Definition of “marriage” has always been in flux.

C.W. Nevius of has a really good article on the uproar over gay marriages and how they supposedly threaten to undermine the “traditional definition of marriage” in this country. President Bush is quoted as saying “Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society,” and yet if you take a good look at the history of marriage it’s clear that such serverances have been many and varied throughout history.

Nevius points out that back during the early history of America (1700-1800s) a married woman gave up many of the “rights” she enjoyed as a single person upon taking her vows.  She could no longer own property or sign contracts and any money earned outside of the home had to be turned over to her husband. On the plus side, she didn’t have to pay taxes.  In many ways a married woman was the property of her husband and this didn’t change until the the latter-half of the 19th Century, but change it did.  Mixed race marriages weren’t legal in any state until California changed their laws in 1948 and it was 19 years more before the Supreme Court made it nation-wide. In many states it was still illegal for mixed race couples to marry until the year I was born (1967), but change it did. More interesting still is what you get when you look closely at just what the Bible suggests about marriage:

Marriage’s lineage a bit convoluted

“It is really much more complex in religious perspective than you might think,’’ says Tolbert, the George Atkinson Professor for Biblical Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. “What the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) suggests as a general model for marriage is polygamy. You look at someone like Solomon who had 200 wives and 600-and-some concubines. Or Abraham, who had his first child by his wife’s slave. It sounds as if it was quite normal.’‘

Tolbert, who is also the executive director for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, points out that marriage didn’t even become a sacrament of the church “until the 12th century. For the first 1,200 years (A.D.) in Europe there were civil unions by town or village government.’‘

Nor does the New Testament offer much help. In fact, by some selective readings it sounds as if the Bible has mixed views of marriage. As Tolbert says, Jesus says very little about marriage, and both he and Paul were single men. And Paul, at least, recommended chastity.

“Marriage is not a sin,’’ says Paul in First Corinthians, “but it is better to be unmarried.’‘

“The Bible is an incredibly important sacred icon in our culture,’’ says Tolbert. “But I just think a lot of people don’t read it.’‘

That not many people read the Bible they supposedly follow is obvious. I issued a challenge awhile back for anyone to list a single valid reason that wasn’t religious in nature as to why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and never got anyone to take me up on that challenge. That challenge still stands.

316 thoughts on “Definition of “marriage” has always been in flux.

  1. “Brock, If the Bible is a myth, how come all the cities and all the people and all their actions described in the Bible are all corroborated by every other ancient text we have? And in point of fact has more evidence to it?s authenticity than any other ancient text?”

    David, this is news to me as well.  In a post later down you comment on the number of ancient bible manuscripts and writings available, which really isn’t proof of its authenticity because it was a growing religion.  The early Catholic church wrote the bible and protected the manuscripts, while other non-religious or pagan documents were destroyed or decayed into oblivion.  The early Catholic church probably wasn’t an “objective” outsider researching Jesus’s life.

    Your strongest comments on the validity of Jesus’s life was from the non-Christain sources - these however did not appear to be “eye-witness” accounts.  I would like to know where you got these sources from - a reference or site or something.

    I doubt many people, even here, would argue against the existance of a man named Jesus at that time.  The problem is finding reasonably unbiased sources of his existence or deeds, as the church only preserved what was most important to them.  This is similar to the Jewish and Islamic faiths preserving their religious documents - so what religion is correct?  The one with the highest number of ancient manuscripts?

    Proving the existance and deeds of one man, a poor man, is especially hard.  He built no great castles or statues in his time, no physical evidence of his life.  So if the NT is built around something that can’t be proven, only second and third hand accounts, it should be met with skepticism.

    Concerning the validity of the bible as a whole, the Old Testement is full of large scale events that could possiblely be varified today.  The problem is, when scientists/anthropologists/historians look for evidence of the great flood, Noah’s arch, the parting of the Red Sea, mention of the exodus of Jews from Ancient Egypt - nothing solid is found.  The most anyone can say is that these described events may have occurred on a much smaller scale, and then got blew out of proportion by word of mouth.  Not to mention that some of these events plain don’t make sense - example Noah’s boat and saving the animals, Adam and Eve versus the HARD evidence we have concerning evolution.  If there is strong scientific evidence for a biblical event, such as a giant boat on top of a mountain, I would like to know it.  Finally, many old testement bible stories appear throughout the ancient world before Jews even existed.  Seems like a lot of stories may have been borrowed from older civilizations.

