Friday, December 14, 2007

Hank Hanegraaff doesn't handle a Polygyny question.

On Hank Hanegraaff’s program, “The Bible Answerman” on December 10th, 2007 a caller introduces the subject of “eisegesis” which turns out to be his way of segueing into a discussion of what he calls “poly-GUY-nee”, this being his mispronunciation of polygyny which is actually pronounced “puh-LIJ-uh-nee”.
The caller then poses the problem that discussing polygyny VS “monogamy only” for the Christian, seems to be uncomfortably like eisegesis when it comes to deriving the value of “monogamy only” for the laity. The first assertion is that for deacons and elders and Kings, it seems to him that monogamy is indeed imposed, but that he has a friend who believes in polygyny as a valid form of marriage who simply points out that he is none of those things. I have cleaned out a few “ums”, “uhs” and meaningless interjections.

Hank: “If you look at the passage, 1st Timothy Chapter 3, the passage is about overseers and deacons.

Caller: “I was thinking about that as well as the one in the Old Testament about Kings. And because Kings were forbidden to have more than one wife and then in the 1st Timothy passage you’re talking about, you also have the deacons and the overseers and the pastors.”

Hank: “Right, the principle is the same though isn’t it? In this particular context though, 1st Timothy Chapter 3 and Deuteronomy 17:17…if you look at 1st Timothy Chapter 3, Paul here is writing about deacons, who are to be men, like overseers” (and then he quotes, paraphrasing a bit, apparently from the NIV):

8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.”

Caller: “Yes, so the passage when taken does forbid those four occupations from polygyny…”

Hank: (interrupting) “You’re talking about polygamy, right?”

Caller: “Well, we always know that polyandry is forbidden, I was just talking about polygyny where (there are) multiple wives, not multiple husbands. The thing that I’m saying is I took him to where it says, for example, “Let every man have his own wife” (1st Corinthians 7:2) and he says ‘If I had multiple wives, isn’t each of them my own, not somebody elses'?"

Hank: (laughing skeptically) “I think the point here though is a prohibition against promiscuity in context, as well as polygamy in the sense that man’s affection has to be for his wife alone, and that’s the point.”

Caller: “I tried that too but his argument was ‘Well, if I’m married to them, then it’s not adultery and it’s not fornication’.”

Hank: “But you have to interpret scripture in light of scripture and the whole of scripture teaches us that we should be the husband of one wife. We leave all others and cling to one another and the two become ‘one flesh’.”

Caller: “So where would you take somebody who wants that literally said?”

Hank: “I would take them throughout the scriptures to all the passages in which you have a strong prohibition against polygamy.”

Caller: “But when I do that he says ‘It doesn’t actually say that and therefore it’s eisegesis’.”

Hank: “I don’t think that’s the case, I think that polygamy is something that is very clearly talked about in a lot of different ways.”

Caller: “I can’t find the passage where it actually says so straightforwardly so it’s not talking about one of those four occupations. So I wasn’t able to give him a literal verse about somebody who is not a King, overseer, pastor or deacon. I couldn’t find any passage that is clearly applying to the laity.”

Hank: “I think what you need to do is point out that polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament but was never commended by God and in the New Testament you want to look first at the authority of Jesus Christ who makes it clear that a man leaves his father and mother and is united to wife, not wives, and the two, not three or more, become ‘one flesh’. Jesus even refers to Genesis chapter 2:24 in making his point. In fact, when Jesus says “anyone who divorces except for marital unfaithfulness and marries another woman, he commits adultery” (Matthew 19)

Caller: “If you have some passages I’d really…”

Hank: “Let me give you a couple off the top of my head, we’ve mentioned the Deuteronomy 17:17 where a man must not be polygamous by marrying multiple wives and in 1st Kings chapter, I think it’s 11, you have Solomon having 700 wives and 300 concubines and as a result of that he runs into all kinds of problems.

In 1st Corinthians Chapter 7, Paul picks up the same kind of theme that is used by Jesus by saying each man should have his own wife, not wives and each woman her own husband, again, not husbands. That’s 1st Corinthians Chapter 7. And then you have ‘a wife must not separate from her husband, again, not husbands, and if she does she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband’, again, singular and “a husband must not divorce his wife’ again, not wives, plural. If you got to 1st Timothy Chapter 3, the passage that we talked about earlier, again, I think that pretty compelling, even though you had some discussion on that, Titus 1:6 also points out that an elder must be the husband of one wife, again, much more could be said, thank you for your question…"

My comments are as follows: Hank either is a novice to this discussion or he's trying to intimidate the caller to back him off. Hank is wrong. The caller, while not being able to pronounce the word "polygyny" correctly, is nonetheless careful enough to use the right word and contrast it with the larger meaning of polygamy and the practice of polyandry which is part of that larger meaning. No one of the three words appear in scripture, so we must use their secular definitions. Only polygyny is practiced in scripture, that which we would call polyandry is always defined as sexual sin in scripture and scripture makes absolutely no apologies for being what we in our society would call "sexist". The argument, "what's sauce for the goose" does not fly in the Bible. Polygamy is simply too broad a category as it is inclusive of polyandry. Hank later employs the sort of equivocation he sets up by with the insistence on the word polygamy later by blurring passages intended only for men, or only for women to apply to both men and women, just as he uses polygamy instead of polygyny.

