Jesus on Divorce: The "Exception Clause" Issue
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The following passages are sometimes placed in opposition:

Mk. 10:11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.
Mt. 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

A problem is alleged in that Matthew includes an additional phrase, "except for marital unfaithfulness", not found in Mark.

Some critics say that the phrase was added to reflect the needs of the early church; and maybe it was, but that by no means requires that Jesus never added that qualification on His own at some point, perhaps in a different context or teaching. Matthew could simply have conflated two of Jesus' separate teachings, which is no crime.

But the most likely reason for the difference is that Matthew was spelling out what Luke and Mark leave implicit within the social context. The divorce debate in Jewish circles in Jesus' day pitted the followers of Hillel against those of his rival, Shammai. Hillel took a more liberal view, permitting divorce in a variety of circumstances (even if the wife spoiled a meal); Shammai, only in the case of adultery.

In both Jewish and Greco-Roman society, Blomberg notes in his commentary on Matthew, "divorce and remarriage were universally permitted and often mandatory following adultery." [292] Hagner's commentary on Matthew [549] adds: "Rabbinic Judaism required a husband to divorce an unfaithful wife." (m. Sota 5:1, m. Yebam 2:8; also Qumran literature, 1QapGen 20:15.

Marcus Bockmuehl notes these passages and ties it not to Hillel and Shammai, but to halakhah on Deut. 24:4; neverthless his point is the same: the exception was presupposed -- Marcus Bockmuehl, "Mt. 5:32, 19:9 in Light of Pre-Rabbinic Halahkah," NTS 35 (1989), 291-5)

In other words, both sides agreed on the exception which Matthew adds, and by the same token, Jesus could certainly have safely presupposed it without any fear of misunderstanding.

We heard from Doug Krueger, on the subject of divorce in the NT. This reply will come in two parts: The first, where we look at Krueger's original argument; the second, where he replies to our article here (which was originally written against a form of this objection by Sam Gibson). We now also have another reply from Krueger, which we will address here according to subject, after some preliminary groundwork, and a third-level reply that's struggling to keep its head above water, as well as a fourth-level reply that basically has blowfish living in its ears and puts to mind depicting Krueger as the guy in the classic Fed Ex commercial who sat at his desk and banged his head on the desktop rapidly and repeatedly at a 90 degree angle, as Krueger utterly ignores what is said about "high context" readings and about parallels in ANE, Greco-Roman, and rabbinic literature (which he no doubt, in his exceptional lack of education, thinks is "irrelevant"), makes it out that our explanation is somehow antithetical to inerrancy (actually, only to the sort of fundamentalist formulation of inerrancy that is one brick short of KJV Onlyism, and to which exegetes like Krueger continue to adhere after their low-context fashion -- this is no "insult" but a plain and brutal fact about Krueger and his Skeptical cohorts) and delivers various accusations of distortion that are the final resort of the unskilled who knows that he has been nailed and has little left but pride before peers to salvage. And yes -- Krueger also can't seem to say anything about how he referred to Tigay's position as that of one who "lacks familiarity with the material at issue" (but does manage to comment that my solutions on Deuteronomy and Paul were "absurd") So now is Tigay, a professional Jewish scholar, also into "absurd"? How interesting.


After addressing Krueger's second (and now third, fourth) reply to this item, it has become more clear than ever that he follows the usual line of what one reader of this site has called "fundamentalist atheism." In essence, the fundamentalist atheist (or agnostic, or Skeptic; we use the term "atheist" for convenience) is a critic who reads the Bible the same way that a fundamentalist Christian would, as though it were something written yesterday and with them in mind, and that it can be easily understood and commented upon in scholarly detail and authoritatively by any yahoo with decent eyesight. Such, as we have shown in various contexts and with reference to various parties, is simply not the case.

For this item two notable points which we have made elsewhere may be repeated. As a preface, let us recall our basic argument towards the allegation of formal contradiction among the Gospels with reference to divorce and adultery:

  1. Matthew contains the "adultery exception"; Mark and Luke do not.
  2. The background data from both Jewish and Greco-Roman sources indicates that the "adultery exception" was universally agreed upon by all parties as a valid reason for a divorce.
  3. Therefore, the "adultery exception" is implicit in Mark and Luke, who saw no need to spell it out.

Tertiary response: Krueger plays the role of the brick wall and claims that he has "already addressed this defense and it has been shown that it fails," and claims that we only rehash old material that fails on the same counts, even as he says absolutely nothing to address the matters of high and low context, and cultural parallels.

We will see that Krueger has a difficult time grasping and accepting point 3, and continues (even in the third, fourth response) to read the text as a "fundamentalist atheist" who insists that the lack of direct statement nevertheless shows that there is a formal contradiction that "anyone" can see, and that readers and hearers in the first century "would not have assumed" the exception. What he cannot work past -- and can never work past -- is his fixation upon reading a "high-context" text as a "low-context" reader. Here we bring in, more or less verbatim, a note we have now used several times. Malina and Rohrbaugh note in their Social-Science Commentary on John [16ff] that the NT was written in what anthropologists call a "high-context" society. In such societies people "presume a broadly shared, well-understood, or 'high' knowledge of the context of anything referred to in conversation or in writing." Readers were required and expected to "fill in the gap" because their background knowledge was a given. Extended explanations were unnecessary. As an example, they note the story of the woman at the well in John 4. This story is full of background templates that John does not explain, but that make the story meaningful: For example, the time of the meeting (noon, as they read it) shows that the woman is an outcast, for it is not the time when water is normally gathered and when socialization occurs among the village women, but John sees no need to explain that the time is unusual for he assumes his readers will know that it is.

In contrast, we in the modern US are a "low-context" society. We assume little or no knowledge of he context of a communication. This is in part because we have so many specialized fields requiring specialized knowledge. Thus we expect background to be given when communication is given between fields. This is in contrast to the ancient world where there was little specialized knowledge.

Malina and Rohrbaugh set forth in summary what we now use as a stinging indictment of Krueger's methodology (and that of many other skeptics on other matters) regarding the "adultery exception" and as confirmation of what we have noted in this essay from the very beginning: "The obvious problem this creates for reading the biblical writings today is that low-context readers in the United States frequently mistake the biblical writings for low-context documents. They erroneously assume that the author has provided all of the contextual information needed to understand it." Malina and Rohrbaugh are not fundamentalists. They consider fundamentalism to be an example of misunderstanding the high-contextual nature of the Bible (and we agree), in which we assume ourselves free to fill in the gaps with our own experience -- much as Krueger reads the text as a "fundamentalist atheist" who simply has no grasp of the idea of things not being explicit in the text not amounting to a formal contradiction. The high-context ancients would look at Mark and Luke's words and grasp, "Of course, adultery is an exception." They did not need it spelled out for them. They would not look at Matthew on one hand, and Mark and Luke on the other, and think, "Hey, Jesus is contradicting himself here!" They would assume that the "adultery exception" was behind Mark and Luke's words.

Tertiary response: Oblivious to all of this, as we would expect of a low-context reader, Krueger continues to bleat that this remains a contradiction which anyone can discern, and all we do is explain how it got there! Tellingly, Krueger only sees our designation of him as a "low context" reader as a case of name calling, rather than as the anthropological category it is, and in which he is securely and unquestionably to be placed. Krueger chooses his own funda-literalist interpretation over what has been discerned by decades of research in ethnography and social psychology and expression which show that, to the ancients in their high-context setting, such passages would never have been considered to be in contradiction, and that is plainly shown by the ANE, Greco-Roman, and rabbinic parallels below which Kreuger also ignores. This is a typical modernist projection of modern attitudes and thoughts onto the rest of the world, and is an anachronistic approach that shows Krueger to be an ethnocentric bigot unable to conceive of others thinking any differently than he does.

4th level response: Krueger only quotes back the part above to the Skeptics: "Krueger continues to bleat that this remains a contradiction which anyone can discern, and all we do is explain how it got there!" Not a word is said about the principles of high and low context, or the legal parallels. Krueger is clearly defeated and can progress no further than pretending that our key arguments do not exist. Saying that "pages and pages on context cannot change the rules of logic and allow otherwise" is merely naive and bigoted obscuratanism of the sort preached by KJV Onlyists and fundamentalist atheists who assume their own semantic contracts are time- and space-universal. We will put it simply: The high context issue, and the legal parallels that fit with them, completely destroy Krueger's argument. Ignoring these will not keep his argument alive. It is deceased and buried beneath contextual realities and parallel historical data. Krueger is now like the maddened relative of a deceased person who refuses to let go of the corpse, and now, he is being buried with it.

Instone-Brewer shows further (Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, 9) how this high context worked itself into the legal situations of the ANE and in the time of Jesus. Ancient Near Eastern marriage covenants were usually oral, but some were written, and only under certain circumstances (a large dowry, unusual stipulations). Otherwise there were certain stipulations that were obvious and were seldom written out. Sexual faithfulness is one example of an unwritten stipulation that seldom appears in written marriage covenants; yet since all ANE law codes prescribed the death penalty for adultery, it was obviously something that was highly valued! By Jesus' time, the Hillel-Shammai debate likewise made laying out the exception superfluous. In this and other legal matters, the legal schools abbreviated their answers [162] as did the rabbinic literature. Because few could read, rulings were "abbreviated down to their absolute minimum and were arranged in balanced phrases that were easy to remember. Anything that was implicit or obvious was omitted for the sake of brevity." This makes the rabbinic debates sometimes difficult for a low-context modern to follow outside of their social context -- and it is this very difficulty that Krueger is having with the Gospels.

