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1. Of Christian Marriage

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XIX. Of Marriage

1. Of Christian Marriage. 

The laws of christian marriage seem, at first view, to be derived from the Mosaic regulations on this subject, and yet it is remarkable that, until the sixth or seventh century, the marriages of the early Christians were regulated rather by the Roman than by the Mosaic laws. But all this was only the natural result of the peculiar circumstances under which the christian community was formed. Converts from the Jews might be expected to adhere to the Jewish rites, whilst those from the Gentiles would conform to the Roman laws and customs. For this reason the marriages of the christian church were of a mixed character, in which the influence of the Roman law was, at first, predominant. By this law, as well as by the law of Christ, polygamy was strictly forbidden. In many other respects, it was also so far conformed to the law of God, that many of the early fathers scrupled not to borrow from it some of the most important marriage ceremonies; and objected to the adoption of heathen customs, in this respect, only so far as they militated against the spirit of Christianity. 

Much controversy prevailed in the ancient church on the subject of second marriages, particularly with the Novatians and Montanists, who denounced such marriages as unlawful. This opinion was also upheld by many councils. A concession in favor of second marriages was afterwards made to the laity, but refused to the clergy. The law of celibacy finally rendered this rule nugatory with respect to the priesthood.

The celibacy of the clergy was gradually established. It was at first partially adopted in compliance with the advice of zealous leaders of the church, who judged it expedient, or supposed it to tend to the promotion of piety; afterwards it was represented as a moral duty, and was enforced by the decrees of councils; and at last it was enjoined and established by the papal authority of Hildebrand in the eleventh century. The constrained celibacy of the clergy, therefore, does not come within the range of christian antiquities; and the whole question belongs rather to a history of the opinions and doctrines of the church, than to a survey of its institutions and practices.

The state claimed the right of regulating the laws of marriage; the church at the same time possessing a subordinate or concurrent jurisdiction. This concurrence, however, was chiefly of a negative and passive character, and was the occasion of continual discord between church and state. For the first five centuries the church had no farther concern with the laws of marriage than to censure them, as occasion required, and to restrict the observance of them, by her discipline and authority. The laws of the state and the regulations of the church, on this subject, were first made to harmonize under the emperor Justinian. Under the dynasty of Charles, the sanction of the church was fully established while the law still originated with the state. In the middle ages, from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries, the church possessed a preponderating influence in these matters; but even then, her claim to an exclusive jurisdiction was neither asserted nor allowed. To assert this prerogative was regarded as a direct attack upon the state. In protestant states it is regarded as a civil institution, established in conformity with the law of God, and appropriately solemnized by the rites of religion.

The regulations in relation to prohibited marriages were, in the lapse of time, gradually assimilated to the law of Moses; but these have never been strictly observed in the christian church. The canonists have very carefully specified the several degrees of consanguinity and affinity within which marriage could not lawfully be contracted. They were thirteen in number, whilst under the Mosaic economy they were seventeen, or according to others nineteen.

The prohibited grades, in the ancient church, are comprised in the following lines:

Nata, soror, neptis, mafertera fratris et uxor
Et patrui conjux, mater, privigna, noverca
Uxorisque soror, privigni nata, nurusque
Atque soror patris; conjungi lege vetantur.

Whether it is lawful to marry a brother's wife, or a wife's sister, was a question much controverted in the church. The general sense of the church was against such connections, as appears from the dispensation which was made in such cases in favor of the clergy. This point has been discussed at length by Schlegel. 

Mixed marriages between the Jews and Gentiles were strictly prohibited by the law of Moses. This prohibition is not repeated in the New Testament in regard to the marriage of Christians with idolaters. The apostle Paul, however, decidedly objects to such connections as inexpedient, 1 Cor. 7, 2 Cor. 6:14–18. The early fathers denounced them as dangerous and immoral; and they were, at a later period, positively prohibited by the decrees of councils and the laws of the empire. By these regulations it was unlawful for Christians to marry either Jews, pagans, Mohammedans or heretics. If, however, such marriages had already been contracted, they appear not to have been annulled upon the conversion of either party to Christianity. There are indeed examples of the violation of these rules, as in the case of Monica, the mother of Augustine, and Clotildis, the wife of Clovis, both of whom were instrumental in the conversion of their husbands. 

Th. Sanchez, De sacrameiito m.itrimonii. torn, i–iii. 1592. f.:Gisbert, Histoire sur le sacr. du Manage, depuis Jesus Christ jusques a nous. vol. i–iii. 1725. 4: Jo. Gerhard, Loci theol. ed. Cotta. torn, xv, xvi: C. F. Staeudlin's Gesch. der Vorstell. u. Lehren von der Ehe. 1826. 8.

Socrat. hist. eccl. lib. iv. c. 26. al. 27: Standlin's Gesch. der Ehe S. 100. 114, etc.: Cod. L. L. lib. v. tit.v: Dig. lib.i. 13, 1.2.

Tertull. Apolog. c. 6: De Idol. c. 16: De Corona Mil. c. 13: De Pudic. c. 4: Optat. Ainbros. epist. 24. ep. 70: Milev. De Schism. Donat. 1. 16: Clemens Alex. Paedag. lib. iii. c. 2: August. Epist. 234: De Fide et oper. c. 19: De civit. Die. lib. xv, xvi.

Cone. Nic. c. 8: Ancyra, c. 19: Laodic. c. 1: Neo-Caesar. c. 3: Constit. Apost. lib. iii. c. 2: Athenag. Legat.: Theophil. Art. ad Antol. lib. iii: Iienaeus, Adv. Haei-. lib. iii. c. 19.

Tertull. De Monog. c. 11: Ad Uxor, lib.i. c.7: t>e Poenit. c.9: Origen, Horn. 17. in Luc.: Ambios. De Offic. lib. i. c. 50: Hieron. Ep. 2. 11.33.

Capitul. Reg.Fr. lib. vi. C.408: vii. c.l79: Capit. 11. Karlom. A. D. 743. c. 3. c. 10. xxxv. q. 6: G. W. Boehmer, Ueber die Ehe-Gesetze im Zeitalter Karl's d. Gr. Goetengen, 1826. 8.

Wilhelm Occum. Tractains de jurisdictiorie Imperatoris in causls matrimonalibus: Goldastus. tom. ii. p. 21–24.

Krit. und systemat. Darstellung der Verboten Grade der Verwandschaft: Schwagerschaft. Hannover-, 1802 bes. S. 350–524: Comp. Jo. Ger'hard, Loc. theol. tom. xv. p. 332.

Tertull. Ad Uxor. lib. ii. c. 2–9: De Coron. Mil. c. 13: Cyprian. Ad Quirin. lib. iii. c. 62: Arnbrosius, De Abr-aharne, lib. i. c. 9: Ep. lib. ix. ep. 70: De Fide et Oper. c. xix: Hieron. in Jovin. lib. i. c. 10.

Cone. Chalcedon. c. 14: Arelat. i. c. 11: Illiberit, c. 15, 16, 17: Aurelian, ii. c. 18: Cod. Justin. lib. i. tit. ix. 1.6: Cod. Theodos. lib. iii. tit. vii. I. 2: lib. xvi. tit. viii. I. 6.

Cone. Laodic. c. 10: Ebendas. c. 31: Agath. c. 67: Chalcedon. c. 14.

Augustin. Confess, lib. ix. c. 9: Gregor. Turon. hist. Fr. lib. ii. c. 28.


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