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JBMW 21.1 | Jesus and the Meaning of Marriage: A Close Reading of Mark 10:1-12

June 8, 2016
By John DelHousaye

John DelHousaye | Associate Professor of New Testament
Phoenix Seminary
Phoenix, Arizona

Writing for the majority in the recent historic Supreme Court decision that granted the right for same-sex couples to marry, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy ventured the following description of marriage: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”[1] Different intellectual traditions are evoked in the citation, but the language of “union” echoes Scripture. However, from the context, the word has been given a different meaning than what was intended by Jesus Christ.

To show this, I offer a close reading of Mark 10:1-12, which reviews the passage’s origin and form and then focuses on Jesus’s words in their historical, biblical context. The meaning of marriage that Jesus communicates is profound yet clear.


The church received Mark as Peter’s memories of Jesus. Papias[2] (approx. AD 60-130), bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, relates:

Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter [or translator], wrote accurately what he remembered, although not in an order, the things either said or done by the Lord [or Christ]. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, Peter, who would teach in anecdotes [or according to needs], but not (with the thought) of producing an orderly arrangement of the sayings of the Lord, so that Mark did not err in this manner, having written down some of the things as he recalled. For he made (it a) singular concern not to omit what he heard or to falsify anything in them.[3]

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), a Christian philosopher in Rome, describes the second Gospel as “memories” of Peter.[4] Irenaeus (c. 180-200) claims:

Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their death/departure (exodus), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed on his preaching to us in written form . . . . (Against Heresies 3.1.1ff.)

Church historian Eusebius cites Clement of Alexandria (approx. 180):

And so a great light of piety shone upon the minds of the hearers of Peter that they were not satisfied with merely a single hearing or with unwritten teaching of the divine gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter and whose gospel is extant, to leave behind with them in writing a record of the teaching passed on to them orally; and they did not cease until they had prevailed upon the man and so became responsible for the Scripture for reading in the churches.[5]

Several of these memories take the form of domestic anecdotes—short stories featuring an authoritative saying of Jesus concerning the household.[6] One addresses divorce and remarriage (Mark 10:1-12), and is immediately followed by a blessing of children (10:13-16). Jesus takes the most stringent position recorded in Second Temple Judaism: “What God joined together no man may separate” (v. 9).

It is difficult to imagine any scenario but that Peter remembered something Jesus actually said. Why put such difficult words into his mouth? The context suggests Peter and the other disciples struggled with the teaching. Only twenty years or so after Jesus’s departure Paul assumes the knowledge and authority of the saying among the Corinthian churches, but also feels compelled to elaborate (1 Cor 7:1-16).


This domestic anecdote is comprised of a setting, question, counter-question, counter-response with a parable and interpretation.

Mark 10:1-2a—Setting

And rising from there, he (Jesus) is going into the regions of Judea [and][7] beyond the Jordan. And crowds again are gathering to him; and again, as was his custom, he was teaching them.

“Beyond the Jordan” places the ensuing debate in Perea, part of Herod Antipas’s tetrarchy. Mark has narrated the Baptist’s beheading after rebuking the tetrarch and Herodias for illegitimately divorcing their spouses to marry one another (6:14-29 // Lev 20:21).[8] Mark records only one journey to Jerusalem; this transition marks a final, southerly direction.

Jesus has been “teaching” in parables, “so that watching, they might watch and not see; and hearing, they might hear and not understand so that they do not turn and it be forgiven them” (4:11, citing Isa 6:9), including polemical contexts like this one (7:17). This Isaiah citation has been reapplied to the Pharisees and Herod, but also the disciples (8:18). According to this pattern, Jesus offers a public statement that will be clarified privately to his disciples. These signals emphasize hostility to God’s mission. In contrast, the preceding unit terminates with an exhortation to the disciples: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (9:50).

Mark 10:2b—Question

[And having come, Pharisees][9] were asking him if it is lawful for a husband to divorce [send away] his wife to test (tempt) him.

Mark has used apoluō, often translated “divorce” here, four times in the narrative—all describing the activity of “sending away” (6:36, 45; 8:3, 9). In this culture, divorce was a domestic matter, not requiring a local court. The Pharisees only assume the eviction of the wife.

