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Marriage.

I. History. In the OT it is implied that marriage is an expression of the will of God (e.g., Gn 2:18–24). Religious instruction was a distinctive feature of the home (Dt 6:6–9). OT prophets abundantly defend sexual purity and domestic virtue. Blessings of marriage and evils of impurity are often used figuratively (e.g., Rv 21:2; Ex 34:15–16).

Monogamy was considered ideal in the OT (Gn 2:24; Pr 31:10–31), but there is no OT prohibition of polygamy,* which persisted well into the Christian era and is not forbidden in the NT but conflicts with the NT ideal of monógamy (1 Ti 3:2, 12; Tts 1:6; cf. Jn 4:18).

In the first Christian cents. the view developed that virginity and celibacy* were superior to marriage. Marriage had only a physical basis, and to marry was only to choose the lesser of 2 evils (wedlock or fornication). But by the 15th c. marriage was spoken of as a sacrament and was so confirmed by the Council of Trent* (Sess. XXIV, Doctrine of the Sacrament of Matrimony, Canon 1).

M. Luther's* views on marriage developed gradually and against varying backgrounds. Hence contradictory statements may be found in his writings. In gen., his earlier writings emphasize a strong naturalism in his approach to marriage; his later, more mature writings emphasize a spiritual conception. His cen. teaching, salvation by faith alone, was normative. In his approach to the subject he tried to be Scriptural. Freedom of the individual, faith, and conscience were vital considerations. Luther held that the normal sex urge is imperious and cannot be escaped, but he pleaded for self-control.

On the spiritual side Luther regarded marriage as an obedience of faith which lifts marriage above its gross naturalism. He wrote beautiful passages on marriage, and his home life is regarded as ideal (see Luther, Family Life of).

Marriage had been under ch. control. Luther held that it should be under state control, but that religious features might be connected with the wedding (WA 30 III, 74). Luther also held that a Christian might marry an unbeliever, even a Turk.

These positions of Luther were developed in the Lutheran* Confessions (e.g., AC and Ap, XXIII).

Luth. dogmaticians fortified Luther's positions, tried to determine the church's proper role in marriage, and discussed such details as impediments* and causes for divorce (see III).

Lutheranism in Am. began to give widespread and concentrated attention to marriage problems in the 20th c.

Historically, several steps developed in marriage procedure. They often depended on soc. conditions and special circumstances (cf. Gn 2:18–25; 11:29; 24:61–67). Soon there were 2 steps: agreement (engagement) and consummation (assoc. with a marriage feast). After the exile the custom of drawing up and sealing a contract came into vogue (Tob 7:14).

At first the ch. did not concern itself with control of matrimony or its process. Gradually the RC Ch. took control, made marriage a sacrament (see above), and demanded that it must occur under RC auspices, restricted it, and regulated the process in various ways. Luther and the Luth. Confessions protested against this (Tractatus, 77; see also above). Usual acts of marriage: consent of 2 eligible persons to live in matrimony (the only step in common-law marriage); meeting legal requirements (license, etc.); legally recognized ceremony.

II. Definition and Principles. A. L. Graebner* defined the state of marriage, or wedlock, as “the joint status of one man and one woman, superinduced and sustained by their mutual consent to be and remain to each other husband and wife in a lifelong union for legitimate sexual intercourse, the procreation of children, and cohabitation for mutual care and assistance” (TQ, VIII, 1 [January 1903], 34).

The marriage relationship is holy. Marriage is the usual state for the average adult, both from the soc. and from the hygienic standpoint. Children are a gift of God (Ps 127:3). The family is the fundamental unit of the nation.

Luths. in Am. have usually advocated engagement, as a rule with consent of parents, as prelude to marriage. Marriage is a natural right and therefore cannot be forbidden to those eligible. The real affection of married people is a creation and gift of God that cannot be set aside by absolute commands. Engagement has been regarded as a sacred promise that must not be lightly made or lightly broken.

