Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Polygamy - Monogamy - Which is Biblical?

Polygamy is a much debated subject, with all sorts of ideas presented. Questions arise as to its value and Biblical accuracy. The latter is easy to establish, as it is written rather than subject to opinion. Some quote Islam and harems to relate this to polygamy and present it as bad. I find that incredible hypocrisy. What are the statistics of divorce in the countries practicing monogamy? What are the statistics of adultery and fornication? If we took statistics of how many people those in "Christian" countries are having sex with, and how many those in Moslem countries are having sex with, I don't doubt at all that the average for "Christians" would be far higher than for those Moslems in countries practicing polygamy. So by the same logic that would make monogamy even worse. There are some problems in all countries. Islam and Christian. And problems are just going to occur where ever two or more people are living in the same area.

But I'm not interested in preaching the practice of polygamy. I have just presented quick defence against the general statement first made against it, in ignorance. It is claimed that the Bible speaks for monogamy. The point of this post is to examine the Biblical stance on the monogamy teaching. Three quotes are used to support the claim that it is Biblical.

I Tim 3:2 "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach."

I Tim 3:12 "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."

Titus 1:6 "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."

These three quotes give a good argument for monogamy. But the translation is very dubious. When you see the word "one" in the New Testament it isn't all translated from the same Greek word. However these three verses do use the same Greek word. This Greek word "mia" is translated several ways according to the meaning derived from the text. It is translated as "one", "first", "a (certain)[a certain person, place or thing]" and an idiom of the language "other" (refer Strong's Concordance). The latter is obviously not the correct usage in this case. So we are left with a word that can equally be translated as "a wife", "one wife" or "first wife". All of these leave us with a different doctrine. A bishop should be the husband of "a wife", would make it that Paul was preaching that bishops must be married. A bishop should be the husband of "one wife", would make it that Paul was preaching an otherwise unpreached doctrine of monogamy. A bishop should be the husband of his "first wife", would make it that Paul was preaching that a bishop should not be a divorced person.

It must be remembered also that the Greek readers were left with the same options. Therefore Paul, in writing this, must have known that their understanding of his intent would be obvious. It should also be realised that Jews and Jewish influence existed among the readers, thus making Law of Moses doctrine underlying.

Absolutely nothing in the text gives away the answer as to which is the correct translation. But the one the translators chose is Biblically the least likely. The law of Moses even gives laws as to how to deal with a man's several wives. Biblical adultery for a man is to have sex with another man's wife, but for a woman it is for a married woman to have sex with anyone. A married man committing sex with an unmarried woman was committing fornication, not adultery. He had to marry her also and never divorce her, or be put to death. These laws and all the people with several wives in the Old Testament, who were supported by God, demonstrate that God hadn't opposed polygamy.

The law of Moses also states that the Chief High Priest must marry a virgin. This meant that he had to still be married to her. This shows the law of Moses preaching that a leader must be 1. married and 2. not divorced.

So of the three possible translations that could be made, the translators of the Bible chose the only one that is Biblically unsupported.

If monogamy was to be the new thing to do from the time of Christ, surely Jesus himself would have taught it. It seems a dreadful oversight if we are to believe that the apostles just happened to forget to mention such an astounding teaching. Jesus Christ doesn't use the words "one" and "wife" even in the same verse, let alone straight after each other.


LDS Anarchist said...

"Biblical adultery for a man is to have sex with another man's wife, but for a woman it is for a married woman to have sex with anyone. A married man committing sex with an unmarried woman was committing fornication, not adultery."

I enjoyed this article, especially the above quote. It is refreshing to find another LDS who understands the biblical definitions of adultery and fornication. The book, True to the Faith, in the entry on Chastity, defines adultery as "sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband" and it defines fornication as "sexual intercourse between an unmarried person and anyone else." These definitions are not consistent with the biblical ones. What is your view on this apparent contradiction?

It is also good to see that you have done your homework concerning "a," "one," and "first."

A Christian preacher is also bringing this to light. Visit BiblicalPolygamy.com to read up on his research.

Doug Towers said...

lds anarchist

Yes, its an interesting subject.

The present stance against polygamy comes from Joseph F. Smith. In 1905 he declared it an excommunicatable offence to enter into any more plural marriage situations. This was due to the rejection of the senitor for Utah being accepted in congress, because he was a member and the church practiced polygamy. It also became an excommunicatable offence for leaders or teachers to teach its practice.

So I guess they figured if you can only marry one woman then it must become adultery to marry more.

The point really gets to the concept Christ taught that lust is really the problem, and so lust itself is to be opposed.