Does the Bible condemn the practice of older men dating teenage girls? With the revelations in the news about Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore having dated teenage girls decades ago when he is was in thirties this question has been raised amongst Christians.
Now let me be clear as a Bible believing Christian in regard to the sexual molestation accusations against Judge Moore. If it can be proven that Judge Moore engaged in any type of sexual touching or sexual relations with these woman outside of marriage that would be by definition fornication and something that the Bible clearly condemns.
But that is not the question I am discussing here. The fact is, even if Judge Moore did not engage in any extramarital sexual relations with any of these women there are many in our culture, including Christians, who would condemn him simply for dating teenage girls while he was in his early thirties and this is the question we will tackle in the article.
What is the minimum age for women to marry in the Bible?
There are two factors for determining a woman’s minimal age for marriage.
A woman must reach puberty first before she can marry
Two Bible passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New indicate that the minimal age for marriage of woman is when she reaches puberty.
“7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.
8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”
Ezekiel 16:7-8 (KJV)
In the passage above from Ezekiel we read of God’s love story with Israel. He presents himself as a wealthy man who finds an infant girl who had just been born and is left for dead in a field. He takes her as ward in his home and when she reaches puberty (grows breasts and pubic hair) he declares that “thy time was the time of love” and he takes her as his wife.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul tells of a similar story of a man with a young woman who is his ward whom he has an attraction to:
“36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.”
I Corinthians 7:36 (KJV)
When it says “pass the flower of her age” it literally means “ripe” as when a fruit is ready to be plucked and eaten. Like Ezekiel 16:7-8 it refers to the fact that she has reached puberty and is now ready for marital love.
So according to both the Old and New Testaments a girl must first reach puberty before she can marry and when a girl reached puberty she was no longer considered a child but was now considered a woman.
A father determines at what age his daughter marries
There was a second factor in determining a woman’s age at the time of her marriage and we find this in the book of Exodus:
“16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”
Exodus 22:16-17 (KJV)
Today our culture treats a father’s blessing for his daughter to marry as a cute tradition and nothing more. Fathers are expected to rubber stamp any man their daughter says she wants to marry because after all it is her life, her body and her choice right? Fathers have had their authority over whom their daughters marry completely removed. However, we can see in the Scriptures that this was not just some tradition but we see that God grants fathers the authority over whom their daughters may marry.
Now a word caution on this. A father’s authority over his daughter while being similar to that of a husband over his wife is different in some key aspects. A father’s authority is temporary. He is there to raise her and prepare her for her future husband. His authority and ownership over his daughter is not meant to be for life as a husband’s authority is meant to be for life. So if a father is inhibiting his daughter from marrying well into her adult life in order to keep her in his home he has failed in the role God has given him. He is sinning against God and his daughter by inhibiting his daughter from following God’s first command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
The State has no authority over marriage
Many Christians mistakenly think that God has given civil government nearly unlimited authority. Most Christians think unless the government literally tells us to sin that they can pass any laws they want. They site passages like this to bolster their belief:
“13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
1 Peter 2:13-14 (KJV)
But they neglect the fact that Christ recognizes the concept of limited authority for civil government:
“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Matthew 22:21 (KJV)
Christ said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”. That means “Obey the civil government in the areas that God has given to civil government”.
Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 teach us that the role of government is to protect the people and punish evil doers according to God’s law. Search the Scriptures and you will find that the only authority God gives in marriage is to the family and specifically to the father. Of course we know that the father is still under God’s authority in regard to marriage and he must regard his ownership of his daughter as a temporary stewardship in preparing her for her future husband.
What this means in practical terms is state marriage licenses are not required by God. A marriage is valid in God’s eyes if a man has the permission of a woman’s father or if her father is gone and she is living on her own she consents to marriage. He can enter into a covenant of marriage with her in private and that marriage is just as binding in God’s eyes as if they had a public ceremony with a pastor or priest and state marriage license.
This also means whether states outlaw all marriage under the age of 18 or even 21 Christians may disregard such laws as the usurping of authority over the family by the civil government. Christians can and may practice civil disobedience against such laws.
How our culture mocks God’s laws
Julie Zauzmer, writing for the Washington Post recently published an article entitled “Roy Moore allegations prompt reflections on fundamentalist culture in which some Christian men date teens”. In this article she assembles a chorus of opponents of the practice of older men dating teenage girls.
