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Questions About Divorce

19 Now when[a] Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River.[b] Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Then some Pharisees[c] came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful[d] to divorce a wife for any cause?”[e] He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female,[f] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?[g] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”[h] Jesus[i] said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts,[j] but from the beginning it was not this way. Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” 10 The[k] disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!” 11 He[l] said to them, “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth,[m] and some who were made eunuchs[n] by others,[o] and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.”

Jesus and Little Children

13 Then little children were brought to him for him to lay his hands on them and pray.[p] But the disciples scolded those who brought them.[q] 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”[r] 15 And he placed his hands on them and went on his way.[s]

The Rich Young Man

16 Now[t] someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?”[u] 17 He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,[v] and love your neighbor as yourself.”[w] 20 The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed[x] all these laws.[y] What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money[z] to the poor, and you will have treasure[aa] in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.[ab]

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth,[ac] it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 24 Again I say,[ad] it is easier for a camel[ae] to go through the eye of a needle[af] than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” 25 The[ag] disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?”[ah] 26 Jesus[ai] looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans,[aj] but for God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said[ak] to him, “Look,[al] we have left everything to follow you![am] What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus[an] said to them, “I tell you the truth:[ao] In the age when all things are renewed,[ap] when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging[aq] the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much[ar] and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


