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Polygamy: Group Marriage Essay Sample

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Polygamy: Group Marriage Essay Sample

Polygamy (from πολύς γάμος polys gamos, translated literally in Late Greek as “many married”)[1] is a marriage which includes more than two partners.[1] When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, the relationship is called polygyny, and there is no marriage bond between the wives; and when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry, and there is no marriage bond between the husbands. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called group marriage.[1] The term is used in related ways in social anthropology, sociobiology, sociology, as well as in popular speech.

In social anthropology, polygamy is the practice of a person’s making him/herself available for two or more spouses to mate with. In contrast, monogamy is a marriage consisting of only two parties. Like monogamy, the term is often used in a de facto sense, applying regardless of whether the relationships are recognized by the state (see marriage for a discussion on the extent to which states can and do recognize potentially and actually polygamous forms as valid). In sociobiology and zoology, polygamy is used in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating. ————————————————-

Forms of polygamy

Polygamy exists in three specific forms: polygyny – wherein a man has multiple simultaneous wives;[2] polyandry – wherein a woman has multiple simultaneous husbands; or group marriage – wherein the family unit consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives. Historically, all three practices have been found, but polygyny is by far the most common.[3] Ambiguity arises when the broad term “polygamy” is used when a specific form of polygamy is being referred to. Additionally, different countries may or may not include all forms in their laws on polygamy.

Polyandry

Main article: Polyandry

Polyandry is a practice wherein a woman has more than one husband at the same time. Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadicTibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers are married to the same wife, with the wife having equal ‘sexual access’ to them.

The Indian epic the Mahabharata includes the polyandrous marriage of Draupadi to the five Pandava brothers. Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival.[4] It is a rare form of marriage that exists not only among poor families, but also the elite.[5]

Group marriage

Main article: Group marriage

Group marriage is a marriage wherein the family unit consists of more than two partners, any of whom share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage.[6] Group marriage is a form of non-monogamy and polyamory. ————————————————-

Patterns of occurrence worldwide

According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry.[3] At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple.[7] To take on more than one wife often requires considerable resources: this may put polygamy beyond the means[citation needed] of the vast majority of people within those societies. Such appears the case in many traditionalIslamic societies, and in Imperial China. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth, power, and fame. ————————————————-

Buddhism

In Buddhism, marriage is not a sacrament. It is purely a secular affair and the monks do not participate in it, though in some sects priests and monks do marry. Hence it receives no religious sanction.[8] Forms of marriage consequently vary from country to country. It is said in the Parabhava Sutta that “a man who is not satisfied with one woman and seeks out other women is on the path to decline”. Other fragments in the Buddhist scripture can be found that seem to treat polygamy unfavorably, leading some authors to conclude that Buddhism generally does not approve of it[9] or alternatively that it is a tolerated, but subordinate marital model.[10]

Until 1935 polygyny was legally recognized in Thailand. In Burma, polygyny was also frequent. It is still legally recognized but very rarely practiced in modern day and socially less acceptable.[citation needed] In Sri Lanka, polyandry was practiced (though not widespread) till recent times.[8] When the Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese, the concubines of others were added to the list of inappropriate partners. Polyandry in Tibet as well was common traditionally, as was polygyny, and having several wives or husbands was never regarded as having sex with inappropriate partners.[11]

Tibet is home to the largest and most flourishing polyandrous community in the world today. Most typically, fraternal polyandry is practiced, but sometimes father and son have a common wife, which is a unique family structure in the world. Other forms of marriage are also present, like group marriage and monogamous marriage.[12] Polyandry (especially fraternal polyandry) is also common among Buddhists in Bhutan, Ladakh, and other parts of the Indian subcontinent. [edit]Celtic traditions

The pre-Abrahamic Celtic pagans were known to practice polygamy, although the Celtic peoples wavered between it, monogamy and polyandry depending on the time period and area.[13] In some areas this continued on even after Christianisation began, for instance the Brehon Laws of Gaelic Ireland explicitly allowed for polygamy,[14][15] especially amongst the noble class.[16] Some modern Celtic pagan religions accept the practice of polygamy to varying degrees,[17] though how widespread the practice is within these religions is unknown.

