Bible Verses Against the Family and Marriage

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Because someone tried to call bullshit on my claims that Jesus was opposed to marriage, I’ve decided to assemble a collection of verses with the help of Ted Jenning’s The Man Who Jesus Loved.

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:31-35

29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Mark 10:29-21 – Notice the curious addition of fields at the end of the list again the family is situated within an economic order of possession.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Mark 13:12-13

34″Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:34-39

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Luke 12:49-53

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:25-27

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Luke 11:27-28

1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Luke 8:1-3

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 ” ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”
Luke 14:15-23

Jennings notes how the last parable places all of the relations in economic terms. Even marriage is conceived of as ownership, and hence can lead to possessiveness and dependence on something other than the coming Reign of God (Man Jesus Loved, 198)

If you want to try and claim Jesus is merely a rhetorician be my guest. But I’m always suspicious of where people decide to interpret the sayings of Jesus metaphorically and not just take him at his word. Same approach occurs when the rich man’s vice is merely his attachment to something not-God as opposed to being money. In reality he should just love God more than money, or he should love God more than his wife or children. What if as opposed to making God appear as this insecure, selfish beast we admitted perhaps some other social collective is being advocated here. Besides, we all know that when we loved others the love of God shines through. He doesn’t ask us to love others less so as to make room for Godself, that would be patently absurd! (I must acknowledge my debt to Zizek some aspects of this last paragraph)

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2 Responses to “Bible Verses Against the Family and Marriage”

  1. A.J. Smith Says:

    While I don’t think we can say that Jesus was against marriage per se (e.g. Mat. 19:5), I think your last (apparently Zizek inspired) paragraph is spot on.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Great response, let me post the verses and offer a response (with the help of Ted Jennings).

    4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

    According to Jennings, Jesus is consistently more anti-family than marriage. As Genesis points out marriage entails a break with familial relations/obligations (also let the dead bury the dead). The freedom that marriage can allow is a question of where loyalty lies. The couple could encourage one another in their loyalty to the coming reign of God or they could get int the away of this apocalyptic project. This text has more to do with human relations in general and not with the societal institution. It comes back ultimately to how one views marriage. If marriage is an escape from the insecurities of the world, then ultimately it could be a hindrance to working toward the reign of God. Hence, the reason why remarriage is out of the question because it entails a changing of loyalties back to someone else away from God.

    I’ll agree that it’s not marriage is categorically outlawed, but I would argue that the overwhelming amount of synoptic evidence seems to suggest that given the way marriage tends to function in a society it should be discouraged. Similarly, familial obligations can also disrupt the working together to realize and prepare for the reign of God.

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