October 20, 2014

A “Biblical” View of Marriage?

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NOTE FROM CM: The following article was written by Robert R. Cargill, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa; Kenneth Atkinson, associate professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa; and Hector Avalos, professor of religious studies at Iowa State University.

From The Des Moines Register:

The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible. Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.

As academic biblical scholars, we wish to clarify that the biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors.

The fact that marriage is not defined as only that between one man and one woman is reflected in the entry on “marriage” in the authoritative Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000): “Marriage is one expression of kinship family patterns in which typically a man and at least one woman cohabitate publicly and permanently as a basic social unit” (p. 861).

The phrase “at least one woman” recognizes that polygamy was not only allowed, but some polygamous biblical figures (e.g., Abraham, Jacob) were highly blessed. In 2 Samuel 12:8, the author says that it was God who gave David multiple wives: “I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom. … And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more” (Revised Standard Version).

In fact, there were a variety of unions and family configurations that were permissible in the cultures that produced the Bible, and these ranged from monogamy (Titus 1:6) to those where rape victims were forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and to those Levirate marriage commands obligating a man to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4). Others insisted that celibacy was the preferred option (1 Corinthians 7:8; 28).

Although some may view Jesus’ interpretation of Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:3-10 as an endorsement of monogamy, Jesus and other Jewish interpreters conceded that there were also non-monogamous understandings of this passage in ancient Judaism, including those allowing divorce and remarriage.

In fact, during a discussion of marriage in Matthew 19:12, Jesus even encourages those who can to castrate themselves “for the kingdom” and live a life of celibacy.

Ezra 10:2-11 forbids interracial marriage and orders those people of God who already had foreign wives to divorce them immediately.

So, while it is not accurate to state that biblical texts would allow marriages between people of the same sex, it is equally incorrect to declare that a “one-man-and-one-woman” marriage is the only allowable type of marriage deemed legitimate in biblical texts.

This is not only our modern, academic opinion. This view of the multiple definitions of “biblical” marriage has been acknowledged by some of the most prominent names in Christianity. For example, the famed Reformationist Martin Luther wrote a letter in 1524 in which he commented on polygamy as follows: “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not oppose the Holy Scriptures.”

Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals, especially those ancient texts whose endorsements of other social institutions, such as slavery, would be universally condemned today, even by the most adherent of Christians.

* * *

What are we to make of this? Is there a “biblical” view of marriage? How do our cultural values and practices relate to what we see in the Bible? How can the church appropriately apply the Bible’s teaching to contemporary practices of marriage and family?

Comments

  1. “How can the church appropriately apply the Bible’s teaching to contemporary practices of marriage and family?”

    We can recognize the authority in the orders of creation, recognize the clear word that the Scriptures convey about homosexuality being sinful, and affirm that marriage is properly understood in the light of Scripture to mean one man and one woman.

    And that view is also most beneficial to society and to children in society who need a male and a female (the best scenario) as parents in their lives.

    Not taking away any respect or rights of gay people to live together as partners and to have all other rights as such afforded to them, except being legally married.

    • J.Random says:

      Setting aside for the moment the foolishness of allowing sectarian religious interpretations to determine public policy —

      Do you, Steve, allege that Martin Luther misunderstood the Bible when he said that polygamy does not oppose the Holy Scriptures? Who figured out he was wrong — how did his error come to light?

      • I did not know that Luther said that. If he did, he was in error. I do know of other things he said that were wrong. Very wrong.

        Bit he also said a lot of terrific things. Those are the things that we focus upon.

        • J.Random says:

          The Martin Luther quote is there in the body of the post, so it appears you aren’t engaging with the material. Maybe you should read what the Des Moines Register article actually has to say about illiterate attempts to appeal to Scripture to define marriage.

          • I had not heard the Luther quote in all my studies of Luther. Luther may have been pointing out how it is possible to oppose or advocate anything on the basis of what any particular text in the Bible says. But when we do a bit of theology, in light of God’s law and His gospel, we can have a better picture of what is actually good for us…or not.

            I don’t know for sure what Luther was getting at, with regard to that quote.

            But I do know this much. We don;t hang on every word that Luther ever uttered. But the ones that placed Christ and His gospel for sinners in the center of matters of faith.

          • It is in his letter to the Chancellor in 1524. Luther also maybe gave secret permission to have one of his patrons take a second wife, Philip of Hesse.

      • We Christians interpret the Old T., through the lens of the New T..

        That may help a bit.

        • James the Mad says:

          Ah, but the only place in the NT that addresses polygamy is in relation to leaders. As a non-leader there is nothing in the NT to prevent me from having 3 wives. All it would do is disqualify me from the pulpit, and from the church board.

          Of course, my first wife might have something to say on the subject, and my finances certainly wouldn’t allow it. But I can find no biblical impediment to me taking 2 more wives.

          • I guess God has his ways of preventing it. (wives, money, etc.)

            And the many rich men and women do have lots of them. Maybe not at the same time, but many unofficial wives and husbands.

          • Yes, rich can have a series of monogamous relationships and still afford a vacation with their current spouse, however, that certainly isn’t biblical in the NT, as Jesus accuses them men seeking divorce as “hard hearted” and basically tells his followers to live better than that.

            So, again, do you see anything wrong with forcing a rape victim to marry her rapist or not.

    • This article is not about homosexuality, in fact it specifically says the Bible would not support such unions. It’s about whether we can discern one transcultural “biblical” pattern for marriage and family practices.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Problem is, whenever you put “Biblical” and “Marriage” in the same sentence, these days it’s always linked to the Gay Rights fight.

        • Christiane says:

          ‘fight’ is the right word, Headless,
          I’m afraid . . . and the fighters are also fighting against a host of other ‘sins’ that they have chosen to point to rather than to look at their own judgmentalism and sinfulness

          I suspect, sadly, that the word ‘biblical’ is now used by those people to give cred to anything they say is true about others who do not share their own views . . .
          such as co-opting the term ‘the biblical gospel’ to represent a truncated version of ‘gospel’ that leaves out so very much of the mercy of God and His providence for those who are maligned and mistreated in this world.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            In these discussions I generally take “Biblical” to be a prefix indicating that what follows will reflect early 21st century white American Evangelical cultural assumptions. Any connection with anything in the Bible is incidental.

  2. Christianity didn’t develop monogamous marriage, monogamous marriage preexisted, and came into the early christian community through Roman law. When Rome became Christian, the Roman view of marriage became the Christian view. So I don’t really think the bible speaks to the legal form that marriage should take, different societies are just going to have to figure for themselves what they want the social norm of family creation and child rearing to look like.

    In our particular context of 2013 United States. I think Christians should stop spending so much effort trying to hurt gay people, and deny them the ability to have the same secular endorsement of their partnerships that heterosexual couples enjoy.

