Mormon ordinances/Marriage/Jews and early Christians on marriage after death

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Ancient Jewish and early Christians beliefs regarding marriage

Summary: The Jews seem to have believed in eternal marriage from at least second-temple times, since they posed the question about the woman with seven successive husbands, asking which of them would be her husband "in the resurrection" (Matt. 22:28; Mark 12:23; Luke 20:33).

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Question: Are there any Biblical, Jewish, or early Christian teachings about marriage which lasts beyond the grave?

There is nothing in these passages to refute marriage in heaven, or belief, in some form or another, of God having a consort

Exegetically, there is nothing in these passages to refute marriage in heaven, or belief, in some form or another, of God having a consort, and provides indirect evidence that Joseph Smith did restore a doctrine that has ancient support.

The Jews seem to have believed in eternal marriage from at least second-temple times, since they posed the question about the woman with seven successive husbands, asking which of them would be her husband "in the resurrection" (Matthew 22:28; Mark 12:23; Luke 20:33). The concept of eternal marriage is well-attested among Jews in the medieval period and is frequently mentioned in the Zohar, which also notes that God has a wife, the Matrona ("mother"), and is known in the Talmud. In the Falasha (the black Jews of Ethiopia's text) 5 Baruch, it has Jeremiah's scribe, Baruch, being shown various parts of the heavenly Jerusalem, with different gates for different heirs. The text then says, "I asked the angel who conducted me and said to him: 'Who enters through this gate?' He who guided me answered and said to me: 'Blessed are those who enter through this gate. [Here] the husband remains with his wife and the wife remains with her husband'"[1]

A hint of the eternal nature of marriage is found in Tertuillian's discourse on the widow

A hint of the eternal nature of marriage is found in Tertuillian's discourse on the widow, in which he wrote: "Indeed, she prays for his [her husband's] soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection."[2] In the same passage, speaking of marriage, he wrote: "If we believe the resurrection of the dead, of course we shall be bound to them with whom we are destined to rise, to render an account the one of the other…But if 'in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,' is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate - destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognize as well our own selves as them who are ours…Consequently, we who shall be with God shall be together, since we shall all be with the one God - albeit the wages be various, albeit there be 'many mansions,' in the house of the same Father - having labored for the 'one penny' of the selfsame hire, that is, of eternal life; in which (eternal life) God will still less separate those whom He has conjoined, than in this lesser life He forbids them to be separated."[3]

The pseudepigraphic Joseph and Aseneth 15:6 has a heavenly messenger telling Aseneth, "Behold, I have given you today to Joseph for a bride, and he himself will be your bridegroom, forever (and) ever." In a later passage, the Egyptian king tells Joseph "Behold, is not this one betrothed to you since eternity? And shall be your wife from now on and forever (and) ever?" (Joseph and Aseneth 21:3). Pharaoh then tells Asenth, "justly the Lord, the God of Joseph, has chosen you as a bride for Joseph, because he is the firstborn of God. And you shall be called a daughter of the Most High and a bride of Joseph from now and forever" (Joseph and Aseneth 21:4).[4]

Some critics bring up Christ's encounter with the Sadducees as evidence against marriage for all eternity (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35).

As noted earlier, Tertullian did not understand this passage to mean that there would be no marriage in the hereafter. More importantly, however, is the source of the story the Sadducees told Jesus. It comes from one of the book of the Apocrypha, Tobit, where a woman named Sara was married to seven men, each of whom died on the wedding night (Tobit 3:7-9; 6:13; 7:10-11). The text also notes that "Raphael [the archangel] was sent…to give Sara the daughter of Raguel for a whife to Tobias the son of Tobit…because she belonged to Tobias by right of inheritance [cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-6]" (Tobit 3:17). Jesus probably had this account in mind when He told his Sadduceean interrogators, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). They had neglected to note that she had married an eighth husband and that God had sent an angel to arrange the marriage.


Question: Were the early apostles married?

In the early Church, it was known that the Apostles were married

In the early Church, it was known that the Apostles were married. Ignatius, who sat at the feet of the Apostle John as he taught for many years, also taught they were married. He said: "For I pray that, being found worthy of God, I may be found at their feet in the kingdom, as at the feet of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; as of Joseph, and Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets; as of Peter, and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, that were married men. For they entered into these marriages not for the sake of appetite, but out of regard for the propagation of mankind. Fathers, “bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” (Eph. 6:4 and teach them the holy Scriptures, and also trades, that they may not indulge in idleness." (1:81, chap. 4, Ignatius to the Philadelphians)

Clement of Alexandria wrote “Peter and Philip fathered children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage. Furthermore, Paul did not hesitate to mention his ‘companion’ in one of his epistles...He says in his epistle, ‘Do I not have the right to take along a sister-wife, as do the other apostles?’ [1 Cor. 9:5] However the other apostles, in harmony with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction. Their spouses went with them, not as wives, but as sisters, in order to minister to housewives” (Clement of Alexandria 195 ad, Ante-Nicene Fathers 2:390-391 E)

He also wrote “The man of God eats, drinks, and marries, not as the primary things of life, but as things that are necessary. I even mention marriage...for having become perfect, he has the apostles for examples.” (Clement of Alexandria 195 ad, Ante-Nicene Fathers 2:543 E)

Papias, who travelled the countryside writing down what the Apostles had previously said, wrote "The residence of the Apostle Philip with his daughters in Hierapolis has been mentioned above." (ANF 1:154, Fragments of Papias)

Early Church leaders also spoke out against those who preached against marriage

Early Church leaders also spoke out against those who preached against marriage. In speaking about heretics, Irenaeus says that “They declare also, that marriage and generation are from Satan.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:349, Irenaeus Against Heresies, chap. 24) “those who are called Encratites (self-controlled) preached against marriage, thus setting aside the original creation of God... he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:353, Irenaeus Against Heresies, chap. 28)

“The apostles had permission to marry and lead wives about. They also had permission to ‘live by the means of the Gospel.’” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 4:55, Tertullian, 212 AD, W)

  1. Wolf Leslau, Falasha Antholog (New Haven: Yale, 1951, 1971), 65.
  2. Tertuillian, On Monogamy, 10.
  3. Tertuillian, ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)4:56, 67. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  4. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, (Broadway, New York: Doubleday, 1983), 2:202–47