For the Bible Scholars …

I have two questions for the Bible Scholars out here:

1. God obviously condoned polygyny in the Old Testament. Did He ever reverse that? Did God ever condemn polygyny?

2.If marriage begins at consummation:

  1. Is a ceremony necessary?
  2. What role does the church have?
  3. Are vows necessary?

31 thoughts on “For the Bible Scholars …

  1. Not a Bible scholar but I think the issues of excess men and scarce women and the perverse incentives that is set up in light of polygyny is enough for me to oppose it as normative. God probably allowed that due to the great scarcity of men at the time and to provide support to the widows of ancient society.

    It seems to result in the retardation of civilization in countries where it is practiced. Most notably in Africa. But to lesser extents in the middle east. Monogamy promotes greater cooperation among men and incentives long-term thinking.

    And I think the early church Fathers provided good arguments from scripture in favor of monogamy.

  2. Some favorite topics of mine.

    If evangelicals accept the premise of teachers that believe that Adam and Eve are the only forebears of humanity – and not all do – they have to accept the idea of intra-familal pair bonding. That is my non-responsive response to question #1. (i.e. a ‘crowbar’ response to get question #1’s dialogue to the place I want it to be before I respond).

    2: Does marriage begin at consummation? I am not sure. Some understandings hold that if you have sex you are “married”, with or without a ceremony. So given that I do not accept your “if”, I respond to the subparts of @2. 1. It would seem public knowledge is part of the deal. I would not wish to try to describe what kind of ceremony is public enough. 2). None. There is a sacramental aspect to marital union, but even sacramental thinking Catholics recognize it as a sacrament that the couple do themselves rather than the church. The question is worded too narrowly. 3. It is a vow to not have contracts between the two of you.

    • Nose – i was kinda waiting to see if Amir would step in b/c i’m kinda lost as to where you want this to go re your crowbar.

    • Nose- re: crowbar.

      I think the best answer is in the confluence of Romans 4:15 and 5:13. If you put the two together you get “Where there is no law there is no violation and without a violation there is no sin imputed.”

      The historical record demonstrates that plenty of “intra-familial pair bonding” marriages occurred. Prior to the Law, there was no prohibition and no sin in doing so. The Law, however, forbid such unions. Along with a lot of other stuff. So we can look at the historical record and recognize that at one point it was OK, but then came the prohibition and after that it was no longer OK.

      As to your point 2. Read the link below to the post “24 words.” Genesis 2:24 has the three elements of marriage: “shall leave” and “shall cleave” and “shall become one flesh”

      The shall leave portion is the change in status in which the man is no longer under the authority of his father and mother, he is now the head of his own family. The shall become one flesh is what God does, not the man. We know this because in Matthew 19, responding to a question about the grounds for divorce, Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and said “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

      That leaves the “shall cleave to his wife” as the only physical action the man takes with his wife and by process of elimination this is the consummation of the marriage. I don’t even like the word “cleave” because the archaic usage doesn’t communicate as much as “be joined” does.

      You may have noticed that there is no ceremony (as in white dresses, crazy mother-in-laws, high stress and obnoxious singing). Sex is what makes you married. How do we know this? Because covenants are initiated with the shedding of blood. Women, as designed, come with a hymen as standard equipment. The hymen is there by purpose and design to rupture and bleed with the first act of penetrative intercourse. Which is the act of marriage. Because all women are virgins when they get married the first time.

      This creates a huge dilemma because everyone has been taught for 1500 years that “sex doesn’t make you married.” Horse hockey. Bang a virgin and she’s your wife (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 22:16-17). Rape a virgin and get caught and she’s your wife (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Nobody wants to hear that, but they didn’t have any slutwalks back then either.

    • “3. It is a vow to not have contracts between the two of you.”

      what kind of contracts?

      after my first husband blew all the vows up, the 2nd time it was just for our kids. they were pretty much meaningless to me. so i’m curious as to the vows.

