Some folks believe that America should be subject to biblical law rather than constitutional law, that public servants— like Kentucky clerk Kim Davis—owe their highest allegiance to the Bible, which means they shouldn’t be forced to give out unbiblical marriage licenses—like to gay couples.
The issue, obviously, is contested by a host of liberals, secularists, Satanists and moderate Christians. But assuming that Bible believers and religious freedom advocates carry the day, public servants will need to know their Good Book. I have written elsewhere about biblical justice (If the Bible were Law Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty? and Bible vs Quran—Test Your Knowledge of Who Deserves Death in Which Religion), and readers found those lists illuminating. So, I thought folks might appreciate the following 20 item quiz, which can be used to screen applicants for county clerk positions or as a guide for those already working the job.
If Kentucky issues only biblical marriage licenses, to which of the following couples should a county clerk grant a license?
- A man with a consenting woman, but without her father’s permission.
No. Numbers 30:1-16 teaches that a single woman’s father has final authority over legal contracts she may enter.
- A man, a nonconsenting woman, and her father.
Yes. According to the Law of Moses a female is male property, as are slaves, livestock, and children. (See Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:7). Her father can give her in marriage or sell her to a slave master. Female consent in the Bible is not a prerequisite for marriage or sex.
- A married man and three other women.
Yes. The Old Testament endorses polygamy, and the New Testament does not reverse this—except for church elders (1 Timothy 3:2). (See Biblicalpolygamy.com)
- A childless widow and her husband’s reluctant brother.
Yes. Genesis 38:8-10 makes it clear that a man has a responsibility to seed children for his deceased brother. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus doesn’t alter the tradition but does say it will no longer apply in heaven. (Matthew 22:24-28)
- Two men.
No. Leviticus is clear. Two men having sex is an abomination, just like eating shellfish, getting tattoos, shaving your beard, or wearing blend fabrics. (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 11:9-12, 19:28, 19:27)
- Two women.
No, not even with their fathers’ permission. Paul’s epistle to the Romans (1:26) says that this is degrading and unnatural.
- A man and a divorced woman.
No. Unless her husband divorced her because he found out that she wasn’t a virgin when they married, anyone who marries a divorced woman is committing adultery. A marriage license in this case would be an adultery license. (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9)
- A woman and a divorced man.
No. A man who divorces his wife and remarries is committing adultery. (Luke 16:18)
- A Christian and a Hindu.
No. The Apostle Paul calls this being unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). If the applicants balk at your refusal, you might respond gently with Paul’s own words: “What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?”
- A soldier and a virgin prisoner of war.
Yes, but you should provide written instructions on the purification ritual required before bedding her. The soldier must shave her head and trim her nails and give her a month to mourn her parents before the first sex act. Also, remind him that if she fails to ‘delight’, he must set her free rather than selling her. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
- A rapist and his victim.
Yes, with qualifiers. The woman’s consent is not an issue, but her father should be present as he is owed 50 shekels (approximately $580) for the damage to his daughter. Also, the contract should have an addendum stating clearly that no divorce will be allowed. The rapist must keep her for life since, obviously, no one else will want the damaged goods. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
- A man and his wife’s indentured/undocumented servant.
Yes, although you might remind the man that in this case a marriage license is not a prerequisite to sex, since community property laws apply. However, should God bless this union with babies, any offspring will belong to the man and his wife, not the indentured woman. (Genesis 30:1-22)
- A man and his mother, sister, half-sister, mother-in-law, grandchild, or uncle’s wife.
Probably not. Although God’s law is timeless and unchanging, He does seem to shift on this one. In the book of Genesis, God rewards marriages between siblings—for example, the Patriarch Abraham and his half-sister Sarah. But later texts specifically prohibit a variety of incestuous relationships. (e.g. Lev. 18:7-8; Lev. 18:10; Lev. 20:11; Deut. 22:30; Deut. 27:20; Deut. 27:23)
- A man and a 13-year-old girl.
Yes. Like the Quran, the Bible puts no lower limit on the marriageability of girls. A father can give or sell his daughter into marriage at whatever age he deems appropriate. Tradition suggests that Mary the mother of Jesus was impregnated in her early teens. One gospel that didn’t make it into the Catholic/Protestant Bible puts her betrothal to Joseph at age 12.
- A black woman and a white man, or vice versa.
Absolutely not. Scripture is full of verses prohibiting interracial marriage. (Gen. 28:6; Exod. 34:15-16; Num. 25:6-11; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-8; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2, 12; Ezra 10:2-3, 10-11; Neh. 10:30; Neh. 13:25-27)
- A gentile and a Jew.
No. If the Jew should appeal to the Anti-Defamation League, remind them of how dangerous such a union could be: “Thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
- A man and a pregnant woman who claims to be a virgin.
Yes. You may feel personal misgivings about a marriage that is based in deception from the get-go, but judge not that ye be not judged. One in 200 American women who give birth say they have never had sex. Rather plaguing this young couple with your corrosive doubt, you can encourage them with the biblical virgin birth story, while taking care to avoid any sex-negative implications that might harm their marriage.
- A man and a goat.
Don’t be ridiculous. Can a goat sign a marriage license?
- A man and a sex-trafficked teen he bought from a gangster.
Yes, but not until Kentucky legalizes sex trafficking. Sexual slavery is quite common in the Bible, well regulated (For example, Judges 21 ), and frequently sanctioned or blessed by God. However, the New Testament teaches that we should pay our taxes and be law abiding, even under a secular/pagan government. (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17)
- Two zombies.
Only if they are not Christians. Jesus states clearly that there will be no marriage for Christians in the afterlife (Matthew 22:24-28). Otherwise, marriage between the dead or undead is not addressed in the Bible, and you should default to whatever the Supreme Court may have ruled on this matter.
Note: Some liberal Christian license seekers may complain to you or your supervisor that these guidelines come mostly from the Old Testament, which has been replaced by a New Covenant under Jesus. Ask them if the Old Testament is still part of their Bible. Remind them that the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament—all three versions. Lastly, quote the words of Jesus:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5: 17-19).
Stand firm. If the Bible is the perfect Word of the living God, your detractors are up against the Almighty himself. As the spiritual warfare hymn reminds us, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you and the hordes of (liberal, gay, atheist, feminist, zombie) darkness cannot quench your light.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.