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  1. #1
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    Cousin Marriages

    Christianity & Cousin Marriages

    Introduction

    No website dealing with cousin relationships would be complete without exploring the Christian viewpoint. Christianity is a very large tent. From Appalachian snake handlers to the majestic liturgy of Eastern Orthodoxy, Christian beliefs run the full gamut. In this discussion, we will consider only the biblical history and acceptance of cousin relationships, as opposed to institutional creeds. (For a complete discussion on the Catholic Church, please see our Chat with an Expert page.)

    For much of the world's population, the Bible is the final authority on right and wrong. This is true both of devout Christians as well as those who may have some vague, indiscernible root in the Christian faith. Perhaps Christianity was the faith of one's parent or grandparent, and although the individual does not particularly follow the faith, they were ingrained from childhood that God is the ultimate authority, and the Bible is God's instruction book to mankind.

    Whether one truly believes in the Bible or not, it seems to have become a social standard to attribute one's own assumptions of right from wrong on scripture. Unfortunately, many times the person who claims that something is "a sin against God," or that an individual will "burn in Hell" for his actions or lifestyle have no clear understanding of what Scripture says on the subject. Perhaps even more unfortunate is that many preachers, priests, and theologians have also allowed society to cloud their judgment on the issue, rather than to study what the Bible has to say on the subject for themselves.

    A look at Leviticus

    The Bible has a great deal to say about cousin marriage, and not once does it say anything negative. To the contrary, all references to cousin marriage in scripture are 100% supportive. Let's look first at how the Bible defines sexual impurity, in Leviticus chapter 18. God tells us that we are not to have sexual relations with the following:

    • any close relative (which you will clearly see does not include cousins)
    • your mother
    • your father's wife
    • your sister, (whole or half) "whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere" (v.9)
    • your grandchild
    • the daughter of your father's wife (step-sister)
    • your father's sister (aunt) "as she is your father's close relative"
    • your mother's sister (aunt) "as she is your mother's close relative"
    • your father's brother's wife (aunt)
    • your son's wife
    • your brother's wife
    • with both a woman and her daughter
    • your wife's sister as a rival wife (to spite your first wife)
    • during "uncleanness of her monthly period"
    • with your neighbor's wife
    • with a member of the same sex; the Bible says "that is detestable"
    • with an animal; the Bible refers to this as "a perversion"


    Those who oppose cousin marriage often use "any close relative" to base their opposition on. Others will say that just because cousins aren't specifically referred to doesn't mean God didn't mean to include them. They insist this list is just a general rule of thumb, not an all-inclusive command.

    I disagree. Leviticus is a book of law. It is very specific and very definitive. The passage begins with "any close relative", and proceeds to describe all that God defines as near kin, followed by other sexual acts which God forbids. To say that God meant to include cousins is to assume God made a mistake. To say that it is only a general list, you must wonder why God was so very specific that he included beastiality, homosexuality, and sex during a woman's menstrual cycle. Furthermore, the Scripture clearly and unmistakably defines an aunt (a mother's or father's sister) as the parent's close relative, not as one's own.

    Now you may wonder why Leviticus forbids a man to marry his aunt, but not a woman to marry her uncle. Some may use that as proof that God gave only generalities. This is a common misunderstanding; however, God did not forbid uncles and nieces from marriage. Why the double standard?

    First let me explain that society changes. Culture changes. God does not change. What was common during Biblical times is not acceptable by today's standards. That being said, let's examine why God would allow a man to marry his niece but would not allow a woman to marry her nephew.

    When a woman was left widowed, the men in her husband's family were required to take responsibility of the woman. The deceased husband's nearest kin was commanded to take her as his wife. If she had borne no children to her husband, her firstborn to his relative was to be the legitimate heir to the deceased spouse. However, the nearest kin was also required to have the approval of his first wife before taking on a second. If the first wife was opposed to the marriage, or was related to the widow within the defined prohibitions, then she became the responsibility of the next nearest kin. The brother of the deceased was generally the obvious choice, although a widow's marriage to her father in law was fairly common. Because cousin marriage was allowed by God's law, and was in fact commanded of many individuals throughout scripture, the deceased husband's nearest relative was often the widow's uncle. If neither a brother nor father to the deceased was an option, the next nearest kin appears to have always followed a lateral or ascending direction. In no instance did a widow become the marital responsibility of her late husband's son, or his brother's son.

