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Blog: Betrothal vs. Engagement

This weekend I read a blog about the difference between the traditional bethrothal vs. the modern term engagement. It talks about the difference between the two terms in relation to how they are used in biblical texts. More important than the post is the comments made by the audience. In relation to all the topics we cover in class this particular blog and its comments connects to the discussion of how people see truth. How do we as human beings define truth based on our beliefs and moral code? Also, it connects to some of the group projects that touch on background topics of romance, relationships, and religion. In the end, I was so interested in this different that I read about it on two other sites. Including information from all three websites, the conclusion is that:

*Betrothal- a contract between a couple that is binding. An agreement to marry at a specific time, (date/ age). Considered by some to include courtship. May be verbal or written. Includes discussion with the parents of both parties. Social custom shows that there are few intimacies between the betrothed and very rarely is there ever sex before the marriage. Couples refer to each other as “husband” or “wife”

*Engagement- an agreement to marry, usually verbal, that can be broken by either party. Often includes the couple cohabitating prior to marriage. Couples refer to each other as “fiancé”

  1. November 28, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Besides merely an existing as an interesting exploration of old versus modern terminology, I think this blog post serves to illustrate an intriguing difference in social norms between today and “Biblical times.” Perhaps there is something less special, less important, less sacred about marriage and the idea of committing oneself to a partner for life. Whereas many years ago, to be “betrothed” was, practically, to be married, people go months or even years living in a state of “engagement,” which, while more than simply being boyfriend and girlfriend simply does not have an overwhelming air of permanency about it. Not only do we know that in this modern age, most marriages end in divorce, but it is not uncommon at all for engagements to be broken off before a marriage is even reached.

    I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a problem with all of this. I mean, a lot of things have changed since the times during which we used the term “betrothal.” It is typical for people today to divorce and remarry, something that would have been taboo many years ago. Also, some people choose not to marry; and not all married couples elect to have children. The bottom line is this: things change. Terminology changes, and so does culture. The problem lies in this: we must recognize that changing terms and changing norms means that the very institution of marriage will be different today that it used to be. I’m not sure exactly how marriage is changing/will change, but I think as a society, it is important to recognize the inevitability of changes to one of the institutions that we have always held most sacred in our society.

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