Christian views on marriage
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Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, 1862.
Christian views on marriage typically regard it as instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship
between one man as husband and one woman as wife, and is to be "held in honor among all...."[Heb 13:4]
Civil laws recognize marriage as having social and political status. Christian theology affirms the secular status of
marriage, but additionally views it from a moral and religious perspective that transcends all social interests.
While marriage is honored among Christians and throughout the Bible, it is not seen as necessary for everyone.
Single people who either have chosen to remain unmarried or who have lost their spouse for some reason are neither
incomplete in Christ nor personal failures. There is no suggestion that Jesus was ever married.
Divorce or dissolution of marriage is generally seen from a Christian perspective as less than the ideal, with specific
opinions ranging from it being universally wrong to the notion that it sometimes is inevitable.
The New Testament holds that sex is reserved for marriage. It says that sex outside of marriage is the sin of
adultery (for the married person) if either sexual participant is married to another person. Voluntary sexual
intercourse between persons not married to each other is considered the sin of fornication.
Ideas about roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife now vary considerably on a continuum between the
long-held male-dominant/female-submission view and a growing shift toward equality (without sameness) of the
woman and the man.
A small but growing number of Christian denominations conduct weddings between same sex couples where it is
civilly legal. A few others perform ceremonies to bless same sex unions without recognising them as marriage.
 Biblical foundations
Christians believe that marriage is considered in its ideal according to the purpose of God. At the heart of God's
design for marriage is companionship and intimacy. According to Genesis, marriage was instituted by God in the
Garden of Eden.
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him"...and while he was
sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from
the ribor "side" he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my
bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will
leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
– Genesis 2:18,21-24
The biblical picture of marriage expands into something much broader, with the husband and wife relationship
illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church.
It is also considered in its actual occurrence, sometimes involving failure. Therefore, the Bible speaks on the subject
of divorce. The New Testament recognizes a place for singleness. Salvation within Christianity is not dependent
on the continuation of a biological lineage.
 Old Testament
Christians regard the foundational principle of the lifelong union of a man and a woman to have been first articulated
biblically in the Book of Genesis.
Rembrandt's depiction of Samson's marriage feast
The Old Testament describes a number of marriages, some of the best known being Adam and Eve,[Gen 2:15-3:13]
Abraham and Sarah,[17:1-8,15-22] [21:1-7] Isaac and Rebekah,[24:24-67] Jacob and Rachel,[29:1-30] Boaz and Ruth,[Ruth 2:1-13]
David and Abigail,[1 Sam 25:14-42] and Hosea and Gomer.[Hosea 1,3] Polygyny, or men having multiple wives at
once, is one of the most common marital arrangements represented in the Old Testament, yet scholars doubt that it
was common among average Israelites because of the wealth needed to practice it.
Betrothal (erusin), which is merely a binding promise to get married, is distinct from marriage itself (nissu'in), with
the time between these events varying substantially. Since a wife was regarded as property in biblical times, the
betrothal (erusin) was effected simply by purchasing her from her father (or guardian); the girl’s consent is not
explicitly required by any biblical law. Like the adjacent Arabic culture (in the pre-Islamic period), the act of
marriage appears mainly to have consisted of the groom fetching the bride, although among the Israelites (unlike the
Arabs) the procession was a festive occasion, accompanied by music, dancing, and lights. To celebrate the
marriage, week-long feasts were sometimes held.
In biblical times, a wife was regarded as chattel, belonging to her husband. The descriptions of the bible suggest
that she would be expected to perform tasks such as spinning, sewing, weaving, manufacture of clothing, fetching of
water, baking of bread, and animal husbandry. However, wives were usually looked after with care, and bigamous
men were expected to ensure that they give their first wife food, clothing, and sexual activity.[Ex 21:10]
Since a wife was regarded as property, her husband was originally free to divorce her for any reason, at any time.
A divorced couple were permitted to get back together unless the wife had married someone else after her
 Jesus and the Gospels
Sometimes used as a symbol for Christian marriage: Two gold wedding rings interlinked with the Greek letters chi
(X) and rho (P)—the first two letters in the Greek word for "Christ" (see Labarum)
Have you not read that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," and said, "For this reason a man
will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh"? So they are no longer
two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.
– Matthew 19:4-6; also Mk 10:7-9
In both Matthew and Mark, Jesus appealed to God's will in creation. He builds upon the narrative in Genesis 1:27
and 5:2 where male and female are created together and for one another. Thus Jesus takes a firm stand on the
permanence of marriage in the original will of God. This corresponds closely with the position of the Pharisee
school of thought lead by Shammai, at the start of the first millennium, with which Jesus would have been
familiar. By contrast, Judaism subsequently took the opposite view, espoused by Hillel, the leader of the other major
Pharisee school of thought at the time; in Hillel's view, men were allowed to divorce their wives for any reason.
