In our group there are some who take the Bible quite seriously and others who take it with a grain of salt. Both sides will note that whenever possible I will quote from it to either establish truth or to illustrate that certain teachings are confirmed there. For those of you who see me as wasting time here I would encourage tolerance and an open mind. While it is true that many teachings and laws in the Bible were for a people of an age long past there is also much wisdom expressed in its verses. The highlight of the Bible is of course the words of Jesus.

The fact that the words of the Bible are a strong authority in the minds of many can be used for good or evil. Many use it as a means of control, but then there is an opportunity to open minds to greater vision if it can be shown that a hidden teaching lies therein.

In my view one of the most misused teachings of he Bible concerns divorce. In the days of Moses a man could divorce a woman on a whim and Jesus saw this as an injustice and attempted to shift Israel in the other direction. But because people like to take one extreme position or another they went the other way and many were caught in loveless marriages from which there seemed to be no escape.

Several questioned my interpretation of the scripture I quoted on divorce so I thought I would clarify further here. I would be happy to take any questions if further clarification is needed.

One of the problems is that many lump the words fornication and adultery as meaning the same thing, but such is not the case. Two entirely different words are used with two different meanings in the original language. Some churches realize this and define adultery as being sex by a married person with someone besides the spouse. They define fornication as sex between two unmarried people. They are on the right track in making a distinction between the two words, but have missed the principle behind them.

For the most ancient and accurate definition we must look to the Hebrew:

Fornication is translated from the Hebrew ZÂNÂH and the Greek PORNEIA. In connection with sex ZÂNÂH implies some type of prostitution – either playing the roll of a prostitute or using a prostitute. On the other hand, more often than not it is used in the Bible to imply an act that has nothing to do with sex. Strong’s Concordance defines it as “committing idolatry.”

Time and time again in the scriptures when the heart of the people of Israel or Jerusalem left the true God and worshipped idols they were said to be committing fornication.

Adultery comes from NÂ’APH and we all know the common meaning here. In addition to referring to sexual betrayal it is also used to label one who has drifted away from God or the true teachings from God.

How does idolatry correspond to prostitution?

A prostitute receives sex for money with no exchange of the love energy. The prostitute only gives him tenderness when she receives something in return. Without the exchange of love there is only physical effects and satisfaction.

On the other hand, when one finds a faithful and loving wife sex is exchanged with no money involved. Both receive fulfillment through love that goes beyond physical satisfaction. Faithful companions give to each other even when there is no money or physical benefit in sight.

Idolatry is very similar to prostitution in that the idol commands your physical attention and some type of payment or sacrifice. The idol gives not of true love, but only the illusion of fulfillment. When the relationship is over the person walks away from the idol empty-handed.

On the other hand, if one sees the invisible God as the partner in a marriage relationship he will dedicate his life to such a being and receive the true benefit of love in return. Like the faithful spouse God does not demand physical payment for fleeting pleasure, but instead commands your heart and loyalty in return for love that never dies.

Here is a scripture that tells us that the city of Tyre has committed fornication because she is playing the roll of a prostitute.

“Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.” Isa 23:16-17

Here is another one telling us that Jerusalem is committing a similar error:

“But thou (Jerusalem) didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications (ZÂNÂH) on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom (ZÂNÂH – fornicaton) with them.” Ezek 16:15-17

Here we are told as plain as word can be that Jerusalem committed fornication through idolatry and not sex.

The scriptures also use adultery in symbolic ways not involving sex:

“And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce… And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.” Jer 3:7-9

Here Judah betrayed God and this non sexual betrayal was called adultery. Because of this God said that he was giving her a bill of divorcement.

Here is a scripture where both the words are used implying that there are two different meanings.

“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,” Gal 5:18-19

Here is a scripture that clearly tells us that fornication has a meaning that differs from adultery.

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” I Cor 7:2

Paul tells us that marriage will help us avoid fornication. On the other hand, one cannot commit adultery unless he is married.

Many times in the scriptures the word fornication is used in connection with idols or sacrifices made thereto. Here are some examples:

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” Rev 2:14

“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” Rev 2:20

Notice in these two examples that fornication is linked strongly to idolatry and also to false teachings. This indicates that a form of fornication is to have a true teacher or teaching and embrace a false one that may sound good and easy, but is as illusionary as an idol.

Note that Jesus himself tells us that adultery is not always a physical act:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matt 5:27-28

He also said that fornication comes from the heart:

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” Matt 15:19

If therefore one can commit adultery and fornication within the heart and can carry out this error in ways that do not involve sex would this not also mean that the scriptures would also sanctify divorce in cases that do not involve sex, but instead the condition of the heart?

With this in mind let us again examine the scripture in question:

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Matt. 5:32

A justifiable cause of divorce is therefore fornication. If one thus takes his heart away from his spouse and puts it on an idol (idolized person) in place of the spouse he has therefore committed fornication.

This makes a lot of sense when you think of it. Who wants to stay married to someone who does not have his or her heart dedicated to you? Such a marriage is indeed lifeless and if the hearts cannot be joined again in unity divorce can actually be a beneficial option. It only makes sense that the couple should do everything within their power to join again the hearts as one before considering this final solution.

I believe the core meaning was left out of the above scripture. Let me quote it again with additional light in parenthesis.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, (her love and heart is not with you) causeth her to commit adultery: (If her heart is with you and you leave her she violates her heart if she joins with another) and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced (her heart belongs to the previous spouse) committeth adultery (you are having sex with one whose heart belongs to another).” Matt. 5:32

Speaking of heart, does this interpretation not settle better with your heart than the demand that two people not joined in the heart being forced to stay together?

May 16, 2000

Copyright by J J Dewey

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