Divorce Expert Stirs Up Muddy Waters

UPDATE: Scholarly responses to Instone-Brewer's article here and here (They aren't very sympathetic).

David Instone-Brewer, senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge, and author of Divorce and Remarriage in the Church (IVP) presented an abridged version of his findings in a recent Christianity Today article. Having never researched the topic for myself, I found the article to be enlightening and comforting. His research and reasoning seemed solid, and his presentation was convincing... until a friend of mine encouraged me to read what seems to be the scriptural pivot point of Brewer's thesis, Exodus 21:10-11, in its context.

For those of you who are regular Incarnate readers, you will remember my previous post on this passage, lamenting the incomprehsibility of God's justice displayed in the allowance of a father to sell his daughter into slavery. The enigma this passage brings to bear on the divorce conversation is that this ordinance falls right smack-dab in the middle of a polygamous marriage. If you're going to appeal directly to this passage for grounds of divorce, you have to accept along with it the stipulations it presents for marriage and thereby permit polygamy.

However, the author's appeal to this passage is not direct. His appeal is to Jesus, and he is interpreting Jesus' command in light of His social context. The question then becomes, What did Jesus make of polygamy? Would He appeal to this portion of scripture in determining the rules of divorce while rejecting the bounds of marriage (i.e. the option for polygamy)? That, I believe, is the question at hand, and one that unfortunately remains unanswered.

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