Where there was failure in the marriage, Jesus found husband and wife equally responsible. The two are joined
together by God so that "they are no longer two, but one." He brought together two passages from Genesis,
reinforcing the basic position on marriage found in Jewish scripture. Thus, he implicitly emphasized that it is God-
made ("God has joined together"), "male and female," lifelong ("let no one separate"), and monogamous ("a
Jesus used the image of marriage and the family to teach the basics about the kingdom of God. He inaugurated his
ministry by blessing the wedding feast at Cana. In the Sermon on the Mount he set forth a new commandment
concerning marriage, teaching that lustful looking constitutes adultery. He also superseded a Mosaic Law allowing
divorce with his teaching that "…anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become
an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
There is no evidence that Jesus himself ever married, and considerable evidence that he remained single. In contrast
to Judaism and many other traditions,:p.283 he taught that there is a place for voluntary singleness in Christian
service. He believed marriage could be a distraction from an urgent mission.
He believed he was living in a time of crisis and urgency where the Kingdom of God would be established where
there would be no marriage nor giving in marriage.
"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the
sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal
 New Testament beyond the Gospels
The Apostle Paul quoted passages from Genesis almost verbatim in two of his New Testament books. He used
marriage not only to describe the kingdom of God, as Jesus had done, but to define also the nature of the first
century Christian church. His theological view was a Christian development of the Old Testament parallel between
marriage and the relationship between God and Israel. He analogized the church as a bride and Christ as the
bridegroom─drawing parallels between Christian marriage and the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century.
Both Jesus and Paul seem to provide "exceptions" to marriage as being its ideal according to the purpose of God
because of extraordinary circumstances ("because of the impending crisis"), see also Pauline privilege. Their
concerns were that marriage might be a distraction from the work of discipleship.
It remains unclear if Paul was even himself married. Some scholars have speculated that he may have been a
widower since he was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, positions in which the social norm of the day
required the men to be married. But it's just as likely that he never married at all.
Yet, Paul acknowledges the mutuality of marital relations, and recognises that his own singleness is "a particular gift
from God" that others may not necessarily have. "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to
stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to
burn with passion."[1 Cor 7:8]
 The New Testament and sexual conduct
The New Testament holds that sex is reserved for marriage, according to classicist Evelyn Stagg and New Testament
scholar Frank Stagg. They maintain that the New Testament teaches that sex outside of marriage is a sin of
adultery if either sexual participant is married, otherwise the sin of fornication if both sexual participants are
unmarried. An imperative given in 1 Corinthians says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit
are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies."[1 Cor 6:18] Those who are sexually
immoral or adulterers are listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9 in a list of "wrongdoers who...will not inherit the kingdom of
God." Galatians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 7:2 also address fornication. The Apostolic Decree of the Council of
Jerusalem also includes a prohibition of fornication.
 Marriage and early Church Fathers
"St Augustine and Monica".
Building on the example of Jesus and Paul, first-century Christians placed less value on the family, and rather saw
celibacy and freedom from family ties as a preferable state.
Nicene Fathers such as Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament because it was a symbol used by Paul to
express Christ's love of the Church. However, there was also an apocalyptic dimension in his teaching, and he was
clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that
the Kingdom of God would return all the sooner and the world would come to an end. Such a view reflects the
Manichaean past of Augustine.
Both Tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa were church fathers who were married. They each stressed that the happiness
of marriage was ultimately rooted in misery. They saw marriage as a state of bondage that could only be cured by
celibacy. They wrote that at the very least, the virgin woman could expect release from the "governance of a
husband and the chains of children.":p.151 Tertullian argued that marriage "consists essentially in fornication."
Some Fathers of the Church advocated celibacy and virginity as preferable alternatives to marriage. Jerome wrote:
"It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good
and the other evil." St. John Chrysostom wrote: "...virginity is better than marriage, however good.... Celibacy
is...an imitation of the angels. Therefore, virginity is as much more honorable than marriage, as the angel is higher
than man. But why do I say angel? Christ, Himself, is the glory of virginity."
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now
that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication.
This view of marriage was reflected in the lack of any formal liturgy formulated for marriage in the early Church.
No special ceremonial was devised to celebrate Christian marriage—despite the fact that the Church had produced
liturgies to celebrate the Eucharist, Baptism and Confirmation. It was not important for a couple to have their
nuptials blessed by a priest. People could marry by mutual agreement in the presence of witnesses.
At first, the old Roman pagan rite was used by Christians, although modified superficially. The first detailed account
of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century. This system, known as Spousals, persisted after the
 View of Catholic Church
Main article: Catholic marriage
Catholic couple at their holy Matrimony or marriage. In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, during the celebration
the priest imposes his liturgical stole upon the couple's hands, as a sign to confirm the marriage bond.
The Catholic Church teaches that God Himself is the author of the sacred institution of marriage, which is His way
of showing love for those He created. Marriage is a divine institution that can never be broken, even if the husband
or wife legally divorce in the civil courts; as long as they are both alive, the Church considers them bound together
Marriage is intended to be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman. Committing themselves
completely to each other, a Catholic husband and wife strive to sanctify each other, bring children into the world,
and educate them in the Catholic way of life. Man and woman, although created differently from each other,
complement each other. This complementarity draws them together in a mutually loving union.
The valid marriage of baptized Christians is one of the seven Catholic sacraments. The sacrament of marriage is the
only sacrament that a priest does not administer directly; a priest, however, is the chief witnesses of the husband and
wife's administration of the sacrament to each other at the wedding ceremony in a Catholic church.
