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The 12 Books of Abraham


    Greeks and Romans
    Expose Modern
    Monogamy-Only Myths

    Paul writes in our modern English translations: "Now the overseer (pastor/presiding elder/bishop) must be...the husband of one wife.." (1 Tim.3:2).

    We have discussed the meaning of "one wife" in several articles on this site (see Miâ Revisited and The Miâ Problem: What are the Issues?) and shown that lingusitically the better translation is "...the husband of [his] first wife..".

    Let us, however, assume for the sake of argument that the modern translators are correct and that "the husband of one wife" translation is correct, what then are the consequences logically?

    To begin with, we must give some historical background. Unlike the polygynous Hebrews, the Greeks and Romans (and their modern descendants today in the West) were monogamous cultures. Polygyny was unknown such that (like the modern West) promiscuity and licentiousness were common place.

    If 1 Timothy 3:2 tells us that the elder must be the husband of one wife, then 1 Timothy 5:9 tells us that the enlisted widow (a widow supported by the local colony/congregation) must have been the "wife of one husband". The construction of these two verses are identical which means that they are within the same context, being separated by only one chapter in the same epistle by the same author. Thus the two verses must be viewed similarly. Therefore if, as the monogamy-only camp claim, Paul is speaking against the practice of polygyny by the elders in v.2, he is speaking against the practice of polyandry (one woman having several husbands) in v.9! This is clearly absurd since polyandry existed nowhere in the Middle East or Europe and was regarded as anethema by both Hebrews and the Greco-Romans. Furthermore, the history of Christianity contains no record of any dispute over polygyny or polyandry - no heresies or the like.

    If Paul was, according to the monogamy-only camp, prohibiting the elders from practicing polygyny (in contradiction of the Law of Moses which he uses to support male headship elsewhere), then he is prohibiting the enlistment of widows who practiced polyandry. This becomes even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that had this woman been a polyandrist with several husbands able to support her, she would not have needed financial help from the Church/Messianic Community if one had died! Since neither polygyny nor polyandry were known to have occured during this time and geographical location (Greece) Paul cannot have been making an attack on polygamy.

    We may therefore safely say that the "one wife" translation is erroneous and that the better rendition is "first wife", or as the Olive Branch puts it: "Now the Presiding Elder must...be faithful to his first wife..." (NC&C 324:2). The commentary on this passage records:

      "This passage, traditionally used to defend monogamy and attack polygamy, in fact defends both. Plural marriage was permitted of an Elder or Deacon provided they did not put away their first wives. Because monogamy was the norm in Greek and Roman culture, polygamy was probably practiced only by Jewish converts, amongst whom it was a normal and accepted biblical practice. There are no extant patristic records that indicate gentile converts ever adopted the practice though the option was certainly open to them. The apostles may have adjudged its practice imprudent"(Olive Branch, footnote 673, p.735).

    The New Covenant Assemblies of Yahweh limit the practice of polygyny to the Chavurah Bekorot or Holy Order, which is the Priesthood Order (Deacons, Elders and Apostle-Patriarchs) in harmony with the original apostolic injunction of 1 Timothy 3:2. It is not permitted amongst the general membership (Olive Branch, NC&C 145:8) [1] which, though not directly stated by Paul, is implied in the correct translation of 1 Timothy 3:2. Ironically, this passage left as it is by modern translators to mean "one wife" suggests that those least qualified to practice polygyny - the lay members (those with the least experience and lacking leadership skills) may practice polygyny but not those best qualified (the Elders and Deacons)! Indeed, we are left with the inevitable conclusion from such a mutilated translation that polygyny is the inferior form of marriage best left to the masses whereas monogamy is superior and expected of congregational leadership! Historically the opposite is true for it is the great men and women of old who were the polygynists, those through whom Yahweh ordained to do special works - Abraham, Jacob (Israel), David, etc.. Note that Yahweh is called the "Elohim (God) of Abraham (polygamist), Isaac (monogamist) and Jacob (polygamist)" (Exodus 3:6) in the Bible, and the customary Hebrew blessings on newly-wed women is that they should have the increase of "Leah and Rachel" (Ruth 4:11), both polygamous wives. From this we see a pattern, namely, that the great leaders of Elohim (God) are 2:1 polygamists:monogamists.

