How to answer the Anti-Polys

Report
A Biblical Response
to Anti-Poly Arguments
This presentation has been developed by William F. Luck, sr. (retired), former Associate
Professor of Bible and Theology at Moody Bible Institute; former officer of the
Evangelical Theological Society; former President and founding member of the
Evangelical Philosophical Society; and author of Divorce and Remarriage; Recovering
the Biblical View (1st Edition by Harper & Row 1987; 2nd edition by Biblical Studies
Press, 2008—downloadable from Bible.org). I graduated with an MA with honors in
Christian Apologetics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1973), and with an Mdiv
with honors (and further post-graduate work) in historical theology from McCormick
Theological Seminary in 1974.
It is a serious sin either to justify actions which God condemns or condemn actions
which God does not. Given that, I am certainly willing to consider any argument which
may be offered which attempts to show that God condemns polygyny. Likewise I trust
that those who seek to censure polygynists will consider arguments to the contrary.
I am not a polygynist, nor the son of one. I have no intention of becoming one. My
interest is in correcting misinformation, injustice, and poor hermeneutics which have
been coming out of the Church since Justin Martyr, which condemn Christian polygyny
as a sin. Regarding any existing Christian poly movements, I am a “friend of the court.”
The following presentation is my response to Anti-poly arguments with which I am
familiar.
The Anti-Polys Have the Burden of Proof
The burden of proof arises from the Latin maxim semper necessitas probandi incumbit
ei qui agit: "the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.“
When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting
a claim. The burden of proof rests on the party who advances a proposition
affirmatively ("actori incumbit probatio").
Michalos, Alex. 1969. Principles of Logic. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. p 370 – says:
“usually one who makes an assertion must assume the responsibility of defending it.
If this responsibility or burden of proof is shifted to a critic, the fallacy of appealing to
ignorance is committed.”
The upshot of this is that those laying the charge that polygyny is immoral or divinely
condemned have the burden of proof. Though the proposition “polygyny is immoral”
is negative, it is advanced affirmatively. Those who practice polygyny do not advance
a proposition (e.g., “polygyny is moral behavior”), they simply practice it. Were the
pro-polygyny side to advance that proposition, they would have the burden of proof
to justify their assertion, but that is not the case here. Therefore the Anti-Poly
position has the burden of proof.
How is the Proposition that Polygyny is Immoral to be Justified?
There are in law three levels of proof:
1) Beyond a reasonable doubt: the highest level of proof, used mainly in criminal
trials.
2) Clear and convincing evidence: an intermediate level of proof, used mainly in civil
trials in the U.S.
3) Preponderance of evidence: the lowest level of proof, used mainly in civil trials;
typically means more likely than not.
The anti-poly position is that polygyny is a “sin.” What kind of sin is important.
When is argued that it is a transgression., they must show that polygyny is
contrary to an explicit proscription or commandment. If it is considered iniquity,
clear and convincing or beyond reasonable doubt apply. Were they to argue that
it is simply a falling short of an ideal standard, then clear and convincing
evidence might be enough.
As long as the pro-polygynist position does not make an affirmation, then the
practice has a presumption of innocence….as in “innocent till proven guilty.”
Examples of Ways that the Burden Could be Shouldered
“…there could be dozens of ways of doing it.
One could use command such as that found in the first commandment that would
forbid a second wife;
There would be several possibilities-- one would be something like "lo yiqah lo
ishah aher ka'asher yesh lo ishah" (he shall not take for himself another wife when
there is to him a wife).
there could be a law--if a man who is already married marries a second wife then . . .;
there could be a wisdom saying: The man who has two wives is like . . . ;
there could be a narrative, not one that features problems with two wives (we have
those), but one that explicitly draws a didactic conclusion: "That is why God ordained
that men only have one wife."
The could be a statement in holiness code language: To have more than one wife
would be an abomination to the Lord; such a man shall be cut off.
The list could go on and on.
But, of course, they don't do
any of these as you well know.
Dr. John Walton, OT Professor,
Wheaton College.
To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Walton considers polygyny to be an
obsolete practice related to such issues as progeny and inheritance. I
am unsure of his views of polygyny in the NT. He is not a member of
any modern polygynist movement, nor interested in defending any.
But his honest answer regarding polygyny in the OT is appreciated.
Arguments against Biblical Polygyny Focus Upon These Passages:
Polygyny is Against the Divine Ideal for Marriage
Gen. 2:24 (Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:32-32; 1 Cor. 7:2ff)
Polygyny is Proscribed by the Mosaic Law
Lev. 18:18 (Deut. 17:17)
Polygyny is contrary to the standard required of Church leaders
(who are examples of how all believers should act).
1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6
1) Arguments related to Genesis 2:24
Polygyny is incompatible with the Biblical concept of marriage, sometimes called the
Divine “ideal,” as between one man and one woman set forth in the institution of
marriage in Genesis 2:21-24
Moses
Gen. 2:22 Then the Lord
God made a woman from
the part he had taken out
of the man, and he
brought her to the man.
2:23 Then the man said,
“This one at last is bone
of my bones and flesh of
my flesh; this one will be
called ‘woman,’ for she
was taken out of man.”
2:24 That is why a man
leaves his father and
mother and unites with
his wife, and they
become a new family.
Jesus
Matt. 19:4 He answered,
“Have you not read that
from the beginning the
Creator made them
male and female, 19:5
and said, ‘For this reason
a man will leave his
father and mother and
will be united with his
wife, and the two will
become one flesh’? 19:6
So they are no longer
two, but one flesh.
Therefore what God has
joined together, let no
one separate.”
(see also Mark 10:6-8)
Paul
1 Cor. 7:2 But because of
immoralities, each man
should have relations with
his own wife and each
woman with her own
husband.
Eph. 5:31 For this reason a
man will leave his father
and mother and will be
joined to his wife, and the
two will become one flesh.
