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In the Bible, when it refers to “two becoming one flesh”, does it mean that

  • the physical act of sex creates a position where both bodies are connected?


  • the flesh (DNA) from the man and and the woman unite to form one flesh (a child derived from both father and mother)?


  • something else entirely?
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I made some edits to your post to make it easier to read. See this page to learn about mark down for your posts. It will help you format them in really effective ways. – fredsbend Mar 13 '13 at 8:33

9 Answers 9

up vote 7 down vote accepted

While I can see a certain level of applicability to the first two points you mention, I think the most meaningful and relevant answer is something else entirely.

If you look at the at-one-ment of Jesus Christ, in terms of what Jesus taught in the intercessory prayer (John 17:20-23), you can see that he is calling for union to take place between those who are believers.

When you look at the structure of what Jesus Christ organized, you can see a system of ordinances that have covenants coupled with them. Just as a man and a woman enter into a marriage covenant and become "one flesh" so too do believers who join together in a body form a body of one flesh.

So, as I see it, the concept of "one flesh" means that multiple individuals join together in covenant and are organized into some kind of a greater collective identity that can be looked at as its own distinct individual entity.

The marriage between a man and a woman is simply one example of it on one level, but the underlying concept is applicable on a more universal scope at varying levels.

Paul teaches another example of this where in Ephesians 5:30 he says that everyone who joined the Church of Christ is a member of the body of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones.

And, in actuality, as members of the church they are members of the body of the Bride of Christ. But, since Christ and His Bride are married and "one flesh" then Christ can say of the church members that they are "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" just as Adam said to Eve. (Genesis 2:23)

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+1 This is clearly explained, and a specific, new perspective on the original question. I was also thinking about the intercessory prayer, and Christ's plea that we become one. So as well as the asker's first two points, other types of unity could be another way to view this commandment. – Matt Apr 20 '13 at 4:53
The "one flesh" denotes the intimacy that is achieved between husband and wife. – One Face Feb 12 at 16:48

St. Paul assumes the quote to be talking about the intercourse in 1 Kor 6, 16

16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh"

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Curious if the original writing says the two WILL become one flesh. That provides evidence towards it representing a child being conceived in my mind. (And to the other's point, yes this as with most things in the Old Testament is surely referring of something in simile that is to come; that being the union of Christ and the Church at the end of days.) – Albert Renshaw Feb 13 at 4:13

The saying the Bible "The two become one flesh" is almost always in reference to marriage and all that it means.

The saying is found in Genesis 2:24, when God instituted marriage, Mark 10:8, when Jesus was commenting on the permanent nature of marriage, and Ephesians 5:31, when Paul uses marriage as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the church.

The full extent of the verses in Genesis is:

23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

In Ephesians, when Paul quotes Genesis he says "This mystery is profound," then moves back on topic about Christ and the church. This really only tells us that it is likely we cannot really understand the connection between a man and a woman in marriage.

The only truly reveling verse is Mark 10:8. Jesus is directly questioned if divorce is acceptable. He responds by quoting Genesis then says "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." This is simply that marriage is permanent. You cannot leave your marriage because God joined the two together.

There is a similar question here that should shed more light on the topic.

Summary in short: "Two become one flesh" is about marriage and the mysteries within that institution.

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I should note that I think the mystery that Paul was talking about exists because Adam and Eve lived and were married in the perfection of the Garden. Because of sin we cannot understand the perfection of marriage that they must have enjoyed. – fredsbend Mar 13 '13 at 8:27

When man and woman have sex they enter a state called "one flesh" regardless of whether they are virgin or married or in fact having sex with a prostitute. You can be "one flesh" with many but God intends only one (living). "One flesh" is a state of spiritual union initiated by a fleshy act which can only be ended by death. The act of marriage creates a physical union and this should correspond with the spiritual union , so sex and marriage go together, even if the sex comes first. Jesus made a definitive statement on sex and marriage in Matthew 19.4 onwards which has deep spiritual meaning as well as a very simple literal meaning ; we wouldn't expect less from the top spirit himself. Over the years the Church has emphasised the marriage union and shied away from the "one flesh union" because it can easily control the former. The bible is a spiritual guide and the words used don't always do justice to the message. To those of you who have received messages from the Holy Spirit you will recall that you receive the message not in words; but your brain assigns words to it in a clumsy when we read the Bible we ask the Holy Spirit to give us the understanding.

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Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites?. Also What makes a good supported answer? – David Sep 1 '13 at 13:23

I believe, as was stated by Chris, that "one flesh" is essentially created by the act of physical union in the act of sexual intercourse and I do believe that this is by God's design. Sexual activity was never meant to be taken lightly and was never meant to be something between many partners but between one man and one woman.