    • Christiane says:

      I think that gay people should not be harassed by anyone, least of all Christians.
      The problem with ‘marriage’ in this country was to tie it to the state as a civil right, so that those who are not legally married suffer the loss of many rights that are a ‘given’ in legal marriages.

      It would be better to ‘separate’ legal marriage from religious marriage, so that no American in a long-term partnership with another American is denied a chance to visit them in hospital, or denied any other of the rights of the legally-married which are taken for granted, but should never be unless they extend to all of our people.
      The persecution of gay people in the civil arena must stop.

      • But the problem with separating legal and religious marriage is that marriage only means something if it has teeth. At some point scoundrels and womanizers have to be held accountable. Do we want the church to have power to inflict punishment on people for breaking their marriage vows? What kind of power? This sounds like a sub-legal community. Do we want that? If religious marriage has no power, what is it, exactly, and what does it mean?

      • I saw the actress Kristen Bell on Ellen’s show yesterday, and she made a great point. She and her partner, a male, have been together for years, own property together and now have a child together, They both feel they don’t want to be legally married until all citizens of California can be married. She noted the myriad of hoops they have had to jump through legally to have even some of the rights that would be assumed by saying “I do” in front of a Justice of the peace officer. That is the important part in all of this…the civil rights. Keep all the religious traditions you want, but this is why our forefathers saw the importance of separating church and state. Opinions will always vary on what the bible says about everything, but either all are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights or we are not.

        • Well, in most western countries, common law is equivallent to marriage in terms of child custody and property rights. Maybe allowing common law to be equivalent to marriage would stem some of the demand for legalizing gay marriage. I live in a country that has allowed gay marriage for almost a decade, but allowed common-law couples almost equal rights well before then, there was no rush to the alter when the law changed and many gay couples I know still remain common law. BTW, no catastrophic events occurred with legalizing gay marriage and, this should wake up every American, we have a much lower divorce rate than the US, because common law is such a good deal only the more traditional make their way to an alter to get hitched. We live right next to you and don’t have vastly differing life circumstances, so it really is about common law vs. marriage rights between our two countries.

  3. Their interpretation comes across as incredibly mushy (that’s the technical term for it :)

    “some polygamous biblical figures (e.g., Abraham, Jacob) were highly blessed”

    Is there a single mention in Scripture of anyone being blessed _because_ of their polygamy? Or were they blessed _in spite of_ same?

    “non-monogamous understandings of this passage in ancient Judaism, including those allowing divorce and remarriage”

    Divorce and re-marriage is not “non-monogamous”.

    I think we need to respect what Jesus said – that God created one man and one woman to cleave (stick) together.

    • J.Random says:

      In 2 Samuel 12, God says through the prophet Nathan that God actively gave David those multiple wives.

      In Deuteronomy, God commands Israel to practice Levirate marriage — if your brother dies and leaves a widow, you have to marry her, regardless of whether you’re already married.

      It’s naive to pretend that the God described by the OT was secretly against polygamy: that’s just reading a modern preference backward into the text.

      • Re: David’s wives
        God is actively behind everything that happens, sometimes as a blessing, sometimes as a challenge, sometimes to make a point.

        Re: Levirate marriage
        Is that put forward as a model of what is right? Or a concession to dealing with the problems of life?

        • There is no biblical model put forward (even by Christ) that is said to be the only correct model. Your arguments are especially weak about David’s wives.

      • Didn’t Jesus clarify this by saying that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of our hearts? I think this also applies to polygamy because he clearly says that marriage is between two people and can only be broken by adultery.

      • In Levirate marriage the wife was the man’s brother’s wife and the children created were the man’s brother’s children. The man was just a stand-in. As nedbrek said this was a concession to deal with the problems of life back then (the care of the widow and the continuity of the family line).

  4. Marcus Johnson says:

    Actually, if we define “biblical marriage” as a sacrament created by God, regardless of whether it’s between a man and a woman or not, the fact that we choose to confirm our marriages with a state-approved license means that there isn’t a single “biblical” marriage in this country. It would be like asking our state’s secretary of state to approve our baptism or communion. Bringing in a third party to validate something that God has already validated, just for the purpose of government-approved benefits, renders the validation of God as inadequate.

    Of course, the other option is that while God approves of marital relationships, we declared it a sacrament, not God. Now that I think of it, is there even a passage of Scripture that either a) used the word sacrament or b) listed what the church should consider as sacraments? If not, I think we’ve done a lot of Scripture-stretching to justify our establishment of marriage as a sacrament.

    • Marcus Johnson:

      The word “sacrament” comes into our lexicon through the Latin “sacramentum”, which was a solemn pledge, usually associated with the divine, or at least invoking the divine. An example would be the sacramentum of a Roman soldier- he made a solemn oath to protect the Emperor and Empire, invoking the gods to bear witness to his promise, and to deal with him if he should ever break his pledge.

      St. Jerome used the term “sacramentum” in his Vulgate translation from the Greek, replacing ????????? (mysterion). Used in the New Testament to refer to many of the Mysteries of the Faith (the Incarnation, Resurrection, etc), within Christianity the major religious rites- primary among them the Eucharist and Baptism- began to be associated with mysterion more exclusively. Even today, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox refer to the Sacraments as the Holy Mysteries.

      As such, while the word “sacrament” is not in the original Greek, it has an early appearance and usage within the Church.

  5. Matthew 19:4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ Matthew 19:5 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
    Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one.

    • J.Random says:

      Still haven’t read the article, huh? It talks about this too.

      • The gist of the article is the same ol’ story from leftist Christians who do not want God or anyone else telling them how to live.

        The creative order and clear words, in many places of Scripture, are plain and unambiguous. But the desire to have whatever we want for our own selfish desires at the detriment of the society at large, is undeniably strong.

        Now…go ahead and tell me that I “didn’t read the article”…again.

        • I’m not sure about the others, but Hector Avalos is actually an atheist. And a highly aggressive one who’s famous for calling for “The End of Biblical Studies.”

          • Sure. They say it’s an ancient book for ancient times and we just know better now.

            Technology may have changed…a lot. Bit the hearts of men and women haven’t progressed one iota.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Note that this is, in the strictest sense of the term, an ad hominem argument. If you can address the argument, then address it. If you have to start pointing out the personal failings of the person making the argument, this is an implicit acknowledgement that you got nothing.

          • Robert F says:

            Well, since most of us here at iMonk are not biblical scholars, we do not possess the resources to determine if what we are getting from a scholar is all real and dependable, or just a bunch of polemical hooey. It is legitimate, then, for us to point up whether or not a scholar has a commitment to the Lord who Christians know as the Lord of Scripture in an attempt to determine how much weight we should give to their voice when balancing the pros and cons of an argument.