There was no provision made
for “spare parts” (subsequent
marital partners as in polygyny).
The language is emphatic: A
man and A woman.
“The Edenic divine norm of heterosexual monogamy summarized in Genesis 2:24 is assumed
throughout the rest of Scripture.” Richard Davidson The Flame of Yahweh, p. 9.
Genesis 2:24
One fundamental rule of Biblical hermeneutics (the science of studying the Bible
systematically) is known as the "rule of first mention". It has been observed that the first
place in the Bible where a doctrine, idea, institution, etc. is mentioned, a foundational
truth is set forth that underlies all understanding gleaned from further revelation. In the
case at hand, we see that the first place where the institution of marriage is set forth in
God's Word is in Genesis 2:21-24
Marriage is God's plan for the relationships of companionship, fellowship, and sexuality
among His most valued created beings, Man. And we see that God, in setting forth this
plan, lays out several key understandings about marriage in this passage:
- It is monogamous. God did not create multiple wives for Adam. He created one. It
seems like a rather simple point, true, but again remember that God is setting forth a
pattern in this passage which defines His intentions for this institution. God's plan,
through His act of creation while the world and all creation was yet perfect and without
sin, was for a man to be married to one woman, and one woman only.
http://www.studytoanswer.net/contemporary/polygyny.html
Response to the Contention that Genesis 2 Presents Us with a “Moral Ideal.”
Definition of IDEAL from Merriam-Webster
1 : a standard of perfection, beauty, or excellence
2 : one regarded as exemplifying an ideal and often
taken as a model for imitation
3 : an ultimate object or aim of endeavor : GOAL
The problem with calling Genesis 2:24 (and context) an “Ideal” is that the move from
“model for imitation” to moral standard, the falling short of which is a “sin,” is not clarified
by those who use it. The fact that this passage may not fit all circumstances is obvious even
in the verse itself, which refers to “leaving the father and mother,” neither of which existed
for Adam in the Garden. A list of things which happened in Eden include:
1. The husband alone with no potential women to fill his needs.
2. The consideration of animals as inadequate companions.
3. The creation of the woman out of the man.
4. Must be a man and a woman with no one else around.
5. The marriage must involve only one man and one woman.
6. The bringing of the woman to the man done directly by God.
7. The recognition of the woman as being like him and unlike the animals.
8. No license.
9. No ceremony.
10. No vows spoken.
11. No minister or justice of the peace.
12. No witnesses.
13. Participants naked.
14. Each person gets only one partner for life. “No spare parts.”
15. Man must be in a condition of dependency to his parents before the
marriage. (Moses’ editorial comment).
These statements of the
“Ideal” bear consideration.
Why do we insist on some
and ignore others?
Especially, how can you
shift on #14, as you must to
allow widows and
widowers to remarry,
without likewise opening
the door to polygyny?
Valid and Invalid Inferences that Can Be Drawn from Genesis 1 &2
1:27 God created humankind in his own
image, in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the
man to be alone. I will make a companion for
him who corresponds to him.” 2:21 So the
Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep
sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part
of the man’s side and closed up the place
with flesh. 2:22 Then the Lord God made a
woman from the part he had taken out of the
man, and he brought her to the man. 2:23
Then the man said, “This one at last is bone
of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one
will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out
of man.”
2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and
mother and unites with his wife, and they
become a new family. 2:25 The man and his
wife were both naked, but they were not
ashamed.
/
Invalid Practices
(Lev. 18 & 20 et passim)
1. Homosexual relationships
2. Bestial relationships
Valid Inferences
1. The relationship is heterosexual.
2. The relationship is a covenant.
3. Each covenant is between (only)
one man and (only) one woman.
4. God sanctions the covenant.
5. The covenant is hierarchical
(male headship)
6. The head of the covenant must
not be socially dependent in
another such relationship.
7. The relationship was intended to
be permanent (joins himself to
her as contrasted with his
leaving is parents’ relationship).
Valid and Invalid Inferences that Can Be Drawn from Genesis 1 &2 (Cont’d)
Four Invalid Inferences Drawn as a
Result of the Fall
Reason for denial
1. The partners must remain together
till death.
1. Sin may negate the covenant.
(Ex. 21:10-11; Matt. 5:32a)
2. People can marry whatever other
person they desire, as long as
there is one man and one woman.
Unbelieving spouses may be led to
Christ.
2. Marrying an unbeliever is entering
into an “unequal yoke.”
(Deut. 7:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)
3. The partners cannot establish
another such covenant with other
valid partners:
A) consecutively
B) concurrently
3. There is no reason to deny either
such marriage for men, and the
first for women.
(cf. Lev. 22:12; 1 Tim. 5:14)
4. Women can have more than one
such relationship concurrently
4. The patriarchal nature of the
marriage covenant prohibits the
woman having two heads.
(cf. Matt. 6:24)
Polygyny is incompatible with the Biblical concept of “one flesh”
Polygyny is incompatible with the Biblical concept of one flesh set forth in the
institution of marriage in Genesis 2:23 (cf. Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:30). The one flesh
relationship establishes an integer which cannot (or should not) be divided in order for a
new relationship to be added on to the first.
Further, this pattern for marriage can be understood to have general application, i.e. it is
not merely set forth for Adam, but for all his descendants as well. This is derived from
the fact that, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto
his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Adam had no earthly father or mother. The
statement applies universally to his descendants, and this further affirms that these
verses lay out God's fundamental plan for marriage.
If the two become one, then there is no longer any individual to be united with another
woman (individual).
Additionally Paul teaches that a man must not have a relationship with a prostitute
because he has one with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6). This speaks of the same
incompatibility.
This is an example of a misuse of language games. Integer is not a Scriptural term and loads the
deck in an unjust way.
