Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Christological Basis for the Move from Polygamy to Monogamy

I sent a version of my argument to Peter Leithart some time ago, and he posted it on his blog. In light of my next post (above), I thought I'd post this argument here as well.

Why is polygamy tolerated in the OT (Ex 21.10, Dt 21.15-17) but not in the New? OT patriarchs had plural wives, and there is nothing prohibiting priests or Levites from having plural wives in the OT. Nonetheless, NT bishops cannot be polygamous (Titus 1.6). But why should this be, let alone that polygamy is prohibited to laymen by church practice (and by law in Christian-influenced countries)?

Here's an argument:

[1] The critical move in the argument is the first move -- that human marriage is fundamentally typological. It's a picture of Christ and the church etched into human conduct. Eph 5.32 & lots of others.

As for marriage being "primarily" or fundamentally typological, simply consider Christ's teaching in Mt 22.30, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage . . ." The cessation of human marriage in the eschaton is easy to explain if it is understood as fundamentally a type. If so, then the fulfilling antitype is the marriage of Christ and the Church (Rev 19.7,9, 21.2,9). After this, the typological purpose of human marriage is fulfilled, so it passes away as Jesus teaches.

[2] The OT reality, although transitory, was that Israel is separated from and distinguished from the other nations. So in the OT there are two (or more) distinct peoples of God. These plural people become one in the NT.

Eph 2.14-16 The two are made into one.John 10.16. Other sheep not of this fold; brought in and all made into "one flock."John 11.52. Jews and Gentiles "gathered into one."Gal 3.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile . . . You are all One in Christ Jesus.Ro 11.24 Two olive trees.Ez 23.4, 37 -- God talks about different peoples being plural wives in the OT. (Think here also of the progression of the Spirit in Acts -- from Israel, to Samaria, to the Gentiles. Incorporating the different people into one people in the Spirit.)

[3] So polygamy is transitory precisely because the OT separation of Israel from the Gentiles is transitory: While Israel is the first "bride" (the bride whose portion cannot be reduced, Ex 21.10, nor whose son can be disinherited, Dt 21.15-17, compare with Ro 1.16, 2.9-10 & etc), redemption was never exclusive to Israel. (Think about all the Gentile believers mentioned in the OT, the Ez passage, etc.)

So plural wives in the OT showed forth the fact that God's redemption extends to all peoples. Nonetheless, God's redemptive plan temporarily required that Israel be separated out for the OT era, until the coming of Christ. With the coming of Christ, the separation is done away -- the many are made one in Christ. Since marriage is fundamentally and primarily typological, creating one people in Christ out of the plural people in the OT means that the antitype has come, and polygamy no longer serves as a type of anything real.

So the monogamy implicit at the creation is reestablished (Gn 2.24) as Christ breaks down the dividing wall between Jew and Greek, making all into his one bride, the Church.


Blogger John said...

I'm convinced.

May 03, 2007 8:10 AM  

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