Viktor Orbán and the 4000-year-old history of marriage between one man and one woman

The Budapest Pride, a yearly parade of gays, lesbians, and their supporters, was held on Saturday. About ten years ago these parades normally took place without much to-do, but the growth of the far right changed all that. Instead of being a free-wheeling, joyous affair, it is now a “march” between a wall of policemen. Beyond the cordons are the frenzied, screaming neo-Nazis.

The parade itself went off peacefully enough. But once it was over and the crowd dispersed, three people were brutally attacked by a group of thirty skinheads dressed in black uniforms. Policemen arrived on the scene quickly. But instead of going after the attackers, they demanded ID cards from the victims. They simply let the attackers leave. Opposition parties are demanding a police investigation.

It turned out that Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green member of the European Parliament, was among those marching in the parade. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum may recall her as the person who had a serious run-in with Zsolt Bayer, who talked about her on HírTV in a truly unspeakable manner. I often wondered whether Bayer knew that Lunacek is a lesbian. I suspect that he didn’t, at least at the time. Otherwise, he would have used even stronger and even less acceptable language.

In any case, while Lunacek was in Budapest she had a chat with a reporter for Népszabadság. The conversation soon turned to a discussion of Viktor Orbán’s performance in the European Parliament last week. In his speech Orbán tried to defend the Hungarian parliament’s decision to include in the constitution a definition of marriage as the joining of  “one man and one woman.”  Whatever you think of this definition, as usual he didn’t do a good job researching the topic of marriage from a historical perspective. He asserted that “marriage between one man and one woman is a Judaeo-Christian tradition going back 4,000 years.”

gender symbolsUlrike Lunacek pointed out that marriage in the sense of a civil contract is relatively new, starting only a couple of hundred years ago. She might have added, more to the point, that there is also something dreadfully wrong with the 4,000 years. According to most Biblical scholars, polygyny continued to be practiced well into the biblical period in ancient Israel. In fact, there were instances among the population in Israel as late as the second century CE. The Torah is full of laws governing the practice of polygamy, and we know of several prominent Biblical figures who had more than one wife. For example, Esau, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Even Herod with the special permission of the Romans.

In Greece the situation was the same. The richer the man the more wives he had. Marriages, just as in ancient Israel, were arranged. By the age of fourteen girls were married off to men who were usually a great deal older. The average marriage age for men in ancient Greece was about 30.

Rome was different. It was a strictly monogamous society. Marriage meant the joining in matrimony of one man and one woman. It was a very strict rule, and that’s why Herod had to get special permission from his Roman overlords to have more than one wife.

So, we can forget about the 4,000 years. Our views on marriage today come largely from the teachings of Jesus and the Roman practice of monogamy. I’m no Biblical scholar, so I can’t judge whether there was any connection between Roman marital mores and those of the Judaean society in which Jesus lived.

It is hard to tell from where this erroneous  information about the marital practices of ancient times comes from. But Christian Democratic politicians keep repeating this magic number, which is wrong no matter what calendar they use. The only thing I don’t understand is why Zoltán Balog, Orbán’s spiritual adviser who is after all a Protestant minister, doesn’t straighten him out on the subject. He, as opposed to the Catholic Christian Democrats, ought to be familiar with the Bible.

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Minusio
Guest

Éva, of course you are right.

The problem with the fruits of the enlightenment is that you can’t force them down people’s throats. “Gegen Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”(Schiller)

Guest

London Calling!

Lunacek was most impressive in the parliamentary debate – she asked Orban directly why he had come.

And suggested at one point that it might be for ‘home consumption’.

Very perspicacious.

I think he looked quite uncomfortable.

***************

O/T but only slightly.

I posted recently about a wonderful interview I heard on the BBC with Elton John – and I remarked on the contrast between Hungary and ‘Great Britain’.

I’ve managed to find it.

A quite uplifting interview with Reg Dwight. – In contrast with Gay’s experiences in Eva’s above post.

Regards

Charlie

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23157855

Regards

Charlie

Minusio
Guest

@CharlieH. Thanks for the link. I agree with you that Elton John expressed a mature, responsible and spirited view on life and the liberties an educated society should offer ALL of its members. As you said: It’s uplifting.

