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There is much debate over the nature of marriage, of what is the religious foundation and of what marriage means in the Christian tradition.  Often I read people quoting scripture on this issue.  Perhaps it is time to look at that scripture as a source of legitimacy.

   Fundamentalist Christians define and defend marriage by the use of scripture. While there is no one form of marriage in the world, monogamy, polygny, polyandry etc. early Christians were exhorted not to marry. In Luke, Chapter 20:34, the Apostle says that Christ stated of marriage, "The children of this world marry and are given in marriage, but those who are deemed worthy to attain That World  and the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage."  This wording differs in the different manuscripts and codices, some extant others lost, but nearly the same passage is found in Matthew 22:29. (See Paul Kahle, The Cairo Geniza, 1958;  Kahle & Caldararo , State of Preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nature, 1986; Caldararo, "Storage conditions and physical treatments relating to the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls," Radiocarbon, v. 37, n. 1, 1994:21-32 on the survival of manuscripts; for variations in texts see).  The passage here quoted is from the Concordance Bible.  Others vary significantly.

    Considerable discussion over the wording has been of historical interest among scholars due to the fact that early Christians shunned marriage, and the Essenes who forbade marriage according to Pliny. The passage of  "those who are deemed worthy to attain That World" is significant as it appears to indicate a difference between this world and that of the resurrection or heaven.  It follows a debate between Christ and others who are trying to trap him into a treasonous statement over Roman hegemony.  Yet in this passage he is asked to respond to a specific question of Jewish law, that of remarriage of a woman to a dead man's brothers and who she will be marriage to in heaven, one (monogamy or all, polygamy).  He is put in the position of denying one tradition or another, that is, marriage of brothers of dead men or polygamy.  Some have argued that his answer quoted above is consistent with Saint Paul's reasoning that Christ chose to "walk through Samaria" that is, to create a new community separate from the strictures of traditional Judaism like the less complicated Samaria.  

    The reason for early Christian negative attitudes on marriage is found in writings of the late Roman period where Luke is referenced that marriage distracts believers from contemplation on Christ and the world to come.  It divides the community.  But also Roman law gave fathers near absolute control over their wives and children and so the early Christian fathers found themselves in conflict with the authority of the paterfamilias.  Later in the Dark and Middle Ages the power of the manor lord over his serfs gave them the right to sell wife and husband separately according to G.G. Coulton (see his Medieval Village, Manor and Monastery, 1925).  The Church validated both marriage and sales and thus the idea of an eternal marriage rite was in contradiction to this practice.  Therefore this passage was significant in arguing that marriage was neither a sacred sacrament nor an eternal institution allowing priests to dissolve marriage at the pleasure of the lord.  Trial marriages were common in Europe in the Middle Ages and often a woman might marry with several children from other men.  As the population of Europe fell in the period following the invasions of the Mongols and the waves of disease of the Black Death in the 14th century, the need for labor and the rising conflict of the struggle against feudalism and the Church led to the Reformation and a redefinition of marriage.  The Church's control over property and inheritance became increasingly important as the legitimacy of claims to both secular thrones and to the Vatican came into question.  The battle for supremacy of power, secular or religious rose in the appointment of several popes at one time by kings and the excommunication of kings by popes.  Here lies the redefinition of marriage as an institution, the Church claimed it had the sacred power to recognize births and the unions that created them as well as the legal identity of heirs.  Henry VIII's power as king and other ruling lords desired independent power and the wars of the Reformation settled those claims on the battlefields of the Thirty Years War.  Europe became more secular and people freer to chose their mates, inherit wealth and think for themselves.  Marriage was one segment to this long conflict and yet the liberty of women and their rights to chose, to inherit and to have legal standing were yet to come.

