There is this false idea in certain Christian circles, but especially emphasised by Roman Catholicism, that being single is superior to marriage because of a misunderstanding of what Paul said to the Corinthians when he said:
From this, and related Pauline passages taken out of context, has evolved a whole theology of sex and marriage which basically declares that celibacy is better for soul and spirituality and that marriage somehow intrudes upon a Christian's relationship with Christ. It follows, from this model, that polygamy (especially for the husband) is going to take him right away from Christ and a spiritual life.
"There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of Yahweh, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world -- how she may please her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:34-35, NKJV)
How is it, then, that my own experience as a polygamist is completely the opposite? How is it that my wives have grown in leaps and bounds in their spiritual life and I have been released for more ministry and not less? How can this be explained?
When reading Paul's letters to the Corinthians we must clearly understand that we are dealing with two abnormalities:
We face similar situations today with homosexuality and AIDS epidemics. In huge sections of the population in some areas of the world, sex and marriage just isn't safe anymore, both for the adults as well as any children conceived in such situations. The enemy is not so much external persecution (as was the Corinthians situation) (though that has always existed in different parts of the world), and not even sexuality out of control (which is definitely the case today) but a biological epidemic of STD's (sexually transmittable diseases) and a spiritual epidemic (caused by a combination of psychological dysfunction and demonisation) of homosexuality. And because of my position as a minister of the Gospel, I find myself frequently advising homosexual converts to Christ who are not yet cured of their homosexuality not to get married until they are well on their way to recovery, as well as recommending those with AIDS who are newly born-again not to marry and raise children even if this is their fondest desire, but to remain celibate.
- 1. Firstly, the "times", that is, the local situation. Because of persecution and the difficulties of raising families, Paul's advice for these people at this time is to avoid marriage. Believers are being imprisoned and martyred. The conditions are not therefore condusive to marriage and raising families;
- 2. Seconly, the Corinthians themselves. Of all the formerly pagan congregations, this one seemed to have the most problems. One gets the impression, at times, that their assembly bordered on the riotous. Because of this, Paul is constantly having to give 'Emergency Instructions'. Sexual immorality is rife. There are scandals such as a son marrying one of his late father's plural wives (1 Corinthians 5:1). People are so full of lust that he advises them to marry in order to channel their uncontrolled libido and so preclude fornication. In almost every way, the situation is abnormal. And abnormal situations require rather drastic and sometimes unusual remedies.
When apostles like Paul sometimes give what is apparently disjunctive revelation or advice on a subject like marriage we must immediately seek to underdstand the reason. Yahweh does not contradict Himself, and if He says throughout the Bible - and especially in the Torah (Law) that it is a commandment to marry and raise up a godly seed with one or more women, and if Christ nowhere countermands this mandate, then we must interpret unusual sayings from Paul in terms of local conditions. And as we examine our scriptures more closely, we do indeed find that writers like Paul, far from contradicting Yahweh, are actually giving counsel for drastic local situations such as that which obtained in Corinth.
Finally, we face one other problem - one which I have only recentently started to stress because I now have the tools to properly deal with it - namely, the reliability of our Greek New Testaments. No, I am not questioning the New Testament (God forbid!) - by no means! But I am questioning the infallibility of the Greek translation of the original Hebrew and Aramaic New Testament writings, just as I would question the claim made by some that only one particular English version of the Bible is infallible.
Many strange things in our Greek-derived New Testaments are cleared up when we consult the original Hebrew or Aramaic which are missed even in versions like the Jewish New Testament.
Let me give an example. You will remember that an Ethiopian eunuch was converted by the apostle Philip on his way to Jerusalem in Acts 8:27ff. What doesn't make sense in this traditional rendering is that an Ethiopian eunuch would automatically have been debarred by the Torah (Law) from becoming a proselyte Jew and from worshipping in the Temple (Deuteronomy 23:1f). And yet this Ethiopian was making the required pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). The problem is solved in the Aramaic version of Acts where we discover that the Aramaic word is m'haimna can be translated as either EUNUCH or the more likely BELIEVER or FAITHFUL ONE. Thus our passage should read:
It is plain to see how errors such as this could influence the Christian Church/Messianic Community to justify such abominations such as castration - the Catholics once used to castrate the Vatican choir boys so that they would always have castrato singers.
