John K. Tarwater University Press of America 2005-11-23

Tarwater defends the view that marriage is an indissoluble covenant between a man and woman. He begins with a brief statement of four theological models of marriage (covenantal, sacramental, noncovenant evangelical, and contractual) and reveals his predisposition to the covenantal model. He follows this with a review of the current discussions in the United States on the definition of marriage and how the understanding of marriage has moved from away from a biblical definition toward a contractual one. Therefore he presents a biblical-theological exegesis of the texts dealing with covenants, concluding that one characteristic of every biblical covenant in which God is involved (either as a covenanting party or as a covenant witness) cannot be dissolved by the failure of either party during the lifetime of the participants. Tarwater’s exegesis of Genesis 1–2 (and all other passages relating to marriage) leads him to conclude that marriage is a biblical covenant to which God is the witness. Therefore marriage is a lifelong covenant relationship between a man and a woman that can never be broken or annulled. Then he briefly suggests some theological and moral implications arising from this view of marriage.

While Tarwater attempts a comprehensive treatment of marriage in the Scriptures and supports the stages of his argument by many scholarly references, it is noteworthy that few Old Testament scholars hold to his view of covenant indissolubility. Apparently something in the biblical data prevents them from following his evidence to the same strong conclusion. The final chapter, on contemporary implications of the covenant position, has more to do with the exegesis of New Testament “problem passages” than its application to the current discussion.

Tarwater’s presentation has many interesting aspects and offers help for those seeking a stronger biblical understanding of marriage.

About the Contributors

Timothy J. Ralston

Dr. Ralston brings a rich pastoral background to his classroom, having served as an associate pastor and pastor in Ontario and as a director of adult education in the United States. Dr. Ralston is an active member in the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Evangelical Homiletics Society. His research in New Testament manuscripts and worship has taken him into a wide variety of settings and produced numerous scholarly articles. His teaching interests include preaching, worship, and spirituality. He is also an active Master Scuba Diving instructor and emergency first-response trainer. He and his wife, Carol, have two daughters and five grandchildren.