   I urge people to read Lewis Ellies du Pin's A New History of Ecclesiastical Writers, published in the 17th century.  It is available in translation made by W.W.B.D. in 1692.  The book collates and presents the arguments over the centuries made by the Church at its various meetings (Councils) in adapting scripture to the demands of the time.  We find here explanations of why some writings were accepted others rejected.  An additional discussion of Gnostic writings and the long lost Gospel of Mary is found in Hans Jonas' book on the Gnostics.

 

Originally posted to niccolo caldararo on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 11:02 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  I understand what marriage has to do (6+ / 0-)

    ...with Christianity.

    But for the life of me, I cannot figure out what Christianity has to do with marriage.

    Can anyone answer this for a sovereign individual?


    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 11:49:37 AM PST

    •  I'm a Christian (9+ / 0-)

      and have the same questions.

      You can have the fanciest wedding ceremony in the world, with hot and cold running bridesmaids and all the attendants...yet without that official piece of paper from The State you're just living together, with no rights and responsibilities. Marriage is a civil contract that the State deputizes religious authorities to administer. "By the authority vested in me by the State of....I now pronounce you husband and wife." A church can turn down anyone who comes to them for the administration of that contract (for any reason whatsoever), but they should have no say in who the State can allow to participate in that contract.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:53:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem is that we use the same word (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto

        for two different things.

        1) Marriage is a legal status conferred by the government on (currently) two adults (one male and one female in most states). It has all sorts of legal ramifications, mostly involving finances.

        2) Marriage is a ceremony performed by many religious groups to recognize the union of (usually) two adults. It has no legal ramifications but impacts how they are integrated into the religious community.

        Some couples are married in both ways and some in one or the other.

        I think that just about any two consenting adults should be able to enter into the legal status of marriage. It is basically just acknowledging that they have decided to combine their resources into a family unit.

        I also think that any religious group should be able to decide who gets to go through their ceremony. That should have nothing to do with whether or not the couple is legally married.

        •  Religions are confused. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Andrew F Cockburn, skrekk

          Marriage is a legal and secular institution.

          Weddings are where invisible friends frollic.


          A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

          by Pluto on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:23:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, the bigger problem (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DJ Rix, skrekk, Pluto, SchuyH

          is that we let religious institutions get involved in civil matters. If we did it like is done in many European countries, where you have the civil marriage and then later on the religious one if you so choose (or just want to throw a kick-ass party), it would be far more cut and dried. You don't have a big blown-out ceremony for other contracts like buying a car or a house (not counting housewarming parties), so why need one for marriage?

          My idea would be to let a couple take out the license paperwork, pay the fee (which would cover background checks to make sure neither party is currently married or there are no red flags such as domestic violence), and then submit the paperwork with the proper documentation (possibly require notarization, unless they can do that at the clerk's office when it's submitted) and the clerk issues a temporary license followed by the permanent in a few weeks (sort of like a driver's license but without the picture).

          "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

          by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:37:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Republished to Street Prophets.. nt (3+ / 0-)
  •  Ultimately (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SchuyH, ExStr8, cassandracarolina

    the definition of marriage is a social factor and religion justifies necessity. At present, population pressures are such that single sex marriages make sense. That is perhaps overly pragmatic about an emotional bond, but marriage should be a long-term bond between individuals who wish to formalise their love. Who and why should be up to them, but society has historically condoned some bonds and ignored others, as you so eloquently point out. Thank you.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:25:41 PM PST

    •  Population pressures (7+ / 0-)

      should have nothing to do with it -- many "opposite marriage" couples either cannot have children or choose to remain childless, or adopt rather than procreate.

      It's about love, pure and simple. On a day that we celebrate the upcoming nuptials of two Kossacks (currently on the Rec List with over 400 comments), that should be obvious. Telling someone they can't marry the person they love because that person shares the same sexual plumbing is like telling someone they can't buy a certain car because you don't like the color. Keith Olbermann in his brilliant commentary on Prop. 8 said it best: "What if someone told you you couldn't marry?"

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:58:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If it were "all about love" ... (4+ / 0-)

        We wouldn't need State sanctioned marriage at all ...

