Monday, March 13, 2017

That's big of me, too

The Decalogue, if it is the comprehensive eternal moral law of God, has surprisingly little to say about polygamy. In the New Testament we get clear indication that polygamy is adultery. If remarriage and sexual relations without a proper (and suddenly, under the Law of Jesus,  rather difficult to obtain) divorce is adulterous, then so is polygamy. It would be hard to argue that you can keep marrying, and that is not adulterous, but if you (improperly) divorce and remarry that is adulterous. That would be inconsistent.

In the Old Testament polygamy was common, with no indication whatsoever that it was outlawed by the Decalogue. And divorce, which if not legal is naught but a special case of polygamy, was relatively easy:
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, (Deu. 24:1)
and of course Jesus famously addresses Mosaic divorce:
He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (Matt 19:8).
I would summarize the situation this way:

A case for a prohibition against polygamy is very strong, but not based on the Mosaic Law, which tolerated both polygamy and easy divorce. How could the ultimate, eternal moral law of God accommodate such a cavernous loophole?

It couldn't. But a shadow of the more fully revealed moral law as given by Jesus would necessarily be incomplete.


  1. David I think you will find the links on this page interesting:

    Particularly the items titled
    "True or False? Jesus speaks of divorce being permissible, and his reason for such is that our hearts can be hard”
    "Isn’t adultery the only ground for divorce?"

    I do not believe Deut 24:1 was a law that condoned easy divorce. The law in that passage is in verse 4. Verse one is only pre-law narrative.

    1. Thanks Barbara, I will read with interest. I should point out that this post is only incidentally about divorce (I should still get it right, of course!) Primarily it is a continuation of a series of posts looking at the question of whether the Decalogue is still the binding moral law of God, or has it been replaced (upgraded) in the New Covenant era by the moral law given by Jesus.(I take the latter position.)

    2. Thanks David. Yeah, I get that this post only incidentally mentioned divorce. :)

      As an advocate for Christian victims of domestic abuse and as a person who is trying to educate the church on that topic, I tend to want to correct even incidental mis-teachings about divorce. It's the fire in my bones!

      The whole idea of whether Jesus 'upgraded' any of the Mosaic Law (or the decalogue in particular) is a big subject!

      One way in which I believe that subject has been misunderstood is the commonly recycled misconception that Jesus rescinded or overrode or greatly tightened up on Moses' words in Deut 24:1 which supposedly "permitted" divorce.

      When people believe that, they may tend to think "Since that law of Moses was done away with by Jesus, then maybe other things in the Mosaic law are also done away with by Jesus."

      Of course, you may not be one of those kinds of people, and unfortunately I don't have time to read your whole series on this, but I just wanted to say this for the benefit of any of your readers who might be reading this.

      blessings to you :)

  2. Ticking the box to get notifications for other comments on this post.

  3. Hi David, I just published the latest comment you submitted to A Cry For Justice, and put up two comments in reply to yours. Letting you know here, in case you hadn't ticked the box to be notified of future comments at ACFJ.

    Go here to read my replies: