On December 10, 2013 I went to the Divine in interactive prayer. I was led to pray using my tallit, but not to give a blessing. I began: I am here Father, tired though. The Divine responded:
You’ve had a rough day, long one too.
I replied with: Yes.
I immediately added: Thank you, by the way, for telling me that my tree is planted.
Considering all the notes that I made, one would think that I would have recorded something about that concept of the planted tree. But nope. So, it is good that I asked the following question: Did I gather the right image? The Divine answered:
The tree really is yours and Mary’s decision to die on this decision, for better or worse this is your battlefield, so to speak.
In a way, that sounds horrible. It makes it sound like Mary and I volitionally chose this and that the Divine had nothing to do with it. In a way, it makes it sound like we were like “damn the torpedoes!” But that is anything but the case.
We chose because of the manner in which we believed God was leading. So yes, it is a choice, but a choice derived in the pursuit of holiness, and, as I will discuss in this Installment, there is nothing unholy about a man having two wives, even when he and the women who marry him choose from their own selves.
My wife and I do consider this a for better or worse type of thing, though. Of course, we want the better and not the worse, just like any couple who makes the vow to each other, no one really wants the worse.
So what was our decision? Considering all the experiences that we had, we decided that it was the Divine helping us, we decided that this is the course that we would take. So, in a sense we chose a “battlefield”.
Why is it a battlefield? Because it is a constant “battle” to engage the suppositions of church and culture. So it is important that the Divine continued:
You, both, have made the decision to incorporate another woman into your marriage, doing so has cost you family relations.
That I suppose is part of the cost of the “battlefield”. Sad, really. But suppositions are a very difficult thing to overcome. The supposition of the church is that God ordains only monogamy, and the church adamantly supports that supposition. But it is a supposition, and that supposition cannot be adequately defended through Scripture, because no Scripture demands only monogamy.
Later, in the prayer, the Divine added:
I have permitted the less perfect marriage, and that marriage is beautiful when the hearts are one.
So, I have to be candid, polygamy or polygyny, whatever term best fits, when one man has multiple wives, the Divine labeled it a “less perfect marriage”. Therefore, I cannot even begin to claim that it is the ideal that people should strive for.
But to put a counterpoint to this, only to balance it out, God also permitted divorce. God never intended for a marriage to be terminated via divorce, but God permitted such. Therefore, it is not ideal to have a marriage after a divorce, but it does happen.
Many suffer divorce, but then subsequently enter into another marriage. We as believers should admit that that marital situation is non-ideal. Historically, those who have suffered divorce and have additional marriages have been ridiculed by the church and/or Christians for failing the ideal. Sad, really. But that is the “battlefield” for those who have experienced such.
Some choose to remain single and never get married. That is their “battlefield”.
Some choose to get married, suffer the betrayal of adultery, yet never divorce. That is their “battlefield”.
Some choose to get married, suffer the death of their spouse, and choose to never have another marriage. That is their “battlefield”.
Some choose to get married, suffer divorce, and choose to never choose to never have another marriage. That is their “battlefield”.
The point is, everyone chooses their “battlefield”. The “battlefield” on which one serves may not be the “battlefield” on which someone else wants to “fight”. But such is the liberty before God and humanity’s right to choose.
But no one, not a single person, goes through life without facing their own personal and familial “battlefield”.
Going back to the prayer, I asked: Does polygyny reflect Jesus and the Church? The Divine answered:
No. Don’t use it.
Right there, many monogamy-only doctrinists are rejoicing, thinking “Hallelujah! Thank you God!” But I want my reader to consider what the Divine added:
Marriage itself is a parable, parables do not always capture the fullness of the meat, and the meaning.
So think about that, every time the Apostle Paul compares the husband and the wife to Jesus and the Church, or compares Jesus and the Church to the husband and the wife, that comparison is a “parable”. According to the Divine, a marital parable does not fully address the entirety of the reality of the relationship between Jesus and the Church or between the husband and the wife. Perhaps that is why the Apostle said it was a great/profound mystery (Ephesians 5.32).
