Monday, October 7, 2019

Early Christian Quotes on Marriage and Divorce

Early Christian Quotes on Marriage and Divorce

The Shepherd of Hermas 

(1st or 2nd Century)

Commandment 4, Chapter 1:


I said to the angel, "Sir, if anyone has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he suspects she has been unfaithful, does the man sin if he continues to live with her?"


And he said to me, "As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. If the husband knows his wife has been unfaithful, and if the woman does not repent but persists in her sexual relations outside her marriage, and the husband continues to live with her, then he is also guilty of her crime and has a sharer in her adultery."


And I said to him, "What then, sir, is the husband to do if his wife continues in her unholy practices?"


And he said, "The husband should divorce her and remain by himself. But if he divorces his wife and marries another, he also commits adultery."


And I said to him, "What if the divorced woman repents and wants to return to her husband: will she not be taken back by her husband?"


And he said to me, "Surely. If the husband does not take her back, he sins and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back the sinner who has repented. But not many times; for there is but one repentance to the servants of God. The husband should not remarry, in the event that the divorced wife repents. In this matter, man and woman are to be treated exactly the same. Also, adultery is committed not only by those who pollute their flesh, but by those who imitate the heathen in their actions. So, if anyone continues in adulterous affairs and does not repent, remove yourself from them and do not live with them. Otherwise, you are a sharer in their sin.”



Athenagoras’ Plea for the Christians

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 33:


Having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even turning away from the desires of the soul, each of us accounting for the wife he has married, according to the laws laid down by us, and only for the purpose of having children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more than necessary upon it, so to us, the procreation of children is the limit of our indulgence in the sexual appetite.


In fact, you would find many among us, both men and women, growing old and unmarried in the hope of living in closer communion with God. But if the remaining in virginity and in the state of a eunuch brings us nearer to God, while the indulgence of carnal thought and desire leads away from Him, in those cases in which we shun the thoughts, much more do we reject the deeds. For we do not give our attention to the study of words, but on the demonstrating and teaching of actions--that a person should either remain as he was born or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is nothing more than adultery. "For whosoever puts away his wife," says He, "and marries another, commits adultery." He does not permit a man to send away a woman if he has taken her virginity, nor does He allows him to marry again. For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a disguised adulterer if he marries again. He is resisting the hand of God, because in the beginning, God made one man and one woman.



Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies, Book 2

(Early 3rd Century)

Chapter 13, Paragraphs 2-3:


We ask if we ought to marry; which is one of the points we consider relative. For some must marry, and a man must be in some condition, and he must marry someone in some condition. For every one is not to marry, nor always. But there is a time in which it is suitable. And there is a person for whom it is suitable. And there is an age up to which it is suitable. Neither should everyone take a wife, nor is every woman suitable to take. But only he who is in certain circumstances should marry, and such a one and at such time as is necessary, and for the sake of children. And the woman should be in a similar situation and should be not forced or compelled to love the husband who loves her…


But those who approve of marriage say, “Nature has adapted us for marriage, as is evident from the structure of our bodies, which are male and female.” And they constantly proclaim that command, "Increase and replenish."…By all means, we must marry, both for our country's sake and for the succession of children…But it is the diseases of the body that principally show marriage to be necessary. For a wife's care and her loyal efforts appear to exceed the endurance of all other relations and friends, excelling in compassion; and most of all, she takes kindly to patient watching. And in truth, according to Scripture, she is a necessary help.


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