Support the Café
Search our site

The Bible and marriage and the art of misreading

The Bible and marriage and the art of misreading

New Testament scholar Greg Carey says a lot of people who advocate for “traditional family values” rooted in the Bible may not have much of an idea of what’s actually in the Bible on the subject of marriage.

It’s high time people came clean about how we use the Bible. When Christians try to resolve difficult ethical and theological matters, they typically appeal to the Gospels and Paul’s letters as keys to the question. But what about marriage? Not only did Jesus choose not to marry, he encouraged his disciples to abandon household and domestic concerns in order to follow him (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:28-30; Luke 9:57-62). He even refers to those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:10-13). Whatever that means, it’s certainly not an endorsement of marriage. Paul likewise encourages male believers: “Do not seek a wife” (1 Corinthians 7:27, my translation) — advice Paul took for himself. If neither Jesus nor Paul preferred marriage for their followers, why do some Christians maintain that the Bible enshrines 19th-century Victorian family values?

Let’s not even go into some of the Bible’s most chilling teachings regarding marriage, such as how a man’s obligation to keep a new wife who displeases him on the wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), his obligation to marry a woman he has raped (Deuteronomy 22:28-30) or the unquestioned right of heroes like Abraham to exploit their slaves sexually. I wonder: Have the “biblical family values advocates” actually read their Bibles?

Christians will always turn to the Bible for guidance — and we should. If the Bible does not promote a clear or redemptive teaching about slavery, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn from Scripture about the topic. The same values that guide all our relationships apply to marriage: unselfish concern for the other; honesty, integrity and fidelity; and sacrificial — but not victimized — love. That’s a high standard, far higher than a morality determined by anachronistic and restrictive rules that largely reflect our cultural biases. Rules make up the lowest common denominator for morality. Love, as Paul said, never finds an end.

Dislike (0)
0 0 vote
Article Rating
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

1 Comment
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Russell

This is actually a rather superficial article. For both Jesus and Paul marriage was a compromised estate. It got in the way of bringing in God's reign. Marriage was better than burning in hell for uncontrolled physical needs for Paul, and it divided loyalty for Jesus.

Most of what conservatives pedestal is a late 20th century romantic affection that is not found in scripture or history. Marylin Yalom's "History of the Wife" is insightful reading here.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Facebooktwitterrss
Support the Café
Past Posts
2020_001

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café