Does The Bible Define Marriage?

0 Comment    Last updated: 2015-12-22 23:42:47

 By Chris Asher

      Much has been said about the “well-accepted fact” that the Bible defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.”  But that brings up a very interesting less-known fact.  This definition of marriage IS NOT IN THE BIBLE!  In fact the Old Testament is full of examples of our religious forefathers like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon having many wives and concubines. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3-4). 

      I believe that the marriage bond is one of the most basic and important relationships in any society.  And when the marriage bond is based on love and commitment, the children will have a better chance at success.  But my committed belief in marriage is no excuse to manufacture or manipulate Biblical passages to support my beliefs.

      I have read extensive articles that attempt to explain what God really wants, without regard for what the Bible really says in context.  These people appear to start with a belief, then proceed to manipulate the scripture to fit their belief.  I think it is interesting that these writers are usually trying to prove that someone else is doing something wrong, but they tend to ignore the sin in their own lives. Today a popular trend is to build religion around the belief that ‘God hates homosexuality’, even though very little is said about it in the scripture. In fact, out of 31,173 verses in the Bible, only four condemn homosexuality directly, and none of these are by Jesus.  Yet those who preach against homosexuality are often those who have had multiple marriages, multiple affairs, and even secret homosexual tendencies. When Jesus was defending the woman caught in adultery, he said, “
He who is without sin cast the first stone.”


       To examine what the Bible says about homosexuality I will be referring to an article on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website.  This article begins by citing Genesis 2:24, which says that because woman was made from the rib of man, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Graham article says this is God’s blueprint for marriage, but it is really his blueprint endorsing a committed sexual relationship.  If a couple had sex they were married. This passage says nothing about how many wives are allowed, or anything about how the relationship should be.  Neither does this passage exclude homosexual relationships.  It simply says that God ordained the sexual relationship between a man and woman, for which they leave their parents and cling together. 
       Although I personally believe that it is a terrible idea to have multiple wives, the Bible gives clear instructions for such an arrangement.  In Exodus 21:10, the Bible says that if a husband decides to marry other wives he must not deprive the first wife of “food, clothing and marital rights”.  Deuteronomy 21:15 also provides rules for households with multiple wives. So the BIBLE CLEARLY DOES NOT DEFINE MARRIAGE AS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN.

       In Biblical times just having sex with a woman meant that the two were joined in one flesh (married).  In fact the Bible says that if a woman is raped, she must then marry the rapist and he can never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).  Does that sound fair???  But it must be understood that women were just property, and a raped woman was damaged property, so requiring her rapist to marry her, in those days, may have seemed benevolent toward the woman.  Otherwise she would never be acceptable as a wife, and therefore worthless.  We see this worthlessness of women play out in Deuteronomy 22:13–22  “If a bridegroom accuses his wife of not being a virgin at the time of marriage, the girl's parents must produce evidence of their daughter's virginity before the elders at the town gate.”  Exactly what evidence the bride’s parents could possibly offer as proof this is unclear. But if adequate proof is not offered the girl would be stoned to death.   

      In Matthew 19: 1-10, Jesus referred to the fore-mentioned creation passage about leaving the parents and cleaving to the wife.  Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and others referred to this passage saying that it proved that Jesus would not support same sex marriage. The Bible does not support Huckabee's claim. 

     Jesus was actually responding to a trick question by Pharisees asking if divorce should be allowed for any and every reason.  He told them that a man who divorces his wife and marries another, except for infidelity, is committing adultery.  In other words, marriage is a sacred institution and should be respected. 

     It must be remembered that a divorced woman in that day had few options to survive except prostitution, so divorcing a woman left her, and often her children, completely destitute and helpless. Of course God hates that.  I do not believe there is anyone who does not hate divorce, even today when the divorced person has opportunities.  Happy marriage is the ideal.  But divorce is often necessary, and Jesus made it clear that our loving God is forgiving.  God would never want any adult or child to be forced to stay in a sexually, physically, or emotionally abusive relationship, when the abuse could not be stopped. The damage done by such marriages often persists for generations.

     I am astounded that this passage which was clearly about divorce,
is used by many divorced or unfaithful people to prove that Jesus does not want homosexual marriage. 

        Jesus went on to explain these comments about marriage saying, “12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”  This passage is believed by many to show that Jesus understood that some people are born sexually different, and even homosexual.

       The Graham article continues to develop the assault on homosexuality by referring to the passage in Leviticus 20 which condemns homosexual relationships (verse 13).  But the article fails to point out that the same chapter of Leviticus also condemns people to death for having an affair (verse10), and for cursing their father or mother (verse 9).  It instructs that people should be banished for having sexual relations during a woman’s monthly cycle because “he has exposed the source of her flow” (verse 18).

     So why are religious leaders framing a religion around homophobia based on verse 13 and ignoring the horrific laws in the rest of the chapter?  IF WE ARE GOING TO QUOTE SCRIPTURE, WE NEED TO QUOTE IT IN CONTEXT!

       The Graham article lists Bible passages about homosexuality (Genesis 19; Romans 1:26-27 ; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; and Jude 1:7) and says “it is important to note that the Bible speaks only of homosexual behavior (which would include lust—choosing to fantasize about behavior), not unchosen feelings. God will not judge a Christian guilty for his or her involuntary feelings.  If you then accept that some people are born homosexual, it follows that this Graham article says that they should not be judged for being homosexual.  So the real question seems to be whether gay people choose to be homosexual or are born that way.  It is hard to imagine that people would choose the shame, discrimination, and even death that homosexuals have endured over time. And if God did create them homosexual, should they be forced to be celebrate?

       Three religious scholars, Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson, who are university professors in Iowa, say that, “many politicians have made a career out of using the Bible to justify opposition to hot-button topics like same-sex marriage or abortion. In an article for the Huffington Post they point out an example of this. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told a crowd of in April, 2013 that Americans cannot "retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage -- because it is one man, one woman -- because God said it is." I think a more correct paraphrase of her words would be, "We must uphold our misguided hate, bitterness, and prejudice, because we have always done it that way."

         Cargill said, "Politicians who use the Bible aren't necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible...They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe."  Anyone who argues that "the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage ... haven't take the time to read all of it," he added.

         Forty years ago a good friend of mine was told that she was unfit to teach Bible study because she had divorced her cheating husband.  The bigoted man who told her this used the Bible to prove his point.  Almost every Christian today would think this man’s cruel declaration was grossly unchristian.  During the civil war scripture was used to justify slavery.  Not so long ago church members believed that anyone who danced, played cards, or wore certain clothes was of the devil.  These and thousands of other stanch beliefs have been both proven and debunked using scripture.

       American social reformer, Susan B. Anthony, faced this type of religious blackmail in her efforts to win women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery. When she first began campaigning for women's rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. At the time women were ridiculed or prevented from speaking in public.  Married women had no legal right to protect themselves from drunken or abusive husbands; had no say in family financial matters; had to turn their earnings over to their husbands; and they could not own separate property, enter into contracts or be joint guardians of their children. When Anthony  presented petitions to the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, its members told her that men were actually the oppressed sex because they did such things as giving women the best seats in carriages. In 1896 Anthony said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”  How true.  And these Bible thumping bigots want to impose their brand of religion on everyone else.

         It is time now for Christians to actually read their Bibles, listen to their conscience, and stop allowing some outspoken political or religious leaders to define Christianity as a religion for selfish, wealthy, white, strait, war mongers who love their firearms more than they value the safety of innocents.  All of these definitions are a direct contradiction to everything Jesus taught.


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