That is our first point of background; now the second. A little later Krueger will dip further into the well (albeit carrying only a teaspoon) of ancient law codes. We repeat, again, a passage we have often used from Hillers' Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea:

..(T)here is no evidence that any collection of Near Eastern laws functioned as a written code that was applied by a strict method of exegesis to individual cases. As far as we can tell, these bodies of laws served educational purposes and gave expression to what was regarded as just in typical cases, but they left considerable latitude to local courts for determining the right in individual suits. They aided local courts without controlling them.

Krueger thinks he has "got something" when he finds a law or two that he thinks brooks no exceptions in its formulation (and in the tertiary response, does no more than wave away what Hillers has to say, and is inconsiderate enough to even spell his name wrong ["Hiller"]). But he's actually digging for water in the wrong place. My statements never said (any more than Hillers' does) that there was no such thing as a rule without exceptions. However, determining what those rules are is not simply a matter of reading the text and announcing our opinion. Determining what rules are in what category is a matter of detailed consideration of the background and social data, a matter in which Krueger continues to be significantly and sadly misinformed. It is also why he thinks data laying out the factors above "weakens" my own thesis -- it is because in an odd twist, it is he who is defending the naive "fundamentalist" position! (Krueger also lays out the usual distracting charge of distortion by omission laid on this doorstep, which we will address as the specific charges are made.)


With this we now return to the main article. Krueger's first round lays out the premise:

Can a person get divorced and remarry without committing adultery? The bible is contradictory on this. In fact, Jesus is on both sides of the issue.
First, remarriage after divorce is prohibited because it is adultery. Jesus clearly says so.
Mark 10:2-5, 9-12 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Also see: And he said also unto his disciples,... Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:1, 18.
So the logical form of this is: (x)(Dx & Rx => Ax) where D is for "divorced,"
R is for "remarried," and A is for "commits adultery." It is read, "For anything x, if x is divorced and x is remarried, then x commits adultery." This is universal and applies without exception to any x, according to the above quotations from Jesus. "Whosoever" means "anyone," applying universally.

Secondary note: At this point in the secondary response, Krueger advises his readers: "For a compound statement or a set of statements to be a contradiction, there must be at least two statements. [Holding] has shown one half of it, but note how he glosses over the other half. He doesn't want his readers to see how obviously the material contradicts itself." We beg his pardon? What "half" has been glossed over? Krueger needs to explain himself; he is sounding like a very high-context ancient. Perhaps the reality is that we didn't skip over a thing, and he wants to bedazzle gullible readers into thinking something was skipped which wasn't. From the context, our best guess is that he means we have somehow omitted the Matthean "contradictory" parallel, but we quote that right here:

There is a parallel in Matthew which we will lay out here for constructive purposes:

Matthew 19:6-9 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.(cf. Matthew 5:31-2, which our critic quotes later)

Secondary note: Krueger tells his readers: "So the Matthew 19 verses, the second half of the contradiction, the part that contradicts the statement in Mark 10 and Luke 16, is just 'a parallel' that [Holding] presents for 'constructive purposes.' From his article, it is not even clear whether I had quoted Matthew. [Holding] states that 'we,' meaning himself, will provide the Matthew 19 verses, as if I had not adequately addressed them." Well, hold the phone there for a moment. Just what in the world is Krueger pitching his fit about here? What difference does any little bit of this make? It doesn't -- whoever or whatever Krueger quoted, we make it quite clear in what follows that his main case is that there is formal contradiction between Matthew on one hand and Mark and Luke on the other, with specific reference to the "adultery exception." Krueger obviously wants to keep that "non-quoting distortion" charge alive, so here he comes up with some faded-jeans rationalization reading the "we" in some sort of adversarial sense. Perhaps Krueger is trying to imitate my exposure of others' manipulative debate tactics, but either way, he has a long way to go before he is that perceptive.

He goes on: "Indeed, [Holding] simply states that 'Krueger notes' this 'exception clause,' but does not let on that I had analyzed the verse and put it in logical notation in the same way that I had done with the Mark verses." To which we say again: Yeah, so what? What Krueger is saying here is that he objects to us not framing the matter in ways that he framed them to make it look like he was analyzing the matter more intelligently than he was. Not quoting his little "logical notation" doesn't subtract an ounce of credit from his case, nor misrepresent it in the least. What it does do is subtract a shazam for gullible skeptical readers who think that stating your case in words, then restating it in mathematical form, is somehow more impressive and somehow adds credence. It doesn't. Nothing has been removed that changes anything Krueger has argued and which we have quoted. He doesn't need to put the verses in logical notation to make a case for a formal contradiction. Krueger is playing a "boo game" with his skeptical audience.

Krueger notes the "exception clause" in Matthew's version, and regards this as more evidence of contradiction. Our answer for this is already found in the item here, in which we noted:

...the most likely reason for the difference is that Matthew was spelling out what Luke and Mark leave implicit within the social context. The divorce debate in Jewish circles in Jesus' day pitted the followers of Hillel against those of his rival, Shammai. Hillel took a more liberal view, permitting divorce in a variety of circumstances (even if the wife spoiled a meal!); Shammai, only in the case of adultery. In both Jewish and Greco-Roman society, Blomberg notes in his commentary on Matthew, "divorce and remarriage were universally permitted and often mandatory following adultery." [292] Hagner's commentary on Matthew [549] adds: "Rabbinic Judaism required a husband to divorce and unfaithful wife." (m. Sota 5:1, m. Yebam 2:8; also Qumran literature, 1QapGen 20:15; Marcus Bockmuehl notes these passages and ties it not to Hillel and Shammai, but to halakhah on Deut. 24:4; neverthless his point is the same: the exception was presupposed -- Marcus Bockmuehl, "Mt. 5:32, 19:9 in Light of Pre-Rabbinic Halahkah," NTS 35 (1989), 291-5) In other words, both sides agreed on the exception which Matthew adds, and by the same token, Jesus could certainly have safely presupposed it without any fear of misunderstanding.

Krueger offers an answer to this, which we will look at below; suffice to say for now that the above shows the usual skeptical tendency to blow one's nose on relevant social data, and the further reply will evince more of the same.

Secondary note: In between truckloads of "pep rally" commentary for the benefit of his skeptical readers, Krueger adds: "What [Holding] avoids is the fact that I explained why his material is irrelevant. The issue is whether the bible has contradictory answers to the question of whether one can remarry after divorce. What [Holding] is doing with his Hillel and Shammai information is attempting to explain WHY the verses appeared in the New Testament in contradictory fashion." What Krueger is trying to cover up with this pre-emptive shazam is his lack of comprehension of the point that there is no contradiction at all when the verses are all read in the "high-context" context of the ancient world. He as a "low-context" reader sees a contradiction because he is imposing his low-context expecations on a high-context text. The material is not in the least irrelevant -- it establishes the "high context" which stands behind the passages in Mark and Luke. Krueger is simply running into the same wall again and again, claiming there is a "contradiction" over and over as though nothing has been said at all and as though by mere restatement (even now in the fourth response) he can erase the high-context background of the passages under the rubric of "hurling up dust" or by stating the matter as: "...even if we grant that Jesus' listeners were aware of the exception clause, then all that follows from that is that they would have known that Jesus misstated the law on divorce and remarriage." The readers or hearers would not, again, have regarded this as a "misstatement" -- they would have read or heard it in the "high context" of the universal adultery exception clause. Krueger still cannot grasp this, and probably cannot ever grasp it, for he is locked permanently into his low-context reading state.

But first let us see how he also tries to bring in Paul as well:

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress... Romans 7:2-3
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord: Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried...1 Cor. 7:10-11
So no one who divorces can remarry without committing adultery. But, on the other hand, the bible also says that _not_ everyone who divorces their mate and remarries is committing adultery!

We are constrained to ask how such a conclusion is derived from the Romans passage; divorce is implied in the idea of being married to another, and as it stands agrees with what Jesus has said. The 1 Cor. passage does not even mention adultery, but is also in line with Jesus' words and does not contradict Romans, and Krueger does not explain how it does, or how he gets this conclusion. Perhaps he thinks that the Romans' indication of remarriage after death of one spouse somehow constitutes "adultery", but if so, this would define "adultery" in a way no one has ever defined it.

Secondary note: Krueger now explains himself in a bit more detail, but it clearly wasn't worth the effort:

  1. "...Paul said that a divorced woman who remarries while her husband is alive commits adultery, but Matthew 5 has an exception for the cause of fornication..." We thank Krueger for finally explaining himself, and it wasn't worth the trouble, since he is still being a low-context reader. The "adultery exception" remains in the background, and as Instone-Brewer notes, such exceptions could be omitted from Greco-Roman documents as well as rabbinic ones. Here is an example from a marriage contract dated 92 BC:
    And it shall not be lawful for Philiscus to bring in any other wife but Apollonia, nor to keep a concubine or boy, nor to have children by another woman while Apollonia lives.

