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347 - 419 AD

Born in Dalmatia, Jerome studied in Rome and became, eventually, secretary to Pope Damasus. He was ordered to make a new Latin translation of the Bible from the original languages. He spent most of his later life in Palestine.

Translation from the Ante-Nicene Fathers. For a complete electronic copy, visit the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, the New Advent Library. Italics in the text by John Wijngaards.

Jerome shared the ideas and prejudices of his contemporaries regarding women.

For Jerome, marriage, though permitted because of human weakness, is tainted with impurity, as these select passage will show.

Virginity is the only natural way of Christian living.

‘God's word is blasphemed by either despising God's original sentence and reducing it to nothing, or by defaming the Gospel of Christ, when a woman, against the law and faith of nature, in spite of being a Christian and made subject by God's law, desires to dominate her husband, since even pagan wives serve their husbands by the common law of nature’.”

The womb of a woman is like soil that receives the male seed

Letter to Pammachius, “So the soil, that is the womb, accepts the human race, and what is her own after receiving it she nourishes, and while nourishing this body, and while giving it a body, distinguishes it into various members”.

Letter CXXXIII. To Ctesiphon, §3.“They shut themselves up alone with women and justify their sinful embraces by quoting the lines: ‘The almighty father takes the earth to wife; pouring upon her fertilizing rain, that from her womb new harvest he may reap.’

Note. The medieval theologians based their understanding of conception and marriage on this notion.

Marriage is good, but virginity is better

Against Helvidius, § 22. “And now that I am about to institute a comparison between virginity and marriage, I beseech my readers not to suppose that in praising virginity I have in the least disparaged marriage, and separated the saints of the Old Testament from those of the New, that is to say, those who had wives and those who altogether refrained from the embraces of women. I rather think that in accordance with the difference in time and circumstance one rule applied to the former, another to us upon whom the ends of the world have come.” So long as that law remained, "Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth" [Gen. 1:28]; and "Cursed is the barren woman that bears not seed in Israel" [cf. Ex. 23:26], they all married and were given in marriage, left father and mother, and became one flesh.

But once in tones of thunder the words were heard, "The time is shortened, that henceforth those that have wives may be as though they had none" [1 Cor. 7:29], cleaving to the Lord, we are made one spirit with Him. And why? Because "He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife. And there is a difference also between the wife and the virgin. She that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband" [1 Cor. 7:32-33].

Virgins overcome the limitations of their sex

Against Helvidius, § 22, cont. “Observe what the happiness of that state must be in which even the distinction of sex is lost. The virgin is no longer called a woman. "She that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit" [1 Cor. 7:34]. A virgin is defined as she that is "holy in body and in spirit," for it is no good to have virgin flesh if a woman be married in mind. "But she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." . . . .”

Virgins are liberated from the curse of subjection

Against Helvidius, § 22, cont. "It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women" [Gen. 18:11], so the Scripture says, and afterwards Abraham received the command, "In all that Sarah says unto you, hearken unto her voice" [Gen. 21:12].

She who is not subject to the anxiety and pain of childbearing and having passed the change of life has ceased to perform the functions of a woman, is freed from the curse of God: nor is her desire to her husband, but on the contrary her husband becomes subject to her, and the voice of the Lord commands him, "In all that Sarah says unto you, hearken unto her voice." Thus they begin to have time for prayer. For so long as the debt of marriage is paid, earnest prayer is neglected.”

Holy women who are married are holy because they live like virgins

Against Helvidius, § 23. “ I do not deny that holy women are found both among widows and those who have husbands; but they are such as have ceased to be wives or such as, even in the close bond of marriage, imitate virgin chastity.

The Apostle, Christ speaking in him, briefly bore witness to this when he said, "She that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how she may please the Lord: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband" [1 Cor. 7:34]. . . . . He had not, it is true, a commandment from the Lord respecting virginity, for that grace surpasses the unassisted power of man, and it would have worn an air of immodesty to force men to fly in the face of nature, and to say in other words, "I want you to be what the angels are."

It is this angelic purity which secures to virginity its highest reward, and the Apostle might have seemed to despise a course of life which involves no guilt. Nevertheless in the immediate context he adds, "But I give my judgment, as one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good by reason of the present distress, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is" [1 Cor. 7:25].

