To see Son of Houdini's original thesis, click here
I have to confess that I have been surprised by the lack of response from the polygamy community to the thesis presented by myself as 'Son of Houdini'. As I mentioned in the introduction, I have received only one rebuttal from a man who refused to let me post what he had written. Regrettably (because I think his arguments were on the whole very good and interesting) I am obliged to omit his writings from this discussion though I shall paraphrase some of them towards the end.
Son of Houdini's arguments hinge essentially on two points:
The mi‚ issue is added as a kind of footnote and will be dealt with separately.
- 1. That the Old Covenant Law is in the process of passing away and being replaced by something better, viz. the New Covenant Law, and that polygamy is a part of the former; and
- 2. Polygamy in some way equates with slavery which is also passing away (and has to all intents and purposes in most nations).
What is Passing Away?
To suggest, as Son of Houdini did, that polygamy and slavery are a part of the "darkness (that) is passing away" (1 John 2:8) is at best to accuse the Creator of being careless, and at worst of being the author of darkness. If slavery and polygamy are so inferior and harmful, why include them in Torah which by the apostle Paul's own confession is pure and holy? This at once creates a tension and a contradiction - whether the Torah is pure and holy or whether it is not:
The absence of any open discussion of polygamy in the New Testament may therefore rightly be seen to be an endorsement of the continuation of the marriage practice in the same way as many other practices such as slavery were BUT with a difference - and herein lies the key to understanding the difference between the Old and New Covenants.
"Therefore the Law (Torah) is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12, NKJV).
To begin with, everybody agrees that the ceremonial Torah and the Levitical Priesthood that administered it, were abolished by the death of Christ on the cross. From the moment the atonement was made, Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus) became our Eternal High Priest of a restored Melchizedek Priesthood, the same Priesthood that had existed in the days of the Patriarchs before Moses and the Torah were given on Mt.Sinai. In understanding the position of slavery and polygamy (whose tethering together is actually not as bad as it looks as we shall see) in the New Covenant we have only to look back to, for example, the times of the Patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob where we see Yahweh's chief exemplars living these principles without a hint of divine disapproval. Though the patriarchs practiced animal sacrifice as had Adam in the very beginning in anticipation of the atoning work of Christ, and though the New Covenant dispensation removed this need, there is no indication anywhere that the New Covenant abolished either polygamy or slavery - rather, we find the two principles transformed into something even better than existed before.
The Elevation of Polygamy and Slavery
To understand New Covenant polygamy we need only to look at New Covenant slavery, and vice versa, because each illuminates the other. We need to remember, in talking about slavery, that there is a qualitative difference between the kind of slavery permitted in Torah and the slavery practiced by the heathen nations. There were seven categories of slave all told:
By keeping a level head and not allowing ourselves to be swayed by passions rooted in human tradition and upbringing, we come to understand from this that a slave or servant, is, in fact, the slave or servant of Yahweh and not of the slave-owner. In other words, the slave or servant is a human stewardship only, not a permanent 'possession'. If we carefully examine these passages what we discover is actually a form of justice and redemption 'even' within the Old Covenant mindframe - a mindframe, we must constantly remind ourselves, which is 'holy'.
