1. Religion & Spirituality
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Marriage: What is Marriage? What Does the Bible Say About Monogamy, Polygamy?

By

What is Marriage?:

Marriage is an institution which can be found in every human culture. Although the forms and rules differ, marriages always involve some form of legally legitimized sexual relationship. Traditionally, marriages have had a religious basis. In the modern, industrialized West, marriage is based on a legal contract. In the Bible, women occupied an inferior social position to the nearest male relations — fathers, brothers, or husbands. Marriages were usually arranged in the Bible by the parents.

Biblical Marriage:

In the Bible, the relationship between Israel and God was likened to that of a marriage: one based upon a covenant between two unequal parties. The “marriage” between Israel and God was expected to be monogamous and mutual faithfulness was required from both sides — otherwise, the relationship might be ended.

What is Levirate Marriage?:

In Judaism, a levarite marriage involves a widow marrying her brother-in-law. The Latin word levir is the equivalent of the Hebrew yabam, which means brother-in-law.

What is Celibacy?:

Celibacy is the state of abstaining from sexual intercourse and/or from marriage, usually in the context of holding some religious office or for private spiritual reasons. The label “celibate” is usually only applied, however, to those who have taken sacred vows of celibacy as part of an act of renunciation. Celibacy has been practiced by a wide variety of religious groups across the globe, but not by all. In early Christian tradition, celibacy was seen as superior to marriage.

What is Muta?:

Muta is the word for a temporary marriage, the duration of which is stipulated by contract. Only Twelver Shias recognize muta marriages, although evidence suggests that it was practiced followed by many before Islam appeared. Muta marriages continue to be legal in some Muslim areas, but they are denounced by many orthodox clerics as little more than formalized prostitution — and indeed, a muta mariage might be limited to just a night or a few hours.

What is Polygamy?:

Polygamy is any marriage which involves more than two people. Polyandry involves one woman and multiple husbands while polygyny involves one man and multiple wives. Polygamy used to be common in the ancient world and was supported in most religions. Polygamy is obviously endorsed in the Bible, but it’s unclear to what degree it might have been limited to the upper levels of society. Monogamy seems to have become standard by the Roman Era.

What is Bigamy?:

The word bigamy comes from the Greek bis, which means “two” and gamos, which means “marriage.” Legally, it refers to the act of contracting a marriage when one is already married. In church tradition, however, it has also been used when a person contracts a valid marriage after the death of their first spouse (although this position is not currently reflected in civil law). Concubines, however, were traditionally accepted in the earliest Bible stories.

What is Endogamy?:

Endogamy is the practice of tribal groups limiting marriage to members of the group and prohibiting marriage outside the group (exogamy). Endogamy is more common in socially stratified societies, and is most common among aristocratic and ruling classes. European royalty traditionally limited marriage to other members of royalty and denigrated marriage to “commoners,” even if of the same nationality. The purpose of endogamy is to preserve the “purity” of bloodlines which might become “polluted.”

What is Exogamy?:

Exogamy is the practice of tribal groups which limit marriage only to members outside of the tribal group and prohibit marriage inside the group (endogamy). Of course, the definition of what actually constitutes “one’s own group” varies widely, although there is some universal agreement that this group includes members of the immediate family — parents, children and spouses. Endogamy appears to have been the practice in the earliest biblical narratives; exogamy among just Jews was common later.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.