"And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a BELIEVER (FAITHFUL ONE) of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning ... So the BELIEVER (FAITHFUL ONE) answered Philip and said, 'I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?' ... And the BELIEVER (FAITHFUL ONE) said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' ... And both Philip and the BELIEVER (FAITHFUL ONE) went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of Yahweh caught Philip away, so that the BELIEVER (FAITHFUL ONE) saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:27-28,34,36,38-39 corrected NKJV).
Contrary to faulty Greek translations of the New Testament,
there is no special spiritual place of honour for the eunuch
Our understanding of the Aramaic immediately solves another anomaly in Matthew 19:12 where Yah'shua (Jesus) apparently regards those born as eunuchs as being in a very highly favourable position spiritually-speaking even though this is the very opposite of what the Torah (Law) teaches, of which Yah'shua (Jesus) said that not one jot or tittle would pass away until the fulfillment of all things (Matthew 5:18). Yah'shua (Jesus) here is not endorsing celibacy as superior to marriage "for the Kingdom's sake".
The Hebraic Roots Version (HRV), which correctly renders the Aramaic m'haimna as "believer" or "faithful one" as opposed to "eunuch", gives a much clearer picture of what Yah'shua (Jesus) was talking about. The background is divorce, which has become liberalised under the religious leaders of the time, which Yah'shua (Jesus) restores by making it harmonise with the original intent of Torah, by making the grounds for divorce almost non-existant, saying:
This was tough news for the Jews at this time who were accustomed to the lax religious Talmudic laws of the then Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples' cowardly response was:
"'Because Moshe (Moses) on account of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I tell you, that every man that has put away, or shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and takes another, commits adultery, and whoever takes the divorced also commits adultery'" (Mt.19:8-9, HRV) [Note: the fornication referred to here is in the Hebrew betrothal period and not after full marriage -- see Divorce and Remarriage].
This is not an inspired endorsement of celibacy but the very opposite! The spiritually lazy disciples are saying: "Oh well, if marriage requires that sort of committment, then why bother to marry!" Yah'shua (Jesus) then chides them:
"If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is good not to marry" (v.10, HRV).
"Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it it has been given" (v.11, NIV)
He recognised only to well that the dark hearts of the Jews would not accept His teaching on divorce but only those to whom this doctrine had been given, namely, the true believers in Yah'shua (Jesus) who would honour and respect His higher marriage laws. And now, with our underdtanding of the Aramaic original, the whole meaning of what Yah'shua (Jesus) next says changes completely from that which is traditionally understood:
Do you see what the Saviour is in fact saying? He is actually explaining what it means to be predestined to salvation (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11). Some were born with faith, others had to be taught the Gospel by others, and others taught themselves (studied). These would be those who accepted Yah'shua's (Jesus') strict laws on divorce.
"For there are faithful ones [not "eunuchs"], which were so born from their mother's womb, and there are faithful ones which were made of man, and there are faithful ones which are self-made faithful ones for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake, Whoever can accept, let him accept" (v.12, HRV).
This interpretation is supported by what follows when Yah'shua (Jesus) explains that those who are candidates for the Kingdom of Heaven must come to Yahweh like little children (vv.13-16). He continues the theme of those who are faithful. There is NO REFERENCE WHATSOEVER from Christ to "eunuchs", castration or to the virtues of celibacy. None whatsoever. And the only instance where apostolic endorsement is apparently given by Paul to singleness is in local conditions where there is persecution or where people are so obsessed with sex (as the pagans were, and as our modern neo-pagans are) that marriage would completely distract them from a spiritual life in Christ. And I, as a minister, would not hesitate to give the same advice in similar circumstances.
The Pauline comments on abstaining from sex and marriage, however you choose to view them, still cannot be used 'against' the rest of the Bible and the Torah where Yahweh commands and blesses marriage and then defines its parameters as being monogamous or polygamous.
So when Paul commences his great allegorical discourse on the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 6 by saying, "Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Master, and the Master for the body" (1 Corinthians 6:13, NKJV), he was not saying that the body was not for sex or marriage! Rather, there is a proper godly order of marriage and a proper way to use sex within that order. He then goes on to explain that we are joined with Christ, becoming one spirit with Him (v.16b).
