Christian Views of Virginity, Marriage, and Sex
"The man who commits
adultery will be excluded from participation in the sacred rites for
fifteen years. During the first four years, he will weep; for the next
five he will be a hearer; for the next four he will kneel; and for the
next two he will stand without communion. The fornicator will be excluded
from participation in the sacred rites for seven years. For two years, he
will weep; for two he will be a hearer; for two he will kneel; and for one
he will stand. In the eighth year he will be received into
, Letter 217 to Amphilochius
"The good of marriage,
therefore, among the nations and peoples lies in the purpose of
procreation and in the faithful preservation of chastity. But for the
people of God the good of marriage lies in the holiness of the sacramental
--Augustine, De bono conjugali
"It is truly just and
right, proper and helpful for our salvation. You have joined the marriage
pact with the sweet yoke of concord and the indissoluble bond of peace, so
the chaste fruitfulness of holy spouses might be preserved for the
adoption of children. For your providence, O Lord, and your grace arrange
both of these: generation adds to the splendor of the world, regeneration
leads to the increase of the church."
--The Hadrianum (784)
I. Important New Testament
A. The Gospels
14:26, Matt 10:37, Mk 10:29—Radical loyalty to Jesus over one’s
12:25, Matt 22:30, Lk 20:35--Post-resurrection life is post-marital.
19:9—Porneia clause regarding divorce
(compare with Mk 10:5-9)
B. The Epistles
Cor 7—Paul’s teachings regarding marriage, remarriage, virginity,
(cf. 7:28ff.—Paul regards virginity as better choice.)
5:21-6:4, Col 3:18-4:1, I Tim 2:8-15, Titus 2:1-10, I Pet
2:17-3:9—The Household (oikos) Codes
II. Second and Third-Century
Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch—Both affirm marriage and condemn boasts of
(I Clement 33:4-8, 38:2, Epistle to Polycarp 5:1-2)
The Shepherd of
Hermas—Permits remarriage after divorce, but urges the single life
as the better choice.
Tertullian—His position becomes more rigid with each work.
At first he argues that remarriage after one’s spouse dies is
acceptable, then only permissible, then finally unacceptable.
Wife (ca. 200-206), An Exhortation to Chastity (ca.208-210),
On Monogamy (217)]
Perfection According to the Savior—Held the encratite position (enkrateia—“self-control,”
“chastity”) that sex and marriage are the result of the fall. One must
be chaste and avoid sex to be restored to the original, God-connected
Clement of Alexandria,
and procreation are part of God’s plan for creation.
also fulfills a civic function in helping support one’s people and
the Gnostic and Encratite position that marriage is a fallen state
to be rejected.
that some restraint of the show of desire should take place in
marriage, too. Unrestrained passion is unseemly even in marriage.
is God’s plan for the next life, thus to be honored now.
Methodius of Olympus,
Symposium (ca. 312)
Defends marriage and
procreation as aspects of the goodness of creation.
Marriage brings new
Christians and martyrs into the world.
Marriage represents part
of humanity’s cooperation with God’s purposes, even pagan
Still more honor is given
to the chaste life, even while marriage is not to be looked-down upon.
libido is God-given but can be easily distorted.
and fornication are sinful in that they misuse God’s gifts.
pleasure within marriage is good.
chastity is the best and highest good.
Jovinian of Rome (ca.
380)—Himself a monk, he taught that chastity and married life are equal
in the eyes of God and that both will be equally rewarded in heaven.
Jovinian--Took a very intemperate position that praised virginity
as the New Covenant and mocked marriage as animal-like and the remainder
of the Old Covenant. Efforts were made to suppress the work by other
church leaders. Many condemned as going too far.
Period: Augustine's views on
marriage and sex develop over time. In his pre-Confessions writings, he
regards sex as mostly a distraction from the higher life of Christian
contemplation, but he defends marriage as approved by both Jesus and Paul
against Manichean disapproval of it.
bono conjugali (The
Good of Marriage); De
adulterinis conjugis (On Adulterous Marriages)--these in
response to the popularity of Jovinian's views, despite being condemned
earlier by church leaders.
Also many feel he was also seeking to moderate Jerome's views.
has three goods, and one more:
fidelity (including helping relieve the pressure of sexual desire)
- sacramentum: a sacramental union (not in the Church per se, but in life in
- societas: companionship.
is the higher, better state. Sexual intercourse within marriage is not
to be condemned, but as the couple ages they should give it up when
they are able.
of even adultery are valuable and can pursue holiness of life.
of children before the fall might have taken different directions,
such as non-sexual procreation, a spiritual “multiplication” of
virtue and reason rather than actual children, or perhaps physical
birth without death—Augustine is unwilling to decide.
and remarriage are unacceptable. The marriage bond continues until one
Julian of Eclanum rejects Augustine’s position as downgrading God’s
creation and blessing on sexual reproduction. Sex was similar before the
fall. He holds that Augustine's position is semi-Manichean. Augustine
counters by stressing:
after the fall is always distorted to some measure by animalistic
desire (i.e. lust). All states—marriage, virginity, widowhood must
struggle to be chaste in heart.
puts to good use the evil concupiscence of marriage.
concupiscence softens and moderates the concupiscence of the flesh.
life of the blessed in heaven will be peacefully free of sexual