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The Real Essence of Marriage
— Where, When, and How did Adam marry Eve? —
The answer to that question will lead us to the essence of marriage as God sees it.

Marriage itself is not a government institution and as such its legal registration may be wise but it is certainly not obligatory.

Christianity's flirtation with secular authority, in accepting state marriage officerships for social influence, has led to much confusion in Christianity concerning the initiation of marriage.
Preamble: 
In the oldest of civilizations such as in Ancient Egypt, marriage was a purely social event initiating cohabitation, without any legal consequence or religious association in essence. But because we today tend to think of 'marriage' in terms of our modern experience of marriage as being a religio-legal event, the following will explore the question from a Biblical perspective, which means from God’s perspective. This will unavoidably contradict various traditional notions and customs for even the meaning of the word 'marriage' has been redefined by cultural changes in history.
It is here
also important to remember that when God prohibits it is not because His is holy, as though He needs protection from the unholy, but because He is love! In other words, for us ever to live or act in contradiction of God's design is to damage ourselves.
 
He
commands us because He loves us. Hallelujah! That may mean that many are irreversibly damaged, but the greatness of God in His mercy through Jesus Christ means that when the broken pieces of the past are fully put into His hands He even uses that to construct new strengths within us.
See:
From shame to Glory
When is a marriage a marriage?  
Jesus
taught in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5:32), as well as in His contradiction of the religious leaders of His day concerning divorce (Matt.19:9), that nothing other than adultery can end a marriage. In other words, a certificate of divorce does not and cannot end a marriage, any marriage, no matter who issues the certificate of divorce. Only betrayal of the sexual bond/union can end a marriage.
An
Essential Principle
 
The divorce certificate may publicize the fact of the divorce, but even then, the moment of the certificate’s issue is not the moment in which that marriage ended. It ended in the act of its betrayal by sexual infidelity. The issuance of the certificate, if by a court of law, simply changed state records and made it public. It did not end the marriage!
 
 
Likewise, the beginning of a marriage is no more registration by the state than its termination is deregistration by the state through its courts.
This
means that the sexual bond is the originating root or essence of marriage. Marriage obviously involves much more than this, but all the other issues involve the practice of marriage not its existence, and so carry no weight to make or break a marriage.
 
 
These other issues may have a huge influence upon the couple in their conduct but nothing else has power over the essence of their marriage’s existence other than the violation of the sexual bond between them.
 
In terms of
God's original design:
This has nothing to do with sexual satisfaction or fulfillment, as significant as that may sometimes be, for the Word of God instructs every Christian that, as a result of their marriage to each other, the husband’s body is no longer under the husband’s authority, and likewise, the wife’s body is no longer under the wife’s authority (1Cor.7:4). Her sexual union with her husband actually transferred authority over her body to him, and equally transferred authority over his body to her.
 
"So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:6.
This
is indissoluble until it is violated, that is, destroyed. This also does not mean that sickness or anything else which ends sexual practice ends a marriage. Nothing can reverse sexual union other than its betrayal of that sexual union with someone else.
 
 
This also means that sexual relations cannot be used in a marriage as a bargaining tool in disputes, no matter what may be the basis of anger or resentment between the couple concerned. When a 'marriage' has deteriorated to this level it is in essence denying its own existence.
 
  "Do not deprive one another [sexually], except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer;
but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
1 Corinthians 7:5 ESV.
God
had spoken to Israel through Isaiah that it was not a certificate of divorce which ended their national covenant of marriage with God but their religious immorality with other gods (Isa.50:1). Hence, the Pharisees had no excuse for thinking that a divorce certificate carried any authority to end a marriage, as Jesus pointed out clearly (Matt.5:32; 19:9).
 
 
This strictness concerning the ending of a marriage does not mean that adultery (unfaithfulness) cannot be forgiven by the betrayed party, but it does mean that it requires a recommencement of the marriage if the betrayed party wishes to continue as spouse. That certainly does not mean signing a state marriage register again. It simply means that the marriage foundation itself must be re-laid by their mutual sexual acceptance of each other, and from that moment they are then one. Yes, the rebuilding of much else will take time, but it is upon that essential and irreversible foundation of the sacredness of their sexual union.
 
Casual sex does not exist!  
However,
the common corruption in our cultures on the significance of sex does not diminish the Lord’s teaching. Casual sex is therefore a contradiction in terms, no matter the behaviour or belief of its participants, and as a violation of God’s original design it will always damage and diminish the human psyche in one way or another.
 
