Question:

I believe that every word in Scripture is there for a reason. I don't think God plays around with the words in Scripture unless there's a good reason to do so. With that said, have you ever wondered why Matthew 19 is the only quotation of Jesus that includes an exception in his teachings on divorce? Neither Luke nor Mark include such an exception. Does this strike you as odd?

Does it also seem odd that Jesus doesn't say "adultery" ("moicheia") in Matthew 19, but instead says "fornication" ("porneias")? We can see clearly that the two are not synonymous, because the words occur right next to each other in Matthew 15:19. Have you ever wondered why Jesus says, "Whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication ("porneias"), and marries another, commits adultery ("moichatai")? If Jesus wanted to say, "Whoever divorces his wife, except for reasons of adultery, and marries another, commits adultery" wouldn't He have used "moicheia" in both circumstances?

How can we properly explain the oddness of Jesus' language in Matthew? How can we properly explain that Jesus, when quoted in Mark and Luke, doesn't give any exception whatsoever to His command regarding divorce?

The key lies in Matthew 1:19, something not recorded in Mark or Luke. "And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." Matthew was vindicating Joseph's righteousness for considering divorcing Mary when he thought that Mary had fornicated (there's the "porneias" connection) before their marriage was complete. Mary and Joseph weren't married, in the fullest sense of the word, in Matthew 1. They were betrothed, according to Jewish tradition. But Matthew 1:19 shows that it still took a "divorce" to end such a betrothal. This is the only sort of divorce that Jesus allowed in Matthew 19: the breaking of a betrothal when it is discovered that the wife has fornicated.

You stated earlier:

The Bible contains everything necessary for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).

Maybe we're reading different Bibles, but my version of II Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. I agree with that wholeheartedly! But where in that passage does it say that the Bible is the only means (or even *a* means!) by which God's divine power has granted to us all things?

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhod, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..." If God has "granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness THROUGH the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence," it would seem to me that he has done so using "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers," not just the Bible.

By following its teaching, a man is made complete (II Timothy 3:16-17).

Unfortunately, "artios" is a hapax legomena (a word that occurs only once) in the New Testament: so to say that it means "complete" without question is a bit of a stretch. In general, New Testament-period Greek, it didn't mean "complete" but "competent." This is supported by the fact that there is a word used throughout the New Testament to mean, very clearly, "complete" or "perfect" ("telos" and its derivatives, for example) and it's not used here.

So where do you find authority for polygamy? We find ample evidence that God accepts the marriage of a man and a woman. We find no evidence that God accepts under the law of Christ the marriage of a man to multiple women or a woman to multiple men. You cannot even argue that a polygamous marriage should remain because you must first prove that God has joined the polygamous in multiple marriages. It is only what God has joined that man cannot pull apart.

We don't see church buildings permitted in the New Testament, either, but we still build them :)

We don't see Wednesday night meetings permitted or commanded in the New Testament, but we still practice those as well.

(I didn't see a question related to it on your website, but do you use [or permit the use of] musical instruments in worship? If so, would serve as another example.)

I could argue that, since God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament, and since He didn't forbid it in the the New Testament, that Christians are still allowed to practice it. Jesus spoke out against divorce because His teachings ran "against the grain" of the culture He lived in, and because His teachings were more restrictive than Jewish Law. Monogamy would likewise have run against the grain, and would likewise have been more restrictive than Jewish Law, and yet we don't see Jesus Christ giving us a new teaching on the matter. We don't see Paul giving us a new teaching on the matter. Never in Scripture do we see anyone repeal the allowance of polygamy that existed under the Old Testament Law. Thus, I could argue, we are still allowed to marry multiple wives.

I don't argue those points, really, because while I can't find a New Testament command forbidding a man to have multiple wives, I know that the Church of Christ throughout the centuries has *never* allowed polygamy. That's enough for me.


Answer:

You contradict yourself in stating that you believe every word of Scripture contains a purpose, but then question why Matthew 19 contains an exception. By the way, Matthew 19:9 is not the only passage to contain the exception. It is also found in Matthew 5:32. Since I accept that Matthew's account is inspired by God, meaning that every word was selected by God (I Corinthians 2:9-13), I must reject the explanation that Matthew modified God's teaching to explain away Joseph's action. The Bible never excused sin in the past. We read that Abraham lied, Moses rebelled, and David committed both adultery and murder. If what Joseph contemplated was wrong, there would have been no reason for Matthew to search for an excuse for what he contemplated.

