Were Remarriages In The Early Church?

There WERE remarried divorcees in the church in Paul’s lifetime.

There’s absolutely no “biblical” evidence of that. Paul was very clearly speaking of widows who had been married more than once—-Lawfully. Paul already taught that if a woman married again while she had a living husband, she would be called an adulteress. How long would she be known as an adulteress? As long as she stayed with the other man or until her original husband died…………

The husband of one wife can only have one meaning, That is: one wife in a life-time. The office of bishop was reserved to a man who: Was the husband of one wife in his life-time. The widower who remarried was excluded from leadership: This was also true of the deacon I Tim. 3:12.

Compare: Female Widow I Tim. 5:11,12

1Ti 5:9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 1Ti 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. 1Ti 5:11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; 1Ti 5:12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

Please Note: The (female) widow was denied support form the local church if she was the “wife of more than one man”. Had she remarried she was considered to have “waxed wanton against Christ” … having damnation because they cast off their first faith… thus she was denied the support of a widow.

Thus there was an equal punishment regulation for the (male) widower who remarried and became the husband of more than one wife… he was denied the office of bishop, deacon, or other major office of leadership.

How interesting! Thanks for putting that together. I know the RC church does not allow widowers who remarry to serve as deacons, but it seems in most all protestant churches, they apply this scripture to remarriage while one has a living covenant wife or to polygamy. I never could reconcile either view(the protestant application) in light of the teachings of Jesus and Paul on the nature of second marriages (adultery) and in regards to polygamy, because that too, is against the creation intent of marriage by God. Neither is acceptable for leadership OR laypersons.

There are some who teach that because of the “wife of ONE husband” passage, it proves that there were divorcees who remarried in the church. That teaching is neither verifiable through scripture, nor through the historical records writings of the early church. I believe what you presented is accurate both scripturally as well as historically and shows how the Lord values a first covenant, though He does allow another to be entered into when a spouse has died.

Thanks again.

And even (Jay) Adams admits in his writing that the NT is full of remarriages…

Yes, I too would be interested to hear of all these remarriages after divorce in the NT. The only two I know of that are clearly spoken of as situations of remarriage while a one has a spouse still living, is Herod/Herodias (John said this was an unlawful marriage because she was Philip’s wife—he lost his head for saying such), and the example Paul gives in Romans 7:2-3, in which he teaches that a woman is bound til death to her husband. If she “remarries” prior to that time, she will be called an adulteress.

The question being debated is what the first century church believed i.e. what Jesus and the apostles taught, and most biblical scholars i.e. people who have studied these passages for themselves, do not accept that they taught what you believe. By the second century it is true that remarriage was generally not accepted, but there were significant differences in the views about divorce and remarriage between the 2nd and 5th centuries. Some thought remarriage was never permitted because marriage was eternal i.e. not even death broke the marriage covenant; some believed that divorce was required when their was adultery, there were differences of opinion about the consequences of an unbiblical remarriage, etc… The perspective taught by those on this forum about divorce and remarriage was not the teaching of the 2nd-5th century church.

I really would like you to back up what you say concerning the early church. You keep spouting the “differences” of teachings, yet those of us who HAVE studied what the early church taught/wrote about on marriage can CLEARLY see that they did not have teachings all over the map as you portray. They overwhelmingly taught that remarriage while one had a living spouse (even a spouse who was committing adultery!) is adultery—-a continual state of adultery. They even acknowledged that it didn’t matter if the “laws of the land” said one was married, they were not married, but living in adultery. These are the very same words of Jesus.

One thing you did say was true: Tertullian did believe that if one’s spouse died that it was a form of adultery if the living were to marry again. However, when we go to God’s Word what do we find? He was clearly in error because God’s Word DOES give permission to remarry after the death of a spouse.

You tout over and over about the “majority” of scholars, etc, yet the plain truth of the matter is this: in the early church (the church right after the ascension) we find in their writings that they ALL taught the permanency of marriage until death and they ALL taught that to remarry before this was to enter into an adulterous relationship (not a lawful marriage). You can lean on the “scholars” of today, but truth be known and in my opinion undisputable, the early church did not have the problems trying to explain away the “uncomfortable” verses that today’s “scholars” have. They had an answer, “ADULTERY”, and their answer is exactly what our Saviour proclaimed to those He spoke with while He walked this earth.

Shepherd of Hermas (The Shepherd 4:1:6 [A.D. 80]) advocated that a man divorce a wife in the case of adultery.

The Shepherd of Hermas taught that it was ADULTERY for such a man to remarry himself—because the marriage bond endured for life. His definition of divorce was separation of bed/board, not dissolution.

