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A study on Christian marriage & divorce from the Bible

CHRISTIAN and Early Church Fathers.

Free to share

February 2018
1. Marriage & Divorce
2. Unbeliever’s as married
3. Christian Marriage

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1. Marriage & Divorce
Genesis 2:24
Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his
wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Notice the cleaving or clinging to here to the wife (living with her) along with the
sexual act in being one flesh makes up a marriage.

John 4:17
Jesus said unto her, you have well said, I have no husband: For thou have had five
husbands; and he whom thou now have is not thy husband: in that said thou truly.
Regarding the Samaritan woman, notice how Christ mentions she has had five
husbands previously – ie men living with her in a sexual relationship but from her
point of view were no doubt just boyfriends and not husbands. Christ doesn’t use the
term partner or boyfriend but actually ‘husband’ instead due to the sexual
relationship along with living together as being a marriage in God eyes.

Mathew 19:9
And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication
(Greek: Porneias), and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her
which is put away does commit adultery.
If you think Christ allows remarriage of the innocent party here is mistaken as Christ
mentions for fornication only is permissible – which is during the engagement period
before they are married and living together. If Christ meant during marriage then the
Greek word ‘moicheia’ (adultery) would be used instead of ‘porneias’ (fornication).
Mathew wrote this gospel to the Hebrews who considered marriage to occur from the
time of the engagement contract just like Joseph who wanted to ‘put away’ or divorce
Mary for being pregnant before their wedding day (Math 1:19). This is also why this
exception is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible as they were written to the Gentiles
who didn’t have the same understanding of the betrothal or engagement period and
of marrying a virgin (Mark 10:11).
The same gospel of Mathew separates the two as distinctly different things in Math
15:19 – ‘moicheiai’ and ‘porneiai’ as being adultery and fornication/harlotry.
St Paul in Galatians 5:19 also makes this same distinction using the same Greek words
‘moicheia’ (adultery) and ‘porneias’ (fornication). Also see 1 Cor 7:2.
If you say that only remarriage to the guilty party is adultery while the innocent
party can remarry free from adultery then you saying that the innocent person is
allowed 2 partners at the same time but the guilty only 1?
(adultery in Greek is moichoi not porneias. Porneias is connected with prostitution)

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Mathew 5:32
But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication (Greek – Porneias, or fornication/harlotry), causes her to commit adultery: and
whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.
Note how the ‘whosoever shall marry her that is divorced’ has no direct connection to
whether she was an adulteress or not, only that she is divorced such that even if she
were innocent of any sin, her remarriage would still be adultery.

Mark 10:10
"Every man who divorces his wife and takes another commits adultery. If a woman
divorces her husband and another man shall have her, she commits adultery."
Once again, no exception to either partner that divorces their spouse to get remarried
for any reason at all.

Luke 16:18
Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and
whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.
Divorce here really is a permanent separation so that if anyone else marries a
divorced woman is still guilty of committing adultery. Note how Christ says
‘whosoever’ meaning anyone, including the innocent party here as being the one who
puts away his wife still commits adultery in a second marriage.

1 Cor 56:16
Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two, says he, shall
be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
St Paul shows that the sexual act of sex joins the two together as one flesh, and thus is
also a key part of marriage according to the Bible.

Titus 1:5
“…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the
husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly”.
Notice how being married a second time was not accepted in the Church and excluded
those from being ordained Priests.

1 Cor 7:10
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart
from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled
to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
St Paul clearly mentions here that a second marriage is not allowed but only 2
options available while her husband lives: either stay single or reconcile back to her

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Early Church Fathers

Shepherd of Hermes (80 AD)

What then shall the husband do, if the wife continue in this disposition (adultery)?
Let him divorce her, and let the husband remain single. But if he divorces his wife
and marries another, he too commits adultery. (1:29:6)
If then, Sir," say I, "after the wife is divorced, she repent and desire to return to her
own husband, shall she not be received?" "Certainly," says he, "if the husband
receives her not, he sins and brings great sin upon himself; nay, one who hath
sinned and repented must be received, yet not often; for there is but one
repentance for the servants of God. For the sake of her repentance therefore the
husband ought not to marry. This is the manner of acting enjoined on husband and
wife. (1:29:7)

Justin Martyr (151 AD)

In regard to chastity, [Jesus] has this to say: If anyone look with lust at a woman, he
has already before God committed adultery in his heart. "And, whoever marries a
woman who has been divorced from another husband, commits adultery."
According to our Teacher, just as they are sinners who contract a second marriage,
even though it be in accord with human law, so also are they sinners who look with
lustful desire at a woman. He repudiates not only one who actually commits
adultery, but even one who wishes to do so; for not only our actions are manifest to
God, but even our thoughts. (First Apology 15).