The Catholic Church views that Christ Himself established the sacrament of marriage at the wedding feast of Cana;
therefore, since it is a divine institution, neither the Church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of
marriage. Husband and wife give themselves totally to each other in a union that lasts until death.
Arbëreshë Albanian couple during marriage in an Italo-Greek Catholic Church rite.
Priests are to remember that marriage is part of God's natural law and to support the couple if they do choose to
marry. Today it is common for Catholics to enter into a "mixed marriage" between a Catholic and a baptized non-
Catholic. Couples entering into a mixed marriage are usually allowed to marry in a Catholic church provided their
decision is of their own accord and they intend to remain together for life, to be faithful to each other, and to have
children which are brought up in the Catholic faith.
During the Warsaw Uprising (1944), a Polish couple, members of an Armia Krajowa resistance group, are married
in a secret Catholic chapel in a street in Warsaw.
In Catholicism, marriage has two ends: the good of the spouses themselves, and the procreation and education of
children (1983 code of canon law, c.1055; 1994 catechism, par.2363). Hence "entering marriage with the intention
of never having children is a grave wrong and more than likely grounds for an annulment." It is normal procedure
for a priest to ask the prospective bride and groom about their plans to have children before officiating at their
wedding. The Catholic Church may refuse to marry anyone unwilling to have children, since procreation by "the
marriage act" is a fundamental part of marriage. Thus usage of any form of contraception, in vitro fertilization, or
birth control besides Natural Family Planning is a grave offense against the sanctity of marriage and ultimately
 View of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Main article: Marriage in the Eastern Orthodox Church
The Wedding of Nicholas II and Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna, by Ilya Yefimovich Repin, 1894 (Russian
State Museum, St. Petersburg).
In Eastern Orthodoxy, marriage is treated as a Sacred Mystery (sacrament), and as an ordination. It serves to unite a
woman and a man in eternal union before God. It refers to the first centuries of the church, where spiritual
union of spouses in the first sacramental marriage was eternal. Therefore, it is considered a martyrdom as each
spouse learns to die to self for the sake of the other. Like all Mysteries, Orthodox marriage is more than just a
celebration of something which already exists: it is the creation of something new, the imparting to the couple of the
grace which transforms them from a 'couple' into husband and wife within the Body of Christ.
Byzantine wedding ring, depicting Christ uniting the bride and groom, 7th century, nielloed gold (Musée du
Marriage is an icon (image) of the relationship between Jesus and the Church. This is somewhat akin to the Old
Testament prophets' use of marriage as an analogy to describe the relationship between God and Israel. Marriage is
the simplest, most basic unity of the church: a congregation where "two or three are gathered together in Jesus'
name."[Mt 18:20] The home is considered a consecrated space (the ritual for the Blessing of a House is based upon
that of the Consecration of a Church), and the husband and wife are considered the ministers of that congregation.
However, they do not "perform" the Sacraments in the house church; they "live" the Sacrament of Marriage.
Because marriage is considered to be a pilgrimage wherein the couple walk side by side toward the Kingdom of
Heaven, marriage to a non-Orthodox partner is discouraged, though it may be permitted.
Unlike Western Christianity, Eastern Christians do not consider the sacramental aspect of the marriage to be
conferred by the couple themselves. Rather, the marriage is conferred by the action of the Holy Spirit acting through
the priest. Furthermore, no one besides a bishop or priest—not even a deacon—may perform the Sacred Mystery.
The external sign of the marriage is the placing of wedding crowns upon the heads of the couple, and their sharing in
a "Common Cup" of wine. Once crowned, the couple walk a circle three times in a ceremonial "dance" in the middle
of the church, while the choir intones a joyous three-part antiphonal hymn, "Dance, Isaiah"
The sharing of the Common Cup symbolizes the transformation of their union from a common marriage into a
sacred union. The wedding is usually performed after the Divine Liturgy at which the couple receives Holy
Communion. Traditionally, the wedding couple would wear their wedding crowns for eight days, and there is a
special prayer said by the priest at the removal of the crowns.
Divorce is discouraged. Sometimes out of economia (mercy) a marriage may be dissolved if there is no hope
whatever for a marriage to fulfill even a semblance of its intended sacramental character. The standard formula
for remarriage is that the Orthodox Church joyfully blesses the first marriage, merely performs the second, barely
tolerates the third, and invariably forbids the fourth.Orthodox Church prepared for a wedding (Hagia Sophia,
Early church texts forbid marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a heretic or schismatic (which would include
all non-Orthodox Christians). Traditional Orthodox Christians forbid mixed marriages with other denominations.
More liberal ones perform them, provided that the couple formally commit themselves to rearing their children in the
All people are called to celibacy—human beings are all born into virginity, and Orthodox Christians are expected by
Sacred Tradition to remain in that state unless they are called into marriage and that call is sanctified. The church
blesses two paths on the journey to salvation: monasticism and marriage. Mere celibacy, without the sanctification
of monasticism, can fall into selfishness and tends to be regarded with disfavour by the Church.
Orthodox priests who serve in parishes are usually married. They must marry prior to their ordination. If they marry
after they are ordained they are not permitted to continue performing sacraments. If their wife dies, they are
forbidden to remarry; if they do, they may no longer serve as a priest. A married man may be ordained as a priest or
deacon. However, a priest or deacon is not permitted to enter into matrimony after ordination. Bishops must always
be monks and are thus celibate. However, if a married priest is widowed, he may receive monastic tonsure and thus
become eligible for the episcopate.