Paul
Guest
The core of what we call ‘Christianity’ was largely the creation of Paul – the writers of the Gospels were followers of Paul’s teaching, not Jesus’s, and were writing 100 years or more after Jesus’s death Paul, as well as being a Jew, was a Roman citizen, and he saw his calling as being to spread the word of Jesus (as he interpreted it) to the wider world – which, in those days, meant the Roman empire. (He had a major falling out over this with the Jewish Christian church, who saw Jesus’s preaching as being for Jews alone.) To this end, the teachings of Jesus became adapted and enhanced to appeal to people living in a Roman environment. So, it’s quite likely that the origins of the so-called ‘Judeo-Christian’ marriage assumptions/laws did indeed reflect the Roman laws of the day. As Éva points out, they certainly didn’t reflect the Jewish experience – or that of any other peoples in the area. But, as Éva also says, marriage as we understand it today in the ‘Christian’ West is really only a post-industrial revolution concept, and much of what we take for granted as ‘tradition’ actually only dates back to Victorian… Read more »
Paul
Guest

I suspect the same may be true about ‘modern’ attitudes to homosexuality too.

I don’t know what Jewish society thought of the matter or what the Torah has to say about it, but I don’t, offhand, remember Jesus being too concerned about it (I’m not sure it’s even mentioned in the Gospels), and, of course, pre-Roman Greece was publically very pro homosexuality – a rich man about town would always be seen out and about with his young man/men, never a woman (women were for rearing children and looking after the home).

Again, I don’t know what the attitude of Romans of Jesus/Paul’s time was to homosexuality, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was strongly anti – and that would almost certainly have influenced Paul. And it is from Paul’s writings that we can trace the beginning of the strong anti-homosexual currents in the Christian church.

Minusio
Guest
@Éva and Paul. Such theological-historical excursions, however erudite, are unfortunately fairly irrelevant after the Age of Enlightenment and the separation of religion and state (however imperfect) in many countries. Since then we (should) have the laicist citizen who keeps his/her religion to him/herself and as a private matter – or feels free to be an atheist. Only this achievement of a certain liberation from religious and other ideologies has made gay and lesbian marriages possible – at least in some more progressive countries. Orbán’s denial of this progress was quite unnecessary but to be expected. For want of deeper insight, many Hungarians seem to cling to what they hear from the catholic pulpits and Orbán TV – which doesn’t make their thinking more progressive. Sometimes I feel it is just not given to them. It won’t help Orbán. But it won’t hurt him either. Such are the Hungarian circumstances: It almost doesn’t matter what happens, Orbán will stay his “course” to the bitter end. Almost everybody agrees that this will come eventually, but most people disagree about when this will happen. I am on the side of those who think it will take much longer than anyone can imagine. Why?… Read more »
Anettka van de Mért
Guest

I suppose that the 4000 years came from the Gen.2,24 ( That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.) Those who reject biblical criticism and are not scholars can think that this passage can be 4000 years old which is probably not true. In this way monogamy was first, and then everything else like divorce came after (Mt19,8).

I think there are two big discrepancies in contemporary hungarian christian thinking. First they want to make compatible the so called conservative views on marriage with the Bible, and second they want to argue theologically on civil marriage, which is indeed an anachronism after Enlightenment.

Member
Paul : … it is from Paul’s writings that we can trace the beginning of the strong anti-homosexual currents in the Christian church. I don’t think your namesake said anything about homosexuality. Hi provided the Christians with a lot of practical advices – basically adapted Jesus’ teachings to their everyday lives. There are quotes from Paul about condemning homosexuality but they are all debated heavily – everything is “lost in translation”. There was nothing to say about homosexuality in his times. It was very likely a crime for most. Paul gave a lot of practical guidance about marriage – even divorce, when he wrote about the marriages with a non-Christians. The question of how to treat same sex relationships didn’t even come up. Homosexual acts became abomination and were hated but not because Paul – or Jesus for that matter – had teachings against it. Today the same hatred toward homosexuals is behind the fight against same sex marriages. It has nothing to do with the social contract. Saying that “we hate fags” doesn’t sound too Christian, unless you are the member of the Westboro Baptist Church … Interesting to imagine Paul publishing a revised edition of the epistles, adapted… Read more »
Peter Litvanyi
Guest