Here are some excerpts from that article with people mocking God’s laws:
“That courtship of underage girls is especially common in conservative religious communities.
“We should probably talk about how there is a segment of evangelicalism and home-school culture where the only thing Roy Moore did wrong was initiating sexual contact outside of marriage. 14 year old girls courting adult men isn’t entirely uncommon,” Kathryn Brightbill, who works for the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, tweeted Friday, prompting a flurry of responses from other people who also had watched teenagers date much older Christian men…
Ashley Easter, who grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church where courting was the norm for teenagers, said, “That was the first thing I thought of with Roy Moore.” In her church community in Lynchburg, Va., Easter said, fathers had complete control over whom their daughters were allowed to date, and she could see how a father might set his teen daughter up with a much older man.
“A woman’s role is to be a wife, a homemaker and someone who births children. The man’s role is generally to be established and someone who provides the full income,” said Easter, who runs the Courage Conference for survivors of church sexual abuse. “It may take longer for a man to reach stability. While a woman of 15 or 16, if she’s been trained for a long time looking after her younger siblings, in their eyes she might be ready for marriage.” 
While regrettably I was not able to have my children homeschooled for a variety of reasons I do consider myself a part of that “segment of evangelicalism and home-school culture where the only thing Roy Moore did wrong was initiating sexual contact outside of marriage”.
Many of my friends growing up were homeschooled before they came to the Christian School I attended in high school. My parents homeschooled my niece and nephew who they adopted and I have cousins that have homeschooled their children as well. And yes I grew up in Bible believing fundamental Baptist churches that while being imperfect did teach that “fathers had complete control over whom their daughters were allowed to date” according to the Word of God. The sad thing is that many of these Baptist churches that formerly stood on the doctrines of Biblical gender roles have in recent decades abandoned these doctrines to appease feminists both inside and outside their churches.
What has been the result of the abandonment of courtship and the authority of the father over his daughter in regard to marriage? A massive increase in promiscuity among our young people who favor dating for fun instead of courtship for marriage. In many cases a huge delay of the marriage of young women well into their middle or late 20’s and a decrease in the size of Christian families. Young women are often more interested in their education and careers than in performing the main function God created them for which was to be wives and mothers.
Ashley Easter mock’s the fact that she was taught that “A woman’s role is to be a wife, a homemaker and someone who births children. The man’s role is generally to be established and someone who provides the full income”.
The sad part is Mrs. Easter growing up in a fundamental Baptist church knows the Scriptures actually support that very definition of a woman’s role that she mocks:
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
1 Timothy 5:14 (KJV)
The false “Child Marriage” narrative
I and other Christians who do not oppose marriage for women under the age of 18 are opposed to child marriage. But we are opposed to child marriage as God defines it in the Scriptures and not how our culture defines child marriage.
My readers know I am no stranger to writing on controversial topics especially as they relate to the Bible and marriage and I know on this subject I may have some disagreement from even some of my strongest supporters. But I would like you to truly consider something.
In the Scriptures we read:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:2 (KJV)
What the Bible calls “child marriage” and what our culture calls “child marriage” are two different things. God says a girl is a child before she reaches puberty and that after she reaches puberty it “was the time of love” (Ezekiel 16:8) – in other words time for marriage. She was no longer considered a child, but was now considered a woman. God forbids men from marrying a young girl who has not “passed the flower of her age” (I Corinthians 7:36) or in other words a girl who has not reached puberty. She is still considered a child and is not eligible for marriage.
So yes if a man wants to marry some prepubescent girl he is in fact in violation of God’s law and that is “child marriage” we can all agree is wrong.
But our feminist and egalitarian culture has expanded the definition of how long girls remain children. Our culture has expanded childhood for girls past the onset of puberty all the way to age 18.
In an article entitled “Why can 12-year-olds still get married in the United States?”, Fraidy Reiss writing for the Washington Post states:
“Unchained At Last, a nonprofit I founded to help women resist or escape forced marriage in the United States, spent the past year collecting marriage license data from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year for which most states were able to provide information. We learned that in 38 states, more than 167,000 children — almost all of them girls, some as young 12 — were married during that period, mostly to men 18 or older. Twelve states and the District of Columbia were unable to provide information on how many children had married there in that decade. Based on the correlation we identified between state population and child marriage, we estimated that the total number of children wed in America between 2000 and 2010 was nearly 248,000.
