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We now turn to the final part of this study. We take a look at the New Testament Usages of Porneia and Moicheia. Then we reach the conclusion of this study. (The other parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The whole paper can be found here.)

I know that this is a technical look at a small portion of this debate. There are many more arguments to be said from both sides about other texts which matter. But the final argument is only as strong as its parts. If the pillars are weak then the structure is weak. we have been looking at one of those pillars which is important for this debate. That pillar is the Permanence claim that Matthew has a special usage of Porneia and Moicheia which translates into Matthew not giving an exception to divorce. Permanence holders claim that there are signals which suggest that Matthew has that special usage. But we are putting those claims to the test by seeing if those signals correspond to what we see else where in the relevant literature.

Hopefully this has proven useful now or maybe in the future. I have played around with different ways to communicate what I write in larger papers.  Would you, the reader, find it more helpful if I gave summarizes of my finds with a link to the main paper? Or something else? Whatever way is most profitable to you is my aim so your suggestion is welcomed.

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New Testament Usages. Now we turn to the New Testament. What about other authors? Did the way they use the words tell us anything?

When considering the linguistic rules the Permanence holders assert there is nothing that corresponds to it exactly. There is no example of the words happening in close proximity to one another outside the debated passages in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. There is only one place where Moicheia comes in a list with Porneia: Mark 7:22 which is a parallel passage with Matthew 15:19.

The claim is made, however, that the New Testament writers follow the a SM pattern in the use of Porneia and Moicheia as found in Matthew, “even outside the Gospels, pornos (fornicator, one who engages in porneia) is plainly distinguished from moichos (adulterer, one who engages in Moicheia) as two different categories of sinners (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4)”[1] Now we can put this claim to the test.

Porneia is used 25 times in the New Testament. But the question we are exploring is if the word encapsulates adultery in any of its usages? Or does it take a SM usage in every use?

Now for the SM understanding to make sense we have to see it used in every or most cases in the New Testament in an SM way to establish the claim.  This is because language is consistent in its usage. If an author wants to communicate his ideas (Matthew in our case) he will use the language how everybody else is using it. And so when coming to the New Testament are there usages of Porneia consistently pointing to a SM understanding, namely that it never includes adultery?

And since it is a claim about an absolute usage of a word (Matthew has to do it this way) the only thing that is needed to make the claim dubious is to find some examples where the claimed pattern does not work.

Here are several usages of Porneia where the SM understanding does not seem to work,

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality (πορνεία), impurity, sensuality,” (Gal 5:19)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality (πορνείαν), impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col3:5).

But sexual immorality (Πορνεία) and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral (πόρνος) or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:3-5).

According to an SM understanding Paul does not have adultery encapsulated in any of these commands or lists. That seems like a very hard claim to understand. To see Porneia encapsulating adultery makes a lot more sense in reading these lists and commands.

A very interesting point can be made about the Ephesians 5 passage. There is a parallel saying from 1 Corinthians where Paul says close to the same thing,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdomof God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral (πόρνοι), nor idolaters, nor adulterers (μοιχοὶ), nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit thekingdom ofGod (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Paul uses a list of things which characterize those who will not inherit thekingdomofGod. If there is the SM between the sexually immoral person and the adultery why is there no mention of adultery in the Ephesians passage? Is Paul only talking to those who are not in any position to be tempted by adultery or see what adultery is? That does not seem to make sense. However, if Porneia and its different forms and relations can encapsulate adultery then there is no problem.

So what can be gathered from all this? A SM understanding of Porneia is very difficult to read in some usages of Paul and there is no evidence that would support the two linguistic patterns from Permanence holders. From an evidential stand point it seems much better to understand the usage of the word as it has appeared in the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and Apostolic writings.

