TEXT: Matthew 5:31-32: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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."
The Canons of Basil, written by the disciples of the fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, note: "Our Lord, to the man and woman, equally forbids divorce save in the case of fornication; but custom requires women to retain their husbands, though they be guilty of fornication. The man deserted by his wife may take another, and though he were deserted [by an adulteress], yet St. Basil will be positive that the other woman who afterward takes him is also guilty of adultery; but the wife is not allowed this liberty. And the man who deserts an innocent wife is not allowed to marry."
As we see from this quote, there was clearly a double-standard in the various teachings on divorce in the first century -- both Jewish and Christian. In both the Old Testament and New Testament eras, only men were allowed to issue a "writ of divorcement." Men could divorce their wives, but women could not divorce their husbands. This obviously created a dilemma for the early church which sought to abide by Jesus' teaching that divorce was permitted, but not commanded, in the case of adultery. Christian husbands, whose wives committed adultery, could easily get a divorce both by the laws of the state and the laws of the church. But Christian women, whose husbands had committed adultery and who could have gotten a divorce in the eyes of the Church, were not permitted to divorce in the eyes of the state.