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The Biblical Definition of Marriage

03 Aug

So the Chick-Fil-A fiasco. Yes, yes, we all know about the usual Bible verses that point out the various arrangements of marriage. But, some people might think that that only applied in the “Old Testament” and was no longer valid for the NT. They would be wrong.

Here is Josephus (contemporary of the Gospel authors) describing events going on during the time period of Jesus:

2. …[Herod the Great] also allotted one of Aristobulus’s daughters to Antipater’s son, and Aristobulus’s other daughter to Herod, a son of his own, who was born to him by the high priest’s daughter; for it is the ancient practice among us to have many wives at the same time….

3. Now Herod the king had at this time nine wives; one of them Antipater’s mother, and another the high priest’s daughter, by whom he had a son of his own name. He had also one who was his brother’s daughter, and another his sister’s daughter; which two had no children. One of his wives also was of the Samaritan nation, whose sons were Antipas and Archelaus, and whose daughter was Olympias; which daughter was afterward married to Joseph, the king’s brother’s son; but Archelaus and Antipas were brought up with a certain private man at Rome. Herod had also to wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem, and by her he had his sons Herod and Philip; which last was also brought up at Rome. Pallas also was one of his wives, which bare him his son Phasaelus. And besides these, he had for his wives Phedra and Elpis, by whom he had his daughters Roxana and Salome. As for his elder daughters by the same mother with Alexander and Aristobulus, and whom Pheroras neglected to marry, he gave the one in marriage to Antipater, the king’s sister’s son, and the other to Phasaelus, his brother’s son. And this was the posterity of Herod.

– Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.1.3

And:

2. But although the grandees of Adiabene had failed in their first attempt, as being delivered up by God into their king’s hands, yet would they not even then be quiet, but wrote again to Vologases, who was then king of Parthia, and desired that he would kill Izates (d. 55 CE, just to put a timestamp on the context of the polygyny), and set over them some other potentate, who should be of a Parthian family; for they said that they hated their own king for abrogating the laws of their forefathers, and embracing foreign customs. When the king of Parthia heard this, he boldly made war upon Izates; and as he had no just pretense for this war, he sent to him, and demanded back those honorable privileges which had been bestowed on him by his father, and threatened, on his refusal, to make war upon him. Upon hearing of this, Izates was under no small trouble of mind, as thinking it would be a reproach upon him to appear to resign those privileges that had been bestowed upon him out of cowardice; yet because he knew, that though the king of Parthia should receive back those honors, yet would he not be quiet, he resolved to commit himself to God, his Protector, in the present danger he was in of his life; and as he esteemed him to be his principal assistant, he intrusted his children and his wives to a very strong fortress, and laid up his corn in his citadels, and set the hay and the grass on fire. And when he had thus put things in order, as well as he could, he awaited the coming of the enemy. And when the king of Parthia was come, with a great army of footmen and horsemen, which he did sooner than was expected, (for he marched in great haste,) and had cast up a bank at the river that parted Adiabene from Media, – Izates also pitched his camp not far off, having with him six thousand horsemen. But there came a messenger to Izates, sent by the king of Parthia, who told him how large his dominions were, as reaching from the river Euphrates to Bactria, and enumerated that king’s subjects; he also threatened him that he should be punished, as a person ungrateful to his lords; and said that the God whom he worshipped could not deliver him out of the king’s hands. When the messenger had delivered this his message, Izates replied that he knew the king of Parthia’s power was much greater than his own; but that he knew also that God was much more powerful than all men. And when he had returned him this answer, he betook himself to make supplication to God, and threw himself upon the ground, and put ashes upon his head, in testimony of his confusion, and fasted, together with his wives and children….

– Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.4.2

So polygyny was still going on in the time period of Jesus. Yet Jesus never condemns Herod. Did Jesus not have the gall to do what John the Baptist did? Or did Jesus implicitly accept polygyny as well?

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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in early Christianity, historicity, pseudo-history

 

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