Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Critique of the David Instone-Brewer Divorce and Remarriage Theory


See here for the full paper. The synopsis is below.


Synopsis
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, The Social and Literary context, by Dr. David Instone-Brewer is an extensive and controversial book on this important topic (2002, 355 pages).

I explain why I wrote this paper: Instone-Brewer’s theory, while initially plausible, didn’t fit with the innocently divorced wife in Mat. 5:32 being guilty of adultery in remarrying. I wrote this paper to address this conflict and to provide certainty as to the Christian teaching on the topic.

Instone-Brewer’s position is that Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage in Mat. 19:3-12 are dependent upon the Hillelite-Shammaite debate, that Jesus was tested on the legality of the Hillelite ‘Any Matter’ divorce procedure, and that he ultimately replies in agreement with the Shammaite position that Deut. 24:1 only refers to divorce for adultery. This reverses what would otherwise be the plain meaning of the text.

In critiquing Instone-Brewer’s position, we address the historical speculations involved in his reconstruction of the Hillelite-Shammaite debate on Deut. 24:1-4, and the proposed links with that debate in Mat. 19:3-12.

First and most importantly, we assess the positions and meaning of the Hillelite-Shammaite debate on Deut. 24:1-4 to show that the debate was not about permissive vs. restrictive positions on grounds for divorce. We show the debate was instead about the exegetical basis for permitting a divorced woman to remarry after divorce for any cause whatsoever.

Second we address Instone-Brewer’s claim that the Hillelites introduced a specific and permissive ground for divorce that was identified by the legal-technical phrase ‘Any Matter.’ We note that there is no support whatsoever that such a ground for divorce existed, nor that there ever was a divorce procedure identified by that phrase. We also note that the alleged invocation of that legal-technical phrase in Mat. 19:3 fails: ‘every cause’ is not a reasonable match for ‘Any Matter,’ and for this kind of reference the match should be verbally exact.

Third, and in like manner, we address Instone-Brewer’s claim that the Shammaite position was ever summarised or abbreviated down to the phrase ‘except indecency.’ Again we note that there is no support whatsoever for this as a distinctive phrase. And again we also note that the alleged invocation of that distinctive phrase in Mat. 19:9 fails: ‘not for fornication’ is not a reasonable match for ‘except indecency,’ and for this kind of reference the match should be verbally exact.

Fourth, we assess the dating of the Hillelite-Shammaite debate to show that Instone-Brewer fails to provide sufficient evidence that the debate was contemporary with Jesus’ test question from the Pharisees. There is a significant possibility that the debate post-dated Jesus’ test question from the Pharisees, which would destroy the proposed link.

Next we address Instone-Brewer’s attempts to recover the social and literary context of the legal debate, specifically the legal and political context and content of the gospel. Whilst Instone-Brewer’s scholarship in this book and in his other papers is to be credited with developing important aspects of the legal and political context, he has failed to recognise and develop its significance in some important areas, and these limitations builds up to a fundamental error in his analysis of Christian wedding vows and what they mean for divorce and remarriage.

We assess Instone-Brewer’s paper Choosing a Legal System in Early Judaism to develop the legal and judicial context of the legal debates, showing Jesus’ general approach in favour of non-coercive legal administration and a competitive judiciary, as opposed to the coercive legal administration and monolithic hierarchical state judiciaries, and emphasise the political meaning of this.

We also emphasise the propriety of political assessment of the social and literary context and content of Jesus’ teaching by showing an example of Instone-Brewer doing this in his paper 18 Benedictions and the Minim before 70 CE. Instone-Brewer develops that the Pharisees were the drivers of the wording, and argues they used it to attack the Sadducees and the Roman empire. We show that Dan. 9 is the background of the 18. We also show that the paper also proves the national and political nature of the resurrection, a point not developed by Instone-Brewer, intrinsically connecting what would otherwise be disparate points.

We then show that Instone-Brewer fails to apply this legal and political approach to Mat. 5:21-26, and how this approach opens up this text completely differently, showing the barb against the Romans and the well-connected Jewish hangers on who handed him over to the Romans to be executed, and their civil litigation system and coercive civil remedies.

