Tiberius and Roman Divorces

I came across this interesting passage in Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars last night:

Married women guilty of adultery, though not prosecuted publicly, he [Tiberius] authorised the nearest relations to punish by agreement among themselves, according to ancient custom. He discharged a Roman knight from the obligation of an oath he had taken, never to turn away his wife; and allowed him to divorce her, upon her being caught in criminal intercourse with her son-in-law (Suetonius, Tiberius 35).

This passage is relevant to the NT in a number of ways: (1) Obviously, the idea of a woman having a relationship with a son-in-law resonates with Paul’s censure of a similar actin 1 Cor 5:1-5 (though with mother and step son); and (2) Concerning divorce and remarriage in the NT, the release from an oath on account of adultery perhaps inform the Matthean “exception clauses”  (Matt 5:32; 19:9) and Paul’s teaching on divorce in Corinth (1 Cor 7:10-15).


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