Tertullian (c. 200) believed that marriage within church was eternal, and death did not break the marriage covenant, but he accepted the divorce if it happened prior to conversion. (Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage)

Yes, Tertullian taught other unbiblical things concerning marriage: “The Montanists’ most illustrious adherent was the great church father, Tertullian. They practiced a rigid church discipline, banned remarriage even after the mate had died, approved of desertion of one’s mate for the sake of chastity–all in an effort to holiness. Serious sins after baptism could not be forgiven. Montanism (begun in the mid second century) survived only into the fifth century in northern Africa and into the sixth century in Phrygia.”

While Origen (post A.D. 244) believed that all remarriage was adultery, he didn’t believe it was continual adultery. From (Commentary on Matthew, 14:16 , in ANF,X:506)

Could you provide exactly what Origen did say because in what you said about Pastor of Hermas (or the website you attained this info from)? You only provided the part that supports your assertions, yet had you posted the ENTIRE belief of Hermas, it would be seen that he did NOT believe remarriage for adultery was ok. It would be seen that Hermas believed the bond of marriage was lifelong—even in the face of adultery.

The Council of Elvira 300 A.D. (ibid., cannon 9) stated that those divorced prior to conversion could remarry. Basil the Great accepted remarriage for the inocent party (Second Canonical Letter to Amphilochius 199:37 [A.D. 375]). Ambrose did not accept the marriage of those married outside of the faith {To Vigilius, Letter 19:7 (A.D. 385), in FC, XXVI:176}

Interesting that the “evidences” you provide are those of early Romanism……….hmm, I’ll have to look into those a little further.

Augustine saw remarriage of an innocent party as a less serious sin than was the sin of someone who had divorced and remarried without cause. (Adulterous Marriages 1:9:9 [A.D. 419]).

The fact is that he still viewed the marriage of an “innocent” to another as an adulterous relationship……….whether it is a “lesser” sin or not is not the issue in light of what the scriptures teach. We already know that one who puts away their spouse is charged with guilt if the “innocent” one then enters into adultery (Matthew 5:32).

What I could not find anywhere in any writings from the early church was the advocation (or even suggestion) that divorce (from remarriage) could be used as a form of repentance. As this is a teaching not given in the bible, nor is it one for which there is support from the early church, why do you believe this is justifiable?

You must not have looked too hard, because there are MANY writings by the ECFs who speak of the new “marriage” as not being a marriage at all, but adultery. There are also numerous writings concerning those in adulterous unions being prohibited from taking communion (something the Roman Catholic church still practices today, though only with the “unapproved” remarriages—–they too have apostasized by expanding their “allowances” for marriages to be dissolved and new ones contracted).

When I get the resource I have back which I loaned out, I will gladly provide you with MANY writings which support what I have stated.

I didn’t dispute his (Hermas) belief about remarriage, I just pointed out his advocation for divorce in the case of adultery.

Personally, I find that very dishonest, (name deleted). You know very well that Hermas did not believe divorce due to adultery meant the dissolution of the marriage, so I’m not quite sure why you posted that unless you were trying to show (falsely) that one of the earliest writings available supports your position that adultery gives right to divorce and then a remarriage. As I said, Hermas very clearly wrote that remarriage even in the case of adultery, is SINFUL—it is entering into adultery.

The point is that that early church wasn’t in unanimous opinion on the divorce and remarriage issue as those on this forum continue to insist.

I think I used the word, “overwhelmingly”…………pick any biblical issue you can think of, you will find majorities and minorities. Those FEW writings in the 1st 300 years AD which you found are it. The multitude of the ECF are all in agreement that marriage is lifelong—no matter what and that entering into another marriage is entering into adultery—-a continual state of—hence the rejection of administering communion to those with living spouses who are remarried, etc…….if one is remarried and the church believes it lawful, it stands to reason that the persons involved are perfectly able to receive communion, no?

I never presented the idea that the Shepard of Hermes taught that remarriage was permitted, I simply pointed out where the teachings in that book differed from what those on this forum presented. And I did provide references to the source of both the quotes from the Shepard of Hermes, and that of Origin, but here is a direct quote from Origin. “The Savior then commanded, ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,’ but man wishes to put asunder what God hath joined together, when, “falling away from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron, forbidding,” not only to commit fornication, but ‘to marry,’ he dissolves even those who had been before joined together by the providence of God. Let these things then be said, keeping in view what is expressly said concerning the male and the female, and the man and the woman, as the Savior taught in the answer to the Pharisees.”

