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For Those Looking for Bible Verses that Support Polygamy

Recently I noticed a small jump in followers after posting Jacob the Polygamist Blessed by God. From skimming their blogs they seems to be folks with an interest in polyamory and/or polygamy/polygyny/plural marriage. Because I mostly believe in connecting information seekers with information, I want to use this blog post to point them to my series “Marriage = 1 Man/1 Woman NOT. So far there are ten posts in this category, including this one. The others are:

I’d also like to be clear about a few things. My purpose in creating this series was to debunk the natural law claims of opponents of same sex marriage. A number of religious figures, including Catholic Bishops keep making claims about how marriage has been “one man, one woman” from the beginning of time. In reality, human societies have seen a number of models for handling sexual relationships. If the natural law argument were valid, all but a few societies would have had one man/one woman marriages as the sole model for marriage. Just as practically all human societies have a visceral revulsion against incest.  But this isn’t the case. Not by a long shot.

But you don’t have to appeal to anthropology and its findings to rebut the Bishops. All you have to do is to actually open up the Bible. That’s what I did. And it’s part of the reason that I dropped out of the Catholic Church.

However, I think it would be wrong to say that the Bible unambiguously endorses polygamy. There are exactly two verses (not in all translations ) in the New Testament that COULD be interpreted to IMPLY that polygamous Christians were welcome in the church — just not as Bishops (King James Version):

Titus 1:6-9:

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

7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

 

1 Timothy 3: 1-6:

1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

 

Looking at these verses, one could be forgiven for thinking – “If they had to specify that bishops could only have one wife, then some men in the church had more.” Maybe. But other translations render “the husband of one wife” as “married only once” which could refer to widowers or divorced men. Without knowledge of Greek and access to an early manuscript, I really can’t say.

Also, pretty much every other mention of marriage in the New Testament specifies it as one man/one woman. The Woman at the Well in John Chapter 4 had five husbands at one point, but it is clear that Jesus disapproved of this.

But just because the New Testament defines marriage as between one woman and one man is not enough reason to mandate that in civil law. I am a Christian, but I don’t believe basing law on the Bible is any better than basing it on the Koran or on any other holy scripture. Civil law ought to based on a consensus of the people moderated by genuine natural law based norms and by the idea that people should be allowed to do what they like provided it does not harm another. In sexual matters, I see consent as key and that children and animals are de facto incapable of consent.

Finally, while I respect a person’s choice to choose polyamory with other consenting adults, I don’t consider myself an advocate. If you picked up on my blog for the polygamy angle, you’re welcome to stay. Just be aware that I don’t cover this topic very often — only when I run across polygamous Bible readings at church or when some religious figure or politician insists on making the false claim that the God of the Bible set up “one man / one woman” from the very beginning. Or worse, that “All societies at all times in history have defined marriage as one man, one woman.”

If you’ve enjoyed other topics that I’ve blogged about here, you might enjoy my Tumblr feed at http://alaskanlibrarian.tumblr.com. I tend to post there more frequently.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Now that the barriers are down for gay marriage, we’ll see the rush for polygamy, incest, and underage unions to also be blessed for social acceptance and government benefits. There’s no Biblical support for gay marriage, but considerable for polygamy, although that was always God’s plan B.

  2. Hi Norma, Hope you’ve been well. Haven’t seen you for a long time.

    I agree with you that we will see a bid to legalize polygamy. Globally and throughout history, polygamy has been practiced more often same sex relationships. Also, it has scriptural support from a number of faith traditions, which may appeal to some.

    I don’t see any evidence that a bid to legitimize incest will gain any traction whatsoever. Unlike homosexuality, pretty much every society past or present has had strict taboos on incest with members of one’s immediate family.

    If you have multiple example of societies that viewed incest with immediate family as a legitimate lifestyle, please bring them forward along with citations.

    I don’t see a big push for legitimizing underage unions either. Though sadly as recently as 1880, the age of sexual consent was 10 in most of the United States. As of 2007, most states set the age of consent between 16 and 18. But I don’t see the widespread push to lower things again. Where do you see it coming from?

    References :
    SEX AND MARRIAGE: An Introduction to The Cultural Rules
    Regulating Sexual Access and Marriage
    Created and maintained by Dr. Dennis O’Neil
    Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California
    http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/default.htm

    PRIMARY SOURCE
    Age of Consent Laws [Table]
    Created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/24

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