… for a legal divorce.
Milton grounded his arguments against canon law much as he did those against prelacy–on his interpretation of scripture. But the scripture-based case for freedom for men to divorce and re-marry, unlike that against bishops, ran into two huge obstacles: Matthew 5: 31-32 and Matthew 19: 8-9 which reads:
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
Milton had to argue that the apparently “plain words” Jesus spoke on these occasions do not mean what they seem to on first glance. He argued that the …