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Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context [Paperback]

By David Instone-Brewer (Author)
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Item description for Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context by David Instone-Brewer...

Through a careful exploration of the background literature of the Old Testament, the ancient Near East and ancient Judaism, Instone-Brewer constructs a biblical picture of divorce and remarriage that is directly relevant to modern relationships.

Publishers Description
To many, the New Testament's teaching on divorce and remarriage seems to be both impractical and unfair. The "plain" meaning of the texts allows for divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion, and it does not permit remarriage until the death of one's former spouse. But are these proscriptions the final word for Christians today? Are we correctly reading the scriptures that address these issues?By looking closely at the biblical texts on divorce and remarriage in light of the first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman world, this book shows that the original audience of the New Testament heard these teachings differently. Through a careful exploration of the background literature of the Old Testament, the ancient Near East, and especially ancient Judaism, David Instone-Brewer constructs a biblical view of divorce and remarriage that is wider in scope than present-day readings.Among the important findings of the book are that both Jesus and Paul condemned divorce without valid grounds and discouraged divorce even for valid grounds; that both Jesus and Paul affirmed the Old Testament grounds for divorce; that the Old Testament allowed divorce for adultery and for neglect or abuse; and that both Jesus and Paul condemned remarriage after an invalid divorce but not after a valid divorce. Instone-Brewer shows that these principles are not only different from the traditional church interpretation of the New Testament but also directly relevant to modern relationships.Enhanced with pastoral advice on how to apply the biblical teaching in today's context, this volume will be a valuable resource for anyone seeking serious answers about married life.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context by David Instone-Brewer has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Books & Culture - 03/01/2012 page 22

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   366
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.25" Height: 9"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2002
ISBN  0802849431  
ISBN13  9780802849434  

Availability  0 units.

More About David Instone-Brewer

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! The Revd Dr David Instone-Brewer is Senior Research Fellow and Technical Officer at Tyndale House, Cambridge. A Baptist minister, his hobby is computer programming. A rabbinic scholar, he is author of many academic and popular articles, and of Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (Paternoster, 2003).

David Instone-Brewer currently resides in Cambridge.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > Marriage & Family
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Relationships > Divorce
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Relationships > Marriage
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Relationships > Divorce

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Reviews - What do customers think about Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context?

Scholarly and informative  Jun 30, 2006
David Instone-Brewer has done a service to the church with this text. Doing some other research on this topic, I was led to this book by Rick Walston's wonderful text, "Something Happened on the Way to Happily Ever After: A Biblical View of Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage." Walston and Instone-Brewer come to basically the same conclusions, but Walston indicates early on that his book is written at the popular level for, what he calls, "the normal everyday Christian." Yet, in his book, he suggests Instone-Brewer's text for further research. And, I'm glad he did. While Walston's book is good for the average Joe/Jane Christian, Instone-Brewer's book is for the avid student or scholar and a better scholarly text I have not found.
Sara "pansano" needs another response...  Feb 3, 2006
It was once remarked that good philosophy needed only to exist to respond to bad philosophy, and some reviewers on this site do such a horrible job representing the material that they claim to have read that they need a response just so people know how badly they've twisted a book. If you look at all of Sara "pansano['s]" reviews (her review is just a few reviews down from mine), you'll see that she's basically cut and paste her anti-divorce accepting "review" onto several very well written books which give extremely strong evidence to show that the NT does in fact allow for divorce and remarriage. Even worse, her 'ficticious' example of a couple divorcing is not supported by ANY of the books that she tacks this on to. How someone could claim to have read a book and yet come out with such a poor understanding is beyond me, especially when she claims that she's done a lot of study.

In Dr. Instone-Brewer's book, you'll find what most reviewers have noted: that this is a very scholarly written book, written by a man who has invested an awful lot of time into a subject matter that he's deemed very important. This is also a man with an extremely high view of scripture: allowing the text to speak to it's original intended audience, and then taking that intended audience's understandings and applying them to our current situation.

Dr. Instone-Brewer recognizes and shows that the people who would have originally read the NT would have seen the divorce/remarriage question in an entirly different light: a light that recognized that marriage is NOT indissoluable, but is just what Jesus said: something that SHOULD not be broken up. What many people don't understand is that no moral teaching prohibits impossible actions (Clark, Rakestraw): i.e., if it wasn't possible to break up a marriage, Jesus wouldn't have said we ought not do it! The real debate around divorce and remarriage is not so much WHEN is it permissable, but is it possible? Dr. Instone-Brewer shows that marriage is ultimatly a contract that ought not to be broken, but that there are legitimate, biblical reasons why an divorce can happen. Dr. Instone-Brewer does NOT condone divorce, but shows that in extreme cases of unrepentant broken marital vows, the 'offended' party is free to divorce: and remarry.

