Marriage and Divorce

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William Branham Officiated The Marriages of These Divorced Family Members:
  1. His brother Jesse Branham’s second marriage - to Agnes Gulleth (also divorced) on August 1, 1938.
  2. His brother Jesse Branham’s third marriage - to Mary Merryman on February 1, 1941.
  3. His brother Melvin Branham’s second marriage - to Catherine Hendricks on January 27, 1945. Melvin divorced Charlotte Brumbach (the sister of William Branham's first wife, Hope) in June 1944.

Contents

Video - Gender Equality and Remarriage after Divorce

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New Testament Teaching on the Remarriage Issue Contrasted with that of William Branham

Mark

Mark is generally seen as the oldest of the Gospel (i.e. the first one written) so we will start there:

Mark 10:2-12

2 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.
3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”
5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.
11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

It is clear from this passage that the genders are equal when it comes to remarriage. Mark 10:11 is addressed to men and Mark 10:12 is directed towards women. If a man remarries, he is guilty of adultery. If a woman remarries, she is guilty of adultery.

The interesting thing about this passage is that the Lord refused to answer the Pharisees’ question about divorce until they clearly understood God’s will for marriage - what God has joined together, let not man separate.

He then deals with the remarriage question directly when he is alone with the disciples. He clearly states that remarriage is wrong because it is adulterous: a man who remarries after divorce commits adultery and in the same way a woman who remarries after divorcing her husband commits adultery.

Since Jesus specifically calls remarriage after legal divorce ‘adultery’, he is saying that although the two may be legally divorced, they are still married before God. This means that remarriage is not only wrong, it is impossible at the deepest level. Jesus is saying that it is not actually possible to marry again during the lifetime of a divorced partner; it is only possible to commit adultery, even though from a legal point of view this new ‘marriage’ has been properly entered into. And he does not differentiate between the sexes.

Jesus taught that a man who divorced his wife and remarried committed adultery ‘against her’ i.e. his first wife. Jewish law did not recognize this. A woman could commit adultery against her husband by having an extra-marital affair. A man could commit adultery against another man by having an affair with that other man’s wife. But if the woman was unmarried, then the sin of the man was fornication (since intercourse is only permitted within marriage) and not adultery (since the woman was not married). It was not possible, under Jewish law, for a man to commit adultery against his own wife.

Jesus clearly changes Mosaic law and introduces gender equality into divorce and remarriage. A wife, according to Jesus, has just as great a right to fidelity as a husband. It is just as much adultery against her if he has an affair as it is adultery against him if she has an affair. Or to state more accurately what Jesus says: If the man remarries having divorced his wife, this is an offense against her and, specifically, the sin of adultery. She is just as much sinned against in this case as he would be if she remarried after divorcing him.

Mark is also unique among the Gospels because it records Jesus not only forbidding the man to divorce and remarry but forbidding the wife the same thing. St Paul also states that Jesus told wives not to divorce their husbands (1 Cor. 7:10). This was impossible under Jewish law, according to which a wife could sue the courts for divorce but could not directly divorce her husband.

Luke

Luke contains a single verse on the issue of divorce:

Luke 16:18

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

This verse addresses the issue of remarriage. The first half of this verse is virtually identical to Mark 10:11 The second part of the verse adds a new point to that of Mark - it is also adultery for a single man to marry a divorced woman. The entire verse is addressed to the man. Jesus says: it is wrong to marry another woman after divorcing your wife; it is just as wrong to marry (for the first time) a woman who has been divorced. In other words, the divorced woman’s first marriage still exists despite the legal divorce and therefore true remarriage is actually impossible in reality, and in God’s eyes (as opposed to those of the law of the land), it can only be adultery.

Matthew

Matthew records 2 passages on the issue of divorce, the first being in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:31-32

Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Again, these two verses are addressed to the man. The first part of verse 31 (ignoring the exception for sexual immorality for the moment) is identical to the first portion of Luke 16:18 - whoever divorces his wife – but the end of the statement is very different. The assumption is that, after being divorced, she will remarry. She commits adultery BUT the guilt for the sin is her first husband’s (and not hers). He ‘causes her’ to commit adultery: he drives her to it. Admittedly, she should not get remarried, but the greater sin—though it does not excuse her action or make the remarriage all right—is her husband’s for divorcing her in the first place.

