Does The Bible Condemn Polygamy? – Part I
Most pastors, preachers, Biblical scholars, theologians, as well as almost all Christians, contend that polygamy – or rather, polygyny – the practice of one man having more than one wife – is un-Christian, sinful and unscriptural. They argue that a Christian is not allowed to have more than one wife for, to do so, they argue, is to go against one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
Except for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – and perhaps one or two other “iconoclastic” churches that practice polygamy – all churches, generally speaking, teach that polygamy is wrong and unscriptural, and no church or Christian should support its practice or engage in it.
In view of the foregoing, it is worth asking whether it is actually wrong or un-Christian for Christians – or anyone for that matter – to practice polygamy. In short, it is important to consider whether the Bible condemns the practice called polygamy. Does the Bible proscribe or condemn polygamy? Does the Bible forbid believers to practice polygamy?
I wanted this topic to be handled under “Points To Ponder”; however, considering the serious nature with which I intend to discuss it, it is preferable for the Issues Desk to take charge.
Many of us already know that polygamy is a generic term comprising two categories – polygyny and polyandry. As stated earlier, polygyny has to do with a man having more than one wife, while polyandry is about a woman having more than one husband. this article is about polygyny.
However, because polygamy is usually associated with a male having many wives, we will use the term “polygamy” in that direction or sense throughout this article.
Now, that basis being laid, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to state exactly where I stand on the issue and use the rest of the article to support my argument. In supporting the position, I will do my best to use Biblical evidence and analysis and sound reasoning.
In the process, if anyone differs with me, that person is free to shoot me, with evidence, logic and the pen, of course. I hope anyone disagreeing with the points expressed will not resort to insults or other ad homimen arguments.
Well, let us begin the discussion – actually, the proffering of my argument and its supporting points. I have already indicated that, as far as I am concerned, polygamy is not wrong, immoral or unscriptural. Here is why I hold this view.
First of all, polygamy in itself is not an immoral practice. There is nothing evil about it. It is not like murder, stealing, envy, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit or idolatry. It is a normal practice, a normal aspect of the existence of human beings. It is like having many children. A man may decide to have many wives, with the wives consenting to live in that polygamous life, while another man may choose to have only a wife. I believe that having many wives or one wife has nothing to do with morality or immorality.
The pitfalls of a man in dealing with the women in a polygamous marriage should not cause us to blatantly denounce the practice, just as a ruthless parent dealing with his children unbecomingly should not cause anyone to denounce having children. One may argue that the women in a polygamous marriage are usually unfairly or cruelly treated, but it is unfair and, perhaps, illogical to conclude that because of that reality, polygamy is immoral, wrong or evil. The point is that the practice called polygamy is not an evil or immoral act, and we should stop branding it so.
If polygamy were evil or immoral or a serious sin, I believe that God would not have winked at its practice, the prophets would not have overlooked it and the scripture would not have been silent on it. And this brings us to our second argument.
Secondly, polygamy is condemned nowhere in the Bible. God does not condemn it. Jesus does not condemn it. The angels do not condemn it. The prophets do not condemn it. Of course, in the study of logic, this argument would be an example of a logical fallacy because by an act not being explicitly condemned does not in any way suggest that the act is good or moral. I know this.
However, considering the fact that consensual denunciation of polygamy is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, meaning polygamy is a seriously immoral practice in the mind of the Christian or the church, it is logical to ask why it is not condemned in any passage, beginning from Genesis to Revelation, and why it is that none of those who practiced it in the days of old were condemned at any time.
If it is that evil or immoral, why would men like Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and others considered it a normal practice? Why didn’t they regret their involvement? Why were they so relaxed with polygamy? Didn’t they know it is evil or immoral, as modern men and women want us to believe it is? Or did they know that it is wrong, but they knowingly still chose to engage in the evil and immoral practice? Why weren’t any of them scolded, condemned or reprimanded for practicing the act?
Why is it now a serious immoral practice in this age, but was a normal marital practice in those days? Did God set one standard for them and set a different standard for us in terms of this practice? This lands us on the third argument.
Third, polygamy is a normal part of man’s nature and existence. A man is hardly ever content with one partner. This could be one reason why many men, including Christians who denounce polygamy and herald monogamy have girlfriends here and there. I would describe it as an extension of the polygamous nature of man. Let man be allowed to practice amoral acts that he enjoys practicing. If Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon (he had 700 wives) and so forth enjoyed, why should we be any different. This takes us to the fourth argument.
The New Testament, which contains the words of Jesus and the Apostles, the Testament upon which the basic Christian doctrines are based, does not say that male Christians should not or cannot be polygamists, or that polygamy is wrong and unacceptable. In a sense, Jesus and the apostles recognized that polygamy is a normal practice by men. That is why, I believe, polygamy was not an issue in the early church.
The only group of people instructed to practice monopoly is bishops and deacons. Differently stated, all Christians were not – are not – required to practice monopoly.
Let us take time to read what the Apostle Paul says about those who want to be leaders in the church, as recorded in I Timothy 3. In relation to bishops, Paul says this in I Timothy 3:1-2 – “This is a true saying, if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…”
Similarly, for deacons, Paul says this in 3:12 – “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife…”
Now, pay attention, dear readers. If monogamy, not polygamy, was the normal practice, why did the Apostle Paul single out MONOGAMY as one of the required qualifications for men who want to be bishops and deacons?
If monogamy – having one wife – was the norm, then it means that all were practicing it and all would have to practice it, anyway. The fact that Paul would say those wanting to be leaders should have only one wife suggests that many or some of those who were not interested in becoming bishops and deacons had many wives or could have many wives.
Paul was not a stupid man. He would not have set monogamy as a precondition for those aspiring for positions in the church, if it was a known fact that every man was practicing the one-man-one-wife doctrine or that every man should practice monogamy that modern Christians are forcing on all.
To be continued…
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.