Thursday, June 06, 2013

1 man, 1 woman isn't the Bible's only marriage view

Nice Op-ed in the DesMoines Register on the what "Traditional Marriage" is -- and is NOT -- in the Bible ... by three biblical scholars. Worth reading, sharing and saving ... IMHO.

1 man, 1 woman isn't the Bible's only marriage view
written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson

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.


RonF said...

I notice that the slide does not give any scriptural references for two points.

Certainly at the start one man/one woman marriage was not the standard. But by late in the Old Testament and certainly in the New Testament one man/one woman is the standard. And at no point anywhere in the Bible do we see any bond other than that between a man and a woman described as a marriage. To claim that this is immaterial seems to set aside Scripture as a guide entirely.

Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals,

This seems an incredible statement to me. God gave us Scripture precisely to act as a guide to our actions, ethics and morals. Jesus came to tell us how to be saved by God's grace, and in doing so referred again and again to Scripture. If we are not to use it as a guide to regulate our ethics and morals, why did Jesus Himself do just that?

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.

Jesus taught us to apply the law with love and compassion, while recognizing that sin was still sin. So we don't enslave people anymore, we forgive them for the sins that called for those punishments. But there's an essential difference between punishing people for sin (by stoning or enslaving them) and ignoring or even denying something is sin (by joining and celebrating a bond between two people of the same sex as marriage).


Ron ... your continued insistence that my arguments conform to your hermeneutic has kinda run its course.

It reminds me of the late brilliant Beverly Harrison who told the story of defending her doctoral dissertation on a feminist ethic that transcended systematic theology and getting "dinged" for "not being systematic enough"

You don't agree with how we interpret scripture.

We get that.

In point of fact, we DO use Scripture to "act as a guide to our actions ..." -- which is different than using literal ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals.

My wondering this morning is what you're really after in these exchanges ... and if the time might not be better spent acting out the faith as you've received it rather than continuing to cycle through the same set of arguments over and over and over again.

Seriously. Have a good day.

RonF said...

Because It's one thing to have a difference over how to interpret Scripture. But in this posting it seems to me that you hold that we should IGNORE Scripture.



In posting this I am saying that we are not ignoring Scripture when we interpret it differently than you do.

In posting this I am saying that there is a difference between the Living Word of God and the literal words of God.

In posting this I am saying that I believe the Holy Scriptures to contain all things necessary to salvation -- which is not to be confused with thinking all things contained in the Holy Scriptures are necessary to salvation.

In posting this I am saying that taking the Bible too seriously to take it literally means we recognize that using "biblical standards" to condemn those who understand that sexual orientation is morally neutral makes as much sense as using "biblical standards" to condemn astronomers who understand that the earth revolves around the sun. The Bible may have said it but that doesn't always settle it.

That's what I'M sayin'.

uffda51 said...

I'm having trouble getting past this sentence, RonF.

"So we don't enslave people anymore, we forgive them for the sins that called for those punishments."

According to an investigative piece in the Atlantic Monthly last fall, there are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide at the present time. Some of these people made the mistake of falling into debt by as little as $18.

It's hard to see how these people "sinned," or how the untold numbers of Africans brought to this country during colonial times "sinned," and how any of them need to be forgiven for anything.

So if you have proof that "we don't enslave people anymore," I'd like to see it. If you see ownership of slaves as punishment for sin, I'd love to hear more about that. And if you've found a nexus between sexual orientation and sin, you've got a real scoop.

I know that some people don't "believe" in sexual orientation, or evolution, or climate change, just as Justice Scalia doesn't "believe" in molecular biology. These are not matters of belief. The people that claim they don't "believe" in these things do not understand these things.

RonF said...

uffda51, did you just read my post or did you read the entire thread, including the original posting? In the context of this thread, both Susan and I are using the word "we" to mean those of us who are trying to apply God's law and Christ's teachings in the modern world (Susan, do you disagree?). I am not speaking of the phenomenon of slavery in general, which certainly abounds, especially in those countries where Christ's teachings are not only not honored but often officially suppressed.