Saturday, 6 October 2007

When To Separate What God Has Joined

Yesterday, ChristianityToday posted an article by Dr David Instone-Brewer, Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and Technical Officer at Tyndale House, Cambridge, on the topic of divorce and remarriage: What God Has Joined: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Divorce.

David is a specialist in rabbinic literature, and you can be sure to learn something from this article. I enjoyed meeting David, a very interesting person, when I was at Tyndale for my doctoral research.

Drawing on his research on rabbinic literature, David strongly affirms marriage, but also argues that divorce may be supported by the following limited grounds:

  • Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)

  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)

  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)
You may or may not agree with the argument of David, but you definitely learn something on Rabbinic teachings about divorce and remarriage. Make sure you read the article here.

For further resources, check out David's website and his other publications here. In particular, note his following major publications on divorce and remarriage:

1. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002 - this is written for academic readers.

2. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities. Downers Grove: IVP, 2006 - this is a "popular" version.

3. Divorce and Remarriage in the 1st and 21st Century. Grove Biblical Series 19. Cambridge: Grove Books, 2001 - if you have no time to read the above 2 books, then get hold of this version!

Perhaps it's time the Malaysian church wrestle with this issue biblically and pastorally. In this respect, we cannot ignore the careful and thorough research carried out by David, particularly in an area where many of us are not familiar with - rabbinic writings. While one may or may not fully agree with David on his analysis and findings, we have to consider carefully some of the issues raised by him concerning the social and literary context of the 1st century surrounding the teaching of divorce and remarriage by both Jesus and Paul as recorded in the gospels and epistles respectively. The more we are aware of the 1st century setting, the more we are able to make better judgment and decision on this very delicate issue in our context today.


blogpastor said...

Thanks for highlighting this. Will link it. Churches need to interact with his findings. It can only open up the conversation onmarriage and divorce, and give clarificaions and insights.

Kar Yong said...

Dear blogpastor,

Thanks for the link.