Approximately three years ago, a brother and I were discussing the topic of marriage and divorce over lunch. During our discussion, this brother shared with me that one of our own brethren had completed a work on the very subject we were elaborating upon.
At that time, there was a PDF known amongst our brethren in the assembly as the “divorce book” and was appropriately entitled “Let Not Man Put Asunder: A Biblical Study of Divorce.” By H. Van Dyke Parunak. (This version is freely available at the above link to those interested in reviewing the version that surveys the entire bible on this issue). The brother in whom I was in discussion with, charged me with the exhortation to read this brother’s treatment of the topic.
With a conclusion that divorce was at times permissible amongst believers under exceptional circumstances, I could not reason with a free conscience that it was acceptable for divorced persons to ‘remarry.’
Yes, that puts quite a number of folks into a tight position does it not? It is a personal issue for many people, and a difficult and trying topic to wrestle with effectively. In the end, it creates a dilemma for those who would provide counsel or advise individuals facing marriage, divorce, or remarriage. It effects us at home and abroad. Mothers, Fathers, Step-Family, Cousins, Uncles, and Aunts.
Taking the advice of that brother who suggested I read the longer, more in-depth study of brother Parunak’s book, I read it from cover to cover. I was so intrigued by the careful attention to detail and the purposeful and structured approach this brother had taken with the texts concerning marriage and divorce in the Old and New Testaments.
H. Van Dyke Parunak, or as many of us in the assembly call him, Van, has taken his larger study and condensed it for the latest entry in the Energion Areopagus series “Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage.” From the preface of the new book:
“This volume focuses on our Lord’s teaching about divorce and remarriage in the gospels. It is drawn from a much longer study that covers the entire Bible. In this volume, I will sometimes refer to that study as “the longer book.” That work also offers more technical detail on the passages considered in this volume. It is available as a free e-book at http://www.cyberchapel.org/DivorceAndRemarriage.”
Without missing a beat, Van brings his teaching into the spotlight of Jesus’ statements in the Gospels concerning the ‘fornication’ clause. He also makes a case for the truth and understanding Jesus would have had and taught by examining the evidence from Old Testament scriptures. What proves most helpful is that Van does not leave us alone with Paul’s comments on the topic, he examines them in light of what our Lord taught as well. Convincingly, Van demonstrates their agreement, and that Paul does not make exceptions to the rule. A position that I found hard to reconcile until reading Van’s work.
Van goes on to make the statement,
“The Lord Jesus uttered only eleven verses on the subject of divorce and remarriage, mostly restating the same two principles: divorce is wrong, and remarriage after divorce is adultery.”
With this in mind, Van establishes his determination in seeking the truth of what the scripture itself says regarding this matter. With so much at stake concerning the impact that divorce and remarriage can have on families, it is essential to be diligent in understanding what the rest of the scriptures teach on this topic.
Dave Black, Professor at Southeastern Theological Seminary, Missionary, and Blogger, who is one of the editors of the Areopagus project, has stated on his blog at The Jesus Paradigm, that he feels this book to be one of the most important and helpful books written on the difficult subject of Christian marriage and divorce. He goes on to note,
“This book strikes me as a model of exegesis and interpretation. Not all will agree with its conclusions, but few I believe, will be able to ignore its biblical arguments.”
I agree with brother Dave Black, and hope you will soon find out for yourself that you do also. The careful exegesis and attention to the original languages are helpful. This entry in the Areopagus series also proves helpful and lends itself to the accessibility of those who have little or no training in biblical languages or classical seminary training.
Van has chosen this undertaking for his own personal benefit and knowledge of the problem as God sees it, and the end result is the benefit of any reader who chooses to pick up this incredible work and read it. It had a profound impact on how I viewed the dilemma of divorce and remarriage, as well as how I viewed my own approach to the woman I was preparing to marry.