 
The reaction of some church leaders to the perversion of sex has added error to our understanding. For instance, the Scripture, which says –
 
 
"Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?
For, as it is written
[Gen.2:24], 'The two will become one flesh'"
I Corinthians 6:16
 
has even been quoted as if it is saying sex, immoral sex, cannot equal marriage. In other words fornication does not create the sexual bond in the essence of marriage. This is a very strange interpretation for the Scripture is here saying the exact opposite!
 
 
To those in reputedly immoral Corinth, the Apostle Paul is teaching through this Scripture that a Christian's physical body is also part of his Christian identity and that therefore to join himself (through sexual intercourse) to a prostitute (in a temporary, commercially-based sexual relationship) means that Christ has been physically joined to that prostitute through that act, because of the character of sexual bonding which was established by God's design in Adam and Eve before human society began.
 
 
In recent times, in a sincere attempt to strengthen the marriage bond, many pastors have also begun to teach that marriage is a God-designed 'covenant' between a man and a woman. While their intention is most laudable to emphasize the sacredness of marriage before God, there is a fatal error in their teaching which seriously misleads.
 
 
The word 'covenant' is presented as having terms and conditions and one of these is 'intention' to marry, thereby completely excluding casual sex or experimental sexual-partnerships from the obligations of a marriage relationship. That is understandable, for our minds recoil at the idea of ascribing the holy commitment of a marriage partnership to such situations.
'Covenant' Teaching
Marriage as an original design  
However,

Thus a prostitute is
a damaged person.
the Biblical phrase "one flesh" (Gen.2:24) describes a relationship which the New Testament says exists between sexual partners, even of a prostitute (1 Cor.6:16) as quoted above, and is an exchange of body-ownership (1 Cor.7:4). So, to think that a sexual partnership can ever exist between a man and a woman without God seeing it as carrying all the obligations of marriage in the fullest sense, is to ignore the perspective of God's Word and to twist its meaning to a more convenient interpretation to fit into our present day corrupted church-culture.
Sex really is Holy
Sex is commitment!

 
This transaction of sexual union is the result of God's design of the human being as male and female. Orgasmic experience therefore between homosexuals, no matter how much emotional effect and tenderness or mutual commitment there may be toward each other, is not the process of sexual union based on two gender-distinct persons becoming one, as per the psychological and anatomical uniqueness of each in the unique relationship the Bible knows as marriage.
Same-sex 'marriage'
 
The controversy in some communities regarding homosexual or same-sex 'marriage' is really a by-product of Christianity's flirtation with secular authority regarding registration of marriage.
 
 
The church and the state are not one. Therefore also, a religious solemnization and the civil registration of marriage do not necessarily belong together, and so there is no ethical reason at all why one should precede the other. Common practice is a practice of convenience alone.
 
Apart
from this, there are Protestant/Evangelical preachers who seek to assert the social position of the church in this regard by using the words of Jesus, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt.19:6) to refer to a church wedding-service. With the invention of that sacrament in Catholic theology that may be excusable, but certainly not among those whose claim to authenticity is the text of Holy Scripture. This twisting of Holy Scripture is therefore utterly inexcusable!
  In its context, the 'therefore' in the mouth of Jesus refers only to God original design. This says it all!
Jesus
said –
"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and
said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? "
Matthew 19:4-5.
 
Nothing but God's original design in Adam and Eve is the basis for God's recognition of marriage, and nothing other. The arrogance of the officiating officer may find satisfaction in the use of the words – what 'God has joined together' let no man put asunder to amplify the importance of the occasion, but it is a violation of the holy text. 'God' is not the church!
What About The Past?
The
The Bible's special
 Rahab Example! 
hero of Jericho when Israel arrived to cross into their Promised Land, who risked everything to hide their spies, was the city prostitute. Did her well known immoral past 'invalidate' her subsequent marriage to an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ? Of course not! Jesus was not descended from adultery!
It was God who honoured her by setting her in the messianic line of king David and of the Lord Jesus!
When she married into Israel, even though the whole nation knew about her immoral past, that did not limit God!
Joshua 2:1-6
Matthew 1:5
Luke 3:32.
See:
When shame
becomes Glory
God's
way with us does not come out of our past but it is the path of grace into our future: grace so great that even our broken past can be raw material for the construction of a new future. Hallelujah!
Here
it is important to remember that none of us come into God's way with a clean slate, concerning our background. Therefore we are given the example in Holy Scripture of Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho who became an ancestress of the royal lineage of Israel and of the holy Christ of God (in both lines to Jesus – officially through Joseph, Matt.1:5; and genetically through Mary, Lk.3:32).
Going God's way leaves behind the past as though it had never been – if we entrust our past to Him; but more..!
More... 
That which is thereby entrusted to God changes in His hand.
From Rahab's knowledge of life in Jericho (derived from her sexual services in a depraved society), she became aware of the effect of the coming of Israel's hosts and the newness that lay ahead, so also with us – whatever negative is fully handed over to God as we walk forward with Him changes:
'weakness' becomes sensitivity;
'vulnerability' becomes empathy;
'our disability' becomes a demonstration of His sufficiency.
See also:
His Transcendent Mercy
Hallelujah!
Historical Background Notes:  
 
