Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What Does the Bible Say About Polygamy? (Part 4) - Genesis 4:19

This is the fourth part in a four part series, to go to part one click here.

Another example of the sinfulness of polygamy can be found in 1 Corinthians. In chapter seven, Paul writes extensively on the subject of marriage. One of the assumptions in his instruction is that marriage is between one man and one woman. Whenever a singular man is mentioned, Paul uses the phraseology, his wife (as opposed to his wives). For someone attempting to legitimize polygamy, the following few verses from 1 Corinthians 7 would be difficult to explain away:
The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)
First, notice the definite articles in front of husband and wife: the wife, the husband. The instruction in this passage is directed towards one husband and one wife.

The command in this passage is clear: the wife has authority over her husband's body and the husband has authority over his wife's body. But when polygamy is practiced, it is impossible for such a command to be followed (in certain circumstances).

If the husband wished to devote himself to prayer for a time and one of his wives agreed, but the other disagreed, then a contradiction would occur. According to this passage, the husband would be required to deprive himself for a short time and also not deprive himself for a short time. Clearly, this command would be impossible to follow under such circumstances. If polygamy was an acceptable practice, Paul would have had to have added an exception to this passage stating: if a man has multiple wives, the wives have shared authority over their husband's body.

To state that the the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does, results in another contradiction. If there are two wives and at some point one wife's authority contradicts the other wife's authority, then it would be false to state that the wife has authority over her husband's body. Rather, each wife shares authority.

Clearly, when a person practices polygamy, he not only immediately enters into disobedience because of the nature of the practice, but he also enters into disobedience because he is not able to properly follow (in every circumstance) what Scripture commands.

Furthermore (as mentioned concerning Abraham in Part 3), simply because Paul did not specifically condemn polygamy, this does not validate the practice.  Evidently the Corinthian church had not grown to such a state of corruption that it was allowing its members to practice polygamy— thus Paul had no need to specifically mention the subject.

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Related Posts:
A Characteristic of Narratives - Hermeneutics
What Does the Bible Say About Polygamy? (Part 1) - Genesis 4:19
The First Marriage - The Christian Worldview
Who Was Cain's Wife? - Genesis 4:17

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