We address Instone-Brewer’s claim that when Jesus ruled that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, he didn’t literally mean adultery with all the legal and financial consequences of that being applicable. We show that Instone-Brewer himself documents and develops the social and literary context where ‘technical’ adultery was a real form of adultery, and carried all the legal and financial consequences of real adultery and we show why this is applicable here.

We finish this legal issues part by addressing the fundamental error Instone-Brewer makes in assessing Christian wedding vows as showing a continuity of the marital obligations, and thereby allegedly a continuity of the remedy of cancellation for breach. We criticise Instone-Brewer’s flagrant disregard for the legal meaning of the wedding vows in church government, policy and pastoral practice, and his support for the church’s abdication of its judicial functions in marriage, divorce and remarriage. We particularly criticise the practice of not expecting or requiring those who vowed ‘for better, for worse … till death do us part’ to be held to those legally binding vows and not recognising this as a legal impediment to subsequent marriages before the original contract is discharged by death.

Then we address the substance of the exegesis of Mat. 19:3-12. We also address Mat. 5:32; Ex. 21:10-11; 1 Cor. 7 and Eph. 5:22-33.

We show that the question is best read in a plain and normal sense: is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for every cause? We refute Instone-Brewer’s claim that Jesus digressed rather than answered the question. We show that Paul interpreted the answer to mean ‘a man must not divorce his wife.’

We exegete the answer to show how Jesus skilfully and powerfully makes his case that a man’s obligations to his wife are unconditional and irrevocable and show how this answers the question of the legality of divorce on the grounds of breach in the negative. We develop the eschatological and apocalyptic implications of Jesus’ appeal to the restoration of the Garden of Eden and the replacement of the hard hearts with hearts of flesh in regathered Israel under the Messianic Kingdom.

We show that Jesus did not back down at the end of the debate and that he instead upped the stakes as high as they could go by ruling remarriage after divorce to be adultery.

We address the exception clause ‘not for fornication’ with a study on the word adultery before making a study on the word porneia based largely on the usage of zanah in the Old Testament, but also considering New Testament usage of porneia. We identify the root meaning as prostitution, and study how the word was used in specifically extended senses. We identify that, at that particular time and place, the terms adultery and porneia were defined and used in distinction based on the marital status of the woman involved, and we address various exceptions to this general rule.

We discuss how the early Christian writers approached the questions of divorce and remarriage and how they dealt with Mat. 19:9 and other relevant passages.

We make the case that porneia in Mat. 19:9 refers to premarital unchastity of the bride, and we welcome Instone-Brewer’s generally favourable assessment of this interpretation and address the reasons why he nevertheless rejected it.

We address the disciples’ difficulties with Jesus’ teaching on divorce, and we examine the supposed optional marriage and optional procreation position of Jesus, as maintained by Instone-Brewer. We suggest instead Jesus’ ruling about being made eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven was a rabbinic joke at the disciples’ expense rather than as a serious commendation of celibacy.

We illustrate how differently Mat. 19:3-12 might have been recorded if Jesus’ test question from the Pharisees happened and meant as Instone-Brewer proposes.

We then move to Mat. 5:32 in the Sermon on the Mount and discuss its structure and meaning, showing that it suggests a very strict position against divorce and remarriage indeed.

We then move back to the Old Testament to Ex. 21:10-11 and show that the woman involved was a female servant, and not a slave-wife, and how the text is about financial remedies rather than the permissibility of divorce or remarriage.

We then move back into the New Testament to Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 6-7. We develop the structure and logic of the passage and show how it addresses the question of the validity of marriages between believers and unbelievers and how the divorce prohibition applies to these difficult cases. Paul’s argument is that marriages are valid whether they are or were between believers or unbelievers, and whether before or after conversion, and so none of these scenarios overrides the prohibition of divorce. We show that Paul deals with the issue of a spouse involuntarily divorced, exculpating them from the guilt of the divorce without validating the divorce itself.

We finish off the biblical material by showing how Eph. 5:22-33 teaches that a man’s duties to his wife are to the extent of pouring out his life unto death, that those duties are unconditional and irrevocable, and last until the death of the man or his wife.

