Husband of One Wife Detraditionalized

A picture of a married couple

The phrase, husband of one wife, appears three times in the Bible: 1 Timothy 3:2 (bishops - pastors), 1 Timothy 3:12 (deacons), and Titus 1:6 (elders).

Churches use it as proof that pastors, elders, and deacons cannot be divorced. But is that what the Bible says? Or is it really tradition twisting the words of the Bible away from its true meaning?

There is one huge problem with using this phrase against a divorced man who has been remarried. Do you see it?

He IS the husband of one wife.

He does not have two wives. He has one.

Having two or more wives is illegal in the United States of America, so unless he is breaking the law, the only type of man in the US who is not the husband of one wife is a single man.

Husband of One Wife Logic

Just how logical is it to say that someone who has been divorced and later marries is not the husband of one wife? Change the wording to cars and you will see.

How many cars do you own? I own one car. I am the owner of one car. That does not mean that I have never owned other cars. I have owned ten cars in my life, but that does not make me the owner of ten cars. The other nine cars are no longer mine. It would be wrong and illogical to say that because I owned them at some point in my life that I actually am the owner of ten cars. I am not. This is quite obvious.

It is also quite obvious to anyone who does not twist the Bible's words around that a married man who has been previously divorced is the husband of one wife. Its only logical and true.

A One-wife-kind of Husband

An argument against this obvious truth is that in the Greek this phrase is actually "a one-wife-kind of husband" and not "a husband of one wife."

"A one-wife-kind of husband" is based on a bad understanding of the Greek text. It is based on the fact that "one wife" comes before "husband" in Greek. It does, but something else about it in Greek is ignored: "one wife" is in the genitive case. Stating it in English as "one-wife-kind of" makes it an adjective modifying husband, not a genitive. English expresses genitives by putting an "of" before the word: "of one wife." It is improper English to say "a of one wife husband," so "of one wife" has to go after "husband."

The genitive case shows ownership or possession. So this phrase is not referring to how many wives a husband has been married to, but how many he possesses. A divorced man who remarries does not possess two wives. He possesses one. He is the husband of one wife.

Is a Divorced Person still Married to the Divorced Spouse?

Some claim that God sees a divorced person as having more than one spouse. They insist that a divorced man is the husband of two or more wives. This is a lie that is easily disproven by the Bible. Jesus once talked to a woman who had been divorced five times and was living with a man (John 4:5-42). She said that she did not have a husband. Did Jesus respond and say that she was lying and that she was actually the wife of five or six men? No. He stated twice that she was correct to say that she was the wife of 0 men. How could she be correct in saying this, but a divorced man saying the same thing today in our churches is not? You be the judge.

The Greek word for Divorce is not There

Add to this the fact that the Greek word for divorce is not even in these passages. Greek has a word for divorce (apostasion) and a word for separation (apoluo). They are in the New Testament many times, but not in these passages.

You cannot say that these passages refer to divorce when they do not even mention it.

An Old Tradition - Not a Biblical Teaching

So where does the idea come from? The people who say these verses refer to divorce, where did they get this idea from? Were they reading the Bible and when they read "the husband of one wife", they thought divorce? No. Someone told them that they mean divorce and someone else told that person. A long chain of people telling others are responsible for this. This is what a tradition is.

The tradition of forbidding divorce stretches back to the Roman Catholic Church in the Dark Ages. It does not come from the Bible.

Return to the Bible

In the Bible times, some men had more than one wife. Plural marriages even exist today in that part of the world.

These passages that say "husband of one wife" disallow two types of men from being pastors, deacons, and elders: single men and men in plural marriages. They say nothing against divorced men.

The church needs to return to the Bible and follow it over tradition.

Click here to read "What the Bible really says about Divorce".