2This presentation has been developed by William F. Luck, sr 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.
3The 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 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.
4How is the Proposition that Polygyny is Immoral to be Justified? There are in law three levels of proof:Beyond a reasonable doubt: the highest level of proof, used mainly in criminal trials.Clear and convincing evidence: an intermediate level of proof, used mainly in civil trials in the U.S.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.”
5Examples 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.
6Dr. John Walton, OT Professor, Wheaton College. 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.
7Arguments against Biblical Polygyny Focus Upon These Passages: Polygyny is Against the Divine Ideal for MarriageGen. 2:24 (Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:32-32; 1 Cor. 7:2ff)Polygyny is Proscribed by the Mosaic LawLev. 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
9Polygyny 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 2:21-24Gen. 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.MosesMatt. 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)Jesus1 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.PaulThere 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.
10Genesis 2:24One 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 2:21-24Marriage 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.
11Response to the Contention that Genesis 2 Presents Us with a “Moral Ideal.” Definition of IDEAL from Merriam-Webster1 : a standard of perfection, beauty, or excellence2 : one regarded as exemplifying an ideal and often taken as a model for imitation3 : an ultimate object or aim of endeavor : goalThe 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:The husband alone with no potential women to fill his needs.The consideration of animals as inadequate companions.The creation of the woman out of the man.Must be a man and a woman with no one else around.The marriage must involve only one man and one woman.The bringing of the woman to the man done directly by God.The recognition of the woman as being like him and unlike the animals.No license.No ceremony.No vows spoken.No minister or justice of the peace.No witnesses.Participants naked.Each person gets only one partner for life. “No spare parts.”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?
12Valid 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.Invalid Practices(Lev. 18 & 20 et passim)Homosexual relationshipsBestial relationships/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.Valid InferencesThe relationship is heterosexual.The relationship is a covenant.Each covenant is between (only) one man and (only) one woman.God sanctions the covenant.The covenant is hierarchical (male headship)The head of the covenant must not be socially dependent in another such relationship.The relationship was intended to be permanent (joins himself to her as contrasted with his leaving is parents’ relationship).
13Four Invalid Inferences Drawn as a Result of the Fall Valid and Invalid Inferences that Can Be Drawn from Genesis 1 &2 (Cont’d)Four Invalid Inferences Drawn as a Result of the FallThe partners must remain together till death.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.The partners cannot establish another such covenant with other valid partners:A) consecutivelyB) concurrentlyWomen can have more than onesuch relationship concurrentlyReason for denialSin may negate the covenant. (Ex. 21:10-11; Matt. 5:32a)Marrying an unbeliever is entering into an “unequal yoke.” (Deut. 7:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)There is no reason to deny either such marriage for men, and the first for women. (cf. Lev. 22:12; 1 Tim. 5:14)The patriarchal nature of the marriage covenant prohibits the woman having two heads. (cf. Matt. 6:24)
14Polygyny 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.
15This is an example of a misuse of language games 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.
16What does “One flesh” mean? Basic statement about how God made man, i.e., needing companionship.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.”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.
17What does “One flesh” mean? (Cont’d) Because a woman is the appropriate companion for man and fills his need for such…Gen. 2:24 That is whya man leaves his father and motherand unites with his wife,and they become a new family [or couple] [Heb.: “one flesh”].man ends his dependent relationship to his parent’s companionship relationshipAnd enters into a companionship relationship with a woman (with the intention not to end it).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.
18What does “One flesh” mean? (Cont’d) It is not thatHumans cannot physically unite with animals, nor thatHumans cannot physically unite with the same human gender, nor thatMen cannot physically unite with women aside from a covenant of companionship, nor thatTwo men cannot unite with one woman, but thatThey 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.
19The Argument Misrepresents the Nature of Polygynous Covenants While the familial relationship exists like this…womanmanAThe family unit.Marriage 1Marriage 2manwomaneach covenant exist like this…where the man is the sameBThe “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.
20The 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.womanmanwomanman
21Why 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.
22Why 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?
23Why 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.God provides the companion, and Adam is joyful.The only companion is “lost” through sin, and invites Adam to join her in transgression.Adam disobeys God in order to remain with his only companion.God curses the Ground and casts Adam out of the Garden. All mankind is “cursed” because of him.Abraham is given the promise of progeny through Sarah. [The “spare” son, Ishmael, will be removed from the scene.]Sarah becomes pregnant and gives birth to the child of promise.God commands Abraham to sacrifice his “only” son.Abraham obeys God and is willing to give up his only son.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.
