Can individuals who are married become single again? The answer to this question has varied over the years. If they can become single again, this increases the number of singles in the population as a whole.
The Bible on Divorce
Both Testaments have passages on divorce. In the Old Testament Deuteronomy 24:1-4 notes that a man who wants to divorce his wife can write her a certificate of divorce, give it to her, and send her away. Then both he and she may remarry. For all practical purposes, they are single again with the only restriction being that if she marries another man and is divorced again, her first husband cannot remarry her.
The New Testament has several passages elaborating on this for Christians.
- Jesus elaborated on it in the Sermon on the Mount where he said that the only acceptable reason for divorce was marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:31-32).
- Later some Pharisees asked him to elaborate further, and Jesus said that the only reason God had allowed them to divorce was because of their hard hearts; however, it was not supposed to be done, and the only acceptable reason was unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:1-12).
- Still later Paul, a single missionary writing to a church he had planted, said that God’s command was that Christian husbands and wives must not divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-14).
Thus divorce which was relatively easy for male Jews in the Old Testament became much more restricted for Christians in the New Testament. This prohibition of divorce changed little in Christianity during most of the next 2000 years.