Trinitytoday 18 Theology TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE NOT INHERENTLY CHRISTIAN In the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage except that people should not divorce – a teaching widely ignored by many Christian denominations today. Most likely, Jesus’ concern in speaking against divorce was for the vulnerable place this left women in a culture where they could not usually earn their own money or inherit. Marriage was allowed in the New Testament, but the most prolific writer, Paul, thinks celibacy is preferable for a Christian. When Paul writes, ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’, he presents an ideology profoundly disruptive of patriarchal family structures, gendered roles and hierarchy. Reading the Bible to determine the shape of contemporary marriage is not an easy task. It is an ancient collection of 66 books, written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) and spanning over 1,000 years of human history. 2,500 years ago, when much of the Bible was written, family life was very different. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife, and Moses likely had two wives (one of whom is presented as problematic because she was a foreigner). Famous biblical kings, like David and Solomon, had entire palaces full of wives and concubines that served as symbols of their power and status. The reality is families in the Bible reflect the patriarchal structures of their period. Women were considered commodities to be married off for political alliances, economic reasons or to keep families connected. They had no autonomy to choose their partners. Polygamy was common, as was the use of slaves as sexual concubines. I don’t hear anyone advocating for a ‘biblical view’ of marriage, suggesting we return to these particular scenarios. BY ROBYN WHITAKER In May 2017, tennis legend Margaret Court wrote an open letter to Qantas protesting the company’s support for same-sex marriage. In the letter she stated that the Bible’s ‘traditional definition of marriage’ was the reason for her objection, which she repeated in the media attention that followed. The Revd Dr Robyn Whitaker, lecturer in Biblical Studies at the Theological School, wrote a response that was published in The Conversation on 2 June 2017 and reported on ABC News. Below is an abridged version of that article. Paul... presents an ideology profoundly disruptive of patriarchal family structures, gendered roles and hierarchy. Ring image courtesy of Shutterstock. Theology