- 1. Prisoners of war (Numbers 31:9; Deuteronomy 20:14; 21:10ff; Judges 5:30; 1 Samuel 4:9; 2 Kings 5:2; 2 Chronicles 28:8,10ff). The advantage of this to the slave would be that he would be placed within an Israelite home and be brought to Yahweh and to Torah;
- 2. By Purchase. Slaves could be bought from other owners or general merchants (Genesis 17:12-13,27; Ecclesiastes 2:7). The Torah allowed the Hebrews to buy foreign slaves from foreigners at home or abroad (Leviticus 24:44ff). When non-Israelies were converted to the Gospel under the New Covenant of Christ, this status quo was not changed, as is proven by Philemon and Onesimus. What did change, however, was the requirement that master and slave were to regard each other as brothers in Christ, and the slave was urged to serve his master as though to Christ (see Paul's Epistle to Philemon);
- 3. By Birth. Children 'born in the house' of slave-parents became 'house-born slaves'; such are mentioned in scripture from patriarchal times onwards (Genesis 15:3; 17:12-13,27; Ecclesiastes 2:7; Jeremiah 2:14). Children raised in good Christian homes have a far greater chance of coming to Christ than those who are not;
- 4. As Restitution. If a convicted thief could not make restitution and pay his fines and damages, funds towards this could be raised by selling him as a slave (Exodus 22:3). We are reminded of Yah'shua's (Jesus') parable of the Prodigal Son who was willing to return to his father's house as a mere slave because of the way he had squandered his inheritance received before time. In this story, however, the Father (owner) freely forgives and restores his son to the position he had before. What this parable tells us is that whilst the law of slavery is still in force (letter-of-the-law) the spirit of the New Covenant (spirit-of-the-law) invokes forgiveness and freedom, in this case once the right heart-attitude has been manifested;
- 5. By Default on Debts. Debtors who went bankrupt were often forced to sell their children as slaves by the creditor (2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5,8). The insolvent debtor himself, as well as his wife and family, commonly became the slave of his creditor and gave him his labour for three years to work off the debt and then go free in Hammurabi's Code which is reflected in the Torah in Exodus 21:2-6 (and 7-11), and in Deuteronomy 15:12-18, where a Hebrew slave must work six years, explicitly a 'double' period of time (Deuteronomy 15:18) but on release was to be granted stock to start up on his own again. We see in this statute the principle of restitution and forgiveness from sin in Christ, reminding us that sin is of serious consequence, and that whilst Yahweh will freely forgive us of our sins through the blood of Christ, genuine repentance still demands that we make restitution to those who we may have defrauded unless they too (if they choose to) likewise freely forgive the debt.
- 6. Self-Sale. Selling oneself voluntarily into slavery, i.e. dependance on another, to escape poverty, was widely known and legislated for in Torah (Leviticus 25:39-43,47ff), but provided for redemption at (or with foreign owners, even before) Jubilee year. This principle is a shadow of voluntarily surrendering ourselves to Christ as His slaves for the remission of our sins, to be 'released' in due course as His friends: "No longer do I call you servants (slaves), for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15-16, NKJV). In other words, we cease to be servants or slaves upon spiritual echad union with our Master Yah'shua (Jesus);
- 7. Abduction. To steal a person, and to reduce a kidnapped person to slavery, was an offence punishable by death in the Torah (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7). Joseph's brothers were essentially guilty of such an offence which existed in the Code of Hammurabi before Torah was given (Genesis 37:27-28 cp.44:4), and we therefore understand why they were "dismayed" and needed reassurance not to be "dismissed" (Genesis 45:3,5; cp. Genesis 1:15). What this statute tells us is that some forms of slavery are of Yahweh and others of the devil.
And what is scriptural 'holiness'? Simply, it means to be 'separated' or 'cut off' from unrighteousness, and derives from the word qadosh (cp. Ruach haQodesh = Holy Spirit). The purpose of slavery, seen in a redemptive sense, is to deliver souls from crime in a just and fair manner, from imprudent and foolish business dealings, and to bring pagans within the sphere of salvation in the congregation of Israel. The whole concept of slavery, far from being abolished in the New Covenant, is elevated into servanthood - a concept that saturates New Covenant teachings from beginning to end. And a characteristic of New Covenant Torah as opposed to Old Covenant Torah is its insistance on attraction rather than force, namely, the freedom principle. We are to voluntarily make ourselves slaves of Christ and of one another until we are called to be sons and heirs (Galatians 4:7); we begin as servants but, as we become fully yielded, become friends too (John 15:15-16). Wives are to voluntarily make themselves the servants of their husbands else they should not marry at all. And like Onesimus we are "no longer [just] a slave but more than a slave -- a beloved brother" (Philemon 16, NKJV) - and in the case of a woman servant, a beloved wife - for the distinction between slave and free is abolished in the New Covenant (Colossians 3:11) - we are both slaves (servants) and free!