Greeks & Romans

The Greeks and the Romans never practiced polygamy. The practice was thought to disrupt inheritance lines and thus was never sanctioned by the state.[citation needed]

Christianity

Main article: Polygamy in Christianity
Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygyny. He refrained from judging the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygyny. On the contrary, he argued that the polygyny of the Fathers, which was tolerated by the Creator because of fertility, was a diversion from His original plan for human marriage. Augustine wrote: That the good purpose of marriage, however, is better promoted by one husband with one wife, than by a husband with several wives, is shown plainly enough by the very first union of a married pair, which was made by the Divine Being Himself.[18] Augustine taught that the reason patriarchs had many wives was not because of fornication, but because they wanted more children.

He supported his premise by showing that their marriages, in which husband was the head, were arranged according to the rules of good management: those who are in command (quae principantur) in their society were always singular, while subordinates(subiecta) were multiple. He gave two examples of such relationships: dominus-servus – master-servant (in older translation: slave) and God-soul. The Bible often equates worshipping multiple gods, i.e. idolatry to fornication.[19] Augustine relates to that: On this account there is no True God of souls, save One: but one soul by means of many false gods may commit fornication, but not be made fruitful.[20]

As tribal populations grew, fertility was no longer a valid justification of polygamy: it was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce (utrum et nunc fas sit, non temere dixerim). For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful.”[21] Augustine saw marriage as sacrament-friendly covenant between one man and one woman, which may not be broken.

It was the Creator who established monogamy: Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife.[22] Such marriage was confirmed by the Saviour in the Gospel of Matthew (Mat 19,9) and by His presence at the wedding in Cana (John 2:2).[23] In the Church—the City of God—marriage is a sacrament and may not and cannot be dissolved as long as the spouses live: But a marriage once for all entered upon in the City of our God, where, even from the first union of the two, the man and the woman, marriage bears a certain sacramental character, can in no way be dissolved but by the death of one of them..[24]

In chapter 7, Augustine pointed out that the Roman Empire forbad polygamy, even if the reason of fertility would support it: For it is in a man’s power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome (nostris quidem iam temporibus ac more Romano), neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living. Further on he notices that the Church’s attitude goes much further than the secular law regarding monogamy: It forbids re-marrying, considering such to be a form of fornication: And yet, save in the City of our God, in His Holy Mount, the case is not such with the wife. But, that the laws of the Gentiles are otherwise, who is there that knows not .[25]

The New Testament does not specifically address the morality of polygamy. 1 Timothy, however, states that certain Church leaders should have but one wife: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach” (chapter 3, verse 2; see also verse 12 regarding deacons having only one wife). Similar counsel is repeated in the first chapter of the Epistle of Titus; however, the redactor[26] of 1 Corinthians (chapter 7, verse 2) writes, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and letevery woman have her own husband.”

In modern times a minority of Roman Catholic theologians have argued that polygyny, though not ideal, can be a legitimate form of Christian marriage in certain regions, in particular Africa.[27][28] The Roman Catholic Church teaches in its Catechism that “polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.”[29]

Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygyny as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as “Der Beichtrat” (or “The Confessional Advice” ),[30] Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living “constantly in a state of adultery and fornication,”[31] a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret, however, to avoid public scandal.[32]

Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not “forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture.” (“Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.”)[33] “On February 14, 1650, the parliament at Nürnberg decreed that, because so many men were killed during the Thirty Years’ War, the churches for the following ten years could not admit any man under the age of 60 into a monastery. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry.

Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them.”[34][35][36][37][38][39] The trend towards frequent divorce and remarriage is sometimes referred to as ‘serial polygamy’.[40] In contrast, others may refer to this as ‘serial monogamy’, since it is a series of monogamous relationships.[41]

The first term highlights the multiplicity of marriages throughout the life-cycle, the second the non-simultaneous nature of these marriages. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has often been a tension between the Christian churches’ insistence on monogamy and traditional polygamy. In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in other instances, churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament which describe polygamy in defending the practice.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church clearly condemns polygamy; the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists it in paragraph 2387 under the head “Other offenses against the dignity of marriage” and states that it “is not in accord with the moral law.” Also in paragraph 1645 under the head “The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love” states “The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to husband and wife in mutual and unreserved affection. Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive.”

The illegality of polygamy in certain areas creates, according to certain Bible passages, additional arguments against it. Paul of Tarsus writes “submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience” (Romans 13:5), for “the authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

St Peter concurs when he says to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13,14) Pro-polygamists argue that, as long as polygamists currently do not obtain legal marriage licenses nor seek “common law marriage status” for additional spouses, no enforced laws are being broken any more than when monogamous couples who similarly co-habitate without a marriage license.[42] Matthew chapter 19 verse 9

Matthew 19:9 ESV / 10 helpful votes
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

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