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“Porneia” (Fornication)

I have observed some very good reviews on the New International Version of the Bible which has recently been introduced. It is the result of long and patient years of hard work. It is meant to be a translation as close as possible to the original languages — yet expressed in common and easily understood English. The translation has been done by men of a conservative, Reformed background. Per haps the acclaim accorded this translation is merited. I have not personally made any kind of careful study and comparison of the version with the original. However, as in any translation, there is often room for disagreement with the translator. There has come to my attention recently an occasion for such disagreement — where it seems to me that the translators have obviously and deliberately changed the plain meaning of a word: the word “fornication.” 

I encountered this in connection with “Pressure Points” in the Banner of December 14, 1979. A letter was written to Mr. De Mey, the author, which stated in part:

I have always been a firm believer in the fact that only fornication is a basis for divorce (

Matt. 19:9

This text eliminates the ground of alcoholism. . . .

Mr. De Mey answers (in part):

First, as stated in the article, I believe divorce should be the final option after all other possibilities have been exhausted. . . .

Second, I believe that, as in church discipline, divorce proceedings should begin only with the hope and prayer that the act will bring the alcoholic back to God and his family by making him realize his need for treatment. As noted in the August article, we have seen this happen on more than one occasion with residents of the Jellema House.

Another point the letter writer raises is that

Matthew 19

verse 9 says that only fornication is a basis for divorce. I have used the New International Version which uses “marital unfaithfulness” as grounds for divorce. I submit that alcoholism can constitute “marital unfaithfulness.” When a man uses the money for alcohol, the money his family needs for their support; when he no longer is capable of making decisions as the head of the household; when alcohol controls him rather than his controlling alcohol; then I believe that is “marital unfaithfulness.”

I do not now intend to comment on the reasoning of De Mey concerning the grounds of divorce. I am concerned about the quotation he gives from the new NIVof the Bible. 

In checking the passage De Mey mentions, one finds he is correct. The NIV states: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The NIV translates Matthew 5:32 the same way: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to so divorced commits adultery.” The Greek word “porneia” occurs 26 times in the New Testament — and the King James version translates it each time as “fornicator.” Related words are all translated similarly (“commit fornication”; “fornicator”; “whoremonger”; etc.). Any lexicon gives this same basic meaning. 

What is wrong with the NIV translation? First, fornication is a sin which is not limited to the married. The word can equally apply to one who violates the seventh commandment while not married. Surely it would not be reasonable to warn the unmarried that they must not in the state of singleness commit the sin of “marital unfaithfulness.” But secondly, the translation of NIV is an error of logical reasoning. While it might be argued that fornication is, in the state of marriage, “marital unfaithfulness,” it can not be maintained that therefore this is a legitimate interpretation. “Marital unfaithfulness” is a far broader term than “fornication.” De Mey correctly understands that “marital unfaithfulness” can include “alcoholism” of a partner in marriage. The trouble is, that many other things also represent “marital unfaithfulness.” Any sin of one spouse against the other is in fact a form of “marital unfaithfulness.” If I unjustly shout at my wife or falsely accuse her of certain acts that is also “marital unfaithfulness.” What the world terms “mental cruelty” or even “incompatibility” can as well be termed “marital unfaithfulness.” My point is that the NIV translation basically allows for anything as ground of divorce. “Marital unfaithfulness” is not only inaccurate translation, but an extremely broad concept. 

I have heard the argument in past years that “marital unfaithfulness” is properly a ground for divorce. I have heard the idea expressed that “fornication” suggests this broader view of “marital unfaithfulness.” Now the NIV give the appearance of legitimacy to this idea. 

I submit that this is an extremely dangerous and erroneous translation. It can only serve to encourage divorce within the church. It is too bad that the word of Christ has so been twisted. 

But, perhaps the learned translators have good grounds for their translation. I am not an authority, I admit, of the Greek language. Perhaps they can show that their translation is correct. Can you help me out, brethren? 

Why Educate Our Children?

From the Presbyterian Journal, December 5, 1979, one finds an interesting quote which expresses strikingly the differences in goals in educating children :

Once in a delightful while your opponent in an argument will catch you off guard by stating his position so clearly that you find you need say nothing more. His very clarity tends to demolish his position. 

Such was the case in the controversy now raging in California over a statewide “family choice in education” referendum scheduled for next June. If approved, the measure would allow families to send their children to either public or nonpublic schools. Either way, the parents would receive a payment voucher from the state. 

The liberal educational establishment, of course, is horrified at the possibility. Indeed, a report published by the Association of California School Administrators claims: 

“Parent choice proceeds from the belief that the purpose of education is to provide individual students with an education. In fact, educating the individual is but a means to the true end of education —which is to create a viable social order to which individuals contribute and by which they are sustained. 

“Family choice is, therefore, basically selfish and anti-social in that it focuses on the wants of a single family rather than on the needs of society.” 

As we said, sometimes no response is needed. — Joel Belz.

The above quote reminds again of the goals of men in educating children. Children of God are indeed interested in providing “individual students with an education,” yet far more. It must be an education which is based upon the truths of the Word of God as maintained within the church. This, the world flatly rejects. And it is because of the fear that the “liberal educational establishment” desires to destroy the private and Christian school systems, that we have opposed receiving any kind of assistance from the state. It has repeatedly been seen that state support eventually also means state control. 

The Sin of Sodom

Sodomy, or homosexuality, or “gay” movement, all suggest the same sin. It is openly condemned as sin in Scripture. Yet increasingly it is regarded not as sin, in fact not even as “disease but a legitimate expression of sexuality. Churches have been permitting this sin to exist within its confines. Increasingly, those who so sin are allowed in the ministry while practicing the sin. A report of this is presented in The Christian News, December 3, 1979:

A United Methodist minister who is a practicing homosexual has had his right to continue in a parish position upheld by the denomination’s “supreme court,” the Judicial Council. 

In its semi-annual meeting, here, the nine-member council declared that the United Methodist Discipline provides that “every member of an annual (regional) conference continues the member in good standing and in the effective relation.” 

The ruling involved. . . . After he announced his homosexuality in 1977, he was asked by the New York Annual Conference to take a leave of absence for a year. When he refused to do so, the 1978 session of the conference upheld his ministry since his congregation overwhelmingly indicated it supported him. 

Mr. Abels’ status was questioned at the 1979 session of the annual conference last June, but he was again appointed to the congregation. The conference then voted to ask the Judicial Council for a ruling. . . . 

The ordinations of homosexuals is expected to be a major issue at the 1980 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, to be held in Indianapolis next April. Upon learning of the Judicial Council’s ruling, Mr. Abels said he was “delighted,” and added, “At least I know I’m safe until next April, and actually I see things changing for the better.”

So goes the “church world.” Indeed, it is being fulfilled, “Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.”