“The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet’. – John 4:15-19
Marriage revisionists (remarriage apologists) in the evangelical church love to trot out the story in John 4:5-42 just at the point where they can no longer refute context and language correction offered in rebuttal of their three or four “go-to” passages, which they insist justify remarriage while a covenant spouse is still living. Or it comes in handy when they agree with the accurate biblical principles that irrefutably point to the indissolubility by men of the marriage covenant, but in their squeamishness of the consequence thereof, they use this story to justify their counsel that people living in the ongoing sin of remarriage adultery should remain in that sin, despite the stern warnings in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Rev. 21:8 of risk to their souls, despite the idolatry entailed, and despite the trail of unreconciled relationship carnage and legacy of generational sin in sometimes TWO covenant families.
“Yup, we’ve got to admit that there is no pre-20th century scholarly support for the notion that the Greek “porneia” is generalized sexual immorality, notwithstanding our NIV bible translation to the contrary. OK, we concede that there’s no exception in Matt. 19:9 or 5:32 that truly applies to consummated marriages. But, Jesus never told the Samaritan woman she had to leave the man with whom she was shacking up, and be reconciled to her first husband…”
“Fine, you’ve showed us that there’s a clause that was amputated from Matthew 19:9, our favorite exception clause verse and that jettisoned clause reads, ‘whoever marries one who is put away commits adultery‘ (Just like Matt. 5:32 and the dreaded Luke 16:18 does.) Yeah, OK, “commits adultery” is, in all three verses, in the Greek tense indicating an ongoing state of sin, and not a one-time act. But Jesus said the Samaritan woman had five husbands, so that proves the marriage covenant must be dissolved by remarriage…”
“OK, so the word ‘bound’ in 1 Cor. 7:15 doesn’t mean ‘marriage bond’ since douloo isn’t the same Greek word as deo, but that Samaritan woman ….”
Thank goodness for that Samaritan woman, that fabled woman-at-the-well, lest the cause of hyper-grace cultural relativism be set back at least 50 years in the church! She is the coup-de-grace, the piece-de-resistance. By way of “reality-check”, there are a number logical issues to address before the thinking person relies too heavily on the woman-at-the-well to feel eternally comfortable in an ongoing situation that Jesus, in no uncertain terms, called adulterous on at least three separate occasions. Not only did He say so, all of his disciples’ disciples emulated Him in asserting this for the next 400 years after He went to the cross.
Without naming names or linking to their statements, let me say that it’s nothing short of amazing how many times I’ve seen some of the most disciplined theological minds today, even those who have written authoritative papers on the indissolubility of the original covenant marriage bond, fall back on this old saw simply because they feel squeamish about telling somebody who is civilly wed to someone else’s one-flesh covenant spouse that repenting of their ongoing state of adultery must be accomplished by severing the immoral relationship. Freeing that spouse to recover their inheritance in the kingdom of God (by either remaining celibate or reconciling with their rightful spouse) seems too sinful. After writing the scriptural truth with solid integrity and sound hermeneutics, they will then avoid bringing that truth to its only fitting outcome, and instead lapse into slovenly inference when discussing that Samaritan woman.
So, here are the top five reasons this S-W-A-W’s water jug of purported remarriage justification doesn’t actually hold water:
5. There are husbands, and there are “husbands“.
The Greek word for “husband” in John 4: 16-18 varies slightly by verse. Revisionists like to claim that Jesus recognized these remarriages as valid because He allegedly used the word “husband”. Maybe so, maybe not so much.
4:16 “Go call your [andra] ἄνδρα …” Root word, aner, which is translated “man; male human being”. It is used interchangeably for both “man” and “husband” in 31 occurrences in the New Testament, but there are several additional Hebrew words that refer more specifically to a lawful male spouse which Jesus did not choose in this conversation. Keep in mind, He was probably addressing the woman in either Aramaic or Hebrew, and this was then translated into the Greek text that is the basis for our English bible.
Strangely, the last usage where Jesus was referring in verse 18 to her partner in cohabitation “is not your husband [aner] ” is the least specific to the married state, while at the same time referring to the married state. Among the several words for “husband” or “male companion” in Hebrew that Jesus likely used one or more of in His 4:18 response to this woman when she said she had no husband: Strongs 376 (eesh / isha) אִישָׁ֔הּ , Strongs 582 (enosh) אֱנוֹשׁ , Strongs 113 (adon) אָדֹן , Strongs 1167 (ba-al / ba-lah) בַּ֫עַל .
Just as we have translation issues from Greek to English, there’s no doubt we have the same sort of translation issues from Hebrew or Aramaic to Greek. True to the “Content” law of hermeneutics, it is just as important to accurate scripture interpretation / application to explore why an alternative synonym was NOT used, as it is to correctly translate the word that WAS used. Wasn’t Jesus, after all, merely acknowledging the gaping chasm between Mosaic civil law and God’s law, even if He did actually use a consistent Hebrew or Aramaic word for civil marriage partner?
4. Mention of a circumstance or situation does not logically equate to condoning it. Nor does silence on a matter logically support pure inference.
This is the classic “David-and-Bathsheba” fallacy. (More recently, it’s the specious “gay’s OK” argument.) People seeking to justify sin by shifting the focus off of what Jesus actually said usually try to point to scriptural mention of some vice, typically polygamy or some instance of adultery that prospered to some degree. Bathsheba’s son became a mighty, wise and wealthy king. Jacob and David both had multiple wives and concubines and the Lord prospered them. Jesus is never recorded in any of the gospels as speaking against homosexuality . So it must stand to reason that because the author of the book of John didn’t record Jesus as telling this woman the obvious, that she was living in either fornication or adultery, trying to plug a hole in her heart that only Jesus could fill, then adultery must not be all that bad, nor ongoing, if she’s in a “loving, commited relationship”. (Sound familiar?) Since He wasn’t recorded as telling her she must leave this man and reconcile with her unique one-flesh covenant husband who had apparently divorced her under Mosaic law, or was deceased, then adultery or civil divorce must dissolve our marriage covenant with God and with our rightful spouse.