The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that marriage is an eternal union of spouses, but in Heaven there will not be a
procreative bond of marriage.
 View of the Oriental Orthodox Church
The Oriental Orthodox Churches hold views almost identical to those of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Coptic
Orthodox Church of Alexandria allows second marriages only in cases of adultery.
 Views of Protestant Christians
The Wedding of Stephen Beckingham and Mary Cox by William Hogarth, c. 1729 (Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Essentially all Protestant denominations hold marriage to be ordained by God for the union between a man and a
woman. They see the primary purpose of this union to be to glorify God by demonstrating his love to the world.
Other purposes of marriage include intimate companionship, rearing children and mutual support for both husband
and wife to fulfill their life callings. Protestants generally approve of birth control and consider marital sexual
pleasure to be a gift of God. While condoning divorce only under limited circumstances, most Protestant churches
allow for divorce and remarriage.
Conservative Protestants take a stricter view of the nature of marriage. They consider marriage a solemn covenant
between wife, husband and God. Most view sexual relations as appropriate only within a marriage. Divorce is
permissible, if at all, only in very specific circumstances (for example, sexual immorality or abandonment by the
 Roles and responsibilities in Marriage
Roles and responsibilities of husband and wives now vary considerably on a continuum between the long-held male
dominant/female submission view and a growing shift toward equality (without sameness) of the woman and the
man. There is considerable debate among many Christians today—not just Protestants—whether equality of
husband and wife or male headship is the biblically ordained view, and even if it is biblically permissible. The
divergent opinions fall into two main groups: Complementarians (who call for husband-headship and wife-
submission) and Christian Egalitarians (who believe in full partnership equality in which couples can discover and
negotiate roles and responsibilities in marriage).
 The Complementarian view
See also: Complementarianism and Christian views about women
The Complementarian (also known as Traditionalist or Hierarchical) view of marriage maintains that male
leadership is biblically required in marriage. Complementarians generally believe that the husband and wife are of
equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image, but that husbands and wives have different functions
and responsibilities in marriage. According to this view, the husband has the God-given responsibility to provide
for, protect, and lead his family. Wives are expected to respect their husbands' authority and submit to it.
However, some Complementarian authors caution that a wife's submission should never cause her to "follow her
husband into sin."
The Complementarian view of Christian marriage has been articulated and defended by several evangelical leaders
in what is called the Danvers Statement. Their understanding of the necessity for gender-based roles and authority
structure in marriage is based on their interpretation of various scriptures: Eph. 5:21-33, Col. 3:18-19, Tit. 2:3-5, 1
A more detailed statement of the Complementarian view of marriage appears in Southern Baptist Convention's
Baptist Faith and Message (2000):
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage
relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He
has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself
graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.
She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect
her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
– Article XVIII. The Family. Baptist Faith and Message 2000
Many complementarians also interpret Scripture as forbidding women from holding positions of authority in the
religious and/or political worlds.
 The Egalitarian View
See also: Christian egalitarianism and Christian views about women
Christian Egalitarians believe that full partnership in an equal marriage is the most biblical view. As persons,
husband and wife are of equal value. There is no priority of one spouse over the other. In truth, they are one. Bible
scholar Frank Stagg and Classicist Evelyn Stagg write that husband-wife equality produces the most intimate,
wholesome and mutually fulfilling marriages. They conclude that the Apostle Paul's statement sometimes called the
"Magna Carta of Humanity" and recorded in Galatians 3:28 applies to all Christian relationships, including
Christian marriage: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female:
for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Christian egalitarian theologians also find it significant that the "two becoming one" concept, first cited in Gen. 2:24,
was quoted by Jesus in his teachings on marriage.[Matt. 19:4-6] [Mk. 10:7-9] In those passages he reemphasized the concept
by adding to the Genesis passage these words: "So, they are no longer two, but one" (NIV). The Apostle Paul cited
the Genesis 2:24 passage.[Eph. 5:30-32]
A New Testament passage that has long been interpreted to require a male priority in marriage are these verses:
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord," and "the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the
church…."[Eph. 5:22-24] Both Christian Egalitarians and Complementarians agree that the Apostle Paul wrote that the
"husband is head…" and "wives, submit…," and that he was divinely inspired to write what he wrote, but the two
groups diverge in their interpretation of this passage.
Complementarians understand "head" to mean "leader" and "authority figure" like the head of an
organization being its president or chief executive officer.
Christian Egalitarians consider this understanding to be contrary to the teachings and example of Jesus
Christ. Therefore, they believe more attention needs to be given to discerning (1) what Paul actually meant
when he penned those instructions, (2) to what extent his gender-based guidance was intended for an abusive
first century culture in which women were considered disposable entities, chattel (property of husband) and
permanently minors legally and to what extent he was prescribing a hierarchical relationship in which wives
must be under husband authority for all people in all times.
