Genesis supports same-sex marriage

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Michelangelo, Creation of Eve (Sistine Chapel)

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Michelangelo, Creation of Eve (Sistine Chapel)

Michelangelo, Creation of Eve (Sistine Chapel)

Michelangelo, Creation of Eve (Sistine Chapel)

For those who look to the Bible to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, the primordial source is Genesis 2, the second account of the creation of humanity, in which God forms a man out of the dust and a woman out of the man’s rib. The chapter seems to set up what they now call “biblical marriage,” declaring (in the King James Version), “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” 

So how can this account be considered supportive of same-sex marriage?

For starters, the Hebrew word adam that is translated as “man” means “humanity” or “human being” — in the genderless sense that was once common English usage (as in, “man is the measure of all things”). Thus, in Genesis I.26, God says, “Let us make adam (humanity) in our image.” Unlike English, Hebrew differentiates adam from the gendered word for man, ish.

In Genesis 2, the person we know as Adam is repeatedly identified simply as ha-adam — the human. Thus, Genesis 2.18 has God saying, “It is not good for the human to be alone. I will make a fitting helper for him.” (“Him” because adam is a masculine noun in Hebrew in the same way that nauta — sailor — is a feminine noun in Latin.) Note that God does not say anything about procreation as the reason for instituting this human relationship. Procreation is the order of the day in Genesis 1 (“be fruitful and multiply”), but that injunction has nothing to do with marriage.

But what about Genesis 2.24: “Therefore a man shall leave…”? Isn’t that a mandate for “biblical marriage”?

No. Although traditional English translations employ the prescriptive future tense, the Hebrew is simply the descriptive present, now using the gendered ish: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother, and cleaves to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” Genesis 2 is a just-so story, explaining why, at the time it was written, a guy would leave his parents and establish a new marital relationship.

In a word, Genesis 2 is all about the human need for permanent companionship — companionship of an intimate fleshly kind. Whoever wrote it would, I believe, understand exactly what the desire for same-sex marriage is all about — and why it is good.

  • Glenn Harrell

    OK Mark,
    I can’t even call you the “Silkester” on this one.
    In business, I can always tell when the income is down. Crazy, hyper-ads start rolling out. Are things really that bad down at the home office of RNS?

    You stretched harder on this that those who pro port that Global Warming is neither real nor bad if it were.

    All the original language slip-ins may impress the minions you hope to placate, but you merely embarrass yourself and RSN. This is not the work of a professor, rather a cheesy reporter hoping to get an invitation to the political ball.

    This is on par with Brian Williams slip as of late. It is reported that you have the word “Professor” in front of your name Mark. An apology may be in order.

    This bungle certainly lacks any biblical, theological, and language integrity.(thank you for leaving theology off your title)

    You are become the vitamin specialist who pretends to diagnose and treat a patient using a benign prescription. No, that is a bit too complimentary. You are become the Palm reader who offers nothing more than deception to those who are hurting. You are now as the desperate drug companies claiming their product can “heal”.

    The good news is that your shenanigans in word-play will go down as just that for most thinking creatures. The bad news is that you offer your position as truth, when it is mere conjecture at best and someone may believe you.

    Further, is not Genesis a mere fable? How is it you can take a book that is thought (in your circles) to be a creation of myth–and now become the Doctor of all things Theological with concrete convictions using a lie for truth?

    That’s right. Popularity and money.
    You may keep your job after this quackery of an article, but you have certainly lost credibility with any and all who see through what you are attempting to do.

    In a demented sort of way, I would love to read your humble treatise on the woman at the well (John 4) and just what Jesus meant when he quoted the Genesis passage to which you refer in Matthew 19.

    Brian Williams said, ‘Did something happen to (my) head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head,’”
    I have no clue what you can say. RSN Editors? Where are you as co-conspirators?

    I hope this vitiated collection of words brings all the response you and RSN desire. It sure pepped me up! Thanks–my coffee was wearing off.

  • Tom Downs

    Mr Harrell, if you’re going to make ad hominem attacks on the author’s character and belittle his scholarship, perhaps you should at least share with the readers your own academic credentials in Biblical scholarship. I only have a seminary degree and what he’s said jives with contemporary scholarship as I’ve studied it. Of course, since you are willing to accuse RNS of having mixed motives, you would likely do the same with my seminary… to say nothing of my personal library of commentaries on the Bible.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Mr. Downs,

    For starters, in Hebrew, the word for “Ca-Ca” literally means “Ca-Ca”.
    Now, aren’t you impressed?
    If I thought education was necessary for him to write this nonsense,
    I would believe an equal amount necessary to reply.

