“And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12 KJV).
I suppose if you were a member of the Jesus Seminar, or at least cut from a similar cloth, this is one of the sayings of Jesus you would certainly eliminate from the gospels. Think about it.
First, from a legal point of view, it’s entirely counter-cultural. In Matthew’s account – generally speaking, the more heavily favored one among those who discuss this subject – the focus is entirely on a husband putting away his wife. That is natural. In most cultures, and ancient Judaism was no exception, men enjoy legal preeminence. However, in Mark’s record, Jesus indicates that the law works both ways (Mark 10:11-12). Surely, the real Jesus wouldn’t have said this.
Second, even if we could get over the counter-cultural element, from a moral point of view, there is no way Jesus would ever say such a thing. You mean to tell me that the loving, merciful Jesus would condemn someone who divorced their spouse and married someone else? God forbid it. (By the way, Jesus did offer one exception clause to allow for divorce, see Matthew 19:9).
Don’t get lost in the King James vernacular, folks. It’s actually quite helpful. The –eth suffix on committeth simply indicates the verb tense in the Greek, which is still preferable, in my opinion, to the modern rendering, “commits.” The Greek tense indicates something continual. The literal translation would be, “keeps on committing adultery.”
In this way, Jesus essentially defines adultery as both a specific sin, and categorizes the relationship that harbors it, as a sinful way of living. Since so many people practice this (by imagining more exceptions, or by simply ignoring the whole topic), it seems highly unlikely that the real Jesus would have said it. I mean seriously, think of how many people’s lives would be terribly uncomfortable if he did!
I read a written debate some years ago where a preacher argued that he couldn’t accept Jesus’ teaching on divorce and adultery because it didn’t give him enough opportunities to offer people grace in their chosen way of life. I guess that settles it. If the limits of Jesus’ grace don’t appeal to you, you know what to do: just pretend like he didn’t say what he said. Live however you want and make up a Jesus that approves of it.
Many more will be saved if we ignore or dismiss Jesus’ words, so let’s ignore them and claim that the real Jesus didn’t say them. We’ll call it a fabrication from a later editor of the gospels.
There. We just saved millions of people from eternal torment, and made Jesus much more appealing to the masses. See? Saving souls is easier than you think.