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Marriage in biblical perspective

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Marriage in the Old Testament era

Marriage in the Old Testament era was monogamous. Polygamy is mentioned as an exception.

It should be added here that monogamy as a model is set in the story of Adam and Eve, because God created only one woman for Adam. But even in the time of Lamech, polygamy was accepted (Gen. 4:19). We are left with the impression that God left man from his own experience to be convinced that he was created for monogamy. The Old Testament (OT) shows that polygamy causes difficulties and often ends in sin, for example in Abraham (Gen. 21), Gideon (Judg. 8: 29-9: 57), David (II Kings 11, 13 ch.), Solomon (III Kings 11: 1-8). Because of existing customs in the Middle East, the kings of Israel were warned not to marry many women so as not to corrupt their hearts, and not to pile up silver and gold excessively (Deut. 17:17), and jealousy arose among many women. and rivalry, as with the two wives of Elhana, Anna and Felhana (1 Sam. 1: 6; cf. Lev. 18:18).

In the Old Testament era, a daughter was dependent on her father and a wife was dependent on her husband. The Scriptures do not mention a certain age required for marriage. The decision was made by the parents (Job 7:11). Cases of love marriage have also been witnessed (Gen. 24:58). Marriage was an act that affected the relationship between two families. It was usually concluded in writing – “he took a scroll, wrote a covenant and sealed it …” (Tob. 7:13), but he did not rule out verbal agreements. Divorce was extremely simple. The phrase “she is not my wife, nor am I a man …” (Hosea 2: 2) put an end to marriage. The marriage was preceded by an engagement involving a promise of marriage. It had legal value for both the engaged and their families. Before the wedding, the bridegroom gave his father-in-law money, goods, or labor (Gen. 29: 25-30).

Obstacles to marriage are listed in detail in the Third Book of Moses – Leviticus ch. 18: 6-18, briefly again in ch. 20: 17-21 and in the Fifth Book of Moses – Deuteronomy ch. 27: 20-23. They are related to blood kinship in the direct and lateral line, and in marriage.

Old Testament Judaic thought essentially sees the meaning and purpose of marriage in procreation. The most obvious and obligatory sign of God’s favor for him is in the continuation of the family. Abraham’s devotion and faith in God led to the promise of glorious offspring: “I will bless and bless, multiply and multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the cities of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because they have heard my voice ”(Gen. 22: 17-18). This solemn promise to Abraham explains why childlessness was seen as a curse, especially for women.

This view, so unequivocally expressed in the Old Testament, was originally due to the fact that in early Judaism there was no clear idea of ​​personal survival after death – at best, one could hope for an imperfect existence in a dark place called hell (often mistranslated as “hell”). The psalmist asks God to help him against the enemies who want to kill him; he knows that God “no longer remembers” the dead lying in the grave because “they have been repulsed by [His] hand.” Asking for God’s help against those who want to kill him, he skeptically challenges God: “Will you work miracles over the dead? Will the dead rise and glorify You? ”(Ps. 87:11). God is the “God of the living,” not of the dead. However, the promise given to Abraham suggested that life could be perpetuated through posterity, and hence the central importance of having children.

Although marriage — monogamous or polygamous — was the normal means of securing procreation, concubinage was also tolerated, and sometimes even recommended, for this purpose (Gen. 16: 1-3). The institution of the so-called “Levirate” (Gen. 38: 8, Deut. 25: 5-10, etc.) consisted of a man’s obligation to “raise up his brother’s offspring” if he died by marrying his widow and in this way. way provided him with partial survival in his wife’s children. Monogamous marriage, based on mutual eternal love between a man and a woman, existed rather as an ideal. It is hinted at in the history of creation, in the Song of Songs, and in various prophetic images of God’s love for His people. However, it never becomes an absolute religious norm or requirement.

Marriage in the New Testament age

In the New Testament, the meaning of marriage changes radically. No New Testament text that mentions marriage points to the procreation of marriage as its justification or purpose. In itself, the birth of children is a means of salvation only if it is accomplished “in faith, in charity, and in holiness with chastity” (1 Tim. 2:15).

