Bible Studies/Hebrews 13:4 and Cohabitation
Hello Mel and Guyna: I have a question about Hebrews 13:4 -- "Let marriage be hold in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators..."
Over the past few years, there has been a great increase in unmarried couples living together (cohabitation). Some of these people even consider themselves Christian.
It seems that Hebrews 13:4 is speaking against this type of lifestyle (if I am interpreting it correctly). Is this correct? Thank you.
Apologies for the delay in responding to you.
If you are referring to a traditional marriage and traditional vows as defining a marriage between a man and a woman then there is more to the subject than just what is referenced in Hebrews 13:4.
The "traditional vows" depends on whose tradition is being discussed. The minister, priest, or rabbi will often be holding a Bible but will be reading from his own written program notes on paper or cards inserted into the Book. It looks better and more "official" than just obviously reading from post-it notes. The "vows" will be according to the "denominational" customs or "traditions", or whatever is agreed upon by the bride, groom and officiator beforehand. The officiator may also read from or refer to various scriptures, since marriage, love, commitment and faithfulness are mentioned throughout scripture. However, there are no wedding vows in scripture because they were not a part of God's instructions to mankind.
The custom of a "church" having authority over weddings can be traced back to the pre-Christian (Pagan) Pontiffs of Rome who had authority over graveyards, funerals, census records and marriages.
For more information on that, see:
or, Google "pagan pontiffs of Rome".
Jewish wedding customs, and their alleged histories vary somewhat, perhaps because of the increasing tendency to re-write history and to add elaborate, but fanciful, explanations, after the fact.
One description of Jewish traditions is found at:
Obviously the "chair dance" and the breaking of the wine glass date to some time, long after Christ and after chairs and glassware became available to commoners.
The first wedding consisted of God creating the woman from a part of the man, and he "brought her unto the man" (Gen. 2:22). There is a great deal of symbolism in this, as we are God's own children (our life comes from him), and we are collectively considered to eventually be "married" to the Lord (see parables about Bride and Bridegroom, and prophecies regarding spiritual Israel as the Bride, put away and recovered).
The pronouncement of being "man and wife" (Gen 2:24 ), according to Christ, was said by the Lord God (Mat. 19:4-6), not by Adam.
Adam and Eve date to about 4,000 BC.
About 2,140 years later, Rebekah's family was given gifts by Isaac, and Rebekah agreed to marry Isaac, sight unseen (Gen. 24).
When she arrived at Isaac's home, "Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent (Sarah had died three years earlier, Gen. 23:1), and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her:. . " (Gen. 24:67).
About 40-50 years later, their son Jacob, in lieu of having gifts to offer, agreed to work for his father-in-law in exchange for marriage to Rachel (Gen. 29). There was a feast, and "he went in unto her" (Gen. 29:23). No vows, no ceremonies, and no pronouncements. The one-time pronouncement of Gen. 2:24 appears to apply to all marriages. We could consider a parallel in that Christ died once for all sins that are repented.
In the time of Christ, the wedding feast lasted either 7 or 14 days, depending on the wealth of the families involved. (Jn. 2:1-11).
There is no prohibition in scripture against elaborate ceremonies, in fact, rejoicing is one of the things that God not only encourages but commands (Lev. 23:40, Deu. 12:12, Jn. 16:22).
However, there is a commandment against imitating pagan customs as a part of being different from the rest of the world, so that the non-Christian world can see that God's people are different and separate from the world, even though we are still in it (Lev. 18:1-30, 2Cor. 6:17).
He reinforced this by commanding (in the beginning, middle and end of the Bible) that nothing be added to his words or taken away from them (Deu. 4:2, 12:32, Pro. 30:5-6, Rev. 22:18-19).
Nevertheless, by the time Christ came, the Jews had added so many traditions and interpretations to God's laws, that they had in effect, nullified them (Mk. 7:13).
Modern marriage traditions are just that, modern, by comparison to the 4,000 years of how it was originally done.
There are many web sites offering "history of". Many appear to have an evolutionary flavor. None seem to have any documented historical basis. Writing does date to shortly before the time of Adam's death, being commonly used by 3,100 BC.
There are no vows required by God. Christ set an example of being subject to legal authority (as long as it does not conflict with God's laws) and Paul explained why (Rom. 13:4), but even man's laws sometimes allow for "common-law" marriages.
However, God takes marriage very seriously, partly because it symbolizes our commitment to him. Christ said that the only basis for divorce was fornication. (Women, or men, who are being abused, or where the children are being abused, should "flee", whether they divorce or not.)
Entering into a marriage commitment, with or without expressed vows, should be considered a life-time vow in itself.
Hope this has helped. Please feel free to write again if not.