Orthodox, Marriage and Resurrection


#1

I am following another thread that deals with Orthodox and remarriage. I have a question that is related but seems to be off topic for that thread (which focuses on divorce and remarriage).

In this thread, I’d like to know more about Orthodox eschatology and marriage. Today’s reading was Luke 20:27-40. Briefly, this passage is the test the Saducees put to Jesus involving a widow who had married seven brothers and died childless. Jesus, in his response, said:
those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

How does the Eastern Church teach on this passage?

Thank you.


#2

The Orthodox Church believes in one marriage in a life time. Technically a spouse is still deemed to be married even after his marriage partner is dead. However, re-marriage is allowed for the living spouse after its situation meets the requirement of the Orthodox Church for remarriage. Technically it is equivalent to a divorce if the living person remarry but this can be set aside by the authority of the bishop ‘to bind and to loose’, an ekonomia, a granted act of mercy to save that person so that he would not be living in greater sin.


#3

Simply, in the Eastern churches, that passage is seen as referring to carnal desire. In an Eastern wedding, the couple is crowned in marriage which conveys a sacramental grace that binds them together and never dies. It is a part of them even in the next life.


#4

Quote:
All three synoptic Gospels (Matt 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-37) report Jesus’ attitude toward the “levirate”. It is important to notice that the question is related to Christ’s teaching on resurrection and immortality, which cancels worries about survival through posterity. When the Sadducees (“which say there is no resurrection”) asked who, among the seven brothers who successively married the same woman, will have her to wife 'in the resurrection", Jesus answers that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven”.

This text is often understood to imply that marriage is only an earthly institution and that its reality is dissolved by death. Such an understanding prevailed in the Western Church, which never discouraged remarriage of widowers and never limited the number of remarriages permitted to Christians. However, if this were the right understanding of Jesus’ words, they would be in direct contradiction of the words of Saint Paul, and to the very consistent canonical practice of the Orthodox Church throughout the centuries. In the Christian understanding, marriage is absolutely unique and quite incompatible with the “levirate”. Never would the Christian Church encourage a man to marry his brother’s widow. In fact, as Clement of Alexandria already noted, “The Lord is not rejecting marriage, but ridding their minds of the expectation that in the resurrection there will be carnal desire”. (1) Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees is strictly limited by the meaning of their question. They rejected the resurrection because they could not understand it otherwise than as a restoration of earthly human existence, which would include the Judaic understanding of marriage as procreation through sexual intercourse. In this, Jesus says, “they err”, because life in the Kingdom will be like that of the “angels”. Jesus’ answer is, therefore, nothing more than a denial of a naive and materialistic understanding of the resurrection, and it does not give any positive meaning to marriage. He speaks of the levirate, and not of Christian marriage, whose meaning is revealed–implicitly and explicitly–in other parts of the New Testament.

(1) Clement of Alexandria, (d. approx. 221) is one of the founders of Christian theology. The quotation is from his Miscellanies, III, 12, 87, English translation in The Library of Christian Classics, II, Philadelphia, PA, The Westminster Press, 1954, p.81.

From Meyendorff, Marriage–An Orthodox Perspective


#5

A fine commentary in itself albeit from an Orthodox perspective. Maybe this is the reason why there are many different commentaries on the same passage of the Bible.

Non-Orthodox would definitely disagree with that for obvious reason. This passage does not speak about carnal desire but about resurrection in the next life which is always a contention between the Pharisees and the Sadducees who have contradicting belief on it respectively. It is not surprising that they asked Jesus to arbitrate on the issue. Normally we see the context of the passage and the content therefore speaks about the context. In this case it is about resurrection.


#6

Isn’t this what the OP was asking for?


#7

I am responding to the commentary which I disagree with. :smiley: I hope that is allowed.


#8

[quote="newlywed8, post:4, topic:306167"]
Quote:
All three synoptic Gospels (Matt 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-37) report Jesus' attitude toward the "levirate". It is important to notice that the question is related to Christ's teaching on resurrection and immortality, which cancels worries about survival through posterity. When the Sadducees ("which say there is no resurrection") asked who, among the seven brothers who successively married the same woman, will have her to wife 'in the resurrection", Jesus answers that "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven".

