Marriage in the Bible

christian_marriageModern marriage in the west (outside of those who still hold to fundamentalist principles) bears little resemblance to marriage as it existed among Jews before the birth of Jesus or among the early Christians.

Marriage in Pre-Christian Judaism

In pre-Christian times, Jewish society was patriarchal. Women were purchased from their fathers for marriage, and were to remain chaste until that time. A man could divorce a woman and send her away at will.

Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.
— Jeremiah 29:6

Marrying a divorcee or even a woman who had had premarital sex was forbidden:

Take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these [you] shall not marry.
— Leviticus 21:13-15

By the time of the prophets, divorce had begun to be looked upon as wrong:

The Lord … no longer regards [you] with favor … because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “covers his garment with violence.”
— Malachi 2:13-16

Marriage According to Jesus

Jesus was against divorce:

What … God has joined together, let not man separate… Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.
— Mark 10:8-12

He made only one exception:

Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
— Matthew 5:32

Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.
— Matthew 19:9

Marriage According to Saint Paul

What is the purpose of marriage? According to Paul:

Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
— 1st Corinthians 7:1-40

Paul did not believe in equality:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives.
— Ephesians 5:22-33

The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband.
— 1st Corinthians 11:3

On adultery:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
— Hebrews 13:4

On divorce:

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes.
— 1st Corinthians 7:39

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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