NOT arguing for the return of the death penalty for cheaters!

“If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”

-Leviticus 20:10, NLT

When I quote from the Old Testament Law about adultery, my point is not to argue for a reinstatement for the death penalty. My point is to push Christians to understand how God views the sin of adultery.

God is the same today as God was in the times of the Old Testament (see Hebrews 13:8).

-The Law teaches us what God considers the just punishment for the sin of adultery–namely, death.

-It teaches us that God does not hold faithful spouses responsible for the sin of adultery–i.e. only those who commit adultery are mentioned as liable for the punishment.

-The Law teaches us that God does not always prioritize an “intact” marriage over dealing with sin–namely, God was willing to sacrifice marriages in the Old Testament to deal with the serious sin of adultery. (He actually commanded the end of those ravaged marriages via the death penalty for the offending party.)

Any New Testament teaching that undermines these principles from the Old Testament is ungodly, IMO.

-Adultery is still taken very seriously by God (see Hebrews 13:4).

-God does not suddenly blame adultery victims for being victimized because we are now “under grace.” That would make God unjust, which He is not.

-Jesus does not treat human marriage as eternal and to be prioritized over all other concerns (see Matthew 19:9 and 22:30).

Mercy says that adulterous spouses today are spared their lives and given opportunity to repent in this life before they face God’s Judgment (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Such mercy extended towards cheaters ought not to be misconstrued as to mean less freedom and mercy extended to their victims–namely, the freedom to divorce a cheater and remarry another Christian.

Treating mercy towards cheaters as withdrawing mercy and freedom from faithful spouses would be inconsistent with God’s character and God’s word (see Matthew 19:9).




12 thoughts on “NOT arguing for the return of the death penalty for cheaters!”

  1. Which marriages did God call to repentance? They were unlawful marriages, weren’t they? They had divorced the wives of their covenants and married foreign wives. Mal 2:14 says they were still married to their covenant wives. What if our adulterous spouses are compelled to repentance, by God’s grace? Are we in a position to allow that grace to work, or will we deny grace it’s opportunity?

    Origen translated 19:9 as “only for prostitution” (selling sex for money). The exception allowed for divorce, but not for remarriage. I’m not sure where you get the idea from 19:9 that “Treating mercy towards cheaters” equals “withdrawing mercy and freedom from faithful spouses.” That seems like a straw man. I’d like to see scriptural support that grace to one means withdrawing grace from another, like it’s a zero-sum game. As difficult as is it to deal with what has happened to us, when we disparage our one-flesh spouse (of which I, too, am guilty), we are actually speaking of ourselves. They did something harmful to us, so we think 2 wrongs will make a right. That whole “offering the other cheek” and “going another mile” is all just talk when we get right down to it.

    What does repentance from an unlawful divorce look like? For the sake of discussion, since Jesus said He didn’t agree with Hillel (divorce for any reason) or Shammai (divorce for adultery), let’s briefly agree with Him and say that the “exception” is valid only during the betrothal period. That would mean there are no lawful reasons to divorce our one-flesh spouse once we are married. But, let’s say a married, “christian” did take their spouse to court and sue for a state divorce. Then, they find out that God doesn’t recognize it, and God fills their heart with repentance. What would be the steps to repent of the divorce? What would happen if the other spouse was already remarried (in the eyes of the state, for God would know it wasn’t legit) and wouldn’t allow the person to return to them? Would that mean the repentant spouse couldn’t repent, since returning to the relationship was blocked by the remarried spouse? Let’s just go further with it. We don’t care how the tire got flat, we just need to know how to repair it to get back on the right road.

    1. Bill,

      We fundamentally disagree over what is said in Matthew 19:9 and how that fits into the Rabbinical debate of the day on this matter. Quoting an English translation of Origen does not change my opinion.

      You see, I went to seminary and learned how to read Greek myself. Translating “porneia” as “only for prostitution” is one possible translation of the word, yet not the only one. I do not believe it is the best choice in translating that word, and I am qualified by my education to say so. [By the way, most English translations of this verse (see NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, NKJV, etc) agree with my assessment as well.]

      If we no longer kill adulterous spouses–which I agree is a good practice to stop–that means faithful spouses are no longer automatically freed from the marriage. Mercy for cheaters comes at the cost of that automatic freedom for faithful spouses. In that sense, it IS a zero sum game UNLESS we are willing to allow faithful spouses the freedom of divorce and remarriage in the context of mercy for cheaters. It is not a straw man.