Their question evidences collusion with Herod Antipas (3:6) and possibly the influence of Satan, who tempted (peirazō) Jesus in the area as a divine test (1:9-13). Jesus has said, “Get behind me, Satan” (8:33). The question echoes the Baptist’s rebuke of Herod: “It is not lawful for you to have the wife of your brother.” The “crowds” assure that however Jesus responds it will become public record.

Mark 10:3-4—Counter-question and Response

Now he answered and said to them: “What did Moses command you?” [Deut 1:3, etc.] Now they said, “Moses permitted writing a contract of divorce and divorcing [sending away].” [Deut 24:1 LXX]

Instead of replying, “Moses permitted us,” the Pharisees emphasize the command’s general application.[10] Without any discussion of justification—the Why—they focus on procedure—a position perhaps that would keep them in Herod’s graces and any husband seeking divorce.

The “contract of divorce” (biblion apostasiou, Hebrew sefer keritut “scroll of cutting off”), a distinctively Jewish practice, enabled a wife to remarry.[11] It was proof that she and her former husband were no longer having sexual intercourse.[12] One from Masada, where Jewish rebels fled after the Temple’s destruction in AD 70, reads:

. . . I divorce and repudiate of my own free will today, I Joseph, son of Naqsan, from . . . , living at Masada, you my wife, Miriam, daughter of Jonathan . . . , who have been up to this (time) my wife, so that you are free on your part to go and become a wife of any Jewish man that you please. And n[ow] you have from me a bill of repudiation and a writ of divorce.[13]

The contract focuses on the freedom the spouses have to go their separate ways and remarry. The language anticipates the modern “no-fault” divorce.

The Pharisees allude to the only implicit justification for divorce in the Mosaic Law: “the reason of nakedness.”[14] For the sake of argument, the contract proves the legality of divorce in principle. The Jewish historian Josephus took advantage of the privilege: he divorced (“sent out” apopempō) his wife because “she was unpleasing in behavior” and married another.[15]

Mark 10:5-7—Counter-response

But Jesus said to them: “Because of your hard-heart he (Moses) wrote this commandment. [Deut 10:16 LXX] But from the beginning of creation male and female he [God] made them. [Gen 1:27] Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh. [Gen 2:24 LXX], so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. So what God joined together no man may separate.

According to Mark, Jesus has just been talking with Moses. Only James, Peter, and John would be aware of this background, but the reader is given dramatic irony: “Listen to him!” the Father says right after Moses and the prophet Elijah disappeared (9:7). For Christians, Jesus is the final interpreter of the Mosaic Law and Prophets.

Jesus responds with a parable that is grounded in a literal interpretation of Deuteronomy and the linking of two verses from the biblical creation story—what rabbis call gezerah sheva.

Like an earlier argument over handwashing, Jesus places the Pharisees in the role of opponents to God’s Prophets (Isaiah, Moses).[16] The issue continues to be the heart: “This people honor me with lips, but their heart is departing far away from me” (Mark 7:6). “Hard-heart” (sklērokardia) is an unyielding frame of mind that alienates one from reality.[17] The term was coined while translating the Septuagint, occurring for the first time in Deuteronomy:[18]

You shall circumcise your hard-heart (sklērokardia) and shall not harden your neck any longer. (10:16)

Sklērokardia translates the indelicate Hebrew orlat levavkem, “foreskin of your heart.” Before discussing divorce, on the day Israel crossed the Jordan, Moses reminded the people that their inheritance was not due to their righteousness, but the wickedness of the other Nations (9:1-12). They were a “stubborn people” (9:6, 13), who had failed to love God with all their heart (10:12), making for themselves a golden calf (9:13-29). Genesis presents the congenital heart condition as a universal problem: “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5 ESV).

Jesus views divorce as a postlapsarian concession to hardheartedness and, instead, privileges the creation story.[19] This rhetorical move had a biblical precedent. The prophet Malachi (c. 445 – 432 BC) opposes a divorce scenario by appealing to creation:

The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless. (2:14-16 ESV)[20]

The rhetorical situation is the unjust dismissal of “the wife of your youth.” The Baptist’s rebuke of Herod and Herodias is a fitting application since both divorced their spouses to marry one another.

