Two items appear below:

1    Church of Christ Minister Against Divorce    B S

2    Letter to Colin Jones                                        Anonymous


(Investigator 16, 1991 January)

Pastor Colin Jones of the Cheltenham Church of Christ has amended his doctrine on divorce with assistance from INVESTIGATOR Magazine.

In August Pastor Jones, 40, taught his congregation that Jesus opposed divorce without exception, not even for adultery. This view was based on the thorough analysis presented in the book JESUS AND DIVORCE (1984).

Pastor Jones sent copies of a 10,000-word letter, arguing his case from the Bible, to seventy Church-of-Christ ministers.

A response was prepared by Investigator in September and is reprinted below.

The Churches of Christ is a mainline conservative Protestant denomination with 5,000 members in South Australia, 50,000 throughout Australia, and 3½ million worldwide in 40 countries. Pastor Jones' congregation has about 90 members.

The denomination originated in 1811 in the USA. The main founder was Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). The Churches of Christ reached Australia in 1844 through immigrants from Britain.

The Churches of Christ are nearest to the Baptists as regards theology and are organized into independent, self-governing congregations. The Lord's Supper is celebrated every Sunday. Adult baptism is practised. The Law Covenant of Moses in the Old Testament is considered not to apply to Christians. The Bible is regarded as the final authority in questions of Christian belief.

Thomas Campbell (father of Alexander Campbell) stated: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." One result of congregational independence is divergence of doctrine – such as, for example, the divorce question.

Of the seventy ministers to get Colin's letter, four had given spoken responses by late November. Two agreed with Colin "whole-heartedly", one "in substance" and one was "furious".

Several weeks after receiving Investigator's letter Colin spoke with its author and explained that his amended position was that Jesus (and therefore the Bible) permits divorce on grounds of adultery but does not allow remarriage afterwards – at least not before the former marriage partner dies.

What about Jesus' words "Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery"?

Colin (and also the book Jesus and Divorce pp. 112-122) argues that the exception refers to the fact of divorce and not to the occurrence of remarriage. In other words Jesus is saying:

"Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, commits adultery, and whoever marries another (after divorce) commits adultery."

Such an interpretation too can be argued about but that would constitute a different debate to the one Investigator initially undertook.

Colin plans to publish his letter next year after he has revised it.

Colin Jones became a pastor in 1977. He has a wife, Robyn, and six children.




1990 Sep. 8

Colin Jones
Churches of Christ Minister

Dear Colin,

I read your article DIVORCE and REMARRIAGE: A BIBLICAL VIEW. I appreciate your "full hearted desire for the truth". (p. 1) I agree with most of what you wrote but am not convinced in everything.

You told me that if someone of your congregation went ahead with divorce on grounds of adultery such a person: "would have to go somewhere else." Such potential disruption to another's life is only justified if your conclusions are the "Biblical View" without there being any possible doubt. I believe that you would not deliberately impose any rules that interfere with anyone's "freedom in Christ".


In your article you quoted Malachi 2:16: "For I hate divorce, says the Lord." Also Mark 10:11-12 "Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

You showed that marriage is meant to mirror the relationship of Christ with his Church and you asked: "Would Christ ever divorce his bride?" You defined marriage as: "a one flesh union between a man and a woman, designed to reflect the union of Christ and His Church and dissolved only by death…"

You also countered the apparent "Exception Clauses":

"But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

"And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9)


Almost every major Christian reference that I consulted took the "exception clauses" as expressing an exception:

A Commentary On The Bible Matthew Poole
New Dictionary Of Theology Ferguson & Wright (Eds)
Encyclopedia Of Biblical And Christian Ethics R K Harrison (General Editor)
Unger's Bible Dictionary

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary contrasted with the others:

"if fornication…referred here to unchastity by the bride during betrothal…then Christ allowed no grounds whatsoever for divorce of married persons." (p. 963)

This "if" statement is a minority view and has rarely been enforced among Protestants.

A principle I wish to affirm is this: "Anyone who opposes the almost unanimous conclusion of Bible scholars must have very decisive evidence before expecting others to change; if there is any uncertainty then it is the one man who must hold his peace and not the majority who must change."

Without this principle Christians risk being "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine." (Ephesians 4:14)


In Matthew 5:32 the word "except" translates the Greek word "parektos". This word occurs only 3 times in the New Testament – in Matthew 5:32, Acts 26:29, 2 Corinthians 11:28.

Everyone of about 20 Bible translations I consulted translates parektos as "except" including:

  • Holy Bible (G. Lamsa)
  • The Amplified New Testament
  • Concordant Literal New Testament
  • The Emphasized Bible (J B Rotherham)
  • American Standard Bible
  • The Englishman's Greek New Testament
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • Young's Literal Translation
  • The Moffat Translation
  • The New Testament In Modern Speech (R F Weymouth)

According to A Pocket Lexicon To The Greek New Testament (1916, A Souter) and Analytical Lexicon (1971) "parektos" used as a preposition means "apart from" or "except".

