Project Documents

Date of Award

1993

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Richard M. Davidson

Second Advisor

Nancy J. Vyhmeister

Third Advisor

Jon L. Dybdahl

Abstract

Problem Polygamy, or marriage to more than one spouse at the same time, is a worldwide practice that still affects the lives of many people. As such it must be given serious attention by any Christian group involved in mission work. As a denomination with a global mission emphasis, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is often confronted with the issue of polygamy. The question as to how these practicing polygamists should be treated must be approached from a biblical perspective.

Method Accepting the Bible as the authoritative revelation of the will of God, this project set out to make a hermeneutically sound and contextually valid investigation of the passages and pericopes related to polygamy. Linguistic, grammatical, theological, historical, and cultural contexts were taken into account in order to determine which interpretation of the texts under consideration proved to be the most reliable based on the weight of evidence. The writings of Ellen G. White were given serious consideration throughout this study. In addition, the many books, articles, and unpublished documents related to a biblical perspective on polygamy, as produced by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, were critically assessed and discussed. However, accepting the Bible as the final norm, none of these extra-biblical sources was given any authority over the text of Scripture itself. Following an examination of the original institution of marriage in Eden and the form of marriage evident at the flood, the following Old Testament passages were sequentially analyzed: Exod 21:7-11, Lev 18:18, Deut 17:17, Deut 21:15-17, Exod 22:16, 17 and Deut 22:28, 29, Deut 25:5-10, Gen 38, Ruth 4, and Ezek 23:1-49. The accounts of the marriages of the antediluvians, Lamech, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Moses, Gideon, Elkanah, David, Solomon, and Joash were examined. After a discussion of passages from Matt 19 and 22, Acts 15, 1 Cor 7, 1 Tim 3, and Titus 1, a synopsis of the principles arising from the research was made. Based on these biblical principles, missiological implications for a sound policy on polygamy were outlined.

Results This study shows that God was the originator of marriage. According to Genesis, monogamy was established as the law of marriage for all humanity. While every one of the passages related to marital forms harmonizes well with this monogamous standard, it was discovered that certain Old Testament laws as well as some New Testament passages prohibit the practice of polygamy for all. Close analysis of all texts related to marital forms indicated that none permits, promotes, or prescribes polygamy. Careful examination of the lives of the major polygamists selected for this study showed that there is no evidence of any divine approval or sanction for their practice of polygamy. On the contrary, there are several indications of condemnation, judgment, or punishment on these polygamists for this violation of God’s marital requirements. Those who responded to the divine intervention in their lives went through a transformation, resulting in the termination of polygamy, together with proper care for all members of the family.

Conclusions Based on the fact that the Bible shows monogamy to be a universal moral requirement and polygamy to be a violation of the divine principle, it was concluded that all Christians are to abstain from polygamy. Furthermore, in order to have a scripturally reliable and missiologically sound policy on polygamy, the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs to ensure that its position on this issue is in harmony with the fundamental theological principles that emerge from the Bible.

Subject Area

Polygamy--Religious aspects--Christianity, Polygamy--Biblical teaching

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