Questions From Readers
● At John 2:20 we read: “This temple was built in forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” How does one calculate this forty-six years?
The context of this statement shows that Jesus was then in Jerusalem to celebrate his first passover after being baptized. (John 1:29-33; 2:13) According to the prophecy of the “seventy weeks” found at Daniel 9:24-27, the Messiah would make his public appearance in the fall of 29 C.E.a This would locate the following passover in the spring of 30 C.E.
Regarding the forty-six years, a passage in the writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus proves helpful. In Antiquities of the Jews we read: “And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work, that is, to build of himself the temple of God, and make it larger in compass, and to raise it to a most magnificent altitude.”—Book 15, chapter 11, section 1.
Josephus states that Herod captured Jerusalem twenty-seven years after the city fell into the hands of Pompey (which was in 63 B.C.E.). This would place Herod’s capture of Jerusalem in 36 B.C.E., in July or perhaps October, according to some scholars. Josephus likely reckoned the intervening period from Herod’s takeover of the throne until the following spring month Nisan as an “accession” year. Herod’s first “regnal” year would therefore not begin until the following spring and would run from 35-34 B.C.E. Counting forward seventeen years gives Herod’s eighteenth year (in which he began the temple work) as 18-17 B.C.E. An additional forty-six years leads to 29-30 C.E.
● If an unbelieving husband tries to divorce his Christian wife on a false charge such as mental cruelty or desertion, should she contest the divorce?
She must decide personally whether to contest the divorce or not. Each case has its own circumstances. The wife can consider factors such as how her husband has been treating her and how he seems likely to treat her or care for her in the future, what his charge is, what legal options are open to her, the cost of legal representation and what her conscience recommends that she do.
Many unbelieving husbands acknowledge that when their wives became true Christians they actually became better wives. (Compare 1 Peter 3:1-5.) And regarding a Christian woman with an unbelieving husband who is “agreeable to dwelling with her,” the Bible urges, “Let her not leave her husband,” for in time he too may become a Christian.—1 Cor. 7:13, 14.
Yet sometimes the husband chooses to terminate the marriage. He may have an intense hatred for true Christianity and so refuse to live with his wife and permit her the freedom of worship that the law of the land grants her. Or he may decide to divorce her simply because she will not share in debased sexual perversions that the Bible rightly condemns. (Rom. 1:26-32) Similar problems must have existed in the first century, for the apostle Paul counseled: “If the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances.”—1 Cor. 7:15.
A husband in this situation has the problem of finding a legal ground for the divorce he wants. What can he charge? His wife is striving to be a good homemaker, a pleasant companion, a clean, faithful sex partner and an exemplary mother if they have children. So, after he has left the family he may lyingly charge his wife with abandonment. Or he may resort to some broad charge that does not require much legal proof, such as claiming that she has been ‘mentally cruel’ to him. Perhaps he agrees to continue providing for her and the children, as he has an obligation to do, but still he is determined to get a divorce on his lying charge. What will she do? She cannot make him live with her. And, while not agreeing with his lie, she is not obliged to undertake expensive legal action to keep him within the marriage bond or to counter every lie he tells about her. So she may conclude that, rather than contesting the divorce, she will just ignore his lying charge, having in mind the advice, “If the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart.”
Sometimes, though, a Christian wife is concerned as to whether others who learn of the divorce might conclude that she was to blame if she does not contest the divorce and present the facts. She may worry that an uncontested divorce on such a charge might bring reproach on her or on the Christian congregation.
That possibility cannot be ignored. However, in most instances few people ever examine the charge that was the basis for the divorce; all they may learn is that there was a divorce. And if some persons did learn that the divorce was on the ground of mental cruelty or something like that, it is quite likely that they would view the charge as a mere legal expedient. Probably they would understand that the husband was only employing the easiest basis for getting a divorce even if his real reason was that he wanted to marry another woman or do something else. So, often there would be no suggestion of reproach on the faithful wife or on the congregation.
If, though, a wife felt that the false charge was so scandalous that she ought to contest it, she would have to decide what legal course to follow. Or, within the time limit the law allows, she might elect to contest it if that appeared to be the only way to protect her rights—her right to some family property, her rights involving child custody, her right to economic help for herself and the children, and so forth. (If there is any question of child custody or financial support, usually it is best to settle it legally before the court decision is rendered rather than trying to have it modified afterward.) How she could best present the facts and defend her rights might depend on the legal possibilities where she lives.
One option is to obtain legal advice or representation from an attorney promptly. Of course, unless the court requires the husband to pay the legal costs, that might entail considerable expense for her. In some places there are social agencies or legal aid societies from which a person might obtain free legal help. Or she could contact a representative of the court handling family cases to see how to make a presentation of the facts and claims if unable to hire legal counsel. Many judges are quite understanding toward a person who is not able to have legal representation.
It certainly is a pity that a husband should force such problems on his wife instead of remaining with her and benefiting from her wholesome application of divine principles. Still, there is no need for the wife to feel that she is absolutely obliged to fight the divorce. True, in cases involving property, support or child custody a wife may conclude that contesting a divorce or entering a counter suit is advisable. But as to preventing the divorce or trying to force an unbeliever to stay with the family, the basic Bible advice is: “If the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart.”—1 Cor. 7:15.
The above principles are, of course, true also where an unbelieving wife seeks to divorce her Christian husband by use of false charges.
a See the article “Seventy Weeks” in Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1473.