Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sex and Marriage in the Afterlife -- and Jesus' words

When Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven, he was referring to a very specific definition of marriage in which, according to Jewish law, which still holds for Orthodox Jews:
1, A man could divorce a woman for any reason or no reason, and still be within the bounds of ethics and morality
2. A woman could not divorce her husband. So if he left her without divorcing her, she could not marry another man.
3. Adultery was something contingent on the marital status of the woman, and not of the man. A married man could consort with a whore if he wished and would not be guilty of adultery.

In short, marriage in the halakhic sense meant meant that the man possessed (owned) his wife as property. This is the kind of marriage you would not have in heaven.

But you would have a marriage of equals, or the conjugial love that Swedenborg mentioned.
Earthly marriage includes reproduction and child rearing. That is the main purpose of marrage.
A permanent male-female sexual relationship that did not include child bearing and child rearing would not be earthly marriage in any sense. You might call it heavenly marriage, or marriage-prime, and it would be holy in its own way.

Here’s a link outlining the difficulties of a traditional halakhic marriage, which has not changed since Jesus’ day.

This also explains the Gospel’s restriction of divorce (no divorce except for infidelity) - Jewish law allowed men to divorce their wives for any reason, and it did not allow women to divorce their husbands. This law is almost identical in orthodox Judaism and in Islam today - divorce is something that men do to women, and not vice versa. If wives are their husbands’ property, then it is up to the husband to release (or not release) his property. Property does not release its owner!

So the question regarding the woman who married seven brothers, each dying after the others was - whose property will she be in the afterlife? And Jesus' answer was - no one's. Per the definition on marriage in the minds of the audience, there would be no marriage in the afterlife. Not their kind of marriage. Not even an egalitarian, earthly marriage since that implies childbearing and child rearing. We're like the angels in the afterlife. Do angels marry? Do they exist in space? In time? No, no and no. But they do have something else equivalent to marriage - let's call that marriage-prime, for want of a better word. And they ave their own equivalent of the spatial and temporal dimensions - let us call those space-prime and time-prime.

The problem is reading Jesus' words without understanding the historical context.

1 comment:

  1. A positive (though speculative) scholarly case could be made that male-female relationships like marital bonds can continue between the redeemed into the next life. This may then also imply a romantic, physical and even sexual (and procreative) aspect in such a relationship.

    For more information please peruse the rezfamilies website (go to google and search for 'rezfamilies') where detailed exegesis of the relevant passages, philosophical argumentation, and quotations from patristic sources are given.