Not quite sure what you are seeing with that quote from Origen. Seems to me he is addressing those who are “forbidding to marry”, concerning the widowed. The teaching was around then about not ever remarrying if one has a spouse who dies. Not sure how that quote supports your view of divorce/remarriage…………

But there is a lot of question about whether he (Augustine) saw this as a sin that would cause a believer to go to hell as taught by those on this forum.

No, the fact is that Augustine saw a remarriage as sin—whether one was the “innocent” party or the guilty party. Many here on this thread say it is not sin. He refutes that position. He’s not a good choice for you to use to support the legitimacy of remarriages.

I can also find references from some (not all) of the early church fathers that indicate remarriage is a continuous sin; however, as I stated, I can find no references that see the advocation of divorce as an acceptable remedy for this “sin”. Can you show me one biblical or early church reference that endorses the idea that divorce (from remarriage) is a means of repentance?

Hmm, so you believe the ECF taught it ok to continue in sin? Where do you think they drew the line?  If they saw the union as NOT being a marriage in the sight of God, why do you seem to need to have it written out word for word what repentance would entail in such cases?

IF any coupling was not a LAWFUL marriage in God’s eyes, what would repentance look like? I think most of us do not have to have it in writing to know how we are to repent. It is a very simple thing: when we are in sin, we stop doing what we are doing. I’m pretty sure the Early church understood that concept quite well.

Actually, I find this accusation wholly dishonest, as I have already responded to the false accusation once only to have it immediately presented again. I did not at any time imply or intend to imply that the Shepard of Hermes supported remarriage, but only that it advocated divorce in the case of adultery. Repeated again, my contention is that it taught something different than is advocated by those on this forum who present the “no remarriage ever” point of view. My quote was to emphasize those difference as was every other quote I made in that same post.

Ok, for one thing, those in the “no remarriage ever” camp, hold differing viewpoints on going before the UNSAVED to secure a divorce. However, what we ALL hold to be true is that a divorce obtained does not EVER dissolve the union God joined together. This is EXACTLY what Hermas taught, so your using him as “proof” of him teaching differently than the “no remarriage ever camp”, is not warranted. He did in fact teach the SAME thing as many of us believe.

The only reason I can find for repeating the accusation a second time is that you want to deflect the conversation from the real issue.

Oh no, I WOULD like the REAL issue dealt with. I would like you to provide the scriptures which shows that the relationships Jesus deemed adulterous are no longer so. You say they are not adulterous, yet you have not shown scripture to prove that assertion.

When I pointed out that this statement was “simply untrue” you challenged that statement by saying “(name deleted), I really would like you to back up what you say concerning the early church. You keep spouting the “differences” of teachings, yet those of us who HAVE studied what the early church taught/wrote about on marriage can CLEARLY see that they did not have teachings all over the map as you portray.”

Sorry, but the fact remains that the teachings of the Early Church are NOT all over the map as you suggest. The Early Church OVERWHELMINGLY taught that marriage IS permanent—lifelong—til death do us part—-even in the cases of adultery. Is that what is being taught in churches today? NO, absolutely not. The churches of today OVERWHELMINGLY teach that one can come and go in marriage as they like and that God will join as ONE FLESH, each and every union. Most churches teach/believe/practice that man CAN separate what God has joined……….and CAN then enter into a new union……………and it is NOT adultery/adulterous. Wow, how far the church has come. The pendulum has swung to the opposite side and many say, “it is GOOD”………..does the Lord think it is “GOOD”? I do not believe so.

Augustine specifically refers to a remarriage of an innocent party as a lesser sin, and again the question I raised isn’t whether Augustine saw this remarriage as sinful (that is acknowledged), but whether he saw this sin as something that would cause a believer to go to HELL as you and other on this forum teach, and I would say that the evidence does not support that contention.

Again, I don’t know why you would even used Augustine. He too does not agree with what you believe. He sees the new marriage as sin. You do not. What you are now trying to find is some way to say that those in “lesser” sins are AOK. The truth remains that those who are in Christ Jesus are called FROM their sin. They are never ok to STAY in their sin because it is a “lesser” evil. We are not to practice ANY evil.

While Origen (post A.D. 244) believed that all remarriage was adultery, he didn’t believe it was continual adultery. From (Commentary on Matthew, 14:16 , in ANF,X:506)

Not true.

“Just as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seem to be married to a man, while a former husband yet lives, so also the man who seems to marry her who has been divorced does not marry her, but, according to the declaration of our Savior, he commits adultery with her”

Commentaries on Matthew 14:24 [248 CE].

I think it’s pretty clear that Origen DID believe the remarriage was continual sin, as he states clearly that it is not a marriage at all, but adultery.

