That verse

There is a verse in the bible that’s almost verbatim quoted in the Pentateuch, the Gospels and the Epistles. I feel that this verse is a bit ignored.

“That is why (for this reason) a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

This verse appears in Gen 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7,8 and Ephesians 5:31.

Paul again quotes a portion of the verse in 1 Cor 6:16 “The two will become one flesh”.

Bizarrely enough we’ve heard much about this small portion of the original verse rather than the whole of the verse.

In most cultures of the world for most of history this verse has been rarely followed. The man rarely leaves his father and mother in fact in most traditions including Christian ones the woman joins up to the be the junior member in the man’s family’s household. Even in the modern West when there’s a kind of traditional wedding it is the bride that’s given away.

(I’m not fully sure how it works in matrilineal societies and from my brief, lazy Wikipedia read I can’t make out how it works.)

Paul seems to say that this verse is a mystery but it feels as though he is referring to the “one flesh” bit. And that does definitely seem to be a mystery but what’s so mysterious about a man leaving his father and mother? And why doesn’t it happen?

It could be argued that in modern urban centres it does happen but it has to be said that leaving father and mother doesn’t happen in order to be united with one’s wife. It happens because of study or career considerations. And in many cases in urban India the wife does move in with the husband in his parents’ home.

What makes this striking is that the Israelites themselves didn’t follow it.

So I come away with many questions from this verse.

What does it mean for the man to leave his father and mother in order to get married?

Has the so called “decadent”, “no family values” West actually got something right?

Does this point to our deep and dark acceptance of patriarchy? And our acceptance of traditional roles for male and female?

I love the bible for leading me to think. I don’t love it so much for leading me to act.


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