Have You Not Read?

SnapperTrx asked a pertinent question in a comment after the previous post:

What do you do when you talk to people who believe in this gospel of mutual submission and servant leadership? Do you actively debate people with this belief (other than online)? I had thought about starting a conversation with some FB friends who hold on to these beliefs, but decided against it. I don’t feel they would listen to a single word, so what would be the point? It seems that it would be more effective to talk to those who question the narrative rather than try to convince those who are already a part of it. What do you think?

Snapper brings up several points.  First, how does one challenge toxic and unbiblical doctrines?  Second, to what end?  Obviously some are more willing than others to hear the truth and the Bible has some good examples of how to do this.  Today we have one from the Great Teacher Himself; and interestingly, it covers a toxic doctrine that is still with us today:  Divorce.  The story is told in Matthew 19, but keep in mind that the purpose of this post isn’t to rant about divorce, it’s to show everyone how Christ handled objecting to toxic unScriptural doctrines that pervert God’s design for marriage.

Before we begin, there is one point that needs to be made.  This kind of confrontation cannot be successfully handled unless the person doing it knows the issue intimately and knows what Scripture says at every point.  That requires a very high level of understanding, which requires that you not just read, but study, memorize and meditate on the passages involved.  It isn’t enough to know what Scripture says in any particular passage, you must know how it relates to the rest of Scripture and understand it in context.  Why?  Because if you set out to teach you’re held to a higher standard.

If you want “wow” factor, all it takes is calmly quoting various passages at length, from memory, while your opponents don’t even know what chapter you’re in…  and they not only look like idiots but everybody knows it.  You won’t get challenged on that again.

Watching The Master At Work

Jesus was teaching and some Pharisees approached Him to test Him and asked Him what the grounds for divorce were.  They were testing Him, so they didn’t ask an honest question, they tried to phrase the question so that no matter what answer Jesus gave, it could be used against Him:  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?”  That, my friends, is what you call a loaded question.  Matthew 19 is tremendously misunderstood because the Pharisees thought they were asking about the Law of Moses, but Jesus slapped them down by demonstrating the question was really about the very first of God’s Laws for mankind(1) the Law of Marriage.

First, the Law of Marriage is 24 words that grant the man the authority to marry and explains exactly how that is accomplished.  There are three elements to the Law of Marriage, also known as the “three shall’s.”   The man shall leave, the man shall cleave; and (notice that it’s no longer ‘the man’) they shall become one flesh.  Jesus is about to explain the significance of that.

While the Law of Marriage did not contain any authority for a man to end a marriage he began, Moses (sitting as the Judge of Israel) later observed that the men were sending their wives away.  This created great distress for the women because they were married women.  Even if they found another man who would have them, to join themselves to another man was adultery, which was a death penalty offense.   Moses issued a judgment, commanding the men that if the wife found no favor in his eyes because he had found some ‘indecency’ in her and he sent her away, he must give her a certificate of divorce.

In this way Moses legalized the process of divorce.  The certificate of divorce was the second witness for the wife, proving she was divorced and eligible to marry again.  Many would see this as a compassionate move but it was not.  It is never, ever a good idea to tamper with God’s design for things.  Moses had previously had a case regarding the Law of Marriage, recorded at Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  He held fast to the Law at that point, but this time he did not.   The problem was the word Moses used (“indecency”) was rather vague.  What does that mean?  It’s normative and subject to interpretation.

Thus, by the time Jesus had His earthly ministry there were two schools of thought on what Moses meant with that word “indecency” as the grounds for divorce.  The Rabbi Shammai claimed(2) that indecency meant a serious problem such as adultery and no woman was to be divorced for anything other than a very serious marital issue.  The Rabbi Hillel and his followers took a decidedly different approach, saying that “indecency” was in the eye of the beholder and it could be anything and divorce was authorized if the wife burned her husbands meals.

That is the political issue Jesus is being asked to comment on.  To their minds, no matter which way He answered He was in trouble with one of these groups.  The modern-day equivalent is “So- have you stopped beating your wife?”

