Church History

Biblical Interpretation and the Construction of Christian Sexualities

Marriage in Medieval Culture: Consent Theory and The Case of Joseph and Mary

Irven M. Resnicka1

a1 Irven M. Resnick is Professor and Chair of Excellence in Judaic Studies in the department of philosophy and religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

From the second half of the eleventh century, medieval Latin theologians and canonists wrestled with a number of questions related to sexual relations and marriage. Marriage is, characteristically, one of the avenues by which a society—especially a religious or holy community— attempts to define its boundaries. In this effort church authorities had, for centuries, proscribed both marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Christians. They had sought control over marital relations among Christian spouses by proscribing sexual contact before receiving communion, during Lent, or during a woman's pregnancy or menstrual cycle. They had also attempted to eliminate marriage among clergy, with occasional success, as part of an effort to define and control marital unions more effectively.