Monday, July 07, 2008

Question from Valerie - Biblical passages related to "The Divorce"

I was watching this documentary about Henry VIII trying to annul the marriage to Katherine of Aragon and I was wondering if anyone knew what the exact quote from the Bible where Henry VIII was talking about where it says that he cannot marry his brother's widow. Also, I was wondering if anyone knew the quote that Katherine of Aragon said that told her to marry Henry VIII or something like that. Also, if anyone knows where I can find these in the Bible, that would be good. Thanks!

2 comments:

PhD Historian said...

The passage that Henry was referring to occurs in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus. Chapter 20,verse 21 of Leviticus states "And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless." In the Christian tradition, this has been interpreted to mean that a man cannot marry his brother's widow.

Katherine had previously been married to Henry's older brother Arthur. Whether or not the marriage was consummated before Arthur's death has been questioned since, but without consummation the marriage was not fully valid under the marriage laws of that time. Since Katherine always swore that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, she was thought free to marry Henry. And even had it been consummated and was thus valid, the Pope issued a dispensation that in essence gave Henry and Katherine special permission to violate Leviticus 20:21. Henry later argued that the Pope had no such authority to set aside God's law as it was recorded in Leviticus, and that the dispensation was thus itself a violation of God's will. Henry's evidence that the Pope had acted against God's will in granting the dispensation was that he and Katherine had been punished (as Leviticus said they would be) by God and been denied male children, despite the dispensation.

Katherine referred to another Biblical passage that directly contradicts Leviticus 20:21. Deuteronomy 25:5 states "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her." And indeed, the Pope grounded his dispensation in part upon this passage from Deuteronomy. The contradiction between Leviticus 20:21 and Deuteronomy 25:5 was part of the reason why the divorce was not granted by the Pope.

Bible Student Tel said...

Leviticus 20:21 forbids a man to take his brother's wife (during the lifetime of his brother) whereas Genesis 38:8, Deuteronomy 25:5, Matthew 22:24 and Luke 20:28 places a duty on the brother to make his childless brother's widow pregnant to give her a child to continue his dead brother's line. There is no contradiction between Leviticus 20:21 and the other verses quoted above.