I recently had a friend post a status on Facebook that started a discussion on Gay Marriage and whether or not it is allowed by the Bible. A commenter stated, in summary, that gay marriage is wrong because the Bible says so. I responded with an often circulated quote that contained a series of declarations from Leviticus (the Biblical text that is often credited with stating clearly that homosexuality is evil) that were equally ridiculous, like that slavery is OK, that if you wear mixed fabrics you should be stoned…
Her response was that my statement was invalid because all of the lines were out of context, and said that “marrying unequally yoked is a sin because the bible says do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Here is my response:
Yep…taken out of context, the passages regarding “unequally yoked” were used regularly to preach against racially mixed marriages over the years. Definitely out of context, and definitely wrong. Still don’t know in what context it is OK to own slaves or stone someone for planting two different kinds of crops in the same field.
OK. Then let’s get back into context.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:14-18).
The phrase “unequally yoked together” is the translation of the Greek heterozugeo, which is a compound word that means, “to yoke up differently; to associate discordantly; unequally yoke together.” To be “unequally yoked” in the context of this famous passage, as well as with Paul’s follow up conversations, specifically references those who are “non-believers” or non-Christians. At that specific time, Pagans. The passage does not specifically reference marriage. Scholars agree that this generally meant “associating with” or “hanging out with”. But one could validly argue that marriage could be encompassed in the overall blanket statement.
But to hell with scholars. People in power put policies in place. The words of our contemporary scholars who are re-translating and interpreting these “holy” words are heavily influenced by current societal trends, politics, and the world economy. In this case, we are looking at an English translation from the Greek…maybe. This could have been from Greek to Latin to German to English depending on which publication you are looking at.
The Latin to whatever to English translations have been done and re-done and argued about feverishly over the past few centuries. We have physical texts to go back to, scholarly extrapolations to explore, etc. so we can determine right now on May 18, 2012 whether or not we think that translator had it right.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek in response to the fact that Hebrew and Aramic were falling out of vogue. The few who could read and write were communicating The Word orally, so the Greek used was actually a casual dialect, not the formal Greek used by most authors throughout history…the version of Greek that we these days are usually working from. So there has been a lot of confusion over how something is translated. Was Mary a “virgin” or was she a “young girl”? (Is Jason literally “Green” as in covered in green paint, or is he “green” as in young an inexperienced in his field? Well, what is the message we want to send today?)
Add to that the difficulty of trying to interpret intent. Christians were persecuted throughout history. The Greeks were writing the New Testament at a time when it would be understandable for them to take any customs or practices of the ruling society and demonize them. You explain the phases of the moon with a children’s bedtime story of the sky goat nibbling away at it throughout the month? Well, we think that goat is gluttonous…and our God says gluttony is a sin. So your goat is evil.
Then in more contemporary times, the Catholic Church in particular wielded a heck of a lot of power. They owned EVERYTHING from the middle ages up until even recently. They fought like badgers to keep the text from being translated from Latin into English. Knowledge is power…if only the clergy knows what the Bible really says, they can control the populace. So Vatican II allowed for the translation. And then a few months ago they decided the translation from Latin to English wasn’t good enough, so they re-did the whole darn mass, and if you watch their dreadfully long videos or read their scholarly explanations, there is a whole heck of a lot of re-interpretation.
“God’s Word” from Christianity to Judaism to Islam has been used as a weapon. To justify rape, repression, murder, war…but go to each of them. Christianity. Judaism. Islam. Buddhism. Hinduism. What is at the core? What does God want for us to do?
What is Marriage? With a small “m” it is a governmental contract dividing property, assigning of custody, and assigning responsibility for the legal affairs of one person to another should that person become incapacitated. In no way associated with religion or tradition, this is purely a State issue, and should NEVER be mixed with Church. Ever. We’re not Afghanistan, we are the United States of America.
Marriage with a capital “M” is a declaration of life-long commitment and love between people. Or between people and their god. Or between people and their god and their families. It’s personal, it’s beautiful, and no one should be denied the right to have that sort of a relationship in their life. I refuse to tell my neighbor they are not allowed to love. And it is not the State’s job either.