Here is the second part of my paper. You can read the first part here.

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With all that said let use dive into the discussion at hand. We are going to be looking into how we should interpret the word meanings of Porneia (πορνεία) and Moicheia (μοιχεία) in the book of Matthew. More specifically, we are going to be looking at claims made by the Permanence holders about consistence patterns which shape our understanding of how the words are used. So, by looking at the Greek language we can ask the question, “are there patterns to how we see the words used which gives us a picture of how Matthew used the words?”

Here is the information we have and how the Permanence holders understand it. We have four texts where Matthew uses μοιχεύω (5:27, 28, 23; 19:18), two times where he uses μοιχάω (5:32; 19:9), and once where he uses μοιχεία (15:19). Then there are three times Matthew uses πορνεία (5:32; 15:19; 19:9).

The Claim by Permanence Holders

When the Permanence holder work through the verses about divorce and remarriage in Matthew (5:32, 19:9) they come away saying that Matthew has a usage of the words which has Moicheia speaking to martial adultery only and Porneia is speaking to extra-marital sexual immorality only. Then the step is made that the extra-marital sexual immorality the word in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is speaking to is that of sexual immorality within the betrothal period of Jewish marriage customs.[1]

How do they get here? There are two linguistic points. First, they observe that each time Matthew uses Porneia it is used in close proximity to Moicheia, “Notice that each time Matthew uses Porneia (fornication), he also uses either moichiea (adultery) or a verb form.”[2] (None of them mention the issue that Matthew use two different words to refer to adultery). Second, the point is made that “in 15:19 he places the words, both in noun form right next to each other.”[3]

What they do is construct a grid about how we should see Matthew using these terms. To refer back to what we talk about before they are claiming we see a pattern of consistency by which we can interpret the words. They say that since it is the case that Porneia happens in close proximity to words that mean adultery (though they only acknowledge one) each time it is used then each word has to have separate, non-overlapping meanings. So this grid creates what I would call “separate meanings” (SM) category for how Matthew uses the words. Each word has a separate meaning that should not be blended on any occasion of use. An example of this in English would be “table” and “chair.” Even though they could be under the category of furniture one would never call a chair a table. They have separate meanings.

So this is what is being claimed by the Permanence holders. Like how one would not look at a table and say chair so Matthew would not look at an adulterous act and say Porneia. From here they say that Porneia in Matthew should be seen as referring to immorality before or in the betrothal period in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. That is the exception that Matthew is giving in those contexts.

So we have a claim about how we should understand Matthew’s use of Porneia and Moicheia. Based upon how he uses the terms in other places we can come to conclude that he has a SM for each of the words.

Now this is all interesting and good. There is no problem in observing trends and suggesting different theories about how we should translate things. But just because we observe a trend does not mean that was what the author intended to communicate. We have to look at the evidence to see if what they say is the most plausible and will fit with what we see in other places. Specifically we can look at the claims being made about how the language works.

  • First, that if Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to one another then it is evidence that the words have SM for the author.
  • Second, that if the words are used in a list together then it is conclusive evidence that the words have SM for the rest of the usages in the work.

So what we will be doing is testing the grid they construct. Does those two points in list above match what we see in other places in the relevant literature? Is that a consistent pattern as to see Matthew following it?

Going Through the Literature

So what we can do is go through the relevant literature to test these claims. What we will be looking at from first are examples with in the Old Testament Septuagint, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers that run contrary to the Permanence holders claims. Once again, if there are any examples that go contrary to their claims the credibility of the claims become very weak or disproven.

Now, it should be stated up front that the Permanence holders present no evidence for their view. Outside their claims about Matthew there is no reference to any work within or outside the bible where an author is treating Porneia and Moicheia in the same way they are claiming Matthew is using them. This means that they are in a hole to begin with. As stated before Greek is not a mysterious language where mystical things happen. Like any language things do happen consistently with how people use the language. People want to communicate with one another and being consistent with a language is an essential way of doing it. If there is no example of anyone else doing what the Permanence people do with Matthew then it does speak against the credibility of their claims. And it can make it a very easy task to disprove the claims. If there are any examples of the language being used in a way contrary to the claims the credibility of the claims becomes very weak or completely disproven.

Part three to follow,


[1]Full articulations of the Permenance readings of these verse can be found in, Daryl Wingerd, Jim Elliff, Jim Chrisman, and Steve Burchett, Divorce & Remarriage: a Permanence View (Kansas City, MO: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2009) 38-39.

[2]Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 39. Compare also John Piper, “The only other place besides Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 where Matthew uses the word porneiais in 15:19 where it is used alongside of moicheia. Therefore, the primary contextual evidence for Matthew’s usage is that he conceives of porneia as something different than adultery.” John Piper, Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper,  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/divorce-remarriage-a-position-paper.

[3] Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 39.

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