Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew by Origen
24. Jewish Criticism of the Law of Christ.
But perhaps some Jewish man of those who dare to oppose the teaching of our Saviour will say, that when Jesus said, |Whosoever shall put away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress,| He also gave permission to put away a wife like as well as Moses did, who was said by Him to have given laws for the hardness of heart of the people, and will hold that the saying, |Because he found in her an unseemly thing,| is to be reckoned as the same as fornication on account of which with good cause a wife could be cast away from her husband. But to him it must be said that, if she who committed adultery was according to the law to be stoned, clearly it is not in this sense that the unseemly thing is to be understood. For it is not necessary for adultery or any such great indecency to write a bill of divorcement and give it into the hands of the wife; but indeed perhaps Moses called every sin an unseemly thing, on the discovery of which by the husband in the wife, as not finding favour in the eyes of her husband, the bill of divorcement is written, and the wife is sent away from the house of her husband; |but from the beginning it hath not been so.| After this our Saviour says, not at all permitting the dissolution of marriages for any other sin than fornication alone, when detected in the wife, |Whosoever shall put away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress.| But it might be a subject for inquiry if on this account He hinders any one putting away a wife, unless she be caught in fornication, for any other reason, as for example for poisoning, or for the destruction during the absence of her husband from home of an infant born to them, or for any form of murder whatsoever. And further, if she were found despoiling and pillaging the house of her husband, though she was not guilty of fornication, one might ask if he would with reason cast away such an one, seeing that the Saviour forbids any one to put away his own wife saving for the cause of fornication. In either case there appears to be something monstrous, whether it be really monstrous, I do not know; for to endure sins of such heinousness which seem to be worse than adultery or fornication, will appear to be irrational; but again on the other hand to act contrary to the design of the teaching of the Saviour, every one would acknowledge to be impious. I wonder therefore why He did not say, Let no one put away his own wife saving for the cause of fornication, but says, |Whosoever shall put away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress.| For confessedly he who puts away his wife when she is not a fornicator, makes her an adulteress, so far as it lies with him, for if, |when the husband is living she shall be called an adulteress if she be joined to another man;| and when by putting her away, he gives to her the excuse of a second marriage, very plainly in this way he makes her an adulteress. But as to whether her being caught in the act of poisoning or committing murder, furnishes any defence of his dismissal of her, you can inquire yourselves; for the husband can also in other ways than by putting her away cause his own wife to commit adultery; as, for example, allowing her to do what she wishes beyond what is fitting, and stooping to friendship with what men she wishes, for often from the simplicity of husbands such false steps happen to wives; but whether there is a ground of defence or not for such husbands in the case of such false steps, you will inquire carefully, and deliver your opinion also in regard to the difficult questions raised by us on the passage. And even he who withholds himself from his wife makes her oftentimes to be an adulteress when he does not satisfy her desires, even though he does so under the appearance of greater gravity and self-control. And perhaps this man is more culpable who, so far as it rests with him, makes her an adulteress when he does not satisfy her desires than he who, for other reason than fornication, has sent her away, -- for poisoning or murder or any of the most grievous sins. But as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seem to be married to a man, while the former husband is still living, so also the man who seems to marry her who has been put away, does not so much marry her as commit adultery with her according to the declaration of our Saviour.