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Bible Studies/Hebrews 13:4 and Cohabitation

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Question
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.

Answer
Hi Alicia,

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:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontifex_Maximus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_of_Pontiffs
http://www.richeast.org/htwm/Greeks/Romans/Bass/index.html
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:
http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-have-a-traditional-jewish-wedding-a118886
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.
The Hornes

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Mel and Guyna Horne

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Anyone can read the Bible but sometimes it helps to have someone assist with the understanding (Acts 8:26-40). Truth comes from God through his holy spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13, 1Cor. 2:12), which is available to anyone who believes, repents and seeks God fervently and wholeheartedly, with humility, faith and persistence (Mat. 7:7, Deu. 4:29, Isa. 66:2, Jas. 4:1-10, Phil. 2:12). Truth is not limited to, or by, manís religious organizations, church traditions, popular beliefs or personal opinions (Jn. 8:32, 14:6). We will try to help anyone who is trying to understand scripture or Christian living. [Please do not submit homework questions as they will be rejected.]

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Over 50 years of personal study of the entire Bible (Deu. 8:3, Mat. 4:4, 2Tim. 3:16, Deu. 4:12, Rev. 22:18). B.A. in Theology with continuing studies in religious history and education (2Tim 2:15, 1Ths. 5:21). Years of informal counseling of young adults, teens, couples, and prisoners, based on scripture and on actual life experience in the world outside of classrooms and church buildings and including a long and happy marriage. After years of experience with organized religion, we are non-denominational. Publications: http://thechurchofgodinamerica.com/index.htm; http://www.reocities.com/Athens/Forum/1611/books on God's Holy Days, Lying, the Sacred Names Doctrine; articles on Terrorism and Islam, the Gospel of Christ, Preparing Yourself for Life in the Kingdom of Christ; What Happens After Death

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Organizations are of men, not God. While God may use some of them to facilitate his plan, organizations train their people to follow, not to lead. God was able to create the whole Creation, as we see it, in only six days, because he did not use a committee. Ten years after 9/11, the only thing approved for construction at the New York site was a mosque.

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"If a man would teach others, he must first teach himself." - Source Unknown. B.A. in Theology, over 50 years of personal study, the last sixteen of which have been full time study and research resulting in publication of several books and many articles.

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