One question that often arises in regards to the marital exception clause found in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 has to do with its absence from Mark and Luke’s account. In other words, why doesn’t Mark and Luke include the exception clause found in Matthew 19:9?

One must first understand that it was not at all out of the ordinary for one gospel writer to include information, qualifiers or exceptions when another gospel writer didn’t (e.g., Mt. 16:4; Lk. 11:29; Mk. 8:12; Mt. 6:14-15; Mk. 11:25-26; Lk. 17:3-4; etc.). It is for this very reason that we have four gospel accounts. We must look at all four gospel accounts in order to get all of the biblical information.

Additionally, we can see similarities of this in the Old Testament books pertaining to laws on marriage. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29, a law pertaining to marriage is given that states that if a man finds a virgin who is not betrothed and has sexual relations with her and they are found out, she must become his wife. An exception to this rule is found in Exodus 22:16-17 that is not found in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The exception is that a father can pay a “bride-price” of virgins in order to save his daughter from having to be married. No one concludes that this is a contradiction or a problem just because Exodus gives an exception to a law when Deuteronomy does not. God’s word has always had to be looked at as a whole (Acts 20:27; Psa. 119:160; 2 Tim. 2:15).

Furthermore, divorce for fornication was never a debated point in the first century. It was unanimously agreed you could divorce for fornication. Historically speaking, it would have been a naturally understood exception.

Finally, one must also take into account that the doctrines of the New Testament were being orally taught for the first few decades. Thus, Jew and Gentile alike would have known the exception clause in Matthew through oral teaching. This is one of the reasons that the gospel accounts were not written until some 30 – 60 years after the establishment of the church. During that time, the disciples were out orally teaching the world (Acts 1:8; Col. 1:23; Titus 1:3; etc.). Churches of both Jew and Gentile were interacting with one another (Eph. 2:14-18; Rom. 1:16; etc.).

The disciples were commissioned to go into the entire world and teach the things the Lord had taught them (Mt. 28:19-20; Jn. 14:26; 16:13-15; Jn. 14:26; Heb. 1:1; 2:1-4; Mt. 5:32; Mt. 19:9; 16:13-15; etc.). Therefore, the exception given by Jesus found in the gospel of Matthew would be well known and well circulated to Jews and Gentiles.

– Kevin Pendergrass

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