Despite these alarming numbers, and despite the documented consequences of early marriages, including negative effects on health and education and an increased likelihood of domestic violence, some state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation to end child marriage — because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom or because they cling to the notion that marriage is the best solution for a teen pregnancy…
Regardless of whether the union was the child’s or the parents’ idea, marriage before 18 has catastrophic, lifelong effects on a girl, undermining her health, education and economic opportunities while increasing her risk of experiencing violence.” 
Reiss throws in marriages as young as 12(even though the majority were age 15 or higher) to really get the hairs on the back of people’s necks up.
If you were to tell people in Biblical times that a girl did not become a woman until she was 18 they would have laughed so hard at you they would have fallen over. Let me give you a little bit of historical backdrop on this before we condemn twelve year olds marrying:
Rev. Dr. Eugene Weitzel stated this about the Jewish view of early marriage:
“As we noted above, the Jews clearly understood that the first command that God gave to Adam and Eve was “increase and multiply” (Gen 1:28). In fact one rabbi firmly believed that “A bachelor is not truly a man at all.” Furthermore, celibacy was looked upon as an anomaly, almost a disgrace. Now keep in mind that Jesus Christ, a devout, practicing Jew who dearly loved his Jewish faith, grew up with this view of celibacy. He also knew that his people believed in early marriage. Many rabbis, even during Jesus’s time, taught that eighteen was the ideal age for marriage for a man but certainly not later than twenty-four. He knew too that girls were ready for marriage as soon as they were physically ready to conceive and bear children, which according to the law was twelve and one-half years. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably no more than fourteen years old when she gave birth to the Son of God.” 
Lucien Deiss in his book “Joseph, Mary, Jesus” writes:
“How old could Mary have been? Young girls usually were betrothed as soon as they became a woman. It was believed they reached puberty at about twelve or twelve and a half. Boys it was believed reached the age if puberty a year later. Marriage could take place one year after puberty a year later. In general, it was held that men could wait until the age of eighteen or twenty before marrying so that they could have time to build a house and plant a vineyard.”
My point is that is highly likely from a historical perspective that Mary was betrothed to Joseph at 12 years old and most likely gave birth to Jesus by the age of 14. Now we know in the case of Mary that Jesus’s conception was of the Holy Spirit. But under normal circumstances young women were commonly giving birth to their first child by age 13 or 14.
So are we willing to condemn Joseph the father of Jesus for child marriage because he most likely betrothed Mary at such a young age? Worse yet are we as Christians willing to condemn God the Holy Spirit for conceiving a child in Mary at such a young age? Is God guilty of child abuse?
Reiss laments about the lack of nationwide state bans on marriage under the age of 18 “because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom”. Sorry mam – but that is exactly what such restrictions on marriage would be – a stifling of religious freedom. But sadly I fear that Reiss and her allies may someday get such legislation passed. We have seen in the last 20 years an onslaught of legislation that assaults religious liberty whether in the form of taking parental rights or giving new rights to the homosexual and transgender movements.
Another Christian blogger who goes by the name “nickducote” wrote the following in an article entitled “Jonathan Lindvall and Child Marriage: The Maranatha Story”:
“Marrying girls off so early does several things. For one thing, it precludes them having other options. They have not finished their academic education and are not qualified for anything besides homemaking. And even then, what fifteen-year-old is truly ready to run a home in today’s world? For another thing, such early marriage means a girl marries before she has time to completely mature and form her own outlook on life. But then, sadly, that’s rather part of the point. This sort of arrangement, after all, functions not as an independent adult making her own decisions but rather as a property transfer—and it is explicitly stated as such.” 
While I disagree with his positions and his values I think this blogger has actually done a very good job of concisely saying what those who oppose marriage of young women really have a problem with. They have a problem with girls not having “other options”. They have a problem with women not being “qualified for anything besides homemaking”. They have a problem with a woman not having “her own outlook on life”. They have a problem with marriage being “a property transfer”.
