Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Do You Believe... in this Church Teaching about...

I just finished another apologetics class video and was ridiculously excited to have a question I had (although I hadn’t given too much thought to it previously) explained. Paul walked through the door after being away for the weekend and was greeted with something along the lines of "Shhhh. Shhhh. Look! I had no idea! Did you know this was why?" And of course he did.

During the course of the class they were discussing the Catholic Church’s teaching on divorce.

Inevitably, when speaking about this topic, someone brings up Matthew 19:9. Here are a couple of different versions of the verse:
“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”
-RSV CE Ignatius Bible

“And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.”
-Douay Rheims

“I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
-New American Bible

“Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife -- I am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of adultery.”
-New Jerusalem Bible
The explanation that goes along with this verse when a person is attempting to attack the Church’s teaching on divorce usually says that this means that divorce is okay if a partner committed adultery. And if you read the RSV-CE or the Douay Rheims without a footnote or any other explanation that would be the first thing that would likely come to mind.

The doctor teaching this section of the apologetics course,(who is a doctor of sacred theology and who has a license in sacred scripture) explained that the Greek word in the place of “unchastity” or “fornication” in these two passages is actually porneia. Now the actual greek word usually used for adultery is moicheia.

Porneia is, however, used in 1 Corinthians 5:1 where Paul uses it to describe the man who married his stepmother (also forbidden by Leviticus 18:8). This is considered to be an incestuous relationship. It is also proposed in Acts (15:29) as a requirement for Gentile converts to avoid offending Jewish believers.

So the exception that’s made isn’t adultery. In fact it isn’t really a “divorce” at all. It means that divorce is allowed in cases of incest, when the marriage wouldn’t have been valid to begin with (I should probably do a post like this examining the difference between divorce and annulments soon too... since so many people seem to think they are the "Catholic version of divorce" which is just another one of those Catholic myths people like to repeat).

The room for confusion is much less in the second two translations (I guess there has to be some reason to like the New Jerusalem Bible… for all it lacks in prose…).

And that is my latest “Why Do You Believe That!” fact for the moment!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very insightful! I have a New American Bible, so I've always thought it only said "unlawful." Now I'll know what the other side's argument will be!

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