Vine's Expository Dictionary of The Old and New Testament Words states: "Parektos…is used…as a preposition signifying ‘except;' in Matt. 5:32, ‘saving;' in Acts 26:29…"

It seems Jesus permitted divorce for "unchastity". We can't decide from Matthew 5 whether this entails permission to remarry. Ordinarily when there is no Bible command for or against something a Christian is free to make his own choice.


The Exception Clause of Matthew 19:9 is either

me epi porneia    =    except for fornication or ei me epi porneia    =    if not for fornication

depending on which of the Greek manuscripts is accepted.

Extracts from three Interlinear (between the lines) Bibles showing the English and Greek are reproduced below.

[The reproductions are here omitted]

The phrase "ei me" occurs about 90 times in the New Testament. A full list can be consulted in the Englishman's Greek Concordance of The New Testament (G V Wigram) p. 186.

It means "but" "save" or "except".

The Analytical Greek Lexicon (p. 116) gives the meaning as "unless" or "except".

The 20 Bibles mentioned earlier are unanimous in rendering the English – whether the Greek is "me epi" or "ei me epi" – as "except for" or phrases of same meaning.

Your article Divorce And Remarriage: A BIBLICAL VIEW suggests that "epi" sometimes means "for the purpose of".

This is true in rare instances. To translate "epi" in this way in Matthew 19:9 doesn't assist your argument very much since it amounts to Jesus saying: "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for the purpose of unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."

This merely gives Jesus' statement a double meaning since it could be taken to say that divorce is O.K. provided your purpose is to be unchaste. I therefore suggest it's best to leave "epi" with its usual meaning – which all prominent translators have done.

The disciples responded to Jesus: "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." (19:10) Evidently the disciples wanted further "exception clauses" than just one. After all, they were still Jews and accepted Deuteronomy 24:1 which verse implies a wide range of legitimate grounds for divorce.

The passage in Mark and Luke that corresponds to Matthew 19:9 omits the exception clause. New Bible Dictionary suggests:

"The reason for the omission of the exceptive clause in Mark and Luke could be that no Jew, Roman or Greek ever doubted that adultery constitutes grounds for divorce, and the Evangelists took it for granted. Similarly Paul in Rom. 7:1-3, referring to Jewish and Roman law, ignores the possibility of divorce for adultery which both these laws provide." (p. 745)


"Marriage is a one flesh union of a man and a woman, designed to reflect the union of Christ and His Church." Since neither Christ nor "His Church" will die, the "reflection" ends when either partner of a marriage dies. The surviving partner is then free to remarry and establish another "reflection". The reflection, however, also ends when the "one flesh union of a man and a woman" multiplies via fornication, homosexuality, adultery, bestiality or prostitution!

God's relationship to Israel is compared to the relationship of a husband and a wife. (Jeremiah 3:1-8) When Israel proved "unfaithful" by worshipping other Gods – the spiritual equivalent of adultery and/or fornication – God: "sent her away with a decree of divorce."

By analogy a human husband could rightfully do the same if his wife committed adultery.

Malachi 2:16 "I hate divorce" is not a command to reject divorce as an option in every possible circumstance. There are even examples in the Old Testament of divorce being insisted on. (See Ezra 9-10; Nehemiah 13:23-31) In these cases the marriages had been such that, "We have broken faith with our God." (Ezra 10:2)

Another consideration is the Bible passages where God expresses his desire for our health and physical well-being. If God also opposed divorce for adultery, homosexuality and prostitution then such passages expressing desire for our well-being would be inconsistent with other passages where adultery, homosexuality and prostitution are associated with disease and sickness. To force an innocent partner to submit to risk of disease hardly "reflects the union of Christ and his church."

I suggest, therefore, that your definition of marriage "a one flesh union of a man and a woman designed to reflect the union of Christ and His Church" is in harmony with there being an "exception clause".


The "exception clause" is translated correctly in all major Bible translations. Scholars who prepared Bible Commentaries and/or Dictionaries are almost unanimous in their agreement.

An ordinary reading of the Bible by a layman therefore gives the Christian statement on divorce, simply, without need to enter Greek grammar.

Colin, I'm writing on behalf of Investigator Magazine. Their aim is to investigate disagreements and claims in religion, the supernatural and the paranormal and try to find the answer that is right.

Even if Investigator's analysis of a topic turned out to be wrong the public is still thereby served and benefited because by refuting our error the other position is made firmer and more certain. After all, if something has not been tested then how could we know that it is strong? (Proverbs 18:17; 20:25; 24:6)

Yours faithfully,

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