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A Biblical Concept of Marriage:
Warning: Updates may be required


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 comfort.

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:

1. 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)

2. Marriage 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 11:21)

3. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the 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)

6. 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)

Perhaps 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. Charles Henderson

Charles Henderson

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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.

For further information about Charles Henderson.