Issue No. 35 3 - 9 Sep 2012
Jesus on Marriage and Divorce (Mark 10.1-12) by Quek Tze-Ming

In Mark 10.1-12, Jesus made comments on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Subsequent generations of Christians have incorporated this text (and its parallels) into church or canon law regulating marriages.

We often forget the historical and literary aspects of the narrative in which Jesus' comments are embedded. The Pharisees ask Jesus: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" But this is not an academic question taking place in, say, a marriage-enrichment seminar. Mark tells us that this question is a test. In other words, they’ve set up a trap. Why is this a test? How can answering yes or no "trap" Jesus? And why does Jesus only give the detailed answer when he’s safely back in the house with the disciples?

The clue is found in the geographical reference given in v. 1. This incident is taking place down in the Judean wilderness, across the Jordan river. John the Baptist used to work here. Do you remember why John got put in prison? Do you remember why he finally lost his head? For criticizing Herod Antipas for marrying Herodias.

The Pharisees' trap begins to make sense. Herod had to divorce his former wife to marry Herodias, who herself had to divorce Philip (Herod's brother) so that she was free to marry Herod. These arrangements amounted to a flouting of the Law of Moses, and were among the many reasons John the Baptist was sure that Herod Antipas could not be the true King of the Jews, the one true King that God intended to raise up for his people Israel. That was why John criticized Herod Antipas, and Herodias. That was what he was known for.

But John the Baptist was also known for proclaiming “the one who comes after me is mightier than me” (Mark 1.7). His criticism of Herod, the would-be king, was but the flip-side of his announcement that the Messiah, the true king, was coming at any time. And now, as Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, the city of King David, the disciples’ having recognized him – “You are the Messiah” – we shouldn’t be surprised that the Pharisees are trying to trap him. Will Jesus now say something about divorce which amounts to a criticism against Herod and Herodias?

Jesus sees through this trap. In public, Jesus deflects the question with one of his own, “What did Moses command you?” He rearranges the agenda to a debate on scriptural texts. In private, to his disciples, he elaborates on what he has said. What it amounts to is a sharp and direct comment when applied to the present situation:

Anyone who divorces his wife ("cough, Herod, cough") and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she ("cough, Herodias, cough") divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10.11-12)

This doesn’t mean that that Jesus has to say in this passage is irrelevant to the question of divorce. But it does bring our story into the three-dimensional reality of politics and religion in first century Judea. That being the case, we would do well to remember that Jesus’ answer is not designed to give detailed case law, or discuss exceptions to the rule, but to state the ideal itself as clearly as possible.

If you are intrigued by this reading of the text, and would like to know about the Gospels and Acts generally, do consider the course NT101 New Testament Foundations 1 starting on Friday 7 September. Course and registration details can be found here : http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/281-new-testament-foundations-i

Upcoming Course -
The First Urban Churches: Paul's Vision of Community, Mission & Leadership (NT365, 1.5 credits)
the first urban churches
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Chapel News
There will be time of prayer on 12 Sep 2012. Chapel begins at 12 pm. You are welcome to join us.
We extend a warm welcome to Mr Adam Peh (Admin Executive – Academic Planning) and Ms Angelica Eunice Loh (Admin Assistant) on 27 Aug and 3 Sep 2012 respectively. They will both be joining the Admin Dept. We wish to congratulate Ms Koh May Fern who has also been upgraded to the position of Admin Executive wef 1 Aug 2012.
Course Schedule for 2012-2013 Semester 1
For more information on the Course Schedule, please visit our website: http://www.bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/2012-2013-sem1.pdf:

2012-2013 Sem 1

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