Matthew 19:9 And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife...

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

I, however, teach that who might destroy his wife, not thinking upon prostitution, and marries another [woman] commits himself to adultery.

KJV : 

Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

First, the Greek source used today is different than that translated by the KJV, which was more like an earlier verse in Matthew (Matthew 5:32) though not followed here by a verse like Mar 10:12, which puts this in terms of a woman asking for a divorce. Usually when a quote appears in both Matthew and Mark, it is virtually identical, but here there are still minor differences. The parallel verse early in this Gospel, Matthew 5:32, is very different but alike in some key hidden characteristics.

The Greek word translated as "and" joins phrases in an adversarial way and is usually translated as "but." Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

The "I say to you" phrase is very common in the Gospels, but usually it includes the pronoun, which accentuates that it is Christ speaking (see article here).

The word translated as "I say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

There is an untranslated word in the first phrase, that indicates a possibility of something. This is usually indicated in English by the word "might."

"Shall put away" is from a verb that means "to loose from", "to destroy", "to set free," and ""to discharge." In references to a wife, it specifically means "to divorce," but since it also means "to destroy" this idea was clearly more serious than we see divorce today (see note at end of section).

"Wife" is from a noun which means "woman (as opposed to man)", "wife", "spouse", "mortal woman (as opposed to a goddess)," and "female mate (among animals)."

The negative translated here as "except" is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion usually translated as "not" but with the sense is that "you don't want" to do something, or "don't think" something not that it isn't done or isn't true.

"It be for" if from a single preposition that means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

The word translated as "fornication" usually means "prostitution" when applied to a woman. The original Greek term includes adultery but which also includes other forms of sexual immorality, including homosexuality, incest, prostitution, and so on. This is the root word for the English word, "pornography." And lest you think that Greeks had a more "modern" view of sexual activity than the Jews of the era, this is the word that Demosthenes used to vilify a corrupt individual (speech 19, section 287), and Aeschines, another Greek orator, used it to describe the lewdness of another (speech 2). There are dozens of other words for sexual activity in Greek, including much more specific terms for various sexual acts.

"Marry" is from a verb that means "to marry" and "to take a wife." For a woman, it means "to give yourself in marriage." It can also mean to "take a lover." However, in Christ's time, marriage was a very different institution, involving a bound between families as much as individuals and a relationship to children that was a much more serious commitment.

The "another" here is feminine, making it clear that it refers to another woman more clearly than the English translation.

"Committeth adultery" is from a verb that means "commit adultery with a woman, " "to debauch a woman," and generally, "to commit adultery with anyone." It is a metaphor for "worshiping idolatrously." However, it is in a form where the subject acts on himself.

Note: Some context here: ancient civilizations took the vows of marriage very seriously. Marriage was not a piece of paper, but a serious matter of social ties and individual survival. Marriages were like alliances tied families together for mutual support. The role of parents in supporting their children was absolute. Adultery, much less divorce, was considered a serious failure of character. In The Republic, Plato says that someone who commits adultery cannot be trusted in other matters. In Aristophane, adultery is equated with treason and treachery. While we think of the word as only applying to cheating in marriage, in Greek and Hebrew, it was a metaphor for cheating God and others.

In virtually every ancient culture going back to the class="owner">Code of Hammurabi 1,800 years before Christ, adultery was the equivalent of murder, punishable by death. Infidelity was a death-sentence both for men and women, though it was more often enforced against women.

Ancient people were very pragmatic. They saw sexual infidelity as the destruction of an institution, marriage, on which survival depends. If a man couldn't trust his wife to bear children that were his, the whole family was at risk, not only the immediate family but the kinship ties that were the basis of economic survival for everyone.

Today's more casual attitudes about marriage and infidelity are the history exception. Throughout history, every culture that experimented with various forms of sexual license eventually fell apart. Possibly because a culture of people who cannot be trusted by their spouses cannot be trusted by anyone. Of course, this doesn't prevent new generations from thinking that they are the exception to the rule and trying the experiment again.

However, many cultures, such as the Jews, allowed divorce that allows a specific marriage to be dissolved while preserving the institution itself. Divorce was a socially acceptable an alternative to infidelity. However, Christ saw it as a cheat, the type of formal legalism which his entire teaching is directed against. The purpose of the body, the mind, and our relationships is to transform us, to bring us back to our spiritual nature (discussion of Christ's tranformation cycle here).

Our purpose is not merely to seek gratification in this life: physical gratification, mental gratification, or even gratification from our relationships. If we get stuck on any of these things, we lose track of the fact that our current lives our temporary, part of an eternal purpose. From the perspective of that purpose, rejecting a relationship that isn't gratifying misses the point of our existence. The challenges we face--physical, mental, and emotional--are designed to perfect us. Running away from those challenges is both unlikely to make us any more happy in this life and, in the larger sense, a denial of our eternal nature.


 The "committing adultery" is phrase as a crime against yourself, as we might say "cheating yourself." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

λέγω (verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I say" is from lego, which means "to recount", "to tell over", "to say", "to speak", "to teach", "to mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command." It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself", "pick up", "gather", "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelt the same means "to lay", "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep."

δὲ "But" is from de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if"). --

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. -- The "you" here is plural, indicating many of Christ's listeners.

ὅτι "That" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore." -- In the Greek source, this is a word here that means "that" or "because." So what follows is a dependent clause, indicating either what they were "saying" or why they were saying it.

ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

ἂν "Untranslated" is from an, which is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "possibly," "would have", "might", "should," and "could."

ἀπολύσῃ (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Shall put away" might be from apolyo which means "to loose from" "to set free", "to release", "to acquit", "to divorce [a wife]", "to do away with," and "to begin to count." In the passive, it means "to be released", "to be separated [combatants]," "to be brought forth [a child]," and "to be delivered [of a mother]," and "to be undone."

τὴν γυναῖκα (noun sg fem acc) "Wiife" is from gyne, which means "woman (as opposed to man)", "wife", "spouse", "mortal woman (as opposed to a goddess)," and "female mate (among animals)."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg fem acc) "His" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

μὴ "Except" is from me , which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

ἐπὶ "It be for" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

πορνείᾳ (noun sg fem dat) "Fornication" is porneia, (porneia) which means "prostitution" for a woman and "fornication" for a man. It is a metaphor for idolatry.

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just." -

γαμήσῃ (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Marry" is from gameô (gameo), which mean "to marry" and "to take a wife." For a woman, it means "to give yourself in marriage." It can also mean to "take a lover."

ἄλλην (adj sg fem acc) "Another" is from allos, which means "another", "one besides", "of another sort", "different", "other than what is true", "as well", "besides," {with numerals: "yet", "still", "further"), "of other sort", "other than what is", "untrue", "unreal", "other than right", "wrong", "bad", "unworthy," [with an article] "the rest", "all besides," and [in series] "one...another."

μοιχᾶται. ( 3rd sg pres ind mp) "Committeth adultery" is from moicheuo, which means "commit adultery with a woman, " "to debauch a woman," and generally, "to commit adultery with anyone." It is a metaphor for "worshiping idolatrously."

The Spoken Version: 

I, however, each that the person who wants to get rid of his wife, not because he thinks she's a whore. but because he wants to marry another woman is cheating himself.