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What Every American Should Know about the Biblical “Definitions” of Marriage

Thoughts Concerning a ‘Biblical Definition of Marriage,’ and in Response to Umpteen Biblically-Ignorant Memes that have Sloshed Back & Forth across the Social Media High Seas e’er since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Ruling, and with Hellfire Spit Aimed at any Idiot who Buys the Rights to a Stock Photo of Two Aryans on a Beach and has the Holy-Ghostly Gall to Suggest this Represents God’s Eternal Vision of Connubial Bliss (& with Apologies to those who heretofore did not know what a Fleshlight is)

For the love of God—literally—please share this article with anyone you know who maintains there is such a thing as a ‘Biblical Definition of Marriage’ in any manner approaching what chicken fast food executives, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the deluded Christian Right spouts.

If there is one thing I simply cannot stomach—other than cardboard chicken sandwiches and the miscreants who hawk them—it is the egregious misrepresentation of the Bible. The Bible is not Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. If you call yourself a Christian, do not pretend that respectable theology consists of pulling out a few KJV verses from your lard-laden pantry and whipping up some peanut butter and chocolate balls to adorn your Tea Party potluck picnic table.

Biblical Marriage Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ball Buckeyes
3 cups – Adam & Eve
1 cup – Creamy Quote from Psalms (use Proverbs for substitute)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) – Pauline Epistle-Churned Butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon – Gospel Quote
3 cups – Semisweet Sodom & Gomorrah

Before we begin our Two-Minute Drill Survey of “Biblical Definitions of Marriage”—yes, plural—let me suggest that if you are naïve enough to believe in a Biblical Definition of Marriage based solely on the misguided hermeneutical assumption that there was an historical Adam and Eve, then you also need to fess up that your personal theology includes a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for sibling incest—unless you have some other suggestion for how Adam and Eve’s children managed to propagate our species.

Probably never thought of that, have you? I’ll give you a 90-second time out to let the concept roll around in your head.

“Oh, but that was a one-time exception in the eyes of God,” you might offer. Or perhaps you’ll proffer this silly explanation: “Yes, but incest was okay before The Fall.”

My prepared response to whatever pops out of your mouth other than a realization that you haven’t previously exercised critical thinking in your interpretation of holy writ: Really?!

Good. Now you know that either (a) Adam and Eve are metaphorical creations, or (b) the Board of Directors of the Creation Museum should start building a Pro-Incest Wing to complement its Biblical Monogamy Wing. (Yes, maybe the folks in charge of the Creation Museum have stopped evolving, but the biblical concept of marriage has not. And for what it’s worth, other than swans, the animal kingdom almost universally refutes the concept of monogamy—unless you include insect species where the female happens to digest the male following procreation.)

Next.

Okay, everyone. Get out your flannelgraphs and fleshlights and cover your children’s eyes. Thus begins the Two-Minute Biblical Survey Drill!

Adam & Eve and Other Polygamous Ponderings from Genesis

We already covered Adam and Eve. Enough said.

When is the last time your minister preached on the story of Onan? Never? What a surprise. Permit me to quote Genesis 38:8-10:

“Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his seed on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight, so he put him to death as well.”

Ouch.

So, our biblical definition of marriage now includes incest for the sake of species preservation along with summary execution by Jehovah if a man refuses to bed his brother’s wife once his brother dies. In case you’re following along at home with your Bibles, flip ahead to Deuteronomy 25:5-6, where this concept of Levirate marriage was ultimately etched into Judaic law.

Now, who’s ready for some Pentateuchal polygamy? I know who! Lamech, the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible. Flip back to Genesis 4:19. Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah. Would have made an amazing HBO drama in the day. And of course that crotchety Old Testament Yahweh made mincemeat of Lamech for daring to following marital cultural norms by striking him with theistic lightning. What?! You mean God did not smite Lamech for polygamy? That simply cannot be!

