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Robert wrote:


I was looking up the teaching about divorce in the New Testament for a friend. Only in
Matthew 19:9 is an exception made, however, I have read [multiple|different] translations.

They include:

  • " except if the marriage is unlawful..."
  • " except for fornication..."
  • " except in the case of lewd conduct..."
  • " except when the wife has been unfaithful..."

  • What is the actual Greek and its direct translation?

A co-worker had a bitter divorce forced by his wife; she insisted on it. He was looking for guidance on the teachings from the Bible.  He is not a Catholic, although he seems to be following the footsteps of Blessed John Newman.

Eric or Mike, if you guys can shed some light as well, I would greatly appreciate any help.



  { What is the actual translation of Matthew 19:9 and what is the actual Greek in this passage? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Rob —

The Greek word is "porneia", literally means "unlawful union" or something close to it; John, correct me if I am wrong. Obviously, that's where we get the word "pornography" but it doesn't have exactly the same sense.

The Catholic argument would be that "porneia" refers to illicit marriages, the usual example is marriage within a forbidden bloodline.

The Catholic Church therefore understands this exception as pertaining to a putative marriage that, in fact, doesn't exist because of some element contrary to the legal requirements for marriage; a marriage which is null and, may be declared so. In other words, the Church invokes this principle in issuing declarations of nullity (better known as "annulments").

Protestant exegetes usually translate this "fornication" or "adultery". Strong's Concordance
(a Protestant work) defines it as "harlotry" which includes adultery and incest, and notes that it is also translated "fornication", and says that it is derived from a word meaning "unlawful lust".

I'm not sure this solves anything, but it does provide additional illumination.

Yours in Christ,

Eric Ewanco

Mike replied:

Hi, Rob —

This following article "How can a marriage be declared Null?" is used by Catholic apologists in the Archdiocese of Boston. It should provide more information on how the Church determines whether a marriage was valid or not.

Maybe it will have something that will clarify the question you have. I'm not the language or Bible expert in the group. Sorry. : )

I strongly recommend reading all of it.


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