    I will briefly list some of the individuals commanded or otherwise instructed in scripture to marry a cousin. For further information on these individuals and the circumstances, you may choose to read the scriptural passages associated with each. More detailed information will be included in the forthcoming book, which will be made available on this website upon completion.

    Biblical Cousin Marriages

    Each of the following individuals in scripture were in the lineage of Mary, Christ's mother, or Joseph, his "earthly" father, who were chosen by God to raise His son. Most, if not all, occurred (chronologically) after the time in which Levitican law was written.

    Zelophehad's daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. Zelophehad's daughters, Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah, married their cousins on their father's side.

    (Numbers 36: 1-11)

    Milcah, one of Zelophehad's daughters, was married to her cousin Nahor. They had a grand daughter named Rebekkah. In Genesis 24:48-51, the story unfolds of how, against all odds, God's direction for her to marry her cousin's son Isaac (first cousin once removed) is made crystal clear.

    Isaac and Rebekkah had two son's. Jacob was the son whom was blessed to fulfill God's prophecy that the descendant's of Abraham (Jacob's grandfather, Isaac's father) would become a great nation. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebekkah's brother. Although he immediately fell in love and became engaged to his cousin Rachel, his uncle tricked him into first marrying Rachel's sister Leah. Although God blessed Jacob greatly, Jacob suffered much grief and heartache for having married both sisters. Jacob's descendants became what is now known as the twelve tribes of Israel. (Genesis chapters 19 and 29)

    In I Chronicles 23:22, Eleazar's daughters married their first cousins. Very little detail is given of this event.

    Conclusion

    Biblical prohibitions of cousin marriage reside only in the minds of the unlearned. We can find many instances of where God had blessed cousin marriage. In fact, the Catholic Dictionary finds that Christ's parents-- Joseph & Mary-- were first cousins. Protestants come to the same conclusion. Do I believe that Joseph and Mary were first cousins? It's likely, but I do not need this to validate my relationship. It will be fun to tease Joseph and Mary a bit when I get up there.


    Copyright 2006 KC & Christie Schuler Smith for CUDDLE International

  2. #2
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    All that is mentioned about this issue is Old Testament. Some believe that the gene pool was not as corrupted by sin and there were less likely to be problems back then.
    Personally I do not see a problem unless it is first cousins. When someone marries to close to his own family there is an unfortunate tendency towards birth defects in their offspring.
    Psa 62:5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

  3. #3
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    Hi brother.

    I actually differ on this because of one main reason: nowhere in the Bible is marrying a cousin condemned, forbidden by GOD. So because of that, anything about genetic defects is void and something of the world's opinion, in my opinion.

    A child can be born with problems no matter who you marry. When you have GOD's grace on you in Jesus Christ, nothing else matters. Its faith in Him, following Him and walking with Him that matters.

    My parents were cousins when they got married. So were my grandparents and even one of my aunts/uncles. Grandparents had 12 kids. My aunt and uncle had 4. My parents had 3. Everyone born is blessed abundantly. No one had any genetic problems whatsoever.

    To each their own of course. We must always seek Him first and we can do so by reading His word and praying on every matter.

  4. #4
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    I understand what you are saying and there is certainly no condemnation coming from me. I was simply stating that there is an increased chance of birth defects but this is certainly not the norm.
    God bless you and your family my friend.
    Psa 62:5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your reply brother.

    I'm sorry if my previous response sounded like I felt you were condemning the situation or such, I didn't mean to make it sound that way at all. I know you well by now, you're patient and a gentleman :)

    I just wanted to basically lay down my personal feelings and personal facts for clarification's sake, inline with the Bible of course.

    GOD bless

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    Well, didn't I learn something new today. How interesting.

    The best list of marriages that are prohibited by God can be found in the book of Leviticus. The passage is Leviticus 18:6-17. It is concerned with incest.

    The opening verse is: None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD. (NASB) Lev. 18:6

    The literal Hebrew translation of this passage is as follows: Any man to all blood relative not come near to uncover nakedness, I am the Lord.

