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Christians Embrace Jewish Wedding Contracts

By February 14, 2011

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KetubahThe New York Times recently published a fascinating article about an emerging trend in some Christian circles: embracing the Jewish wedding contract.

Called a Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract traditionally spells out the husband's marital obligations to his wife, though nowadays many ketubot (plural of ketubah) outline the responsibilities of both spouses. The contract is read aloud and signed in front of two witnesses just before the wedding ceremony and is then given to the wife for safe keeping. Although they once were viewed as standard legal documents that were stored away, today Ketubot are often written on fine paper with artwork surrounding the text. As you can see in the example above by artist Judith Joseph, the finished contracts can be stunning works of art. Many couples display their ketubot in their homes.

According to the NYT, the move towards having ketubot - as well as observing other Jewish customs such as having a chuppah (marriage canopy) and keeping kosher - is manifesting primarily among evangelical Christians seeking to embrace the Jewish heritage of Christianity. "Embracing... Jewish tradition just brings a richness that we miss out on sometimes as Christians when we don't know the history," shared Sally Austin, an evangelical Christian who recently married her evangelical husband in a Christian ceremony that included a ketubah. "Jesus was Jewish, and we appreciate his culture, where he came from," she continued.

Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, says that this sort of adoption of Jewish custom often starts at the grass-roots level, then grows in popularity. "They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage - openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy."

Click here to read the rest of the article, which includes an excellent overview of the history of ketubot. You can also read more about ketubot in this About.com article: What Is a Ketubah?

Image credit: Ketubah by artist Judith Joseph / Ketubah.com

February 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm
(1) Alice Frankel says:

I think this is a confusing way to marry two christians.
They are christians so what do they need Jewish customs?
To be a good christian they can be Noahites – those are seven commandments that God gave to all the nations who are not descendants of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. The seven commandments do not include marriage with a Ktuba. This adds confusion into the intermarriage. If one of the couple wants to change his faith to the Jewish faith- he/she has to find an Orthodox rabbi to learn all the commandments, which is hard. Jews do not encourage conversion because to be a Jew is a privilege and a life filled with responsibilies. A christian life is easy.
So marrying with a ktuba is completely worthless if you do not change your faith under supervision of an Orthodox rabbi.

June 7, 2011 at 8:17 pm
(2) Nick says:

You are focused on the religion of it.

You can’t “change your faith”. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ and if one wants to do something in a way to signify covenant with God, their spouse, and their community then let them. They are not following the custom to be jewish, it is about God ; not worldly ideas of religion and division.

If you want to talk about commandments then listen to the commandment Jesus gave.

Matthew 22: 34-40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I want to put particular emphasis on the last verse.

So I think that to “be a good christian” as you put it, follows that you love and be a light for this world. No “faith changes” are necessary; even for a Jew. They can be fully Jewish but follow the teachings of Jesus. He was, in fact, Jewish and would encourage following these traditions because they are full of good intention and love for each other and God. He came to fulfill the law, which is made clear in that verse. What custom one chooses to put in their wedding ceremony plays no part.

May 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm
(3) johanna1982 says:

Yes it’s not like we have our OWN ancient traditions such as germanic documented traditions. I get SO incensed when its implied we westerners have no culture of our own. We HAD one before it was christianized! These jewish traditions prob. base on the pagan rituals of their ancestors so whats the difference?
People, study your roots!

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