By Patrick Donahue

In discussing the coming together of husband and wife, Jesus made the following statement in Mt 19:9b, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Although a lot of writing has been done on the meaning and the application of the words "married," and "bound," not as much writing has centered on what is involved in the word "joined" in this text. That is the purpose of this article.

Joined Is Not The Same As Bound

Just as it can be proven from Rom 7:2-3 that "married" and "bound," though related, are not the same, it can also be proven from Rom 7:2-3 and Mt 19:6 that "joined" and "bound" are not the same. Rom 7:2-3 shows that being "bound" to someone means that having sexual relations (even in marriage) with someone else is adultery. The only two exceptions to this are marriages contracted after the death of the first spouse (Rom 7:2-3), or after the putting away of the first spouse for fornication (Mt 19:9). God only "unbinds" (looses) a person from his or her spouse based upon one of these two scriptural reasons. It is impossible for a person to loose ("unbind") himself from his spouse unscripturally. However, Mt 19:6 implies that a man can "disjoin" (put asunder) himself from his spouse unscripturally. The fact that God says not to do it, the fact that he teaches that it is a sin to do it, shows that it is possible for a man to do it. Since it is impossible for a man to loose God's marriage "bond" in an unscriptural way, but it is certainly possible for a man to unscripturally "put asunder" what God has "joined," then "joined" and "bound," though related, do not refer to the same thing.

Joined Is Not The Same As Married

We find this same English word "joined" in I Cor 6:16 which reads, "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh." To be precise, "joined" in I Cor 6:16 is from a different Greek word than the word "joined" in Mt 19:6, but it has the same basic meaning, and is obviously translated the same in this case. Under consideration in both passages is the joining together of "two" people into "one body," or "one flesh." Both passages refer back to Gen 2:24 to make this point. The context of I Cor 6:16 involves fornication, and does not necessarily involve marriage at all. According to this passage, two people who commit fornication (even outside of marriage) are "joined" together into the "one flesh" relationship. Since they can be joined without being married, "joined" and "married" do not refer to the same thing.

Joined Is The Physical Union

I Cor 6:16 makes it obvious that "joined" refers to the physical (sexual) union between two people. Similarly, the word "joined" in Mt 19:6 also refers to the physical union between man and woman. Both passages speak of the joining of two people into the "one flesh" relationship, that is, the sexual union. The only difference between the passages is that while in I Cor 6:16, a man and woman join themselves sexually without God's approval, in Mt 19:6, God joins a man and wife sexually by legalizing, approving of (I Cor 7:1-2), and requiring (I Cor 7:3-5) the sexual relationship through scriptural (authorized) marriage (Heb 13:4).

How Can Man Put Asunder What God Has Joined?

Knowing then that the joining of man and wife in Mt 19:6b is the legalizing, approving of, and requiring of the sexual relationship, how can man violate God's instruction, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder"? One way he can violate this verse is by separating from his spouse, thereby not complying with God's commandment regarding sexual relations between husband and wife as given in I Cor 7:3-5. Some Christians teach that it is permissible to separate as long as there is no divorce. But separation is condemned by many Biblical requirements (passages), one being the requirement of the man and wife to maintain the sexual union as taught by I Cor 7:3-5 and Mt 19:6. Other Christians even allow divorce as long as remarriage does not follow. But again, divorce (and the physical separation that accompanies it) is condemned by God's requirement that man and woman "join" themselves physically (sexually) when they are married.


The "joining" of man and woman upon scriptural marriage is not the same as what the word "bound" entails. Neither is it the same as what the word "married" entails. Instead, "joined" refers to the sexual union that should be maintained between husband and wife. Anything that violates this sexual union is sin, it is a transgression of God's instruction, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for writing the article!
He may be reached at:
Pat.Donahue@MSFC.NASA.GOV, 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726.]

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