      1. [By the way, most English translations of this verse (see NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, NKJV, etc) agree with my assessment as well.] All of these version rely upon the minority texts, as you know, which are the rejected texts, which you also know. Neither Westcott nor Hort believed in the deity Christ, yet we rely on their translations regarding what Christ had to say about divorce and remarriage.

        “Because Matthew 19:9 precedes ―εηκε‖ (ei m ) by an action-verb but does not precede it with an absolute statement, it does not function as “except” in Greek. It is reasonable to represent it as “only” in such a case, but most bible versions would not dare do this because it would mean that readers of English Bibles would be able to see that the one case where divorce is allowed it does not permit remarriage, and what a catastrophe this could cause!”

        1. “yet we rely on their translations regarding what Christ had to say about divorce and remarriage.” False. We do not rely on their “translations.” At least, I don’t.

          The fact that you try to discredit these translations suggesting they simply copied other translators’ work demonstrates a misunderstanding of how those translations were made. Reputable Biblical scholars–smarter and more qualified than you or I–looked at the original language of the text and translated it the best they could from Greek. In particular, the ESV and NASB are known as solid, if not woooden, translations from the original language. These scholars hardly relied on Westcott and Hort for a translation!

          Your second point about grammatical structure does NOT solve the “porneia” translation argument. And even if the proper translation was “only,” that does not necessary preclude remarriage. All it precludes or excludes are other reasons to divorce without committing adultery thereby.

          1. ESV claims to be based on the Masoretic texts and utilizes the 1993 Greek edition of the Greek New Testament. Let’s see a couple of examples to see if they actually utilized the majority text, or if the greek text they used was actually from the corrupted Alexandrian texts.

            KJV Col 1:14  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
            ESV Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
            NASB Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
            NIV Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

            KJV Mat 9:13…for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 
            ESV Mat 9:13…For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
            NASB Mat 9:13… for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
            NIV Mat 9:13…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

            ESV also removes to the footnotes the very same texts, and makes the same changes and omissions as the NIV. The NASB does as well.
            I’m sure you can do the research. There is enough provided in those 2 verses alone for you to know your ESV and NASB belong in the trash heap with the NIV and the Message.

            As to your last statement, whether the word is “only” or “except,” remarriage is always off the table after a divorce. Jesus calls those who remarry “adulterers,” not remarried. The consequences are dire if you are teaching falsely and cause others to stumble, and the consequences are dire for those who utilize your advice to justify their adultery.

          2. So, you’re smarter than someone who graduated from seminary as well as all those Biblical scholars behind most translations of the Bible? Okay. That is one way to go. Strikes me as rather arrogant.

            As I have stated before, we disagree on how to interpret these texts. Implying that my interpretation–and teaching–is heretical is not a way to carry on civil discourse on this matter.

            It IS the sort of behavior that will earn future comments a one-way ticket to the TRASH on this website.

    2. Bill,
      From what I read in your comments, YOU are the one saying that when God removed the death penalty for the sin of adultery He withdrew the faithful spouses’ God given right to be released/freed from the covenant breaker.
      God’s character does not change.
      That is why scripture does not support your position of withdrawing mercy and freedom from the faithful spouses because God is being merciful by giving adulterers an opportunity to repent by removing the death penalty.
      It is not all about saving the marriage and the adulterer. I feel your position puts faithful spouses in a very dangerous position both physically and spiritually. Turning the other cheek does not mean you remain in a dangerous relationship waiting for an abuser (adultery is abuse) to repent. Although that is what most of us do until we realize it’s time to shake them out of our sandals and depart from them.
      You may find articles in the Christian Courier helpful. They use scripture and address the concerns you have for the adulterer.

      1. Personally, my children and I removed ourselves from our family home for safety reasons when it was apparent that X was not making any effort to repent or get professional help. I stood by him for years hoping & praying for him. He is the one who chose to follow through with his sins which included adultery. He knew that we were all ready & willing to return and support him if he chose repentance. He chose divorce and remarry latest AP.
        I have no desire to remarry. However, I now thank God that I am released from my relationship with him (1-1 =0). My X is defiled and I do not have to be defiled by him any longer.
        Remarriage permission is a tough question. Only God knows for sure.

        1. It is generally uncontroversial for widowed spouses to remarry. I see no difference to that situation and the situation of a divorced faithful spouse. They would have been widowed according to God’s justice after all (e.g. Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22, etc).

          1. Yes.
            That is how I interpret it for victims of adultery as well.
            I was referring more to other circumstances.
            I appreciate you sharing your understanding & perspectve!

        1. Thanks 24!
          I’m glad DM has provided us with a safe place where we are understood, and can support each other!

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