    I thought the example of Santa Claus and the child quite apt in this case.  WHAT IF a virus wiped out 99.9% of the Earth’s population and almost all history was lost.  After many generations, the distant relatives of the survivors began to rebuild their civilization and come across all this evidence of Santa Claus.  Would they really find anything to say Santa was fake?  I mean, we have postcards, movies, etc… that show Santa is real.  We all know Santa is fake, but rarely do we write it down.

  2. Getting back to same-sex marriages, even if someone managed to prove (snort) beyond a reasonable doubt that heterosexual marriages were “better” for the participants and “better” for children, that still doesn’t justify outlawing same-sex marriages.  Those who choose to enter into them may get the short end of the stick (bwahahaha), but they’re not hurting anyone else’s marriage or family.

    Or do you mean to suggest that same-sex couples should be separated at gunpoint and forced to pair up with the opposite sex, “for their own good”?

    Or even (here’s a bigger reach) do you mean to suggest that potential heterosexual couples who could be joined in happy matrimony will say, “Nah, I think I’ll go find someone of MY sex to marry instead, because I *can*,” thereby destroying civilization as we know it?  It is to laugh.

    The only reason Santa Claus is “fake” and God is “real” is because people choose to pretend the latter is real.  Santa Claus is God Lite for the kiddies, a way for them to practice believing in something mythical to get them ready to buy the bigger story.

  3. Brett, I don’t doubt that if they had used (if they could have used) homosexual marriage data, they would have discovered those marriages improve health and happiness too.

    You have shown early on that you’re just as rigidly indoctrinated as David. Neither of you present concern and tolerance very well at all. Matter of fact, most of us here appear to be better Christians than either of you, even though we don’t believe in a god or his son, who expect us to represent love and acceptance of others. We do the technically difficult stuff better. All you guys do is pretend you have outlooks of worth to the world.

    That’s why I’m convinced you guys really worship the devil, furthering hate and subjugation like you have passion for it. You’re an embarrassment to Christianity - which is an embarrassment to itself. That’s being quite embarrassing!

    Grow up, ease up, live decent useful lives and stop wishing harm and disposition to others. Don’t be a danger to society. Don’t be dismissive of your own growth potential.

  4. I guess we should speak softly and carry a short stick, eh Geekmom? Or does stick size matter?

    Sorry, I’m just being a stick. Ignore me!

  5. Brock, they’re just suffering from an ingrained case of Puritanism (you know, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”—H.L. Mencken).  Same-sex marriages DON’T hurt anyone; it’s just that the idea of respecting homosexual unions gets their starched panties in a wad.

    Seriously.  Sometimes I think that this particular strain of Christian-inspired fundamentalist fervor so unique to the U.S. came about because of the Puritan influence.  How else to explain why the rest of the countries with a substantial Christian population are so much more relaxed and tolerant?

  6. Sometimes I think that this particular strain of Christian-inspired fundamentalist fervor so unique to the U.S. came about because of the Puritan influence. How else to explain why the rest of the countries with a substantial Christian population are so much more relaxed and tolerant?
    Many of them were not wanted in Europe, so they came over here to set up their own prejudiced colonies.  I’d say that separation of Church and State was due more to the fact that many colonists were of religions that were not liked by the “state” religions back in Europe, so they wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get kicked out of the new United States, or worry about going to bed being the “right” religion, and waking up the next to find out your religion is next on the chopping block.

  7. Holy cats, Brett.  That was some post…(ahem)… So god’s wrath is gonna nail non-believers of all stripes, regardless of faith or goodness, and cast them into the big icy pond of His Almighty Petulance for not accepting Him as “that bible deity”?  This reminds me of that Michael Tolkin movie, “The Rapture”, wherein the devout Mimi Rogers gets pushed a little too far by The Man’s tests of faith, and come rapture-day, she chooses to stay right outside the pearly gates in protest, for all eternity.  (Of course, she may just have been avoiding her unbearably irritating child- I wouldn’t blame her.)  If this fairy tale of yours turns out to be literally true, I’ll be joining Mimi and all the happily married gay people on the other side of the river.  I suspect the company will be much livelier.