    Like Romans 7, if this is read woodenly one might think that the husband could never remarry while his wife was alive. But that would be "contrary to everything we know about Greco-Roman marriage contracts" in which "no fault" divorce was allowed for either partner. The absence of a "divorce provision" can hardly be understood as a denial of the right to divorce; so likewise in Romans 7 the absence of an "adultery exception" does not deny that it exists behind it.

  2. Kreuger next tries to pre-empt discussion of Deut. 24 by claiming this is also in contradiction with Paul. He does admit that we address it later, but does take the chance to claim ahead of time, for the bedazzlement of skeptical readers, that we do not address the issue "fairly" (though we address Deut. 24 in the same order he does!).
  3. On 1 Cor. 7, our answer is the same as it has been elsewhere: The "adultery exception" lies in the contextual background; though Krueger tries to manipulate his readers again by saying, "[Holding] again misleads his readers and pretends that the 1 Corinthians passage should not be considered a problem because it does not mention the word 'adultery.'" No such thing as "not be considered a problem" was said at all -- we stated a simple fact which showed that Krueger did not even exegete the passage to show how adultery related to it. The pagan world had their own versions of Hillel "no fault" divorce, and the exception clause remains in the background, not necessary to mention any more than in the contract above.

Our initial conclusion: Skeptics who spend too much time devising what look like clever logical formulas need to spend more time actually studying social contexts and explaining what it is they are actually arguing. But let's see now how Krueger tries to squirm out of the data. We begin with some relevant background.


As noted, the key error for skeptics with these passages is the assumption that the Marcan and Lucan versions are universals, and much is made over that "the rule is stated without any exceptions." In so noting critics display their incredible lack of familiarity with the nature and construction of ancient legal codes, which were primarily didactic in nature. Few if any laws were designed, or intended to, lay out every possible exception to the rule. Exodus 22:1 reads, "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." This says "if a man" and it uses the Hebrew word for a male person; it is not a generalized "man" as in human. So does this law allow that a woman may steal and ox or a sheep and kill it and sell it, and suffer no consequences? Does it also mean one may steal a goat, or a cow, or would it later allow us to steal all manner of critters from horses to ostriches? After all, only oxen and sheep are specified.

Secondary note: It is here where our quote from Hillers becomes most relevant. Once again Krueger imposes his low-context expectations on the texts, and tries to deflect pinpointing of his own lack of education by saying, "[Holding] claims that bible skeptics are unfamiliar with the construction of ancient legal codes, but he has no evidence that this is so. Indeed, his dismissal of Deuteronomy 24 below suggests that [Holding] lacks familiarity with the material at issue." This is indeed interesting, for the reply I raised about Deut. 24 is not my own -- it is in fact from the analysis of Jeffrey Tigay's JPS commentary on Deuteronomy. So now that Krueger has committed to the statement that what I said of Deut. 24 shows that I "lack familiarity with the material at issue," it will be amusing to see how he replies to the argument now that it is known that it is that of a Jewish scholar who is completely familiar with the material at issue. (Tertiary response: Not surprisingly, Krueger dodges out of this embarrassing error and says nothing about this or about Tigay at all. Nor in the 4th level response.)

Krueger next says, "It is also not claimed by skeptics that any laws must lay out all exceptions. What IS claimed is that when asked specifically about what conditions apply to the rules about divorce, if that is the specific subject Jesus was asked about, then to be accurate Jesus should state whether there are any exceptions." Krueger is merely restating the same thing in different words to cover himself. He is indeed demanding that Jesus lay out all exceptions; the only way this would make a difference is if covering up the exception had any application to the question. As it is, the Pharisees' question, followed upon as it is by the reflection upon the background acceptance of divorce as a reality in Deut. 24, shows that their interest was not in the least with cases of adultery and whether that was an exception or not, for their purpose was to exploit the concession of Deut. 24 as though it were a command, and which the liberal Hillel school of the Pharisees took as an allowance to divorce for such trivial things as spoiling a meal. Since both Hillel and Shammai agreed that adultery was an exception for which it was lawful to put away a wife, there is no way that the question, "Is adultery an exception?" could have been on their minds or have been the subject, to any degree, of the question. They are testing Jesus to see which side of the Hillel/Shammai debate he fell on. If it were otherwise, their specific question would have been, at some point, "Is it lawful to put a wife away for adultery?"

After bedazzling the readers with more charges of evasion (simply because I address material in my preferred order!), Krueger addresses my example of Ex. 22:1 ("So does this law allow that a woman may steal and ox or a sheep and kill it and sell it, and suffer no consequences? Does it also mean one may steal a goat, or a cow, or would it later allow us to steal all manner of critters from horses to ostriches? After all, only oxen and sheep are specified.") by claiming that it is a "disanalogy" because the "issue is whether a rule has exceptions, and if it does, whether it is an error to omit them." And that is exactly my point! It is no error to omit horses and ostriches here, because (as Hillers notes) laws like these gave expression to typical cases. No one needed to say, "oh, and not horses, either" because it was plain that the ox and sheep were chosen as typical livestock for the example. Yet only the most foolish exegete would use this to claim that one could steal ducks or geese because they are not specified. By the same token, because the "adultery exception" was a firm and universal background, no one needed to say, "except for adultery" for the exception to be known. This is not a different issue; it is the very same issue, and Krueger does not resolve the matter at all, nor refute my point except by smokescreen tactics. That he "cited a couple of rules that have exceptions and compared them to the case of remarriage and adultery" makes not a whit of difference. It is not a matter of mention of "ducks" or "geese" being superfluous, but of it being taken for granted, in line with the nature of ancient law codes, that a law as laid out may or may not have exceptions and/or provisos, and if there are any, that is reasoned out on a judicial level.

Let us use another example to show Krueger the error of his anachronistic ways. Deut. 22:24 states that a woman shall be stoned for fornication if the act occurred in the city, because she did not cry out for help. Fundamentalist skeptics like Dennis McKinsey pop in with the inane question, "What if she was too frightened to scream? What if the man stuffed her mouth with something?" Ancient judicial methodology was not, in line with what Hillers notes, to simply read the law at face value and proceed with judgment without consideration of mitigating factors. Questions like these would come up in due course as the case was examined; the law did not need to lay out exception after exception, because the laws were taken as didactic, not as a basis for a strict application.

Despite Krueger's lack of grasp, the matter is the same for Mark 10 and Luke 16. The subjects of the laws are of no moment here. What is of issue is mode, genre, and presentation of law, not content. The general mode of ancient laws was, "not every niggling detail or exception is necessarily laid out" (though obviously, the simpler a matter was, the less there was that had to be reported anyway). This remains, as I have said, a case of imperialistically imposing Western demands for precision upon texts and peoples who neither recognized nor required such precision and would read the exception as implied or recognize cases where an exception might be possible. Krueger cannot, and as a low-context reader apparently never will, see this point, so he is left to bleat the same charge over and over again that the contradiction stands, based on his own fundamentalist reading.

By the same reckoning, social data regarding the regulations of adultery -- data which we will see Krueger merely blows his nose on -- is every bit as relevant in context. That the matter is stated as an absolute is of no relevance; the restrictions on Sabbath work were also stated as absolutes, yet clearly it was recognized by Jews that there were "exceptions" (lifesaving measures, getting an animal out of a pit) in certain circumstances in spite of the "absoluteness" of the command. Speaking of "formal contradiction" between the Gospels on this matter is a case of imperialistically imposing Western demands for precision upon texts and peoples who neither recognized nor required such precision. An ancient reading these passages in parallel would not have seen any contradiction at all, for there is none. In Mark and Luke, the "adultery exception," even if not laid out, existed in the contextual background and is as good as written there. To this Krueger has no answer, other than imposing his anachronistic, low-context expectations.

The act of divorce was no exception to this principle: There were times when divorce was the better option. Note that this is not "situational ethics" as some are wont to define the term; it is a matter of a moral hierarchy, in which one must choose a greater good. (The classic example being, "it is always wrong to lie" -- even about the Jews you keep hidden in your cellar from Hitler's SS?) In the ancient world adultery was no mere matter of a hop in a sack between consenting partners; adultery was looked upon as a matter in which one man dishonored another man by sleeping with his wife, and this in an agonistic culture in which honor was given the sort of regard we give to paying the bills. Adultery crossed the boundaries of family in an era when familial lines were clearly and sharply drawn. It was an offense that demanded satisfaction from a human point of view, and since it involved familial boundaries, easily led to "family feuds" of the variety best know not from Richard Dawson, but from Hatfields and McCoys. Ancient Israelite law nipped the feud in the bud by requiring both the adulterous wife and the man to be killed (Deut. 22:22) and stop the feud in its tracks. (Krueger responds to this with a diversion about David and Bathsheba, which tells us enough about his ability to remain focused on an argument, and the need for such diversions when his original argument is failing.)

