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An unmarried woman of a family in Africa works for the family. If the woman marries, the family loses her as part of their workforce, and therefore they ask for a bride price as compensation for this loss. This does not violate any biblical principles.

However, the GB has decided that if a Christian father demands a high bride price, he may be viewed as a “greedy person” and as an “extortioner.” Because of this, a judicial committee may be formed, and he may even be disfellowshipped if he does not repent—settles for a lower price.

I show that the Greek word pleonektēs, which NWT13 translates with “greedy person” does not refer to a greedy person at all, but it refers to a person  who exploits or cheats others for dishonest gain. Thus, the word pleonektēs should be translated as “exploiter” rather than “greedy person.” Since “greed” is an emotion or inclination—a state of mind, it is obviously beyond the purview and scrutiny of other humans. Therefore, the subjective opinions of the elders that someone is a “greedy person” cannot possibly lead to disfellowshipping. The actions of an “exploiter,” on the other hand, are concrete and observable by humans, and so can be grounds for disfellowshipping.

The word “extortion” means to take something from another person by the use of force, threats, or coercion.  I show that the concept of extortion cannot be applied to a high bride price, even if, in some instances, a high bride price may be generated by greed.

If a judicial committee is formed, the three elders will have to interpret the word “high” in “high bride price” based on their personal backgrounds, subjective viewpoints, and opinions, and so, the elders’ decision will, to all intents and purposes, merely reflect their gut feelings. There may also be natural reasons why the price of one bride is higher than the price of another bride.

Demanding a high bride price as a disfellowshipping offense is invented and introduced by the GB and has no basis in the Bible.

The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God” chapter 12,  point 34, says regarding greed and extortion in connection with a high bride price the following:

  1. A Christian who greedily and unrepentantly extorts a high bride price may be dealt with judicially–1 Cor. 5:11, 13; 6:9, 10; Heb. 13:5; w98 9/15 pp 24-25.

In some places in Africa, the custom is to pay a price for the bride when a woman is married to a man. A young woman represents a value for her family because of the work she can do on its behalf. If she leaves the family, the bride price represents compensation for the value that the family will lose in her absence. This is the local cultural practice in that country that does not violate Bible principles.

This means that Christians can also rightly ask for a bride price or pay a bride price. However, The Watchtower of 15 September 1956, page 563, said:

12 God hates all extortioners, including bride-price extortioners, who commercialize their own daughters. Any such greedy person that claims to be a Christian puts himself in the way of excommunication or disfellowshiping from the Christian congregation any and every time that he commits extortion in the case of lobola or bride price.

In what follows, I will show that a high bride price cannot be classified as extortion, even if, in extreme cases, it could be classified as a reflection of greed.


In The Watchtower of 1956, the sins represented by a high bride price were “extortion” and “greed,” and in the Shepherd book of 2021, the sins are also “greed and extortion.” I will now discuss each of these characteristics and consider them in relation to disfellowshipping.

A high bride price cannot be classified as extortion

Mounce’s English-Greek Lexicon has the following definition of the Greek word harpax:

ravenous, ravening, as a wild beast, Mt. 7:15; met. rapacious, given to extortion and robbery, an extortioner, Lk. 18:11; 1 Cor. 5:10, 11; 6:10.

The adjective harpax, which is listed in 1 Corinthians 5:10 as a disfellowshipping offense, is a strong word because it includes extortion and robbery. As early as 1961, gambling was viewed as extortion. But this was changed in 1972 when gambling was classified as greed. The Watchtower of 1 October 1972, page 592 shows why gambling no longer was classified as extortion:

Some might link [gambling] to extortion, mentioned AT 1 Corinthians 6:10. However, the objection may be raised that “to extort” (a word having the same source as the word “torture”) carries the basic idea of using force, threats or other pressure (as by the abuse of official authority) to obtain something from an unwilling person. While individuals who lose money in gambling are not pleased to lose it, they generally gamble willingly and with full recognition that they run the risk of losing money.

