"When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximilian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform." [George Joyce, (1933). Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study. Sheed and Ward. p. 560.]
In the 3rd century, Eusebius of Caesarea wrote the lost work "On the Numerous Progeny of the Ancients". Eusebius references this twice, in the "Præparatio Evangelica", VII, 8, and in the "Demonstratio Evangelica". [Eusebius of Cæsarea: Demonstratio Evangelica. Translated by W.J. Ferrar (1920). From the material on Demonstratio Evangelica I, 9]
Although his work has been given as an example of plural marriage being reconciled with the ascetic life, the problem dealt with was the contrast presented by the desire of the Patriarchs for a numerous offspring and the honour in which continence was held by Christians. [The Catholic Encyclopedia]
Socrates of Constantinople wrote in the 5th century that the Roman Emperor Valentinian I took two wives and authorized his subjects to take two wives, supporting that Christians were then practicing plural marriage. [Matilda Joslyn Gage “Women, Church and State,” Ch VII.]
There is little doubt that Christianity was moving away,. and seeking largely to shift from its former position of permitting plural marriage and towards monogamy, a position it eventually achieved, but not universally and not without difficulty.
Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian all spoke against polygamy, condemning it. Tertullian explicitly tackled the objection that polygamy was allowed for the patriarchs. He wrote,
"[E]ach pronouncement and arrangement is (the act) of one and the same God; who did then indeed, in the beginning, send forth a sowing of the race by an indulgent laxity granted to the reins of connubial alliances, until the world should be replenished, until the material of the new discipline should attain to forwardness: now, however, at the extreme boundaries of the times, has checked (the command) which He had sent out, and recalled the indulgence which He had granted". (De Monogamia chapt. VI.)
Of course, Tertullian was indulging in speculation as to why God had, not only allowed, but actually commanded, polygamy. The response of Christians was not always immediate/
The Roman Catholic Church held a synod in Hertford, England, in 673 that was supervised by Archbishop Theodore. Chapter 10 issued by the synod declared that marriage is allowed between one man and one woman, and separation (but not divorce) is only granted in the case of adultery, but even then remarriage is not allowed.
In the medieval period, multiple wives were often obtained through kidnapping. It is with this in view that we must interpret the following laws: The Frankish Laws of 818-9 strictly forbade kidnapping of women.
The XXVII. law issued by King Stephen I of Hungary (1000–1030) declares that the kidnapper must return the woman to her parents even if he has had sexual intercourse with her, and must pay a penalty to the parents. According to the Hungarian law, the kidnapped girl was then free to marry whomever.
The Roman Catholic Councils of 1052 and 1063 suspended from communion those laymen who had a wife and a concubine at the same time. Divorce was also forbidden, and remarriage after a divorce counted as polygamy. Nicholas the Great (858-67) forbade Lothair II of Lotharingia to divorce his barren wife Teutberga and marry his concubine Waldrada, with whom he had several children. After a council of the Lotharingian bishops, as well as the archbishop of Köln and Trier had annulled his marriage to Theutberga, the pope voided this decision, and made him take his wife back.
In Scandinavia, the word for an official concubine was "frille". Norwegian Bishop Øystein Erlendsson (ca. 1120-1188) declared that concubines were not allowed to accept the sacraments unless they married, and men were forced to promise marriage to women they had lain with outside of wedlock. In 1280, the Norwegian king Erik Magnusson (1280–99) declared that men were exempted from having to promise marriage to the frille if they went to confession and did penance. The Church answered by making several declarations in the 14th century, urging men to marry their concubines. In 1305, King Håkon V (1299–1319) issued a law that declared marriage to be the only lawful way of cohabitation, and declared that only women in wedlock were allowed to dress as they pleased, while the dress of concubines was restricted.
While monogamy was the norm among most Christians, even as other Christian continued the practice of plural marriage, in the 16th century there was a Christian re-examination of plural marriages. The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther wrote:
"I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter."
However, the context was a situation in which the sickness of a wife prevented matrimonial intercourse, and when asked for an opinion on polygamy in 1526, Luther wrote,
"It is my earnest warning and counsel that Christians especially shall have no more than one wife, not only because it is a scandal, which a Christian should avoid most diligently, but also because there is no word of God here to show that God approves it in Christians.... I must oppose it, especially in Christians, unless there be need, as for instance if the wife be a leper, or be taken away from the husband in some other way."
Arthur Cushman McGiffert states,
"Some of the radical Anabaptists undertook to introduce polygamy, appealing to the patriarchal order of society in justification of their position. Even among Luther's followers and associates there was no little uncertainty about the matter, as was not altogether surprising when the old order of things was undergoing revision at so many points, including the marriage of monks, priests, and near relatives. But Luther himself was unalterably opposed to any such revolution. Monogamy he considered, under ordinary circumstances, alone tolerable in a Christian community, and held that no Christian ruler has any moral right to legalize polygamy. At the same time, finding no explicit prohibition in the Bible, he believed exceptions might be allowed in certain extreme cases such as are now generally recognized in Protestant countries as justifying divorce.”
Lutheran theologians approved of Philip of Hesse's polygamous marriages to Christine of Saxony and Margarethe von der Saale for this purpose, as well as initial disapproval of divorce and adultery. As well as Phillip, there was much experimentation with marital duration within early German Lutheranism amongst clergy and their erstwhile wives.