We also find antecedents of Jesus’s position in contemporary Jewish literature. Monogamy and lifelong fidelity are praised according to the pattern of creation in Tobit:

You made Adam and gave him his wife, Eve, a helper, a support. From these came the seed of humanity. You said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make for him a helper like himself.” And now, Lord, not because of porneia [lust], but in truth, I am taking this sister of mine: grant that I and she be mercied and grow old together. [21]

The Damascus Document, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, appeals to the creation story to discredit opposition to the community:

By unchastity, (namely,) taking two wives in their lives, while the foundation of creation is “male and female he created them” (4:20-21).[22]

The author is attacking polygamists as being sexually immoral.[23] The line, which is similar to Jesus’s response, may be formulaic: “But from the beginning of creation male and female he [God] made them.” As with Jesus, the opponents are probably Pharisees.[24] The Pharisees influenced currents in Judaism that rejected the prioritization of the creation story, instead absolutizing the Torah from Sinai, and did not outlaw polygamy until the thirteenth century.[25]

Jewish eschatology also looked to the creation story as mirroring the coming age.[26] This view crystalizes into the bookends of the Christian canon. Ezekiel promises a reversal of the problem legislated for and against in Deuteronomy: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26).[27]

Employing gezerah sheva, Jesus cites from two parts of the creation story.[28] The first citation is from the seven-day summation of God’s creative activity: “male and female (arsen kai thēlou) he made them” (Gen 1:27). The second becomes inferential: Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24). The language and context presume sexual intercourse with its unitive and procreative effect.[29] Mark highlights this by immediately following the argument with parents bringing their children to Jesus (10:13-16).[30]

The climactic saying is parabolic: “what God joined together no man may separate.” It is similar in form to the short purity parable (parabolē) in the argument over handwashing (Mark 7:15, 17): they contradict conventional wisdom, but point to a deeper truth: If God joins a man and woman in marriage, how is divorce not a rejection of that act, a denial of ontology, even a disfiguring of the self?

We find biblical and contemporary support for the conviction that God joins the husband and wife. God brings the woman to Adam and, according to rabbinic tradition, even “fixed Eve’s hair and outfitted her as a bride.”[31] Later in Genesis, Abraham’s servant seeks “the woman whom the Lord appointed for my lord’s son,” a sentiment echoed in Tobit: before the foundation of the world, God intended marriage for Tobiah and Sarah and unites them through angelic mediation (6.18; 7.11). In The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, a Jewish expansion on Scripture, Reuben laments over sleeping with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and advises his sons:

Do not devote your attention to the beauty of women . . . nor occupy your minds with their activities. But live in integrity of heart in the fear of the Lord, and weary yourself in good deeds, in learning, and in tending your flocks, until the Lord gives you the mate whom he wills, so that you do not suffer, as I did. (tr. H. C. Kee)[32]

According to this literature, the match-making God works primarily within the boundaries of patriarchy, endogamy, piety, and incest—values that also occur in Paul’s letters.[33] One had to ask for a wife from her male guardian.[34] The father (or stand in) places his hands on the heads of the couple, invokes the Lord’s blessing, turns them to one another to kiss, and announces the seven-day marriage feast.[35] Non-Jewish spouses usually converted.[36] Sometimes God does the unexpected, like marriage between foreigners, but not contrary to the clear boundaries of Scripture.[37]

Mark 10:10-12—Nimshal

And in the house the disciples were again asking him about this. And he says to them: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another (woman) is an adulterer against her. And if she who divorces her husband marries another (man), she is an adulteress.

Jesus is probably staying in the house of a disciple or admirer. He had spent time in the region at the beginning of his ministry before travelling north to Galilee. As with the parables, he offers a private interpretation to his disciples. Mark used eperōtaō (“were asking”) for the interrogation of the Pharisees (v. 2), suggesting the disciples were unsympathetic.

