“To avoid fornication, everyone (except those gifted with celibacy)
should have an orientation compatible partner”
—1 Corinthians 7:1-9
The site gaychristian101 published a reply to someone named Ken Silva by someone named Rick Brentlinger which is titled Did Jesus define marriage as only between a man and a woman? I found that Brentlinger is right that Silva asserted some not specific enough statements and I found that Brentlinger’s replies are pretty convincing but only on a surface level. Now, there is a long comments section as well as links to follow up discussions between the two which is all much too much to include herein so that I will focus on the post I just cited.
The discussion focused upon Matthew 19:3-7 which is quoted thusly, with emphasis in the original—original post, not the original manuscript ;o)
“And Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “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’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matthew 19:3-7, ESV)
Thus, the main issue cannot be what Jesus so very clearly stated but that Ken Silva commented, “Jesus has just defined marriage as a male (man) to a female (woman), and that’s how the men to whom He was speaking understood it.”
I will note at this point that Brentlinger’s end goal, within the context of gaychristian101, is the assertion that since Jesus did not define marriage as only between a man and a woman then marriage between two (or more) men or between two (or more) women must then be acceptable. However, regardless of who you think made a better case, between Silva and Brentlinger, one thing is certain: even if Jesus did not specify that marriage is between one man and one woman the only conclusion from the discussion is that polygamy and divorce must be okay. Yet, this would still be polygamy and divorce between a male and females and so this does not advance us a single nanometer towards same-sex marriage.
With that being stated, note that Rick Brentlinger notes that Ken’s is an “opinion based on your presuppositions about male-female Complementarity in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24” and he defines complementarity as “one man with one woman for life.” Here are the referenced texts, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them….Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Well, that is just about as complementary as one can get so what is the issue?
As Brentlinger puts it, “The Jewish men to whom Jesus spoke did not define marriage as one man with one woman for life. When Jesus cites Genesis 2:24, by no means did Jesus or Jewish men understand Genesis 2:24 as prohibiting polygamy.” I really appreciate that he wants to elucidate the cultural and historical context. He notes, “Complementarity (one man with one woman for life) is not God’s ironclad rule for all marriages because scripture makes exceptions for other situations like (1) polygamy and (2) divorce because of fornication.” Now, he may have just dug his argument’s own grave as the fact that he admits that polygamy and divorce were “exceptions” implies that they are exceptions to the rule: and what rule would that be? Complementarity.
Rick Brentlinger then decides to speculate as to God’s intentions, “It also leaves open the strong probability that God intended the 5% of humans who are same sex attracted to be same sex partnered. This belief is based on 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 where the principle of partnership is stated.” Well, it does not leave open but rather, Brentlinger has sought to invent an opening where there is none. However, he did refer us to the Bible and, for some reason, he cites nine verses but only quotes one sentence and does so in thusly, “To avoid fornication, everyone (except those gifted with celibacy) should have an orientation compatible partner.” Now, I am no expert but “orientation compatible partner” does not seem to have been directly translated from the Greek in a formal manner. This just goes to show how some people are willing to literally re-write God’s inspired words simply in a desperate attempt to get them to state that which they want to hear—itching ears and all of that (2 Timothy 4:3).
But why, pray tell, did he cite nine verses but only quote one (actually, not even quote but eisegetically paraphrased—and badly, at that)? Well, one thing is certain: because actually quoting the verse, as well as the other eight, would disprove him instantly and I can only hope his readers are skeptical enough to actually look up the texts for themselves. Here are the nine verses with emphasis added for emphasis:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman [singular]. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man [singular] have his own wife [singular], and let every woman [singular] have her own husband [singular]. Let the husband [singular] render unto the wife [singular] due benevolence: and likewise also the wife [singular] unto the husband [singular]. The wife [singular] hath not power of her [singular] own body, but the husband [singular]: and likewise also the husband [singular] hath not power of his own body, but the wife [singular].
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
So, this is very clearly about one male/man with one female/woman so what to do with such crystal clear statements? Recall the issue of cultural and historical context. So, Brentlinger notes, “I believe scripture is clear that the Jewish men He addressed did not understand Him to be prohibiting polygamy. There is no way Jesus intended His words to convey the meaning you give them – that the only marriage acceptable to God is one man with one woman.” Again, even if Jesus was not prohibiting polygamy: this would still imply marriage between a singular male and plural females.
Yet, he not only asserts as much but seeks to provide evidences and here is where his surface level statements and partial quotations seem reasonable but ultimately, they are not. He notes “The first polygamous marriage is recorded” coming “only 44 verses after the marriage passage in Genesis 2:24” which need only mean that the Bible is simply recording the first violation of complementarity. He also notes, “God and Moses, in Deuteronomy 21:15-17, made provision in the Law for polygamous marriages” the text reads:
If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.
But to conclude that making provision in the Law for polygamous marriages means that the law therefore approves of them is tantamount to concluding that all things with which they law deals means that the law is approving of such: this is an if, then litigious context.
He also notes, “Many heroes of the faith practiced polygamy their entire adult lives yet scripture does not condemn them as living in sin.” Well, the Bible is not a running list of each sin of everyone mentioned therein. We will come to this issue again below with regard to King David. Rick Brentlinger concludes, “God is not an absolute Complementarian. In plainer words, God does not agree with your absolutist view and never states your absolutist view in the Bible” unless, that is, you count Jesus’ statement which were referencing Genesis and add Paul, et al., to the list. But when you reject these then you can conclude that complementarianism is never stated in the Bible yet, this would be unreasonable circular reasoning. He further wrote, “God never encourages us to believe that the only marriage acceptable to Him is a one man with one woman marriage like Adam and Eve” unless, that is, you count Jesus’ statement which were referencing Genesis, etc.