If Christ commends us to marriage, and if in marriage husband and wives unite sexually with each others' bodies according to the holiness of the Torah, and if we are joined with Christ spiritually in an allegorical marriage, then this means that Christ unites with our sexuality by redeeming it - it does not mean that, in becoming 'spiritual', we cease being sexual! And since men and women unite sexually in monogamous and polygamous marriage in harmony with His Law, then this means that Christ unites with the spirit of monogamous and polygamous sex. It means that He sanctifies and makes such holy. But more than that, we understand from the principle of the allegorical marriage of Christ to his plural Church/Messianic Community (made of millions of the saved), that polygamy has as much a spiritual dimension as a physical one, and that Christ chooses an intimate association with it.
If this is a sacred tavnith or pattern, then we have a responsibility to better understand the Pauline concept of the Body of Christ. To be married allegorically to Christ means that believers have to be one with each other as Christ is one with His Father - it's not an option but a divine obligation (John 17:22). And as we shall see, polygamous marriage will give us a wonderful window into what Christ expects of His Bride.
Paul begins the seventh chapter to the mischievous Corinthians by reminding us that husbands and wives own each other's bodies: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Corinthians 7:4, NKJV). What this means is that not only has the husband a sexual claim on his wife or wives, but that they have a claim on him, and that the claims are equal. If there was ever such a thing as 'equal rights', then this was its precendent! Let us remember that this is not, however, a monogamous model, but a polygamous one. The "wife" here is the Bride of Christ which is plural and her "claim", if you will, is coequal with all the various components. In other words, the claim that true believers have on Christ is identical - there are no believers with 'special privileges' or 'special access rights' to Christ. There are no 'big wigs' like apostles or evangelists who are higher up the 'pecking order' when it comes to access to Christ. Every born-again believer is in the same relationship to Christ just as each polygamous wife has the same access and claim upon her husband as all the others. There is complete equality and no spiritual hierarchy.
But there are functional differences. We are told that there are many different "members" or parts of the Body, all of which are inter-dependent. Once that Body has formed - once a new member has been added to it - you cannot remove any one member and hope the Body will function normnally thereafter. All those who are predestined or fore-ordained to salvation have a special place designed for them in the whole so that collectively, at the great consummation, they form one complete and whole Bride. Even, Paul says, those parts which appear "weak" are indispensible and necessary for the complete functioning of the whole (v.22). We may think that an eye is beautful and therefore claims a position of importance outranking ugly organs like the slimy and smelly intestines, but what good would a body be without intestines? What we may consider to be less worthy of honour in fact are worthy of much more - in actual fact, a body can function without an eye but not without intestines (v.23).
When I lost my first and (briefly) second wives I concluded that maybe one or both might never return but then Yahweh showed me in visions and dreams that they were both an integral part of me and of my present wives. Just as the elect cannot run away or hide from Yahweh (Psalm 139:7-10), so those women who are foreordained to marriage and unity within a particular family cannot flee so long as they are seeking the living Christ. Just as the Body is foreordained and just as the elect cannot ultimately be deceived (Matthew 24:24), so to those women who are called to be in an eternal unit cannot run away for ever even if they have deserted it. That is why Yah'shua (Jesus) was so strict about the divorce laws - if an estranged wife wants to reconcile, she must be allowed back! And a patriarch might as well try chopping his liver out as to try and stop her from returning if that is in Yahweh's will. The Body of Christ (Messianic Community) is predestined just as every single eternal family is. You might as well fight the Almighty to deny it, but you cannot prevail.
The other night I had a powerful dream, It was of my first wife. In it she wanted to return to me but was divided in her soul because she also wanted to remain with her present 'husband'. In the dream she was very confused but no matter how I tried to gently lead her, she would keep on being drawn away in the other direction. Still, she would come back to me and try to have both husbands.
A woman who abandons her ordained husband and unites with another will always be internally divided. She is trying to to return to one whose she is not, and yet another part tries to unite with the one she is ordained to be with. Those who mess around with many men are divided within several ways. Woman was created monogamous but man polygamous. Thus I too am divided within as she tries to unite with another.
