Correspondences in Marriage
by the Rev. Ormond Odhner
In the work, Conjugial Love, we read: "The correspondence of [conjugial] love is with the marriage of the Lord and the church. That is, as the Lord loves the church, and desires that the church shall love Him, so husband and wife mutually love each other. It is known in the Christian world that there is such a correspondence between them, but what is its nature is not yet known. This correspondence shall therefore be explained......" (no. 62)
And the Writings do explain it, even as to its particulars, though sometimes only by allusions. Plainly, however, they speak of one particular aspect of marriage in which we might expect to find certain correspondences, and teach that here no such correspondences exist. In marriage, the husband does not represent (or correspond to) the church; for both husband and wife together constitute the church. Much that the husband does in marriage; much that he contributes to it - his active role in marriage - has parallels with the Lord's part in the marriage of the Lord and the church. Much that the wife does in marriage - much that she contributes to it - her re-active role in marriage, has parallels with the church's receptive role in the Divine or heavenly marriage. But the husband does not represent the Lord; the wife does not represent the church; husband and wife together constitute the church.
Whether the Apostle Paul knew anything of the Lord's own words concerning the marriage of the Lord and the church, we shall never know with certainty. Both from the Writings and from the biblical critics of the learned world, however, we conclude that he did not. Much that Paul wrote, nevertheless, strengthened the concept that in marriage the husband represents the Lord, the wife the church, and thus perpetuated the very ancient false idea that by her very nature woman is inferior to man.
Paul was a learned Pharisee. He well knew Jewish religion and its rabbinical interpretations and the philosophy built upon them both. He was personally acquainted with pagan religions and pagan philosophy, and they had a marked effect upon his thinking - as they had upon all the learned Jews of that day.
Many pagan religions denied woman an eternal soul. Jewish religion did not do that; but in the days of the Lord there was still argument in it as to whether anyone, male or female, had eternal life.
In common with pagan thought, however, Jewish religion made woman a lesser order of human being than man, and it based this on the literal story of Genesis. Woman was sort of an after-thought in creation. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He formed woman from man and for man. As Paul put it, "Man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11: 7, 9)
And further to the depreciation of woman, Jewish thought, in just as cowardly a fashion as Adam had done in the Garden of Eden, shifted the blame for original sin from man to woman. Adam, when accused by Jehovah God of transgressing His commands, had replied: "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Paul put it this way: "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression." (I Timothy 2: 14)
Woman's Divinely inflicted punishment for original sin also loomed large in this, of course: "Thy desire shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
It is small wonder, then, that Paul could write such things as these: "The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man." (I Corinthians 11: 3) "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord. The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.... Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5: 22-24) And, "Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted for them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience. . . . and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home." (I Corinthians 14: 34, 35) "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection."
All of which would be true if, in marriage, there was a correspondence of the man with the Lord, the woman with the church, for surely the church must be subject to her Lord in everything. But there is no such correspondence. The husband does not represent the Lord; the wife does not represent the church; both together constitute the church. Before the Lord they truly are on equal footing, of equal importance, of equal value, of equal worth.
Within marriage or outside of marriage, then, let there be no dominance of one sex over the other, no striving for supereminence, no secret sense of superiority. Let not the male claim to himself any so-called masculine privileges over the female as he boasts of his more active, more aggressive role in life. And let not the female seek dominion over the male, either by practicing wily feminine subtleties upon him (which she knows he will never understand), nor by indulging in that peculiarly cruel form of torture in which woman by nature excels - persistent nagging - (which she knows no man can stand). Let him not privately look down upon her for what he thinks is her inferior intellect; and let her neither purposely abet nor even accept his smug masculine conceit, smiling to herself while she does so because she knows that here is the hidden force which motivates him in everything he does.
Before the Lord, truly, man and woman are equal - equal, if not the same. Certainly they are equal in the essentials of humanity, the essential things that differentiate the human from the animal, namely, the twin faculties of liberty and rationality. Man and woman have these in equal degree, equal manner, equal form.
But these two faculties, as they are in themselves, are always above our consciousness. We become aware of them only in their results, our mental powers of will and understanding; and it is here that the basic difference between male and female first becomes evident. Both man and woman have will and understanding, of course; but, as we read, "With the man the understanding predominates, and with the woman the will predominates; and the character [of each] is determined by that which predominates." (HH 369)
And from this basic difference between male and female come such well-known teachings of the Writings as these: (1) Man is born to become a form of understanding, to become understanding or wisdom in form; woman, to become a form of affection, to become affection or love in form. (2) The male is created to become wisdom from the love of growing wise; and the female, to become the love of the male from and according to his wisdom. (3) And, in marriage, the will of the wife conjoins itself with the understanding of the man; and the understanding of the man with the will of the wife.
Man, then, is wisdom in form; woman is love in form. In this, these two essentially equal human beings are essentially distinct. Consider these two things as to their inmosts, however. Inmostly, the wisdom of the male is nothing but love, the love of growing wise. And, inmostly, the love of the female is nothing but wisdom, the wisdom that lovingly takes truths and gives them form in uses.
The wisdom of the male? Certainly it does not consist of the masses of facts he acquires or has acquired, be they laws of physics or knowledges concerning the Lord's glorification. No man can stop and look at the mass of facts his wisdom has accumulated and say, "There is my wisdom," nor does any woman love him for that mass of facts. His wisdom is his love of growing wise, the love of becoming ever wiser. Hence it is in the very nature of man to go on and on, ever learning more and more and more.... Yet where, really, is there any wisdom in doing that? Indeed, is it not evident that right now we are at a momentary juncture in history when we have far more knowledges than we know what to do with?
And the love of the female, the love which she by her very nature conjoins with the wisdom of the male (conjoins, that is, with his love of growing wise)? What is that, inmostly, but wisdom? Here is the receptive love of taking to itself, cherishing, and bringing forth in uses the wisdom of the male. Does anything else in life more truly deserve the name of wisdom?
Hence the male inmostly is love, the love of growing wise; and thus does he become a form of wisdom. And hence the female, inmostly, is wisdom, the wisdom that lovingly clothes and brings forth the wisdom of the male in forms of use; and thus does she become a living form of love.
And thus also is the Lord's church formed in the husband and wife who together and as a perfect one constitute that church which is the bride and wife of the Lamb. This is His church, formed first with the husband out of those things of spiritual wisdom he acquires for himself of the Lord from his love of growing wiser and ever wiser; and formed from or through the husband in the wife from her love of taking the things of wisdom with her husband and clothing them in forms of use. This is the church descending into their marriage out of heaven; and it is this in them which is resurrected into eternal life in heaven out of their lives together here on earth.
May this church be fully prepared in each of us, fittingly clothed in the beauty of truth and in the purity of good, so that, as we rise up to meet our God, it may be said, even of us, "Behold, the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready."
-New Church Life 1971;91:375-378