One of the principles of hermeneutics is what is called The Law of First Mention. Hermeneutics is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation of scriptures. In simple terms, the law of first mention requires we go to that portion of scripture where a subject is first broached. This allows us to lay hold of the fundamental principles inherent and embedded in the subject matter. The law of first mention is one of the critical tools of interpretation of scriptures. (There are several other tools).
To apply the principle of law of first mention to marriage, we must go back to the first incidence of marriage in the Bible. And the first incidence of marriage in the Bible is right at the very beginning of scriptures, the book of Genesis. Genesis translates roughly as the very first three words in scriptures – “In the beginning.” The Hebrew word is “Breshit.” The Greek title is actually “Genesis.” It comes from the same stock of words as gene, generation, geneaology, hydrogen. It was ultimately derived from the verb “ginomai”, meaning to be or begin to be, or begin to be at a certain state.
That meaning has great implication on the interpretation of the narrative of the evolution of the universe. It raises a question on the absolute interpretation of “In the beginning.” Is “In the beginning” a point on a complexity scale suggestive of pre-convergence of elements? Is the “beginning” enumerated in Genesis a continuum, or a sharp turn of history – a definitive point? The word Genesis survives in the English language in such words as gene, generation and to generate. We cannot study marriage without recourse to Genesis. That was where it all began.
To appreciate marriage, we must look at the circumstances surrounding the creation of Eve, the first woman. Without Eve there would be nothing called marriage. The study of Adam alone will not suffice. Eve was created as a solution to the natural byproduct of the unique existence of Adam – alonement. “It is not good for the Man to be alone,” the scriptures declare. (Genesis 2:18). There is of course a spiritual dimension to marriage. It is not just a social or soulish phenomenon.
The first man created was of course Adam. According to records, his creation was a concerted effort of the Trinity – “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). In other words, the unique capacities of each member of the Godhead was brought to bear in the creation of Adam. But the lead designer is the 2nd member of the Godhead – Jesus Christ. He it was who said, “Let us make man in our image.” He “laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens” with his hands. (Hebrews 1:10). “For through him (Jesus) God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world… Everything was created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16).
Pre creation, a political mandate was crafted for Adam in representative capacity. Along with the preamble it read: “Let us [Father, Son and Holy spirit] make mankind in our image, after our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts and over all the earth, and over everything that creeps.” (Genesis 1:26). In other words, biological creation was made subordinate to Man, and Man had secondary authority over the earth. “So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27).
The last part of that statement points to chromosomal DNA – the x and y chromosomes. It is also the contextual scaffold of the great debate of the 21st century – the issue of sexuality and gender. When the Bible says, Let us make man in our image, it is a reference to the image of Christ. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15). There is therefore a sacredness to human life. That sacredness informed God’s pronouncement about human life after the Great Flood: “If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6).
Life is sacred. Divine law says that, that sacredness is inviolable. The narrative propounds that murder is a crime against divine law, not just temporal law. Man was made in the image of God. The violation of that sacredness requires retribution. That’s what God was saying. By the time we arrive in the New Testament however something drastic had happened along the way. The original image had been substituted. Something else was in place. The Bible says that sin altered that image. That Man put on a new image. And the Bible analogised this new image as “a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes.” (Colossians 3:9 MSG).
In Paul’s admonition to Christians at Colossae, an ancient city of Phrygia (now in Turkey) he wrote as follows: “Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve put off and put in the fire. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (Colossians 3:9,10). In other words, the resultant effect of sin is that man lost intimate knowledge of God. He also ceased to be in the image and likeness of God – why he needs to “become like him.” He can only reconcile himself to the original nature through knowledge of his Creator. And this explains why some Christians consternate and perplex, making others doubt their salvation. We cannot reconcile their identification with Christ with their behavior because they’re lacking in knowledge of Him.
As a born again Christian you are recreated in the image of Christ. But knowledge of the Word helps you to conform to that image to create a homogeneity. A Christian must learn the Word of God. He must obtain knowledge of his Creator. He must read the Bible. Through knowledge he CONFORMS to the image of Him who recreated him. In reading the Bible we acquire knowledge of man’s original conception and get to know who we are in Christ.
The original Man was so powerful he had total control of the animal and plant species. He had dominion over the earth. The Bible says that God gave man dominion over all the animals and vegetation, “AND THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED.” (Genesis 1:30 NLT). In other words, the Man we see now and the Man we are now is a Man functioning at low capacity. The sin nature placed limitation on the capacity of the natural man. The Bible says, after the organic formation of man, he became a living being through the agency of the breath of life. He was placed in the Garden and given a prohibitive list of one item – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 1:17).
The violation of this commandment carried the death penalty. Sin is a criminal offence. It attracts capital punishment. It’s why we can’t redeem ourselves through good works. A life must pay. But then comes the dramatic statement: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.” (Genesis 2:18). This decision came from the observation that Adam could not find a single soul mate among the animals. “But for Adam there was not found a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.” (Genesis 1:20). According to first principles therefore, a wife must be suitable, adapted and complementary to the husband. The breach of this first principle is why many marriages don’t endure. We continue the series next week.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org