The Great Divorce Debate: Redux!

--Turkel Responds Again and Mr. Krueger Answers—

Part 1

Submitted by Doug Krueger

Following is Part 1 of Mr. Krueger’s rebuttal to Turkel’s on-going rant to 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.




Turkel is up to his dishonest and silly tricks again.  I've already shown that the bible contradicts itself on the issue of whether one can divorce and remarry without committing adultery.  Not only is the bible contradictory on this in several places, but it is also clear that the NT Jesus himself utters contradictory statements on this issue.  In two articles demolishing Turkel's defense of the contradiction, I have shown that Turkel has engaged in distortion of my position, lies about his sources, and astonishingly poor reasoning, all in an effort to show that the bible does not contradict itself regarding whether one can divorce and remarry without committing adultery.  And the kicker here is that Turkel has also admitted that the bible contains contradictory verses, so inerrantists and Turkel must part ways immediately.  They must look to others for a defense of the defunct inerrancy doctrine.  After admitting that the bible has some contradictions, why Turkel would continue to fight tooth and nail to try to save the specific verses on divorce from contradiction is not clear, but there are many things Turkel does that are irrational.


In his latest harangue, Turkel reproduces much of our earlier material and repeats himself endlessly, apparently in some bizarre fundamentalist strategy to wear down his readers' patience.  Since he doesn't have the scholarship, the evidence, or the arguments on his side, his options are limited, and it seems that in order to satisfy those plunking down their hard-earned dollars to support his easily refuted online articles, he felt compelled to simply repeat his failed replies to my refutations.  Let me note here that, unlike my previous Turkel roasts, I will not reply point-by-point.  One reason for this is that Turkel has rehashed too much old material and I don't want to repeat myself any more than I have to, a trait Turkel obviously eschews. 

Huge sections of Turkel's latest reply are just his previous post with a few words changed here and there.  In addition, though Turkel continuously charges me with bringing in irrelevant points, he writes large sections of irrelevant material.  The size of his irrelevant portions have now gotten out of hand, so I will condense what is relevant and respond to it.


Of course, given that it is Turkel who posts the material on his website, it is already a given that he doesn't have the courage to post my material on his site without removing substantial parts of it first, so very little of a lengthy point-by-point reply this time would be found on his site anyway, even more so than on the previous occasions.  His readers and fans must realize by now that he will not allow material by critics to be posted as it was written.  However, I'll refute Turkel solidly, once again, and even though Turkel will not allow his website readers to see what his critics really say, the entirety of my rebuttal will no doubt be found in at least one or two places online, such as the Errancy website and perhaps the new antiTurkel webpage.


One person has recently argued that since Turkel gets attention from skeptics, that therefore he must have some good points.  Is there anything to this?  No.  Dog poop that gets on my shoe also gets attention, and sometimes one must be meticulous about cleaning it off, but that in itself doesn't speak to the merits of dog poop.  Turkel is online and giving people stupidity lessons.  He is spreading misinformation and deplorable reasoning skills, so it is up to honest, informed, clear-headed skeptics of his views to set the record straight.  Turkel thinks that his website readers don't deserve better than lies and distortions, but the skeptics think otherwise.  We say, let's give people the truth and let them make up their own minds.  I wish Turkel could embrace this simple principle, but since it would put his website out of business, it is unlikely that he will.


Let's get to the roast of Turkel, then.  We shall see that, unfortunately, he is still defending the same mixed-up arguments that I've solidly refuted.


First, I will remind readers of the main issue.  My argument, in brief, is this:


CLAIM: The bible is contradictory about whether one can remarry after divorce without committing adultery.


In Mark 10:2-5, 9-12 Jesus clearly says that anyone, man or woman, who divorces and remarries commits adultery.  In Luke 16:1, 18, Jesus states that any man who divorces and remarries commits adultery, reiterating half of the previous universal statement.  There are no exceptions.


However, in Matthew 19:6-9, Jesus states that this universal rule has an exception for fornication.  If the divorce is due to fornication, then remarriage is allowed.


So is remarriage after divorce allowed or not?  Jesus clearly contradicts himself.  So I cited the clear biblical evidence that there is a contradiction, and in previous posts I also cited reputable reference works such as the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which agrees with me, and it does so for the same reasons I have provided. 


Before we look at Turkel's defense, I will mention a defense that Turkel does NOT endorse.  Some fundamentalists have tried to save Jesus from contradiction by insisting that the account of Jesus' statement in Matthew is a report of a different occasion than the accounts in Mark (and Luke).  Jesus, they say, was speaking to different audiences in Mark and Matthew, and

he had good reasons for changing his exposition.  Although this defense doesn't work, Turkel has rejected it and has stated that the accounts in Matthew and Mark are reports of the same event.  Turkel has stated: "Krueger beats the readership senseless laying out 65 points of correspondence between the pericopes to prove that, as we agree, they are the same episode."  This is where Turkel accepts what inerrantists will never allow.  Jesus' statements on divorce are not the only incompatible descriptions in the series of events.  I wonder if some of Turkel's supporters know that he has rejected inerrancy.  Since the NT is contradictory about this whole sequence of events, it is not clear why Turkel feels compelled to defend one

particular set of statements by Jesus and yet allow that other statements and events are contradictory, but in asserting that the series of events in Mark 10 and Matthew 19 (and subsequent chapters too) are the same events, he has admitted many contradictions in the bible.


Now let's examine Turkel's defense of the contradictory material. Turkel shapes his defense entirely from the notion that the "background data" shows that divorce was accepted in the time of Jesus, so therefore Jesus' statements are not contradictions.


