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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Chapter XXXIV.--Moses, Allowing Divorce, and Christ Prohibiting It, Explained John Baptist and Herod. Marcion's Attempt to Discover an Antithesis in the Parable of the Rich Man and the Poor Man in Hades Confuted. The Creator's Appointment Manifested in Bo

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XXXIV.--Moses, Allowing Divorce, and Christ Prohibiting It, Explained John Baptist and Herod. Marcion's Attempt to Discover an Antithesis in the Parable of the Rich Man and the Poor Man in Hades Confuted. The Creator's Appointment Manifested in Bo

But Christ prohibits divorce, saying, |Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, also committeth adultery.| In order to forbid divorce, He makes it unlawful to marry a woman that has been put away. Moses, however, permitted repudiation in Deuteronomy: |When a man hath taken a wife, and hath lived with her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found unchastity in her; then let him write her a bill of divorcement and give it in her hand, and send her away out of his house.| You see, therefore, that there is a difference between the law and the gospel -- between Moses and Christ? To be sure there is! But then you have rejected that other gospel which witnesses to the same verity and the same Christ. There, while prohibiting divorce, He has given us a solution of this special question respecting it: |Moses,| says He, |because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to give a bill of divorcement; but from the beginning it was not so| -- for this reason, indeed, because He who had |made them male and female| had likewise said, |They twain shall become one flesh; what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.| Now, by this answer of His (to the Pharisees), He both sanctioned the provision of Moses, who was His own (servant), and restored to its primitive purpose the institution of the Creator, whose Christ He was. Since, however, you are to be refuted out of the Scriptures which you have received, I will meet you on your own ground, as if your Christ were mine. When, therefore, He prohibited divorce, and yet at the same time represented the Father, even Him who united male and female, must He not have rather exculpated than abolished the enactment of Moses? But, observe, if this Christ be yours when he teaches contrary to Moses and the Creator, on the same principle must He be mine if I can show that His teaching is not contrary to them. I maintain, then, that there was a condition in the prohibition which He now made of divorce; the case supposed being, that a man put away his wife for the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: |Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, also committeth adultery,| -- |put away,| that is, for the reason wherefore a woman ought not to be dismissed, that another wife may be obtained. For he who marries a woman who is unlawfully put away is as much of an adulterer as the man who marries one who is un-divorced. Permanent is the marriage which is not rightly dissolved; to marry, therefore, whilst matrimony is undissolved, is to commit adultery. Since, therefore, His prohibition of divorce was a conditional one, He did not prohibit absolutely; and what He did not absolutely forbid, that He permitted on some occasions, when there is an absence of the cause why He gave His prohibition. In very deed His teaching is not contrary to Moses, whose precept He partially defends, I will not say confirms. If, however, you deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side destroy marriage, not uniting man and woman, nor admitting to the sacrament of baptism and of the eucharist those who have been united in marriage anywhere else, unless they should agree together to repudiate the fruit of their marriage, and so the very Creator Himself? Well, then, what is a husband to do in your sect, if his wife commit adultery? Shall he keep her? But your own apostle, you know, does not permit |the members of Christ to be joined to a harlot.| Divorce, therefore, when justly deserved, has even in Christ a defender. So that Moses for the future must be considered as being confirmed by Him, since he prohibits divorce in the same sense as Christ does, if any unchastity should occur in the wife. For in the Gospel of Matthew he says, |Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.| He also is deemed equally guilty of adultery, who marries a woman put away by her husband. The Creator, however, except on account of adultery, does not put asunder what He Himself joined together, the same Moses in another passage enacting that he who had married after violence to a damsel, should thenceforth not have it in his power to put away his wife. Now, if a compulsory marriage contracted after violence shall be permanent, how much rather shall a voluntary one, the result of agreement! This has the sanction of the prophet: |Thou shalt not forsake the wife of thy youth.| Thus you have Christ following spontaneously the tracks of the Creator everywhere, both in permitting divorce and in forbidding it. You find Him also protecting marriage, in whatever direction you try to escape. He prohibits divorce when He will have the marriage inviolable; He permits divorce when the marriage is spotted with unfaithfulness. You should blush when you refuse to unite those whom even your Christ has united; and repeat the blush when you disunite them without the good reason why your Christ would have them separated. I have now to show whence the Lord derived this decision of His, and to what end He directed it. It will thus become more fully evident that His object was not the abolition of the Mosaic ordinance by any suddenly devised proposal of divorce; because it was not suddenly proposed, but had its root in the previously mentioned John. For John reproved Herod, because he had illegally married the wife of his deceased brother, who had a daughter by her (a union which the law permitted only on the one occasion of the