Conclusion

This has not been a study of every usage of Porneia or Moicheia in the relevant literature. We are, instead, studying the claims made about usages of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew. The claims being that (1) since Matthew uses the terms in close proximity whenever he uses Porneia and (2) those words appear in the same list of vices in 15:19 that they have to take on “Separate Meanings.” We have taken these claims to the relevant literature to test them. Does the close proximal usage mean that Porneia cannot be used to refer to an adulterous act? Does the use of the word within lists mean that they have to take on SM in every other usage? Does an SM use of the words stand up with the other usages within the New Testament?

We have seen very clear usages of Porneia in the LXX, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers where the first claim is proved clearly false. Porneia can be used in the same verse at Moicheia and refer to an adulterous act. To the second point we have seen a few examples which cast high doubt upon this claim in two ways: first, with authors being able to use the terms both distinctly and synonymously within the same work then second, an author using the terms distinctly in a list and then synonymously earlier in his work. Thus, the claim that Matthew “has to” follow a SM is disproven. There are examples which prove that Matthew does not have to.

What does this mean for the discussion?

We do have to say that this does not confirm the traditional evangelical interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 as giving exceptions. It does give support to the idea that the usages of Porneia and Moicheia in the traditional evangelical interpretation are consistent with what we find elsewhere. But it does not give the final verdict. There might be a possibility that Matthew has a special usage of the words that do not correspond to what we find anywhere else. This would, however, require substantial evidence to validate from within the text itself.

It does, though, remove the only linguistic argument from the Permanence holders for their interpretation of Matthew. The two patterns presented as evidence for the special reading do not hold up under scrutiny. With the evidence presented here there is no linguistic reason to take the Permanence position on Matthew. Nothing with Matthew’s usages of Porneia, Moicheia and Moicheuō should suggest that he has to have a SM usage in mind. This means the argument that Matthew has to be speaking to the betrothal period in 5:32 and 19:9 in the exceptions has no support from the usages of Porneia and Moicheia.


[1] Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 43.

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Sunday is the anniversary of the infamous Roe vs. Wade case which legalized abortions in this nation. We should not let the years gone by numb us to the reality that has happened and is presently happening because of this. We should always stand firm and openly state the facts about the atrocity known as abortion.

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This is the third installment of my study on the Permanence’s reading of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew. In the first post I gave an introduction to the topic of divorce and remarriage. Then I launched into my paper where I stated the thesis and a short word about how to understand linguistic studies. In the second post I went over the Permanence view about how we should understand the Greek word “Porneia” and “Moicheia” in Matthew. I finished by saying that we are going to put their claims to the test. And this installment is just that. In this part I will be taking you through the relevant literature around the New Testament.

If you want to read the article in full you can here.

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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 (Separate Meanings) 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.

The Septuagint. The first place we can go is the Old Testament. We would get the usages from the Septuagint (LXX) as the translators made decisions about which Greek words to use for the Hebrew words. Now word usage in the Old Testament is important. The LXX was the bible of the readers of the letters of the New Testament. Just think about how you can easily associate bible words and phrases that people may use in every day life with the meanings they have in the bible. The ancient readers would have the same ability. Also, the New Testament writers themselves quote and allude to the Old Testament Septuagint extensively. They expect their readers to be well acquainted with the Old Testament. Thus, the LXX would have been a strong influence upon how early Christians would have understood meanings of words and phrases.

For this discussion the question we are exploring is, “Did the translators of the LXX ever use Porneia to refer to adultery?” If they did then it would point very strongly to the fact that Porneia can encapsulate adultery in its meaning in the New Testament. And within this we are looking if the words are used in close proximity to one another and if they are used in lists. All in all Porneia is used 45 times in the Old Testament LXX and its verb form is used 18 times.

There are actually several places where Porneia speaks to acts of adultery while being used very closely with the words for adultery. The first example we will look at is Jeremiah 3:6-9 where Porneia (πορνεία) is used to speak of adulterous acts while being used right along side of Moicheia (μοιχεία) and Moicheuō (μοιχεύω).

