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Biblical Courtship

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Biblical Courtship

Courtship seems to be a buzzword amongst Christians. They do not want to date like the world does, and are trying to figure out a more godly way of bringing young people together. Looking at blogs of young Christian men and women, one can see that "Christian courtship" differs from "dating" mainly in terms of physical purity and parental supervision. The general claim is that courtship is in accordance with Scripture, whereas dating is not. This, unfortunately, is not true. There is no such thing as biblical courtship between a boy and a girl.

While dating certainly is not in accordance with Scripture, Christian courtship is not a biblical practice either, for even if it follows biblical principles, there is no biblical precedent for courtship the way people like to think of it and practice it today. Scripture indicates that there was no such thing as courtship, where a young man and a young woman get to know each other and figure out whether or not they will make a good team for the rest of their lives. Instead, couples were brought together by their families, and a lot of practical considerations played an important role in this. One of the more prominent ones was kinship: It was important to avoid mixing with other peoples, such as the Canaanites. Interestingly enough, these practical considerations did not automatically lead to unhappy marriages. One reason for this might be that the idea of romantic love was not prevalent in biblical times, but other things, like having children, were much more important for wives as well as husbands.

In the Hebrew culture, marriage was first and foremost an economical contract, and it was made between two families rather than two individuals. One could say the bride was bought from her parents by the bridegroom's family, but that is only partially accurate. Have a look at the two examples of "courtship" that one can point to in Scripture, namely that of Isaac when he acquires Rebekah, and that of Jacob and Rachel. In the first case, Abraham sends his servant out with quite a lot of gold and life stock to "buy" a bride for his son Isaac in Gen 24:10. In the second, Jacob, not endowed with a lot of material goods he could bring into the marriage right away, has to work many years to earn the bride price (Gen 29:18). In both cases, the assets don't just go to the bride's family though, at least in theory. In fact, they are, or should have been, handed over to the bride when she leaves to live with her husband, and remain her personal little fortune so that she has something to fall back on in case her husband deals deceitfully with her at some point in the future. Leah and Rachel are keenly aware of their father's failure to abide by these rules and regulations of marriage, when they exclaim in Gen 31:15:

"For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money."

The conclusion is simple: Even if Christian courtship is not quite as ungodly as modern dating practices, it still is not a biblical way of bringing young people together. This is just another example of Christianity relying on its own understanding rather than relying on Scripture, and the result might look good at first glance, but still is not what we are supposed to do. When it comes down to it, Christian courtship is based on ideas and ideals of romantic love first and foremost, not on Scripture.