It is clear from Bro. Branham’s teaching on this issue that he completely misses the point of Jesus statement when he states:

See, she has got a living husband, so no man can marry her. Care what she does and who she is, she's got a living husband, there is no grounds for her at all. But, it's not, for him. "Causes her," not him. Get it? You have to make the Word run in continuity. See, nothing saying he couldn't, but she can't. See, "causes her," not him. That's exactly what the Bible says, "causes her." It is not stated against him to remarry, but "her." Why? Christ in the type.
MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE_ JEFF.IN V-3 N-13 SUNDAY_ 65-0221M

Bro. Branham’s statement here completely ignores Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18. It also assumes that Matthew’s lack of speaking to the woman somehow allows a man to remarry and a woman not to remarry.

It doesn’t.

You can’t make a doctrine out of silence. You have to take the scripture as a whole.

What Jesus is saying is that the divorced woman commits adultery by remarrying, and her first husband should have prevented it by not freeing her and giving her economic reason to marry another man.

Dealing with the exception clause, the phrase “except sexual immorality” uses the Greek word “porneia” from which we derive the English word “pornography”. Its normal meaning would be that of illicit sexual intercourse but would also include other sexual acts such as incest, homosexuality and bestiality. It is probably for this reason that the more general word porneia is used in preference to the more specific term for adultery (moicheia).

But why is the exception here and not in Mark or Luke?

Both Jewish and Roman law demanded divorce in the case of adultery; a Christian would therefore be breaking the law if he did not divorce an adulterous wife. Divorce in these circumstances was also considered mandatory in some of the writings of the early church.

The assumption is that Jesus (in his teaching recorded in Mark and Luke) was aware that divorce would take place—or at least was permissible—in the case of adultery; and Matthew simply brought out what everybody knew already.

One thing that is clear is that the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching, and what stuck in his disciples’ minds (and therefore not in either Mark or Luke), was not the exception but the forbidding of divorce and of remarriage. It is also clear that Jesus does not here state that remarriage is permissible where there is illicit sexual activity during marriage but simply that divorce is permitted only in such circumstances.

The last part of Matthew 5:32 is basically the same as the last part of Luke 16:18

Bro. Branham misinterprets this passage as follows:

Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, "Whosoever putteth away his wife and marries another, except it be for the cause of fornications, commits adultery." The difference between fornications and adultery, the word could be applied either way. But to make it clear what he was talking of there, that--a woman that's unmarried cannot commit adultery, because she has no husband to commit adultery against. It's uncleanliness for her. She has to confess that to her husband before they are married if she's did that. If not and her husband finds it out later, he has a right to put her away, because she took a false vow. For the Bible said, "Be it well..." or ritual says. "Be it well known to you (I have it in mine) if any couples are joined otherwise than God's Word does allow, their marriage is not lawful. I will require and will charge you both as you'll surely answer in the day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, if either of you know any impediment why you should not be lawful joined together, do you now confess it." There you are. See?
So fornication is what a girl, when she lives unclean, that's fornication, 'cause she has no husband. But when she's married, and then when she lives like that, she commits adultery against her husband.
QUESTIONS.AND.ANSWERS_ JEFF.IN COD SUNDAY_ 59-0628E

Bro. Branham thinks that the KJV interpretation of the word porneia is something that refers to activity prior to marriage, which it is not. The NIV interprets it as “except for marital unfaithfulness”; the GNT as “other than her unfaithfulness”; and the Amplified as “except on the grounds of unfaithfulness”. His interpretation does not stand up to scrutiny if you look at the true meaning of the Greek.

Matthew 19:3-9

3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’
5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

This passage is Matthew’s account of the incident told in Mark 10:1-12. As in Matthew 5:32, but unlike the passage in Mark, Matthew’s account contains an exception. The wording in the Greek is similar here and again uses the Greek word “porneia”. Clearly Jesus allows divorce where there has been illicit sexual activity. But is he also allowing remarriage for the partner who has not committed adultery, where there has been divorce for adultery?