brother dying childless, when it even prescribed such a marriage, in order that by his own brother, and from his own wife, seed might be reckoned to the deceased husband), and was in consequence cast into prison, and finally, by the same Herod, was even put to death. The Lord having therefore made mention of John, and of course of the occurrence of his death, hurled His censure against Herod in the form of unlawful marriages and of adultery, pronouncing as an adulterer even the man who married a woman that had been put away from her husband. This he said in order the more severely to load Herod with guilt, who had taken his brother's wife, after she had been loosed from her husband not less by death than by divorce; who had been impelled thereto by his lust, not by the prescription of the (Levirate) law -- for, as his brother had left a daughter, the marriage with the widow could not be lawful on that very account; and who, when the prophet asserted against him the law, had therefore put him to death. The remarks I have advanced on this case will be also of use to me in illustrating the subsequent parable of the rich man tormented in hell, and the poor man resting in Abraham's bosom. For this passage, so far as its letter goes, comes before us abruptly; but if we regard its sense and purport, it naturally fits in with the mention of John wickedly slain, and of Herod, who had been condemned by him for his impious marriage. It sets forth in bold outline the end of both of them, the |torments| of Herod and the |comfort| of John, that even now Herod might hear that warning: |They have there Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.| Marcion, however, violently turns the passage to another end, and decides that both the torment and the comfort are retributions of the Creator reserved in the next life for those who have obeyed the law and the prophets; whilst he defines the heavenly bosom and harbour to belong to Christ and his own god. Our answer to this is, that the Scripture itself which dazzles his sight expressly distinguishes between Abraham's bosom, where the poor man dwells, and the infernal place of torment. |Hell| (I take it) means one thing, and |Abraham's bosom| another. |A great gulf| is said to separate those regions, and to hinder a passage from one to the other. Besides, the rich man could not have |lifted up his eyes,| and from a distance too, except to a superior height, and from the said distance all up through the vast immensity of height and depth. It must therefore be evident to every man of intelligence who has ever heard of the Elysian fields, that there is some determinate place called Abraham's bosom, and that it is designed for the reception of the souls of Abraham's children, even from among the Gentiles (since he is |the father of many nations,| which must be classed amongst his family), and of the same faith as that wherewithal he himself believed God, without the yoke of the law and the sign of circumcision. This region, therefore, I call Abraham's bosom. Although it is not in heaven, it is yet higher than hell, and is appointed to afford an interval of rest to the souls of the righteous, until the consummation of all things shall complete the resurrection of all men with the |full recompense of their reward.| This consummation will then be manifested in heavenly promises, which Marcion, however, claims for his own god, just as if the Creator had never announced them. Amos, however, tells us of |those stories towards heaven| which Christ |builds| -- of course for His people. There also is that everlasting abode of which Isaiah asks, |Who shall declare unto you the eternal place, but He (that is, of course, Christ) who walketh in righteousness, speaketh of the straight path, hateth injustice and iniquity?| Now, although this everlasting abode is promised, and the ascending stories (or steps) to heaven are built by the Creator, who further promises that the seed of Abraham shall be even as the stars of heaven, by virtue certainly of the heavenly promise, why may it not be possible, without any injury to that promise, that by Abraham's bosom is meant some temporary receptacle of faithful souls, wherein is even now delineated an image of the future, and where is given some foresight of the glory of both judgments? If so, you have here, O heretics, during your present lifetime, a warning that Moses and the prophets declare one only God, the Creator, and His only Christ, and how that both awards of everlasting punishment and eternal salvation rest with Him, the one only God, who kills and who makes alive. Well, but the admonition, says Marcion, of our God from heaven has commanded us not to hear Moses and the prophets, but Christ; Hear Him is the command. This is true enough. For the apostles had by that time sufficiently heard Moses and the prophets, for they had followed Christ, being persuaded by Moses and the prophets. For even Peter would not have been able to say, |Thou art the Christ,| unless he had beforehand heard and believed Moses and the prophets, by whom alone Christ had been hitherto announced. Their faith, indeed, had deserved this confirmation by such a voice from heaven as should bid them hear Him, whom they had recognized as preaching peace, announcing glad tidings, promising an everlasting abode, building for them steps upwards into heaven. Down in hell, however, it was said concerning them: |They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them!| -- even those who did not believe them or at least did not sincerely believe that after death there were punishments for the arrogance of wealth and the glory of luxury, announced indeed by Moses and the prophets, but decreed by that God, who deposes princes from their thrones, and raiseth up the poor from dunghills. Since, therefore, it is quite consistent in the Creator to pronounce different sentences in the two directions of reward and punishment, we shall have to conclude that there is here no diversity of gods, but only a difference in the actual matters before us.
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