Secondary note: That Krueger cannot grasp this point is evident as well in his manipulation of my "lying for Jews in the cellar" example. He states, "If it is OK to lie to the SS when you have Jews in your cellar, then it is obviously false that 'it is always wrong to lie.'" So what then? Do parents tell their children, "It is always wrong to lie, except in the following situations," provided by a comprehensive list, or even a general, theoretical list? Moreover, Krueger is trying to pass right by a linguistic hurdle: A law or statement does not need to use the words "always" or "any" to be stated as an absolute -- a person who says, "It is wrong to lie," without the "always," isn't stating the premise in a way that permits exceptions or lays out any sense of a moral hierarchy under which lying may be the more moral thing to do. The phrase as is brooks no exceptions, if we are to view it in literalistic terms; it says outright, "it is wrong to lie," and does not specify that there is a time or place when it is not wrong to lie. We take for granted that such a person is stating a general moral premise and not an exceptionless absolute. So with the didactic codes of the ancients, and Krueger's refusal to recognize the difference does not constitute a refutation.

Given these conceptions of honor and vengeance, the "adultery exception" was the means of heading off dispute that Jews of Jesus' time used. Divorce excluded the offending parties from the kinship group and therefore gave the families no one to feud with. The punishment was social ostracization. With these points in mind, we now return to Krueger's commentary, and his continued effort to divorce matters from their social contexts (in which he is fundamentally and sadly undereducated).

Secondary note: Krueger apparently is a little dazed by the social data and reading too fast, for he says of the above: "[Holding] had just stated that the punishment was that they were stoned to death. Now he says that the punishment is 'social ostracization.' [Holding] should address this contradiction too." Perhaps Krueger, who could not even tell a debating partner why the Amalekites were attacked by Israel and guessed that their home was "Amalekiteland," is oblivious to the historical datum that Jews of Jesus' time are in focus, and in that time (and for many, many years prior) no longer held the right to capital punishment or the ability to enforce their laws which required it. Divorce was the option left open, with the accompanying punishment of social ostracization. No one would "wonder about what a particular person's view is on the subject of remarriage after divorce" by this time; the schools of Hillel and Shammai were the culmination of such debate, and there was not much that mattered in terms of how one viewed the Mosaic law on this subject, since it could not be enforced anyway. Krueger is bringing up an irrelevancy because he lacks cognizance of the relevant socio-political data. (Tertiary response: Krueger rips this last comment about how one viewed the Mosaic law from this context, in which we are addressing punishments for adultery prescribed in the law and whether they were enforced, as though we are saying something about the general relevance of the Mosaic law to the Jews in this time period! This is either rank dishonesty or enormous clumsiness by Krueger, who as a result of his mishandling answers yet another argument never actually made. This continues in the 4th level response. Krueger still can't seem to read carefully: "the Mosaic law on this subject".)

At this point as well Krueger brings up another, not unexpected charge of contradiction between Moses and Jesus. The charge is misplaced. This is yet another example of the "moral hierarchy" we have written of previously. The moral law had not changed; men had changed. In the time of Moses, an easy divorce was morally better than not conceding to it, for it allowed a woman to remarry and continue to survive in a much harsher world to live in, in the Ancient Near East. By the time of Jesus, the conditions that made survival so difficult in the ANE were substantially alleviated and a greater stricture on divorce was more practicable (albeit not at all to be taken to mean, that cases were to be judged in black and white, any more than before). This has nothing to do with the Hillel-Shammai dispute, in which lines were clear: Both sides allowed for divorce in the case of adultery, and agreement on the subject stopped there. There was not a grand panorama of views under which not specifying the "adultery exception" would have made a difference. Krueger tries to fool his readers by collapsing this down to the description, "...it would seem to be well established that opinions differed on the circumstances under which divorce is permitted. Since this is the case, it is also reasonable to conclude that opinions differed on the circumstances under which remarriage after divorce is permitted." Opinions differed beyond the "adultery exception" which everyone understood. Thus again, Jesus placed himself in the same camp as the stricter Shammaites; his views, contrary to Krueger, were indeed mainstream and required no further elucidation.

Tertiary response: It is here where Krueger tries to loft in a major response, burping back from his easy chair that if "there is reason to believe that Jesus' audience did not assume that his views were mainstream, then they would not have made the assumption that he agreed with the fornication clause in the divorce prohibition..." Kreuger then calls in seven "reasons why we should not think that Jesus' audience did not assume that his views were mainstream." Before we get into that it is clear that all of his reasons given fail on one of two counts: 1) The same ethnocentric assumption of a "low context" statement by Jesus, which we have addressed above and to which Krueger has no answer other than further bigoted, ethnocentric applications; 2) the very point of the questioning was to determine where exactly Jesus stood in relation to the Hillel-Shammai debate. Let's now look at these "reasons" from Krueger's can of Pringles:

  1. "Jesus expressly prohibits divorce in Mark 10. Since this is not mainstream at that time, listeners would not have assumed that Jesus' other views on divorce and marriage are mainstream..." This is false, for the reasons we have given above, specifically with reference to high and low context readings, and which Krueger hasn't the ability to answer. He is doing nothing more than chasing himself in a circle, assuming the low context to validate his assumptions. Both the Pharisees' question, and Jesus' answer, may only be read within the "high" context of the period. Their response (as in Mark 10:4) shows the Pharisees to be taking the Hillelite point of view, which all sides agreed allowed divorce when adultery happened. Divorce under this particular circumstance is not even at issue. The entire conversation works with this exclusion assumed, and forcing a low-context reading into it isn't an answer. Krueger has no answer for this and will continue to have no answer as long as he uses generalist sources like the Oxford Companion that do not deal with the texts in their socio-literary setting.

    Kreuger tries to bank his claim with diversions:

    1. Krueger tries to make a silk purse from a sow's ear by noting that "there was a formulaic use of 'Moses said (or the law said, or 'it has been said') that you should do x, but I tell you to do y" and giving examples. What this is intended to prove is far from clear and is not explained. Apparently Krueger in his miseducation believes that this establishes some sort of pattern whereby one may determine whether Jesus was giving a non-mainstream view. As it happens every one of the cites he offers represents a known Jewish mainstream view, an interpretation of, and/or exposition upon, the law of Moses, that Jesus shared with other Jewish sages [see Keener, Matthew commentary]. Matthew 5:27 reflects Jewish warnings of women as dangerous because they could invite lust (Sir. 25:21, 26:9; Ps. Sol. 16:7-8; Test. Reub. 3:11-12, 5:1-5, 6:1; Jos. War. 2.121; Ant. 7.130; b. Ta'n. 24a), only differing from these opinions in placing responsibility on the "luster" to be on guard. Matthew 5:33-7 reflects a mainstream Jewish (and pagan) concern that oaths not be taken carelessly. Matthew 5:38-9 offers an advocation of non-resistance reflected elsewhere in Judaism (Sir. 28:1-8, 1QS 10.17-19; Ps.-Phocyl. 77; Jos. and Asen. 23.9; 29.3; Ps. Philo 8:10; b. Ber. 17a; Shab. 88b, bar.; Yoma 23a; 2 Enoch 50:3-4). Matthew 5:43-44 is a response to the non-mainstream view of the Qumranites who encouraged their members to "hate the children of darkness" as personal enemies.

      In the 4th level response Kreuger plays his same low-context game and insists that the oath-taking matter refers to a strict and complete prohibition. In short, he can't get out of that ethnocentric mindset that insists that hyperbolic language by an Ancient Near Easterner -- from a culture rich in use of hyperbolic language -- must be taken literally (even if we assume that is what is at work; he says nothing about the linked article)! More desperate than ever, Krueger supposes us to be "scared" and hiding something by not quoting verses (yes, he thinks all of you are that dumb) but only provides an "answer" on the oath matter.

      Of all of Krueger's miseducated attempts to wrest Jesus from mainstream views, only a cluster he retrieves from Mark 7//Matt. 15 comes even close, and these are all issues of personal, ritual and moral purity and practice that are of an entirely different category than matters of human interaction such as divorce, and also relate to the broader conceptions of what constituted purity in the ancient world, a complex topic with a wide variety of expressions and modes. The average "Josephus" on the street in Jerusalem was ritually unclean for the Pharisees; few would have had the time or the concern to adhere to their niggling level of purity coding. That Jesus offered a differing view on purity practice and regulations than the Pharisees does not magically poof into a less than mainstream view on divorce, any more than a differing view on environmentalism suggests a differing view on child-raising techniques. As usual, Krueger is simplistically and ethnocentrically viewing these complex topics through the lens of a simpleton's microscope.

