Quoting Quiverfull: From Courtship to Betrothal?

by Jeff Woodward interviewing Joshua Ohlman at True Love Doesn’t Wait – Feature: Q&A with Joshua Ohlman

Briefly state your belief regarding the path to marriage. How do you believe one should go from being unmarried to married?

I believe that you should do that according to the principles that Scripture lays out and that some of those principles take precedence over others. But primarily I would say that, biblically-speaking, it’s the father’s role to initiate the process and to provide a wife for his son, and it’s the father of the bride’s role to be (as it were) the “authority” in that the marriage happens when the father of the bride says, “Yes, it’s going to happen.”

I think the key principles that I believe in are: one, that marriage should be happening young, and that’s obviously a bit of a subjective term there, “young”. But I think that at least, I would say, that the Scriptures say they should be happening young. I would say that of either of the two parties, the man or the woman, the man should be the one taking the initiative if the fathers aren’t taking initiative. In a lot of ways, one thing my dad and I have always been talking about and trying to correct is the idea that the exact process is important.

But, the examples that we see in Scripture are several different processes that all followed a very similar set of principles but that were different in the way they worked out.


So, the “skeleton” is the same, but the “meat” hanging on it is maybe a little different?

Right. And part of the problem, since we’re going from examples, we have to have wisdom to decide which part of the example is one of the principles that it shared with the other examples and which part is specific to this story and has some other importance. So, for example, the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as opposed to the marriage of Jacob and Rachel—we don’t see clear indications in either of those stories that say “yes, you should do this” or “no, you should not do that”. Obviously we can surmise that Isaac’s story was better for a variety of reasons, but when we go to actually saying “Which principles do we do?” it is a little bit harder. And I think that that in itself is probably a sign that the exact process—you know, “Step 1 is A, and Step 2 is B, and Step 3 is C…”—is not as important as the idea of “OK, here’s the principles.”

And so, one of those principles obviously, I mentioned, is young marriage. Another one I would say is the idea that the marriage process should be avoiding the temptation and the opportunity for fornication. I think that if you look at Isaac’s marriage, you’ll see “well, wait a minute, Isaac didn’t get involved at all”, and so there was no opportunity for him to do anything. If you look at what’s important in Scripture, one of those things is a big emphasis that fornication is a bad thing.

So, let me see if I can think of a few more principles that I would say I definitely hold to. One of them is the idea that it’s better if there is a real solid covenant at the earliest state possible. If you look at the three example marriages (Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekah, Christ and the Church), all three of those were founded on covenants that existed long before either of the parties met each other. Obviously you could debate whether Christ—Christ obviously knew about His bride before He came, but in the case of two of those stories, the bride was actually created after the covenant was made. And so, I think that’s a clear principle that says this whole idea that we should be forming quasi-relationships beforehand is out of whack.


So, obviously the betrothal process is quite a bit different from what most people are doing today. Have you always held to this view or have you believed that other processes were equally good at other points in your life?

Well, I sort of started thinking about this issue about the same time that my dad started thinking about betrothal. And so, I can remember way back in the back of my mind having this kind of a “courtship” idea. And I remember at the time we as a family had discussed it just a little bit, and I remember the kind of idea that the girl was not going to be involved, you know? And as we went on to study it, it actually became an important issue to me. We suddenly started going “oh, wait a minute, how about this whole ‘betrothal’ thing?” And so, while in some ways you could say that I did have a prior idea, which was a little more like courtship, and at one time I think I even had—I remember my dad saying something like “Big boys don’t cry. Save those tears for when your girlfriend breaks up with you or something SERIOUS like that.” So, there is that cultural history.

But from the time that I started saying, “OK, what is the RIGHT way to go about getting married”, almost at exactly that same point, we started studying betrothal. So, obviously in the process of studying it we were sort of holding our beliefs in suspension, like “OK, we’re studying this right now, so obviously we don’t have a real firm position just yet.”

Comments open below


QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Em

    “I just came to the conclusion betrothal was the best, on my own, at the exact same time as my authoritarian father” poor kid, but he’s not allowed to cry so we’ll never know if he’s unhappy.

  • acutler

    In his wisdom, God has chosen not to expound upon this matter in the Bible. (And this is the Bible that laid out detailed rules for mixing fabrics, wineskins, Sabbath keeping, how to plow your own field, etc.) I’d like to hear Von explain why it is appropriate to do what God has chosen not to and how he plans to escape the wrath that was directed at the Pharisees (Matt. 23) for doing the same thing (while the fornicators that Jesus was in contact with didn’t receive a fraction of that judgement).