The Husband of one Wife? -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 04:2 (Spring 1990)
Article: The Husband of one Wife?
Author: Anonymous


The Husband of one Wife?

There is considerable debate as to how we should understand the command that a bishop, elder, or deacon should be the husband of one wife. (I Timothy 2:2,12. Titus 1:6) Sometimes these verses are used to argue that only men may be deacons, elders, or bishops because only men have wives. Actually, women enrolled in the order of widows were required to have (or have had) only one husband. (I Timothy 5:9).

Sometimes inscriptions described a Roman woman as “univira” — having had but one husband. This was an honorific title and implied special virtue in an age when multiple marriages were all too common. Bruce Fleming recently called to our attention that this commendation appears on both pagan and Jewish tomb-stones, whether the dead individual had been a man or a woman.

The expression indicated a dedication to one’s spouse. For more information and bibliography, we refer our readers to a commentary on I Timothy 3:2 in Traduction Oecuménique de la Bible, edition integrate, Nouveau Testament, Les Éditions Cerf, 29 Bd Latour-Maubourg, Paris VII, 1981, p. 646, n. a. from which we quote:

Mais on peut aussi entrendre les expressions mari d’une settle femme ou femme d’un seal mari (cf. I Tim. 5:9), expressions que Ton rencontre dans les inscriptions juives et palennes, dans le sens d’un amour conjugal particulierement fervent

None would question that the New Testament enjoins single-hearted commitment of husband and wife to one another. Nevertheless, another facet of Jewish family life may have been addressed in the scriptural command that men in leadership should have only one wife.

The recent publication of documents discovered in a cave about five and a half kilometers from the Dead Sea has demonstrated that polygamy was far more common in Jewish families than had been previously supposed.

Along with many household items and about twenty skeletons, a cache of letters and legal documents lay in a cave known as the Cave of Letters. The dead individuals had apparently taken refuge there during the Bar Kochba Rebellion and had brought with them important possessions.

In the case of one woman, Babatha, this included a collection of thirty-five carefully preserved legal documents dating from AD 93/94 to 132. They had been bound together according to subject and stashed in a leather bag, which was then placed, along with a considerable amount of valuable flax thread, in an old wate...

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