It is only one addition to the general rule which is made by those who follow the Lamb, and who have not defiled their garments, for they have continued in their virgin state. Notice the meaning of defiling. I shall not venture to explain it, for fear Helvidius may be abusive.

Widows who lost their husbands face great temptations

Letter LXXIX. To Salvina, § 8. “Do not, I pray you, regard these general remarks-applying as they do to all young women-as intended to insult you or to take you to task. I write in a spirit of apprehension, yet pray that you may never know the nature of my fears. A woman's reputation is a tender plant; it is like a fair flower which withers at the slightest blast and fades away at the first breath of wind. Especially is this so when she is of an age to fall into temptation and the authority of a husband is wanting to her. For the very shadow of a husband is a wife's safeguard. What has a widow to do with a large household or with troops of retainers? As servants, it is true, she must not despise them, but as men she ought to blush before them. If a grand establishment requires such domestics, let her at least set over them an old man of spotless morals whose dignity may guard the honour of his mistress. I know of many widows who, although they live with closed doors, have not escaped the imputation of too great intimacy with their servants, etc. etc. . . . ”

Note. This is a letter of consolation addressed by Jerome to Salvina (a lady of the imperial court) on the death of her husband Nebridius. He warns Salvina (in no courtier-like terms) of the dangers that will beset her as a widow . . . Salvina later consecrated her life to deeds of piety, and became one of Chrysostom's deaconesses. Its date is 400 a.d.

A life of virginity overcomes the sentence passed on Eve

Letter 22. To Eustochium, §18. “ Say to yourself: "What have I to do with the pleasures of sense that so soon come to an end? What have I to do with the song of the sirens so sweet and so fatal to those who hear it?" I would not have you subject to that sentence whereby condemnation has been passed upon mankind. When God says to Eve, "In pain and in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," say to yourself, "That is a law for a married woman, not for me." And when He continues, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband," say again: "Let her desire be to her husband who has not Christ for her spouse." And when, last of all, He says, "Thou shalt surely die," once more, say, "Marriage indeed must end in death; but the life on which I have resolved is independent of sex. Let those who are wives keep the place and the time that properly belong to them. For me, virginity is consecrated in the persons of Mary and of Christ."

Virginity is the original and pure human condition; marriage came with sin

Letter 22. To Eustochium, §19. “Some one may say, "Do you dare detract from wedlock, which is a state blessed by God?" I do not detract from wedlock when I set virginity before it. No one compares a bad thing with a good. Wedded women may congratulate themselves that they come next to virgins. "Be fruitful," God says, "and multiply, and replenish the earth." He who desires to replenish the earth may increase and multiply if he will. But the train to which you belong is not on earth, but in heaven. The command to increase and multiply first finds fulfilment after the expulsion from paradise, after the nakedness and the fig-leaves which speak of sexual passion. Let them marry and be given in marriage who eat their bread in the sweat of their brow; whose land brings forth to them thorns and thistles, and whose crops are choked with briars . . . .

“ . . . Let those stitch coats to themselves who have lost the coat woven from the top throughout; who delight in the cries of infants which, as soon as they see the light, lament that they are born. In paradise Eve was a virgin, and it was only after the coats of skins that she began her married life. Now paradise is your home too. Keep therefore your birthright and say: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." To show that virginity is natural while wedlock only follows guilt, what is born of wedlock is virgin flesh, and it gives back in fruit what in root it has lost. "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall grow out of his roots." The rod is the mother of the Lord-simple, pure, unsullied; drawing no germ of life from without but fruitful in singleness like God Himself. The flower of the rod is Christ, who says of Himself: "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys." In another place He is foretold to be "a stone cut out of the mountain without hands," a figure by which the prophet signifies that He is to be born a virgin of a virgin. For the hands are here a figure of wedlock as in the passage: "His left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me." It agrees, also, with this interpretation that the unclean animals are led into Noah's ark in pairs, while of the clean an uneven number is taken . . .