Tertullian - Bishop of Carthage (200 AD)

“(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…..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”.

“the Lord holds it more pleasing that matrimony should not be contracted, than
that it should at all be dissolved: in short, divorce He prohibits, except for
the cause of fornication” (Bk 2:2).
“To us, even if we do divorce them [adulterous spouses], marriage will not be
lawful”. (c.217,W),4.66.

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Clement of Alexandria (208 AD)
That Scripture counsel’s marriage, however, and never allows any release from the
union is expressly contained in the law: "You shall not divorce a wife, except for
reason of immorality." And it regards as adultery the marriage of a spouse, while
the one from whom a separation was made is still alive. "Whoever takes a divorced
woman as wife commits adultery," it says: "for if anyone divorces his wife, he
debauches her"; that is, he compels her to commit adultery. And not only does he
that divorces her become the cause of this, but also he that takes the woman and
gives her the opportunity of sinning; for if he did not take her, she would return to
her husband (Miscellanies 2:23:145:3)

Origen (248 AD)

Just as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seems to be married to a man,
while a former husband yet lives, so also the man who seems to marry her [and]
who has been divorced does not marry her, but, according to the declaration of our
Savior, he commits adultery with her (Commentaries on Matthew 14:24).

Cyprian (250 AD)

A wife must not depart from her husband. Or, if she should depart, she must remain
unmarried. Cyprian (c.250,W),5.553

Other writings
Athenagoras of Athens (170 AD) - “A plea for Christians” ch 33
Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to
the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married
according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having
children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the
harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the
measure of our indulgence in appetite. Nay, you would find many among us, both
men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion
with God. But if the remaining in virginity and in the state of a eunuch brings
nearer to God, while the indulgence of carnal thought and desire leads away from
Him, in those cases in which we shun the thoughts, much more do we reject the
deeds. For we bestow our attention; not on the study of words, but on the
exhibition and teaching of actions, that a person should either remain as he was
born, or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only a specious
(attractive) adultery. "For whosoever puts away his wife," says He, "and marries
another, commits adultery;" not permitting a man to send her away whose virginity
he has brought to an end, nor to marry again. For he who deprives himself of his
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first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer, resisting the hand of
God, because in the beginning God made one man and one woman, and dissolving
the strictest union of flesh with flesh, formed for the intercourse of the race.
Here he mentions Christians having laws laid down that constitutes a valid marriage
but doesn’t mention what those laws are. He continues:
Regarding brothels: “These adulterers and pederasts defame the eunuchs and the
once-married” (Christians). Ch 34
Once again, here he confirms there is only a single marriage in Gods eyes (for life).

Spanish Council of Elvira (324 AD)

A local Spanish council made up of 19 Bishops & 24 Priests
Likewise, a woman of the faith [i.e., a baptized person] who has left an adulterous
husband of the faith and marries another, her marrying in this manner is
prohibited. If she has so married, she may not at any more receive communion —
unless he that she has left has since departed from this world (canon 9).
If she whom a catechumen [an unbaptized person] has left shall have married a
husband, she is able to be admitted to the fountain of baptism. This shall also be
observed in the instance where it is the woman who is the catechumen. But if a
woman of the faithful is taken in marriage by a man who left an innocent wife, and
if she knew that he had a wife whom he had left without cause, it is determined that
Communion is not to be given to her even at death (canon 10).
(it should be noted that they also forbade icons in the churches – canon 36)

Ambrose of Milan (389 AD)

No one is permitted to know a woman other than his wife. The marital right is
given you for this reason: lest you fall into the snare and sin with a strange woman.
"If you are bound to a wife, do not seek a divorce"; for you are not permitted, while
your wife lives, to marry another (Abraham 1:7:59).
You dismiss your wife, therefore, as if by right and without being charged with
wrong doing and you suppose it is proper for you to do so because no human law
forbids it; but divine law forbids it. Anyone who obeys men ought to stand in awe of
God. Hear the law of the Lord, which even they who propose our laws must obey:
"What God has joined together let no man put asunder" (Commentary on Luke 8:5)

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Jerome (398 AD)
Wherever there is fornication and a suspicion of fornication a wife is freely
dismissed. Because it is always possible that someone may calumniate the innocent
and, for the sake of a second joining in marriage, act in criminal fashion against the
first, it is commanded that when the first wife is dismissed a second may not be
taken while the first lives (Commentaries on Matthew 3:19:9).