    AS of late, I believe “education” to be part of the problem–at least when it is melded with politics, money and popular opinion as we see here.

    I am the first to confess my “credentials” are woefully lacking if I am to believe this sort of dissection of scripture.
    If Mr. Silk had presented this as an Op-Ed, I think it to be a lovely stroll down
    the isles of personal belief. My response is a big grin.

    His choice, however, to present this as apparent de-facto opened a different door for responses. In so doing, he is positioning to qualify as one who can write prescriptions as a physician to people who struggle with this subject as a life-issue.

    Neither of our seminaries need be accused. They stand or fall with or without us and…

  • david moore

    Prof Silk:
    You might want to check the commentaries you’re using against other sources.

    The verb you called a “descriptive present” is really a Hebrew imperfect, most often translated future, but in this context, probably referring to the initiation and continuation of the marriage relationship. The words for man and wife in the passage about leaving mother & father…, etc. are _ish_ and _ishah_ respectively with the basic meanings “man” and “woman” which in this context are normally translated man and wife.

    While there is no mention of procreation as such in this passage, that the two are to become one flesh certainly implies as much, because the married pair fulfill becoming one flesh in their children.

  • Alex Mumme

    I’d be very curious to know if Biblical era humans had any concept of heritability. Generally the metaphor of two becoming one flesh refers to the conjoining of bodies during intercourse. There’s no real indication that marriage, as such, is required to beget children in Genesis, so I don’t really see the correlation that procreation is required or exclusive to marriage.

    Absent the particular semantics of linguistic discourse (descriptive present, imperfect tense, indefinite form, etc), his translation is as accurate as the commonly accepted ones. It’s worth mentioning at this point that we have not found an original text for Genesis (only derivatives), and so for all we know there were translation errors contributing to the ambiguity.

    From an academic standpoint, absent the original manuscript and other writings from the same author, we can’t be absolutely certain of the intended meaning of the passage.

  • Alex Mumme

    Mr. Harrell,
    Do you have a particular aspect of this translation that you take issue with? Or is it simply that you take issue with the very idea that the Bible could support same-sex marriage? Is your whole argument Jesus’s arguments against divorce? I fail to see how Jesus being against divorce has any bearing on whether this passage from Genesis can validly be translated as gender neutral.

    I can understand your vitriol if you feel that a core tenet of your faith is under attack, but without articulating a particular argument you fail to further your cause. Rather you end up making you strongly held beliefs easy to dismiss as simple rantings.

  • Eric K.

    No, Mr. Silk has it correct at least for the Hebrew/Aramaic.

    More to the point, “adam” in Hebrew, means “earth”, literally. It’s root – aleph, dalet, mem – is roughly the equivalent of ‘humankind’ or as Mr. Silk put it, ‘humanity’. All the text says is that Hashem says “let us make earth/humankind in our image. That’s not a stretch, it’s just accurate translation.

    Eric

  • opheliart

    Are we making this about same-sex marriage … Again? 😉

    At least Mark Silk isn’t hiding behind a false name. If anyone comes looking for him they’ll know where to find him.

  • Shawnie5

    “Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” Mal. 2:15

  • Eric K.

    The two becoming one flesh is accurate, it’s called mating. But there is nothing in Torah that is the equal of what we call marriage today. At best we see in Vayikra (Leviticus) the transfer of ownership of women, wherein she is the property of the oldest male in her household.

  • Eric K.

    I think you’ve got it a bit wrong. Here is Malachi 2:15.
    טו וְלֹא-אֶחָד עָשָׂה, וּשְׁאָר רוּחַ לוֹ, וּמָה הָאֶחָד, מְבַקֵּשׁ זֶרַע אֱלֹהִים; וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּם, בְּרוּחֲכֶם, וּבְאֵשֶׁת נְעוּרֶיךָ, אַל-יִבְגֹּד. 15 And not one hath done so who had exuberance of spirit! For what seeketh the one? a seed given of God. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

  • Shawnie5

    “I fail to see how Jesus being against divorce has any bearing on whether this passage from Genesis can validly be translated as gender neutral.”

    When asked about divorce and presented with the Mosaic law regarding it, Jesus essentially said, Forget Moses — go back to God’s original design and see what you find. One man, one woman. created and joined together by God. He went on to say that this male/female duality is the very reason for marriage itself:

    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” Matt. 19:4-5.

