Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Polygamy Biblical?

Polygamy has been in the news as a result of Warren Jeffs and the child custody case that's become so prevalent in the news. As a result a lot of people are asking questions about polygamy, questions like "Is this not consistent with what the founder of the Mormons taught?" and "Isn't there some kind of a precedent for polygamy in Scripture?"

The answer to the last question is no. The ideal pattern of monogamous marriage of one woman and one man was established early in Genesis. Remember the text that says "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh." This very passage was quoted by Jesus and Paul in defense of the sacredness and exclusivity of monogamous marriage.

Not only that, but the Bible explicitly condemns the polygamy of Old Testament kings. The New Testament, in like fashion, says that elders and deacons are called to be the husband of but one wife. Just as the requirements for church leaders set the standards of morality and maturity for all believers, so the admonition against polygamy for the kings of Israel demonstrates the danger of this kind of practice.

God's distain for polygamy is clear in its consequences. The Old Testament reveals the strife and the temptations that accompany this kind of practice. Of course Solomon is the quintessential example. His legacy of faithfulness was compromised because of his polygamous behavior. Despite world-renowned wisdom his peaceful, prosperous rule ended in scandal and civil strife. Why? The Bible is emphatic. It's because his wives turned his heart after other gods.

There is no standard in civilization, there is no context in the canon of God's Word, that gives any out for this kind of behavior. It simply is not sanctioned in Scripture. The fact that the Bible gives examples of people who defied His will is simply a way of saying that the Bible is not airbrushed. It provides reality in its naked deformity, with all its warts and moles and wrinkles. It tells it like it is. But the fact that the Bible has a narrative about something doesn't mean that the Bible sanctions it. You go to the didactic, the teaching portions of Scripture, you see very clearly that this is a behavior that leads to all kinds of problems. We see this now front and center in the news, and for people who want to take this as an opportunity to besmirch the Scripture, we need to be ready to give an answer and that, again, is the purpose of the ministry. It is to help you to become equipped so that you can give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within you, with gentleness and with respect.

5 comments:

Pastor Don Milton said...

Hank does not give one verse in this article to defend his Roman Catholic doctrine of forced monogamy. 1 Timothy 3:2 which Hank alludes to but does not quote is an exemption from serving if you're not the husband of one wife. Listen again, it's not a prohibition against serving but an exemption from serving, it is an honor to be exempted. Men who are the husbands of one wife obviously have small families and they are not exempt from troublesome church offices such as Elder, Bishop, and Deacon. (Those offices were not high offices at the time of Paul. The high offices were Apostle, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, etc. and were called of God, not appointed. The Elders, Bishops, and Deacons were appointed, i.e., members had to be coerced into accepting those offices. Doesn't Hank even know Roman history and the Jus Trium Liberorum, the term frequently used to describe what is more accurately called the Lex Papia Poppaea, A.D. 9, and which granted special privileges to men with many children and punished celibacy by limiting the rights of single men. It specifically gave exemptions from serving in troublesome offices to men who have large families? Certainly when Paul said to obey rulers he wasn't speaking of turning in your fellow Christians for sure death but other laws that he considered righteous. The Lex Poppaea was certainly one of those laws. Another thing Hank does in his article is to refer to the Garden of Eden as if some law imposing monogamy was put in place. Let's see, how many laws were there in the Garden of Eden? Oh yes, ONE! - Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We don't even know whether Adam had dozens of daughters before he even left the garden of Eden or whether he took any of those as wives. Are we to believe that between Cain and Abel's birth and Seth's birth, 130 years later, that Adam was sterile? Are we to believe that the unnamed woman who gave birth to Seth is Eve when she would have had to be 130 years old to be that mother? Are we to believe that if it were Eve, that she was barren for all those years? Are we to believe that if Adam only bore daughters during those years since Seth is the next son that those daughters, who certainly wouldn't have followed Cain the murderer, never once thought like Lot's daughters to take Adam for a husband since as Lot's daughters said that there was, "not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father." Genesis 19:31,32 How much more would Adam's daughters have been aware of this considering they truly had no other men from whom to choose? At the time of Adam, neither sister marriage nor daughter marriage had yet been banned "for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law."Romans 5:13 Keep in mind that wives are never mentioned in the Bible unless they had sons. There could have been many wives for Adam through Eve who had no sons but only more wives for Adam and from such a huge number of women the world could easily be populated by just one man. Ibzan had thirty sons and thirty daughters yet not one wife is mentioned. Are we to believe that his children were born of an immaculate conception where not even one wife is necessary? Not mentioning wives does not mean that the wives were not there. The most famous Christians from Ochino, to Milton, to Madan, wrote in favor of a Christians right and often need to have more than one wife. You don't know much about those men because your preachers have allowed them to be forgotten. Ochino - most famous Italian preacher of the 16th century, Milton - most famous Christian of the 17th century, Madan - most famous preacher in London during the last half of the 18th century and the Father of the Evangelical Hymnal. He composed over forty hymns, second only to Handel for sacred music of the time and first in the composition of hymns suitable for the musical abilities of church choirs and organists. One last point, when you hear the word "deist" in reference to any man of those centuries, remember, deist was a perjorative term that was placed on any man who dared to disagree with the Roman Catholic or Anglican Church which "deists" included the baptists, mennonites, methodists, and most other Christians from whom we trace our roots.