Jewish Practice
 
It is
very hard to establish a true date on the first formal marriages although our Old Testament does mention a little about marriage as it was considered a family and household affair. Jewish marital practice involved neither their elders/state/ruler nor their temple. The earliest tradition seems to have that the oldest male relative, usually the father, was the caretaker of the girl and a prospective husband would ask him for the girl after first bringing him gifts to win his approval. The mother was dominated by the father and had no choice in the matter. The father would transfer the daughter to the prospective husband in public to show his approval of her groom. After this the bride and groom would eat a meal together with their families and then the groom would take the bride to his home, which itself commenced the marriage.
 
 
Written records regarding marriage first began under Moses as a 'certificate of divorce' to protect a divorced woman from accusations of loose living.
 
Jewish Divorce Certificate 71 AD/CE Masada
Jewish Divorce Certificate
Much later, a written marriage contract became the custom which was what we today call an 'engagement' to marry. In this, in Hellenistic times (third and second centuries BC/BCE) and perhaps earlier, the husband promised to provide food and shelter to his bride, but in practice the contract was only a feature of wealthier marriages. As this contract was drawn up at the time of the engagement to marry, the writing of the contract before witnesses did not itself commence the marriage. The marriage was considered to be in effect only with the bride's change of domicile to that of her husband.
 
In the first century AD, the Christian/Common Era, Judaism was divided into various competing legal systems: of Hellenistic, Qumranean, Perushim, Gamalielite, Sadducean schools, etc. The tendency was for wealthier Jewish fathers to pick and choose between systems of written contractual language, formulae and legal concepts, or for a law court, according to whichever legal system best suited their material interests.
 
Gentile Practice
 
Although
cultural differences were noticeable in the legal limits on whom one could marry (e.g. Roman Lex Papia Poppaea of AD 9), and in the mode of celebration of the contract/engagement to marry, the marriage itself, like the Jewish, only commenced in the bride's change of domicile to that of her husband.
 
 
In ancient times, divorce simply meant the woman's dowry was returned to her family and, in Athens, responsibility for her welfare reverted to her guardian. The ex-husband would usually retain custody of any children. As we have no evidence that the ancients viewed divorce in religious terms, there are no traditional rituals associated with it.
 
In
the time of the Roman Empire (17 BC – AD 476) the lower classes (who later became the main body of Christians) had free marriages: common domicile without contract. The proofs of a Roman citizen's marriage were: the wife's formal entrance into her husband's home; cohabitation; marital affection. In Roman law it was said - "An absent man can marry a wife; an absent woman, however, cannot marry", that is, the woman's change of domicile constituted the marriage.
 
 
Romans who were very wealthy would sign documents listing property rights and letting all know that they wanted this union to be legalized and not to be thought of as a common law [natural law] marriage. Roman men could dissolve the marriage at any time as a male privilege not accorded to females.
 
 
Concerning the cultural background to Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 7 on marriage: in ancient Corinth, as generally in the Roman Empire, living together (common domicile) was the essence of marriage, and ceasing to live together meant the end of the marriage.
 
 
In A.D. 527–565, during the reign of Justinian, state lawyers drew up laws called the Justinian Code. This was a regulation of daily life including marriage. Up until this time just saying you were married was enough to consider you married.
See:
Emperor Justinian
 
Until the ninth century marriages did not involve the church. But by the twelfth century it was common for couples to come to the door of the church to receive a priestly blessing on their union.
 
 
Development of Modern Marriage Customs
Gretna Green Marriage Certificate of Simon Lang signed 1827.
Gretna Green Marriage Certificate
 
As late as the 13th century Pope Innocent III acknowledged that the essence of marriage was not the formal solemnities by a priest or in a church but the free consent of both parties. The desire of couples to have their marriage blessed was initially accommodated at the door of the church building, or in its porch, where a priest pronounced a blessing. This act eventually developed into a priestly sacrament, the so-called seventh sacrament of the Catholic Church.
 
In 1563 the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated at a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses. By the eighteenth century the wedding had become a religious event in all countries of Europe.
Modern
Church and State marriage ceremonies are relatively recent. The full legal recognition of common-law (living together) marriage was only ended by the British government’s Marriage Act of 1753 in England and Wales. This Act instituted a licensing system by the authority of the church (Anglican) as sole issuer of marriage licenses. However, ordinary people still continued informal marriages as they felt that neither the state nor the church had a right to regulate marriage. For those in England and Wales wishing to have full legal recognition of their marriage, Gretna Green was an option to escape Anglican control as it fell within Scotland where the 1753 law did not apply and all one needed for the marriage to be legally recognized was to have the consents of the marriage party witnessed.
 
