Few topics suck the air out of a room like the question of divorce and remarriage. And yet questions surrounding divorce and remarriage are not going anywhere anytime soon–questions such as “Are divorce and remarriage permitted for believers?” and “Are there special circumstances the Bible allows?”
Once again this is a highly sensitive topic which requires grace as well as a grounding in the world of the Bible.
Respected scholar Gordon Wenham has released a book (through Lexham Press) tackling this tough topic titled Jesus, Divorce, & Remarriage in their historical setting. The small book comes off as balanced and even-handed, and written in an approachable manner. With a keen eye on what Jesus’ saying meant to his original hearers and followers, what I appreciate most is the warm tone with which Wenham writes. This is a relief given how heated the debate about divorce can become, with both sides quite aggressive at times. Some almost unquestionably assume that the Bible is as adaptable as language and should agree with all or most modern presuppositions. Others point to specific texts which disallow divorce, and yet the spirit in which these arguments are made are anything but biblical and graceful.
While few topics are as unsettling as the one at hand, the author models Christ-like grace and civility throughout, leaving the reader with a better sense of what Jesus and Paul have to say on this matter.
Wenham warns against conforming the text to our own images and preferences: “we do not want to find Christ opposing, so we are tempted to interpret the Gospel texts in ways that do not make us uncomfortable” (p. 1). Besides marriage and divorce, two examples that the author gives in which this happens is with pacifism and also with Jesus’ teachings on wealth. But we are to remain committed to Christ rather than creating a Christ in our own image–a Christ who agrees with our general presuppositions.
Written in a matter-of-fact way and reasonably readable, this is an important book on the ongoing discussion surrounding Jesus, marriage, and remarriage.
Who Is This For?
Anyone interested in seriously studying the Bible’s stance on divorce and remarriage. As noted it’s fairly accessible and also a short read.
“The reader always contributes to the interpretive process, sometimes positively by filling gaps and sometimes negatively by introducing ideas that are foreign to the text.” (p. 2.)
“We want to recover the real teaching of Jesus about marriage, not our own prejudices masquerading as truth.” (p. 107)
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