Did Yeshua Contradict the Torah on Divorce?

Did Yeshua Contradict the Torah on DivorceA common doctrine in Christianity is that Yeshua only allowed divorce for adultery and that the Torah allowed divorce for any reason. Since many Christians believe it would be just fine for Yeshua to teach contrary to the Torah, they do not look closely at what the Torah teaches. In doing so, they also switch what Yeshua said from "porneia" to "adultery" which also leads away from what He actually taught. Those who realize that Yeshua can not have taught against the Torah realize there has to be more to what is going on.

The passage Yeshua and the Pharisees are discussing, Yeshua said was the one, "Moses wrote you" and is found in Deuteronomy 24.

Deuteronomy 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

The Hebrew phrase translated "some uncleanness" in KJV (other translations go with "something unseemly" or "matter of indecency") contains the word "ervah." This "matter of ervah" is required to be found in a wife before a divorce can be given according to the Torah. This is why Yeshua says divorce can only be done for the cause of "porneia" as the two words are siblings and include a small range of sexual misconduct.

Some examples of both words usage are:
Exodus 28:42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness [ervah]; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:
Leviticus 18:6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness [ervah]: I am Yahweh.
Leviticus 18:8 The nakedness [ervah] of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness [ervah].
Leviticus 20:18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness [ervah]; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
John 8:41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication [porneia] we have one Father, even God.
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication [porneia] among you, and such fornication [porneia] as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
1 Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication [porneia], let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

So what does "Ervah"/"Porneia" mean? The word "ervah" literally means nakedness and is mostly used in the passages that forbid "uncovering the nakedness" of relatives. The breeches for the priests cover the nakedness, "from the loins to the thighs." A man who has relations with a woman during menstruation is said to "uncover her nakedness."

The word "porneia" is usually used as a vague sexual sin, but there are a few cases where we can deduce the specific sexual sin involved. In John 8:41, the Pharisees blamed Yeshua's miraculous birth, where conception occurred before his parents came together, on fornication. Another instance a man had his father's wife, which unsurprisingly is found in the list of "ervah" related prohibitions in Leviticus. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul tells people to "let every man have his own wife" to avoid fornication. This would mean avoiding a pre-marital sexual sin.

So, the "matter of ervah" or "porneia" that a man can legitimately divorce his wife for has meanings where it:

  • Is forbidden between relatives
  • Happens between the waist and the thighs
  • Would uncover the fountain of menstrual blood
  • Can cause pregnancy
  • Happens prior to coming together in marriage

It isn't very hard to tell what is being described. Basically, incest or other sex that has made the woman not a virgin when she comes to the marriage bed.

In summary, Yeshua did not teach against the Torah, He simply helps explain what Torah meant by "ervah" being required. Thus "only for the cause of fornication" IS what the Torah says as well.

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