Marriage laws

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by timfost, Aug 24, 2015.

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  1. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Hi all,

    Tried looking up past threads on this subject and had trouble getting answers...

    I'm at a loss at what to think concerning WCF 24:4:


    1. How do we know which OT laws apply today and which ones don't?

    2. How can Lev. 20:19-21 and Deut. 25:5 be reconciled?

    3. Was it unlawful for Harod to take Herodias as wife simply because she had been Philip's wife (if he was dead), or was Philip still alive, making this an adulterous relationship?

    4. Is the relationship of brothers different than the situation in 1 Cor. 5:1? Would the father being alive or dead change anything?

    Thanks in advance. I'm stumped...
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    A. This is the original (unmodified, as the Americans deleted this phrase) WCF.

    B. In my opinion, the inclusion of this line had more to do with politics of the day than theology. Henry VIII had justified his desire for annulment (diligently sought for a long time before he broke with Rome) by an appeal to the "illegitimacy" of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon on the basis that she was previously married to his brother, the former king.

    1. Properly read and interpreted, OT laws concerning sexual immorality, including laws that regulated degrees of consanguinity, are valid in NT times, according to the Jerusalem Council, Act.15:29. If the Gentiles, whose sexual mores were utterly corrupted, were to have clear guidance as to what constituted purity in God's sight, and what behaviors were to be put away, they had recourse to the standards God had formerly inscripturated. New Covenant morality was unchanged in this respect. Gentiles did not need the NT to spell out every improper relationship (though, it clearly opposes a number of them explicitly). Bestiality is not once mentioned in the NT, but it is definitely condemned as sexual immorality in the Mosaic law.

    So, it is not the case that we go to the OT laws, and pick/choose what we like or don't. We exegete the judicials and ceremonials for their moral content. And we sometimes find laws (after the Decalogue) that are almost purely moral in nature. And the laws of sexual-conduct are mostly of this sort.

    2. Lev.18:16 prohibits wife-sharing/swapping. John the Baptist used it to condemn Herod, Mt.14:4. Lev.20:21 seems to complicate the matter, since the section it is in (incl.vv19-20) appears to address forbidden close-marriages which have no living husband-figure. But both vv20-21 deny valid marriages to Israelites beyond blood-connection degrees, extending those limits to former spouses of near kin. In seeking to interpret the laws properly, note first the penalties declared fall short of a death sentence--one indication that these restrictions went beyond the law of nature's, and were a positive limit from God for his separated nation. The union was one that cost the participants significantly in social acceptance (bearing their sin).

    The key of understanding is the laws of inheritance, and the maintenance of individual tribal and even family identity (the nation was not to assimilate to another, nor were the tribes to homogenize). The land itself was to be passed down within particular families. So limits were placed on the confusion that could be created by cross-connected family ties. Dt.25 plays into this. It covers the law of levirate marriage, which was a law related to inheritance and to social provision for widows (no Social Security in those days). It belonged to the realm of the kinsman-redeemer/avenger duties.

    Here is the key factor: the fruit of this union--first a positive prohibition, in another special case reversed into a command--was not to "count" as the son of the actual father, but of the dead brother. So, "childlessness" was still a factor in the levirate marriage. This causes us to recognize that "childlessness" of Lev.20:21 means "legal-childlessness." Children of such unions were regarded socially as landless (at best), disinherited, perhaps worse. "Childless" doesn't mean the couple would be stoned before they could have children, or that (necessarily) supernaturally they would be held back from having children. But their disregard for the Law would have intergenerational consequences. All that, unless the marriage were properly contracted as a socially acceptable levirate marriage (as Boaz did for Ruth), in which their child would be publicly praised and blessed.

    So, in the end we should be able to see that here is actually a case where in Israel, for the cause of Messiah's future birth and the preservation of the holy nation, there was careful regulation of what was not a "natural" prohibition, but was in fact ceremonial/separational. And for this reason, it is dispensable. This limit was not intended to regulate all peoples and times. Henry VIII was wrong to seek an escape from his honest marriage (and too anxious for an heir); though his break with Rome surely was providentially used of God to further the Reformation in England.

    3. Philip was alive, Josephus tells us. Even a divorce (which there wasn't) would not have made this incest OK. Herod was Edomite, though he ruled the Jews and judged the holy land. Lev.18:16 more naturally condemns him in general.

    4. 1Cor.5:1 demonstrates terrible confusion. The father is almost certainly alive. If not, it is more difficult to see how even the pagans (of that debauched city in particular) could have been scandalized by the details of the liaison. And yet, if she was legally his mother, that might easily give even a Greek (think Oedipus) pause. Bottom line: a son does not sleep with someone his father slept with; that should be abominable in any society, a clear case of incest/confusion. (cf. Amos 2:7)
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  3. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    "Affinity" is an "in-law" relation which exists in the very nature of things. If the husband or wife dies, all the "in-law" relations remain the same. Death does not destroy the affinity. If the marriage is blessed with children, the children sustain the same connection of consanguinity that the living parent has by affinity. Property laws likewise assume these relationships. Even the Old Testament law which required a brother to marry his sister-in-law for the sake of maintaining the inheritance assumes it as a law of nature that she is his brother's wife. There is no escaping the nature of things. No human convention can alter what God has created.
  4. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    Wonderful explanation! I read it multiple times. :)

    Follow-up question: When, say, the OPC subscribes to the WCF, does the subscription generally include the revisions (e.g. pope = Antichrist, etc.)?


    I know a wonderful Christian family where the husband died and she later married her deceased husband's brother. They now have two children in addition to a child from the first marriage. Would you counsel them to divorce? (I'm not trying to challenge you as I know that you are speaking from your convictions. I'm just trying to figure out how this situation would work out practically.)
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Ordination questions:

    (1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
    (2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
    (3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?
    (4) Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
    (5) Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?
    (6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel and the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
    (7) Do you promise to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before the flock over which God shall make you overseer?
    (8) Are you now willing to take the charge of this congregation, in agreement with your declaration when you accepted their call? And do you promise to discharge the duties of a pastor to them as God shall give you strength?​

    Here is the front matter, including title page, table of contents, and preface (please read ) of the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the O.P.C. [subtitled: The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as adopted by The Orthodox Presbyterian Church]

    Hope this is helpful.
  7. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Most larger American denominations use the revised version, including the OPC and PCA.

    Some have accepted versions with even more modifications, such as the EPC and until recently the ARP.

    Some accept the original, but specifically as interpreted by another document, such as the RPCNA.

    Some use the original, but alongside other documents, such as the HRC.

    Some accept the original WCF and Catechisms, such as the PRC, RPCGA/US/H, and FCC. I can't speak to the place of how testimonies/constitutions/etc. play into each of those. I don't think any, like the RPCNA, specifically reject parts of the Confession though.
  8. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I would have to talk to them and understand the situation for myself before I gave personal counsel.
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The Free Church has an Act anent subordinate standards. It can be found in some of the 19th century printings. Because it was enacted for the purpose of union with the Original Seceders, who were anxious to conserve the principles of the historic Secession testimony, it serves as a kind of Testimony and sheds some light on the Free Church constitution.
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