I am not against women having an education nor do I think the Bible is. But our society has turned education – especially higher education and college into a human right. We have turned education into a false god that our culture worships. It is not a human right according to the Word of God.
Education is fine as long as it is a help and not a hindrance to the primary tasks God has given us to do. In the case of men education is often a help in one of their primary God given duties which is to provide for their families. Education can be a help to women as well in being able to homeschool their children in the future. But far too often education for women because more of a hindrance than a help to them pursuing their primary mission that God has given them.
A lot of women delay marriage for many years in the pursuit of higher education and often they are tempted to pursue careers before marriage. The result is a large amount of women marrying well into their mid to late 20’s past their prime fertility years. I wrote an article a few years back on this issue of women’s fertility entitled “Women’s ovaries don’t agree with Feminism” and I encourage you to read that article if you have not already.
It is not a crime against humanity if a woman does not receive a higher education or for that matter does not even finish high school and is only “qualified” for homemaking. This is one of the primary purposes for which God designed woman. A lot of Christians misuse Proverbs 31 to try and teach that God approves of the modern concept of a career woman while ignoring this key verse in that passage:
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
Proverbs 31:27 (KJV)
How many career women actually look well to the ways of their household? How many career women instead barely cook for their families and leave their houses in disarray? How many are too tired to care for their children because they have dedicated all their energy to strangers outside the home? How many career women look at their husbands as their help meet instead of looking at themselves as their husband’s help meet?
The Proverbs 31 wife did go outside the home and buy and sell things but her focus was always on serving her home and her husband. That was the center of her life – that was what gave her life meaning and fulfillment. That is how she brought glory to both God and her husband.
Do women really need to form their “own outlook on life” before they marry?
God is portrayed as the potter to the clay in three different ways in the Bible.
In the New Testament God is portrayed in his sovereign creator role as the potter and individuals humans are the clay:
“20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
Romans 9:20-21 (KJV)
We also see the children of Israel regard God as their father being their potter:
“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
Isaiah 64:8 (KJV)
But there is a third role in which God pictures himself as the potter of the clay. It is as a husband to his wife Israel:
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
Jeremiah 18:1-6 (KJV)
And for those that wish to challenge that this is God talking to Israel as his wife I challenge with this other passage from earlier in the book of Jeremiah:
“Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”
Jeremiah 3:20 (KJV)
God literally equates “O house of Israel” with a wife who treacherously departs from her husband. If you look at how the phrase “O house of Israel” is used in other Old Testament prophecy books it is always used in the sense of Israel as a nation – the wife of God.
So if a Christian rejects the idea of a husband being able to mold his wife as the potter molds the clay from this analogy of God and Israel they do so only from a position of pride and a rejection of the husband/wife relationship as it is pictured in the Bible.
When Christians bloggers like nickducote say women need to form their own outlooks on life before marrying he is saying they should be firm in who they are and what they believe before they marry. The problem with this is that just as God wanted his wife Israel to be moldable to the way he wanted her to be – so too young women should be moldable to the way their husbands want them to be.
In a previous article I wrote entitled “Why unity in marriage has more to do with the wife than the husband” I dove into this concept that unity in marriage primarily has to do with the wife being moldable to her husband.
This does not mean a woman can never have her own opinions or even that young women cannot and should not have strong faiths even as young ladies before they marry. My daughter who will be turning 16 in a few months has a strong Christian faith. But I have taught her to keep herself moldable for her future husband and be prepared for the fact that he may see some things differently than I do as her father. I only have a temporary stewardship over my daughter and one day I will give her to the man that will be her husband for life. It is to that man, and not me that she must mold herself. It is with that man that she must become one flesh.
For decades Christians have done just as this blogger has recommended and encouraged women to have higher educations, form their own outlooks on life and ultimately marry much later. And what has the result been? We have produced generations of contentious and brawling wives as the Bible warns against:
“9 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house…
19 It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
Proverbs 21:9 & 19 (KJV)
Christian marriages now have the same divorce rates that non-Christian marriages have because we have rejected Biblical gender roles as taught in the Scriptures and Churches in mass have fully embraced modern feminist ideologies.
Is it wrong to view marriage as “a property transfer”?