We finish the paper with some practical notes then appendices address various other matters.
Appendix 1 provides an alternative argument that if porneia refers to adultery rather than premarital unchastity, that the exception clauses in Mat. 5:32 and 19:9 could be explained as addressing the question of causation and as a rhetorical emphasis respectively, how the exception clauses do not logically require permission for divorce or remarriage in such cases, and showing that the sayings without the exception clauses independently prohibit divorce and remarriage even for adultery.

Appendix 2 highlights another questionable historical speculation of Instone-Brewer that the Christian church abruptly changed its doctrine and practice on divorce and remarriage after 70 A.D. without leaving a trace.

Appendix 3 documents the traditional Christian wedding service and vows from the Book of Common Prayer, showing its exegetical basis and legal meaning. It also introduces material showing how seriously and literally the doctrine of one flesh was treated in English common law.

Appendix 4 sets out a contractual remedies analysis of marriage and divorce. This also looks at various legal issues that could result in relief such as illegal contract and mistake.

Appendix 5 looks at the meaning of the term ‘nakedness of a thing’ in Deut 24:1, showing that it means that the man uncovered something objectionable and that it does not refer to or imply adultery in particular, and shows the difficulties occasioned by attempting to link it with ‘not for porneia’ in Mat. 19:9.

See here for the full paper.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Resurrection of the Wheat and the Tares: What has Dan 12 got to do with Mat 13?

My old friend Glenn Peoples reviewed some of my recent writing on The connection between the Resurrection of Daniel 12 and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Mat 13 and insisted that the whole idea was of no merit, much to my chagrin.

I have no idea why it is so bizarre to suggest that the rising of the wheat and the tares is equal to the rising of the wise and the rest in Dan 12:2, especially given that Jesus quotes Dan 12:3 to explain the parable!

So, without further ado, read my new paper:

The Resurrection of the Just and the Unjust In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

and decide for yourself.

Critique of the David Instone-Brewer Divorce and Remarriage Theory

Image result for divorce
In 2017 I did a lot of study on divorce and remarriage. I was not satisfied that I had properly examined the arguments in favour of divorce and remarriage. My analysis of the Sermon on the Mount suggested the Lord was so opposed to divorce and remarriage that even the innocent wife divorced by the treacherous husband, on remarriage she was condemned as an adulteress. But I wasn't really sure I had fully examined the arguments proffered for permitting divorce and remarriage in some circumstances.

I had an old friend, Renee, invite me to celebrate her remarriage, so told her I wasn't sure I could attend, and asked what happened to her earlier husband Hans. She said he was unfaithful and so she justified her divorce on this basis and appealed to David Instone-Brewer's teaching to justify her actions.
David Instone-Brewer


So I did a full study on David Instone-Brewer's arguments and discovered an excellent scholar doing good work on the topic and using that material to draw conclusions against the evidence he himself had uncovered and documented. My critique therefore primarily draws on his own material as well as seeking to work through the biblical texts.

I have updated the paper in Jan 2018.

See here for the critique (Updated version Jan 2018).

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Typological Fulfillment of the Civil Law of Moses

I have recently been studying the typology of the civil law of Moses, an application that is virtually unheard of. Typology is normally applied to only the ceremonial law of Moses. But the civil law also ought to be understood as typological and fulfilled in Christ.



But what does that really mean and how does it work? I have written a paper on it to develop that and to address the political and legal implications of that.

See the paper here

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Critique of the David Instone-Brewer Divorce and Remarriage Theory

Image result for divorce
Earlier this year I did some study on divorce and remarriage. I was not satisfied that I had properly examined the arguments in favour of divorce and remarriage. My analysis of the Sermon on the Mount suggested the Lord was so opposed to divorce and remarriage that even the innocent wife divorced by the treacherous husband, on remarriage she was condemned as an adulteress. But I wasn't really sure I had fully examined the arguments proffered for permitting divorce and remarriage in some circumstances.