            In addition, I would submit that it’s impossible for someone without a commitment to Jesus Christ to truly understand and correctly interpret the Christian Scriptures.

          • It’s not an ad hominem. I was merely pointing out that they’re not all leftist Christians, which Steve had assumed.

            With that said, while unbelievers can certainly do valuable work in Biblical Studies, I’m not sure they’re very useful in discussions on how (or whether) Christians should see the Bible as authoritative.

          • Robert F says:

            I think “The End of Biblical Studies” would be a great idea, if it means the end of endless biblical scholarly wrangling and debate between academic specialists so narrowly defined that the distinctions between the various “experts” is practically meaningless and largely irrelevant to any Christian community, progressive or conservative.

        • Yes Steve, it still seems like you haven’t read the article but instead just assumed the gist of it. Open your mind a tad and let someone show you another perspective. It may be beneficial. At least try and meet the authors halfway. You must see that there is at least a hint of a point in what they’re saying?

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        J, yes the article glosses over Matt.19, but if you look at the context Jesus says that these concessions were because of the hardness of people’s hearts,not because these bear God,s imprimature.

    • Yes.
      That’s right Steve.
      But you’ll never convince those who don’t want to believe.
      And, the founding fathers of the U.S. would agree with you too.
      Separation of church and state never meant separation of morality from state.

  6. The “biblical” view depends on which part of the bible we’re using to proof-text our prejudices, or allow us to get away with things.

    The Old Testament clearly permits polygamy. Even God, in his parable in Ezekiel, has two (unfaithful) wives. Adultery is defined as having any woman who’s not yours, who already has a husband; not our current cultural standard of extramarital sex in general. That’s the biblical view. But it’s not the Christian view.

    Our view isn’t based on the OT. It stems from Paul’s instructions to Christian leaders, in which he expected bishops and deacons to be “one-woman men,” if we translate it literally. Monogamy (though, admittedly, serial monogamy, like today) was the cultural norm in the Roman Empire. Since we don’t want to disqualify ourselves from serving in the church, that became our standard. Thus we didn’t offend monogamous pagans and make it harder to preach the gospel to them. Plus monogamy has its benefits: Nearly every time we read about polygamy in the OT, strife follows.

    It’s only when people try to hunt down some OT definitions of marriage (usually so we can be more legalistic about it) that we wind up with problems.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Plus monogamy has its benefits: Nearly every time we read about polygamy in the OT, strife follows.

      Which sounds like another example of what one Jewish friend called “the Subversive Wisdom of Torah”. Polygamy was normal in those cultures at that time; a fish doesn’t know it’s wet and if Torah had forbidden it outright, it would have been too much of a paradigm change and the people (especially the rich guys with the harems) would have just blown it off and done it anyway. Instead, Torah allows it but includes all these anecdotes about how it can go wrong — “All things are lawful, but all are not wise.”

    • The problem with this argument is: are you saying there would be no conflict in monogamous marriage? That contradicts Genesis 3, which clearly sets forth that there will be. So, if the stories had been written about monogamous couples, and they had problems, would that have led us to say it wasn’t God’s plan?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Put any two people together, you’re going to have SOME friction.

      • …and the problem with that, of course is that if a man has conflict in a singular, monogamous marriage, why would he want to multiply that exponentially with each wife he adds? I’ve heard enough guys say “I’ve got my hands full enough with the one wife I already do have. I couldn’t handle another!” :P

        • Amen and amen. :)

        • George C says:

          Miguel, I always tell my wife that I am too lazy for an affair. I could see myself giving in to a momentary temptation of a one night stand, but the amount of work required for a full blown affair is too much for me.

          As for more wives, I always picture them enjoying each others company more than mine and ‘taking over’ the house. I would be regulated to hanging out in the garage hiding from the “honey-do” lists.

          I don’t think polygamy’s wrong, but it sure seems to come with it’s own built in punishment.

          • @ George.
            Please go down this page to see my post to someone else Re: “better to marry than burn” verse.

            It’s often assumed by many Christians (preachers usually, and in their sermons or blogs about marriage and relationships) that singles, those who have not married, are steeped in sexual sin, but that Christian married couples are impervious to sexual sin, which they are not.

            Thank you for mentioning that as a married guy you are still susceptible to sexual sin.

      • There’s strife in every relationship. Even Jesus wanted the Father to get him out of the cup set before him.

        My point was not that the strife seen in the bible’s polygamy is the bible’s subtle argument against it. I don’t believe the writers of scripture had that in mind. The Old Testament makes no argument against polygamy, just as the New Testament appears to make the assumption Christians will be monogamous.

        It’s simply that, like slavery, there are dehumanizing aspects to its practice which Christians eventually recognized, and we decided to ban it outright. A husband and wife can be equal partners; a husband of several wives won’t be. A husband and wife both suffer significant loss in divorce; a husband of several wives won’t lose so much by the loss of one wife, but the wife will lose just as much as always. A husband of many wives needn’t be faithful to his one spouse, but can date and accumulate as many spouses as society permits, while his wives must meanwhile be content with their lot and limitations. And so forth. All these things are practical considerations, not biblical arguments against polygamy. I can point out how each of them seem to undermine the idea of a husband and wife being one flesh, yet the Old Testament patriarchs clearly didn’t think that was the problem we would.

        • Yes, agree. As I said to Miguel the takeaway from the article is not contra-monogamy, but just to recognize we can’t make a simplistic “biblical” argument.

  7. Steve Newell says:

    There is a key aspect of Christian marriage that I believe that has not been address: Christian marriage is a shadow of Christ and the Church. The role of the husband is Christ and the role of the wife is the Church (Eph. 5: 22-32). This really should be the basis on which we have our conversation about the “biblical” view of marriage.

    • Jonathan says:

      Then drop “biblical” and call it the “Christian” view of marriage. Yes, that’d be a harder sell in a pluralistic country, and would run afoul of the Establishment Clause, if it became the ground of government enforcement, but it would be a refreshingly honest approach to policy that everyone knows is really not in defense of marriage but in reaction to same-sex marriage. Someone who really wanted to pattern civil marriage laws after “a shadow of Christ and the Church” would work to repeal the laws allowing easy divorce and remarriage.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Truth in advertising. Calling it the “Christian view of marriage” is accurate; this is the definition of marriage held by Christians. (Though whether this means Christians or CHRISTIANS(TM) could just push the whole fight to a different level.)

    • That’s where I was going with it, Steve. The best argument for “one man, one woman,” is that the church in the marriage metaphor is the spotless bride, singular. The body is one, and thus when the Son takes his bride, he takes one wife.