There have been those who appeal to the Parable of the Virgins to establish polygyny/polygamy in the Church. They experience immediate recoil. Why? Because parables do not always capture the fullness. In that sense, parables can cause confusion, because the fullness of understanding is not provided through a parable.
That doesn’t mean the Bible is limited, it means that God permits the use of limited vehicles, like parables, to help explain the dynamics of faith. That doesn’t make God limited. It simply makes limited our ability to understand the unlimited, the unlimited being God. Such is the limitations of parabolic devices.
Look, we might actually, intuitively, understand that the marital parable is insufficient to fully describe the relationship. But practically, doctrinally, theologically, sermonically, the Church and the Christians do not understand, because the marital parable has become doctrine, instead of remaining a parable providing spiritual insight of the relationship’s symbolic meanings.
That is important, considering that the Divine added:
[Focus on] permission that my will is to permit those to marry if their heart is to marry, covenant is the key.
But permission to marry definitely aligns with the Apostle Paul’s teaching:
1 Corinthians 7.8-9
If unmarried and widows cannot contain themselves, let them marry;
1 Corinthians 7.28
If a virgin marries, she hath not sinned.
On those, almost all believers can agree.
But it is the next one that I suspect will be difficult. The Apostle Paul said:
1 Corinthians 7.27-28
Are you bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed.
But if you marry, you have not sinned.
That stands against the suppositions of the Church. Yet there it is, the translated but written words of the Apostle. I edited the text to focus on one of the intents of the passage, yet the meaning of the text has NOT been altered. But I feel that I could guarantee that is NOT what any Christian has been taught.
In 1 Corinthians 7.27, the KJV and ESV ask “Are you bound to a wife?” The KJV and the ESV then answer the question “Do not seek to be free.”
After that in the same verse, the KJV and ESV immediately ask “Are you free from a wife?” The KJV and the ESV again immediately answer the question “Do not seek a wife.”
Both the KJV and the ESV have a question mark at the end of their question, and each translation has a period after each of their answers. Therefore that means both the KJV and ESV interpret “But if you do marry, you have not sinned” as a separate thought from the previous two questions and their associated answers.
BUT that is NOT what the church teaches. What is taught is this the following:
a: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.
b: Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife, but if you do marry, you have not sinned.
Where statement ‘a’ equals 1 Corinthians 7.27a, and where statement ‘b’ equals 1 Corinthians 7.27b-28a where statement ‘b’ ignores the period separating 27b from 28a.
That is, by its very definition semantics, which is at odds with the way the KJV and ESV punctuate the grammatical structure.
I give props to the NIV for at least trying to reconcile this semantic issue. The NIV translates as: “Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned…”.
In 1 Corinthians 7.27 NIV, it uses the English word “pledged” in order for the statement not to be involved in an actual marriage. Technically, what sets behind the English word “pledged” is the Greek word δεω (deo, G1210). This Greek word means “bound” and is the exact same Greek word used by the exact same Apostle in Romans 7.2 ESV where the Apostle says “a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives”.
It seems to be universally accepted that Romans 7.2 is semantically speaking about actual matrimony, the state of being married, wedding matrimony, called a marriage. Yet, it is also true that this verse does NOT have the Greek word γαμος (gamos, G1062, translated into English as “marriage” or “wedding” e.g. Matthew 22.2-3 KJV) or the Greek word γινομαι (ginomai, G1096, frequently translated into English as “marry” or “married” e.g. 1 Corinthians 7.9-10 KJV, 1 Corinthians 7.28 KJV).
That δεω correlation does more than suggest that 1 Corinthians 7.27 is conveying a mere betrothal (as the NIV suggests), instead this verse conveys a marital union (as seen in the KJV and ESV). Therefore even though the Greek words γαμος and γινομαι are not found in 1 Corinthians 7.27, this verse is semantically speaking about actual matrimony, the state of being married, wedding matrimony, called a marriage.