Dear Eva,
I might be wrong but as far as I remember the relevant passages from my Latin studies: there were several layers of “marriage contracts” in ancient Rome. Yes, there was only one “top layer contract” /”Gaius ubi Tu Gaia”/ where property and lineage was clearly handed down to the offspring or surviving member of the couple. However /if my memory doesn’t fail me again/ the Roman Law also recognized several forms of “lesser” marriages each sort with its own mutual obligations and benefits. Correct me if I am wrong, now am curious. Sincerely: Peter Litvanyi .

Jano
Guest

Paul: As far as I know (and as far as my catholic girlfriend enlightened me during the DC pride parade), The old testament (not sure if the Torah itself, but probably) condemns homosexuality. It’s plausible to me that in the early Jewish society struggling to survive, homosexuality was viewed as harmful and therefore ideologically (aka religiously) banned.

On the other hand, Jesus didn’t really seem to have cared about it and thus the new testament is much more “forgiving”. My girlfriend cited me a paragraph that says that one should be emphatic towards homosexuals. On can still rightly debate that homosexuals don’t need empathy, they need equality, but this already makes the usually strongly negative religious reaction a lot less justified.

Guest
London Calling! Interesting comment re ‘laicist’ citizenship, Minusio – it is a surprise to me in my village the hold the RC church has over the inhabitants. Their organised events almost always involve full attendance – a very large majority of the village (including agnostic me!), for example on a ‘village day’, a seemingly secular event only betrayed by the prominent role of the ubiquitous and ever-present priest. And there seems to be a monopoly in all village events – hence my involvement in ‘doing my bit’. Even non-believers (discretely ascertained) send their children to all church events because they ‘know where they are and what they are doing’. I believe this hold of the church over many villages is typical – and confirmed by the many mini-shrines in the most unexpected backwoods of many villages. There is a complete absence of youngsters embedded in their social websites, unlike in England. So the RC church is able to build, and maintain, its insidious hold over all sections of Hungarian society. In England I detect – just a feeling – that there is a falling away of support for Roman Catholicism particularly due to the child-abuse scandals and just the progress… Read more »
DH
Guest

@Peter Litvanyi: there was no polygamy in Rome. In fact a valid marriage (matrimonium) was an obstacle to become married with another person. The concubinatus was referring to when there was no marriage but the couple slept together regularly. This was also an obstacle of marrying with another person, especially if the couple had common children. A free person may have had affairs with a servant (or with more servants…) but that was not marriage and had legal affects only in respect of the servant – if freed, he/she could not marry with any person with whom he/she had a common blood due to the “gang-bang” conducted by the “master”. This sort of relation was called contubernium.

Joe Simon
Guest

Orbán is a politician. Most political leaders in the West take similar positions, regarding marriage.
Obama would side with VO. Donot make too much of this matter.

Ivan
Guest

Charlie – non-Catholics in my village are asked if their religion is ‘Pakistani’! I have also been repeatedly told that fellow villagers will only come and be employed to patch up my house, repair my boilers etc, if I start attending church. The church is well-known as a key Fidesz mouthpiece and ally. Franco used the church very successfully in Spain, just like this. There are key models and precedents for everything going on here.

Guest

@Minusio:

Thanks for quoting my all time favourite: “Gegen Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”(Schiller)”
The usual English translation is:

Against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain.

And totally OT:
Did you know that Isaac Asimov titled one of his later science fiction novels in honour of Schiller “The gods themselves” ?

Re the Catholic church in Hungary:

Here in our village near Hévíz the church is not too full on Sunday morning – only funerals are well visited. We had to go to one when a neighbour died – I haven’t seen such a procedure for years, it felt really strange.

Btw, some village people like the wife of the deceased didn’t know that there are also protestants in Hungary (My wife comes from such a family, but her parents were agnostics even before the communists came …)

The younger people that I know have no connection at all to any faith.