The gift of virginity came through the Virgin Mary

Letter 22. To Eustochium, §21.“ In those days (the Old Testament), as I have said, the virtue of continence was found only in men: Eve still continued to travail with children. But now that a virgin has conceived in the womb and has borne to us a child of which the prophet says that "Government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called the mighty God, the everlasting Father," now the chain of the curse is broken. Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary. And thus the gift of virginity has been bestowed most richly upon women, seeing that it has had its beginning from a woman. As soon as the Son of God set foot upon the earth, He formed for Himself a new household there; that, as He was adored by angels in heaven, angels might serve Him also on earth . . .”

Many great scholars have praised virginity

Letter 22. To Eustochium, § 22. “If you want to know from how many vexations a virgin is free and by how many a wife is fettered you should read Tertullian "to a philosophic friend," and his other treatises on virginity, the blessed Cyprian's noble volume, the writings of Pope Damasus in prose and verse, and the treatises recently written for his sister by our own Ambrose. In these he has poured forth his soul with such a flood of eloquence that he has sought out, set forth, and put in order all that bears on the praise of virgins.”

To become human, Jesus put up with the ‘revolting conditions’ in the womb

Letter 22. To Eustochium, § 37. “For our salvation the Son of God is made the Son of Man. Nine months He awaits His birth in the womb, undergoes the most revolting conditions, and comes forth covered with blood, to be swathed in rags and covered with caresses. He who shuts up the world in His fist is contained in the narrow limits of a manger. I say nothing of the thirty years during which he lives in obscurity, satisfied with the poverty of his parents . . .

A woman's excuse to marry is to bring forth virgins for Christ

Letter 66. To Pammachius, §3. “When once she [Paulina] had entered upon the married state, her one thought day and night was that, as soon as her union should be blessed with offspring, she would live thenceforth in the second degree of chastity [=sexual abstinence in marriage], and , though woman, foremost in the high emprise, would induce her husband to follow a like course. She would not forsake him but looked for the day when he would become a companion in salvation. Finding by several miscarriages that her womb was not barren, she could not give up all hope of having children and had to allow her own reluctance to give way to the eagerness of her mother-in-law and the chagrin of her husband. Thus she suffered much as Rachel suffered, although instead of bringing forth like her a son of pangs and of the right hand, the heir she had longed for was no other than her husband. I have learned on good authority that her wish in submitting herself to her husband was not to take advantage of God's primitive command "Be faithful and multiply and replenish the earth" but that she only desired children that she might bring forth virgins to Christ.

Through abstaining from sex a woman can become ‘a man’

Letter 71. To Lucinius, § 3. (Lucinius was a wealthy Spaniard who had made a vow of continence with his wife Theodora). “You have with you one who was once your partner in the flesh but is now your partner in the spirit; once your wife but now your sister; once a woman but now a man; once an inferior but now an equal. Under the same yoke as you she hastens toward the same heavenly kingdom.”

Christ's law of chastity applies to men as much as to women

Letter 77. To Oceanus, § 3. “And because at the very outset there is a rock in the path and she [Fabiola] is overwhelmed by a storm of censure, for having forsaken her first husband and having taken a second, I will not praise her for her conversion till I have first cleared her of this charge. 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. For it cannot be that, while an adulterous wife is to be put away, an incontinent husband is to be retained. The apostle says: "he which is joined to an harlot is one body." Therefore she also who is joined to a whoremonger and unchaste person is made one body with him. The laws of Caesar are different, it is true, from the laws of Christ: Papinianus commands one thing; our own Paul another. Earthly laws give a free rein to the unchastity of men, merely condemning seduction and adultery; lust is allowed to range unrestrained among brothels and slave girls, as if the guilt were constituted by the rank of the person assailed and not by the purpose of the assailant. But with us Christians what is unlawful for women is equally unlawful for men, and as both serve the same God both are bound by the same obligations. Fabiola then has put away-they are quite right-a husband that was a sinner, guilty of this and that crime, sins-I have almost mentioned their names-with which the whole neighbourhood resounded but which the wife alone refused to disclose . . . She acted legitimately in putting away her husband, and when she had done so she was free to marry again.

