For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)
[For anyone interested in learning something about the verse above, skip on down a bit – for anyone interested in how life is lived inside my mind, read on.]
Today I spent some time looking over a few verses that illustrate the relationship between Christ and the Church. I didn’t really have a purpose, other than to become more familiar with the references. The one above stood out to me, particularly the word, “betrothed.” I usually read from the ESV, but when a word like that pops up – one I don’t see often – I tend to look at other translations just to see what else might have been meant in the original Greek.
Here’s what I got:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. – NIV
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. – KJV
Not a lot of help.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty good idea what Paul means. He’s saying, “I’m the guy who led you (the Corinthians) to Jesus.” Simple enough. But it still didn’t answer if the word itself had any weight or if it was just a convenient way to depict Paul’s relationship to them. So I kept looking.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible had this to say:
For I have espoused you … – The word used here (Phonetic Spelling: harmozō) means properly “to adapt, to fit, to join together.” Hence, “to join in wedlock, to marry.” Here it means to marry to another; and the idea is, that Paul had been the agent employed in forming a connection, similar to the marriage connection, between them and the Saviour…Under him they had been brought into a relation to the Saviour similar to that sustained by the bride to her husband…The relation of the Church to Christ is often represented by marriage; see Ephesians 5:23-33; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:9.
Barnes’ basically said what I did in way more words, so it wasn’t much help. however, the Greek word stood out to me for no other reason than that “harmozō” sounded like “harmonize.” So I finally broke down and looked at the Greek.
As far as I can tell, the Greek word that is translated “betrothed,” in 2 Cor 11:2 doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Greek texts, however, its root, “harmos'” (well maybe not a root – I don’t know koine Greek – but it’s kinda sorta the same word…according to the interweb) means a joining or joint of the body.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints (harmōn)and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Genesis 2:24? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Okay, so I finally saw that Paul making clear that we are the bride…so all that to say the translations were right on.
Awesome. Since that whole exercise wasn’t much help in understanding the verse, I reverted to considering the context…yeah. That usually (always) makes more sense.
[IF YOU WERE SKIPPING AHEAD, START HERE]
The verse, in context, highlights the importance of sound doctrine. Paul uses marriage imagery to illustrate the gravity of the church accepting or adhering to false doctrine: when we stray from the true Gospel that Paul and the Apostles preached, it’s like an engaged woman sleeping with some random man before her wedding. Paul reminds the bride (here, the Church at Corinth, generally the Church as a whole) that her Husband is coming back soon so she better straighten up. Paul is adamant that he is not interested in seeing Christ’s bride show up on the wedding day looking like some misguided, theological whore; Paul is interested in purity.
So what does this teach me about marriage? [This is where you click away if you are easily offended]
If Christians want to even be able to heed Paul’s warnings, we have to know what the heck a marriage is supposed to look like, otherwise the imagery is useless. God intended us to learn something about Him through marriage and anything that perverts that picture could cause a bit of theological confusion. This is exactly why Christians SHOULD be concerned with what our culture has done to marriage. Sadly, it usually isn’t. Instead, Christians tend belt out useless phrases like, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” to “defend” our position. What does that accomplish? It makes us look like idiots and it insults people who disagree with us…that’s not exactly much help.
Really, this is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 11:2 – so many of us (me included) have such a weak understanding of the Gospel that we can’t see the attacks on it and we certainly can’t defend our cause. Biblical Marriage is quickly losing ground in the market place of ideas. If you disagree, google it and get back to me. Christians should be fighting for Biblical marriage so that verses like 2 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, and Revelation 19 to 21 make sense when we read them. Instead, we seem to fight over marriage to just prove non-believers wrong and flaunt our own “righteousness” to the world. This is of no benefit to us and it certainly isn’t moving any non-believer toward Christ.
Christians, it’s time to get our thinking straight about marriage, otherwise language like the “bride of Christ,” will just sound like a theory from “The Da Vinci Code.”
– Grace and Peace.