    Genesis is gender-neutral at the points quoted because at that point human femininity had not yet been separated out of human masculinity. Before that, man had been the image of God possessing both male and female gender.

  • Shawnie5

    Different translation that conveys the same idea. That God wants indissoluble marriage because He desires godly offspring.

  • Biblical Hebrew does not have past, present, and future tenses as such but uses the perfect to signify completed actions and the imperfect to express uncompleted actions. English sometimes employs the future (will, not shall) in a similar way to what you’re suggesting, as in: When a dog is yelled at, he will hang hang his head in shame. That’s what I meant by “descriptive present.” As opposed to: When a dog is yelled at, he shall (i.e. should) hang his head in shame.” In that sense, the above passage might be translated: “Thus a man will leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” Contrary to some other comments, I would argue that “become one flesh” means something more profound than “have sex and produce babies.”

  • opheliart

    “Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” Mal. 2:15

    And not one hath done so who had exuberance of spirit! For what seeketh the one? a seed given of God. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. Malachi 2.15

    Interesting comparison. “Take heed to your spirit …” To me, this speaks on the relationship with Yahweh, and is of the “becoming” within this.

  • Alex Mumme

    This passage is again an argument against divorce and against adultery. The Bible generally states that if you can procreate that you should (unless it interferes with your focus and devotion to God 1 Corinthians 7, in which case you shouldn’t marry). However, consider the case of eunuchs. They can’t procreate, and yet Jesus says in Matthew 19:12 about the commitment of marriage, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

  • Alex Mumme

    I like that you made the argument of man being of both male and female gender. Indeed, I often argue that there was no distinction and that both Adam and Hawwah were androgynous until after Hawwah partook of the fruit and was summarily burdened with childbirth for it. (particularly if you take the perspective that Hawwah was an effective clone of Adam)

    With that in mind, the point at which marriage is defined occurs before gender is differentiated; therefore gender is irrelevant to marriage.

  • R. Jay Pearson

    Thoroughly unconvincing. It amazes me the distances people will go — be they academics, theologians, preachers, “right” or “left,” “liberal” or “conservative” — to claim that Scripture means exactly the opposite of what it states. In this case Scripture is artificially elevated to a height such that only those, so it is inferred, specially trained in the language(s) of its extant original non-originals can possibly grasp the real meaning of certain passages. This, of course, is nonsense. As are Mark Silk’s conclusions. The marriage, or sexual union, of two males is not sanctioned in the Eden account at Genesis 2, and no educated or intellectually honest reading — in any language modern or ancient — allows for any conclusion other than what has been understood in the passage for thousands of years. God created a biological male and biological female, each with anatomy complementary to the other for the purposes of physical union and procreation.

  • Alex Mumme

    I’m using my real name … ?
    Google should be able to rather easily verify this for you. I make literally no effort towards anonymity. I think there may be all of 4 other Alex Mumme’s out there. I know one of them other than myself.

  • Alex Mumme

    You have reference to an original manuscript of Genesis? I’d be delighted to give it a read if you can point the way. Most Hebrew texts are re-translations from the Septuagint, which is written in Koine Greek. To give you an idea of some of the interesting things that can happen in Lang1->Lang2->Lang1 translations, try translating your own comment into Chinese, and then back to English with Google Translate. Even the first statement changes from “Thoroughly unconvincing” to “Thoroughly convincing”. While it’s true that mechanical translation is more prone to error, it happens when humans translate too; particularly when grammatical constructs don’t have direct maps between the two languages (as is the case in Hebrew and Koine Greek).

    As I’ve said before, absent original manuscripts and supporting documents, we can’t know the absolute original intent.

  • opheliart

    Alex,

    I was not referring to you. I should have made this a separate comment. My apologies. I was teasing.

  • R. Jay Pearson

    You’ll note that I stated “original non-originals.” By which I obviously meant we have no originals penned by the hands of their originating authors. Which by no means infers we cannot possibly know the intent of said originating authors. Of course we can. If we trust the veracity of the copyists throughout the centuries and recognize that none of them — be they the copiers and translators of the Septuagint or the Masoretic text, etc. — in any way, nor by any twist of linguistic chicanery or motivated philosophical alchemy, even remotely support the conclusions manufactured by Mark Silk regarding the Genesis 2 account.

    And offering a test of Google Translate to demonstrate your point is like quoting Wikipedia as a source. It simply isn’t credible.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Fair question Mr. Mumme,
    I fully support the right for people to join in union with each other, whatever the definition of marriage, whatever their sex or whatever the premise of support they find to live with their decision. We, the people of the USA must vote our preferences and convictions into law because it takes law to move us out of the realm of mere faith in a religious opinion into free expression. The problem persists that all things legal do not necessarily correlate to all things conscience.

