There are many problems with Phipps' book, but the assumption that first-century marriage was initiated and sustained by romance is the most problematic.
Why? Because courtly love had not been invented yet. Here is an excerpt from my book The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals...
Excerpt from my chapter titled "From Persia with Love":
In the fourteenth century, from the vernacular of Old French, the word “romanz” emerges. The word that once meant “verse narrative” evolved into our concept of “romance” and all that it now implies. This is not to say that erotic love or love poetry did not exist before this period. Of course, the term “erotic” reminds us of the Greek god “Eros” who embodied sexuality and power as early as 700 b.c.e. There can be no doubt that countless commoners across the ancient world felt a deep affection for their partners. But courtship (romance as primary motive for marriage) seems to be a medieval development. It should also be noted that erotic attraction had been a factor in choosing a mate long before the medieval period. It is the centrality of courtly love that is relatively recent.In the following chapter, "Average Joe", I write:
The modern, Western concept of marriage is a case in point. Simply put, we marry for love. To marry for money, or power, or almost anything else is almost taboo. A “loveless marriage” is commonly seen as grounds for divorce. Undoubtedly it took centuries for the impact of the Persian and French poets to become the common basis for marriage, but the Western world is now driven by romance; it has become fundamental to our psychology and moral fiber. Because of this, it is almost impossible for us to imagine a world where romantic love wasn’t the basis for marriage.
C.S. Lewis claims that the explosion of courtly love ideology created “impassible barriers” between the modern, Western mind and the rest of human history and culture. Our preoccupation with romance motivates us, indeed defines us, in profound ways. This perspective on the world stands between us and a clear view of Jesus’ culture. It is also important to underscore a point I’ve made above: eroticism among the social elites (for example, the biblical eroticism of Song of Songs) probably doesn’t represent the experiences of common folk. Being of an artisan and farming class, Jesus’ life in first-century Galilee would have been dissimilar in a number of ways from those of the social elites such as Antony and Cleopatra. So not only are there cultural barriers between Jesus’ culture and ours, there were barriers between the ruling classes and the peasant classes during Jesus’ time.
In short, the motivations for and the functions of marriage in Jesus’ culture are simply going to seem remote to us. Our inability to imagine a world where courtship is not the basis for marriage is going to be a barrier that hinders our understanding of Jesus’ culture. When we Westerners think of marriage, we think of a relationship built upon mutual affection, desire, and respect. Social and financial stability, extended family considerations, and progeny are often seen as important, but secondary. But in Jesus’ culture these priorities were reversed. Social and financial stability, extended family considerations, and progeny were primary. Mutual affection, desire, and respect were often seen as important, but secondary. If we are to take seriously the possibility that Jesus might have been married, we must anticipate motives for marriage that will seem quite alien to us.
In the previous chapter, I suggested that marriage in Jesus’ culture would not have been the result of two people falling in love. I also suggested that the decision to marry would have been made for the good of the clan, not merely for the two people concerned. That said, the burden of finding the right match would have been primarily in the hands of two people: the fathers of the groom and bride. It is also important to recognize that the benefits of a good marriage would be enjoyed by two primary people: father and son.What previous conversations and controversies about Jesus' marital status have missed is that if Jesus was married (and this is still a big if) his was not the most important opinion in the room. If we are to discuss this possibility seriously, we must begin with the social expectations placed on Joseph and Mary. Family honor, ancestral blessing, and the very survival of the clan were at stake in the continuity of marriage. If Jesus chose singleness (and this is still a big if) it would have been a choice to flout honor and faith, not romance.
In Jesus’ culture, as with many ancient societies, the most important relationship in the clan was that of the father and son. With this in mind, I will focus here on the kinds of motives and considerations that Jesus’ father might have had. I will also discuss matters related to the average age of marriage in Jewish antiquity and the average life expectancy. These will be important considerations if we assume that Jesus was about thirty years of age when he began his public career as a preacher. I will also suggest that Joseph probably lived to see his son reach puberty – that is, he lived long enough to be burdened with the responsibility of finding Jesus a wife.