24Polygyny 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.)
25Response 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.”
26The OT Ode to Monogamy: Prov. 5:15-18 Prov. 5:15 Drink water from your own cisternand 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 wifeNote 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.)
27Polygyny 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.
28Christ’s relationship to His Bride the Church As we noted above, this argument commits what is known as a category mistake.=HusbandChurchfamilyIndividual ChristiansIndividual wivesJohn 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.
30Leviticus 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:
31The phrase, “a woman to her sister” is idiomatic, simply distributing the subject. LocationHebrewReferentTranslationEx. 26:3a‘iššȃ ‘el-’āⱨȏtāhCurtains (feminine case)Each with her sisterEx. 26:3bEx. 26:5Loops in a curtain (feminine case)Ex. 26:6Ex. 26:17‘iššȃ ’el-’āⱨȏtāhProjections of a frame (feminine case)Ez, 1:9Wings of the living creatures (feminine case)Ez. 1:23Ez. 3:13Is. 34:15‘iššȃ…rě’ûtāhHawksEach with its mateIs. 34:16AnimalsJer. 9:20WomenEach with her neighbor ladyAdditionally…
32The masculine equivalent is also idiomatic and distributive. LocationHebrew WordReferentHebrew TranslationGen. 37:19‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋwJoseph’s brothersA man to his brotherGen. 42:21Gen. 42:28A man to his brotherEx. 16:15IsraelitesEx. 25:20Cherubim on arkEx. 37:9Num. 14:42 Kings 7:6Syrian soldiersJer. 13:14Wine bottlesJer. 25:26Kings of the NorthEz. 24:23Ez. 33:30It would thus not be appropriate to translate it a woman to her sister, literally in Lev. 18:18.
33Wait a minute. Doesn’t the phrase literally distribute brothers in Genesis? LocationHebrew WordReferentHebrew TranslationGen. 37:19‘iš ‘el-’āⱨȋwJoseph’s brothersA man to his brotherGen. 42:21Gen. 42:28A man to his brotherEx. 16:15IsraelitesEx. 25:20Cherubim on arkEx. 37:9Num. 14:42 Kings 7:6Syrian soldiersJer. 13:14Wine bottlesJer. 25:26Kings of the NorthEz. 24:23Ez. 33:30Davidson 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.
342) “If the intention of Lev 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.
37You 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.
384-6) 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.18:718:818:918:1018:1118:1218:1318:1418:1518:1618:1718:1818:1918:2018:2118:2218:23Each 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
39The Structure of Leviticus 18:7-23 A Response to Davidson/Tosato 18:818:918:1018:1118:1218:1318:1418:1518:1618:1718:1818:1918:2018:2118:2218:23Each 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.
40The 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 :7 sanguine mother18:8 step-mother.18:9a sister18:9b or half-sister18:10a son’s daughter (granddaughter) 18:10b daughter’s daughter (granddaughter)18:11 paternal half-sister.18:12 paternal aunt18:13 maternal aunt18:14 You shall not approach paternal aunt-in-law18:15 son’s wife (daughter–in-law)18:16 brother’s wife (sister-in-law)18:17 a woman & daughter18:17b 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 rival18:19 You shall not approach a woman during her menstrual period.18:20 adultery18:21 Child sacrifice18:22 Homosexuality18:23 bestiality18: 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”.
41What 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.
427) “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.
43The “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).
44Really. Let’s look at our old friends Lamech and Jacob 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.
45The 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 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.
46One must ask, why is incest so evil 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 It is embarrassing
47We 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.
48Deuteronomy 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.
493) The Qualifications Passages in the Pastoral Epistles
50The Qualifications Passages in the Pastoral Epistles Prohibit Polygyny for Church Leaders, and They Are Examples of What All Should Be1 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.
51There are good reasons for NOT interpreting these qualifications passages as opposing polygyny. Qualifications passages do not introduce new moral teaching. So where is the condemnation of polygyny prior to the Pastorals?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…Polygyny hadn’t been practiced in Ephesus or Crete for hundreds of years. Why condemn a practice which isn’t being practiced?Would God prohibit Abraham or David from taking a gift of money or food to a widow?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.
52Prior 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:
53Paul’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?
54A 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.
55Protestant 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 LutherPhilip MelanchthonJohn CalvinHowever, their position is not strong, since all the other qualifications do seem to relate to all believers.
56Conclusions:The Anti-Poly position does not offer sufficient arguments to shoulder its burden.Therefore polygyny should not be condemned nor proscribed.