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Biblical Marriage?

One of the topics that’s hotly contested today is, is the idea of the biblical concept, or is there a biblical concept of marriage, specifically of same sex marriage? This is a hot political topic all around the country today.  And, a lot of people, especially religious people are looking to the Bible for answers.  The question is, how were they using the Bible to support their view, of whatever it may be, on same-sex marriage or biblical marriage, if we can even use that term.  And a lot of people will say, I believe “X,” I think same-sex marriage is wrong and now I am going to go look at the Bible for verses that support me; we call it cherry picking or pick and mix, right?  I’m looking for the verses that support me and I am going to ignore anything that might speak against what I would say.

When you approach the biblical text and you look at what constitutes marriage, God-ordained marriage, in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament, you see that it’s not just your nuclear family, one man, one woman, you obviously get that in Genesis.  But, when you realize that the twelve tribes of Israel, the patriarchs of the Jewish faith, the twelve sons were the product of four different women, right, two wives, two slaves, then you start saying, and you know, this is the formation of Israel! If you look through the Bible, you see that there is an incredible diversity of what constitutes marriage, including polygamy; and we need to be honest about that fact. 

We need to be honest about the fact that Jesus didn’t really ascribe a lot of value to marriage or to family, for that matter.  What does he say, that your mother and brothers are outside and Jesus says, “who are my mother and brothers?” you know, it’s those who were following my word.  “Who are my mother and my brothers?” I mean, that’s a pretty low view of family; it’s a pretty low view of marriage. 

Paul says don’t get married, the apostle Paul.  Now if you have to get married, if you’re going to love; then okay, so go get married.  But, I encourage you, Paul says, don’t do it.  You know, focus on the kingdom; focus on the task at hand.  Again, they were under the impression that Jesus was coming back right around the corner. 

So, when you look at the diversity of what constitutes marriage in antiquity, pardon me, in the Hebrew Bible, and then you look at…it’s very much downplayed in the New Testament.  It then, is a little different when you are trying to argue one man, one woman to say, you know the Bible, this is the only view the Bible…this is biblical marriage; well, it’s one view of biblical marriage.

  • Robert R. Cargill

    Robert R. Cargill is assistant professor of classics and religious studies at The University of Iowa. His research includes study in the Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha. He has appeared on numerous television documentaries and is active in digital humanities.