What Jesus did was He asked a simple question that reframed the entire issue.  “Have you not read?”  That was a slap in the face to the Pharisees, the keepers of the Law.  Of course they’d read.  Then Jesus slammed them even harder by quoting that which they should have considered but hadn’t:  “that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?”  Jesus cited the Law, not the amendment to the Law instituted by Moses.  Then He hit them hard:

Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.

We now have Jesus, the Word made Flesh, explaining that the man is only responsible for two of the three elements in the Law of Marriage, that God is responsible for the third element of “they shall become one flesh.”  There are, therefore, no grounds for divorce.

Was that a home run?  No.  Like many issues in Scripture it’s more complicated than it appears to be on the surface and this is why anyone who wants to confront toxic doctrine must thoroughly understand what they’re talking about.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The Pharisees should have been dumbfounded, but they immediately came back at Him with a question:  If there are no grounds for divorce, then why did Moses (our Hero) say we could divorce our wives?  It’s a legitimate question and they put their finger on a dichotomy that Jesus had to resolve.  As the Master Teacher He was treading very thin ice with His response, both politically and doctrinally.  They set out to trap Him with a question that would put Him in opposition to either the camp of Shammai or Hillel and He was now in a position that could arguably be viewed as being in opposition to Moses.  If the Pharisees were on the ball (and I believe they were) they probably couldn’t believe their good fortune and they asked their question “Why then…”

That “Why then…” reveals they knew exactly what Jesus had just done, pointing out a dichotomy between God’s Law of Marriage and the judgment of divorce by Moses.  Was Jesus going to take the bait?

“Why then did Moses command to ‘give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?'”

Jesus responded:

“Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

OK, He acknowledged Moses and recognized the authority of Moses.  Yes, Moses amended the Law of Marriage.  Then, with all that as a prelude, Jesus explained what Moses meant when he said a man could divorce his wife if he found some “indecency” in her:

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 is one of those verses that is widely misunderstood as teaching that a man commits adultery if he marries *any* divorced woman.  That is not true, as explained in this post.  The net effect of this passage is to point to the significance of 1st Corinthians 7:10-11, where we have an anomalous event.  Other than the book of Revelation, 1st Corinthians 7:10-11 is the only passage in the entire New Testament in which the Risen and Ascendent Lord is giving instruction to His church as a direct command.

“But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not(3) divorce his wife.”

The Law cannot be changed, but if one pays close attention, Christ is not changing the Law with respect to divorce that Moses put in place.  Not at all.  An unbelieving husband may still legitimately divorce his wife for her immorality (c.f. Matthew 5:32; 19:9).  However, not that this instruction applies to married believers within the church.  Christ is implementing a rule for His servants- it will be as it was in the beginning, no divorce.


Lessons Learned

Know your material and know your opponents.  Understand the political issues involved that effect the answers you give.  It is imperative that you completely understand what you are talking about before you try to confront someone over what you *think* is a problem with any particular doctrine.  Teachers are held to a higher standard and it isn’t enough just to know the material, you must understand it completely.

Frame is everything.  Jesus carefully reframed the issue of divorce from being what Moses had said about it back to what God said about marriage.  You will not win confrontations with feminists or their white-knight allies by arguing the tenets of their philosophies.  Stick to God and what He said.  His Word is sufficient.

Speak the truth- especially when it’s going to hurt.  He is the Lord Jesus and was able to explain what the third element in the Law of Marriage really meant- that the “become one flesh” was not actually the act of intercourse, it was an act of joining that God did.  He was also able to explain what Moses actually meant with the word “indecency.”  Notice that when He did, He took a line so strict that His disciples (who were listening) then said “If the relationship of the man and his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”   They knew exactly what Jesus had just said- that virtually every single one of the acts a wife could commit that would qualify her for divorce were already death-penalty offenses.  In other words, being a rebellious, contentious, disobedient, lazy, slovenly, disrespectful and supremely gifted bitch did not qualify as grounds to divorce a wife.

We have all we need contained in the Scripture we posses.  All that is needed is study in order to have the knowledge to oppose toxic doctrine.  But, that takes work and time and energy.  Not many do that these days.

