“God’s Operating Manual”: Marriage Theologies in Ultra-Orthodox and Evangelical Marital Guidebooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evangelical Protestant and Jewish ultra-Orthodox communities are two high-tension religious groups that share an emphasis on traditional family values. Their leaders must communicate the virtues of religious marriage to “curious outsiders” while supporting “distressed insiders” whose marriages have become unstable. This article analyzes thirty marital guidebooks, fifteen ultra-Orthodox, and fifteen evangelical Protestant to probe their strategies. A key finding is the abundance of marriage theologies in the guidebooks, that is, schemas that endeavor to make sense of marriage and its vicissitudes by explicating God’s role and expectations for the couple. Five shared and four denomination-specific marriage theologies are identified and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-206
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Family History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author wishes to thank Dr. Joselyn Segal, Bethany Pedigo, and Rev. Phyllis Hankers for their advice on evangelical marriage guidebooks, as well as Sifrei Kodesh, Hevruta, Zol-Sefer, and Virtual Geulah bookstores for kindly sharing their sales data of ultra-Orthodox marriage guidebooks. The author sincerely thanks the members of the research group at Van Leer institute in Jerusalem and of the research group at the Israeli Institute for Democracy for commenting on this research. Dr. Ari Engelberg shared in the analysis of the ultra-Orthodox half of the data, and I thank him for generously permitting me to use some of our joint findings in this study. The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • cross-cultural
  • evangelical Protestant
  • gender and marriage
  • marital guidebooks
  • meaning making
  • religion
  • self-help literature
  • ultra-Orthodox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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