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Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi (Biblical Studies Library) [Paperback]

By Gordon P. Hugenberger (Author)
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Pages   436
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.6" Width: 5.9" Height: 1.2"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 1998
Publisher   Baker Academic
ISBN  0801021928  
EAN  9780801021923  

Availability  0 units.

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Item Description...
Malachi 2:14: The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Robert Gordon notes that a number of arguments have been proposed against the interpretation of the covenant in Malachi 2:14 as a marriage covenant. In Marriage as a Covenant, Gordon Hugenberger responds to these objections and argues very effectively for the validity of the marriage interpretation. We shall attempt to establish, Hugenberger writes, that Malachi, along with several other biblical authors, identified marriage as a covenant and that the implications of such a theory of marriage are not contradicted by other biblical texts, even where the term 'covenant' does not happen to appear. In this detailed study, Hugenberger provides a thorough examination of the exegetical issues involved in interpreting Malachi 2:10-16. He - explores the overall context of Malachi 2:10-16 - defines the meaning of "covenant" in 2:14 - determines the nature of Malachi's prohibition of divorce in 2:16 - compares this passage against others that seem to tolerate polygyny - demonstrates how Malachi uses a reference to the first marriage in 2:15 - answers objections that marriage cannot be a covenant because of the absence of an oath and an oath-sign - views other places in the Old Testament that recognize marriage as a covenant Scholars, pastors, and students will benefit from this reference volume that concentrates on Malachi 2 but also addresses the larger themes of marriage, divorce, and polygyny in the Bible

1. The Interpretative Context Of Malachi 2:10-16 2. Covenant In Malachi 2:14: Does It Refer To Marriage? 3. Malachi 2:16 And Divorce 4 Malachi 2:10-16 And The Toleration Of Polygyny Elsewhere In The Old Testament 5. Malachi 2:15: Malachi's Appeal To Adam And Eve For His Understanding Of Marriage As Covenant 6. Covenant And Oath Defined 7. Verba Solemnia And Sexual Union: The Requisite Covenant-Ratifying Oath And Oath-Sign For Marriage 8. Marriage As A Covenant Elsewhere In The Old Testament 436 Pages

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
the expectation of amity  Apr 17, 2006
As an example of classical biblical scholarship on a topic of ongoing concern for pastoral care, there is no better exemplar than this revised 1994 PhD dissertation, helpfully reprinted in affordable paperback in 1998. The author serves as the senior minister of Boston's Park Street Church and as Ranked Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Indeed, the genre of the doctoral dissertation well serves the author's mastery of the linguistic, cultural, and inner-biblical angles of the craft that one necessarily brings to so difficult a text as the Hebrew book of Malachi and so politically contentious a topic as marriage in its ancient and modern forms.

In a conventional literary survey and presentation of the problem ('Introduction', pp. 1-12), Hugenberger alerts his reader to confusion regarding the relationship-if any-between biblical concepts of covenant and the 'canonical' presentation of the prophet Malachi regarding marriage. He will take critical verses that refer or allude to marriage in the book of Malachi as a 'point of departure for a much needed reassessment of the possible covenantal nature of marriage within the Old Testament'. It is essential to grasp the author's view of covenant from this early moment: 'a covenant, in its normal sense, is an elected, as opposed to natural, relationship.'

The first of eight full chapters (Chapter one, 'The Interpretative Context of Malachi 2:10-16', pp. 13-26) surveys the problem of dating this explicitly undated book. Hugenberger considers it likely that a date in the same general period of the Ezra-Nehemiah labors for the reestablishment of a Jewish commonwealth is likely. Further, the author believes that Malachi had access to 'the Pentateuch as a whole', significantly including both P and Deuteronomy. Moreover, Malachi's standing at the latter end of the canonical material merges with an observable concern to reference the 'biblical antecedents available to him in his time'. Finally, Hugenberger's analysis of the book's structure suggests that certain material whose 'authenticity' has been questioned by scholars should not be excised, thus holding together examples of mixed marriage and divorce as 'instances of infidelity'. This detail will prove important for the author's subsequent argument.

