Sunday, September 6, 2009

Zygote or V12? Confronting the Church on Marriage, Part IIIa

An addendum to the "One Flesh" discussion with Woody Lauer. I have been patiently discussing (sometimes not so patiently) Genesis 2:24 with a poster named "el gayo" at CARM Discussion Forums. At times, I wondered why I was doing it. "El gayo's" steady, stubborn resistance forced the argument from the pro polygyny side into a refinement that yielded the following. I have modified the argument slightly so as to better fit this venue.
"There is nothing INHERENT in the passage Genesis 2:24, mandates or establishes monogamy.
'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.'
The passage does not mention monogamy, it describes marriage. We know only that it refers to a marriage (the only marriage at that time) that was also monogamous.

We also know that the same marriage was a birth betrothal marriage. Here is the preceding section of Genesis 2, verses 18-23:
'And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 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." '
Is the monogamy of that marriage important? It may be. It is just as self evident that we follow patterns of betrothal, from the earliest possible age if it is self evident from the passage that we follow the monogamous pattern.

It may be later that someone establishes a pattern of monogamy by referring back to this verse and the concept of one flesh, but the MERE REPETITION of the content of Genesis 2:24 cannot be said to establish monogamy any more than it would the practice of birth betrothal. That understanding must come directly from the repetition of the verse, and the commentary.

When Jesus repeats the verse, he emphasizes only that it is the PERMANENCE of Adam and Eve's union that he is interested in for the purposes of the discussion, he never discusses the monogamy of their marriage beyond the fact that he is discussing them, and we know they were monogamous.

But he is discussing them and we know they were betrothed also. For some reason we don't care about that part, we only seem to care about their monogamy.

The point is, that Genesis 2:24 does not prevent a man or a woman from marrying again over and over and over and over again. From the passage we would say that if they did, they would be husband or wife to that new spouse and be 'one flesh' with them. It is later that we learn a WIFE cannot undertake more than one spouse, but we never learn the same thing about a husband.

Most of us are conditioned to think it is one man one woman = marriage as if it were a zygote. Sperm comes together with egg. Something new is formed. Zygotes cannot unify again with other sperm. They are now closed systems.

Marriage may though, be more like a drop of water. One drop plus one drop is one bigger drop of water, that can be added to again and again and again until it's an ocean.

Maybe marriage is like an engine. One crankshaft (husband), one piston (wife), or maybe two wives/pistons, or perhaps as many as twelve. They're all engines. They're all one engine.

Some look at 'one flesh' and say 'Zygote.' Others look at one flesh and say 'engine' is a better illustration. Why is it a Zygote instead? There is no support for either notion in Genesis UNLESS you are going to adopt all aspects of the first marriage. This is why I mention birth betrothal. Both views are possible from the passage, neither are excluded.

Therefore, mere repetition of Genesis 2:24 doesn't establish monogamy as anything other than a possible form of marriage. Quoting it won't change that. Commenting on it as Jesus does in the New Testament, when he says 'see, the union was to be permanent,' is the only way discover how Adam and Eve's example, govern us."

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