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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.: Chapter XVIII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

18.  The Bill of Divorcement.

After this we will discuss the saying of the Pharisees which they said to Jesus, “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement and put her away?” 6186   And with good reason we will bring forward for this purpose the passage from Deuteronomy concerning the bill of divorcement, which is as follows:  “But if a man taketh a wife and cohabit with her, and it shall be, if she do not find favour in his sight because he hath found in her a thing unseemly,” etc., down to the words, “and ye shall not pollute the land which the Lord your God giveth you for an inheritance.” 6187   Now I inquire whether in these things according to this law, we are to seek nothing in it beyond the letter seeing that God has not given it, or whether to the Pharisees who quoted the saying, “Moses commanded to give a bill of divorcement and put her away,” it was of necessity said, “Moses, for your hardness of heart, suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so.” 6188   But if any one ascends to the Gospel of Christ Jesus which teaches that the law is spiritual, he will seek also the spiritual understanding of this law.  And he who wishes to interpret these things figuratively will say that, just as it was said by Paul confident in the grace which he had, “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 judgment, and I think that I also have the Spirit of God” 6189 (for here to the words, “after my judgment,” lest it should be despised as being without the Spirit of God, he well added, “and I think that I also have the Spirit of God),” so also it would be possible for Moses, by reason of the power given to him to make laws, to the effect that he suffered for the hardness of heart of the people certain things, among which was the putting away of wives, to be persuaded in regard to the laws which he promulgated according to his own judgment, that in these also the legislation took place with the Spirit of God.  And he will say that, unless one law is spiritual and another is not such, this is a law, and this is spiritual, and its spiritual significance ought to be investigated.



Matt. xix. 7.


Deut. xxiv. 1-4.


Matt. xix. 8.


1 Cor. 7:39, 40.

Next: Chapter XIX

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