Through parallelism, Jesus gives equal rights and responsibilities to the wife and husband. Adultery was normally “against” the woman’s husband. Some believe Mark or the early church put words into Jesus’s mouth because Roman law permitted wives to divorce their husbands, although this was uncommon in Judaism.[38] But the rhetorical situation is informed by Herodias, who divorced her husband to marry his more powerful brother, Herod Antipas. The practice was common in the royal family.[39]

Jesus classifies divorcing-to-remarry as adultery, a sin prohibited by the Ten Commandments and punished with stoning.[40] His citation of the creation story probably reflects a polemic against polygamy: The Masoretic (Hebrew) text reads “and they shall become one flesh”; the Greek, “and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).[41] Jesus and the author(s) of the Damascus Document expose two loopholes for the sanctioning of sexual immorality in the Pharisaic tradition: polygamy and divorce, respectively. Both appeal to a permanent ontological union between a male and female in marriage. The contemporary Jewish philosopher Philo also criticizes using Deuteronomy to justify a husband’s lust.[42]

Marriage According to Jesus

Jesus’s response fits within the logic and rhetoric of Second Temple Judaism. He was not the first to privilege the creation story or to maintain that God brings husbands and wives together or to criticize the Pharisees for their progressive interpretations. But his position falls on the far conservative side of the spectrum. Why is Jesus so pro marriage after calling his disciples into a new family?[43]

The answer is in the parable, which on the surface addresses the rhetorical situation, but also, for those with eyes to see, reveals what God is accomplishing in Christ.[44] The husband and wife must stick together like Israel and Yahweh (Deut 10:20; 11:22). What God united, who can separate? Yet Israel committed adultery, which led to exile. According to Jeremiah (3:8), God has the right to a permanent separation, even evoking the passage in Deuteronomy, but instead offers reconciliation in Christ. The sinners and tax collectors, who recognize the separation, take advantage of the gospel. The Pharisees, the “blind leading the blind,” want to separate the bride and groom. In this context, Jesus offers the earliest yet veiled prediction of the cross (2:20). Jesus, who embodies God’s people, who identifies with sinners at his baptism, experiences the exile, the divorce, on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (divorced) me?” But what God united, who can separate? The righteous, the faithful one, died in the place of the sinful, the faithless one (Mark 10:45). A new covenant is cut (Mark 14:24). After the resurrection, the wedding may commence.

Hardness of heart kept the Pharisees from seeing this reality. How can one divorce to remarry and understand the mercy of God in Christ?

Jesus is out of step with the twenty-first century as he was with the first: Greeks and Romans did not view sex as becoming one flesh.[45] For men, the only boundary was another man’s wife. Divorce is an enduring reality in Church history—a proof that hardness of heart persists. Polygamy remains at the margins (literally so in my state), but advocates are employing the same strategy that normalized same-sex marriage in the popular imagination.[46]

Many insist God works outside the boundaries of male and female and the two shall become one flesh.[47] A Baptist pastor, referring to his officiating of same-sex marriages, says, “It will be a joy to celebrate what God has done in these lives.”[48] But a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot become one flesh in the way Jesus describes. Justice Kennedy’s “two people” may form any number of relationships, but they cannot become one flesh unless they are male and female. Indeed, a fair reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus actually narrows sexual expression in light of the Kingdom where the only union will be Christ and his Church.

Jesus preserves marriage between his resurrection and final coming for at least two reasons. First, this is how God populates the Kingdom. The deeper, salvific meaning of marriage and children in Mark’s Gospel does not preclude the literal sense. Second, as Sue Patterson notes, “the reconciliation of humankind to God must involve the reconciliation of men and women together because men and women together in community form the image of God in humanity.”[49] Jesus does not ground marriage in the emotional needs of consenting adults or in the “highest” of “ideals,” but ontology, an actual union. That many no longer see marriage this way is symptomatic of a culture that struggles to see God at all.


[1] Lee Epstein and Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice (Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage, 2016), 444.


[2] See Matthew Black, “The Use of Rhetorical Terminology in Papias on Mark and Matthew,”Journal for the Study of the New Testament (1989): 31-41; Marion C. Moeser, The Anecdote in Mark, the Classical World and the Rabbis (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).


