Which denominations interpret these verses as not permitting divorce in the case of adultery, for those in a valid marriage?

St. Matthew 5:32
But I say to you, whosoever shall dismiss his wife, excepting the cause of fornication (porneia), maketh her to commit adultery. And he that shall marry her that is dismissed, committeth adultery.

St. Matthew 19:9
And I say to you, that whosoever shall dismiss his wife, but for fornication (porneia), and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is dismissed, committeth adultery.

For example, the Catholic Church calls these "exceptive clauses." In other words: fornication does not make a marriage.
It also seems these exceptive clauses could refer to "diriment impediments," which prevent there from ever being a marriage in the first place; examples of diriment impediments being incest, perpetual impotence, vow of chastity/celibacy, etc.).

Note: I am not asking about the Catholic interpretation of Matt. 5:32 and 19:9, as this question here does, but which denomination(s) interpret those verses similarly to the way the Catholic Church does.


2 Answers 2


While I am aware of none which interpret the passage as referring to unlawful marriage as the Catholic Church does, there are a number of denominations which do not believe this passage grants permission for complete divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery:

  • Midwest Pilgrim Holiness Church
  • Hutterian Brethren
  • Amish
  • Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches
  • Old German Baptist Brethren Church New Conference Fellowship
  • Church Of God, International Offices
  • Southeastern Mennonite Conference
  • United Anglican Church
  • Protestant Reformed Churches In America
  • Apostolic Faith Church
  • Independent Fundamental Churches of America
  • Anglican Church In America
  • Anglican Catholic Church

That list is from Daniel R. Jennings (Ed.) Denominations That Officially Support The Permanency Of Marriage. Retrieved from http://www.danielrjennings.org/denominationspermanencyofmarriage.html. That page includes quotations from their official statements which can help you understand their positions and interpretations.

Importantly, a notable contemporary Christian teacher, John Piper, also holds this view. John Piper. Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper. July 21, 1986. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/divorce-remarriage-a-position-paper.

I also found arguments against this interpretation, indicating some historic debate on the issue. See G.C. Brewer, "Christ and Paul on Divorce," GA 75:29 [July 20, 1933], p. 674), in Steve Wolfgang. Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage In Church History. Truth Magazine XXXIV.1 (January 4, 1990), pp. 27, 29-31. Retrieved from http://truthmagazine.com/archives/volume34/GOT034012.html


I'm not able to answer the question with regard to the names of specific denominations, and I know this isn't really what you asked about, but given the older age of the question and response so far, I thought it helpful to explain some things about how the passage might be interpreted that way.

St. Matthew 5:32
But I say to you, whosoever shall dismiss his wife, excepting the cause of fornication (porneia), maketh her to commit adultery. And he that shall marry her that is dismissed, committeth adultery.

The passage makes clear that dismissing someone who has not committed adultery does cause them to become an adulterer. Clearly we should never want to cause someone else to sin (Matt 18:6/Luke 17:2), and so reading this passage (in conjunction with the Matt/Luke passages) as a prohibition on — or at least strong statement against — divorce of a faithful spouse is fair.

The passage has often also been interpreted to mean dismissing someone who has committed adultery does not cause them to become an adulterer. And so far, few would dispute this.

But... there are two ways to look at this. It could be the passage is granting special license to the dismisser in the case of an adulterous spouse. Or it could be the dismisser does not cause the dismissee to become an adulterer because they already are an adulterer. In other words, it could be seen as merely acknowledging the transition from faithful to adulterer has already happened for the dismissee, with no special license granted for the dismisser.

This is especially poignant in light of how status in the passage is assigned. The plain text of the passage never speaks to the status of the dismisser; only the dismissee. It doesn't say the dismisser is okay, but only that the dismissee is not made worse. In this light it's easier to see the interpretation that merely acknowledges what has already happened as the correct one. And, in that context, statements against divorce from other parts of scripture would still hold up.

In short: reading this passage as a description of what has already happened, rather than granting some special new exception, is certainly a supportable interpretation.

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