Oh how men distort the Word of God.  After the Jews asked Jesus if a man can divorce for any reason, Jesus said not all men can because the man who divorces his wife who is faithful and then marries another woman “commits adultery”. There are myriad ways that men distort this scripture – including making the adultery to be repented of the act of divorcing and not the ongoing new marriage – but my interest today is in how the Jameison Faussett Brown (JFB) commentary explains the hard teaching and who can accept it.

“11. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given–that is, “That the unmarried state is better, is a saying not for everyone, and indeed only for such as it is divinely intended for.” But who are these? they would naturally ask; and this our Lord proceeds to tell them in three particulars. 12. For there are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother’s womb–persons constitutionally either incapable of or indisposed to marriage. and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men–persons rendered incapable by others. and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake–persons who, to do God’s work better, deliberately choose this state. Such was Paul (1Co 7:7). He that is able to receive it, let him receive it–“He who feels this to be his proper vocation, let him embrace it”; which, of course, is as much as to say–“he only.” Thus, all are left free in this matter.”  JFB Commentary, Mt 19:11ff

Here the much respected commentary makes the requirement to be unmarried into a personal choice. Asking “who are these” who can accept his hard saying, explains that are in three groups called Eunuchs. But it is not that the Eunuch by birth or the one made that way by another had choice, but they are illustrative, since they did not have choice or have need of receptivity to his teaching. But JFB says Paul was an example of the third who by choice made himself a Eunuch. But Paul was not a Eunuch. Paul was not under any prohibition that he not marry and it is a prohibition which Jesus speaks of here. Who may divorce AND REMARRY is the real question of the Jews and Paul’s situation was not related to this at all.

The third group were a special group of people who so wished to go to heaven that they would emasculate themselves so that sexual relations could not hinder their way. Like in Matthew 5, if the hand or eye offend you cut it off, so these in the third group of Eunuchs are receptive to the teaching of Jesus. Stopping stealing or committing adultery with the eyes is not a personal choice: a person MUST quit. Everyone might not be willing to receive what Jesus says, but it was not a personal choice of preference. These people whom Jesus is addressing in Matthew 19 do not have the choice to be married. They are NOT like Paul who really did have every right to remarry whereas Jesus is speaking of a subset of people who have no right to remarry. Why? Because they have been married and they divorced without just cause. And by remarrying and engaging in marital relations, they make themselves the subject of Jesus’ teaching. JFB clouds the entire subject by suggesting that it only applies to a man who “feels it is his proper vocation”.

So while I mostly like what is in Jamison Faussett Brown commentary, even the best can be biased. I’m sure there are many good theologians who waiver when it comes to whether they will oppose their entire church. It was hard for the translators of the KJV to translate baptism into immersion because it was the habit of the church of England. And since Henry VIII made it acceptable to divorce and remarry, and choose that being unmarried just wasn’t his “vocation”, I’m sure there are plenty of lofty thinkers who stumble on the hard sayings of Jesus.

It’s not that they can’t “accept” what Jesus says, it’s that they won’t.

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