Two positions are possible. Either Jesus allows separation, including legal divorce, in the case of porneia (marital unfaithfulness) but maintains that the marriage bond is still in existence and therefore even in this instance remarriage would be adultery: or he allows full divorce in the case of adultery, a divorce which dissolves the marriage bond and therefore opens the way for remarriage.

The exception phrase comes after the verb ‘divorce’ and modifies the clause ‘anyone who divorces his wife’. This is the obvious—indeed the only—position in the sentence that Matthew could put the phrase if he wanted to say that divorce is permissible in the case of adultery but remarriage is not. If Matthew had written: ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, except in the case of marital unfaithfulness’, then it would be clear that remarriage was allowed. But that is not how it is worded. This passage as a whole makes more sense if Jesus is rescinding the whole concept of full divorce which the Mosaic legislation permitted.

This position also makes sense in the context of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus teachings – “His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matt 19:10)

If Jesus was allowing remarriage after divorce for adultery why would the disciples react with such surprise??? It can only be because he laid down a law that was so strict that they could not even comprehend it. Jesus’s reply to the disciples’ surprised reaction was also surprising. While they may have expected him to refute their comment, what he did was comment on the positive value of being single.

The disciples are amazed at Jesus’ reply. They have understood him to say something much more strict than anything they had encountered. Jesus is not allowing remarriage even in the case of adultery; he is saying that even in the case of adultery the marriage bond still exists.

Jesus’ response to the dismay of the disciples is also interesting. He states - “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given.” Does this mean that if you can’t accept it you don’t have to? Does it mean it doesn’t apply to everyone? Is this principle not practical for everyone? Or is it that not everyone can understand what is being said but only those to whom God had given understanding? Apparently all of these interpretations are possible from the Greek wording of the passage.

Paul

The Corinthians had written to Paul (1 Cor 7:1) specifically asking him questions on a variety of matters which he addresses in his letter to them. In fact, the second part of 1 Cor 7:1 – “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” – appears to be a direct quotation from their letter which Paul would be in some agreement. But he does not agree with how they are using it.

The leading commentators believe that it was the women in the church especially who were saying that sexual intercourse was to be avoided. From 1 Cor 7:1-6, it is very likely that the women in the Corinthian church were denying sexual intimacy to their husbands (‘have his own wife’ in verse 2 means ‘have intercourse with his wife’, it does not mean ‘get married to his own wife’). Commentators think that it may well have been this which drove some of the men to seek sexual satisfaction with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:15–20). The Corinthians thought that because they were people of the Spirit, they had moved to a higher plane, the realm of spirit, where they were unaffected by behavior that had merely to do with the body. The word for ‘immorality’ in 1 Cor 7:2, has the same root as the word for prostitution (porn-) and is in the plural (literally: because of the immoralities), which may refer to the men having sex with prostitutes. Thus 7:2 would then be saying: Since the men are resorting to prostitutes, each man should be allowed to have intercourse with his own wife (contrary to the teaching (verse 1) espoused by the Corinthian women).

Dealing with divorce, Paul approaches two distinct issues:

1. Divorce where the husband and wife are both believers (1 Cor 7:10-11); and
2. Divorce where one spouse is a believer and the other is an unbeliever (1 Cor 7:12-16).

It is very important to recognize these separate distinct issues when looking at the question. His comments where there are 2 believing spouses are by way of command (“not I, but the Lord”) and his comments where only one spouse is a believer appear to be by way of suggestion (“I, not the Lord”).

1 Corinthians 7:10-12

:And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

In 1 Cor 7:10-11, Paul is speaking to believing couples. But why does Paul major so heavily on the wife and adds the husband almost as an afterthought? The order of Paul’s concern, which is addressed first and primarily to the women, lends credence to the suggestion that the problem stems basically from women in the church who were using their slogan from 1 Cor 7:1 to reject sexual relations with their husbands (verse 5), and arguing for divorce if it came to that. In speaking to “the married,” Paul is directing his response to couples where both partners are believers. This is made certain by 1 Cor 7:12–16, where, in a way that balances with 1 Cor 7:10–11, he addresses “the rest,” whom that context defines as believers married to unbelievers.

