Sunday, February 20, 2011

What does Porneias in Matthew 5:32 mean?

In any study of marriage one must deal with this verse first because it comes from a passage right after Jesus says lust is adultery, but also because depending on how porneias (πορνειας: often translated sexual immorality, or marital infidelity) is defined we may have a contradiction in the Bible!!! I of course am talking about Paul allowing for divorces for something else, abandonment or separation (χωριζεται) from a Christian by an unbeliever. So here not only do we have a problem of lust being considered adultery, which would in some sense make lust porneias, but we also have Paul going against Jesus! Jesus only allowed divorce for porneias, and only porneias; Paul is now allowing divorce for other things? There are three possibilities either Jesus lied, Paul was mistaken, or our interpretation/translation of porneias is often wrong. I am going to opt for the third, since I want to maintain if at all possible that Paul was writing holy scripture, and Jesus is truly God's only unique son.

I feel that the easiest way to deal with this apparent contradiction in the bible is to look at the usage of porneias. Has it been defined to narrowly by good bible translations such as the, ESV, NASB, NIV(2000), KJV, NKJV, HCSB, and better translated by translations that I might not prefer such as the NIV(1984), NLT, GWT, have gotten it right? This is a question we will have to answer. The best way to answer this may be to look at the usages of porneias (porne) in both the New Testament and the Greek Old Testament. Porne and it's derivatives occurs only 56 times in the New Testament and a mere 161 times in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). However if we look specifically at porneias it appears only 12 and 15 times respectively. We will start here.
Starting with the Old Testament porneias appears in three basic categories:
  1. In Genesis 38:24 it is used to mean sexual immorality.
  2. In Tobit 4:12 (a non canonical book) it is used as mere sexual urges.
  3. In Hosea 4:12 it is used as unfaithfulness or apostasy (toward God.)
In the New Testament we most clearly a reaffirmation of sense 1 (1 Corinthaisn 5). We don't see any affirmation of the Tobit passage, I would argue because mere sexual urges are not sinful. It is unclear from current bible translations if there is any place in the New Testament where unfaithfulness or apostasy would be how the word porneias ought to be translated. I would argue that there are at least two passages where this is the most preferred translation the first is Hebrews 12.:16 (Hebrews 12:16 is not the identical word, but they share the same root, and same idea, for our purposes we can simply say that pornos (πορνος) means a porneias man.) Yet was Esau sexually immoral? Was it sexual immorality to sell his birth right, as the context would suggest? No, Esau was not sexually immoral to sell his birth right, however he was unfaithful when he sold it. First he was unfaithful to himself, he was also unfaithful to God. God had given him this good thing, yet in His providence God saw fit to allow Esau to be unfaithful with the stewardship of this good gift from God.
Likewise I think this is also a better translation for the Matthew 5:32 passage. First because Jesus is all about high standards in Matthew 5, notice his you have heard it said, but I tell you statements. Looking on a woman with lust, that's adultery, being angry at your brother, that's murder. Divorcing your spouse for anything but sexual immorality, while that is a high standard for the victim, it is a very low standard for the sin spouses can commit.

Follow me on this thought experiment for a moment. In a marriage covenant a spouse promises love, honor, cherish and protect their spouse, forsaking all others and holding only unto her or him, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as they both live. Pretty basic vows for a wedding. Now lets say that the husband beats his wife. Is that sexual immorality? No. Is it marital unfaithfulness? Of course! Let us take Paul now, if an unbelieving wife leaves leaves her believing husband; she goes and joins a Buddhist monastery, has she committed sexual immorality? No! Has she committed marital unfaithfulness? Yes! Therefore do Paul and Jesus agree, of course they do!

"But Matt, doesn't this open the door too wide, isn't this the type of thinking that brought the No-Fault Divorce to America in the first place?" Perhaps it played a roll; however there is a big difference between I am not happy with my marriage I will try a new one and my husband beats me or my wife abandoned me but has not been sexually immoral therefore I cannot divorce him or her.

Just some food for thought, later I will hopefully get in to unpacking what I really wanted to touch on today which was unpacking Matthew 5:27-29. Yes this kinda was backwards, get over it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

If something no longer works should it be removed from the equation?

Man: My armor does not crack, it has no holes nor weak spots. It is not prone to rust; yet while it protects perfectly from without it traps me perfectly within.

Voice A: Did you think you could obtain the joys of love yet never suffer its pains?
Voice B: Of foolish man, you are worthless and dumb. You do not matter and cannot even see you're nothing more than a beggar.

Voice A: You have become commonplace.
Voice B: An interesting book placed upon the coffee table of life, often talked about, but rarely, if ever, used and read as you once were.

Voice A: Your purpose has changed.
Voice B: You no longer captivate, you cannot command, you now look pretty, like a single tile of a mosaic. While necessary, never so necessary that you might not be replaced by other stones.

Voice A: Indeed. You used to be the entire picture.
Voice B: A single piece is all that remains.

Voice A: Will you recapture your former glory?
Voice B: In doing so you may destroy the artwork altogether.

Voice A: Indeed you must replace the other tiles.
Voice B: Will this not make them as you are now? Angry? Frustrated? Ready to sacrifice the portrait for the sake of self?

Man: Wretch that I am! Oh Lord what should I do?

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - The Apostle Paul