Pope Innocent I (408 AD)

The practice is observed by all of regarding as an adulteress a woman who marries
a second time while her husband yet lives, and permission to do penance is not
granted her until one of them is dead. (Letters 2:13:15)

Augustine (419 AD)

Neither can it rightly be held that a husband who dismisses his wife because of
fornication and marries another does not commit adultery. For there is also
adultery on the part of those who, after the repudiation of their former wives
because of fornication, marry others. This adultery, nevertheless, is certainly less
serious than that of men who dismiss their wives for reasons other than fornication
and take other wives. Therefore, when we say; "Whoever marries a woman
dismissed by her husband for reason other than fornication commits adultery,"
undoubtedly, we speak the truth. But we do not thereby acquit of this crime the
man who marries a woman who was dismissed because of fornication. We do not
doubt in the least that both are adulterers. We do indeed pronounce him an
adulterer who dismissed his wife for cause other than fornication and marries
another, nor do we thereby defend from the taint of this sin the man who dismissed
his wife because of fornication and marries another. We recognize that both are
adulterers, though the sin of one is graver than that of the other. No one is so
unreasonable to say that a man who marries a woman whose husband has
dismissed her because of fornication is not an adulterer, while maintaining that a
man who marries a woman dismissed without the ground of fornication is an
adulterer. Both of these men are guilty of adultery (Adulterous Marriages 1:9:9)

Apostolic Constitutions
For "he who retains an adulterous is foolish and impious [Pro. 18:22]. Also, He says,
"Cut her off from your flesh" [Sir. 25:26]. For she is no longer a helpmate, but a
snare, having turned her mind from you to another. Apostolic Constitutions
(compiled c.390,E),7.456.

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2. Unbelievers: married or not
Some churches consider marriages by unbelievers as just ‘living in sin’ and not really
marriage until married in their church hence an unmarried Christian is able to marry
a divorcee of a previous heathen ‘marriage’ if the divorcee later becomes a Christian.
1 Cor 7:10
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not,
and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman
which has a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let
her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the
unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but
now are they holy. But if the unbelieving departs, let him depart. A brother or a
sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what
knows thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knows thou, O
man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
Notice how St Paul considers heathen marriages an actual marriage even though not
performed in a Church and that it is not ‘living in sin’ to abide with an unbelieving
partner if one becomes a Christian while the other has not.
To say heathen marriages are just ‘living in sin’ would then also make the above
scenario also living in sin but St Paul uses the words “wife” and “husband” as referring
to a union with a Christian and unbeliever. He accepts that situation as a genuine
marriage even though not enacted in a church and one that God blesses still.
Note this verse doesn’t not condone Christians marrying unbelievers but rather if a
married unbeliever converts to the faith – not to leave his wife.

1 Cor 7:10
Are you bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? seek
not a wife. This continuation of St Paul’s address to the Corinthians tells us that if one
be found married on coming to the faith – do not seek to be loosed from that
relationship as it is counted as marriage in Gods eyes still. If they be found loosed from
a wife through death of their partner (not divorce) then not to remarry.

Apostolic Constitutions Bk1 2:9

But as to a spirit of contention, be sure to curb it as to all men, but principally as to
your husband; lest, if he be an unbeliever or an heathen, he may have an occasion
of scandal or of blaspheming God, and you be partaker of a woe from God. For, says
He, Woe to him by whom My name is blasphemed among the Gentiles…
This confirms Christian marriage can exists with an unbeliever if found that way
before conversion and accepted as such.

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3. Christian Marriage

Taken from the Apostolic Constitutions (Apostolic Traditions), written by the 12

Apostles mentions women not to wear expensive jewelry, makeup & attractive
clothing which might entice other men to lust and sin. They should also respect their
husbands, not be contentious and when about in the street wear a head covering.

