Christendom (including most Hebrew roots/Torahkeepers, etc) and Judaism (including most Messianic Jews) share in a ‘one bride’ doctrine that is not supported by Scripture, though most have blindly accepted it. While each has a slight variation on how it is perceived and understood, the result is the same for both groups: rejection of the other and some type of replacement theology. This is both a challenging and complex topic, so we need to unpack some things from each side.
I was reared in the Christian church and am seminary trained. Further, I pastored a church for ten years, the last two of which I began to really seek the Father for deeper truth and understanding in some areas where I found holes in accepted doctrines. Long story short, I came to a place of accepting and walking in the everlasting Torah of Moses, while retaining my belief in Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah/Memra. More details about me here.
During those years and until about five years ago, I believed as everyone I knew: God/Yeshua has one bride. End of story.
Then, I began to see conflicting Scripture that began a journey of greater understanding and deeper truths, a journey that is absolutely critical to the restoration of kol Israel!! Different facets of this journey will be shared in the near future, but the major elements that are critical to understanding Scripture and the purpose and process of restoration include Biblical marriage, patriarchy, and two-house theology.
To be clear, each of those topics individually send many people into apoplectic seizures, however the combination exposes the adversary’s worst nightmare. But, I digress.
In future articles, I will try to frame the details of the convergence of these topics and why they are so very critical to the restoration of kol Israel, but for this article, I want to deal with the ‘one-bride’ myth.
The Christian Perspective Evaluated
Christendom has long held that they are the bride, singular, of Christ. Nobody else has a place at the table or in the house unless they come and believe as Christians do. The result is then a ‘spiritual Israel’ and a separating out of the Jews into a second sub-class that are ‘lost without hope’ until they accept Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah. It is the heart of replacement theology. (I’ll not get sidetracked on this issue, however it is necessary to assure the reader that at the end, I do believe the Holy One of Israel will redeem all of His people, thus remaining faithful to His covenants. I have detailed in Ten Parts in the King, The Prophesied Reconciliation of God’s Two Witnesses that God has an intentional purpose for dividing the house of Jacob and shepherding the Jews in the manner that He has.)
So, let’s dive into the deep end and consider where this idea comes from.
It is immediately interesting to note that the phrases ‘one bride‘ and ‘one church‘ never appear in Scripture. In fact, the word ‘bride‘ only appears six times in the entire new testament, five of which are in or after Revelation 18!! We’ll address these momentarily.
A phrase that does appear ten times is ‘one body,’ and we will need to consider each use and the surrounding context, but first, critical to proper understanding of Scripture is to understand the Biblical definition of ‘church.’
‘Church’ is the usual translation of the Greek word ἐκκλησία (G1577: ekklesia) which means ‘assembly.’ Prior to the 1300s or 1400s, the word ‘church’ did not even exist. Rather, theologians, to draw a distinction for this particular ‘assembly’ thus separating it from all other types of ‘assemblies,’ created the word ‘church.’ Evidence of this can be seen in the new testament and how translators even today handle the word ἐκκλησία in Acts 7:38.
38 This is the one who was in the [x]congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.Acts 7:38 NASB
Notice how they neatly ‘hide’ the different translation of ἐκκλησία with a footnote, because to translate it consistently, i.e., ‘church’, pokes a hole in the ‘church started at Pentecost’ fallacy. In fact, the LXX, the Greek old testament, consistently uses ἐκκλησία, mapping to the Hebrew קָהֵל qahal (H6951), for the congregation of Israel in the wilderness and beyond.
Why is this important?
Because Scripture in the old testament clearly demonstrates that Israel was composed of two houses that God viewed as two separate but united (echad) brides from their time in Egypt! My long-time readers will recall a bombshell article I posted two years ago titled Does God Have Two Brides? Ezekiel 23 and Jeremiah 3 unequivocally support this assertion. Therefore, ‘assembly’ and ‘ekklesia’ must be understood as an echad or united assembly. Hold this truth while we consider the ‘one body’ passages.
The phrase ‘one body’ is used ten times through six passages, every one of which can be understood as ‘one assembly.’ Consider the following passages:
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Romans 12:4-5
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.1 Corinthians 6:15-16
16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?1 Corinthians 10:16-18
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many…. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body.1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (select)
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.Ephesians 2:11-16
4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:1-6
14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.Colossians 3:14-15
Again, every single use, except possibly 1 Corinthians 6:15-15 referring to the uniting of two into one flesh (echad, unity), can be understood as referring to the assembly or congregation which the old testament clearly defines as the two houses/two parts of Israel. 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 2 are especially explicit in this regard. Paul knows full well that the two houses compose the assembly and he uses this often as he explains the ‘mystery of the Gospel,’ namely that the divorced house of Israel could return and be grafted back into Israel through the Messiah. (Again, this is spelled out in great detail in Ten Parts In The King.)
