Divorce and Remarriage
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery. Mark 10:11-12
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 39
Envy has alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch. 6
"Sir," say I, "if a man who has a wife that is faithful in the Lord detect her in adultery, does the husband sin in living with her?"
"So long as he is ignorant," said he, "he sins not; but if the husband know of her sin, and the wife repent not, but continue in her fornication, and her husband live with her, he makes himself responsible for her sin and an accomplice in her adultery."
"What then, Sir," say I, "shall the husband do, if the wife continue in this case?" "Let him divorce her," said he, "and let the husband abide alone: but if after divorcing his wife he shall marry another, he likewise commits adultery."
"If then, Sir," say I, "after the wife is divorced, she repent and desire to return to her own husband, shall she not be received?"
"Certainly," said he, "if the husband receives her not, he sins and brings great sin upon himself; nay, one who has sinned and repented must be received, yet not often; for there is but one repentance for the servants of God. For the sake of her repentance therefore the husband ought not to marry. This is the manner of acting commanded on husband and wife.
For this cause you were commanded to remain single, whether husband or wife; for in such cases repentance is possible.”
"I am not giving an excuse that this matter should be concluded thus, but to the end that the sinner should sin no more. But as concerning his former sin, there is One Who is able to give healing; it is He Who has authority over all things." Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg. 21
Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: "Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart before God." And, "If your right eye offend you, cut it out; for it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire." And, "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, commits adultery." And, "There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; but all cannot receive this saying." So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.167
A certain woman lived with an intemperate husband; she herself, too, having formerly been intemperate. But when she came to the knowledge of the teachings of Christ she became sober-minded, and endeavored to persuade her husband likewise to be temperate, citing the teaching of Christ, and assuring him that there shall be punishment in eternal fire inflicted upon those who do not live temperately and conformably to right reason. But he, continuing in the same excesses, alienated his wife from him by his actions. For she, considering it wicked to live any longer as a wife with a husband who sought in every way means of indulging in pleasure contrary to the law of nature, and in violation of what is right, wished to be divorced from him. And when she was persuaded by her friends, who advised her still to continue with him, in the idea that some time or other her husband might give hope of amendment, she did violence to her own feeling and remained with him. But when her husband had gone into Alexandria, and was reported to be conducting himself worse than ever, she - that she might not, by continuing in matrimonial connection with him, and by sharing his table and his bed, become a partaker also in his wickedness and impieties - gave him what you call a bill of divorce, and was separated from him… when she had gone from him without his desire, brought an accusation against her, affirming that she was a Christian. And she presented a paper to you, the Emperor, requesting that first she be permitted to arrange her affairs, and afterwards to make her defense against the accusation, when her affairs were set in order. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.188
And not only so, but the Lord also showed that certain precepts were enacted for them by Moses, on account of their hardness [of heart], and because of their unwillingness to be obedient, when, on their saying to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to send away a wife?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he permitted these things to you; but from the beginning it was not so;" thus exculpating Moses as a faithful servant, but acknowledging one God, who from the beginning made male and female, and reproving them as hard-hearted and disobedient. And therefore it was that they received from Moses this law of divorcement, adapted to their hard nature. Irenaeus (A.D. 180) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.480
A second marriage is only a specious adultery. "For whosoever puts away his wife," says He, "and marries another, commits adultery;" not permitting a man to send her away whose virginity he has brought to an end, nor to marry again. For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer, resisting the hand of God, because in the beginning God made one man and one woman, and dissolving the strictest union of flesh with flesh, formed for the intercourse of the race. Athenagorus (A.D. 137) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.146
Now that the Scripture counsels marriage, and allows no release from the union, is expressly contained in the law, "You shall not put away your wife, except for the cause of fornication;" and it regards as fornication, the marriage of those separated while the other is alive…"He that takes a woman that has been put away," it is said, "commits adultery; and if one puts away his wife, he makes her an adulteress," that is, compels her to commit adultery. And not only is he who puts her away guilty of this, but he who takes her, by giving to the woman the opportunity of sinning; for did he not take her, she would return to her husband. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.379
But to put to shame and to discourage those inclined to contract a second marriage the apostle appropriately uses strong language and says at once: "Every other sin is external to the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body."… as idolatry is an abandonment of the one God to embrace many gods, so fornication is apostasy from single marriage to several. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Miscellanies, book III ch. 12
(Describing pagan society in general) Where is that happiness of married life ever so desirable that distinguished our earlier manners as the result of which for about 600 years there was not among us a single divorce? Now, women have every member of the body heavy laden with gold; wine-bibbing is so common among them, that the kiss is never offered with their will; and as for divorce, they long for it as though it were the natural consequence of marriage. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 22-23
For in the Gospel of Matthew he says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery." He also is deemed equally guilty of adultery, who marries a woman put away by her husband… 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. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg.405
For the apostle, although preferring the grace of continence, yet permits the contraction of marriage and the enjoyment of it, and advises the continuance therein rather than the dissolution thereof. Christ plainly forbids divorce, Moses unquestionably permits it. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 443
SEE ALSO: ADULTERY , MARRIAGE