  1. Matthew 19:1 tn Grk “it happened when.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
  2. Matthew 19:1 tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity. The region referred to here is sometimes known as Transjordan (i.e., “across the Jordan”).
  3. Matthew 19:3 tn Grk “And Pharisees.”sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  4. Matthew 19:3 tc ‡ Most mss have either ἀνθρώπῳ (anthrōpō, “for a man” [so א3 C D W Δ Θ 087 ƒ1, 13 33 1241 M latt]) τινί (tini, “for someone” 700), ἀνθρώπῳ τινί (anthrōpō tini, “for a man” [565]) or ἀνδρί (andri, “for a husband” [1424c]) before the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”). “For a husband” is an assimilation to the parallel in Mark; the other readings may have been motivated by the clarification needed (especially to give the following αὐτοῦ [autou, “his”] an antecedent). But a few significant mss (א* B L Γ 579 1424*) have neither noun or the pronoun. In light of the variety of additions that clarify the subject of the infinitive, and especially since the shorter reading is the more difficult, it is likely that none of these additions was present in the autograph. As the harder reading, the shorter reading seems to best explain the rise of the others. NA28, however, reads ἀνθρώπῳ here.
  5. Matthew 19:3 sn The question of the Pharisees was anything but sincere; they were asking it to test him. Jesus was now in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (i.e., Judea and beyond the Jordan) and it is likely that the Pharisees were hoping he might answer the question of divorce in a way similar to John the Baptist and so suffer the same fate as John, i.e., death at the hands of Herod (cf. 14:1-12). Jesus answered the question not on the basis of rabbinic custom and the debate over Deut 24:1, but rather from the account of creation and God’s original design.
  6. Matthew 19:4 sn A quotation from Gen 1:27; 5:2.
  7. Matthew 19:5 sn A quotation from Gen 2:24.
  8. Matthew 19:7 tc ‡ Although the majority of witnesses (B C N W Γ Δ 078 087 ƒ13 33 565 1241 1424 M syp,h) have αὐτήν (autēn, “her”) after the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”), several authorities lack the αὐτήν. This shorter reading may be due to assimilation to the Markan parallel, but since it is attested in early and diverse witnesses (א D L Z Θ ƒ1 579 700 lat) and since the parallel verse (Mark 10:4) already departs at many points, the shorter reading seems more likely to be initial text’s wording here. The pronoun has been included in the translation, however, for clarity. NA28 includes the word in brackets, indicating reservations about its A quotation from Deut 24:1. The Pharisees were all in agreement that the OT permitted a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce his wife (not vice-versa) and that remarriage was therefore sanctioned. But the two rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel differed on the grounds for divorce. Shammai was much stricter than Hillel and permitted divorce only in the case of sexual immorality. Hillel permitted divorce for almost any reason (cf. the Mishnah, m. Gittin 9.10).
  9. Matthew 19:8 tc A few significant witnesses (א Φ a b c mae) have the name “Jesus” here, but it is almost certainly not original. Nevertheless, for clarity’s sake, “Jesus” is added in the Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  10. Matthew 19:8 tn Grk “heart” (a collective singular).
  11. Matthew 19:10 tc ‡ Some significant witnesses, along with the majority of later mss (P25 C D L N W Z Γ Δ 078 ƒ1, 13 33 565 579 700 1241 1424 M lat sy samss bo), read αὐτοῦ (autou, “his”) after μαθηταί (mathētai, “disciples”), but this looks to be a clarifying reading. Other early and significant witnesses lack the pronoun (P71vid א B Θ e ff1 g1 sams mae; SBL), the reading adopted here. NA28 includes the pronoun in brackets, indicating some doubts as to its authenticity.
  12. Matthew 19:11 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  13. Matthew 19:12 tn Grk “from the womb of the mother” (an idiom).
  14. Matthew 19:12 tn The verb εὐνουχίζω occurs twice in this verse, translated the first time as “made eunuchs” and the second time as “became eunuchs.” The term literally refers to castration. The second occurrence of the word in this verse is most likely figurative, though, referring to those who willingly maintain a life of celibacy for the furtherance of the kingdom (see W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Matthew [ICC], 3:23).
  15. Matthew 19:12 tn Grk “people.”
  16. Matthew 19:13 tn Grk “so that he would lay his hands on them and pray.”
  17. Matthew 19:13 tn Grk “the disciples scolded them.” In the translation the referent has been specified as “those who brought them,” since otherwise the statement could be understood to mean that the disciples scolded the children rather than their parents who brought them.
  18. Matthew 19:14 sn The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Children are a picture of those whose simple trust illustrates what faith is all about. The remark illustrates how everyone is important to God, even those whom others regard as insignificant.
  19. Matthew 19:15 tn Grk “went from there.”
  20. Matthew 19:16 tn Grk “And behold one came.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1). Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.
  21. Matthew 19:16 sn Here the questioner asks how to gain eternal life. In several places Matthew uses “life” or “eternal life” in proximity with “the kingdom of heaven” or merely “the kingdom,” suggesting a close relationship between the two concepts (compare Matt 25:34 with v. 46; Matt 19:16, 17, 29 with vv. 23, 24). Matthew consistently portrays “eternal life” as something a person enters in the world to come, whereas the Gospel of John sees “eternal life” as beginning in the present and continuing into the future (cf. John 5:24).
  22. Matthew 19:19 sn A quotation from Exod 20:12-16; Deut 5:16-20.
  23. Matthew 19:19 sn A quotation from Lev 19:18.
  24. Matthew 19:20 tn Grk “kept.” The implication of this verb is that the man has obeyed the commandments without fail, so the adverb “wholeheartedly” has been added to the translation to bring out this nuance.
  25. Matthew 19:20 tn Grk “these things.” The referent of the pronoun (the laws mentioned by Jesus) has been specified in the translation for While the rich man was probably being sincere when he insisted I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws, he had confined his righteousness to external obedience. The rich man’s response to Jesus’ command—to give away all he had—revealed that internally he loved money more than God.
  26. Matthew 19:21 tn The words “the money” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
  27. Matthew 19:21 sn The call for sacrifice comes with a promise of eternal reward: You will have treasure in heaven. Jesus’ call is a test to see how responsive the man is to God’s direction through him. Will he walk the path God’s agent calls him to walk? For a rich person who got it right, see Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.
  28. Matthew 19:22 tn Grk “he had many possessions.” This term (κτῆμα, ktēma) is often used for land as a possession.
  29. Matthew 19:23 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amēn), I say to you.”
  30. Matthew 19:24 tn Grk “I say to you.”
  31. Matthew 19:24 tc A few, mostly late, witnesses (579 1424 al arm Cyr) read κάμιλον (kamilon, “rope”) for κάμηλον (kamēlon, “camel”), either through accidental misreading of the text or intentionally so as to soften Jesus’ words.
  32. Matthew 19:24 sn The eye of a needle refers to a sewing needle. (Although the story of a small gate in Jerusalem known as “The Needle’s Eye” has been widely circulated and may go back as far as the middle ages, there is no evidence that such a gate ever existed.) Jesus was saying rhetorically that it is impossible for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom, unless God (v. 26) intervenes.
  33. Matthew 19:25 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  34. Matthew 19:25 sn The assumption is that the rich are blessed, so if they risk exclusion, who is left to be saved?
  35. Matthew 19:26 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  36. Matthew 19:26 tn The plural Greek term ἄνθρωποις (anthrōpois) is used here in a generic sense, referring to both men and women (cf. NASB 1995 update, “people”). Because of the contrast here between mere mortals and God (“impossible for men, but for God all things are possible”) the phrase “mere humans” has been used in the translation. There may also be a slight wordplay with “the Son of Man” in v. 28.
  37. Matthew 19:27 tn Grk “Then answering, Peter said.” This construction is somewhat redundant in contemporary English and has been simplified in the translation.
  38. Matthew 19:27 sn Peter wants reassurance that the disciples’ response and sacrifice have been noticed.
  39. Matthew 19:27 tn Grk “We have left everything and followed you.” Koine Greek often used paratactic structure when hypotactic was implied.
  40. Matthew 19:28 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  41. Matthew 19:28 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amēn), I say to you.”
  42. Matthew 19:28 sn The Greek term translated the age when all things are renewed (παλιγγενεσία, palingenesia) is understood as a reference to the Messianic age, the time when all things are renewed and restored (cf. Rev 21:5).
  43. Matthew 19:28 sn The statement you…will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel looks at the future authority the Twelve will have when Jesus returns. They will share in Israel’s judgment.
  44. Matthew 19:29 sn Jesus reassures his disciples with a promise that (1) much benefit in this life (a hundred times as much) and (2) eternal life will be given.