The concept of a one flesh relationship speaks of one family (see the TN of the NET), not one
individual. When another wife is added to the first it remains the “house” of the husband. Was
Jacob’s family divided when he took Rachel in addition to Leah?
The figure of “one flesh,” while it speaks of a close bond, does not limit itself to only one such
relationship. The Scripture speaks of the man as the head of the woman (1 Cor. 12:2-3) or the
husband is the head of his wife. Paul speaks of the Prostitute as the head of the man who goes to
her…the man being her body, because she controls the relationship. Yet she had many such
“bodies” (1 Cor. 6:16). Similarly, a polygynist has more than one member and yet has a one flesh
relationship with each. In physiology, the head is over each finger, yet it has a one flesh
relationship with each of the fingers of the person’s hands.
Paul speaks of the Gentiles being a wild branch, grafted in to the natural vine (Rom. 11:17-24).
Upon the regeneration of the Jews, they too will be grafted back and into the vine. Their resultant
relationship with the source of life will not obstruct that of the Gentiles or their nations.
Mathematics is not the issue, as Paul makes clear when talking about the Corinthians serving
God (1 Cor. 7). While “ideally” it is preferable for each person to remain single, they may “net”
more quality time serving God while married. So too, polygynists may net more quality time
serving both God and any given wife by having plural wives.
What does “One flesh” mean?
Gen. 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the
man to be alone. I will make a companion for him
who corresponds to him.”
2:19 The Lord God formed out of the ground every
living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He
brought them to the man to see what he would name
them, and whatever the man called each living
creature, that was its name. 2:20 So the man named all
the animals, the birds of the air, and the living
creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion
who corresponded to him was found.
2:21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep
sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the
man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. 2:22
Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he
had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the
man.
2:23 Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my
bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called
‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
Basic statement about how
God made man, i.e., needing
companionship.
God reveals that animal flesh
is not appropriate for the
desired companionship.
God creates a same-kind,
and appropriate (female)
companion by sundering
Adam’s flesh.
Man recognizes that the
woman is the partner he
needs and desires.
What does “One flesh” mean? (Cont’d)
Gen. 2:24 That is why
Because a woman is the appropriate
companion for man and fills his need for such…
a man leaves his father
and mother
man ends his dependent relationship to his
parent’s companionship relationship
and unites with his wife,
And enters into a companionship relationship
with a woman (with the intention not to end it).
and they become a new
family [or couple]
[Heb.: “one flesh”].
That relationship (re)unites the sundered-flesh
of “Mankind” as closely as physically possible,
establishing a new companionship relationship
like that which his parent’s enjoyed.
What does “One flesh” mean? (Cont’d)
It is not that
1)
2)
3)
4)
Humans cannot physically unite with animals, nor that
Humans cannot physically unite with the same human gender, nor that
Men cannot physically unite with women aside from a covenant of companionship, nor that
Two men cannot unite with one woman, but that
They should not do these things.
#’s 1 & 2 are “unnatural”
animals are the wrong flesh-type;
homosexuality is misgendered (Man is created: male & female)
and opposed to God’s patriarchal structuring of the
covenant (2 men is two-heads; 2 women is no head)
#3 is not abiding (does not involve cleaving)
but only creates a temporary one-body union, which is
against God’s command and therefore
incompatible with God’s Spirit’s indwelling.
#4 is against God’s patriarchal structuring of the covenant of companionship.
The Argument Misrepresents the Nature of Polygynous Covenants
While the familial relationship exists like this…
A
The family unit.
woman
man
woman
each covenant exist like this…
Marriage 2
Marriage 1
B
where the man
is the same
woman
man
man
woman
The “one flesh”
relationships.
The argument confuses the relationships (A) with the covenants (B). Just because two one
man/one woman covenants exist with the man being the same, does not mean that there
exists a one man/two women covenant. In this respect it is similar to Christ’s relationship to
the individual believer, not like Christ’s relationship to His Church as a corporate entity.
It’s not a polygynous marriage.
It’s a polygynous family.
The Argument Misrepresents the Use of “Two” in the NT
The Hebrew of Genesis 2:24 does not even contain the word two. That was
introduced by the Greek translation of the text. However that is inconsequential,
since obviously two individuals are being discussed. It is true that the Essenes, a
minority sect of the Jews in the days of Jesus, used the LXX translation of Genesis
2:24 to teach monogamy over and against polygyny (see ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS
4:20–5:2), however, when Jesus spoke of “the two becoming one flesh,” He was not
addressing the subject of plural marriages in order to prohibit them, but the subject
of the disestablishment of one man/one woman covenants. His point was that two
individuals had given up their individual rights to (unilaterally) sunder (by divorce)
the integrity of the relationship established. What Moses says would be relevant to
the sundering of the covenants of ether monogamists or polygynists. Likewise, what
Jesus says is equally relevant to monogamous and polygynist marriages.
In order for the anti-poly argument to work in regard Gen. 2:24, it would have to be
interpreted as “only two (at any given time) may become one flesh.” The Hebrew
could have said that, but it did not, and attempts to interpret the verse this way
bear the burden of proof and cannot shoulder it.
woman
man
woman
woman
man
Why Did God Create Only One Wife for Adam?
The Anti-Polys believe that God created only one wife for Adam because that was the
“ideal.” Often this is simply left unexplained. God did it that way, it must be ideal. The
implication is that it is ideal because that is the best way for a man and woman to live
together over and against a man having multiple wives. Man needed a companion and a
single companion was created. Therefore it must be that companionship in marriage is
designed to be monogamous.
But is that so? Could there be another reason for limiting Adam to one wife? Without
engaging in speculation, we are going to make a comparison. First consider the account of
the creation of Eve and what transpired in Gen. 2-3:
Gen. 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who
corresponds to him.”
2:19 The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought
them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its
name. 2:20 So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam
no companion who corresponded to him was found.
2:22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
2:23 Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; …”
3:6 … She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.
