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I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immora

 

lity, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:4 NIV).

An Essay of Anthropology: Biblical Teachings on Divorce and Marriage

Assume two friends come two you that are experiencing difficulty in their marriage. As A Christian, what sort of advice would you give in the areas of separation, divorce, the right to remarry and the nature of marriage itself as it pertains to scriptures? How does divorce affect society and the Church as a whole? These are a few of the topics we will exam in this short essay on marriage and divorce. Many more could be covered but only the most relevant will be covered to keep paper as brief as possible.

The Bible on Marriage

What is marriage? Is marriage a formal contract between two parties, an arrangement, a religious decree, a personal bond or some deep spiritual and physical connection? The world has many theories on marriage Differing from one’s personal views and that of the society one is born into there are some many numerous concepts. My focus is one of a Biblical nature I will not cover those of the secular variety in this essay. I will only mention a few of the world viewpoints briefly.  One may go to Justice of the Peace, marry in front of a religious leader, may choose to live as if married but without a legal contract (Common Law) or may be totally against the concept entirely.

When does the Bible consider one married? According to Walter A. Elwell “Marriage is effected through sexual intercourse (1 Corinthians 6:16). A person is thus considered to be married to the person to whom he or she has had sexual intercourse with. This is seen as the agent in which God in acts marriage similar to the way baptism initiates regeneration (Elwell 1984,2001).”

Other Theologians consider the declaration of vows or intent the point at which the marriage initiates (Elwell 1984,2001).

According to Walter A.  Elwell “The first reference to marriage in the Bible is in the Book of Genesis and states the God had established marriage for the good of mankind (Gen. 2:18 -25).”  Elwell then expounds on the early customs of the Jewish people of the Old Testament and that most marriage was arranged in early times. He then explains the word betrothal (Exodus 22:16; Duet. 20:7 )  “was a legally binding  contact between the parents and the groom It had the same status of marriage  and anyone guilty of violating it was guilty of adultery (Elwell 1984,2001, 740-741).”  From the concept of Betrothal, the idea of engagement originated. This also is one of the earliest Judo-Christian marriage contracts as well.

The first Biblical story on Marriage is the account of Jacob. A simple expression of vows were exchanged as recorded in the Elephantine text “She is my wife and and I am Her Husband from this day forever.” In Christian times, it was a more simple declaration: “Thou shalt be my Wife (Elwell 1984,2001).” It was not uncommon for a wedding feast to last up to two weeks in the time of Christ and the couple was treated as royalty. The wedding was expected to be consummated on the same night and if a woman was found not to be, a virgin the marriage could be nulled within a week of less of residing together (Elwell 1984,2001).

The Bible teaches one main point on marriage “The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found as his complement. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman, for she was taken from man. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh (Gen. 2: 20 -24).” This passage teaches us man and women are to be together in a perfect union, as partners, helpmates and in a symbiotic union with each other only exclusively. This passage is in the defensive of monogamy and the basis for which all the other passage on graveness of adultery stem. It illustrates the need for love and relationship in one’s life to be a whole. Nothing aside from marriage or God’s Agape love will suffice in filling this void. Paul in (1 Cor: 6:16) reminds one illicit sexual acts are not to be condoned even by married individuals.  Jesus states, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate (Matt. 19:6).” With the discussion, in mind, what is the Bibles view on separation and divorce?

The Bible on Divorce

The basic teaching of the Bible as it relates to Christians is that divorce is only allowed under limited circumstances. The conditions are Adultery, desertion, marriage to a nonbeliever and extreme acts of violence, malice or neglect. Some theologians include a list of other lesser evils as well…

Many ministers and churches cite Matthew 19:4 stating adultery is the only justifiable reason: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” In This passage Jesus is debating with the Pharisees on divorce however if one reads further one will see he states in response to a question on marriage and divorce not all can accept this: Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”

 

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can (Matthew 19: 10-12).” In addition, one must not forget Christianity is about love and forgiveness. If one does not allow for divorce and remarriage in some instances one goes against the nature of God. It is imperative counseling must be pursued. Remember, Marriage is a covenant between God, man and women, as illustrated in the passage from Genesis stated earlier in this essay. Marriage is our natural state. Abuse and the acceptance and tolerance of evil and Sin is not however. [1]

The bible differs from what the world teaches in a dramatic manner. In today’s society unhappiness, infidelity, financial struggles, loss of love or simply trading in for a new model may be sufficient grounds. The list could go on indefinitely. If one can come come up with a reason one can get a divorce.

I believe divorce should only be sought after counseling and reconciliation has failed or when there is an imminent threat of danger to one’s security or life or that of a child. To many people are too quick to give in to rash decisions and emotions failing to realize you do not necessary always like the person you love. It is a lifetime commitment. It is a partnership. It takes determination, commitment, communication hard work, perseverance, integrity, and discipline. In response that I am old fashion or to conservative I tell people to grow up and live in God’s World. Stop being so selfish! Life is not about You!

On Remarrying

Many Churches are against the right of remarriage to the divorcee. The Catholic Church holds the view that remarriage is forbidden unless done in a civil setting under certain cases only. The general view of the Roman Catholic Church is to not remarry in accordance to its ban on divorce. The Eastern Orthodox and Nonconformist and some Anglicans have allowed conditional remarriage. However, in general most Anglican and their protestant derivatives have outlawed remarriage. As for the independent churches, it is done by a case-by-case basis and should be considered carefully by the pastor. A wise minister should remember that the Bible warns that marriage is only for the mature and sane. This is what The Apostle Paul was alluded to in the Book of 1 Corinthians 7.

Impact of Divorce

The impact of divorce on society is great. Divided homes are linked to everything to behavior problems in children, to crime and violence. The financial loss from a one income home can be strain on many as well. Divorce destroys and divides family units.

The role of the church should not be to condemn but to encourage. We must strengthen and bring hope to those recovering from divorce. To those considering divorce, we as Christians should seek to help in reconciliation if possible. Divorce is like a cancer that not only eats away at the body of society but also can divide the Body of Christ. However, at times it is useful to save one from abuse and undue harm. Who are we to judge anyways?

In God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit,

Trenton Clark Rindoks

Word count: # 1565

Bibliography

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1984,2001.


[1] For more on divorce see also, 1 Corinthian 7:11

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