Jesus on Marriage

In light of the earlier discussion on Christian chastity, I was struck by Sunday’s reading and noticed something in it I’d never seen before. Here it is with emphasis:

Luke 20:27-38 27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

From Oremus.org’s NRSV.

Luke has Jesus making a contrast between two ages. These ages are not temporal, rather, they are paradigms of existence. He opposes “this age” (i.e., the present age, the status quo) with “that age” (i.e., those worthy of and who will participate in the resurrection; read with Christian eyes=us).

The explicit message of Jesus on marriage, then, is that children of the resurrection don’t do it…

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9 Responses to Jesus on Marriage

  1. Caelius Spinator says:

    And now you understand Albigensianism and its antecedents.

  2. Christopher says:

    And yet 1 Timothy… I think the early Church must have had to wrestle with this in some way. Paul’s own eschatological tension between now and not yet seems to finally be what the Church as a whole settled on, hence, marriage. The danger in this passage and a few others like it is a tendency to a denigration of the body that has shown up from time to time and often turns anti-Creation, such as the Albigensians and antecedents. So like all other passages, I want to interpret this one in light of the Creeds and overall theological emphases like the Incarnation to avoid ecclesial docetic tendencies and/or versions of creation-hating Gnosticism.

  3. No, no, I’m fully aware of how the passage has been used. The Albigensians–and the Encratites before them–were classic Christian heretics following the standard pattern: they weren’t making up anything new, rather they were incorrectly weighting various parts of the tradition.

    My posting is in light of recent arguments about that comfortably claim Jesus as an upholder of the 1950’s family model. If we are going to be honest about Scripture and Tradition things are much more complicated than that. Yes, certainly we have 1 Tim and also Paul’s assertion that not only was Peter married (remember Jesus curing his *mother-in-law*?) and that was his prerogative, but Paul chose not to live that way. There’s no question that the apostolic testimony includes Christian marriage from the earliest days–but it is no means univocal in favor of it either.

  4. Pingback: Jesus vs. marriage « A Thinking Reed

  5. Mother Laura says:

    Does “children of the resurrection” definitely mean the redeemed in this life, a la “eternal life” in John, v. after death/in the general resurrection? The set-up question of Jesus’ opponents, as well as his invocation of the patriarchs in the burning bush story, seems to me to imply the latter.

  6. Annie says:

    And, since nobody has bothered to make note of it, Paul recommended no marriage except (if I recall) for those to weak . . . And furthermore, he told husbands and wives that they should take care of each others needs except when they were seeking the kingdom of God.

    I know Christians will explain it away. They always do.

  7. Annie says:

    And, since nobody has bothered to make note of it, Paul recommended no marriage except (if I recall) for those to weak . . . And furthermore, he told husbands and wives that they should take care of each others needs except when they were seeking the kingdom of God.

    I know Christians will explain it away. They always do.

  8. tobias says:

    Mother Laura,
    I think this is one of those “already /not yet” passages. It is clearly pointed towards the resurrection life of the world to come; yet he casts it all in the present tense…

  9. mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Whilst I accept that in the severely foreshortened eschatological framework of much of the NT marriage is an inferior vocation (what’s the point of raising a family if the eschaton’s almost here) I find this particular Gospel passage speaking to a different problem.

    The multiply-married woman is ‘taken…taken’ and reduced to a chattel and baby-farm. She has no purpose except as a producer of offspring for a dead man, and whether she wishes to be bedded by successive brothers-in-law is an irrelevance to those pursuing the case, and she remains a chattel even in the kingdom – ‘Whose wife will she be?’ The rights of women in C1 Palestine were markedly inferior to those enjoyed in C10 England!! (Pause to look out through window at ‘my’ C10 tower!)

    It’s against this that Jesus’ ‘ou gamizei…’ comment is to be taken – the Kingdom is the place where such one-sided power and control is forbidden, and I paraphrase the Greek as ‘they neither own another nor are owned by another.’

    The Orthodox see marriage as eternal, don’t they?

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