3:17 But to Adam he said, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You
must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
Now consider the story of Abraham.
Why Did God Create Only One Wife for Adam? (Cont’d)
Gen. 17:15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, you must no longer call her Sarai; Sarah will be her name.
17:16 I will bless her and will give you a son through her. I will bless her and she will become a mother of nations.
Kings of countries will come from her!”
17:17 Then Abraham bowed down with his face to the ground and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a son be born
to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 17:18 Abraham said to God, “O
that Ishmael might live before you!” 17:19 God said, “No, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will
name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him.
21:1 The Lord visited Sarah just as he had said he would and did for Sarah what he had promised. 21:2 So Sarah
became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the appointed time that God had told him. 21:3
Abraham named his son – whom Sarah bore to him – Isaac.21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish that slave
woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!” 21:11 Sarah’s
demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son. 21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be
upset about the boy or your slave wife. Do all that Sarah is telling you because through Isaac your descendants will
be counted.
22:1 Some time after these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” Abraham replied.
22:2 God said, “Take your son – your only son, whom you love, Isaac – and go to the land of Moriah! Offer him up
there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.”
22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son. 22:11 But the Lord’s
angel called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. 22:12 “Do not harm the boy!”
the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your
son, your only son, from me.”
22:15 The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven 22:16 and said, “‘I solemnly swear by my own
name,’ decrees the Lord, ‘that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 22:17 I
will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the
sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies.
22:18 Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the
name of your descendants.’”
What similarities do you see?
Why Did God Create Only One Wife for Adam? (Cont’d 2)
God notes Adam’s need for a companion,
and makes that need clear to Adam.
Abraham is given the promise of progeny
through Sarah. [The “spare” son, Ishmael, will
be removed from the scene.]
God provides the companion, and Adam
is joyful.
Sarah becomes pregnant and gives birth to
the child of promise.
The only companion is “lost” through sin,
and invites Adam to join her in
transgression.
God commands Abraham to sacrifice his
“only” son.
Adam disobeys God in order to remain
with his only companion.
Abraham obeys God and is willing to give up
his only son.
God curses the Ground and casts Adam
out of the Garden. All mankind is “cursed”
because of him.
God blesses Abraham and says that all
nations will be blessed in him.
In each case God works in the circumstances to present a key figure in human history with
a costly choice. Adam fails the test. Abraham passes the test. The entire dynamic changes
if Adam has two wives and Abraham has two sons! It was essential that each be faced with
a critical choice. That choice would not have been critical if they had an additional
alternative to God’s command. That is why Adam had one wife. Not because it was
necessarily ideal for marriage per se, but because it was ideal for the test God had in mind.
Polygyny Divides the attention of the Husband
- This monogamy is affirmed in the starkest possible manner by the proclamation
that a man shall cleave unto his wife, and that they would be one flesh. While the
marriage relationship does entail the psychological cleaving of a man and wife
together, the conjugal act is also well in view here. The sexual intimacy of a husband
and wife is key to their cleaving to one another and becoming one flesh. Indeed,
Paul states that if a man goes in to a harlot, he is joined with her in one flesh (I
Corinthians 6:16). But yet, just because he has cleaved to her, this does not make
their joining [is] right. If multiple wives are introduced into the marriage
arrangement, then the man may well cleave to his wives, but his attentions,
affections, and physical intimacy are divided among several women, and the
fundamental unity for the man which is intended by the covenant of marriage (see
above) is destroyed as his flesh is cleaved to several women and his loyalties
divided. (Davidson, Flame of Yahweh.)
Response to: Polygyny Divides the attention of the Husband
This is partly true. But consider Paul’s similar argument regarding marriage as such:
1 Cor. 7:8 To the unmarried and widows I say that it is best for them to remain as I am. 7:9 But if
they do not have self-control, let them get married. For it is better to marry than to burn with
sexual desire.
7:32 And I want you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the things
of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 7:33 But a married man is concerned about the things of the
world, how to please his wife, 7:34 and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is
concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman
is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband. 7:35 I am saying this for
your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give
notable and constant service to the Lord. 7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward
his virgin, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes;
he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no
necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his own virgin,
does well. 7:38 So then, the one who marries his own virgin does well, but the one who does not,
does better. 7:39 A wife is bound as long as her husband is living. But if her husband dies, she is
free to marry anyone she wishes (only someone in the Lord). 7:40 But in my opinion, she will be
happier if she remains as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God!
Paul’s point is that divided attention is undesirable in the ideal, but that there are times
when to not divide it creates more of a distraction than it is worth. He argues for net
quality time rather than “gross time.” To put it as some poly women have: “I’d rather
have half the attention of a good man than all the attention of a bad man.”
The OT Ode to Monogamy: Prov. 5:15-18
Prov. 5:15 Drink water from your own cistern
and running water from your own well.
5:16 Should your springs be dispersed outside,
your streams of water in the wide plazas?
5:17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
5:18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in your young wife
Note that these verses speak of your own “cistern,” “fountain” and
“wife” in the singular, not plural as would be the case in polygyny.
(Davidson, Flame)
Right…an Ode written by Solomon, one of the worlds greatest polygynists,
during the period of his life when he was collecting wives right and left. That
should be your first sign that this is not talking against polygyny! His words
refer to a wife that is owned by the man, as contrasted with taking the wife of
another man. (This harlot is an adulteress.)
Polygyny is Incompatible with Paul’s Analogy of Christ and the Church
In Ephesians 5:22-33 then, Paul teaches on the duties of the husband and the
wife to each other, and likens their relationship to that of Christ with His church.
Christ is the Lord of each local church body, likened to the husband, as the local
assembly is to the wife.
In each local assembly, due to the unity that should prevail in spirit and
doctrine, Christ has only ONE wife, not many as if there were many different
spirits and doctrines residing in the body of the same local church.