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?( ἐπόρνευσαν) And I thought, ‘After she has done all this (in the LXX πορνεῦσαι is included here that the translators translate as “this” to smooth out the translation) she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries (ἐμοιχᾶτο) of that faithless one,Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sisterJudahdid not fear, but she too went and played the whore (ἐπόρνευσεν). Because she took her whoredom(πορνεία) lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery(ἐμοίχευσεν) with stone and tree. (Jer. 3:6-9)

What we have in this section is God condemningIsraelfor her unfaithfulness andJudahfollowing after such unfaithfulness. The unfaithfulness of these nations is spoken of in the terms of adultery. For our purposes it relevant to see that Porneia (and its verbal form πορνεύω) and Moicheia and Moicheuō, in different forms, are used in close proximity with one another (even in the same verse in 3:9) but refer to adultery. Porniea is used to refer toIsrael’s unfaithfulness at the end of verse 7 while the same unfaithfulness is described as Moicheia at the beginning of verse 8. Porneia clearly refers to adultery then second, both words are used in close proximity to each other. So close that both words are used in verse 9. The argument is made from the Permanence holders that the since in Matthew both Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to each other then they have to have SM meanings. However, to apply the same rule to Jer. 3:6-9 would not work. The words are clearly speaking of the same sinful act of adultery.

And what was displayed in the Jeremiah passage is a major theme throughout the Old Testament prophets where they speak ofIsrael’s unfaithfulness of their marital covenant to God as Porneia with Moicheia and Moicheuō being used in close proximity to refer to the same acts.

In the book of Ezekiel in chapter 16 God calls Israelout of the blood of its birth, grows her, and then enters into marital covenant with her (16:6-14). The next verse however has Israelplaying the whore (πορνείαν). “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings (πορνείαν) on any passerby; your beauty became his.” For 6 more verses (22, 25, 33, 34, 36, and 41) God, through Ezekiel, calls Israel’s adulterous acts Porneia (translated as “whore”). Then in verse 32 God calls Israel, after denouncing her whoring, an “adulterous wife” (ἡ γυνὴ ἡ μοιχωμένη).

Then in chapter 23 a similar denouncing happens upon Samaria and Jerusalem. Their unfaithfulness of the marital covenant they had with God in spoken of in terms of Porneia. In verse 7 God states through Ezekiel, “She bestowed her whoring(πορνείαν) upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted.” For 9 more verses Samaria and Jerusalem’s adulterous acts are labeled as Porneia. Then in verse 37 the these actions of Porneia are called adultery, “For they have committed adultery (ἐμοιχῶντο), and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery (ἐμοιχῶντο), and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me.

The next big section where we see the same thing happening is in Hosea. The prophet Hosea is called to take a wife of whoredom to represent Israel’s whoredom against God, “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom(πορνείας) and have children of whoredom(πορνείας), for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord’”(1:2). Israel’s unfaithfulness to their marriage to the Lord is a main theme of Hosea. Throughout the book their unfaithfulness is labeled with Porneia (2:4-6, 4:11-12, 4:11, 5:4, and 6:10). An important use for this discussion is found in 2:4, “Plead with your mother, plead—for she is not my wife,  and I am not her husband—that she put away her whoring(πορνείαν) from her face, and her adultery(μοιχείαν) from between her breasts.” Here is another example of Porneia and Moicheia being used to speak to the same act in the same verse.

There are other places where the Prophets use Porneia to speak of Israel’s marital unfaithfulness to God. In chapter 43 Ezekiel there are two usages of the word in verse 7 and 9.  It is also used in Jeremiah 2:20, 3:2, and 13:27 in the same fashion. And Jeremiah 13:27 in another example of not only Porneia and Moicheia being in the same verse but also in a list to refer to the same act, “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries (μοιχεία) and neighings, your lewd whorings (πορνείας), on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?

And to make a note about the verbal form of Porneia, it follows the same pattern of the noun form. It can be found in the very same major sections discussed in Ezekiel 16 and 23, Jeremiah 3:6-9, and Hosea.

