It is well know that Christianity is originated from Judaism so Christianity and Judaism share a great portion of historical root. The sacred text of Judaism is also included in the sacred text of Christianity. It is therefore that a great similarity on religious teaching and rules exist between those two great religions. However, lots of teaching and religious rules from Judaism were denied or expended by Jesus and following Christian apostles later on, leading to a significant gap between those two religions. The teaching or rules on marriage is one of these issues. This essay takes insight into teaching and rules on marriage both from Christianity and Judaism. A comparison and contrast are carried out and any reason behind the difference and similarities would be pointed out in this essay as well.
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The story narrated in the first chapter of Genesis which is included both in sacred text of Christianity and Judaism is possibly the best blueprint to illustrate the center concept on marriage for both Christianity and Judaism. The essay is expended from this story as well. The story is described like this :God had a rest on the seventh day after working for six days to create the cosmos. At the climax of creation, God was not satisfied with his creation so he continued to create a man named Adam from clay. Adam was placed in a Garden called Eden as a cultivator and keeper. However not long after that God did not want to Adam lived in the garden alone and he said that “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”. God took out one bone from Adam’s body and closed up the place with fresh thus he created a woman named Eva. God brought the woman to Adam. Once Adam saw the woman he was very joyful and said that ” this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”. Following that Genesis wrote that ” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” However the lovely story did not have a good ending. Not long after that the couple were living in happily in the garden, Eva was tempted by a serpent to eat the fruit of knowledge tree with Adam, which was forbidden by God. Both of them were expelled from the joyful garden by God later.
The story here is closely studied as a teaching or an example of marriage both in Christianity and Judaism. Eva was created because God don’t want Adam to be alone. The creation of Eva is a kind of a symbol of the creation of marriage in the interpretation of the story. Furthermore in bible marriage is also used to describe the relationship between the God and Israel by Judaism while in Christianity it is symbolize the relationship between Christ and Church. It is therefore that marriage is regarded as a divine institution instead of a human institution devised in the human history. This essay illustrates the how does this story influence the concept of Christian and Judaism on marriage in several perspectives, like , celibacy, monogamy or polygamy, sex, women role in marriage, divorce and remarriage, Intermarriage.
Since it is said that God thought that “It is not good for the man to be alone”, celibacy is not recommended both in the two religions. God would like man and woman live together as a physical and spiritual mate with each other. In Judaism, marriage and raising children are understood as strongly holy obligations. Traditionally, it was impossible for a unmarried male to be in leadership position in the Jewish society. Historically there was only one prophet Jeremiah, who did not marry in Bible, that’s because that he lived in prescribed periods of sexual abstinence in relation with rituals, sacrifices and the prosecution of holy wars. However there were rather a few exceptional examples, according to the historian Josephus, some members of the Essence sect, rejected marriage, and the medieval Talmudic scholar Ben Azzai remained celibate.
Compared to Judaism, Christianity though highly approve the necessity of marriage, do not give as much weightiness as Judaism do. That is because that Christian believe that people do not marry each other in the coming kingdom. In addition ,the examples of that some Jesus’ followers who gave up their family in order to proclaim the coming kingdom are used as demonstrations for the validity of celibacy in purpose of completely devotion to preach the coming kingdom. In addition it was believed by Paul that a devoted life of celibacy is helpful for a deeper commitment to spirituality. However, since adultery is strong opposed and marriage is regarded as a effective way to prevent adultery, marriage was still recommended in some degree in the New Testament. The attitude toward Celibacy vary a lot among different church groups. Currently general speaking , Protestant is the church group which most strongly support marriage as a correct and normal way of Christian living while Catholic still now command clerical celibacy.
Monogamy or Polygamy
Since God created only one woman for Adam, pointing to monogamy, most of Jewish rabbis claimed that monogamy is ideal for Jews today though polygamy is permitted as well. It is also because that the relationship between a man and his wife is also used to illustrate the love between God and Israel by Hebrew prophets, for this metaphor, monogamy is ideal. Actually monogamy has became the Jewish married custom since the return from the Babylonian exile. In addition, Monogamy is assumed in the description of restoration of human race in the flood period of time. While monogamy is the dominance, polygamy was also practiced in Jewish community in history like King David who had two wives and Solomon who had 700 wives. However the two examples of polygamy have been normally regarded as negative examples by most of Jews. The polygamy case of Solomon led to his idolatry and finally destruction of the whole Israel. There are still some polygamy examples today, such as Mediterranean Jews living in Yemen, rabbis permitting Jews to marry up to four wives. In modern Israel, where a wife cannot bear children or is mentally ill, the rabbis give a husband the right to marry a second woman without divorcing his first wife.
