Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Matthew 19:1-6 New International Version (NIV)

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

When Jesus said “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female" I believe he was referring to Genesis 5:2.

Genesis 5:2

2 He (God) created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.

In regards to the unity of one man and one woman, how did the Pharisees as well as others listening to Jesus (Matthew 19:2-3) interoperate what Jesus meant (Matthew 19:4-6) when they would have also known that Abraham and King David had multiple wives and/or concubines?

NOTE: I don't want this to be about how Christians view polygamy today but rather how did those listening think/feel/interperate (through 1st century "eyes") what Jesus was now saying compared to the "views/actions" of their forefathers. Prior to Jesus referencing Genesis 5 and clarifying that the unity of male and female was orignially intended for one man and one woman, did those practicing Judaism and those following Jesus recognize a difference in what was once practiced and what is now being said; or did everyone already know the original intent of male and female, specifically in terms of how Jesus stated it to be in Matthew 19?

share|improve this question
1  
@Shredder It should be noted that Abraham did not have two wives at once as you may also be pointing out. :–) –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 1:04
4  
The point I see Jesus making is not against polygamy, but against divorce. If the pharisees had asked "Is it lawful for a man to not get divorced, but get married again anyway?" the outcome may have been quite different. –  Flimzy May 17 '12 at 2:58
1  
@Flimzy I agree that Jesus is making a point against divorce, but within His comments he states "that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female" which may imply one man and one woman in unity ("So they are no longer two, but one flesh" ) combined with Jesus referencing Genesis 5:2 it would seem this was the original intent. So my question still would be how did those listening interpret all of what Jesus said while also understanding how their forefathers viewed unity of man and woman (women)? –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 3:08
5  
Heh - You'd think "no longer two, but one flesh", if taken literally, might well leave open the possibility for that "one flesh" to take on a spouse. At which point they would, one assumes, "no longer be two, but one flesh" again. –  Muke Tever May 17 '12 at 12:50
3  
@MukeTever: Polygamy by mathematical induction :) –  hammar May 21 '12 at 5:40
show 14 more comments

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"However, my question is still did the Pharisees as well as the rest of the crowd have any confusion..." - I think they definitely had a confusion in their minds at that moment and didn't right away realize the difference between God's original intent and God's forbearance toward His people already in the fallen state. The following verses show both their confusion (verse 7) and the Savior's pointing out to that difference (verse 8: " because of the hardness of your hearts ... but from the beginning it was not so")

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think the Pharisees understood quite well that their ancestors were not perfect. The fact that they did X does not make X right. The example of David that you bring up is a case in point: He was guilty of adultery and murder. The Bible is unusual in that it holds someone up as a hero at the same time that it freely recounts his character flaws -- sometimes big ones like this. I don't think the Pharisees supposed that murder was okay because David did it, or would have found this in any way confusing.

(Ever notice that most history books and biographies tend to present their heroes as 100% good? Their character flaws are often whitewashed: he was forced into it by circumstances; this was accepted practice at the time, etc. There are exceptions, of course, but I see this a lot. But the Bible goes to rather the opposite extreme, being quite emphatic about its heroes’ sins.)

That said, the Old Testament does seem to at least tolerate polygamy. There are some clues in the OT that indicate that God intended marriage to be monogamous. For example, Gen 2:24 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Note "wife", singular, not "a man shall be joined to his wives". Etc. But these are subtle enough that one could debate them, and I don't know of anything in the OT that clearly, explicitly mandates monogamy. There are plenty of places where a person's sin is called out, and I don't know of anyplace where polygamy is called out as a sin. I'm interested if anybody else here can point to such a verse.

As Flimzy notes, Jesus was condemning divorce, not polygamy. That doesn't mean polygamy is okay, of course, I'm sure there are lots of sins that the Bible does not record Jesus discussing. But that's not what he was talking about here.

share|improve this answer
    
I know it is difficult to separate what we call polygamy from what King David involved himself with in regards to women. However, my question is still did the Pharisees as well as the rest of the crowd have any confusion or how would they have been thinking/interpreting (at that time) when they knew God had given David these wives, and Jesus was seemingly saying that one man and one woman as the reason in terms of unity for male and female. –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 14:22
    
Did it become apparent to the Pharisees and crowd that there was a difference in what God gave David (or had given David the right to do) and what as Jesus states was God's original original intent for male and female when he referenced Genesis 2 –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 14:23
    
It seems that God gave David multiple wives. 2 Samuel 12:8 And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things." –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 14:23
    
That being said I don't wan't this to be about how Christians view polygamy today but rather what did those listening think or feel about this (through their eyes) compared to what Jesus was now saying. –  E1Suave May 17 '12 at 14:24
1  
@E1Suave - "However, my question is still did the Pharisees as well as the rest of the crowd have any confusion..." - I think they definitely had a confusion in their minds at that moment and didn't right away realize the difference between God's original intent and God's forbearance toward His people already in the fallen state. The following verses show both their confusion (verse 7) and the Savior's pointing out to that difference (verse 8: " because of the hardness of your hearts ... but from the beginning it was not so") –  brilliant May 18 '12 at 14:16
show 4 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.