Lest one be tempted, then, to suggest that the presence of multiple local
churches suggests that Christ has multiple "wives", it is best to keep in mind
that when all is said and done, the various local assemblies, the saints from all
the ages, will be gathered together into one united body in heaven (Hebrews
12:23) which is the true and final embodiment of Christ's "wife", the collection
of the church of saints which He has espoused to Himself through His shed
blood. Each local assembly, for the time being, is contextually and logically to be
considered as a foreshadowing of that final assembly of which its members will
one day be part, and thus is one wife with Christ as her head.
Christ’s relationship to His Bride the Church
As we noted above, this argument commits what is known as a category mistake.
Church
=
Individual Christians
Husband
family
Individual wives
John 17:23 I in them and you in me –
that they may be completely one,
Doesn’t Christ’s relationship to the Church typify EACH marriage? If so, then
it typifies each marriage in a polygynous family.
And isn’t the Holy Spirit the individual Christian’s “engagement ring”?
Eph. 1:13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your
salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of
the promised Holy Spirit, 1:14 who is the down payment of our inheritance,
until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.
2) Legal Issues
Leviticus 18:18 Prohibits Polygyny
You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry
her sister as a rival wife while she is still alive, to have
sexual intercourse with her. [NET, NASB, etc.]
Or should it read:
You must not take a woman and another as a rival wife
while she is stlll alive, to have sexual intercourse with
her. [Davidson, Kaiser, etc.]
Davidson says there are 8 Reasons
why you should translate it the second way:
1) The phrase, “a woman to her sister” is idiomatic, simply distributing the subject.
Location
Hebrew
Referent
Translation
Ex. 26:3a
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Curtains (feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ex. 26:3b
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Curtains (feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ex. 26:5
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Loops in a curtain
(feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ex. 26:6
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Curtains (feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ex. 26:17
‘iššȃ ’el-’āⱨȏtāh
Projections of a frame (feminine
case)
Each with her sister
Ez, 1:9
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Wings of the living creatures
(feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ez. 1:23
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Wings of the living creatures
(feminine case)
Each with her sister
Ez. 3:13
‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāh
Wings of the living creatures
(feminine case)
Each with her sister
Is. 34:15
‘iššȃ…rě’ûtāh
Hawks
Each with its mate
Is. 34:16
‘iššȃ…rě’ûtāh
Animals
Each with its mate
Jer. 9:20
‘iššȃ…rě’ûtāh
Women
Each with her neighbor
lady
Additionally…
The masculine equivalent is also idiomatic and distributive.
Location
Hebrew Word
Referent
Hebrew Translation
Gen. 37:19
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Gen. 42:21
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Gen. 42:28
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Ex. 16:15
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
Ex. 25:20
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Cherubim on ark
A man to his brother
Ex. 37:9
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Cherubim on ark
A man to his brother
Num. 14:4
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
2 Kings 7:6
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Syrian soldiers
A man to his brother
Jer. 13:14
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Wine bottles
A man to his brother
Jer. 25:26
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Kings of the North
A man to his brother
Ez. 24:23
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
Ez. 33:30
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
It would thus not be appropriate to translate it a woman to her sister, literally in Lev. 18:18.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t the phrase literally distribute brothers in Genesis?
Location
Hebrew Word
Referent
Hebrew Translation
Gen. 37:19
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Gen. 42:21
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Gen. 42:28
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Joseph’s brothers
A man to his brother
Ex. 16:15
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
Ex. 25:20
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Cherubim on ark
A man to his brother
Ex. 37:9
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Cherubim on ark
A man to his brother
Num. 14:4
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
2 Kings 7:6
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Syrian soldiers
A man to his brother
Jer. 13:14
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Wine bottles
A man to his brother
Jer. 25:26
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Kings of the North
A man to his brother
Ez. 24:23
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
Ez. 33:30
‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋw
Israelites
A man to his brother
Davidson is trying to convince us that the term has no appropriate, literal use. That’s
bogus. The idiomatic use only makes sense as a figure of speech if there is a literal use.
If the plain sense makes good sense, then any other sense is nonsense. It makes sense
in Lev. 18:18.
2) “If the intention of Lev. 18:18 was to refer to two literal (consanguine)
sisters, this could easily have been done in such a was as to avoid ambiguity by
the use of the conjunction “and” rather than the preposition “to”, thus reading
“a woman and her sister.” This would have been precisely analogous to the
phrase a woman and her daughter used in the immediately preceding verse,
where a literal (consanguine) mother-daughter relationship is described.”
Lev. 18:17 You must not have sexual intercourse with both a woman
and her daughter; you must not take as wife either her son’s
daughter or her daughter’s daughter to have intercourse with them.
They are closely related to her – it is lewdness.
18:18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her
sister as a rival wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse
with her.
The only people who think this is ambiguous are the Anti-Polys and Young.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
'You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.
King James Bible
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
American King James Version
Neither shall you take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
American Standard Version
And thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to be a rival to her , to uncover her nakedness, besides the other in her
life-time.
Douay-Rheims Bible
Thou shalt not take thy wife's sister for a harlot, to rival her, neither shalt thou discover her nakedness, while she is
yet living.
Darby Bible Translation
And thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness beside her, during her life.
English Revised Version
And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her
life time.
Webster's Bible Translation
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness besides the other in her life-time.
World English Bible
"'You shall not take a wife to her sister, to be a rival, to uncover her nakedness, while her sister is yet alive.
Young's Literal Translation
'And a woman unto another thou dost not take, to be an adversary, to uncover her nakedness beside her, in her
life.
It doesn’t make good sense if you translated it as Davidson suggests:
“And you shall not take a woman and her sister as a rival…”
The preceding verse doesn’t have the same construction.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
'You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take
her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood
relatives. It is lewdness.
King James Bible
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou
take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they
are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness
Who is the rival if we translate it that way?