I mean, God struck down Onan for masturbating rather than knocking up his sister-in-law. Well, I’ll be. So it is possible to sneak an inside curveball by God. Or maybe, just maybe, God understands that human culture evolves at its own predictable pace.

Here are some other evil polygamists one finds in Genesis: Abraham, Jacob, Esau. Um, don’t we consider at least two of these gentlemen Mt. Rushmore patriarchs of the faith? As the song goes: “Father Abraham, had many wives / And many wives had Father Abraham.”

The Rest of the Old Testament

Judges 19. If Quentin Tarantino were ever going to turn a Bible story into a film, this is the one. It is a tale so befuddling that space simply does not permit full exegesis. Let me just quote the first and final verses:

Verse 1: “Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.”

Verse 29: “When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.”

What follows is a godawful war against the people of Gibeah who perpetrated the all-night rape of the Levite’s wife—er, concubine. Well, maybe there is one other verse I should include:

Verse 25: “So [the Levite] took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night….”

It is perhaps understandable why the producers of Veggie Tales never devoted an episode to these final chapters of Judges. Equally, it is somewhat predictable as to why the Southern Baptist Convention entirely skipped over the whole “taking a concubine and throwing her out to the bastards for an all-night rape-fest” clause in its 2004 On Supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Next. Wise King Solomon.

I Kings 11:3 says that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In deference to the Christian Right, the text adds that these women “led him astray.” So there you have it: a proper biblical definition of marriage puts the limit of opposite sex partners at 1,000. And to my knowledge, the only people who have ever violated this tenet are Peter North and Wilt Chamberlain.

The Gritty Gospels

Time is running out in our Two-Minute Drill, so let’s skip straight to the Hail Mary pass.

Question: How old was Mary when she married Joseph?

Answer: As near as I can tell, so young that Joseph would have been arrested in any state in the Union with the exception of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. (Can someone please do a follow-up article on why females are allowed to marry in the Land of the Red Sox at the age of 12 with parental consent?)

At any rate, here’s an unexpected addendum to a biblical definition of marriage: girls who are barely pubescent can get married—though possibly this rule may only apply to maidens who have conceived via the Holy Spirit. Still, can’t you just hear the wedding bells ringing across the Fruited Plain? Someone better size down those Vera Wang bridal gowns.

Let’s fast forward to Jesus, where things start to get real:

How often do you hear Matthew 19:9 quoted from the pulpit other than never? “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Just thought I would throw that out there for the 43% of adult Evangelical Christians who are divorced. I’m not going to compare this against a national statistic, which appears to be murky at best. So let’s just be equitable and say that Evangelicals are no less human than the rest of us—not matter what they contend.

For those who really care about authentic biblical definitions, here are a few ditties about love and judgment from Mary’s celebrity son:

“‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’” (John 8:7).

“’What is written in the Law,’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ [The expert in the Law] answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” (Luke 10:26-28)

And just because I can, here’s a non-biblical quote from folk rocker Stephen Stills:

“And if you can’t be with the one you love honey / Love the one you’re with.”

The Apostle Paul: Tanner, Missionary, Anti-Marriage Advocate

Nearly 2,000 years since the advent of the religion, and people still do not universally recognize that, at least with respect to history, the spread of Christianity has as much to do with the Apostle Paul as it does with the religion’s lord and savior. So with just a few seconds left on the clock, I cannot help but give the Pharisee Formerly Known as Saul of Tarsus some props:

I Corinthians 7:8:  “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.”

Feel free to continue slogging your way through I Corinthians 7 and the other Pauline epistles. Just keep in mind that all of the strange marriage pronouncements made by Paul the Tanner make a lot more sense when you recognize that he, along with the other early Christian Church leaders, were convinced that Christ would return in glory at any moment to save the planet from Rome and the likes of such pagan assholes as Nero and Caligula, who, by the way, was briefly married at the age of 21. And just for what it’s worth, Caligula did not marry his horse; he merely promised to make it a Roman senator, yet instead made it a priest.