This kind of thinking is hard for modern man because he has become so used to dichotomising slavery and freedom. But remember this also - words like 'slave' conjure up images of chains and whips. Hebrew slaves were neither chained up or whipped but were bound by Torah which required that they be treated with kindness and love. Indeed, so wonderful was such slavery to many of the slaves that when their time to be freed came, many chose to remain slaves out of love for their masters. And do we not see in this the same kind of love we should be having for our Master and Owner, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)? Do we not love His slavery - the slavery that brings us such freedom? Think about it, for this is the slavery of Yahweh, a very different proposition and spirit from the slavery of the pagans.
And into this comes ... polygamy. A wife is owned by her husband, as the Torah says, and is in subjection to him in all things (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:34). She is his slave or servant as her husband is the slave or servant of Christ, which thing is glorious and liberating because New Covenant Torah is the "Law (Torah) of Liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12). Polygamy has no more been abolished than slavery has, for to abolish either would be to declare Torah to be unholy and to pervert the whole concept of New Covenant liberty.
The arguments advanced by 'Son of Houdini' are typically liberal secular ideas imposed on the Bible - concepts, indeed, which are utterly alien to Scripture! He is entirely ignorant of the biblical concept of uniplurality or echad and is, in his spiritual leaning, basically Unitarian. He picks up some of the classical supposedly 'anti-polygamy' scriptures without properly analysing them, confusing, for instance, temporal marriage with eternal marriage in Matthew 22:29-31 - see Does the Bible Say that Marriage Extends Beyond the Grave? for a refutation of the well-worn 'Sadducee Argument'. He misunderstands Paul's local counsel against marriage at that time and in those conditions in 1 Corinthians 7:31-34 which, were they universal, would totally contradict the Torah he claims is holy. Indeed, his whole philosophy inverts the Plan of Salvation by moving man back to Eden instead of towards the New Jerusalem.
The MI¬ Red Herring
The final foundation stone of 'Son of Houdini's' biblical philosophy is the mi‚ issue of 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:5-6. He cites only one Greek scholar, Glenn Miller, who represents but one of several possible positions (see What Does It Mean to Be 'The Husband of One Wife?'). In actual fact, the "husband of one wife" construction has nothing to do with either monogamy or polygamy, as I have discussed elsewhere in the HEM articles. If Paul were underlining the fact that the husband must have only one wife and no more (underscoring that polygyny is now out) then why would he use an identical though inverted construction about women who have, in any case, never been permitted to practice polyandry by Yahweh:
As this cannot possibly be a restriction against a woman who has had two husbands at the same time (since polyandry is forbidden by Torah) then the command that an Elder of Deacon be the "husband of one wife" cannot, by the same token, be a prohibition against polygyny! For all his grammatical eloquence, Miller has missed the point entirely, namely, that "husband of one wife" doesn't actually mean what he believes it to mean!
"Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man" (1 Timothy 5:9, NKJV).
So what does it mean? Well, the answer is to be found in 1 Timothy 5:9 where there are only two possible interpretations:
Possibility #2 is stretching it a bit and infact the answer is given in verse 3:
- 1. The widow really must have been a widow and not faking it to become the benficiary of the widows' fund; or
- 2. She must not be a divorcee.
In other words, there were women pretending to be widows who weren't. Therefore the first answer is the correct one.
"Honour widows who are really widows" (1 Timothy 5:3, NKJV).
This being undoubtedly the case, what does the expression "the wife of one man" mean in the colloquial Greek of the day? It means no more or less that she must have been married.
If this is the undoubted meaning of the expression "the wife of one man" then the identical expression "the husband of one woman/wife" must mean that Elders and Deacons must be married. Period!