Acc. to Scripture, marriage has a 3-fold purpose: companionship and mutual help; procreation; and, since the fall of man into sin, avoidance of fornication (Gn 1:28; 2:18–24; 1 Co 7:2). Refusal of sexual intercourse is denial of aright and neglect of a duty assumed by marriage acc. to Gn 2:24; 1 Co 7. It has been regarded as a form of malicious abandonment.

Marriage is intended by God to be lifelong (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9; Ro 7:2; 1 Co 7:39). It is immaterial whether the one or the other spouse, acc. to the regular course of nature, later becomes impotent or, as result of disease, becomes incapable of performing the prime duties of marriage. Mutual care and assistance become more prominent in course of time.

III. Incidentals. Clandestine engagements are those made without parental knowledge. Marriage banns (pl. of ban, “authoritative proclamation”) originated in medieval times and are still pub. in some chs.; they announce the intention of persons to marry, giving opportunity for anyone to show just cause why the marriage should not take place. Common law marriage is the living together of a man and a woman as husband and wife, and with such intent, without legal or ecclesiastical marriage ceremony (see also I). State laws now gen. demand a physical examination, marriage license, and legally recognized marriage ceremony. Artificial insemination with seed other than that of the husband is gen. opposed by Christians. On basis of Gn 1:27–28; 2:21–24; Ro 1:26–27 Christians oppose homosexual marriage.

Divorce. Acc. to Mt. 5:32; 19:9, a man who divorces his wife except for porneia (Gk. “fornication; unchastity”) causes (Gk. poiei, Mt 5:32) her to be stigmatized as adulterous. Jesus does not say that failure in marriage, even because of fornication, must be followed by divorce; nor does He say that there may be no divorce for fornication. Malicious abandonment (1 Co 7:15) is the willful breaking of the marriage bond by deliberate separation. A Christian “is not bound” in such cases, 1 Co 7:15. This has been interpreted to mean that a Christian suffers a marriage break, i. e., he submits to it, when such circumstances make it impossible for him to keep his marriage intact. The NT ideal is that marriage should end only with death (Ro 7:2–3). Cf. also Mk 10:11–12; Lk 16:18. JHCF HGC

See also Ring, Engagement and Wedding; Tempus Clausum.

G. E. Howard, A History of Matrimonial Institutions 3 vols. (Chicago, 1904); E. A. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, 5th ed., 3 vols. (New York, 1922); G. E. Lenski, Marriage in the Lutheran Church (Columbus, Ohio, 1936); W. A. Maier, For Better, Not for Worse, 3d, rev. ed. (Saint Louis, 1939); O. A. Geiseman, Make Yours a Happy Marriage (St. Louis, 1946); J. T. Landis and M. G. Landis, The Marriage Handbook (New York, 1948); L. M. Epstein, Marriage Laws in the Bible and the Talmud (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1942); E. R. Groves and G. H. Groves, The Contemporary American Family (Philadelphia, 1947); R. E. Baber, Marriage and the Family, 2d ed. (New York, 1953); E. W. Burgess and P. Wallin, Engagement and Marriage (Philadelphia, 1953); D. R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage (London, 1953); Engagement and Marriage: A Sociological, Historical, and Theological Investigation of Engagement and Marriage, ed. Family Life Committee of the Bd. for Parish Educ. of LCMS (St. Louis, 1959); O. A. Piper, The Biblical View of Sex and Marriage (New York, 1960); Sex and the Church: A Sociological, Historical, and Theological Investigation of Sex Attitudes, ed. Family Life Committee of the Bd. for Parish Educ. of LCMS (St. Louis, 1961); H. Thielicke, The Ethics of Sex, tr. J. W. Doberstein (New York, 1964); Family Relationships and the Church: A Sociological, Historical, and Theological Study of Family Structures, Roles, and Relationships, ed. Family Life Committee of the Bd. for Parish Educ. of LCMS (St. Louis, 1970).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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