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Biblical Marriage

Ok, so this is a story from the Gospel of Matthew, which was written around 10080 HE or so.

In the story, there’s this teacher guy, Jesus, who in Matthew’s rewrite, is divine and human at the same time.

Basically Matthew’s take, and the biggest difference from his own favorite book (which was The Gospel of Mark, written ten years earlier), is that God turned himself into a human and then other humans killed him gruesomely.

Maybe God becoming just one person is semantics, it’s sort of if you would become your own toe and live among the other toes for a while and then get stubbed like how Xuansha Shibei (玄沙師備) stubbed his toe at the gate. You’d be all “You’re blessed when you’ve walked a long day in the service of the body”, and “the lowest body part shall take the first step into the kingdom”, that sorta thing, all the while knowing you’re heading towards a sharp & pointy rock one of these days. What a trip. But in some other sense, your toe was already you, and you were already your toe.

The pebbles forgive me, the trees forgive me.

I like this tale because reading about God before finding this story, I’m like “That’s easy for you to say, o Lord, the highest, but you try it and see how you handle it”, I was pretty ungrateful and resentful, I was like “you made us all, and you’re asking us to love you or get struck down, and all the while we’re tearing each other apart and you know what, it sucks!”, and that resentment and ingratitude caused me to be alienated from myself and from y’all and from every li’l babbling brook and whispering tree.

And then comes this story where God’s like “hold my beer” and he gets born and from day one even as a baby people are trying to kill him. It’s a win/win because he gets to see what we’re dealing with down here and I also have to concede that OK, he actually handled that experience with una poca de gracia. Hats off.

OK, back story over. So in this particular chapter, some terrible sea lions are testing this teacher, Jesus.

(I mean, not literally sea lions. Matthew, just like Mark did before him, uses the word Φαρισαῖοι which was a specific social movement in the Second Temple era. I wanna be careful because in Christianity, Φαρισαῖοι and the criticism of them have been the vehicle for so much antisemitism. Historically, they laid the groundwork for Rabbinic Judaism at around the same time Mark was writing, just after the destruction of the Second Temple. Reading their own writings, there’s a lot of awesome stuff, so the gospel writers were straw-dolling ‘em pretty hard.)

But the interesting thing about these terrible sea lions, the story-version of them in the gospel, is that they’re always trying to trip Jesus up with some paradox or contradiction. They’re like an even more literal-minded version of Socrates, always trying to tear others down.

They’re also (in the story, I mean) not really interested in actually doing the right thing. They often come across as cruel. Everytime I’m reading this book, I’m like “OK. These guys are like the modern, American, socially conservative evangelical right wing.”

So one of these “contradiction” tests they come up with, that they ask Jesus, is “Is divorce legal?”

Jesus reads to them from their own book, a quote that’s in Genesis, both in 1:27 and 5:2. He’s like “God made men and women”. Then he goes on and says “Listen, they belong together, OK? What God has joined, let man not separate.”

(I mean, the verse number system wasn’t in place until 800 years after Mark was writing (around 10900 HE), for the original bible, and then the new Testament didn’t get them until 11551 HE. But he quotes the actual words so they can grep it.)

He’s like, they literally become one body (σάρκα) as far as he’s concerned.

So these sea lions, they’re like “Aha! Gotcha! Because didn’t Moses say dudes could write certificates of divorce to send away their wives?”

They’re talking about the first verse in Deuteronomy 24. Written around the year 9350 HE or so in the monarchic era. The Deuteronomist writes that a man can divorce a woman if she falls out of favor with him if he finds in her some… the word used there is עֶרְוַ֣ת, which usally means nakedness, but can also mean shame or uncleanliness.

Uh… that’s kind of a messed up reason.

So Jesus replies: “Moses let you blockheads divorce your wives but that wasn’t the original way. Let me lay it down for you: if you divorce your wife, unless she’s been stepping out first, and you then remarry, the unfaithful one is you.”

(The word Jesus uses for blockhead is σκληροκαρδίαν (in both Mark and Matthew) which means hard-heart. A hundred years after Matthew was making his version, someone else edited Mark and had Jesus use this word a second time, adding a whole new second half to chapter 16 where Jesus calls his own Scooby gang hard-hearts for not believing from others that he had risen until they met him themselves.)

So far, this is in both Mark and in Matthew. But Matthew continues the story here once the sea lions leave.

Matthew has Jesus’ own disciples say: “Wow, hetero marriage sounds like a pretty bad deal.”

(“ἀνθρώπου μετὰ τῆς γυναικός”, they’re saying. They’re being pretty specific about not being into hetero stuff.)

So Jesus says to them “This isn’t something God put in everyone’s heart. He only made some people this way. God also made Adam and Steve, you know, and genderqueer people, and aces. For the kingdom of heaven. So look into your own hearts.”

He’s literally saying “ὁ δυνάμενος χωρεῖν χωρείτω” (in reference to “τὸν λόγον” in the previous verse). He’s not asking you to look into a book for answers on who you love. He’s saying that God will tell your heart directly how it is for you personally, and if he does, accept it.

Saint Paul wrote a letter in 10055 HE, fifteen years before Mark was writing his gospel, and the letter says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This letter made its way into the bible, too, as Galatians 3:28. Dōgen expressed a similar sentiment in Prostrating to That Which Has Attained the Marrow, written in 11240 HE, where he writes that anyone can get and teach the dharma, men and women, old and young.