Jesus And The Meaning Of Marriage: A Close Reading Of Mark 10:1-12 -- By: John DelHousaye
JBMW 21:1 (Spring 2016) p. 80
Jesus And The Meaning Of Marriage: A Close Reading Of Mark 10:1-12
Associate Professor of New Testament
Writing for the majority in the recent historic Supreme Court decision that granted the right for same-sex couples to marry, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy ventured the following description of marriage: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”1 Different intellectual traditions are evoked in the citation, but the language of “union” echoes Scripture. However, from the context, the word has been given a different meaning than what was intended by Jesus Christ.
To show this, I offer a close reading of Mark 10:1-12, which reviews the passage’s origin and form and then focuses on Jesus’s words in their historical, biblical context. The meaning of marriage that Jesus communicates is profound yet clear.
The church received Mark as Peter’s memories of Jesus. Papias2 (approx. AD 60-130), bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, relates:
JBMW 21:1 (Spring 2016) p. 81
Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter [or translator], wrote accurately what he remembered, although not in an order, the things either said or done by the Lord [or Christ]. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, Peter, who would teach in anecdotes [or according to needs], but not (with the thought) of producing an orderly arrangement of the sayings of the Lord, so that Mark did not err in this manner, having written down some of the things as he recalled. For he made (it a) singular concern not to omit what he heard or to falsify anything in them.3
Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), a Christian philosopher in Rome, describes the second Gospel as “memories” of Peter.4 Irenaeus (c. 180-200) claims:
Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their death/departure (exodus), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed on his preaching to us in written form . . . . (Against Heresies 3.1.1ff.)
Church historian Eusebius cites Clement of Alexandria (approx. 180):
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