Matt. 5:31,32 (Part 5)

TERTULLIAN: The same who brings us into the world must of necessity take us out of it too. Therefore when, through the will of God, the husband is deceased, the marriage likewise, by the will of God, deceases. Why should you restore what God has put an end to? Why do you, by repeating the servitude of matrimony, spurn the liberty which is offered you? “You have been bound to a wife, says the apostle; “do not seek loosing. You have been loosed from a wife; do not seek binding.” For even if you do not “sin” in re-marrying [after death], he still says “pressure of the flesh ensues.” Therefore, so far as we can, let us love the opportunity of self-restraint; as soon as it offers itself, let us resolve to accept it, that what we have not had strength (to follow) in matrimony we may follow in widowhood. The occasion must be embraced which puts an end to that which necessity commanded. How detrimental to faith, how obstructive to holiness, second marriages are, the discipline of the Church and the prescription of the apostle declare, when he does not sanction twice married men to preside (over a Church), when he would not grant a widow admittance into the order unless she had been “the wife of one man;” for it behooves God’s altar to be set forth pure. To His Wife, 4.43.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following quotations from Tertullian was written during his Montanist phase. The Montanists prohibited second marriages after the death of a spouse, thus going beyond the Scriptures (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 39). However, Tertullian made an exception for remarriage after death only if the death of the first wife occurred prior the husband's believing.

TERTULLIAN: One reason which imposed the law of “the beginning,” and moved the will of God to prohibit divorce is the fact that he who has dismissed his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her commit adultery; and he who has married a woman dismissed by her husband, of course commits adultery. A divorced woman cannot even marry legitimately; and if she commit any such act without the name of marriage, does it not fall under the category of adultery, in that adultery is crime in the way of marriage? . . . And the reason why He has abolished divorce, which “was not from the beginning,” is, that He may strengthen that which “was from the beginning”—the permanent conjunction, namely, of “two into one flesh:” for fear that necessity or opportunity for a third union of flesh may make an irruption into His dominion; permitting divorce to no cause but one—if, that is, the evil against which precaution is taken chance to have occurred beforehand. So true, moreover, is it that divorce “was not from the beginning,” that among the Romans it is not till after the six hundredth year from the building of the city that this kind of “hard- heartedness” is set down as having been committed. But they indulge in promiscuous adulteries, even without divorcing their partners: to us, even if we do divorce them, marriage will not be lawful. On Monogamy, 4.66.76

TERTULLIAN: She must necessarily persevere in that peace with him whom she will no longer have the power to divorce; not that she would, even if she had been able to divorce him, have been marriageable. On Monogamy, 4.67.77

TERTULLIAN: “You have been bound to a wife, do not seek loosing; you have been loosed from a wife, do not seek a wife.” “But if you shall have taken to yourself a wife, you have not sinned;” because to one who, before believing, had been “loosed from a wife,” she will not be counted a second wife who, subsequently to believing, is the first: for it is from the time of our believing that our life itself dates its origin.
On Monogamy, 4.68.80

MARK MINUCIUS FELIX: But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all. The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 4.192.

ORIGEN: After this it is written that “there came to Him the Pharisees tempting Him and saying, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?'” Mark, also, has written to the like effect. Accordingly, of those who came to Jesus and inquired of Him, there were some who put questions to tempt Him; and if our Savior so transcendent was tempted, which of His disciples who is ordained to teach need be vexed, when he is tempted by some who inquire, not from the love of learning, but from the wish to tempt? And you might find many passages, if you brought them together, in which the Pharisees tempted our Jesus, and others, different from them, as a certain lawyer, and perhaps also a scribe,84 that by bringing together what is said about those who tempted Him, you might find by investigation what is useful for this kind of inquiries. Only, the Savior, in response to those who tempted Him, laid down dogmas; for they said, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his own wife for every cause?”

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” etc. And I think that the Pharisees put forward this word for this reason, that they might attack Him whatever He might say; as, for example, if He had said, “It is lawful,” they would have accused Him of dissolving marriages for trifles; but, if He had said, “It is not lawful,” they would have accused Him of permitting a man to dwell with a woman, even with sins; so, likewise, in the case of the tribute money, if He had told them to give, they would have accused Him of making the people subject to the Romans, and not to the law of God, but if He had told them not to give, they would have accused Him of creating war and sedition, and of stirring up those who were not able to stand against so powerful an army. But they did not perceive in what way He answered blamelessly and wisely, in the first place, rejecting the opinion that a wife was to be put away for every cause, and, in the second place, giving answer to the question about the bill of divorce; for He saw that not every cause is a reasonable ground for the dissolution of marriage, and that the husband must dwell with the wife as the weaker vessel, giving honor, and bearing her burdens in sins;88 and by what is written in Genesis, He puts to shame the Pharisees who boasted in the Scriptures of Moses, by saying, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” etc., and, subjoining to these words, because of the saying, “And the two shall become one flesh,” teaching in harmony with one flesh, namely, “So that they are no more two, but one flesh.” And, as tending to convince them that they should not put away their wife for every cause, it is said, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” . . .

And it is God who has joined together the two in one so that they are no more two, from the time that the woman is married to the man. And, since God has joined them together, on this account in the case of those who are joined together by God, there is a “gift;” and Paul knowing this, that marriage according to the Word of God was a “gift,” like as holy celibacy was a gift, says, “But I would that all men were like myself; howbeit, each man has his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.” And those who are joined together by God both mind and keep the precept, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ also the church.” The Savior then commanded, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” but man wishes to put asunder what God has joined together, when, “falling away from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron, forbidding,” not only to commit fornication, but “to marry,” he dissolves even those who had been before joined together by the providence of God. Let these things then be said, keeping in view what is expressly said concerning the male and the female, and the man and the woman, as the Savior taught in the answer to the Pharisees. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 9.505-506.

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