If a man marries a woman, and, after marriage he finds she is not a virgin -- that she committed fornication before marriage to him -- he is allowed to put her away



Herbert W. Armstrong taught that if a man marries a woman, and, after marriage he finds she is not a virgin -- that she committed fornication before marriage to him -- he is allowed to put her away: ‘The basic Scriptures on the subject of marriage and divorce are these, in addition to those given above: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I [Jesus Christ] say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery," (Matthew 5:31-32 -- part of Jesus' sermon on the Mount). "The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be ONE FLESH? 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," Matthew 19:3-9. Before quoting the other Scriptures, let us examine these more closely. Here are the ONLY TWO places in the New Testament where any exception whatsoever is given. Here, then, is stated the ONLY "BIBLE GROUNDS" for a second marriage (except, of course, after the death of a mate). Notice, in speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus went back to the very beginning of creation for HIS AUTHORITY for the laws of God respecting marriage. The man-ordained laws in the nation Israel were contrary, and NOT BINDING TODAY. But He did make one exception: "except it be for FORNICATION." What is "fornication?" Is it the same thing as adultery? NOT AT ALL! "Fornication" and "adultery" are two altogether different things. Here is the Webster Dictionary definition: "Fornication -- Illicit sexual intercourse on the part of an UNMARRIED person." "Adultery -- Voluntary sexual intercourse by a married man with another than his wife or by a married woman with another than her husband." "Fornication" is committed BEFORE marriage, and only by an UNmarried person. "Adultery" is UNFAITHFULNESS to a husband or wife. Why did Jesus make this explanation about "except it be for fornication?" He was speaking to the strict, legalistically minded hypocritical Pharisees. They were questioning Him so closely about the laws of marriage in an effort to trap Him. They were familiar with every detail of the law. So to be explicit and legally exact in answering them, Jesus here referred to the laws as recorded in Deuteronomy 22:19 regarding marriage. These laws provided that, if a man married a woman, and, after marriage found she had not been a virgin -- that she had committed fornication BEFORE marriage to him -- he was allowed to put her away. It was not actually a divorce but rather an ANNULMENT -- a canceling out of the marriage. The man had been tricked -- deceived -- the victim of a fraud. He had no way of knowing this until after the marriage ceremony. The assumption is that God, having known it, NEVER JOINED TOGETHER this man and woman at all. They are not bound in God's sight -- the ceremony is nullified, just as if it never had taken place. The man is left in the status of not having been married at all. He is, then, free to marry, just as if this fraudulent ceremony, now erased, had never occurred. This is NOT strictly speaking a divorce, at all! It is not a separation, divorcing, or putting asunder of a couple joined as ONE FLESH by God, for in this case God never had joined them as one. WHAT God has actually joined together as ONE FLESH, God will not, and commands man not to separate. That is the principle.’ (Divorce and Remarriage, by Herbert W. Armstrong, circa 1953)




The only Bible grounds for a second marriage is the death of a mate. Neither fornication – no matter whether it is committed by a woman before or after marriage – nor adultery allows the husband to remarry. If a woman commits fornication or adultery, her husband is allowed to send her away, but he is not allowed to remarry as long as she is alive. That’s the teaching of the New Testament.

Now let me say some important things about the case of a woman who is not found virgin by her husband after marriage. First of all, it is not true that under the Old Testament if a husband found that his wife was not a virgin he was allowed to put her away, for actually he did not have to write her a certificate of divorce and send her out of his house. The law says that the young woman had to be brought to the door of her father’s house and the men of her city had to stone her to death with stones, for she was regarded as a prostitute (cf. Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Therefore the man was free to remarry for in the sight of God he was single or rather a widower. In other words, he was free to remarry for the bond of marriage had been dissolved by the death of his wife. So, it was not the sin of fornication committed by his wife that allowed him to remarry, but the death of his wife. Secondly, we can’t apply that rule of the law to the New Testament, for nowhere in the New Testament we are told that if a man finds that his wife is not a virgin, his wife must be brought out to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death with stones. What must he do then according to the New Testament? Well, he must keep his wife with him, for his wife committed fornication before marriage and not after marriage, that is to say, for when she committed fornication she was not yet married. Undoubtedly she committed a sin, but she was not yet married. You may ask me now, ‘Do you mean that when Jesus said, “Except it be for fornication”, He referred to the sin of fornication committed only after marriage?’ Yes, that’s what I mean. Nevertheless, as I said before, even if a wife commits fornication after marriage, her husband is not allowed to remarry for he is allowed only to send her away. For Jesus said: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery ….” (Luke 16:18). So, in the light of the words of Jesus, it is wrong to say that fornication is committed only by an unmarried person, for even a married person can commit fornication. Paul also confirms this, for when he warns the saints of Corinth against fornication, saying: “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18), he says to them also the following words: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – NIV). So if a married man has sexual intercourse with a prostitute (who is unmarried) he commits fornication. Likewise, if a married woman has sexual intercourse with an unmarried man who prostitutes himself, she commits fornication. Of course, a woman commits fornication not only when she lies with a man who prostitutes himself, but also when she lies with any other unmarried man.

That by fornication – when Jesus said “except it be for fornication” – Jesus meant adultery is confirmed by what Jesus said to the angel of the Church in Thyatira concerning Jezebel and those who lay with her: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:20-23). Note that first Jesus said that Jezebel taught His servants to commit fornication and then He said that they committed adultery with her. Thus – inasmuch as Jezebel and the servants of Jesus were married – we conclude that in certain cases when the Bible speaks of fornication it refers to the sin of adultery committed by married people.