Generally speaking, like Judaism, Christianity has the same understanding on the Eden story in terms of monogamy. It is common believe that monogamy is further strengthen in many places in the sacred text of Christianity “new testament” by Jesus and Paul. Polygamy is regarded as a kind of idolatry in most of churches. To be noticed, the practice of serial monogamy is also rejected as immoral by traditional teaching in Christianity because it contradicts the biblical purpose of marriage which is to develop a lifelong “one flesh” relationship. While monogamy has been accepted by most of churches groups, there has been a few churches like some groups of Mormon practice polygamy in several periods of time in the history and even today. The reason why Mormon practice polygamy is that they believe Jesus told his followers to multiply and replenish the Earth.
Sex in marriage
Sex is not described in the story that’s because sex desire is regarded as a evil impulse after human was expelled from the Eden garden in Judaism. However it is not said that Jews disregard sexual desire. Sexual desire is believed as a human instinct like hunger and thirst. In Judaism sex is not only for physical pleasure but also has a remarkable holy significance and is practiced as a way to reinforce the loving relationship between a husband and a wife. The requirement of marriage before sex ensures that sense of commitment and responsibility. It is therefore that sex is only permissible inside the context of a marriage.
In Jewish marriage, Sex is regarded as a right of a wife not a husband. A husband has a duty to have sex with his wife if she has sexual desire but cannot compel to do so if she doesn’t want to. A wife though have a right to have sex, cannot use sex as a weapon to punish her spousal.
Compared to Judaism, Christianity views sex not as important as Judaism does. Paul of Tarsus thought sex was totally unnecessary thing and Jesus’ coming kingdom has no interest in that. Furthermore, sexual desire is regarded as a physical enjoyment as a result of human’s fall so it should be restrained in order to achieve God’s desire. Any sexual activities unless in purpose of giving offspring is regarded as a negative thing coming from human’s fallen flesh. For some periods in history, Christian couples only have sex for the purpose of giving offspring and the couples lived apart in the other time. However since adultery is strong opposed by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament. In order to prevent having sex with unmarried people, Paul supported sex within marriage as a mean to resist the sexual temptation. Due to the different interpretation of verse, Sex within marriage is practiced quite differently by Christian from different church groups. Generally speaking, Christian Churches hold a conservative attitude towards Sex and sex is not discussed publicly in the churches, mostly is personal experience.
Women role in marriage
In the story, Adam was created from earth and the Eve was created from Adam. In addition, the woman was created to be a helper and companion for the man. This story reflects woman marital status in Jewish marriage. A wife is often regarded not only as a helper who is given to her husband by God to fulfill her husband’s wishes but also a soul mate in the spiritual level. It is therefore that a wife is highly valued in marriage in Judaism. A husband was taught by Judaism law to love his wife as much as love himself. A husband is also encouraged to discuss worldly matter which might raise in his life. Traditionally a wife in Jewish family has many rights, for example sex is regarded as a right of woman not man. Jewish woman also can have her own asset in her family. In addition, without consent of his wife, a husband cannot divorce his wife. However there are some obligations of woman are listed in Judaism law. A married woman should be modest and is required not to leave home too frequently. The descriptions of the bible suggest that a wife was expected to perform certain household tasks: spinning, sewing, weaving, manufacture of clothing, fetching of water, baking of bread, and animal husbandry.
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The martial role of women is quite controversial in Christianity. While some believe that women should live under men leadership, others advocate the equality between men and women in marriage. For those holding the first opinion, they claim that woman is created from man and acted as an assistant and governed by man originally in the Eden garden. They think that the leader status of men in marriage is further affirmed by New Testament. Paul said that “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). It is therefore that the authority of husband in marriage is unshakable. However egalitarian argue that equity between men and women were mentioned in the New Testament, like “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:27). This verse implies that Christian marriage, both husband and wife enjoy equal status and privilege before God because of their position in Christ. Furthermore like Judaism, New Testament asked husbands to love their wives as loving themselves in many times, implying the equality between two genders. The first opinion is mostly adopted by traditional man dominant societies like Asia and Africa. The second opinion is widely accepted by western culture societies.