The Lord Jesus Christ blesses the marriage between a man and a woman by repeating the words of Genesis. 2:24, saying, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. That which God hath joined together, let not man put asunder ”(Matt. 19: 5-6). St. The Apostle Paul likened the marriage between a man and a woman to the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church, describing it as a “great mystery” (Eph. 5:32). The first miracle that the Lord Jesus Christ performed at the wedding in Cana of Galilee is seen as an expression of approval of the institution of marriage (John 2: 1-11). By the way, with the very presence there of Christ and the apostles (who in the Holy Gospel of John are not mentioned to have participated in the rite of marriage), as guests at the wedding feast, is a recognition of the Old Testament institution of marriage by the New Testament Church. Apart from that, the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the wedding in Cana of Galilee was considered a sufficient reason for Christian marriages to be concluded in the presence of a bishop to bless them. From then on, the presence of a bishop or priest at the wedding was the first step towards his Christianization.

In this regard, it should be pointed out that the nature of Christian marriage is clearly reflected in Christ’s teaching on the prohibition of divorce. This teaching is expressed in direct opposition to the Jewish Deuteronomy, which allows divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19: 9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18). The very fact that a Christian marriage cannot be dissolved precludes any utilitarian (practical) considerations. The union of a husband with a husband is an end in itself; it is an eternal union between man and woman – two unique and eternal personalities that cannot be destroyed by any considerations such as the continuation of “offspring” (the concubine’s justification) or family solidarity (the basis for “levirate”).

However, the ban on divorce is not absolute. The famous exception mentioned by St. Apostle Matthew (except “for adultery” – 5:32 and 19: 9) comes to remind us that the law of the Kingdom of God never imposes legal coercion; that it presupposes a free human response, so that the gift of Christian marriage may be accepted and freely lived, but may ultimately be rejected by man. Another exception is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in which ap. Paul says that if an unbeliever wants to divorce, let him divorce; in such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved; God has called us to peace ”(7:15). Indeed, the quoted text concerns unbelievers, but insofar as marriage is a union between two persons – a man and a woman, this undoubtedly directly affects the believing husband. In principle, the Gospel never reduces the mystery of human freedom to legal precepts. It offers man the only gift worthy of the “image of God”: the “impossible” perfection. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Christ’s demand for absolute monogamy is also perceived as impossible by His hearers (Matt. 19:10). In fact, love is beyond the categories of the possible and the impossible. It is a “perfect gift” known only by experience. It is obvious that it is incompatible with infidelity. In the case of infidelity, the gift is rejected and the marriage ceases to exist. And the consequence of this is not just a legal “divorce”, but a tragedy of abuse of freedom, ie. sin.

When he speaks of widowhood, St. Apostle Paul held that marriage is not broken by death because “love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13: 8). In general, the attitude of St. Apostle Paul differs sharply from the Jewish rabbinic view in that, especially in 1 Corinthians, he gives such a clear preference for celibacy (I Cor. 7: 1, 7-8). This negative view was corrected only in the Epistle to the Ephesians with the doctrine of marriage as a reflection of the union between Christ and the Church: a doctrine that became fundamental to all the theology of marriage, as found in the Orthodox Tradition (Ephesians 5: 22-33).

However, on one issue – the issue of marriage of widows – the canonical and sacramental tradition of the Church strictly adheres to the view of St. Apostle. Paul, expressed in 1 Corinthians: “But if they abstain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to be incensed ”(7: 9). The second marriage – whether widowed or divorced – is allowed only as better than “incitement”. Until the tenth century, such marriages were not blessed in the church, and even today they remain an obstacle to priesthood acceptance. The modern ritual of blessing a second marriage also clearly shows that it is allowed only by condescension. In any case, Scripture and Tradition agree that the widow’s or widow’s fidelity to his or her late partner is more than an “ideal”: that it is a Christian norm. Christian marriage is not just an earthly sexual relationship – it is an eternal bond that will continue when our bodies become “spiritual” and when Christ becomes “all and in all.”

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