3) You cannot argue that the word “sister” is used literally in the context (see below),
and therefore that it (“sister”) should be translated literally in verse 18, because it,
like the other uses (see chart) using the same exact wording are idiomatic
(figurative).
Lev. 18:9 You must not have sexual intercourse with your sister, whether she is your
father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she is born in the same household
or born outside it; you must not have sexual intercourse with either of them.
18:11 You must not have sexual intercourse with the daughter of your father’s wife born
of your father; she is your sister. You must not have intercourse with her. 18:12 You must
not have sexual intercourse with your father’s sister; she is your father’s flesh. 18:13 You
must not have sexual intercourse with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s
flesh.
18:18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister as a rival wife
while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse with her.
The only way we know that the phrase is idiomatic in the other instances is because
the word “sister” there was referring to curtains and statue wings! It couldn’t be taken
literally in those.
So why can’t we use the context here to speak of literal sisters? Because Dr. Davidson
and company lose the argument if you do! There is no good reason not to see v. 18 as
referring to literal sisters as are verses 9 and 11.
4-6) But you can’t use the context in that way because there is a major structural break
between verses 17 and 18 of Leviticus recognized by the wording of the Hebrew.
18:7
18:8
18:9
18:10
18:11
18:12
18:13
18:14
18:15
18:16
18:17
18:18
18:19
18:20
18:21
18:22
18:23
1)
2)
3)
4)
1)
2)
Each verse begins with erwat (“nakedness of”) & ends with l’ō (negative particle) + těgallēh
(“you shall uncover”).
The latter is in a nominal clause justifying the prohibition based upon the identity of the
forbidden individual. (Except verse 9)
None of these has a time limitation as does verse 18.
Each of these which is about a “sister,” explains her relationship to the addressed person,
whereas verse 18 does not.
Each verse begins with waw (“and”) & ends with l’ō (negative particle) + some other verb than
těgallēh (“you shall uncover”) .
Each verse lacks the nominal clause.
Richard Davidson (The Flame of Yahewh, p. 24) & Angelo Tosato, “The Law of Levicus 18:18” in QBC, pp. 199-214.
The Structure of Leviticus 18:7-23
A Response to Davidson/Tosato
18:7
18:8
18:9
18:10
18:11
18:12
18:13
18:14
18:15
18:16
18:17
18:18
18:19
18:20
18:21
18:22
18:23
1)
2)
3)
4)
1)
2)
Each verse begins with erwat (“nakedness of”) & ends with l’ō (negative particle) + těgallēh
(“you shall uncover”), however, the regulations are not divided into verses but are
independent laws. And in that regard , it is to be noted that verse17 is a double, the second
regulation of which does not have that form.
The latter is in a nominal clause justifying the prohibition based upon the identity of the
forbidden individual. (Except verse 9) Not only is verse 9 an exception, but verse 18 does
identify the relationship of the forbidden individual.
None of these has a time limitation as does verse 18. While this is true per se it is to be noted
that verse 16 does have an implied time limitation, and the same one as verse 18 (cf. the law
of the Levirate in Deut. 20:5-15)
Each of these, which is about a “sister” explains her relationship to the addressed person,
whereas verse 18 does not. This is not true. Verse 18 identifies the sister as the sister of the
addressed person’s hypothetical wife.
Each verse begins with waw (“and”) & ends with l’ō (negative particle) + some other verb than
těgallēh (“you shall uncover”). At best this shows that 18 is transitional. Too many other
substantial similarities associate 18 with 7-17 to make this a determining factor.
Each verse lacks the nominal clause. See above #2.
These qualifications to the theory substantially negate it. I consider the noting of the
“waw” structure to be the best point, as it does show affinity to the subsequent
regulations in the section. However, what Davison and Tosato ignore is that the entire
group are a unit which begins at 18:1 and goes through 18:30. (Identified by “The Lord
spoke to Moses…”, repeated again at 19:1) We would expect the section made up of
incest laws on the one hand and other (largely—cf. verse 21, which is associated by
virtue of “seed”) to have a transitional verse similar to verse 18.
The Structure of Leviticus 18:7-23; A Response to Davidson/Tosato (Cont’d)
18:1-5 Obey me; don’t act like the Canaanites.
18:6 No man is to approach any close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the Lord.
18:7 sanguine mother
18:8 step-mother.
18:9a sister
18:9b or half-sister
18:10a son’s daughter (granddaughter)
18:10b daughter’s daughter (granddaughter)
18:11 paternal half-sister.
18:12 paternal aunt
18:13 maternal aunt
18:14 You shall not approach paternal aunt-in-law
18:15 son’s wife (daughter–in-law)
18:16 brother’s wife (sister-in-law)
18:17 a woman & daughter
18:17b woman and son’s daughter (granddaughter)
18:17c woman and her daughter’s daughter (granddaughter)
18:18 You must not take a woman and her sister as a rival
18:19 You shall not approach a woman during her menstrual period.
18:20 adultery
18:21 Child sacrifice
18:22 Homosexuality
18:23 bestiality
18:24-30 Don’t defile yourself with any of these things which have defiled the nations.
I do not deny that there is difference between 18 and 6-17, though not in regard to such a contrived structural
analysis as Davidson insists upon. Marrying the sister to cause a rivalry is not a matter of incest per se), and
therefore is transitional. Nonetheless, close kinship is primiary issue, and that’s why it is associated with the
incest regulations. One could argue for v. 19 being associated with the previous set, insofar as 6-19 involve
indecent exposure [uncovering nakedness], as does it. Likewise it shares “don’t approach”.
What Does God Think of People Who Divide up Families?
Prov. 6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
even seven things that are an abomination to him:
6:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
6:18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that are swift to run to evil,
6:19 a false witness who pours out lies,
and a person who spreads discord among family members.