Other usages in the Old Testament that follow this line are found in Numbers 14:33 and 2 Kings 9:22. In fact 31 of the 45 noun usages and 13 of the 18 verb usages of Porneia in the LXX follow this pattern.

What does this tell us? The LXX spoke ofIsrael’s acts of unfaithfulness to the marital covenant by saying they committed Porneia against Him. Thus, we see a situation where marriage is the context and an act of unfaithfulness to the marriage is called Porneia. What does this prove? There is no direct evidence that Jesus was drawing on this as the context of his statements. So these verses do not speak definitively as to what Jesus said. But they do give us look into the usage of Porneia and Moicheia in situation that is related to the one Jesus is speaking about (marital) and which is a major theme throughout the Old Testament. Thus from looking at the Old Testament, particularly the prophets, the SM meaning seems to be in complete contradiction to what we find. Porneia can be used for an act of adultery and is used right along side of Moicheia and Moicheuō to convey its meaning. And such a major theme in the Old Testament of Israel’s unfaithfulness would not have been foreign to the readers of Matthew.

The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Next we turn to usages of the word in Jewish works that predate the New Testament. These are works that come between the Testaments. They are important because they give us a picture of how Jews were using words before and right after we get to the New Testament times. For our purposes I believe Friedrich Hauck and Seigfried Schulz in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament do a good job in summing up what we find.

Later Judaism shows us how the use of πορνεία etc. gradually broadened as compared with the original usage. In the first instance πορνεία is mostly “harlotry,” “extra-marital intercourse,” Pirqe Abot 2, 8, often with adultery, The Greek-Slavic Apocalypse of Baruch 4:17; 8:5; 13:4; Ascension of Isaiah 2:5; Treasure Cave, 12 (Riessler, 956 f.). Materially, however, it often means “adultery,[1]

For examples of the final statement two works can be looked at

The first and most important is found Sirach 23:23 which states “For first, she hath disobeyed the law of the most High; and secondly, she hath trespassed against her own husband; and thirdly, she hath played the whore (πορνείᾳ) in adultery (ἐμοιχεύθη), and brought children by another man.” Here are the two words happening again in the same verse with the same action clearly in view. Also, in verse 17 of the same chapter Porneia is used to describe an adulterous man, “All bread is sweet to a whoremonger (ἄνθρωπος πόρνος), he will not leave off till he die.” The context makes clear that the verse is speaking about an adulterous man.

The next one comes from The Testament of Joseph found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs from the second century B. C. [2] The context of the verse is Joseph talking about Potipher’s wife about how she was trying to commit adultery with him, “and for a time she would embraced me as a son, but then I realized later that she was trying to lure me into a sexual relationship (πορνείαν)” (The Testament of Joseph 3:8-9). Here as well the author uses Porneia to refer to the act of adultery that the wife is trying to get Joseph to commit.

Post New Testament Literature. The last section we will look at is early Christian Writings. This would be works from the people that came after the New Testament. The one verse that is important for our question is in the Shepherd of Hermas written either at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second century.[3] In the Shepherd of Hermas we find once again Porneia referring to an adulterous act while Moicheia in the same proximity. “I said to him, ‘Sir, allow me to ask you a few more questions.’ ‘Speak,’ he replied. ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘if a man has a wife who believes in the Lord, and he finds in her some adulterous situation (μοιχείᾳ), does the man sin if he continues to live with her?‘As long as he is unaware of it,” he said, “he does not sin; But if the husband knows about her sin and the wife does not repent, but persists in her immorality (πορνείᾳ), and the husband continues to live with her, he becomes responsible for her sin and an accomplice in her adultery.”[4] Even after the writings of the Testaments a writer can use Porneia and Moicheia close to one another while referring to the same action.