It may well be true that we of the polygamy community have been chasing a red herring ourselves over the mi‚ issue for the plain meaning of "husband of one woman" or "wife of one man" has nothing whatsoever to do with monogamy or polygamy but denotes in colloquial koinť Greek the state of marriage. And there really is no way of getting around that.
Rendering the passages concerned into contemporary English, we would be perfectly justified in translating the several mi‚ passages as follows:
I am sure arguments could be advanced that these passages might also be talking about divorcees, and they are so interpretated by some scholars. Thus some denominations will not allow men who have been divorced to serve as Pastors or Deacons. And if this interpretation is correct, then the passages still have nothing to do with monogamy or polygamy, since it wouldn't matter whether a monogamist or polygamist was a divorcee or not - having divorced one wife would be enough to disqualify them.
"A bishop then must be blameless, a married man ("the husband of one wife"), temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach ... Let deacons be married men ("the husbands of one wife"), ruling their children and their own houses well" (1 Timothy 3:2,12, modified NKJV)
"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you -- if a man is blameless, a married man ("the husband of one wife"), having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:5-6, modified NKJV).
"Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been a married woman ("the wife of one man")" (1 Timothy 5:9, NKJV).
Finally, even after all of this has been said, there is still a grammatical case against Miller. This, and some of the issues above, are discussed in our novel, Bouquet of Roses, Vol.1, Chapter 7.
'Son of Houdini's' attack on polygamy is actually a subtle attack on the whole concept of servanthood. The oratory is eloquent and persuasive but it is seriously flawed in many places. The fact that historically polygamy and slavery disappeared (some would dispute the latter) is actually quite irrelevent because a whole host of biblical truths disappeared during the Catholic era and some of these yet remained unrestored throughout the Protestant era too.
Marriage (one man married to one or more women within manageable limits) has always been marriage and Yahweh has never redefined it. Instead, He has exalted it by comparing the relationship between Him and His Church (Messianic Community) as a reflection of the marriage principle in eternity. However you may try to strain the wording, this allegorical marriage is uniplural - one "wife" consisting of many "wives", meaning that the unity between the "wives" is so developed that to all intents and purposes the Church is one Wife. And yet the Church is not a single person but many. We all know it, so why pretend otherwise? This imagery is supposed to convey to us a uniplural mystery called echad or oneness, as mysterious as the Godhead which is both One and Many. Only those who have a preconceived doctrine - and in this case an anti-polygamous, monogamy-only one - will try to force this concept to have another meaning. And when they do they betray, I am sorry to say, a demon problem. It is not simply a matter of being sincerely in error because not only are the scriptures plain on the matter of marriage but the apostle Paul says that in the last days people will arrive on the Christian scene teaching the doctrines of devils, and specifically lists two of them - forcing people to become vegetarians and forbidding them from marrying (see my article, The Dilemma of Being a Vegetarian or a Monogamist).
There are no new marriage paradigms, as 'Son of Houdini' claims. If we are moving from an Old Covenant marriage paradigm to a New Covenant one that abandons polygamy, then we are faced with some glaring absurdities: If the Body of Christ as one head and many members which are one (echad) is comparable to a polygamous style of marriage (as we claim), then are all the members of the Body after the first convert merely second rate? 'Son of Houdini's' "newer New Covenant" just isn't scriptural.
The problem with Christian marriage is not whether we are moving (or have already moved) from polygamy to monogamy, but with the whole business of divorce. Thus 'Son of Houdini's' claim that Yahweh's bigamous marriage to Jerusalem and Samaria was 'abnormal' is to miss the point altogether - the problem was one of divorce! You see, Israel was not a single Bride but a uniplural one consisting of 12 Tribes! Samaria was a uniplurality of 10 (the Ten Tribes of northern Israel) and Jerusalem was a uniplurality of 2 (Judah and Benjamin). Technically, Yahweh was married to two sets of wives - one consisting of 10 and the other of 2.