Ever since Roe vs Wade and Second wave feminism the entire concept of a women belonging to men whether it be their fathers or their husbands was thrown out the window. Women for decades have chanted “it’s my body and I can do with it as I want” whether in reference to abortion or even in sexually denying their husbands.
While it may seem appalling to our feminist and egalitarian culture marriage is in fact classified as a transfer of property in the Bible. The Hebrew word used to speak of a woman getting married or being married or a man marrying a woman was the verb form the Hebrew “baal” which was literally “to be owned”. The noun form of the Hebrew word “baal” was used to describe a husband which was literally “owner”. See below this passage which described adultery and the penalty for it:
“If a man be found lying with a woman married[baal – verb] to an husband[baal-noun], then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”
Deuteronomy 22:22 (KJV)
So we could literally take the first part of Deuteronomy 22:22 and translate it as “If a man be found lying with a woman owned by an OWNER/MASTER…”
In Deuteronomy 24:1 where we read about divorce and the first part references marriage where it states “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her” this again uses the verb form of baal for marriage. It literally could be translated as “When a man hath taken a wife and owned her…”
Even Proverbs 31 which Christian feminists like to use to falsely teach that women can have careers and abandon their duties to the home to others shows the ownership of a husband over his wife.
“10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband[baal – noun] doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”
Proverbs 31:10-11 (KJV)
So verse 11 of Proverbs 31 literally says “The heart of her OWNER/MASTER doth safely trust in her”.
My point is this blogger and many other Christians and non-Christians alike may not like it – but the Word of God frames marriage itself as an owner/owned relationship. When a man marries a woman he takes ownership of her. He becomes her master. Biblically speaking, marriage under normal circumstances is absolutely a transfer of property in the sense of a father giving away his daughter in marriage to her husband.
Now we know as Christians that a husband is not to abuse his position as his wife’s master but that he is to love her as Christ loves the Church and washes her spots and wrinkles as Ephesians 5:25-27 states. But husbands are the masters, the owners and the heads of their wives just as Christ is the master, owner and head of his church.
That’s just the Old Testament!
A lot of Christians and non-Christians alike will criticize any use of the Old Testament as a found for moral teachings especially as it relates to marriage. This is huge topic but I will just give you a few pointers that defuse the false argument that there is no more binding moral law in the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ said of the Old Testament:
“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)
That Apostle Paul wrote:
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
Later in the New Testament we are told in Hebrews 7:12 “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” and this in in reference to the fact that under the new priesthood of Christ the ceremonial and civil laws given to Israel as a nation are removed for the Church. The Church unlike Israel is not a physical nation but rather a spiritual nation made up all peoples from all nations.
So for those who want to say “well if you belief daughters are owned by their fathers and wives are owned by their husbands then why are we not stoning kids for being rebellious or wives committing adultery?” Great question and the answer is a very easy answer. The answer is that adultery and rebellion of children toward their parents are still just as much sins against God as when he stated this thousands of years ago. It is the penalty for these sins that has changed in the New Testament since the Church is not a nation it cannot exercise these types of punishments.
I will end with this passage from the Scriptures for those who find the Old Testament or the Bible repugnant to their modern American values. For you Christians who put more faith in studies conducted by man that say women should not do what God created them to do because it is “unhealthy” or “catastrophic” for them.
“Let God be true, but every man a liar”
Romans 3:4 (KJV)
 Zauzmer, Julie. (2017). Roy Moore allegations prompt reflections on fundamentalist culture in which some Christian men date teens. The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/11/13/roy-moore-allegations-prompt-reflections-on-fundamentalist-culture-in-which-some-christian-men-date-teens/
 Reiss, Fraidy. (2017). Why can 12-year-olds still get married in the United States. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/10/why-does-the-united-states-still-let-12-year-old-girls-get-married/?utm_term=.fd7b3878c31f&tid=a_inl
 Weitzel, Eugene. J. (2010). I Want to Be a Husband and Father for Life and a Catholic Priest Forever. U.S.: Xilbris Corporation. p. 113
 nickducote. (2017). Jonathan Lindvall and Child Marriage: The Maranatha Story. Jonathan Homeschoolersanonymous.org. https://homeschoolersanonymous.org/2013/12/02/jonathan-lindvall-and-child-marriage-the-maranatha-story/