Turkel writes:

The background data from both Jewish and Greco-Roman sources indicates that the "adultery exception" was universally agreed upon by all parties as a valid reason for a divorce.  Therefore, the "adultery exception" is implicit in Mark and Luke, who saw no need to spell it out.



Turkel's main defense, then, is that the audience in Mark and Luke would have already known that divorce was sometimes permitted.  "They would assume that the 'adultery exception' was behind Mark and Luke's words," Turkel writes.  I have already addressed this defense and it has been shown that it fails, but Turkel rehashes his old material, expanding it is some cases, and his defense is still subject to the fatal flaws that I've pointed out in the past. Turkel also repeats, ad nauseum, the spurious charge that I am unaware that divorce was allowed by Jewish law in the time of Jesus.  In fact, when I cited the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible to show that mainstream scholarship is on my side, Turkel wrote of my sources that they say nothing about the Hillel and Shammai Jewish schools of thought, and Turkel uses this to suppose that I am ignorant of the first century mainstream Jewish beliefs on divorce:


Turkel writes:

In closing, Krueger tries to win one final point from the skeptical crowd by quoting the opinions of the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which says nothing at all about the social background context, zero about Hillel and Shammai.



But Turkel was inaccurate.  The Oxford Companion to the Bible does refer to the Hillel and Shammai schools.  Why did Turkel say that my sources had "zero" about this?  Turkel was either intentionally lying or he just made this up.  Either way, it was a slap in the face to his readers.  I responded by citing how the Oxford Companion to the Bible addresses the Hillel and

Shammai schools:


Doug had written:

From The Oxford Companion to the Bible, under "Divorce":

"By the first century CE this Deuteronomic law was the center of debate among the Pharisees. Some (the Hillelites) said it warranted divorce for any reason for example bad cooking. Others (the Shammaites) held that it allowed divorce only for serious sexual misconduct. According to Matthew 19 and Mark l0 Jesus was asked to comment on this controversy"



And now that Turkel's misinformation is exposed, what is Turkel's response?  He writes almost the same sentences he had before!


Turkel writes:

In closing, Krueger tries to win one final point from the skeptical crowd by quoting the opinions of the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which says nothing at all about the social background context, zero about Hillel and Shammai (though he now quotes a factual portion that does, even as he remains oblivious to the relevance of it -- he fails to note that what I say is that he quotes opinions that say nothing of Hillel and Shammai, not that I say the Oxford Companion itself says nothing of them; this lack of understanding on his part he uses to accuse me of misrepresenting a source, when I am only commenting on the quote he offered and his misuse of it!), or about the Greco-Roman world.



Turkel tries to pretend that he had not asserted that my sources did not refer to Hillel and Shammai.  Had Turkel merely said that I was quoting opinions?  He said, and I'll condense the sentence quoted above, that I was "quoting the opinions of the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which says…zero about Hillel and Shammai".  So he asserted that my source "says… zero about Hillel and Shammai" It is false that my source says "zero" about Hillel and Shammai.   Do the "opinions" of the Oxford Companion to the Bible say zero about Hillel and Shammai or not?  Turkel was obviously trying to tell his readers that my sources do not mention Hillel and Shammai, and now he tries to pass of this baldfaced lie as some sort of opinion/fact distinction, and he says that he meant that I quoted fact but that I did not quote any opinion.  Turkel is so desperate to save face that he wants his readers to think that he was taking me to task for referring to a reference work that had only facts but no opinions?  Even if this is so, this is something I should be discouraged from doing?  So on Turkel's alleged view, I should refrain from citing sources that give information about the very schools that he says should be taken into account and instead refer to opinions about those schools?  He has distorted his earlier criticism to try to avoid the charge of outright lying and now, if we believe him, it seems that his point was simply ridiculous.  He avoids the charge of lying by insisting on the charge of foolishness.  Well, it's his choice.


In any case, I have already shown Turkel why his "they would have known what was missing" defense doesn't work.  There are several reasons that it fails.


I.  First, whether Jesus' listeners assumed that Jesus had beliefs that he neglected to mention, the fact that one description of the event omits the important adultery exception is sufficient to show that there is a contradiction.  Although I have repeated this several times, Turkel either cannot understand this point or intentionally pretends that he doesn't understand.  Explaining HOW a contradiction comes about does not show that there is no contradiction.  That statements of the form "All X are Y" and "Not all X are Y" are contradictory remains true whether or not you understand why someone utters them.  Jesus is made to utter contradictory statements in Mark and Matthew, and explaining why he did so or why it was reported in contradictory terms does not explain away the fact that the reports contradict.  Whether or not Jesus' listeners would have understood that incomplete remarks in Mark and Luke are false statements of the divorce laws, the question before us is not what people generally thought about divorce in the time of Jesus, but whether the bible is contradictory on this issue.  The bible clearly contains statements on divorce and remarriage that are contradictory, so there is no longer any question about it.  Turkel's

defense does not make contradictory statements noncontradictory.  Turkel's only response to this observation is to repeat his claim that there is no contradiction. 


Turkel wrote:

What Krueger is trying to cover up with this pre-emptive shazam is his lack of comprehension of the point that there is no contradiction at all when the verses are all read in the "high-context" context of the ancient world.



I don't know what a "pre-emptive shazam" is, but when the Mark and Matthew verses are read, context or not, the statements are not only different, they are contradictory.  Anyone who can read can see that.  To talk of what people would have been thinking about when they heard one set of statements as opposed to the other set of statements does not eliminate the fact that there are two different sets of statements.  And the statements, as I've shown at length before, are contradictory.  One set has a universal statement, and the other has the universal statement with an exception.  It is impossible for both statements to be true at the same time, and this is what is meant by the claim that they contradict.


On To Part 2

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