We now come to the issue of David with a good point by Brentlinger, “Jehovah Himself affirmed polygamy through His prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:7-8. ‘And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.’”
God Himself states, “I gave thee thy master’s…wives” which is a Hebrew irregular plural. Now, something that Brentlinger does not note is that Deuteronomy 17:17 states of Israeli kings, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.” So, we seem to have the Bible admitting a contradiction and/or that God violates His own standards. Yet, when we read the Bible as a whole—its contents, concepts and contexts—we note that God will sometimes accommodate humans even when they desire something which goes against His will: the issue of perfect will versus permissive will. For example, when the Hebrews tell Samuel, “Give us a king to judge us” God replies, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:6-7). Thus, God allows them to have a king because that is what they wanted even though it is a direct result of them rejecting God. Thus, as per the Bible’s greater context, God appears to have been accommodating David even if such marriages were against complementarity and against His specific commandments for kings.
At this point, I will note that yes, the Bible mentions various polygamous marriages and yet whenever, in each and every case, the dynamics of the marriages are commented upon the only logical, and theological, conclusion is that polygamy is a disaster. This is because whenever the Bible comments on the inner workings of such marriages there is always conflict, envy, strife, etc., etc., etc.: for details on this point, see On the evolution of marriage: “Man + Woman + Woman + Woman…(Polygamy)”
Rick Brentlinger concludes that “God affirmed polygamy…He does not agree with your opinion that one man with one woman is the only marriage relationship God will bless…The Holy Spirit affirms polygamy by inference in 2 Chronicles 24:2-3. ‘And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. And Jehoiada took for him two wives; and he begat sons and daughters.’” I know, I know: what does Joash having done that which was right in the sight of the LORD have to do with Jehoiada taking for him two wives? The “inference” seems to be either, and I am attempting to discern Brentlinger point, 1) that Jehoiada took for him, as in for Joash, two wives and yet, Joash is said to have done that which was right in the sight of the LORD or to mean 2) that even Jehoiada, who was a priest, had two wives. If 2) then it is as noted above: that he did so does not imply Holy Spirit approbation and if 1) then another thing we learn from the Bible’s greater context is that it sometimes employs hyperbole. For example, King David was an adulterous murderer and yet, God states that David, “kept my commandments and my statutes” (1 Kings 11:34) and “my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart” (1 Kings 14:8). Yet, this could also refer to having kept His commandments with regards to repenting after having sinned, constantly turning back to God, etc. so that the same could be stated about Joash.
Ken Silva is quoted as having written that complementarity was also the view “of the historic orthodox Christian Church.” About which Rick Brentlinger notes, “On this point too, your conclusion is historically inaccurate. There is no scriptural evidence that any early Christian who heard Jesus speak in person or who read Matthew 19 understood Jesus to be outlawing polygamy when He spoke of ‘two becoming one.’” Well, there is no scriptural evidence of such if, that is, we ignore the fact that complementarity is the one and only one enjoined upon Christians in the whole New Testament.
We come to this next since Brentlinger denies this fact as he notes, “Events in Matthew 19 occurred around AD 29. 1 Timothy was written around AD 62 so there is at least a 33 year gap between Jesus’ statement on divorce and Paul’s statements in 1 Timothy 3.” Now you know why he was so very specific in qualifying his statement as “scriptural evidence” so even early commentaries do not count, and “early Christian” by which we now learn he means pre 33 years from when Jesus made the statement, and “who heard Jesus speak in person” so again, pre 33 years, and “or who read Matthew 19” which is actually problematic for him since his estimated 33 year gap leaves plenty of room for Paul to have heard about it or have read it. In any case, why is Brentlinger making this, what I will call, argumentum ad chronologicum? It may be that he recognizes that complementarity is the one and only one enjoined upon Christians in the whole New Testament and knowing this, he attempts to poison his readers’ wells against this fact.
He quotes and comments:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” -1 Tim 3:2
“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife” -1 Tim 3:12
If Jesus intended to teach absolute Complementarity, that the ONLY acceptable marriage is one man with one woman for life, and if His Jewish listeners and early Christians understood that to be His teaching, then why did the Holy Spirit and Paul feel it necessary to point out that bishops and deacons may only have one wife? If Jewish and Christian orthodoxy already understood that, there is no reason for the Holy Spirit and Paul to mention that having more than one wife was a deal-breaker for a bishop or a deacon. The fact is, some first century Jews and Christians practiced polygamy because polygamy was never forbidden in scripture for anyone except bishops and deacons.
Why did the Holy Spirit and Paul feel it necessary to point out one male bishop with one female wife and one male deacon with one female wife? For the same reason that Jesus felt it necessary to point out that murder is condemnable: not because such was unknown but because it was violated. Moreover, they may have felt it necessary for establishing it firmly as a rule and so that, oh say, 2,000 years later someone did not come along and claim that what the Bible actually means is that same-sex marriage is perfectly acceptable. I find it interesting that he merely asserts that “some first century Jews and Christians practiced polygamy because” note that he claims to know their motivation and reason “polygamy was never forbidden in scripture for anyone except bishops and deacons.” He does not provide any quotations or citations for this mere claim.
He concludes, “You cannot produce any verse of scripture which in context addresses same sex marriage” but this is only since he rejects the verses of scripture which in context do address and reject same sex marriage. Rick Brentlinger also notes, “What you’ve done is re-purpose a passage in which Jesus rebukes heterosexual Jewish men for their heterosexual divorce practices as if Jesus was really making a negative statement about gay marriage.” Now, this is an important point since the primary discussion was, indeed, about heterosexual divorce practices and yet, by affirming Genesis 2’s complementarity template for marriage which Jesus affirms in Matthew 19, by definition, any and all other forms of pseudo-marriage are thereby excluded.
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