Much has been written concerning the meaning of "head" in the New Testament. The word used for "head,"
transliterated from Greek, is kephalē—which means the anatomical head of a body. Today's English word
"cephalic" (/səˈfæl k/ US dict: sə·făl′·ĭk) means "Of or relating to the head; or located on, in, or near the head." In the
New Testament, a thorough concordance search shows that the second most frequent use of "head" (kephalē), after
"the structure that connects to our neck and sits atop our bodies," is the metaphorical sense of "source."
In Hebrew thought throughout the Old Testament, primarily because of the law of primogeniture—the right of the
firstborn to preside over the affairs of the family it was very important to determine who came first in birth order.
Therefore, Paul and other rabbis pointed to the Genesis record,[Gen 2:22] "the LORD God made a woman from the
rib he had taken out of the man," making it clear that the male was the first-created (first "born") and therefore
perpetually entitled to special rights and privileges under the primogeniture doctrine. The wife's submission is seen
in the context of Paul's injunction[Eph. 5:21] for all Christians to submit to one another.
A straightforward reading of Matthew 20:25–26a, Mark 10:42, and Luke 22:25 suggests that Jesus even forbids any
hierarchy of relationships in Christian relationships: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and
their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you!" While "lord it over" implies abusive leadership,
his words "exercise authority" have no connotation of abuse of authority.
 Views of Non-Trinitarian denominations
A Celestial Marriage must be performed in an LDS temple.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon), "Celestial Marriage" is a
sacred covenant between a man, a woman and God performed by a priesthood authority in the temples of the
Church. Eternal Marriage is legally recognized, but unlike other civil marriages, Eternal Marriage is intended to
continue into the afterlife after the resurrection if the man and woman do not break their covenants. Eternally
married couples are often referred to as being "sealed" to each other. Sealed couples who keep their covenants are
also promised to have their posterity sealed to them in the after life. Thus, the slogan of the LDS Church: "families
are forever." The LDS Church encourages its members to be in good standing with it so that they may marry in the
temple. "Cancellation of a sealing," sometimes incorrectly called a "temple divorce," is uncommon and is granted
only by the highest authority in the Church. Civil divorce and marriage outside the temple is somewhat of a stigma
in the Latter-day Saint culture although currently the Church itself directs its local leaders not to advise members
about divorce one way or another.
In the New Church (or Swedenborgianism) teaches that married love (sometime translated conjugal love) is "the
precious jewel of human life and the repository of the Christian religion" because the love shared between a husband
and a wife is the source of all peace and joy. When a husband and wife work together to become angels in heaven,
their marriage continues uninterrupted even after the death of their bodies, living together in heaven to eternity.
Emanuel Swedenborg claimed to have spoken to angels who had been married for thousands of years. Those who
are never married on earth will find a spouse in heaven.
Jehovah's Witnesses view marriage to be a permanent arrangement with the only possible exception being adultery.
Divorce is strongly discouraged even when adultery is committed since the wronged spouse is free to forgive the
unfaithful one. There are provisions for a domestic separation in the event of "failure to provide for one's household"
and domestic violence, or spiritual resistance on the part of a partner. Even in such situations though divorce would
be considered grounds for loss of privileges in the congregation. Re-marrying after death or a proper divorce is
permitted. Marriage is the only situation where any type of sexual interaction is acceptable, and even then certain
restrictions apply to acts such as oral and anal sex. Married persons who are known to commit such acts may in fact
lose privileges in the congregation as they are supposed to be setting a good example to the congregation.
 Same sex marriage
Main article: Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches
A small but growing number of Protestant and non-trinitarian denominations, such as the United Church of Canada,
perform weddings between same sex couples. Other churches perform ceremonies blessing same sex unions, but do
not refer to them as marriages. The Roman Catholic Church does not perform or recognise same-sex marriage.
Whether to bless same-sex marriages and unions is a matter of debate within some denominations.
1. ^ a b c d e f g Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978. ISBN
2. ^ a b Fahlbusch, Erwin and Geoffrey Bromiley. The Encyclopedia of Christianity." Brill Academic Publishers
(November 2000). ISBN 9004116958.
3. ^ a b c d e f This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "marriage", a
publication now in the public domain.
4. ^ Gene McAfee "Sex" The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds.
Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. 19 March 2010.
5. ^ a b c d e f g This article incorporates text from the 1903 Encyclopaedia Biblica article "Marriage", a
publication now in the public domain.
6. ^ William Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in early Arabia, (1885), 81
7. ^ Genesis 29:9; Exodus 2:16;, 8:13
8. ^ a b Gittin 9:10
9. ^ Sotah (Palestinian Talmud only), 1:1
10. ^ Sotah (Palestinian Talmud only), 1:16b
11. ^ Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Broadman Press, 1962. ISBN 0-8054-1613-7
12. ^ cf. Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:19, Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18. Similar Pauline teachings in 1 Corinthians
13. ^ Armstrong,Karen. The Gospel according to women: Christianity's creation of the sex war in the west,
Anchor Books, 1991. ISBN 978-0385240796
14. ^ Rubio, Julie Hanlon. A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family. Paulist Press, 2003. ISBN
15. ^ Adams, Jay E. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, Zondervan, 1986, ISBN 0310511119
16. ^ a b c Armstrong, Karen. Gospel According to Women. Anchor Books, 1991. ISBN 978-0385240796
17. ^ a b The Danvers Statement. Prepared by several evangelical leaders at a Council on Biblical Manhood and
Womanhood (CBMW) meeting in Danvers, Massachusetts, December 1987. Online:
18. ^ Jewett, Paul K. Man As Male and Female: A Study in Sexual Relationships from a Theological Point of
View. Eerdmans, 1990, p. 142. ISBN 978-0802815972
19. ^ See for example Christians for Biblical Equality
20. ^ Grudem, Wayne. ―The Meaning Of Kephalē (―Head‖): An Evaluation Of New Evidence, Real And
Alleged,‖ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44:1 (March 2001) p. 25-65. Online:
21. ^ Kroeger, Catherine Clark. "Toward an Understanding of Ancient Conceptions of 'Head'." Priscilla Papers,
Volume 20:3, Summer 2006.