And, even with all of these ‘one body’ uses being a reference to ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation,’ several of them can reasonably be understood as referring to a local assembly and not the entire Congregation of restored Israel. Therefore, the only clear references to the whole body, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians 12 which both refer to Jews and non-Jews as well as native and sojourners/gerim, should define for us the picture of who this body is: both houses of Israel, restored to a place of echad unity.
This then leaves us with the question of how Christendom misunderstands these passages as a singular creating the replacement myth of ‘one bride?’ I believe this stems from a supporting doctrine of monogamy-only, something that is also a verifiable fallacy/myth never taught in Scripture. That topic is explored at length with a heap of documentation and supporting studies on the Biblical Marriage page. As previously exposed on this site,
Plato’s student Aristotle (384-321 BCE) viewed monogamous marriage as the foundation of the polis.The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy, John Witte, Jr. p.105
Witte correctly identifies that legislated monogamy-only was a tool of the Greek and Roman Empires to ensure allegiance to state and not to family, a position diametrically opposed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as His pan for His people. Conversely, God elected to leave the practice of polygyny open to Israel choosing only to regulate it in the Torah precisely because it builds large powerful family blocks. His reason for doing so is multifaceted as revealed in other articles linked to the Biblical Marriage page, but central to it all is that God’s order of authority is patriarchal and Israel is a giant patriarchal nation. See also Authority, Headship, and Family Structure.
Knowing all of this, we should finally look at the several uses of the word ‘bride’ in the new testament to see if there is a contradiction or major hurdle.
There are six uses of the word ‘bride.’ Five are the Greek word νύμφην (nymphe, G3565) and one is the Greek word γυνὴ (gune, G1135), possibly throwing some very interesting light on our subject.
The first five uses are John 3:29; Revelation 18:23; 21:2, 9 and 22:17.
Of those five references, only the Revelation 22 passage might refer to the assembly. John 3 is a possible indirect reference, but is more of an illustration by John that Yeshua was the Messiah. At best, this passage has no effect on a ‘one bride’ idea. Revelation 18:23 is part of the lament for fallen Babylon, again, not a reference that lends any support. Both Revelation 21:2 and 21:9 refer to Jerusalem coming down out of heaven which offer no support for a ‘one bride’ doctrine. Revelation 22:9, at least according to the chain reference in my NASB, points to the New Jerusalem previously identified as the bride in Revelation 21:2, 9.
Essentially, none of the G3565 uses in Scripture relate directly to the assembly or congregation of Israel. Interesting. But, it gets more interesting!
The sixth use of ‘bride’ in the new testament, also in Revelation, is γυνὴ (gune, G1135) which is used more than 200 times in the new testament but only translated as ‘bride’ one time! In all other uses, the word is translated as ‘woman’ or ‘wife’ with obvious plurals of those terms. Here is the verse, then let’s consider the implications.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His [b]bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the [c]saints.Revelation 19:7-8
Notice the little superscript again indicating that something is going on here… The [b] tells us ‘Literally: wife’ or, for those who understand how this maps to the old testament Hebrew – ‘woman!’ Literally, the verse says, ‘His woman has made herself ready!’
Of special note, γυνὴ is almost exclusively used of a married woman, or one who has known a man. This then exactly parallels the divorced house of Israel who is being brought back into the covenant at this point!! Consider these verses:
6 Then the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. 7 I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. 9 Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord.Jeremiah 3
This clearly says that God divorced the house of Israel but did not divorce the house of Judah. Judah is not pure and has her own issues to repent of and her own need for Yeshua, but my point is that one bride is in covenant (Judah) and one is divorced and out of covenant (Israel).
The New Covenant in Jeremiah supports this with,
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”Jeremiah 31
Of special note is that while the new covenant is with both houses, it is the house of Israel that is singled out for focus here. She was the one divorced and the one who needs special attention in this ‘renewal of vows.’ Literally, she is a γυνὴ (gune) not a νύμφην (nymphe), however, God’s great mercy ‘It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the [c]saints.‘
She is participatory in cleaning herself up through righteous acts and faith in Messiah! She is received back in as ‘a’ bride, not THE bride. (This thought rattles much Christian doctrine, but as already demonstrated, multiple errors led to the false doctrines that this counters.)
Conclusion of the Christian Evaluation
In evaluating the Christian ‘one-bride’ position, we were looking for support in Scripture that directly or indirectly demonstrate that the bride of Messiah is definitively singular. Without question, God refers to Himself as having two sister brides in Ezekiel 23 and then divorces one in Jeremiah 3 before promising to restore both to a greater place of righteousness.
Not once in Scripture is the term ‘one bride’ or ‘one church’ ever used. Rather, over and over the new testament references exactly parallel the Hebrew understanding of an ‘assembly’ that is the united two houses of Israel. This understanding effectively removes a foundation stone, if not the cornerstone, of the Replacement Theology so prevalent in Christendom.
The Jewish Perspective Evaluated
Like Christendom, Judaism has a version of ‘one-bride’ doctrine that is not monolithic. Judaism has many sects, like Christian denominations, that vary in orthodoxy and degree of observance as well as faith practice. To one degree or another, most Jews would agree that Torah observance is only for the Jews. And, they would agree almost to the man that Jews are Israel and Israel is the Jews.