We must again underline for those like 'Son of Houdini' who try to make out that 'monogamy' and 'polygamy' are two separate entities. They aren't. There is marriage and nothing else. And biblical marriage is one man in a one-flesh relationship with one or more women. Polygamy is not, therefore, a 'form' of marriage.
When Jacob and Leah married, they became one flesh or one person - Mr. & Mrs. Jacob, if you like. They are both Jacob. When Jacob then married Rachel a week later, they became Mr. & Mrs. & Mrs. Jacob. All three are Jacob. All are one flesh.
Thus there is no polygamy as a result of marriage. This idea is an oxymoron, a misnomer. The result of the first marriage was to make Leah one flesh with Jacob. They ceased to be "twain" (KJV) or "two". When Rachel married Jacob all three became "one flesh". Thus, biblically speaking (Yahweh's perspective), Jacob was not a polygamist but a monogamist! All three (and finally all five when he married their maidservants) were one - one flesh.
This is what we mean by uniplurality or echad. Thus 'Son of Houdini's' attempt to split marriage into 'monogamy' and 'polygamy' is shere nonsense spiritually-speaking. 'Monogamy' does not count the individual elements/persons joined but counts the number of marriages or joinings. The secular prefixes mono- and poly- do not therefore cancel out the "no more twain (two)" effect of marriage but only serve as modifiers of the suffix -gamy. It is the gamy (gamete) or union that is important, and that is what marriage is.
After marriage there is no poly- with regard to the elements/persons. If the husband has married before (as Jacob had when he married Rachel), then poly- in polygamy would serve to count the number of joinings or unions participated in, or in other words, count the number of covenants that were entered into by the husband.
So, even if Jacob had only married Leah, we would not be wrong to describe the one-ness of Jacob by using the word mono-gamous since we are describing not how many wives Jacob has but how many marriage covenants he has entered into. It is one thing to describe the echad or unity or "one flesh" situation, but it is another to quantify the number of marriages or joinings. Thus poly-gamy would describe the result of marriage, not the 'type' of marriage.
In the same way, the Body of Christ describes many 'joinings', and unity (echad) is the result of joining. Etymologically. it is not that Christ has entered into an allegorical polgamous marriage with us, but rather there have been many joinings or grafting onto Him by covenant. By claiming Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Lord and Saviour we become married to Him and are joined spiritually to Him as branches to the vine.
The claim made by 'Son of Houdini' that uniplurality of the allegorical Bride suggests bisexuality is, again, shere nonsense. The seven churches/assemblies in the Book of Revelation are clearly seven brides, indicating a heterosexual relationship. In any case, this is spiritual, not physical and therefore not sexual.
1 Corinthians 7:31-34 continues to be a red herring and so needs discussing a little more fully:
If, as some claim, this passage means that it is better not to be married, then Paul completely contradicts himself when he says:
"For the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Master -- how he may please the Master. But he who is married cares about the things of the world -- how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Master, 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 7:31-35, NKJV).
So what will you do? Simply, let the context illuminate. For Paul is simply telling the Corinthians to be less involved in worldly affairs! If your marriage is carnal and unspiritual, it is going to take you away from Christ. In such circumstances, don't marry! Stay single or find yourself a spiritual wife who cares for the things of Yahweh. And this was pretty good advice to the Corinthians - an immature, carnal and sexually perverse group still locked into old pagan ways of thinking and behaving. The passage has nothing to do with the advancement of monogamy or celibacy but with spirituality.
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry..." (1 Timothy 4:1-3, NKJV)
The choice is simple: harmonise scripture or reject it, but don't set one scripture off against another. And if you reject any scripture, you cannot claim to be a Bible-believing Christian.
