Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Monogamy/Chapter 10

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 10
155817Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy — Chapter 10Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter X.—St. Paul’s Teaching on the Subject.

From this point I see that we are challenged by an appeal to the apostle; for the more easy apprehension of whose meaning we must all the more earnestly inculcate (the assertion), that a woman is more bound when her husband is dead not to admit (to marriage) another husband.  For let us reflect that divorce either is caused by discord, or else causes discord; whereas death is an event resulting from the law of God, not from an offence of man; and that it is a debt which all owe, even the unmarried.  Therefore, if a divorced woman, who has been separated (from her husband) in soul as well as body, through discord, anger, hatred, and the causes of these—injury, or contumely, or whatsoever cause of complaint—is bound to a personal enemy, not to say a husband, how much more will one who, neither by her own nor her husband’s fault, but by an event resulting from the Lord’s law, has been—not separated from, but left behind by—her consort, be his, even when dead, to whom, even when dead, she owes (the debt of) concord?  From him from whom she has heard no (word of) divorce she does not turn away; with him she is, to whom she has written no (document of) divorce; him whom she was unwilling to have lost, she retains.  She has within her the licence of the mind, which represents to a man, in imaginary enjoyment, all things which he has not.  In short, I ask the woman herself, “Tell me, sister, have you sent your husband before you (to his rest) in peace?”  What will she answer?  (Will she say), “In discord?”  In that case she is the more bound to him with whom she has a cause (to plead) at the bar of God.  She who is bound (to another) has not departed (from him).  But (will she say), “In peace?”  In that case, 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.  Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection; and she offers (her sacrifice) on the anniversaries of his falling asleep.  For, unless she does these deeds, she has in the true sense divorced him, so far as in her lies; and indeed the more iniquitously—inasmuch as (she did it) as far as was in her power—because she had no power (to do it); and with the more indignity, inasmuch as it is with more indignity if (her reason for doing it is) because he did not deserve it.  Or else shall we, pray, cease to be after death, according to (the teaching of) some Epicurus, and not according to (that of) Christ?  But if we believe the resurrection of the dead, of course we shall be bound to them with whom we are destined to rise, to render an account the one of the other.  “But if ‘in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,’[1] is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound to our departed consorts?”  Nay, but the more shall we be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate—destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognise as well our own selves as them who are ours.  Else how shall we sing thanks to God to eternity, if there shall remain in us no sense and memory of this debt; if we shall be re-formed in substance, not in consciousness?  Consequently, we who shall be with God shall be together; since we shall all be with the one God—albeit the wages be various,[2] albeit there be “many mansions”, in the house of the same Father[3] having laboured for the “one penny”[4] of the self-same hire, that is, of eternal life; in which (eternal life) God will still less separate them whom He has conjoined, than in this lesser life He forbids them to be separated.

Since this is so, how will a woman have room for another husband, who is, even to futurity, in the possession of her own?  (Moreover, we speak to each sex, even if our discourse address itself but to the one; inasmuch as one discipline is incumbent [on both].)  She will have one in spirit, one in flesh.  This will be adultery, the conscious affection of one woman for two men.  If the one has been disjoined from her flesh, but remains in her heart—in that place where even cogitation without carnal contact achieves beforehand both adultery by concupiscence, and matrimony by volition—he is to this hour her husband, possessing the very thing which is the mean whereby he became so—her mind, namely, in which withal, if another shall find a habitation, this will be a crime.  Besides, excluded he is not, if he has withdrawn from viler carnal commerce.  A more honourable husband is he, in proportion as he is become more pure.

Footnotes edit

  1. See Matt. xxii. 30; Mark xii. 25; Luke xx. 35, 36.
  2. Comp. 1 Cor. iii. 8.
  3. Comp. John xiv. 2.
  4. Matt. xx. 1–16.