You will give offense.  Understand that taking on bad doctrine and popular misconceptions about what the Bible says will make you very unpopular.  Telling the truth by quoting the relevant passages of Scripture and explaining them in context will convict people of their guilt and their sin.  That is offensive because no-one likes being called on their sins, especially when they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong.

Look at how the Master did it:  He asked a simple question that needs to be asked:  “Have you not read?”  That is the key in confronting bad doctrine because it focuses on what all Christians are supposed to do.  We are to be like the Bereans who studied their Scriptures diligently to know that all they were taught was true.  We are to be the same way but very few are.  The question is also the set-up for a service ace, which is the proper application of Scripture (in context) that explains why the doctrine is bad.

Model your argument on the Master’s model:  In the case of the “mutual submission” and “servant leadership” doctrines, the question to ask is “Have you not read, that He said to the wife- speaking of the husband -that ‘he shall rule over you?’  And for that reason the Law of Vows places a young woman in subjection to her father in her youth and in subjection to her husband when she has come of age.  All of the commands to the wife to submit to her husband in the NT were not dreamed up by misogynists, they were written in accordance with the command of God when He spoke to the wife of her husband: ‘he shall rule over you.'”  That is the argument that exposes the falsehood of the doctrine.

Know the arguments against.  Just as with the Lord, you will get pushback.  In this case a popular one is that Christ lifted the curse.  Really?  And snakes no longer crawl on their bellies?  Women are squirting their kids out like watermelon seeds at a 4th of July picnic?  Are men still required to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow?

A gentler approach is, instead of focusing on confrontation, to focus on the core passage first.  In the case of mutual submission, the core passage is Genesis 3:16 and “he shall rule over you.”  There are all kinds of ways to do this, from discussing how that passage is the source of hypergamy, to how that passage is the underlying command of God that all the submission commands to wives in the New Testament come from.  In this way, you ignore their bad doctrine is specious and irrelevant.  If they bring it up they look like idiots because it’s framed as them now opposing God with bad doctrine.

Has God changed?   In this case it all boils down to one question:  Is God no longer the same, yesterday, today and forever?  That was the underlying point Jesus made in Matthew 19.  The only way Ephesians 5:21 can be the “context” with which to take all the submission commands to wives is if God has changed and His curse on women is no longer in effect.  So… do snakes still crawl on their bellies and do women still bring forth their children in pain?  QED.

And pray for them.  They need all the help they can get.


(1)The first command God gave mankind was to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and take dominion over it.  The second command God gave was the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The first Law was the Law of Marriage, which implemented the first command of “be fruitful and multiply.”  It begins with “For this reason…”  For what reason?  The reason or cause is the command to be fruitful and multiply.  The command has been issued and the Law has been given explaining how this command is to be carried out.

(2)Confession time.  Understanding what I read has never been difficult for me, provided I either have the correct vocabulary or a good dictionary at hand, although I admit it once took me almost three days to figure out how the infamous Subpart F (Controlled Foreign Corporations) of the tax code applied to my special situation.  However, in trying to parse some of the writings by the Rabbi Shammai, specifically to see if I could get to the essence of what he considered “indecency” to be…  I finally met my match.  I gave up.  Compared to him, parsing the tax code is a piece of cake.  So, as near as I can tell, according to Shammai, when Moses said “indecency” it was a really bad word and a woman would have to do something really bad to be indecent.  Maybe I looked at bad translations, IDK, but he was the other side in the Shammai – Hillel argument over what constituted a legitimate divorce.

(3) The meaning of the Greek words translated as “should not divorce his wife” are just as easily translated as “must not divorce his wife” and “must not send her away.”  The word “should” must not be thought as providing some wiggle-room when it comes to the issue of divorce, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this post.

This entry was posted in Biblical Illiteracy, Churchianity, Divorce, Marriage. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Have You Not Read?

  1. SnapperTrx says:

    Wow! Thanks for the long reply. I find myself coming to the realization that I do not spend as much time in the Word as I should be, and will make an effort to study more often!

    • That, sir, is music to my ears.

      I’d actually started a reply to your comment but I realized it needed a more comprehensive response because the issue is important.