The Council of Elvira 300 A.D. (ibid., cannon 9) stated that those divorced prior to conversion could remarry.

Look what they taught:

Council of Elvira

“Likewise, women who have left their husbands for no prior cause and have joined themselves with others, may not even at death receive communion”

ie: remarriage=continual adultery

Canon 8 [300 CE].

“Likewise, a woman of the faith [i.e., a baptized person] who has left an adulterous husband of the faith and marries another, her marrying in this manner is prohibited. If she has so married, she may not at any more receive communion–unless he that she has left has since departed from this world”

Christians cannot divorce and remarry for adultery. If one DOES remarry, they are in sin—-continually.

ibid., Canon 9.

“If she whom a catechumen [an upbaptized person studying the faith] has left shall have married a husband, she is able to be admitted to the fountain of baptism. This shall also be observed in the instance where it is the woman who is the catechumen. But if a woman of the faithful is taken in marriage by a man who left an innocent wife, and if she knew that he had a wife whom he had left without cause, it is determined that communion is not to be given to her even at death”

remarriage in such cases=continual adultery—communion forbidden


You have repeatedly claimed that the Early church understood and interpreted the scriptures as you do and have used this as “evidence” to suggest that the modern church has misinterpreted the scriptures, but the reality is that the teachings unique to those on this forum who teach “no remarriage ever” were simply not supported by the early church. You say that “those in the “no remarriage ever” camp hold differing viewpoints”, but when the views of those like John Piper are addressed who also believes in “no remarriage” but differs on many of the details that those on this forum teach is teaching (and even his faith) is questioned.

What is the big difference in what you teach as truth and what I believe is truth: the nature of the second union. Is it continual adultery, or is the adultery a one time sin? I say they are not marriages, but adultery in the sight of God. Scripture supports that view.

You say a new vow dissolves a previous one. You have no scripture which supports your view. The truth is, and you even helped support this with what you posted(and what you failed to post which I had to dig up), the early church OVERWHELMINGLY believed unlawful marriages were not true marriages, but adultery—-continual adultery.

The modern church OVERWHELMINGLY teaches that new marriages are NOT adultery. Who has scripture on their side—–the Early Church or the Modern Day Westernized Church? I think the lack of being able to provide scriptures showing the legitimacy of second marriages speaks volumes as to who did/are actually teaching truth on the matter.

As for Mr. Piper, I would not put him in the “no remarriage” camp. He DOES believe remarriage is ok—-after it has been entered into, so his conclusions are no different than the rest of most of Western Churchianity.

You continually insist that your understanding is based on the understanding of the early church, but then present doctrines they didn’t teach.

No, I have NEVER insisted that my understanding is based on the ECF’s teachings………never, but good try. What I have stated is that AFTER I came to my present belief through MUCH study of the scriptures, with a concordance in hand, I THEN went to see what it was that the ECF taught/believed about MDR. That is quite different than what you said.

Not to be tit for tat here, but you are the one who consistently refers to the reformation church leaders (who I don’t think you would want to truly align yourself with if we were to paste here what they REALLY said on this issue and their justifications for changing the practices/teachings of the church) and the majority of teachers/theologians of today and what THEY believe. You seem to be quite incredulous that others would not join with them in their beliefs/teachings because they are many, and you feel they are “studied”…………..

Yet, put them back in the 1st/2nd century church and they would have been charged with Apostasy for what is being taught to today’s church…………

BTW – Most of the rest of us believe that this was the teaching of the Apostles i.e all the way back to the first century, but I guess that is what this debate is all about.

You believe the Apostles taught that marriage can be entered into and exited at will and that God joins together every union. Jesus taught in His Word that one who divorces and marries another/or marries a divorced person, has unlawful relations with another man’s wife/woman’s husband. You say such “marriages” are lawful in God’s sight, Jesus says that such relationships are adultery.

If I were to ask Jesus Himself if *Agnes*, the second woman married to *Jim* was the lawful wife, or whether *Ruth*, the first wife was *Jim’s* lawful wife, I could expect to hear Him say that *Ruth* is *Jim’s* lawful wife and that *Jim* and *Agnes* are committing adultery. I say this based purely on HIS WORDS found in THE WORD of GOD.

Now, we can go round and round about the Early Church Fathers, but the simple truth for all to see, if they want to check out what the Early Church said (on the link I provided), is that they viewed the second union as ADULTERY—ongoing adultery, not a “real” marriage, continual sin–hence the prohibition to receive communion. You teach the OPPOSITE of even those you posted. They in NO way support what you speak—that 2nd unions (adultery) nullify the first lawful marriage that GOD joined together.