Result of Pope Nicholas I’s Campaign Against Polygamy

I was wondering why “R. Geshom ben Judah, known as the Meor Hagolah, light of the exile, issued a, takana, ordinance prohibiting bigamy” (B. Hooper, 2007) and found this blog post discussing different scholars’ attempts to precisely identify the motivating factors for the ban, or kherem.

During Hooper’s discussion, he mentioned one scholar’s attempt to tie the ban to the activity of the Roman Catholic Church in the two centuries prior to the ban. Either Hooper or the scholar Zeev Flak (or both) didn’t make the very likely connection between cause and effect as shown in the quote below.

Another approach to isolating the stimulus which necessitated Rabbenu Gershom to issue his ban against polygamous marriage is to look towards the Christian society which surrounded the Jews of Germany. This line of thinking is reflected in Zeev Flak’s work Jewish Matrimonial Law in the Middle Ages. In his work Falk goes to great length to provide the context for Rabbenu Gershom’s ban, starting in the mid ninth century when Pope Nicholas I (858-67) campaigned against polygamy in the Catholic Church. By the tenth century bigamy was not longer a problem among Christians, however, the Church attempted to curb concubinage and divorce among its devotees. 

Benji Hooper

Pope Nicholas I’s campaign was successful. But then the Church saw the rates of concubinage and divorce increase to the point where it required the attention of the Church!

It’s really hard not to see a direct cause and effect here!

Ban polygamy and concubinage and divorce increases! Mandatory monogamy does not bear good fruit.

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