Righteous Relationships – Dating


1.1. Wikipedia definition: “dating is a form of courtship consisting of socializing done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a marriage”

1.2. The Bible would see all forms of courtship (whether called by the term “dating” or “courting[1]”) as exclusively for assessing one’s suitability as a spouse and never just as “a partner in an intimate relationship” since all such relationships would undoubtedly include sexual attraction[2] with the obvious goal of sexual activity – something forbidden outside of the marriage covenant (1 Thessalonians 4:2-3  – “sexual immorality” = sexual activity outside the completion of a marriage covenant).

1.3. The biblical concept of betrothal is therefore closest to the concept of dating[3] since:

1.3.1. It takes place before the actual marriage (e.g. Matthew 1:18-20).

1.3.2. It exists (among other things) for the purpose of assessing marriage suitability. Consider (2 Corinthians 11:2): all Divine-human covenants are betrothal or inchoate in nature [4]  versus complete or choate – something which takes place only after the marriage ceremony is complete. In relation to God, this happens only after we have passed from this life into the next (see Revelation 19:6-9). As additional support, consider also the fact that Joseph pursues “divorce” in relation to Mary though they are only betrothed.  This implies a covenant/contract is already in place (see again Matthew 1:19).

1.4. As such, dating must operate within the following parameters for Christians:

1.4.1. Only those recognized by the Church as Christians are eligible (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

1.4.2. Only when approved by the Church (Exodus 22:16; 1 Samuel 18:25 w/ its NC understanding: Matthew 19:29).

1.4.3. The existence of both spiritual and sexual attraction (Genesis 2:18-24).

1.4.4. A demonstration of brother-to-sister behavior only (1 Timothy 5:2; 2 Corinthains 13:12)[5].

1.4.5. Free of any activity which is meant to arouse/gratify the sexual desires of either person (1 Thessalonians 4:2-8).

1.4.6. Free of any activity which might imply sexual relations to others (Ephesians 5:3).

1.4.7. An exclusive commitment (“betrothed…to one husband” 1 Timothy 3:2, 12).

[1] There is nothing more biblical about using the word “courting” (versus “dating”) to describe this process though some have attempted to make such distinctions (e.g. Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye).  Neither word can claim biblical origins since neither were a part of the social landscape when the Bible was written.

[2] It is true that some people have dated and married without any sexual attraction or desire for sexual activity but such relationships strain even the common worldly understanding of these terms and (as we shall see) is completely unbiblical.

[3] Many equate the betrothal period to that of the modern day engagement period.  Though there are similarities between the “bride-price” (Exodus 22:16) and the purchase of a ring today, engagements oftentimes are purely pragmatic in purpose: to give time for planning the wedding.  By this point, assessment for “marriage suitability” is a foregone conclusion.

[4] Betrothal was considered the first act in the marriage covenant process and though not all rights and privileges (e.g. sexual license) had yet been granted at this point (“inchoate marriage”), oftentimes spousal terms were employed to refer to each other (Consider Deuteronomy 20:7; “husband” in 2 Corinthians 11:2; Hosea 2:2-4 – In addressing His marriage covenant relationship w/Israel, God refers to the children of Israel as the children of whoring – not as His own. Consummation of the marriage covenant has not yet taken place making all progeny at this point – illegitimate).  Modern sensibilities however require that we not confuse such terminology by using it outside of what is viewed as marriage today. For further study on this subject see Gordon P. Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, p.243-251.

[5] These verses establish what constitutes sexual behavior: Any physical activity which would be inappropriate for siblings to engage in.