lördag, augusti 12, 2006


Polygamy was – and is – something for the rich, in ancient Judea as in Rome (where Emperors Nero and Basil the Great were both married to 2 women and 2 men). It’s about men and women having different social, legal and political rights.

Long-time there were laws (still are in many Islamic countries) specifically catering to the situation of 1 man married to several women (the women are only married to one man: the same – not with each other).

In 1 Cor 7:10ff and Mark 10:1-12 with parallels (Luke 16:18, Matt 5:27ff, Matt 19:9ff), repudium, the specific form of one-sided divorce (of the man) under Polygamy is discussed and rejected. So these passages are not about “marriage” as is often claimed – not even about Western mutual Divorce, which did not exist in the Mediterranean world – but about one-sided repudium.

By Ezraism, from 398 BC, repudium was mandatory if the other half (in practice, the man) dabbled in the other cult: porneía; sacral prostitution, or was of a different Etnicity, cf Ezra 10.

In 1 Cor 7 Paul rejects this: the parties hallow one another and their children. Separation is not necessary.

It took the Church almost a 1000 years to eradicate Polygamy from Europe. But there are still vestiges of it in some German Princely House laws. Also partnerships and cohabitations – mistaken as “modern” by most – are in fact mere continuations of the several unequal/different legal forms of marriage under Polygamy.

As late as in the mid 19th century Frederick VII of Denmark was married to a spouse and a wife, though divorced in between, and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who died only last year, was born of a “morganatic”, that is a private marriage, giving different (less) rights to the wife and children.

Today repudium – which comes from ancient Egyptian law – lingers on in Islamic law – it was discontinued in Morocco only a couple of years ago.

This site gives some fascinating facts about marriage contracts and repudium in ancient Egypt.

The language used in these contracts, as in the NT texts, is different/unequal/one-sided, because the social, legal and political situation was unequal. Only the man could repudiate, the woman would leave, provided there was such a clause in the contract.

2 kommentarer:

Peter O sa...

Where do you get the extraordinary idea that Basil the Great was married to two women AND two men? Where's your sources? Basil himself wrote of marrying more than one person that "such a state is no longer called marriage but polygamy or, indeed, a moderate fornication."

Göran Koch-Swahne sa...

Would like to see that in Greek!

From John Boswell, such things were not un-known those days, you know.