Small girls need to be prepared for future virginity

Letter 107. To Laeta, §4. (On how Laeta should educate her little daughter Paula to become a virgin) “Thus must a soul be educated which is to be a temple of God. It must learn to hear nothing and to say nothing but what belongs to the fear of God. It must have no understanding of unclean words, and no knowledge of the world's songs. Its tongue must be steeped while still tender in the sweetness of the psalms. Boys with their wanton thoughts must be kept from Paula: even her maids and female attendants must be separated from worldly associates. For if they have learned some mischief they may teach more. Get for her a set of letters made of boxwood or of ivory and called each by its proper name. Let her play with these, so that even her play may teach her something . . . .The very words which she tries bit by bit to put together and to pronounce ought not to be chance ones, but names specially fixed upon and heaped together for the purpose, those for example of the prophets or the apostles or the list of patriarchs from Adam downwards as it is given by Matthew and Luke. In this way while her tongue will be well-trained, her memory will be likewise developed. Again, you must choose for her a master of approved years, life, and learning Accordingly you must see that the child is not led away by the silly coaxing of women to form a habit of shortening long words or of decking herself with gold and purple. Of these habits one will spoil her conversation and the other her character. She must not therefore learn as a child what afterwards she will have to unlearn . . . . Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple who can restore it to its previous whiteness? An unused jar long retains the taste and smell of that with which it is first filled . . .”

Note. This letter was used a lot in the Middle Ages as a guide as to how women should be educated.

It is still better to send one's daughter to a monastery from a tender age

Letter 107. To Laeta, §13. “You will answer, `How shall I, a woman of the world, living at Rome, surrounded by a crowd, be able to observe all these injunctions?' In that case do not undertake a burthen to which you are not equal. When you have weaned Paula as Isaac was weaned and when you have clothed her as Samuel was clothed, send her to her grandmother and aunt [who were both nuns]; give up this most precious of gems, to be placed in Mary's chamber and to rest in the cradle where the infant Jesus cried. Let her be brought up in a monastery, let her be one amid companies of virgins, let her learn to avoid swearing, let her regard lying as sacrilege, let her be ignorant of the world, let her live the angelic life, while in the flesh let her be without the flesh, and let her suppose that all human beings are like herself.” O happy virgin! happy Paula, daughter of Toxotius, who through the virtues of her grandmother and aunt is nobler in holiness than she is in lineage! Yes, Laeta: were it possible for you with your own eyes to see your mother-in-law and your sister, and to realize the mighty souls which animate their small bodies; such is your innate thirst for chastity that I cannot doubt but that you would go to them even before your daughter, and would emancipate yourself from God's first decree of the Law [‘Be fruitful and multiply’] to put yourself under His second dispensation of the Gospel . . . . I counsel you to pay back to the full in your offspring what meantime you defer paying in your own person.”

Marriage is only allowed as second best

Letter 123. To Ageruchia, §4. (An appeal to this widow not to marry again) “Lastly, that Paul may compress into a few words all the reasons for such marriages, he shews the motive of his command by saying: "for some are already turned aside after Satan." Thus he allows to the incontinent a second marriage, or in case of need a third, simply that he may rescue them from Satan, preferring that a woman should be joined to the worst of husbands rather than to the devil.To the Corinthians he uses somewhat similar language: "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." Why, O apostle, is it better to marry? He answers immediately: because it is worse to burn.”