  8. Brett projects.

    For the record, I am an agnostic INTJ. Y’all make of that what you will…

    To get back on topic, I can’t help escaping the conclusion that Brett’s objection to same-sex marriage is based on religious belief and the article from which he quoted is a mere smokescreen.

  9. JCali, Try going back a little further so you get the context of my remarks. I had been challenged on the fact of Jesus

  10. Oh, and someone needs to get ragman a good dictionary. Sin is an acceptable full word for sine. If you look under sin in the dictionary, you’ll find the trigonometric definition. But the truth is the truth, I cannot spell to save my life, but despite being as stupid as you all seem to think I am, I CAN operate a spellchecker.

  11. Brett…
    Learn how to quote correctly.  You’re attributing el’s comment to me.  I kinda expected el to say something about my science/truth remark, but you just took the ball and ran off the field.

    I was playing the definition game, one definition of truth is reality/actuality; the definition of capital T Truth is God.  I’m interested in reality, science.  I’m not interested in it to prove or disprove god, but to find out what is there.  Just b/c I don’t understand how something works does not mean that it’s god, nor do I attribute that lack of understanding to him like some do, then go stick my head in the sand saying “It’s god, I’m not allowed to look”. 

    It’s not god I have a problem with, it’s some of his fan clubs.

    “What you also appear to presuppose is that Truth itself doesn

  12. “I?ve given the original sources, so I don?t think a another source is called for, if you don?t believe the claims, go read the books.”

    I’m asking for the name of the book(s) since you quoted them.  If you don’t have a reference readily in mind that’s fine, but it would save me a lot of time.  I am willing to give your sources a fair shake, but the “reliable” witnesses comment makes little sense in the realm of mass ignorance and people who had faith enough to worship anything under the sun.

    Finally, I’m not sure I follow your “you must discredit all ancient texts” remark.  I think all ancient texts are approached by all unbiased scholars with skepticism unless they have some religious motivation.  I certainly don’t believe early Islamic texts anymore than I believe the bible, except in cases where historical events described in these texts can be corraborated with other evidence, such as a sunken ship, temple, language change in the region, etc…

  13. But if we must redefine the word, then let at least the burden of proof to his assumption that same-sex

  14. Oh, and someone needs to get ragman a good dictionary. Sin is an acceptable full word for sine. If you look under sin in the dictionary, you

  15. David, I hope that someone more familiar with the Bible will approach your points about the subjugation of women, the reality of Jesus and so forth. I’ve read the Bible, but I don’t give it much credit as a historical source so I wouldn’t be a good one to counter your claims or support them. I do know though, that it is easier to prove someone did exist than that they did not. As for Jesus being the son of God, that is impossible to prove. I also know that the Bible has in many places mentioned the subjugation of women. If you can’t find the teachings you must be reading a different Bible than I am. I usually consult the King James version since it is the most used and used to abuse.

    Posted by David - No one has said Brock shouldn

  16. Oh, here’s an interesting definition of “sin” in a description of enneagrams:
    The word “sin” is used a lot, but with a new definition. Sin is not a deliberate transgression of God’s law. The word is redefined into personality traits that separate people from God or their real selves. Sin is the sinister motivation everybody has for everything they do, a part of human personality. It must be accepted and brought under control. The number assigned to a person by the Enneagram indicates what their one “root sin” is and will always be. “Sin” is also called “addiction”.

    “Original Sin” has nothing to do with Adam and Eve. Their “Original Sin” is a psychological condition, meaning that a person is never at any time in his life undamaged or free, but is always exposed to harmful forces. It describes the conditions in the environment which cause the imbalance among the three intelligence centers.

    You can argue that the third sentence still bolster’s David’s definition of “sin,” but I’d argue that the rest of the paragraphs negate that.  In fact, this description comes from a Catholic site that is trying to disavow any official religious support of enneagrams.  They seem to be saying that these practitioners’ use of the word “sin” is NOT related to the official Catholic definition of the word. 