Semantically, the Greek word γαμος gives the English word “gamy” which is found in the English words monogamy and polygamy. The English word monogamy literally means one-marriage, from the roots mono-gamy. The English word polygamy literally means many-marriages, from the roots poly-gamy.
Semantically, another issue is that both questions and both answers (1 Corinthians 7.27) function together as one unit. Even though that aspect of semantics seems not to be taught, it is semantically true. Therefore, semantically to append to one answer “But if you do marry, you have not sinned” is to append that statement to both answers.
Semantically, however, the KJV, ESV, NIV Bible Translations along with the Church and many Christians do not want the phrase “but if you do marry, you have not sinned” to be associated with “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.”
Semantically, at this point, the answer should be readily apparent. When the statement “but if you do marry, you have not sinned” is appended to the question/answer of “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.” semantically, that append has supported polygamy/polygyny, giving a New Testament passage where a man could have multiple wives.
Yet the Greek is notorious for having punctuation difficulties. A more “standard” Greek text has developed over the last couple of centuries, conveying how scholars and educated lay Bible students believe the Greek should read.
But it is understood by scholars and educated lay Bible students that the Greek manuscripts could be found written in all caps, or written having very few “spaces” between the words. Some manuscripts don’t even use paragraph formatting, which has become the common accepted way of presenting anything in written format. And we have not yet even begun to address that the manuscripts quote, reference, and allude to Old Testament passages, but the Greek manuscripts don’t provide quotation marks.
Importantly, Greek manuscripts can contain very few punctuation marks, which bring into discussion how the manuscripts punctuated things like question marks, periods, parenthetical comments, or didn’t identify those things at all, and what those lack of punctuations insinuate to Bible understanding.
It is common place in modern English for people to under use or simply not use punctuation marks in their communications. But because we are familiar with English and how we as English speakers communicate, we can have quality understanding of unpunctuated grammatics.
Much to the dismay of many believers, like with unpunctuated English, unpunctuated or limited punctuated Greek occurred within the Greek manuscripts. Therefore, how translators render the manuscripts into the English Bible Translation conveys how they think the Greek text should be punctuated.
Some translators use simple sentences. Separating one thought, from another thought. Readers tend to like simple sentences. But simple sentence structure significantly altars presentation. And presentation matters to interpretation.
Presentation matters to interpretation. For example, separating ideas from each other makes the ideas appear as stand alone concepts, when in reality the Greek may very well be conveying a compound-complex thought process that gets ignored in simple sentence translation and presentation.
That is why some translators, like to employ, not only commas, but also compound-complex sentence structure format, which permits the reader to see how one thought connects back to the previous thought; yet continues on into the next thought.
These types of things make a huge difference to semantics. Semantics play a huge role not only in translation but also in interpretation, which lend themselves to doctrine. In essence, every translation of the most beloved edition (take your pick KJV, NKJV, ESV, HCSB, NIV, TNIV, NASB, or possibly your favorite that I didn’t mention) involves translators translating using semantics, and those semantics lend themselves to doctrine.
But, there is one universal truth that the Apostle Paul declares: no sin is counted where there is no law (Romans 5.13b). This means that God had to declare the action of polygyny/polygamy as sin, in order for it to be an actual sin. According to the Apostle Paul’s statement, then and only then, would polygyny/polygamy be sin.
Since the Scriptures contain nothing akin to the following:
You shall marry only one woman
Having multiple women as wives simultaneously is detestable
there is absolutely NO way that polygyny/polygamy is a sin for the man or his wives.
In essence, since God does not prohibit a man from having simultaneous multiple wives, no one should prohibit such a marriage, because no one should prohibit want God has permitted. The realities of semantics matter.
