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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 Both States.

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.” 4803 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.” 4804 You see, therefore, that there is a difference between the law and the gospel—between Moses and Christ? 4805 To be sure there is! 4806 But then you have rejected that other gospel which witnesses to the same verity and the same Christ. 4807 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” 4808 —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.” 4809 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 4810 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 4811 the Father, even Him who united male and female, must He not have rather exculpated 4812 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 p. 405 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 4813 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,” 4814 —“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, 4815 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, 4816 when there is an absence of the cause why He gave His prohibition. In very deed 4817 His teaching is not contrary to Moses, whose precept He partially 4818 defends, I will not 4819 say confirms. If, however, you deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side 4820 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, 4821 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, 4822 if his wife commit adultery? Shall he keep her? But your own apostle, you know, 4823 does not permit “the members of Christ to be joined to a harlot.” 4824 Divorce, therefore, when justly deserved, 4825 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.” 4826 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. 4827 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.” 4828 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 4829 now to show whence the Lord derived this decision 4830 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 4831 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, 4832 when it even prescribed such a marriage, in order that by his own brother, and from his own wife, 4833 seed might be reckoned to the deceased husband), 4834 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 4835 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 p. 406 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; 4836 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 4837 tormented in hell, and the poor man resting in Abraham’s bosom. 4838 For this passage, so far as its letter goes, comes before us abruptly; but if we regard its sense and purport, it naturally 4839 fits in with the mention of John wickedly slain, and of Herod, who had been condemned by him for his impious marriage. 4840 It sets forth in bold outline 4841 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.” 4842 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 4843 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 4844 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,” 4845 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, 4846 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.” 4847 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” 4848 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?” 4849 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, 4850 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 4851 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 command4852 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 4853 to say, “Thou art the Christ,” 4854 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 p. 407 Him, whom they had recognized as preaching peace, announcing glad tidings, promising an everlasting abode, building for them steps upwards into heaven. 4855 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 4856 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. 4857 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, 4858 but only a difference in the actual matters 4859 before us.



Luke xvi. 18.


Deut. xxiv. 1.


A Marcionite challenge.




St. Matthew’s Gospel.


Matt. xix. 8.


Matt. 19:4, 6.








Ideo ut.


Luke xvi. 18.


Nubere. This verb is here used of both sexes, in a general sense.




Etiam: first word of the sentence.








Alibi: i.e., than in the Marcionite connection.


Apud te.




1 Cor. vi. 15.


Justitia divortii.


Matt. v. 32.


Deut. 22:28, 29.


Mal. ii. 15.






Literally, “Moses.”


Illiberis. [N.B.  He supposes Philip to have been dead.]


Costa: literally, “rib” or “side.”


Deut. 25:5, 6.


Jaculatus est.


The condition being that the deceased brother should have left “no child” see (Deut. xxv. 5).


Ad subsequens argumentum divitis.


Luke xvi. 19-31.




Suggillati Herodis male maritati.




Luke xvi. 29.


Apud inferos. [Note the origin of this doctrine.]


Revincente: perhaps “reproves his eyesight,” in the sense of refutation.


Luke xvi. 23.


Sublimiorem inferis. [Elucidation VIII.]


Compare Heb. 2:2, Heb. 10:35, Heb. 11:26.


Ascensum in cœlum: Sept. ἀνάβασιν εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, Amos ix. 6. See on this passage the article Heaven in Kitto’s Cyclopædia (3d edit.), vol. ii. p. 245, where the present writer has discussed the probable meaning of the verse.


Isa. xxxiii. 14-16, according to the Septuagint, which has but slight resemblance to the Hebrew.


Cur non capiat.


Candida quædam prospiciatur: where candida is a noun substantive (see above, chap. vii. p. 353).


There seems to be here an allusion to Luke ix. 35.


Nec accepisset.


Luke ix. 20.


See Isa. 52:7, Isa. 33:14, Amos 9:6.




See 1 Sam. 2:6, Ps. 113:7, Luke 1:52.


Divinitatum; “divine powers.”


Ipsarum materiarum.

Next: The Judicial Severity of Christ and the Tenderness of the Creator, Asserted in Contradiction to Marcion.  The Cure of the Ten Lepers. Old Testament Analogies. The Kingdom of God Within You; This Teaching Similar to that of Moses. Christ, the Stone Rejected by the Builders. Indications of Severity in the Coming of Christ. Proofs that He is Not the Impassible Being Marcion Imagined.