    • petrushka1611 says:

      That passage, though, is talking about how husbands and wives should treat each other. _That_ is the point, not how many wives a husband can or can’t have. I’m sure if Paul had been addressing a man who had two wives, he would have told him to love both of them as Christ loves the church.

      If anything, with the way the church is splintered and divided, polygamy seems a more appropriate picture. (I say this with all irony.)

    • Dana Ames says:

      As petrushka commented, the Eph 5 passage is about the underlying “how” of the relationship: that the husband is to love to the point of giving himself up for the wife, and that the wife is to respect the husband. Nowhere does it say the husband IS Christ and the wife IS the church. The passage is not about roles. Roles are defined parts in a static play. Relationships are alive and growing and perichoretic. That is why the passage is analogical, not a strict definition. Love includes respect, and respect includes love. The relationship is meant to point to a bigger relational truth than itself. The “roles” approach is backwards and nowhere near as rich as the actual point Paul was trying to make.

      Dana

    • @ Steve who said, “Christian marriage is a shadow of Christ and the Church. The role of the husband is Christ and the role of the wife is the Church”

      What of never married women over the age of 30 such as myself? Singles are also part of the “bride of Christ” and reflect that God takes and accepts all to Him, and when you are dead, you will not be married to your earthly spouse, you are ultimately married to Jesus.

      So I do wish people would lay off the “marriage on earth = reflects God or relationship of humanity to God” point. Yes, I get that is alluded to in Scripture, but single Christians get left out by an over emphasis on marriage analogies.

  8. Trying to draw exact conclusions about marriage from among all the vast and varied cultural contexts represented in the scriptures cited above is, in my opinion, almost impossible. What i do think can be seen, is that in every context, when God directed some one about marriage, he asked that they do things differently. He asked that they be a people set apart. I believe that should be the guiding principle as we look at marriage today, i think we are to do it differently. The world says ‘If you don’t like the first one, marry again.” We should do it differently. The world says” Live together as a trial period, see if you actually like each other.” I think we should do it differently. The world says “Get married if it makes sense fiscally for you, Get married because it is your civic right, Get married because you are in Vegas.” I could go on, but the point is, we are to do it differently.

    • Cameron says:

      What do you suggest is the proper reason for marriage? The only NT advice that comes immediately to mind is ‘It’s better to marry than burn with passion.’

      • @ Cameron
        Re: “Better to marry than burn.”

        True that is in there, but that verse has been abused to mean that married couples never ever have sexual sin.

        But observe all the Christian men who have been caught raping women, molesting girls, or Christian married men and Christian women who confess to having pr0n addictions. (There are entire ministries online to do nothing but help Christians who have internet pr0n addictions.)

        Meanwhile, I remain a Christian virgin at over age 40, and I don’t view pr0n.

        According to most Christian laypersons and preachers, I am not supposed to exist, because the stereotype is that all Christians are fornicating if they are past the age of 25-30.

        You know, all singles are supposedly “burning with lust,” we can’t contain ourselves, so we’re out having sex with lots and lots of people every week. (Even though we really are not.)

        We are told to marry to avoid this burning lust, but although we want marriage (it is assumed we do not want marriage and love being single too much), we cannot find anyone to marry.

        But those married Christian couples, boy howdy, they never, ever have affairs, sexual fantasies involving Brad Pitt, or look at dirty magazines or hire prostitutes or get arrested for rape. Married couples have achieved perfect sexual sanctification in this life time.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Problem is, “Biblical(TM)” has been overused so much recently to mean “The One True Way — MY Way” that the word has lost all meaning except as a “ME RIGHT! YOU WRONG! YOU SHUT UP!” a snarl word, which does nothing nowadays except confuse the issue.

    Thirty years ago, the equivalent word was “SCRIPTURAL(TM)”. I was overdosed on it during my time in the Evangelical Circus to the point I am now literally allergic to the word. And “BIBLICAL(TM)” will be no different.

    • This why I prefer to use “traditional” to “biblical.” Even though I believe the authority of scripture is higher than tradition, it at least gives a nod to the idea that my position is based on the traditional interpretation of scripture, i.e., in continuity with Christian history, without accusing anyone of rejecting Biblical authority just because they interpret it differently.

    • Christiane says:

      good comment, HEADLESS!

  10. Marcus Johnson says:

    I’m doing some word searches in BibleGateway.com right now. So far, it seems that nowhere in Scripture is the word “marriage” defined as holy or sacred. God gave numerous instructions on how to marry, and so does Jesus, and the apostles, but nowhere is that ritual sanctified. Can anyone find evidence of this so-called “sanctity of marriage” in Scripture?

    • Along these lines, the Pilgrims did not marry in church: they were always married by magistrates. They adopted the tradition while living in the Netherlands and realized that there was no scriptural command for ministers to participate in weddings.

      The Pilgrims also observed a much stricter separation of church and state than their Puritan cousins to the North.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Even though the Pilgrims were the first wave of Puritan settlers in the New World.

      • Robert F says:

        Actually, during the first centuries of the church, all marriage ceremonies for Christians and non-Christian alike were performed by the secular authorities, whether those authorities were pagan or later were Christian. I believe that it was only in the Middle Ages that marriages began to be performed by the church and in church buildings, though I could be wrong about the time frame and there may have been local differences in the development of marriage customs.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Does anyone know if marriages in the Bible were even officiated by any legal authority, or was it all just agreements between households?

      • Suzanne says:

        Believe you me, I know plenty of ministers who would be thrilled to escape from the wedding circus, bridezillas and their mothers and aunts all!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Something I’ve been curious about:

          Given the Christianese Purity Culture and Salvation By Marriage Alone tropes and resulting extreme emphasis on Getting Married Young, would Fundagelical Christians have a higher incidence of Bridezilla Syndrome than the general population?

          • Christiane says:

            I think there is also a ‘women are saved by having babies’ thing going on among the quiverfull set . . . now I might have got this wrong, but that is how it seems to be presented

          • petrushka1611 says:

            No, HUG, because then the brides would be in rebellion to however many men they’re supposed to be in submission to at the time.

          • HUG said, Given the Christianese Purity Culture and Salvation By Marriage Alone tropes and resulting extreme emphasis on Getting Married Young, would Fundagelical Christians have a higher incidence of Bridezilla Syndrome than the general population?

            HUG even though I was a Christian for many years (and remain one, I guess, albeit slightly), and wanted marriage, I’d have to say no, it’s not true for all Christian women. It might be true for some, like it is for some Non Christian brides.

            I never cared about the wedding day itself should I have gotten married, and I’ve always been turned off and annoyed by women who make a big deal out of it, and who want to waste thousands upon thousands on a one-day event. (Which is even funnier when you realize about 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, even among Christians.)

