Matt. 5:31,32 (Part 2)

TERTULLIAN: We must now encounter the subject of marriage, which Marcion [a heretic], more continent than the apostle, prohibits.For the apostle Paul, although preferring the grace of self-restraint,yet permits the contraction of marriage and the enjoyment of it,and advises the continuance therein rather than the dissolution thereof.Christ plainly forbids divorce, Moses unquestionably permits it. Now, when Marcion wholly prohibits all carnal intercourse to the faithful (for we will say nothing about his catechumens), and when he prescribes repudiation of all engagements before marriage, whose teaching does he follow, that of Moses or of Christ? Even Christ, however, when He here commands “the wife not to depart from her husband, or if she depart, to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband,”both permitted divorce, which indeed He never absolutely prohibited, and confirmed the sanctity of marriage, by first forbidding its dissolution; and, if separation had taken place, by wishing the nuptial bond to be resumed by reconciliation. Against Marcion, 3.443.

ORIGEN: But perhaps some Jewish man of those who dare to oppose the teaching of our Savior will say, that when Jesus said, “Whoever shall put away his own wife, except for the cause of fornication, makes her an adulteress,”He also gave permission to put away a wife like as well as Moses did, who was said by Him to have given laws for the hardness of heart of the people, and will hold that the saying, “Because he found in her an unseemly thing,”is to be reckoned as the same as fornication on account of which with good cause a wife could be cast away from her husband. But to him it must be said that, if she who committed adultery was according to the law to be stoned, clearly it is not in this sense that the unseemly thing is to be understood. For it is not necessary for adultery or any such great indecency to write a bill of divorcement and give it into the hands of the wife; but indeed perhaps Moses called every sin an unseemly thing, on the discovery of which by the husband in the wife, as not finding favor in the eyes of her husband, the bill of divorcement is written, and the wife is sent away from the house of her husband; “but from the beginning it has not been so.” 9.510-511.

5:32 EDITOR'S NOTE: Without exception, remarriage after divorce from an original spouse was regarded by all of the early Christians as adultery. All remarriage after divorce is adultery (HERMAS). All who, by human law, are twice married, are sinners in the eye of our Lord (JUSTIN MARTYR). A second marriage is only a deceptive adultery (ATHENAGORAS). The Scriptures allow no release from the marital union (CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA). After divorce, marriage will not be lawful (TERTULLIAN). Thus, the exception clause was not understood by the early Christians to make any allowance for remarriage after divorce. The parallel passage, Matthew 19:9, has often been cited as biblical grounds for remarriage after divorce for fornication: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” But textual variation occurs in Matthew 19:9, with respect to the exception clause. Within the early Christian writings, one textual variant is prominent: “whoever divorces his wife, except for the matter of fornication, makes her commit adultery.” 25 This variant reading of Matthew 19:9 agrees with Matthew 5:32. The issue at stake in this textual variation is whether the man commits adultery by marrying another woman after divorcing an unfaithful wife, or whether the man is to be blamed for the adultery of his former wife who married another man after divorce. According to the variant reading, the only way for the man not to be held responsible for causing his former wife to commit adultery is if she was unchaste. But his remarriage is adultery and so is the remarriage of his former wife. This is the reading of Matthew 19:9 in TATIAN, CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA and ORIGEN. The textual variant agrees with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:32. Not a single early Christian quoted or interpreted Matthew 19:9 as an exception for remarriage after divorce.

HERMAS: And I said to him, “Sir, if any one has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detect her in adultery, 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. But if the husband knows that his wife has gone astray, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery.”

And I said to him, “What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her foul practices?”

And he said, “The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.”

And I said to him, “What if the woman put away should repent, and wish to return to her husband: shall she not be taken back by her husband?”

And he said to me, “Assuredly. 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 frequently. For there is but one repentance to the servants of God. In case, therefore, that the divorced wife may repent, the husband ought not to marry another, when his wife has been put away. In this matter man and woman are to be treated exactly in the same way. Moreover, adultery is committed not only by those who pollute their flesh, but by those who imitate the heathen in their actions. Therefore if anyone persists in such deeds, and does not repent, withdraw from him, and cease to live with him, otherwise you are a sharer in his sin. Therefore the injunction has been laid on you, that you should remain by yourselves, both man and woman, for in such persons repentance can take place. But I do not,” he said, “give opportunity for the doing of these deeds, but that he who has sinned may sin no more. But with regard to his previous transgressions, there is One who is able to provide a cure; for it is He, indeed, who has power over all.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.21-22.

HERMAS: And again I asked him, saying, “Sir, since you have been so patient in listening to me, will you show me this also?”

“Speak,” he said.

And I said, “If a wife or husband die, and the widower or widow marry, does he or she commit sin?”

“There is no sin in marrying again,” he said, “but if they remain unmarried, they gain greater honor and glory with the Lord; but if they marry, they do not sin. Guard, therefore, your chastity and purity, and you will live to God. What commandments I now give you, and what I am to give, keep from now on, yes, from the very day when you were entrusted to me, and I will dwell in your house. And your former sins will be forgiven, if you keep my commandments. And all shall be forgiven who keep my commandments, and walk in this chastity.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.22.

JUSTIN MARTYR: And the voice of the Gospel teaches still more urgently concerning chastity, saying: . . . “Whoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, commits adultery.” And, “There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men. For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things? For Christ did not call the just nor the chaste to repentance, but the ungodly, and the licentious, and the unjust; His words being, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” For the heavenly Father desires rather the repentance than the punishment of the sinner. First Apology, 1.167.

JUSTIN MARTYR: But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live continently.
First Apology, 1.172.

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