Distinct Usages. Now, are there usages in all the categories we looked at where Porneia is distinct from Moicheia? Yes there is. Take for example this verse from the Shepherd of Hermas, “’Sir,’ I respond, ‘what are the kinds of evils over which it is necessary for us to exercise self-control?’ ‘Listen,’ he said: ‘adultery (μοιχείας) and fornication (πορνείας), lawless drunkenness, wicked luxury, many kinds of food and the extravagance of wealth…’[5]. However, far from adding the claims of Permanence holders these speak directly against the claims. For take a notice that the last two quotes are from the same work, The Shepherd of Hermas. The author can easily have Porneia refer to something other than adultery in one verse, yet have Porneia refer to an act of adultery earlier in the work. And another important example is in comes from Hosea 4:14 where the Lord says, “I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore (πορνεύωσιν), nor your brides when they commit adultery (μοιχεύωσιν);” We have already seen that Porneia and Moicheia can refer to the same action while in close proximity to one another in Hosea. And here Hosea can have the words take a distinct meaning for each word. Porneia refers to the sexual sin when the woman is unmarried and Moicheuō to speak of the sexual sin of the married woman. Within the same book the author can switch usages from a distinctive usage of the words to a synonymous usage of the words.

Summary of Relevant Literature. So what can we gather from all this. As stated above the Permanence holders assert that since Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to each other in Matthew then a SM understanding has to be used when translating them. So that Porneia cannot refer to what Moicheia is referring. However, we have seen by looking over the Old Testament and literature that surrounds the New Testament that the assertion does not work with the language. Porneia and Moicheia can easily be used in the same verse to refer to the same adulterous action. Then there is evidence that an author can switch usages of the words within the same book. This evidence add with the fact that they present no evidence to back up their claims, makes the claims of Permanence holders seem to loose all credibility. To claim that since Matthew uses the words in close proximity and in a list completely against the evidence shown here. A consistent use of the language would not demand that Porneia in Matthew has to refer to a sexual act other than adultery. A distinct and synonymous use of Porneia, Moicheia and Moicheuō can work quiet well within Matthew. Matthew can use Porneia to refer to adultery in 5:32 and 19:9 and to other sexual immoralities in 15:19 and be very consistent with the Greek language.  


[1]Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (6:587).Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans.

[2]Information and translation from H. C. Kee, “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: A New Translation and Introduction” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, vol. 1, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Doubleday: New York, NY, 1983) 820.

[3]Both date and translation taken from Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 442-685.

[4]Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment IV, I, 5.

[5]Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment VIII, I, 3.

Everyone has probably come across the video entitled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” You can watch it below if you have not seen it.

I think the best thing I can say about it is to refer to to what others have said about it.

Jared Wilson posts a good short critic of the video here.

But the most comprehensive overview of the video is by DeYoung here.

I am thankful for men like this who know how to engage these issues with biblical wisdom and Christ like love. No matter how good something sounds, we always need to apply biblical truth to it. Nothing should go without seeing if it matches what the bible says. Passion never covers over error. While, at the same time, we must bring correction with a humble, kind spirit. Let us not drive away the passionate by being cold and heartless. Instead, if we win them then we get passionate Christians who are filled with sound teaching. A double win!

I am happy that Jefferson Bethke wants to tell the world about the grace of our savior. Hopefully he will be encouraged to do it in a way that clearly communicates that grace without unknowingly distorting it. For every word from a Lord is a message of grace and peace.

UPDATE:

Jefferson Bethke emailed DeYoung and humbled himself to say that the critiques were correct. Go over and read the exchange between them, it is wonderful to behold. Jeff showed himself greatest by becoming the least and teachable. May I grow to be more like him.

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HT: Justin Taylor

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

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Body

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.

So here comes the fruit of my labors. For the next several weeks I will be posting sections from my study done Matthew’s usage of Porneia (sexual immorality) and Moicheia (adultery). I will break it up so that one does not have to read a +25,000 word blog post. But if you want to go ahead and read it in full you can go here.

