Some people would have you believe that marriage began with Adam and Eve. But in the account in Genesis where Adam and Eve become one flesh (presumably through their mutual commitment and sexual intimacy), there is no mention of an “institution” of marriage nor any liturgy, vows, promises or other ritual used to solemnize their relationship. This prehistorical account can only serve as a backdrop to the meaning (not the “institution”) of marriage that developed over time.More re biblical marriage and the subsequent evolution of the concept at the Salon link.
The fact of the matter is, marriage has not been consistent or unchanging over time. Indeed, even in biblical times, we see a constant evolution in the practice of marriage. One man and one woman, united in marriage for life, mutually exclusive and “faithful” sexually, and joined because of their love for each other, is a relatively modern notion of marriage. Such was not the case in ancient times.
From the earliest Old Testament accounts, polygamy seemed to be the practice of the day. Or, to be more accurate, polygyny (the practice of polygamy by males, not females) was practiced. In the ancient Hebrew culture, having more than one wife was commonplace. In addition to multiple wives, men who were wealthy enough to have slaves or concubines had sexual relationships with them. Even Abraham — father to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity — when he was unable to produce an heir with his wife, Sarah, had a son by his slave Hagar. Abraham’s grandson Jacob married two sisters, Leah and Rachel. King Solomon was renowned not only for his wisdom and wealth but also for his 700 wives and 300 concubines! Over the years, marriage customs evolved, and by Jesus’ time divorce was discouraged and monogamy increasingly became the standard...
Jesus is quite clear that marriage is to be for a lifetime and that divorce is a serious issue, permitted to a man only in the case of “unchastity.” For either a man or a woman to marry anyone after divorce (“except on the ground of unchastity”), Jesus tells his disciples, is to commit “adultery” (Matthew 19:9; 5:31– 32; Mark 10:11– 12; Luke 16:18)...
18 September 2012
Marriage in the Bible
It's not as simple as some would suggest. Here are some excerpts from a column at Salon written by an Anglican bishop: