Tag Archives: marriage

Same-sex Marriage in Classical Biblical Commentary

As I researched an upcoming post on Enoch, I stumbled upon this passage in Genesis Rabbah:

“The generation of the Flood was not blotted out of the world until they had begun writing nuptial hymns for marriages between males or between man and beast.”
Genesis Rabbah 26:5:4

That does say what you think it says: Fifth century Jews, at least some of them, thought that Noah’s flood was caused by gay marriage. I was shocked by this, but more because I didn’t think of same-sex marriage as a social issue until the modern era. The very fact that it was condemned fifteen-hundred years ago means that the practice must have existed in some form. I subsequently learned that there was a controversy about it in the Roman Empire and was banned right around the time the commentary was written. It is a small world!

This isn’t a post in favor of gay marriage or against it, but rather I want to look at the two (that I found) references in early Jewish sources which talk about the practice– and if you know of early Christian sources, please share them with me. It should go without saying that while the bible doesn’t mention the practice directly, the prohibitions against same-sex relations are clear and as I strive for the “plain meaning” of the text in my blog, I won’t apologize for that. I support same-sex marriage, but this post isn’t a biblical defense of that practice.

I hope too many people don’t unfriend me for posting this. Read on for more!

Continue reading Same-sex Marriage in Classical Biblical Commentary

Marriage in the Bible – Part 6: The Honeymoon

This Sunday, my wife and I completed the one-year re-enactment of our “mini-moon”, the one day honeymoon that we took immediately after our wedding. (A more elaborate honeymoon was reserved for later in the year when we could both take time off of work.) Our mini-moon was to a lovely bed-and-breakfast in Rockport, Massachusetts and our trip back there this weekend was only slightly marred by the unseasonably awful New England weather. (Snow? In October? Can we move to Florida?)

In light of spending the weekend relaxing with my wife, I’ve been reflecting on one of the nicer traditions in the Torah around marriage: the honeymoon. Read on.

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 6: The Honeymoon

Marriage in the Bible – Part 5: The Virgin Test

In biblical times, as in many cultures, virginity was important. A man liked to know that his new wife (which he may have paid a pretty penny for) was wholesome and pure. Of course, if he paid for her– either in shekels or blood– a lack of virginity was tantamount to false advertising. But then as now, there were people of looser moral character, who might claim that a virgin was not, to “get his money back”. Fortunately the bride and her father need only turn to the bible for a solution to their problem: the virgin test.

This is day five of my “marriage in the Torah” series. If you are just joining me, the days so far are about the creation story, marrying your brother’s widow, polygamy, and the bride price. I had planned on posting about divorce on Friday, but it was depressing. Virginity is more fun, anyway, and I’ll loop back around to divorce shortly.

So, how does biblical law ensure the fairness of virgin brides? Read on!

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 5: The Virgin Test

Marriage in the Bible – Part 4: Wives as Property

In honor of my first wedding anniversary, I’m doing a week-long look at marriage in the bible. Monday was marriage in the creation story, which first depicts something akin to marriage equality, before casting women below men after Eve’s sin. Tuesday was Levirate marriage, which describes a method by which widows can be married off to their spouse’s brother. Wednesday was polygamy, the one-sided practice of marriage plurality. These all dance around an uncomfortable truth: in many cases and in many ways, wives were property.

I should make clear of course that this doesn’t mean that the women in the Torah were subservient or weak, only that they were working in a system that was unkind to them. Read on!

 

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 4: Wives as Property

Marriage in the Bible – Part 3: Polygamy

No discussion of biblical marriage can be complete without the major elephant in the room: polygamy. Though modern Jews and Christians hold that marriage should be like Adam and Eve, one man and one woman, early Jews thought otherwise well into the post-Christian era. Echos of this practice still exist today in Islam as well as a few very fringe Mormon groups. (Mormonism as a whole outlawed the practice around forty years after the religion’s founding.)

If you are just joining us, this week in honor of my first wedding anniversary, I’m doing a post every day about a different aspect of marriage in the Torah. Monday was marriage in the creation story. Tuesday was Levrite marriage. Today, I’m digging into polygamy.

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 3: Polygamy

Marriage in the Bible – Part 2: On Marrying Your Brother’s Wife

In honor of my first wedding anniversary, I have a special week of posts about marriage in the bible. Monday was marriage in the creation story, a simple story of man-meets-woman, man-falls-from-grace-with-woman, woman-is-forced-to-serve-man-for-eternity.

Don’t worry, I’ll get to polygamy in a bit, but Genesis is also famous for one other type of “biblical marriage”, Levirate marriage. Everyone knows the story of poor Onan: forced to marry his brother’s widow, but he doesn’t want to impregnante his sister-in-law-turned-wife and “spills his seed” on the ground. God does the only sensible thing and kills him.

Read on for more!

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 2: On Marrying Your Brother’s Wife

Marriage in the Bible – Part 1: Genesis and the Creation Story

Today is my first wedding anniversary! Married life is wonderful, and I have a wonderful person to share it with. In part because of my anniversary, I have been pondering marriage in the bible. (Why? It’s better than laundry.) As I reread, I am struck again and again about how much marriage in the bible sucks, especially if you happen to be a woman. The Torah might as well be Sharia Law(*) for its depiction of the rights of women. Even the New Testament isn’t much better: in 1 Corinthians, Paul recommends that if you aren’t married, you should stay that way. Jesus is at least known to have attended a wedding…

In honor of my anniversary, I’m going to do something different. Over the next week, I will be positing my thoughts on a different aspect of biblical marriage, one post every day. For simplicity, I’m limiting myself to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible. Next year, I hope to be able to move forward into the later books and possibly even the New Testament.

Read on for Part 1: Marriage in Genesis, in which we discover that woman was created for man… or sometimes also his brother.

(*) Note: I know next to nothing about Sharia Law, except by reputation. My suspicion is that its reputation is tainted by the Judeo-Christian sources that report on such things. I have a distinct suspicion that it’s probably not that far off of early Jewish teaching.

Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 1: Genesis and the Creation Story