From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Feb 17 1998 - 09:59:17 EST

At 08:36 AM 2/17/98 -0500, wrote:
>Ben Crick wrote:

>>MIAS GUNAIKOS ANDRA, a one-wife husband. It appears that no Christian in
>>the 1st century would be permitted to have more than one wife at a time;
>>so it cannot be a prohibition of polygamy for Church officers.

Does anybody know how widespread polygamy was in the NT period? I don't
recall that the Bible gives any clear instructions for anyone who is
already polygamous at the time of their marriage. Is this issue discussed
in the patristic literature?

>Interestingly, our missionaries in Kenya have run into this very problem,
>and I suspect the same 1st century situation was the genesis of this verse.
>It is not unusual for a new convert to have more than one wife. Obviously,
>before being admitted to the church, they must put away the wives who were
>not the first one.

In Kenya, there was a church split over this very question. I had a friend
from Kenya who is now a missionary in Nairobi, and his father had two wives
when he converted. He felt that his biblical commitment to each wife could
not be reversed, and that a christian is not allowed to divorce, period. In
his church, the teaching was that a christian should not marry a second
wife, but that the commitment of an existing marriage should be respected.

Who is right in this controversy is, of course, beyond the scope of b-greek
(though it would be interesting to discuss in private email).

A relevant question for b-greek: how did the early church handle this
question? Were there, in fact, converts who were polygamous? If so, how was
this situation handled? Was it handled differently by different churches,
as in modern-day Kenya? It would be plausible that converts might be asked
to respect their current commitments to their wives, but that a man with
more than one wife would simply be too busy to serve in certain offices.



Jonathan Robie

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