A Biblical Concept of Marriage: Warning: Updates may
In the context of heated debate about gay marriage,
various politicians, preachers and pundits, from the smallest talk radio stations
to the White House itself, are rising up with one accord to urge a hasty return
to a "biblical" definition of marrige. President Bush has asked for
the public's prayerful guidance as he seeks to find a legal remedy for recent
court decisions that he finds disturbing. If these advocates of "traditional"
marriage actually consult their Bibles carefully, however, they may come away
from a close reading of the sacred text with something less than a feeling of
If one were to construct an amendment to the Constitution
based on a literal reading of the Bible it might well contain the following stipulations:
Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one
or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)
shall not impede a man's right to take concubines, in addition to his wife or
wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron
A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin.
wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)
4. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3;
Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)
5. Since marriage is for
life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state
or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)
If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If
he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children,
he shall pay a fine of one shoe, and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined
by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)
7. In lieu of marriage,
if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your
dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a
sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course,
this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)
a more contemporary standard measures up better against the ancient near eastern
tradition than one might have expected.
Note: this is a slightly
revised version of a satirical piece circulating on a variety of internet lists.
I have tried to trace this to its source, and have, as yet, been unsuccessful.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.