Husband and wife should imitate virginal incorruption by sexual abstinence

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §7. "It is good," the Aposle says, "for a man not to touch a woman." If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil. But surely a thing which is only allowed because there may be something worse has only a slight degree of goodness . . . .We must notice the Apostle's prudence. He did not say, it is good not to have a wife: but, it is good not to touch a woman: as though there were danger even in the touch: as though he who touched her, would not escape from her who "hunteth for the precious life," who causeth the young man's understanding to fly away. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched?" As then he who touches fire is instantly burned, so by the mere touch the peculiar nature of man and woman is perceived, and the difference of sex is understood . . . .But inasmuch as he who is once married has no power to abstain except by mutual consent, and may not reject an unoffending partner, let the husband render unto the wife her due. He bound himself voluntarily that he might be under compulsion to render it. "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer." What, I pray you, is the quality of that good thing which hinders prayer? which does not allow the body of Christ to be received? So long as I do the husband's part, I fail in continency. The same Apostle in another place commands us to pray always. If we are to pray always, it follows that we must never be in the bondage of wedlock, for as often as I render my wife her due, I cannot pray. The Apostle Peter had experience of the bonds of marriage. See how he fashions the Church, and what lesson he teaches Christians: "Ye husbands in like manner dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honour unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered." Observe that, as S. Paul before, because in both cases the spirit is the same, so S. Peter now, says that prayers are hindered by the performance of marriage duty. When he says "likewise," he challenges the husbands to imitate their wives, because he has already given them commandment: "beholding your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel: but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." You see what kind of wedlock he enjoins. Husbands and wives are to dwell together according to knowledge, so that they may know what God wishes and desires, and give honour to the weak vessel, woman. If we abstain from intercourse, we give honour to our wives: if we do not abstain, it is clear that insult is the opposite of honour. He also tells the wives to let their husbands "see their chaste behaviour, and the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit." Words truly worthy of an apostle, and of Christ's rock! He lays down the law for husbands and wives, condemns outward ornament, while he praises continence, which is the ornament of the inner man, as seen in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit. In effect he says this: Since your outer man is corrupt, and you have ceased to possess the blessing of incorruption characteristic of virgins, at least imitate the incorruption of the spirit by subsequent abstinence, and what you cannot show in the body exhibit in the mind. For these are the riches, and these the ornaments of your union, which Christ seeks.”

Second marriages are only slightly better than prostitution

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §14. “The Apostle compares monogamy with bigamy, and as he had subordinated marriage to virginity, so he makes second marriages inferior to first, and says, "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgement: and I think that I also have the Spirit of God." He allows second marriages, but to such persons as wish for them and are not able to contain . . . . And similarly the words to Timothy, "I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give none occasion to the adversary for reviling: for already some are turned aside after Satan," and so on. For as on account of the danger of fornication he allows virgins to marry, and makes that excusable which in itself is not desirable, so to avoid this same fornication, he allows second marriages to widows. For it is better to know a single husband, though he be a second or third, than to have many paramours: that is, it is more tolerable for a woman to prostitute herself to one man than to many.”

Woman's punishment, incurred through Eve's sin, may be undone through childbearing

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §27. But we toil to no purpose. For our opponent urges against us the Apostolic sentence and says, "Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through the child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety." Let us consider what led the Apostle to make this declaration: "I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing." So in due course he lays down rules of life for the women and says "In like manner that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works. Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness." And that the lot of a woman might not seem a hard one, [because of God] reducing her to the condition of a slave to her husband, the Apostle recalls the ancient law and goes back to the first example: that Adam was first made, then the woman out of his rib; and that the Devil could not seduce Adam, but did seduce Eve; and that after displeasing God she was immediately subjected to the man, and began to turn to her husband; and he points out that she who was once tied with the bonds of marriage and was reduced to the condition of Eve, might blot out the old transgression by the procreation of children: provided, however, that she bring up the children themselves in the faith and love of Christ, and in sanctification and chastity . . . . .You see how you are mastered by the witness of this passage also, and cannot but be driven to admit that what you thought was on the side of marriage tells in favour of virginity. For if the woman is saved in child-bearing, and the more the children the greater the safety of the mothers, why did he add "if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with chastity"? Will the woman not then be saved, if she bear children who will remain virgins: if what she has herself lost, she attains in her children, and makes up for the loss and decay of the root by the excellence of the flower and fruit.