The author's burden in chapter two ("Covenant [bryt]" in Malachi 2:14: Does it refer to marriage?', pp. 27-47) is sufficiently to parse two references to covenant in the second chapter of Malachi in order to establish whether they are uni- or bivocal and whether the second in particular ('the wife of your covenant') refers to marriage itself as a covenantal phenomenon. Hugenberger determines that it does, and that the burden of proof ought fairly to rest upon those who argue that it does not. Moreover, the verse that links marriage and covenant appears to refer to literal marriage, over scholarly objections that Hugenberger treats and dismisses.

Already Hugenberger's command of detail and judicious discernment when the facts do not produce a self-evident conclusion will endear themselves to the careful reader. Further, his stewardship of the text before him extends to an astonishing effort to handle multiple texts and transliterations without error, an effort that by this weighty book's end has produced nearly complete success.

Scholars frequently assume that prima facie condemnation of divorce in Malachi 2:16 cannot refer to literal divorce, since Deuteronomy's treatment of the topic (24:1-4) is far more lenient and Malachi appears supremely indebted to the Deuteronomists at an ideological level. However, Hugenberger proposes that the two texts are not contradictory, since Malachi 2:16 condemns only one kind of divorce: 'divorce based on aversion' (chapter three, 'Malachi 2:16 and Divorce', pp. 48-83). What is more, an emerging scholarly consensus suggests that even Deuteronomy 24 aims to prohibit just one kind of divorce rather than the dissolution of marriage under any circumstances.

Prior to this argument and during the elaboration of it, the author defends the priority of the difficult Massoretic Text of the verse in question, over against easier readings in the earliest versions that he understands as attempts to ameliorate Malachi's textual difficulties and/or its apparent incongruity with Deuteronomy 24.

Chapter four ('Malachi 2:10-16 and the Toleration of Polygyny Elsewhere in the Old Testament', pp. 84-123) turns to the apparent toleration of polygyny elsewhere in the Old Testament, a matter that would render moot the traditional understanding that this text condemns the apparent assumption that the marriage of foreign women in Malachi's day somehow required the dismissal of preexisting nuptial arrangements with Israelite women.

Against the assumption that polygyny was in the period a perfectly acceptable conjugal option, Hugenberger argues that 'although polygyny was never illegal, monogamy was seen as the marital ideal, particularly in the post-exilic period, and that actual marital practice was monogamous with few exceptions'. Here, the author is trading on the insight common to Gordon Wenham and his students that legal prohibition in the biblical texts establishes a floor rather than a ceiling in terms of ethical behavior; thus, biblical poetry and narrative will occasionally be found to trend towards an ideal that is not strictly a legislated requirement, as well as to disdain practice that does not meet with legislative prohibition (an excursus argues the point with respect to polygyny).

In this complex and minutely argued chapter, Hugenberger concludes that 'the weight of evidence appears to favour the view that the offences of mixed marriage and divorce are juxtaposed not because they were causally interrelated, but because they are parallel instances of the more general infidelity (bgd) condemned in 2:10.'

Hugenberger's argument takes an important turn in chapter five ('Malachi 2:15: Malachi's Appeal to Adam and Eve for his Understanding of Marriage as a "Covenant" [bryt]', pp. 124-167), where he demonstrates not only the viability of the Massoretic Text's difficult rendering, but also the grammatical probability that Malachi's reference to 'the one' in the text under review alludes knowingly to the creation of Adam and Eve as 'one flesh'. Thus, Malachi's rhetorical question places the biblical first couple as the antecedent whose exemplary function is to render divorce for aversion lamentable if not condemnable. At the very least, Hugenberger has rescued plausibility for an interpretation that sees in Malachi what B. Sommers has memorably described in Second Isaiah: that he is 'a prophet (who) reads scripture.'

