Did Jesus define marriage as only between a man and a woman?
by Rick Brentlinger
Recently Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries used the "Jesus said it ain't okay" argument from Matthew 19:3-7. Here is his email to me and my response.
"And Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that He Who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Click here to comment.
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matthew 19:3-7, ESV)
Ken writes: "Rick, Jesus has just defined marriage as a male (man) to a female (woman), and that's how the men to whom He was speaking understood it.
That's always been the orthodox Jewish position as well as that of the historic orthodox Christian Church. Even John Shelby Spong admitted homosexuality cannot be defended from Scripture.
You are welcome to your views, but as gently as I can say it, they really don't stand in the light of Scripture."
My Comments / Answer to
Hi Ken- I will address your factually inaccurate statements point by point.
1. "to come to a conclusion biblically that same sex sexual relations are always outside the marriage covenant."
That is your opinion based on your presuppositions about male-female Complementarity in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Your opinion differs from what the texts actually say.
The Pharisees did not ask Jesus if "same sex sexual relations are always outside the marriage covenant."
Your interpretation substitutes your opinion - something Jesus didn't say - for what Jesus actually said. You are teaching your opinion - something Jesus did not say - as absolute truth. Obviously that is a false way of interpreting scripture.
2. "Jesus has just defined marriage as a male man to a female woman, and that's how the men to whom He was speaking understood it."
Your conclusion is not at all what Jesus actually said. The Jewish men to whom Jesus spoke did not define marriage as one man with one woman for life. When Jesus cites Genesis 2:24, by no means did Jesus or Jewish men understand Genesis 2:24 as prohibiting polygamy.
We know Complementarity (one man with one woman for life) is not God's ironclad rule for all marriages because scripture makes exceptions for other situations like (1) polygamy and (2) divorce because of fornication. The fact that there are clearly stated Biblical exceptions to Complementarity proves your absolutist view is wrong.
It also leaves open the strong probability that God intended the 5% of humans who are same sex attracted to be same sex partnered. This belief is based on 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 where the principle of partnership is stated.
"To avoid fornication, everyone (except those gifted with celibacy) should have an orientation compatible partner."
I believe scripture is clear that the Jewish men He addressed did not understand Him to be prohibiting polygamy. There is no way Jesus intended His words to convey the meaning you give them - that the only marriage acceptable to God is one man with one woman. Here's how we know that.
a. The first polygamous marriage is recorded in the Bible in Genesis 4:19, only 44 verses after the marriage passage in Genesis 2:24.
b. God and Moses, in Deuteronomy 21:15-17, made provision in the Law for polygamous marriages. This provision is never described by Jesus or any human author of scripture as accommodating human sinfulness, yet Jesus did describe divorce as sinful, Matt 5:32, 19:3-7, Mark 10:11-12.
Why do so many heterosexual preachers harp on the "sin" of homosexuality while ignoring the divorce epidemic in their own churches (sometimes in their own lives)? That is "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel."
c. Many heroes of the faith practiced polygamy their entire adult lives yet scripture does not condemn them as living in sin. The nation of Israel sprang from Jacob's polygamous marriage with four women.
God is not an absolute Complementarian. In plainer words, God does not agree with your absolutist view and never states your absolutist view in the Bible.
God never encourages us to believe that the only marriage acceptable to Him is a one man with one woman marriage like Adam and Eve. Isn't it time you repented and lined up with God's view instead of championing your own opinion?
d. Jehovah Himself affirmed polygamy through His prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:7-8.
"And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."
At the point in time when Jehovah gave additional wives into David's bosom, David already had at least seven wives whose names are given: Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, 2 Samuel 3:2-5, Michal, v. 13.
Because God affirmed polygamy, that is clear testimony from God that He does not agree with your opinion that one man with one woman is the only marriage relationship God will bless.
e. The Holy Spirit affirms polygamy by inference in 2 Chronicles 24:2-3.
"And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. And Jehoiada took for him two wives; and he begat sons and daughters."
3. "That's always been the orthodox Jewish position..."
Your statement is factually inaccurate. Jews throughout the Old Testament and into the first century AD accepted and permitted polygamy. The orthodox Jewish position since 1450 BC when Moses wrote the Pentateuch has been that Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 do not teach absolute Complementarity - one man with one woman for life - as the only marriage paradigm God will bless.
Instead the orthodox Jewish position affirmed and blessed polygamy. Abraham, father of the faithful and friend of God, was a polygamist, Genesis 16:3-4, who also fathered many children by concubines, Genesis 25:6.
Jacob, whose sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel, was a polygamist. God Himself decided that Jacob's offspring from four wives would become the nation of Israel.
4. "...as well as that of the historic orthodox Christian Church."
On this point too, your conclusion is historically inaccurate. There is no scriptural evidence that any early Christian who heard Jesus speak in person or who read Matthew 19 understood Jesus to be outlawing polygamy when He spoke of "two becoming one."
Events in Matthew 19 occurred around AD 29. 1 Timothy was written around AD 62 so there is at least a 33 year gap between Jesus' statement on divorce and Paul's statements in 1 Timothy 3.
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife" -1 Tim 3:2
"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife" -1 Tim 3:12
If Jesus intended to teach absolute Complementarity, that the ONLY acceptable marriage is one man with one woman for life, and if His Jewish listeners and early Christians understood that to be His teaching, then why did the Holy Spirit and Paul feel it necessary to point out that bishops and deacons may only have one wife?
If Jewish and Christian orthodoxy already understood that, there is no reason for the Holy Spirit and Paul to mention that having more than one wife was a deal-breaker for a bishop or a deacon.
The fact is, some first century Jews and Christians practiced polygamy because polygamy was never forbidden in scripture for anyone except bishops and deacons.
5. "Even John Shelby Spong admitted homosexuality cannot be defended from Scripture."
That is such as weak argument. Spong is a heretic of the first order. He rejects the deity of Christ, the necessity of the new birth, justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Spong also rejects the inspiration and authority of scripture. His testimony about what scripture does or does not teach carries no weight.
6. "You are welcome to your views, but as gently as I can say it, they really don't stand in the light of Scripture."
That is such a condescending statement. You cannot produce any verse of scripture which in context addresses same sex marriage yet you've concluded based on scripture taken out of context, that same sex marriage is never permissible.
What you've done is re-purpose a passage in which Jesus rebukes heterosexual Jewish men for their heterosexual divorce practices as if Jesus was really making a negative statement about gay marriage.
In your zeal to champion your opinion, you've stepped into the sandals of the scribes and Pharisees, "making the word of God of none effect by your (anti-gay) tradition." Mark 7:13
Ken Silva answered what I wrote above.
Here is my response to his answer
plus a link to his answer.