NWO
Guest

The fact that Orban does not support gay marriage neither surprises me nor particularly upsets me. In America, we are only getting to this position now, and even in the more liberal parts of Western Europe this is generally a relatively recent phenomenon. Hungary is closed, insular and conservative. What is unfortunate is that Budapest was previously a rather welcoming city for gays. Even if one does not want to enshrine gay marriage into the law, encouraging gays to live in or at a minimum visit Budapest really is in everyone’s interest. As the data shows in the U.S., gays are both wealthier and better educated than the population at large. They spend money and go out, not to mention being disproportionately represented in the arts. Of course, this is what Budapest needs to remain an attractive place to live and visit (which one would think is a good long term for the economic prospects of the country). Sadly, the Government does not seem to care at all about any of this.

Don Kichote
Guest

@Minusio,
“Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens” soll das Originalzitat sein. Ein mehrdeutiges Zitat, finde ich, was hat sich Schiller dabei gedacht? Könnte es sein, dass die „Götter selbst“ mit Dummheit geschlagen sind? Oder könnte er beides gemeint haben, gegen Dummheit und gegen dumme Götter ist kein Gras gewachsen. So oder so, es ist gut getroffen.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

NWO :
Even if one does not want to enshrine gay marriage into the law, encouraging gays to live in or at a minimum visit Budapest really is in everyone’s interest.

I don’t think so.

When families, businesses, PTAs, sports clubs, political parties etc. operate normally with openly gay people among them, they realize that homosexuality actually doesn’t matter in most areas of social life. After a while, a majority starts to think that equal rights should be granted – not to an abstract category, but to their very relatives, colleagues, sports mates etc.

Letting LGBT people live out of the closet is certainly not in the long-term interest of conservatives!

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Joe Simon :
Orbán is a politician. Most political leaders in the West take similar positions, regarding marriage.
Obama would side with VO. Donot make too much of this matter.

I wouldn’t be so sure about ‘the West’.

Anyway, one question remains: why add to the Constitution of a secular state a restriction for entering a civil contract? A fundamental law isn’t a campaign leaflet.

DH
Guest

If you have listened the latest Kossuth radio interview with OV (last Friday), you might recall an interesting confession he made (probably not intentionally). When he was speaking about the fundamental law, he admitted that it is not a liberal constitution. In the context it was said it is clear what does he mean by that. He said that in Western Europe the primary purpose of a constitution (in this sense it is called a liberal constitution) to protect the rights of the individual citizen. In Hungary’s christian and conservative fundamental law this is not a purpose, rather to ensure the morals of the society as a whole and provide a framework for the society to develop. He makes the differenece between liberal/conservative constitution along these lines. The individual (including a private business) has no real protection when in the name of the society (like god – in the middle ages) something needs to be done. And yet this is what is happening: with media law, judges and right for proper forum, nationalisation of businesses (even individual real estates – see ballet institution or Margaret Island) etc etc.

Guest

@DH:

A very interesting and relevant remark!

I remember from discussions on politics.hu that some Fidesz loonies wanted to bring back the good old days of 100 years ago, when in their opinion Hungary was a “Great Power” and Christian family values were important – all in the name of “The Holy Crown” of Hungary, whatever that means …

And we also heard from Fidesz “If you have nothing then you are nothing” – the individual is worthless generally – you only exist for the “Common Cause”!

Really strange!

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

I have no intention to deal with polygamy in Judaism. However there is no doubt that Judaism upholds the last 2000 years monogamy. See the Adam and Eve story one man is created with one woman as his wife. When the Hebrew prophets use the illustration of a man and his wife for God’s love for Israel and Israel’s for God it is clear that they think of monogamy as the ideal. Hardly any of the 2000 or so teachers mentioned in the Talmud had more than one wife and it is revealing that in discussion regarding marriage the Talmud generally refers to husband and wife, not wives. In the ideal picture of family-life presented in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs, the “woman of worth” is the only wife in the home.

