Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Monogamy/Chapter 5

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 5
155812Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Monogamy — Chapter 5Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter V.—Connection of These Primeval Testimonies with Christ.

Thus far for the testimony of things primordial, and the sanction of our origin, and the prejudgment of the divine institution, which of course is a law, not (merely) a memorial inasmuch as, if it was “so done from the beginning,” we find ourselves directed to the beginning by Christ:  just as, in the question of divorce, by saying that that had been permitted by Moses on account of their hard-heartedness but from the beginning it had not been so, He doubtless recalls to “the beginning” the (law of) the individuity of marriage.  And accordingly, those whom God “from the beginning” conjoined, “two into one flesh,” man shall not at the present day separate.[1]  The apostle, too, writing to the Ephesians, says that God “had proposed in Himself, at the dispensation of the fulfilment of the times, to recall to the head” (that is, to the beginning) “things universal in Christ, which are above the heavens and above the earth in Him.”[2]  So, too, the two letters of Greece, the first and the last, the Lord assumes to Himself, as figures of the beginning and end! which concur in Himself:  so that, just as Alpha rolls on till it reaches Omega, and again Omega rolls back till it reaches Alpha, in the same way He might show that in Himself is both the downward course of the beginning on to the end, and the backward course of the end up to the beginning; so that every economy, ending in Him through whom it began,—through the Word of God, that is, who was made flesh,[3]—may have an end correspondent to its beginning.  And so truly in Christ are all things recalled to “the beginning,” that even faith returns from circumcision to the integrity of that (original) flesh, as “it was from the beginning;” and freedom of meats and abstinence from blood alone, as “it was from the beginning;” and the individuality of marriage, as “it was from the beginning;” and the restriction of divorce, which was not “from the beginning;” and lastly, the whole man into Paradise, where he was “from the beginning.”  Why, then, ought He not to restore Adam thither at least as a monogamist, who cannot present him in so entire perfection as he was when dismissed thence?  Accordingly, so far as pertains to the restitution of the beginning, the logic both of the dispensation you live under, and of your hope, exact this from you, that what was “from the beginning” (should be) in accordance with “the beginning;” which (beginning) you find counted in Adam, and recounted in Noah.  Make your election, in which of the twain you account your “beginning.”  In both, the censorial power of monogamy claims you for itself.  But again:  if the beginning passes on to the end (as Alpha to Omega), as the end passes back to the beginning (as Omega to Alpha), and thus our origin is transferred to Christ, the animal to the spiritual—inasmuch as “(that was) not first which is spiritual, but (that) which (is) animal; then what (is) spiritual,”[4]—let us, in like manner (as before), see whether you owe this very (same) thing to this second origin also:  whether the last Adam also meet you in the selfsame form as the first; since the last Adam (that is, Christ) was entirely unwedded, as was even the first Adam before his exile.  But, presenting to your weakness the gift of the example of His own flesh, the more perfect Adam—that is, Christ, more perfect on this account as well (as on others), that He was more entirely pure—stands before you, if you are willing (to copy Him), as a voluntary celibate in the flesh.  If, however, you are unequal (to that perfection), He stands before you a monogamist in spirit, having one Church as His spouse, according to the figure of Adam and of Eve, which (figure) the apostle interprets of that great sacrament of Christ and the Church, (teaching that), through the spiritual, it was analogous to the carnal monogamy.  You see, therefore, after what manner, renewing your origin even in Christ, you cannot trace down that (origin) without the profession of monogamy; unless, (that is), you be in flesh what He is in spirit; albeit withal, what He was in flesh, you equally ought to have been.


  1. See Matt. xix. 6.
  2. Eph. i. 9, 10.  The Latin of Tertullian deserves careful comparison with the original Greek of St. Paul.
  3. See John i. 1–14.
  4. 1 Cor. xv. 46.