            I used to have a college pal in my 20s who was planning her church ceremony (she and hubby had already married in civil ceremony) and her non-stop discussion of what kind of dress she had chosen, the color of the flowers she was going with at the church, etc, made me want to throw up. It’s all she talked about for four months in a row.

            I can handle a tiny bit of wedding talk (or “I’m pregnant” or “I just had a baby talk”) but women who go on and on about new babies or weddings annoy the crud out of me.

            I was a Chriitian who just wanted to get married. I did not care about the trappings too much, the flowers, the dress, etc. So not all women are total bridezillas.

    • I’m teaching a sacraments class at my church. I was surprised to find that Marriage was one of the last sacraments to be ummmm . . . sacramented.

      It didn’t happen until the Middle Ages to help the church deal with linage and heirs as well as to deal with some heretical sects who rejected marriage. Augustine was one of the first to argue the special nature of marriage, but it was the 12th century Council of Verona that batted the idea up to the Pope. This is one of the reasons that some reforming churches rejected marriage as a Sacrament – although several added it back later.

    • Good point. Hebrews 13:4 seems to come close, but it sounds more like it is saying married sex is holy.

  11. Although some may view Jesus’ interpretation of Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:3-10 as an endorsement of monogamy

    Uh huh. So who cares what he thought about it anyways? What does he know about being “Biblical?” Our “modern academic Biblical scholars” get the final, authoritative say in these matter, anyways.

    Jesus and other Jewish interpreters conceded that there were also non-monogamous understandings of this passage in ancient Judaism, including those allowing divorce and remarriage.

    Yeah, way to blur the lines. “Jesus and other Jewish interpreters” my colon. Allowing for divorce under some circumstances is not the same as accepting non-monogamous alternatives. Nowhere in scripture does Jesus himself offer a non-monogamous interpretation of Genesis. I’m sue some Jewish interpreters have. But is Jesus the authoritative final say, or is he just another “Jewish interpreter?”

    So, while it is not accurate to state that biblical texts would allow marriages between people of the same sex, it is equally incorrect to declare that a “one-man-and-one-woman” marriage is the only allowable type of marriage deemed legitimate in biblical texts.

    “Deemed legitimate?” Well is that isn’t a loophole large enough to drive some freight through. Progress equivocation, nothing more. Sure God didn’t bother instructing David to pick one wife and ditch the rest. It doesn’t follow that he approves of polygamy. You have to take those verses in the light of all the other verses. Just because one text seems to leave the option open, it doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t condemn it elsewhere.

    Seriously: Polygamy and celibacy? Some red herrings just never get old, do they? As if the church hadn’t offered consistent answers for this for centuries. Find me polygamy approved in the NT, and quit appealing to the encouragement towards celibacy as an argument against traditional marriage. I’m sorry, but how people take this seriously is beyond me. *agitated yawn*

    Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals, especially those ancient texts whose endorsements of other social institutions, such as slavery, would be universally condemned today, even by the most adherent of Christians.

    Yup. Slavery, Levitical laws, patriarchal society, severe penal code, these can all be conveniently brought up as reasons to get out from under traditional Christian interpretation of scripture forbidding something you want to do. Seriously, what sin can NOT be justified by trotting these out? I’m not aware of any. They swear that we’re the first generation to ever figure out these objections to a traditional interpretation of scripture.

    Obfuscational rhetoric channels my inner grouch. It betrays a particular agenda is more important than the search for truth.

    • Robert F says:

      Yes, MIguel, the setting aside of Jesus’ words as just one more voice among the welter of voices struck me, too; do these three people understand that for Christians, Jesus is Lord and God? That Jesus is the interpretative key for understanding God’s will for us, unlike the “other Jewish interpreters,” and even unlike the many voices that can be heard in the Bilbe?

      But of course, I would be surprised if these three secular scholars really believe that we can hear the voice of Jesus by reading the New Testament’s account of what he had to say; they probably believe, I would bet, that the words of Jesus in the New Testament are just like the rest of the Bible, a “complex collection,” and that only they possess the tools necessary to assess the authenticity of those words, and that it is there job to disabuse us of the idea that there is a single divine voice speaking to us in them.

      • Yes, you really put your finger on what bugs me about it. This elitist tone of self-appointed peer reviewers to God’s Word and church tradition. This theological chronological snobbery and over-confidence in the level of enlightenment we’ve achieved is the weakness, imo, of higher-critical scholarship.

      • Yes! This is what bothered me as well, the writers dismissed Christ’s teaching just like that.

    • Oh Miguel, I really think you are protesting too much. From my standpoint the takeaway from this article is not that it gives justification for overturning monogamy. Rather it simply points out that one cannot simply or directly apply “biblical” standards without taking into account that the Bible portrays a variety of cultural settings in which marriage and family matters were practiced very differently than the picture painted by those who claim there is one Biblical pattern. Even the Ten Commandments, with its “coveting” language envisions wives as property, a view few would even recognize today.

      For me the point is that we base our ethics and practices on more than the Bible. Culture has developed and the Bible has been a big part of that but it’s not the whole story. Polygamy died out not because the Bible condemned or even taught something plainly contrary to it (it doesn’t–at least in the OT), but because of many developmental factors in human thinking and societies, Christian and non-Christian alike.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Specifically, it is the argument by reductio ad absurdum: the demonstration that if you take a chain of logic seriously, it results in an absurd conclusion. In this case, it applies the “Biblical marriage” standard that people apply to gay marriage and instead applies it to polygamy. Rachel Held Evans’s year of Biblical womanhood does the same thing. My standard example of claims to read the Bible “literally” by applying a literal reading to Psalm 23:1 also does the same thing.

        Inevitably there is someone who responds that since he doesn’t support polygamy, or a cartoonish view of womanhood, or a ridiculous reading of Psalm 23, the argument is beside the point. Whether or not this incomprehension is willful varies.

      • Oh Miguel, I really think you are protesting too much.

        Of course I am. It is the moral duty of theological conservatives. I noticed the other day that I have certainly grown considerably crankier since becoming a Lutheran. Of course, this could also be do to the fact that I’m a teacher as well. :P

        Yeah, it doesn’t seem they’re trying to introduce Christian polygamy or anything, but it just seems a bit disingenuous to poke holes in traditional Christian teaching without proposing, explaining, and defending a viable alternative. The assertion that we are reading our cultural background into the text certainly has much truth to it, but in this instance, it seems they are putting the cart before the horse. Case in point, where did women’s lib and this idea of the nuclear family develop? Western Christendom.

        The appeal to Old Testament examples is a viable way of rebutting those who wield Levitical law selectively like a club. But unless they want to assert that polygamy IS acceptable according to Christianity, then to say “many in the OT practiced polygamy AND were blessed” is just a moot point.

        • “But unless they want to assert that polygamy IS acceptable according to Christianity, then to say “many in the OT practiced polygamy AND were blessed” is just a moot point.”