Paul specifically refers to the fact that Jesus himself spoke to this question, so he states that it is “not I” from whom this command comes, “but the Lord.”

“No divorce” is what is “commanded” for believers; nonetheless, just as in all the other situations addressed in this chapter, Paul allows an exception: “but if indeed she is separated.” “No divorce” is not turned into law, and the woman who does so is not put out of the community. What is disallowed is precisely what one finds in the teaching of Jesus: no remarriage, i.e. no adultery. Hence if she does separate, she must continue to follow the command “Stay as you are,” meaning now “Remain unmarried.”

The wife who divorces her husband may not use her present unmarried condition as an excuse for remarriage to someone else. If she does in fact desire to remarry, she must “be reconciled to her husband.” This is in keeping with Paul’s view expressed elsewhere that for believers marriage is permanent, from its inception until the decease of one of the partners (1 Cor 7:39; Rom. 7:1–3). The command is clear: she is to remain as she is and not divorce her husband; but if she were to disobey this first directive, then she must again remain as she is and not commit adultery by remarrying someone else. If she does not like her new unmarried status, then she must be reconciled to her husband.

What is true of the wife, Paul adds, is likewise true of the husband: “And a husband must not divorce his wife.” The lack of an exception here suggests that this is not where the problem lay; although one could imply that what is said of the wife would apply to the husband as well.

William Branham's teaching on divorce is completely against scripture when he states:

And the Bible rights gives any man a right to leave and divorce and leave his wife, that'll cut her hair. That's the Bible. That's THUS SAITH THE LORD. Too bad you got away from the old fashion trainings, isn't it? THE.WORST.SINNER.IN.THE.CITY_ MINNEAPOLIS.MN SATURDAY_ 56-0218E

He moves even farther from Paul's teaching on the subject when he states:

Notice, He can put her away, but she cannot put Him away. MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE_ JEFF.IN V-3 N-13 SUNDAY_ 65-0221M

There is nowhere in the Bible that this is taught. And certainly this goes directly against Paul's teaching when he states, "let not the husband put away his wife."

William. Branham further misses the whole point of Paul’s teaching when he states:

Now you notice in First Corinthians 7:10, notice, Paul commands the wife that is, that divorces her husband, to remain single or be reconciled, not to remarry. She must remain single, or to be reconciled back to her husband. She cannot remarry. She must remain single, but, notice, he never said about the man. See, you can't make the Word lie. "From the beginning," the sex law by polygamy. Now, the Word of God runs true with nature of God, runs in to continuity.
MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE_ JEFF.IN V-3 N-13 SUNDAY_ 65-0221M

How did Brother Branham create an exception when none is given? And specifically, when Paul commands that the husband not divorce his wife, how is any exception allowed? Nowhere does Paul permit either directly or indirectly any remarriage of the husband in this verse.

Paul is effectively stating that if a Christian husband and wife cannot be reconciled to one another, then how can they expect to become models of reconciliation before a fractured and broken world?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16

12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to :peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Paul’s answer is consistent with 1 Cor 7:10–11; they are to “stay as they are.” The believer may not initiate divorce (1 Cor 7:12–13), for which in this instance a reason is added (1 Cor 7:14). But as before, there is an exception; if the pagan chooses to leave, then the believer is not bound to maintain the marriage (1 Cor 7:15). But God’s call is to “peace”, which means further that one should maintain the marriage in the hope of the unbelieving spouse’s conversion (1 Cor 7:16). The believer may not pursue divorce, “but if” the unbeliever separates, let him or her do so. That is, if the pagan spouse seeks the dissolution of the marriage, then allow the divorce.

The real difficulty with this passage is with the middle part of verse 15, “a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” That is, they are not bound to the ruling given above about maintaining the marriage. They have wanted to dissolve such marriages. Paul has said “No”. But now he allows that if the pagan wants out, then one is not enslaved.