[3] Cited in Eusebius, Church History, 3.39.15. Unless noted, translations are the author’s responsibility.


[4] The phrase occurs twice in 1 Apol. (66.3; 67.3) and thirteen times in the Dial. (e.g. 103.8). In 1 Apol. (66.3). In Dialogue with Trypho, he mentions “the memories of the apostles and their successors” (103.8). By way of exception, he mentions “his memories” (106.3) in reference to Peter. Justin reveals he has the second Gospel in mind when he refers to the sons of Zebedee as “Boanerges, which is ‘sons of thunder’”—a clear allusion to Mark 3:16.


[5] Church History 2.15.1.


[6] See Klaus Berger, Formgeschichte des Neuen Testaments (Heidelberg: Quelle & Myer, 1984), 80-84; Bruce D. Chilton and Jacob Neusner, “Paul and Gamaliel,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 14 (2004): 1-43.


[7] The conjunction is supported by the earlier Alexandrian codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.


[8] See Josephus Antiquities 15.259-60; 18.1366:17. This is a common observation. F. Crawford Burkitt claims “the saying as reported in Mark clearly implies a reference to Herodias”: The Gospel History and its Transmission (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1907), 101.


[9] Much of the Western tradition lacks “Pharisees,” making the crowds the understood subject. Although Matthew’s parallel may have influenced the passage, the earlier reading is preferred as the source of Matthew’s reading. The crowds do not tempt (test) Jesus.


[10] Joel Marcus, Mark 8-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 708.


[11] William Loader, Making Sense of Sex: attitudes towards sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013, 70.


[12] Josephus, Antiquities 4.253.


[13] Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Daniel J. Harrington, A Manual of Palestinian Aramaic Texts (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1994), 139.


[14] Other laws presuppose divorce, focusing on remarriage (Lev 21:7, 14; Num 30:9).


[15] Josephus, Life 426.


[16] See 7:6. They are the most natural antecedent of “you.”


[17] In the New Testament, the word occurs here, Matthew’s parallel (19:8), and the longer ending of Mark (16:14), which is probably a later addition.


[18] We also find it in other translations (Prov 17:20; Jer 4:4; Ezek 3:7). The term also occurs in Sirach (16.10) and contemporary Jewish literature. But the Deuteronomy reference is first in Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.


[19] Some interpret the concession as originating from Moses: Rudolf Bultmann, “History and Eschatology in the New Testament,” New Testament Studies 1 (1954-55): 5-16, 8. But most attribute it to God.


[20] The Hebrew and Old Greek are obscure in many points. Some versions actually make divorce a commandment, but this cuts against the rhetoric of the unit. After extensive discussion, Richard Taylor and Ray Clendenon conclude: “the view that accounts best for the data of the texts understands the issue to be unjustifiable divorce, that is, for reasons other than ‘something indecent’ in the wife (Deut 24:1)”: Haggai, Malachi, New American Commentary 21a (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman, 2004), 368.


[21] Geoffrey David Miller, Marriage in the Book of Tobit (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011), 1, 47. Tobiah notes her beauty (6:11-18), but claims he is not marrying her to gratify sexual desire. William Loader claims “the issue is not sexual desire, as if he is claiming that he has none, as some have read it. The point he is making is that she is an appropriate partner for him and he is not therefore engaging in sexual promiscuity or exploitation”: Making Sense of Sex, 33. His primary motivation is endogamy—“this sister of mine”—for godly offspring.


[22] James H. Charlesworth, ed. The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English translations, Vol. 2 Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1995), 18-19.


[23] See Gerson Brin, “Divorce at Qumran,” in Legal Texts & Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten (M. Bernstein, F. García Martínez, and J. Kampen, eds.; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 231-244, 236.


[24] There is a near consensus that the code phrase “Seekers of Smooth Things” refers to the Pharisees: James H. Charlesworth, The Pesharim and Qumran History: Chaos or Consensus? (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002), 97; David Flusser, “Pharisäer, Sadduzäer und Essener im Pescher Nahum,” in Qumran (ed. K. E. Krozinger; Darmstadt, 1981), 121-66; Daniel R. Schwartz, “MMT, Josephus and the Pharisees,” in Reading 4QMMT: New Perspectives on Qumran Law and History (eds. John Kampen and Moshe J. Bernstein; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996), 67-80.


