Jesus, when He answered the Pharisees, stated, "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put
away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and
whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19:9; see also 5:32; Mark
10:11,12; Luke 16:18).
The basic teaching is: Re-marriage upon the basis of divorce is not acceptable. It is counted
adultery. There is one exception: If the mate is put away for fornication, one may marry another.
Matthew is the only one who records the exceptive clause. Otherwise "let her remain
unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:11). Any marriage of those
divorced (other than the one who puts away their mate for fornication) is unscriptural; it is
This is simply and plainly what Jesus taught.
Some argue there is no acceptable remarriage.
Some do this upon the basis that "Jesus is explaining Old Testament law, not establishing
New Testament law." However, Jesus specifically stated: "And I say unto you." He
emphasizes that this is His teaching or doctrine.
Some argue there is no acceptable re-marriage upon the basis that "Jesus aught this under
the Old Covenant, for the Old Covenant did not end until His death on the cross. Therefore, the
Gospels, at least until Jesus' death are a part of the Old Testament, not the New. Matthew 19:9
is before the cross, therefore it is part of the Old Testament not the New." The rebuttal of this
argument may be heard from the lips of a child reciting the books of the New Testament:
"Matthew, Mark, Luke, John..." While it is true the Old Testament did not end until the cross, and
that what Jesus said here was said before the cross; it is also true what Matthew wrote and
taught as part of the New Testament was written after the cross. Christians are "to observe all
things whatsoever Jesus commanded" (Matthew 28:20). What Jesus taught in Matthew 19:9 is
part of His doctrine (2 John 9-11) and what He commanded.
Some argue there is no acceptable remarriage upon the basis that "if the guilty party remarrying
constitutes an adulterous situation, it has to be because they are still married to the innocent
party. If that is true, the innocent party is still married too and cannot remarry either." Adultery
can be used in an accomodative sense that is more general than the usual sense. Take for
example Matthew 5:27,28: "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." Does this prohibition against lust apply only
to those married? It is universally acknowledged to be more comprehensive than that.
According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, betrothal was so binding to the
Jews that a writing of divorcement was necessary to end the engagement (Vol. III, p. 1997).
Sexual intercourse with someone other than the betrothed was considered adultery, although
they were not married. That is why Joseph considered putting away Mary before he learned the
source of her pregnancy (Matthew 1:18,19). "As far as remarriage is concerned the guilty party
is viewed as if he/she were still married to the former mate, just as a betrothed Jew was looked
upon as if he/she were already married to the former mate" (The Remarriage of a Divorced
Couple, by Kerry Duke; self published; p. 47; see the excellent discussion pp. 42-48). The
innocent part is "excepted" to remarry; the guilty party is not.
Other arguments are also used for no remarriage, but all either ignore or refuse to
acknowledge "except it be for fornication." Jesus qualified the putting away and marrying
another by the phrase "except it be for fornication."
Some argue that the guilty party (the mate put away for fornication) may acceptably marry
another upon the basis that "if the innocent party is free to remarry, then the guilty party is free to
remarry. Marriage involves two people, and if one is free, both are free." However, Jesus said
"whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19:9). The exceptive
clause qualifies the one doing the putting away; but, there is no exceptive clause qualifying the
one who is put away. Regardless of the reason for putting away, the put away person cannot
marry another acceptably.
Some argue that the original couple cannot remarry upon the basis of "whoso marrieth her
which is put away doth commit adultery" includes whoever: it includes everyone -- it includes the
former mate. The context of Matthew 19:9 clearly shows the "whoso" refers to marrying another.
Otherwise it would also prohibit the reconciliation commanded in 1 Corinthians 7:11. [For a
detailed study of this subject see The Remarriage of a Divorced Couple by Kerry Duke.]
After a divorce, one may marry their former mate again. The one who puts away their mate for
fornication may marry another; but, the one who is put away for fornication may not marry
another. Those who have separated for any other reason must either remain unmarried or be
reconciled to their mate.