For a man, it is better not to marry to avoid the burden of having a wife

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §28.“No one can know better than Solomon who suffered through women, what a wife or woman is. Well then, he says in the Proverbs: . . ."Like a worm in wood, so a wicked woman destroyeth her husband." But if you assert that this was spoken of bad wives, I shall briefly answer: What necessity rests upon me to run the risk of the wife I marry proving good or bad? "It is better," he says, "to dwell in a desert land, than with a contentious and passionate woman in a wide house." How seldom we find a wife without these faults, he knows who is married. Hence that sublime orator, Varius Geminus says well "The man who does not quarrel is a bachelor." "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a house in common." . . . . "A continual dropping on a wintry day" turns a man out of doors, and so will a contentious woman drive a man from his own house. She floods his house with her constant nagging and daily chatter, and ousts him from his own home, that is the Church. Hence the same Solomon says . . . "The horse-leech had three daughters, dearly loved, but they satisfied her not, and a fourth is not satisfied when you say Enough; the grave, and woman's love, and the earth that is not satisfied with water, and the fire that saith not, Enough." The horse-leech is the devil, the daughters of the devil are dearly loved, and they cannot be satisfied with the blood of the slain: the grave, and woman's love, and the earth dry and scorched with heat. It is not the harlot, or the adulteress who is spoken of; but woman's love in general is accused of ever being insatiable; put it out, it bursts into flame; give it plenty, it is again in need; it enervates a man's mind, and engrosses all thought except for the passion which it feeds. What we read in the parable which follows is to the same effect: "For three things the earth doth tremble, and for four which it cannot bear: for a servant when he is king: and a fool when he is filled with meat: for an odious woman when she is married to a good husband: and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress." See how a wife is classed with the greatest evils. But if you reply that it is an odious wife, I will give you the same answer as before - the mere possibility of such danger is in itself no light matter. For he who marries a wife is uncertain whether he is marrying an odious woman or one worthy of his love. If she be odious, she is intolerable. If worthy of love, her love is compared to the grave, to the parched earth, and to fire.

Virginity belongs to paradise. Marriage began after the fall.

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §29. "Behold, this have I found, saith the Preacher, one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Behold this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." He says that he had found man upright. Consider the force of the words. The word man comprehends both male and female. "But a woman," he says, "among all these have I not found." Let us read the beginning of Genesis, and we shall find Adam, that is man, called both male and female. Having then been created by God good and upright, by our own fault we have fallen to a worse condition; and that which in Paradise had been upright, when we left Paradise was corrupt. If you object that before they sinned there was a distinction in sex between male and female, and that they could without sin have come together, it is uncertain what might have happened. For we cannot know the judgements of God, and anticipate his sentence as we choose. What really happened is plain enough,-that they who in Paradise remained in perpetual virginity, when they were expelled from Paradise were joined together. Or if Paradise admits of marriage, and there is no difference between marriage and virginity, what prevented their previous intercourse even in Paradise? They are driven out of Paradise; and what they did not there, they do on earth; so that from the very earliest days of humanity virginity was consecrated by Paradise, and marriage by earth. "Let thy garments be always white." The eternal whiteness of our garments is the purity of virginity. In the morning we sowed our seed, and in the evening let us not cease. Let us who served marriage under the law, serve virginity under the Gospel.”

Corruption attaches to all sexual intercourse, even in a legitimate marriage

Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §37.“If the wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God, and they who are in the flesh cannot please God, I think that they who perform the functions of marriage love the wisdom of the flesh, and therefore are in the flesh. The Apostle being desirous to withdraw us from the flesh and to join us to the Spirit, says afterwards: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think according to chastity" (not soberly as the Latin versions badly render), but "think," he says, "according to chastity". Let us consider what the Apostle says: "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." What he says is something like this-God indeed permits marriage, He permits second marriages, and if necessary, prefers even third marriages to fornication and adultery. But we who ought to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service, should consider, not what God permits, but what He wishes: that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. It follows that what He merely permits is neither good, nor acceptable, nor perfect. And he gives his reasons for this advice: "Knowing the season, that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand." And lastly: "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." God's will is one thing, His indulgence another. Whence, writing to the Corinthians, he says, "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal." He who is in the merely animal state, and does not receive the things pertaining to the Spirit of God (for he is foolish, and cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned), he is not fed with the food of perfect chastity, but with the coarse milk of marriage. As through man came death, so also through man came the resurrection of the dead. As in Adam we all die, so in Christ we shall all be made alive. Under the law we served the old Adam, under the Gospel let us serve the new Adam. For the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." This is so clear that no explanation can make it clearer: "Flesh and blood," he says, "cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." If corruption attaches to all intercourse, and incorruption is characteristic of chastity, the rewards of chastity cannot belong to marriage. . . . And by way of more fully explaining what the Apostle did not wish them to be he says elsewhere: "I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ." But if you choose to apply the words to the whole Assembly of believers, and in this betrothal to Christ include both married women, and the twice-married, and widows, and virgins, that also makes for us. For whilst he invites all to chastity and to the reward of virginity, he shows that virginity is more excellent than all these conditions.”

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