When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.
3 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 8 He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”[a]
10 His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19: 1 – 12, NRSV, http://www.biblegateway.com)
The scripture is the subject of a required commentary project for my theology course this semester. The final paper is near twenty pages long and too involved for this venue. However this venue is appropriate for follow-on edits as well as comments from the readers and therefore a platform for discussion.
I am placing below only my commentary, the issue from three weeks intense study and over a decade of consideration, including during my own marital crisis. Additionally, I was challenged at one time by my spiritual director on my comprehension of the scriptures and the intent as they are recorded by Matthew.
I present nothing new here, nothing that hasn’t already been stated, written, argued over, dismissed, disparaged, et al. I post my comments as a means to keep professing the scriptures’ guidance at a time when others have been silenced. In fact, I too was silenced. It is time to break that silence. If, after reading, you would like to review my entire work, with references, post your email in the comment section and I will send it to you.
Arguments are expected and will be posted.
Commentary on an Exegesis of Matthew 19: 1- 12
Matthew records this exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees as a test of Jesus by the legal minds of the time. Having an historical understanding of the Pharisees and their positions and responsibilities in Palestinian Jewish culture reveals their interest in the teachings of this Galilean preacher. Jesus is up to the task of answering them and in doing so instructing them to the strictest understanding of the law of God as given to them from the beginning and throughout the Pentateuch. Marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and woman in the image of God intended to continue the prodigy of humankind. There must be due consideration for entering the relationship because not every man and every woman is capable of conducting themselves and committing fully to marriage. Moses and Matthew both allow there are reasons to have an arrangement for divorce. Moses allowed it because men were stubborn. Matthew presents Jesus teaching that divorce is the natural result of adultery, demonstrating the preceding sin and violation of the Law. Children are the blessings issuing from marriage and complete the command from God to man in Genesis.
The Law of God is consistent through Salvation History where marriage is concerned. The Yawhist and Eloist traditions coming down through the Davidic dynasty in the form of the stone tablets were reiterated when Ezra and Nehemiah returned after the Diaspora and rebuilt the Temple, recommitting the Mosaic records to writing again. They enjoined the people of Israel to rededicate themselves to the Law in a public ceremony. The Gospel telling by Matthew of the question asked of Jesus by the Pharisees shows marriage to be of central importance to the legal minds of Jesus’ time. Historical research affirms this. Jesus gives an answer consistent with Mosaic Law and even stricter, stating divorce is not to be permitted. These specific verses and the Old Testament references, read from a study bible, remain the reason for the salvation of my own marriage. It was clear to me from scripture during the crisis and in the subsequent years what marriage was supposed to be and what it meant to be dedicated to the sacrament.
Modern challenges to marriage seem to parallel first century Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures. Divorce is common and ‘no fault’ divorce directly parallels the Hillel school’s liberal allowance. Those admittedly not suited for marriage ignore nature and scripture and demand a recognized status in marriage. The homosexual agenda wants human law to override God’s law and has successfully lobbied the populace to where some Christian denominations have begun believing the rhetoric, causing schisms in the universal church. Those who do speak for the Gospel find themselves chastised by friends and by foes, losing their employment, losing friends, and estranged from their families. I am one of those so chastised and so estranged. So I know the courage it takes to write what follows.
It is at least prudent and at most a necessity in the modern context to consider ‘the eunuch statement’ and applying it to the argument concerning persons’ suitability for natural and sacramental marriage. Clearly, through natural and Christian scriptural considerations, homosexuals are not suited to the marriage union. A strong argument presented by proponents about homosexuality is the firm belief it is a natural condition for those committed to this sexual orientation and practice. Hence, by their own representation of their physical, mental, and emotional state they are “eunuchs who have been so from birth” (Matt 19, 12 NRSV)1. This allows for the homosexuals professing a Christian faith the choice to cultivate relationships differently from heterosexuals, yet faithful to the Gospel. Any other claim or practice must be considered adultery in the same way as the heterosexual who practices sex outside of marriage. Profession and practice of homosexual intimacy as right and proper is heretical to Christian moral norms. Commentaries on civic law and practice belong to other venues. (end academic commentary)
This is one of those venues, so I will continue with a few more comments. R.T. France in his own translation and commentary for The New International Commentary on the New Testament (2007) argued against what I have stated. Frank insists this ‘eunuch statement’ should not be related to the discussion of homosexuals and marriage. Obviously, I disagree. Too much damage has been done to all because of a lack of civil conversation. And, admittedly, the balance is tipped toward the general acceptance of the word ‘marriage’ being applied to same-sex relationships.
I see this problem because of the divisions of wealth set up by civil government, which is argued for elsewhere. What vexes (yes, I used that word; ‘vexes’) me is the blatant ignoring of nature AND scripture, and what happened when the Evangelical Lutheran Church schism occurred some years back now. There is truly a problem when a Lutheran bishop, dedicated to ‘sola scriptura’, makes a public statement pronouncing that scripture does not have the final say on the Word of God! This was incredulous!
There is no reason two people of any sexual orientation, gender, or temperament should be kept from intimate relationships on any level; emotional, economic, habitation, intellectual or any other characteristic one wants to use to qualify a union. Only one characteristic is considered forbidden fruit, and that is a sexual relation. It is, for the devout Christian, a cross to be born. But not alone. Courage is an organization that has been supporting those willing to remain faithful to the Gospel for over two decades. Encourage is the parallel organization for those family and friends of those so struggling.
We must accept there are those who by nature are homosexual. To live in this world is to use the tools of science we have been given to comprehend this difference in the human condition. Therefore, we are required to love these people as we are required to love everyone else around us. One of our many collective sins is to have allowed the persecution of our brothers and sisters for so many hundreds of years.
What we do not have to accept is a civil lobbyist machine that would drive the moral norms exercised for thousands of years out of our laws in order to create the special protected status as though it was an innate human right, and our rights to practice our religion and free speech be removed by such protections.