The Great Divorce Debate

--Turkel Responds Again and Mr. Krueger Answers—

Part 1

Submitted by Doug Krueger

Following is Mr. Krueger’s rebuttal to Turkel’s initial response to the original divorce article. The format here is what Mr. Krueger used. I have not edited any of the material he sent to me.





On Turkel's Defense of the NT contradiction on divorce and remarriage.


I've claimed that the bible gives contradictory answers on whether remarrying after divorce constitutes adultery.  Remarriage after divorce is always adultery, according to Mark 10, and yet Matthew 19 (and elsewhere) allows that it is not always adultery.  Other verses that address this issue only compound the problem. Robert Turkel, writing as "J.P. Holding," has attempted to rebut my claim, but his response is bizarre to say the least.  He concedes all of my main points, and he defends his position with claims that weaken his thesis. 


Turkel snipped out much of my commentary on the contradiction for distortion purposes, but below in my detailed refutation of Turkel's defense, I have removed none of his post except the introductory paragraph.  [For clarity: My name in all caps denotes a section of this new rebuttal.  Turkel's own material, including his quotation of me, is set off by "Turkel writes" or "Turkel cont'd."]


-------------------Turkel roast--------------

Turkel writes:

Krueger's first round lays out the premise:

[Doug had written:]

Can a person get divorced and remarry without committing adultery? The bible

is contradictory on this. In fact, Jesus is on both sides of the issue.


First, remarriage after divorce is prohibited because it is adultery. Jesus clearly says so.


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.


Also see: And he said also unto his disciples,... Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:1, 18.


So the logical form of this is: (x)(Dx & Rx => Ax) where D is for "divorced,"

R is for "remarried," and A is for "commits adultery." It is read, "For anything x, if x is divorced and x is remarried, then x commits adultery."

This is universal and applies without exception to any x, according to the above quotations from Jesus. "Whosoever" means "anyone," applying universally.



OK, so we have one part of the contradiction.  For a compound statement or a set of statements to be a contradiction, there must be at least two statements.  Turkel has shown one half of it, but note how he glosses over the other half.  He doesn't want his readers to see how obviously the material contradicts itself.


Turkel writes:

There is a parallel in Matthew which we will lay out here for constructive purposes:

Matthew 19:6-9 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. 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.(cf. Matthew 5:31-2, which our critic quotes later) Krueger notes the "exception clause" in Matthew's version, and regards this as more evidence of contradiction.



So the Matthew 19 verses, the second half of the contradiction, the part that contradicts the statement in Mark 10 and Luke 16, is just "a parallel" that Turkel presents for "constructive purposes."  From his article, it is not even clear whether I had quoted Matthew.  Turkel states that "we," meaning himself, will provide the Matthew 19 verses, as if I had not adequately addressed them.  Indeed, Turkel simply states that "Krueger notes" this "exception clause," but does not let on that I had analyzed the verse and put it in logical notation in the same way that I had done with the Mark verses.  Turkel is already misrepresenting his opponent and playing games with the relevant material.   This is typical of the straw man tactics that Turkel resorts to whenever he replies to criticism.  Turkel rarely presents opposing views in such a way as to let his website readers see both sides of the issue fairly and then make up their own minds regarding who has presented the better case.

So Turkel omits my logical analysis of the Matthew 19 verse.  For readers here, I will mention that the Matthew 19 verse implies a statement of the form:


       ~[(x)(Dx & Rx => Ax)] 



Since Matthew 19 implies the latter proposition, I wrote, then:

“if there is an exception, then the previous universal conditional cannot apply to any and all things x, i.e. to all husbands and wives.  If there is an exception, then it is NOT the case that whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery, and this would contradict the universal principle.



So that there is a contradiction is quite clear.  Of that there is now no question.  What Turkel attempts to do is bring in background information to explain how it got there.


Turkel writes:

Our answer for this is already found in the item here, in which we noted:

...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. 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) 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.


Krueger offers an answer to this, which we will look at below; suffice to say for now that the above shows the usual skeptical tendency to blow one's nose on relevant social data, and the further reply will evince more of the same.



A couple of points are worth mentioning here.  What Turkel avoids is the fact that I explained why his material is irrelevant.  The issue is whether the bible has contradictory answers to the question of whether one can remarry after divorce.  What Turkel is doing with his Hillel and Shammai information is attempting to explain WHY the verses appeared in the New Testament in contradictory fashion.  He claims that Jesus could "safely presuppose" that his listeners would know of the exception clause.  But does that solve the problem?  No.  Even if Jesus' listeners would have both understood and accepted the same exception clause, this would not mean that the verses in question are not contradictory.  Mark 10 has a universal statement, and Matthew 19 has an exception to the universal.  Case closed.  They contradict.


The two statements can't both be true at the same time.  That's what a contrdiction is.  The history of the statements is irrelevant.


But Turkel is under the impression that if he kicks up enough dust and hurls enough insults, then perhaps his readers will overlook this glaring fact.  He has more experience with his website readers than anyone else, most likely, so for all I know, this strategy of misleading his readers works.  Perhaps his readers will accept the principle that if you explain how a contradiction is created, then it is no longer a contradiction.  But careful readers will know otherwise.


