Ruckman’s unbalanced definition of marriage

Peter Ruckman has many unusual views for someone who passes himself off as a Baptist, and the matter of marriage is no exception. According to Ruckman, when a man and woman sleep together for the first time, they are getting married. Notice the following brief quotes which summarize his beliefs in this regard:

But marriage per se, is intercourse, and it is defined as such even when there is fornication with a harlot (see 1 Cor. 6:16-18).
Ruckman, Peter. The Ruckman Reference Bible, 2009, note for Mat. 19:5

…in the final analysis, the marriage takes place in God’s sight before or after the ceremony. You cannot make a “ceremony” a real “marriage” unless you are a Bible-rejecting “Catholic.”
The Book of Matthew: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore. 1970, 1978 p. 366

A marriage ceremony in the Bible is not a real marriage. Marriage is flesh joining flesh…
Ruckman, Peter. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. 1980, (1998 reprint), Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, p. 21

"Flesh joining flesh" makes a man and woman, "man and wife" (Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31).
Ruckman, Peter. The Ruckman Reference Bible, 2009, p. 499

Since we are often accused of taking Ruckman out of context by his followers (usually with no attempts to prove it), we will list even more examples of Ruckman's bizarre teachings on this matter:

Note also that marriage is always a “flesh” business, and is never a “ceremony.”
Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Matthew: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore. 1970, 1978 p. 363

…the Bible defines marriage as a physical matter in 1 Corinthians 7:9 …In the Bible, a "marriage" is where flesh joins flesh to make one body. That fact is incontestable. You can't do anything about it.
Ruckman, Peter. Marriage Divorce and Remarriage, 1998, pp. 6-7

They think a “marriage” is where you come up and stand before somebody and go through marriage vows and make it a “sacrament.” They think something magical happens when the preacher says, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and they slap on the ring and throw the rice. But that is a marriage ceremony. A marriage is where flesh joins flesh.
Ruckman, Peter. The Books of First and Second Corinthians: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2002, p. 129

It is not the purpose of this article to prove whether in God’s eyes a couple is married upon making vows to each other (traditionally in a public ceremony) or upon consummating the marriage after those vows. The Bible does not say outright when marriage technically takes place, but with its teachings on fornication and adultery, it is safe to conclude that sleeping together without marital vows cannot be valid as marriage in God’s eyes.

If marriage is merely “flesh joining flesh” as Ruckman teaches, then the following would be the case when taken to their logical extent:

  1. No person who has lost their virginity can “get married” to the person they slept with, because they are already married.
  2. If a bride and groom reach the marriage altar pure, they technically cannot be husband and wife at the end of their public vows to each other, and the officiating minister should not pronounce them married.
  3. It would be all right for couples who have already slept together to “shack up” without a wedding because they would already be married.
  4. The number of times one has been married is determined by how many different persons one has slept with.
  5. If you are marrying anyone you are sleeping with, then how could you ever commit fornication or adultery?
  6. If a man and woman have slept together before marriage, they should be referred to as husband and wife before their wedding.

We do not wish to misportray Ruckman. The above points are not his teachings, but they are the potential consequences when taken to their logical extent. Ruckman says he does not approve of couples "shacking up:

Nobody said they were in favor of common law marriage. The laws of the state (Rom. 13:1-5) are to be obeyed. Nobody said anything about “shacking up” with someone and calling that a marriage.
Ruckman, Peter. Marriage Divorce and Remarriage, 1998, p. 10

Ruckman can’t have it both ways. He can’t say marriage is flesh joining flesh, and at the same time say that you can’t call shacking up a marriage. Ruckman's teachings play right into the hands of those who would attempt to justify such ungodly conduct. Ruckman’s definition taken to its logical extent would allow for polygamy and for couples to “shack up” without getting married. Ruckman does not advocate such conduct, but that reveals the weakness of his position on the definition of marriage.