    (And yes, to split a few more hairs, I realize this doesn’t necessarily prove that they are saying it doesn’t fit DAVID’S definition of the word, unless of course they’re asserting that he speaks for them.)

  17. GeekMom, Seriously. Sometimes I think that this particular strain of Christian-inspired fundamentalist fervor so unique to the U.S. came about because of the Puritan influence. How else to explain why the rest of the countries with a substantial Christian population are so much more relaxed and tolerant?

    Ragman, Many of them were not wanted in Europe, so they came over here to set up their own prejudiced colonies. I

  18. As Christians, we want, and God wants others to be saved too, what you constantly do is turn our concern as us wanting to take over the world with our rules, and morals and everything you hate about us. All those rules in the bible aren

  19. Brett March 12, 2004 07:01 PM

    What makes me laugh is when you guys get mad at people for doing what they want to do, and what they think is right. Your hypocrisy is so extreme, so many write-ups Les does (not that they

  20. And here is yet a third point.  You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it.  In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare.  But the perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful.

  21. Brett, you’re calling us all “relativists” without any justification.  The very fact that we might express outrage over something horrible proves that we do have a moral sense of right and wrong.  The only difference is, we don’t think some figment of a power-hungry cleric’s imagination has to provide those rules for us to decide whether they’re good enough to live by.  And we don’t need the threat of an imaginary Hell to make us follow them, either. 

    You still need a parent to tell you what to do.  We know how to behave just fine without one.  That’s the difference.

    Paddington, the difference with you is that you seem to be highly offended by the idea that (to use your strained analogy) someone might want to do something with food other than eat it exactly the way some invisible being tells you to.  If my body is hungry and I choose to eat at a time not prescribed by a book you have, you claim there’s something wrong with ME and not with your book.  How silly is that?  And how silly is it to try to outlaw what I might choose to do with my food just because YOU don’t like it?

    The Christian insistence on absolute fidelity and/or abstinence is just an expression of men’s sexual jealousy and fear of not being able to control women’s choice of breeding partners.  It has nothing to do with what’s RIGHT or NATURAL.  It’s just a millennia-old game rig.

  22. Here’s a very interesting article on the gay-parenting issue in Slate Magazine.  Some excerpts:
    But behind the scenes, skeptics have emerged

  23. If my body is hungry and I choose to eat at a time not prescribed by a book you have, you claim there

  24. Heh.  Thanks, Brandi.  I’d love the margarita, but wouldn’t that be SINNING? 

  25. Just as a parent knows better than the child, so God knows better than us. But your all convinced that the best person to decide what is right and wrong for yourselves is in fact yourself! You’re like children that are to proud and most certainly right in your own eyes to see past the smoke to your heavenly father.

    There must be a book of standard Christian rhetoric to use when arguing with non-Christians or something, because a lady on another board about this issue that I frequent said almost EXACTLY the same thing (though a bit more eloquently)!  Check it out:

    Every parent knows that when their children fail to behave rightly it can be a deliberate rebellion, or a weakness, or even something done in ignorance. And that’s just how the God of the Bible describes sin. Children need to be firmly directed as well as deeply loved in order to mature beyond mere rules of right and wrong, and so do we all as God’s children. Just as the children do not make the rules but must learn to accept and trust their parent’s wisdom, so we must do the same…never placing our own understanding above Gods.

    and another:

    We get one shot at this life and one shot only. No second chances, no do overs. And no one need figure it out on their own, with mere limited personal experience to guide them. We need parents, we need historians, we need rules to reign in and train our impulses so we can mature beyond them. Jesus said that life is so tough, that we all need a Wonderful Counselor to help us make sense of it all.

    The beginning of wisdom is genuine humlility… knowing that our own heart cannot begin to understand itself and the deeper motivations, let alone create it’s own justice and apply it impartially to itself. IMO, it’s self deceiving to think it can.

