Exegetical Method Applied to the Topic of Marriage: Step 1

August 16, 2012

As my thoughts turn back to marriage, I would like to honor my parents who were married 43 years until my dad died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 1996. Today would have been their 60th wedding anniversary.

In the past few days I have demonstrated an exegetical method using the topic of women in leadership, to answer a question that comes up from time to time and to set the stage for applying the same method to the topic of marriage. This is the biblical work we must do to set the foundation for a course on marriage. Today, the same steps will be reintroduced by asking: What are the Scriptures that speak to the subject of marriage? Our grid will be organized differently and today we will fill in only the first column, but here is where we are headed in a biblical theology of marriage:


Scripture Reference

The Description or Command

Origin of marriage

Genesis 1—2

God created male and female; God created the female to correspond to the male; God charged them both to multiply and to steward the world. “The two became one flesh.”

Corruption of God’s original intent

Genesis 3:7—19

As a result of the Fall, the dynamics of guilt, blame, domination, and skewed dependencies enter marriage.

Fidelity and Faithfulness within Marriage


Hebrews 13:4

 “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”

Marriage Illustrates Covenant between God and His People

Hosea 2, Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 31:31-33

On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.” [Hos. 2:16]

Marriage Illustrates Relationship between Christ and His Church

Ephesians 5:21-33

Revelation 21:2

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

The next column will give the negative commands, prohibitions, and bad examples. Stay tuned!


11 Responses to “Exegetical Method Applied to the Topic of Marriage: Step 1”

  1. Jake Horner Says:


    This is where my thinking has been going lately:

    1. Jesus Christ is the imago dei. (this is the center of the circle)
    2. The church is portrayed as the marriage bride of the lamb. So the lamb (Jesus Christ) takes a bride made specially for him, in manner similar to the work of YHWH fashioning the ezer with His own hands.
    3. The church is full of image bearers—both male and female—living in community.Even that sometimes unruly community tells us something about the imago dei.
    4. the community is composed of members to whom the Spirit has come synchoretically. We are members of his body in a very real sense.
    5. Considered from this viewpoint, even the human body is part of the imago dei. and is therefore holy, for God in Christ has sanctified the human body by joining himself to it, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit upon him at his baptism.

    6. Let’s turn to the beginning: When God fashioned the ADAM from the reddish soil of the mid east he said not good, perhaps the most breathtaking statement in the entire Bible. He declared his covenant with the ‘dirt-creature’ so from that I extrapolate that in God’s view the imago dei was complete. What God later separated into male and female were both present in the dirt-creature as they were in God himself.BTW, there is no reason from Scripture to conclude that the dirt creature came equipped as the male of the species.

    7. We spend a day naming animals ( dog, cat, horse in the morning. ……. …duck billed platypus at the end of a long day…). and nothing jumped out. So God performs surgery on the dirt creature

    8. Dirt creature wakes up with sore ribs and probably a killer headache. He notices a few things feel different. He looks down and screams “AAiiiii! Where did that thing come from?”

    9. God calls out “Hey Adam, I have a present for you come and see!”

    10. Adam saunters over to see what God has been doing and gets stopped in tracks.He has not seen anything so perfect. This new addition is so like him, yet so unlike him.

    11. What God did, is while the dirt creature slept, He took some of his substance and fashioned a complement for him, and then essentially split the dirt creatures’ hypostasis into what we call masculine and feminine. He left the masculine in the first dirt creature, and lovingly placed the feminine in the newly made body.

    12. Moreover, God gave the newly created first male and female a sacrament by which they could reunite what God had separated into one flesh.

    13. And God blessed them!

    • celtichound Says:

      Jake has outlined very succinctly the Orthodox tradition’s biblical perspective of marriage.

      • revmary Says:

        Fascinating! With the exposure I have had to an Orthodox point of view, this claim makes sense. Thanks for making the connection.

    • revmary Says:

      Jake, I appreciate this very much, especially point #12 and the connection with imago dei. A new thought I shall ponder. Thank you for taking the time to share this, bro.

      • Jake Horner Says:

        Mary, My call to seminary is to learn the language and exegetical tools so I can do theological work. Generally speaking covenant theology, but I do have a particular interest in enunciating a theology of marriage. JH

  2. Jodie Says:

    Is that really the Orthodox tradition, that marriage is a sacrament? Because it is definitely not the Reformed tradition.

    • celtichound Says:

      Yes, in the Eastern and Western Orthodox traditons (with the other two major streams being the Roman Catholic and Protestant), marriage is one of the “holy mysteries” or sacraments (defined as vessels of the mystical participation in divine grace). Marriage is not a sacrament in the Reformed traditions of Protestantism. However we can say it is a sacramental, meaning that the covenant of marriage points back to the outward visible sign and inward spiritual grace of the sacraments of baptism and holy communion. For more info on Orthodox, go to orthodoxwiki.org and also check out Robert Lethom’s “Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy – A Reformed Perspective” and any of the current paleo-orthodox Protestant writers and theologians (Wikipedia has a good list under paleo-orthodoxy).

  3. Jake Horner Says:

    Thanks for the compliments! Let me clarify something: I’m not saying marriage as liturgy is sacrament, but rather that intercourse is sacrament. The liturgy (regardless of tradition) is a tradition of humans, I think of it as recognizing what God is doing (similar to ordination, I might add). It is what God does (not humans) that matters, and He instituted intercourse in His choice to make the adam and ezer complement one another. If I am interpreting Gen 1-3 correctly, it is in celebrating the sacrament that God brings the ‘one flesh’ union into being. As near as I can tell the one flesh union is a mystery, that is, there is something more going on than meets the eye, perhaps something at the hypostatic level, or perhaps even beneath that at the place where our being and God’s being intersect (I’m thinking WCF II.2 here).

    FYI my working definition of hypostasis: a real, distinct occurrence of intellect, affections, and will.

  4. dan clark Says:

    You folks amaze me! First, you can’t church history correct(Reformed tradition has never held marriage to be a sacrament) and then compound the mistake, secondly, by calling intercourse a sacrament! WOW! When did this act between a man and a woman become sacramental? Does this not open the door for someone saying: “Now I can have intercourse with anyone and it is a sacrament???!!!” Where did you go to seminary because I want to make sure any candidate I endorse does not go to your seminary! Dan

    • celtichound Says:

      I agree that marriage has never been a sacrament and nor will it ever become a sacrament within the Reformed tradition, although it has been counted as one not only in the Western tradition of Christianity (e.g. Roman Catholicism, Old Catholic, Anglican, etc.) and as one within the Eastern traditions (i.e. Orthodox).

      As I noted above, what Jack is describing as the sacrament of marriage is pretty much dead on to the Eastern Orthodox tradition’s view of marriage as I have studied and it has been explained to me by an Orthodox priest.

      My note is that the closest we can get as Reformed is to talk about the sacramental qualities of marriage, which point back the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion (also known as Eucharist and Lord’s Supper) and how they inform our understanding of covenant, love, and grace.

      -Christian Boyd, BA (Truman Univ.), MDiv (Louisville Sem.), DMin (Luther Sem.).

      • Jodie Says:


        I am glad you mentioned the sacraments that are. In my mind that creates a hierarchy of importance. And of first importance comes our understanding of covenant, love, and grace.

        My sense is that in the current polemic in the church, both sides have proven themselves perfectly willing to burn our understanding of these principles in the pursuit of victory on issues that are not as highly valued. We have indeed abandoned our principles. And without them, there is no point in winning.

        The search for Christian marriage must start with re-discovering those principles. IMHO

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