          I don’t think so. I think it’s more like: if you want to argue for any view of marriage, don’t just use a simplistic appeal to the Bible, because the evidence isn’t all that clear or consistent.

          However, I would agree with you that Christians have strong arguments for many traditional moral and ethical positions (in addition to many progressive positions, I would add). However, I think we would be wiser to appeal to something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral of Scripture/Tradition/Reason/Experience to make our arguments.

          • IMO, everybody uses the Wesleyan quadrilateral, whether they realize it or not, but how your prioritize the four will dramatically influence your results. But I don’t buy all this interpretative pluralism that is all the rage today. Just because somebody can find their views in scripture doesn’t mean they have rightly discerned its meaning. Christian theology does not justify anything that somebody can do and remain blessed. In fact, Christian theology teaches that evil men will and do prosper, even if only for a season, and that God’s people are eaten up like grass. So just because God doesn’t seem to punish something doesn’t make it right; seeming results aren’t the ultimate determiner of Christian ethics. I also don’t buy this idea that the Bible can’t make up its own mind on so many issues. I think those pushing this idea are projecting their own idealogical pluralism onto the text, while at the same time criticizing the cultural blinders of traditional interpreters and idealogical limitations of the original authors (which, imo, is an indirect assault on most theories of inspiration). This strikes me as presumptuous. It’s one thing to appeal to scripture in a simplistic manner. But one of the foundational ideas of Protestantism in the first place is that the text of scripture is the final appeal, because it is the voice of God. To say that the textual evidence is unclear or inconsistent is, by implication, to say something derogatory about its claimed author. It’s just bad theology, and intellectually inconsistent, to place ourselves as judge over the text, determine what is authentic and trustworthy, and still claim that it somehow has divine origin. If God bothered to communicate to us in written form, I think it reasonably follows that we can get the point, else he is incompetent.

          • “To say that the textual evidence is unclear or inconsistent is, by implication, to say something derogatory about its claimed author.”

            Not at all. Perhaps it says something about our tendencies to want to use the text for our own purposes rather than to receive it for the purposes for which God gave it.

          • Robert F says:

            If the textual evidence is unclear and inconsistent, how can we know for what purposes God gave the text?

            Surely he didn’t give it so that tens-of-thousands of scholars would have a way of making a living in a multitude of narrowly defined biblical specialties, did he?

          • I don’t want to misunderestimate the ability of man to screw up revelation, mishearing God to say whatever he wanted to hear before God spoke, but just because our hearing is unclear doesn’t mean that God is incapable of speaking clearly. Would you say that God is inconsistent, or that he changes his mind on matters of truth and morality? I, personally, do not think such a God could be trusted. The fact that God uses Words to communicate with us validates their efficacy (just like the incarnation is the ultimate validation of matter), especially when the Spirit is always present and active with the words. I don’t think it is a good idea to project our lack of clarity onto the text as if God were an incompetent communicator, after our image. Such postmodern communication theory eventually leads to the conclusion that the Bible can’t be rightly understood at all, and there is no such thing as orthodoxy.

          • Robert F says:

            That there is “no such thing as orthodoxy,” right belief, is one of the core things that so-called post-modernism is all about, Miguel; when you here talk about “generous orthodoxy” you are most likely hearing about an “orthodoxy” that gives away the store. Call it oxymoron-doxy.

    • @ Miguel said, “and quit appealing to the encouragement towards celibacy as an argument against traditional marriage”

      I’m confused by your comment. I think the article was saying the Bible, in places, encourages or suggests celibacy for those who cannot or will not marry, not that they were arguing against traditional marriage on that point.

      I’m over the age of 40, never married, and a virgin, because I take it the Bible is not okay with pre-marital sex.

      So, I’m a life long celibate because I’m not married. Are you saying the Bible is fine and peachy with an un-married person living a life of fornication?

      Should I go ahead and dispense of my virginity with some guy I’m not married to because being a life long celibate is (apparently in your view?) impossible or too hard or somehow “against” marriage or something?

      1 Corinthians 7:8
      Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

      • I think you’ve got me wrong. I would absolutely commend the decision you have made. It just seemed to me that the argument was being made that since the Bible encouraged the rout of lifelong celibacy, it wasn’t necessarily in favor of what we call traditional marriage.

  12. Robert F says:

    ” …..such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy….” Now, I’m on what’s often referred to as the progressive side in the matter of same sex domestic partnership/marriage both in the wider society and in the church(es), but the the sentence I quoted is a bit much. You’d think that legislators are thumbing through their bibles (the ones that own bibles) and vetting the scriptural validity of same sex marriage/partnerships as they meet together to formulate public policy. Please. Legislators on both sides of the issues involved have a right to bring their own values and the values of the people they represent into the chambers where they will debate and wrangle toward whatever decisions result, and they have right to advocate based on values, whether conservative or progressive. That’s what democratic process involves. To caricature conservative legislators as hermeneutical ignoramuses who are simply trying to enact their ignorant interpretation of values is another example of progressive academics insisting that the only way anyone can oppose their interpretations and values is out of ignorance. These are weighty matters involving longstanding traditions and customs, both religious and secular.

    The other subtext to the comment is the perennial assertion on the part of secular scholars that the biblical corpus lacks unity (hence the reference to the “complex collection of texts”), which always carries with it the implicit idea that only scholars possess the necessary resources to help us wend our way through the texts to see what is authentic and what is not, and to disabuse us of our quaint notion that there is a single divine voice speaking to us from inside the scriptural texts.

    The arrogance of secular scholarship is truly astonishing.

    The Bible is the church’s book (or library, if you like), and only those who already profess a commitment to Jesus Christ can begin to comprehend its meaning and interpret it in ways faithful to the purposes for which it was written.

  13. Werther says:

    “Ezra 10:2-11 forbids interracial marriage…”

    Nonsense. “Race” is a modern concept. Ezra forbids intermarriage between Jews (an ethno-religious group) and gentiles (i.e., non-Jews).

    “…some polygamous biblical figures (e.g., Abraham, Jacob) were highly blessed…”

    Some prostitutes were also highly blessed, e.g. Rahab.

    Abraham was blessed to have numerous descendants, but through the unexpected ferttility of Sarah, not through Hagar (whose offspring only complicated matters). David’s habit of acquiring additional wives led to divine rebuke (though for murder, not polygamy) as well as intractable family problems. Which is typical of polygamous Middle Eastern monarchies, I might add.

