Q. Why and how was monogamy introduced into Western Christianity? How did monogamy displace polygamy from European Christianity?
We shall probably never know all the reasons or ever obtain the whole picture but there are some things that I think we can correctly observe and comment upon in the historical processes that have led us to where we find ourselves in Christendom today vis-à-vis the monogamy-polygamy issue.
The Greco-Roman world which received Christianity was monogamous yet predictably promiscuous. Messianic Judaism, as the early form of Christianity was, inherited two traditions from the Judaism out of which it sprang:
It is a curious thing that those who most emphatically promote monogamy and denounce polygamy are either those who are genuinely misinformed about the Bible teaching on the subject or are trying to throw up a smokescreen of fidelity in order to cover up their own promiscuity and immorality. Just as criminals sometimes 'wave the flag' when it suits them in a sudden display of hypocritical patriotism in order to cover up their own dark works, so it seems to be that the most vociferous proponents of monogamy are often those who are the most immoral. Why?
- (1) The polygamy of the patriarchs, the Israelite and Judahite kings, and the people up until the time of the Judahite exile to Babylon;
- (2) The Talmudic Judaism evolved by the rabbis in exile in Babylon who favoured monogamy perhaps because of the social pressures of life in a heathen society where promiscuity was, as in the Greco-Roman world of the first Christians, high. Interestingly, it was the apostate Talmudic Judaism of the first century that rejected Christ because it preferred its own Babylonian-evolved traditions.
Hypocrisy is endemic in the West. The immoral leaders of our society seem to moralise the most. Indeed, the more they moralise the more suspicious I become of them, for morality is its own witness. We will remember how Judas moralised about the propriety of the woman using expensive perfume to anoint Yah'shua's (Jesus') feet when he himself was helping himself to the apostles' purse. Moral indignation, it seems, is frequently the smokescreen for immorality.
What has this to do with the historical process that lead to the triumph of monogamy over polygamy in the West? It is not uncommon, sadly, for sincere yet misguided Christians/Messianics to impress their non-believing friends using the tools of the carnal man. Instead of boasting of Christ there is a tendency to boast of Christian works -- buildings, hospitals, welfare programs, etc.. And though these are indeed (for the most part) wonderful fruits we are not to boast of them.
I have a picture in my mind of first and second century Christians/Messianics being converted in a highly metropolitan Greek and Roman society with a tradition of sophistry and expected rules of behaviour. Despite being officially monogamous, the Romans and Greeks were highly promiscious. Like the modern well-to-do Frenchman, having mistresses was a virtually accepted fact of life with homosexuality and pedophilia rampant. The recent discovery of drinking cups decorated with homosexual scenes, for which a British museum paid a small fortune, demonstrate that homosexuality was tolerated then as much as it is today. The kinds of double-standards that permeate our modern world were seemingly the same then as now, and to make progress in such a society it was probably expected of Christians/Messianics to 'play the game'. Since Christians/Messianics (true ones, at any rate), could never countenence having extra-marital affairs, it was nonetheless probably easy to accept the monogamy standard as is the case today. Polygamy was now, as then, frowned upon as 'primitive' and 'barbarous', in spite of the hypocrisy of many of those making such judgments.
In short, I believe it was social pressure to conform to an ideal Greco-Roman standard (monogamy) and to be accepted into society as a whole that led to the Christian Church slowly discarding polygamy. To be sure, there were many Romans and Greeks who upheld their monogamic ideal and spurned immorality and it was likely to these that early Christian missionaries made their most determined approach in order to win those with influence in society who upheld a certain moral standard acceptable to Christianity.
Though of course a double-standard, I suspect the early believers faced the same sort of social pressure to be 'politically correct' as we do today. Polygamy is frowned on by Western culture, and has been for centuries, and there are few who would wish to disturb the monogamous status quo which presents no obstacles to Christianity on one level. Monogamy is certainly easier to promote and manage than polygamy.
Ascetic tendencies in Christianity did not help. Some began to teach that the association of the sexes was 'sinful' and that it was better to not marry if the passions could be controlled. In spite of such ascetic theology spelling the end of mankind should it ever have taken root, yet it seems to have made an impression in the West, something that the East would never have tolerated. The fact of the matter is that the West was as polygamous as the East, at least in terms of uncontrolled appetite, and in our officially 'monogamous' society we find all the symptoms of natural polygamy but without spiritual law and godly responsibility: unstable marriage relationships leading to easy divorce and what has come to be cynically called 'serial polygamy', the monogamous man and his mistresses, and unmarried men with mistresses.
