Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Divorce & Remarriage - Hays

Primary Data

Mk 10:2-12; Matt 19:3-9; Luke 16:18 = Matt 5:31-32; 1 Cor 7:8-15

Thus, we have a multiply attested view in various sections of the Jesus-tradition. In his discussion of ten key issues where the Dead Sea Scroll are relevant to historical Jesus studies ["Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls" in Doris Donnely (ed.), Jesus. A Colloquium in the Holy Land with James D.G. Dunn, et al. Continuum, 2001. Pp. 27-44], Harrington briefly considers Jesus' teaching "no divorce":

By the criteria of dissimilarity and multiple attestation, the prohibition of divorce belongs to the corpus of Jesus' authentic sayings. It went against Jewish practice and even against the permission of the Scriptures (Deut. 24:1-4), and it appears in Mark (10:2-12), Q (Luke 16:18 and Matt. 5:31-32), and 1 Corinthians (7:10-11). Of course, one must take account of the exceptions introduced by Matthew (see Matt. 5:32 and 19:9) and Paul (see 1 Cor. 7:12-16). One must also ask how Jesus intended this teaching to be taken---whether as an ideal, a legal principle, a protection for women, a temporary measure (in the face of the coming kingdom of God), or whatever else. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Jesus taught "no divorce."

I want to stress an [apparently] arbitrary point, yet one that makes exegesis more plausible. If one was to ask Jesus what his view of divorce was, it appears the answer would be: Divorce goes against the creative intentions of YHWH. But does that then logically entail a strict legal principle of no-one ever being allowed to divorce? I think that would be to apply to the Jesus material a certain analytically philosophical force that is [seemingly] absent in our 1st century worldview.
Another issue which makes exegesis more plausible is remaining close to the actual and not hypothetical data that we have. Hays seems to set himself up for this position when he assumes that because an author is silent on a particular view, or neglects to mention a particular view, that this automatically entails the opposite/rejection of the view that is noted. For example: Luke notes that Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery [16:18]. But does this then logically entail that a woman who divorces her husband commits adultery? If not, why not? Does it entail that, in Luke's view, women may not divorce? Just because Luke is silent does not mean he is affirming or denying any of these views. It just means that for an almost infinite amount of reasons, he has not included it or voiced his view about it. And to guess at the reasons amounts to unhelpful speculation that could deter exegesis. Hays and others assume to much when they argue from such silences.
Furthermore, this makes the claim that Matt's exception clause [19b] is merely redaction a questionable stance. Historically, if Mark's claim is accurate that the Pharisees came to test Jesus about this question, we may assume that Jesus' stance against divorce was well known and thus provoked attention. If it was well known then we may assume that Jesus may have taught against divorce at various occassions. On some occassions it was simply necessary for him to state his position: divorce is contrary to the creative intentions of YHWH. On other occassions that required more pastoral nuancing, there could be exceptions in extreme cases - such as πορνεια [sexual immorality: incest, bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, et. al. cf. Lev 18-20]. [I leave aside the contemporary question of whether or not we may infer that anything amounting to a similar break in marriage faithfulness [such as domestic violence] may be grounds for divorce.] Thus, I'm wary of Hays stating that this: represents Matthew's own causuistic adaptation of the tradition. This is of course historically plausible, but so is the position that the exception is part and parcel of the Jesus-tradition. Pronouncing a probable judgement on this matter, either way, seems unlikely.
Furthermore, the interpretive options available to us become even more varied and complex when we exclude silent inferrences. But I'll have to think about Loren's comments before I explore this issue further...

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