“One flesh” from the story indicates that God wanted the couples lived with each other permanently. Couples who have been married for many years start to think, act, and feel as one; they become one in mind, heart and spirit. Divorce thus leaves not two persons, but two fractions of one. It is therefore that divorce is a tragedy both for Christianity and Judaism.
However Judaism do approve divorce, in some conditions even encourage so. Historically divorce is only the right of men under some circumstances like: if the marriage was childless after ten years; if the husband refused to have sex with his wife; if the husband beat his wife; or if the husband contracted a “loathsome” disease. The prerogative was changed by rabbinical law round the year 1000 CE that a husband could not divorce his wife without her consent. Nowadays a husband and wife who are seeking divorce should be interviewed in a rabbinical law in order to guarantee that the divorce is an agreement between the two parties. Financial and offspring matters would be discussed in the court as well, normally the vulnerability of woman would be considered. If the divorce is granted, a get (divorce decree) is drawn up in hand-lettered Hebrew. Remarriage is regarded as the same with the first marriage as long as the divorced person obtain a get in Rabbinical Court when he got divorce.
Traditional Christian views on marriage disapproves divorce. Divorce is even regarded as a kind of adultery. This can be affirmed by Matthew 5:32. Jesus teaches about divorce:”But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” The permanence of marriage is emphasized by Jesus here. However divorce is practiced among Christian nowadays and the attitudes towards divorce vary among different church groups. The Catholic Church prohibits divorce. The Catholic doctrine claimed that a couples even divorce civilly but they are still one in front of God. The Eastern Orthodox Church permits divorce and remarriage in church in certain circumstances, though its rules are generally more restrictive that the civil divorce rules of most countries. Most Protestant churches though do not prohibit divorce through church doctrine, discourage divorce except as a last solution.
Intermarriage is disfavor by Torah and Jewish rabbis out of fear of idolatry and Jewish assimilation historically. In Bible it records that Jews were forbidden to marry Canaanites in the fear of children might be brought up to follow Canaanites religion. Historically marriage between Jews and non-Jews were extremely rare until recent 19 century under the influence of Jewish enlightenments. Nowadays this issue of intermarriage is quite controversial among Jewish society. While growing number of intermarriage are approved by reformists as long as the intermarried couples are agree to their raise their children as Jews, Orthodox rabbis still believe that intermarriage is kind of rejection of Judaism leading to be cut off from Jewish community. Generally speaking, due to recent reformation and liberty movement, intermarriage is treated much more tolerably than before in Jewish community. There was a survey shows that an intermarriage rate of 52 percent among American Jews.
Compared with Judaism, Christianity has much more tolerable attitude towards interfaith marriage. However worry over that religious conflict in intermarriage is still exist in Christianity. Furthermore the sacramental essence of marriage is believed to be retained better by Christian couples in some churches. It is therefore that some churches disapprove intermarriage like Orthodox and Catholics churches. In Protestant churches inter faith marriage is not totally forbidden but Christians are encourage to marry people who has the same faith. As a result, most Protestant denominations will allow interfaith marriage.
Eden story is seen as a model of marriage, which guides and supports the view of believers from the religions on Marriage. While celibacy is disfavored by Judaism, it is regarded as a gift from God but not strongly recommended in Christianity. Although monogamy has been dominant marriage custom in the two religions, polygamy has been practiced minority even today. Compared to Christianity, Judaism has more opened attitude toward sex within marriage. Women had higher status in Judaism marriage than Christianity marriage historically, but nowadays equality between two parties is accepted commonly. Divorce is seen as a tragedy for the two religions. While divorce and remarry is allowable literally in Judaism, it is forbidden in many Christian churches out fear of adultery. Christianity has more tolerable attitude on interfaith marriage than Judaism.
Marriage is very important to both of the religions. Although the two religions share a great portion of similarity, the difference of views on marriage is still significant. To be noticed, different groups holds different views on marriage within the same religion.
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