  3. i have more questions than answers and not the time to thoroughly research them as i’d like …

    and unlike the rapture arguments – will Jesus return before, during, or after, and we can argue that all we want but won’t know till it happens (and even the greatest scholars have differing views, so, imho, it becomes a sort of ‘waste-of-time- argument)

    … these questions affect how we live. now. in real time.

    so i appreciate all commentary, discussion, references.

  4. Consummation standard doesn’t hold up, otherwise people would have been married to every prostitute they slept with. Consummation never instigated marriage, but was considered necessary for the marriage to be validated by the community. Bible never condemns polygamy but Jewish leaders started banning the practice in the 1100’s. Mosaic law treats polygamy as the norm, works to prevent widows from becoming homeless. Marriage in ancient times universally involved a period of betrothal followed by vows and consummation. Ceremonies varied by culture. No one in biblical times was ever married in a church (new testament included).

    • Joel, there is a difference between a virgin and a non-virgin.

      Genesis 2:24… sex is the act that creates marriage.

      Exodus 22:16-17… Seduce a virgin and you’re married, but if her father wants to he can annul the marriage under the authority of Numbers 30:5.

      Deuteronomy 22:28-29… Rape a virgin and get caught, you are not only married to her but she’s yours for life. Her father cannot annul the marriage because you raped her, she made no agreement to marry.

      Therefore, a virgin has no agency. It does not matter whether she consents or does not consent, the man who takes her virginity is her husband. Whether she stays married depends on whether she agreed and if there was an agreement for her father to annul he has the authority to annul the marriage.

      A woman who is not a virgin has agency (1st Cor. 7:39) and is free to choose to whom she marries.

      To apply that to the prostitute, she was either married and every single guy she had sex with was a case of adultery; or, she was not a virgin and not married (a widow, for example) and none of the men she had sex with were married to because it was a business transaction and she did not give her specific consent to marry.

      It wasn’t the jews who were down on polygyny, it was the church and that was driven by Augustine and Jerome (the primary change-agents) around 400 AD. They threw out God’s design for marriage and replaced it with a blend of pagan practices, stoic philosophy and roman law. That was codified as doctrine around 600 AD and made cannon law around 1100 AD.

      The driving force behind this was the intrinsic belief that sex is evil and sexual pleasure is the bane of mankind, always and inherently evil. They taught that sex within marriage was a sin unless it was only for the purpose of procreation, performed as fast as possible and with as little pleasure derived as possible. Based on this, they threw out the Scriptural instruction that a man initiates a marriage with the act of sex and claimed (in accordance with roman law) that sex was by consent only.

      All the stuff they did usurped the authority of the man, robbed him of power and authority in his marriage and essentially created feminism.

      • AT –
        “Deuteronomy 22:28-29New International Version (NIV)

        28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

        i’m assuming that this is in some way beneficial to women?

      • AT –
        Exodus 22:16-17New International Version (NIV)

        Social Responsibility
        16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.

        i assume that this would have also been true if the virgin seduced a man?

        • This is actually an interesting question. I remember a story from a few years ago in which some guy tried to rob a store in Russia. The female owner managed to get the best of him and she and a couple of girlfriends kept him prisoner for several days, force-fed him a lot of viagra and used him as a sex-slave.

          From a Biblical standpoint, that isn’t even rape and it can’t be marriage because the text says ‘a man shall cleave” not “a woman shall cleave.” So if he’s tied up and jacked up on viagra suffering from priapism, it isn’t a marriage. But how often does that happen?

          Genesis 2:24 has the man as the prime mover. Men were granted the authority to initiate marriage, not women. The inference of the question is that the woman was responsible for the sex because she seduced him. No, that won’t work. The man is always responsible (unless it’s like the story I mentioned above) and if he can’t keep his pants zipped then he is responsible.

          It doesn’t matter what the woman does, if they have sex the man is ultimately responsible. Look at both Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Outcome? Marriage. Scripture doesn’t deal with the situation of the woman enticing the man except in the context of the harlot (adulterous married woman) enticing the man to defile himself with her. And if he does it’s still his fault.

  5. I’m in the middle of a food-fight at the moment, so I’ll link to posts that will at least come close to answering the questions.

