Guest post by Serena Joy Mitra
* This article is written from a Protestant perspective and the authors views do not necessarily reflect those of Tudors Dynasty. All Scripture is taken from the 1611 KJV.
‘And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.’ ( Leviticus 20;21 )
The above mentioned verse was the foundation of Henry VIII’s claim that his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was invalid. While Roman Catholic canon law required a dispensation, for their marriage to take place, the bible itself does not require such. If one read the entire 20th chapter of Leviticus, one would see that it is addressing mainly sexual sin and idolatry. In the context of addressing sexual sin, it deals with adultery and incest. There are rules against having sexual relations with siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and even step parents.
However, if one reads Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which comes after the book of Leviticus “I f brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
“And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”
One will come to the conclusion, that as the brother of Prince Arthur, Henry would have been obligated to marry Katherine. If, Katherine and Arthur had consummated the marriage, that fact would be irrelevant. The fact that the marriage produced no children, would obligate Henry to marry her. The name of their firstborn son was to be after Arthur, thus carrying on the name of the deceased brother.
Leviticus 20:21 in proper context is a man, who commits adultery with his brother’s wife. The brother is still living, as that is the only way such a union would be adultery. The fact that Katherine and Henry’s marriage produced offspring at all, negates Henry’s claim even further. Thus, Henry had no valid biblical reason to put his wife away. The only biblical grounds Henry would have had, would have been adultery (Matthew 5:32, 19:9) and abandonment by a non believer. ( 1 Corinthians 7:15) There is no historical evidence to suggests that Katherine was an adulteress or a non believer in Christ. There is ample evidence to suggests that Henry was an adulterer by his acknowledgement of fathering Henry Fitzroy. Additionally, his affairs with other women at court, were well known, even if not spoken about in the open. His marriage to Anne Boleyn from a biblical perspective was not valid, but was in fact an adulterous union. ( Mark 10:11-12) The marriage of Henry and Katherine could have been dissolved on biblical grounds by Katherine herself!! She was well within her rights to divorce Henry and remarry, because of his flagrant philandering. However, history shows us that Katherine believed that her marriage was worth fighting for. It ultimately, cost her daughter and her life due the strain it must have put on her health.