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Question: Where in the Bible does it give permission for 3rd cousins to marry? My granddaughter is pursuing a relationship with her 3rd cousin whom she has never seen and just talks with over the internet. She seems to think the book of Leviticus permits this. Please answer.

Answer: I believe the passage your granddaughter is referring to is Leviticus 18: 6-19. This passage talks about whom a person cannot marry, as far as how close of a relationship there is.

This passage prohibits marriage with your mother, a step-mother, or in the case of a polygamous relationship, another wife of your father's. It also prohibits a marriage with a sister or half-sister, a daughter, step-daughter, a granddaughter, a granddaughter-in-law, or a sister-in-law. It prohibits a marriage with an aunt (whether by blood or marriage).

It should be noted that until the law was given, there was nothing wrong with a brother and sister marrying each other. After God created Adam and Eve, the only potential for a spouse was your brother or sister. After the flood, the only potential for a spouse was a brother or sister or a first cousin.

Abraham married his half-sister. At that time, the law had not been given, so it was not wrong. Jacob married his first cousins, Rachel and Leah. There is no biblical law that prohibits cousins from marrying.

This passage in Leviticus is addressing the problem of incest and adultery, and it does not state that it would be incest to marry your cousin. This would even include first cousins.

There are some states that prohibit marriage between first cousins, so a person would have to check the laws of the state they reside in before marrying a first cousin. There are no laws that prohibit marriage between cousins who are further apart than first cousins.

Traditionally, first cousins were prohibited from getting married because of a fear of genetic defects. There is a slightly more increased chance that the children of two people who are closely related will inherit a genetic defect.

If several generations married only within their family, then there would be a greater chance of genetic defects, due to inbreeding. This happened historically in royal families in some European countries.

However, if both a man and woman, who are not related at all, have a defective gene in their family, there is a greater chance their children will inherit this defective gene. Genetic defects are not because of a close family relationship, but are due to defective genes.

I believe the greater question here is not whether it is o.k. for your granddaughter to marry her third cousin, but what is their relationship with God? God admonishes us not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Are both your granddaughter and her third cousin believers?

Have they prayed about their relationship, and have peace that this is the person God would have them marry? I am a little concerned that they have not actually met each other, but have only corresponded by email me.. There are a lot of things you can only discover about each other as you spend time together. A lot of things can be concealed when you only communicate through email me..

I understand, as a grandmother, why you are concerned about your granddaughter's choice for a spouse. This is a very serious decision for her, and many people end up with a divorce because they were not careful in choosing a spouse, or because of a lack of commitment to each other.

Unfortunately, in today's world, there are no guarantees that two people will get married and stay married for the rest of their lives, even with two Christians. It takes a lot of effort, commitment, and prayer.

The best you can do is to pray for your granddaughter as she makes this life choice. Continue to counsel her as to God's will, and committing her life completely to God. Give her your unfailing love, just as God has given you His complete love and forgiveness!

Praying for God's best,

Marlene Panell

For more information email me.

To view other questions visit our Interactive Bible Study Page or read some of our Christian Literature at Bible-Christian.org

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Keywords: marriage, cousins, granddaughter, unequally yoked, genetic defects