    Spending the rest of my life thinking of myself as a child, never encouraged to think for myself or trust my own instincts, and in need of constant parental guidance due to my utter lack of a natural ability to determine right from wrong (simply because I’m a HUMAN) isn’t my idea of a joyous existence.  It’s more like a life sentence!  I’ll never understand how otherwise normal, intelligent people believe that they’re incapable of making moral decisions without the “counsel” of an invisible being or some long-dead guy’s ramblings. :disbelief:

  26. Paddington, I agree with what you posted, but you really ought to give credit to the original author.

    Geekmom, Again, I’d like you to tell me where in the Bible drinking alcohol is a sin. I certainly don’t see it that way. I think I specifically said dictionary. I’m gonna have to assume with all the time you’ve all had since that post, and the stretch that you’re making, that you can’t really find anything at all wrong with my definition. Why don’t you just admit that I was right? I promise it doesn’t hurt. I’m not Catholic (who, BTW, also do not consider drinking a sin), I consider them borderline as far as being Christian, and I will not defend their websites. I’m not picking and choosing who’s Christian. I am accepting the Bible as my authority. Catholic doctrine takes the Bible, tradition, and the Pope as equal sources of authority.

    Plus, your quotes are pure opinion and no data and the source is the gay science website. I’m not buying, hope no one else is. In what culture is atheism, scientology, or wiccan the major religion? Oh, I see, no culture has adopted those, I wonder why.

    Same-sex marriage doesn

  27. In what culture is atheism, scientology, or wiccan the major religion? Oh, I see, no culture has adopted those, I wonder why.

    You keep making assertations about the predominate religion of different cultures. That is a “strength in numbers” argument and it carries no weight. If we lived centuries ago you’d be arguing the earth was flat because “no culture has adopted the round earth idea”.

    People can be stupid and wrong, and they can do it in very large numbers.

    No civil right is denied, Brock can marry anyone of the opposite sex he chooses, just like me. I can

  28. Uhg, David, these analogies of yours….  We’re still talking about gay marriage, aren’t we?  Don’t you think a father who happens to be gay might not guide his child down that treacherous hilltop?  Or a mother, who happens to know how to (freaking- pardon the outburst) ski as well?  I’m sick to death of allegory, especially when it tries to connect a pre-enlightenment POV with the 21st century vision of what we are….  You wanna battle heathens, or Muslims, do it on your own dime.  Why should I, as an American citizen, fund your dumbass religious battles?  You must realize this comes down to mere $$$—why shouldn’t I spend my cash on Head-First programs than your nonsense?


    Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.

    The First Commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.

    Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.

    The Fifth Commandment is humor thy father and mother.

    The Seventh Commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.

    David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar.

    Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

    Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the apostles.

    Jesus was born because Mary had an inacurate contraption.

    Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you.

    St. Paul cavorted to Christianity.

    He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage.

    A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.

    The joke that isn’t:
    Q. What is the best way to get to Paradise?
    A. Turn right and go straight.

    (All of the above obviously not written by me)

  30. David, when I talked about alcohol consumption being a sin, I was referring to the beliefs of Islam.  (Oh, wait, they don’t count, right?  Only YOUR book counts.  Only YOUR way counts.  Silly me.)

    Now, if you want to talk fun, there are Jewish holidays where alcohol consumption is required by ritual and encouraged for celebration.  Now THERE’S a group of people who know how to party!

    Oh, are we shifting definitions now?  “Christian cultures” are any COUNTRY where there happen to be a lot of Christians?  So even if the vast majority of the people in the country don’t attend church and aren’t religious, you’re going to claim credit for their good behavior on behalf of Christianity? 

    Fine, babe.  Let’s get back to Shinto, Confucian, Sufi, and Hindu-predominant countries.  I await your knowledgeable report on women’s rights there.  Oh, and would you care to tell me how Israel measures up?  A Jewish-majority state so equal that the women are drafted into military service right along with the men.  Oh, and please explain how African countries plug into your ridiculous equation, especially as there’s been so much Christian missionary activity there over the past few hundred years. 

    The truth is, David, nearly every one of your posts makes a ridiculous assertion having something to do with you OR your religion being superior.  I think it’s a reflex you can’t control.  Better add “pride” to your sin inventory so that you can “confess” it and forgive yourself for it.

    (By the way, the source of my quotes was not the “gay science website”—exactly what IS that, anyway?  If you’d bothered even to look at the source URL you would have seen that it was  Are Microsoft and NBC now gay corporations?  Wow, who knew?)

    Maryh, thanks for saying so much so well.  My fingers would probably have fallen off.  A little ‘rita for you too?

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