But that’s out-of-bounds for our Biblical Survey, and for that I deserve a five-yard penalty on the final play of the game.

In conclusion, what really matters is that the Biblical Definition of Marriage compiled during our Two-Minute Drill includes, but is not limited to: “Winks” to Incest, Polygamy, Concubinage (including the right to offer your concubine for all-night serial rape, followed by sectioning her body into 12 parts for distribution to fellow tribesmen), a 1,000 Opposite Sex Lifetime Partner Limit, Marriage at the Age of 13 (especially if endorsed by the Trinity), a Denouncement of the U.S. Evangelical Divorce Rate, and a Pauline Prohibition of Marriage.

For you diehard biblical-literalist Christians, here’s your chance to apply some of those critical thinking skills you acquired when earlier we discussed Adam and Eve.

Honest to God, do you really still think that same-sex marriage represents a blasphemous sacrilege of your religious tradition?

Hopefully you can now see that marriage, just like anything else, progresses naturally along a cultural evolutionary path. And for your spiritual comfort, please find solace in the knowledge that God meets humanity wherever culture happens to be. Day by day. Century by century. Millennium by millennium. E’er progressing.

About Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. His education background includes archaeology, ancient languages and biblical studies. His foremost writing interests include religion, unraveling theodicy and trying to understand why voters commonly vote against their own self-interest. People give him hippos for some reason.
Visit Arik’s website, Viking Word. You can also follow him on Twitter @arikbjorn and on Facebook as well. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

  • 10 29 65

    It is a bummer that you deleted my last comment. But then again, why wouldn’t you? You want to appear to be a “professional” in this field, when all you are is a novice at best. You should know that the stories that you are quoting appear in the “historical” books of the Bible. These were records of Israel’s history transcribed for them to learn about their past, to look back on and see how God had delivered them, and to learn from their past mistakes. What the Bible does lay out specifically on marriage is found in Gen 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” You seek to look for the shortcomings of men in the Bible to “proof text” your argument. You purposefully leave out the important details of the stories that you have picked. Yes, there is a high divorce rate, yes Christians are hypocrites, but that is not because they are Christians, it is because they are people and ALL people are hypocrites. Paul lays it out in Romans 7 so clearly the struggle of being a Christian. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Then later on in 7 he states, ” O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” You see your presupposition is that Christians some how think that they are better than every one and that is why they stand up against sin. You could not be more wrong. But out of your ignorance you write these words, and professing to be wise you actually show how much wisdom and knowledge you lack. I hope that you will put down your sword and read the Bible again with a better understanding of it than what you now have.

  • http://www.teamusa.org/usa-roller-sports crash2parties

    Just to point out, much of the OT marriage talk such as Gen 38:8-10 is about one thing: maintaining power & ownership of land and property via lineage. Including wives and concubines, btw. And if there is one thing modern Christians love, it’s male superiority, power and ownership. So really, Biblical Marriage is about maintaining power and the ability – no, the need – to adapt to whatever will best meet that goal.

    See? No internal consistency (or critical thought, or…) needed!

    Also, Jesus was so obviously gay.

    Genesis 38:8-10
    Genesis 38:8-10
    Genesis 38:8-10
    Genesis 38:8-10

  • Stephen Barlow

    If the complete Bible had been published, we would have learned of the human afterlife of Jesus. His marriage to Magdalene, his children and ancestors.

    But we all know Jesus was a GAY virgin who was crucified for ‘coming out”. NOTHING ELSE could really account for all the Jews Praising him on Palm Sunday and scheming his death by Thursday. Look what happens to sports hero’s who come out? They LOSE THEIR JOBS.

    There IS no ‘Biblical Definition of Marriage”. There is only what church leaders have sold their prisoners since the dawn of time. I bet there are fewer Roans and Greeks in hell than lapsed adulterous Catholic and pilfering Protestant Conpreachers.