    I would also question why the bible must come into use at all, but especially, only when it is politically advantageous. Many of those infected with the professorial gene suddenly believe that Jonah’s whale had a name as well as a kindly digestive system if and when their agenda needs support for their cause.

    I take issue with this Op-Ed cloaked as a theological treatise.
    Trading allegory and literal at will signals suspect ambition.

    Why is Hebrew syntax all of a sudden…

  • Doc Anthony

    But if you simply say “I fail to see how Jesus being against divorce…” and leave it at that, that’s seriously misleading, isn’t it?

    Jesus didn’t merely express opposition to divorce in Matt. 19:4-6. Jesus pointed out that God’s opposition to divorce was **historically rooted** in the specific origin, nature, and purpose of marriage as created by God in Gen 1 and Gen 2.

    (Mark Silk says that Gen 2 is a “just-so-story”, but clearly Jesus don’t agree with Silk on that. For Jesus, Gen 2 was history.)

    4 “Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (cf Gen. 1:27)

    5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (cf Gen 2:24)?

    6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    There’s NO historical and biblical room for “Adam & Steve”, according to Jesus.

  • Shawnie5

    They weren’t both androgynous. Adam was only androgynous until femininity was taken out of him. Thereafter “a man shall leave his father and mother…”

  • Shawnie5

    Jesus wasn’t referring to the commitment of marriage itself. He was referring to His disciples’ statement that if divorce is disallowed except in the most limited circumstances, then it’s better not to marry. Jesus commented with what was probably a shrug and a “Not everybody can receive this saying [that it’s better not to marry].” Going on to say, essentially, that some pass up marriage because they are unfitted for it physically or because they want to devote themselves to God. “Let him who can accept this [saying that it’s better not to marry] accept it.”

  • Randy Davis

    The article simply violates all rules of exegesis. Word s have meaning according to its context. Yes, Adam = humanity. God made mankind male and female, made in the image of God. But when God says that man needed a companion, it uses an article pointing to the man, or a singular person.

    How would it make sense that humanity would marry Eve? It doesn’t. So, you have to assume something is wrong in translating it as humanity instead of Adam .

    As to Ish and Isshah, they are not etymologically connected. They do not have the same root.

    As to the veracity of the text. Until the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, the oldest Hebrew text was 10th century AD. Among the DSS, almost every book in the OT were found and were at least 1000 years older. There was very little change in the texts. Trying to argue that God did not made man and woman for marriage is a failure. In the OT, God hates homosexuality, why would anyone expect that creation orders would be different?

  • Shawnie5

    Good point, Glenn. I am often amused at how people who generally want the Bible out of the public square are suddenly replete with Bible quotations when trying to open people’s wallets.

  • R. Jay Pearson

    With so much emphasis on the textual components pertinent to Mark Silk’s opinion and, frankly, wholly indefensible conclusions on Genesis 2, we cannot ignore the spiritual components that speak to the absolute folly of such opinions masquerading as valid Scriptural teaching.

    It was Paul (it is believed) who wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NRSV)

    We see this happening today in the Church. There are those who want what they want to the rejection of God’s Way, and twist Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:16, also Jude 4) with the goal of promoting their own way.

    Scripture supports deep and abiding same-sex friendships. But those friendships, in the Church, are not and never will be equatable to male-female marriage per Genesis 2, whose distinctive is…

  • R. Jay Pearson

    … whose distinctive is sexual union.

  • James Carr

    If God, for a moment, believed in same sex unions He would have never created woman. This article is a prank of some kind.

  • William A. Dillard

    Well, the argument about language can go on and on. I taught Hebrew for 16 years and can argue its finer points. However, to keep things simple: God made a male and a female per Genesis 1:26–27. I find that to be gender specific and they were commanded to reproduce which I find an impossibility for two males or two females cohabiting. Like I said, it is so simple, but strains and twists will continue to judgment day.

  • Diogenes

    Perhaps a mere leap of faith, but I like to think God is capable of shepherding His Word through the eons without substantial damage to text and meaning. Further, that two thousand plus years of received scholarship bears more weight than latter day revisionist impositions by skeptics and scoffers.