      Servant Leadership isn’t nearly as bad as Mutual Submission when it comes to how the doctrine is applied because the idea of Servant Leadership actually has a valid application among men of equal rank (which was- I believe -the point Jesus was making).

      The focus on Genesis 3:16 and “he shall rule over you” makes it obvious that the “Ephesians 5:21 is the context” is completely wrong because God does not change. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

      • SnapperTrx says:

        Holy smokes (no pun intended), this is what I have been saying for months and months! God doesn’t change, so what makes you think that such passages were only written as being ‘culturally relevant for the time’? What pleased Him then pleases Him now! Very glad I found your page buried in my favorites list.

        • Truth be told, if there was an “un-favorites” list, that’s where most folks would have me linked.

          I used the example of Jesus in Matthew 19 because it’s so instructive and so relevant. When hit with the truth people will wiggle and squirm to get away from it and on issues like divorce, some really smart people sharpened the arguments for a long, long time to justify divorce. Why? Because the system of monogamy that the early church put in place (contrary to Scripture) prevents a man from taking another wife. I’ll be posting about that soon, but the Law of Marriage has the issue of polygyny and divorce pretty much welded together because both of them are based on what Genesis 2:24 did NOT say: it didn’t grant authority to divorce and it didn’t restrict the number of wives a man could initiate marriage with. That’s coming soon.

  2. Mycroft Jones says:

    Toad, try coming at it from the point of view of a low status male. The type most likely to be cucked.

    • Status is as status does.

      I can think of about 20 passages that, if memorized, allow anyone to explain almost everything related to the Law of Marriage and slam their opponents. It also requires knowing what the interaction is and how the verses relate to each other, but when the average churchian is faced with someone who has actually studied Scripture, knows the issue and is able to quote at length… it’s a special form of AMOGing all its own.

      There is no other way, because as soon as you surrender the frame of what Scripture actually says you’ve dropped into their frame and once in their frame they win by virtue of social pressure.

      The real problem is ignorance and unfortunately, for a lot of these situations, the only way to make a difference for the ordinary folks is to take on the opinion leaders in public and demonstrate their ignorance of what the Bible actually says. Call them out for teaching wrong doctrine. Humiliate them without mercy and if that’s too “mean” then think about the families destroyed by these toxic doctrines. Their edifice of foolishness needs to be burned down.

      That requires knowing the material inside and out, knowing the popular arguments and assumptions and above all, knowing the motivations. Feminism is all about women avoiding accountability and any man who pushes feminism is helping women avoid accountability at the cost of men and children.

      Again, status is as status does and this is a good area for a “low status male” to prove he isn’t so “low status” after all. The whole “low status” thing can be an advantage, too. If the women aren’t attracted to him and he has no hope in that area, why march to their feminist tune? Burn it down.

      I think I’ll do a post on this.

      • Mycroft Jones says:

        What I mean is this: the hardness of heart is not a man divorcing his wife. The hardness of heart is the high status male seducing the wife of the low status male. Low status male doesn’t have judicial redress, because the courts/police/community will side with the high status male. To maintain mastery of his own household, divorce is a merciful redress for the low status male. Since the community won’t enforce the law of “stone the adulterers”. That is the hardness of heart being referred to; whoredom of married women, men betraying their fellow citizens by sleeping with their wives.

        • I’m almost not sure where to begin, but for the benefit of any other readers I’ll take this point by point.

          Moses was the Judge sitting over all of Israel. While the Law of Marriage didn’t specifically state it as such, the grant of authority to *initiate* marriage contained no authorization for the man to *end* a marriage. Yet, men were kicking their wives to the curb.

          The response of this by Moses was to command the men, not to stop throwing their wives out, but rather if the men were going to throw their wife out they had to give her a certificate of divorce. This is not a decision that is recorded in the Law, although it is reflected in the response of the Pharisees at Matthew 19:7 when they said “Why then did Moses command to ‘Give her a certificate of divorce and send her away.'” The passage from the Law that does mention the decision authorizing divorce (by reference) is Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which is not about divorce but rather a decision on whether a divorced wife can remarry her first husband.

