Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Monogamy/Chapter 17

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 17
155824Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy — Chapter 17Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter XVII.—Heathen Examples Cry Shame Upon This “Infirmity of the Flesh.”[1]

They will have plainly a specious privilege to plead before Christ—the everlasting “infirmity of the flesh!”  But upon this (infirmity) will sit in judgment no longer an Isaac, our monogamist father; or a John, a noted voluntary celibate[2] of Christ’s; or a Judith, daughter of Merari; or so many other examples of saints.  Heathens are wont to be destined our judges.  There will arise a queen of Carthage, and give sentence upon the Christians, who, refugee as she was, living on alien soil, and at that very time the originator of so mighty a state, whereas she ought unasked to have craved royal nuptials, yet, for fear she should experience a second marriage, preferred on the contrary rather to “burn” than to “marry.”  Her assessor will be the Roman matron who, having—albeit it was through noctural violence, nevertheless—known another man, washed away with blood the stain of her flesh, that she might avenge upon her own person (the honour of) monogamy.  There have been, too, who preferred to die for their husbands rather than marry after their husbands’ death.  To idols, at all events, both monogamy and widowhood serve as apparitors.  On Fortuna Muliebris, as on Mother Matuta, none but a once wedded woman hangs the wreath.  Once for all do the Pontifex Maximus and the wife of a Flamen marry.  The priestesses of Ceres, even during the lifetime and with the consent of their husbands, are widowed by amicable separation.  There are, too, who may judge us on the ground of absolute continence:  the virgins of Vesta, and of the Achaian Juno, and of the Scythian Diana, and of the Pythian Apollo.  On the ground of continence the priests likewise of the famous Egyptian bull will judge the “infirmity” of Christians.  Blush, O flesh, who hast “put on”[3] Christ!  Suffice it thee once for all to marry, whereto “from the beginning” thou wast created, whereto by “the end” thou art being recalled!  Return at least to the former Adam, if to the last thou canst not!  Once for all did he taste of the tree; once for all felt concupiscence; once for all veiled his shame; once for all blushed in the presence of God; once for all concealed his guilty hue; once for all was exiled from the paradise of holiness;[4] once for all thenceforward married.  If you were “in him,”[5] you have your norm; if you have passed over “into Christ,”[6] you will be bound to be (yet) better.  Exhibit (to us) a third Adam, and him a digamist; and then you will be able to be what, between the two, you cannot.

Footnotes edit

  1. Spado.
  2. Comp. ad Ux., l. i. cc. vi. vii.; and de Ex. Cast., c. xiii.
  3. See Rom. xiii. 14; Gal. iii. 27.
  4. Or “chastity.”
  5. Comp. 1 Cor. xv. 22, ἐν τῷ ᾽Αδάμ.
  6. See Rom. vi. 3.