A Question about Marriage and the Bible – can you help

I’ve been asked an interesting question by the Vice Provost, the Rev Cedric Blakey this week.

The question is this – or at least something like this:

If one were in conversation with a couple considering marriage, which married couples from the bible would you cite as good examples of marriage based on the biblical evidence.

Let us make this easy and restrict things to couples in the bible who could be said to be married in the form that so many people want to tell me is the biblical model for marriage – ie one man and one woman, no sex outside marriage.

I’d be interested to hear your suggestions. Which biblical couples affirm this model?


  1. Savi Hensman says

    Maybe Tobias and Sarah, if one uses a Roman Catholic Bible which includes the Deuterocanonical books?

    • Well, we use the apocrypha at St Mary’s but we tend not to call it a Roman Catholic Bible.

      • Savi Hensman says

        What I meant was that Anglicans (unlike Roman Catholics) do not generally regard their story as part of the Bible, even if useful for example of life and instruction of manners. Finding biblical couples who fit the criteria is pretty hard.

  2. Possibly Priscilla and Aquila as apparently equal partners.

    • Yes – but what is it about their marriage that is exemplary other than the rather unusual fact that they had one.

      • Well there is a limit on how much we know on any of the marriages (we probably have more about Ahab and Jezebel than most).

        Aquila was originally from Pontus (an area of northern Anatolia on the Black Sea) but had lived in Rome with his wife before moving to Corinth after being forced to leave Rome where they met Paul who like them was a tentmaker. They or at least Aquila were Jewish. With Paul they went to Ephesus where they stayed while Paul went on. Together the couple taught Apollos. (According to Acts 18) According to 1 Corinthians 16 they have a church group that meets in their own house.

        Well enough off to afford to move twice (or possibly three times from Pontus to Rome) and to have a house big enough for the small group of Christians in Ephesus to meet which implies some good financial skills (I doubt tentmaking provides lots of excess cash and it doesn’t feel like they have inherited wealth). They always seem to work together in evangelistic effort with apparently Priscilla taking the lead at times (admittedly that might not be “Biblical”).

  3. Bro David says

    Adam & Eve

    Moses & Zipporah

    Boaz & Ruth

  4. Geoff McL says

    So off the bat we’re conceding the exclusion of biblical, married couples who weren’t “biblically married” in the modern mythological sense?

    • For the purposes of this exercise we are looking for straight couples, one man, one woman no sex before marriage. We all know that there are expressions of tenderness, faithfulness and delight that don’t fall within that definition. But those are the rules for this game.

  5. Eric Stoddart says

    Elizabeth and Zechariah might do, and they were suffering social stigma around childlessness. Being struck dumb until naming ceremony doesn’t strike me as normative though.

  6. Patrick says

    Elizabeth and Zechariah? They stuck together until they were both “very old”, through a protracted period of burden, shame, presumed gossiping and social pressure to separate.

  7. Elizabeth says

    Maybe Rebekah and Isaac. I’m not sure if they meet the one man one woman criteria tho I can’t think of any extra wives off the top of my head or any exploitative with slave girls. I like this one as Rebekah negotiates the marriage

  8. Brenda Wallace says

    Well if you assume that Cleopas’ companion on the road to Emmaus was Mrs. Clopas – then – they travel to festivals together, they discuss theology together, they eat and offer hospitality together – would be perfect if we actually knew that they were a married couple.

    • I’d always presumed that Cleopas’s companion was Mr Cleopas…

      • Why do you presume that – there is no evidence. It is most likely they are a married couple who invite Jesus to stay at their home in Emmaus. Emmaus, according to what I have read was a garrison town for the Roman legions and they probably worked in the businesses that thrived as a result.

        • chris says

          I had read that the Emmaus of the legions was not founded till ~70AD and was in a different place, though a few commentators suggest it was a legionary town about the time of Jesus’ death

          • Of course the Gospel of Luke was not written until after the 70AD (most likely). Interesting factoid: the stained glass in St Matthew’s Cathedral in Laramie is of Jesus breaking bread with a man and a woman. The window is across from where the bishop sits and can be see from there across the altar.

      • That is, no evidence of the gender of the unnamed person except that women are not generally named in the Bible.

      • Bro David says

        I’d always assumed it was a bromance, rather than a romance! 😀

  9. marnie barrell says

    Mary and Joseph.

  10. An exacting criteria and one the Bible struggles to fulfil. The patriarchal/subservient model was much in evidence. However, despite mucking up rather badly, I think Adam and Eve good role models. Adam did shift blame onto Eve but he redeemed himself somewhat with “And Adam called his wife’s name “Eve”, because she was the mother of all living.”

    Of the others I like the feisty Esther and the King Ahasuerus who had the good sense to choose her for his Queen. This helped the Jews at that time considerably.

  11. Father David says

    If Dan Brown, rather than the New Testament is to be believed then, how about, Jesus and Mary of Magdala? Or, to be more Orthodox – Jesus and His Bride – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

  12. Father David says

    Not at all silly if you take seriously the Revelation of St. John the Divine and the penitential season of Advent. “Wake, O Wake!” Dean Kelvin “The hour has come, we hear them saying, where are ye all, ye virgins wise? The Bridegroom comes in sight, Raise high your torches bright! Alleluia! The wedding song swells loud and strong; Go forth and join the Festal throng.” So, do please make sure that you have oil in your lamp to keep on burning and be ye not numbered among the foolish virgins.
    Alternatively, how about the anonymous couple who were married at the Wedding Feast at Cana? Simply because they are not named they could stand for each and every married couple willing and ready to make their sacred and binding marriage vows. Judging by the amount of wine that was available post transformation, they must have had one hell of a Wedding Breakfast.

  13. Pam Richmond says

    Perhaps good marriages do not make fascinating stories. Bad or odd marriages, on the other hand…..

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