Thursday, February 7, 2008

can i have a side order of polygamy please?

Andy and I lived together for over four years - a couple in college and a couple in seminary. He has never been deeply theological or hyper-spiritual, but always wanting to please the Lord whether he's cutting a record or running his lawn business. He's one of my favorite people on the planet.

So, he calls me today and asks, in 100% seriousness and curiosity, if the Bible ever says we shouldn't have more than one wife? I responded and was satisfied with what the Spirit gave me to say. I was just wondering how you guys would wax biblical and pastoral in your answer to him? It was tougher to think through it than I thought. Insights, please.

[apologies if this is not heady enough]


Paul-David Young said...

In a strange way the post-propositional discussions and your question coalesce. Robert Alter who has been quoted on this blog before, says that the Bible never says polygamy is a sin in black and white terms, however, the narrative teaching from scripture on polygamy is that it is an absolute mess. Every time a polygamous couple is presented in scripture they are presented in disarray and dysfunction, maybe that is black and white post-propositional terms. So I don't know if that is conclusive enough to say its a sin, but i wouldn't try it if I were you...

Now, what that means in contexts where polygamy is prevalent... whatever you do don't do ethnographic studies and just hope the Spirit leads you :)

david said...

I think there are only four biblical prohibitions to polygamy - if you are a king, or an elder, your wives are sisters, or its outlawed by your country. I have always been curious why it does appear to be such a mess and yet the only biblical commentary in the Law is on how to do it well. I'm not sure I am confident enough from the narrative portions to (as many missionaries have done) whittle polygamist families into two-parent homes.

John Paulling said...

what if they are qualified to be an elder in every other way, and they desire to be one? or one of the other biblical criteria?

Christina Ottis said...

How can "two become one flesh" with more than one person? Wouldn't it be wise to look at the New Testament for this issue (Matt. 19:15; Mark 10:8; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31) ?