Comments/Questions from Readers

Question #24: In order to hold any position of authority in the congregation, one was limited to one wife, to set an example (1Tim 3). The claim that the scripture in 1Tim 3 could mean they must be married and must have kept their "first" wife is just wrong: 1Tim was written by Paul, who was obviously single (1Cor 7:8). This is a cap and not a minimum.

Let's take a good look at the passage in question:

1 Timothy 3:1-5: "Trustworthy is the word: If a man longs for the position of an overseer, he desires a good work. An overseer, then, should be blameless, the husband of one [3391] wife, sober, sensible, orderly, kind to strangers, able to teach, not given to wine, no brawler, but gentle, not quarrelsome, no lover of money, one who rules his own house well, having his children in subjection with all reverence, for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how shall he look after the assembly of Elohim?"

You believe the overseer is "limited to one wife, to set an example". An example of what, exactly? Monogyny? The audience certainly would not have guessed it based on Paul's words and their understanding of what makes a valid marriage. I'm afraid this is a case of reading into the text what it does not say. Nowhere is it even suggested that the "example" being set is one of monogyny over polygyny, but rather, the clear implication is one of managing those things under his authority. When we read the entire passage instead of an isolated phrase, we see that the entire issue is about authority, not monogyny.

"one who rules his own house well, having his children in subjection with all reverence, for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how shall he look after the assembly of Elohim?"

Does this passage demonstrate that Paul was trying to communicate monogyny over polygyny, or handling authority well? You say "mia" couldn't mean "first" here because Paul was unmarried and would therefore be disqualifying himself. If you notice, this passage also requires the overseer to rule his own house well and have his children in subjection with all reverence. Since Paul was unmarried, he had no house or children to rule, which would also disqualify him based on your understanding. Any way we look at it, your interpretation means Paul's own words would disqualify both himself, as well as Jesus, from being an overseer.

Nevertheless, if the word "mia" in these passages somehow meant "one and ONLY one", then we need to realize the implications of this statement:

(1) There were enough believers with multiple wives at the time these passages were written to warrant explicit prohibition for overseers, attendants and elders.

(2) The same prohibition was NOT for everyone else (Jews, gentiles, apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, etc.), so if nothing else, these passages actually would give implicit PERMISSION for all other men to have multiple wives.

Prohibiting something to one group of men implies permisson for all others. If a sign says that swimming is not allowed on Tuesdays, it implies swimming is allowed on other days. The precise wording of Paul allows no way to escape this conclusion. If "mia" is taken to mean "one and ONLY one", then we are admitting that polygyny was permitted for those outside these leadership roles.

Whether we think this passage says he should "husband one wife", "husband first wife" or "husband a wife", the passage certainly does not say he should "husband ONLY one wife". The truth is that Paul, being a Pharisee and an expert in the Law, knew that a man was entitled to husband multiple wives, just as he was entitled to father multiple children. There wasn't some radical redefinition of marriage presented in the New Testament. If Paul was fundamentally opposed to polygyny, why didn't he (or Jesus for that matter) just forbid polygyny altogether?

Even in a monogynous marriage relationship, the form of the man's authority in the home is assumed to be plural, unless he never has any children. Having a ruling authority over even one wife and one child demonstrate that your assumption is backwards. This is actually a minimum and not a cap. Paul was clear that the man should be married and have his entire house in order.




"...In essentials we maintain unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love..."

Your comments are welcome!