Why go through all this work (and probably rework as people interact with it)? Primarily because this is an important issue in the church. Many people are not only asking, but living in the situation, of wanting to know what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. So I thought this would be a worth while topic to pursue. Especially, also, in light of the rising position of Permanence.

The Permanence position has really came into the discussion through John Piper, though it is has been held by others before him. Permanence, in essence teaches that there is no biblical exception to get a divorce and remarry. Once a person enters into a marriage it is for life, no matter what—literally. Nothing but death breaks the bond. If the other person is not dead then you cannot remarry no matter what.

Now, the only problem with this stance, thought it seems very good, are several biblical passages that at first glance don’t seem to carry this same resolve. 1 Corinthians 7:15, Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:9 seem to give allowances for divorce and remarriage.

Because of this Permanence holders have gone to work on trying to show how these verses fit into their reading of the biblical text. Particular to the paper I wrote, they have presented an interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 that does not have Jesus giving an exception for the consequences of divorcing a spouse. I will not go into detail here, you can read Piper’s article for that. But suffice to say that part of their arguments for why there are no exceptions in those verses is a linguistic argument. Meaning that Matthew is writing in a way which should cause us to not read exceptions. The argument is about Matthew’s usage of Porneia (normally translated in your bibles as “sexual immorality”) and Moicheia (normally translated “adultery”). The details are in my paper, but they argue that Porneia and Moicheia are not referring to the same sin, “adultery,” in those passages. Instead, they are referring to two separate sins. They then gives some arguments as to why this is the correct way to read these two words. My paper looks are those arguments and puts them to the test.

In light of the rising arguments from this position I believe that it is good for us to go back and test positions once held and see again what the Bible is saying. So this article  attempts to fulfill that endeavor. I define what I am doing in the paper itself in terms of the testing I am doing. This is in no way an exhaustive response to the Permanence position. Instead it is detailed look at an important part of the argument. Namely, what is the most probable way Matthew used the terms Porneia (sexual immorality) and Moicheia (adultery).  Arguments by the Permanence position are put to the test to see if they hold up under scrutiny. Hopefully what I have written will further the discussion as we strive for faithfulness to the Bible.

________________________________

Permanence’s reading of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew

By Charlie Albright

Introduction

In this article I want to explore the claims made by Permanence holders about Matthew’s usage of Porneia and Moicheia. The reason for this is because this is a very important part of the discussion on divorce and remarriage. Is Matthew giving exceptions which allow divorce and remarriage or is he not? The answer has big ramifications about how Christians think and teach about this pertinent issue with real people in our churches.

Let me define the discussion which is going on. The traditional evangelical under standing of divorce and remarriage is that there is no legitimate divorce and remarriage except in two conditions. Number one, that the person committed adultery and number two, if the person wanting out of the marriage is an unbeliever. Outside of these there are no biblical reasons for a divorce. Now there is a more conservative take that is coming up into the discussion. What has been called the Permanence view holds to the belief that there are no reasons for divorce and one cannot get remarried—no exceptions.

Thesis

This is not going to be a full on discussion about the two views. Instead this is going to be a focus on one particular part of the discussion. We are going to be focusing on Matthew’s usage of two Greek words Porneia (πορνεία) and Moicheia (μοιχεία). Even more specifically we are going to be looking at particular claims about how we are to understand these words in Matthew.

The full arguments are going to be given below but sufficient for now to say now that the possible exception clauses in Matthew are important verses in the discussion. Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 can seem to state that there are exceptions to the condemnation of divorce that allow situational divorces and remarriages. We translate the Greek word for Porneia as sexual immorality and the word Moicheia as adultery. So in these two verses the interpretation of those two words is important. If one finds that the words mean something different then it would affect how we read Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage. So there is a big discussion about those two verses.[1]

Greek Language

Before we get into that I do want to say a word about working in the Greek language for those that don’t really know a lot about linguistic studies. When we enter the world of Greek we should not think that we are entering into a mysterious world of enchantment. The language of Greek has consistent patterns just like we do in English. It is just that we don’t think how we use the English language most of the time. We just do what we have absorbed from the use of the language around us without thinking about it. But when we enter into the Greek world we have to think about why people did what they did with the language. That is the difference. Now they were consistent in the use of their language in different ways than we are consistent with ours. But the principle of needing to understand the consistency applies for both.

