In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 it is stated that  an elder (or Bishop) “must be the husband of one wife.” This raises the question, “Does this disqualify a man who has been divorced and remarried?” This is the same as to ask, “Does a man who has been divorced and remarried have more than one wife?”

The only way to conclude that he has two wives is to accept the ruling of Catholic tradition that marriage is a “sacrament” and therefore unbreakable, so he is still married to the wife from whom he was divorced. If he is not still married to the first wife then he has only one wife. I see no Biblical support for the idea that he is still bound to the first wife. That is human theology, not Biblical revelation.

The phraseology iu the Greek text is “mias gunaikos aner” in Titus and “mias gunaikos andra” in Timothy. “Mias” means one. “Gunaikos” means woman (or wife) and “aner” and “andra” both mean husband. Literally this says an elder must be a one woman man. Scholars differ on whether it simply means as opposed to polygamy, (several wives at once) or does it have any reference to previous marriage and divorce. Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry are the only two I found who think it has application to a second marriage after divorce. I believe they are influenced by Catholic theology and are wrong. The others see it simply as meaning that an elder must not be a polygamist. I believe these are correct. If one does not accept the ruling from the Council of Trent, that marriage is a sacrament and cannot be broken, then he would recognize that the first marriage was ended with the divorce

decree and the man is the husband of one wife. When Moses commanded the bill of divorce in Deut. 24:1-3 he said that when that is done “she may go and be another man’s wife” (KJV) and may not return to the first husband.

A.T.Robertson, commenting on the phrase “of one wife” in 1 Tim. 3:2, says, “One at a time, clearly.” MacKnight, on the same passage, says that in view of the fact that a widow who teaches the young of her own sex the principles of the Christian religion, must have been the wife of one husband. “the apostle could not mean that persons who have married a second time are thereby disqualified for the sacred office. For in that case a bishop whose wife dies while he is young must lay down the office, unless he can live continently unmarried.” MacKnight goes on to point out that polygamy was a common practice in the Asiatic nations and that it contradicted the principles of Christianity and thus the apostle ordered that none should be made bishops but those who avoid polygamy, “who showed themselves temperate in the use of sensual pleasures.” This is the way I see it.

Commentators are virtually unanimous in the opinion that this passage does not intend to prevent a man from being a bishop if he has remarried after the death of his first wife. A few, however, do see it as disqualifying one who has remarried after a divorce, but most do not. As I said earlier, that idea is based on the unwarranted assumption that marriage is unbreakable and can not broken by divorce so that he is still married in the eyes of God. That has no foundation in scripture and in fact is contradictory to it.

Scholars all agree that the phrase “of one wife a husband” means literally “a one woman man,” as opposed to two or more wives at the same time. The terminology refers only to what the man is doing now. It has nothing to do with the past.

Many times a person who has had some evil in their past and has repented turns out to be the strongest and most faithful Christian of all. It is often the case that a man who has repented of some past evil has the best qualification now for leadership. It is sad that too often the church is deprived of his abilities and willingness to lead, simply because of a misunderstanding of the phrase “husband of one wife.” All of us are former sinners who have repented of some wrong things. If we are genuine in our repentance the Bible says those things of the past no longer exist. We should accept this in regard to all sins. We must stick with the Bible, not with man’s tradition.

I hope this is helpful.



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