Sunday, July 25, 2004

Gender Equality and Divorce

One of Jesus' most striking statements on divorce is found in Mark 10:1-12.  In this passage, Jesus disputes the Pharisees traditional teachings on the matter.  The the Pharisees cite Deuteronomy 24:1 concerning divorce, arguing that "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce his wife." 

But Jesus rejects this teaching, holding that "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

What is most frequently noticed in this passage is the limitation of divorce.  The Pharisees seem to permit it, whereas Jesus gives an unequivocal "no."  What is the less frequently noticed, but perhaps more important part of the passage, is the emphatic rejection of the sexual double standard.  Jesus makes a radical statement of gender equality

The teaching of the Pharisees permitted a man to divorce his wife, but apparently made no allowance for women to divorce men.  Jesus, on the other hand, makes the standards exactly the same.  Both divorce by men and women are (1) contemplated and (2) condemned in identical terms.  Thus, Jesus gives equal sexual standards here for men and women.

Does this make Jesus a feminist?

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