    So how, then, should we translate "None but a widow over sixty shall be chosen, who was the wife of one husband, with a reputation for good works..." (1 Tim.5:9, Berkley Version)? Though this should literally be translated, "...was the wife of (her) first husband..", this does not make sense, something the translators of the New International Version understood when they rendered the passage, "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds..." (1 Tim.5:9, NIV). Is this not a little strange, for if they thus rendered 1 Timothy 5:9, why did they not render the IDENTICAL Greek in 1 Timothy 3:2 as, "Now the overseer must be above reproach, faithful to his (first) wife..." as it was translated by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in the Olive Branch! Since polyandry does not exist in the Torah, obviously the passage cannot be rendered, "...has been faithful to her first husband". (And if she had married several times - like the Samaritan woman - does it then mean faithfulness to the later husbands was not important to qualify for windows' support? Preposterous). This being undoubtedly true, what, then is the true meaning? Simply, that the woman must be faithful to her first and only husband whilst the first husband is alive. Or as the NIV translators rightly divided the Word, ..has been faithful to her husband...". And yet they were dishonest with 1 Timothy 3:2! Why? Simple: CULTURAL BIAS.

    The monogamy-only camp cannot win. The Word of Elohim (God) simply will not bear up their prejudices. And the inspiration of the Olive Branch revelation (received on 21 July 1991, three years before the first Evangelical Patriarchal Christians in the USA were arriving at the same or similar conclusions) is confirmed.

    Whilst it is true that the Greek miā may be translated as either "one" or "first", the Greek widows - together with the whole biblical revelation on polygymy - put the monogamy-only claims to rest. Moreover, contrary to the claims of some neo-evangelical Christians who are now saying that polygamy is 'OK' for special reasons (like witnessing the Gospel to pagan countries where polygyny is accepted) but is 'inferior' to monogamy, polygyny is seen to be the domain of leadership and the great patriarchs of renown and hardly therefore 'inferior' to monogamy. And if it is for the leadership but not necessarily the lay membership of the Church/Messianic Assembly, it must in some way be superior, requiring maturer men and women to practice it. That is not, however, to say that monogamy is for those who are 'inferior' since the Bible also witnesses of great monogamist leaders like Isaac and Joseph of Egypt (though there is a tradition that Joseph had two wives) who were called not to be polygynists for reasons known only to Yahweh.

    It is high time that critical portrayals of polygyny as a 'relic of the barbaric past' be forever silenced and this holy practice reinstated as a principle of great honour and spiritual maturity. If Yahweh and Yah'shua/Jesus liken themseves to being in a polygynous marriage relationship with Israel and Judah, and with the Church, respectively, then there is no way polygyny can be inferior, let alone 'sinful'. Arguments that Israel and the Church are single monogamous entities more than they are polygynous composites hold true only if you believe the abstract to be superior to the literal, for like it or not the Bride of Christ is composed of single entities - us - who, though one in purpose, are nevertheless many. To place the abstract higher than the literal is to, moreover, suggest that as individuals we may one day disappear, merging into some single entity that will become the literal monogamous bride of Christ, a concept without the slightest warranty. Rather, we shall always be separate beings, in polygynous metaphorical 'marriage' to our Master Yah'shua/Jesus, submitted and joyful, as godly polygynous wives are to their husband.


    [1] Unless, as in Kenya where polygamy is both legal (since 2014) and widespread, of polygamous families convert, ordinary members may practice it

    Author: SBSK

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    Updated on 24 January 2016

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