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It seems fairly common for Christians to refer to Adam and Eve has being husband and wife. In particular, when (in my experience, evangelical) Christians are discussing questions of sex and marriage, using Adam and Eve as the pattern for creation, they treat the relationship between Adam and Eve as identical to that of our modern understanding of marriage.

One argument against this is that, from what I am aware, Genesis doesn't refer to them using words like "husband", "wife", or "marriage". In the UK, it's becoming increasingly common for couples to live together and start families without actually be married, and a sceptical person may attempt to attribute a similar arrangement to Adam and Eve.

What is the biblical basis for believing Adam and Eve were actually married?

I'm largely interested in answer from an Evangelical perspective, but would accept answer from any denomination in which this is a common belief

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There were no priests then who could marry them. But given that priests are only God's representatives on Earth, God clearly could marry them. Genesis 1:28, already quoted by others, can be understood as a ceremony of marrying:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful ..."

This has both core elements we associate today with a marriage: The blessing and the license to engage in physical procreation.

As an aside, because this seems to be one context of the question: This leaves open the question whether we can consider a couple which is devoted to each other and lives a good Christian life married in the Christian sense even if they have never been married by a priest. They may, after all, have found God's blessing in prayer. Catholics would probably reject this argument, but I am not a Catholic.

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    With respect to Catholics, it'd be a clandestine marriage. From a quick skimming, it looks like the Catholic Church generally requires a priest to perform a marriage whenever possible, though there seem to be exceptions for when getting a priest isn't feasible. – Nat Feb 25 at 13:55
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    @Nat Such as, for example, when the Catholic church won't even exist for N-thousand years. – GalacticCowboy Feb 25 at 21:04
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    To add -- the Catholic Church appears to have required a priest for marriages starting like 500 years ago or something. (To be clear, I just wanted to comment on current Catholic practice. As for Adam and Eve, I mean.. didn't God literally make Eve to be Adam's partner? Feels sorta like asking if Jesus was a Christian.) – Nat Feb 26 at 19:44
  • In the end I've decided this answer the question best: Genesis explains that their relationship demonstrates the core elements of marriage. – Korosia Mar 3 at 11:47
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Genesis 2:24–25 (ESV): Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis pretty clearly views them as husband and wife, even giving their union as foundational to all other marriages.

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    ...Not that the Hebrew distinguishes between "woman" and "wife" here. Both are אִשָּׁה isshah. – Luke Sawczak Feb 24 at 2:27
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    Semantically they are the same word, but that’s not the same as not distinguishing between the two. Replace “wife” with woman in these two verses and it’s still completely obvious that a marriage is in view. – Thomas Markov Feb 24 at 2:31
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    There was not a substantial distinction in English either, with wif meaning female or wife, and wifman (the origin of woman) meaning female human. – Henry Feb 24 at 12:16
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    @ThomasMarkov and Henry: Not quite. To assume that "his woman" means "married" in the same sense that later Biblical writers talked about marriage — a formally recognized union — is circular. It assumes that marriage is already a thing and thus the only way someone can be someone else's woman or man. But if marriage isn't instituted yet, then one can be someone else's man or woman without being their spouse. – Luke Sawczak Feb 24 at 19:07
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    @ThomasMarkov My understanding of 1 Corinthians 6:16 would be that two people who are not married but have sex also become one flesh. So my question is what makes Adam and Eve's relationship different? To be clear: I believe that Adam and Eve were married, I'm just trying to get a precise argument for it, that ignores the circularity Luke mentioned. – Korosia Feb 24 at 20:17
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In Mark 10:9 Jesus says, in the context of marriage, "What God has joined together, let not man separate." Clearly, when you read of the beginnings in Genesis, God brought Adam and Eve together. (Genesis 2: 18-24)

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  • That has to be one of the pithiest, and clearest, scripturally supported answers I've seen on this site. Nice one. Your call, but you may want to drop in a bit from Genesis to support your bottom line. (Though I think that most Christians will get that reference) – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 at 17:42
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    Jesus quoted the Genesis passage in the same context of opposing divorce, implying that Genesis 2:24 speaks of marriage. – WGroleau Feb 26 at 1:44
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The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the section about the sacrament of marriage, states:

1604 God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: "And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'"

1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

Regarding your original concern, a secular vision of marriage as merely a human-made, institutionalised contract may try to deny marriage in Adam and Eve by pointing out the lack of an explicit contract. This is a total reversal of the actual logic of marriage. Marriage is the outcome of a blessing, of spouses subduing to God's will. The institutionalised contract is merely a reflection of this outcome.