I say this because of what it says about sexual activity in the bible it also from personal experience. I believe firmly that a spiritual bonding takes place during the physical act that is not easy to dissolve. Having multiple partners outside of marriage creates multiple spiritual bonds and interferes with any future permanent relationship. I also personally believe that these bonds need to be recognized, confessed and renounced before God if they are not to cause a problem within the marriage relationship.

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Welcome to C.SE! When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. While I agree with everything you say, typically we aren't looking for personal opinion here, but rather sourced Scripture, Tradition, or other theological statements. This is well written, and I look forward to more, but it would be better with sources. – Affable Geek Oct 9 '13 at 20:49

One flesh - Connected sexually first. The result is "one flesh", a newborn baby that is "one flesh" of the woman and man who joined together.

Also it means the two of you are now one "until death do (you) part". One team raising a family. One set of loving parents guiding their children. One set of legs, arms, eyes, mind working to fulfill the will of God.

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In the old testament the Tabernacle and later, the Temple, was the dwelling place of the essence of God on earth. It was the center of Spiritual life. After Pentecost, our human bodies became The Temple where the Spirit "in dwells."

During the act of procreation, the male and female bodies are indeed conjoined as one, but this temporary union always ends with the death of the sperm and egg; unless a new beautiful human life is created. God's purposes are to bring life, not death. The new birth, is a lovely, unique human being created by the "union" of the mother & father's individual DNA. "Therefore the two become one." This beautiful and unique union cannot be denied by any one. Not the father, mother or the child, no matter how much they may wish is to be so. It cannot be undone nor torn apart.

But in God's Kingdom, this new birth means much more than a new "human being." Jesus was begotten, not made. He exists through all time. But when a child is born, don't we believe a new "eternal being" is created at that moment? This is a life giving, eternal an act of co-creation with God, not a crude, temporary act of procreation between two worldly creatures. For the child is a new eternal being! And not only eternal, but an eternal being created in the image of God. And not just in God's image, but ultimately, becomes temple for The Holy Spirit. A sanctuary for God's presence on earth. The new place from which Spiritual life on this planet emanates. The Holy Spirit is to become that child's Advocate, Counselor, Comforter and Intercessor for the glory of God on earth and in the heavens...

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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites Please also take the tour and see the help center. I hope to see you post again soon. Please also keep in mind that I and other users are willing to help you, so ask us anything if you need help. – fredsbend Feb 12 at 1:50

One flesh is caused by sexual intercourse, and nothing more. But one flesh itself is the state of being metaphorically and spiritually one body with another. The wife's body does not belong to her, but to her husband, and vice versa, because they are one flesh and their bodies are the same. (1 Cor 7). Similarly, we are one in spirit with Christ, and our bodies do not belong to us, but to Him, as His body belongs to us, as He gave it to us on the cross. (1 Cor 6:17) Paul says this is a mystery, but in the Greek, mystery does not mean "something that is unknowable." HELPS Dictionary says this about mysterion:

the Bible, a "mystery" (3466 /mystḗrion) is not something unknowable. Rather, it is what can only be known through revelation, i.e. because God reveals it.[some][3]

Consequently, ALL mysteries are only mysteries after they have been revealed, for we don't know about them until they are revealed to us!

"Marriage is a mystery." Christ, in His divinity, revealed that His relationship to us is analogous to a marriage, and that is the full extent of the "mystery" of marriage.One flesh ties into all of that because we are one spirit with Christ. We enter into a one spirit relationship with a singular act of faith, and similarly, for our bodily unions we enter into a one flesh relationship with a singular act of physical union. That is, sex.

1 Cor 6:16 Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “ The two will become one flesh .”

The grammar Paul uses here suggests that he is equating one body to one flesh, as the transitional word gar is used, which denotes causation. This gives us the assurance that sex causes two people to become one flesh.

Matt 19:3-6 Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female , and said, ‘ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh ’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus says that it is God who puts together two people into one flesh. According to Paul, this means that God puts together those who are one flesh whenever they have sex. And then Jesus states that what God has put together, let no man separate.

The ramifications of this are not hard to see. If sex makes you one flesh, and those who are one flesh are not to separate, then that means they must cleave to each other. Sounds a bit like a marriage, does it not? And considering that Jesus was speaking on divorce, it seems likely that He was insinuating that you become married, and thus able to divorce and commit adultery in God's eyes upon having sex. This certainly would explain the plethora of verses on adultery and adulterous people in the Old Testament and the great lack of passages of premarital sex.