7) “The laws of Leviticus 18 dealing with kinship relationships have specific defining
delimitations of the literal sister: ‘the daughter of your father or the daughter of your
mother’ (v. 9); ‘your father’s wife’s daughter’ (vs. 11); ‘your father’s sister’ (vs. 12);
‘your mother’s sister’ (vs.13). In stark contrast , the law of verse 18 has no such
qualifying delimitations. (Davidson, p. 25).
Excuse me:
Lev. 18:18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister (Hb.: “a
woman to her sister”) as a rival wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse
with her.
The last time I checked, “her” delimits the word sister. This functions the same as if
Moses had said: “your wife’s sister.” Davidson simply wants his delimitation to be in a
particular form. But he hasn’t shown that that is important to the concept of
delimitation. Therefore his argument fails.
8) The “theological” justification “to be a rival to her” does not describe the intrinsic
wrongfulness, but describes a general situation applicable to any bigamous
marriage. This is seen in the only other time this root is used in the Old Testament: 1
Sam. 1:6.
1 Sam. 1:6 Her rival wife used to upset her and make her worry, for the Lord had not
enabled her to have children.
“Accordingly, if the motivation for this prohibition was to avoid vexation to one’s wife,
there is little reason for limiting its prohibition to a literal sister; both the Bible and
anthropology provide ample testimony to the unpleasant reality of contention among
co-wives, whether sisters or not.” (Gordon Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, p.
117).
Really? Let’s look at our old friends Lamech and Jacob. Then go back to Hannah/Peninnah.
Gen. 4:19 Lamech took two wives for himself; the name of the first was Adah, and the name of
the second was Zillah. 4:20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the first of those who live in tents
and keep livestock. 4:21 The name of his brother was Jubal; he was the first of all who play the
harp and the flute. 4:22 Now Zillah also gave birth to Tubal-Cain, who heated metal and shaped
all kinds of tools made of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.
Gen. 30:1 When Rachel saw that she could not give Jacob children, she became jealous of her
sister.
1 Sam. 1:1 There was a man from Ramathaim Zophim, from the hill country of Ephraim, whose
name was Elkanah. He was the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of
Zuph, an Ephraimite. 1:2 He had two wives; the name of the first was Hannah and the name of
the second was Peninnah. Now Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.
1 Sam. 1:6 Her rival wife used to upset her and make her worry, for the Lord had not enabled
her to have children.
Their argument involves two logical fallacies. 1) biased sampling, where disconfirming
samples are ignored (David’s wives, Solomon’s wives, Caleb’s wives), and 2) hasty
generalization, where a small number of samples are generalized to the whole population. In
the first instance, the Anti-polys ignore instances where polygyny is discussed and no rivalry is
mentioned. Lamech’s for example. In the second instance, the mention of rivalries in the case
of two Abraham’s wives, 2 of Jacob’s wives, and Elkanah’s wives…all related to fecundity and
progeny… are generalized to all polygynous marriages.
The Real Meaning of Leviticus 18:18
Lev. 18:18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister as a rival
wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse with her.
The anti-poly interpretation of this law is a forced one, based on the bias sampling they
bring to the text. Why do I say it’s biased? Well, of all the polygynous marriages
mentioned in Scripture, only a few involve rivalry, and all those were related to issues
of jealousy and/or ridicule related to fecundity and progeny. In societies which are not
so wrapped up in those matters, we may presume that life among polygynous families
are much like those which did no have jealousies in Scriptural times. It is over and
against such common rivalries that Leviticus 18:18 appears. What makes it
reprehensible is the fact that a man intentionally takes his wife’s sister to be a rival, in
order to harass her. He is splitting up a family in his ungodly desire to be hateful to his
wife. And, it is because of the presumed close relationship that is being destroyed that
the regulation appears. In other words, it is appropriately situated next to the incest
passages. 7-17 discuss sins against intimate relationships…”that is the nakedness of
your…”, exposing private “ground.” That is very similar to a man using one sister to
expose the privacy that another enjoys in her family.
Notice the relationship to the next law: exposing the very intimate private matter of a
woman’s menstrual period. Next comes “standard” adultery, in which a (“one flesh”)
couple is broken up. Then the destruction of one’s children…one’s seed…a term used in
several ways before in the chapter. Finally the horrendous exposure of one’s own
nakedness to an animal…one of the clear points to be learned from Gen. 2:24. All fits.
One must ask, why is incest so evil? What does it mean to speak of a near kin’s
nakedness?
Lev. 18:16 You must not have sexual intercourse with your brother’s wife; she is your
brother’s nakedness.
18:17 You must not have sexual intercourse with both a woman and her daughter;
you must not take as wife either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to
have intercourse with them. They are closely related to her – it is lewdness.
18:18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister as a rival
wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse with her.
18:19 “‘You must not approach a woman in her menstrual impurity to have sexual
intercourse with her [Heb. “to uncover her nakedness”].
Nakedness means something embarrassing…the indecent exposure of Noah when
Ham saw him naked (Gen. 9). It is also a part of the embarrassing thing (erwat
dabar) of Deut. 24:1. It is used repeatedly in Lev. 18. It is embarrassing
We conclude then that none of Davidson’s 8 arguments can stand against a simple
literal interpretation of the regulation. It does not prohibit an incestuous
relationship, but rather the establishing of a rivalry which disrupts a close kinship
relationship. Splitting up sisters in the process of making a dominant power play
with a view to embarrassing the wife, is a reprehensible action. But there is nothing
significant to commend interpreting “woman to her sister” as being a prohibition of
marrying two women.
Exposing the nakedness of two unrelated woman with whom one has a covenantal
relationship is no more abhorrent than sex in monogamy. In short, to interpret this
as prohibiting polygyny removes the very element that unifies the section, namely,
close kinship.
There are ways of prohibiting polygyny, but, as Dr. Walton might say, this isn’t one
of them.