[25] Josephus notes, “it is our ancestral custom that a man have several wives at the same time” (J.W. 1.24.2). Justin Martyr criticizes the practice of Jewish polygamy: Dialogue with Trypho, 141. For the marginalization of the creation story, see the exegesis of Genesis 32:32-33 at M. Hullin 7:6.


[26] See Thomas P. Rausch, Eschatology, Liturgy, and Christology (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2012), 20-23. Ulrich W. Mauser notes: “The idea of correspondence of primal time and final time is introduced into the concept of human sexuality: With the coming of the kingdom of God as restored condition of the husband-wife relation has arrived that confirms God’s pristine order”: “Creation, Sexuality, and Homosexuality in the New Testament” in Homosexuality and Christian Community (ed. Choon-Leong Seow; Louisville, Ky.: Westminister John Knox Press, 1996), 39-50, 40.


[27] The new heart complements the sprinkling of purifying water, which informs the eschatology of the Argument over Handwashing (Ezek 36:25).


[28] We find similar conflation in Jubilees. There is no evidence that Jesus recognized two creations stories, an assumption of modern biblical scholarship.


[29] Jubilees draws out the implication: God “brought her to him [Adam] and he knew her and said to her, ‘This is now bone of my bone and flesh from my flesh.’” (tr. O. S. Wintermute): James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1983), 2:59.


[30] Joel Marcus notes: “The presupposition of this argument seems to be that sexual union creates a permanent ontological fusion of the individuals involved”: Mark 8-16, 710-711.


[31] See The Fathers According To Rabbi Nathan A 4.


[32] Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:783.


[33] Lev 18:6-18; 20:14, 17, 19-21; Deut 22:30; 27:20, 22-23; see also, Sir. 23:16-21; Ps. Sol. 8:9; Josephus, Ant. 3.274. The high priest had to marry a Hebrew woman (Lev 21:13-15). For a helpful summary of Jewish perspectives on intermarriage, see David W. Chapman, “Marriage and Family in Second Temple Judaism,” in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (ed. Ken M. Campbell; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2003), 183-239, esp. 202-204.


[34] Josephus, Contra Apion 2.200.


[35] Joseph and Aseneth 21.5-8.


[36] Chapman, “Marriage and Family,” 203.


[37] See Josephus, Antiquities. 5.286; Tobit 7.11-12.


[38] Cicero, Letters to His Friends 8.7.2; Gaius, Institutes 7.137a; Justinian, Digest;


[39] Salome, Herod the Great’s sister, divorced her husband, Costobarus, by sending a bill of divorce (Josephus, Ant. 15.259-260). Drusilla, Berenice, and Mariamme divorced (Ant. 18.136; 20.143-44; 20.147).


[40] Exod 20:14; Deut 5:17; 22:22-24.


[41] Marcus, Mark 8-16, 704.


[42] Special Laws 2.135-139.


[43] See especially Mark 3:31-35.


[44] For a development of John Donahue’s notion of parable as reading strategy for the entire Gospel, see Laura C. Sweat, The Theological Role of Paradox in the Gospel of Mark (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), 20-21.


[45] Roman men had no qualms about marrying divorced women: Paul Veyne, ed., A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium (tr. Arthur Goldhammer; Cambridge / London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987), 40.


[46] In this case, the unitive dimension of marriage needs to be emphasized. Andreas J. Köstenberger and David W. Jones note that if the goal were simply to be fruitful and multiply, additional wives makes sense: God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2004), 43.


[47] Cheryl B. Anderson, Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). She claims that “the condemnation of homosexuality is a plausible reading of the Bible, but it is also an ethically invalid reading” (152).


[48]i Accessed September 17, 2015.


[49] Sue Patterson, “Between Women and Men,” in The Theology of Reconciliation (Colin E. Gunton, ed.; New York: T&T Clark, 2003), 125-140, 133.


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