It is hard to explain clearly this inner reality. Monogamy-onlyists have little or no idea of the spiritual processes at work, especially those with lax ideas about divorce. The human spirit as a whole is being driven subconsciously towards Body Unity as Christ reaches out for those who are a part of Him by faith in His blood and obedience to His commandments. Our Saviour can never rest until His allegorical Bride is gathered home, and then the true Sabbath Rest begins. Likewise, men and women cannot rest on a lower level until they too are gathered to their soul mates and are reunited to them. Forces pull on them which they poorly understood which they attribute to 'fate' and other things. Monogamy-only wives fight to prevent this and end up doing the most damage to themselves, and careless and lazy men neglect to assume their positions of responsibility by reaching out to the lost portions of their own Body.
We are restless until we are gathered as both families and as the Body of Yah'shua (Jesus). We are restless because there is a spiritual sea churning inside and a wind blowing us first here and then there. With our right hand we are searching for our spiritual 'sister-wives' in evangelism, and with our left for our husbands and sister-wives who together enable this great and mystical Body to come together as one functioning Whole.
Members of your local church (assembly) may appear redundant to some people but they are absolutely not. The same is true of sister-wives who may appear only to be gifted in certain areas and of not much use in others. But they all slot in together. Both the Pastor and the Patriarch-Husband must integrate every single member of his Congregation/Family together so that nobody is left out. If Yahweh has called a particular person to salvation in a local church (assembly) then that person has a rôle to fulfil. If Yahweh has called a particular women into a plural family, even if she isn't inititially 'liked' by the sister-wives and even if the husband isn't initially romantically attracted to her, then that woman is necessary for that family, and that family is necessary for her. That is why a Christian Patriarch cannot judge another women as a man in the world might, or a man entering a marriage with only monogamy in mind - he has to have a prophetic vision of what his family is supposed to be and be prepared to accept 'unlikely' women into it. You may not think your pancreas, appendix or fallopian tube are very 'romantic' things but they are necessary for your well-being.
So, Christian/Messianic Patriarch, what if a woman who is less than your ideal of 'beauty' seeks entry into your family and Yahweh has ordained that she be a part of it, do you have any right to turn your back on her? Might it be that Yahweh will give greater honour to her than you have so that you end up missing a jewel - worse, losing a part of yourself? And not only that, denying your wives a part of themselves? Are you so smart as to know who is best for you and your wives? Or will you let Yahweh do the deciding for you? Obviously, if you are to let Him do that, you have got to be in proper submission with your eyes on spiritual things and not carnal ones.
"Elohim (God) composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25, NKJV)
Just as the world-wide Church (Messianic Community) and the local congregations (assemblies) have different officers appointed to it, so too does the polygamous family:
Every wife in a family has a ministry or a cluster of ministries. Sometimes more than one wife will have that particular ministry, sometimes all. A husband must be accutely aware of his wives' talents and so assign them particular stewardships in the family. They need not be for life, just as no man is necessarily called to be a pastor for life. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) must lead in these matters. But the bigger the family, the better organised it must be.
"And Elohim (God) has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues [known foreign languages]. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues [known foreign languages]? Do all interpret [translate]? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:28-31, NKJV)
Nobody, of course, is perfect in their stewardship but all are encouraged by Christ to try hard, as illustrated by the Parable of the Talents. Our physical bodies are mortal and susceptible to disease and injury. But we look forward to an immortal resurrected one. Likewise, we look forward to a time when our talents and giftedness will be perfected so that our family may interlock and function perfectly in the eternities, even as a single Echad Unit. Polygamous marriage is a kind of preparation for that blessed state when the whole Body of the Redeemed clicks together and functions as a unitary Echad Bride of Christ.
The kind of unity we achieve in the next life will, of course, depend on what we have done in this one. Since a family (marriage) is a single unit in the eternities it must expect to inherit different rewards. Paul says these resurrection glories are akin to the different luminosities of the stars, moon and sun (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). Obviously, if a wife outshines her husband, then she will be of a glory greater than her husband. What happens in such a situation is hard to tell but I suppose that might mean she is given to another of similar glory, just as Christ gave the talent of the faithless steward to the one who had done more with the money he had been given. The husband may by no means sit idly back and 'expect' his wives to be with him if he fails in his rôle as Head. Whether the reverse is true - a less 'luminous' wife being detached and given to a man of similar luminosity I cannot say - indeed, this is all speculation and is shared only to encourage all to seek to fulfil the measure of their calling and be wise stewards. Nothing may be taken for granted in the eternities because everything depends on Yahweh's Judgment.