Thursday, May 03, 2007

Uniting with the "Other": A Christological Speculation on the OT Anti-Consanguinity Laws

As I argued in brief in the previous post, and elsewhere (see, e.g., my August 4, 2006 post on the Bitter Waters' test of Numbers 5), the regulation of sexual relations in the Bible is only secondarily concerned with human sexuality. It's main referent is the relationship between Yahweh and his bride/church. I think that we often miss this message because we conflate which marriage is the type and which is the anti-type. When we read that Israel/the church is the Lord's bride, I suspect that we usually think that the author is analogizing the relationship of the Lord to his church with the human marriage relationship. Lord/church is the analogy while human marriage is the reality.But I'd argue that this gets it exactly backward. The real marriage is that between God and his church; human marriage is only a type of that primary marriage.

So I would argue that all of the teaching dealing with sex in the Bible should be read Christologically: the immediate application is to the relationship between God and his bride. Human marriage is of course the type or picture of that relationship, and so must be governed by that teaching as well. Mutatis mutandis, God's relationship to his church is revealed in and through the human marriage relationship. Maintaining the clarity of that picture or revelation is what the laws dealing with sexual relations in the OT are concerned with.

So what about the OT laws forbidding marriage/sexual relations within a certain degree of consanguinity (see, e.g., Lev 18 & 20)?

Here's a speculation.

I'd argue that these laws teach us is that the husband must make a bride of the "other," i.e., it unites two fleshs into one flesh. The husband must reach beyond those who are of his own flesh, that is, beyond those in his own family, and must join with someone with whom he is not already united. He can only join with a woman who is, as it were, an other or a stranger in the flesh.

Recall that Gn 2.24 provides that husband and wife "shall become one flesh." I think the "one flesh" not only suggests biological children, who are literally "one flesh" of the parents, but also means a spiritual or mystical union that seems to arise between a man and a woman who have sex (cf., 1 Co 6.16). Both by the union that marriage and sex create, people of two fleshes are made into one flesh.

So the upshot of the anti-consangunity laws is that they require a potential bridegroom to seek a bride only from those who have different flesh than he has.

If the point be granted, then the Christological upshot seems apparent: Fallen humanity is the complete other to Christ. We are Christ's enemy. Being fallen, our flesh has no life in it, only death. So we are utterly unrelated to Chrsit; we have no consanguinity at all with Jesus. Yet the church's bridegroom, Christ, reaches out to us and brings us near, uniting our flesh to his, making us "one flesh" with his own, and thereby redeeming us. In this way, the anti-consanguinity laws in the OT point us to the Gospel.


Blogger CPA said...

Interesting: here's a related thought I've had.

Incest is the opposite of homosexuality.

Think of it as the question of to replay or not to replay in the marital family the love relationships in the birth family.

In incest, the boy (I'm going to start with that perspective, 'cause it's what I know) simply turns the birth family love into marital love, without changing objects.

In homosexuality, the boy creates a family which has nothing in common with the family in which he grew up.

Proper marital love recreates it but with a different object, a new set of characters.

May 04, 2007 7:24 PM  

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