Friday, May 08, 2015

Man and Woman

by Fr. Robert Hart, 

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.    
(Genesis 2:23,24)

And he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
(Matthew 19:4,5)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.
(Book of Common Prayer)

 In the two quotations from Genesis and from Matthew we have been given God's word concerning marriage, and specifically, in Matthew, the words of Jesus Christ Himself. The purpose of this article is to examine and highlight what He Himself taught when He was physically present in this world. As you can see, Jesus quoted from Genesis, but deliberately modified it with the word "Two" (or "Twain" in the older English of the KJV), thus ruling out polygamy for His followers. What we have, therefore, from the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, is His word that marriage is a lifelong bond between one man and one woman. He follows that by saying that “some have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven ’s sake (v.12).” Christians have always understood this to mean there are two states of life for believers. One is marriage, and the other is complete abstinence from sexual relations, whether one remains open to marriage in the future, or lives as a lifelong celibate by vocation. Aside from these two states of life, marriage or complete abstinence, no third alternative exists for anyone who seeks to follow Christ and be His disciple, that is, a Christian.

We have been given, in Christ’s doctrine, the teaching of sacramental marriage, that is, that marriage is God's own work. For, He follows it directly in the next verse with the words, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (v.6)." Sacramental marriage is what we celebrate and bless in the Church, because it is the work of God Himself: "What therefore God hath joined together..." Not simply the Church, not simply the power of the state, not simply a covenant between a man and a woman, but God Himself makes the man and the woman one flesh.

And, indeed, it is clear, from both Genesis and the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, that two people of the same sex cannot be married in the eyes of God. The Hebrew words in Genesis are unmistakable. The word for "Woman" and "Wife" (as quoted above) are one and the same word: Ishah (אִשָּׁה). The word for "Man" is Ish (אִישׁ). The same applies to the Greek original in Matthew. The word for "wife" is Gyne (γυνή), from which comes the English word "Gynecology," and which translates into English as "woman" and also as "wife." Furthermore, this follows the words from Jesus' own mouth: "Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female..." making the following words obvious in meaning:"For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh." Sexual complementarity, something two people of the same sex do not have and cannot have, was created by God for marriage as a sacramental bond, to produce children and establish the family.

We can well understand why the Bible translators used the word "Wife" rather than "Woman" in both Genesis and Matthew. In English, to say that a man shall be joined to his woman might suggest something other than marriage to lazy ears, even though it is clear from the context that marriage is the only possible understanding of the words. But, in this day and age, we need to know that in Hebrew and in Greek the words for "Woman" and "Wife" are the same, with the meaning of a married couple derived from the context.

I was made aware of some celebrity championing same sex "marriage" with the argument that its advocates do not want to change the definition of what marriage is. That statement constitutes a factual absurdity. Of course it is a redefinition. In the whole history of the world every civilization has known that sexual complementarity - male and female - are of the very essence of what marriage is. It has never been understood any other way. From the teaching of scripture we see why: It is literally a part of God's creation, and not a man-made institution. Its roots do not come from jurisprudence. It is a part of human nature itself, as anthropology confirms (this celebrity went on to bring up Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement as if there is a connection between those important accomplishments and this new same sex "marriage" idea. But there is no genuine connection, none whatsoever; only what some want to create by the power of suggestion rather than by facts, reason and logic).

The new idea of same-sex marriage has been confused with the idea of Civil Rights in the secular arena. But honesty compels us to say that in Sacramental Theology it is not a matter of rights, but rather of definition. One might as well argue that a triangle has the right to define itself as a circle, and that such an expanded definition of the word "circle" would not change the nature of circleness. If the word "circle" can mean also a triangle, then we have lost the meaning of the word. Such a definition is too inclusive to be meaningful. If the cause of including recognition of a triangle as a circle is fortified by the ruling of a court, all that would happen is that Mathematics teachers could no longer teach geometry, that is, not truly, because words would have lost their meaning. That is what the secular arena has done to the word "marriage." But the Church must not accept the world's standards as her own.  

The revelation of Christ’s own teaching is not subject to change, whether one wishes to call it by such euphemisms as “evolving” or “being led by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit will not contradict what Christ has taught, because God will not contradict God. The truth is settled forever. Marriage is an institution ordained by God for one man and one woman, and it is God Who makes the man and the woman one flesh.


Anonymous said...

If I understand correctly you're implying SCOTUS will look to force religious groups to do something or the other with some penalty (removal of tax exempt status or worse). I thought the lawsuit before the court is in regards to civil marriage (default power of attorney, tax filing, default inheritance). Am I wrong in this?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It's about how the entire country could be forced to define "marriage" legally. No, the Supreme Court is not dealing directly with such things as tax exempt status, etc. But if they pretend to find a constitutional right here, to what will it lead over time?

Archbishop David C Holdridge said...

Churches must get out of acting as an agent of the government in performing civil marriages. We need to only celebrate sacramental marriages for members in good standing.