    1. God obviously condoned polygyny in the Old Testament. Did He ever reverse that? Did God ever condemn polygyny?

    No. God regulated the practice of polygyny in the Law. God condoned polygyny by taking credit for giving David multiple wives (2nd Samuel 12:8); God commanded polygyny in certain circumstances with the Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) and God stated that He had two wives (Jeremiah 31:31-32) Scripture does not differentiate between monogamy and polygamy, there is only “marriage”

    Believe it or not, the design that God originally set up allows polygyny because monogamy needs polygyny. That may sound crazy, but a lot of what I write sounds crazy until you read it.

    2.If marriage begins at consummation:

    How marriage begins is explained in Scripture and it’s actually very clear, but there has been 1500 years of doctrine that does not reflect what the Bible says about marriage. In fact, the accepted doctrines surrounding marriage are almost diametrically opposed to what Scripture actually says.

    That gets us into the area of sexual morality and modern Christians have some rather interesting beliefs about that which don’t exactly line up with the Word.

    • AT –
      “Scripture does not differentiate between monogamy and polygamy, there is only “marriage””

      i get a bit confused when polygamy and polygyny are used seemingly interchangeably. did you intend to say polygamy? b/c polygamy would include polyandry, and, to my (limited) knowledge, polyandry is not condoned anywhere in the bible.

      • Sorry, I have absolutely no idea how that slipped in there.

        I try to use the word polygyny because it means “many wives.” Polygamy means many marriage and that is a more descriptive word for the serial monogamy we see today than for a man with multiple wives who maintains separate and distinct families with them. To me that seems somewhat perverse.

  6. I have two questions for the Bible Scholars out here:

    1. God obviously condoned polygyny in the Old Testament. Did He ever reverse that? Did God ever condemn polygyny?

    When Christ ( who is God ) came, he clarified what his intention was for marriage. He also clarified that polygamy and divorce was due to hardness of heart.

    2.If marriage begins at consummation:

    Is a ceremony necessary?
    What role does the church have?
    Are vows necessary?

    Marriage begun at betrothal. Even if not consummated, a divorce was needed.
    For Roman citizens, just shacking up was marriage, and abandonment was divorce. The church’s role is to officiate and elucidate christian marriage as a sacramental calling. The church took existing Hebrew ways and elucidated them within the new community of Christ.

  7. In modern Cambodia, it is agains the law for a foreigner to marry a cambodian woman under certain conditions. These are not conditions like onto being underage; bear with me. Does the civil authority have a right to say who can “marry” whom? In Roman civil law in the time of the NT, people from certain different social classes could not “marry”. The “husband” of my “ex” was welcomed into the home of her parents after (extra-biblically) divorcing me, after she married her second affair. The theology of my ex – father in law was that a divorced pastor could serve in the public, since he was the husband “of one wife”. I am still waiting for a response to my “crowbar”.

    • According to the Law of Marriage, if you have sex with a virgin you are married to her. That’s it, there ain’t no more. You are married. God created marriage and He wrote the rules. If, according to God, you are married, then you are married.

      Notice that I didn’t say anything about licenses, ceremonies (well, OK, you can call it a ceremony if you want- a private ceremony -just you and your wives) or any other form of recognition by the state that you are married. If it was really an unavoidable crisis, the text says “we must obey God rather than men.”

      The thing about the Law of Marriage is that it’s a grant of authority to initiate marriage, not to terminate marriage. So “from the beginning” there was no divorce. Then along came Moses and allowed divorce, putting it into the Law. Christ made it very clear in Matthew 19 that He wasn’t happy with that, but the Law cannot be changed.

      So, it should come as no surprise that we find the only instance (other than the Book of Revelation) of the risen and ascendent Lord Jesus popping in at 1st Corinthians 7:10-11 giving instruction on marriage to His servants. Yes, Moses allowed men to divorce their wive for “immorality” but the “house rules” for servants of Christ say “no divorce.” After that Paul addressed the unequally yoked and instructed that if the unbeliever left, the believing spouse was no longer bound.