22. ^ Johnson, Alan F. "A Meta-Study of the Debate over the Meaning of 'Head' (Kephale) in Paul's Writings."]
Priscilla Papers, Volume 20:4, Autumn 2006
23. ^ International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. "Primogeniture." Online: http://www.bible-
history.com/isbe/P/PRIMOGENITURE/ Accessed 11 May 2009
24. ^ Meaning of Heb. word translated "rib" unclear. Lit. "side" according to TNIV translation.
25. ^ Marsh, Clive, Steve Moyise. Jesus and the Gospels. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.
26. ^ "Mormon view of divorce."
27. ^ "Married Love." see Married Love 457
28. ^ Watchtower 9/15/2006, Watchtower 3/15/1983, Watchtower 11/1/2008
 External links
Analysis of historic, current and Biblical Christian views on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage
Annulment Tribunal, Diocese of San Jose
Annulments, Information on Roman Catholic
Christian Marriage Resources
Christian Marriage Counseling - The 4 Word Secret
Christian view of the meaning and permanence of marriage
Christians for Biblical Equality
Divorce; Canonical Impediments
Christian Marriage And Romance
For Your Marriage - "Resources for living happily ever after"
Future of Marriage from a Christian Viewpoint
Photo: Orthodox Crowning (Marriage) Russian Orthodox
Wedding Crowns (Photo) Russian Orthodox
by Father Hoffmann, SSJE
WHAT are the ideals of marriage which the Church sets forth; and what are the conditions most
favorable for the attainment of those ideals? To answer these questions within the limits of this space
entails a degree of brevity which must lead to apparent dogmatism, since there is not space for
elaborate reasoning or useful qualification. However, there are certain things which must be said.
First, notice that we are to discuss Christian marriage. Much could be said about the social institution
of marriage as conceived by the state; but that is not our present topic. Further, Christian marriage
means the marriage of Christians; the union of a man and woman who believe in God, who
acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who join in the worship, the sacraments, and the
fellowship of the Church.
This last implies the sacrament of Baptism as a requisite. When a baptized man and woman agree to
live with each other for life, and that union is consummated, the sacrament of holy matrimony has
taken place, even in the absence of priest or Church. The blessing of the Church, ministered to the
parties by the priest, conveys the grace to keep the vows given and received and to live chastely in the
estate or status of matrimony. And of course the marriages of Christians should be solemnized by
God's priest, when that is possible.
should a Christian marry? The answer is not so obvious as it seems. There is the social necessity for
procreation, if the race is to continue, and to this end God has endowed men and women with a strong
attraction for each other, but that is not the whole answer. There is the longing for intimate
companionship, for the completion of a solitary personality by union with another, but that alone is
not enough. Basically, two Christians should enter marriage because they feel that united together for
life they can serve God more fruitfully and joyously than either could singly. In other words,
marriage is a vocation, a call from God, to find salvation and holiness in that particular way. It is a
very common vocation, but it is not universal. Some are called to renounce marriage and family life
under the vows of Religion; others, I believe, are called to a single life of service in some profession,
or in the mission field.
Now a vocation is always a call to become holy, by this or that particular discipline. If people only
remembered this there would be less nonsense talked of "rights" and "happiness" and so-called
romantic love as an excuse for breaking marriage vows. The purpose of Christian marriage is to make
men and women holy; if they achieve that they will certainly be happy, and the mystical reference of
Saint Paul to the marriage between Christ and His Church will be better understood.
This may seem an impossibly idealistic approach to marriage; but remember, we are talking of
Christian marriage, not the indiscriminate mating of people living without God in the world, with the
consequent high percentage of tragedy and failure. If a man's life is surrendered to God, to do His
will, then his marriage must be entered into only in obedience to that divine will. If the Christian
community has largely lost sight of this ideal, it is cause for repentance on the part of priests and
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE?
NOW for a few words as to the human conditions likely to lead to a successful marriage.
Unity of ideals is the most important requisite. Not necessarily unity of interests or tastes, but a
sharing of those ultimate standards, such as integrity, loyalty, tolerance, sympathy, which give tone to
the whole of life. In other words, a deep and healthy friendship may often be a better basis for
marriage than an almost uncontrollable attraction. It is not necessary that a man and woman should
experience tickling sensations in the spine every time they see each other. In other words, being "in
love" in the romantic sense, though it is a delightful experience which comes at least once to most
people, is no sound guide to a happy marriage, especially if other more important factors are absent.