PastorDonMilton said...

There is an ambiguous sentence in my post which makes it sound like I put that Eve didn't have sons. Of course Eve is known to have given birth to both Cain and Abel. It is the daughters of Eve that I am pointing out could have given birth to many more daughters and if they gave birth to daughters only, they would not have been mentioned as ever existing for the Bible never mentions wives by name who bore no sons unless they are outside the geneology of God's chosen people or unless they are metaphorical wives.

Anonymous said...

Is Polygamy Biblical?
Is lying about Polygyny in the Bible worth it to you? That should be the question for this article.

This may seem like an overly simplistic response to this comment, but Adam and Eve were also naked in Genesis and also they seemingly only ate fruit. That doesn't mean that the ideal now is to be naked and only eat fruit. We live in a hostile world and environment now. The people in the Bible lived in the same world we live in now. They knew what was the true value of men and women, and they saw it as fitting that a man would have a strong family structure in which he provided a place within himself for more than one wife. This helped to greatly reduce prostitution, sexual irrisponsibility in society, and even helped reduce poverty.

Your comment about kings being prohibited from polygyny:

Where does the Bible condemn polygyny of OT kings? Show one place please. You are OBVIOUSLY refering to where it says to not multiply horses, gold and wives. Are you deciding that this means the king was being forbidden from having more than one horse, one piece of gold and one wife? It has nothing to do with a moral law prohibiting poly, but it is limiting the king in his being able to take too much from the people in taxes, property and whatever else he may want.

It was Solomons "FOREIGN" wives who turned his heart. It had nothing to do with the number of wives. 1 wife or 1000 wives could accomplish that if the man allows it.

Gods disdain is shown by humans not being perfect in polygyny? So what again is the percentage of divorce in your preferred "holy" enforced monogamy? Are you saying that monogamy is a good example of there being no strife, temptation and other types of consequences? Why do so called "monogamous" societies have huge amounts of prostitution abortions and fornication? Where has enforced monogamy ever proved itself superior to polygyny? Also, what difference does it make from a social point of view? What matters here is not how well a human does something, but the question is, *FROM THE BIBLE* is it right or wrong?

I get really lost on the last paragraph. What kind of behaviour are you referring to? You said it is not sanctioned in scripture. Lets look at the word "Sanction"
sanc·tion
–noun 1. authoritative permission OR APPROVAL, as for an action.
2. something that serves to SUPPORT AN ACTION, CONDITION, etc.
3. something that gives binding force, as to an oath, RULE OF CONDUCT, etc.
4. Law. a. a provision of a law enacting a penalty for disobedience or a reward for obedience.
b. the penalty or reward.

How is this for a sanctioning law regarding polygyny in the Bible?

"Exd 21:10 If he take him another [wife]; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. "
This is a rule of conduct, it is a condition for APPROVAL, and it gives a set of requirements which are necessary to SUPPORT AN ACTION.
This is a regulation on how to treat additional wives, and yes it is in the BIBLE!
I could go on all day breaking down so many things you said in your article, but it would take too long.
All I can say, in closing, is that you are either ignorant of the marriage subject in the Bible, or you are lying on purpose. I hope it is just ignorance, for your sake.

The Pharisee said...

Hank,

I'd be happy to debate you. ANYTIME.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he's interested in a debate, or in "sharing" ideas. It's kinda like when you go to a typical protestant "church" and the person stands up in front and declares everything that's on their mind and all their opinions, but everyone in the audience is expected to sit there and be completely unresponsive, unless they agree or unless they imagine they agree, in which case they can express their agreement. It would be interesting if open disagreement was welcome too, and discussions were allowed to take place in "churches".