Apostolic Constitutions Bk1 2:8

Let the wife be obedient to her own proper husband, because the husband is the
head of the wife. 1 Cor 11:3 But Christ is the head of that husband who walks in the
way of righteousness; and the head of Christ is God, even His Father. Therefore, O
wife, next after the Almighty, our God and Father, the Lord of the present world and
of the world to come, the Maker of everything that breathes, and of every power;
and after His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom glory be to God,
you fear your husband, and reverence him, pleasing him alone, rendering yourself
acceptable to him in the several affairs of life, that so on your account your husband
may be called blessed, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, which thus
speaks: Who can find a virtuous woman? For such a one is more precious than
costly stones. The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that she shall
have no need of spoil: for she does good to her husband all the days of her life. She
buys wool and flax and works profitable things with her hands. She is like the
merchants' ships, she brings her food from far. She rises also while it is yet night,
and gives meat to her household, and food to her maidens. She considers a field and
buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with
strength and strengthens her arms. She tastes that it is good to labor; her lamp goes
not out all the whole night. She stretches out her arms for useful work and lays her
hands to the spindle. She opens her hands to the needy; yea, she reaches forth her
hands to the poor. Her husband takes no care of the affairs of his house; for all that
are with her are clothed with double garments. She makes coats for her husband,
clothings of silk and purple. Her husband is eminent in the gates, when he sits with
the elders of the land. She makes fine linen, and sells it to the Phœnicians, and
girdles to the Canaanites. She is clothed with glory and beauty, and she rejoices in
the last days. She opens her mouth with wisdom and discretion and puts her words
in order. The ways of her household are strict; she eats not the bread of idleness.
She will open her mouth with wisdom and caution, and upon her tongue are
the laws of mercy. Her children arise up and praise her for her riches, and her
husband joins in her praises. Many daughters have obtained wealth and done
worthily, but you surpass and excels them all. May lying flatteries and the vain
beauty of a wife be far from you. For a religious wife is blessed. Let her praise
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the fear of the Lord: give her of the fruits of her lips, and let her husband be praised
in the gates. And again: A virtuous wife is a crown to her husband. And again: Many
wives have built a house. You have learned what great commendations
a prudent and loving wife receives from the Lord God. If you desire to be one of
the faithful, and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add ornaments to your beauty, in
order to please other men; neither affect to wear fine broidering, garments, or
shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. For although you do not do
these wicked things with design of sinning yourself, but only for the sake of
ornament and beauty, yet will you not so escape future punishment, as having
compelled another to look so hard at you as to lust after you, and as not having
taken care both to avoid sin yourself, and the affording scandal to others. But if you
yield yourself up, and commit the crime, you are both guilty of your own sin, and
the cause of the ruin of the other's soul also. Besides, when you have committed
lewdness with one man, and begin to despair, you will again turn away from your
duty, and follow others, and grow past feeling; as says the divine word: When
a wicked man comes into the depth of evil, he becomes a scorner, and then disgrace
and reproach come upon him. Prov 18:3 For such a woman afterward being
wounded, ensnares without restraint the souls of the foolish. Let us learn,
therefore, how the divine word triumphs over such women,
saying: I hated a woman who is a snare and net to the heart of men worse than
death; her hands are fetters. Ecc 7:26 And in another passage: As a jewel of gold in
a swine's snout, so is beauty in a wicked woman. Prov 11:22 And again: As a worm
in wood, so does a wicked woman destroy her husband. And again: It is better to
dwell in the corner of the house-top, than with a contentious and angry woman.
You, therefore, who are Christian women, do not imitate such as these. But you who
design to be faithful to your own husband, take care to please him alone. And when
you are in the streets, cover your head; for by such a covering you will avoid being
viewed of idle persons. Do not paint your face, which is God's workmanship; for
there is no part of you which wants ornament, inasmuch as all things
which God has made are very good. But the lascivious additional adorning of what
is already good is an affront to the bounty of the Creator. Look downward when
you walk abroad, veiling yourself as becomes women.

But as to a spirit of contention, be sure to curb it as to all men, but principally as to

your husband; lest, if he be an unbeliever or an heathen, he may have an occasion
of scandal or of blaspheming God, and you be partaker of a woe from God. For, says
He, Woe to him by whom My name is blasphemed among the Gentiles; and lest, if
your husband be a Christian, he be forced, from his knowledge of the Scriptures, to
say that which is written in the book of Wisdom: It is better to dwell in the
wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. You wives, therefore,
demonstrate your piety by your modesty and meekness to all without the Church,
whether they be women or men, in order to their conversion and improvement in
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the faith. And since we have warned you, and instructed you briefly, whom we do
esteem our sisters, daughters, and members, as being wise yourselves, persevere
all your lives in an unblameable course of life. Seek to know such kinds of learning
whereby you may arrive at the kingdom of our Lord, and please Him, and so rest
for ever and ever. Amen.

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