Part 3: Bypassing the Churches
Ever since the Jews returned from their captivity in Bablyon, monogamy-onlyism has been on the rise. Influenced by the surrounding pagan religion in which they were forced to spend their exile, the Jews - who had hitherto moreorless practiced plural marriage without any qualms - began to experience a subtle pressure to imitate the nations (which they had been warned strictly against prior to entering the Promised Land under Joshua) and to restrict matrimonial union to simple couples. The practice of polygyny amongst the Jews nevertheless continued up until the time of Christ but became more and more restricted to the wealthy classes and was subject to many non-biblical rules invented by the Rabbis. After the expulsion from the Holy Land by the Romans, plural marriage continued amongst the Jews principally in North Africa and Arabia but was eventually outlawed by the Rabbis in Germany under influence from the Catholic world they inhabited in Europe. A few Jews still practice plural marriage, mostly those from Muslim Yemen and North Africa.
As for the Christians themselves, plural marriage was, as far as we know, not restricted and indeed we find signs of it having been lived even in the New Testament narrative. That it became a 'problem' for those in the Roman Empire who did not approve of it (though who predictably did little or nothing to eliminate prostitution and sodomy) is suggested by the fact that the Roman Emperor Justinian eventually felt it necessary to make polygamy illegal in the 6th century A.D.
Today very few people practice polygamy outside Africa and Asia. Those in Europe who do tend to be, for the most part, Muslim immigrants from Africa and Asia, and those in the Americas dissenters from the liberalised Mormon religion who retained a separate identity when their Church made the practice illegal under pressure from the United States government. It is believed that as few as ½ million live polygamy in Europe and about 100,000 in the United States, of which Bible-believing Christians constitute somewhere in the order of 5,000 to 10,000 in the whole West. This contrasts sharply with the rest of the world where tens of millions live this practice.
This page was first created on 1 March 2003
Last updated on 26 February 2009
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