  14. Marcus Johnson says:

    I’ve noticed that we’ve spent a lot of time on this topic today discussing the “marriage” part of the term “Biblical marriage,” but not a lot discussing the “Biblical” part. In other words, it seems that this whole conversation seems underscored with the belief that the purpose of the Bible is to teach us how to live, not to point us to the One for whom we’re living. As a result, the progressives fall into the “Well, if this is right, then how about this? Or this?” argument, and the traditionalists happily follow suit. In the end, we are much farther from the real heart of God than we were when we first started.

    After doing some word searching (thanks, BibleGateway), I came to the following conclusions:

    1) Nowhere in the Bible does the word marriage appear with either the word holy or sacred.
    2) There is no indication in the Bible that marriages were either officiated by the church, or subject to the approval of a purely religious authority. There is some indication that elders would resolve marital disputes in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but that is hardly the same as having a pastor saying, “by the power vested in me….”
    3) In both Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is a specific account of Jesus explaining that marriage will not exist in heaven.
    4) Paul is very careful to explain that his position on marriage is not “Biblical.” It seems to be based more on his personal observations than some divine revelation.

    I’m still trying to put all this together, but it seems that I’m arriving at a conclusion that marriage is not inherently sacred. The vows that are taken are sacred, and the responsibilities that one spouse has to the other ought to reflect the relationship of Christ to the church, but that’s about it. I’m seriously thinking we (the Church) just made the rest up during the Middle Ages and the rise of Evangelicalism.

    With all that stated, maybe it’s okay to return the idea at the beginning of this post: that the Bible–and any Scriptural references to marriage–were not given to us to tell us how to live, but to give us a better idea of the one for whom we’re living. Unfortunately, most of us prefer the former over the latter, and so we end up standing in the middle of a fork in the road, digging through the Bible, trying to find the verse that tells us where we need to go. And that’s part of why we–progressives and traditionalists alike–look pretty dumb to nonbelievers.

    • Marcus, thank you for this comment.

      For the emphasis of the post, and the reason that I put it up, was indeed to highlight the word “biblical” and to encourage us to discuss what the Bible does and does not do for us when it comes to constructing ethical positions regarding matters like marriage.

    • I dunno. It seems that Jesus held marriage to be a divine institution. If that doesn’t make something sacred, you might argue that neither are the sacraments.

      I mean, it stands true that in the church marriage has accumulated quite a bit of cultural baggage over the years. But I find your attempt to return to a “tabula rasa” reading of the text on the issue of marriage to be challenging. I’ll read with a much more critical eye, having read your thoughts.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Well, Miguel, let me tell you a bit about the Orthodox ceremony and extrapolate…

        The couple are met at the doorway, exchange rings in the betrothal ceremony, and then led into the nave for the actual marriage ceremony (not unlike the Jewish take on betrothal and wedding… there is also a like “first steps together” moment where the couple circle the table on which lie the Cross and the Gospels 3 times, holding the priest’s equivalent of the western stole… hmm….). The ceremony is the same for everyone and nobody gets to “write their own vows;” in fact, there are no vows in the O. ceremony. We really do believe that love (God’s in concert with and purifying ours) will keep them together… The bride and groom don’t really say anything except “Lord, have mercy” and “Amen” and the Our Father. The ceremony consists of much prayer, choral response, the reading of the Eph 5 passage for the Epistle and the Wedding at Cana passage for the Gospel. In the ceremony itself, there is no commentary on those readings. (The priest may exhort the couple along those, or other appropriate, lines at another time, but not in the ceremony itself.)

        Like the other Mysteries, the Church (not a hierarchical system, but the Body of Christ) receives a common and ordinary act of life and blesses and sanctifies and transforms it: washing, eating, pairing off… The Church can do this because of ***the Incarnation*** – Christ has entered the world as a human being and has “taken up” all of this life into Himself as God – rather than the Sacraments having “divine origin” or being the result of some kind of a divine fiat. I find this to be much more of an organic, holistic, relational, loving, giving and redemptive approach by God toward his creation. Though EO refers to the “7 sacraments” that the whole church has recognized, it has never dogmatically restricted the actual number. Orthodoxy affirms that all created things are interrelated, and everything in the material world is able to bear the life and glory of God, without being pantheistic.

        Dana

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        I’m not so sure that Jesus held marriage to be a divine institution, as much as he approached marriage as a social institution into which God’s presence can have an impact. It would explain why Paul spoke of slavery, marriage, and parent-child relationships in the same section of the book of Ephesians: as social institutions which he neither approved nor condemned, but explained that the principles of mutual submission can still be affirmed.

        And I’m pretty sure marriage has always had its cultural baggage, both before and after the church assumed control of that institution. I don’t think this all means that we should toss out marriage altogether, but it might mean that we need to do some more exploring regarding the distinction between the cultural norms and the divine inspiration that influence how we think about marriage.

        • It’s kind of hard to read Matthew 19:3-9 and come away with the idea that Jesus thought marriage was just a social institution. But I don’t know exactly when or how it became so church regulated. I’m all for cutting past cultural norms, but for believers, this must be done with respect for, at the very least, what Jesus said about it, not to mention the rest of the NT.

  15. Note the new wording adopting by the denomination in which I am currently a member:

    We believe the Bible teaches that marriage refers to the covenant relationship exclusively between one man and one woman, as instituted by God in the beginning (Genesis 2:20b-24; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4).

    Why was this implemented? Because the church wants to uphold marriage? No, because the church wants to protect their pastors from having to protect same-sex weddings.

    This change to the statement of faith has not yet been adopted by our local church. My issues is: 1. I don’t believe it is a true reflection of what the bible teaches as evidenced by the article above. and 2. I don’t believe a statement like this belongs in a statement of faith. Not sure yet what I will do when it is introduced.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I can understand your concern, Michael. That is such an odd assortment of verses, and I’m not sure how the three passages together can really form a coherent doctrine.

  16. Late to this party, but the great thing about being Roman Catholic is that the Church has ALWAYS stuck with the “one man-one-woman open to children until death do us part” teaching. (Yes, there have been questionable annulments and winks & nods to the use of birth control at the parish level, but policy has not changed.)

    I know this doesn’t help advance the argument for the rest of Christians, but again points to the validity of tradition and authority when winding through the maze of modern quandaries…

  17. And here i thought polygamy was a result of the fall. The “blessing” mentioned of Abraham, etc, could be because somehow they had to be fruitful and multiply in spite of the fall and all the corruption it brought to humantiy…babies dying, women dying in childbirth, rapes, murders, etc, etc

    . now, we are to go and ‘make disciples’.

    The problem today in evangelicalism is that marriage/children has been elevated to a salvic status. I see the Nt as being much more passive about it. “If’ you are married then…..or “if” you are gonna burn with passion, get married. etc, etc.

  18. dumb ox says:

    “Ezra 10:2-11 forbids interracial marriage…”

    I think that passage forbids inter-ethnicity marriage, where Israel was not to marry outside the covenant, with those with no regard for God, his covenant, and his commandments and would lead Israel astray to foreign gods.

