Martin Bucer on Divorce and Remarriage

From David L. Smith’s Divorce and Remarriage From the Early Church To John Wesley (Trinity Journal 1990; pp. 131-142); all underlining mine):

“Martin Bucer, while in the strictest sense a Continental reformer, came to England in 1549 at the invitation of Archbishop Cranmer and spent the remainder of his life there. While in England, he wrote De Regno Christi, which strongly influenced many English divines. Much of the book was concerned with marriage and divorce. Bucer emphasized the civil nature of marriage and reminded Edward VI (to whom the book was dedicated) that a monarch should see that marriages ‘be made, maintain’d, and not without just cause dissolved.'[52]”

More from Smith’s work:

“[Bucer] castigated the Roman Church for its practice of disjoining persons from conjugal relations for reasons other than adultery while forbidding those so parted to remarry. Contrary to Roman Catholic interpretation of Scripture, he held that none of the Church Fathers ever dismissed a person from the church for remarrying after a divorce approved by Imperial law.[53]”

However, as a recalcitrant daughter of the Great Whore, Bucer hypocritically approves and endorses his own pet version of Matthew-5:32-and-Romans-7:3-repudiation.

Bucer writes:

“Something indeed out of the latter Fathers they may pretend for this their tyranny, especially out of Austine [Augustine–CD] and some others, who were much taken with a preposterous admiration of single life; yet though the Fathers, from the words of Christ not rightly understood, taught that it was unlawfull to marry again while the former wife liv’d, whatever cause there had [been] either of desertion or divorce, yet if we mark the custom of the Church, and the common judgement which doth in their times and afterward prevail’d, we shall perceive that neither these Fathers did ever cast out of the Church any one for marrying after a divorce approv’d by the Imperiall laws.”;view=fulltext

Whoever these “fathers” were, they are correct as far as it goes with regard to Romans 7:3 and Matthew 5:32 (presumably the “fathers” did not provide imaginative caveats or add any licentious layers of qualification to the surface-level agreement).

“But I say to you, Whoever puts away his wife, apart from a matter of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry the one put away commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

“So then, [if] the husband [is] living, she will be called an adulteress if she becomes another man’s. But if the husband dies, she is free from the Law, [so as for] her not to be an adulteress [by] becoming another man’s” (Romans 7:3).

Contrary to Bucer’s adulterous reveries, the divorce and remarriage of a person while their former spouse is still living, is adultery. Approval by Imperial Law does NOT nullify the Words of Jesus Christ, which are CAUSED “to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

Thus (for Bucer) it is according to individual or Imperial caprice, and not according to Scripture. To each according to his individual caprice; to each according to his expedient need.

David L. Smith writes:

“For Bucer, the proper purpose of marriage was not sexual intercourse, but ‘the communicating of all duties both divine and humane, each to other with utmost benevolence and affection.'[54] He concluded that marriage necessitates continuous cohabitation; if the marriage partners separate either mutually or against the will of the other, then the marriage is broken. In accordance with his view of the purpose of marriage, Bucer determined that not only adultery was just cause for divorce, but other separating factors as well, such as impotence, leprosy, and insanity.[55]”

The floodgates of adultery do bulge, swell, and ever-widen as different people begin piling up their different “exceptions” to Matthew 5:32 & Romans 7:3. Evidently it is according to one’s own individual caprice, whim, or heartfelt concern that these “separating factors” become convenient tools with which to endorse and encourage continuance in sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9).

Again, Bucer:

“But that it may be more fully and plainly perceav’d, what force is in this kind of reasoning, it will be the best course to lay down certain grounds where of no Christian can doubt the truth. First it is a wickedness to suspect that our Saviour branded that for adultery, which himself in his own Law, which he came to fulfill, and not to dissolve, did not only permit, but also command; for by him the only Mediator was the whole law of God giv’n. But that by this law of God marriage was permitted after any divorce is certain by Deut. 24. 1.'”

Bucer writes:

“That God in his law did not only grant, but also command divorce to certain men. Deut. 24: 1. When a man hath taken a wife, &c. But in Malachi 2:15, 16 is read the Lord’s command to put her away whom a man hates, in these words. Take heed to your spirit, and let none deal injuriously against the wife of his youth.

If he hate, let him put away, saith the Lord God of Israel. And he shall hide thy violence with his garment, that marries her divorced by thee, saith the Lord of hosts; But take heed to your spirit, and do no injury.

By these testimonies of the divine law, we see that the Lord did not only permit, but also expressly and earnestly commanded his people, by whom he would that all holiness and faith of marriage covenant should be observed, that he who could not induce his mind to love his wife with a true conjugal love, might dismiss her that she might marry to another” (Martin Bucer).

Bucer asserts what he thinks is an accurate translation and understanding of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The King James version mistranslates and absolutely mangles the passage as:

“she may go and be another man’s” (Deuteronomy 24:2).

But the Hebrew word does NOT indicate anything about what this woman MAY do. And not only that, if she “may marry” another while the first husband is still living, then a “MAY” would CONTRADICT what Jesus clearly teaches elsewhere in Scripture (other translations say that she “goes and becomes another man’s”).

Deuteronomy 24:2 states what she DID do, not what she MAY do. And what she did do was commit adultery (see Romans 7:1-3 and Matthew 5:31-32).


David L. Smith’s Notes on Divorce & Remarriage from Early Church to John Wesley (Trinity Journal 1990; pp. 131-142):

[52] “The Judgment of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce,” in The Works of John Milton (London: Wm. Pickering, 1851) 4:307. Milton translated these sections of De Regno Christi which dealt with divorce, placing them under the above title.

[53] Ibid., 4:313.

[54] Ibid., 4:329. His reasoning was based on Gen 2:24.

[55] Ibid., 4:335.