Returning to my prayer, it is important to realize that although polygyny/polygamy is permitted, the Divine added:
And yes, polygamous [polygynous] men have fewer places they can serve in the assembly.
That is tremendously important for, at least, two reasons. One, it makes all the monogamy-only supporters wipe the proverbial sweat from their brow. Two, more than anything, it correlates to 1 Timothy 3.1-13, where the Apostle Paul makes it clear that only monogamous men can serve as bishops and deacons, and similar is expressed over in Titus 1.5-9 for elders.
The passages are specific. Yet, it also conveys that no other man in the congregation has to be monogamous: not an apostle, not a prophet, not a teacher, not a miracle worker, not a healer, not a speaker of tongues, and not an interpreter (1 Corinthians 12.29-30), not an evangelist, and not a shepherd/pastor (Ephesians 4.11).
However, since the English word “minister” (Ephesians 6.21, G1249) translates the same Greek word translated as “deacons” (1 Timothy 3.8, G1249), it seems that ministers would fall under the same rules as deacons.
Some have argued that I am simply arguing semantics. I am arguing semantics, definitely arguing semantics, but so are they. Therefore, that response is typical from those who do not want to see what the Greek or Hebrew is saying. Second, it is a typical response from those who need the suppositions of the Church to be correct.
What gets me is the unmitigated gall that those people have – to proclaim that it is about semantics, yet they themselves hold to their preferences of semantics without ever actually checking what is supporting their Bible Translation or what is supported by their church.
Doctrine is about what the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts actually contain. Therefore semantics matter.
But it is ever so difficult to discuss the semantics when most American Christians and American Churches develop their understanding and doctrine based on an English Bible Translation. The particular Translation matters not, because every congregation, every church, and every Christian has their preferred English Bible Translation. Me, I question all English Translations, for the very reasons I have been writing about.
The difficulties compound because no two mainline/mainstream English Bible Translations are consistent with each other. For example: 1 Timothy 3.1. 1 Timothy 3.1 KJV uses “bishop”. 1 Timothy 3.1 ESV uses “overseer”. 1 Timothy 3.1 CJB uses “congregation leader”. All are similar, but technically, theologically, and semantically different. Many Protestant Translations use “overseer”. It seems that Translations leaning toward Catholic interpretation use “bishop”. Yet from the examples it is evident that there is disagreement as to what the Greek term επισκοπη (episkope, G1984) actually conveys.
The difficulties continue compounding because no mainline/mainstream English Bible Translation itself is consistent in translating the Greek and/or Hebrew texts. For example: 1 Timothy 3.8 KJV, Ephesians 6.21 KJV, and Romans 16.1 KJV, in each verse the Greek term is διακονος (diakonos, G1249). In 1 Timothy 3.8 KJV is “deacons”. Yet in Ephesians 6.21 KJV is “minister”. And in Romans 16.1 KJV is “servant”.
That means that in Romans 16.1 KJV the Greek is translated into one English word “servant”, while in Ephesians 6.21 KJV the Greek is translated into a second English word “minister”. Yet over in 1 Timothy 3.8 KJV, the Greek is NOT translated but transliterated into a unique English “loan” word “deacons”.
So which is it? Deacon? Minister? Servant? What does the term mean? Technically, it matters. Theologically, it matters. Semantically, it matters.
Not even the ESV is consistent. 1 Timothy 3.8 ESV is “deacons”. Ephesians 6.21 ESV is “minister”. Romans 16.1 ESV is “servant”.
Not even the NIV is consistent. 1 Timothy 3.8 NIV is “deacons”. Ephesians 6.21 NIV is “servant”. Romans 16.1 NIV is “deacon”. At least the NIV has the virtue of transliterating the Greek term into English in both 1 Timothy 3.8 NIV and Romans 16.1 NIV.