Put another way, most Jews believe that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people. It is a reverse form of antisemitism.
The problem with this position is that the Tanak, ‘old testament,’ clearly demonstrates that Israel was composed of two houses, Judah and Israel, that have essentially had a civil war for about 2900 years. Let me explain.
Jacob had two brides, Leah and Rachel. Leah’s fourth son, Judah, became the head of the house of Judah, the southern kingdom with the seat of power in Jerusalem. Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph, received the double portion and family name, Israel. His second-born, Ephraim, adopted by Jacob, became the dynastic tribe of the northern kingdom, the house of Israel, seated in Samaria.
There has long been a wrestling match between Joseph and Judah for headship and the scepter. Jacob intentionally placed the scepter between Judah’s feet and the blessing in Joseph’s hands. His reasoning and God’s purpose is the major subject of Ten Parts In The King, but the bottom line is that the ‘whole house of Israel’ (Ezekiel 37:11) cannot and will not be restored until the stick of Judah (Ez. 37:16ff) and the stick of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim can come together and walk in peace and mutual acceptance.
Perhaps the most important and saddest chapter in the entire Bible, and certainly the hinge upon which all of history swings, is 1 Kings 12. Where in Genesis 37:26 we see Judah take the lead in removing Joseph from the family, we see the same dynamic play out as Solomon, then Rehoboam, exacerbate the relationship with the other tribes who ultimately followed Jeroboam the Ephramite.
Again, the circumstances were designed and ordained by God for His ultimate glory, so I am not laying any blame with Judah, I am simply telling the broad story while glossing many, many details.
The northern house of Israel entered into gross idolatry almost immediately and, excepting a few who moved south to Judah, were exiled and scattered from the Land by the Assyrians in about 722 BCE. The division between the house of Israel and the house of David (1 Kings 12:16, 19) has been since about 930 BCE when they rebelled against Rehoboam.
During this time, Judah has been the torchbearer for Torah, but as the only bride who remained in the house, even if they had their own iniquity (Jeremiah 3:6-10) detailed at length through the prophets, they zealously guarded the door of the house to prevent anyone else from entering. Now, this may seem an unkind characterization, but like a jealous wife in a plural marriage, they have acted treacherously against the house of Israel who were found by the Messiah (Matthew 15:24).
A careful reading of prophecy demonstrates over and over that in the end times God will restore the house of Israel, they will walk in His ways, and HE will bring the house of Judah and the house of Israel together, something that cannot possibly have already been fulfilled. References would include Jeremiah 3:11-18; 31; Ezekiel 37:15-28; Hosea; Amos 9:9ff; Zechariah 9:1-10:12; etc..
The Conclusion of the Jewish Evaluation
The Jewish ‘one bride’ position, rarely stated as such, is an overt guarding of the door from any who are not Jewish while operating under the assumption that they, Judah, are ‘kol (all) Israel.’ Whether intentional or unintentional (most I believe have no understanding of why their gut reaction is exclusionary), the house of Judah plays the role of Leah, sister bride who wants nothing to do with Rachel (Joseph, aka house of Israel). Still, Jewish sages recognize the quandary that many prophecies cannot be fulfilled without the house of Israel’s return, but they cannot fathom that the ones who were scattered and lost may well be hiding in church pews and acting as the very antagonists that Rachel and Joseph were.
Biblical history is prophecy. The situation between Judah and Joseph will be resolved, just as we saw in Genesis 42-45.This is a family dynamic that will be settled between the brothers, but not without some serious challenges. Isaiah 11 tells us,
11 Then it will happen on that day that the LordIsaiah 11
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the [d]islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west;
Together they will plunder the sons of the east;
[e]They will possess Edom and Moab,
The Conclusion for BOTH Judaism and Christendom
The family squabble, even civil war, that has been going on for more than 3500 years, dating to Jacob’s family in Haran, will come to an end. Ezekiel 37 says,
20 The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. 21 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their [g]dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.Ezekiel 37
God Himself will make them an ‘echad’ (united) nation. No longer will they walk contrary to each other, but will walk together in unity. Isaiah 2:5 says, ‘Come house of JACOB, let us walk in the light…’ It is the assembly, the congregation, the brides of Ezekiel 23 and Jeremiah 3 who come together in peace and learn to walk together in mutual love and acceptance under the headship of Messiah. God’s goal is one house, one family. It is not to eliminate either bride, but that they live and walk in unity as He intended from the beginning! This is a most challenging concept for a monogamy-only paradigm to accept precisely because monogamy-only is the wrong lens to see all of Scripture through. However, once understood and accepted, many aspects of Scripture anal into sharp focus.
The ‘one bride’ myth has been a stumbling block to both houses. As my eldest says, ‘They mythed the point!”
Let’s not ‘myth’ the point, but study to show ourselves approved and be willing to go where Scripture leads.
I look forward to your discussion…