Dr. Instone-Brewer would NOT condone Sara's made up proposition about a mythical divorcing couple, but would instead show that biblically the husband is doing EXACTLY what Jesus vehemently taught against. If Sara would like to believe that there is no divorce or remarriage that's just fine, but she cannot seriously think that she's understood one iota of this book to reach the conclusions that she's stated about this book and the others she's reviewed.
Exemplary Biblical Study  Jan 5, 2006
Everyone has been touched at some level by divorce, haven't they? And everyone has strong opinions about what the Bible's teaching, don't they? Over-wrought emotions and ill-formed opinions have no place in David Instone-Brewer's epic study. He offers readers a sensitive and sensible scholarly study that more than delivers on its promise to place the Bible's view of divorce and remarriage in its social and literary context.

Instone-Brewer's definitive work should serve scholars and students as a template of biblical study at its finest. Regretfully, many pursue but few attain the fluid mastery of linguistics, history, and literature (Biblical, Rabbinic, and patristic) that this author achieves. He begins with the ancient Near Eastern cultural context, and proceeds to discuss divorce and remarriage in the Pentateuch, Prophets, Inter-testamental period, Jesus, Paul, Church Fathers, Reformers, and marriage vows. His concluding pastoral advice is brief, to the point, and practical. Instone-Brewer presents alternative views before dispassionately evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. His carefully reasoned positions require consideration. Methodically he builds a compelling case that the Bible's consistent position is that divorce is an unfortunate consequence of a fallen world and is allowed for adultery, abandonment, and neglect. He develops this using a literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic within a framework that highly regards the authority of the Bible. Each passage touching on divorce or remarriage receives an exegetical treatment that accounts for the lexical, grammatical, and historical features of the text.

Regardless of whether readers agree with Instone-Brewer, this is one of the most important and comprehensive works on divorce and remarriage to appear in print. Readers from all perspectives will be challenged by his fairness, clarity, thoughtfulness, and pastoral spirit on an issue that too often sparks censorious dogmatism that disregards the people to whom Moses, Hosea, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul addressed their words.

Because divorce is so prevalent, my copy is on loan. I may need a couple more copies so that I always have a copy readily available.

Finally, Instone-Brewer has a web site: It has links to useful background material.
Clarifies some the long misunderstood teaching of Jesus about divorce  Dec 16, 2005
My first impression of this book was it would be written by a liberal religious scholar trying to encourage divorce, but I thought , "Eh, why not? Let's see what he has to say." So I bought the book, and I'm glad I did.

Instone-Brewer organizes his book chronologically, discussing marriage in the ancient Middle East, ancient Hebrew culture (as defined in the Torah ), the Jewish Diaspora outside of Israel, and Greco-Roman culture. He discusses the teachings of Jesus and Paul related to divorcee, some of the "fathers" of the Christian Church (and why a lot of them are wrong in regards to divorce). He closes with his own pastoral advice about divorce.

If you buy this book, you will learn about various topics in addition to the main topic. I definitely learned more about ancient Hebrew customs, marriage customs in the Middle East, and the controversy about the "any matter" divorce between different Jewish sects during Jesus' time.

Instone-Brewer's discussion of God divorcing Israel and Judah and how God's covenant with Israel was like a marriage contract in the ancient Middle East was really eye-opening and gave me a new perspective with which to view some of the prophetic books.

Extreme religious conservatives will probably not like the conclusion : that Jesus and Paul allowed for divorce on valid grounds, and discouraged it even on valid grounds. They urged the couple to repent. But if the guilty party wouldn't repent, then the innocent party has the right to divorce.
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible--Challenging and Rewarding  Sep 26, 2005
Instone-Brewer begins his treatise with basic assumptions, but these are well informed assumptions. For too long Christianity has ignored the thoroughly Jewish context of Jesus and his teaching, insisting that we read the Bible through a Hellenized world view. This is patently false, and fatal to a proper understanding of the Bible. This is not only true in regard to the Marriage and Divorce issue, but the eschatology and other dogmas as well.
Instone-Brewer's book will definitely challenge your traditions, but, when read carefully and thoughfully, this book will open your eyes to a greater and more proper understanding of Divorce and Remarriage as taught by Jesus. For too long Christians have been bound by a "grace-less" and legalistic view of God's view of Divorce and Remarriage. While this book does not seek to give license, it does seek to demonstrate God's grace in Christ. Very highly recommended!

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