If Jesus was only permitting the ending of a betrothal when fornication occurred, you will have to explain why an ending of a betrothal for a reason other than fornication is called adultery when the person so separated marries another. "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

In regards to the argument that fornication (from the Greek word porneia) is restricted to only sex before marriage, your definition is not supported by Greek dictionaries, nor by its usage. For example, in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, porneia is used to describe Israel's unfaithfulness to her "husband," the Lord God of Israel (Numbers 14:33; II Kings 9:22). Porneia is a broader term than moicheia (adultery). It includes adultery, and sex outside of marriage, and other sexual sins such as the use of sex in idolatrous religious practices. You can see the broader usage in I Corinthians 5:1, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!" The man had his father's wife, but it was called sexual immorality (porneia).

Since II Peter 1:3 states, "as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue," I would call your attention to the word "all." "All" does not leave out anything pertaining to life and godliness. If there is something pertaining to life and godliness that is not found "through the knowledge of Him" (i.e. the Bible - I Corinthians 2:10-12), then Peter's statement would be untrue. You wish to broaden the sources, but you neglected to give evidence that God used other sources. Preachers and teachers are not sources. A preacher is the herald of good tidings. Just as the town crier of old did not originate the news, neither does today's preacher. Teachers are explainers, again they are not sources -- today or in the past. Apostles and prophets were not sources, they recorded what God told them. They are no longer with us, except through their writings which we have collected in our Bibles.

Regarding your argument concerning artios in II Timothy 3:17:

"The adjective artios is derived from the root ar, which indicates something "suitable" or "usable"; consequently artios means "useful, capable (for a task), or suitable (for use)." Based upon this artios can refer to something as being "complete" or "perfect." This does not concern moral or ethical perfection; rather, artios involves perfection in terms of "working order" or "practical condition." Whereas the derived verb katartizo, "perfect, to make suitable," occurs 13 times in the New Testament, artios is only found in one passage, 2 Timothy 3:17. There it joins with exartizo, "to equip." The man of God must be properly equipped or "capable" for every good work. In this instance such capability comes from knowing the Scriptures." [The Complete Biblical Library: Greek - English Dictionary].

Thus while artios is found once, a derivative of artios is found 13 times. Unlike you implied -- that the meaning is unknown -- it is quite well known. You argued it was mistranslated, but you cite no sources, nor is your position supported by the English translations available.

In regards to establishing authority for practices, you are off on a number of accounts. Rather than repeating the arguments, let me refer you to the article, "Finding Liberty in Silence." No, we don't use instrumental music, so it doesn't serve as an example. See the sermons, "Can Musical Instruments be Used to Worship God?" and "Music in Worship." While I'm at it, the sermon "What Silence Says" would also be useful in this discussion as well as the answer to the question, "What is an Expedient?"

You also state that you accept monogamy, not because the Bible upholds it but because it has been the traditional teaching of the church. Once again, I find your reasoning weak. Churches have been wrong in the past and will continue to make mistakes in the future. Again, instead of repeating arguments, see the article, "The Authority of the Church."


Side Comment:

This series stared with the question: "If a country permits polygamy, is there a biblical reason not to have multiple wives?" The author claimed to have been from Saudi Arabia, though I had my doubts due to the quality of English he used. But I would like you to note that the core of the argument is that the doctrines of the Bible could be modified to suit local customs -- a long standing Roman Catholic practice.

The next reply, "If divorce is allowed, then shouldn't polygamy be allowed?" Gives a traditional Roman Catholic stance: the Scriptures are insufficient to determine right and wrong, thus it is the church's job to determine truth.

The complexity of the arguments sounded like a Roman Catholic apologist. They tend to hide their flawed reasoning under complex twists and turns. Yet, since Catholicism stands against polygamy, I could not resolve the two different impressions immediately.

This question and the one prior, "How can you trust early Christian writers when you disagree with them on some topics?" are actually from the same reply. Not included was the author's admission that he lied about his origins, that he really was from Ohio. He claimed he wanted my attention, but to me it showed a person who was willing to do anything to win an argument, including sinning.

Thus we come to the goal behind the questions and the reason for rejecting the explanations given. The question about polygamy was selected to find a topic the author believed the churches of Christ would reject but for which the author thought had no scriptural authority.