Genesis 2:7-8,18-24, Hebrews 2:9-11, Mark 10:2-16
- on the Gospel - Jesus' Teaching on Divorce
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2). What is going on here? Why is it a test? Well, to start with, the Pharisee never had any doubts about the dissolubility of marriage. The Law of Moses took the lawfulness of divorce and remarriage for granted and all the Pharisees accepted that. It says:
If a man takes a wife, and after they are married she is unpleasing to him because of something objectionable in her, let him give her a statement in writing and send her away from his house. And when she has gone away from him, she may become another man's wife. (Deuteronomy 24:1-2)
The only disagreement among the various schools of the Pharisees was: What is the meaning of this "something objectionable" that a husband would find in his wife to justify divorce? The conservative school of Rabbi Shammai said it meant only a case of scandal, like adultery. The liberal school of Rabbi Hillel said it meant any case of annoyance, "even if she has burned his supper." And the even more liberal school of Rabbi Aqiba said that the woman did not have to be guilty of anything in particular; that the man simply no longer fancied her was enough reason for divorce. This was a trap because if Jesus took sides with one school of thought, he would antagonise himself with the others.