Does the Bible Define “Husband” and “Wife”?

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The Genesis account provides definitions for the terms “husband” and “wife.” Genesis 2:23–25 defines “wife” as being a woman united to a man through a marriage relationship, “‘She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Likewise, Genesis 3:6 defines “husband” as being a man united to a woman through a marriage relationship, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Throughout all of Scripture, there is never an exception to these definitions. Instead, these definitions are affirmed by Jesus Christ is Matthew 19:4–6, “‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? ‘So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’” Likewise, the Apostle Paul affirms these definitions in 1 Corinthians 7:2, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” They are further affirmed by the gender-specific language associated with the terms “husband” and “wife” in 1 Corinthians 7:2–3 and 10–14:

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. … To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband (emphasis added).


Every instance of the terms “husband” and “wife” in Scripture refers to a man or a woman in a heterosexual marriage relationship. There is never an exception. Moreover, the very definition of marriage is established in the creation account as being exclusively heterosexual based upon God’s decision to create mankind as consisting of male and female genders designed to satisfy each other’s needs. This is testified to by both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul.

Because of these clearly defined definitions, there can be no such thing as homosexual marriages. It is a self-contradicting title. Of course, Scripture is clear in passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:2 and Galatians 5:19–21 that sexual intercourse is only acceptable within the confines of marriage. If all Biblical marriages are heterosexual unions, and if all acceptable sexual intercourse must be performed within the confines of marriage, then homosexual intercourse is necessarily prohibited without exception. It can never occur within the acceptable parameters established by God, thus making it sexual immorality. As such, one can firmly declare all homosexual intercourse to be a sin before God. Indeed, God has already done this on our behalf (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:24–27; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; Jude 1:7).

The terms “husband” and “wife” are morally charged terms in Scripture with clearly established definitions. There is no ambiguity. We do not have to like those definitions, but we have no right to change them.

Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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