Researched and prepared by Ruth Magnusson Davis
This post belongs to the series “Principal Matters from the 1537 Matthew Bible.” The purpose of the series is:
(1) To get to know the Table of Principal Matters in the Matthew Bible.
(2) To learn through Bible studies from the Reformation.
“As the bees diligently do gather together sweet flowers, to make by natural craft the sweet honey, so have I done with the principal topics contained in the Bible.”
So began John Rogers’ introduction to the Table of Principal Matters in the 1537 Matthew Bible. This Table was a concordance at the front of the book. It set out bible topics in alphabetical order. Under each topic were short headings, with bible verses for further study.
This Principal Matters series follows the topics in the order of the Table and sets out the bible verses in full, taken from the Matthew Bible and gently updated as needed.
This is the fifth and final part under the topic “Adultery” in John Rogers’ Table of Principal Matters of the Matthew Bible. It begins with the 12th heading and ends with the 15th.
Under the 12th heading, the scripture reference is mysterious to me. The heading reads, “One ought to beware of adulterers.” It might mean, in modern English, “One ought to be aware of adulterers,” but either way, the meaning is nearly the same. The scripture reference is “Deut.v.b,” or Deuteronomy 5.b. There were no verse numbers in the earliest English Bibles, so scripture references were by letters assigned to whole sections of a chapter (a,b,c, etc.). (Sometimes this makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact verse or verses intended.)
Deuteronomy 5 contains the Ten Commandments, and the only references to adultery are in verses 18 and 21: “Thou shalt not break wedlock (commit adultery),” and “Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour’s wife.” But what do these verses have to do with being wary (or being aware) of adulterers? Is the idea to look out for others who might lust after your wife? However, the main point of the Ten Commandments is to direct one’s own, personal conduct. Or does it suggest that adulterers (unless repentant) show that they despise God’s laws, and are generally not to be trusted?
But perhaps the reference to chapter ‘v’ or ‘5’ was a mistake? Such errors were not uncommon. To doublecheck, I compared the 1535 French Bible of Pierre Olivetan. People who have read Part One of The Story of the Matthew Bible will know that Rogers and Olivetan had the same Table of Principal Matters in their bibles. However, Olivetan shows the same heading and scripture reference at the 12th heading. In the old French spelling, he had “On se doivt informer des adulteres. Deutero.v.b.” (Note, there were no accent marks in old French.)
All things considered, I must keep the Bible verses from Deuteronomy 5.b, although it is difficult to understand how they relate to the heading. (This would be a good question for bible study groups to explore.)
And now, to see the last part of the topic “Adultery” in John Rogers’ (and Pierre Olivetan’s) pioneering work. It has been a marvellous gathering together of bible verses and teachings on this subject:
(12) One ought to beware of adulterers.
Deuteronomy 5:18 You shall not break wedlock.
and 5:21 You shall not lust after your neighbour’s wife.
(13) God witnesses against adulterers.
Malachi 3:5 I will come and punish you, and I myself will be a swift witness against the witches, against the adulterers …
(14) A special sacrifice for the suspicion of adultery.
Numbers 5:11-31 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If any man’s wife goes aside and trespasses against him, in that another man lies with her carnally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of her husband and it has not come to light that she is defiled (for there is no witness against her, inasmuch as she was not taken in the act), but the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he is jealous over his wife, and she is defiled – or perhaps the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he is jealous over his wife but she is yet undefiled – then let her husband bring her to the priest. And he shall bring an offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; but he shall pour no oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is an offering of jealousy and an offering that reminds of sin.
And let the priest bring her and set her before the Lord. And let him take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is in the floor of the habitation and put it into the water. And the priest shall set the wife before the Lord, uncover her head, and put in her hands the offering to remind her, which is the jealousy offering. And the priest shall have bitter and cursing water in his hand. And he shall adjure her and say to her, If no man has lain with you, and you have not gone aside from your husband and defiled yourself, then this bitter cursing water will not hurt you. But if you have gone aside from your husband and are defiled, and some other man has lain with you besides your husband (and let the priest put her under oath with the invocation of the curse and say to her), may the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, so that the Lord makes your thigh rot and your belly to swell:– so go this bitter cursing water into your bowels, so that your belly swells and your thigh rots.
And the wife shall say, Amen, Amen.
And the priest shall write this curse in a bill and wash it out in the bitter water, and shall give the wife some of the bitter cursing water to drink. When the cursing water is in her and is bitter, then let the priest take the jealousy offering out of the wife’s hand, wave it for a food offering before the Lord, and bring it to the altar. And he shall take a handful of the reminder offering and burn it upon the altar, and then make her drink the water. And when he has made her drink the water, if she is defiled and has trespassed against her husband, then the cursing water will go into her and be so bitter that her belly will swell and her thigh will rot, and she will be a curse among her people. And if she is not defiled but is clean, then she will have no harm, but will be able to conceive.
This is the law for jealousy, when a wife goes aside from her husband and is defiled, or when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man and he is jealous over his wife. Then he shall bring her before the Lord and the priest shall administer all this law concerning her; and the man shall be guiltless, and the wife shall bear her sin.
(15) One may leave his wife for the cause of adultery
Matthew 19:9 I say therefore to you, whoever puts away his wife (unless it be for fornication) and marries another, breaks wedlock. And whoever marries her who is divorced, commits adultery.
~~End of all five parts of the topic “Adultery” in the Matthew Bible~~
– New Testament Scriptures are from the October Testament, the New Testament of the New Matthew Bible. The Old Testament Scriptures and Apocryphal writings are taken directly from the Matthew Bible, with obsolete English gently updated.
– Information about the New Matthew Bible Project is here.
– Sample scriptures from the New Matthew Bible are here.
– To find former topics, on the main blog page look for “Categories” and search under “Principal Matters Series” for the subcategory with the appropriate letter. For example, for “Abomination,” look under Principal Matters Series/ Principal Matters A/Abomination.