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Christian marriage and divorce

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Jan 15, 2010, 5:40:47 PM1/15/10

The translations of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 almost all give adultery or
some variation thereof as the sole grounds for divorce. An
astonishing exception is the New American Bible, which is used in
Roman Catholic churches in the United States for its Gospel readings.
Matt 5:31-32 there reads:
"It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife
must give her a bill of divorce.'
But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery, and whoever
marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

The footnote in NAB gives "unlawful" a very narrow interpretation,
apparently making it equivalent to "enjoined by the Torah":
...this "exception clause," as it is often
called, occurs also in Mt 19,9 where the
Greek is slightly different. ... It seems,
however, that the unlawfulness that Matthew gives
as a reason why a marriage must be broken
refers to a situation peculiar to his community:
the violation of Mosaic law forbidding marriage
between persons of certain blood and/or legal
relationship (Lv 18, 6-18).

Not knowing Greek, I am wholly dependent on others for the answer to
the question: is this a plausible translation of either verse?

Even if the translation is valid, might not "unlawful" be given a more
broad interpretation in the light of Matt 19:16 and Mark 10:9? These
are the famous verses saying that what God has joined together, let no
man put asunder.

Might there have been a religious wedding ceremony among the Jews of
Jesus's time, and might it be that the only marriages that were
"lawful" were those done according to the norms for the ceremony?

And what do these verses mean for us today? What kinds of marriages
today would be the ones where God has joined the couple together?
Would they be synonymous with Christian covenant marriages, perhaps?
and would the joining take place at a wedding ceremony, or could it
occur some other time?

The Roman Catholic Church has unambiguous answers to these questions
as far as its members are concerned, but I am curious to see how
members of other denominations view this.


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