      4th level response: Krueger quotes the above as far as "purity coding" and burps back, "Well, the cited departures from tradition were not simply opportunities in which he presented more details about handwashing or unclean foods, but instances where he discards the tradition altogether. This is radical, and [Holding]'s attempt to pass off Jesus' departure from some of the basic beliefs of Jewish tradition as mere pedantry that would not have interested most Jews is clearly incorrect. Whether some foods are unclean was of interest to all Jews, obviously, as it would be today." Notice how Krueger tries to slip and slide his way past an egregious error of assumption and the key point of the argument. The Pharisees would have considered Jesus' dismissing of their extended requirements "radical" only from their perspective -- the "average Josephus" without such niggling concerns (especially the Galileeans, who resented much of what the added law required) would not have considered Jesus' actions "radical" but "right on" and completely normal. Krueger is trying to slip by the premise of "all Jews" being interested in food laws (a much, much more general idea than interest in the extended rigour promoted by the Pharisees) and trying to make it seem like Jesus' actions here would have been a "radical" step for "all Jews" rather than just a limited set of Jews (the Pharisees) with a particularly stringent view of how to maintain personal purity.

      To the rest of the above Krueger dodges by claiming he "never argued that since Jesus' views on clean and unclean practices were not mainstream, that this implies that his views on divorce are not mainstream." In that case, it is useless to even cite Jesus' views on any other matter in the context of this argument. Krueger has simply committed yet another embarrassing gaffe (like his Deut. 24 screed) and is unable to wiggle his way out of it by any other means than denial. He claims his real argument is that "since Jesus' views on other matters were known by many people to depart radically from mainstream Jewish teachings, no one would have assumed that Jesus' views on other subjects were the mainstream Jewish views." Oh? Reword it: "since Jesus' views on [clean or unclean practices] were known by many people to depart radically from mainstream Jewish teachings, no one would have assumed that Jesus' views on [divorce] were the mainstream Jewish views." Krueger is trying to evade his error by generalizing his argument, which says essentially and at its base exactly the same thing.

    2. It is said, "For Mark's Jesus, the reason you cannot remarry is that you cannot get divorced in the first place." Krueger gives no citation or explanation for this wacky idea, which is utterly false and at best is based on, and therefore a restatement of, the same low-context reading he continues to throw out anachronistically.

      4th-level response: Krueger claims he gave a "detailed exposition" of this earlier, but plain and simple, he didn't. If it comes down to his claim that Mark utterly prohibits divorce, then that is already refuted by the high-context setting and legal issues which he continues to pretend don't matter.

    3. It is said, "Jesus states that his view on divorce differs from that of Moses, who allowed divorce." Jesus says no such thing; there is no disagreement at all expressed with Moses, again, other than by arbitrarily and anachronistically imposing a low-context reading. Krueger is merely restating his original argument in another form, oblivious to the answer which still defeats him.

      In the 4th level response Krueger merely insists he is right, and also misrepresents our point above about the Mosaic law, caused by his own inability to read the phrase, "on this subject."

      Krueger also belches forth a response on the "moral hierarchy" point. He starts by incorrectly stating our point as "the moral law had not changed, but the biblical rules of divorce had." That is incorrect. We said that men had changed, not the Biblical rules for divorce. Krueger needs to pay closer attention to what he is responding to.

      Second, with regards to the more salient point about how environmental changes had occurred, Krueger blatters back with the standard canard that "the bible is very antiwoman" (to which we say, refute this) and a truckload of vague and generalized claptrap, i.e., "divorced women always had a hard time of it," which says zip about the variation in social conditions from the time of Moses to the time of Second Temple Judaism, about which it is doubtful Krueger knows anything. He also fails to grasp that my argument is indeed that "it is worse for a woman to be alone in a harsh world than in a pleasant one..." The Deut. 24 rule allowed a disadvantageous marriage to be dissolved more easily, so that a new one could be established; whereas by the Roman era a woman had more options to survive before and even within a disadvantageous marriage.

      Not surprisingly, in the 4th level response Krueger essentially declares himself too gutless to address Miller's link above, only saying that the position is "too stupid to merit a response here and irrelevant to the issue" -- which leads us to ask, why did Krueger then bring it up in the first place?

    4. "In prohibiting divorce, Jesus in Mark differs from the Pharisees, who allowed it." This is yet again, yet again, Krueger reading the texts in a low context and merely restating his original argument, and this continues in the 4th level response where he calls such appeals to contextual realities of the period "hollow".
    5. "The Pharisees were specifically asking Jesus about his views on the legality of divorce, so we should expect Jesus to answer with a greater degree of accuracy on the conditions for divorce than if the Pharisees had asked about, say, love or bringing up children." This is still, still, still, Krueger ignoring the difference between high and low context and re-re-re-re-repeating the same old defeated argument that demands that the text inform his presumptive, low-context ignorance. He shows his anachronistic bigotry in the very statement, "Upon hearing a universal prohibition on divorce (and remarriage), no one would assume that Jesus had a mainstream clause allowing remarriage for some kinds of divorce...." This is completely false as shown by the parallels drawn to ANE marriage contracts and the rabbinic and Greco-Roman rulings, as well as the general attitude towards law described by Hillers, which clearly require a reader to assume a great deal in spite of seemingly "universal" prohibitions, and which Krueger cannot answer. In the 4th level response Krueger merely appeals fallaciously back to his "Jesus wasn't mainstream elsewhere" argument which has already been rendered dead on arrival.
    6. "Since the Pharisees asked Jesus whether divorce is allowed at all, the Pharisees were clearly making no assumptions about Jesus' views or they would not have asked a question so basic." This is still the same argument restated yet another way, and it cannot be compared, as Krueger does it, to modern legal atomizing and immigration law. As usual Krueger is too ethnocentric to comprehend the vast differences between a pre-literate/high-context and a literate/low-context society, and how they would each approach explanations of the law. Krueger throws out the snide remark that maybe Jesus was a poor public speaker. That's typical bigotry from a fundamentalist atheist; perhaps Krueger would also say that the Greco-Roman lawmakers and the rabbis were "poor composers"?

      In the 4th level response Krueger tellingly omits the last two sentences which make the crucial point that Jesus could not be expected to communicate in a way any differently than his contemporaries and it is only excessive bigotry that raises Krueger's designation of Jesus as a "poor public speaker." Otherwise he has only the same low-context, "Jesus was not mainstream elsewhere" fallacies to offer in reply.

    7. "That the Pharisees ask Jesus whether divorce is legal suggests that they either suspect (correctly!) that he does not allow it because they have heard news about his views, or they have heard of other wandering preachers who do have such a prohibition and are concerned that Jesus may have such a view." It suggests no such thing; they are, as we have shown and which Krueger fails to answer other than by bald and simple re-assertion of the same arguments restated 5,837,847 different ways, determining where he stands in the Hillel-Shammai debate. As noted, if it was an "all or nothing" question at issue, the question put to Jesus would have been, at some point, "Is it lawful to put a wife away for adultery?"

      It is telling that Krueger must insert fictitious "wandering preachers" with otherwise unattested views on divorce into the mix to give this argument a semblance of sensibility. In the 4th level response Krueger tries to weasel his way out of this ridiculous conception with a skein of idiocy that deserves a full quote:

      Wandering preachers such as John the Baptist and some of the Essenes? Those are not fictions, and it is well-known that their views differed significantly from those of the NT Pharisees. Later wandering preachers such as Paul oppose getting married in the first place, so it was common for wandering preachers to differ from mainstream views. Jesus was a wandering preacher already known to differ from the mainstream in other areas, so it would be absurd to think that Jesus' lay audience in Mark, or the Pharisees, or his disciples, would have simply assumed that his views on divorce were mainstream. [Holding] is showing his ignorance about wandering preachers in Jesus' day. And this is the guy constantly crying about high context!

      Wowsers, let's pick this reign of error apart in loving detail:

      • It would come as a shock to Qumran scholarship to hear that the Essenes were "wandering preachers." Some say that the Essenes lived normally in cities, and that Qumran was a "retreat" of sorts; others think they lived permanently in both places, but there has yet to be a Qumran scholar that thinks the Essenes ever went itinerant. Unless Krueger is defining "wandering preacher" as "anyone who walks anywhere and might say anything" this designation of the Essenes as "wandering preachers" is a farce. Showing my ignorance about wandering preachers? Like, for sure.
      • John the Baptist? He fits the bill for wandering preacher but notice anyway that Krueger forgot part 2 of the delineation: "fictitious 'wandering preachers' with otherwise unattested views on divorce". We don't have a word from Johnny B. on divorce. He says something about not marrying someone else's wife, but that's not the same thing. Strike 2 for Dougy.
      • Paul opposing marriage? Krueger doesn't give his cite for this, and I can see where Paul said he would prefer that all be unmarried like him, and clearly says that this is not a mainstream view ("For I would that all men were even as I myself.") but his own way of thinking. Strike 3 for Dougy.

    After restating his case, the cites, and the mathematical formulae (a rather transparent tactic of attempting to make his argument look more impressive than it is), we are given this, which was not in the material originally passed to me:

    Deuteronomy 24:1-2: When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
    In the Deuteronomy verses, there is no waiting period until the husband dies, and it allows the woman to remarry, contra Jesus' statements that this would be adultery.

    Krueger has a little problem here: Deut. 24:1-2 is not a "law" at all! The whole "law" as such is Deut. 24:1-4. Verses 1-3 are a protasis; they describe a given situation that is expected to happen. Verse 4 is the apodasis, the actual "law" as we understand it. In fact there is no "law" for or against divorce in the OT law. It was assumed to be a reality, as Deut. 24:1-4 recognizes, and was neither forbidden nor endorsed. So even by modern "formal" standards there is nothing to put against the NT passages.

