Sunday, January 15, 2012

More on Marriage

"Until death do us part" is the old fashioned formula that went with the marriage ceremony; any more one is far more likely to hear "for as long as we both shall live." The two statements mean the same thing, and they are rooted in the realization that valid marriage does not end until one spouse dies.

The Protestant response, in my experience, normally includes a reference to this line from Matthew 5:32 "But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, makes her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, commits adultery."

Yet this passage must be read in light of the other Scriptures on the topic.

Mark 10:11 reports that "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another commits adultery against her."

Luke 16:18 records "Every one that puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery: and he that marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery."

Patristics -- the study of the writings of the Church Fathers -- and the constant, uninterrupted practice of Christians for 2,000 years supports my point.

So is there a contradiction between the passage from St. Mark and the other sources? Only an apparent one. Christ did allow couples to separate for sufficiently grave reasons - the example He gave was for infidelity, but others exist such as abuse, criminal activity, alcoholism, etc. Even then, He allowed only for separation; remarriage while the spouse was living was out of the question.

So what is the proper way to read St. Mark? Like this:

"Whosoever shall put away his wife (I am now speaking of mere separation without remarriage, for that is lawful in the case of infidelity), but whosoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery himself and by this adulterous union forces his wife into adultery if she marries another."

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