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

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Teaching about marriage, about divorce.

Some deep context: 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 tying families together for mutual support. 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 Code of Hammurabi 1,800 years before Jesus, 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.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

I, however, teach that who when he loosens that woman of his, not in the case of prostitution, and marries another [woman] defiles himself.

My Takeaway: 

A divorce except for adultery defiles you.

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.

NIV : 

Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Jesus tightens up the earlier version (Matthew 5:32), which has more words but makes the same point. This is a "punchier" version of the same line. Getting to the point, adultery, much quicker. Here the man who remarries another woman is defiled. The phrase "except that it be for" is two words that mean "not upon" that, together, have the sense of "not in the case of."

The uncommon word here means "fornication" for a man and "prostitution" for a woman, but the sense is sexual immorality in general. Jesus only uses this word three times.

Wordplay: 

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

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

λέγω [264 verses](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 (conj) "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 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 (adv/conj)"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 [13 verses](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 (article sg fem acc)   Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

γυναῖκα [28 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Wife" 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 (partic) "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 (prep) "It be for" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against." With verbs of perceiving, observing, judging, it means "in the case of."

πορνείᾳ [4 verses](noun sg fem dat) "Fornication" is porneia, which means "prostitution" for a woman and "fornication" for a man. It is a metaphor for idolatry.

καὶ (conj) "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 [12 verses](verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Marry" is  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 [34 verses](adj sg fem acc) "Another" is 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. [10 verses] 3rd sg pres ind mp) "Committeth adultery" is 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."

KJV Analysis: 

And  - (WW) 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 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.

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the following verb.

say -- The word translated as "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.

unto -- This word "unto" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: a "to" as an indirect object.

you,  -- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc.

Whoever -- The word translated as "whosoever" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more.  The sense here is "one" to the above "every".

untranslated "when"-- (MW) The untranslated word "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when". -- The Greek word meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. The "when" clause makes this word unnecessary. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

put away -- (WW) The Greek verb translated as "put away" means "to loose from" "to set free", "to release", "to acquit",  and "to divorce [a wife]".  It is not the future tense, but the aorist which can refer to past, present, or future but indicates a specific point in time. This is not the usual Greek word for divorce. See  Matthew 5:31 for more about this use of this word.

his -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

wife,-- The word translated as "wife" is the general word for "woman." However, saying "his woman" in Greek has the same general meaning as referring to a wife.

except  - (WW) 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 conveys a sense of thinking and judging that affects the meaning of the next word.

it be -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "it be" in the Greek source.

for  - (WW) The word translated as "for" means "on", "over", "upon", "against", "before", "after", "during", "by" "in the case of." or "on." With verbs of perceiving, observing, judging as is assumed here, it means "in the case of." That sense is implied by the form of negative used.

fornication,  - 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.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

marry  - "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.

another, - This word means "another" and "one besides." The "another" here is feminine, making it clear that it refers to another woman more clearly than the English translation.

committeth adultery:  - "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.

and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. -- (OS) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used.

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "and" should be "but."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "put away" should be "loosen."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "wife" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "except" should be "not."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "it is" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "for" should be "upon."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • OS -- Outdated Source -- The Greek word translated as "and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" existed in the KJV Greek source but not the one we used today.

NIV Analysis: 

missing "and"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "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 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.

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the following verb.

tell -- The word translated as "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.

you,  -- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc.

anyone -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "anyone" in the Greek source.

who -- The word translated as "who" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more.  The sense here is "one" to the above "every".

untranslated "when"-- (MW) The untranslated word "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when". -- The Greek word meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

divorces -- The Greek verb translated as "divorces " means "to loose from" "to set free", "to release", "to acquit",  and "to divorce [a wife]".  It is not the future tense, but the aorist which can refer to past, present, or future but indicates a specific point in time. This is not the usual Greek word for divorce. See  Matthew 5:31 for more about this use of this word.

his -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

wife,-- The word translated as "wife" is the general word for "woman." However, saying "his woman" in Greek has the same general meaning as referring to a wife.

except  - (WW) 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 conveys a sense of thinking and judging that affects the meaning of the next word.

for  - (WW) The word translated as "for" means "on", "over", "upon", "against", "before", "after", "during", "by" "in the case of." or "on." With verbs of perceiving, observing, judging as is assumed here, it means "in the case of." That sense is implied by the form of negative used.

sexual immorality,  - The word translated as "sexual immorality," 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.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

marry  - "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.

another, - This word means "another" and "one besides."

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

commits adultery:  - "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.

NIV Translation Issues: 

6
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "anyone" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "wife" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "except" should be "not."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "for" should be "upon."

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

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.

Front Page Date: 

Apr 21 2021