Question about marriage sacrament


I was discussing the Church’s teaching of marriage as a sacrament with a Protestant friend of mine. She asked me a question that caught me off guard. She asked if marriage was always a sacrament, from the time of Adam and Eve, or did it become a sacrament with the ministry of Jesus. I had to say, I wasn’t sure. My off the cuff, answer was the Christ initiated all the sacraments, but then I wondered exactly at what moment did marriage become a sacrament. Was it the wedding at Cana? Was it at some undetermined point in His ministry? Was it with the beginning of the Church? Any ideas?


Its a sacrament because God ordained it OT or NT. They are both God. Jesus laws are the Fathers Laws and vice versa.


The seven Sacraments were instituted by Christ during His life on Earth. Many assume that Christian Marriage was instituted at Cana, but the Church has not explicitly taught this.

CCC on Marriage:


The question isn’t why it’s a sacrament, it’s when it became a sacrament. It’s really obvious in Scripture when most of the other sacraments were initiated by Christ. They had baptisms prior to Jesus’, but it wasn’t sacrament was it? They anointed people with oil, but that didn’t become the sacrament of Confirmation until the first Pentecost. They had priests in Judaism, but Holy Orders became a Sacrament when Christ laid hands on the apostles. They had a Passover meal, but it didn’t become the Eucharist until the last summer. But marriage, confession, and anointing of the sick, I’m not sure when they became a sacrament. They did all of those things way before Christ, but when did they become a sacrament? And especially in the case of marriage, which has been around since the very beginning, but some marriages are sacramental and some aren’t.


Well, in order for a marriage to be sacramental, the couple must be Baptized. Therefore, I assume it became a Sacrament by the time the Apostles started Baptizing in the name of The Father, Son & Holy Spirit. But perhaps not until after Jesus’ teachings regarding marriage to the Pharisees.


Well considering Jesus came to reinstall what was the true meaning behind it then it always has been a sacrament…just one the Jews did not adhere to because of the hardness of their hearts,


This is the correct answer to the OP’s question. Another related question might be when marriage became considered as a sacrament in the doctrine of the Church, and this I believe is a few centuries at least post-Apostolic-Age.


Well, at least now I don’t feel as bad about not knowing the answer, since not everyone agrees on the answer.


While I still believe that phil19034 gave the correct technical answer, St. John Paul the Great had this to say in his Theology of the Body. Note that it’s not so much as “one of the seven” sscraments but a more general sense of “an outward sign of inward grace”

Theology of the Body

  1. Thus, in this dimension, a primordial sacrament is constituted, understood as a sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial. This is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of divine life, in which man really participates. In the history of man, original innocence begins this participation and it is also a source of original happiness. The sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted with man, as a body, by means of his visible masculinity and femininity. The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.
  1. So in man created in the image of God there was revealed, in a way, the very sacramentality of creation, the sacramentality of the world. Man, in fact, by means of his corporality, his masculinity and femininity, becomes a visible sign of the economy of truth and love, which has its source in God himself and which was revealed already in the mystery of creation. Against this vast background we understand fully the words that constitute the sacrament of marriage, present in Genesis 2:24: “A man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Against this vast background, we further understand that the words of Genesis 2:25, “They were both naked, and were not ashamed,” through the whole depth of their anthropological meaning, express the fact that, together with man, holiness entered the visible world, created for him. The sacrament of the world, and the sacrament of man in the world, comes from the divine source of holiness, and at the same time is instituted for holiness. Connected with the experience of the nuptial meaning of the body, original innocence is the same holiness that enables man to express himself deeply with his own body. That happens precisely by means of the sincere gift of himself. In this case, awareness of the gift conditions “the sacrament of the body.” In his body as male or female, man feels he is a subject of holiness.

With this consciousness of the meaning of his own body, man, as male and female, enters the world as a subject of truth and love. It can be said that Genesis 2:23-25 narrates the first feast of humanity in all the original fullness of the experience of the nuptial meaning of the body. It is a feast of humanity, which draws its origin from the divine sources of truth and love in the mystery of creation. Very soon, the horizon of sin and death will be extended over that original feast (cf. Gn 3). Yet right from the mystery of creation we already draw a first hope, that is, that the fruit of the divine economy of truth and love, which was revealed “at the beginning,” is not death, but life. It is not so much the destruction of the body of the man created “in the image of God,” as rather the “call to glory” (cf. Rom 8:30).


I remember Scott Hann (former Prodestent) wording marriage as a covenant. I believe the Old Testament has several covenants with God and marriage is the first one.


Is your Protestant friend asking “when” for a specific reason? Outside of the Bible, we know there were marriage ceremonies but they were not sacraments as we know them today. In the OT, there are many stories of marriages but again, nothing mentioning the sacrament of matrimony. I guess my counter-point is “why does it matter?” :shrug:


She was really more interested in what it meant for marriage to be a sacrament in the first place. She from a belief tradition that doesn’t “do” sacraments. Her main question was, what is the difference between a sacramental marriage and a non-sacramental, but still valid marriage. When marriage was elevated to a sacrament was more my questions after having the conversation.


I’m presuming your friend is from a Christian denomination that doesn’t believe in Tradition or tradition; the former being what was done in the early Church and adopted throughout the universal catholic church and the latter being set actions or beliefs we’ve developed over a long period of time but not rooted in Apostolic times. What I’m going to refer to may not be taken as “proof text” by your friend but it is illuminating for Catholics.

An excerpt from CCC 1127, “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies.”

So ALL sacraments originate and emanate from God. Humans don’t created it, control it, or define it. Because it’s Christ “at work”, we can surmise the sacraments were with Christ from before the beginning of the human race/time. So, to answer your friend’s question “when did marriage become a sacrament?” my opinion is that **marriage was always a sacrament even when humans didn’t realize there was God. ** (Kind of like there was always gravity even though we didn’t know how to measure it or have equations that predicted the effects of gravity. Gravity existed before us and will exist long after we turn to dust.)

I don’t mean to say every secular ceremony or civil contract is a sacrament. On the contrary, God makes the union of one man and one woman a covenant of faith and love. Faith in God and His Way and love for Him before we love our spouses. I believe you cannot truly love someone else until/unless you love God first. Also, the marriage covenant is similar to God’s covenant with us; it’s not a contract negotiated between 2 equal parties. It’s a binding agreement that lasts beyond the “I do” that’s why the traditional vow includes “in sickness and health” etc. We vow to love our respective spouses forever no matter what happens just as God gives His love to us no matter our sins or unfaithfulness.

I hope I’ve helped in some way. God Bless you. :thumbsup:


Abraham did not have a sacramental marriage.

None of the sacraments may take place without baptism first being given. So that means noone has the sacrament of marriage without it, tho anyone may be married without it. So in a simple way…a person must be a christian(both) before marriage can become a sacrament.


In those old days, women were considered as chattel, to be given away/transacted by their families. The girls didn’t have a say who they marry. It was primarily a business transaction. Upon marriage however, the husband do have some duties and responsibilities towards the wife and Mosaic laws govern them. Wives could come from war captives too.

From the Scriptures it appears the sacrament was made clear when Jesus locked it down in Mat 19:6 “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”.


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