Next, the caller, Hank, and our third party polygyny advocate (apparently) see 4 categories of forbidding which Pastor, Elder, Deacon, and King. It is notable that this is what is known as "inclusionary" language. Inclusionary language is used whenever a writer of a contract wants to focus only on those included, not those which are not spoken of. The caller and Hank employ a kind of misdirection. By making the list extra long, they try to imply it's a good idea since there are so many people included and by spreading the tent as many places as they do, that this really seems like the scriptures meant everybody. In reality though, when writers in all cultures and languages and lawyers who write contracts list categories specifically, that is all they wish to include. Thus the friend of the caller is correct. He's laity, it doesn't apply to him.

Additionally, the list is shorter. Kings are not on it. Kings are not to "multiply" or have "many" wives depending on the translation of the Hebrew word "rabah". The meaning of "rabah" is made clear by the preceding verse, Deuteronomy 17:16 in which a king is not to have "rabah" horses. It's quite simple, either a King is to have one wife, and this behavior is to be a moral right and example to all and he is also to have one horse with the same moral and behavioral compulsions for the laity. The idea that each Israelite could only have one horse, is, ridiculous.

Hank then employs the idea that it's "obvious" several times and cites the "whole of scripture" and uses phrases like "scripture interprets scripture" and the meaning of all of those phrases is pretty simple. "Don't be a dummy, agree with me, it's obvious, and if you can't see it, you're a dummy." Hank is very polite, but this is what he is saying.

Hank also cites 1st Corinthians 7:2 without pointing out the entirely different word for "own" in the Greek in each case which make the meanings of "own wife" and "own husband" potentially VERY different. The English is simply not specific in this case, and allows for that dramatic potential difference in meaning, the Greek in fact, makes the meanings contrasting, not identical. The only question is, how different?

Hank dodges the fact that as the caller clearly states, there is no specific prohibition against polygyny. Hank also falsely states that God does not "commend" polygyny, when in fact God must do so since he employs it as a regular feature of the inheritance solution and compulsion found in "levirate law" in Deuteronomy 25.

Hank also employs a definition of "one flesh" that is essentially a construing of "one flesh" as a synonym for "monogamy" which is also a synonym in his lexicon for "marriage". They are not all the same thing. Monogamy is in fact marriage, but if polygyny advocates are correct, so is polygyny. Thus monogamy would be a kind of marriage, but not the extent of what marriage is. Neither the practice of polygyny or monogamy would speak to all of what would be contained in the word marriage. Got himself says two marriages can exist at the same time to one man later in his law. If God says that, then if you are married to two, and you are "one flesh" with those to whom you are married, it's simple. You're "one flesh" with both wives. Nothing in the Biblical concept of "one flesh" says "One wife, One Husband ONLY."

This would lead us to our next error on Mr. Hanegraaff's part. The equivocation of polygyny and promiscuity. At best, if he is correct, this is redundant. If polygyny is not marriage but sexual sin, then all the injunctions against promiscuity apply. Otherwise, they do not, for as Hebrews teaches, the marriage bed is undefiled. If in fact marriage exists in the case of polygyny, then none of the injunctions against promiscuity and fornication apply.

Mr. Hanegraaff then does what most monogamy only proponents do. After having laid a groundwork of equivocation, they simply begin to lie. In fairness, a lot of the lies are unconscious and depend on the groundwork of eisegesis they have already laid. Hank says that Solomon's problems were due to his wives when scripture never does, and in fact lays that problem squarely at the feet of WHO his wives were. It was not the plurality of Solomon's wives that were the problem, it was that some of them (thus wives) were foreigners and unbelievers. Strange women. This is clearly stated as wrong in the law, that admonition being repeated throughout the Old Testament, and later in Nehemiah 13, it is scripture itself that pronounces Solomon's sin to be his foreign, unbelieving or "strange" wives. His believing wives, are not a problem. He also lies by misquoting the scriptures, saying that Deuteronomy 17:17 is a simple prohibition of polygyny in general. Whatever it prohibits, it prohibits only to Kings.

Hank also drags the dead cat of divorce into the proceeding. Monogamy only advocates do this frequently so as to equate the two because they both involve the subject of marriage. A man who is polygynous need never get a divorce, for any reason. He could, but more than the monogamy only advocate, he is averse to divorce. Divorce has no place in this discussion. It's simply a Trojan Horse to bring the categories of "God's displeasure" and his "reluctant or permissive will" into play. Whatever God says about divorce, is about divorce. Not about polygyny.

I could go into greater detail, but I already have elsewhere. I've touched on the failings of Hank's arguments. If anyone cares to comment or is unfamiliar with my work, I would be glad to expand on them.

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Elkanah said...

This was a very good article on how the serial-monogamy folks just cannot come to terms with the double standard in the Word of God regarding men and women.

Anonymous said...

Mr Hanegraaff will hang up on anyone who can out-scripture fact if my memory serves me right the founder of did just that :)