Exactly the same objection can be raised against the GB’s current claim that a high bride price can be classified as extortion. The man who wants to marry a woman is not an “unwilling person,” and the father is not “using force, threats or other pressure” in connection with the bride price. Therefore, demanding a high bride price is not a form of extortion, and thus, also not a disfellowshipping offense.[1]

A high bride price can be classified as greed

Among those who deserve to be disfellowshipped, according to 1 Corinthians 6:10, are “greedy people” (pleonektēs). However, this Greek word does not refer to a person that is “greedy,” but it refers to a person who exploits or cheats others for dishonest gain. Thus, a good translation of pleonektēs is “exploiter,”

The word pleonektēs is a nomen agentis, an agent noun showing what a person is and not what a person does. This means that a person’s personality has become so permeated by exploiting or cheating others, that he can be classified as being that, an “exploiter,” (pleonektēs) and thus, liable for disfellowshipping. Therefore, the full definition of the word pleonektēs is “a person permeated by the seeking or pursuit of dishonest gain by exploiting and cheating others, an incorrigible pursuer of dishonest gain.”

There is another noun that is related to pleonektēs, and that is pleonexia. This word can rightly be translated as “greed,” as is the case in Ephesians 5:3. But pleonexia does not represent a disfellowshipping offense. This word refers to an inclination or an emotion, to a state of mind, and no one can be disfellowshipped for his state of mind. However, in extreme cases, a high bride price may be classified as greed (pleonexia).[2] But, again, even if this were a case of actual “greed,” while reprehensible, it would not be a disfellowshipping offense.

 [1]. A detailed discussion of the Greek word harpax and the meaning of “extortion” is found in the article “Extortion” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”

[2]. A detailed discussion of the Greek words pleonekteō, pleonektēs, and pleonexia is found in the article “Greed” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”


A great number of the 33 disfellowshipping offenses that were made up and introduced by the members of the GB are unclear and ambiguous. And in this situation, the adjective “high” is ambiguous as well.

I have no experience with African families and bride prices. But the article from 1998 that the Shepherd book refers to shows that other family members than the father can be involved in stipulating the bride price.

Moreover, the situation of the father of the bride may be different from that of other families in the area. For example, the daughter may perform certain tasks inside his family. When she marries, she will no longer be able to provide such work or service for the family. His health is poor, and he realizes that he will have to pay a hired laborer to perform the same work his daughter used to do. Calculating what he must pay the hired laborer over time may be the reason why the bride price the father has set seems “high” to outsiders who are unfamiliar with his family situation.

In any case, the size of the bride price must be viewed as a personal matter. And neither the elders nor the GB has any right to intervene in this personal family matter.


That a Christian father in Africa asks for a bride price for his daughter does not violate any biblical principles. The price can be viewed as compensation for the work she does in behalf of the family, a work that will cease when she marries.

The GB has invented and introduced a disfellowshipping offense called “a high bride price,” and they say that such a price may be an example of “greed” and “extortion”. This is a strange argument that is illogical because there can be many natural reasons why a father asks for a higher bride price for his daughter than other fathers might ask.

A high bride price cannot be viewed as extortion, and neither can the father be viewed as a pleonektēs “exploiter” (translated by NWT13 as “greedy person”), which Scripturally is a disfellowshipping offense. However, a very high bride price could, in some situations, be a reflection of pleonexia “greed”. Nevertheless, since “greed” is an emotion, inclination, or state of mind, it is not a disfellowshipping offense. The bride price is a personal matter, and neither the elders nor the GB has any right to interfere.

If a judicial committee is formed, three elders will attempt to interpret the word “high” in “high bride price.” But this interpretation will of necessity be subjective and uncertain inasmuch as it will be based on the opinions and gut feelings of the elders charged with deciding. The elders in this case not only get to decide what is the “normal price” of a bride but because the price the father demands is much higher than their decided-upon “normal price,” the elders have been authorized by the GB to declare this demand as being too “high,” form a judicial committee and hold the father liable for disfellowshipping if he doesn’t “repent,” i.e. lower his price.

Demanding a high bride price as a disfellowshipping offense was invented and introduced by the GB and has no basis in the Bible.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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