The “Biblical Definition of Marriage” is not what you think it is

download (38)Often when debating believers, a rather common tact taken is to hear something akin to the following declaration, “OK, you as an Atheist can do whatever you want, but I much prefer decency as defined in the Bible“. That of course is the cue to point out that the Bible endorses genocide and slavery as jolly good ideas, and so endorsing the Bible as your “moral standard” might not mean what you think it means at all. There are also variations on this theme, for example those opposed to Gay rights will often argue for what they would term the “Biblical Definition of Marriage”.

Once again the pattern hold true and it may be appropriate to point out “Er, that just might not be what you think it means”. The assumption behind it is of course the thought that the bible defines marriage as between just one man and one woman … period.

Oops, because that is not what it does at all.

If you crack open the Bible (yes Christians, I mean you, blow a bit of dust off the cover and read it), you will find …

  • One Man and his many many wives : Lamech had two wives – Genesis 4:19.  Esau had three wives – Genesis 26:34 & 28:9,  Jacob had four wives – Genesis 29:28 & 30:4-9, Gideon had many wives – Judges 8:30, Abijah had 14 wives – II Chronicles 13:21, etc.,..
  • One Man, his many many wives, and his concubines (Judges 19:1-30) – And that includes some rather famous and highly revered characters such as Abraham and David
  • Not getting married at all … ever : Paul proposed this as the Christian Ideal, and deemed marriage to be a “Well if you really are full of lust and just have to, but it is far better not to”
  • Same sex marriage (yes really) : Jonathan and David, Jonathan’s father referred to David as his son in law in I Samuel 18:21. “No no, that’s not true, they were just really good “friends”“, Wrong, they were lovers, King Saul refers to their relationship with a vulgar Hebrew idiomatic expression indicating Jonathan and David were sexually intimate, I Samuel 20:30.

So how do folks meet and and arrange to get married? Well the Bible defines some specific rules dictated by God

  • You go to war and get to keep a captured female prisoner of war as another wife or concubine : Deuteronomy 21:11-14
  • You simply rape somebody, and then get to keep her, the victim gets no say in the matter : Deuteronomy 22:28-29
  • If your brother’s wife dies, then you must marry the widow : Deuteronomy 25:5-10
  • You can marry your male and female slaves off to each other; they get no say in the matter and not not permitted to raise any objections

So next time you hear somebody banging on about the “Biblical Definition of Marriage”, pity them for they have perhaps fallen prey to the likes of politicians such as Bachman who rattle out such sound bites. Here is a nice quote I rather like that sums it all up quite well …

Politicians who use the Bible aren’t necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible,they are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe. Anyone who argues that “the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage … haven’t take the time to read all of it,” – Robert R. Cargill, Assistant Professor, Judaism and Christianity at the University of Iowa

Indeed yes.

Attempting to use ancient texts to argue for a specific position is quite simply daft, especially when you appreciate that those same ancient texts not only do not in any way support the position being argued for, but also endorse things such as slavery and genocide.


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