This is not, as I stated before, some grand adventure into the mystical world of the Greek language. It is looking at the language to find consistent uses of words and grammar so we can get the most probable meaning from the author we are studying. It is like in English where you may come across a word or phrase that you don’t understand. If you don’t have a dictionary to explain it to you, you can go through the author’s work and see how he uses it. And you can then think about how the word is used in other books you have read such far. If the word is used frequently in books written during the same time or around you can get a good guess at how the author probably uses it. This is what we are doing with the Greek language. We do not have a Greek dictionary to simply look up how people used words. We have to study other usages of it and use that information to get the most probable meaning.[2]

Body

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?”

Part two to follow…


[1]It does need to be stated that these are not “unclear verses.” Just because people have written a lot about them doesn’t mean that the verses are confusing to understand like Paul’s mention the Corinthians baptizing for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29). Paul, here, mentions something in passing where there is no way to determine what exactly he meant. Unlike that, the verses in Matthew are clear in what they communicate. The problem comes is the difficultly in fitting them in one’s views. Thus the problem is in the interpreters, not the verse.

[2] This is not to deny that an author can have a special usage that goes against the consistent pattern of what we would find else where. But, for the most part people are consistent with the language.

Regrets can be hard on us. Whether they are about our lives before our salvation or what happened yesterday. We think back about what could have been only if we had not messed up or if we did what we were suppose to. How are we to interact with these regrets?

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones helpfully lays out how we are to respond:

1. Dwelling on regrets is a waste of time. “Let us then lay this down as a principle. We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us. It is a waste of energy…You can sit down and be miserable and you can go round and round in circles of regret for the rest of your life but it will make no difference to what you have done.” (p. 82)

2. Failures in the past are not to make us depressed, but to spur us on to action. “if you really believe what you say about the past, if you really do bemoan the fact that you have wasted so much time in the past, the thing to do is to make up for it in the present. Is not that common sense?” (p. 83)

3. Turn away regret by focusing on who you are right now, at this moment. “What matters first of all if you are a Christian is not what you once were, but what you are…’I am what I am’—whatever the past may have been. It is what I am that matters. What am I? I am forgiven. I am reconciled to God by the Blood of His Son upon the Cross. I am a child of God. I am adopted into God’s family, and I am an heir with Christ, a joint-heir with Him. I am going to glory. That is what matters, not what I was, not what I have been.” (p. 85-86)

4. We are not to judge ourselves. “As Christians we must leave our judgement to Him [1 Cor. 4:1-4]. He is our Judge and you have no right to waste His time or your own time and energy in condemning yourself. Forget yourself, leave the judgement to Him; get on with the work.” (p. 87)

5. Forget yourself, know Him. “part of the trouble with these people is that they are still morbidly preoccupied with themselves, that they have not learned as Christians that they are to deny self and take up the Cross and follow Him and to leave themselves, past present and future in His hands….stop looking at yourself and begin to enjoy Him…If you were to feel more interest in Christ you would be less interested in yourself. Begin to look at Him, gaze upon Him with this open, unveiled face. And then go on to learn that in His Kingdom what matters is not the length of service but your attitude towards Him, your desire to please Him.” (p. 87-88)

6. Live knowing you are in the Kingdom of Grace. “Nothing Matters in the Kingdom but the grace of God…God has a different way of looking at things. He does not see as men do; He does not compute as they do; it is all grace from beginning to end…stop looking at what what you have not done and the years you have missed and realize that in His kingdom it is His grace alone that matters.” (p. 89)

To sum up, “Praise God for the fact that you are what you are, and that you are in the Kingdom.” (p. 90)

Quotes taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 82-90

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