Those who try to make this argument are presumptuously overlooking many things. First, is it not far more reasonable, based on a host of corroborating evidence, including what Jesus consistently said in like situations, to fill the silence on this with the presumption that He did tell her “go and sin no more”, as He did with the woman taken in the act of adultery? After all, the Samaritan woman readily admitted her adultery. Second, Jesus was all-knowing, which was the whole point of this story in the first place. Is it not perfectly reasonable that as He took His deep look into her soul He already saw that she had reached a point of conviction over her sin so that it was not necessary for Him to voice it? Didn’t the living water make the immoral relationship redundant in her own heart? Jesus also didn’t dress her down for any number of other sins He likewise mentions in Matthew 5, such as gossip and slander. By that same logic are those things OK for us today?
3. The rough circumstances of this woman’s life reflected the very Mosaic law that Jesus was poised to abrogate in Matt. 5:31-32.
It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Moses originally allowed men to divorce a bride via a “bill of divorcement” that then annulled the ketubah the binding Hebrew contract of betrothal if “some uncleanness” was found in her. He further said that in such circumstances the man could never remarry her if she had subsequently remarried. Jesus pointed out the hardheartedness of the Hebrew men that caused them to subsequently expand this permission into a “commandment” and extend the “grounds” well beyond the wedding night over the ensuing centuries, until the prophet Malachi rebuked them in no uncertain terms and bluntly told them that God was refusing fellowship with them because He was standing as a witness in covenant with the wife of their youth. Jesus further rebuked this practice by saying, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He took them back to the garden scene in Genesis 2:24 and reminded them that a man leaves his father and mother (not his covenant one-flesh wife) and is inseparably joined to the wife of his youth.
So, this woman had experienced some combination of multiple divorce under Mosaic law, and (possibly) widowhood. So exactly as Jesus stated in Matthew 5, with few opportunities to support herself, she was either forced to commit adultery, or had been found not to be a virgin during the betrothal. Because of the Mosaic law which Jesus had come invalidate, she was foreclosed by the traditions of Hebrew society from any chance of reconciliation with the man with whom God had once supernaturally made her one-flesh. Presuming he was not deceased, the abrogation of the Mosaic law cleared away that prohibition. Regardless of what happened after that, the weight of context of everything else Jesus taught about the absolute indissolubility of the marriage bond makes it far more reasonable to infer that her civil marriages lacked God’s participation and sanction, just as remarriage does today while an estranged original spouse is still living.
2. Speaking of laws, why do the basic laws of hermeneutics always get suspended every time somebody’s sexual license is at stake?
We have a wonderful pastor at our Assembly of God fellowship. He is passionate about discipleship and passionate that people in our congregation learn the basics of rightly dividing the word of God so that they become discerning of false teaching that would lead them off course. In a recent sermon series, he taught the five basic “C’s” or principles of hermeneutics:
(1) Content – which depends on confirming the accurate translation of the text, as well as what is described
(2) Context – the immediate setting or backdrop against which whatever is going on in the verse(s) unfolds
(3) Culture – the broader backdrop of customs and history
(4) Comparison – is there a vast body of scripture against which the verse can be validly compared? Has it also been tested against the five “C’s” ? Does the popular or the offered interpretation of the verse conflict with the larger body of scripture, or is it in harmony?
(5) Consultation – what do the scholars say? Caveat: if it’s a topic involving sexual morality, it is best to make sure some of that consultation is with commentary that pre-dates 1850 when the marriage revisionists began to undertake writing lexicons and commentaries and translating bibles. Further caveat: make sure you know who those authors were as disciples of Christ (or not). Some of them have very colorful backgrounds. Know about two historical individuals in particular who wrote rogue commentaries of 1 Cor. 7: Ambrosiaster (4th century A.D.) and his protégé, Desiderius Erasmus (16th century A.D.) who heavily influenced this aspect of the Protestant Reformation.
As “standerinfamilycourt” has demonstrated above, once the five “C’s” are applied to this liberal interpretation of the woman-at-the-well story, it becomes readily apparent that several of the rules of sound hermeneutics have been suspended, and sometimes by highly-credentialed theologians.
Specifically, reason 5 above exposes the imprecise translation of the word andra as “husband” which fails in the principle of Content
– reason 4 above shows failure in the principle of
– reason 3 above exposes imprecision in two principles,
Context and Culture.
– reason 1 below exposes failure in a SIXTH “C” – Common Sense!
1. Will we REALLY accuse the Master of approving the continuation of an immoral cohabitation arrangement? Really?
Does the surface absurdity of saying “Jesus never told the woman to leave her present relationship” actually require any elaboration? OK, here it is:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matt. 5:27-30
In recent days I’ve read the words of more than one prominent theologian saying (presumably, with a straight face) that Jesus’ words were only hyperbole. Paul clearly didn’t think they were mere “hyperbole” when he penned 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Hebrews 13:4 to the body of believers. I dare them to utter the word “hyperbole” to Jesus’ face as they are explaining why they performed “x” number of wedding ceremonies that sealed people in ongoing adultery when they had the credentials to know better.
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal No-Fault Divorce!