Legalistic False Teachers forbid Divorce and Remarriage

Let’s look what the Bible has to say on this topic.

First, consider just how flexible the Old Testament laws were regarding marriage, contradicting the notion that God is somehow incensed at divorce and remarriage:

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Council of Toledo allowed a wife or a concubine

Now that marriage has been perverted into a bizarre institution by the godless civil authorities, it is time we revisit the concept of the “concubine” – a genuine Christian wife except ‘married’ privately without involving the state.

CONCUBINAGE.—The relation between the sexes which was denoted by this word had, under the legal system with which the early Church was brought into contact, a twofold character. There was (1) the connexion, temporary, depending on caprice only, involving no obligations, concubinage in the modern sense, not distinguishable ethically from fornication. But there was also (2) a concubinatus recognised by Roman law, as in the Lex Julia et Papin Poppnea, which had a very different character. Here the cohabitation was permanent, and involved therefore reciprocal obligations, and, although it did not stand on the same level as a connubium, and did not entitle the issue of the union to inherit as legitimate, it was yet regarded, somewhat as a morganatic marriage is in Germany, as’ involving no moral degradation. In dealing with this last form, Christian feeling was divided between the fear of recognising what might seem a half-marriage only on the one hand, and the desire to sanction any union which fulfilled the primary condition of marriage on the other. The question was complicated by the fact that, for the most part-, these unions were contracted with women who were slaves or foreigners, and therefore not injenuae, and that consequently to have placed them on a level with connubia, would have been to introduce a mesalliance into the succession of respectable or noble families. Cases where the man who kept the concubina had a wife living, though sanctioned by the lax morality of Roman society, admitted, of course, of no question, and were denounced as adultery (August. Serm. 224). Where the man was unmarried the case was different. The Apostolical Constitutions, on the one hand (viii. 32), authorised the admission to baptism of such a slave-concubine belonging to an unbeliever, if she were faithful to the one man with whom she lived. If Marcia, the concubine, first of Quadratus, and afterwards of Commodus, who is known to have favoured the Christians, had ever been one of them, it must have been by virtue of some such rule. The case of a Christian who had a concubine was somewhat more difficult, and the equity of the Church’s judgment was disturbed by considerations of social expediency. If she was a slave he was to get rid of her, apparently without being bound to make any provision for her maintenance. If she were a free woman, he was either to marry or dismiss her (Ajxst. Constt. viii. 32). So, too, at a later date, we find Leo the Great treating this dismissal of a mistress followed by a legal marriage, not as a “duplicatio conjugii,” but a “profectus honestatis(Epist. 92; ad Rustic., c. 5). {It may be questioned, however, which class of concubines, the Illicit or the legalised, are here contemplated.} In other instances, however, we trace the influence of the wish to look upon every permanent union of man or woman as possessing the character of a marriage in the eyes of God, and therefore in the judgment of the Church. Thus Augustine, speaking of a concubine who promises a life-long fidelity, even should he cast her off, to the man with whom she lived, says that” merito dubitatur utrum ad percipiendum baptismum non debeat admitti” (De Fide et Oper. c. 19).{It is interesting to note, In this lenity of Judgment, the Influence of a tender recollection of one with whom Augustine, before his conversion, had lived in this relation, and who on parting from him made a declaration that she would live with no one else. (Corny, vi. 15.) She was apparently a Christian (“vovens tibi,” sec Deo) and Monica, though she wished her son to marry and settle respectably, does not seem to have condemns! the union as sinful, and adopted Adeodatus, the issue of the connexion, into her warmest affections.} The first Council of Toledo [397 A.D.] went even farther, and while it excluded from communion a married man who kept a concubine, admitted one who, being unmarried, continued faithful to the one woman with whom he thus lived (1 C. Tolet. c. 17). The special law forbidding a Jew to have a Christian wife or concubine (3 C. Tolet. c. 14), implying, as it does, the legitimacy of the latter relation, where both parties were Christians, shows, in like manner, that it was thought of as ethically, though not legally, on the same level as a connubium.

