YEARS OF STUDY EVIDENT IN J. JONES’ ALL-ENCOMPASSING
NEW BOOK ON MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, REMARRIAGE —
BUT ITS WISDOM AND ‘HEART’ POINT TO HIGHER SOURCE
BOOK NOTICE: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage Seen Through the Character of God and the Mind of Jesus. Jerry Jones. College Press, 270 pages, 2016.
Dr. Jerry Jones had served God as an evangelist, local pastor, church-planter, and chairman of the Bible department in a Christian university, but no matter which hat he wore, he was called on to teach and to counsel other imperfect people on issues of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (MDR). His own views on MDR and the views of others in his faith-tradition were the same as those held by a great majority of evangelicals–views that sported a chain of neatly-arranged biblical proof-verses. But while contemporary churches often required would-be new members to undergo intensive grilling about their marriage history, Jones was struck by the fact that “the book of Acts chronicled how people became Christians, yet their marital status was never mentioned” (11).
The feeling that something was missing in his traditional understanding of MDR continued to nag Jones until he finally surrendered to the conviction that he must restudy the entire subject. That is what he did, for 15 years, and then he wrote this book. ” I had invested 50 years in a somewhat limited view,” Jones writes, ” . . . and changing that paradigm would be quite painful and difficult” (11). The book is practically all-encompassing– in scope, research, application. Along the way, Jones deals with such issues as canon, text, context, hermaneutics, Biblical languages, and culture. This is a work of first class scholarship, well worth the 15-year wait.
But as impressive as all that is, the scholarship is not the book’s greatest feature. That comes, in my opinion, in its “heart” and wisdom, as summed up in its subtitle: “seen through the character of God and the mind of Jesus.” That is the extra ingredient that scholarship alone can never provide, but which resonates with those who wish to replicate God’s character and to have the mind of Christ.
Jones takes on the subject under three major headings. In Part 1 (15-53) he examines Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 on sex, celibacy and marriage. Noting that much of 1 Corinthians consists of Paul’s answers to questions from the Corinthians, Jones seeks to reconstruct the “other side” of the conversation. Chapter 7 presents another challenge in Paul’s appeals to a hierarchy of authority– things Jesus said, things Paul believed Jesus would agree with, Paul’s own opinions, etc. Recognizing the importance of cultural background to teaching on MDR, in both the first century and the twenty-first, Jones’ research shines through as he delves into Jewish and Roman practices and laws.
Part 1 concludes with a summary titled “Paul and Marriage,” which includes the apostle’s rationale for marriage, preferred status (single and celibate), and limitations of this chapter. Part 2 (54-110) turns to the teaching of Jesus on MDR in the gospels. Jones takes up Hebrew Bible texts, basic definitions, contextual considerations, comparisons of Matthew 19 and Mark 10, and thoughts on interpreting the marriage and divorce texts.
In Part 3 (111-128) Jones sets forth a theology of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, assigning himself to primary chores. The first concerns “understanding the situational, occasional nature of scripture.” The Bible’s teaching on MDR is not in the form of articles on systematic theology. The second chore is developing “a biblical, contemporary paradigm for marriage, divorce, and remarriage.” These two sections are followed by pastoral considerations and a conclusion to Part 3.
A 16-page selective bibliography provides some indication of the research behind this book. Twenty-five appendices on a variety of related topics, special areas of study, reflect the author’s wide-ranging interests and exhaustive research on MDR.
In closing, serious Bible students with no prior knowledge of Biblical languages can read this book and benefit from it, while its contents will leave the most ardent scholar satisfied as to its methodology and research.
For the past 20 years, Jones and his wife Lynn have been involved in strengthening marriages through their “Marriage Matters” conferences, which they have conducted more than 450 times in 43 states and 6 foreign countries. For more information on the conferences or to order this book, see the website www.marriagematters.ws or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-636-936-1076.