Tuesday, January 31, 2006,12:01 PM
So recently I have had a number of conversations amoung different groups about the nature of sex and marriage. Most of the conversations are with people that make certain assumptions about the two and call those assumptions biblical. While I agree for the most part with the general conclusions that are reached, it troubles me when people assume that their 21st century, American, evangelical ideas are the true biblical ones or "the way it has always been." How we view marriage today (a loving covenant between a man and a woman that implies longevity, commitment, submission, and love)is a fairly recent concept. For most of Western history marriage was based more on politcal and economic forces than personal choice. To assume that what we mean by marriage is what the bible means by marriage disrespects history and the context of the biblical writers.

For a brief and interesting overview of the history of marriage in western society check out this article.

As a tangent, one of the historical facts I discovered that fasinated me was the existence of compulsury marriage in Imperial Rome. Augustus imposed fines on single people and thus made marriage a political and economic transaction. So when Paul talks about remining single, he is not just refering to sexual and spiritual issues, but taking a stand against the empire.

Just some thoughts to ponder.

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posted by Julie at 12:01 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/31/2006 10:32:00 PM, Blogger SAM

    I do agree with you that our modern views of sex and marriage are not consistent with the views held centuries ago. Certainly the western views that marriage is a choice made by the couple and based on love is very modern. Arranged marriages have been common for thousands of years in both Eastern and early Western cultures. Love was something that couples learned during marriage, it was not a prerequisite for it. Likewise, most historic societies allowed divorce for various reasons and tended to favor men.

    However, I believe the article you linked to was biased and not completely accurate. There are several authors and ancient writings that talk about the marriage struggles and how couples stayed together, even though they might not love each other because of the social and family pressures. Historically, divorce has not been widely accepted by previous generations. If a person committed adultery, they were often stoned or burned to death. In most historic cultures, adultery was punishable by death. Therefore, longevity and commitment were common in most historic marriages, even though the love was not always present.

    Surprisingly, our modern views on sex are actually more conservative in some regards than historic cultures. In part, I believe some of this is due to the American conservative view on nudity. We go crazy when a woman bares a breast on the SuperBowl for a fraction of a second. Meanwhile, topless women are common on the public beaches in Europe and historically public nudity has been accepted in some cases in most societies. For example, before plumbing in our modern houses, many cultures relied on rivers and public baths. It was common to find people nude at the local river, lake, or stream cleaning themselves. Likewise, married couples often engaged in sexually activity outside and perhaps near a water source. In part, because they wanted to clean themselves up afterwards and they did not have sinks and toilets in doors to run to after sex. It was easier, cleaner, and more convenient to have sex outdoors for thousands of years...until indoor plumbing made it easier to stay indoors. Even the Bible records an account in Song of Songs where they talk about going into the vineyard (outside) to make love (have sex).