Sometimes I get really frustrated with people talking about the biblical definition of marriage. Nowhere does the bible define marriage in anything like what we might consider a modern understanding.

In acknowledgment of that, and in celebration of this week’s steps forward for the glbt community, I began tweeting reasons why my marriage does not look like some of the marriages portrayed in the Bible, and a few others on Twitter and Facebook joined me. Those who aren’t tweeps, however, asked for a listing, so here it is. Join the fun if you wish!

I began: I’ve decided, in honor of #marriageequality in NY and steps forward in the #UMC, to tweet reasons why #mymarriageisnotbiblical. Join me?

and continued:
because my husband doesn’t get to sleep with the maid just because we’re struggling with infertility.
because my husband didn’t marry me just so he could get to marry my kid sister later.
because I’m not one of 300 wives…
#mymarriageisnotbiblical because I didn’t get married simply to avoid burning with lust.
#mymarriageisnotbiblical because I didn’t trick my partner into marrying me by uncovering his “feet” while he was sleeping.

others joined me:

@matthewlkelley #mymarriageisnotbiblical because i asked her instead of negotiating a bride price with her father
@BostonObserver #mymarriageisnotbiblical because the Old Testament pre-trib laws apply to Ancient Hebrews and I am not an Ancient Hebrew.
@pastorkatherine #mymarriageisnotbiblical because I am SO done being fruitful and multiplying!
@JackMcCullough Two words: no concubines. #mymarriageisnotbiblical

Carolyn F My marriage is not biblical because there is no head of household in this house.
Hannah W My marriage is not biblical because I would never ask my husband to kick a child out of the house because I’m jealous.
Kris G our marriage is not biblical because a Christian and a Jew are married and under one roof.
Megan S #mymarriageisnotbiblical because my husband is not the spiritual head of the household.
Tom S My marriage is not biblical because when I die, my wife has no intentions of marrying my brother.
Hannah W Ours is not a biblical marriage because my husband didn’t have to work for my father for 7 years to earn the right to marry me. And he’s not my cousin.
Tom S My marriage is not biblical because my wife won’t let me have any concubines, not even one!
Evie D my marriage is not biblical because I chose my husband! And should I outlive him, I have no intention of marrying any of his brothers!


11 thoughts on “#mymarriageisnotbiblical”

  1. You don’t even get out of Genesis before you read “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. Joseph and Mary’s marriage seems similar to modern marriage to me.

    Not everything in the Bible is good. Cain killed Abel. That doesn’t mean that your relationship with your siblings isn’t Biblical if you don’t kill them.

    1. Which part of Joseph and Mary’s marriage seems modern? If I understand it correctly, she was a thirteen year old girl, betrothed to a much older man, and pregnant out of wedlock with the Holy Spirit. According to some traditions (although I think the Bible rules this out), they never had sex. Joseph seems to be out of the picture some time after Jesus’ 12th year. That’s not much like my marriage.

  2. Becca, we studied in depth the engagement process, the age of Mary possiby being 13 or 14, and that had Joseph not “kept her” that there was a good chance she could have been put to death. Are you saying that Mary was having sex prior to the immaculate coception? Also, how do you get that Joseph was out of Jesus’s life until after 12 yrs old? Is that strictly based on the bible? If so, could it not also be said that there is very little of Jesus mentioned too? If so, would that not account for there not being much said about Jesus? Would Jesus not have been speding time with Joseph learning his trade? If there is additional reading that I need to do on this outside of the bible, can you list the book or books? One last thing. A suggestion of sorts. I think you should list how your marriage is biblical and challenge your members to do the same. I think there are many postive things in regards to marriage and family in the bible. As always, thanks for your time.

    1. What I’m trying to point out is that the idea of “marriage” that we have today does not come from the bible. That a woman can be “kept”– or stoned– is not our modern marriage. That marriages were contracts and largely not entered into our of choice or love is not our modern marriage. That marriages valued procreation at the expense of all else, so that multiple partners were permissible in order to secure an heir is not our modern marriage. All of that is fine– it’s a different culture and a different time. What I object to is that we read our modern monogamous, love-based equal partners marriage concepts back into the bible and then use that to make claims about couples who are the same gender. I support our modern definition of marriage, so long as we mean two adult people entering an equal partnership based on love, trust, fidelity, and so forth, making a commitment before their community and the God they worship (if they do). I just don’t see the need to make a definition centered on the gender of those partners.

      1. The Bible states many times that homosexuality is a sin….it doesn’t get much clearer then that! It also states that marriage is between one man and one woman. I believe that the Bible is 100% truth, there is no hidden meaning and we can’t change His holy word to try and fit into this ever increasing evil world where people continue to try and manipulate the truth!