    Secondary note: Now let us note again that my analysis here is not my own, but is derived from Tigay's JPS commentary on Deuteronomy. Krueger, unaware that he is shooting himself in the foot against a Jewish scholar with no axe to grind for Jesus, dismisses the analysis as "unlikely" (as well as "ad hoc") because it was "a rule that had influence in Jesus' day, since [the Pharisees] asked about it." That's just more blowing of the nose on the social data! The interpretation of this passage as a rule, versus as a concession, was at the very heart of the Hillel-Shammai debate over when divorce was permitted. Hillel's school took this as a command. Shammai's school took this as a concession. Jesus sides with the Shammaites on this point, for he agrees that Moses suffered, meaning permitted or allowed, divorce because of hardness of hearts, which isn't the same as allowing it just because your wife burned dinner. Thus the best Krueger can do is try to read the "permission" as some sort of endorsement, without any regard for the structure of the law. (The point of Deut. 24:1-4, in fact, was to keep a first husband from having a financial motive to remarry his first wife; the second marriage, because it ended for an invalid reason [hating or disliking the woman] meant the woman was permitted to have her dowry from the second marriage back, or be awarded a similar amount. The rule was intended to keep the first man from remarrying the women just to get the money. Once again, we remind the reader that in the tertiary response, Krueger ignores this, and should for his own sake, because he unwittingly stuck his boot in his mouth and said that the view of a Jewish scholar like Tigay was that of someone "unfamiliar" with the material!)

    In any event, all Krueger can do is quote back the Oxford Companion to the Bible and note that it calls Deut. 24:1-4 a "law" (though whether it does so without any differentiation between protasis and apodasis is not indicated), and try to insert another non-problem:

    Interestingly, the Matthew 5 and 19, Mark 10, and Luke 19 versions of Jesus' statements on divorce and remarriage only prohibit remarriage to someone else. None of these statements prohibit remarriage to the same spouse. Since it is known that Jesus disagreed with the statements in Deuteronomy 24, [Holding] cannot argue that his listeners would have already known that remarriage to the same spouse is prohibited.

    Krueger is trying to sneak by a premise; Jesus only "disagreed with" (actually, recognized as concessionary versus being a command) the premise of a divorce being permitted under all manner of circumstances. He did not say anything for or against remarriage to the same spouse; the point in question about dowries (see description above) did not even come up. But as noted, verse 4 is the apodasis, the actual "law" as we understand it -- the issue of remarriage to the same spouse is neither mentioned nor contradicted, so Krueger is trying to manufacture an argument based on "guilt by association."


    Now let us see what Krueger has to say about our article answering Sam Gibson (he uses my real name, which I replace with my writing name). After citing the Marcan and Matthean passages, Krueger writes:

    Unfortunately, [Holding] does not inform his readers that the contradiction is evident in other verses, not just these two from Matthew 19 and Mark 10. [Holding] is misrepresenting the position to make it easier to refute. This is the Straw Man fallacy. Perhaps [Holding] is citing a bible skeptic who did not fully flesh out the scope of the contradiction, but even if this is so, [Holding], who passes himself off as a biblical authority of some sort, should be aware if the difficulty of this biblical problem.

    We see to begin that Krueger has clearly mastered the art of scoring brownie points (though he merely denies it) to support a weak case, though he has yet to achieve subtlety in this regard. Indeed: I WAS citing another skeptic (Sam Gibson) who used these particular verses only -- he did not use Luke's version (which is the same as Mark's anyway) nor did he bring in Paul or Deuteronomy. However, we would say in reply that this is more likely because Sam is rather more intelligent than Krueger and knows better than to use the cites from Paul. And I would add as well that as an "authority of some sort" I am aware of why there is no difficulty at all: I am aware of the social data which Krueger does not know, and waves away when he learns of it.

    But first, Krueger sees the need to pad his response with further verbiage, just to ensure that the skeptical readership is dazed and befuddled enough not to see that the Emperor has no clothes:

    [Holding]'s website is not presenting the problem in a way that gives his readers an adequate appreciation of the severity of the problem. Now that [Holding] has seen a better developed presentation of the problem, we should expect him to modify his own exposition of the contradiction in order to be fair to readers of his website and to avoid the Straw Man fallacy.

    Of course, if we wish to play this game, one may also note that Krueger has never addressed or refuted countless arguments from the Christian side; he has never touched the works of Evangelical scholars such as N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, or Craig Blomberg. Of course that may be because his time is limited, he has specific concerns, and/or has never come across their work. But if we wished to use this to our polemical advantage, we might also say, "Krueger's work is not presenting Christian arguments in a way that gives his readers an adequate appreciation of the richness of the evidence. Now that Krueger knows of better developed presentations of the case for Christianity, we should expect him to modify his own works in order to be fair to readers of his material and to avoid the Straw Man fallacy." Of course, we are not desperate to score debate points with fluff -- so we will not say such a thing. (He now makes much of "fluff" in our replies -- forgetting that the issue is not inclusion of fluff, but the obsessive insistence that such fluff be quoted in full in a reply.)

    I said:

    Some critics say that the phrase was added to reflect the needs of the early church; and maybe it was, but that by no means requires that Jesus never added that qualification on His own at some point, perhaps in a different context or teaching. Matthew could simply have conflated two of Jesus' separate teachings, which is no crime.

    Krueger replies:

    1. The latter comment commits the fallacy of non sequitur. The issue is not whether it is a crime to conflate teachings, but whether the teachings contradict each other.

    Krueger is to be commended for not engaging in the foolish proposition that conflation of teachings is a crime, but this is hardly a non sequitur in context, because there are skeptics who do argue that conflation is a "crime," and there are also those who say the phrase is a later redaction not offered by Jesus, and I have not said here that Krueger is one of those who says such things. I hardly could, since this is not addressed to him. (Krueger now begrudges that he did not say it, with no apologies for making assumptions upon me.) Therefore Krueger is once again cheaply trying to score points with his readers. A respondent with integrity would have simply noted this point and stated that this was not their approach, and been done with it, and moved on to the next point.

    2. [Holding] commits the fallacy of non sequitur in another way also. Whether the "critics" are correct about their speculation regarding why the verses contradict each other is not relevant to the problem. It may be interesting to find out how biblical contradictions arise, but the issue at hand is that the contradiction is there, not why it is there.

    Once again: This is hardly a non sequitur in context, because there are skeptics and critics who do argue from this point of view (so that it is in no way a "straw man" unless applied to someone who does not argue it), and I have not said here or anywhere that Krueger is one of those who says such things. Therefore Krueger is, once again, cheaply trying to score points with his readers. A respondent with integrity would have simply noted this point and stated that this was not their approach, and been done with it, and moved on to the next point.

    It is at this point that Krueger reaches, after having struck Skeptical readers senseless with the club of fluff, my points about the background data re the implicit exception within the social context, as illustrated by Shammai and Hillel. Krueger reaches for the tissues and blows his nose on the data, thusly:

    Again, explaining why the verses contradict each other may help readers understand the background scenarios that led to the writing of the New Testament, but WHY the verses contradict each other does not remove the fact that they DO contradict each other. So far [Holding] has done nothing to show that there is no contradiction.

    And of rabbinic and Greco-Roman evidence Krueger says:

    More non sequitur from [Holding]. What nonbiblical sources say about divorce and remarriage may be interesting, but it is irrelevant to whether there is a contradiction in verses in the bible. It has already been shown that there is.

    On the contrary, I have shown clearly why there is no contradiction, because I have shown that the "adultery exception" clearly and indisputably lies within the social background of any prohibition on divorce. It is as good as "said" in the high contexts of Mark and in Luke.

    Secondary note: Krueger essentially restates his own argument, and out of his own confusion, declares me confused, but it is worth exposing the matter again to make it clear where the confusion lies: with Krueger, the low-context reader:

    1. "[Holding] argues that the Hillel and Shammai schools differed on the permissibility of divorce. Since there was disagreement about this, the issues surrounding divorce and remarriage were not clear and indisputable." The issues surrounding adultery as an exception were clear and indisputable, and contextually, that is what matters. Krueger is trying to paste disagreement on the broader matters onto the adultery exception, where there is no disagreement at all. There was no competing view on the subject of the "adultery exception." This has been stated several times, but Krueger somehow manages not to grasp it.
    2. "Jesus prohibits divorce in Mark 10, explaining that he differs in this respect from Moses. Since he had such a radical view compared to the Pharisees, he should expect that others would be unlikely to assume that his view on remarriage would be similar to those of the Pharisees, and indeed in Mark 10 they are not." Krueger is in error. Jesus' view differed only from that of Hillelite Pharisees, not Shammaite Pharisees, and his view was not "radical" or unusual. Krueger is lumping "Pharisees" into one big pot out of historical miseducation, and combining it again with his gratuitous low-context reading (and in the 4th level response, "answers" this by merely begging the question that Jesus' statement means he always prohibits divorce!).
    3. "In Mark 10, Jesus states his view on divorce before the Pharisees. However, later, his disciples ask him about his views on this again. This suggests that they still did not understand his position on the matter. If the issues were clear and indisputable, then the disciples would not have been in the dark about them." Krueger cites Mark 10:10-12, but he is trying to play games again. As Mark relates the story, Jesus only tells the Pharisees of his view in terms of creation; the disciples ask again and get a precise accounting -- this is perfectly in accord with the ancient teaching paradigm in which insiders were given more detailed information that outsiders. Krueger is confused because Matthew and Luke order their material differently; Luke uses the "adultery" saying in a different contextual setting, and Matthew does not report the differentiation between the "insider" and "outsider" teaching in order to make a cohesive teaching unit, in line with his arrangement principles. There is nothing here to suggest that the issues lack in clarity or foster dispute.