Member

@DH Were the results of the poll (the mailed questionnaire) about the constitution ever published? In this interview Orban boasted that the 80% (of the 900,000 returned, from 8 million) didn’t want a “liberal constitution”. According to Orban they wanted to put the “greater good” above the rights of individual. That would be 720,00 from 8 million = 9% of the population with voting rights.

Zumi88zumi
Guest
A couple of notes (maybe a bit OT). This Hungarian Pride was the most successful and popular Pride ever. A huge improvmenet on last year and the years before. A kind of tipping point took place. Perhaps it was better organized, perhaps a lot of (urban) people took the opportunity to support something that is clearly contrary to the world-view of the government, in a kind of subtle protest event. And in fact one would not have expected this success given the crazy right wing subculture in which hatred of gays is part of this quasi-religion. So I guess although Hungary is significantly behind the West on gay rights, there is a clear progress among the people (especially young urbanites), which is what matters. Unlike in France or Spain, the Hungarian government will never grant any rights to gays out of enlighted modernism, only if there is a clear majority of the voters supporting it and even then only probably the courts will do so. But who knows what will happen in 2-5 years, when perhaps the now closeted gay politicians will be hopefully outed. But it seems that the gay rights movement is gathering strength in Hungary. That said,… Read more »
Member

Some good news. The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that the decision by a Hungarian court to ban a far-right, anti-Roma and anti-Semitic group, the Hungarian Guard Association, is lawful.

http://www.errc.org/article/errc-welcomes-ecthr-ruling-upholding-ban-on-far-right-group-in-hungary/4159

Member

Zumi88zumi :
That said, it is important that we do not get mislead by the (gradual) successes of the gay rights movement and think that (at least in the West) all is well, progressive ideas are starting to prevail and we have yet another positive example in minority rights protection.

Man, these journalist bustards got me again. Thanks for the warning.

NewPrayer2013
Guest

Karl Pfeifer: “I have no intention to deal with polygamy in Judaism. However there is no doubt that Judaism upholds the last 2000 years monogamy.”
I like my friend Karl. He is right. It is true that many modern Jews apply the Old Testament in a kind and nice way.
It is not the case when the fundamentalist Hassids, like the Kiryath Joel Satmars use it.
Altogether, all Scriptures are out date.
They were good attempts to canonize contemporary morals with the best intentions.
It is now our task to generate the codex of the Enlightenment, which may reach respectability in a couple hundred years.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

I am a coauthor of a book on subject matter “Bruderzwist im Hause Israel” (1999) So we could discuss about Judaism, but I respect the rules of this blog and our subject matter is Hungary.

DH
Guest

Mutt, I am not aware of any published results. And I certainly agree with that OV’s argument and reference to the poll is unjustified. My point was rather to point out his interpretation/motivation/attitude regarding the constitution. Forcing an entire “nation” (or two, which I believe is the case but that is a different story) to be bound by his idea is of course outrageous.

DH
Guest

I am not big fan of 444! but this spot kept me laughing a lot: http://most.444.hu/2013/07/09/kip-kop-na-kinek-a-kezedbe-kerul-az-unios-penzosztas/

“knock, knock! So who will be responsible for the distribution of EU funds?”
“that’s right”.

spectator
Guest
Mutt : @DH Were the results of the poll (the mailed questionnaire) about the constitution ever published? In this interview Orban boasted that the 80% (of the 900,000 returned, from 8 million) didn’t want a “liberal constitution”. According to Orban they wanted to put the “greater good” above the rights of individual. That would be 720,00 from 8 million = 9% of the population with voting rights. While aiming for the “greater good” sounds really nice to some, it is a total disregard of individual rights, needs, ideas, etc., a whole person, so you only supposed to count as supporter, voter, labourer en masse, while the nature of that “greater good” will be defined by The One and Only Viktor, no one else. The whole scene pretty much reminds me to the ideas of “mass destruction” – communism, nazism, or any fundamentalist sect for that matter – there isn’t too much difference. Sometime I vonder, if Hungary would have had another fate, if the above mentioned Viktor wouldn’t end up… well, vertically challenged, would not have started to play soccer, or if he did, would have been good enough to rather stay on the field, not to mention the sociopath… Read more »
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