A message to gay marriage opponents: go study your Bible properly


IN an interesting op-ed piece carried by the Altoona Herald earlier this month, three biblical experts – Robert R Cargill, Kenneth Atkinson and Hector Avalos – had this message for readers:

As academic biblical scholars, we wish to clarify that the biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors.

They pointed out that:

The fact that marriage is not defined as only that between one man and one woman is reflected in the entry on ‘marriage’ in the authoritative Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000): Marriage is one expression of kinship family patterns in which typically a man and at least one woman cohabitate publicly and permanently as a basic social unit (p 861).

They added:

The phrase ‘at least one woman’ recognizes that polygamy was not only allowed, but some polygamous biblical figures (eg, Abraham, Jacob) were highly blessed. In 2 Samuel 12:8, the author says that it was God who gave David multiple wives: ‘I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom. … And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more’ (Revised Standard Version).

In fact, there were a variety of unions and family configurations that were permissible in the cultures that produced the Bible, and these ranged from monogamy (Titus 1:6) to those where rape victims were forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and to those Levirate marriage commands obligating a man to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4). Others insisted that celibacy was the preferred option (1 Corinthians 7:8; 28).

Although some may view Jesus’ interpretation of Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:3-10 as an endorsement of monogamy, Jesus and other Jewish interpreters conceded that there were also non-monogamous understandings of this passage in ancient Judaism, including those allowing divorce and remarriage.

In fact, during a discussion of marriage in Matthew 19:12, Jesus even encourages those who can to castrate themselves ‘for the kingdom’ and live a life of celibacy.

Ezra 10:2-11 forbids interracial marriage and orders those people of God who already had foreign wives to divorce them immediately.

So, while it is not accurate to state that biblical texts would allow marriages between people of the same sex, it is equally incorrect to declare that a ‘one-man-and-one-woman’ marriage is the only allowable type of marriage deemed legitimate in biblical texts.

They concluded:

This is not only our modern, academic opinion. This view of the multiple definitions of ‘biblical’ marriage has been acknowledged by some of the most prominent names in Christianity. For example, the famed Reformationist Martin Luther wrote a letter in 1524 in which he commented on polygamy as follows: ‘I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not oppose the Holy Scriptures’.

Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals, especially those ancient texts whose endorsements of other social institutions, such as slavery, would be universally condemned today, even by the most adherent of Christians.

11 responses to “A message to gay marriage opponents: go study your Bible properly”

  1. bettydavis says:


  2. Daz says:

    Time for America’s Best Christian again, methinks…

  3. Sally says:

    While I agree with these scholars, the people who are against gay marriage, gay breathing, gay existence, will still use the Bible against them. They don’t read it; like the Constitution-carrying Tea Party, who wouldn’t know what the 2nd amendment said if you printed it out in three foot letters and sat them in front of it. The interpretation they get from Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck and Sarah is all they want. Facts? Scholars? Oh, it must be the liberal elite at work again.

  4. Stephen Mynett says:

    From a different debate but I liked this quote about the bible-bashers from senator Brian Sims: “As a reminder, Mr. Speaker, I do believe this has been forgotten entirely by many of my colleagues today: Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

  5. 1859 says:

    Please ! No one should be looking in the fucking bible for permission to love someone – gay or straight. It’s no concern of the religious thought police. The bible is a way out-dated piece of hate mail written by frothing-at-the mouth old men who called their collection of fairy tales holy and justified this nonsense by saying they were inspired by their god. Ignore it and love who you want. The bible is irrelevant.

  6. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    I’m with 1859 on this one, the bible and any other so-called holy books are irrelevant. Now we just need to get that message out there to the fundies :-).

  7. Marky Mark says:

    (In 2 Samuel 12:8, the author says that it was God who gave David multiple wives )
    …If anyone has seen the documentary, “Monkey Island”, the bible confirms evolution with such passages as they reflect the mating habits of the monkeys on Monkey Island. Dominate male Monkeys mate with many females and the females submit and share the male…as is with many species in the animal world.
    It appears that monogamy is a result of evolved intelligence and the emotion of jealously…thus marriage.

  8. L.Long says:

    As stated by DAZ ‘America’s Best Christian’ says it best and has been doing so a lot sooner and better then these ‘buyBull scholars’.
    I really love the xtian BS argument that if we let gays marry then we open it up to polygamy, which just fine according to the buyBull both OT & NT.
    The really ignorant parts is that the buyBull does NOT condemn being gay!! It says If you lay with a man as you would a woman it is disgusting. Well being married for some time when I lay with a woman I just go to sleep, so if I lay with a man then by that very justification I must have sex with him or be doomed!!!! And that is using a literal interpretation of the their holey BS.

  9. L.Long says:

    I think we all can agree with 1859 but his statement is also irrelevant because calling their beliefs irrelevant is going to be totally ignored, we have to make the hilariously stupid bigoted BS of the buyBull look like very hilariously stupid bigoted BS to the point that even they have to laugh a little then we have them and the crack starts.

  10. Robster says:

    “Jesus and other Jewish interpreters conceded that there were also non-monogamous understandings of this passage in ancient Judaism…” How can anyone claim to know what the baby jesus had to say or think about anything? There’s no credible evidence the Magic Jew existed at all and if he did was little more than a travelling preaching hippy with un-biblically long hair, or so it’s thought. Bit like quoting Santa Claus.