When Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 theses to a church door in Germany in 1517, he ignited a debate that led to the Protestant Reformation. Reading over the list of 95 theses, nothing there was said about marriage.
Yet, the Protestant Reformation over the next 30 years generated enough theological pressure that the Roman Catholic prelates convened the Council of Trent to create the Catholic Counter-Reformation. This Council met from 1545 to 1563 over 25 sessions.
In the 24th session, in the year 1563, the prelates considered matrimony. The text is available at this location: Council of Trent, 1563, Session XXIV. I quote from the preamble and the first three canons issued by this session below.
From the colonial period to the second decade of the twenty-first century in the United States of America, marriage has been the subject of legislation and court decisions. Specifically, the question that I am exploring herein is how statutes and court decisions define or permit “who can marry whom?” The following is not intended to be a detailed overview of more than four centuries of history. Undoubtedly, there exist monographs and books written on this topic and the interested reader can search them out. I did a search through DuckDuckGo on “history American marriage laws”, which returned several hits. The first sites, including Wikipedia, contained some information about the changes in American law since the colonial period and several things jumped out at me and that’s what I want to discuss. The reader is warned that this might be “getting into the weeds” somewhat, but the overall trend addressing “who can marry whom?” is what I’m interested in sharing with you.
In the opening article in my new “Marriage Laws” series, I made the proposition that Yeshua clearly said that some things belong to YHVH only, and that marriage is one of those things that YHVH has reserved to Himself, and not given to Caesar (the government) to legislate. In forthcoming articles, I will explore how “Caesar” in America and other societies in the past has arrogated to himself the power to regulate marriage. In this second article, I am going to answer the question of what YHVH has said about marriage. It turns out that He has said a great deal, and nowhere has He said that Israel’s rulers have any legal jurisdiction on this topic. If they don’t, how much less jurisdiction do the nations have?
We will begin at the beginning during Creation Week in which we are going to analyze what He said and did through the aftermath of the Fall. Later, we will discuss what He put into the Sinai Covenant and the related statutes and judgments in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
When people put forth arguments against the polygyny laws of the Old Testament, one of them is that if there are laws on the books that make polygyny illegal, then even if it’s legal in the Old Testament, it’s not legal in the present day, and the secular law is the controlling authority and should be obeyed.