Re: Matt 19:9

From: Steve Puluka (
Date: Sun Oct 03 1999 - 17:47:28 EDT

<x-flowed>Matt 19:9 usage in Patristic writings.

I am fascinated by the grammer issues raised in this post and can only
vaguely follow the line of reasoning. I still struggle with the simple
double negative being a reinforcement.

But when you ask what the Patristic literature held on this verse I am in my
element. Below are quotations that are indexed to Matthew 19:9 in Patristic
writings. I have listed the author, name of work and chapter for those who
wish to read any in context. Most of these are also available at the Ecole
Initiative web site

The readings appear to support the "except" reading of this verse. Some are
not specific on the issue. The Latin writers universially support except.
Among the Greeks, Antiochian writers universally read except and the
Alexandrines are silent on any exceptions. Basil of Capadocia supports the

This was not a major issue for Patristic writers. The listing below may
appear long, but this represents the total of the citations in over 40
volumes of Patristic writings I have on hand. This issue was not a major
concern for the early Church.

At the end of the quotations I list two canons from the First Nicean Council
on the issue.

Steve Puluka
Adult Education Instructor
Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh

The referances are listed in Chronological order.

Shepard of Hermas Book Two Commandment Four
"And I said to him "What then sir is the husband to do, if his wife
continues the vicious practices?" And he said, the husband should put her
away and remain by himself. but if he put his wife away and marry another
he commits adultery."

Athenagoras of Alexandria A Plea for Christians Chapter 33
"be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only 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 marry again."

Clement of Alexandria Stormanta Chapter 23
"'He that takes a woman that has been put away' it is said, 'commits
adultery; and if one puts his wife away he makes her an adultress.' That
is, compels her to commit adultery."

Tertullian, Of Patience Chapter 12
(Patience is personified as a woman)
"When on a disjunction of wedlock (for that cause, I mean, which makes it
lawful, whether for husband or wife, to persist in the observance of
widowhood), she (patience) waits for, she yearns for, she persuades by her
entreaties, repentance in all who are one day to enter salvation? How great
a blessing she confers on such! The one she prevents from becoming an
adulterer; the other she amends."

Augustine, The Good of Marriage, Paragraph 3
"Therfore, concerning the good of marriage, which the Lord also confirmed in
the Gospel, not only in that He forbade to put away a wife, save because of
fornication, ubt also in that He came by invitation to a marriage, there is
good ground to inquire for what reason it be a good."

Augustine, Of Holy Virginity, Paragraph 15
"For it is not lawful to put away a wife, save because of fornication, as
the Lord Himself saith in the Gospel. But that, which he added, 'Thou art
loosed from a wife, seek not a wife,' is a sentence of counsel, not of
command; therfore it is lawful to do, but it is better not to do."

Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book 19 Paragraph 29
"For when the Jews relplied, 'Why did Moses then command to give a writing
of divorcement, and to put her away?' Christ said unto them, 'Mosese,
because of your heart, suffered you to put away your wives.' The hardness
must have been great indeed which could not be induced to admit the
restoration of wedded love, even though by means of writing an opportunity
was afforded for advice to be given to this effect by wise and upright men."

Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 14
"'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 loosed from her husband committeth adultery.'"

Augustine, On the Gospel of John, Tractate IX Chapter 2
"And they that are well instructed in the catholic faith know that God
instituted marriage; and as the union of man and wife is from God, so
divorce is from the devil. But in the case of fornication it is lawful for
a man to put away his wife, because she first chose to be no longer wife in
not preserving conjugal fidelity to her husband."

Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 17, section 4
"And not thus only, but in another way also He hath lightened the
senactment: forasmuch as even for himHe leaves on manner of dismissal, when
He saith, 'Except for the cause of fornication;' since the matter had else
come round again to the same issue. For if He had commanded to keep her in
the house, thogh defiling herself with many, He would have made the matter
end again in adultery."

Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily 19
"Because it is a law expressly appointed by Christ which he is about to read
to them about the 'not putting away a wife without fornication;' therefore
he says, 'not I.' True it is what was before spoken though it were not
expressly stated, yet it also is his decree."

Jerome, Letter 77 to Oceanus, Paragraph 3
"So terrible then were the faults imputed to her former husband that not
even a prostitute or a common slave could have put up with them. If I were
to recount them, I should undo the heroism of the wife who chose to bear the
blame of a separation rather than to blacken the character and expose the
stains of him who was one body with her. I will only urge this one plea
which is sufficient to exonerate a chaste matron and a Christian woman. The
Lord has given commandment that a wife must not be put away'except it be for
fornication, and that, if put away, she must remain unmarried.' Now a
commandment which is given to men logically applies to women also."

Basil, Letter 188 to Amhilochius, concerning the Canons.
"The sentence of the Lord that it is unlawful to withdraw from wedlock, save
on account of fornication, applies, according to the argument, to men and
women alike. Custom, however, does not so obtain."

Basil, The Canons of Basil, Canon IX
"Our Lord is equal, to the man and woman forbiding divorce, save in case of
fornication; but custom requires women to retain their husbands, though they
be guilty of fornication. The man deserted by his wife may take another,
and though he were deserted for adultery, yet St. Basil will be positive,
that the other woman who afterward takes him is guilty of adultery; but the
wife is not allowed this liberty. And the man who deserts an innocent wife
is not allowed to marry."

First Nicean Council, Canon 51
"Bishops shall not allow the separation of a wife from her husband on
account of discord."

Canon 66
"If any priest or deacon shall put away his wife on account of her
fornication, or for other cause as aforesaid, ....let him be deposed."

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