Divorce is Biblical
We have been indoctrinated for thousands of years to believe that Jesus did not approve of divorce. First, the Roman Catholic Church insisted that marriage is a sacrament and can not be dissolved at all. When realizing that in a fallen world this is impossible, they came up with an annulment system so people in extreme marital situation had a way out of marriage.
Fortunately, the reformed christian churches, which includes all evangelical churches, rejected this belief. However they continued to insist that God did not approve of divorce except for adultery. They use the statements of Jesus in Matthew and Mark to prove their case.
Unfortunately, bible scholars ignored Old Testament scripture in which Moses allowed divorce if the marriage vows were broken, Instone-Brewer. Even though Jesus confirmed this practice in Matthew 19:7 and 8 and in 5:31, they deny Jesus’ statements. They rather trust false translations in order to continue the lie started my the Catholic Church.
Before we can understand what Jesus said in Matthew about divorce, we have to acknowledge that Jesus, in order to be recognized as Messiah, had to fulfill the Law of Moses. So he had to agree with the Law of Moses. However, he also referred to the beginning, before the Fall, when God made the first human being. God’s intentions were not for the man and the woman to divorce. Unfortunately, after the Fall, because of sin, divorce became inevitable. And therefore, he allowed Moses to regulate divorce.
In the pagan cultures, simply sending once wife away, was normal and was considered an official divorce. However, Moses commanded that the wife was given a divorce certificate before she was send away, Deuteronomy 24:1. Jesus did uphold this practice.
The only time a wife was not allowed to get a divorce certificate or a get, was when she committed adultery. Any other time, when the wife did not get a divorce certificate, she was not officially divorced and neither was her husband. .
During the discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees both parties agreed on these instructions by Moses. However, the problem was not with divorce according to Moses, but with simply sending once wife away without a divorce certificate. The Pharisees brought a very different problem to Jesus. They asked him, is it lawful to send your wife away. They used the common Roman practice to send once wife away as a legal practice of divorce and they wanted to know if Jesus approved of this Roman arrangement.
Jesus reminded them about Moses’ instructions and added that if a wife does not receive a divorce certificate, even the husband who will remarry will commit adultery and the wife he marries also will do so. He makes it very clear that a divorce certificate was necessary for an official divorce under the Law of Moses.
Unfortunately, some modern translators did not understand this dynamic fully and translated the original word apoluo with divorce. They may have understood that sometimes “sending away” or apoluo may infer divorce in certain cultural settings, but the word literally can not be translated as divorce.
The Greek word apoluo was used 69 times in the New Testament. According to the research of Dan Knight, apoluo was primarily translated as set free, release, pardon and secondarily it can mean
let go, send away, or dismiss.
Unfortunately under the secondary meaning, Arndt, Gingrich, and Wilbur added divorce as the use of this word and all translations after 1952 used their suggestions. However the King James Version kept the original translation as “put away”. Translating apoluo with divorce is incorrect and only builds on an assumption. In very few situations when the word apoluo was used in the Greek speaking culture, divorce may have been implied because the behavior of sending once wife away was synonymous with divorce, but this was not the case in all divorce situations. Clearly, sending once wife away, does not qualify for a divorce under the Law of Moses or under the present American legal system. Apoluo does not mean divorce, it only may imply divorce in very few cases.
Translating apoluo with divorce is not only incorrect, but it also distorts Jesus’ believes and instructions about divorce. Jesus approved the procedures of a divorce according to the Law of Moses in which the wife was given a Divorce Certificate and then was send away or apoluo. However he was strictly against just simply sending once wife away. Of course Jesus also believed that divorce should be avoided as much as possible.
Not translating the Greek word apoluo correctly, also keeps people in bondage and stuck in abusive situations which God never approves. Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of sin. God allowed divorce because of the human, sinful nature.
Arndt, William F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, 1952, p. 96.
Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002.
Knight, Dan. What Jesus Really Said: Putting Away the Mistranslation About Divorce, https://www.academia.edu/3622738/What_Jesus_Really_Said_Putting_Away_the_Mistranslations_about_Divorce, 2010.