      So, two married Christians are not allowed to divorce for any reason. Wives were instructed not to leave their husbands but if they did to either remain single (chaste) or be reconciled to their husband. Not their “ex-husband.” So, if your wife bounced and she’s a Christian, she’s still married to you and you are still her husband. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take another wife. And, if Cupcake ever wants to come home, you can’t say no. Putting some conditions on there like repentence is one thing, but 1st Peter 3:7 is a command: “husband, live with your wives.”

      As to whether Cupcake is a Christian, 1st John 2:3-5 is a litmus test. But it takes time. But that doesn’t matter. You are not a woman and you can have more than one wife. And you are commanded to not send your unbelieving wife away, so it’s a catch-22, if Cupcake comes home you’re stuck with her. In which case you may want to so a study on Revelation 3:19 and find out what “rebuke” and “chasten” mean. Because that’s specific instruction from Christ on how He loves His church when they are in sin and need to repent.

      And your father-in-law is correct, he is the husband of his wife. Or wives. Because that passage about elders being the “husband of one wife” doesn’t mean what most Christians think it means. Jeremiah 31:31-32, God said He had 2 wives. So, God couldn’t be an elder of the church because He had 2 wives? Please.

      • And your father-in-law is correct, he is the husband of his wife. Or wives. Because that passage about elders being the “husband of one wife” doesn’t mean what most Christians think it means. Jeremiah 31:31-32, God said He had 2 wives. So, God couldn’t be an elder of the church because He had 2 wives? Please.

        Actually, it’s one wife. The House of Judah and the House of Israel encompass the 12 tribes of Israel, which had broken up into two kingdoms in a civil war during the early days of the reign of Rehoboam.

        In that context, God is referring to a united nation, as this is a prophecy. In fact, using the great 20/20 hindsight that we get in the New Testament via Hebrews, which specifically references this passage in Jeremiah, this is about the Church, which is the bride of Christ.

        Ergo, your contention that God had two wives is not a valid one.

  8. Here’s my $0.02….

    1. God obviously condoned polygamy in the Old Testament. Did He ever reverse that? Did God ever condemn polygamy ?

    Polygamy was permissible, although it was neither commanded nor encouraged in Scripture. In the New Testament, it is clearly not permissible if one desires to hold particular office in the Church, as the commands in 1 Timothy and Titus clearly stipulate “husband of one wife”.

    At the same time, there are caveats:

    (a) In Genesis 2, the design of marriage is clearly monogamous: “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. (Note the use of singular.)

    (b) God admonished kings about taking on many wives, as he can be lead astray. (Deuteronomy 17:17)

    2.If marriage begins at consummation:

    Is a ceremony necessary?
    What role does the church have?
    Are vows necessary?

    Ceremonies are not “necessary”, although, given that marriage is a covenant, and covenants generally involve eyewitnesses, a ceremonial approach is beneficial, as it calls the parties to sobriety about the magnitude of that covenant. Again, not “required”, but recommended.

    Vows, similarly, are not “necessary”, although the traditional vows do a good job of reminding the parties involved of their responsibilities.

    The Church, assuming she is properly functional, ought to admonish and exhort married folks to keep the Biblical terms of the marriage covenant.

    • So in other words monogamy is the norm and is optimal in God’s design. I think so too. Its much more civilizational to have monogamy as research seems to show than to have polygyny.

      Only extreme circumstances like after WWII in Russia where 80% of men born in 1923 died may polygyny could be permitted with minimal social problems for one generation:

      Or facing a chronic existential threat which consistently takes large chunks out of the male population in comparison with females.

      Else there is the male surplus and the pressure to marry ever younger wives as well as providing ample recruitment material for various criminal groups in society.

      This is probably why God made polygyny permissible in a fallen world.

