Scripture for Feb. 25th, Friday. Lectionary # 345: Sirach 6:5-17. Psalm
119: 18.104.22.168.34.35. Mark 10:1-12
Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees on the issue of marriage and divorce.
This is a most burning issue then and in our times even moreso. Jesus is
asked whether a man is permitted to divorce his wife. We take note of the
patriarchal approach to the way the question is addressed to Jesus. Jesus
knew well their answer was according to the Mosaic law. He tells them it
was because of their hard heartedness. He then moves his answer back to
the beginnings of marriage as we have learned from the Genesis account of
the creation of Adam and Eve. There the ideal was positied by both the
Priestly account in chapter one as well as by the Yahwist tradition. All
was seen from God’s point of view when it came to the union of man and
woman in marriage. Jesus then cites Genesis to offset their interpretation
thus going to the heart of the issue. The radical and more strict teaching
in Mark is that of Jesus. He would agree more with Shamai than Hillel who
permitted divorce even if a man found another woman more attractive or if
his wife burnt the meal she had prepared!
If we look at all of the citations in the Gospels and Paul on marriage we
would notice there are differences on how marriage and divorce are treated.
One could look also at Luke 16:18; Matthew 5:32; 19:19. I Cor. 7:10-16.
which would show some exceptions to what we read in Mark. Could it be that
the question Jesus was asked was framed by the many divorces of the
Herodian family? “The question concerns the legality of divorce, not the
grounds for divorce.” (Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.). The Pharisees base
their opinion on divorce in the light of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus offsets
that citation with Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 which indicates God’s way of
looking at the issue.
The statement about “what God has joined together, man must not put
assunder” really applies not to a third person but to the husband according
to the meaning here in the Bible. On the other hand, one must not break up
a good marriage because of one’s desire. What is signified is the unity of
life shared as one flesh as Genesis says, provided that it is good from the
beginning. Often marriages get off to a bad start either by immaturity for
this calling or by fear of breaking off an engagement when certain
signifcant signs have already manifested themselves.
This is a most difficult issue that is of great importance for counsellors,
confessors, and lawyers to be very sensitive about and aware of the
complexities involved. Training and knowledge is important for those who
assume the role of professional helpers.
Returning to the text of Mark, Vincent Taylor, who knew Mark thoroughly as
an exegete, said, “What is vital here is the ideal marriage advanced by
Jesus. His words should not be treated legalistically, as affirming
absolute indissolubility of marriage (the hardness of heart is still a
fact), but they do set the standard for the Christian; in particular cases
they need to be intepreted under the guidance of the Spirit.” (See
R.McL.Wilson and Vincent Taylor, Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, page