Over at Townhall.com, Ms. Star Parker wrote a piece with the title “Marriage is a Truth That Cannot be Redefined.” While the overall context of her piece is situated in American history since about 1835 to the present day with the Respect for Marriage Act about to be signed into law, Ms. Parker either is ignorant of over 20 centuries of redefining marriage by secular governments and religious authorities or she is intentionally gaslighting her audience. I think it’s the former because so many people are ignorant of the history of marriage down through the centuries.
Starting with ancient Greece, Walter Scheidel documents in his 2008 paper, Monogamy and polygyny in Greece, Rome, and world history that the category of Socially Imposed Universal Monogamy “was firmly established as the only legitimate marriage system: polygamy was considered a barbarian custom or a mark of tyranny and monogamy was regarded as quintessentially “Greek.”” (Scheidel, 2008, page 6) Scheidel conjectures that the shift to imposed monogamy began around 1200-1000 BCE. (Scheidel, 2008, page 10)
Scheidel observes of both Greek and Romans that “Greek and Roman marital and mating practices were unusual and conventional at the same time: unusual thanks to the observance of SIUM [Socially Imposed Universal Monogamy] and conventional in the pursuit of resource polygyny.” (Scheidel, 2008, page 13). Further, he observes that the Greco-Roman practice of SIUM had its greatest impact on Christianity.
The true historical significance of Greco-Roman SIUM may well lie in its impact on the Christian tradition. The current (Catholic but generally representative) position that polygamy “is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive” betrays modern sensibilities and does not appear to be directly derived from earliest Christian doctrine.Scheidel, 2008, page 13
Speaking of “earliest Christian doctrine”, in Romans chapter 7, Paul discusses the law about the married woman.
Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is alive she gives herself to another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress if she gives herself to another man.Romans 7:1-3
Paul clearly shows that a married woman will be described as an adulteress if she gives herself to another man while her husband is still alive. Nowhere in that chapter does Paul describe the equivalent for a married man taking an unmarried woman. As Paul observes, those who know the Law would understand this.
One of the ante-Nicene church fathers, Tertullian, wrote an essay arguing for monogamy. The text may be found here. Tertullian gives the game away in his chapter III heading “The Question of Novelty Further Considered in Connection with the Words of the Lord and His Apostles.” He had to try to make the case that his apologetic in favor of monogamy was not “novel”, even though it was.
Moving down through the centuries, the Council of Trent , in the year 1563, in the 24th session, banned polygyny and threatened anathema to any who dared raise the example of the Fathers, Abraham and Jacob in the Second Canon.
These few instances of history show that, yes, various people and/or societies at various times have attempted to change the definition of what constitutes a legal marriage. So, Ms. Parker might have been better off saying that “Biblical Marriage is a Truth That Cannot Be Redefined” and then showing how that is true.