Modern as ancient monogamy protects men by allowing them to fool around without any sort of responsibility. As one Muslim has correctly observed:
He goes on to say:
"Easy birth control and easy legal abortion has opened the door of illicit sex to woman and she has been lured into the so-called sexual revolution. But she is still the one who suffers the trauma of abortion and the side effects of the birth control methods. Taking aside the plagues of venereal disease, herpes and AIDS, the male continues to enjoy himself free of worry. Men are the ones protected by monogamy while women continue to be victims of men's desires. Polygamy is very much opposed by the male dominated society because it would force men to face up to responsibility and fidelity. It would force them to take responsibility for their polygamous inclinations and would protect and provide for women and children."
And this is exactly what happened to the Roman Empire which in the end collapsed in upon itself, lacking the moral fibre to resist invaders from the East. In the end, the state became so corrupt that the highest bidder became Caesar - political office was bought. And it still is today.
"The bottom line in the marriage relationship is good morality and happiness, creating a just and cohesive society where the needs of men and women are well taken care of. The present Western society, which permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to an abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance of 'fatherless' children, many unmarried teenage mothers; all becoming a burden on the country's welfare system. In part, such an undesirable welfare burden has given rise to bloated budget deficits which even an economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate. Bloated budget deficits have become a political football which is affecting the political system of the United States. In short, we find that artificially created monogamy has become a factor in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and political systems of the country."
Exclusive monogamy with promiscuity and immorality in its train is a legacy of Rome and Athens. Though it is not the only factor, it must certainly be a major one that will see the demise of Western supremecy. The power of the West is a large bubble supported by dollars that will any day be pricked and disappear. Western society is as stable as the family unit - as that becomes eroded, whether monogamous or polygamous, so society implodes. Marriage is becoming more and more unpopular and there are many forces who would do away with it altogether. The Soviets tried after the Bolshevik October Revolution and it was a disaster for Russia, causing chaos. The abolition of marriage in the former USSR is, alas, a shadow of the same sort of thing that will be ENFORCED in the New World Order that is to come, where refusal to be promiscuous will be considered anti-social and therefore dangerous to society. The author of such a system is obvious for the family represents one of the greatest threats to Satan's plans for anarchy and the destruction of man. The destruction of polygamy was but the prelude to the destruction of monogamy and the whole concept of family. The forces of love, sacrifice, loyalty and devotion that make up the family are a terrible threat to the loveless slave society that Satan will create in the last days, where the state is always right and free expression is contrary to the New Age goals of society, and which has been in the making for some time now.
History repeats itself. The coming world dictatorship will be a modern Greco-Roman Empire, built upon those pagan nation's heathen pasts. The advent and restoration of Christian/Messianic polygamy in the late 20th century is a vital part of the salvation of the human family, where large families create entwined loyalties, committments and mutual help that will resist the headless monster of the impersonal state first envisioned by Lenin and then Hitler. The communists abolished marriage, and failed. Hitler created the Lebensborn, breeding centres where SS men could mate like chickens with pure Aryan types in order to create a master race.
The answer to your question as to why polygamy died out in the West is simple: because Satan wished it to die and man, as ever weak and willing to compromise with the world in order to obtain status and position, allowed him to. Though there is nothing wrong with monogamy, for it is good and holy, it is not the only marriage form ordained by Yahweh, and relied anciently on the examples set by godly polygamists for its welfare and success, this being the main marriage estate of men and women. Polygamy exists mostly, we believe, for godly leaders in the Body of Christ (Messianic Community), who have the love and self-discipline to keep families together as a model of the local as well as worldwide Church (Messianic Community) itself. Polygamy is for God-ordained Christian/Messianic leaders to set an example of the way true society should be, a co-operative, sacrificial and loving unit of husbands, wives and children. This Satan hates, and this is why Satan has always opposed Godly polygamy or tried to subvert and pervert it. But in a world full of spirtually flabby and weak leaders with little moral fibre and with a tendency to corrupt the Gospel, Yahweh is intervening to restore this sacred principle again through dedicated, gifted men and women of courage.