I had an old friend, Renee, invite me to celebrate her remarriage, so told her I wasn't sure I could attend, and asked what happened to her earlier husband Hans. She said he was unfaithful and so she justified her divorce on this basis and appealed to David Instone-Brewer's teaching to justify her actions.
David Instone-Brewer


So I did a full study on David Instone-Brewer's arguments and discovered an excellent scholar doing good work on the topic and using that material to draw conclusions against the evidence he himself had uncovered and documented. My critique therefore primarily draws on his own material as well as seeking to work through the biblical texts.

See here for the critique (Updated version Jan 2018).

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fulfilment of Prophecy and The Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Luke: response to Dr Laurie Guy's Thesis

Recently I had the luck and honour to hear Dr Laurie Guy present a message on the book of Revelation and to purchase his book Unlocking Revelation which I recommend as a much needed antidote to popular dispensational approaches to the book.

However, Dr Guy wrongly assumed a late date of writing for the book (see The Dating of the Book of Revelation by Don K Preston for a good look at that issue), and sees the book and prophecy generally, as being so non-specific in meaning and fulfilment as to deny the reality of the immanent and specific consummation at the judgement of Old Covenant Jerusalem.

Dr Guy sent me a copy of his Master's Thesis which he said made the case for non-specific 'spacious' interpretation of prophecy to the effect that it cannot be tied down to a specific falsifiable predictions that should have a specific, unique fulfilment. This prompted me to examine his case study of the Kingdom of God in Luke: fortunately we see that Luke has a very unique and specific approach to prophecy and its fulfilment. The Kingdom of God teaching in the gospel of Luke undermines rather than uphold's Dr Guy's hermentic and teaching: he should reconsider.

The paper can be read here:
Fulfilment of Prophecy andThe Kingdom of Godin the Gospel of Luke

The paper includes:
God’s Scheme of Redemption in Luke-Acts

Luke 9:27 – the promise of consummation, in your lifetime

Luke 17:20-21 – when does the kingdom of God come?

Luke 19:11 – the absent master

Luke 21 – when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near

Luke 22 – fulfilment of the Passover

Luke 23:39-43 – the clash of the kingdoms in the passion (includes the 'with me in paradise' promise)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Romans 13 -- Paul's Repayment Theology

Romans 13:1-7 is a text that is too important to misunderstand. The text has been used to justify the authority of tyrants and as supposedly revealing a general Christian doctrine in favour of a legitimate state authority. By implication it supposedly supports a general Christian doctrine in favour of the legitimate use of legal and judicial coercion to repay wrongdoing here on earth.

This kind of use of the text leads to a range of unnecessary problems.

Firstly, there is no other text in the New Testament in favour of the state as a legitimate authority established by God ‘under Him and over the people’[1], and there are a good many texts associating coercive authority as the manifestation of Satan’s domain rather than God’s.[2] Furthermore, Jesus claimed ‘All authority in heaven and on earth’ (Mat 28:18), and the Paul affirmed but one Lord (1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:5).

Secondly, there is nothing in the text or anywhere else in the canon that can be used to refute the application of the text to support the use of state power against heretics as, for example was maintained by Augustine and as practiced in the name of Jesus Christ for centuries.

Thirdly, it flies in the face of reality. State power is not actually used in the manner apparently described, and it is frequently used in just the opposite manner: to reward the well-connected evildoers and to punish the good people who have been unfortunate enough to encounter state officials raising revenue, expanding territory or otherwise imposing their wills and the policies of state on everyone else. The promise of freedom from fear of the one in authority is a promise broken so frequently and conspicuously as to make an ironic reading almost forced.[3]

These problems, and there are others like them, are unnecessary problems because they are based on an approach to the text that goes against everything the context suggests that it means. We need to start the interpretation process again by getting back into the context – historical, prophetic, theological and polemical – that the text was written in.

See here for a paper presenting this approach



[1] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXIII, Of the Civil Magistrate, enlisting Romans 13:1-4 and 1 Pet 2:13 as proofs. 1 Pet 2:13 does not say that governors are under God, is says they are under the Emperor.
[2] E.g. Mat 4:8-10, Eph 6:11-12.
[3] As argued in The Irony of Romans 13, T.L Carter.