Am I arguing semantics? You bet. If semantics wasn’t an issue, then there is no reason for Phoebe is called a “servant” (Romans 16.1) whereas Tychicus is called a “minister” (Ephesians 6.21), yet leaders in the church are called “deacons” (1 Timothy 3.8).
But the reality is that using different ENGLISH words allows for different semantic and theological and technical applications pertaining to “different” individuals.
Yet, the GREEK does not semantically, technically, or theologically allow for such “differences”. This is because in the Greek a διακονος is a διακονος, not a διακονος as “servant,” not διακονος as “minister,” and not διακονος as “deacon,” especially when we consider that all three of these examples are found in letters from the Apostle Paul.
Some will argue that context helps convey the meaning of the Greek. Without doubt, that is correct, I argue the same thing. But if this aphorism has any truth “The Greeks had a word for everything and everything had its word” then we are doing a disservice to the Greek text by providing various English terminology that conveys technical, theological, and semantical variations that the Greek does not convey.
And it is even more difficult that Church leaders and Christians support their preferred suppositions from an English Bible Translation(s), instead of teaching what is in the original language manuscripts. Earlier, I gave as an example 1 Corinthians 7.27-28. Most church leaders simply are NOT going to address the semantic connection within the text, yet the text inherently contains that semantic connection, and makes it clear that multiple wives are not sin.
I have spent a good deal of time looking at why semantics and translation and interpretation matter, and shown that there are many instances that translators, Churches, and Christians support their preferred semantics. I could continue on, but this is a good place to return to the prayer.
Before my interactive prayer closed, I asked: Anything else? The Divine responded:
Just this. You are not less of a man because you have two wives, but neither are you more of a man.
The first part was how I was feeling, so it was comforting that the Divine reassured me that I am not less. As for the second part, from my studies it does seem that some men feel like they are more of a man when they have multiple wives. So it is encouraging to know that the Divine does not interpret a man having multiple wives as evidence of his prowess as a masculine figure.
However, what the Divine gave in opposition to the man is quite intriguing. The Divine continued:
Your wives are not less of a woman, in fact they are more woman, more woman than you or they realize. Interestingly, women in polygyny find new outlets, new creativity for their femininity,
That is an interesting take. Is it not? The Divine clarifies and identifies that it is the women within polygyny/polygamy that are the greater.
My personal thoughts are that it requires each woman to sacrifice of themselves in a way that no husband within polygyny/polygamy can ever truly understand. The Divine then continued:
it is the man that is less. Such is the state of polygyny.
The Divine makes the case that it is truly the men who are less in this type of marital relationship. This seems to indicate that a man experiences far greater parity with woman when in the marital bond of monogamy.
As for me directly, the Divine concluded:
Don’t be sour, for a servant is the greatest in the Kingdom.
But if becoming a servant is a man’s primary or sole reason for becoming a husband of multiple wives, that man is in for a detrimental experience. This is because becoming the servant requires a sacrifice of the husband’s ego, not his maleness, but his ego, his aspirations, his dreams. This is because in polygyny he has to serve the needs of, at least, two women, and as the numeric count increases so do his responsibilities to his wives.
That is why the husband’s ego, his aspirations, his dreams can be more easily retained in monogamy. So if a believer is looking for a way to encourage monogamy, this prayer contains a couple of ways.
But as we can see from this prayer, it is the Divine who is consistent, and the Divine is consistent with the Scriptures.
I also say that the English Scriptures are NOT consistent, but that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures are far more consistent than the English. As such, believers should aim for that which is consistent.
But I close this Installment with one final thought. God NEVER declared polygyny/polygamy sin, and even though the New Testament does not have a specific statement giving permission for a man to have multiple wives, four passages support the marriage: Romans 5.13b, 1 Corinthians 7.27-28, 1 Timothy 3.1-13, and Titus 1.5-9. All of which I have addressed to some degree in this Installment.
I look forward to my life with two wives, and this field on which I have chosen to stake my claim.
Blessings and Shalom