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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter IX.—From Examples Tertullian Passes to Direct Dogmatic Teachings.  He Begins with the Lord’s Teaching.

But grant that these argumentations may be thought to be forced and founded on conjectures, if no dogmatic teachings have stood parallel with them which the Lord uttered in treating of divorce, which, permitted formerly, He now prohibits, first because “from the beginning it was not so,” like plurality of marriage; secondly, because “What God hath conjoined, man shall not separate,”652652    See Matt. xix. 3–8, where, however, Tertullian’s order is reversed.  Comp. with this chapter, c. v. above.—for fear, namely, that he contravene the Lord:  for He alone shall “separate” who has “conjoined” (separate, moreover, not through the harshness of divorce, which (harshness) He censures and restrains, but through the debt of death) if, indeed, “one of two sparrows falleth not on the ground without the Father’s will.”653653    See Matt. x. 29.  Comp. de Ex. Cast., c. i. ad fin.  Therefore if those whom God has conjoined man shall not separate by divorce, it is equally congruous that those whom God has separated by death man is not to conjoin by marriage; the joining of the separation will be just as contrary to God’s will as would have been the separation of the conjunction.

So far as regards the non-destruction of the will of God, and the restruction of the law of “the beginning.”  But another reason, too, conspires; nay, not another, but (one) which imposed the law of “the beginning,” and moved the will of God to prohibit divorce:  the fact that (he) who shall have dismissed his wife, except on the ground of adultery, makes her commit adultery; and (he) who shall have married a (woman) dismissed by her husband, of course commits adultery.654654    See Matt. v. 32.  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?  Such is God’s verdict, within straiter limits than men’s, that universally, whether through marriage or promiscuously, the admission of a second man (to intercourse) is pronounced adultery by Him.  For let us see what marriage is in the eye of God; and thus we shall learn what adultery equally is.  Marriage is (this):  when God joins “two into one flesh;” or else, finding (them already) joined in the same flesh, has given His seal to the conjunction.  Adultery is (this):  when, the two having been—in whatsoever way—disjoined, other—nay, rather alien—flesh is mingled (with either):  flesh concerning which it cannot be affirmed, “This is flesh out of my flesh, and this bone out of my bones.”655655    Gen. ii. 23, in reversed order again.  For this, once for all done and pronounced, as from the beginning, so now too, cannot apply to “other” flesh.  Accordingly, it will be without cause that you will say that God wills not a divorced woman to be joined to another man “while her husband liveth,” as if He do will it “when he is dead;”656656    Comp. Rom. vii. 1–3. whereas if she is not bound to him when dead, no more is she when living.  “Alike when divorce dissevers marriage as when death does, she will not be bound to him by whom the binding medium has been broken off.”  To whom, then, will she be bound?  In the eye of God, it matters nought whether she marry during her life or after his death.  For it is not against him that she sins, but against herself.  “Any sin which a man may have committed is external to the body; but (he) who commits adultery sins against his own body.”  But—as we have previously laid down above—whoever shall intermingle with himself “other” flesh, over and above that pristine flesh which God either conjoined into two or else found (already) conjoined, commits adultery.  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”657657    Comp. Matt. xix. 8; Mark x. 5. 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, even marriage will not be lawful.


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