Deuteronomy 17:17 Prohibits Kings from Having Multiple Wives
Deut. 17:17 Furthermore, he must not marry many wives
lest his affections turn aside,
Since kings were to be the example to their people and teach them the
Law of God, we may assume that all OT saints were also to not have
multiple wives.
But even Davidson acknowledges that the context also teaches that Kings
were not to multiply their horses or greatly multiply their money.
Davidson blames the text for not being “precise” enough to teach against
all “royal polygyny.”
But he adds that when coupled with the previous law, it should be clear.
The previous law is not at all likely as a prohibition of polygyny. It clearly
prohibits one kind of polygyny without condemning others and thereby
gives presumption of propriety to other kinds of polygyny.
3) The Qualifications Passages in the Pastoral Epistles
The Qualifications Passages in the Pastoral Epistles Prohibit Polygyny
for Church Leaders, and They Are Examples of What All Should Be
1 Tim. 3:2 The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…
1 Tim. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife…
Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife…
What could be more clear than these passages that polygyny is
prohibited? They point blank state that a leader in the Christian
Church should not be a polygynist. Further, you should not
argue that this was just for leaders. They were to be examples
of Christian behavior.
There are good reasons for NOT interpreting these qualifications
passages as opposing polygyny.
1. Qualifications passages do not introduce new moral teaching. So
where is the condemnation of polygyny prior to the Pastorals?
2. The primary problem in the Greek world was fornication…attendance
upon the many prostitutes which plied their trade in all major towns.
If “μιας γυναικος ανηρ” means “husband of one wife” and prohibits
polygyny, then where is the qualification which deals specifically with
fornication? Couple that with…
3. Polygyny hadn’t been practiced in Ephesus or Crete for hundreds of
years. Why condemn a practice which isn’t being practiced?
4. Would God prohibit Abraham or David from taking a gift of money or
food to a widow?
5. A similar phrase is used of women who were widows. If polygamy is
implied there, then 1 Tim. 5:9 would be polyandry, which had never
been and wasn’t being practiced in either Crete or Ephesus.
Prior Teaching Which Focuses Upon Fornication
Rom. 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness , covetousness ,
maliciousness ; full of envy, murder, debate , deceit , malignity; whisperers…
1 Cor. 5:1 It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that
is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.
1 Cor. 6:18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” – but the
immoral person sins against his own body.
Gal. 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 5:20
idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions,
5:21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned
you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
Eph. 5:3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as
these are not fitting for the saints.
1 Thess. 5:3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or
greed, as these are not fitting for the saints.
With all this emphasis upon purity, does it seem likely that Paul would focus upon
married people, whether monogamous or polygynous rather than making the
condemnation of fornication the #1 qualification (prohibition)?
Now consider an even closer parallel:
Paul’s Admonition to Single Greek Men and Woman
1 Cor. 7:2 But because of
immoralities, each man
should have relations
with his own wife and
each woman with her
own husband.
1 Tim. 3:2 The overseer
then must be above
reproach, the husband
of one wife…
In a monogamous society the way to avoid fornication with the
prostitutes was to have one’s own wife. The fornicator had sexual
relations with many women—prostitutes. The man who avoided
them got his own woman. Instead of being a many woman kind of
man, he was a one woman kind of man. Had Paul been
addressing the Jews in Jerusalem, he would have written this
differently, but he is writing to the situation in Ephesus (Timothy)
and Crete (Titus). He is not prohibiting plural wives (out of sight
and mind), but rather a man being a many woman kind of fellow.
Nor is he prohibiting divorced men from serving in those
situations. Nor is he requiring elders and deacons to be married
(since Apostles—such as John and himself were unmarried). Why
would one unmarried “elder” write to another unmarried leader
and demand that subordinate leaders be married?
A Similar Phrase is Used of Widows in the Same Book
1 Tim. 5:9 No widow should be put on the list unless she is at least sixty years old, was the wife of one
husband, 5:10 and has a reputation for good works: as one who has raised children, practiced hospitality,
washed the feet of the saints, helped those in distress – as one who has exhibited all kinds of good works.
5:11 But do not accept younger widows on the list, because their passions may lead them away from Christ
and they will desire to marry, 5:12 and so incur judgment for breaking their former pledge. 5:13 And besides
that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazy, and they are not only lazy, but also gossips and
busybodies, talking about things they should not. 5:14 So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and
manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us. 5:15 For some have already
wandered away to follow Satan. 5:16 If a believing woman has widows in her family, let her help them. The
church should not be burdened, so that it may help the widows who are truly in need.
Clearly this is not prohibiting women who were married to two husbands
concurrently. Neither is it likely that it is used of women who were to be only married
once, since Paul then tells young widows to remarry rather than making a pledge to
commit themselves to singleness (which was apparently a condition of receiving
financial help from the Church). And consider this: what of a widow who takes Paul’s
advice and then is widowed again? She might then be a widow who was truly in
need. Is she then to be rejected because she took Paul’s advice and remarried?
Unlikely. Therefore it is more likely that Paul is speaking of women who were not
known fornicators (as would be the case with loose women—for example prostitutes
or women engaging in casual sex or mistress situations)…dedicated to their husbands
while they had them, rather than those who “wander away to follow Satan.”
The implication of this is that “husband of one wife” likewise means someone not a
fornicator or loose living male.
Protestant Fathers Contest That the Qualifications Passages
Are Limited to Leadership
The following Protestant Reformers permitted polygyny on the basis of the 1 Tim.
& Titus qualifications passages being limited to Church Leadership:
Martin Luther
Philip Melanchthon
John Calvin
However, their position is not strong, since all the other qualifications do seem to
relate to all believers.
Conclusions:
The Anti-Poly position does not offer sufficient arguments to shoulder its burden.
Therefore polygyny should not be condemned nor proscribed.

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