Chapter six represents an important crux in Hugenberger's argument, for the matter of how to define `covenant' in the Ancient Near Eastern context looms large over his more narrow contention that marriage is viewed as just such an arrangement in Malachi ("Covenant [bryt]" and "Oath" Defined', pp. 168-215). The author's line of attack is to examine definitions of covenant that he considers too restrictive because of their insistence that the ratifying oath must be verbal (Hugenberger believes they may be gestural or enacted) and by the requirement that such an oath must be self-maledictory.

In order to prove his point, Hugenberger must examine and slightly modify the assessments of two of the twentieth century's most prominent scholars of Hebrew cult, J. Milgrom and M. Greenberg. The author first establishes that a covenant must contain four essential ingredients: `1) a relationship 2) with a non-relative 3) which involves obligations and 4) is established through an oath.' The problem is that textually attested exemplars of Israelite marriage appear to lack the fourth element. Some of Hugenberger's most original work is carried out in demonstrating that evidence for its absence is nevertheless inconclusive, since documentary attestation of marriage is `largely concerned to specify extraordinary requirements'. Furthermore, some enacted oaths do appear to contemplate a self-maledictory element. It is just that they are not necessarily expressed verbally. How they are communicated is the burden of the author's following and acutely argued chapters.

In the light of his fairly bold assertion that covenant oaths need not be verbal nor-more specifically-verbally self-maledictory, Hugenberger assumes the responsibility of clarifying by what alternative forms such an oath might be realized, a task to which he turns in his seventh chapter (`Verba solemnia and Sexual Union: the requisite covenant-ratifying oath and the oath-sign for marriage', pp. 216-279). The self-maledictory requirement is met by verba solemnia that invoke the divine witness of the covenant into which one enters. We are reminded that `in the ancient world the solemn acknowledgement of a relationship was frequently the very means of creating it.' Hugenberger considers that, in marriage, sexual union is an equally binding and oath-like demonstration of covenantal commitment, as of subjection to the covenantal duties implied therein.

This extraordinarily suggestive chapter is shot through with discussion that is valuable not only for Old Testament specialists, but also for readers who consider that biblical texts in one way or another establish precedents for contemporary sexual ethics.

Chapter eight (`Marriage as a Covenant Elsewhere in the Old Testament', pp. 280-338) is a mopping up of sorts. The author considers evidence cumulative supporting evidence for his contention that marriage is regarded as a covenant in the literatures of the Old Testament and takes to task the rather facile assumption that adultery by a married man in the Bible is wholly tolerated behavior. Rather, it is often identified as a sin against both the remaining parties to the covenant, God and the man's spouse.

Hugenberger's respect for his reader is evidenced in a clear and concise `Summary and Conclusions' (pp. 339-343). One would do well to start the book with a careful reading of these summarizing paragraphs.

Marriage as a Covenant represents an essential statement of biblical views on marriage. No subsequent publication on the theme can be considered serious without careful attention to it.

Additionally, Hugenberger scatters wry and incisive observations on method-including a pair of delicious cringe quotes on p. 309-like nuggets. It is this combination of ground-breaking and discriminating scholarship with wider comment on the logic(s) and methods of biblical criticism that have moved this reviewer to include a chapter of Marriage as a Covenant in a book of annotated readings in biblical criticism that is under preparation. The Hebrew Bible is quoted with full Massoretic accentuation and great care throughout.
Comprehensive review of all relevant material  Sep 25, 2000
Hugenberger's mastery of all scholarship on the issue of marriage in the Bible and in the ancient near east is extremely impressive. Every argument in the book is well thought out and proven; every counter point that may be raised is present. This book is invaluable for a scholar wishing to deal with the particular issues of Biblical marriage as well as the broader topic of biblical law and theology. However, the book is a little difficult to read and I personally would not recommend it for the casual reader. Its density is however, a substantial benefit for the researcher.

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