This month (May 2018) we will finish our discussion of love and marriage (summary below) and then move to the main focus of the evening:
Does loyalty constitute a family value and what is its importance to family structure?
But, this question raises a host of subsidiary questions: what do we mean by loyalty, especially familial loyalty? A scriptural way of approaching these two questions might be to examine what textual support might there be that could describe and qualify relations such as between parents and their children? Children and their parents? What about aunts and uncles? Second cousins? Then there is the question, what is different about familial loyalty? For example, does the biblical witness make any distinctions between loyalty to one’s friends and loyalty to ones family (including extended family)?
But, to engage this idea fully we need to understand how a biblical family was structured in those days and what were the biblical roles assigned to each member of the family. This part is key, because the biblical definition of loyalty – in both Old and New Testaments – is defined as the extent to which we are faithfull in fulfilling our roles as family members. What then are the roles of the father, mother, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth?
For me personally, the role of women, set forth in the Bible, seems to me to be much different than many Christians and secularists believe the Bible establishes. If you’re interested you might want to read my commentary on Genesis 2:18. I have always found interesting the observation that the Bible’s narratives strongly support the idea of a greater role for women. To this end, I created a podcast a few years ago on this subject. It’s just under 10 minutes long so, if you are so inclined, have a listen.
Podcast: Women and the Flourishing of Mankind
First Meeting, April 2018
Here are my notes from Friday’s Bible Club: Family Values.
Great discussion. Gail and I were very honored to have you all come and enjoy the evening with us. Food was good. Finished off the last of the beans this afternoon. Will get one more meal from the pulled pork this evening. Next month I’m thinking of a somewhat lighter fare: BBQ potato skins stuffed with bacon, beef, peppers, and smothered in melted cheddar cheese. And, for the more health-conscious: some tasty weeds and twigs to go along with the stuffed tubers.
OK, let’s get to it. Here are my notes from the evening.
DISCUSSION: Is ‘love’ between the spouses a family value?
ANSWER: No. It’s a universal value and a necessary one, but not a specific family one.
In both Old and New Testaments godly or self-sacrificial love (agapeo) is ALWAYS used to describe the ‘love’ between spouses (as well as the love between neighbors, foreigners, the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc.). Romantic love (eros) is never used! Period! For completeness, note that biblical Greek uses four words (synonyms) for the English word ‘love’. They are:
agapeo (self-sacrificial love) – 278 occurences in 237 verses in the New Testament.
phileo = brotherly, friendly, impulsive love (also ‘kiss’): 124 occurrences in 138 verses
eros – Erotic, romantic love between spouses. No occurrences in either Old or New testaments.
porneo – Illicit ‘love’ (e.g., fornication, adultery, homosexual acts). 30 occurences in 28 verses in the New Testament
gamos – to marry, marriage, 11 occurrences in 10 verses in the New Testament, mostly in a legal sense, but see 2 & 3 below.
1. Violation of the marriage covenant is akin to adultery (Matt 5:32, 19:9)
2. Marriage is useful as a preventative to male fornication (1 Cor 7:9)
3. Marriage serves as a distraction to a man who would otherwise seek the LORD (1Cor 7:32).
Q: Love in the Song of Solomon?
A: There occur two Hebrew words that can be translated as love in this poem – ahav and dod. Ahav is the general Hebrew word for love. Dod can mean love or lover in the romantic or eros sense. Here are the word frequencies in the Song of Songs:
ahav: 12 hits in 11 verses
dodi: 39 occurrences in 32 verses
דּוֹדִי (dodi): my lover, my uncle. From the root דּוֹדִ (dod) meaning love, lover, uncle. Used in a kinship context dod is usually translated as uncle. In a sexual context dod and its derivations (dodi) are translated as erotic love, lover and almost always means an illicit act or relationship1)With the exception of Isaiah 5:1. In Song of Songs dod means romantic love, but not in a marital context. In this narrative, he relationship between the two lovers is an illicit and objectively secret one – making the relationship all the more romantic.
One gets the same sense from the use of dod in Prov 7:18-19 (“Come let us take our fill of love (דֹדִים – dodim) until morning; let us delight ourselves with love (אֳהָבִים – ahavim) for my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey”).
One final comment on the notion of love and family. In all of Holy Scripture we are commanded to love (agapeo) God, our neighbor, and the stranger/foreigner. But, if love is so important why does God not command the child to love the parent and the parent their children? Instead, we are to fear and honor our parents (even as adults). So what about bad parents? Parents who may have abandoned us or worse? Must we honor them also?
NOTE: this question will give us a clue as to how the Bible’s family structure leads to human flourishing. It’s really cool, trust me.
Now, go and study,
The Bible Club is starting up later this month and will meet once each month at our house here in Missoula (Gail and Michael Peterson) or at our Cabin on Rock Creek. We will host each meeting and provide snacks and adult beverages. Children are welcome – they can participate and/or they play (there’s lots to do). If a child chooses to participate, s/he will be treated like an adult and, as you might imagine, might get boring pretty quickly.
This season our study will be directed to understanding what the Bible has to teach us about family values.
Here’s how the Bible Club works – the study is theme based. This season (Spring, Summer, Fall) the theme is family values. Below, for example, are just a few questions and readings that fall into the family value theme that can serve to get us started.
Why are children not commanded to love their parents? Why are parents not commanded to love their children? Surely those are “family values” – why aren’t they in the Bible?
Genesis 3:16 – how successful are marriages where the husband rules over his wife when she is in distress?
Marriage covenants exist in virtually every culture in all corners of the world. What’s so special or unique about the Judeo-Christian marriage covenant?
Genesis 1:27, 2:18-24 – what does “one flesh” really mean?
Why are their no examples of happy marriages in the Bible? Asked another way, why do the Bible’s authors never, every depict a romantic relationship leading to marriage?
Why were young men in Jesus’s era forbidden to sing the Song of Songs?
Luke 14:26 – Must we hate our family in order to follow Jesus?
What do the following verses have in common? Gen 29:31, 33; 37:4; 1 Sam 13:15; Deut 19:11, Prov 19:7, Prov 13:24, and Isaiah 66:5
What is the principle obligation of parents and to whom are parents so obligated?