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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Concerning Private Festivals.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVI.—Concerning Private Festivals.

Touching the ceremonies, however, of private and social solemnities—as those of the white toga, of espousals, of nuptials, of name-givings—I should think no danger need be guarded against from the breath of the idolatry which is mixed up with them. For the causes are to be considered to which the ceremony is due. Those above-named I take to be clean in themselves, because neither manly garb, nor the marital ring or union, descends from honours done to any idol. In short, I find no dress cursed by God, except a woman’s dress on a man: 288 for “cursed,” saith He, “is every man who clothes himself in woman’s attire.” The toga, however, is a dress of manly name as well as of manly use289 God no more prohibits nuptials to be celebrated than a name to be given. “But there are sacrifices appropriated to these occasions.” Let me be invited, and let not the title of the ceremony be “assistance at a sacrifice,” and the discharge of my good offices is at the service of my friends. Would that it were “at their service” indeed, and that we could escape seeing what is unlawful for us to do.  But since the evil one has so surrounded the world with idolatry, it will be lawful for us to be present at some ceremonies which see us doing service to a man, not to an idol.  Clearly, if invited unto priestly function and sacrifice, I will not go, for that is service peculiar to an idol; but neither will I furnish advice, or expense, or any other good office in a matter of that kind. If it is on account of the sacrifice that I be invited, and stand by, I shall be partaker of idolatry; if any other cause conjoins me to the sacrificer, I shall be merely a spectator of the sacrifice. 290



Tertullian should have added, “and a man’s on a woman.” See Deut. xxii. 5. Moreover, the word “cursed” is not used there, but “abomination” is.


Because it was called toga virilis—“the manly toga.”


[1 Cor. viii. The law of the inspired apostle seems as rigorous here and in 1 Cor. x. 27-29.]

Next: The Cases of Servants and Other Officials. What Offices a Christian Man May Hold.

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