The History of Marriage

MarriageMarriage is in the news a bit lately and I’m going to end my blog vacation with a few posts that I hope will clear up the debate for those of you willing to look at it from a critical perspective. I’m going to start with the origins, history, and general purpose of marriage.

A good start is this article on Wikipedia but I’ll try to summarize.

Marriage has been around for as long as recorded history and certainly seems to date from a time before that. The largest single factor in the concept seems to be that single, sexually active women wreak havoc on society. Sorry ladies. Of course, it’s not really the single, sexually active women wreaking all that havoc; it’s the testosterone fueled monkey-men going bat poop crazy for all those single, sexually active women that causes the trouble. The competition this engenders often turns violent, thus marriage.

There are three main types of marriage throughout history; a single man and a single woman called monogamy, a single man and multiple women called Polygyny, and a single woman and multiple men called Polyandry.

Ancient Israel was a Polygynous society and there are a number of rules set forth in something called the Covenant Code as to how a man is supposed to treat his multiple wives particularly in regard to not mistreating older wives when newer, presumably younger, wives are added. Adultery by a wife, as in most ancient cultures, was a capital punishment.

In Greece and Rome marriage was more of a mutual agreement between two parties rather than a religious or civic ceremony. It wasn’t until around the 300 CE that the Christian clergy took a stronger interest in the concept as an event before god rather than a simple mutual agreement. The state remained uninvolved until around 1545 with the church recording marriages for those who desired records and the state being completely removed from the issue. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that a marriage was not considered legal unless a priest had presided at the event.

In much of Asia and the Middle East marriage was largely an arranged event with Polygyny remaining the most common form until around the 20th century. In many countries it is still perfectly legal to have more than a single wife and the Mormon religion practiced polygyny, which they called Celestial Marriage, from 1830 until 1890. The banning came after a long battle with the U.S. Government which tried to eradicate the practice. When Utah next applied for statehood, in 1896, it was granted.

Biblically marriage is referenced in the Old Testament with Polygyny being the most common form mentioned. Jesus mentions marriage explicitly on several occasions referencing a man and a woman along with monogamy.

In the New Testament there are some restrictions against Polygyny in that particular people; Bishops, Deacons, and Elders must have only one wife. Other people are not instructed as to how many wives they may have and monogamy is never explicitly mentioned.

Biblically marriage seems to be promoted as a way to avoid the sin of sexual congress in an unmarried state. If you can’t maintain celibacy then marriage is required seems to be the message most often mentioned.

Anyway, that’s a quick history of marriage. Tomorrow I’m going to look at marriage from a Libertarian point of view and what I think would be an ideal arrangement.

Tell me what you think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

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