A common-sense knowledge of the obligations of the marriage partnership on every level--physical,
social, financial, mental, and spiritual, is obviously useful. I know a young wife who threw the whole
dinner at her husband because he habitually read Arabic for an hour when he came home from work.
She knew only English, not too well, and the only French she knew was demi-tasse.
Hasty marriages are usually foolhardy, and engagements of long duration are undesirable. "Hope
deferred maketh the heart sick." Strong family influence on either side is often disastrous. Better
move to California with your wife than have the wrong sort of mother-in-law or father-in-law living
in the next block.
It boils down to this: that two people, a man and a woman, are to be one in Christ. If His Spirit has
ruled them in their courtship, demanding modesty, restraint, mutual respect, and unselfishness, then
they can seek His blessing at His altar with confidence that the future holds for them a growing
experience of sanctified love, a love that because it is first spiritual, makes all things new.
AGAIN, let me stress the fact that we are discussing the union of two Christian believers, who join
their lives in Christ, for better, for worse, in the hope that by God's grace their united lives will serve
God better than either could have done singly.
Marriage, then, is a partnership, and as in most partnerships, there is a senior partner who rightly
wields a balance of prestige, if not of power. Normally, the man is the head of the family, and in
return for his responsibility as breadwinner, is entitled to make certain basic decisions, such as where
the family should live.
But marriage is not intended to be a mutual admiration society. Any marriage, to be fruitful, must
look beyond the mere happiness of the two parties. Normally, this means the birth of children; and
indeed, the establishment of a Christian family is the primary purpose of Christian marriage. It is a
perilous and probably wrong thing to postpone the birth of the first child for any reason short of grave
ill health. Deliberately childless marriages are statistically proved to be liable to failure. If a
thoroughly unchristian economic system forces a couple to delay the appearance of further children
by continence or by use of natural periods of sterility it is still an evil, though sometimes a necessary
one. Large families, closely spaced, alone form the ideal environment for healthy childhood--to
mention only one consideration.
If, however, children do not appear, through no fault of the husband and wife, then they must
endeavor to share in some unselfish interest. Church work, charity work, or perhaps an adopted child
or two are useful outlets to prevent a purely selfish absorption in each other.
WHAT MAKES A HAPPY MARRIAGE?
TURN, then, to the factors in the marriage relationship which make for happiness. The most
important thing, as we stated before, is the sharing of the deepest ideals, kneeling in prayer together
night by night, and at the altar rail on Sunday; encouraging each other in everything that is sensitive
and fine; offering sympathy and understanding even before it is needed.
With that should go a mutual forbearance and tolerance. Neither partner to a marriage is. perfect; but
imperfections, if they are accepted with tolerance and a sense of humor, can become added bonds of
How about mutual frankness? Perhaps the ideal couple might boast that there was nothing in the past
of one concealed from the other, and no unshared thought from day to day. But this is an ideal to be
approached with caution and discretion. Often the past is better buried and forgotten, even if it means
a lack of frankness; sometimes part of the penance for grave sin is that a man, let us say, has no right
to the luxury of his wife's forgiveness, if the memory of his transgression is going to leave a scar
which many years of faithfulness may not wipe out. In such cases silence becomes a duty.
Further, each party must respect the other's personality, and avoid possessiveness. You cannot own
your wife, or your husband, or your children. There are areas in every personality which can be
exposed only to God. Do not try to force your way into those secret places of each individual's
There is need for perspective in married life, the more so, because the very intimacy of marriage
tends to destroy it. A few individual interests, which one partner does not share with the other, may
help to bring variety into the home. Similarly, an occasional short vacation from each other may well
be a wise precaution against staleness. But just as important is a need for periodic renewals of the
romance of courtship--perhaps an anniversary honeymoon week-end, alone with each other, and away
from all routine responsibilities and all usual friends.
Another point to remember is the essential difference between men and women. This seems obvious
enough, but many men treat their wives as they would a good friend of their own sex, and some
women (though fewer, since women are cleverer about these things) expect the same emotional
reactions from their husbands that they would expect from another woman. This is bad technique. A
man is apt to want most from marriage a predictable routine of comfort; a woman most wants
unpredictable and thoughtful manifestations of affection--a little gift, however inexpensive, the
remembrance of anniversaries, and such like.
Finally, here are ten rules for a successful marriage:
1. Don't ride hobbies which distress the other person.
2. Try to settle any misunderstanding before you go to sleep.
3. Never humiliate each other by open criticism in front of others.
4. Never think that marriage is an excuse for sloppiness about your personal appearance, or for
5. Invite confidences by your own attitude of trust, but never force them.
6. Respect each other's privacy. There are times when the most devoted husband or wife needs to be
7. Always live together as if you were sure of celebrating your fiftieth anniversary with thanksgiving.
8. Speak the truth to each other in love about annoying mannerisms, and correct them as far as
9. Generous praise, not flattery, of each other is a great tonic.
10. Share the great things of life--worship, loyalties, joys, sorrows, ideals, enthusiasms. Share them as
far as possible in Christ, and the lesser things will take care of themselves.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
WE have considered vocation to marriage, preparation for it, and certain factors which make for
happiness in marriage; now we must turn to difficulties that arise and how they may be met.
Remember that Christian marriage is the union of a baptized man and a baptized woman for life.
