Paul’s Inspired Teachings on Marriage

Students of the New Testament frequently raise the question as to whether or not Paul was ever married. From the viewpoint of modern Latter-day Saints who understand that marriage and family are central to God’s plan of happiness, it seems logical to conclude that one who was called as a special witness of Christ (see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1; Galatians 1:1) would have lived in accordance with all of the gospel law and hence would have been married at some point. But from the New Testament record itself is there evidence that would support that conclusion? Yes. Let me suggest four compelling evidences.

First, Paul came from a Judaic background (see Acts 21:39; Romans 11:1) wherein marriage was viewed, traditionally, as a religious duty of utmost importance. According to an early delineation of the 613 precepts contained in the law of Moses, marriage was listed as the first. Customarily, Jewish men and women married between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, although some were as young as fourteen. It is likely that Paul would have wanted to comply with the traditional religious expectation of marriage. [2]

Second, Paul was a Pharisee (see Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), one of the strictest bodies of Judaism (see Acts 26:5), and prided himself in being a devout adherent to all of Jewish law. Tutored “at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers,” Paul became, by his own admission, “zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3). In fact, Paul described himself as even “more exceedingly zealous” in fulfilling the requirements of the law than were his peers (Galatians 1:14). It seems plausible that Paul’s zealous determination to strictly obey the totality of the law would have extended to marriage. If Paul “lived unmarried as a Jerusalem Pharisee,” noted Frederic Farrar, “his case was entirely exceptional.” [3]

What’s So Good About Original Sin?

I would like to entertain the notion that a secularized conception of original sin is plausible, and that believing it might have good effects.

.. In trying to make the world an excellent place for human beings to live by developing and applying ingenious technologies, for example, we may wind up rendering it uninhabitable. Or in trying to keep ourselves safe and secure by stockpiling defensive weaponry, we may annihilate life on earth. There’s really no need for God’s punishment when you’re making your own hellfire.

.. As Paul told the Romans .. , “I do not know what it is that I accomplish” and “what I wish, this I do not do; instead, what I hate, this I do.”

.. There is some level of self-scrutiny too merciless for most of us, some inner corridor too dark. We are mystified, or purport to be, by mass shooters, for example. What could possibly motivate a person to want to kill — everyone? What could turn them so against their own species? I suggest that to answer a question like that we must look within ourselves — at our own violent fantasies, the ways we hate or negate the world, our moments of imagined annihilation of people we fancy to be our enemies, our feeling at times that we are being arbitrarily persecuted or misunderstood.

.. This insight is not the exclusive province of Christian theology. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “I have within me the capacity for every crime.”

.. We may regard a shooter — or a racist, a sexual predator, an addict or someone who commits suicide (as de Cleyre herself tried to do at least once) — as alien. This reinforces, to ourselves and others, our sense of our own sanity and goodness;

.. The doctrine of original sin — in religious or secular versions — is an expression of humility, an expression of a resolution to face our own imperfections.

.. There is much to affirm in our damaged selves and in our damaged lives, even a sort of dignity and beauty we share in our imperfect awareness of our own imperfection, and our halting attempts to face it, and ourselves.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Faith Expressed as Love

We could say that Christian faith (like many other faiths) was an engine of human cultural evolution when it came on the scene. It introduced new beliefs into human consciousness that liberated millions from older and less helpful beliefs. (Those beliefs themselves may have been liberating and helpful when they were first introduced, but having fulfilled their purpose became unhelpful and even imprisoning.) But eventually, by defining itself as a settled system of beliefs, Christianity . . . became a leash or a locked door impeding ongoing growth instead of a force for liberation and forward movement.

Christian faith (like members of many other faiths) now face this critical question: must we stay where we are, forever defining ourselves as a system of beliefs, or may we migrate to a new understanding of Christian faith as a way of life . . . ? If such a migration is possible, how would we describe that way of life . . . ?

Of the many radical things said and done by Jesus, his unflinching emphasis on love was the most radical of all. Love was the greatest commandment, he said (Matthew 22:37-40). It was his new commandment, his prime directive—love for God, for self, for neighbor, for stranger, . . . and even for enemy, as he himself modeled. The new commandment of love meant neither beliefs nor words, neither taboos, systems, structures nor the labels that enshrined them mattered most. Love decentered [and] relativized everything else; love took priority over everything else. [1]

Early in his life, Paul (then known as Saul) had no time for this kind of love talk. He was a religious-correctness man, not a love man. To guard the purity of his code, he was even willing to kill (Acts 9:1). But Paul was converted, deeply converted, and he migrated from religious correctness to love.

.. In Jesus’s words, they weren’t “abolishing the law,” but rather they were “fulfilling it”—fulfilling its intent, fulfilling its potential (Matthew 5:17). Love was already part of the tradition, as Deuteronomy 6:5 makes clear; they were saying it was the most important part of the tradition. They were decentering old things—religious rules, temples, sacrifice, hierarchies, and the like—and recentering the tradition on love.