New Testament Divorce and Remarriage Teaching: Three Hermeneutical Keys

This paper will use three hermeneutical keys to unlock some aspects of the disputed NT pericopae on divorce and remarriage to enable an exegesis that is sensitive to its first century context.

It is said if you ask three economists for an economic analysis of a situation you might get five different opinions. I suggest that if you have three Christians discussing the NT teaching on divorce and remarriage, you would be fortunate to get as few as five different opinions. What is more, each of those opinions would almost certainly be a construct that hardly touches base at any point with the actual text of Scripture—or a biblical worldview.

It can only be imagined when the NT writers made their (albeit brief) comments on divorce and remarriage that they assumed they would be understood. What has gone wrong?

Poythress discusses the use of analogies and models in biblical interpretation and makes the point that a particular view in any disputed exegesis is “made plausible partly by the use of a governing analogy,” and suggests that they can be “used as a key element in a theological or hermeneutical system.”

This paper will suggest that in the Christian community we have historically chosen the wrong ‘governing analogies’ when analysing the NT divorce teaching. However, when valid governing analogies are used, I will claim that the NT teaching is both clear and consistent—but a challenge to historical Christian teaching.

I will use three hermeneutical keys to look at some aspects of NT divorce and remarriage teaching.

1. The Hebraic understanding of Gen 2:24

2. The Bible’s marital imagery

3. The social and literary context of NT times.