Focus on the Family Citizen February 2009 : Page 22

Answering Newsweek ABRAHAM AND HAGAR A 1657 painting depicts the patriarch sending away Hagar and their son Ishmael. hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (ESV). The He- brew word translated “one flesh” describes a deeply intimate union between a man and a woman that is consummated in the sexual relation- ship. Note that “a man” (singular) shall leave his family of origin and shall join faithfully with “his wife” (singular). Everyone knows by painful ex- marriage and polygamy Here’s what Lisa Miller wrote about polygamy: Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four dif- ferent women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. ... Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: “Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be- come one flesh.” But as (Alan) Segal (of Barnard University) says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. ... Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Mo- nogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands’ frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became 22 © ALInARI ARCHIVES / CoRBIS taboo by the beginning of the 20th. Here’s the response of C. Ben Mitch- ell, director of The Center for Bio- ethics and Human Dignity and as- sociate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity In- ternational University: cation in any respectable magazine because of its ignorance of basic Bi- ble facts. The article is so outlandish that, were it not for contemporary biblical illiteracy, to respond to it would be to give it too much credit. But—because as Boston University’s Stephen Prothero has shown, 60 percent of Americans cannot name five of the Ten Commandments and 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married—Miller’s biblical revision- ism is especially dangerous. The biblical ideal for marriage is A for one man and one woman to en- joy a “one flesh” type of union for life. This much is clear from the creation story. After God made the first man, Adam, from the dust of the earth, He made the first wom- an from Adam’s side. Genesis 2:24 then teaches, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and mere 50 years ago Lisa Mill- er’s essay would have been deemed unworthy of publi- perience how traumatic it is to violate any aspect of this ideal. If the union of a husband and wife is broken by death, trauma results. If the marriage covenant is broken by adultery, trauma results. Similarly, according to the biblical narrative, if the covenant is violated through polygamy, trauma follows. Polygamy brings trouble ac- cording to the Bible. The Patriarch Abraham, for instance, had a wife, Sarah, and later added to their family an Egyptian servant named Hagar. Now we must understand that this was not a traditional po- lygamous relationship. Because of her infertility, Sarah invited Abra- ham to have a child through Hagar (Genesis 16:1ff). Furthermore, the relationship was disastrous from the beginning. Sarah and Hagar never got along, their lives were miser- able, and their children suffered as a result. Gideon, Jacob, David, and Solomon also had polygamous rela- tionships—all of them to their det- riment. Remember, the violation of the ideal always leads to trauma. Interestingly, though Jesus no- where explicitly condemns polyga- my, when asked by his detractors, the Pharisees, about the grounds for divorce, Jesus made a beeline for the creation ideal. “ ‘Have you not read,’ He answered them, ‘that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become Citizen

Answering Newsweek: Marriage and polygamy

C. Ben Mitchell

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