The use of the word concubina as a term of reproach for the wives of the clergy who were married, was, of course, a logical deduction from the laws which forbade that marriage, but the unsparing use made of it, as by Peter Damiani and Hildebrand, belongs to a somewhat later date, than that which comes within the limits of this book. [E. H. P.]

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T H E other Case, which has been matter of Doubt, is concerning the State of Concubinage, which in the common Acceptation is a Matter of such ill-Fame, that it seems a Wonder to many to hear of any Allowance made to it in the civil Law and ancient Canons. But they made a Distinction anciently in this Matter, as the Jews and Patriarchs of old did, among whom there was one fort of Concubines which was permitted, as differing nothing from a Wife, save only that she was not married with all the Solemnities and usual Forms that the other was. And this sort of Concubines the ancient Canons received both to Baptism and the Communion. The Rule in the Constitutions about this Matter, is given thus: A Concubine that is a Slave to an Infidel, if she keep herself only to him, may be received to Baptism ; but if she commit Fornication with others, she shall be rejected. A like Decree was made in the Council of Toledo concerning the Admission of Persons to the Communion: If an Christian who has a Wife; have also a Concubine, let him not communicate. But if he have no Wife, but only a Concubine instead of a Wife, he may not be repelled from the Communion, provided he be content to be joined to one Woman only, whether Wife or Concubine, as he pleases. Now the difference betwixt such a Concubine and a Wife, as learned Men have observed [y], was not that the one was truly married, and the other not; but in the different way of their being married. For she that was called a Wife was married publickly, and with great Solemnity, and Instruments of Dowry, and other Ceremonies which the Civil and Canon Law required ; but she who was called a Concubine, was one married in a private way, without the Solemnity which the Law required: But they both agreed in these three Things: 1. That they were unmarried Persons before. 2. That they obliged them selves to their Husbands to live in conjugal Chastity, and in Procreation of Children, and be joined to no other. 3. And that they would continue faithful in this State all their Lives. Now this sort of Concubines, being in the nature of Wives married without the Formalities required in the Civil Law, were not reputed guilty of Fornication, though they wanted the Privileges, Rights and Honours, that the Law allowed to those who were called Legal Wives: And therefore they were admitted to Baptism without any further Obligation, in case the Husband was an Heathen. But if the Husband was a Christian, the Rule in the Constitutions made a little difference. For if he had a Concubine, he was obliged to dismiss her, and marry a lawful Wife if his Concubine was a Slave; and if she was a free Woman, he must make her a lawful Wife; otherwise he was to be cast out of the Church. And so in the Decrees of Pope Leo [a]; . Christians who had only Concubines, were obliged to dismiss them, and they were Slaves, unless they would free them, and lawfully endow them, and give them a publick Marriage as the Laws required. And in this these Decrees seem to differ from that of the Council of Toledo, which allows a Concubine to cohabit in private Wedlock without any Ecclesiastical Censure. St. Austin [Augustine] reckons this Case one of those dubious and difficult Points which cannot easily be determined. But he inclines to think a Concubine of this kind might be admitted to Baptism, because her Case differs much from that of a professed Adulteress, who could never be admitted to Baptism, whilst she lived in the practice of so flagrant a Crime 3, but the other Case, he thinks, is a matter which the Scripture has no where so positively condemned, but rather left in Doubt, as many other such Points and Questions, which the Church in her Prudence must decide by the best Skill she had to determine such difficult Questions. I have represented the Sense of the Ancients upon this Point as clearly as I could, because it has occasioned some ill-grounded Censures of the Ancients, and of Gratian’s Canon-law (which is only copied from them) in some Modern Authors; as if they had allowed such Concubines, as we commonly call Harlots, to be baptized without giving Signs of Repentance: Whereas, we fee, this Matter was not so crudely delivered by them, but considered and determined with several necessary Cautions and Distinctions.

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see also, Female Ruin and this