Matthew 19 is another passage that is misunderstood due to translation and not looking at the whole picture presented even in the chapter itself. The first thing to keep in mind about this passage is the setting. This is not a friendly question and answer session with students eager to learn. I believe there had to be a reason that they picked this topic. This is about a group of men who are trying to discredit and embarrass Christ through a public test.
Here is the English KJV. Following that we will show what the Greek actually says.
3 "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
The Pharisees' first question should be obvious to anyone who knew the law. The only lawful reason to only separate from a wife, without divorce, in the manner they were meaning is adultery. The scripture never teaches that a man can divorce or put away a wife for any reason and the Pharisees knew it. This was their first question to lead Christ into a trap. As you will see though they never got to complete their plan.
Christ answers their first question by teaching God's intent for marriage in a perfect sinless world. I really think that Christ's answer caught them off-guard. Remember that if Christ had taught against the law of God he would have been a sinner. Christ's answer had to agree with Deuteronomy 24. Note that in verses 18-19 in the same chapter Christ taught the law. Ever wonder that if God could change his morals with the change of a covenant that one of these listed in verses 18-19 could also be changed. Can you depend on a God who would make thievery lawful with the change of a covenant?
God's morals do not change with any covenant. In verse seven two separate actions had to take place in order to complete a divorce. This is why I say that "put away" is not equivalent with divorce. They are different words in the Greek. Whenever Christ separated from a crowd of people he never divorced them. The Greek plainly states that he only "sent them away". It is the same Greek word that is used here for "put away".
In verse nine Christ gets specific and here is the explanation, what is understood from all of scripture on the subject. If a man separates from his wife with out divorcing her for any reason other than fornication, then that woman can not marry any one else as she is still married to him. If she then does go out and marries another then her first husband shares her guilt of adultery as he was the unrighteous cause of her sin. Of course the man she marries then is also guilty because he has mixed his seed with a married woman.
Going back to verse eight we must remember that the ideal is that there would never be divorce or fornication. However we are not perfect people. We do sin and when one has committed marital adultery, which itself breaks the covenant, then the marriage is ended. Scripturally there is no need for divorce. While divorce itself is not a sin, sin is most of the time the cause for divorce. The scriptural reasons for divorce are discussed in another article at this site.
Based on what we know of the sinful Roman lifestyle of the day I am guessing that the apostles were used to seeing men do as we just saw like we are used to hearing about or seeing abortion or sodomy today. Both actions are accepted as normal by the society we live in even though we know they are sin. I would suggest that the apostles response in verse ten shows this to be the case.
This writing on Matthew 19 is intended to be read along with the other articles posted at this site on this subject. Reading all of them will give you a more thorough understanding to what I see as truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage in scripture.