In addition, even if we grant that Jesus' listeners were aware of the exception clause, then all that follows from that is that they would have known that Jesus misstated the law on divorce and remarriage.  That hardly redeems Jesus' statement, and it does nothing to show that there is no contradiction.  Turkel is conceding all my points and he still thinks he's ahead of the game.  That's like a prizefighter being counted out while on his back and thinking that the numbers called out is a list of the rounds he's won.  As we'll see, we'll get to "ten" and Turkel will not be on his feet.  He's already down for the count.


Turkel writes:

But first let us see how he also tries to bring in Paul as well:

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress... Romans 7:2-3


And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord: Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried...1 Cor. 7:10-11

[Doug had written:]

So no one who divorces can remarry without committing adultery. But, on the other hand, the bible also says that _not_ everyone who divorces their mate and remarries is committing adultery!

[Turkel writes:]

We are constrained to ask how such a conclusion is derived from the Romans passage; divorce is implied in the idea of being married to another, and as it stands agrees with what Jesus has said.



1. Turkel misstates the case here by assuming that what "Jesus said" can be easily reconciled with what Paul says in Romans 7.  But Paul said that a divorced woman who remarries while her husband is alive commits adultery, but Matthew 5 has an exception for the cause of fornication:


5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


Let's move the exception clause to the end of the sentence for clarity:"whosoever shall put away his wife causeth her to commit adultery…saving for the cause of fornication."


So the verse says that anyone who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery--"saving for the cause of fornication."  She doesn't commit adultery if the divorce is for this cause, according to Matthew 5.  This contradicts Paul's Romans 7 statement that a woman may not remarry while her former husband is living.  The same is true of Jesus' statement in Matthew 19:9 "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."  This contradicts the rule in

Romans 7 since the adultery charge only applies if the divorce was not for the cause of fornication.  Turkel rushes past this issue and merely asserts that Romans 7:2-3 agrees with what Jesus said, but obviously it does not.


2. In addition, Paul's statement that the woman cannot remarry while her husband is alive conflicts with the Deuteronomy 24 statement that a divorced woman "may go and be another man's wife" (v. 2).  Turkel does not address the contradiction issue fairly, by examining the problematic evidence when it is relevant.  More about Turkel's dismissal of the Deuteronomy 24 verses on divorce and remarriage later.


3. If what Paul says in Romans 7:2-3 is correct, that a woman must remain unmarried while her divorced husband is alive, then Jesus is guilty of omitting another relevant clause regarding the rule about divorce and remarriage when he gave a universal statement in Mark 10.  When Jesus was asked about the rule, both the prohibition regarding the husband being alive and the "cause of fornication" clauses are missing in Mark 10.  The contradiction is more serious than Turkel will have his readers realize, but he tries to characterize Paul's statements as not a problem.  They are.  As shown above, they reinforce my claim that the bible is contradictory on the issue of divorce and remarriage.


Turkel cont'd:

The 1 Cor. passage does not even mention adultery, but is also in line with Jesus' words and does not contradict Romans, and Krueger does not explain how it does, or how he gets this conclusion. Perhaps he thinks that the Romans' indication of remarriage after death of one spouse somehow constitutes "adultery", but if so, this would define adultery" in a way no one has ever defined it.



Turkel again misleads his readers and pretends that the 1 Corinthians passage should not be considered a problem because it does not mention the word "adultery."  This is more fallacious red-herring stuff from Turkel.  Whether the verse mentions "adultery" or not, it states that a divorced woman should not remarry.  But this contradicts both Deuteronomy 24 and the exception by Jesus in Matthew 5 and 19 that the prohibition on remarriage does not apply when the divorce is for the cause of fornication.  As if that were not enough trouble for this verse, it also contradicts Paul's own view in Romans 7 which states that a divorced woman can remarry after her husband is dead.  The 1 Corinthians verse says nothing about any exception after the husband is dead.  She can either remarry or not.  1 Corinthians says she cannot.  Turkel's attempt to gloss over the problems inherent in 1 Corinthians 7 fails.


Turkel cont'd:

Our initial conclusion: Skeptics who spend too much time devising what look like clever logical formulas need to spend more time actually studying social contexts and xplaining what it is they are actually arguing. But let's see now how Krueger tries to squirm out of the data. We begin with some relevant background.



That I put some of the verses into logical notation is for clarity, and also to address a common claim among some bibliolaters who know something about logic (not Turkel) who claim that there are no formal contradictions to be found in the bible.  By putting some of the verses into logical notation, I show that there is a formal contradiction.  That Turkel believes that I am clever is irrelevant.


Turkel cont'd:

As noted, the key error for skeptics with these passages is the assumption that the Marcan and Lucan versions are universals, and much is made over that "the rule is stated without any exceptions."



The rule IS stated without any exceptions.  That is not even an issue.  Anyone who can read can see that.


Turkel cont'd:

In so noting critics display their incredible lack of familiarity with the nature and construction of ancient legal codes, which were primarily didactic in nature. Few if any laws were designed, or intended to, lay out every possible exception to the rule.



