Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Monogamy/Chapter 4

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 4
155811Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy — Chapter 4Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter IV.—Waiving Allusion to the Paraclete, Tertullian Comes to the Consideration of the Ancient Scriptures, and Their Testimony on the Subject in Hand.

Waiving, now, the mention of the Paraclete, as of some authority of our own, evolve we the common instruments of the primitive Scriptures.  This very thing is demonstrable by us:  that the rule of monogamy is neither novel nor strange, nay rather, is both ancient, and proper to Christians; so that you may be sensible that the Paraclete is rather its restitutor than institutor.  As for what pertains to antiquity, what more ancient formal type can be brought forward, than the very original fount of the human race?  One female did God fashion for the male, culling one rib of his, and (of course) (one) out of a plurality.  But, moreover, in the introductory speech which preceded the work itself, He said, “It is not good for the man that he be alone; let us make an help-meet for him.”  For He would have said “helpers” if He had destined him to have more wives (than one).  He added, too, a law concerning the future; if, that is, (the words) “And two shall be (made) into one flesh”—not three, nor more; else they would be no more “two” if (there were) more—were prophetically uttered.  The law stood (firm).  In short, the unity of marriage lasted to the very end in the case of the authors of our race; not because there were no other women, but because the reason why there were none was that the first-fruits of the race might not be contaminated by a double marriage.  Otherwise, had God (so) willed, there could withal have been (others); at all events, he might have taken from the abundance of his own daughters—having no less an Eve (taken) out of his own bones and flesh—if piety had allowed it to be done.  But where the first crime (is found) homicide, inaugurated in fratricide—no crime was so worthy of the second place as a double marriage.  For it makes no difference whether a man have had two wives singly, or whether individuals (taken) at the same time have made two.  The number of (the individuals) conjoined and separate is the same.  Still, God’s institution, after once for all suffering violence through Lamech, remained firm to the very end of that race.  Second Lamech there arose none, in the way of being husband to two wives.  What Scripture does not note, it denies.  Other iniquities provoke the deluge:  (iniquities) once for all avenged, whatever was their nature; not, however, “seventy-seven times,”[1] which (is the vengeance which) double marriages have deserved.

But again:  the reformation of the second human race is traced from monogamy as its mother.  Once more, “two (joined) into one flesh” undertake (the duty of) “growing and multiplying,”—Noah, (namely), and his wife, and their sons, in single marriage.[2]  Even in the very animals monogamy is recognised, for fear that even beasts should be born of adultery.  “Out of all beasts,” said (God),[3] “out of all flesh, two shalt thou lead into the ark, that they may live with thee, male and female:  they shall be (taken) from all flying animals according to (their) kind, and from all creepers of the earth according to their kind; two out of all shall enter unto thee, male and female.”  In the same formula, too, He orders sets of sevens, made up of pairs, to be gathered to him, consisting of male and female—one male and one female.[4]  What more shall I say?  Even unclean birds were not allowed to enter with two females each.


  1. Septuagies septies.  See Gen. iv. 19–24.
  2. Comp. Gen. vii. 7 with 1 Pet. iii. 20 ad fin.
  3. Comp. Gen. vi. 19, 20.
  4. See Gen. vii. 3.