They solemnly vow to be faithful "Till death us do part," and the priest solemnly warns them that no
man may put asunder what God joined together.
And then, alas, after a few years, or sometimes only a few months, we find that the marriage has
broken up, and a year or so later one or both of the parties may be living with another partner.
What are the reasons back of this too frequent tragedy? In the first place, far too much emphasis has
been placed on a lack of adjustment to the physical side of marriage as the chief cause of failure. In
the general average of divorces it may be true, but the general average includes hosts of marriages
which cannot be considered Christian within our definition. On the other hand, in genuinely Christian
marriages, the physical element after a relatively short time tends to assume a subordinate position in
the scale of things which unite the two parties. Further, there are many really happy Christian
marriages where the adjustment on that plane has never been more than tolerably good.
What, then, causes failures? Here is a short list:
1. Lack of a spiritual outlook on life. Only disciplined marriages are happy, and if pleasure is the only
goal, success is practically impossible.
2. Interference by the family of husband or wife--more often the wife's mother, who can't let her
daughter lead her own life.
3. Jealousy or lack of trust on either side.
4. Persistent selfishness and lack of sympathy on the part of one partner.
5. Repeated lies and deception--whether about some outside illicit affection, or financial or family
These are causes of failure, but they are not necessary causes. Rather, they are reasons or excuses.
Further, most of these situations would not arise if from the very first day husband and wife worked
together to make a successful marriage. Such a marriage, free, wholesome, unselfish to others, yet
intimate and devoted within the family, tolerant, enduring, is the result of patience, ingenuity, tact,
faith and perseverance.
But the difficulty is that two people are involved--and sometimes they are sadly unequal in strength
of character, in ideals, in self-control. Only too often one is trying desperately hard, and the other is
not trying at all; one is giving to the utmost and the other complacently receiving. What then?
Well, even in that sad situation, one party at least can be gloriously faithful. Remember, it was "for
better, for worse." The result for that faithful partner, who sticks through thick and thin, will be a
Christian character and the friendship of God. Is that too meagre an exchange for the married
happiness he or she once sought?
In some cases, of course, especially where the welfare of children is concerned, there must be a
separation. But it should always be assumed that such a separation is temporary, to last only until the
causes which made it necessary have been removed. More rarely still, and for reasons of justice in the
distribution of property, there may be the necessity for a legal divorce. In that case the law of God
WHY NOT TRY ANOTHER MATE?
BUT what is wrong with divorce and remarriage? If the marriage is a failure, why not admit it and
start over again?
Four things are wrong. First, marriage is not just a human contract. It is a status, ratified on the
spiritual plane, a status which only death can break.
Second, remarriage blocks the way to holiness, which might have resulted from courageously facing
a single life. I have known really holy people who in the past went through some tragic experience of
a broken marriage, and who did not try to find an easy way out by getting another spouse. I have
never known a holy person who had two or three successive spouses, all living. Have you?
Third, remarriage closes the door of Christian forgiveness. Whatever the wrong may have been,
supposing the erring spouse should come back five years later, converted, penitent, ashamed, and say,
"Will you take me back? I'm a different person now." The answer must be "Yes" if Christian
forgiveness has any reality. That is impossible if there has been another marriage and perhaps more
Fourth, divorce and remarriage is an incurable wrong to the children, if there are any. Have you ever
heard a little girl of four say, "But who is my real mummy?" I have, and I know of few things more
"But," say the objectors, "haven't I a right to be happy?" No; not if it involves breaking sacred
obligations and involving others in your sin.
"But," they say, "if love has gone, is there any marriage left?" Yes; one party at least can still be
faithful, and, if both weather the immediate storm, a much finer type of love may emerge later on.
A WAY BACK FOR THE STRAYED
LIFE is not foolproof. Who would want it to be? One may make grave mistakes, foolish choices; and
if one is a Christian he will stand by them, confident that God can and will reward a difficult
faithfulness, and that He cannot bless a self-regarding laxity.
But what of those who, having no knowledge of the law of God, have already broken that law, and
acquired a second spouse, and perhaps a new family of children; what can be done about them when
they have been converted, and desire to be received into the Church?
And what about those members of the Church who, ignorantly, impetuously, or even wilfully, have
broken that law and are truly sorry?
The present Canon Law of the Church provides that such cases are to be referred to the Bishop of the
Diocese for his judgment. In cases of the first class, there are often factors present which nullify the
first marriage, so far as the Church is concerned. When such a decree of nullity has been granted by
the Ecclesiastical Authority, any priest may give the blessing of the Church on the second marriage.
(It is to be remembered that an ecclesiastical annulment is not to be interpreted as impugning the civil
validity, or the legitimacy of any children, of the marriage annulled.) And of course, if the former
marriage was annulled by the Civil Courts, the priest is free to bless the second union.
In cases of the second class, the procedure is somewhat different. If, in the judgment of the Bishop,
the circumstances warrant it, if there is real penitence for past wrong, the parties to the second, and
unchristian union, may, under certain circumstances, be readmitted to the sacraments. The marriage
cannot be blessed, since it is outside our Lord's own covenant, but the Church will try to save
something from the wreckage, especially where children are involved. Further than this the Church
cannot go, if she is to be faithful to the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.