The Problem with “Polygamy is an Old Testament thing”
Between April and June, I wrote about twelve articles under the title “Does the Bible Condemn Polygamy?” using the Bible, logic and other supporting details to prove that polygamy is a normal, biblical practice that is not, and should not be considered, a sinful act. Between June and now, I have written other articles hammering the same point home – that polygamy is a normal, scriptural practice that should not be derogatorily spoken about by people who say that they believe the Bible.
In short, polygamy is not a forbidden practice. It is not sinful. It is not abominable. It is not unscriptural. It is not a new practice. It is not a practice restricted to believers or unbelievers. It is a normal, God-sanctioned practice that men of various cultures and societies and calibers – including great men of God, men after God’s own heart – have practiced for thousands of years.
Genesis 4 verse 19 tells us that Lamech, the man believed to be the first polygamist, had at least two wives. Genesis Chapters 16 and 25 show that Abraham had at least three wives. Jacob had at least four wives, according to Genesis Chapters 29 and 30. It is these four wives that bore twelve sons for Jacobs, bringing about the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Also, in II Samuels Chapters 11, 18 and 27, we learn that David had at least eight wives, including Bathsheba, the woman he wickedly took from Uriah. And, let’s not forget, too, that Jesus Christ came through the family line of the woman called Bathsheba. Besides, I Kings 11 reveals that Solomon had 700 wives. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had 18 wives. Many other men had several wives. This was practiced in the New Testament time, too, although no polygamist or the number of his wives is directly mentioned in the New Testament.
However, apparently because of the absence of this mention and, perhaps, because of I Corinthians 7:1-2, most Christians, including Bible preachers and teachers, argue that polygamy is “an Old Testament thing” and that no one who is a Christian should practice it.
Well, I beg to differ. I reject the argument that polygamy is an Old Testament thing, but not a New Testament. I refuse to accept the argument that polygamy was practiced only in Old Testament days, but never practiced during the formation of the church or thereafter. To quote a Liberian musician, “I reject it. I refuse it. I jump over it.”
There are several reasons why I reject the notion that polygamy is only an Old Testament thing, and not a New Testament thing; however, I will present four reasons why this argument is incorrect, and they are as follows:
1. A Misleading Argument
The first reason why I reject the polygamy-is-an-Old-Testament-thing argument is that it is misleading. The proponents of this argument present it as if they were around when the Christian Age or New Testament Age started more than 2000 years ago. They behave as if they knew about all of the different marriage relationships that the Christians of the First Century or subsequent centuries had. Do they know one-hundred percent whether any of the very first Christians were polygamists or not? Do they know whether there were Christian polygamists in Ephesus, in Crete, at Corinth, in Jerusalem, in Macedonia, and other places where people had been converted to Christianity? In my view, for one to argue that polygamy is an Old Testament thing, he must first be certain that no Christians practiced polygamy when the New Testament Age began, and he must convince us scripturally and logically that polygamy ended when the New Testament Age commenced. Other than that, I will consider the argument misleading and unfounded.
2. An Unscriptural Argument
The second reason why I reject, and I am doing everything to refute, this argument is that it has no scriptural basis. In short, it has no biblical support. Jesus does not indicate that polygamy is an Old Testament thing. The apostles do not indicate that polygamy is not a New Testament thing. Differently stated, polygamy is nowhere condemned or proscribed in the New Testament. Hence, it is an unscriptural argument.
There is another problem with this Old-Testament thing argument; that is, those making it somehow say it as if everyone in the Old Testament days practiced polygamy. Although polygamy was practiced in those days, it was not practiced by all males. It was a matter of choice. If a man was interested in it, he engaged in it. If he wasn’t, he did not. The same is true in the New Testament Age. If any man wants to be a polygamist, it is his choice and decision. The same is true if he wants to be a monogamist.
And, dear readers, before presenting the third argument, permit me to make some transitional comments on this polygamy-is-an-Old-Testament-thing argument. Remember that by the proponents saying that polygamy is an Old Testament thing, they are arguing that monogamy is a New Testament thing, while polygamy is not. This is interesting because it evokes some questions, including the following three:
a. If monogamy is a New Testament thing, when did it become a New Testament thing?
b. If polygamy is a New Testament thing, who makes it a New Testament thing?
c. If polygamy is a New Testament thing, what makes it New Testament thing?
