Margaret Court is wrong to claim marriage is “a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible”, as she did in her open letter to Qantas, or that a “biblical view” of marriage is between one man and one woman, as she did on Channel Ten’s The Project last week. She is even more wrong to suggest she is being persecuted for her views.
Here is why.
Reading the Bible to determine the shape of contemporary marriage is not an easy task. It is an ancient collection of 66 books, written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic), and spanning over 1,000 years of human history. Much of the Bible was written 2,500 years ago, when family life was very different.
In the Hebrew scriptures, Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife, and Moses likely had two wives (one of whom is presented as problematic because she was a foreigner). Famous biblical kings, like David and Solomon, had entire palaces full of often dubiously acquired wives and concubines that served as symbols of their power and status.
The reality is families in the Bible reflect the patriarchal structures of their period. Women were considered commodities to be married off for political alliances, economic reasons, or to keep families connected. They had no autonomy to choose their partners.
Polygamy was common, as was the use of slaves as sexual concubines. I don’t hear anyone advocating a “biblical view” of marriage suggesting we return to those particular scenarios.
In the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce. This teaching is widely ignored by many Christian denominations today. Most likely, Jesus’ concern in speaking against divorce was for the vulnerable place in which it left women, given they could not usually earn their own money or inherit.