedee.

53. One son wants to sit at his right and the other at his left.

54. Jesus says that the person doesn't know what he (she, in Mark) is asking.

55. Jesus asks whether they can drink the cup he drinks.

56. It is stated that they can.

57. Jesus states that they will.

58. Jesus says that whether they will sit at his left or right is not for him to decide.

59. Whether they will sit at his left or right is for his Father to decide.

60. The ten become indignant.

61. Jesus says that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.

62. Jesus tells the ten "Not so with you."

63. Jesus tells them whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.

64. Jesus and his disciples go to Jericho.

65. As they are leaving, a large crowd follows him.

And so on.

All these descriptions of events, in the same order, in almost the same language, are obviously intended to be descriptions of the same sequence of events. Since this is so, Turkel's implicit claim that Jesus was addressing Pharisees in two separate occasions is not plausible. Given this fact, that Jesus giving one statement in Mark and a different statement in Matthew in the same event of answering is in itself a contradiction.

For these reasons, we can be confident that Turkel's defense of the contradiction, the one regarding whether one can divorce and remarry without committing adultery, is a failure.

Turkel should revise his view and admit, as do legitimate scholars, that this is a contradiction. For example:

Interpreters Bible Encyclopedia (Matt vol., pg. 480) (I have capped only what is bolded):

"The exception EXCEPT FOR UNCHASTITY was probably not part of Jesus' own utterance. It is not found in the Marcan account, which is obviously Matthew's source. That qualifying phrase probably reflects the ethic on which the Christian church had settled when and where Matthew wrote."
Also, pg. 481:

"Mark 10:12 applies to a situation which might arise in Gentile society--the Roman wife could divorce her husband. Matthew, who is thinking of the Jewish background, omits this, and also introduces the clause EXCEPT FOR UNCHASTITY. This exception does not go back to Jesus (cf. on 5:32)... But early Christian, like Jews, probably assumed that a divorce implies the right to contract a new marriage. If Matthew relaxed 5-6 only to the point of a "divorce from bed and board," would he have taken such pains to introduce his exception clause twice?"

And the Oxford Companion to the Bible:

"Matthew also includes an exception clause that apparently modifies Jesus' total rejection of divorce in Mark..."
I await Turkel's rebuttal.

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edited 2/28/04