      • Jay – i can accept that God allows polygyny. i think it would be a minority of marriages that would be polygynous and the majority monogamous. when i first brought up polygyny with my husband, he just looked at me and said, “You could never do that.” he’s right. i cannot imagine living in the same house with another woman who was also married to my husband. i cannot imagine knowing another woman is having sex with my husband, even if he’s also married to her.

        i can see, though, in the situations you’ve listed, polygyny being beneficial. i can see there would be a few other situations where polygyny would also be beneficial. i can’t ever see myself in any of those situations.

        i also think it would take a unique kind of man to be able to manage multiple wives in his house, and i don’t think the majority of men have that ability.

        i agree with Amir with the bible saying the husband of one wife for positions of leadership in the church meaning a monogamous relationship … i also lean towards that also meaning not having been divorced.

        i wonder how we would raise our children differently, and how the church would ‘teach,’ ‘allow,’ ‘reason’ away the loss of virginity … if we taught that a virgin is married to the one whom she gave her virginity to.

        since i don’t see that happening … and i don’t see women being exclusively faithful to their own husbands, especially in the church, i don’t ever see abortion being voted against. i imagine christian, married, women make up a good portion of abortions due to illicit relationships with men not their husbands. i went to a christian college and was told the number of abortions in that college town were super high due to the fact that if a woman became pregnant out of marriage, she would be kicked out of school. the man who impregnated her was not. this was true (when i was there) even if the couple married.

        i remember driving away with my new husband from my first wedding and saying to him, “You mean, that’s all? Now we’re married and can have sex?” i had no knowledge of the above, but something inside said that the ceremony and vows were not *it*. it makes total sense to me that marriage begins at consummation.

        also, being divorced, all of what the bible says about marriage, when it begins, how it can end, how it cannot end, makes sense. when i take the bible for what it says, it makes sense.

      • It was/is a case of something that may be permissible but not necessarily profitable.

        Every time in Scripture where you see polygamy, it is a case study in everything that can go wrong in the home.

        • is it polygynous marriages in the bible that show what can go wrong? or is it that the stories of the patriarchs in the bible all had polygynous marriages. or is it that marriage is just that hard.

          sometimes I wish I were a speed reader (and not ADD) and could read through the bible front to back quickly with my brain highlighting specific topics, such as marriage, to see the bigger picture.

          • It is quite telling that, in all the polygamous marriages in the Bible, a grand total of none of them had particularly favorable results.

            That’s not to say that it’s only polygamous marriages that are case studies in dysfunction. In fact, in at least two cases (Abram and Jacob), the polygamy was largely the result of discord that arose within a monogamous setting. Jacob had Leah but wanted Rachel; Sarai thought that Hagar would be the solution to their fertility issues.

            In each case, the ramifications would continue for generations.

        • ”It was/is a case of something that may be permissible but not necessarily profitable.”

          True that. Aside from the exceptions I put forward above or even more extreme examples. It is nearly always dysfunctional both familywise and societywise also.

          Polygyny is a drastic less bad solution only under particular situations that almost never occur.

    • according to the bible, none.

      and the church needs to acknowledge that the ceremony and vows do not initiate marriage – that a man taking a woman’s virginity initiates marriage. can you imagine the outrage if this was taught in churches?!

    • where is the balance of following the laws – the state’s role in marriage – and following the bible.

      i think there’s a huge case for an official rite of passage – a ceremony of some sort – separate from consummation.

      but if consummation is what initiates the marriage, why is that not taught in the churches? i remember hearing a woman on a christian talk radio program years ago making a HUGE point of the ceremony being the initiation of the marriage and that sex could ONLY come AFTER the marriage is initiated by the ceremony.

      so we’re out there teaching abstinence till marriage without teaching that the reason is because having sex creates the marriage.

      and how many who meet at the alter of a church or in front of a clergy or judge to go through a rite of passage ceremony are actually virgins? how many even place any significant value on virginity anymore? and why should they if it’s being presented as it is.

      it makes more sense to me that a girl’s virginity is precious and priceless because in giving it, she is creating a marriage with the man she gives it to. it makes more sense to me that, when she and a man initiate their marriage with sex, God supernaturally makes them one.

      if one wants to follow the laws of the state … or the cultural ceremonies in their particular religious organization, i would think they should do so with the knowledge that this is simply a ritual. that the marriage is initiated by sex where God spiritually makes them one.

      why is this not taught in the churches?

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