I have been writing a short paper on the biblical passages related to divorce and remarriage for one of my classes. Until now I was somewhat unaware of the debate regarding the syntax of Matthew 19:9 as it relates to the exception clause. I know that the definition of πορνείᾳ (“sexual immorality/adultery”) has been debated for sometime now, but I did not know that some debate whether or not the phrase μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ (“except because of sexual immorality/adultery”) applies to the whole statement or only the first part.

These are the two views:

(1) μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ applies only to the first statement by Jesus ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ (“anyone who sends away/divorces his wife”). This would mean that anyone who divorces his wife is guilty of μοιχᾶται (“adultery”), unless the divorce is because their spouse was sexually unfaithful. It would further mean that remarriage is always μοιχᾶται.

(2) μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ applies to both the first and second statements by Jesus; it applies to both ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ and καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται (“and married another commits adultry”). This would mean that anyone who divorces his wife and remarries, unless the divorce was justified on the basis of πορνείᾳ, is guilty of adultery.

I was surprised to read in a couple of sources that opinion one was the near unanimous reading of the church for the first five centuries! Is there anyone out there who has studied this verse as relates to the “exception clause”? Is there anyone out there who has read any arguments on how the Greek functions here?