The Great Divorce Debate: Redux!

--Turkel Responds Again and Mr. Krueger Answers—

Part 3

Submitted by Doug Krueger

Following is Part 3 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.




Turkel is still roasting.



Now, on with more reasons that Jesus' listeners in Mark would not have assumed that he had a "fornication clause" in his divorce rules.


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 and adultery was mainstream because he expressly says he differs from the mainstream with regard to divorce itself.


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 latest reply to this point is 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."  More nonsense.  The constant references by Jesus to what Moses said obviously shows otherwise. 


Mark 1:44"See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."


And Jesus criticizes the Pharisees making reference to where they depart from the teachings of Moses.


Mark 7:9And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."


Jesus refers to Moses specifically because Mosaic law was influential.  Otherwise he would not bother. 


In addition to this lame rebuttal, Turkel adds:

The moral law had not changed; men had changed. In the time of Moses, an easy divorce was morally better than not conceding to it, for it allowed a woman to remarry and continue to survive in a much harsher world to live in, in the Ancient Near East. By the time of Jesus, the conditions that made survival so difficult in the ANE were substantially alleviated and a greater stricture on divorce was more practicable (albeit not at all to be taken to mean, that cases were to be judged in black and white, any more than before). This has nothing to do with the Hillel-Shammai dispute:



Two points bear mention here.  Turkel says the moral law had not changed, but the biblical rules of divorce had.  So it would follow on his view that biblical rules of divorce are not moral laws.  It also follows that Turkel is obviously not giving much thought to his defense, since most fundamentalists would insist that biblical rules on divorce are moral laws.


The other point here is that Turkel claims that it is better to allow divorce for a woman in a harsh environment than in a hospitable environment.  The opposite is the case.  In a world where women can only survive with a man, since independence is not allowed (the bible is very antiwoman, as we know) a divorced woman is more likely to endure hardship in a harsh world simply because it is harsh.  In biblical times, virgins were preferred (even by gods such as YHWH) and divorced women always had a hard time of it.  Many could never remarry because men didn't want them.  So, ceteris paribus, if the question is the woman's physical survival, it is worse for a woman to be alone in a harsh world than in a pleasant one, so divorce rules should be more strict in a harsh environment, not easier, as Turkel mistakenly asserts, to make it more difficult for a man to make a woman go it alone.  Turkel hasn't given this one much thought either.


Now, on with more reasons that Jesus' listeners in Mark would not have assumed that he had a "fornication clause" hidden in his divorce rules.


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, so they would not have assumed that Jesus advocated an unspoken fornication clause in his universal prohibition on divorce and remarriage.


e.  The Pharisees were specifically asking Jesus about his views on the legality of divorce, so we should expect Jesus to answer with a greater degree of accuracy on the conditions for divorce than if the Pharisees had asked about, say, love or bringing up children.  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 other words, 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.  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, and the Pharisees would certainly have not assumed any such thing, so Jesus would be unjustified in assuming that his listeners would think that his view was mainstream.


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 I ask a person "Under U.S. immigration law, is the granting of political asylum legal?" I am obviously not assuming that you know that it is legal.  And if you answer, "Yes, it is legal, but that was allowed in old times because people were meaner, and now there should be no laws allowing it," it would be absurd to claim that I should assume that you endorse an exception under which political asylum should be allowed.  Similarly, the 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.  Now, maybe Turkel's Jesus is just a poor public speaker, and he does endorse some such clause, but no one would assume it from what Jesus says in Mark 10.


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 (and thus this is why they ask a question so basic (see f above) suggests that they would not have made assumptions contrary to their suspicions.


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.  Turkel attempts a response to this, saying:


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.



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.


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.  (More about this in the last post.)


Turkel had more material on Paul, Deuteronomy, etc., but since his defense fails so miserably even on the main lines of the gospel writings I will only respond to his other confusion after he's sufficiently addressed I, II, III (with points (a)-(i)).


On To Part 4

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