The Bible’s New Testament: The Gospel of Mark II – Jesus Clarifies Divorce

Among the classes that I teach, Temple’s equivalent of English Comp 102 tends to frustrate students the most.  Temple offers a two course composition sequence, the first of which students can place out of—every student, however, must pass the second comp course.  They tend to dread this course, in part because they find the whole idea of how to approach writing confusing.

Why? For as long as they have been in school (going back to when they first began writing essays in elementary school) they have received direction and advice about how to write an essay: you MUST use five paragraphs; you must NEVER use the first person; and when you begin your conclusion, you MUST use the phrase “in conclusion.”

Then they advance a few years and encounter a number of different writing teachers, all of whom seem to have a slightly different set of rules about writing—some of which are designed to help them pass the essay portion of the SAT.  Then they reach college.

A few weeks into the semester, around the time students begin workshopping their first essay, one or two students will raise a hand: You know I had a teacher who said I could use personal experience in a research paper.  Another will ask: I thought we always had to begin a conclusion with ‘In conclusion.’ And another: Why shouldn’t we begin the body paragraphs with a quote? Then another: I thought MLA citation wasn’t a big deal.

Allow me to clarify…

As the Gospel of Mark shows, by the time Jesus began his work, he had a lot he needed to clarify.  He’d made a lot of headway with the knowledge he imparted and the deeds he performed, though not without some confusion from a number of people: you’re not supposed to hang out with sinners! You’re not supposed to do ANY work on the Sabbath!

Among the many issues he encountered, one was the often shifting ideas related to divorce. Jesus intended to clarify this once and for all, lest people be confused with all the ideas circulated before.

At one point, in response to some Pharisees who ask if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus offers a strict response: when a man and woman get married, they become one flesh. What God has joined, let man not separate (8-9). So obviously it’s implied that if a spouse dies, someone can marry again (God having taken the deceased spouse). However, there is NO mention of this being qualified in ANY way. So there’s no unless-someone-cheats clause, etc.

Having heard the response, and perhaps taken aback at this hard line on marriage, they seem confused: Hadn’t Moses drawn up a divorce certificate? Jesus clarifies that yes, Moses did this, but only because men had hard hearts. This was not always the way (nor, it appears, should it be).  He takes this a step further: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (11-12).  No mention of the adulterers-are-stoned-in-public law still being in effect, but one gets the idea that, since this comes from Jesus, he’s speaking for God.

So there you have it, no divorce for any reason.

This seems a little harsh, but then again, I believe we have evolved to the point that we can appreciate a number of good reasons why people should recant their till-death-do-us-part vows and separate: abuse, infidelity, etc. Then again, I also think we’ve evolved to the point where gay people should marry. The Bible would condemn such a thing, a number of people still say. But do these same people who adhere so closely to the Bible maintain the hard line against ALL divorce? Jesus is so clear on this point that the identical ideas are included in Matthew as well (19: 3-9).  Therefore, if the Bible is your justification for preventing gay marriage, it should also be the justification for not allowing people to get divorced. Jesus is crystal clear about this.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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