      Tertiary response: Krueger bellows back that this explanation "shows that [Holding] doesn't understand the problem," but I do understand the "problem" and it is a problem of Krueger's own creation and a product of his own ignorance and crass fundaliteralism. As a reader outside of a programmatic teacher-disciple relationship in the ancient world, Krueger has no conception of the difference between Jesus' answers to the Pharisees as an "outgroup" to whom Jesus gave a public and less clear response, and the disciples as an "ingroup" who got and deserved a more explicit answer, that was nevertheless no different in terms of meaning than the answer given to the Pharisees -- and that answer, again, can only be understood in terms of the difference between the high and low context settings which Krueger either refuses to grasp or, more likely, is unable to grasp, as he continues to think that the explanation to the disciples was not "precise" enough because it fails to meet his own low-context expectations and because it uses "explicitly universal terms" (which as we have shown in the context of ancient law codes and legal practice, is a meaningless point)! He demands "further information" and he has it -- he simply refuses to recognize it because it collapses his case into bigoted anachronism. (He also seems to be under the impression that it is somehow meaningful that the Pharisees and disciples did not apparently know Jesus' views on this before! This is ridiculous for obviously Jesus had to explain his views to these persons for the first time at some point!)

      In the 4th level response Krueger reaffirms his commitment to bigoted anachronism and claims that this makes matters "worse" because Jesus "does not include the crucial exception clause in his exposition"! Again we repeat into the ear of the brick wall: It's all a matter of high and low context! The exception is taken for granted. The parallels in legal material, both Jewish and pagan, prove this. The anthropological data points to and proves this. Pointing (mostly falsely) to other areas where Jesus was not "mainstream" does not change this. Insisting based on our own bigoted anachronizing that we take the statements at "face value" is not a rebuttal. (So do we take those Ancient Near Eastern marriage covenants "at face value" and assume that sexual faithfulness wasn't important? Do we take that Greco-Roman marriage contract clause "at face value" and assume that Philiscus could never remarry while his wife was alive? Krueger can't worm his way out of the high context of the ancients, and denial does not do the job for anyone other than his fellow bigots and provincialists.

    4. Finally, Krueger merely blows his nose again and makes the low-context assertion, "To say that an essential exception clause is 'as good as 'said' in Mark and in Luke" is the height of absurdity." It is a hard fact of the contextual background, of the high-context compositional paradigm, shown as well in the legal and rabbinic background, and Krueger's attempts to wrest the matter into his own "low" context do not constitute a refutation.

    Krueger at last grasps this as our answer, and in response hauls up a variety of anachronistic and pointless replies, which we address in turn:

    • "It is not stated explicitly in [Holding]'s 'solution' whether Jesus was talking to two groups on two separate occasions or whether he did so on one occasion, but it seems most likely that [Holding] intends for us to understand that Jesus was addressing two groups on two separate occasions, and that in one case Jesus omitted the exception because his audience was aware of it." Krueger apparently needs more shazam to wow the skeptical readers, so he now erects his own "straw man" by creating an argument for me. I do not maintain that Jesus spoke to two groups on two separate occasions. I would maintain that this is one occasion and that the Synoptics do record the same chronological episode in this case. However, that does not in the least affect my answer. I maintain (and this is where the relevance of the issue of conflation, which Krueger merely flashes past like a cheap burger joint, comes into play) that Jesus at another time, whether publicly or privately, did specify or agree with the "adultery exception," just as he did his contemporaries, and that Matthew, utilizing the editorial freedom of an ancient writer of a sort that was entirely normal and accepted for the period (and which Krueger does not grasp, as he continues to assert, under a "fundamentalist atheist" reading, that this amounts to an admission of error -- read it again: this was normal editorial practice for the period!), and for the sake of his own readers, chronologically displaced the stated exception in order to produce a categorical unit on the subject of divorce, after the manner of a rabbinic debate; whereas Mark and Luke saw no need, in their view, to make the exception explicit, considering that the background data was enough. (Krueger does not comment upon his careless imposition of this argument upon me, but merely makes a wry remark about cheap burger joints not occupying his neighborhood. A simple "I misattributed a position" seems far too difficult and embarrassing to acknowledge.)

      To a certain extent Krueger grasps this point, but being something of a temporal provincialist, demands that if the text does not accord to his modern, Western sensibilities (as opposed to ancient, Near Eastern standards of literary practice, which would see no such "error" as he does), and offers the following replies:

      First, whether Jesus or his listeners knew of an exception to the rule or not, to state a rule that has an exception as a universal, exceptionless rule is still an error. If the rule has an exception, then to state it without an exception is an error, plain and simple. If ~[(x)(Dx & Rx => Ax)], then you shouldn't state (x)(Dx & Rx => Ax). It's that simple.

      Krueger operates fully time out of mind here in his effort to become "simple" -- ancient teachers and law codes never operated under a principle of "exceptionless rules" when they presented their material; no one would have heard, "If a man..." and assumed a woman could get away with it; no one would have heard "no work on the sabbath" and assumed no tending to an animal fallen into a pit.

      Secondary note: Here is where Krueger thinks he has a "gotcha" as he calls forth examples of what he perceives would be an "exceptionless" rules, such as "thou shalt have no other gods before me." As I said, he is drinking from the wrong well. Nothing I have said here states that there is no such thing as an exceptionless rule; and of course the simpler a rule is, the less likely there would be exceptions. The nature and status of God is a much "simpler" issue than the complexities surrounding human interaction. I have stated that this was not a principle of ancient teachers and codes; i.e., for Krueger's understanding, this was not something assumed in the mere presentation. Again: Determining what rules are in what category is a matter of detailed consideration of the background and social data, a matter in which Krueger continues to be significantly and sadly misinformed. The "no other gods" rule does not stand alone; it is expanded upon with pounding-home regularity as the Israelites are also told to destroy pagan altars and religious artifacts (as well as reinforced by the "do not take my name in vain" rule, which stresses the holiness which makes God unique). This is the sort of background I have provided with the rule for divorce, showing that it rested in a different category and was not "exceptionless" at all. Merely hauling up rules that are exceptionless does not negate the evidence that this particular rule was not exceptionless.

      Tertiary response: Krueger digs himself even deeper into the pit of miseducation with the comment: "The 'no adultery' rule was not 'pounded home,' so to speak, since so many OT heroes had multiple wives and concubines, so apparently [Holding] must admit that we should assume that it has exceptions." This commentary is filled to the brim with three serious and absurd errors that display Krueger's lamentable lack of education. First, Krueger is drawing a false analogy between a single law accompanied by secondary laws and admonitions, and a single law contrasted to practice. An accurate analogy here would fail him, for it is clear that in spite of the laws pounded home against idolatry, Israel violated these laws as often as Krueger supposes the Israelites violated the adultery law. Second, the keeping of multiple wives and concubines did not constitute "adultery" as it was defined in the Bible, so Krueger is miseducated once again. It was a means of helping women to be able to survive, but it was not "adultery" by definition and therefore his comment is misplaced. (Krueger also appeals to Paul briefly, even as he has not addressed our points above showing that Paul agrees with what Jesus said.) Finally, Krueger's argument fails to consider that the point when the adultery exception was "pounded home" most was in the context of the Hillel-Shammai debate much later, so that appealing to the acts of much earlier OT persons would be out of order to begin with!

      Krueger also adds:

      1. He thinks again that the cases are disanalogous, but again, the analogy is to mode, not content. It is absurd to state, "If there are exceptions, then when someone asks about the rule, the exceptions should be stated clearly. If they are not, then the rule was incorrectly stated," in the face of a didactic law code from a high-context society, which clearly by its examples did not agree that "exceptions should be stated clearly" at all times.
      2. "Even today, among Jews there is disagreement about what is permitted on the Sabbath. One should not assume that everyone would have agreed on this so much that exceptions would not have to be stated." This only proves my point! There is disagreement about what is permitted, but all agree that some things are permitted -- it is a matter of degree, as was the difference between Hillel and Shammai on adultery; but all agree that there are thinks not permitted on the Sabbath. There is no Jew, for example, that still follows Sabbath rules, who would agree that you can keep the Sabbath while not doing essential work (though there is certainly discussion over how "essential" is defined).
      3. "The term 'man' was used to denote both men and women even into the latter half of the 20th century." Yes, but it was not used that way here. Exodus was not written at a time when "universal gender" language was in use.

