This document is an ad fontes study of marriage and sexuality in early Christianity. It focuses on the writings of the Church Fathers, who were active in the first four centuries of the Christian era.
The aim of this document is to provide a brief overview of the Biblical evidence for marriage as a sacrament and a lifelong covenant, as well as to examine how marriage was understood in early Christian society.
It will also examine attitudes toward sexuality in early Christianity, including celibacy and asceticism, which were practiced by some Christians; and sexual ethics, including adultery.
As I’ve been talking about marriage and sexuality in early Christianity, I’ve been thinking about how the church had to navigate the tension between what we might call “traditional” views of marriage and sexuality, and newer understandings of these concepts.
We can see this tension from two different perspectives: from that of the people who were advocating for a more conservative view of marriage and sexuality, and from that of those who were pushing for more progressive views. In both cases, there is a lot of debate about what exactly constitutes “proper” behavior, but there’s also a lot of agreement on some things as well.
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The first section I’ll look at is that of those who held more traditional views. They tended to argue that marriage was an institution established by God and should be upheld as such. This meant that they believed people should only marry within their own social class—that is, no one should marry someone from a lower class than themselves (or at least not without some kind of special dispensation). They also believed that marriage was supposed to be monogamous—that is, one man married one woman for life (or until divorce). Finally, they believed that sex within marriage was supposed to happen only when it was done with the intention to produce children—that is
Christianity developed in a world that was very different from our own. It’s important to remember that the modern world is not the only world; it is just one of many.
When we look at early Christian writings, we can see how they understood marriage and sexuality within their own culture. We can also see how they used the Bible to justify their views on these topics.
For example, the Apostle Paul believed that women should be submissive to men and not teach men. He based this belief on passages from Genesis 2:18-25, which tells us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:22-23). It also says that she was made for him (Genesis 2:18). Paul wrote that this meant that Eve should submit herself to Adam (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Paul also argued that men should have authority over women because God gave them authority over Eve when he cursed her after she ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:16). Paul thought this meant men should rule over women completely, including sexually—so he argued against same-sex relationships (Romans 1:26-27).