Does New Testament Allow Polygamy? Uncover the Surprising Truth

Curious about what the New Testament says about polygamy? You’re not alone. This topic has sparked countless debates among scholars, religious leaders, and everyday folks alike. While the Old Testament features several prominent figures with multiple wives, the New Testament seems to shift the focus, emphasizing different values and principles.

Does New Testament Allow Polygamy? Uncover the Surprising Truth

As you dive into the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, you’ll notice a stronger emphasis on monogamy and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. But does this mean polygamy is outright condemned? Let’s explore the nuances and see what the New Testament really has to say on this intriguing subject.

Historical Context of Marriage in the New Testament

Jewish Marriage Traditions

Jewish marriages focused on family and community. Men commonly married in their late teens or early twenties. Marriage agreements included a bride price or dowry, not just love.

Roman Marriage Customs

Romans had diverse marriage practices. Legal contracts often defined marriages, prioritizing social status. Divorce was common among Romans and could occur for various reasons.

Analysis of Key New Testament Scriptures

Teachings of Jesus on Marriage

Jesus spoke about marriage in Matthew 19:4-6. He emphasized that in the beginning, God made them male and female and that a man should be united to his wife. This union, Jesus explained, is so strong that they become one flesh and should not be separated.

Jesus reinforced monogamy by highlighting the original design for marriage. He referenced Genesis, reminding listeners of the sacred bond between one man and one woman.

Paul’s Letters and Views on Marriage

Paul addressed marriage in his letters, particularly in 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5. He instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, showing selfless love and devotion.

Paul also advised church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:2 to be the husband of one wife, implying monogamy. This established a clear model for Christian leaders and, by extension, all believers.

Theological Perspectives on Polygamy in the New Testament

When looking at the New Testament, it’s clear that monogamy, the marriage between one man and one woman, is emphasized.

Arguments Against Polygamy

Jesus talks about marriage in Matthew 19:4-6. He says that a man should be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, signifying monogamy.

Paul’s letters also support monogamy. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul advises that a man should have one wife to avoid immorality.

Ephesians 5 describes the relationship between husband and wife and compares it to Christ and the Church. This implies a one-to-one relationship, not multiple wives.

1 Timothy 3:2 states that a church leader should be the husband of one wife. This sets a clear example for the Christian community, promoting monogamy.

Arguments Supporting Polygamy

Some point to the Old Testament, mentioning figures like Abraham, David, and Solomon who had multiple wives. These examples show that polygamy was practiced in those times.

Others might argue that culture shapes marriage practices. In some cultures, polygamy is still accepted, and people think the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn it.

However, the New Testament teachings shift towards monogamy, aligning more with the model of one husband and one wife.

By focusing on Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings, you see that the New Testament leans strongly toward monogamy rather than polygamy. This helps shape the Christian understanding of marriage today.

Comparative Religious Views on Polygamy

Polygamy in Old Testament Times

The Old Testament includes several examples of polygamy. Figures like Abraham, David, and Solomon had multiple wives. This happened within cultural norms of their times, not as a divine command.

Polygamy in Other World Religions

Islam permits polygamy, allowing a man to have up to four wives if he can treat them equally. Hinduism offers varied views; some texts allow it, while others endorse monogamy. Buddhism generally encourages monogamy, but practices vary by culture.


While the Old Testament contains examples of polygamy among key figures, the New Testament promotes monogamy through the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This shift reflects a broader cultural and religious evolution towards one-on-one partnerships. Polygamy’s acceptance varies across other religions, but in the context of Christianity, the New Testament leans strongly towards monogamous relationships. Understanding these differences helps you appreciate the diverse perspectives on marriage throughout history and across cultures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is polygamy?

Polygamy refers to the practice of having more than one spouse simultaneously. This can include one man having multiple wives (polygyny) or one woman having multiple husbands (polyandry).

How does the Old Testament view polygamy?

The Old Testament includes several examples of polygamy among prominent figures such as Abraham, David, and Solomon. These instances are seen as cultural practices rather than divine commandments.

What is the New Testament’s stance on polygamy?

In the New Testament, teachings by Jesus and the apostles generally emphasize monogamy. The shift towards monogamy highlights a change from earlier practices found in the Old Testament.

Are there any religious groups today that accept polygamy?

Yes, certain religious groups and sects accept polygamy. For example, Islam allows a man to have up to four wives if he treats them equally. However, polygamy is not commonly practiced in most modern societies.

How is polygamy viewed in Islam?

In Islam, a man is allowed to have up to four wives, provided he can treat them all equally and justly. This practice is based on the teachings found in the Quran.

What is Hinduism’s view on polygamy?

Hinduism’s views on polygamy have varied historically. While ancient texts mention polygamy, it is generally less common today, with modern Hindu society largely favoring monogamous marriages.

What is Buddhism’s stance on polygamy?

Buddhism generally leans towards monogamy, advocating ethical behavior in relationships. Monogamous relationships are more in line with the principles of non-harm and respect.

Does the New Testament explicitly prohibit polygamy?

The New Testament does not explicitly prohibit polygamy, but it promotes monogamy through teachings that emphasize one husband and one wife relationships, as seen in letters by the apostles.

Are Old Testament examples of polygamy considered divine commands?

No, the examples of polygamy in the Old Testament involving figures like Abraham, David, and Solomon are viewed as cultural practices rather than divine commands from God.