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The Purpose of Marriage: Gen 1 or Gen 2?

October 4, 2014

The bible begins with two creation stories, and each has its own purpose. Gen 1 tells the story of how all creation came to be, with the creation of humanity, male and female, as the culmination of creation. In this story, which is dominated by themes of generation and fertility, God tells people to be fertile and multiply, fill the earth; eat these things for your food, and leave those things as food for the animals. This is a story about the world, and humanity’s relationship to the world.

Genesis 2 tells a story about humanity. In Gen 2:18, God says “It is not good for the human to be alone,” determines that none of the animals are suitable companions for the human, and fashions a suitable companion from the side of the human, from the very same flesh. (Note the single-nature anthropology implied here: ie, there is a single human nature shared by women and men.) Gen 2:24 says “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” This is a story about the origin of marriage.

Notice that the story about the origin of marriage says nothing about procreation.

Read the rest at Gaudete Theology.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2014 6:50 pm

    You can’t pit the texts together like this. That is not reading the Bible with tradition. You have to let the texts of the Bible be. No one has ever said that the SOLE purpose of marriage is procreation but that IS a purpose of marriage and when we let the Bible be, we see this.

  2. October 14, 2014 7:48 pm

    Of course it’s reading the Bible with tradition. Paul pitted texts against each other all the time – there’s even a name for it in rabbinic practice, “citing Moses against Moses.” And I’m not actually pitting them against each other; I’m reading them in light of each other, but giving primacy to the actual text. I therefore conclude that unitive love is the primary purpose of marriage, and that procreation is a secondary purpose.

    It is not and has not been at all uncommon for people to argue, either explicitly or implicitly, one of these things:
    – procreation is the primary purpose of marriage
    – procreation is the sole purpose of marital sex
    – procreation is an essential (not accidental) characteristic of marriage: thus, marriages without children are defective or inferior
    – the intention to procreate is an essential characteristic of marriage: thus, couples who marry without the intention of procreation are not validly married or are sinning against God and each other

    All these arguments, including the argument that procreation is *A* purpose of marriage, tend to run into trouble when applied to couples who a) sadly discover after marriage that they cannot procreate, or b) enter marriage knowing that they cannot procreate. The fact that almost nobody wants to declare those marriages invalid supports my reading of the biblical text that the primary purpose of marriage is not procreation, but unitive love.

  3. October 14, 2014 8:21 pm

    I never said that the PRIMARY purpose of marriage is procreation. All I know is what the tradition says…that marriage should be oriented toward LIFE (which involves procreation). And if tragically that can’t happen, there are other purposes of marriage but it is ALWAYS between one man and one woman. Reading the Bible with tradition does NOT give you gay marriage.

  4. October 14, 2014 8:28 pm

    Er, did you read the rest of the post? There’s not a word in it about gay marriage.

  5. October 14, 2014 8:36 pm

    “Now, the Church, as already mentioned, teaches consistently that the primary end of marriage is procreatio, whereas the second end is what in the Latin terminology has been defined as mutuum adiutorium. Besides these, there is a tertiary end listed–remedium concupiscentiae.” (Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 50)

  6. October 14, 2014 8:50 pm

    I am, of course, putting forward a biblical argument against the traditional Roman Catholic teaching that St. John Paul so recently summarized there.

    As I’m sure you know, traditional church teaching has changed in the past, and it will undoubtedly change again. Maybe it will even change on marriage, as it has in the past.

    If your response to an argument based on the biblical text is to point out that it disagrees with Catholic church teaching, then I don’t think there’s anything else to talk about here.

    Thanks for stopping by. Even if we agree on nothing else, I hope we can both pray for the synod currently meeting in Rome, that the Holy Spirit will work through the synod to deepen the church’s understanding of the vocation of the family, and strengthen the church’s support for families in their lived experience in the world.

  7. October 14, 2014 9:01 pm

    I am not a Catholic nor do I entirely agree with St. John Paul II there. I am an Anglican Catholic catechumen (priest and I are scheduling a baptism for me next week). I was just pointing out three purposes of marriage. Doctrine does not change, it develops. We grow in our understanding. We do not change and become new people. Doctrine develops under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

    I am actually quite sympathetic toward the Traditionalist, Sedevacantist Catholics. I hope their teachings on divorce don’t change because they were quite sound. Perhaps this synod is the collapse of sound doctrine. I wonder. And the Biblical texts point to these same three purposes of marriage as highlighted by St. John Paul II.

  8. October 15, 2014 9:33 am

    Oh, congratulations on your impending baptism!! May your faith journey bring you ever closer to God.

    I agree that doctrine develops, and think that this development can fairly be referred to as “change.” Michael Sean Winters has an excellent essay about this: “As the Church has Always Taught…”

  9. October 15, 2014 10:10 am

    Some of that article points to liturgical change. I don’t think doctrinal development equals change at all.

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