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Genesis 2:24 says a husband should be “joined” to his wife. Other translations say he should cling or cleave to her. Today we would say he should bond with her. Besides God, she should be his highest commitment.

Adam was joined to Eve implying marriage.

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    My reading of 1 Corinthians 6:16 would say that "joining" doesn't imply marriage – Korosia Feb 24 at 20:18
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    @Korosia I dunno, I think it DOES imply marriage, which is the entire point of the verse. – MetaGuru Feb 24 at 20:40
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This can only be answered when one defines what it means to be married, and how one becomes married. (For a long long time in rural areas where there was no permanently stationed local priest, many people married one another by by "just" saying they were married, and behaving as if they were married.)

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Simple answer - "Because God!"

In Genesis 1:27-28 God's involvement in the process is made clear:

  • So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; ...

And even clearer in Genesis 2. Thomas quoted the core of this, but the extra detail adds usefully to understanding the process:

Genesis 2: 18-24 (excerpts)

  • The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. ... But for Adam no suitable helper was found. ... Then the Lord God made a woman ... and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ ... That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."

Korosia said:

These verses make it clear that God created man and woman, but I'm not seeing where it explains the connection between that event and a literal marriage between Adam and Eve.

You thought Thomas's answer explained it - but an expanded context example makes it less clear somehow? Yes? || In the NIV Genesis refers to Adam's wife 6 times. As Luke noted, the same word could be translated "woman" but it is still obvious that the context implies wife. For this to have happened then God's active involvement obviously made the difference.

It seems highly clear that when:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. ... But for Adam no suitable helper was found. ... Then the Lord God made a woman ... and he brought her to the man.

as the other animals all had mates, that God is not 'just' meaning the woman is to be a 'helper'. You could try that interpretation, but I doubt that many would find it convincing. And,

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ ...

This he says standing before God. Again, you could see that as Adam 'repurposing his helper into 'one flesh', without God intending it. I doubt that you could sell the idea :-)

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."

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  • I think this answer has a good basis, but for me it illustrates the 'fuzziness' I'm trying to get at with the question. These verses make it clear that God created man and woman, but I'm not seeing where it explains the connection between that event and a literal marriage between Adam and Eve. – Korosia Feb 24 at 11:26
  • @Korosia You thought Thomas's answer explained it - but an expanded context example makes it less clear somehow? Yes? || In the NIV Genesis refers to Adam's wife 6 times. As Luke noted, the same word could be translated "woman" but it is still obvious that the context implies wife. For this to have happened then God's active involvement obviously made the difference. – Russell McMahon Feb 24 at 11:48
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    @Korosia We must avoid the mistake of conflating their marriage with an event. In our culture marriages begin with a wedding, an event that can easily be looked to as the beginning of the marriage. But a wedding ceremony would have made little sense for Adam and Eve. The marriage is their relationship, not some ppoint in time where the relationship began. – Thomas Markov Feb 24 at 13:47
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    @RussellMcMahon Thank you for your extended reply. I'm trying to make sure I've got my head around the argument here. It seems like you're defining marriage as i) a physical relationship, ii) that was initiated in the sight of God. In that sense, this answer is almost a frame challenge: my assertion that "couples [can] live together and start families without actually be married" is wrong, and the Bible would say they are in fact married. – Korosia Feb 24 at 20:29
  • @Korosia Your comment contains two different aspects for response: 1. I'm suggesting (God knows what the exactly right answer is(fortunately)) that God created Eve specifically as Adam's wife. Or as his woman (there previously being none). God "brought her to the man". All the animals were being fruitful and multiplying [tm]. God's intention and purpose for the relationship seems to me to be perfectly clear. (Never any certainty I'm right :-) ). 2. My understanding of people entering a committed relationship before God is that they are married in his sight. How/if that applies to ... – Russell McMahon Feb 24 at 22:52
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Genesis 2:20, NIV: "So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found."

It is evident from scripture that both Adam and God were looking for a suitable sex partner from among the animal kingdom. All the animals were paraded before Adam to both name evaluate as a candidate marriage partner.

God and Adam were willing to consider bestiality in Genesis, and God is immutable and does not change his mind.

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  • I don't agree with the connection between "helper" and "bestiality" here. Also, I don't see how this is an answer to the question I asked. – Korosia Feb 29 at 7:37

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