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Child marriage

I’ve been really moved by a recent campaign against child marriage. What do you think about child marriage? Was it normal in Bible times? I think it’s terrible to imagine that the Virgin Mary was a child bride. I understand what the Bible says about sex before marriage and other things, but isn’t it totally wrong to get children (who aren’t even ready for sex) married?

Isn’t it almost like encouraging child marriage when you encourage people to wait till you get married to have sex?

I’ve heard there are some Christians who marry when they’re sixteen or seventeen, (with special permission, as it is actually illegal before you are eighteen in Norway, although I also think that is also very young).

Can you let me know what you think about child marriage?

Hi, and thanks for your question!

I’m glad you were so moved by a campaign against child marriage. No children are ready to get married, and no adult should make a child do something they aren’t ready for. Marriage is for adults who know each other well and who are ready to spend the rest of their lives together.

The Bible is very clear about the fact that marriage is an institution created by God, for a man and a woman who choose to live together for the rest of their lives. We can read about it in the first few pages of the Bible:

‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).

So, it says that the man should leave his father and mother, not that a boy does this. It says that the man should be united to his wife, it doesn’t say girl. The Bible gives no indication that child marriage or marriage between an adult and a child is acceptable, and neither do we condone it. No civilised society will allow a child to get married.

We don’t read anywhere in the Bible that the Virgin Mary was a child bride. However, it was normal to marry earlier in those times than now. The Bible doesn’t say how old Mary was, but it does say she was a woman:

‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”’ (Luke 2:41–42).

The text says that Mary was blessed among women: if she had been a child then it would have said ‘among girls’. Mary must have been so mature that she was old enough to be the mother of God’s Son.

The Bible is very clear that the only framework for sex is marriage between a man and a woman, so child marriage is very wrong. Children are not mature enough to have sex and should not get married.

Some of the basic needs people have are sleep, food and love. Sex is a good gift that improves our lives together when we’re married, but we don’t have a need for it in the same way as sleep and food. We can live well without sex, and we can also enjoy our teenage years without sex, so sex is not a good reason to marry too early.

 We would not encourage anyone to marry before they are mature enough to know what they’re doing. They also need to be mature enough to take responsibility for committing themselves to another person for the rest of their lives, and starting a family together. Youths of seventeen are too young to marry and we would not encourage anyone to get married so young. It is much better to spend your teenage years getting to know each other as friends, and delay sex until later.


Best wishes

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