      In principle and effort Krueger is no more cognizant here than Michael Martin arguing that Jesus' commands to humility would keep a trained pilot from assuming the controls of a diving plane. Krueger further exposes his lack of knowledge of ancient legal methodology by "analogy" with OT laws:

      Exodus 22:14-15 tells us (NIV):"If a man borrows an animal from his neighbour and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss."
      So to state the rule as "Anyone who borrows an animal and it dies, must pay restitution" is to commit an error. That isn't true. The rule is: "Anyone who borrows an animal and it dies, must pay restitution unless the owner was present or the animal was hired."

      The parallel is irrelevant, since to be effective Krueger must show that there was sufficient "background" (as I did with the rabbis, with Hillel and Shammai, etc) so that the "present owner" clause could be assumed without being stated. Similarly:

      Ex. 21:28 "If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death.
      So to say that "Anyone whose bull gores a man or woman to death is not held responsible" is to say something false, since the rule is: ""Anyone whose bull gores a man or woman to death is not held responsible unless the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up."

      The parallel is also irrelevant; to be effective Krueger must show that there was sufficient "background" (again, as I did with the rabbis, with Hillel and Shammai, etc) so that the "habit of goring" clause could be assumed without being stated. Here there are a couple of Mesopotamian parallels to this rule, but nothing like an extensive legal background as there is for the divorce rule. Krueger's first answer is a non-answer based on non-evidence.

      Secondary note: Having little better he can do, Krueger a) ignores my point about a background being needed equal to the Hillel-Shammai debates and blithely declares his analogies "accurate" with no defense or answer; b) claims that, "If we assume that Jesus' audience knows of an exception to a rule, the most you can make out of that is that the audience knows that Jesus made a mistake in stating the rule without the exception" (! -- and we can apparently "assume" despite the high context, despite the discussions, despite the legal evidence, despite the didactic nature of ancient law codes, that Jesus' audience knew this and he didn't!); c) restates his affirmation as though nothing has changed.

      Krueger offers a second point based on the false idea, imposed upon me by his own carelessness and presumption, that I envision two different audiences being addressed in these parallel accounts. I specified no such thing, so Krueger's exertions here are beside the point, useless, and mere sparkle attached for the sake of dazzling a skeptical audience. We therefore skip over this point entirely and expect that Krueger should have no complaint, since it is a point answering an argument never made from our side. (Here again Krueger covers up his egregious presumption, and restates his arguments again to bedazzle the skeptical reader.)

      In point three Krueger states:

      [Holding]'s solution also makes no sense because the Pharisees were specifically asking Jesus about his views on marriage and divorce. They were inquiring about what he thought about divorce, so we should expect Jesus to answer with more detail than if the subject had just been brought up in passing. Because his doctrine on divorce was the explicit subject at hand, Jesus should not leave out any important details. An exception to an otherwise universal rule is certainly an important detail. In brief, the Pharisees asked Jesus, "What do you think of divorce?" and Jesus answered "No one can divorce and remarry." Since divorce was the issue, he should not omit an important bit of information that is essential to his listeners' understanding of his views on divorce. On [Holding]'s view, that is what Jesus did, and this makes no sense.

      Although he filled space and tried to dazzle the reader by restating it five different ways, the argument is the same each time, and remains answered above: Both Jesus and the Pharisees would have agreed on the "adultery exception." It was in the background, as is clearly indicated by the evidence of the rabbis, the Greco-Roman world, Hillel and Shammai. This "important detail" is no new or startling teaching; omitting it would have confused no one and would have been in the mind of listeners from the very beginning. Matthew adds the exception as a redactional option for his own purposes -- whether because he was a scribe himself, and a tax collector, or as his text suggest a rabbinic student, concerned to be explicit about such details; whether he wished to be more explicit than Mark or Luke; whether Mark or Luke did not wish to be more explicit, makes not a whit of difference. It remains that Krueger approaches this as one who acts as though the Pharisees had no idea about their own social background and thought in modern terms requiring that well-known and universally accepted exceptions be laid out in detail. This is not how ancient teachings or laws were presented, and it is therefore naught but Krueger imposing false expectations on the text. (To the above, Krueger merely restates his earlier arguments, which do not get better with age or repetition, and adds a snide comment about the authorship of Matthew, to which we say, rebut this with some thorough explanations about the determination of authorship of ancient documents as a whole.)

      On the same reckoning is Krueger's 4th point (a suggestion that Jesus lied by omission of the exception) rendered irrelevant, and he does nothing in response here other than restate his anachronistic view. Krueger's 5th point makes the wheedling accusation that my article did not address the other verses, to which I say again, Krueger has reams of material he has yet to address, and by the same absurd expectation we also expect him to drop everything and anticipate all objections in advance, by next week at the latest. (Naturally he refuses this challenge, and says, "If some of the other material is so good, [Holding] should have included it instead of shoveling out more of the same low-level material he always has." We have included several authors above -- we will see if Krueger has the wherewithal to grasp their work, which we consider doubtful.) Krueger's 6th and final point burns again the straw man of my supposed argument that these are two different teachings, which I nowhere argued and which Krueger merely assumed upon me for the sake of scoring points. Krueger beats the readership senseless laying out 65 points of correspondence between the pericopes to prove that, as we agree, they are the same episode (and to which he now adds, making the same "fundamentalist atheist" assumptions and with still no acknowledgement that he erred in attributing this argument to me, that this just makes the accounts more contradictory!). He could have saved himself a great deal of time by not being so presumptive; but then again, had he not had such padding to offer, what arguments he had would have been rather thin. He also needs to learn that fundamentalism, whether offered by atheists or by Christians, is a dead letter. Scholarship has moved in and recognized that chronological displacement, redaction, editorial freedom, and topical arrangement were guiding literary principles which the Gospel writers worked under -- and that use of such techniques do not constitute "error" other than to fundamentalists of whatever persuasion.

      In closing, Krueger tries to win one final point from the skeptical crowd by quoting the opinions of the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which says nothing at all about the social background context, zero about Hillel and Shammai (though he now quotes a factual portion that does, even as he remains oblivious to the relevance of it -- he fails to note that what I say is that he quotes opinions that say nothing of Hillel and Shammai, not that I say the Oxford Companion itself, etc. says nothing of them; this lack of understanding on his part he uses to accuse me of misrepresenting a source, when I am only commenting on the quote he offered and his misuse of it! This continues in the tertiary and fourth-level response in which he tries to convince his Skeptical cohorts that I was saying that these sources themselves, beyond his quote, said nothing at all about these subjects, and this is nothing but the desperate ravings of a critic backed into a corner and otherwise unable to defend his case), or about the Greco-Roman world, or about adultery as an honor challenge, but does say (according to the quote he provides!) that Matthew added the words himself without Jesus' own words in mind, a matter which we addressed above and which Krueger called a non sequitur. It also claims that Mark 10:12 "applies to a situation which might arise in Gentile society--the Roman wife could divorce her husband" -- apparently oblivious, like other critics, to the point that one of the Herodian queens did indeed divorce her husband, as Josephus points out, and that Jesus' words here therefore were more than relevant to just "Gentile society" in the shadow of the Herodian house which set the moral example for the nation. (To this Krueger makes a snide remark about my expertise in sources, based on the above -- actually, the comment should be reserved for his lack of expertise in reading carefully and without presumption -- and states, "if his source states that a Roman wife could divorce her husband, it is not a counterexample to point out that a Jewish queen divorced her husband. Kings and queens often use different rules for themselves, so this does not show that such conduct was accepted elsewhere in the Jewish community." This is a bald and fruitless attempt to render the data irrelevant: The very point at issue is that this king and queen tried to set a different rule for themselves, and Jesus is making it clear that there is no allowance for that! In essence he is correcting a case of a woman trying to get around a rule that states, "If a man..." Krueger cannot get around the hard fact that Jesus stood in the very shadow of someone who did what he taught against, and that it was a queen is of no relevance in the way he desires! But in fact we can take this further. Instone-Brewer [87ff] notes that a recently-published document is a divorce certificate dating from the 2nd century, written by or for a woman, to her husband. The Mishnah also offers evidence that women in the first century brought petitions for divorce. While this was obviously not standard practice, it is clear that women could and did try to initiate the procedure, and that the certificate follows the language of the traditional Jewish court document for the procedure indicates that Jewish courts in Palestine recognized the practice.)

      Fourth-level note: To give the reader an idea just how desperate Kreuger is, he quotes me above as saying, "...the Interpreter's Bible Encyclopedia and the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which says nothing at all about the social background context, zero about Hillel and Shammai..." -- specifically leaving out the important words before this, "quoting the opinions of...." -- and then he has the temerity to accuse me of misrepresenting my own position! Kreuger spends about a fourth of the fourth-level response on this deceptive argument. If you want to see a true case of "not quoting" like this banana bunch accuses me of, you need look no further than this.

      In short, Krueger's answer is short on specifics, long on anachronism, and wastes a great deal of time and space addressing an argument never made. His tertiary response is a shambles, and demonstrates his inability to break out of his "fundaliteralist" mindset and achieve a grown-up exegesis. Krueger fails as a Bible critic.


      -JPH