Ruckman is emphasizing the physical rather than the commitment that forms the marriage. The Bible emphasizes the love, commitment and responsibility of marriage far more than the physical intimacy of marriage. When a final, binding commitment is made, accepted by both parties and society in some form of a recognized ceremony, the physical act of intimacy naturally follows. That is a given. When the physical act occurs after a ceremony is no one's business outside of the married couple and God. To make the physical act the true start of a marriage is not practical in society. Perhaps a biblical case could be made that in God's eyes a marriage isn't finalized and sealed until the physical consummation takes place after the vows, but that is not exactly what Ruckman is saying. He is saying that sexual intimacy constitutes marriage even without the vows. That is a big distinction.

Marriage involves a vow between bride and groom recognized by society and government which naturally leads to physical consummation and cohabitation. What society accepts as a marriage vow is of course subject to God’s law.

Wedding ceremonies can be found going back to the book of Genesis. How ceremonies are conducted have changed over the centuries and can be different in other cultures. Even though ceremonies didn’t always involve an exchange of rings and a minister signing off with “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” they surely involved a vow of some kind.

In America and likely in most countries, one can legally get married without a traditional “ceremony” such as by signing documents before a judge or a justice of the peace. But the agreement witnessed by the judge and followed up by the bride and groom signing papers is a form of a vow.

One could possibly make a case that a marriage ceremony that is not followed by physical consummation at some point is not a true marriage in God’s eyes, but this is almost unheard of. This is not the point that Ruckman is trying to make. Ruckman is teaching that marriage is purely the physical act even if there was no ceremony, no exchanging of vows, or no official act recognized by a civil society or government.

Legitimate questions could be raised about the legitimacy of marriages in unusual cases when a couple get legally married but never consummate it by sleeping together. This is likely to be extremely rare, except for cases in which immigration fraud is involved (such as an American “marrying” a foreigner on paper temporarily, with a profit motive solely to facilitate changing an immigration status). In this article we are dealing with marriage in the normal sense, and Ruckman in his writings likes to bring up abnormal cases in attempts to prove his views.

One unusual case that Ruckman brings up is the case of Adam and Eve’s marriage. The Bible does not give us details except that he made them for each other. If there was ever a case that did not require a ceremony or vows witnessed by others to be legitimate, it was that one. There was no one around to marry them except God himself. This was an unusual case that will never happen again, so it cannot be a pattern for constituting a definition for marriage in the aspect we are dealing with.

In the following quote Ruckman portrays those who disagree with him on this matter as "dumb:"

Do you see how dumb Americans are? Americans think a marriage is a marriage ceremony. Why, any woman can be married to another man without a marriage ceremony: flesh joining flesh. It is so strong that in 1 Corinthians 6:16 Paul says that if you take your body and join it to a harlot, it is one flesh. If the verse is that strong, don’t you know that where a married woman leaves her husband and joins her body to another man that is a marriage?
Ruckman, Peter. The Books of First and Second Corinthians: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2002, p. 130

1 Corinthians 6:16 does not prove what Ruckman teaches on marriage, because the verse is using an obvious analogy to get a truth across that is not ultimately about marriage, but rather establishing that a Christian belongs to God, and he is to honor God with his body. 1 Cor. 6:15-16 brings up the biblical language of marriage in reference to sinning with a harlot because the intimacy involves what God has reserved for marriage. This was to make a point about just how egregious such conduct would be, rather than constituting a definition of marriage.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Now, because this quotation is repeated during marriage ceremonies, some “historic Fundamentalists” have a funny idea that when two people are standing at an altar, God is joining them together. Can you imagine anything more sick than that?
Ruckman, Peter. Marriage Divorce and Remarriage, 1998, p. 12

The vows at the wedding entitle the newlyweds to experience a physical union thereafter that is “undefiled.” Marriage is not only a physical union, but emotional and spiritual as well. So to evoke this Scripture in a wedding ceremony is entirely appropriate. The ungodly can take anything that is ever said and let their mind wander all the way to the gutter. Pro. 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD.

Marriage involves more than a ceremony. This is true. It also is more than a paper filed with the government. Although some aspects have varied in different eras and areas, preceding the ceremony there is a period of friendship, courtship, engagement and making plans to “leave father and mother” Mat. 19:5 indicates that marriage is not constituted by what may have been an unplanned moment of passion. Leaving father and mother implies preparation that often requires considerable time.

