After reading an article recently in the Huffington Post – (READ THE ARTICLE HERE)
I could not help but respond to Professor Greg Carey’s assertion, the Bible has little to say about marriage. Greg Carey is Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster PA (a UCC school – bio HERE).
I want to applaud the Huffington Post for being willing to ask and address the question which headed the 7/7/2011 edition article: “What Does the Bible Actually Say About Marriage?” A timely and important topic.
And, I’d like to say how much I appreciated Professor Carey’s irenic tone and his willingness to step up to the plate in pointing out that some of the commonly perceived “marriage” passages in the Bible aren’t passages about marriage at all! – like 1 Corinthians 13. Bravo! Carelessness in reading the Scriptures carefully and in a contextually sensitive manner, breeds all kinds of misinterpretations. Worse, it breeds an approach to the Bible we wouldn’t tolerate in any other
literature. Professor Carey is spot on when he notes that:
“Unfortunately, many Christians use the Bible to support their own prejudices and bigotry.” I might add that not only some Christians do this – but some self-professed non-Christians engage in the practice at times too. Sad.
When Theodor Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss penned “The Cat in the Hat” – he did not imagine (nor do we ordinarily) assume others might read that line as implying that it contained a polemic against the psychological mistreatment of house pets through systematic imprisonment in disorientating millinery prisons designed to keep them from climbing the evolutionary ladder. It was a fun tome about a mischievous feline protagonist. Biblical statements seldom fair as well at the hands of some – even those who would profess to be its adherent and defenders.
Imagine my surprise then when I reached the article’s section headed by the words: “Not a Lot to Say.” I must confess a certain amount of mystification over Prof. Carey’s assertion here. The implication that the Bible simply does not have much to say about marriage, is in my limited understanding, grossly inaccurate. I should like to understand the unit of measure used in arriving at that conclusion. We might say the United States Constitution does not have “a lot” to say about the “right to privacy” – but few in our day would argue that so little said (some argue nothing said, but indirectly) implies the concept is of little importance, or that what IS said isn’t vital to interpreting how the Constitution applies.
So when I consider how the Bible treats the establishment of marriage and its fundamental elements in Genesis2:19-25; It’s repeated demonstration of the failure of polygamous relationships (it never whitewashes the attendant problems); God’s emphatic prohibition of adultery (Ex. 20:14, Deut. 5:18 with other allusions); God’s prohibition of sex outside of the marriage covenant and the extensive and detailed parameters instituted regarding legitimate and illegitimate sexual partners and marriageability (see the entire context of Leviticus 18:1-23); The Bible’s repeated treatment of the betrayal of God’s People’s relationship with God in terms of adultery (myriads of passages but most explicitly and extensively portrayed in the book of Hosea); Jesus’ explicit teaching on the nature of the marriage relationship by limiting legitimate divorce to cases of adultery (Matthew 19:3-9); Jesus’ explanation that not everyone can remain single but only those “to whom it is given” (Matt. 19:11); The Apostle Paul’s extensive treatment of marriage issues in 1 Corinthians 7 – 40 packed verses worth!; Paul’s far from “ugly” but transcendent exposition of the keys to a harmonious marriage relationship in
Ephesians 5:22-33) when he shows proper arrangement and order (with submission by the way – NOT subjugation – but good order); Peter’s call to husbands to treat their wives NOT as spiritual inferiors, but as the equals they are before God with honor and cherishing them as finer vessels than they (1 Peter 3:1-17); and then the pervasive typology that the Bible employs to describe the Savior’s relationship with His Church in the framework of monogamous, committed marriage with inviolable fidelity and faithfulness (Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 19:7; 21:2 & 9; 22:17); and a host of other references and allusions – when I consider that (and more) I gasp – “Not a Lot to Say”? Preposterous! Volumes to say. And not a word of over-romanticized fluff, but nuts and bolts reality having to do with every aspect of the marital relationship.
Contrary to the good professor, I must insist the Bible has plenty to say about marriage, and the gift it is from the hand of God – whether or not one comes from the Judaic or Christian traditions.
As an Evangelical Christian, I have come to count the privilege, the honor, the deep spiritual significance and the wonder of this phenomenal thing called marriage precisely because the Bible has so much to say about it.
Pick it up, read it, and be amazed.