08.02.05 Mk. 10:10-12; Mt. 19:10-12
DISCIPLES QUESTION JESUS
Mk. 10 Now in the house the disciples questioned Him again about this matter. 11 And He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife
and marries another
commits adultery against her.
12 Also, if she divorces her husband
and marries another,
she commits adultery.”
Mt. 10 His disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry!”
11 But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
“If she divorces her husband.” This statement gives credence to the view that women had the right to divorce their husbands. This statement would never have been made if women were not permitted to obtain a divorce.
However, there were three occupations that were considered so dishonorable, that if a man decided to become employed in one of these, his wife could appeal to the court for a divorce and receive compensation for her loss. Even if she knew that he was involved in one of these occupations before she married him, and she agreed that he could continue in that occupation, she could change her mind and file for a divorce. According to the traditions of the elders, these trades were,
- Dung collectors
- Leather tanners
- Copper smelters
Amazingly, tax collectors, camel drivers, and shepherds are not listed in this group. If a wife did not have the right to divorce her husband, no comments about the subject would be either in the gospels or Mishnah.
“For some are eunuchs.” The first two sections of this passage can easily be understood. Some men were born eunuchs while others were castrated in infancy for their intended service to the royal court in later life as was the custom in the ancient Middle East. However, that is not what is being said in this text. It means that those who have the gift of celibacy should apply their energies for the Kingdom of God. Paul also referred to celibacy as a gift (1 Cor. 7:2, 7). A similar idiom was spoken by Jesus when He said that if an eye or hand would offend the believer, it ought to be removed. He used a figure of speech.
The early Church father, Eusebius, reported that Origen understood this text was to be taken literally and castrated himself. Later in life, Origen understood that this phrase was not to be taken literally and that wise counsel in his younger years would have been helpful in preventing his life-changing event. Clement of Alexandria, however, may have had the most accurate interpretation:
A true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling to indulge in pleasure.
Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor
. Mishnah, Ketuboth 7.10.
. For further study on the despised trades, see Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Chapter 14.
. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History. 6.8.2.
. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 267.