A group of Pharisees came to Jesus hoping to trap Him on the issue of marriage and divorce. First, they asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” They were scheming to find at least one exemption that would allow for divorce. But Jesus turned their attention to the authority of the Old Testament and the Book of Genesis(1:27): “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh?” (Mt/9: 4-6).
Hearing this, the Pharisees then retorted, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” The Pharisees were attempting to catch Jesus in a contradiction by placing the Old Testament at odds with itself. Jesus, however, was wise to their purpose. He answered: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt. 19:18; Mark 10:2-12).
Jesus reiterated His reference to “from the beginning,” while pointing out that “hardness of heart” will no longer serve as a basis for granting a divorce. Scripture was not contradicting itself because “hardness of heart” does not invalidate the nature of marriage that was established “from the beginning” and therefore has eternal validity.
Jesus was calling upon the authority of both the Old and New Testaments, concerning the indissolubility of marriage. But he was also doing something more. He was alluding to the authority of nature: “So they [male and female] are not longer two, but one flesh. Marriage, by nature, Jesus is stating, is the two-in-one-flesh union of a male and a female.
It is in the design of nature that marriage must be between a man and a woman because only the complementary natures of man and woman can achieve this two-in-one-flesh union. But is Jesus using a metaphor in this instance? Is He simply employing a fanciful or a poetic way of referring to marriage? Or is He speaking literally, indicating that in marriage a man and a woman really do, through conjugal intimacy, attain this two-in-one-flesh unity? If the latter is the case, then science should be able to enlighten us. Let us, then, turn our attention to the science of immunology for an affirmation of Jesus’ words, taken in their literal sense.
Immunology is the scientific study of the immune system. The immune system protects us (or immunizes us) from potentially harmful foreign substances that enter our body. We have 100 billion immunological receptors to defend us against alien substances all of which, by nature, are able to distinguish between the self and the non-self. The immune system, under normal conditions, does not attack the self, but only foreign substances (germs, viruses, and the like) that threaten the health of the self.
Now, from the perspective of our immune system, the semen that enters the woman’s body as a result of marital union, should be attacked and expelled, since it is, presumably, a foreign substance and not part of the self. Yet, as we all know, this does not happen. Somehow the sperm-carrying semen gets through and new life commences. How does this happen, given our prodigious network of one hundred billion immunological receptors that stand ready to attack or expel anything that is alien to the self?
The answer is quite simple, although it is something that is almost never mentioned. The semen, in addition to conveying life-initiating sperm, also carries a mild immunosuppressant. This chemical agent suppresses the immune system of the woman in the right place and at the right time just enough to allow her body to recognize the sperm not as foreign to her, but, indeed, as part of herself. Without this mild immunosuppressant, human life would never begin. On the other hand, because of it, husband and wife achieve, quite literally, a genuine two-in-one-flesh unity.
To the authority of Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments, we can add the authority of science. Marriage, therefore, is both Biblical, as attested by Holy Scripture, and natural, as attested by the science of immunology.
Only the intimacy between a man and a woman can achieve a true union that is “two-in-one-flesh”. From this it is clear that same sex couple cannot achieve a union that is truly two-in-one-flesh.
Science advances. The wisdom of Scripture is eternal. But a culture can regress, and at remarkable speed. On the subject of marriage, the present Canadian culture is about 15,000 years behind the times, despite the posturing of politicians who often refer to themselves as “progressive”. At the same time, it may be said that every culture is always at least somewhat behind the wisdom of Scripture. The wisdom of the Bible is something to which we should all aspire, not something to be turned aside in the name of a false progress.
Donald DeMarco, PhD is a Senior Fellow of HLI America, an Initiative of Human Life International. He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, CT.
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