Matt. 5:31,32 (Part 1)

5:31ff IRENAEUS: The Lord also showed that certain precepts were enacted for them by Moses, on account of their hardness of heart, and because of their unwillingness to be obedient, when, on their saying to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to send away a wife?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he permitted these things to you; but from the beginning it was not so;” thus justifying Moses as a faithful servant, but acknowledging one God, who from the beginning made male and female, and reproving them as hard-hearted and disobedient. And therefore it was that they received from Moses this law of divorcement, adapted to their hard nature.

But why do I say these things concerning the Old Testament? For in the New Testament also are the apostles found doing this very thing, on the ground which has been mentioned, Paul plainly declaring, “But these things I say, not the Lord.”And again: “But this I speak by permission, not by commandment.”And again: “Now, as concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”But further, in another place he says: “That Satan not tempt you for your lack of self-restraint.”If, therefore, even in the New Testament, the apostles are found granting certain precepts in consideration of human infirmity, because of the lack of self-restraint of some, lest such persons, having grown obstinate, and despairing altogether of their salvation, should become apostates from God,—it ought not to be wondered at, if also in the Old Testament the same God permitted similar indulgences for the benefit of His people, drawing them on by means of the ordinances already mentioned, so that they might obtain the gift of salvation through them, while they obeyed the Ten Commandments, and being restrained by Him, should not revert to idolatry, nor apostatize from God, but learn to love Him with the whole heart. Against Heresies, 1.480.

TATIAN: It was said that he that puts away his wife should give her a writing of divorce: but I say to you, that everyone that puts away his wife, except for the cause of adultery, has caused her to commit adultery: and whosoever takes one that is put away commits adultery.
The Diatessaron, 9.57.

TERTULLIAN: Christ prohibits divorce, saying, “Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband, also commits adultery.” In order to forbid divorce, He makes it unlawful to marry a woman that has been put away. Moses, however, permitted repudiation in Deuteronomy: “When a man has taken a wife, and has lived with her, and it come to pass that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found unchastity in her; then let him write her a bill of divorcement and put it in her hand, and send her away out of his house. ”You see, therefore, that there is a difference between the law and the Gospel—between Moses and Christ? To be sure there is!

But then you have rejected that other gospel which witnesses to the same verity and the same Christ.There, while prohibiting divorce, He has given us a solution of this special question respecting it: “Moses,” He says, “because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to give a bill of divorcement; but from the beginning it was not so”—for this reason, indeed, because He who had “made them male and female” had likewise said, “The two shall become one flesh; what therefore God has joined together, do not let man separate.” Now, by this answer of His to the Pharisees, He both sanctioned the provision of Moses, who was His own servant, and restored to its primitive purpose the institution of the Creator, whose Christ He was. Since, however, you are to be refuted out of the Scriptures which you have received, I will meet you on your own ground, as if your Christ were mine.

When, therefore, when He prohibited divorce, and yet at the same time represented the Father, even Him who united male and female, must He not have rather absolved than abolished the enactment of Moses? But, observe, if this Christ be yours when he teaches contrary to Moses and the Creator, on the same principle must He be mine if I can show that His teaching is not contrary to them. I maintain, then, that there was a condition in the prohibition which He now made of divorce; the case supposed being, that a man put away his wife for the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: “Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband, also commits adultery,”—“put away,” that is, for the reason a woman ought not to be dismissed, that another wife may be obtained. For he who marries a woman who is unlawfully put away is as much of an adulterer as the man who marries one who is not divorced. Permanent is the marriage which is not rightly dissolved. Therefore, to marry while matrimony is undissolved is to commit adultery. Since, therefore, His prohibition of divorce was a conditional one, He did not prohibit absolutely; and what He did not absolutely forbid, that He permitted on some occasions, when there is an absence of the cause why He gave His prohibition. Indeed His teaching is not contrary to Moses, whose precept He partially defends, I will not say confirms.

If, however, you deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side destroy marriage, not uniting man and woman, nor admitting to the sacrament of baptism and of the eucharist those who have been united in marriage anywhere else, unless they should agree together to repudiate the fruit of their marriage, and so the very Creator Himself? Well, then, what is a husband to do in your sect, if his wife commit adultery? Shall he keep her? But your own apostle, you know, does not permit “the members of Christ to be joined to a harlot.”Therefore, when justly deserved, divorce has even in Christ a defender. So that Moses for the future must be considered as being confirmed by Him, since he prohibits divorce in the same sense as Christ does, if any unchastity should occur in the wife.

In the Gospel of Matthew he says, “Whoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery.” He also is deemed equally guilty of adultery, who marries a woman put away by her husband. The Creator, however, except on account of adultery, does not put asunder what He Himself joined together, the same Moses in another passage enacting that he who had married after violence to a damsel, should thereafter not have it in his power to put away his wife.Now, if a compulsory marriage contracted after violence shall be permanent, how much rather shall a voluntary one, the result of agreement! This has the sanction of the prophet: “Do not forsake the wife of your youth.”Thus you have Christ following spontaneously the tracks of the Creator everywhere, both in permitting divorce and in forbidding it. You also find Him protecting marriage, in whatever direction you try to escape. He prohibits divorce when He will have the marriage inviolable; He permits divorce when the marriage is spotted with unfaithfulness. You should blush when you refuse to unite those whom even your Christ has united; and repeat the blush when you disunite them without the good reason why your Christ would have them separated. I have now to show from where the Lord derived this decision of His, and to what end He directed it.

It will thus become more fully evident that His object was not the abolition of the Mosaic ordinance by any suddenly devised proposal of divorce; because it was not suddenly proposed, but had its root in the previously mentioned John the Baptist. For John reproved Herod, because he had illegally married the wife of his deceased brother,who had a daughter by her (a union which the law permitted only on the one occasion of the brother dying childless, when it even prescribed such a marriage, in order that by his own brother, and from his own wife, seed might be reckoned to the deceased husband),and was in consequence cast into prison, and finally, by the same Herod, was even put to death. The Lord having therefore made mention of John, and of course of the occurrence of his death, hurled His censure against Herod in the form of unlawful marriages and of adultery, pronouncing as an adulterer even the man who married a woman that had been put away from her husband. This he said in order the more severely to load Herod with guilt, who had taken his brother’s wife, after she had been loosed from her husband not less by death than by divorce; who had been impelled by his lust, not by the prescription of the (Levirate) law—for, as his brother had left a daughter, the marriage with the widow could not be lawful on that very account; and who, when the prophet asserted against him the law, had therefore put him to death. Against Marcion, 3.404-406.

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