The theologian Philipp Melanchthon likewise counseled that Henry VIII need not risk schism by dissolving his union with the established churches to grant himself divorces in order to replace his barren wives, but reluctantly, and with remorse afterward, consented that polygamy was an allowable alternative.
Anabaptist leader Bernhard Rothmann initially opposed the idea of plural marriage. However, he later wrote a theological defense of plural marriage, and took 9 wives himself, saying
"God has restored the true practice of holy matrimony amongst us."
Franz von Waldeck and the other enemies of Anabaptist leader John of Leiden accused him of keeping 16 wives, and publicly beheading one when she disobeyed him. This was used as the basis for their conquest of Münster in 1535.
The 16th-century Italian Capuchin monk, Bernardino Ochino, 77 years old and never married, wrote the "Thirty Dialogues", wherein Dialog XXI was considered a defense of plural marriage. Evidently, he borrowed some of his strongest arguments from a Lutheran dialogue written in 1541 in favor of plural marriage which was written under the fictitious name Huldericus Necobulus in the interest of justifying Philip of Hesse.
However, change was in the air.
The Council of Trent, 1563, was opposed to polygyny and concubinage, If anyone says that it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that it is not forbidden by any divine law (Matt. 19:4f): let him be anathema". The polemicist John Milton expressed support for polygamy in his De doctrina christiana.
The Lutheran pastor Johann Lyser strongly defended plural marriage in a work entitled "Polygamia Triumphatrix".
As a result, he was imprisoned, beaten and exiled from Italy to the Netherlands. They took their religion seriously in those days! His book was burned by the public executioner. He never married nor desired wedlock.
Samuel Friedrich Willenberg, a doctor of law at the University of Cracow wrote the pro-plural marriage book De finibus polygamiae licitae. In 1715, his book was ordered to be burned. Friedrich escaped with his life, but was fined one hundred thousand gold pieces.
One of the more notable published works regarding the modern concept of Christian Plural Marriage dates from the 18th century. The book Thelyphthora was written by Martin Madan, a significant writer of hymns and a contemporary of John and Charles Wesley. Although Madan was an adherent only of polygyny in a Christian context, this particular volume set the foundation of what is considered the modern Christian Plural Marriage movement.
In more recent times, there has been a change by way of a return to allowing plural marriages for Christians.
John Colenso, the Anglican bishop of Natal, South Africa , was the first to write down the Zulu language and he championed the Zulu way of life, including plural marriage.
The Nigerian Celestial Church of Christ allows clergy and laymen to keep multiple wives, and the Lutheran Church of Liberia began allowing plural marriage in the 1970s.
Several other denominations permit those already in polygamous marriages to convert and join their church without having to renounce their multiple marriages. These include the African instituted Harrist Church, started in 1913.
The Anglican church made a decision at the 1988 Lambeth Conference to admit those who were polygamists at the time they converted to Christianity, subject to certain restrictions. Polygamy was first discussed during the Lambeth Conference of 1888:
"That it is the opinion of this Conference that persons living in polygamy be not admitted to baptism, but they may be accepted as candidates and kept under Christian instruction until such time as they shall be in a position to accept the law of Christ. That the wives of polygamists may, in the opinion of this Conference, be admitted in some cases to baptism, but that it must be left to the local authorities of the Church to decide under what circumstances they may be baptized." (Resolution 5).
A resolution dated 1958 and numbered 120 states that:
"(a) The Conference bears witness to the truth that monogamy is the divine will, testified by the teaching of Christ himself, and therefore true for every race of men,"
"(d) The Conference, recognising that the problem of polygamy is bound up with the limitations of opportunities for women in society, urges that the Church should make every effort to advance the status of women in every possible way, especially in the sphere of education."
In 1988, Resolution 26 declared:
"This Conference upholds monogamy as God's plan, and as the ideal relationship of love between husband and wife; nevertheless recommends that a polygamist who responds to the Gospel and wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions:(1) that the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive;(2) that the receiving of such a polygamist has the consent of the local Anglican community;(3) that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer;(4) and recommends that provinces where the Churches face problems of polygamy are encouraged to share information of their pastoral approach to Christians who become polygamists so that the most appropriate way of disciplining and pastoring them can be found, and that the ACC be requested to facilitate the sharing of that information."
In 2008, the 114. Resolution of the Lambeth Conference said:
"In the case of polygamy, there is a universal standard – it is understood to be a sin, therefore polygamists are not admitted to positions of leadership including Holy Orders, nor after acceptance of the Gospel can a convert take another wife, nor, in some areas, are they admitted to Holy Communion."
William Luck states that polygyny is not prohibited by the Bible and that it would have been required of a married man who seduced (Ex. 22) or raped (Deut. 22) a virgin, where her father did not veto a marriage.
However, in a book-length consideration of the problem, William Blum argues that monogamy was always God's ideal. He points out that in every Old Testament example where polygynous families were described in any detail, family strife involving the plural wives is also described. He argues that the concept of two becoming one flesh makes polygamy a violation of God's plan for marriage.
The Mainstream Christian Church is sharply divided along lines that can only worsen as time passes.
I cannot agree whether Plural marriage is acceptable to not.