3. The Experience in Acts 2 Indicates Polygamy is a New Testament Thing
Considering the events in Acts Chapter 2, church historians tell us that the church (the Christian or New Testament Age) started on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, when Jews and proselyte Jews came from all over the world and converged in Jerusalem to observe the fiftieth Sabbath, known as Pentecost.
Most of us know that Saturday is the Sabbath Day. In those days, according to Jewish customs, after 49 Sabbaths (49 Saturdays), the next Sabbath was known as the Pentecost.
On this day as recorded in Acts 2, the apostles and other disciples were together in the Upper Room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire, and they (the apostles) began to speak in tongues, preaching and prophesying in the process.
Acts 2:41 tells us that after the Apostle Peter had preached to the crowd about Jesus and His redemptive plan, about 3,000 persons got baptized; meaning, they accepted Jesus. It was the beginning of the church (the Christian Age or New Testament Era) as we know it. Simply stated, the New Testament Age commenced in AD 33.
Now, why have I given this short historical account of the establishment of the church? Well, I have done it so as to prepare all of us for the paramount point of the third argument indicated above.
On the Day of Pentecost, as written in Acts 2, Jews assembled in Jerusalem to observe Pentecost. Among these Jews, I believe, were men obeying Deuteronomy 25:5-10, which say that if a married man dies, the brother of the dead man should marry the widow. In short, it could very well be that some of those who became Christians on that beginning day of the church were polygamists. It was not an only-monogamist program, so it is illogical that no polygamists were present at the program.
If polygamy is an Old Testament thing, as many are arguing, did it end on the Day of Pentecost, or did it continue beyond Pentecost? Did the apostles tell all the polygamists present that because they had become Christians they should all go back home and divorce their wives, except one, or did the apostles allow them to continue their polygamous relationships?
Or, still, did the apostles tell them, “We will give you a grace period of two or three years so that you can think about whether you want to be a monogamist or a polygamist, and if you wish to be a monogamist, which of your wives you want to keep”?
But, again, if polygamy is sinful or un-Christian, as many would want us to believe, why would the apostles want to give man two or three years to decide whether to flee or not to flee from that evil or un-Christian life? Wouldn’t that be condoning sin? It is safe to say that there were polygamous Christians in those days, except, perhaps, where we will conclude that only men with one wife became Christians in those days, which would be an illogically hilarious argument to make.
4. Paul’s Instructions in I Timothy 3:1-2 & 12 Indicate Polygamy is a New Testament Thing
In I Timothy 3:1-2, the Apostle Paul says that if a man desires to be a bishop, he desires a good thing. Then he says that that man must have only one wife; meaning, such a man cannot be a polygamist. This is a very clear instruction. Paul repeats the same specific instruction in I Timothy 3:12 for deacons, that they must also have only one wife. Why doesn’t he require all men to have one wife? Why does he stress that it is the bishops and deacons that must have one wife? What does this suggest? It suggests that if a man is not interested in becoming a bishop or deacon, he is free to decide whether he wants to be a polygamist or monogamist. This is the point, and it means that polygamy is a New Testament thing, too. I repeat. Polygamy is a New Testament thing!
Again, if polygamy ended at Pentecost (the beginning of the Christian Age) and all the apostles knew and understood it that way, if polygamy is only an Old Testament thing, why did the Apostle Paul instruct in I Timothy 3:2 & 12 that if a man wants to be a bishop or a deacon, he should practice monogamy – should marry only one wife?
Let me be repetitious here, dear readers. If polygamy ended at Pentecost, that is, if polygamy is only an Old Testament thing, and monogamy began at that point, if monogamy was now the order of the day, if it is what all Christians knew, believed and were practicing, why did Paul pinpoint or select or single out monogamy for bishops and deacons? Polygamy, I maintain, is also a New Testament thing because there were Christian polygamists in Paul’s days.
Dear readers, what’s the conclusion of the whole matter? Well, the doctrine that polygamy is only an Old Testament “thing” is a nonsense doctrine at its best and a hilarious dogma at its worst. The point is that in Old Testament days, there were both polygamists and monogamists, just as there have been both polygamists and monogamists throughout the New Testament Age. In fact, I Timothy 3:1-2 & 12 present a knockout punch to those who argue that polygamy is not a New Testament thing.
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.