          To understand “hardness of heart” you must consider what God had to say in Malachi 2, when He rebuked the men of Israel for behaving treacherously against the wife of their youth, their wife by covenant. Mycroft, the Law allowed divorce for cause. If the wife committed adultery (immorality) then it was NOT treachery for the husband to divorce her. And the context for this is that Genesis 2:24 contained no restriction on how many times a man might initiate a marriage, thus no restriction on the number of wives. And they all knew that.

          The Israelite men were behaving treacherously against the wife of their youth by throwing her out without just cause in order to make room for another wife. Not a virgin, but a divorced woman. We know that because God made a specific reference in Malachi 2:15 to “Godly offspring” and that is referring to Leviticus 21:13-15 which forbids a priest from marrying any woman but a virgin.

          That blows your “high-status men seducing the wives of low-status men” theory all to hell.

          The most difficult thing for people today to understand is there was no “need” to divorce because a man had the authority to take another wife. It was treachery to divorce the wife of their youth, their wife by covenant who had done nothing to deserve such treatment. That they did it as a matter of convenience added insult to injury. That is hardness of heart.

          To maintain mastery of his own household, divorce is a merciful redress for the low status male.

          That is a rationalization fit for a woman. It is complete and utter bullshit because it contradicts God’s word. It is a damnable lie because it justifies the destruction of families and injures children.

          You claim the problem is “high-status males seducing the wives of low-status males” and while you may see such things, that isn’t the problem. The problem with adultery today is that everyone is doing it. Any man in your church who “married” a woman who was not a virgin is living with an adulteress because she’s another man’s wife. Did your father get your mother’s virginity? If the answer is no, then odds about 99.999% in support that you’re a bastard. And so is everyone else in that situation.

          So… you see all these ‘high-status’ men cucking the ‘low-status’ men but at least 9 out of 10 of those low-status men aren’t actually married to the woman they think is their wife. Try wrapping your head around that. Is it more wrong for that woman to commit adultery with the guy she’s living with or with some other random attractive guy?

          Monogamy is also at fault in addition to the issue of adultery. Because God is not mocked. It is far easier to seduce a “married” adulteress than a “single” adulteress, especially within the church. The reason is simple: for the single adulteress the man is being compared (ranked) against all the other available options she has and thus he has to be more attractive than his competition in order to seduce them.

          Not so for ‘married’ adulteresses, because they’re monogamized and her point of comparison is her monoga-man. All the man has to do with a monogamized adulteress is be more attractive than her monoga-man. How much more attractive is relative to her situation at the moment (are they fighting, where is she in her menstrual cycle, etc.), but for a monogamized adulteress churchian, her monoga-man her is the competition.

          However, even if we were to assume that we were dealing with real marriages, your description of the problem ignores any accountability for the wives in that equation. Wave your magic “high-status” dick in front of a married woman and watch her swoon? She couldn’t help it?

          “OMG, it wasn’t my fault! He was HIGH STATUS! There was nothing I could do!”

          I’m feeling slow at the moment so you’ll have to excuse me because I don’t have the correct word at hand to describe the combination of incredulity and disbelief I’m experiencing over this. That someone who studies the Bible would make such a statement boggles my mind.

      • Mycroft Jones says:

        You boggle easily.

      • Ed the Department Head says:

        If I understand Artisanal Toad correctly, female adultery is the really the only time a man can legitimately divorce his wife. Therefore, a low status man divorcing his wife for adultery would be the only time such a practice is allowed under a solid biblical system and thus Mycroft Jones doesn’t have a legitimate argument for keeping the current very unbiblical system going.
        The current system only satisfies liberal feminist churchians and neo-puritan tradcon churchians. The former because it allows them to promote female headship in opposition to the law and the latter because they fear and hate god ordained sexuality. These prudes in the second group can’t just follow the rules and reject truly sinful sexual activities but have panic attacks at the thoughts of men having multiple wives or men and their spouses being free to engage in less vanilla sexual activities.

        • female adultery is the really the only time a man can legitimately divorce his wife.

          Even then, that’s under the Law and only a man who is not a Christian can legitimately divorce his wife for adultery. Christian men are forbidden to divorce their Christian wives no matter what they do (1st Cor. 7:10-11). Other than that, you get it.

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