Does this mean that the believer is free to remarry? There are a number of reasons why this does not appear to be the case:

1. Remarriage does not appear to be the issue that Paul is dealing with; in fact, it seems to be quite the opposite. In a context in which people are arguing for the right to dissolve marriage, Paul would scarcely be addressing the issue of remarriage, and certainly not in such circuitous fashion.
2. The Greek verb “to be under bondage” is not what Paul uses elsewhere for the “binding” character of marriage (1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2); this means that Paul does not intend to say one is not “bound to the marriage.” Rather, one is simply not under bondage to maintain the marriage which the other person wishes to dissolve. From Paul’s point of view, one is bound to a marriage until death breaks the bond (1 Cor 7:39).
3. In 1 Cor 7:11, even though there is a similar exception regarding divorce, he explicitly disallows remarriage.
4. Such a concern misses the theme of the chapter, which has to do with not seeking a change in status. The exceptions in each case do not allow a change in partners but in status, either from single to married or vice versa, but not both! All of this is not to say that Paul disallows remarriage in such cases; he simply does not speak to it at all. Thus this text offers little help for this concern.

The real problem with this passage is that its focus on maintaining mixed marriages (but allowing them to dissolve if the pagan initiates the action) does not offer much help on the problem of remarriage.

The Early Church

It should be added that from earliest post-New Testament days, writers in the early church wrote about divorce and remarriage. Almost always their teaching is about remarriage—rather than merely about divorce. In almost every case they write against remarriage and mention no exceptions. When writing about divorce they do quite frequently mention the permission—which they quite often make into a command—to divorce where there has been adultery. The overwhelming majority of them do not allow remarriage in these circumstances. Some specifically prohibit it; others simply say: there should be no remarriage after divorce. They mention no exceptions.

Video Transcript

Is the Bible your absolute or is it something else?

And now, we wish to read some Word over here in the Bible, 'cause I know that my words is the word of a man. These is God's Words, so It can't fail. (WE WOULD SEE JESUS 62-0712)
It's got to come to one final absolute, and my absolute is the Word, the Bible. (CHURCH.ORDER_ JEFF.IN COD THURSDAY_ 63-1226)
That's our Bible. Let other man's words fail. This, no man can add to It. You don't add no more to the Bible. No, sir. This is the complete Revelation. It's all. (CHRIST.IS.REVEALED.IN.HIS.OWN.WORD_ JEFF.IN V-4 N-10 SUNDAY_ 65-0822M)

Behind me is Branham Tabernacle, where in February 1965, Brother Branham preached a sermon entitled “Marriage and Divorce”. In this sermon, he said that it was OK for men to remarry after divorce, but not for women.

It is not stated against him to remarry, but her...
Remarrying, now notice, he can, but she can't.…” (65-0221M – Marriage and Divorce)

However, in the book of Luke, Jesus said that “whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery…” (Luke 16:18)

Brother Branham appears to be in disagreement with what Jesus said. Bro. Branham also stated that a man could divorce his wife if she cuts her hair or for any other reason if he really wanted to.

And the Bible rights gives any man a right to leave and divorce and leave his wife, that'll cut her hair. That's the Bible. That's THUS SAITH THE LORD. (The Worst Sinner in the City 56-0218E)
Notice, he can put away his wife any time he wants to, but she can't put him away...
I have told you the Truth, THUS SAITH THE LORD, all the way through! (65-0221M – Marriage and Divorce)

But Jesus in the book of Matthew said that "whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery…" (Matthew 5:32 NKJV)

Jesus is clearly putting the blame for a divorced wife’s remarriage back on her previous husband,if he puts her away for any reason other than sexual immorality. It’s not the wife’s fault, it’s the husband’s.

Now I appreciate that divorce and remarriage is a complicated subject, and so our comments here are just focused on this one issue - was it appropriate for William Branham to say that his teaching on remarriage was “Thus Saith The Lord”?

Bro. Branham said that the Bible is the truth of God.

But in the book of Mark, Jesus said: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

So Jesus taught that there is gender equality when it comes to remarriage. He was very clear that there was not one set of rules for men and another more restrictive set of rules for women.

Why did Brother Branham change the teachings of Jesus to make the rules for men more lenient? Why did he say that his teaching was “Thus saith the Lord”? Did he feel that he had the right to change what Jesus plainly said?

Do you believe the words of Jesus on this issue or do you believe the words of William Branham?

You can’t believe both.

“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. (Mal 2:16 NIV).