Husband of One Wife


Francis Turretin (1623 – 1687), Professor of Theology at the Academy of Geneva, sought to answer in the three volumes of his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Institutio Theologiae Elencticae) controversial issues for the Church. In this extract, taken from his discussion of the Seventh Commandment, he examines the issue of polygamy which was becoming a problem in his day. With the institution of marriage under constant attack, his explanation is useful for modern Church leaders for their on-going defense of marriage.

  1. It is against the first institution of marriage (Gen. 2:23, 24), to which Christ recalls the Jews. God made and joined together one man and one woman and sanctioned by an edict that two (not three or more) should be one flesh; also that the man should cleave to his own wife, not to wives; nor are they to be separated whom God has joined together (Mal. 2:15; Mt. 19:5).

  2. It is a sin against the nature of conjugal love, which is so peculiar and singular that it cannot receive a third person into participation of the same thing (as experience teaches in conjugal jealousy).

  3. Against the nature of the marriage contract, by which neither has power over his or her own body (1 Cor. 7:4). Hence he is convicted of injustice and treachery who joins himself to another (Mal. 2:14).

  4. Against the command of Paul, who wishes each wife to have her “own husband” (ton idion andra). Hence a wife is called an adulteress who becomes the wife of another while her husband is still living (Rom. 7:2, 3) because matrimonial fidelity ought to be reciprocal. This cannot be the case if one can have many husbands or one husband many wives.

  5. Against that united care of offspring which the end of marriage requires (which is divided in polygamy).

  6. Against the peace of the family because innumerable strifes arise from it (Lev. 18:18), as was seen in the house of Jacob (Gen. 30) and of Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:6).1


    1 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George H Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994), 2: 122.

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