    Race implies difference in physical appearance. Like the nation of Israel, the tribes surrounding Israel were for the most part descendants of Abraham, so I can’t imagine physical distinctions were obvious – except for circumcision.

    These verses are likely from where some derive their prohibitions against interracial marriage and boycotts of Cheerios, but that is not the point of the text nor the story told in Ezra.

    • dumb ox says:

      More precisely, Ezra would prohibit inter-religious marriage, but even applying that outside Israel and its unique covenant relationship makes no sense. If we did, then marriage between Baptists and Presbyterians would be prohibited.

  19. Dana Ames says:

    Let anyone who wants to pair up have a civil union, with equal legal rights and responsibilities. Let anyone who wants a blessing for their union obtain one from their religious community. CS Lewis advocated for this; though I’m sure he did not have same-sex unions in mind, I think the principle is the same. This is how it has been done in Europe for a long time – in France since Napoleon, I believe. If you want to be married, you must marry before the local magistrate in the appropriate office. Then you have the church wedding. Basically the same point as the person above who commented on ancient Roman law – not that “the Roman view became the Christian view,” but that there was an overlapping of the two that had not existed before; the ancient church, being a minority community, was not “in the marriage business.”

    Christians didn’t have the same emphasis on status as in Greco-Roman culture. Part of the reason there were so many “virgin martyrs” during the Roman persecutions was that young women were disobeying their fathers and refusing to marry men who were not Christians, or refusing to marry at all, because they no longer saw their intrinsic worth tied to their social status as so-and-so’s wife, breeding children for the State. This was a true subversive act, because it was seen as treason and betrayal of the Roman “civil religion.” Many of those girls were denounced by their own parents and fiances.

    Oh well – USAChristians lost the battle to keep the “M-word” 20 – 25 years ago. We had the opportunity to have legislated equal civil union rights, and to have kept the Christian meaning of Marriage… but we kept waging the culture war instead.

    Dana

  20. Chris Harmon says:

    I claim no great intelligence of the Bible, but I carried the impression that many books were to be interpreted within the context of when and to whom it was written; e.g. Ezra was written to tell the account of of the “restoration of Exiles to Jerusalem and the re-establishment of their worship”. In I don’t know where earlier in the OT, when the LORD gave the Israelites their land, he instructed them to eliminate *everyone* there completely. No intermarriage – nothing. So when I read the reference to Ezra that comes to mind … it was stated that way to remind them that they shouldn’t intermarried in the first place.

    As well, I do generally agree with whomever the commenter was regarding polygamy with some of those listed in the article (Abraham, Jacob, etc.) that there was pain and suffering that was caused due to these multiple wives.. just read about Jacob and the fight between sisters (Leah and Rachel) over who was truly loved by Jacob … not to mention getting Bilhah and Zilpah (the “handmaids”) involved. Read about David who was quite the amazing and impressive story of what God will do (“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”), but then years later, you see him no longer even going to battle and instead lounging around and seeing Bathsheba afar. Solomon again with his thousands of wives and riches to no end, but we are told that these “wives turned his heart after other gods”. Yeah no doubt that there was polygamy in the OT, but was it beneficial in many of the times? Probably not. Again I don’t doubt that there were laws regarding a brother needing to marry a dead brother’s wife if they had no children, but the *intention* is vital – so that the woman would have a lineage (e.g. via a son) to carry on the inherited land, etc.

    With all that said, I’m left with the two greatest commandments: “Love the LORD your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we had polygamist neighbors, we would try to love them (you know what I mean… care about them, get to know them, invite them over, not ignore them, not be spiteful). And for those that want to involve homosexuality into this…. if we had a gay couple for neighbors, we would try to love them in the same way. Way to infrequently does anyone even know who their neighbors even are anymore, much less care or “love” them…

  21. Prescriptive vs descriptive understanding of scripture may help a bit.

    • I agree. Every time I read an article by some scholar who is deliberately trying to cloud the marriage issue by mixing what the Bible describes with what it proscribes I want to pull my hair out. I can’t believe that smart people keep falling for this crap. In His discourse Jesus made it clear that there are “allowances” that varied from what God originally intended. Seeing just how much we can distort God’s intent before it becomes sin is a separate discussion. In my opinion, an unworthy one.

      If we want the big picture on what God intended we can look at the beginning and the end. God made Adam and Eve (Genesis) to reflect and foreshadow the union of Christ and His Bride (Revelation). And it should be obvious that when Christians talk about a “Biblical view of marriage” they are talking about what God intended. I think part of our problem is that too few Christians really study the Bible anymore and so they will fall for any old bunk that sounds good from some “scholar.”

      • A resounding AMEN!!! The bottom line is that people will do and believe whatever they want to do and believe. That’s nothing new. The new part is that now these folks will twist the Bible to support their views and deny the clear teaching of scripture. Recall the famous line from Star Wars…..”These are not the droids you’re looking for.” Well, in this context the line now goes….”I know that’s what the Bible says, but that’s not really what it says.”Sigh……

  22. In the midst of all the Christian pontificating on marriage, whether the self help articles on how to strengthen marriage, or to argue against homosexual marriage, or to debate what “biblical marriage” is or is not, it’s often overlooked that at least half of adults in the USA are single, and of these, there is a sizable chunk of Christian women who desire marriage but who cannot find mates.

    Some of these Christian women opt to marry atheists, rather than to stay single forever.

    Hardly anyone in Christianity discusses this, and it needs to be discussed, rather than endless debates or self help books and blogs about marriage.

    • There is a sizable chunk of Christian men who desire marriage but who cannot find mates. Even worse is when I get the feeling God is preventing me from finding one (forced singleness).

      Things like this drive me nuts when I hear about gay “couples” whining incessently about not being able to marry (I feel sorry for them, of course, having to refrain from sexual relations until their unknown wedding day. Oh wait…)

  23. Here is one NT prof who, at least, is more honest about rejecting God’s word:
    Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is a distinguished New Testament scholar and explained his position in an article on homosexuality and the Church. He teaches at Emory University, a theological school of the United Methodist Church, which has the mission to train church leaders “grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern.” Unfortunately, Emory rejects biblical authority,
    [unlike Wesley], supports the ordination of women, and seeks to be at the forefront of institutions valuing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

    To quote Prof. Luke Timothy Johnson [if only it was -en, then I would not feel so bad]

    I think it is important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.

  24. Here is an article on Pres. Obama’s pro-homosexual remark given at Moorhouse commencement. This ought to be given wide distribution among Christians.

    http://www.blackchristiannews.com/news/2013/06/is-there-a-nathan-in-the-land-a-response-to-president-obamas-speech-at-morehouse-college.html