In the case of the woman at the well of John 4, Ruckman refuses to accept that the man the woman was with was not her husband (because that would ruin his view), and in his refusal to be bound by Scripture, he comes up with a cynical “practicality versus legality” argument:

Now, this shows you the difference between speaking about it practically and speaking about it legally. You see, practically (openly), the woman has two husbands. She’s shacking up with both of them. In the eyes of the law she would be guilty of bigamy; if she had papers to go with one of them, she is an adulteress—stepping out on her husband.
Ruckman, Peter. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. 1980, (1998 reprint), Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, pp. 24-25

[Concerning the Samaritan woman being with a man that was not her husband] The statement is a practical one, such as anyone would use such an expression in common, everyday talk. It is not doctrinal at all, which is apparent from Matthew 19:4-9 and 1 Corinthians 6:15-18.
Ruckman, The Ruckman Reference Bible, 2009, p. 1389

One of the arguments Ruckman uses in attempting to refute those who disagree with him are cases in the Bible that refer to men and women as husband and wife during betrothal period before actual marriage:

You will notice in Deuteronomy 22:24 that an engaged woman is called a "wife" before the consummation of the marriage (cf. Gen. 29:21), which would make the engaged man her "husband," as Joseph is called in this verse.
Ruckman, The Ruckman Reference Bible, 2009, p. 1236

The above admission from Ruckman ruins his own arguments! The KJV does not use the term fiancé or an equivalent as we do today. Instead of an engagement period as in modern times, the Jews practiced betrothal before marriage, which was a legally binding agreement to get married, while practicing chastity. There are times that the Bible refers to a betrothed couple as husband and wife (Deut. 22:23-24), but the context makes it clear that it is in the future sense, as the term fiancé is utilized today. For example, although the phrase “a virgin be betrothed unto an husband,” is awkward, those who understand the betrothal custom immediately recognize it as husband in the future sense.

In the case of Deuteronomy 22:28, if the "damsel" is a "virgin" (as she is in vs. 3) and is not betrothed, when Shechem lays ahold on her (which he does in vs. 2), it becomes an automatic marriage (Deut. 22:29). This proves that marriage (per se) is not a "supper" or a "ceremony." It is flesh joining flesh, and nothing could be clearer."
Ruckman, The Ruckman Reference Bible. 2009, p. 70

It is not an automatic marriage! The Bible describes a process. There is 50 sheckles of silver to present to the father first (Deut. 22:29), something he may not afford immediately. Ex. 22:16-17 elaborates further on this situation, and allows the father to refuse the marriage of his daughter to the man who enticed her. Ruckman teachings on this topic are contrary to the Bible.

Ruckman's view makes an absurdity of the customary declaration "I now declare you husband and wife" after the vows in a ceremony. According to Ruckman's view, if a bride and groom reached the marriage altar pure, they technically cannot be husband and wife at the end of their public vows to each other. Conversely, if the bride and groom have already slept together, they are already technically husband and wife before the ceremony according to Ruckman's view.

Ruckman keeps mocking the ceremony in his writings, but often avoids mentioning the wedding vows, central to the wedding ceremony in our civilized society. In fact, his 37-page booklet Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage does not mention the term “vow” or any of its derivatives a single time!

Ruckman's constant interjection of the issue of divorce when discussing marriage seems to betray the motives driving his arguments. His need to justify remaining as a pastor while divorced and remarried seems to cloud the objectivity of many of his arguments.

Ruckman's views on marriage do not pass the scrutiny of common sense or the Scriptures themselves. In light of what has been documented on this website, a Christian would do well to heed the admonition of Proverbs 14:7:  Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

One Response to “Ruckman’s unbalanced definition of marriage”

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  1. Ruckman did not understand the papal sacrament of marriage. This is inexcusable since the papist documents on it are easily accessible.  What did a multiple adulterer have any business teaching in the bishopric?

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