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What Did, and What Does, "Marriage" Mean?

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

1828: American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster

“MAR'RIAGE, noun [Latin mas, maris.]

The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.

Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Hebrews 13:4.”

1953: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

“marriage…1. state of being married; also, the mutual relation of husband and wife; wedlock, abstractly, the social institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family.”

1973: Yale Journal of Law

“A credible case can be made for the contention that the denial of marriage licenses to all homosexual couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment…the expansion of marriage to encompass homosexual couples would alter the nature of a fundamental institution as traditionally conceived…” (“The Legality of Homosexual Marriage”)

1983: Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

“Marriage…1 a: the state of being married b: the mutual relation of husband and wife: WEDLOCK c: the

institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family.”

Webster’s Tenth Edition in 1998 has the same definition.

1996: Defense of Marriage Act

“…the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”


Current Webster’s Dictionary

“1 a: the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law

b: the mutual relation of married persons: WEDLOCK

c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage…”

The “Respect for Marriage Act”

“Diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises. Therefore, Congress affirms that such people and their diverse beliefs are due proper respect…

For the purposes of any Federal law, rule, or regulation in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is between 2 individuals…”

The Everlasting Word of God

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).


West End church of Christ Bulletin Article for January 8, 2023


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