The story that speaks the most evidence into this definition of one flesh equating to sex equating to marriage is the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in Gen. 29.

Jacob and Rachel were betrothed, which in Hebrew culture meant they were husband and wife by covenant (v. 21), but they did not have sex. According to Hebrew custom, Jacob paid a dowry to Laban, the father, for Rachel (v. 18). Then they held a wedding feast for Jacob and Rachel with many people there, presumably also within Hebrew customs (v. 22). According to our standards today, Jacob and Rachel were at this point more than married enough to be considered united and separated from Laban. They were married under a covenant, and they had a wedding. Yet when Jacob has sex with Leah, we see that he has to pay another 7 year dowry for Rachel, again! Apparently those dowries went to whoever you ended up having sex with, not the person you made a covenant with. The covenant meant basically nothing in terms of the right to "own" Rachel, it would seem.

From the other angle, let us consider Leah's marriage to Jacob. Leah and Jacob were not betrothed, or Jacob would not have been angry upon having sex with her (v. 25). The wedding was not for Jacob and Leah, or Jacob would have known about the deception. Yet when Leah and Jacob have sex, apparently the dowry transfers to her, and Jacob apparently has to agree to keep her as his wife in order to obtain Rachel. Sounds an awful lot like sex made them married, despite the lack of covenant.

Now let's look at the story from Laban's perspective. Laban knew all along that he was going to deceive Jacob into having sex with Leah. But here's the thing: what purpose would deception serve if sex has no inherent commitment? Laban would essentially just lower Leah's virgin status needlessly, as the sex would constitute just premarital sex, and he would have angered his potential son-in-law needlessly, and in this day, such a thing was potentially mortal in danger.

No, the only way Laban's plan of deceit makes sense is if he has the capability of "tricking" Jacob into marrying Leah, which points directly to the idea that sex is marriage. Conversely, the only thing lacking in Jacob and Rachel's marriage was sex, and without that, Jacob could not have left Laban's household without her.

Now there are laws in Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 that show us that Hebrew law dictated exactly these consequences for this situation, but we cannot simply say that sex is marriage here because the law said so. No, we must say the law said so because sex is marriage, because this story happens hundreds of years before those laws were ever given!

The ramifications are far reaching, and there is far more discussion to be had about the idea that sex is one flesh is marriage, as well as many more proofs, but I will leave it at this.

To more specifically answer your question, one flesh is begun at the point of sexual intercourse, but it is not intercourse itself. One could say that it is, along with being metaphorically the same body, the state of perpetual possibility of conception. Even with barren people, the possibility of conception is there because God is in control of conception, as we see with Abraham and Sarah. If you are opening the door to conception to God, then you are one flesh.

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Welcome to Stack Exchange. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the site tour and how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. This is not a comment on the quality of your answer, but rather a simple welcome. – ThaddeusB Aug 1 at 14:54

You all need to stop looking through your human eyes, applying your human logic, trying to use your human understanding of what 'one flesh' really means. Instead, look at 'one flesh' from the Creator's perspective, from God's perspective. What do you think God sees at the union of a man & a woman in marriage? From that moment forward, at the creating of the covenant of marriage between a man & a woman, God then sees them as 'one flesh'. Whenever He sees the Husband He also sees the Wife & vice versa. One flesh has nothing to with sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife. No matter how many times they may be intimate they always remain two flesh. Consider the war veteran who returns home with his genitals blown away by a landmine, he marries but is unable to have sexual intercourse with his wife. Is he and is wife excluded from being 'one flesh' because they can't have intercourse? Of course not, God sees them as 'one flesh' from the moment they enter into their marriage covenant with Him. Is the husband and wife who are not able to have children excluded from being 'one flesh'? Of course not, God sees them as 'one flesh' from the moment they enter into their marriage covenant with Him.

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Welcome to Stack Exchange. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the site tour. In particular, be sure to read the section on what constitutes a good answer and revise your post to be less opinion based (i.e. "According to X, ..." instead of just stating your opinion) and to cite references to back your position. – ThaddeusB Jul 22 at 14:16
This site is about what groups and denominations of Christians believe rather than what individual Christians think. See: How we are different than other sites. Your answer is likely to get downvoted if it isn't revised to state what denominational perspective it represents, or at least provide some references to Bible passages or church writings that support the statements made in it. – Lee Woofenden Jul 22 at 17:28
I like this answer alot. It's very logical, the examples you gave at the end make it obvious that "one flesh" is much more than just physical actions. However the overwhelming condescending attitude that prefaced this whole answer just makes me want to close this tab.. and I think I'll do that now. – Albert Renshaw Jul 22 at 18:08

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