This text is often understood to imply that marriage is only an earthly institution and that its reality is dissolved by death. Such an understanding prevailed in the Western Church, which never discouraged remarriage of widowers and never limited the number of remarriages permitted to Christians. However, if this were the right understanding of Jesus' words, they would be in direct contradiction of the words of Saint Paul, and to the very consistent canonical practice of the Orthodox Church throughout the centuries. In the Christian understanding, marriage is absolutely unique and quite incompatible with the "levirate". Never would the Christian Church encourage a man to marry his brother's widow. In fact, as Clement of Alexandria already noted, "The Lord is not rejecting marriage, but ridding their minds of the expectation that in the resurrection there will be carnal desire". (1) Jesus' answer to the Sadducees is strictly limited by the meaning of their question. They rejected the resurrection because they could not understand it otherwise than as a restoration of earthly human existence, which would include the Judaic understanding of marriage as procreation through sexual intercourse. In this, Jesus says, "they err", because life in the Kingdom will be like that of the "angels". Jesus' answer is, therefore, nothing more than a denial of a naive and materialistic understanding of the resurrection, and it does not give any positive meaning to marriage. He speaks of the levirate, and not of Christian marriage, whose meaning is revealed--implicitly and explicitly--in other parts of the New Testament.

(1) Clement of Alexandria, (d. approx. 221) is one of the founders of Christian theology. The quotation is from his Miscellanies, III, 12, 87, English translation in The Library of Christian Classics, II, Philadelphia, PA, The Westminster Press, 1954, p.81.

From Meyendorff, Marriage--An Orthodox Perspective

[/quote]

Thanks. This is the kind of info I was looking for. An excellent perspective (aside from the commentary on the "correctness" of Western thought).


#9

The grace is an indelible characteristic but does the bond remain (even absent its carnal aspect)?


#10

Yes, the bond remains. That is why the Eastern Church does not allow for remarriage, even after death, except for in cases of oeconomia.


#11

I read this a long time ago, and never understood it. Is Meyendorff implying that the Western Church allows a man to marry his brother’s widow? Is that his main reason for criticising the Western Church’s allowance that widowers can remarrry - i.e., that it offers the possibility that a man can marry his brother’s widow?

Blessings,
Marduk


#12

I am curious. What words of St. Paul would this be contrary to?


#13

It is not a very good reason to disagree with it.

Assuming your disagreement isn’t simply because it is from an Orthodox perspective, it would be helpful if you’d post what you disagree with.


#14

[quote="mardukm, post:11, topic:306167"]
I read this a long time ago, and never understood it. Is Meyendorff implying that the Western Church allows a man to marry his brother's widow? Is that his main reason for criticising the Western Church's allowance that widowers can remarrry - i.e., that it offers the possibility that a man can marry his brother's widow?

Blessings,
Marduk

[/quote]

No, he is only using that particular Judaic custom as an example. Rejecting it is not the basis for discouraging remarriage.


#15

If you had cared to read my post you would have read that I wrote what I disagreed with. I know you may be tired and may not read my post properly perhaps because of my disagreement with the orthodox perspective, but it is only fair you read a poster’s post before replying.

I was commenting on the commentary of Matt 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-37 of post #4 which say it’s about carnal desire. I said it’s about the issue of resurrection which is in contention by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Here is my post #5. I would not have to make this reply if you had read my post attentively.

[quote=post #5] Non-Orthodox would definitely disagree with that for obvious reason. This passage does not speak about carnal desire but about resurrection in the next life which is always a contention between the Pharisees and the Sadducees who have contradicting belief on it respectively. It is not surprising that they asked Jesus to arbitrate on the issue. Normally we see the context of the passage and the content therefore speaks about the context. In this case it is about resurrection.
[/quote]

Perhaps I should not say “non-Orthodox” but this is what I thought was from a non-Orthodox perspective and definitely from my perspective.


#16

Actually, I had never seen Jesus’ response as being between Pharisee and Sadducee. He was addressing the Sadducees only here. (St. Paul is recorded as leveraging the difference between the two groups, however) Yet His response was a non-answer of sorts since He did not actually say whose wife she would be.


#17

Fine. Just say this is how I see the passage and therefore it is my personal opinion. I apologize in saying ‘non-Orthodox’ to also see it my way which later I corrected. :slight_smile:

The question was asked by the Sadducees but after Jesus answered them, on v. 39 (Lk20), some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!”

So the audience was more than just the Sadducees. One can interpolate but it is possible that ‘the teachers of the law’ mentioned were not the Sadducees. Especially when they readily agreed with Jesus on the resurrection, a belief that the Sadducees denied. Thus it is possible that the ‘teachers of the law’ could be someone who disagreed with the Sadducees but generally the Gospels understanding is that the teachers of the law are very often the Pharisees. So we cannot discount the fact that the Pharisees were present there in the audience.

I feel that for Jesus to attribute his reply to explain carnal desire is less likely than it is for the issue of resurrection where there is no marriage (neither marry nor be given in marriage).


#18

Does anyone have the passages of St. Paul’s letters that are supposedly contrary to the Western understanding of marriage?


#19

What do the Orthodox say about Romans 7:1-3?

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.”


#20

From what little I know, they would probably say “released from the law” is not the same as “released from the sacrament”.


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