        We could all Handfast in the Grove or Jump the Broom and "love" (not to mention the expectations of Family, Friends and Faith Community) iwould probably keep as many of us together as the full force of law and custom manage to do -- in world where women are allowed and enabled to be self supporting.  

        No:  if any generalization about the Institution of Marriage can be made, it might be described as a human construct designed tg  establish and maintain dynastic rights of property and status.  (In much of the world for most of it's history the inclinations and affections of the bride and groom were of very little importance as compared to each of the families involved obtaining desirable inlaws.)

        A snarkier generalization might be: "Marriage is an method of transmuting Maidens into Wivesl.  (
        Review your Anthropology notes on the status of "wives" in various times and places for the past 4,000 years.)

        This is  the best explanation of why "same sex marriage" is a strictly Modern innovation.  Until very recently, few women could AFFORD wives ... and almost no man would debase himself so far as to BE one.  (Even so, some small tribal societies ... notably the Caribbean Pirate Brotherhood and some herder-gardener cultures in central Africa found a use for regarding some same-sex partners as having the economic and social rights and responsibilities of the married condition.)

        Loving v. Virgina  defined Marriage as a civil right AND acknowledged the "intimate relationship" between Husband.  The Supreme Court review of PropH8 will focus on that aspect of the problem.

        The OTHER case before the Court, however, addresses the purely economic and legal ramification of the difference between "Married" and every other arrangement for securing rights of property and inheritance.  Simply: married partners inherit from each other without Estate taxation ...  Handfasters, Common Laws, Broom Jumpers and G/L partners pay.

        As has been so often stated: the Defense of Marriage Act alienates same sex couples from   roughly 1,379 individual rights, benefits and protections under Federal Law that "mixed" couples enjoy  - but only if they are legally Married.  

        •  That (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          createpeace, SchuyH

          contradicts what we know of the Nuer where a woman is socially made into a man for the purpose of producing males for the lineage or in West Africa where successful trader women could marry other women so that these wives of theirs could service their husbands and fulfill the marriage contract.

          "A snarkier generalization might be: "Marriage is an method of transmuting Maidens into Wivesl.  (
          Review your Anthropology notes on the status of "wives" in various times and places for the past 4,000 years.)"

          A very thorough answer to this is in Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

          •  It wasn't a question .... (0+ / 0-)

            It was an observation on one  the reason that same sex marriage is such a rare and local phenomenon  ...  

            Marriage is a method of turning Maidens into Wives ...  and until very recently, few women could AFFORD a wife ... and even fewer men would lower  themselves to BEING one.

             I've heard/read of female husbands among the Nuer.   And polyandry among Tibetans.  And polygany among Cherokee and Ashkenazim.

            All I can take away from these is that Marriage is a cultural construct that changes to meet the needs of the people who practice it, as their societal circumstances change.  
            With Europeans, the earthshaking change was "the Emancipation of Women," following the Industrial Revolution.  

            Before that, Marriage ... particularly in the  "Abrahamic" religions ...  assumed "Wives" to occupy  a   subordinate/chattel position -- significantly higher than the livestock ... but often indistinguishable from the better class of slaves -- certainly "less" than that of the Husband.

            And while same sex spiritual and economic partnerships are far from unknown in the West ... "traditionalists" are unwilling to address  them when discussing "Marriage."

            The point being:  there's a better 14th Amendment argument for Marriage Equality if one can get beyond the Brides' Magazine point of view on the institution of Marriage.

  •  I'm mainly interested in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, SchuyH

    civil marriage equality. Churches have always had the right to refuse to sponsor & conduct wedding ceremonies, & they have a variety of reasons for doing so. Churches & religions  have their own requirements, & if one is that the couple has to be one man & one women, I don't particularly care as long as civil marriage equality continues to advance.  I agree with doing away with any sort of ceremony requirement for a contractual agreement.

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:02:04 PM PST

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