As legal systems developed in states of the Western world, marriage regulation increased to prevent bigamy and exploitation associated with inheritances. However, unlike obligatory registration of births and deaths, registration of a marriage while now customary is usually not a legal obligation and no legal penalties are usually associated with non-registration of a marriage.
 
Various modifications to the status of marriage registration, to help prevent economic injustice, have been introduced over the years.
 
 
In South Africa for instance registration of a marriage is automatically treated as in community-of-property unless otherwise agreed in an ante-nuptial contract completed before registration of the marriage. Again, injustices in the legal dissolution of marriages resulted in the option from 1984 in South Africa of completing an ante-nuptial contract 'with accrual' (before registration) in which asset value accrued during the course of the marriage must be shared between the husband and wife's estates on death or divorce.

 
  Individual Social Background  
But,
marriage is more than a personal event between two individuals. It affects the families of each and the future social conduct of the married couple. Customs, traditions and legal structures that have developed in various cultures over the centuries reflect this. To ignore these is to ignore the benefits associated with them and to even be seen as disrespecting the norms of the society which one is a part of.
 
 
Therefore Christ attended the wedding at Cana with His mother. His reluctance to step immediately into the breach and solve their catering problem was because it was not His occasion. It was the special day of the bride and groom and nothing, not even the presence of Jesus Himself, should take attention away from that. Only the servants and His disciples knew what had happened behind the scenes to save embarrassing the bride’s family.
 
This
is a good example to us today in our own conduct toward marriage and associated events.

 
Perverse Reactionary Thinking
The debate about legality/recognition of homosexual 'marriage' ('gay marriage') is directly from this shift of 'marriage' to become a legal registration issue, which is a perversion of the meaning of marriage in which Christianity has been complicit for the sake of its own social influence.
Christianity has therefore no place leading the debate of government recognition of 'gay marriage' even regarding legal adoption, for Christianity has invalidated its voice in this field.
However,
the increase of immorality, in particular the degrading of sexual intercourse to the level of entertainment between consenting adults, has motivated attempts to reinforce the special stability and sacredness of marriage by emphasizing church vows and government registration as being essentials of true Christian marriage.
NOTE!
While sincerely motivated, this reactionary thinking adds what God has not given, and sadly constitutes a moral retreat from the sexual standards of God's design for human society. Therefore, those who maintain this position in judgment against any existing marital relationships in cultures outside the Western tradition of the Church-State institutionalised form and degrade them by any description that is less than full marriage, grieve the Holy Spirit in their ignorance and hinder the way of God among His people in this world, particularly in cultures where Christianity is not dominant.
For
instance: in Iran today, according to their Court of Revolution, the legal wedding registration of non-Muslims (Christians) by their Islamic Law (the only law) is equivalent to conversion to Islam and to thereafter practice one's Christian faith is to commit 'Mortad' (a person who turns away from Islam), which incurs the death penalty.
 
Therefore, the church's convenient flirtation with the state (in the function of church marriage-officers), must never be allowed to set the standard for Christian recognition of marriage; for marriage is of God through His own intrinsic design and is not based on either religious or state sanction of any kind.
  Remember then, essentially:    Sex = ⇒  Commitment = ⇒  Marriage!  
Sadly,
Please Note!
those Christians who campaign so sincerely against state recognition of homosexual 'marriage' do not realise that the path along which they are being led leads back to the union/'marriage' of church and state and the inevitable eventual persecution of Christian dissidents/nonconformists (our spiritual heroes/martyrs of the past). Their blood in the future will be required at the hands of those who thus equipped the state to interfere in this most personal of choices. (Secular registration of a sexual relationship does not mean/imply approval of that sexual relationship in any way whatsoever).
See: Homosexuality.
See: Church and State
So, lobbying against 'marriage' of homosexuals, really means lobbying for the 'marriage' of church and state, the great 'whoredom' of the past.
To use the world's methods to try and preserve the sanctity of marriage is to lead the Bride of Christ into adultery with the world.
Satan, that 'angel of light',
really is a deceiver!
—  KEEP  POLITICS  OUT  OF  MARRIAGE  —
 
Finally:
God meant marriage to be filled with joy in the persuance of His loving purposes –
Melissa & Andrew: a beautiful bride and her precious husband!
 
The Church & HIV/AIDS Human Sexuality Marriage in Genesis Politics of a Seduced Bride
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