Does the Bible allow for divorce in the case of adultery?
I don't think so. I don't think the Bible allows divorce and remarriage ever while the spouse is living. That's my radical, crazy, conservative, narrow, hard-nosed, very needed view in our divorce-happy culture.
Does the Bible allow divorce in the case of adultery, even if the adulterer is repentant? Now I suppose that behind this question is Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Those are the two exception clauses in the New Testament: "If a man divorces a woman, except for _____ [the Greek word here is porneia] and marries another, he makes her commit adultery."
Porneia is sometimes translated as "unchastity," or "immorality." It means most naturally "fornication," which is why I have this bizarre interpretation that very few people follow. I believe that here in Matthew it relates to fornication, that is, sex prior to marriage.
In other words, Jesus is not saying, when he forbids divorce and remarriage, that a sexual sin before marriage should keep you from marrying. And he did that because Joseph and Mary were in that situation in Matthew, which is the book in which these exception clauses occur. At least Joseph thought Mary was in that situation, and so he was going to put her away and not marry her, because he was a just man and didn't want to marry. And Jesus is saying, "I don't have that situation in mind when I forbid divorce."
So I don't think there is an exception for adultery in the New Testament.
But, even if you leave aside all that I have just said here, go to Ephesians 5 where it says, "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church."
Well, has the church ever committed adultery? Like, daily?
So, how a Christian husband can say to a penitent adultery-committing wife, "You did it, and that breaks it! It's over, and so I'm going to officialize it at the court." I just don't see how any Christian husband can talk or feel that way toward a broken and repentant wife. And I think that even if she isn't broken and repentant that he should wait and wait and pray and pray.
That is a hard teaching.
I read a book one time by Geoffrey Bromiley called God and Marriage, about 120 pages. And it's divided into two sections: The Trinitarian God of the Old Testament and Marriage, and The Trinitarian God of the New Testament and Marriage. And he pointed out that in the Old Testament, every marriage is a rotten marriage. They're all painful. He took every patriarch's marriage and shows how horrible they were.
You've got polygamy involved, you've got Hagar and concubines involved. Every marriage you look at in the Old Testament is horrible! And there is no divorce anywhere in the Old Testament among patriarchs. They all endured. They all gutted it out. But it was just a mess! It was horrible.
And God, ultimately, never divorces his people. There are separations: she goes into exile in Babylon. And you get divorce-type language. You've got to be careful in Jeremiah! It says he gave her a bill of divorcement, but not really. He sent her away and then he went and said, "My heart grows warm for you. I'm taking you back!" And then Hosea illustrates that by going and marrying a prostitute.
It was really quite powerful for me at a certain stage in my marriage to hear Bromiley point out with illustration after illustration how many bad marriages there were in the Old Testament and how none of them ended in divorce.