  • Billysees

    Seek the Kingdom of God ‘ABOVE ALL ELSE’, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock, for it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom………Luke 12:31,32

    The Kingdom of God is not in ‘word’ (scripture verses), but ‘power’ (Spirit of God in us)……it’s not food and drink but ‘righteousness’ (good works and deeds) and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit….1 Cor 4:20 plus Rom 14:17

    …we are serving in a new spiritual way, not in an old way dictated by written words………Romans 7:6

  • sprietsma

    It is an interesting question as to whether Jesus in his human nature knew that the Genesis Creation stories were a myth form of writing. He might have been limited to what the interpretation was at his time, like St. Paul.

    God does not seem to have revealed that the Genesis writer wrote in a myth literary form until recent times, when we could understand the concept of “literary forms” used in the Bible writings.

    Of course Jesus could have been referring to the Biblical myth. His comment about “no divorce” would have been equally valid. Today Biblical scholars know that there is no need to consider the stories as being “historically” rooted; and our scientific knowledge knows that they are not.

    In telling the myth story to explain why things are as the people of the time experienced them, the male authors had God making a male first. Then to explain the yearning for male and female, he pictured God scooping a female out of “the man’s” rib-cage, so that there was a…

  • paroikos

    “…we are serving in a new spiritual way, not in an old way dictated by written words………Romans 7:6,“ tells us what ? That “spiritual” feelings have replaced the written Word? That teachings from the OT therefore, can be ignored? Ironically, that kind of interpretative butchery depends upon the very “written words” it rejects, in order to make its claim. Like the vile fiction that the Genesis account encourages same-sex marriage—it totally self-destructs.

  • opheliart

    pariokos,
    Let us remind you …

    And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

    And the following:

    Tablets of the HEART: Clement of Alexandria

    https://books.google.com/books?id=a5mywUHbaE4C&pg=PA214&lpg=PA214&dq=not+with+tablets+of+clay+but+written+heart+says+paul&source=bl&ots=xHgvLSSrDs&sig=AA7kFYUcGtyaPGvX0Mxq9uumWNM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Kg4wVYLHA4W5ogSRrIDADA&ved=0CCMQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=not%20with%20tablets%20of%20clay%20but%20written%20heart%20says%20paul&f=false

    Billysees speaks of Spiritual Annunciation … not your religious language of doctrinal appeal. Breathe …

    Peace

  • Glenn Harrell

    We can’t pass off the physical Jesus as a myth. However, may we believe the assignment from St. John that this Jesus figure was actually “the Word” that created the world we now live in? (John 1)
    This is the same wacko that claimed to be God, after all.

    Thus, this Jesus, we are form-fitting to our need, should have known a bit about the Torah?

    Since John and Jesus are thus delusional, why are we discussing anything they may have said as having validity to this discussion. They were mere mad men, no?

    All the more reason to dismiss this discussion and the meanderings about such mythology and mysticism, from a book so wrought with contradictions and inaccuracies, we have lost any hope for mooring.

    We do better simply hearing Mark’s opinions, Dr. Think-a-lot or Senator Imsobright.

    Lets take it to the mathematicians.
    We can trust them all not to go all mythological on us.
    To do so lends much more intelligent credibility to this post and its author.

  • Billysees

    opheliart,

    “…speaks of Spiritual Annunciation…”

    Thanks for giving me a simple definition of the purposes of my posts. I hadn’t thought of them that way at all. After getting a good definition of ‘annunciation’ ( i.e., statement, proclamation) I can understand your assessment.

    I have no religious credentials at all and I’m not capable of arguments. I simply enjoy exploring scripture to find good reasons why we should extend love and respect to our LGBT community.

    Peace to you

  • opheliart

    Billysees,

    “I have no religious credentials at all and I’m not capable of arguments. I simply enjoy exploring scripture to find good reasons why we should extend love and respect to our LGBT community.”

    That’s fine. Sometimes credentials become the sales tool for barring the door to exploration.

    The Doors! The Doors! In Wisdom let us attend
    http://myocn.net/conclusion-exclusion-the-doors-the-doors-in-wisdom-let-us-attend/

    Peace

  • Purgatrix Ineptiae

    Genesis 1:28 says God created mankind זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה “male and female” and He commanded them פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ “be fruitful and multiply.” That’s about as explicitly heterosexual as Bronze Age mythology gets.

    God doesn’t create homosexuals.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Mark,
    Your interpretation – It’s a stretch. For a good cause I admit, but I fear your thumb is on the scale. I prefer to call folks out on lack of love and compassion, rather than on misunderstanding of authority. Besides, I prefer to ignore authority when it is arbitrary to begin with. In such case, I prefer not to defer to our honorable ancestors
    Respectfully yours,
    Sam