    The blood relatives are defined in Leviticus 21:2-3. The passage speaks from a male perspective and includes mother, father, sons, daughters, brother, and one's virgin sister. The reverse would be true for a women. The expression "To come near" has the idea of approaching a person for the purpose of sexual relations. The Hebrew words for "uncover nakedness" imply sexual relations. Ezekiel 16:36 makes this clear. Here is the list from Leviticus. The New Living Translation has captured the meaning very accurately,

    You must never have sexual relations with a close relative, for I am the Lord. (NLT) Lev. 18:6

    Therefore, Leviticus 18:6 prohibits all sexual relations, including those listed above, and the ones listed in verses 7-17. The table below provides a complete list. Note: the prohibitions are addressed to men. The reverse applies to women.

    Forbidden Marriages Passage

    Between mother and son. (Note that sexual relations between father and daughter are prohibited by Lev. 18:6 and 21:2-3) Leviticus 18:7-8

    With stepchildren. Leviticus 18:8, 17
    With an aunt. Leviticus 18:12-14
    With sister or half-sister. Leviticus 18:9; Deut. 27:22
    With half-sister and stepsisters. Leviticus 18:11
    With daughter-in-law. Leviticus 18:15
    With your sister-in-law. Leviticus 18:16
    With your granddaughter. Leviticus 18:10
    With your step-granddaughter. Leviticus 18:17

    This is a complete list of the marriages that God forbids. This list includes those found in Leviticus 20:11-21; Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20-23; and 1 Corinthians 5:1. But marriage with a first cousin is not prohibited. It should be noted that God does not prohibit marriage with a brother's wife in the case of a Leverite marriage (Deut. 25:10). Before God established these laws, marriage between brothers and sisters was allowed. For example, Abraham married his half-sister (Gen. 20:12).

    Conclusion:Scripture does not prohibit marriage between first-cousins.

    Copyright Like The Master Ministries.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    All states allow the marriage of second cousins.

    First-cousin marriage, while prohibited in half the United States, is legal in Canada and throughout Europe.

    A study by the National Society of Genetic Counselors says that having a child with your first cousin raises the risk of a significant birth defect from about 3-to-4 percent to about 4-to-7 percent. According to the authors, that difference isn't big enough to justify genetic testing of cousin couples, much less bans on cousin marriage. (What's Wrong With Marrying Your Cousin? By William Saletan)
    Last edited by MelechYisrael; 08-04-09 at 10:25 AM.
    Faith is like a muscle; the more you use it, the more powerful it becomes.

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    Originally Posted by MelechYisrael View Post
    First-cousin marriage, while prohibited in half the United States, is legal in Canada and throughout Europe.
    It's not illegal everywhere in the United States. Each state sets it's own marriage laws, so it's legal in some states but not legal in others.

  8. #8
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    It's a touchy subject but it's very common in certain cultures, among Arabs ( traditionally done to keep wealth within the family ) Indians ( keep the caste level ). Some African tribes ( for reproduction reasons, multiply village members ) But it mainly had to do with not going outside one's culture or heritage. Known as inbreeding.

    It's done by the Jews visit any Amish Farm.

    Things have change and so have the motives by many who enter these marriages. But there are still those who main intent is not to contaminate ones gene pool so they stay within. If these marriages are forced by religious doctrines I call it abuse, if by choice then it's one acting out the free will given to him/her from God.

    It was not rare in bible days because staying within one's tribe was mandate and would not be seen as perverted or impure. Solely because mixing was a sin.
    Truth is stranger than Fiction-unknown
    Test all things -1Thess5:21

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    Originally Posted by rizen1 View Post
    It's a touchy subject but it's very common in certain cultures, among Arabs ( traditionally done to keep wealth within the family ) Indians ( keep the caste level ). Some African tribes ( for reproduction reasons, multiply village members ) But it mainly had to do with not going outside one's culture or heritage. Known as inbreeding.

    It's done by the Jews visit any Amish Farm.

    Things have change and so have the motives by many who enter these marriages. But there are still those who main intent is not to contaminate ones gene pool so they stay within. If these marriages are forced by religious doctrines I call it abuse, if by choice then it's one acting out the free will given to him/her from God.

    It was not rare in bible days because staying within one's tribe was mandate and would not be seen as perverted or impure. Solely because mixing was a sin.
    Why did you connect Jews with the Amish? Just wondering.

  10. #10
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    Originally Posted by rizen1 View Post
    It's done by the Jews visit any Amish Farm.
    Are you saying that Amish farmers are Jewish? That's the way this sentence is structured.

    SLE
    Last edited by SpiritLedEd; 10-14-09 at 12:33 AM.
    I want to be a coin in God's pocket that He can spend any way He wishes.

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