'Son of Houdini' is forced, by his twisted logic, to move from polygamy to monogamy and thence to celibacy. But that isn't remotely what the Bible is teaching at all. If that were true, then we would be moving from mono-gamy to no-gamy and all the implications that has for the allegorical marriage of the Body or Church to Christ. In short, 'Son of Houdini' is telling us to move away from Christ until we are single, alone, and unsaved!
It is wrong, moreover, to look at things spiritual as being non-literal. Does anybody doubt that our union with Christ leads to literal regeneration and sanctification? Again, Yahweh did not establish 'monogamy' but marriage - He did not establish 'monogamy' in the Garden of Eden but marriage. Such unbiblical 'buzz words' as 'monogamy' only confuse the issue: Yahweh established marriage in the Garden of Eden and at the same time established an allegorical marriage to Him too - Adam and Eve were 'polygamously' married to Him, even though they were one Adam and therefore 'monogamously' married to Yahweh as well. Do you see how the words 'monogamy' and 'polygamy' ultimately become meaningless?
As believers we are hidden in Christ through union with Him:
In the same way, a wife is hidden in her husband. Many believers are hidden with Christ in Elohim (God) just as many wives are hidden with their husband in Christ! Numerically-speaking, then, a marriage is "one" in spiritual terms ... which I am sure you will agree are the most important. All my echad wives are hidden with me in Christ. We are one Person spiritually-speaking if we are in proper echad union. Obviously a nominal Christian is not hidden with Christ anymore than a wife who, though she may have entered covenants, is not properly united with her husband in the Spirit (Ruach).
"For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in Elohim (God)" (Colossians 3:3, NKJV).
We become joint-heirs with Christ by virtue of our echad union with Him (Romans 8:17) just as my wives become joint-heirs of whatever glory I shall receive (or not) by virtue of their echad union with me. A woman, indeed, cannot become an heir to the Kingdom if she is not united to her husband any more than a man can become an heir of the Kingdom if he is not united to Christ. The heirs of Christ's kingdom are many, just as the wife-heirs of a man's reward are many.
The polygamous model is part and parcel of the whole message of the Kingdom. If anything, marriage is expanding into more and more polygamy, not contracting into celibacy - what nonsense to say otherwise! We are to be fitly joined together in Christ - lots of us (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 2:21; 4:16), and we are to keep adding. 'Son of Houdini' would have us dismantle the Body of Christ and the blessedness of echad union! It is therefore not only wrong, but positively sinful, to deny polygamy as much as it would be wrong to hinder souls coming to Christ.
If a husband has the potential to sanctify seven or twelve wives, would it be in Yahweh's will that he limit himself to only one? And by "sanctify" I do not mean to be a good lover in bed but someone who can create echad union in the Ruach (Spirit). For it must be plain now that our union with Christ is not on the basis of singles (unless they have chosen to reject their opportunity to marry, or have a special mandate not to in this life) but of marriages. The Bridegroom Yah'shua (Jesus) in the Book of Revelation addresses not the individual saints but the seven different congregations, for these are uniplural Brides, and together (on a higher level) they are yet another uniplural Bride. Who are the 144,000? They are not men and women, but men -- that is, men in whom their wives are hidden in Christ.
The moment we understand the pattern of uniplurality, we understand that polygamy - far from being on the way out - is actually on the way in. The direction in which we are moving is inexorably polygamy. The marriage of the Lamb is polygamous (and getting more so every day) and human marriage is polygamous. More and more people will enter this state, and men will be given as many brides as they can spiritually sanctify - as many as they can hide within themselves in Christ. To do that requires the operation of the servanthood principle in its completeness. A slave hides in his master's will just as a wife hides in her husband's. If she does not - or will not - then he cannot hide her. She must remain alone. Moreover, if this refusal to be submitted is a spiritual issue, then the chances are she will not be able to hide in Christ either.
And so we can safely - with an overwhelming corpus of biblical evidence - consign 'Son of Houdini's' thesis to the scrap heap. I did my best but really I didn't stand a chance, did I?
Lublin, 7 July 2002