        1. Hi Chantal,

          Thanks for reading and commenting.

          There are passages of the Bible which state that homosexuality renders a person unclean or unfit to enter the presence of God. However, in the same passages, other things have the same outcome: touching the skin of a pig or being in the presence of a woman who is menstruating, for example (let alone being the menstruating woman!). We don’t consider these things to be sins any more, because our cultural and religious understandings have changed. I don’t think that’s trying to manipulate the truth; it’s trying to read and live by the Bible in its own context and in ours. We take seriously the passage from Acts where God tells Peter that we are not to call unclean that which God has called clean or good. Jesus comes to complete the law, and he completes it with love, grace, and invitation for the most outcast of society to approach God in relationship. When I find the Bible inconsistent or difficult to reconcile in places, I err on the side of grace, love, and invitation, because that’s how I understand the message, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

          I do not read unequivocally in the Bible that marriage is between one man and one woman– in fact, I read multiple examples of marriage between one man and multiple women, or one man, one woman, and the man’s multiple sexual partners. I also do not read that marriage is entered into out of love, but largely out of transaction, politics, money, and the desire for heirs. I do not read that marriage is a covenantal relationship between equal partners, but most often read that women are treated as property and are only as “good” as their ability to procreate. My point in this post, again, is that our modern understanding of marriage is very different from the understadingS presented in the Bible, and that is as it should be, since our modern context is very different. To then use the “biblical definition” of marriage in some places (to claim that marriage must be between one man and one woman), but not in others (we don’t use the Bible to allow for child sexual slavery, polygamy, or the repression of women– although some people have, and some people do) is not being faithful to the truth of the bible; it is picking and choosing to try to live out God’s purpose for us in our own time and place. I just interpret that differently than you appear to, but that does not mean I am any closer to– or further from– the truth.


  3. Becca, first let me say that I truely appreciate the time you take responding to my comments when I don’t attend your church and live several hundred miles away. You really put yourself out there. The bad thing about this is that it makes it easy to key on words or certain phrases which seem inportant in the blog but during coversation based on tone, body language, etc. can take on a different level of importance. That said, I may be doing that on my question related to your comments above. You have written about the commitment before community and the God they worship if they do. My question: As a UM, isn’t that part of the purpose of marriage? If a person doesn’t believe in God, isn’t the marriage concept irrelevant. If I don’t believe in God, then why not move from “lover to lover.” when things go wrong with one move to the next because lust, adultry, and so forth would be irrelevant and if I am not maried then there are no divorce issues. In a selfish way, it seems that this wold be easier than marriage. (After re reading this, I need to add I am married and love my wife and child very much and am have no desire to get divorced. However, if not married and only with the person for a few months, I don’t think I would feel vested at that point.) For me, God, Jesus, and christianity have played a strong roll in my marriage during those times that are tough. I think my faith and belief played a roll in going through the lows and going back to the highs. All this said, I see marriage as a vow in front of God. Two last questions. I thiought monogomy was traced back to the new testament. Do you know where we trace that idea to or what time period it became relavant? If you don’t wish to answer this next question, I understand. If a couple comes to you and one has been saved and the other has not, will you still marry them?

    1. Hi Allen, thanks for your words of appreciation. I consider blogging and dialogue to be part of my call the “the world as my parish.”

      In my above comment, as I was writing it, I was thinking that when two people get married before a Justice of the Peace, for example, most people still consider that to fit within the modern definition of “marriage,” but it may not include any worship of any God whatsoever. Many people choose monogamous marriage, but not out of a sense of their faith per se, just coming from our cultural understanding of marriage. To this same point, what I would actually love to see is a domestic partnership, granted by the state to any couple and valid anywhere, for legal purposes, and a separate religious ceremony of marriage, as people choose. I’d say this is like the difference between a birth certificate and a baptismal certificate. I don’t like that the church and state are mixed together in this. I do not want to be an agent of the state, and I do not think churches should be involved in civil rights decisions like who can be domestic partners.

      I actually have no idea where the concept of monogamy comes from in human history or in the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s an interesting question.

      I don’t mind answering your last question. I do not question people on their creedal beliefs prior to agreeing to perform their marriage, and I have married inter-religious couples for example. So yes, certainly I marry couples whether one or both are “saved” (although I don’t consider myself qualified to make that determination). Sometimes relationship, marriage, and even moments of grace like weddings move people closer to God over time. What I do ask couples is why they want to get married in a church (as opposed to a courthouse, for example), to try to get a sense of if this is a spiritual commitment for them. It’s not to say I won’t do it if it’s not, but it’s something we then talk about. I still consider it an opportunity for outreach ministry. I also ask couples if they talk to each other about their faith and offer to facilitate that, since many couples do not.


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