1. Turkel cannot deal with the evidence fairly, so he must beat up on a straw man in the hopes that his readers will be too lazy to examine the evidence-some of which Turkel makes sure not to include in his rebuttal-with a critical eye.  Turkel claims that bible skeptics are unfamiliar with the construction of ancient legal codes, but he has no evidence that this is so.  Indeed, his dismissal of Deuteronomy 24 below suggests that Turkel lacks familiarity with the material at issue. 


2.    It is also not claimed by skeptics that any laws must lay out all exceptions.  What IS claimed is that when asked specifically about what conditions apply to the rules about divorce, if that is the specific subject Jesus was asked about, then to be accurate Jesus should state whether there are any exceptions.  In Mark 10 there are no exceptions.  So if there are exceptions, then Mark 10 contains an error.  This is so simple that it is hard to see how any intelligent adult could deny something so obvious.  But Turkel does.


Turkel attempts an analogy.  He cites a rule from Exodus.


Turkel wrote: 

Exodus 22:1 reads, "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep."



I had given Turkel an example of a biblical rule that has an exception, and I showed how omission of this exception when stating the rule constitutes an error.  One would think that it would make sense, if using an analogy with other rules, that Turkel would discuss the comparison here.  But he doesn't.  He deals with that later.  Turkel's reply to my article is a hodgepodge of points and evasions, perhaps to keep his readers from clearly seeing the obvious: the bible is contradictory on the conditions, if any, allowing remarriage after divorce.


Turkel cont'd:

This says "if a man" and it uses the Hebrew word for a male person; it is not a generalized "man" as in human. So does this law allow that a woman may steal and ox or a sheep and kill it and sell it, and suffer no consequences? Does it also mean one may steal a goat, or a cow, or would it later allow us to steal all manner of critters from horses to ostriches? After all, only oxen and sheep are specified.



Unlike my own analogy, discussed below, this case is a disanalogy.  The issue is whether a rule has exceptions, and if it does, whether it is an error to omit them.  I cited a couple of rules that have exceptions and compared them to the case of remarriage and adultery.  In the rule Turkel states there are no stated exceptions.  Turkel is distorting the issue by pretending that since certain words such as "man" or "ox" are used, we may assume that the rule applies to other cases, and thus we should assume that when Jesus omitted mention of exceptions in Mark 10, the exceptions were superfluous.  But those are different issues.  The issue is not to whom the rule applies.  In the case of remarriage, the rule applies to those who are divorced.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether there are exceptions for some divorce people, not whether this rule applies to those who are not divorced.  My later analogies are directly relevant.  Turkel's red herring rule is not.


Turkel cont'd:

By the same reckoning, social data regarding the regulations of adultery --data which we will see Krueger merely blows his nose on -- is every bit as relevant in context. That the matter is stated as an absolute is of no relevance;



It is good to see that Turkel admits that the rule is stated as an absolute, without exceptions.  Presumably he is talking about Mark 10.


Turkel cont'd:

…the restrictions on Sabbath work were also stated as absolutes, yet clearly it was recognized by Jews that there were "exceptions" (lifesaving measures, getting an animal out of a pit) in certain circumstances in spite of the "absoluteness" of the command. Speaking of "formal contradiction" between the Gospels on this matter is a case of imperialistically imposing Western demands for precision upon texts and peoples who neither recognized nor required such precision. An ancient reading these passages in parallel would not have seen any contradiction at all, for there is none. In Mark and Luke, the "adultery exception," even if not laid out, existed in the contextual background and is as good as written there.



So Turkel tries to make it out that the "exception" was understood, so it needn't be mentioned.  Now Turkel is confused.  The issue is not what the first-century Jewish rule is regarding divorce and remarriage.  The issue is whether the bible has contradictory statements about the rule.  Since Turkel admits that the rule that has exceptions is stated as an absolute, without exceptions, he is implicitly conceding that the bible contains an error.  And since in this case the absolute rule and its version with an exception contradict, he is conceding that the bible has a contradiction.  Whether people would have understood that there is an exception or not, to state the rule as having no exceptions is to both contradict the true rule and to state an obvious falsehood, since the error is according to Turkel) obvious to the listeners.


Turkel cont'd:

The act of divorce was no exception to this principle: There were times when divorce was the better option. Note that this is not "situational ethics" as some are wont to define the term; it is a matter of a moral hierarchy, in which one must choose a greater good. (The classic example being, "it is always wrong to lie" -- even about the Jews you keep hidden in your cellar from Hitler's SS?)



If it is OK to lie to the SS when you have Jews in your cellar, then it is obviously false that "it is always wrong to lie."  That was simple, yet it eludes Turkel.  He is blinded by his desperation to save the bible.  If it is sometimes OK to do X, then it is false that it is always wrong to do X.  What could be more obvious?  Why is understanding this simple point too much for Turkel?


To put it another way, consider what Turkel is proposing here.  He seems to insist that "it is sometimes OK to do X, but it is still true that it is always wrong to do X" can be both noncontradictory and true.  But it must always be false, since it is a contradiction.  Turkel is fighting a losing battle.


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